Needed Beginnings: Rorro and Toragi - Part Three
The cold night sky cast Neopia Central into shades of gray,
broken intermittently by the dull yellows thrown out by the street lamps that
guarded each corner. Rorro made his way through the quiet streets, grateful for
the solitude. He shuffled quickly down the sidewalk, clutching the yellow paint
brush tightly to his chest, past the darkened windows of the auction house and
the imposing steel of the bank. He cut across the damp grass, and walked past
the Money Tree. The stillness here, where there was such a flurry of activity
during the day, seemed so alien. But this foreign emptiness felt somehow comforting
to the Kacheek.
He crested a small hill, and then he was looking
down at a large pool of water. It was still, dark and quiet now, but he could
instantly picture what it was like when the sun was up-- a constant motion of
bright colors and the ever-present sound of joyous pets and owners. He knew
it well. He and Angela had spent enough time staring longingly at those scenes,
making plans together to be a part of it someday.
Rorro shook his head with a growl, clearing the
bright colors and laughter from his mind, and he was back in the dark and the
quiet and desperate to stay there. He didn't want to think about happiness that
would never be.
Yet a light tinkling of laughter lingered in
his ears. He frowned, and then realized that it was not only his imagination
as the sound of splashing water reached him as well. Looking out across the
water, he could just see the lone pair at the far end of the pool-- stragglers,
or perhaps they had purposely come late to miss the crowds. Rorro glared. Squinting,
he could just make out the form of a Gelert splashing noisily onto the bank
and shaking himself dry, his new shadowed coat nearly blending into the night.
The human with him was a girl who giggled and hugged him, wet fur and all, as
he leapt at her with a playful yip.
Rorro turned around, sliding down a few feet
and lying back against the slope of the hill. He stared up at the stars and
tried to believe that those two had just been apparitions from his imagination,
too. He couldn't bear any more.
He got up when he heard them finally retreating
into the distance. His body felt stiff and heavy as he hauled himself back up
to the hilltop and looked out over the Rainbow Pool, making sure that he was
truly alone at last. Then he made his way down slowly to the bank.
He lifted his paw to step into the water, but
then hesitated and pulled it back. Instead, he leaned over to catch a glimpse
of his mutated face in the still pool-- only to flinch away at once. It was
only the second time that he had seen his reflection since the change, and it
still didn't look like him.
He looked down at the paint brush that he held
tightly in his paws. Then, without allowing himself another moment's hesitation,
he hopped down into the cool water and dipped the yellow bristles of the brush
into it as well. The yellow paint spread out slowly across the surface of the
water and then seemed to coalesce and pull back inward toward its intended conquest--
Rorro. The Kacheek stood perfectly still, watching in fascination as the color
seeped up his body, erasing the sickly gray that had coated his fur all these
weeks. How many times had he wondered what it felt like to be painted? And now
As quickly as it had started, Rorro realized,
as if he were coming out of a dream, that the process was over. The last traces
of the magical paint dissipated in the ripples of the water around him, and
suddenly he was simply a yellow Kacheek standing waist-deep, alone, in a pool
of water. He pulled himself up onto the bank and shook dry as best he could,
bringing a paw up to feel his face as he did so. The paint brush had not changed
his fur color alone. The jutting fangs, hollow eyes and twisted, throbbing head
were gone as well. He was normal again. And yet….
He turned back toward the Rainbow Pool and sat
down on the bank, looking down at his reflection once again. It was so different
than it had been only moments before, but somehow he felt so much the same.
It was then that he finally heard the pawsteps
and glanced over to see Toragi walk up and seat herself beside him. He sighed
and turned his gaze back toward the water. If it had been anyone else-- Cap
or Allegra with their overbearing kindness, Brenner with his innocent enthusiasm,
Silviana with her cheeky joking or Feruli with his forced friendliness-- he
would have told them to leave. But Toragi was just… quiet. She, at least, had
always just let him be. He realized only now how much he appreciated that.
They sat quietly side by side for quite some
time, just listening to the hooting of Whoots in the nearby trees and the gentle
lapping of the water against the bank. Just when it seemed they might remain
that way forever, Toragi spoke softly. "It must feel nice to be back to your
"My old self…." Rorro touched a paw to his face
and stared down into the water below, searching forlornly for something in that
mottled reflection that he could recognize. He was surprised to feel hot tears
running slowly down his face. "I told her that I hadn't changed-- not really,"
he said quietly, feeling his throat constrict. "I kept trying to tell her, and
show her, that I was still me on the inside, that I wasn't any different… but
I was-- not because of that stupid potion," he spat in a sudden flare of anger
and desperation. "But…."
"Because of how it made her see you…" Toragi
offered softly from beside him. "And because of how that made you see
Rorro looked up with a mixture of surprise and
relief, and the Kougra met his gaze with her silver-gray eyes. He nodded, turning
back to his reflection with a sigh. "I really used to think she cared about
me… but I guess she always just wanted someone more 'special.'"
They sat in silence for a few moments after
that, watching their reflections perform their melancholy dance along the surface
of the water. Toragi cleared her throat, looking at the Kacheek out of the corner
of her eye. "Did you know that I used to be a Cybunny?"
Rorro's head snapped up and he stared at the
Kougra in disbelief, a smile fighting at the corners of his mouth. "You-- a
Cybunny? B-but you--"
"What's the matter?" she asked in mock defensiveness.
Rorro spluttered to explain, but before he could get any real words out, she
continued. "Can't picture me frolicking through fields of clover and picking
pansies?" she asked, accentuating her words by fluttering her eyelashes and
hopping daintily-- or at least as daintily as her Kougra physique would allow--
in a small circle.
By this time, even Rorro
was forced to concede the battle to his laughter. He fell back onto the grass,
clutching his sides and giggling. It felt good-- strange, but good-- this thing
he hadn't done in so very long. He found himself trying to recall the last time
that he had laughed… with Angela… but then quickly pushed the thought aside.
Even so, the moment was gone. He sat up again, still shaking a bit with the
burst of laughter that had overtaken him. Toragi was already sitting once more
right where she had been before, still and silent and straight-faced so that
he stared at her and almost wondered if he had imagined the whole thing. But
then her silver eyes seemed to twinkle and one corner of her mouth curved upward
Rorro smiled back. "What happened? How did you
become a Kougra?"
Toragi turned her eyes back toward the water,
as if her story was written there. "The Lab Ray…. My owner wanted me to use
it-- I don't really know why, since she didn't care for fighting. I suppose
it was just something everyone did as far as she was concerned. I was… so scared
that first time. I tried not to show it, but I was, and I kept hoping secretly
that somehow she'd realize it and wouldn't ask me to go through with it." She
paused, shaking her head with a self-deprecating smile.
"But then the ray hit me, and then…. I'd been
so afraid, but when it was over, this was me." She held up one of her large
paws, turning it over and looking at it. "For the first time in my life, I felt
like I actually belonged in my own fur. I'd always felt like I didn't fit as
a Cybunny, though I could never really put it into words until I was something
different. When I became a Kougra, I was sure this was what I was meant to be
The tone of wonder that had crept into her voice
fell away, replaced by matter-of-factness. "My owner saw things differently,
though. In fact, all she saw was that her rare Cybunny had turned into a common
Kougra." She paused and stared off into the distance for a moment. "The same
day that I really understood myself for the first time, I really understood
her for the first time too."
Her voice trailed off. There was no need to continue
the story to its natural end. Silence stretched between them, as taut and delicate
as the surface of the water that stretched out before them.
Rorro kicked his paw, sending droplets flying
to disturb the serene surface one by one in quick succession. "Humans," he snarled.
"At least we know now. We're better off without 'em… right?" He turned to Toragi
expectantly. As obvious as he thought this conclusion was, he needed her to
The Kougra, however, did not speak or turn to
meet his gaze. She continued to stare out across the water, as if searching
for something there in the shadows that now filled the opposite bank.
She turned then finally, meeting his questioning
look. She nodded her head, just once, and then turned back quietly to the water,
her tail swishing behind her.
Rorro seemed to satisfy himself with this. He
looked out at the dark pool as well, swinging his feet back and forth through
the shallows, feeling the water whoosh through his toes. He brought a paw to
his face and wiped at the dampness on his cheeks. "You won't tell anyone about
this, will you?"
Toragi's reply was quicker this time, a low rumble
of assent. "Not if you don't." A small smile flitted across her face again.
"It's a deal then," Rorro said, pulling his
feet out of the water, standing slowly and turning away from the Rainbow Pool.
"Come on, let's go…."
"Home?" the Kougra finished for him, and she
too stood, and the pair began to make their way back toward the junkyard.
Rorro hesitated for a moment. "Right." He nodded
slowly, and then repeated softly, "Home…" and found it a surprisingly easy thing
The homeless pets who came together in the junkyard
at the close of each long day were like a tree-- always growing, from every
point, and in all different ways, but all connected to the same roots, deep
down. And even the most wayward of branches cannot grow without being touched
Sometimes, in fact, these become the most closely
entwined of all.