Masquerade: Part Ten
Also by bookworm7
The Negg Faerie stood up and pressed her hand against her mouth. She slowly walked over to the fireplace and gazed into the flames. We had no solution. We only knew the magnitude of the problem. Kari stood motionless by the fire, realizing that flames would engulf the entirety of Neopia unless we acted quickly against the Clockwork Negg.
"Where is Zaira now?" she inquired. "Kreludor? Virtupets?"
I looked away from her and softly said, "Kari, not even those places are safe. No matter where Zaira goes, not even she will be protected from the Ultimate Neggs of Destruction."
"Then what's the point? Why is it waiting? The Ultimate Neggs have been scattered and the mysterious neggs have been reunited. Everything is in place, so why doesn't it detonate?"
I stood next to her by the overbearing fire. The heat from the fire had been bothering me for a long time now, but I couldn't help but get near it. The Clockwork Negg continually pressed frozen against me. It was so cold, so lonely, and so... hollow.
"That's it, Kari!" I suddenly exclaimed. "The Clockwork Amulet doesn't want to do it yet." I began hurrying out of the alcove to get Yuruyuki.
"Wait, Sin. Tell me what you mean! Stop going on ahead without..."
I was halfway down the hallway and heading towards the parlor. "Yuruyuki," I shouted, "we need to go. I'm really sorry you didn't get much rest."
Yuruyuki moaned and refused to move. I sat down on the couch next to her as Kari came into the room.
"Sin, what's the rush? Tell me what your plan is so I can help!" Kari sat down in one of the chairs facing away from the fire.
"I'm in a rush because Zaira is an impatient person with a plan in mind. The Plant Negg from the very beginning told her that since she couldn't get fortune by saving Neopia, she would have to get it by threatening it. This is how the negg propelled her to find the others. Now that she has all four powers, she is strong enough to tap somewhat into the Clockwork Amulet's controls. She'll use a few of the Ultimate Neggs to get what she wants. The Clockwork Amulet will let that happen so it can maintain her alliance.
"The Altador Cup begins today. Thousands will be gathered for its commencement ceremony, and Zaira will take the opportunity to show off her power."
Kari looked at me sideways. "You really think she's that obsessed? She wouldn't harm innocent Neopians and threaten the rest just over money, would she?" Kari hadn't heard any of the stories behind the mysterious neggs, but I knew that she knew the answer to her own question.
"We are dealing with power in its most concentrated form," I said as I stroked Yuruyuki's feathers. She had worked hard to get us here, and now I was asking too much of her. I sat there reflecting upon myself in silence.
"Sin, why is the Clockwork Amulet entertaining Zaira's desires? Why doesn't it detonate the Ultimate Neggs right now?"
I continued watching over Yuruyuki as I carefully explained the answer. "There is only one thing holding The Clockwork Negg back. The Clockwork Negg doesn't want to lose its powers, which have been taken out of its protective shell. If it were to detonate the Ultimate Neggs, it would destroy its own defenseless self. It's waiting for us to deliver its shell," I said, pointing to my shoulder bag, "but Zaira isn't waiting for anything."
Kari quickly responded, "So rather than letting Zaira destroy a part of Neopia, you are going to give the Clockwork Amulet back its shell so it can destroy all of Neopia?"
"Look, Kari. I'm not crazy. Zaira is a pawn, but the Amulet is the king. If you want to stop two countries from warring with each other, you have to strike deals with the king, not with his army. If we show it what it wants, maybe we can somehow find a loophole in this mess."
Yuruyuki groaned some more. She knew I needed her, but she was completely exhausted. I faced Kari and said, "Zaira is probably in Geraptiku. For all we know, the Clockwork Amulet thinks that place is home base since that's where it came into our world. We need to get there before the Altador Cup Ceremony, which starts in... about nine hours?" I got nervous at the thought. We wouldn't make it in time to stop Zaira from detonating one Ultimate Negg in Altador, but maybe we could still save the rest of Neopia from her lunatic attack...
Kari stood up from the couch and ran out of the room. She came back carrying a Winged Negg. "This is a much better prize than Zaira's. Wouldn't you agree?" Kari seemed happy for some reason, but I didn't understand.
"Kari, you specifically told us during the Festival that those neggs cannot fly."
"Well, I lied. Do you know how many lawsuits TNT would file against me? We'd have thousands of Neopets crashing and hurting themselves if they knew they worked!"
"Do the neggs run on... faerie dust?" I said wryly.
"Sin, I find that annoying given the situation. We need to focus and get going. Yuruyuki can catch up later when she's more rested."
I didn't have time to argue or think about how a negg that small could carry me. I grabbed it and followed Kari out of the Neggery.
We were heading out to face someone with ultimate power. We had no plan and no defenses. The Clockwork Amulet wanted nothing more than to be reunited with its shell, and we were delivering it straight into its possession.
I squeezed the Winged Negg between my hands, and I took of whizzing alongside Kari. The wind began freezing my uncovered face, but all I could think about was a Neopia engulfed in flames.
The trip to Mystery Island was shorter than I had expected, and the rising sun helped keep me from freezing. It was ten o'clock, yet that only left us with two hours before Zaira began blowing things up. Geraptiku was covered in dense jungle, so we had to land near Techo Mountain instead and quickly work our way in towards the Deserted Tomb. Sure enough, Zaira was sitting on the lower steps, waiting. We kept our distance.
"Isn't it ironic?" she said loudly as she stared into the Glass Negg she kept on her lap. "Where this government met its doom, I'll rise to the top out of its ashes!" She began oddly laughing to herself. "Just a simple microcosm of what you're about to see. Governments will see their castles turn into their own tombs, and civilizations will fall."
"You know what, Kari?" I whispered. "I don't even think Zaira is conscious at this point. She doesn't want any of this, so go easy on her."
Kari looked at me nervously then stepped closer to Zaira. "Zaira, I haven't known you very long, but I know that you are not the kind of faerie who would say such things. When you showed up at my doorstep, you were so worried about supporting your parents! I could tell you loved them, and I couldn't let you roam around without fulfilling your desire to help them. Isn't that why you came to the Neggery?"
Kari was thinking very tactfully, and she seemed confident in her approach.
Zaira looked up sharply at Kari and gave her a menacing grin. "Shrouding truth in shadows even for a moment will lose the truth forever."
Kari responded, "That's a lie. There is always a light in the world that can dispel the darkness, no matter how thick and choking it may be for you."
No matter how bizarre the scene was, Kari wasn't putting on a show. She was sincere in her plea to Zaira. She seemed to truly care about her, no matter what nasty condition Zaira was in...
The four powers flashed through my mind. "Pride, Greed, Sloth, and Envy." That was it! There was a way to stop this, but were the conditions right?
"The oceans of hope will dry, and the enduring, icy mountains will melt. Everything will be engulfed in flames!" Zaira continued in her meaningless rant.
There was plenty of time before her mind would regain consciousness and detonate any Ultimate Neggs of Destruction in Altador. Would Yuruyuki make it in time?
Kari looked back at me with a scared face. I motioned my hands towards myself and mouthed, "Come back." She gladly obeyed and returned by my side.
"This may not work, but it makes plenty of sense in my mind. Do you remember the four powers Professor Menseiz mentioned?"
"Not specifically, but yes, I do."
I quoted something I had read while in the Archives. "'The mysterious neggs hide their true power and instead mislead Neopets into seeking for things where there is only weakness...'"
Zaira continued, "Why do you silly creatures hide your weaknesses behind those masks? Is there something wrong with understanding the truth about one's self? I called upon your hidden feelings and made you face them."
"...If we use the Clockwork Negg's powers against it, I think we can stop it."
"It sounds right, but how do we accomplish that?" Kari asked hesitantly.
Zaira continued screaming strange things. "Chaos lies in every heart, and there is no way to stop it!" She laughed maniacally.
"Kari, you just demonstrated your compassion, which is the enemy to the Cloud Negg's Envy. If we had three more..."
"It only takes one to conquer the world, but it takes four to defend it?" Zaira said tauntingly. "The universe loves and demands chaos, and there is no disobeying universal laws!"
"...we could fight against the Amulet. Yuruyuki works hard for me but never complains or boasts. When she gets here, she can represent humility and fight against the Sand Negg's Pride."
Zaira began making sinister comments about Yuruyuki, but I ignored her.
I continued, "I'll admit, my passion for news reporting is sometimes rivaled by my quest for glory, but Yuruyuki has made me realize over the years that I already have everything I need. I'm passionate about my talents, I get to learn so many lessons from our adventures, and, most importantly, I have Yuruyuki's friendship. Do you think I'm strong enough to handle the Glass Negg's Greed?"
Kari raised an eyebrow at my statements. "Isn't your strength diligence? You've gone through a lot and yet continue to prove that—"
"No," I responded. "Zaira is the most diligent of us." We both glanced over at Zaira, who continued spouting nonsense. It seemed bizarre that I would say it, but I knew it was somehow true. "This whole disaster may have been evoked because of her lazy, unchanging nature, but you, yourself, stated that she cared about her parents enough to work on their behalf. She chose to listen to the Plant Negg yet has been consequently enslaved by it. She has gone through too much of this torment. If anyone were to know the falsity behind 'laziness is happiness,' it would be her. She has to be the one to overcome the Plant Negg's Sloth."
"Do you think it will really work?" Kari was beginning to lose her calm composure with Zaira constantly screaming from the stairs.
"Who cares what I think. We need to act on it. Yuruyuki will arrive at any moment; I just know she will."
Kari and I sat on the ground at a distance from Zaira. Zaira kept yelling haunting words relentlessly, so we sat there and took it. Kari began crying at one point, and there was little I could do to comfort her. We waited for nearly an hour before I heard Yuruyuki's chirping cries from the air.
Suddenly, Yuruyuki burst through the jungle canopy above us and swooped down to my side. I leapt at her and embraced her.
"Yu, I knew you would come. Quick! There's no time to explain. Come with me." I took the hollow Clockwork Negg out from my shoulder bag and held it in my non-dominant hand. I raced towards Zaira, but she stood up in response and quickly pulled out the Plant Negg as a sword. The four mysterious neggs were entangled and trapped in the wooden blade.
"What are you doing here?" she asked bitterly. "You can't stop me from forcing Neopia to its knees. I have the mysterious neggs, and they won't let you stand in my way!" Zaira leapt from the stairs and speedily glided towards us with the sword in the air. Yuruyuki tried to pull me out of the way of her attack, but I resisted. She let go and flew to the side.
Zaira tried to swing her sword down on me, but I dodged at the last second and grabbed at the Amulet with my free hand. The chain wouldn't break.
The Amulet began forcing its way into my mind, but I wouldn't let go. Zaira had stopped attacking.
"Please." Zaira's voice entered my mind. "Please help me! I didn't mean for this to happen."
I looked at the Glass Negg that was trapped within the Plant Negg's blade. I let go of the Amulet and grabbed at the Glass Negg instead.
The moment I let go of the Amulet, Zaira's body turned on me, but I had already taken the Glass Negg from her sword. I put it into the open-mouthed Clockwork Negg and it disappeared into the abyss inside. Zaira didn't strike me. She stared straight through me.
She instead turned to Kari and leapt at her. Kari stood there with a hesitant look.
"Grab the Amulet!" I shouted.
Kari nervously dodged Zaira's clumsy attack and latched onto the amulet. Zaira certainly proved to be the terrible fighter that I thought she was when she faced the Snowager.
Kari then mimicked what I had done and grabbed the Cloud Negg from inside the Plant Negg's blade. She tossed it to me and then retreated from Zaira's hypnotized body. I put the Cloud Negg into the Clockwork Negg, and it also disappeared.
Zaira ignored Kari and turned on Yuruyuki, who had flown to a safer distance. Why was it as if Kari and I didn't exist anymore? Was Zaira interfering with the Amulet, or did the Amulet seriously forget our existence once we had taken from it our own specific power?
Yuruyuki in turn flew towards Zaira, dodged her graceless strike, and struck the sword with her beak. The Sand Negg flew out of the sword and onto the ground. I ran to it and put it inside the Clockwork Negg.
"Zaira, listen to me. I know that you can hear me, and I know that you want this to stop." Zaira's heavily breathing figure stood there between us and did not move. I motioned to Kari and Yuruyuki to come in closer. "Zaira," I continued, "whenever you are ready, we're here to help you."
Zaira looked up at me. I could see the same remorse her faced showed way back in her alcove. She knew she had made a mistake, but this time she was truly sorry for what she had done. The Clockwork Amulet's powers were being repelled, and there was nothing it could do.
Zaira's sword withdrew itself into the Plant Negg. She turned to me and thrust it inside of the Clockwork Negg. Each of us present grabbed onto the Amulet together and pulled. The Amulet screamed in our minds as the chain broke and then rested silently between our hands. There was only one thing left to do.
None of us let go of the Amulet until it was placed inside of the Clockwork Negg, where it also vanished into the abyss. The Clockwork Negg closed itself, began thrumming violently in my hand, and then disappeared into thin air.
Zaira fell to the ground. "Are you all right?" Kari said as she knelt down next to her. I knew that Kari would take good care of Zaira. She understood that Zaira was another victim and that no blame should be put on her.
I put my bruised-up hands onto Yuruyuki's shoulders and said, "Well done, girls. Do you want to do it again at next year's Festival of Neggs?"
Zaira looked up at me and smiled—a normal smile for once. "Thank you, Sin," she said softly. Kari lifted her off the ground and they began retreating from the jungle. I would be sure to visit them often.
"Well, Yu, the Altador Cup is about to start! Do you think we can make it in time to the opening ceremonies?"
"Of course! I want to root for Kreludor again, no matter how much you want to switch over to another team."
"I'll see you in the Games Room, then, huh?" We laughed and left the jungle together.
If there was anything in the world I was glad to have, it was my best friend, Yuruyuki. There is nothing greater in Neopia than a friend to share in adventures with! I was so happy we could explore the crazy things Neopia has to offer. We went through everything together, and there was no secret that we could keep hidden from each other...
Except one. How long would I have to live with this guilty conscience? We had saved Neopia with a price... a terrible and infinite price. I couldn't let anyone know.
The Clockwork Negg was now on its way, traveling from dimension to dimension and looking for more prey to terrorize. There was no way for us to destroy such powers. The only loophole that I could find was to pawn the destruction off onto another innocent planet in the distant galaxies.
The Clockwork Negg brings nothing but a trail of destruction.
Someone sinister enough to manipulate the very powers of the mind is laughing hysterically at me from a distant planet, glad to see his egregious plans succeeding to some point wherever the Clockwork Negg goes. There was no way for us to stop the madness. There was no way at all.
But who knows? Maybe someone will one day find a way to destroy the negg. Or maybe we had just destroyed a thousand other planets that couldn't find the remedy in time like us. But did that really matter to me? We had our lives and our sanity.
Whatever chaos the Clockwork Negg was wreaking in the universes, it was out of my hands now...