Scarblade's Pearl: Forgive and Regret - Part Two
Nira started awake at the sound of Garin's voice. She swiftly lifted her head, blinking a bit, wondering where she was. She realized she fallen asleep leaning on the rail! A quiet curse passed her lips.
"Quite a vocabulary for a lady," Garin teased.
The sun was coming up on the horizon, making the sky a beautiful golden-orange color. Garin was leaning on the rail beside her, smiling innocently. Nira pursed her lips and jabbed his arm.
"Don't sneak up on me like that! You nearly gave me a heart attack!" she scolded. Garin burst out laughing, which only proved to make Nira even angrier. When his laughter quieted, he flashed that innocent smile again.
"That was kind of the point, you know," he replied. Nira narrowed her eyes and jabbed his arm again.
"Isca's right. You are incorrigible!" she muttered angrily. Garin just laughed again. Nira ignored him, instead turning her attention back to the sea. Garin quieted more quickly this time, and a silence passed between them.
"Thought about where you'll go next?" Garin asked, shattering that silence.
Nira sighed, instantly thinking of Alia again.
"Kind of...." she said quietly, not looking at him. Garin looked at her side-long.
"What'd you come up with?" he asked, sounding a bit more downhearted this time.
"I... I want to apologize to Alia. I know King Kelpbeard probably won't ever forgive me, but I'd at least like to apologize to her. She's the one I affected most, after all," she replied.
Garin put a hand to his chin, nodding slowly. Nira noticed the movement out of the corner of her eye and turned to look questioningly at the Usul.
"What are you up to?" she asked suspiciously. Garin smiled that innocent smile and put his hand over Nira's.
"I think we can get you into Maraqua," he answered.
"This is crazy!" Nira whispered sharply as she swam along side a cloaked Garin. He flashed a smile beneath his hood.
"You said you wanted to see Alia," he replied with quiet calm.
"We'll get caught for sure!" she whispered back, scowling.
It had been four or five days since their talk on the forecastle. As soon as he'd come up with his plan, Garin had turned to sail towards Maraqua. If Nira had had any second thoughts, it would have been much too late. Now they were swimming down to the beautiful city, wearing light, water-proof cloaks to "protect against the cold" as their story would say. Maraquans always boasted that most surface-dwellers couldn't handle the colder water temperatures. They wouldn't suspect a thing.
Then again, that was according to Garin. Not to say that she didn't trust him, but he was a bit brash sometimes. Nira never knew what he might come up with, their current plan being a good example.
Finally they reached the entrance to the city. The guards let them pass without much more than a fleeting glance. Nira kept her head bowed anyway. No need for there to even be a slight chance of getting recognized. As planned, Garin took Nira's hand and began leading her through the streets.
"Where are we headed again?" he asked playfully. Nira risked casting him a glare.
"Maraquan Melodies. You should know that by now," she replied icily. Garin just grinned and continued on as if she'd just complimented him on his looks. She huffed quietly.
He's such a-
"This is it."
Garin's words cut off Nira's thoughts. She lifted her head enough to look at the sign hanging over the door of the building in front of her. "Maraquan Melodies". Just the way she remembered it. It seemed like so long ago, after all that had happened.
"You sure you wanna do this? It's not too late to turn back now," Garin whispered, still holding her hand. Nira pursed her lips, her grip on Garin's hand becoming firm.
"No. I'm not turning back," she replied. Garin looked at her closely, then pushed the door open to the shop. Nira followed him cautiously.
Right inside, there was Alia. She had a large box in her arms that she seemed to be struggling with. Her Delfin Ecco circled her worriedly, making tiny, uncertain sounds.
"I'm fine, Ecc-" The Kyrii's tail suddenly caught on the edge of the counter as she tried to move behind it. The box began to tumble from her grasp. Garin, ever the hero, dove forward and managed to catch the end and help her stabilize. Nira heard Alia laughing at herself.
"Thank you, kind Neopian," she said cheerily. Garin chuckled.
"No problem. Where do you want this?" he asked.
"Oh no, let me. You're a customer," she replied, trying to pull back.
"Nah, I don't mind. Trust me, I've lifted things heavier than this," he answered, gently forcing Alia to relinquish the box. She sighed and smiled.
"In that case, could you set it down behind the counter there for me, please?" she asked politely.
Garin moved around the counter and put the box down carefully. Alia watched him for a moment, then suddenly seemed to realize Nira was there.
"Oh, I'm sorry! I didn't see you there! Silly Alia, why aren't you more observant?" She tapped her fist against her head as she spoke, then giggled. Normally, Nira would have joined in her laughter. Now, she couldn't even smile. Alia's giggles died awkwardly. She glanced between Garin and Nira.
"You two are surface dwellers aren't you?" she asked. Garin nodded confirmation, then glanced at Nira. She had to speak now. This was do or die. She took a deep breath.
"Alia... I..." Nira stopped and shook her head, unsure what to say. Alia drifted back a bit, looking worried.
"How... how do you know my name?" she asked. Nira realized she was still concealed beneath her hood. With trembling hands, she pulled it back and revealed her identity. Alia's eyes widened in surprise.
"Nira? What's wrong? Why are you dressed like that?" she asked wonderingly.
Nira looked at the ground, gathering her courage.
"I... I had to come in secret...."
"King Kelpbeard's men are after me."
"Whatever for?!" Alia cried disbelievingly.
"I'm... not who you think I am, Alia...."
Alia looked at Nira in a new, more uncertain light.
Tears began to collect under Nira's eyes, though they were lost in the underwater world. The whole moment was so much more overwhelming in real life than it had been in her imagination.
"Alia... I destroyed your home," she stated flatly.
Horror lit Alia's eyes and she drifted back even further.
"What?" she barely whispered.
Nira gulped and forced herself to go on.
"I'm the Shoyru Maraqua fears. I'm the one with the power to control water who destroyed the village you lived in."
Alia was backing up further and further. Ecco was hiding behind the counter, watching her owner with deep worry. Nira fell on her knees, her cloak spreading out around her as she did.
"I mercilessly ruined all those lives for the sake of one man. Just for a word of praise from the most terrible pirate of all. Captain Scarblade."
Alia lifted an arm in front of her face, horror and despair lighting her eyes.
"How... how could you?!" she cried quietly.
Nira looked up to meet Alia's gaze, wincing at the fear she found there.
"I was fooled! All my life I was told that Maraquans were terrible and needed to be wiped from the face of Neopia. But I've changed! When I saw you... thought of what I'd done to you.... I finally realized what a terrible thing I'd done."
Nira's head fell in her hands and she sobbed quietly.
"Please, Alia... forgive me...." she whimpered.
Garin watched the scene with tense anticipation. From the way Alia was acting, he wasn't sure what might happen next. Whatever did happen, though, he had a feeling it wouldn't be good.
For a long while, no one moved. Alia stared at Nira in horror, Nira sobbed quietly, and Garin waited.
Finally, Alia moved forward a bit, hands clenching into fists. Garin felt every muscle tense. This might get ugly.
"You want me to forgive you?" Alia asked, voice trembling. She drifted a little closer, eyes narrowing.
"You destroy my home, my friends, my family..." She drifted a bit closer with each word she spoke.
"You took away everything I owned, everything I loved... and you want me to FORGIVE you?" Now Alia's voice was much louder, stronger. She stopped in front of Nira, who was now staring up at her with wide eyes. Without hesitation, she lifted her hand and slapped it hard across Nira's cheek. Nira yelped, but otherwise didn't react.
"How dare you?! How dare you ask my forgiveness after what you've done?! Did you really think I could EVER forgive YOU?!" Her voice became shrill as her anger built. She lifted her hand for another slap, but Garin lunged in from behind and grabbed hold of her arms. She tried to fight him, but his strength was greater than hers and his grip on her arms was firm.
"Stop it, Alia!" Garin shouted.
"Let me go!!" Alia screamed.
"Not until you calm down!"
Suddenly Alia let out an ear-splitting scream.
"Guards!! Guards!! Help me!!" she cried at the top of her lungs.
"NO!" Garin cried. It was much too late, however, for three Maraquan guards suddenly burst into the shop. Two of them went for Garin and forcibly tore him from Alia. The other dragged Nira roughly to her feet and held her arms painfully behind her back. She let out another yelp of pain.
"LET ME GO!!" Garin shouted, twisting and squirming with all his might. Nira, meanwhile, was just trying to relieve the pain in her arms and back.
Much more slowly than the other three, a new guard came in. He was a Maraquan Draik dressed in full Maractite armor. He had his hands folded behind his back and his eyes locked first on Garin, then on Nira.
"My, my, what have we here?" he said, sounding genuinely surprised.
Garin stopped his struggling just for a moment to look at the new arrival in shock.
To be continued...