Saving Raiders Academy
Pleo flapped her tail fin in the tub in her room and watched the light glimmer against its blue surface. Her scales had always been very shiny for a Maraquan Uni. Her Quadrapus, Quinn, swam in circles in the tub before stopping and floating sideways over to her, obviously dizzy and always so energetic. She patted his head and reflected on her long day at school. It seemed that every day at Raiders Academy passed more slowly than the last. Pleo could not wait to be gone from there.
Raiders Academy was large and decaying with ruins taken from the depths of Maraqua for historical purposes, but Pleo always thought it was more hazardous than it was aesthetic. Underfunded and with a small student base, the school did very little for its pupils. Its last major supporter had moved to Krawk Island a few years ago and had not returned since the crisis there. Rumors in the classes were that he was lost in the caves of Smuggler's Cove. Once the rumors escalated, students began to say that he was eaten by a Kraken on the Forbidden Shore. Finally, Pleo overheard a few teachers gossiping. They claimed that the last donor for Raiders Academy had lost everything after becoming addicted to Bilge Dice.
Raiders Academy had few games and competitions due to its lack of funds. Petpet Plunge had been removed years ago after a silly Starry Krawk had gone missing. Parents complained about the dangers of Whirlpool, and JubJubs complained about their children being injured in Jubble Bubble. The one tradition that remained intact was Raiders of Maraqua, a treasure hunt held annually by a visiting Koi named Karpoh. Pleo had decided long ago that Karpoh the Koi could not be very intelligent. Any Neopet who became that excited for a shiny piece of metal could not have an IQ much higher than that of a Slorg. Pleo was sure of it.
She lifted her fin and let cool water droplets drip down from its sides into the tub. Quinn just barely poked his head out of the tub and began making bubbles with his mouth beneath the water. As he watched the bubbles, his eyes went cross and Pleo laughed. Quinn was a great escape from the world of Neopia, and she was glad she had him.
Karpoh the Koi would be at school tomorrow, and something in Pleo's gut told her that something strange was going to happen.
Pleo had always been an intuitive Neopet.
Pleo floated between two of her friends waiting for Karpoh the Koi to appear. The students spoke in a dull drone. Nobody seemed particularly enthusiastic about the treasure hunt. Most students at Raiders Academy weren't very enthusiastic at all though. This being one of the key reasons why it was so hard to find a donator for the school. "He'll be here any minute!" the teacher, a Mutant Flotsam, announced to the class.
The teacher's yellow eyes swirled around surveying her students. Pleo thought she looked nervous. Karpoh was already ten minutes late. Had he abandoned the students of Raiders Academy too? The waters of Maraqua were particularly murky today, and it was easy to get lost when the dark sands rose from the ocean's floor. Pleo hated the way the murky water smelled.
Mutants made up a small portion of the teachers at Raiders Academy. They were the most underpaid species and were known for living frugal lives due to their appearances and frequent medical struggles. Pleo's teacher, however, was one of the nicest Neopets she had ever met and always tried to keep a tidy, professional appearance. Most of the time, Pleo felt bad for her.
Just as the teacher turned to wipe some green substance from her face, Karpoh the Koi made an elaborate entrance swirling, dodging, and swelling as he swam through the ruins. The students were quiet immediately.
Karpoh began to tell them a long story about his most latest treasure hunting experience: "-in the black waters of Krawk Island off the Forbidden Shore I swam in the dark waters ramming into objects, feeling kelp wrap around my fins like nets, and still I swam!" Pleo thought he sounded ridiculous, but the rest of her classmates seemed enthralled. Their eyes were all fixated on Karpoh and his flailing gestures. Pleo thought he exaggerated about everything. She did not feign the slightest trace of interest and looked to a nearby ruin instead.
Karpoh the Koi split them into treasure hunting groups. Pleo didn't know the other two Neopets in her group and was unusually shy around them. The Halloween Koi, Rylin, had a scar down his face that made Pleo nervous. She wanted to be in a group with her teacher who was alone and waiting back at the entrance point of the ruins for any students that gave up during the expedition. Several usually did.
Rylin led their group. He scowled at locals and pushed away rocks and bubbles that he thought looked promising. Pleo paid no attention until the waters became darker and the locals became few. Finally, she stopped. "Where are we?" Pleo asked. Looking around her, even the ruins were gone. Open water.
"In Maraqua, stupid." Rylin said.
The other member of their group, a Faerie Peophin named Stace, adjusted her glasses and wrapped her wings around her torso nervously. "I think we've gone too far. Let's go back," Stace suggested. Her eyes darted back and forth before falling.
Rylin scoffed. "Go back without treasure? No way."
Flapping with fins wildly, he swam away from his two classmates. Pleo and Stace exchanged nervous glances, but they did not follow. Finally, he turned back around: "Are you coming or what?"
Stace shook her head no. Rylin rolled his eyes and muttering under his breath swam back toward them. He rammed into Pleo's shoulder as he passed without apology. She rubbed it, but it still ached as she swam. The three of them swam back toward the group in silence. The silence made Pleo uncomfortable.
The locals that they had passed earlier barely seemed to notice them now. The murky water had created a dismal atmosphere, but Pleo didn't mind. She wanted to be back with the large group and her friends. Not stuck out here with two other students that were practically strangers to her. She looked at Stace who swam behind her and then back at Rylin. Pleo knew that they wouldn't be friends after this. She and Stace might nod toward one another in the cafeteria, but they would never truly be friends. The thought made her feel sick. It was so difficult for Pleo to open up to someone.
As they swam between the ruins, Pleo saw something glimmer from the corner of her eye. She stopped causing Stace to bump into her.
"Oof!" Stace adjusted her glasses that sat crookedly on her snout. In frustration, Rylin just kept swimming leaving the two girls behind. Pleo motioned for Stace to follow and swam down to the bottom of a degrading column.
At first glance, all of the columns in Maraqua looked the same, but once you had lived there for awhile, they all seemed to form their own personalities. Some leaned, some of the ancient markings were more clear than others, some seemed to sigh as you passed them.
The seaweed on the ocean's floor scraped against Pleo's stomach making her feel queasy and dirty. With her fins, she moved away some of the brown seaweed and pulled from the base of the column- a shiny metallic rock. Pleo's eyes grew wide as she cleaned its surface. Stace's glasses slid down her nose. A diamond. It was the only treasure found on Karpoh the Koi's expedition that year, and it was gallant enough to save Raiders Academy.