Sakura sighed happily. The scent of apples filled the air,
and Darin was sitting in the apple tree, eating hungrily - as usual. He was so
cute when he had apple pulp on his chin......Sakura giggled at the thought. Although
deep within her she knew she had feelings for the Kacheek, she would not admit
it, not even to herself. She was an Usul of few emotions. Just the main few -
happiness, sorrow, anger, fright.
"Hey Sakura!" Darin called from the branch he
was perched on. "You have to try these apples! They taste great." Sakura politely
"I just had lunch. No thanks. Maybe later. But
now, hurry up so we can go to the toy store. I saved up just enough money to
buy an Illusen doll." Sakura was nuts for the earth Faerie. She had every poster,
toy, and shirt that featured Illusen. Her card and stamp collections were all
Illusen themed. She had sampled every Illusen based food in Neopia. The only
thing missing from her awesome collection was an Illusen Faerie doll. She simply
had to get one, and she had a bag of Neopoints in her paw, ready to buy the
first one she saw.
"All right," Darin called and jumped down from
the branch. "But let's come back later for more apples." Sakura rolled her eyes.
Could those apples really be that good?
Sakura looked around her in pure wonder. She
had visited Neopia Central hundreds of times, but it never ceased to amaze her.
As she and Darin passed the Rainbow Pool, she watched as owners painted their
pets. Sakura would never be owned. She felt sorry for the pets who had owners,
although they seemed to enjoy having someone controlling them. Darin had once
had an owner, but she left him at the pound after he ate her entire jelly collection.
She hadn't fed him in weeks, and the jelly was just sitting there. Darin loved
eating - he couldn't help himself.
Darin had escaped from the pound almost as soon
as he got there. He wandered into Meridell, where Sakura lived. She found Darin
starving by the stream. He told her his story and Sakura left her family to
travel with Darin across Neopia. Now she and Darin were best friends.
Darin was focusing his attention on the Money
Tree. Pets and owners of all shapes and sizes, the rich and the poor, scurried
to and from the tree, either donating or taking. Sakura finally spotted the
toy store and ran inside, with Darin behind her. She ran down the isles, desperately
searching for the doll. She finally reached the doll section. Only a few dolls
remained. A Tooth Faerie doll, a Snow Faerie doll, and a Hannah doll. Sakura
sighed. She clutched her sack of Neopoints tightly. She left the store quietly.
Darin followed her. "Hey Cherry Tree," he said
jokingly. He always called her this when she needed cheering up. But today,
it wasn't working. "Lighten up. It's just a dumb doll. They restock in another
few minutes. Just wait. Maybe you'll get one anyway."
Sakura looked at her friend admiringly. She
was moping around over a stupid doll. He willingly gave up eating apples to
watch her mope. Sakura would fix that.
"You're right. It's just a dumb doll. What do
you say we head over to the Art Centre? We can work on our coin collections,
and I have enough money for both of us to get quite a few of them." Sakura said,
cheering up almost immediately. But Darin wasn't listening. His eyes were glazed
over and he stood there, facing the direction of the apple tree. Sakura noticed
that all of the other pets were too - all except her. The owners had disappeared.
"Darin? Darin!" Sakura shouted, trying to get her friend's attention. "Darin,
answer me!" Suddenly, Darin turned to face her. He grabbed her bag of Neopoints
and dumped it onto the ground. Sakura gawked at her friend. She finally came
to her senses.
"What has gotten into
you?" she asked incredulously. Darin smiled in a ludicrous way.
"Apples," he said dumbly.
Then his smile faded and he walked in the direction of the apple tree. The other
pets did so as well. Sakura watched helplessly as the streets emptied out. Soon,
she was the last living, breathing thing in Neopia Central. Everyone else had
gone to the apple tree. Sakura looked at her Neopoints scattered across the
ground. What had happened to Darin?
Sakura decided to go to the tree to see what
was going on. She pushed her way through the crowd to see what everyone was
staring at. She gasped.
Dr. Frank Sloth was holding an apple in one
hand and a Zafara in the other. She tried vainly to break out of his grasp,
but couldn't. She looked scared. Sloth stuffed the apple in the Zafara's mouth
and forced her to chew by moving her jaws up and down with his now free hand.
After a moment, she began chewing on her own. She swallowed the apple and squeaked
in surprise. Her eyes glazed over and she turned to face Sloth. Sakura stifled
Sloth was trying to
take over Neopia - again. Sakura appeared to be the only one for miles who hadn't
eaten one of the apples. She worked her way through the crowd, searching for
Darin. She finally found him. He was staring blankly at Sloth. She grabbed his
arm and began pulling him through the crowd. Darin turned to look at her. Then
he opened his mouth and began to scream. Everyone turned to stare at the Usul
and Kacheek, including Sloth.
"So," he said malevolently. "We have a little
rebel in our midst. I'll have to fix that. Bring her to me!" All hands were
reaching for Sakura. She screamed and tried to escape, but couldn't break through
the blockade of pets. Soon, she was in front of the apple tree, awaiting to
be force fed an apple. But Sloth did not take an apple off of the tree. He stared
at Sakura, as if trying to decide what to do with her. Sakura returned his cold
gaze and looked directly into his heartless eyes. For a moment, she thought
she saw a flicker of humanity, of hope, of happiness, of love - but it quickly
vanished and he glared daggers at the poor Usul. She dropped her gaze to his
feet. He grabbed her by the scruff of her neck and pulled her up to his eye
level. She gulped.
"How," he said calmly but in a tone that made
Sakura shudder, "How could a skinny, plain Usul like you ever defy a magnificent
scientist like me? Everyone else in this whole blasted place was unable to control
themselves around them. Every blasted Neopian in Neopia Central was unable to
resist the tempting scent of the apples, and every one of them ate one, and
every one of them is now under my control - everyone but you, little Usul. Can
you explain this to me, perhaps? I must know before I enslave your mind."
Sakura gulped, but answered readily. "I just
wasn't hungry, that's all." Sloth laughed loudly, a deep, bellowing sound that
echoed off of the deserted streets. Sakura noticed for the first time that no
one was entering Neopia Central. His laugh made her shudder. He had to have
something to do with that as well. Why else would no one be entering Neopia
Central, one of the busiest places in all of Neopia, all of the sudden?
Sloth stopped laughing and his malicious grin
faded. "It must be more than that. You would not have resisted my apples if
you had just not been hungry. You posses some sort of force-field - I can sense
it now. But how?" He seemed to be talking to himself now. "I tested it on every
species of pet, designed it to resist any barrier, any magical force-field -"
"Perhaps the problem is not you, Sloth," came
a benevolent voice from seemingly out of thin air. "Perhaps, there is no problem."
Sloth looked around wildly.
"You," he gasped suddenly. "I thought I took
care of you back at space station!" Sakura looked around for the source of the
voice, but found nothing. Sloth looked at her, then grabbed her by the neck
with both of his hands and began to throttle her. Sakura gasped for breath.
"You.....you must die. I cannot risk another set back." Just when Sakura thought
she had breathed her last breath, a bright light appeared and blinded Sloth.
In his confusion, he dropped Sakura. She stood quickly and ran into the crowd
of gawking Neopians to look for Darin. She found him. He stood there, staring
off into space, drooling and with a blank expression on his face. Sakura grabbed
him and ran, ran until she could run no more. She knew she had been running
for at least half of an hour by the time she collapsed. That had to be far away
enough - for the time being, at least.
Sakura awoke in a beautiful glade, with flowers
everywhere and a sparkling stream beside her. She looked around for Darin, but
couldn't find him anywhere. She tried to stand, but couldn't. Her legs felt
like jelly. She looked down at her legs to make sure that they really weren't
jelly. They weren't.
Sakura looked around and saw many fruit trees.
Peach, purplum, cherry - "Hey Cherry Tree, lighten up!" The words echoed in
her head for what seemed like hours, but really must have been only a few minutes.
Sakura wondered if she would ever see her friend again.
"Oh good, you're awake." Sakura looked around
in surprise. Standing before her was her hero, the faerie she had idolized since
she was old enough to think and realize what she was thinking. Illusen smiled
warmly and helped the Usul to her feet. She was wobbly at first - whether it
was from actually meeting Illusen or from the jelly-leg feeling she had experienced
earlier, she did not know. "You are really something, Sakura." Illusen said
kindly. "Not everyone comes face to face with Dr. Sloth and walks away alive
- or at least exactly as you were before. But you....you defied him - something
no one without some kind of magic has dared try."
Sakura stared in amazement at Illusen as she
told her what had happened. "You collapsed right here. I found you lying by
the stream, and a Kacheek was standing next to you. Was he your friend?"
Sakura nodded slowly. "Do you know where he
is?" Illusen's smile faded immediately and she shook her head sadly.
"I am sorry, Sakura, but....he belongs to Sloth
now, and he always will. Well, in a sense. You won't like what I am about to
tell you, but sometimes you have to except your fate and move on with life."
Sakura gulped but nodded.
"The Space Faerie has
detained Sloth, so he won't be bothering anyone for a long time. But as for
all of the apple victims - the only way to save them, Sakura, is to erase their
memories. They will have new lives, new names, new homes, and no one will remember
this little episode. You are the only living being in Neopia besides the Faeries
that know what happened, but that is about to change. When you wake up, you
will no longer be Sakura the Usul. You will not remember anything about your
life, and you will not live with your family anymore. But this way, n one is
in danger if Sloth does come back, because you will all have new identities
and your memories of today will be gone."
"But....must you really erase our memories?
Is it really necessary?" Sakura asked anxiously. Illusen nodded sadly. "How...how
did you know my name?"
"Every Faerie in and outside Neopia has heard
your name by now." Illusen smiled sadly. "I'm sure you're wondering where your
friend is," she said quietly. Sakura nodded. "They have already changed his
identity - Fyora has, that is." Sakura sighed and looked Illusen directly in
"Will I remember him at all?" she asked nervously.
Illusen's eyes told her the answer. "Will you tell me exactly how on earth I
resisted Sloth's apples? I don't even know."
"You are gifted, Sakura. It is a shame you will
never live up to that potential. But maybe, just maybe, you can in your new
life." Illusen said with a frown.
"What do you mean by that?" Sakura cried. "I
don't know what I'm supposed to do, or why. Can't you just tell me?"
Illusen drew a potion from her pocket, popped
off the lid, and stuffed it in Sakura's mouth, forcing her to drink. Just before
she slipped into unconsciousness, she heard Illusen say softly, "I'll try to
give you some of your memory back. Goodbye, Sakura. It was nice to meet you."
Sakura reflected upon these words in her dreams.
"Goodbye, Sakura. It was nice to meet you." "Hey Cherry Tree, lighten up!" "Every
blasted Neopian in Neopia Central was unable to resist the tempting scent of
the apples, and every one of them ate one, and every one of them is now under
my control - except for you, little Usul. Can you explain this to me?" "You
are gifted, Sakura." Sakura......Who was Sakura?
Marina stood on the beach, trying to remember
where she had heard those voices before. She had the dream quiet often, but
could never place her finger on it. The Cybunny pondered this while the sunset
reflected off of the water, illuminating her face. Anyone watching could have
swore that they saw a flicker of an Usul in the Cybunny's face.
This Sakura....she had to be someone special
if she dreamt of her so often. Marina sat down in the warm sand and let the
cool ocean spray splash across her face. The waves tickled her feet.
"Cherry tree, cherry tree, cherry blossoms everywhere....."
Marina looked up to find the source of the disturbance. A yellow Shoyru stood
on the beach, singing softly and sweetly. Yellow... Marina waited until he finished
his song, and then stood and walked over to him.
"I'm Davin," he said shyly. "What is your name?"
Marina stared at the Shoyru for a moment, and then she understood something.
"Cherry tree, cherry tree, cherry blossoms everywhere...."
Marina sang with a grin. Davin grinned as well.
"If you want, you can call me Darin," he said.
"And you are?"
"Just call me Sakura."
Darin grabbed the Cybunny's hand. "I believe
we've met before."
In Meridell, Illusen smiled. If the Faerie Council
knew what she had done, she would be in deep trouble. But at the time, she didn't
care. She put a cloth over her orb and began singing softly, "Cherry tree, cherry