Masquerade: Part Seven
Also by bookworm7
My face felt sweaty and hot as it pressed heavily against the tabletop. I opened my eyes but couldn't see anything in the pitch-black darkness. Where was I? I sat up in the uncomfortable chair and put my hands up to my eyes. I felt a papery substance stretching scantily across my face. I began sobbing as I realized what it was. I suddenly ripped at the dead, Plant Negg parasite that Zaira had been using to drain my energy for so long.
"Yuruyuki?" I said hoarsely. "Where are you?" I reached blindly across the book-covered table and felt someone. Yuruyuki had also fallen victim to the Plant Negg. "Yuruyuki!" I exclaimed again as I began tearing away the magical plant from her resting head. I cried, "Wake up!"
Yuruyuki breathed in sharply and slowly sat up in her chair. "What? Where are you?" she asked. "Sin, I can't see anything!" Her voice quivered from fear.
"Calm down, Yu. We're still in the Altadorian Archives." I tried to sound calm for Yuruyuki's sake, but I couldn't take in the situation very well either. Zaira had abandoned us, but why had she left us alive? "We need to get out of here. Follow me." I reached across the table again and held onto Yuruyuki's shoulder. She grabbed my arm as we stood up.
She carefully walked around the table to my side while I carelessly picked up several documents from the table. I thumbed through them in search of the parchment and then dropped the rest. I reached out to the wall and began backtracking against it to the stairwell. We walked haphazardly up the stairs and out of the closet door where we were greeted by daylight.
"Ow, that was miserable, Sin. How long were we down there?" Yuruyuki began bouncing in place as she tried to restore feeling into her body. I squinted my eyes and looked up at the ceiling where light was coming in through a small window in the center of the room. It was certainly daytime, but how many days had gone by?
"Let's get out of here before we worry about that. I need time to think about what to do." I paced around the room until my body felt more responsive. I was exhausted, but I felt better than before. Yuruyuki's eyes were swollen and her posture was poor. I needed to get us out quickly.
Several identical bookshelves lined the walls all around the room. I had no idea which door led us out of the maze of the Archives, but that didn't matter. I was finally able to think for myself again without the Plant Negg stinging me in the back of the neck. "Can you fly?"
Yuruyuki spread her wings a bit and shook them. "Well," she said hesitantly, "I'm not carrying anything with me anymore, so maybe." She flapped her wings several times to get them relaxed. "I certainly won't be able to carry you, though. I'm tired enough as it is."
"That's okay. As long as you can break through that window above us, we'll be fine." I walked towards the wall and began shoving the books off of a shelf. "Just fly as fast as you can straight into it!"
Yuruyuki nodded in resolution. She took off speedily and crashed her beak into the window, which easily shattered. All of that Battledome training had paid off for more than just avatars!
I mustered the strength to pull the bookshelf away from the wall and towards the window in the center of the ceiling. Yuruyuki landed on the roof next to the window and began carefully pecking away the remaining shards.
I climbed up the bookshelf, handed her the parchment I was carrying, and jumped, barely grasping onto the edge. I hoisted myself up out of the Archives and into Altador's warm, fresh air. There was nothing I could remember so sweet and exciting as being free and ready to investigate such a bizarre case!
Yuruyuki glided down to the ground. I ran along the roof towards the support columns. Several Neopets stared at me and laughed as I awkwardly slid down one, embracing it with my entire body. We must have looked awful. I felt embarrassed, and it wasn't helping me think. I was just glad to be alive.
"Let's grab something at Exquisite Ambrosia and get our facts straight. Neopia is in trouble, and I need you to have the energy to fly me to Shenkuu for the Clockwork Negg."
Yuruyuki frowned, but I could tell that she was happy to be with me on our misadventure. We walked down the busy streets and picked a table outside of the Ambrosia. Yuruyuki sat nervously while I went inside the crowded shop to buy the food.
"It's the day before the commencement ceremony for the Altador Cup," I said as I later sat down with a tray of food. The Yooyu Bread Basket was overstuffed with various fruits and meats. "We were asleep for nearly three days! Zaira has already raided the Restive Tomb and is probably halfway across the Lost Desert by now. She's been using us ever since we found the Glass Negg. She knew that by following us we would find the remaining neggs for her."
"But what's the reason why Zaira is doing this?" Yuruyuki asked as she ate. I had linked together the disconnected facts in my mind, but I wanted to read the parchment before I said anything.
"Let me check the facts real quick. May I have the parchment that I gave you?" Yuruyuki pulled out the parchment from beneath her feathers and handed it to me. It was the parchment of which I had only read the last line before being put to sleep by the Plant Negg. Someone named Professor Menseiz had signed and dated the parchment several times in the margins. I began reading it softly between us.
"I discovered a peculiar phenomenon while researching the fall of the Geraptikan Empire on the northern half of Mystery Island. Just weeks ago, its citizens had slowly become savage, almost as if a contagious pathogen had spread through the city. The government was destroyed from internal conflict, and many citizens fought against each other to claim the judgment seat for a chance at dominion over the others. I have heard that every citizen has now vanished. The calamitous fall of the Empire has brought many researchers such as I to the Mysterious Island.
"We searched the barren ruins until we found the cause of the peculiar phenomenon. A strange, ticking negg was found in a small crater near the main temple. We thought that it had crashed into Neopia from outer space, but a further investigation of the mass of the negg and the relative size of the crater led us to conclude that the negg had not fallen from space. How it had gotten there, we may never know.
"The collection of researchers quarantined the area and began a thorough study of the mysterious, ticking negg. We called ourselves the Hidden Negg Society as we masked our existence and kept Neopia from hearing about the mysterious Clockwork Negg. We could detect that the negg contained powers, but we did not know of its capabilities until it began to maliciously affect our research team. Many researchers who had come in direct contact with the negg began violently attacking others, saying that they were chosen to keep the negg's power for themselves.
"Being careful not to touch the negg, the remaining unaffected researchers and I absconded with the negg in a basket and left the Island. We began serious tests on the negg and discovered the fact that it actually contained four separate powers that caused Neopets to become dark beings. In a desperate attempt to dilute this power, our research team drained the Clockwork Negg of its powers and divided them between four ordinary neggs.
"The Glass Negg, the purest of the neggs, was granted Greed. Our hope is that the Glass Negg will clear the mind and dispel the false belief that temporal possessions are important; we hope that Neopets will instead be enlightened upon the fact that the true treasures of the world are the things that cannot be seen such as knowledge, talent, and friendship.
"The Plant Negg, the most industrious of the neggs, was granted Sloth. Our hope is that the Plant Negg will inspire the mind and eliminate the misunderstanding that laziness is happiness; we hope that Neopets will instead work towards a greater Neopia, just as how nature works constantly, progressively, and harmoniously to accomplish the magnificent world in which we live.
"The Cloud Negg, the most passive of the neggs, was granted Envy. Our hope is that the Cloud Negg will quell the feelings of hatred and jealousy that we hold towards others; we hope that Neopets will instead be calmed into correct judgment and therefore understand that compassion is the truest way to gain respect, recognition, and love.
"The Sand Negg, the humblest and most refined of the neggs, was granted Pride. Our hope is that the Sand Negg will soften the hearts of those who possess excessive pride over others and seek revenge through relentless power; we hope that Neopets will instead search for equality and bring about significant change through fairness, nonviolence, and humility.
"The Mysterious Neggs will be hidden amongst the four corners of Neopia until we can find a permanent solution to eradicating the existence of such concentrated powers from our world. The neggs are already influencing our minds, trying to restore their state as one entity beneath the rule of the Clockwork Negg. The destruction is imminent. We can only buy ourselves time.
"Pride, Greed, Sloth, and Envy—the Mysterious Neggs know only chaos; no one can prevent them from reuniting and destroying the world."
To be continued...