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Storytelling Competition - (click for the map) | (printer friendly version)

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Week 915
You are on Week 916
Week 917

Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...

We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!

Story Nine Hundred Sixteen Ends Friday, June 17

“Are you ready? We need to leave now if we want to make it in time, Rainbow Connection Day isn’t just every day!” Atlan called out, excitedly swimming circles around their best friend Dian’s shell home.

“Maybe not, but the rainbow isn’t going anywhere anytime soon!” Dian replied, just a bit more collected than Atlan.

The rainbow that extends from the Rainbow Pool to Roo Island is a constant year-round, and it’s quite the sight to behold on any day, even from the seas above Maraqua, but none more so than on Rainbow Connection Day. Once a year, to kick off the month of Relaxing, the rainbow retreats into the Rainbow Pool, only to reextend toward Roo Island more vibrant than before. It’s a day of pride, expression, and unity the world over, and this would be their first-ever viewing.

“Don’t worry, we’ll make it in time. Promise!” Dian assured Atlan as the two set off.

The two Maraquans swam vigorously toward their destination, a rock outcrop that they had found some years ago. It was the perfect place to bask in the sun, and today it was going to be the perfect place to watch the Rainbow Connection.

“Beat you there!” Atlan teased, swimming a loop-the-loop around Dian before darting off in the direction of the outcrop.

Atlan was a Maraquan Lenny, so there was no doubt that they would beat the less agile Maraquan Korbat to their favourite place. Dian, never one to let Atlan win easily, traded off dazzling breaches with their best friend. Dian with all the grace of a kite, and Atlan all the inelegance of a rocket.

“Just in time,” Dian said, watching as the enormous rainbow retreated toward Neopia Central.

“Gosh, isn’t that just the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen!” Atlan queried, in awe as the rainbow extended back towards Roo Island with a reinvigorated vibrancy.

“Yeah, sure is,” Dian replied dazedly, not paying the rainbow any mind.

“Wait, what’s happening to the colours?” Atlan said in confusion as each band began to fade to grey.

“Hey, colourblind! Remember?” Dian quipped back, waving a wing in front of their face.

“Oh right, I forgot in all my excitement … wait so why did you agree to come with me today?” Atlan asked, just a bit more confused than before.

“You were so excited about your first Rainbow Connection Day, and well, I kind of just wanted to spend it with you,” Dian replied coyly.

“Oh, I, uh -” Atlan stuttered, before being cut off.

“Okay I might be colourblind, but that doesn’t seem right!” Dian shouted as they finally took notice of the rainbow, drawing Atlan’s attention back to it. The two watched in silence as each grey band slowly retreated toward Roo Island.

“This can’t be good…” Atlan said, breaking the stunned silence between them as the colours began to drain from the sky, ocean, and even themselves. Thankfully, far from their little outcrop, two amateur detectives already had a lead…

Author: rawbeee
Date: Jun 6th
Always best to start at the source, that’s what any good mystery novel would tell you, but that wasn’t so easy when it seemed the world around you was going into a state of sheer panic.

“Woah!” Atlan cried as they dove to the side, dodging out of the way of a frenzied Maraquan Wocky. Dian wasn’t so lucky, the slower Maraquan Korbat was sent spinning into an upcurrent and landed with a heavy THUMP on the seabed. The Wocky paid no mind to the plights of the stranger he had just winded, continuing to swim blindly as if running away from the problem would solve everything. Atlan pulled up beside their friend a moment later, gently pulling them up.

“Are you alright?” They asked gently, scouring their friend for any sort of bruises or injuries.

“I’m fine,” Dian said, wincing as they straightened out. “Or at least I will be... Just a little winded.” They looked up to gaze into Atlan’s eyes, a small, dazed smile on their face. “Thank you.”

“We can rest for a moment,” Atlan said, though their gaze slowly drew away from their friend to survey the quickly greying sea around them. They wondered what would happen if all the colour was sucked from the world. Would they lose their happiness?

Dian seemed to follow their friend's gaze and a grim line of determination began to etch across their face. “We can’t rest. C’mon, let’s go.”

Dian led the way forwards, swimming to the best of their ability and dodging around the chaos left by the draining colour. The thought of losing their happiness, losing Atlan, was enough to keep them swimming despite the dull ache in their ribs.

Atlan followed close behind, mostly trying to shepherd away anyone who swam too close. Dian wasn’t bad at swimming by any means, but a new injury and the sheer panic of everyone around them could easily knock them off course once again. After what felt like hours of swimming, during which the colour around them had definitely faded significantly, Neopia Central finally came into view.

Atlan and Dian dove into the underground channel that led to the rainbow pool, having recently been implemented to make accessibility easier for Maraquan folk. It seemed most Neopians had opted to swim away from the source of the desaturation and the tunnel was eerily silent as the two of them swam together. It was weird, especially on a day like this. Neopians were usually so excited to travel here for the Rainbow Connection.

“Why do you think this happened,” Dian whispered, breaking the awkward silence.

“I’m not sure,” Atlan murmured back. “But I certainly don’t want to lose my colour, so hopefully we’re gonna find out.”

“It’s nice to be with you,” Dian said shyly, swimming a little closer to his partner. “I don’t think I could do this alone.”

Atlan grinned back then lead the way upwards towards the dull sunlight that shone through the surface of the rainbow pool. They swam closer and closer, side by side until they broke through the water and sent droplets flying in the face of a very startled Spotted Kougra.

“GAH!” The feline cried, stumbling backwards and covering his face with his paws - clearly unhappy about getting wet. He shook himself out and glared at the two newcomers. “What are you doing?! This is a serious investigation!”

“Sorry!” Dian called, nearly backing into the dulled rainbow before realising it was there and flailing to escape from its grasp, dousing the angry Kougra once again.

“Investigation?” Atlan called, hopeful but also trying to prevent the Kougra from shouting at their friend. “You’re investigating the missing colours?”

The Kougra rolled his eyes in a somewhat exasperated manner. “Why else would I be sticking my nose anywhere close to the water? Did you think I was admiring my reflection or something? I’m here on behalf of the Neopian Detective Agency.”

Atlan’s gaze brightened even more. “You’re a detective then? That’s great! So are we!” They beckoned to Dian and pulled them close before fixing the Kougra with the most sincere gaze they could muster. “We’re, uh, part of the Underwater Detective Agency!”

“We are?” Dian tilted their head. Atlan gave them a sharp nudge and Dian suddenly realised that they should play along. “I mean, yes, we are! The top detectives of the, uh, Underwater Detective Agency, that’s us!” He shot another glance at his companion. “Uh, Dian and Atlas!”

Atlan extended their fin towards the Kougra, eyes shining and hoping he would both believe them and that he wouldn’t send them away without letting them help. The Kougra narrowed his eyes, looking both a little confused and concerned. Slowly he drew up his paw and took Atlan’s fin, shaking it gently before grimacing and looking at his wet paw mournfully.

“Underwater Detective Agency, huh?” He said, his voice flat as if he didn’t quite believe them. “Can’t say I’ve ever heard of it.”

“We’re very real!” Atlan insisted, eyes wide. “We’re just very, uh, secret and stuff.”

“Uh-huh.” The Kougra narrowed his eyes before sighing. “I suppose having underwater help for this would be useful - keeps me as dry as possible.”

“You’re the only one on the case?“ Dian asked, blinking slowly.

“‘Fraid so.” The Kougra sighed. “Most of my wing is in utter chaos and panic right now. Hopefully I’ll be getting some backup soon, but right now it’s just me. I’m Dusty by the way - uh, sorry about the aggressive greeting, but to be fair you did both startle me quite a bit.”

“Is there anything you can tell us, anything we can do to help right now?” Atlan asked, gaze intent on their new ally.

“I do have something, and it’s quite distressing.” Dusty paused and looked down and the two Maraquans. “If you’re gonna help me then you need to promise not to spread this information around and cause panic, I’m sure the great detectives of the Underwater Detective Agency would know this though.” A small amused twinkle went through his eyes.

Dian and Atlan exchanged glances once again, a small look of understanding and determination passing through both their gazes. They looked back up at Dusty and nodded. Dusty returned their nod and closed his eyes tightly, angrily, as he relayed the information he knew.

“This wasn’t an accident. This was sabotage…”

Author: elliiebell
Date: Jun 7th
“Sabotage?!” Dian and Atlan chorused, eyes wide.

“But who would do something like this, and why?” Atlan wondered aloud.

Dusty snorted. “A real detective would stop asking questions and start trying to answer them.”

“Right,” Dian jumped in quickly, trying to keep their cover. “Okay. This was sabotage. Wh-" They stopped themselves before they asked the exact same questions Atlan had. “Alright. Let’s think.”

The friends’ antics had briefly cleared Dusty’s expression, but a troubled look returned to his eyes. “You know what major sporting event is happening at the moment-"

“The Altador Cup!" Atlan blurted. "Team Maraqua all the way!”

“Uh, sure. Yes.”

“Wait, I think I get it,” Dian flapped excitedly. “If the rainbow is a symbol of unity and creativity, it could affect the Cup!”

Dusty nodded. "Precisely. I believe that the rainbow was sabotaged to reduce the morale of certain Altador Cup teams and sow discord and disharmony among players and supporters, undermining the core idea of the Altador Cup bringing all the lands of Neopia together.”

“It sure would be difficult to keep on playing in these conditions,” Atlan noted sadly, looking around at their drab surroundings.

“I wouldn’t even be thinking about the game, I’d be thinking about the fact all the colours are gone - like I am now!” Dian agreed.

Dusty nodded solemnly. “And that leaves the question of who benefits from this chaos. Who would want to destroy symbols of harmony and sportspetship in Neopia?”

“Who?” Dian and Atlan couldn’t help but ask, drawn into Dusty’s narrative.

Dusty stroked his chin with a growl. “Who, indeed…”

Author: nurnurnur199
Date: Jun 8th
There was a moment of silence as the three of them seemed to ponder this together, before Dian spoke up with a sudden epiphany: “Well, if that's the case, I'd say the first thing to do would be to investigate the Altador Coliseum itself! If we travel there, we can see who's being affected and use that info to get a lead on a suspect.”

Atlan looked at them with a rather astonished expression, the Korbat was falling into the role of a detective so naturally. Even Dusty seemed impressed... Or at the very least, his features seemed to soften a bit, giving the pair an approving nod.

“An excellent idea... Though there is a bit of a problem.” The Kougra began pacing as he spoke, “With all the chaos this loss of colour seems to be causing, transportation is going to be hard to find. And we can't very well walk, the journey through the mountains on foot would take days, and we don't have that kind of time...”

Atlan smirked, before piping up with their own epiphany. “Which leaves just one other option...”

In only a few short minutes - just long enough for the two to construct a makeshift chariot out of a large abandoned seashell and some especially sturdy kelp - the trio was already on their way to Altador, with Atlan valiantly pulling the other two along. Dusty, who had been distressed at getting a mere few drops of water on him earlier, was clutching the sides of the shell tightly in his claws, fur standing on end as he tried very hard to pretend he wasn't terrified. And Dian couldn't even blame him, with the way Atlan cut through the water, much faster than Dian had ever seen them swim.

Atlan had good reason to be in a rush. The further they got from Neopia Central, the more colourful everything seemed to become... but they could tell whatever this grey phenomenon was, it was spreading. If the three of them wanted any chance of stopping it, they had to outrun it. Atlan suddenly felt plagued by worries, wondering: what if they weren't fast enough? What if they couldn't find a lead? What if--

“You sure we're not too heavy?” Dian called over the roar of the water, checking on their partner for the dozenth time since they'd started. “I could help, if you-”

“Oh, no you don't!” Atlan shouted back over their shoulder, trying to push down their own fears to reassure the other. “You're still hurt, and there's no WAY I'm letting you put in all the work yourself. You be the brains, I'll be the brawn, okay?” They winked.

Part of Dian wanted to protest further, despite still feeling sore from the collision earlier, but that little gesture made them chuckle. For a moment, they felt as though any self-doubt had left them, overpowered by the fondness they felt towards their closest friend.

Maybe it was a trick of the light... but in that moment, Atlan could swear they saw Dian become even more colourful than before.

In what was probably world-record time, the three of them reached the Altador Coastline, with the Coliseum looming atop the cliffs above them. Dusty stumbled out of the chariot, practically face-planting in his eagerness to get back on dry land - he tried to stand up quickly and compose himself, but fell over once again into the sand.

“Hah!” Atlan teased good-naturedly, “Sea legs!” Dian tried to stifle another chuckle.

The Kougra finally stood, brushing the sand off his coat and huffing. “When I said I wanted to *avoid* water, this was the opposite of what I had in mind... But I'll admit, I didn't expect to arrive here so fast. Excellent work, Inspector Atlan.”

Dusty had already turned to squint up at the Coliseum, and thus missed the amused expressions the other two made hearing the fancy title. “It hasn't spread... Thank goodness, there's still a chance of preventing the pandemonium.”

“It hasn't?” questioned Dian, who had been ready to assume that the rest of the world was already as colourblind as they were. “That's a relief... I suppose the two of us can start by investigating some of the smaller islands surrounding the area?” The walled city of Altador wasn't exactly Maraquan-friendly, and it wasn't as though the two had skateboards they could just drag themselves along on.

Dusty seemed to agree and nodded. “Good call. You two check the waters, I'll go take a look in the Coliseum and see what I can find, and we'll meet back here as soon as we can. Let's hope that Altador hasn't caught wind of the disaster just yet...”

And with that, and a few wishes of good luck, the Maraquan pair and the Kougra each set off for their own investigations...

Author: kooky_user
Date: Jun 9th
Dusty, now on his own, scanned the horizon as he sauntered towards the Colosseum, his eyes shrinking into slits as he squinted through the hot, Altadorian sun.

Upon first glance, nothing seemed too out of the ordinary. Neopians sporting the gear of their favourite teams and lands were hustling and bustling to get into the Colosseum for the day's Yooyuball tournaments. In the distance, he could spot little colourful specs out on the practice fields past the massive concrete building. While he couldn't make out the players themselves, Dusty assumed it was the different Yooyuball teams practising drills and warming up for the long day ahead.

"Hey, do you want a foam finger? GO TEAM MERIDELL!!!" A yellow Ixi shouted, accosting Dusty with her fanatical team spirit. Dusty was sure the Neopet targeted him because of the neutrality of his attire.

"Uh, I'll pass on the foam finger, but thanks for the offer," Dusty responded timidly, trying not to draw any attention from the crowd. While he would normally tell this Ixi off, his detective work came before his natural inclinations.

"Maybe I should purchase some gear in order to better blend in," he thought to himself.

Dusty went into the gift shop and purchased a Mystery Island jersey before heading over to the concession stand for a slushie. Now donning the new jersey, he felt more undercover. As he waited in line for a cool refreshment, he scanned the crowd.

All of a sudden, he noticed a blue flash out of the corner of his eye and heard a small shriek from behind the counter.

"Wha-what happened?!" The Tuskaninny waitress exclaimed as she pointed toward her slushie spinning machines. Slowly, each one was losing its colour and turning dull and grey.

Dusty took action and tried to follow the flash of blue that seemed to have caused this. He rounded the corner of the concession stand and headed towards the back.

"Stop, sir!" The waitress yelled. "You're not allowed back there!"

Dusty flashed his detective badge to relieve a semblance of her concern. She sighed in response, but it wasn't apparent if it was out of annoyance or relief.

The detective Kougra ran through the supply room of the concession stand, looking behind all the boxes and machinery in the room, but to no avail. He hurriedly unlatched the back door, but upon exiting the backroom, all he could see was a crowd of fans.

"Have you seen a Neopian in blue? Did anyone run by here and out of this door?" He asked frantically, trying to find an eyewitness.

After receiving a few shrugs in response and a few "No, sorry's," he sped out of the Colosseum to find his Maraquan friends. Maybe they found something that would help give a clue as to what just happened.

"Dian? Atlan? Are you there?" Dusty said as he reached the coastline, concern starting to seep into the undertones of his voice.

"Over here!" A voice shouted from behind a few craggy rocks to his right.

"You'll never guess what we found," Atlan began as Dusty approached the pair...

Author: i_lovee_icecream
Date: Jun 10th
In Atlan’s fin was a note. It was tattered and slightly waterlogged but it was intact and just barely readable. The Maraquan Lenny rolled it out as best he could and squinted at the words scrawled in front of them.


That was as far as they could get before everything became a mess of ink and water.

“Where did you find this?!” Dusty said, eyes wide at their newest lead.

“It was half-submerged in the sea atop a small rocky outcropping.” Dian twitched nervously. “It looks like someone was trying to get rid of it in the sea and missed - lucky for us.” They scanned the coast around them, spotting the nearby cave that had to be ‘discussed location’ and nodded towards it. “I guess we head there straight away.”

“We definitely do!” Atlan said, fins swaying excitedly in the water. “We’re so close to finding our culprit, I can feel it!” The Lenny felt like a true hero, having found such an important clue to such a dire case, and doing it with their best friend, they shot a massive grin towards Dian, well that made it even better! The Korbat caught Atlan’s eyes and returned a shy smile - their gaze showing so much more than just excitement.

Dusty seemed especially twitchy as they headed into the dreary cave, and Atlan guessed that was probably because the sea washed into it and left a deep valley of water cutting through the centre - so much for staying dry but it made traversing easier for them and their friend. Dian seemed to notice this as well, and perked upwards with a small question. “You know what we found out, what about you?”

“Something happened in the coliseum, there was some sort of blue flash and things started to lose their colour.” He growled and dug his claws into the damp rocks below. “But whatever it was managed to get away.”

“Maybe we’ll find them here,” Atlan said determinedly. “If the note has anything to do with the missing colour then I’m sure that weird blue flash won’t be far behind.”

The group continued to journey in silence, only being occasionally broken by Dusty’s grimaces as he stepped into particularly deep puddles - but it wasn’t too long until they came to a dead end.

Or what seemed like a dead end.

The cliff side dropped down steeply into the water, blocking off any further exploration on land, but below the dip of rock the pathway continued on underwater. There was no telling where it led, but it definitely felt like a sinister place for a sinister meeting.

Of course, travelling beneath the water would be a breeze for Atlan and Dian - but for Dusty.. not so much. The poor Kougra looked absolutely mortified about having to travel through the underwater passage, so much so that Dian quickly cut in to put him out of his misery.

“We can go.” They insisted. “There’s no telling where this leads and it could be dangerous for someone who can’t breathe underwater.” Atlan nodded eagerly continuing on with their friend’s offer. “And it would probably be better to branch off anyway - you can keep an eye out here and stop anyone who tries to go through. We can deal with anyone who may be at the end.”

“Good idea.” Dusty looked all too relieved at not having to swim and nodded trustingly at his companions. He glanced once again at the water and then back. “But do get me if you need me, a good detective knows when they need help.”

“Of course,” Atlan said, turning away and preparing to dive. “C’mon Dian, we’re so close.” With that, they vanished. Dian felt their friend was a little too eager and shot a small look of exasperation toward Dusty. “They’re too fast... I’ll keep an eye on them.”

Dusty nodded. “Good luck.” And with that Dian was gone too.

The underwater river was cold and narrow, but it wasn’t long before it curved upwards into a new cave. Dian had been thinking the culprit would have to be a Maraquan or other underwater Neopian, but the tunnel was definitely short enough so that someone who couldn’t breathe underwater could make it through… At least that meant Dusty could make it through if he needed to.

“Whaddya think?” Atlan interrupted their friend’s thoughts. “Think we’re early or are they-“

Dian quickly pulled their friend below the surface. Atlan let out a squawk of shock but quickly shut up when they realised why. A shadow was swimming through the water, confidently as if it knew exactly where to go. They felt concern flutter in their chest... How had they gotten past Dusty? But they didn’t have a chance to linger on that thought before Atlan unceremoniously tackled the stranger.

There was a terrified squawk and an array of bubbles. Dian noted that the stranger did not show any sign of blue, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t have something to do with it. A note would suggest a partner after all.

The shadow lunged from the water, shaking Atlan off and turning towards them with large bewildered eyes. It was a shadow Acara, and it loomed threateningly over Atlan…

Author: elliiebell
Date: Jun 15th
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?" the Acara bellowed. "This is a restricted area."

"We're, uh, we're certified to be here," Dian exclaimed hurriedly. "We're part of the Underwater Detective Agency."

The Acara narrowed her eyes. "Underwater Detective Agency, huh? Do you have any sort of professional identification?"

Atlan and Dian exchanged nervous glances. "Well, uh, you see, we, uh..."

"...because, as an ACTUAL member of the Underwater Detective Agency, I know that we haven't hired any new recruits in a few years. Do you kids want to explain what you're actually doing here?"

"The rainbow was disappearing!" Once Atlan began speaking, the words tumbled out of them quickly. "We went for Rainbow Connection day, but all the colours were turning grey. And then we ran into Dusty, and we were trying to help with the investigation, and..." finally, they paused to take a breath.

The Acara considered them both for a moment, then spoke again. "It's good to know that Dusty is on the case. The truth is, colours have been fading for a few weeks, now. It started small—some kelp here, a tiki torch there—but now it's getting bigger. I think whoever is doing this has become more powerful, or maybe they have more help."

"They do have help!" Atlan exclaimed. "We found this note about meeting in the cave beneath the coastline to discuss the thing being done!"

The Acara raised a brow. "Could I see the note, please?" Dian tried to meet Atlan's eye and shake their head—something just didn't seem right—but Atlan was too excited to notice as they handed over the note. The case was so close to being cracked! Maybe this Acara held the key. "Yes," the Acara mused, "very interesting. Well, why don't you all make your way back to Dusty, and I'll see what else I can find."

"What if we want to help?" Atlan asked excitedly. "I bet the three of us can figure this out in no time if we work together."

"I said you should go back to Dusty," the Acara repeated, her tone suddenly a good deal more menacing. "You wouldn't want anyone to get hurt from sticking their noses where they don't belong..."

"Sure, sure, sure," Dian replied, pulling Atlan along behind them. "We're going." The two friends were too rattled to speak as they swam back through the river and hurried to find the seasoned Kougra investigator. When they found him, his head was in his paws.

"I'm so sorry to tell you two this," he moaned, "but while you were off exploring, two terrible things happened. The rainbow didn't re-extend after its retreat into the Rainbow Pool, and the Altador Cup has been stolen."

Author: speelyrox
Date: Jun 17th
“What?!” Atlan's exclamation echoed around the cave, sending small ripples through the water. Dian shook their head in disbelief.

“I got the news just now.” Dusty didn't remove his paws from his face, he barely even flinched as Atlan's shocked flailing splashed several water droplets into his fur. “It's chaos out there. This on top of the missing colours, it's gotta be the biggest crime Neopia has ever seen. Everyone's panicking, rumours are spreading and teams are turning on each other!”

Atlan glanced around the cave, trying to think of anything that could be of use, another lead they could follow. The note had been a dead end, they'd only found that Acara... Wait, the Acara!

Their gaze lit up and they turned towards Dian excitedly. “Dian! What about that Acara? The one in the cave? She said she was part of the Underwater Detective Agency! What if we asked her for help?”

Dian didn't look nearly as excited as Atlan thought they would. No, instead their gaze deepened into a frown. They opened their mouth to speak, but it was Dusty who spoke up first, lowering his paws from his face.

“What Acara?” He asked slowly.

“There was an Acara in the cave! She said she was part of the Underwater Detective Agency like- like us! We weren't able to find any sort of meeting but maybe we could go back and ask-”

“Atlan!” Dusty cut them off, standing up with his fur on end. “What did this Acara look like?! Was she a Shadow Acara?!”

“Yes...” Atlan suddenly felt the air turn colder and they looked up towards Dusty, who was now nearing the edge of the river, looking down with a mix of fear, determination and anger. “Is- Is she important?”

Dusty didn't respond. With one final shudder, he squeezed his eyes shut and threw himself into the water, Dian and Atlan having to flail to get out of his way. Within moments he was gone, diving under the rocky dip into the underground river.

Dian and Atlan knew there was no other option but to follow.

The three of them swam through the river with urgency, Dian moving to help Dusty - as he was more thrashing around rather than swimming, but eventually the passage dipped upwards towards the cave and Dusty sprang out in an instant. He panted and shook out his fur as best he could before standing straight and calling out into the darkness.

“Nightshade!” He bellowed, eyes wide with fury. “Nightshade, I know you're in here! Come out this instant!”

There was no response other than the occasional drip of water.

Atlan's gaze scanned the surroundings as best they could. All the shadows seemed to move and shift, it felt almost impossible to pick out of someone was hiding within them. For a moment, they were concerned the Acara had fled elsewhere, perhaps to another exit but then they saw it: flash of blue eyes against the dark, trying to ever so subtly sneak back towards the river.

“Dusty!” They called out, and the Kougra turned just as the Acara made a run for it. He pounced, sending the two of them rolling across bare rock until Dusty eventually came out on top. He pinned her to the ground with a furious growl.

“Lemme go!” She snarled, trying to free herself. The two Maraquan pets swam as close as they could to the river's edge, blocking her escape, and she shot them a vicious glare. “You two again...”

Atlan was stunned silent, not knowing what to make of Dusty turning on someone who they'd thought was their ally... Dian put a fin on their shoulder, and spoke for them. “Now it's my turn to ask what *you're* doing here. Clearly you're not a detective, either.”

“She used to be,” snarled Dusty – if he'd noticed Dian blowing their own cover as well, he said nothing. “Until we realized that a thief we'd been tracking for months had been her all along, misusing the Agency's information to keep stolen treasures all to herself...” He glared back down at her. “You've always been a crafty one, Nightshade, but this... this is a new low. Jeopardizing the unity of the entire planet? What are you playing at?!”

Nightshade laughed, a booming laugh that seemed to shake the tunnel, and Dian felt Atlan wrap a fin around them out of fear. “As if I care about ANY of that! The Cup itself was always the real treasure, this grey blight has merely been a distraction... just like this is.” She smirked.

Dusty's eyes widened, but before he could react, a bright blue flash filled the cavern. Dian and Atlan both had to shield their eyes, and when they looked back, Dusty was lying on the ground several feet away, as though he had been blasted back.

“DUSTY!” Altan cried out, attempting to drag themself onto land, though Dian managed to hold them back. They watched in horror as Dusty sat up, the golden color of his Spotted fur slowly beginning to fade away. “No!”

Dian kept their grip on Atlan and managed to wrench their eyes away from the sight, to see where the blue light had come from – behind them both, they saw a grey Uni standing with a smug look on his face, holding a strange looking device that pulsed from within with swirling rainbow colors... for a brief second, it was as if they saw Dusty's own color being absorbed into it.

“Perfect timing, Ash!” The Acara slunk from the shadows to his side, and they could just make out a glint of gold in her arms before the two began fleeing farther down the tunnel.

Dian's eyes widened, and they tugged their partner's arm. “Atlan, Dusty! They're escaping, we have to...”

But Dusty, they quickly saw, was in no condition to follow. He was trying to push himself to his feet, but it was as though all the strength had been drained out of him. The righteous fury from before had left his eyes, leaving only... hopelessness.

Dian gulped. “Come on,” they insisted to Atlan. Their eyes met, and they could see the fear in each others' faces... their fins squeezed one another simultaneously, as though to give one another strength, and they both set off down the dark river, this time swimming in perfect sync.

In the distance at last, they saw a light at the other end of the cave, as they found the spot where the river connects with the seas beyond Altador. On a rocky outcrop outside the cave, the Uni, Ash, pulled Nightshade into a boat – there was a whirring sound, like a motor, and the two look to be bracing to make their getaway...

Dian barely even had time to mutter that there's no way they can make it... before they feel the fin clutching theirs let go. Within an instant, they saw a blue and white flash as Atlan LEAPT out of the water, soaring straight for the pair of them like an arrow. They looked on in amazement, almost frozen before the sound of Nightshade's scream snapped them back to reality. They swam up to the boat as quickly as they could, as Atlan tackled the Acara to the deck of the ship.

As the two hit the deck, the trophy went flying from her grip, the gold glinting in the sunlight almost blinding with the grey sea surrounding them. Atlan dove over the edge of the boat after it, barely dodging Nightshade's desperate grasp. “You little pest!” she snarled.

Atlan fell backward into the water, almost landing on Dian by accident – the wind was momentarily knocked out of them, but they clutched the Altador Cup hard as though it was their one lifeline. On the cliffs above them, Dian noticed several onlookers staring down, attracted either by the noise, or the last remaining vestiges of colour.

Before Dian could ask if their friend is alright, they hear a high pitched sound of a machine charging up, and a new voice, Ash's voice, rang out.

“Stop. Right. There.” The Uni emphasized each word, his voice harsh. “If you ever want to see colour return to Neopia, I suggest you hand that over... It's still reversible, I only targeted the Rainbow Pool to get attention, and then the Altador Coliseum so we could make a clean getaway in the chaos...” He glanced to the cliffs in suspicion, as though acknowledging that plan was a bust. “But I could easily turn it on the rest of Neopia. And unless you want to be responsible for that, you'll do as I say.”

It was as if the world has gone silent. Atlan looked, horrified, back and forth – between the cup, Dian, Ash, and back again. This was exactly what the two had both feared all along, losing all their colour, their joy... but the Cup meant so much to all of Neopia, it stood for unity in the same way the Rainbow Connection day did.

With no other option, they slowly began to drift towards the Uni, who smirked and moved closer to the edge of the boat. “That's more like it... after all, who wants a world of only black and white?”

“Some of us,” piped Dian, who Atlan could hear quickly approaching behind them, “have learned to live with it!”

The Korbat tackled the Uni, who had been leaning over the water, clinging to his face and refusing to let go. As he flailed, the rainbow device slipped from his grip and soared high into the air – there was a loud “NO!” from Nightshade as it sailed towards the water, and Atlan could barely look as it sunk into...

… the arms of a Maraquan Acara? Atlan's jaw dropped in disbelief – it was Elon the Black Hole, the captain of their favorite Yooyuball team! Their smile only widened as they glanced around and saw what had happened: amid all the distraction, Altador Cup players and fans alike had crept down from the cliffs above, and were positioned all along the seashore, all looking eager to help however they can. The rainbow device flew from Elon's Yooyuball sling and through the air, passing from one team to the other, from Meridell, to Shenkuu, to Roo Island and more... Even without color, Atlan realized they could still see what made each team unique from one another.

Ash finally managed to peel the Maraquan Korbat from his face, who hit the side of the boat with a loud THUMP as he tried to throw them into the water. He tried to leap off the boat after his precious device, but it was already too late – it had already made its way to Lost Desert captain Leera Heggle, and the burly Kau reared back and threw the machine to the ground, watching it smash onto the rocks. The Uni's enraged shriek filled the air, but other than that, all were silent, waiting to see what would happen...

Slowly, like ink spreading through water, color started leaking out from the device and into the world around it. Leera, who had been standing the closest, began to see the familiar blue and gold of his uniform return, and many of the crowd members began to gathered around him and cheer, eager to be the next ones to regain their color.

Atlan however, was not watching the crowd. They'd quickly swum to Dian's side the moment they had hit the water, “DIAN!” they cried out, their voice equally congratulating and scolding them. “Dian, what were you THINKING... I mean, that was amazing, but are you okay?! You were already hurt – oh, Fyora, did he hurt you?”

Dian simply smiled, wincing at the renewed pain in their chest as they chuckled. They patted the Lenny on the back as they felt themself pulled into a hug, already feeling their pain melt away. “... I'm okay now.”

A few weeks later, all Neopia was still buzzing with the news, of the plot that had nearly taken down both the Altador Cup, and all the color from Neopia, in one fell swoop. Some of course, who hadn't seen the effects of it, believed it to be a myth or an exaggeration. But those in Neopia Central could all attest to the grey world they had been stuck in for several days.

And the residents of Altador fondly remembered the wonderment they felt, as they saw the wave of color sweeping across the island from the cliffs, feeling a wave of joy and comfort overtake them as their color was restored, as though they were being reminded of who they were. A select few could even recall the Spotted Kougra who had emerged in all the chaos, who stopped the pair of crooks behind the whole mess just moments before they could make their getaway. Rumor had it that he was last seen heading for his vacation home in the Lost Desert, and that he had “had enough to do with water for a while”... but no one knew who the detective's two mystery partners had been, or where they were now.

Because far away from the mainland, on the outskirts of Maraqua, the two had made their way back to their viewing spot, just in time. Dian had bandages around their chest from the ordeal they'd been through, and a familiar shell chariot sat on the rocks next to them, waiting to carry the Korbat for the journey home.

“It's even more beautiful than before,” Atlan sighs wistfully, looking to the sky as the rainbow slowly started to stretch across it, bigger and brighter than they had ever seen.

Dian inhaled, and Atlan cut them off with a laugh, “I know, I know, colorblind. But just play along, will ya?”

“Actually,” Dian corrected them with a quiet laugh of their own, “I was going to say yes, it is.” Atlan raised an eyebrow at them, and they explained: “It may not look brighter, to me... but it *feels* brighter. Like, the feeling of almost losing something, makes you appreciate it more than you ever did. Wouldn't you agree... partner?”

Atlan smiled, feeling brighter than all the colors around them. As the rainbow met in the center of the sky above, they felt a head rest on their shoulder.

It was their first Rainbow Connection... and they somehow knew already, that next year's would be even better.

Author: kooky_user
Date: Jun 19th

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