...A task daunting and near impossible, the Ruki realized with a sigh. That's when another thought struck him: perhaps the plushie avenger could do something to help? Both were possessed with the same spirit of a forgotten dream, a child's glee contained somewhere within the faded merriment, right? The plushie avenger wanted that doll returned home, and the doll wanted to be home. They were on the same side. All three of them, Martin included.
He at last neared the Second Hand Shoppe and placed the Usuki, gnashing its teeth spitefully, next to the peculiar Eyrie. The latter's eyes seemed to bore into Martin before it, too, stood up, navigating toward the riled beautiful bride.
The two toys turned toward Martin, a temper unlike anything the Ruki had ever seen present in their tiny features. A sense of practicality gripped him and he realized this was only because he had never before seen "angry" plushies.
Swallowing hard in a mostly vain attempt to calm his trepidation, he spoke, tremulously, "We're all on the same side here." The toys seemed unmoved by his claim. "With utmost sincerity, Usuki, I apologize to you and to your... companion, whomever and wherever she is, for giving you away, and I only want your quick return to her."
The Ruki looked at the Eyrie. "I'm only trying to help."
The plushie looked up at Martin with wide eyes, but they were eyes of authority. "As you know," it boomed in a deep and masculine tone, "I am a plushie avenger. She cannot speak; I speak for her. It is my duty to return toys to deir loved ones... if you are willing to help with dat, I suppose I cannot disagree... despite da way you treated me and her."
Slowly nodding, Martin extended a hand toward the avenger.
"If I shook your hand I would accept da thought we are equals." The Eyrie just glared at him; Martin, with a tinge of sorrow but moreso of fear, withdrew. "Now," the avenger continued, "I tell you what to do, and you do it."
Martin closed his eyes and nodded. When he opened them, the Eyrie was again lifesize.
The Ruki started and almost fell backward out of shock.
"Grab her and jump on," the creepy-looking thing boomed.
After an unnaturally quick (yet silent) flight from Neopia Central to the Haunted Woods, the three landed near the Brain Tree.
"So, I'm to ask him where the plushie came from?" Martin inquired.
"Indeed, you go dere."
The Usuki, having calmed down substantially by now, willingly let herself be carried to the Brain Tree. Martin then started to walk away; however, the Eyrie called him back. Wordlessly the avenger extended his hand and Martin, gingerly but with a wan smile, shook it.
The Ruki again approached the tree. "Could you tell me the origins of this doll?"
"Can you tell me when and where Samantha Emilia died?" the Brain Tree boomed.
Martin stole a quick glance backward at the plushie avenger, only to realize it had disappeared. On to a next assignment, probably.
"Er..." Martin trailed. He had no clue and really didn't want to do a series of Esophagor quests.
The Usuki tapped him on the shoulder and he looked down at it. It just stared at him with beaming red eyes, and the Ruki feared the worst... but then five words appeared in his head; it was as though the doll was communicating something to him telepathically. "May third in Neopia Central," he repeated.
"CORRECT!" the tree boomed before leaning in to take a closer look at the doll.
The Ruki, dumbfounded, brought her closer to the tree.
"She is a very old doll," he started, and Martin barely resisted the urge he had to roll his eyes; this fact was obvious. "For decades she has rotted away in the Second Hand Shoppe, even before the Second Hand Shoppe was the Second Hand Shoppe."
This came as news to Martin. The not-for-profit had moved into and fixed up the dilapidated location, but it never occurred to him that it may have once been a household. She had been there longer than he had. She must have been there, waiting, waiting, for her owner to return. He wondered what had happened to her.
"Her owner resides at 4277 Tombstone Road," the Brain Tree finished before straightening himself with the superiority only he had a right to possess (at least in his opinion).
"Thank you," Martin replied with a brief nod.
"As you should," the tree somewhat condescendingly agreed.
Tombstone Road was aptly named. Though a light scatter of houses lined the street, most plots had their residents six feet underground. Martin shuddered... he had an irrational fear of this kind of stuff, propagated by too many zombie and ghost tales in his youth.
At last, he came upon 4277 and sighed; it was a cemetery. "Not surprising, though," he told himself, "considering the length of time you were apparently there for," he said to the doll.
She began to kick again and he set her down. The Bride started to walk among the graves and he followed her, reading some of the tombstones as he went (including some unfortunate fellow whose stone was completely covered in grime and someone, with their finger most likely, had written "GRIMEY" into it).
At last he stopped by the old and cracking stone of one... "Samantha Emilia," he read aloud with a sigh. At last something made sense. He read the inscription: "Taken in the prime of her youth, yet not before she touched all of our lives."
For some reason, Martin smiled. Rubbing away some of the dust, he saw a picture of a little Usul holding an Usuki engraved above the name. He smiled wider and gazed back at the doll, who was still behind him... except she was no longer. Instead there was a little girl there, an ethereal little Usul, clutching what was now a Ghost Bride Usuki and giving it a large hug. With a whispered thank you resounding about the scene, the two flitted away, mist evaporating into the midnight sky.
Martin wiped away a tear in his eyes. It was over. It was done.
After a frightening experience (though nothing would be more frightening than his recent adventure) getting lost in the cemetery, the Ruki exited and made the long trek back to Neopia Central.
"What is it, Mariah?" a Xweetok asked her sister a few days later. Though she was excited, there was a hint of fear, too. Gifts seemed like something malevolent now.
"I don't know, Lucy," the Cybunny replied as she opened the box that appeared on the doorstep earlier in the morning. With a sly grin, she continued, "I think it's for you, though."
Inside was a Beautiful Bride Usuki, clean and fresh and new. "Ooh!" Lucy said with wide eyes... but she quickly frowned. "Will it do the same thing as last time?"
Mariah just stared at the doll, and then back at her sister. Underneath the doll was a note that the Cybunny promptly read aloud:
To you and your sister,
I sincerely apologize for the recent harrowing events that I inadvertently drew you into. Do know, however, that all is well with the doll -- she has found her rightful place again, and will disturb neither you nor me any longer.
Please accept this new doll as recompense. Should you grow to love it... never, EVER let anyone else have it, as consequences could be dire.
Do not worry about that, however. I have every confidence that you shall cherish it for as long as you live... and beyond.
Happy belated birthday to the Xweetok,
--The Ruki from the Second Hand Shoppe.
Her sister grinned. "So, it's safe."
Mariah was still skeptical, but she managed a wan smile. "I sure hope so."
Hugging it tightly, Lucy wandered off to play.