He'd Have To Wait
The foliage was springy underpaw as Lopez stepped through the jungle, a camera strung around his neck. After a pawstep, the leaves would jump right back up to where they had been a second before. As the Kougra walked on, the sun grew fainter and fainter, the surroundings growing dark. Bright green plants changed into dark bushes as he walked on.
The Blugar on his shoulder made a soft purring noise in his ear, as if to reassure him. Muttering soft, soothing sounds to the petpet, Lopez continued to walk into the increasingly dark area. He turned his head.
Behind him was where he had started. The sky bright colors, sand, palm trees... vaguely visible in the distance. Here, everything looked wilted. The trees were curved, the shrubs were dying, and the ground was black and hard. Vines covered his face, which he used his large paws to move away.
Thorns pierced his fur, which stung, but he kept walking, the camera bouncing on his chest. He looked up.
He had arrived.
The jungle had reached its darkest point, with almost no light available. A clearing lay in front of Lopez and the Blugar, filled with small huts. Longs sticks were placed into the ground, topped with skulls of ancient Neopets. Bones surrounded a few large stone buildings. In the distance, some temples were scattered around, presumably holding ancient treasures. A rustling behind them made both Lopez and the petpet's heads turn around.
A blue Vandagyre emerged from an ancient wooden shack. Every step she took had a particular confident spring in it, and she wore a crooked smile.
“What's up, loser?” Her voice rang through the trees, highlighting the silence in the air.
“River!” The Island Kougra broke out in a smile that matched hers. “It's about time you showed up!”
River Silverbeak, his crazy assistant. Her keen eyes always spotted something he had missed, and her quick reflexes had saved Lopez from almost being eaten by a Geraptiku Fly Trap many times. Combined with his natural instinct on what would make a good shot and knowledge of the area, they made an amazing photography team.
“You have no evidence I wasn't here before you, just camping in the ruins. And while I was waiting for your slow tail, I found this!” As she walked closer, Lopez could see she was holding some sort of stone bowl with berries inside of it.
Lopez scowled in confusion. “What is it, a bowl of ancient berries? Not too exciting...”
River seemed fascinated. “Yeah, it wouldn't be too exciting... if the berries in there weren't fresh Chrysanberries!”
Shock was written all over Lopez's face at this discovery. “What... Fresh? Could they have been left behind by a tourist or prankster?”
River rolled her large eyes. “You really are stupid. No one knows this exact route except us! No teenage idiot could come out here, and why would they leave behind food?”
The Kougra seemed confused. “Are you telling me you just dumped berries in a bowl to make me look dumb?”
“You don't need help looking dumb. But someone else must have been here, and not a normal Mystery Island citizen. This is Geraptiku, supposedly abandoned centuries ago... And here I've found fresh food in one of the huts. That can't be a coincidence!”
Lopez looked skeptical. “That's... that'd be something, if there were still pets here.” He looked over his shoulder, and his Blugar put a paw to his face in frustration.
River laughed. “Even Tumble is telling you to not be such a baby!” She patted the head of the Blugar, who purred with happiness.
“Alright, conspiracy theories aside, we still have to take some good shots for the Times. So let's go.” The two slowly moved away from the clearing, examining the bones and remains of the small houses. Clicks of cameras interrupted the chirps of wild Tuceet. Birds sang eerie songs in the trees above their heads.
River was in her element. Taking quick steps that didn't make a single sound, she examined different angles of the surroundings before taking quick pictures. In a flurry of movement, she took dozens of photos of fruit bushes before moving on.
As Lopez sat down to take a shot of a sleeping Yackito, he felt as if something was burning into the back of his head. He turned, but saw nothing.
“You never feel alone here, do you?” He added a fake laugh at the end to make it sound like he wasn't terrified. As he finished snapping his picture, a fluffy wing covered his mouth.
“Humph!” He tried to call out, but the wing was tight around him. He looked up, to see River's eyes wide, keeping a tight grip on Lopez. Feathers filled his mouth.
River let go, but before Lopez could say anything, she pointed into the bushes, where a temple stood solemnly in the distance. Any words that were going to come out of his mouth were stopped by shock.
Two figures were walking out of the temple, covered in feather and leaf adornments.
River grabbed Lopez's hand and pulled him into a nearby hut, whispering furiously.
“Lopez, tourists don't come this way, they go to the smaller temple at the entrance, oh my-”
Her words were cut off by the Kougra's paw to her mouth. A hole in the roofing in the hut provided a view out towards the strangers. With a silent claw, he motioned toward the hole. River's eyes were filled with excitement and terror, but she followed him to the hole.
Carefully sticking their heads out, the two examined the pets in the distance.
Bones pierced one of the pet's noses, in a way that looked painful. A feathered mask topped his head, and his large ears were covered in gold rings. The other had a crown made of leaves and wooden armor. Both held skulls in their hands.
A soft gasp from River showed her excitement. The pets lifted their skulls into the air, a pink liquid pouring out of them. They took long swigs, then placed them down. They seemed to be chatting happily.
Lopez felt an impulsive decision crawl into his brain like a bug... This was so stupid, this was so stupid...
But he'd be even more stupid if he didn't.
Carefully lifting up his camera and angling it, Tumble growled in his ear.
“I know, this could go wrong, but...”
As he pressed the camera's button, two loud clicks echoed through the clearing. Lopez ducked his head back into the hut, where he closed his eyes and thought through his decision.
They might see us, they might have spears, River's right, I'm so stupid, why am I even here...
When Lopez opened his eyes, River was glaring at him. She began to furiously whisper in his ear.
“You moron, they're gonna see us! We have to leave now, don't worry about how loud you are, just run!”
Grabbing his paw, the Vandagyre pulled him up and began dragging him out of the hut. Quietly at first so they wouldn't notice, when they reached the central clearing, she sprinting. Tumble fell off of his shoulder with a grunt, and began bounding next to him. As he gained his footing and began running back through the entry path, the colors blurring. He could hear yelling behind him, and every fiber of his body was screaming for him to go faster.
River ran before him, still holding his paw loosely. In a sudden moment, she looked behind her.
That was when she fell.
The root of a tree suddenly seemed to appear out of nowhere, and River slammed into the ground. She groaned with pain then hopped back up, a large gash opened on her leg, which was bent at an angle that couldn't have been comfortable.
“River!” Lopez didn't care if savages from all of Geraptiku took him, and he screamed. “River, stop!”
The blue Vandagyre glared back at him, mustering an angry look, but pain was written on her face. “Idiot! Don't make things worse, just keep running.”
With a swift motion, he scooped her up in his paws. Struggling at first to get down from his arms, she eventually decided it would be easier to just let him do what he wanted. Vines smacked into his face, but he couldn't slow down.
His best friend was hurt, and a power he didn't know he had motivated him to keep running.
Finally, they reached the beach area where they had entered. Sweaty and exhausted, Lopez looked around for a place to set his friend. A string hammock nearby seemed fine. Placing her in the hammock, Tumble jumped up on her stomach. Her leg hung off the edge, red and twisted. He looked away.
“I'm sorry, River...” He couldn't think of anything else to say.
River smiled. “It's okay, I'll be fine for a while. But you better make sure that picture you took was worth the medical bills I'll have to pay for this leg.”
Lopez nodded his head. That thought had lingered in his head. Maybe he had captured it, they'd become famous for their discovery, this incident would be something of a joke between them...
He pressed the buttons on the camera. A shot of Mount Techo, some surfers, a Geraptiku bush...
And a blurry shot of 2 people outside of a temple.
He sunk to his knees, defeated at last. “No...” Frantically pressing the buttons, he hoped he had taken another...
A post with a skeleton on top, a sunset, fly traps...
And a clear photo of the pets, covered in traditional Geraptiku clothing. The stuff he'd only seen at museums.
“Silverbeak! We did it!!! We took it!! We...”
River was fast asleep, Tumble on her stomach carefully keeping guard.
The Kougra sighed and leaned next to a palm tree. He'd have to wait.