Sunshine pooled gloriously into Shenkuu’s Imperial Guard Training School (For Beginners), bringing with it windswept blossom petals that littered the wooden floor, and a Naleap song that lifted the students’ spirits.
With one last command, the Top Chop Master was able to convince his weakest students to split a wooden board in two with no more than the side of their hands. He was very proud of their achievements.
As the old Yellow Ogrin dismissed his class, he began the ritual of picking up all of the useless wood pieces on his own. Then he sensed a change in the winds.
Someone was still with him.
“If you are going to stay behind, I could do with a hand, you know,” he addressed the Neopian shortly, carrying on with his task. “Or do you seek further advice with your progress?”
There was silence for a minute before a gentle voice responded, “I have heard that you are a guide...”
Interesting. The voice was definitely female, but it sounded like it came from across the mountain. This was no student of his.
“I am a guide of sorts, miss...”
“I teach students how to channel their chi into martial arts. This service DOES require a fee, though,” he added matter-of-factly, not wanting that little fact to slip away.
This statement hung loosely in the air until Miss Evenshawe responded in a wistful tone, “You are not the guide for me...”
Within almost an instant, the atmosphere of the training school had returned to normal.
The blind Ogrin blinked in confusion. He had not been visited by an expert ninja – he was sure of that – but how had that Neopian entered and left the training school without even the slightest sound? It was spooky.
* * *
The Emperor of Shenkuu was taking tea with his two daughters, Lunara and Terrana, as the sun lifted their moods in the small room with a low table and intricately woven pillows.
The Emperor was a Red Gelert and he sipped his tea first as he watched his daughters follow suit.
Lunara was a very regal Cybunny who was learning her royal duties as the heir to the throne. She was very well disciplined in the art of drinking tea.
Then there was Terrana... the slender, Green Gnorbu who loved to fight and tempt fate on the mountain. She was also equally skilled at sipping tea civilly (when she wanted to) but had an annoying habit of letting her mind wander to other activities.
“Terrana, is your head in the clouds again? Sit up properly,” the Emperor demanded. His child obeyed.
“I am sorry, Father,” she replied sincerely, snapping out of her trance. “I was just wondering – what with the Altador Cup season approaching – if you would consider letting us watch the games this year? We never have time to mingle with the average Neopian.”
The Emperor immediately rejected the concept. “Certainly not. Not after our team’s shameful performance in the fifth tournament. If it hadn’t been for the fact that they had an excellent track record of results prior to last year I would have withdrawn them from the competition immediately.”
Terrana felt that her father was being too harsh. “Yes, but I feel that the support could help them... and it would be good for our royal image to make an appearance. King Altador hosts the ev—”
“G-G-G...” Lunara stammered, interrupting her sister whilst shaking nervously. “G-G-G...”
“Lunara? Are you feeling well?” the Gelert asked worriedly as his daughter stared into space.
“G-G-GHOST!” she exclaimed, dropping her cup onto the table. It broke and spilled tea all over the surface.
Terrana leapt up into a defensive stance and challenged the spirit of a female Kyrii who was standing behind her father. “Who are you? What brings you to this place?”
The ghost did not flinch and calmly replied, “I am seeking a guide... I need a guide...”
“A guide for what?” Terrana asked quizzically, arching her eyebrow.
The Emperor looked indignant. “How dare you interrupt tea! Ghost or no ghost, this is bad manners!”
“Father!” Terrana snapped before addressing the ghost again. “What do you need a guide for?”
“The mountain...” Miss Evenshawe moaned, not completely acknowledging her.
“Oh, well, I climb the mountain in my spare time...” she answered proudly, feeling very important all of a sudden. But this was not the right answer.
“You are not the guide for me...”
And so the spirit vanished before their very eyes.
After a pause, Terrana scowled. “I agree, Father. She was rude.”
* * *
In the catacombs of Shenkuu’s misty mountain Team Shenkuu, of Altador’s Yooyuballing event, were slinging a few Normal Yooyus around their practice stadium as a warm-up exercise.
Foltaggio, the one-eyed Shadow Mynci and Right Forward of the team, continued a running conversation they were having that day as he passed the Yooyu to his Captain. “I disagree. I think that tourists shouldn’t be allowed in the higher reaches of the mountain. It’s way too dangerous.”
“There are already Neopians who do riverboarding, though,” Mirsha Grelinek (Team Captain and Left Forward) reminded him pointedly. “I don’t think they will stop anyone accessing it entirely.”
The lean Brown Gnorbu tossed the Yooyu to their Right Defender, Larcy Phu who was the team’s White Grundo.
“I can’t stand riverboarding anyway,” Larcy remarked sourly, passing the Yooyu to his Co-Defender, Antola Maeir.
“I happen to LIKE riverboarding,” the Yellow Zafara argued, slinging the Yooyu at their goalkeeper (a Pink Lutari called Xana DiLanche).
“I don’t think they’ll cancel riverboarding, Ant,” Xana giggled, throwing the petpet back to Foltaggio. “It’s too popular.”
Foltaggio dropped the conversation as he threw the petpet back in his Captain’s direction, but she did not catch it! “Look alive, Mirsha!” he teased as the Yooyu rolled away to the back of the field.
Their Captain was not paying attention anymore and subconsciously took a step back from where she was standing. It took her a moment before she asked, “Did anyone else feel the room temperature drop right now?”
Larcy frowned. “No. Are you coming down with a fever or something?”
“No... It’s just... Something isn’t right,” she said anxiously, suddenly unsettled.
Antola also felt the same chill. “Wait, she’s right. It is getting colder.”
“We aren’t expecting snow,” Xana remarked, wondering if the weather outside was conditioning the temperature of the draughty catacombs. “How odd.”
Foltaggio went to retrieve the Yooyu, but the petpet had other ideas and made a run for it! “Hey! Come back here!”
“Leave it,” Mirsha commanded, watching him carefully. “Come back to us, Foltaggio. Don’t panic.”
The Mynci paused and became suspicious when his entire team was staring at him in horror. When he returned to his teammates’ sides, he looked back at where he was standing and realised they were not staring at him, but at the ghost of a Kyrii.
It looked back vacantly at the team.
Larcy Phu tensed. Xana held her breath.
Mirsha broke the silence tentatively. “”Hello? Can we help you?”
She did not expect the ghost to reply!
“I am getting weary of this search...” the ghost complained, seemingly dangerous despite her transparency. “I need a guide...”
Foltaggio frowned. “We aren’t an information kiosk.”
Antola couldn’t hold back a chuckle.
Mirsha elbowed her Co-Forward. “Not now, Folty,” she hissed.
“Sorry, Captain,” the Mynci apologised, grinning.
The ghost became impatient. “I have searched for so long... I cannot find my guide... I have no time to wait around!” The last few words boomed loud enough to rival a thunderclap.
Xana gasped as she remembered to breathe.
“What type of guide?” Larcy ventured bravely.
“The mountain...” the ghost sighed.
“...” was the general response of the Yooyuballers.
“Um, what is your name?” Mirsha asked the spirit cautiously.
“Miss Evenshawe... Where is my guide...?”
“What are you talking about?”
“My guide... The mountain...”
“We aren’t getting anywhere here,” Foltaggio whispered impatiently to his teammates. He then addressed the ghost. “What type of guide are you looking for? A map? A person?”
“The navigator...” she responded mournfully. “You are not my guides...” She began to fade away but the Mynci stopped her.
“Wait – you want a NAVIGATOR?” Foltaggio gasped.
“Hoban! Are you after Hoban from the Cyodrake’s Gaze?” Larcy interjected hurriedly. “Is it Hoban you’re looking for, Miss Evenshawe?”
“Hoban...” the ghost echoed peacefully.
“He’s usually at the sky port.”
Miss Evenshawe faded away and the practice stadium slowly returned to a normal temperature.
Foltaggio eventually stated in a stiff tone, “That’s exactly the result of someone falling off the mountain. Tourists shouldn’t be allowed up there or they’ll fall and become ghosts. If a tourist becomes a spirit after kicking the bucket, they’ll forever haunt people for directions that they can’t follow.” He wasn’t being sour, though, he actually found it rather amusing that their previous conversation linked so well with their ghostly visitor.
Mirsha turned to him with a sly grin. “Alright, interruptions are over with. You go find where that Yooyu is whilst we all grab a slushie each.”
“You didn’t catch it, Mirsha! You should find it,” the Mynci argued playfully.
“Yeah but that ghost distracted me, and you threw it, so you should find it.”
“Aww, come on...”
“Fine. Join us for slushies and then we’ll find that Yooyu,” she teased.
“Good. That’s better,” he said cheekily, leading the way out.
* * *
Hoban, the Yellow Aisha with a funky stripy hat, was working on mending an old map of Neopia Central that had been in storage for a long time, starting to decay. He was currently in a wooden hut, not far from where the Cyodrake’s Gaze was docked, and was surrounded by aged maps he planned to mend after this one.
It was as he leant forward, gazing through a magnifying glass to examine a tear in the paper, when his green and brown striped hat unexpectedly flew off!
He hurried after it and picked it up off the floor.
“Strange,” he said, brushing the dust off the fabric. “I didn’t FEEL a gust of wind.”
It was when he stood up that he noticed the other Neopian in the room. He gaped and took a few steps back until he tripped over backwards into his chair. “Helen?!”
Miss Evenshawe floated over to him and smiled. “I found you.”
“H-H... How? What...?” Hoban could not understand what was going on. He pinched himself to make sure that this wasn’t a dream.
The ghostly Kyrii stepped in front of him, saying, “You are my guide...”
“YEEAAGGGH!” the Aisha exclaimed in fright, scrambling against the back of the armchair. “What do you WANT with me?!”
“You were my navigator... You must guide me to peace...” she explained, appearing livelier towards Hoban than to the other Shenkuuvians she haunted. “Help me, Hoban...”
The Aisha looked terrified. “You won’t hurt me, will you? I didn’t mean to navigate through a storm; no one knew you had fallen overboard!”
The ghost Kyrii shook her head gently and gave off the impression of harmlessness.
Hoban calmed down and asked, “What happened to you? You were with us on the Cyodrake’s maiden voyage and disappeared not long after we left port. We thought that you had left the ship before we castoff.”
Miss Evenshawe became sad. “I was onboard, but everyone else was so busy... When the storm came, I was catching some air on the port side of the ship... Then all I remember is falling and then blackness... I’ve been searching for you for so long... You guided us then and you must guide me now.”
“Where to?” Hoban choked.
“To the foot of the waterfall. From there I can continue my own journey beyond...”
The Aisha nodded and realised that his ex-crewmate would not leave him in peace until SHE was at peace. “Let me grab a few things and I’ll lead you there... It’s a shame, what happened, you would have been a great part of the crew.”
“I was only the cabin crew...” She smiled as he scrambled around for his satchel.
“Yeah but you were more fun than the other guys!”
Hoban was finally ready to take Helen on her last journey with his satchel packed with the necessities.
* * *
By the time that Hoban had reached the foot of the roaring, hazardous waterfall, Miss Helen Evenshawe had gone!
He wondered whether the mere journey itself was enough to send her away to whatever peaceful place she was going next.
But he still had one more task to do.
Putting down his satchel, Hoban removed a small boat (hand-sized) and placed a paper lantern on top of it. Inside, he lit a candle in Helen’s memory.
The waterfall and the river itself would have engulfed the paper lantern boat in a second if the object had not been blessed by water faeries to keep it in tact and afloat.
Now he felt like he had said a proper farewell, and the inhabitants of Shenkuu would no longer be haunted by the misguided spirit of Miss Helen Evenshawe.