Visions: Journey to Shenkuu - Part Seven
Nil watched as the rowboat came back to the docks, a new passenger aboard. Everyone gathered around as they docked and Karan got out, happily smiling at the yellow Xweetok who was standing next to him. The pair of them seemed overjoyed to be together, and she realized that this was his father.
“Nil!” Karan called, waving at her. “Come meet my father, Damon.”
A bit of her normal composure returned and she sank into the shadows, not wishing to be spotted. She slunk back to the small cluster of buildings, remotely aware that Karan was following.
“What?” she asked, turning around sharply and startling the Xweetok.
“I should be asking you that,” he replied. “Why’d you walk off?”
“There’s a crowd and I’m a wanted Kyrii,” she explained. “Those reasons enough for you?” She crossed her arms and glared at him.
“Well, I guess I’m sorry then. It’s just I wanted you to meet my father. After all, we are friends, right?”
Nil’s eyes widened. “Friends? Friends? No, we’re nowhere near being friends. You just had to come along with me to Shenkuu, didn’t you? Well, go home now. I’m better off on my own, and you and your father have a lot of catching up to do.”
Karan was stricken by her words. “What? No, we can’t leave. And it’s not just because you’re here. My dad’s been out at sea, living off whatever he could fish out of the ocean and whatever water he could get that wasn’t from the sea. He’s in poor physical and mental conditions and I can’t just leave him.”
“Well, that’s your problem,” Nil replied, flicking her tail in irritation. “Leave me out of it. I have enough of my own.”
“What? Why—why you—ugh! I can’t stand you! You’re always pushing away any kindness you’re given and refusing to help others while pretending to be all independent, but you’re not. You’re a mean little Kyrii who doesn’t like anyone around her and... and... AH! I can’t stand you!” He practically screamed at her the last words before walking off, leaving Nil standing there.
She felt guilty and sad: guilty that she had angered him and sad that he had yelled at her. The feelings confused her and she wondered if, by some flux, she had come to like the Xweetok somewhere along the way. Now he was boiling mad at her and she didn’t know whether to make amends or just ignore it and disappear like she always did.
There are other things to worry about, she reminded herself, turning away from the crowd where Karan stood with his father. They were talking about somewhere to stay for the night where Damon could rest and rejuvenate.
Nil walked up to the side of the mountain, where a set of stairs lead up the mountain towards one of the cliffs. She grabbed the railing and began to walk up, taking a glance back at the crowd. Karan and his father were being lead away by the Lutari who went with him in the boat.
They’re not important anymore, she reminded herself, starting up the stairs. I’ll never have to care about those two Xweetoks again. I’m going to live with the Ogrin and keep the Wocky from killing him, no matter what. He’s the only one that matters. A single tear slid down her cheek and she collapsed on the stairs, quietly sobbing.
She turned her face up to the starry sky. Then why am I crying? Why does it hurt so much?
For a while, long after the tears had dried, she sat there. Eventually, she looked up and saw the first traces of dawn were beginning to peer above the horizon. Silently, she stood and turned away from it all.
Time to see the Ogrin at last, she thought, and took a step.
It was well into the afternoon when the city of Shenkuu finally appeared above the cloud cover. Nil felt tired and ready to sleep, but all around her was movement.
Neopets hustled back and forth on bridges, going about their business as usual. Some were heading home while others were working hard. One of the mountains had a waterfall that filled the air with its mighty rumble. Nil tried to ignore the fact that she was inches away from a horrible plummet into white waters as she crossed a bridge over one of the short rivers.
Something’s only beautiful until it kills you, she thought as she reached solid land.
For a while, she asked around about a blind Ogrin, learning that he taught the Royal Guard and decided who was allowed amidst the ranks of the guards. Still, he sometimes trained young students eager to learn the ways of the ancient fighting skills that were a part of their history.
Maybe I can be one of those, she thought hopefully as she crossed the bridge that lead to the Ogrin’s temple. She would be risking a lot, coming to the temple, but it was better than staying in Altador.
There seemed to be no one inside or outside the temple. It was about the time for the evening meal, so she guessed that was why the temple was empty.
Nil walked around towards the back, hoping to find a clue that could tell her where the Ogrin was. Instead, she found the Ogrin himself.
He sat alone on a smooth boulder beneath a tree blooming with delicate pink flowers. In his hands was a wooden staff, worn smooth over years of use. He gazed ahead with unseeing eyes and a smile lit up his face.
Slowly, Nil approached. Her heart was pounding like crazy and she nervously fiddled with the edges of her cloak. The reason she had gone on this journey was now before her, and she was more nervous now than she had ever been before. Finally, she was only a foot or so away from the Ogrin.
“Hello?” she said, uncertain of how to catch his attention.
“Hello,” the Ogrin replied, turning his head to face her. His eyes still carried the same blank stare, but it didn’t bother her.
“I—I was wondering if, perhaps, I could train in your temple,” Nil said shyly.
The Ogrin smiled. “I see no reason why you could not. Will you be training yourself, or is someone going to train you?”
Nil blinked in confusion. “What?”
The Ogrin burst into laughter. “I am joking. Just a joke, young one. Now, I can only train you if you pass a test. For most, it is a test of physical and mental strength. Yours will be a test of mental strength, since you are already physically strong, but not in the form most would think.”
“What is my test?”
“To find a friend who was once your enemy.”
Nil immediately understood why this was her given task. Still, how could the Ogrin know? He hadn’t ever met her, yet he was able to give her one of the hardest tests for her.
“I am not psychic, if that is what you think,” the Ogrin said, almost giggling at his own joke. “It’s your voice. You sound heartbroken, and that seems to come from somewhere deep within you, where friends lie. There is a friend who has turned against you, correct?”
“Well, I don’t know if he was ever really my friend,” Nil replied, sinking to the ground. “He acted like one, I suppose, but I didn’t really want him around.” Why am I saying this to him? He’s a complete stranger and I’m telling him about Karan.
You know to respect him, a voice told her. He is someone old, wise, and blind—clearly worthy of your respect.
“Shut up,” she muttered to herself.
“Excuse me?” the Ogrin asked, raising an eyebrow at her.
“Uh, nothing. Just talking to myself. That’s all.”
“So are you ready to begin the test?”
“Yes, sir. I am.” I hope I am, at any rate.
“Then be on your way. The world waits for no one.” He gave her a smile and nodded. “I’m sure you’ll do fine.”
His words seemed to fill her with a newfound confidence and she slowly rose to her feet once more. Somehow, I feel as if I will pass this test. One way or another.
Going down was a slower process than going up. Nil was reluctant to face Karan after the way he yelled at her. She tried to take her mind off it, but nothing helped. Not even looking at the stars as they began to show across the black sky.
She looked up at the different constellations. The only way she knew them was listening to the other inhabitants of Faerieland talk about them as they stargazed.
There’s the Hunter, she thought as she finally reached the bottom of the stairs. And there’s my favorite, the Thief.
Nil sighed and gave a shy smile, and then walked towards the house Karan had disappeared into with his father. She didn’t approach the front door, but rather went to the side and slipped in through the window.
It was dark, barely illuminated by the moon’s glow. On the floor was a mat, upon which lay Karan’s father. He appeared to have been given new clothing and seemed a bit stronger than before, but it was still quite clear that he was in poor health.
“Why are you here?” Karan asked from the door of the room.
Nil stood from the crouching position she had assumed and looked at Karan. “Look, I just wanted to say I’m sorry. Both of us have had hard lives, and I’m sorry for what I said and did.”
“It’s not that simple,” Karan responded. “No matter how hard your life has been, you can’t just do something like that, say a few apologies, and I’ll forgive you.”
“You said we were friends, right?”
“That word obviously holds no meaning to you.” He glanced down at his father. “Look, can we take this somewhere else? I don’t want to wake him when we start yelling at each other.”
Nil nodded. “Alright. Let’s go.”
Karan turned and exited, followed closely by Nil who closed the door softly behind them.
“So, where were you the whole day and why did you come back?” Karan asked as they stood in the hallway, some ways away from Damon’s room.
“I went up to Shenkuu,” she replied. “And... I met the Ogrin Master. He told me to make a friend with someone who was my enemy, so...”
“So you really think of me as a friend?” he asked.
“I hope you can be,” she replied, and as she said the words, she realized it was the complete and total truth.
“I’d never have thought...” Karan whispered. Then he began to laugh a little. “I guess I was wrong about you, Nil. You’re not so mean, after all.” He smiled at her and opened his arms, sweeping her into a hug.
“What did I do?” she asked, trying to escape his grasp.
Karan smiled again and released her. “You just became my friend again. Now, how about I let you sleep in my bed for the night? I’m going to stay with my father tonight, anyways, and it’s too late to travel back to the Ogrin Master, as you called him.”
Nil nodded and let Karan lead her to the room he was supposed to be asleep in.
Well, Ogrin Master, she thought. Looks like I was able to pass your test, after all. And who knows, maybe once I start my training, I’ll tell you who I really am and about what actually happened. She smiled to herself. For the Ogrin, then.