The Journey Of A Thousand Miles Begins With One Step: Part Three
Also by drobit
Lunara hurried back to the palace, thinking along the way. If this Blumaroo mentioned a viola, then maybe he knew how to play. She had been curious about the instrument after reading about Saki's history. Maybe Lunara could ask the Blumaroo to play sometime. She stepped into the kitchens, and asked for some flour. The cook was curious, but complied with the Princess' request. Lunara hurried back to the village and found the Blumaroo sitting under the tree.
"Here's the flour," Lunara happily said while she handed the bag to him.
"Thank you! I really appreciate it! I wish there was something I could do in return..."
"Actually, I heard you talking about a viola. If you play, it would be nice if you could perform at the Lunar Festival next week." The Princess handed him a piece of paper with some information about the festival on it. "Think about it!" She smiled as she ran back hurriedly to the palace.
Edric stared at the sheet with curiosity and shock on his face. The piece of paper read, 'Official invitation to perform at the Shenkuu Lunar Festival.' The Princess wanted him to play viola at the festival. Him. This was turning out to be quite a day.
"Saki! You won't believe what just happened to me!" Edric raced towards her house with the bag of flour in hand, eager to tell someone of his encounter with the Princess.
"It better be interesting, considering it took you two hours to find one bag of flour. By the way, I don't need that bag. I realized there was some in the other cupboard," Saki answered sheepishly.
If it had been another day, Edric would have been irritated that he went out for nothing. But, this wasn't an ordinary day. He gripped the piece of paper in his hand, eager to tell someone what just happened. So, Edric began telling Saki how the Princess was in the village, and then volunteered to help him. And afterwards, she invited him to perform at the Shenkuu Lunar Festival. This was shocking to Edric: he was just someone that enjoyed music, and worried that he wasn't good enough. Upon hearing about the Princess' interest in the viola, Saki frowned and wondered what exactly the Princess wanted to know...
"So? What do you think? Should I... perform? I've never performed for a crowd before, you know. Just you. And this is the first time that someone seemed interested in hearing my music. After all, I'm not some great Neopian musician. But I want to! Maybe the rest of Shenkuu would like my playing. Plus I do have to thank the Princess for the flour. It must have been troubling to get it and then sneak out again. Then again, I'm already nervous just thinking about it. Did this morning really happen? Or am I imagining things?" Edric rambled nervously, not knowing what he should do.
Before Princess Lunara's invitation, Edric had never thought about performing in front of an audience. Especially on such an important night for Shenkuu. The Lunar Festival? That was big.
"Seems like you could go either direction, you have arguments for both. But, I think you should. Hey, it's a great opportunity. To be able to make others happy through your music is quite an accomplishment and honor," Saki reasoned.
"I suppose you're right. What should I play, though?" Edric excitedly thought.
"Whatever comes from your heart—because that means the most." Saki smiled.
"Oh! I almost forgot the reason for this flour search in the first place. I had this song I wanted you to hear!" exclaimed Edric.
"Go ahead, young one. I look forward to it."
Edric lifted his viola from the case carefully and grabbed the bow. He took a deep breath, and began to play. The music flowed, and Edric was deeply immersed. It was the melody he heard in his dream, but now it became his song. The Blumaroo thought of his life—Shenkuu, friendship, solidarity, and music. Finally, it was over. Edric lowered the viola, smiling.
"Verdict?" Edric eagerly asked.
"That was beautiful. Surely worth more than the dumplings I would have cooked. You should play that at the festival, I'm sure every Neopian present will love it."
"Alright then. I'll be ready. I'll perform at the festival!" Edric nodded with conviction.
Edric left Saki's house and headed back home. This was truly an extraordinary day. Saki sighed. It seemed like only yesterday that she was a Princess and an old Ruki presented her with the same viola. 'The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With a Single Step.' Edric did not know any of this, of course. Maybe this festival was some hidden opportunity. Saki drank her tea, deep in thought. Was Edric the one who would go on a journey and fulfill the goal the old Ruki set years ago? The only thing to do was wait. The festival would be in a week, and hopefully everything reveals itself in the end.
One week later:
"I can't do this. Can I? I must be crazy to even be here. It's not too late to run home and hide, or leave Shenkuu and never come back! Everyone will be watching, including the palace Neopians. Oh, what am I going to do?" Edric was frustrated, and very nervous. The annual Shenkuu Lunar Festival was today, and Neopians from all over Neopia would be here to see the grand event.
"Oh, you're here! I'm glad, and don't be nervous!" Princess Lunara saw the Blumaroo sitting anxiously.
"But this is such a big event! Are you sure you still want me to play?"
"Yes! Now don't worry. Come to think of it... all this time, I've never asked you for your name."
"Well, Edric, best of luck to you!" Lunara happily smiled before she walked off.
It was getting dark, and the festival was finally starting. Edric glanced around seeing everyone that had gathered here. There was a Techo wearing a worn Altador Cup shirt, a Kacheek dressed in traditional Shenkuu style clothing, a Lupe looking like he walked all the way from Meridell. His performance wasn't for a while, so Edric wandered about the festival grounds, trying some food here and there. The excitement in the air was evident. Edric was not aware of the presence of a certain old Ruki. One of Len's friends had told him there would be music here tonight. Len felt that it was time to make an exception—so he left his house for the first time in years. The time flew by, and Edric's performance was soon coming up. Princess Lunara stood up, ready to make the announcement.
"This year, the festival will be slightly different. You will now hear the performance of Edric the Blumaroo, playing a song he wrote on his viola."
Edric walked towards the center of the stage, nervously holding his viola and bow in hand. This was it, no backing out even if he wanted to. He would do this. He gulped, sweating in anticipation and dread. Edric thought about what Saki had told him earlier. It was an honor to share his music with Neopia, and he would make sure that it came from the heart. Nodding to himself, he began to play. After the first few notes, every Neopet was silent as their previous conversations and gossip faded away. Edric did not think about how nervous he was, but focused on the music, focused on what he wanted to express. The song was better than any other time he practiced it. As the last note finished, Edric lowered his viola and was met by silence. All of a sudden, there were fireworks exploding in every direction accompanied by thundering applause. He smiled, as faces stared at him in awe and happiness. Once Neopets started talking to each other again, he walked off the stage to find something to eat.
"Wow! I can't believe that just happened. I cannot believe how nerve-wracking that was, but now I'm just... happy." Len was amazed. After that, he knew that the Blumaroo was playing the viola he made so many years ago. Each instrument had a unique sound, and only one viola sounded like that. The old Ruki shook his head, still shaken from the performance. The last lunar festival he went to caused his hopes to shatter. Now, his old feelings and ambitions returned. Maybe this young Blumaroo would be the one to fulfill his goal. He glanced around, hoping to spot the Blumaroo, and have a talk with him. Lucky for Len, the young Neopet was standing by himself and appeared to be in some sort of a daze. Ah well, that was expected. It's not every day that some Neopet gets asked to perform at the Shenkuu Lunar Festival, and succeeds magnificently. Len trudged over, leaning on his cane. Hopefully, he would be able to convince the Blumaroo to follow his goal. Len did not even know what he wanted to say, just that it needed to be said. The Ruki began to walk towards Edric...
"Young Neopet, do you know the story about that viola?"
"Story? No, sir, I don't." Edric stated with a puzzled look across his face. Who was this Ruki? What could he possibly know about his viola?
"Many years ago, I was an instrument crafter for the palace—when Princess Saki was still here. I was told to create the most perfect viola for her, and so I did. It was presented to her at the lunar festival. I had hopes that she would learn how to play, or at least try, and then spread her music to all of Neopia. Music brings a great amount of joy, you know. But, my dream went unfulfilled. One day, I had enough and took back the viola. As for Princess Saki, she ran away sometime after. No one figured out where she had run off to or why she disappeared. Once I had the viola back, I didn't know what to do with it, and in one of my days of folly, it fell off the edge of a mountain. I suppose that's where you found it, am I correct?" Len finished his tale, and awaited a response from the Blumaroo. This was the first time that he had really told anyone what happened.
Edric was in shock. Princess Saki? Maybe those rumors did have some truth to them. But that was not the important part. He had been holding something that had such an intriguing past, yet he had never even realized that this viola could be something so important. "T-thank you for telling me that, sir. I had no idea."
"After hearing your performance today, it felt like fate. Years ago, I gave up hope that I would ever see that viola again, and someone fulfilling my dream was out of the question. But now, I feel as if... it could actually happen."
"What are you saying?" Edric asked tentatively.
"You, young Blumaroo, are the one that will fulfill my dream. It is what I always hoped music would achieve: the happiness it causes people, the inspiration it invokes, and the ability of a single Neopet to make a difference."
"M-m-me? I'm sure you must be mistaken, sir! Neopia is a big place, and there are many Neopets that could be better than me! Why not one of them?"
"Better than you or not, that is not the important thing. What's important is that when I heard you play, it gave me hope. And it's about time someone like you appeared. Go take a look at your viola, and see what it says. 'The Journey of a Thousand Miles Beings With a Single Step.' You didn't think that meant nothing, did you? It's true. Things start out small, but then grow. Everything has a beginning. Don't question yourself and instead, just take that step." The Ruki's eyes twinkled as he lectured the young Neopet.
"So... what am I supposed to do? Go on a journey of a thousand miles?" Edric gulped. This was almost as nerve-wracking as the actual performance.
"Spread music. You have that air, you know. And the way you play makes Neopets smile, no matter who they are. That was evident tonight. I'm not telling you to take a journey, that was just a saying. Do things your own way and the results will be clear at the end." Len hobbled off, leaving Edric troubled and mystified.
First a dream, then meeting the Princess, a performance at the lunar festival, discovering that Saki might actually be a princess, and now an old Ruki saying he was the one to fulfill some grand goal. This was definitely the strangest week of his entire life. Worst of all, Edric had absolutely no idea what to do. There was no way this could be happening. He just was an ordinary Blumaroo... right?
Edric sighed; he really had to do something. He had been sitting around in his house all day trying to forget all the strange events from the day before. Despite his resistance towards believing what had happened, he knew that he had to take action. The mist was thick today, and only a few rays of sun penetrated. Shenkuu looked just as mystical as Neopians often thought it was. It was odd, but for some reason Edric thought that if the sun was shining brightly, then maybe he would know what to do. Unfortunately, it was not. He glanced around the house, and saw his viola. The old Ruki's story replayed in his head. Edric got up, telling himself that he should stop moping. Was this how Neopets felt before they did something important? He thought of Rohane the Blumaroo, who had left a small village and then journeyed all the way through Neopia to defeat King Terask. So... if you put your mind to it, you can do anything? Edric was frustrated and puzzled. He left his house to visit Saki. If he could not figure out what to do about this viola, the least he could do is figure out if his friend used to be a princess. That would certainly clear things up a bit.
To be continued...