In the Lost Desert, any name with the word 'rain' was said to bless people with prosperity and protection against the unknown. No one knew when this came about, but not many people really cared for it, nor followed the tradition to use it. In such times, people were named so many things without the meaning hindering their lives.
Sometimes, however, their names left behind a hidden clue to what sat far into their future, or what had been clouded by their hazy pasts.
"Ameline!" a voice carried through the busy marketplace. A shadow Xweetok sharply turned back, violet eyes sparkling as she saw something fly through the cloudy skies. A light-footed leap later, she found herself holding the fruit and landing on the next roof nearby. A small stampede was already pushing through the many citizens down there, and so she pushed on, leaping over the many homes of Sakhmet pets and owners until she was either too far to be caught up with or she managed to confuse the guards and get them lost.
Night had swiftly fallen by the time she managed to return back to her hiding place. A small frown grew on her face as she noticed how the cracked and broken windows showed nothing but an empty darkness instead of the flickering candle light she was usually met with. She quietly pushed open the door, the creak suddenly louder than she could recall.
"Guys...?" Her eyes darted around, quickly adapting. Still, she couldn't see much. She searched through the nearest cabinets and boxes, quickly finding a matchbox. A table nearby had a single candle she could lit, which she did.
The moment the room glowed with the flame, her eyes absorbed the horror around her.
Chairs overturned, pieces of wood furniture lying in pieces, destroyed items of some value... That was all she saw. She quickly searched through the room, anxious to find something that told what happened. Anything that could help her quell the strange uneasiness.
Her eyes spotted a tiny rag, splattered with drops of ink.
On pure instinct, she pulled the piece of fabric from its spot, eyes straining to read the words with the dim flame.
'They came before we knew it.'
That piece of fabric was quietly floating to the ground by the end of it.
Ameline sat under one of the few trees in the city, relishing the cool shade given generously. It had been a few years since that day, and while she has been coping with the loss, she hadn't done much more than become one of those non-thieving poor people. A beggar, to put it briefly. The only things in her procession now were the clothes on her back and a silver bracelet. The bracelet had been one of the only things she held onto since she happened to become homeless. How she did, she couldn't really recall. Six years could do that to you.
Idly, she fiddled with it, staring out at the sandy streets with an empty gaze. As usual, people were around the stalls, either new as a tourist or old as a resident. In any case, it was busy. As usual.
A gust of harsh desert wind crossed the streets, carrying sand and tiny bits of stone into the air. The Xweetok picked up the ragged edges of her fading white cloak, covering her nose and mouth with it. She closed her eyes until the wind was gone, reopening to find a flutter of feathers and most light items falling onto the ground. Vendors had left their stalls to pick up their flying wares, the scene a little amusing to the shadow-colored pet. Her eyes soon caught a pet scrambling to gather pages of some file, apparently exhausted as light breezes carried them away in a teasing game.
She smiled a little pitifully for him, getting up from her shaded seat and walking up to the pet. The sun's rays were still strong even in the winter, but not as harsh as in the summer. Her appearance seemed to startle him, yet he only paused before continuing to pick up the pages. It wasn't long before they were done, and the papers were tucked under his arm.
"Thanks," he said with a smile. She simply nodded back in return, watching the green Zafara disappear into the crowd in a hurry.
The next day came as easily as a breeze. She had no real routine anymore except for sitting under the shade of a tree and watching the marketplace slowly become filled with shoppers, busily buying goods and other items. Sometimes, her instincts urged her to dash for that unsuspecting tourist here and there, passing him swiftly with that golden chain foolishly dangling out his pockets. He wouldn't know who took it, and no one ever took notice of some randomly cloaked pet.
But of course, she stayed put, leaving other aspiring thieves to take up the opportunity.
"Hey, you're the Xweetok who helped me out!"
Her head sharply turned in the direction where the voice came from. She saw that same green Zafara from yesterday, along with a human owner and a younger red Usul. The human - a man - had given a curious look at her. "Her? She looks like someone who you would usually ignore, and vice-versa."
"That must mean she's really really nice!" the Usul chirped.
"Of course she is!" the Zafara said.
"But she doesn't really look like it..."
"Now you've got to be kidding me."
The conversation continued between the trio, which she slowly grew disinterested in. Her head had turned back to the dusty streets, carefully eyeing the Neopians and items on sale. There was a perfectly-drawn line of poor and comfort whenever she compared them, but so many people could not see it. Until all was lost, you would just take things for granted.
Exactly what the world thought.
"Hey, did you hea~r us?" The Usul's voice broke her train of thoughts, making her turn back to the family.
"Uh, no, not really..."
She sighed. "We were asking if you had anywhere to stay."
The Xweetok raised an eyebrow at that. What would a family like them want with some poor pet on the streets? To adopt her? That seemed a little too out of the blue. "Uh, yeah. Why?"
"Because we've been watching you for a while," the man remarked. "I've been wanting to add one more member to our family... but we've not been sure. It had to be someone who we'll all be comfortable with."
She almost snorted on hearing that. Almost. "I don't really see how I'm so special compared to others. There could be so many others that are more comfortable than me."
"Well, that's true, but we're not all the people in our family. We have a desert Aisha also, but he's not the type who comes out anymore unless it's night and we forced him to." The Zafara chuckled a little at that. "And while he has good faith in us, he doesn't trust us with his secrets. Something in his past kept his mouth shut, and probably someone with a similar background can coax him to tell us. We're family, after all. Being helpless is something we don't want to be."
She stared at them, eyeing them with a wary stare. Their reason seemed valid enough, but wasn't that too much to reveal at once? Were they so desperate for that third pet to spill his secrets? That wasn't right. It was an invasion of privacy, and even she wouldn't tell what happened to her either.
Yet, at the back of her mind, something told her to go.
"...Only for a few days. I'm not comfortable with being with strangers," she mumbled, earning relieved looks from the trio.
The trio's home was not too far from the marketplace. It was big enough to house four pets and a human owner with ample amount of space left for other rooms, which was pretty big in her opinion. Before, she stayed in a tiny, cramped house which was more like one large room with five others. Two would be awake to guard the entrances through the night, taking turns when they felt sleepy. It was just a precaution in case guards caught onto them or other rogue thieves entered.
Now that place was abandoned in the slums of Sakhmet.
"What time is it?" the Xweetok asked the man - named Ren - who was hanging her ragged her cloak on the wall, leaving her in a greying white desert dress, having sky blue and pure gold borders which were fading with time. The silver bracelet was now in plain sight, though not really noticed but the others due to how simple it was, though she could make out a few letters, unfortunately too worn out to read.
"Around two," he answered when he looked up at a white clock. "Lunch time."
"What's there for lunch?" the Usul - Raila Marilas, the second pet, who was actually adopted - asked.
Ren just shrugged, heading to the kitchen. "Let's check the cabinets and we'll see."
The Usul pouted. "Not aga~in." She turned to the shadow-colored pet. "Oh yeah, you don't know. Ren really likes to give us 'simple' food. Just some fruits like a Tchea Fruit or maybe a Sand Peach. He gets lots of other stuff too, but it's something everyone eats eve~ry day."
"Sounds like someone who doesn't have too many neopoints." The words slipped out before she could stop herself.
"Yeah. I am still Red after all, and Inut's still Green."
"What about that desert-colored pet?"
Raila thought about it. "Well... Inut did say he was adopted, just like me. They found him like how we found you, though it was while he was trying to grab Ren's neopoints. He was really mean at first, but he soon started to be nice to us. He's kinda weird that way."
"Uh huh, I guess he is." Ameline wasn't really sure if she was lying to herself or not.
"Right! We've got fruits for lunch!" Ren came out, trying to juggle a pile of Tchea Fruits and other food items in his arms. Still, he managed to give a cocky grin to them. Raila grimaced at the blue and yellow striped fruits, turning her head away as she tried to hide away her disdain for the dreaded fruits. Not much luck there, but the man was just too oblivious to notice.
"Hey, Inut, could you go and get him?" Ren asked the Zafara, who nodded and darted up the stairs. Probably to get that desert pet.
The man motioned with his head to follow him, leading the remaining two to a dining table. He slowly placed the fruits there, a few rolling across the table. Raila unwillingly pushed herself to gather the scattered few, looking like she was going to stick her tongue out at the sight of each of them, but didn't and placed it close to the original pile of fruits. Ameline just stared at them, not sure whether she should just gape or stare at how large it was when stacked like that.
That was when she felt a piercing stare from behind her.
Her head turned back, staring at a desert Aisha. He looked like any other desert Aisha, but the crystal earring, hanging from one of his towering heart-shaped ears, had given him away. The earring was carved to resemble a simple ring with a tear drop attached to it.
"Just in time!" Inut came from behind the Aisha. "Ren got another one of those pets. She's staying with us for a few days. Her name's... uh..." The Zafara looked over her, a nervous smile on his face. "Um... we never did get your name."
"...Ameline Rain." That was the second thing she held from her past life. Her name. Though, she found no others with the same. The Aisha's face remained impassive, though that faint frown of his had twitched upward into a smile, though it vanished the moment she blinked.
"Parlus Naumi." He paused, clear hesitation in it, but continued with the same confidence. "Once a part of the Desert Scarabs, but I'm just a former thief of a certain group of Scarab drop outs."
That got an interesting reaction. Ren froze in tracks, Raila gave this shocked gasp and Inut simply stared with a surprised, but somewhat knowing face.
Ameline just laughed instead.
"Direct as ever, huh, Leader?" she managed to speak. "Since when did you come?"
"A year back." He shifted his position so that he could comfortably lean on the brick posts of the door. The ear with the crystal earring had now fallen to his face, moving about in some strange way of restlessness. "Anyway, how's life been since our... 'disbandment'?" There was bitter smile on his face as he said the latter words.
"Oh... it's been good." She paused. "But maybe we can talk about it after lunch? There's a stack of Tchea Fruits there."
"You didn't think I saw it?" His ears lifted up, twisting to make a circle motion as a form of rolling his eyes, though it was technically his ears doing it. "Ren's always buying mountains of them! I can already see why Raila's getting tired of eating Tchea Fruits. Breakfast, Tchea Fruits. Lunch, Tchea Fruits. Dinner, Tchea Fruits!"
"Hey! They're all for one neopoint! Isn't that a good bargain?" Ren frowned, protesting. Everyone either laughed or simply sighed.
Inut was in his bedroom, leafing through the papers in his hands. He smiled at the signature below, written in a hastily-done scribble. The name 'Ameline Rain' was written just a little above the blank with the signature, along with certain details. High above that were words in bold and red.