Ruined Library: Part Three
"Is Shady comfortable with having two extra passengers?" Lae asked, eyeing the big black Gallion cautiously.
Shady nodded in response. "He's okay with it," Jinny replied. "I have a large saddle on his back, perfect for two more people." She patted Shady's closed wing and the Gallion lowered his body to her level. She climbed aboard and sat at the base of his neck, where the saddle began, ending at the base of his tail. The saddle itself was lined with a material that jutted out and prevented passengers from slipping overboard.
"That saddle's well designed," Lae commented. "Perfect for flying. So, uh, how do I get on board?"
"Just climb or hop in," said Jinny.
Laerya hesitated. She wasn't comfortable with climbing on the Gallion, or flying on him for that matter. She had always wanted to fly, to relish the wind whipping her face and the freedom it brought, but she wasn't sure she would get such an experience on Shady. Nevertheless, she had no choice. Sighing, she bunched her legs and sprang up, landing with a thump on the saddle behind Jinny.
She was pleased to find the saddle wasn't as rock hard as she thought. It was firm, but not uncomfortable. "Uh, what do we grab on to if he makes a dive?" she asked.
"I actually haven't managed to integrate any kind of safety belts, if that's what you're thinking," Jinny replied. "We'll just have to be careful."
Laerya shrugged. "Ah well. The saddle's good enough, and I'll take what I can get." She looked on at Akorri who was still drawing in the grass with a stick. "Akorri, let's get moving!"
The Xweetok lifted his head. "You want to head out in that puffy dress? You'll get nowhere," he remarked. Lae raised an eyebrow in surprise. His statement wasn't too scornful and he did have a point. They were both dressed in their performance attire which was less than ideal for moving around in.
"I'll go get your normal clothes and you can change later," Fericeus said and disappeared into the room. He reappeared in a few moments with two bags, each one holding Lae and Akorri's original clothing. He tossed Lae's back to her and Akorri's to him.
Laerya took a peek inside and was pleased to see that her blue headband was there, as well as her rainbow fingerless gloves and light blue clothing. She also noticed a blaster in there, and she frowned in confusion. Wait... this is my blaster! she realised. I haven't used this thing in a long time. I wonder if it still works.
"You'll need your blaster in case you run into danger," Fericeus explained. "I know you don't like using it, but you're almost helpless without it. Now hurry, you have to get going." With that the Xweetok went back into the room, supposedly to inform everyone of the news. He spoke to them over his shoulder, "You shouldn't take more than a week to reach the island. Organise yourselves efficiently!"
"Okay, Akorri, we have our clothes, let's go!" Lae called to him.
Akorri sneered at her. "I'm not riding that thing, and I'm certainly not going anywhere with you."
Laerya groaned. She supposed she should have expected the Xweetok to be uncooperative.
"Get over here now or I'll just drag you myself," she warned. "Your choice."
Akorri sneered and climbed on to Shady, sitting himself at the far end of the saddle, away from Lae and Jinny. "Whatever. Let's just get going."
"So you want to change back to normal?" Laerya asked, confused. Akorri's demeanour had always baffled her a little, but now she was completely perplexed. What was Akorri hoping to gain from this trip? Did he even know where and why they were going?
"Uh, if you haven't noticed, I'm not feeling so great right now," Akorri replied, holding out his hand and pulling back the sleeve. Violet magic sparked along his arm for a second, then disappeared. "This keeps happening, and let me tell you, it isn't comfortable."
"Oh..." Laerya hadn't expected Akorri to feel the effects of the magic. Was that why he was being so grumpy, like he used to be? Laerya wanted to hope that was the case, but the expression of eyes being windows to the soul harkened back to her, and when she looked into Akorri's eyes, she saw nothing there. Before she could let this fact dawn on her fully she turned to Jinny, "All right, let's just go."
Jinny nodded. "Shady, up we go."
The black Gallion spread his wings and tensed up. With a snort, Shady lifted himself up into the air and took flight.
Laerya's stomach felt like it leapt up to her throat as Shady left the ground. "Oh man, I wasn't prepared for that," she groaned, but her complaint changed to a scream as Shady propelled higher into the air so fast that Lae had to hold on to Jinny for comfort; she felt like she would be thrown overboard. "Oh my Fyora, oh dear Fyora!"
Akorri wasn't doing much better. He grabbed on to Lae in spite of himself.
Shady flapped his large wings and soon they reached a reasonable height. They flew steadily, but quickly, passing the city of Neopia in several minutes. Lae chanced a look downwards, her eyes meeting the tips of buildings – the large expanse of fields that normally took long to walk through looked like small square patches from up here. I didn't know we were that high up... The thought of being that far up into the sky both excited and scared her, but she enjoyed the sensation. Her hair and ears blown back by the gusts of wind, she felt even more exhilarated than when she ran. Even she couldn't run as fast as Shady flew. "This is so awesome!" she cheered.
Akorri looked as though he was having trouble containing his breakfast. One look downwards and he slapped a hand to his mouth. "Argh... this is horrible..." he moaned, curling up into a ball.
Laerya laughed as the elation of feeling so free took her over. "Jinny, I can see why you took Shady. Flying is so exciting!"
Jinny kept her eyes fixed on the sky ahead. "It is. Honestly, I was terrified the first time Shady let me fly on him, but after a while I got used to it."
"See, Akorri?" Lae smirked at the ball of red fur. "You'll get used to it."
"Shut up," the Xweetok growled.
The group flew straight for an hour before Laerya insisted they stop so she could change into her normal clothes. She felt as though she couldn't stay in her dress any longer. Shady landed on an island close to Brightvale and waited patiently for everyone to settle.
Laerya and Akorri slipped into their normal attire. Lae sighed with relief as she moved her legs, happy that she could move them with ease in these trousers. She adjusted her blue headband and tied her hair up into her usual ponytail until she felt like herself once more. "Okay, I'm ready, let's keep going."
Akorri finished changing and roughly threw his coat back into the bag. "Ugh, that was so uncomfortable." He eyed Shady warily. "Do we have to keep flying?"
"Yes, we do," Lae said. "It's the fastest way to get to the library." She nudged him, hoping he was in lighter spirits; unfortunately he recoiled with a glare. Lae sighed, trying not to feel too disappointed. Just when we were starting to become good friends.
Hopping back on Shady, Akorri reluctantly followed her and they set off again into the air. Laerya whooped this time as they took off, enjoying the sensation of her stomach taking flight with her.
"Fyora help me, I won't be able to keep my breakfast down." Akorri narrowed his eyes and stared at the saddle.
"Just try to enjoy it," Lae advised. "You'll see, you're gonna like it soon."
Akorri rolled his eyes. "No, I won't. Now please be quiet, your voice is making me feel worse."
Lae clicked her tongue, trying to ignore the sting of his words. "That was uncalled for."
"It was perfectly called for. You're being annoying and I'm just telling you to shut up for all of our sakes."
"I think you are the one who needs to shut up." Laerya looked away from Akorri, quietly seething. She knew by this point that she wasn't going to enjoy the trip at all. She wished so badly that Akorri was back to normal – he had just been on the mend, opening up and becoming a friendlier person – how much had Lorelei set his personality back? Would he be entirely back to normal when Fericeus reversed the spell?
Akorri looked like he wanted to protest, glaring at Lae, but he looked away and shook his head instead. "Please just shut up. I don't want to lash out at you."
Lae stared at him, her mind unable to grasp any words for her mouth to speak. She didn't know what his comment meant or how she was supposed to take it.
"Laerya, I'm going to be honest with you," the Xweetok went on, "I'm acting like this against my will, but any tiny trigger sets me off, even if it's just your voice berating me." He kept his gaze on the passing sky. "I'm sorry." The purple magic crackled through his fur again.
Lae rejoiced as Akorri's original personality crept through. She didn't know how long it would last, but she was relieved to find that it was still there. "I get it," she replied. "There's no need to apologise."
"Do you... do you think Feri's gonna be able to do it?" Akorri's voice was a whisper almost lost in the wind. Laerya had to strain her ears to hear it.
She knew how scared he must be, hiding his feelings under the spiteful facade – the facade which would soon turn into the real thing if they didn't hurry. She wanted to hug him and tell him it would be okay, but she stopped herself, knowing Akorri wouldn't appreciate it in the state he was in. "Of course he is!" she said with confidence, for she truly believed they would make it in time and Fericeus would be able to reverse the spell.
Jinny took a break from her steering duties, knowing Shady could guide himself, and turned to face the others. "Akorri... how are you feeling?" she asked carefully.
"Bad," replied Akorri. "But I'm calm now, at least. Any hateful feelings I have are gone... for now."
"What... what's it like?" Laerya asked. "Feeling like... well... this." She knew she probably sounded insensitive, but she was too curious to care about manners.
Akorri glanced at her. "You know the feelings you had towards me before we defeated Vacerus together?" Laerya nodded; scorn towards Akorri had not been in short supply during that time. "Well, take that and multiply it tenfold, coupled with the dizzy head and warm sensations of a fever. Oh, and throw in chronic fatigue for good measure."
Lae had always thought that seeing Akorri as helpless as she'd been in the Haunted Woods when they first met would satisfy her. She and Akorri did have the odd, twisted rivalry going on. But instead Lae found herself pitying the Xweetok and wanting to help him, relieve him of this horror he was going through. "It helps to know that the hateful feelings you have for me aren't real," she murmured.
"Not for the moment, no. And they're not just towards you, but pretty much anyone. That includes you too, Jinny." Akorri gave the Kyrii a weak smile. "I don't want to feel like that about you." He yawned, leaning back on the saddle and closing his eyes. "This thing is sapping my energy quickly. I need to rest for a while." Within moments of speaking the Xweetok's breathing slowed and he turned over; he had fallen fast asleep.
"When he wakes up he's gonna be back to his rude self," Laerya predicted, though not without remorse. She wasn't in the mood for thinking about dealing with the 'mean Akorri' when he woke up, so she changed the subject. "You remember when Feri was talking to us, and he said Lorelei might have done this to distract us? Distract us from what, d'you think?"
Jinny looked at a passing cloud as she spoke. "I don't know what she wants. But I do know that she didn't zap Akorri for fun."
"What makes you so sure?" The possibility of Lorelei doing all of this to keep Laerya away from whatever the Bori had planned was too much for her to bear.
"Lorelei is the type of person who feels like she doesn't have a lot of time on her hands. So why would she waste it on messing with us?"
The more Laerya thought about it, the more sense it made. She could guess that Lorelei was someone who had their priorities straight, so she must be planning something big. But why, and who would she be aiming at this time? Somehow Laerya knew that either she would be a target or someone close to her would. She had done too much to Lorelei to escape from the Bori's radar by this point. "All right... but consider this: how did Lorelei know where we were?"
Jinny shook her head. "I have no idea."
Another thought occurred to Lae, and she explored this one rather than the more bleak possibility of Lorelei plotting revenge against her. Why was Jinny so willing to help? The Kyrii was afraid of confrontation in all its forms and was the least aggressive Neopet Lae knew. What would she gain from getting involved in anything to do with Lorelei? "Jinny... how are you holding up?"
"Me?" Jinny blinked, taken aback. "I'm doing okay. Why?"
"I just dragged you into this without you having a say. That's not fair."
"It's fine." Jinny actually swept the hair from her face, revealing both of her brown eyes. "I'd do anything to help a friend."
"Yeah, but we have no idea what Lorelei's up to, and now you're right in the middle of it!" Laerya wasn't sure Jinny grasped the true gravity of the situation. She was unable to turn back now, and it wasn't her choice in the first place. Shouldn't she be angry?
"I don't mind." She sighed at Lae's disbelieving expression. "Really. I owe you for helping me when you first came to Greenglade."
"I didn't help you." Laerya frowned. "Or at least... not that I can remember." She had tried to block out as many memories of Greenglade as she could.
Jinny blushed with embarrassment. "You did," she insisted. "You helped me find myself." Her blush deepened. "I'm apparently a more efficient person when I'm cornered, so I might need this."
Laerya nodded slowly as the memory pieced itself back together. When they had been in pursuit of Lorelei, they came across a chasm that Jinny had to fly them across. She'd almost failed, but succeeded through the sheer willpower brought on by wanting to stay alive. And it wasn't just that, either; the Kyrii was especially efficient during the battle, wiping out Wraiths left and right with her powers. "You don't really want to do this, though, do you?" Laerya said. She wasn't the best judge of character, but she felt like she knew Jinny.
"... No." Jinny let her hair cover her eye again. "I'm sorry."
Lae smiled, trying to ease the Kyrii's shame. "It's fine. I don't want to do it either. But sometimes you just have to deal with whatever life throws at you."
"I guess," replied Jinny curtly.
Laerya sighed and turned to look at Akorri. The red Xweetok was still sleeping calmly, probably at peace for once. She hoped that for his sake they would find the book soon and reverse the spell, because she knew his personality turning in on itself would leave him worse for wear. Much worse for wear.
To be continued...