Meow Circulation: 187,548,790 Issue: 518 | 28th day of Collecting, Y13
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Cloud Flute: Part Three

by aquadaika


"You actually managed to burn the pancakes, Elora. After I told you how long they're supposed to be kept in the pan." Kyra furrowed her brow and looked at the brown, crispy pancakes with an unimpressed expression on her face.

     Laerya's household had settled at the table to enjoy a wholesome breakfast, prepared by the 'chef' Elora. Unfortunately, plans for a tasty breakfast were now out of the question.

     "Maybe it's because Elora used her own fire powers to heat the pancakes," Denise, a pink Zafara, said. She sat next to Lae at the table, the bangles on her wrists clinking together as she moved her arm.

     Elora snorted. "My fire's better than any stove," she said. "After all, my fire powers were given to me by a fire faerie. They're bound to be good."

     "Not for cooking, that's for sure," Denise murmured.

     Lae almost banged her head against the table in frustration. Her stomach was doing its best to make itself heard; she could feel the hunger pangs pushing her to eat something, anything. Even Elora's burnt pancakes would do. She needed to appease her stomach, and fast. "I'll eat the pancakes!" she blurted out.

     Everyone stared at Lae, their mouths agape. Even Elora looked dubious. "Really?" she asked, glancing at her 'masterpiece'. "I wouldn't put them anywhere near my mouth."

     "To each their own," Lae replied impatiently. "Can I eat them now?"

     Kyra shook her head, adjusting her glasses. "No, you don't have to," she said. "I've got some cereal here." She headed for the cabinet where all breakfast foods were stored. She came back with a pack of Neocrunch cereal.

     "What do we do with my pancakes?" Elora asked, taking her seat at the table as Kyra poured cereal into everyone's bowls.

     Laerya immediately dug into her cereal, barely paying attention to the conversation around her.

     "Lae's Gruslen can have the pancakes," Kyra suggested.

     Lae looked over at her Gruslen, Peach, sitting obediently by her chair. She watched as Kyra took Elora's pancakes and put them down for Peach to eat. The Gruslen wagged his tail happily and hopped over to the food. However, he hesitated. Nosing the pancakes, he licked one and drew back in disgust.

     "Even Peach won't eat them," Fericeus chuckled from his place at the table.

     "I gotta say, I'm a little offended," Elora sighed. "If even the Gruslen won't eat them then there's no hope for me as a chef. How sad is that?"

     "Very," Laerya said offhandedly, her mouth full of cereal.

     Denise grabbed the latest issue of the Neopian Times sitting at the table and opened it to read. Laerya watched as the pink Zafara scanned the pages while eating breakfast. "Don't slobber all over the pages," Laerya advised.

     Denise nodded, her mind obviously elsewhere. "Hey guys, listen to this: 'more tremors reported in the Endless Plains.' It's just as well no one lives over there, what with all the recent ground shudders and everything."

     "I wonder what's causing it all..." Elora muttered, flicking her tail.

     "Do you think it's something dangerous?" Kyra said. "So far the tremors haven't been too bad."

     A knock at the door cut off whatever anyone was about to say. "I'll get it," Lae volunteered, jumping from the table, her cereal already finished. She opened the door to see a young red Xweetok, his hair slightly ruffled. "Hey, Akorri," Lae greeted.

     "Can I come in?" Akorri asked. He entered slowly as Lae nodded.

     Laerya closed the door after him and sighed. Why did Akorri have to come? He was such a pain in the tail. Lae was constantly annoyed by his smug attitude and his words always seemed to rub her up the wrong way. Either way, she knew she had to be polite. He was a guest, after all. "What can we do for you?" she asked.

     Akorri smiled. "Just wanted to say hi to everyone. Is that so wrong?" He raised an eyebrow, clasping his gloved hands together. "We're all friends here, Lae."

     Lae narrowed her eyes. She knew what he was up to: he was trying to hit a nerve. Well, she wouldn't give him the satisfaction of seeing her angry. "Yes, Akorri. We're all friends here."

     "Yep, I'm your friend. You remember when you were out in the Haunted Woods one day and you were injured?" Akorri took a step closer to Lae, who in response stepped back. "I took you to my home and healed you. You do remember, don't you?"

     Lae nodded in a disgruntled fashion. Yes, she remembered. Back then, Akorri had been nicer. Lae had no idea what had happened for him to turn into this conceited piece of work.

     "Akorri?" Kyra approached the young Xweetok and shook his hand. "How great to see you! You wanna have breakfast?"

     "Um, no thanks, I had something before I got here," Akorri said. "Thanks for the offer though."

     Kyra folded her arms. "You sure? I know that your food supplies are pretty limited, living the way you do and all."

     Akorri's ear twitched, and Lae grinned at his discomfort. "I get by," he said curtly.

     Laerya stood watching him while leaning against the wall. Truthfully, she didn't know much about Akorri. They had briefly met in the Haunted Woods and Akorri had become a friend of Lae's family since, but the Xweetok led a very secretive life. Lae didn't know what he did for a living, or even how he lived, and she had never cared enough to question him. There was also something in his demeanor that told her to leave that subject untouched.

     Akorri went over to the kitchen, so Lae decided to follow him. She wanted to read the article regarding the tremors in the Endless Plains, but when she got there, she found Denise and Elora talking nervously.

     "I'd go check, but I have my job as a waitress at the café and I can't leave," Lae heard Elora murmur.

     "Not like I can go, I'm even less fit for travel than you are," Denise replied quietly.

     Laerya frowned. Less fit for travel? What were Denise and Elora planning? Lae wanted to hear more, but at her arrival into the kitchen both of the Zafaras stopped talking.

     "Akorri, have you heard about the ground shudders in the Endless Plains?" Kyra asked, pointing to the Neopian Times folded neatly at the breakfast table.

     The red Xweetok shook his head. "I had no idea," he replied. "Do you know what's causing them?"

     "No," Elora sighed. "I want to go and have a look, but I'm needed here." She narrowed her eyes in barely concealed frustration.

     Laerya jumped up in surprise as an idea came to her. She could go investigate the tremors! She was just as curious to go see what was causing them as Elora was, and with no job to tie her down, she was free to go as she pleased. Yes, such a brilliant idea this was, she had to voice her plan. "I'll go for you!" she exclaimed, throwing her hands up in the air in excitement.

     To her displeasure, her suggestion was met with concern and, she noticed from Akorri's end, scorn. "We can't let you go on your own," Elora said flatly. "It'd be too dangerous."

     "Yes, those ground shudders could easily develop into terrible earthquakes," Kyra added.

     "You can barely look after yourself," Akorri pointed out with a smirk.

     Laerya clenched her teeth and glared at him, her irritation growing into anger. "Don't you bring up the Haunted Woods incident again!" she growled, taking a step towards the Xweetok. Her plan had been squashed; she felt the disappointment raw in her heart, and had to take her rage out on someone. She knew she would get some satisfaction if she picked on Akorri; perhaps she could stomp his arrogant attitude into the dust. "Listen, you. I am perfectly capable of looking after myself, and I don't need you to tell me otherwise! So just shut your trap, okay?"

     Akorri merely smiled, as if Lae's words had jumped off some invisible shield he put up. "Oh, sorry. Didn't mean to upset you. I was only voicing my concern."

     Lae's long Cybunny ears twitched in her fury. Why couldn't Akorri just be quiet? Every word he said made her fur crawl. Voicing his concern? He only wanted to show her up...

     "Lae, perhaps there's a way around this," Elora interjected, obviously hoping to quell Lae's temper. "You can go... if someone goes with you."

     Laerya smoothed her ruffled hair and stared at Elora. That did seem like a good idea... but who could go with her? Everyone she knew was busy. Everyone except...

     "Akorri can go with you," Kyra proposed, beaming brightly. "That way, you're with someone who can look after you if you get hurt."

     Lae's heart plummeted down to the pit of her stomach. "You're kidding." Her anger returned as she saw that Kyra's expression remained unchanged; the strawberry Zafara seemed to be completely serious. "You're kidding, right?" There was desperation in Lae's voice now. "There's no way I can go with him!"

     Akorri looked at Lae with disgust. "I'm not too happy about the idea either, but the least you could do is keep your 'nice' thoughts to yourself."

     "Also, are you implying that I actually need Akorri to look after me?" Laerya went on, completely ignoring Akorri. "He healed me once. Once! Why can't we just put that incident behind us?"

     "I think it's a good idea," Kyra said, her expression unwavering. "You'd be able to go to the Endless Plains, and you'd be in safe hands. Everybody wins, yes?"

     Lae pulled on one of her ears and sighed, thinking over her options. On one hand, it would be nice to see the Endless Plains – she really wanted to inspect the tremors. On the other hand, Akorri would be going with her, and he wasn't exactly great company. What was more important? Exploring the plains, or staying away from the red Xweetok? Her intense curiosity was getting the better of her. She knew she had to see the plains.

     "So, Lae?" Kyra prompted as Elora, Denise and Feri left the kitchen to go about their daily lives. "What will it be?"

     Laerya backed down. "I'll go with Akorri to see the plains," she said heavily, almost choking the words out due to her reluctance.

     Kyra nodded. "Then it's settled. Akorri, you will go with Lae to the Endless Plains to inspect the tremors. The plains aren't too far from here, so it shouldn't take long to walk."

     "What?" Akorri looked crestfallen. "Don't I even get a say?"

     "You're free, yes? You aren't doing anything now?"

     Laerya could see Akorri fighting with his thoughts. There was a moment of silence, and then a quiet, "No..."

     Kyra seemed satisfied. "Okay, it's all good. You two can leave now if you like. Shake hands and make friends, because it's more fun to travel in good company."

     "Shake... hands?" Lae looked disdainfully at Akorri's purple gloved hand. "Really?"

     "Yes. Do it." Now Kyra's words sounded like an order, and Lae knew she had to obey.

     Lae stretched out her hand. After what seemed like decades, Akorri reached out his hand and took hers in a weak grip. Lae shook his hand softly and quickly withdrew hers, as did he.

     "That was painful to watch," Kyra said with a smile. "But now you're ready to go!"

     Laerya nodded, staring irritably at her new partner. He stared back, his expression matching her thoughts. Oh, this was going to be so much fun...

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» Cloud Flute: Part One
» Cloud Flute: Part Two
» Cloud Flute: Part Four
» Cloud Flute: Part Five
» Cloud Flute: Part Six
» Cloud Flute: Part Seven
» Cloud Flute: Part Eight

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