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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 16th day of Eating, Yr 26
The Neopian Times Week 135 > Continuing Series > To be a Master: Hidden Powers -- Part Three

To be a Master: Hidden Powers -- Part Three

by shelleylow

Several weeks passed, and life went on at the training hall. Shell's four pets appeared for their weekly lesson and made friends with Mandrake, and a newcomer from the Pound, a tiny yellow Zafaress named Faille, made her appearance and settled down beautifully.

     The daily rituals agreed with all the young pets. There was class in the morning until the sun had near reached its zenith, and then they could play and explore the surrounding forest as long as they didn't go too far. Then, as the bright orb began to dip, there was lifeforce training, breathing steadily and relaxing the body, focusing the mind. The young ones could feel their awareness slowly sharpen and they shivered with wonder as they felt and sensed so much more than normal. The true beauty of nature was revealed and lovingly beheld by each of them. More play after that while Marko went to collect food in the early evening sun, and when he came back and began to prepare it they splashed in the little spring in the clearing, washing the dirt out of fur, feathers and hair. After that there was dinner and Aihami would tell them stories of Neo-Kidoka of the past until it was time to go to bed.

     All in all it was a good life, and Mandrake settled happily into the course of it just as the others had done. The other white-belts all accepted him as part of the gang, well, all except Keota. Mandrake could sense negativity and uneasiness from the blue Eyrie kit when he used his lifeforce energy. As far as he could tell, she didn't approve of armless pets practicing Neo-Kido. But at any rate, he had plenty of other friends. Mandrake put the subject of Keota's discomfort out of his head.

     Then one day Aihami announced something new after class was over. "This afternoon, we won't be conducting lifeforce training..."

     There was a unanimous moan of disappointment. Aihami waited until it had died down before continuing, "...here."

     Interest rekindled, the white-belts raised eyes to her expectantly.

     "Instead of the training hall," the Aisha continued, "we will trek to a waterfall I know and conduct out training there. It's a change of scenery and I have practiced lifeforce training there before. It was very relaxing, and I think it would be good for all of you."

     An excited murmur broke out among the eight young pets. Marko waved his paw for silence. "I'd like all of you to form a circle, right now."

     Once they had done as they were told, he went on.

     "I want each of you to keep track of one another. It's a long way and we don't want anyone getting lost in the jungle, or around the waterfall by wandering too far. Now, each of you, look at the pet on your left. Him or her is your responsibility, and you must not let them out of your sight on the way there, and keep checking for them when we are at the waterfall itself. If you really cannot find them at any time, you must come straight either to me, or to Aihami-Master, and tell us. Is this all clear to you?"

     Eight heads nodded simultaneously.

     Marko broke into a warm grin. "Good. So you'd better change out of your training uniforms and bundle them along because we're leaving in a few minutes. We don't want them getting dirty and muddy and tripping you up on the trail. As soon as we get there we shall go through our training and then you may have the rest of the day to play on the waterfall. Now, go on, or we'll leave you behind!"

     Giggling and cheering, the white-belts rushed into their sleeping quarters to pack their uniforms in cloth bags after bowing to their Senior and Master. The day had just taken a turn for the better.

     They reached the spot with all the white-belts intact, and began their training on some dry sandy ground near the foot of the waterfall, where the white spray cascaded over the mossy stones in a burst of gleaming droplets. It was a vastly different environment than the one they were used to.

     At the training hall, and the clearing where they sometimes practiced, it was quiet and peaceful, the only sounds being the rustling of leaves and the various sounds of different creatures as they went about their daily business. At most there would be the chanting of the coconut natives performing their mystic rituals deep in the uncharted areas of the jungle. Here the roaring and crashing of the water from the towering stony cliff above to the rocks below was the main sound, and it took them a bit more energy than was normal to catch the distant noises they were used to.

     Nevertheless, they left practice feeling invigorated, and, in the white-belts' case, more than ready for a game. Laughing happily, they took off and splashed into the pool, sending drops flying into the air. Didicus and Nage followed happily, barking and squeaking loudly with excitement. Aihami and Marko lay comfortably on the dryer rocks, taking turns to watch them in their romp while the other slept in the warmth of the sun, obscured no longer by the thick leafy canopy.

     The white-belts were enjoying their outing thoroughly. It was such fun being out in the sun for once, and with the awesome natural monument to play on, who could possibly complain? The water was cold, but none of them seemed to mind very much as they laughed and shouted, spattering each other with glistening drops that hung in their fur like liquid, rainbowed jewels.

     Keota was sitting on a rock, brooding. She didn't much feel like playing. The JubJub's image in her head had been plaguing her for weeks. How could Aihami-Master have allowed him to join the training hall? He couldn't do any of the techniques they could; he couldn't do Neo-Kido proper. Sure, he could do the breathing exercises but what would the use of that be? He should go and join some other Neopian martial arts school. Plus, everyone else seemed to like him so much. Couldn't they see he'd never be a real Neo-Kidoka? And as for that ridiculous notion of his... talking to Petpets, indeed. She had never believed a word of it. The young Eyrie had resented Mandrake and Didicus since the day they arrived, and now she was hatching a plan in her mind.

     She had seen, from that morning, that Mandrake had been the pet on her right in the circle; he was the one who was supposed to watch out for her safety. Suppose she slipped off by herself, and returned to this spot only later. Then Mandrake would be blamed for her disappearance and losing sight of her. He might be removed. The pet she was responsible for was Raz; he could be trusted not to run off or get lost. But how could she possibly do it? Either Aihami-Master or Marko-Senior was always watching all of them together.

     The problem somehow solved itself. Aihami-Master suddenly leapt off the rock she had been sitting on and raced at full tilt towards the waterfall, Marko-Senior right behind her. Looking towards their destination, Keota saw two figures, one red and the other green, nimbly scaling the steep rocky face of the cliff over which the water was tumbling. Aragon and Jitterbug were trying to climb to the top. It was the sort of daredevil act they were famous for.

     Keota grinned. It was just the distraction she needed. Carefully, quickly and quietly, she slipped through the bushes and crept away into the tangle of trees.

     When the commotion had died down, and Jitterbug and Aragon were both sent grumbling back down the rocks, Mandrake noticed something wrong with his Petpet. Didicus was barking and leaping about in the shallows, obviously trying to get his attention.

     The JubJub splashed his way to the bank. "Didicus, whatever is the matter?"

     The Anubis glared at him through his coal-dark eyes. You've obviously forgotten to watch for something... or should I say someone.

     Mandrake looked at him in puzzlement. "Talk plain, won't you?"

     Didicus barked with frustration and impatience. Honestly, Manny, you annoy me sometimes! While you were watching the green Doglefox-giant and the wingless Flosset ascending the cliff, the blue Whoot-head Noil you told me you were supposed to be watching for has gone and wandered into the forest. Not that I care much for the creature, I could sense she never did like you, but still, it was your given duty to look out for her.

     "Keota!" Mandrake scanned the surrounding water and land in horror. Sure enough, there was no sign of the Eyrie kit. "Where did she disappear to?"

     The trees over there, the Anubis replied, pointing with his slate blue paw, but...

     Mandrake took off at a run towards the indicated clump of forest. Wait! Didicus barked. You must tell the four-ears! Or the striped-one!

     If Mandrake heard his Petpet at all, he didn't respond.

     Oh, by Great Coltzan, grumbled the Anubis, that Mandrake will be the death of me, and himself too, I shouldn't be surprised to find out, and he dashed off in pursuit of his owner.

     Keota snickered to herself as she crouched in the brambles, her thick fur rendering her immune to the pricks and scratches she would otherwise have received from the vicious thorns. Outside, she was invisible among the prickly branches. It was the perfect hiding place. All she had to do was wait here until late afternoon before retracing her steps to the waterfall. By then they should have created a panic.

     A snuffling through the bushes disturbed her musings, obviously some forest creature looking for food. She nestled deeper into her hidey-hole.

     All of a sudden a steel blue muzzle thrust itself in between the leaves. Keota screeched with shock and the muzzle retracted. From outside came a triumphant bark.

     "Keota? What are you doing here?"

     Keota pushed her head out of the tangle of brush. Mandrake was looking at her curiously. There were no lines of anger or irritation anywhere in his body, and this only served to incense her.

     "You... you... how did you find me?"

     "Didicus." Mandrake looked at his pet with an air of quiet pride. "He saw you leave, and he helped follow your trail. He said it was lucky you didn't fly, your spoor would have been that much harder to follow."

     Keota opened her beak to say something else when there was a scuffling noise and a furry green creature bounded into the clearing in a shower of dead leaves.

     "Aragon!" Keota shook leaves from her ruff. "What do you think you're doing?"

     The Lupe gave her a look of mock coldness. "Just looking after my charge, Keota. I was supposed to look out for Manny, and that's what I'm doing. I noticed he was gone, and so I followed his trail to here." The friendly look came back into his face and his tail wagged. Then he looked round at each of them, seeming to notice for the first time that they were all in a clearing quite far from the rest of the Neo-Kidokas. "So... Manny, what are you doing here?"

     "Same as you," Mandrake replied with a grin. "Keota split, so I went after her." He turned to the Eyrie kit. "And what are you doing here, Keota?"

     The Eyrie regarded them, nonplussed. "Well... er... I... was just..."

     An ominous stillness stopped her excuse in its wobbly tracks. The three Neo-Kidoka white-belts and the Anubis could all sense it in the air. It just felt...wrong. There was an air of doom hanging all around them, of something bad about to happen, as if there was a large and heavy weight hanging by a single fraying thread above them; like a dam about to burst.

     All three white-belts, intuitively regulating their breathing and trying to keep the cold sense of panic from rising and making them too fearful to continue, felt the familiar enrichment of their senses. Though their increased awareness was by no means as strong as Aihami's or Marko's yet, they could sense enough to give them information about what was coming.

     Jungle beasts were scattering, terrified, into hiding places in trees or holes in the ground; there was no doubt about it, this thing was feared by all of them. There didn't even seem to be any wind, just the menacing silence that was so far from peaceful. It pervaded the whole place, drenching it with danger they could feel as if it were a physical presence. And it was coming from somewhere behind them.

     Suddenly, there came a loud rustling of bushes. The three young pets and the Anubis turned sharply around and came face to face with what had been causing the disruptions.

To be continued...

Previous Episodes

To be a Master: Hidden Powers -- Part One

To be a Master: Hidden Powers -- Part Two

To be a Master: Hidden Powers -- Part Four

To be a Master: Hidden Powers -- Part Five

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