The Box from 10,000 Years Ago
Chapter 5 – Dim The Lights
However, contrary to Teca's belief that Magax had eliminated Itachiro, the Ghost Usul had actually been captured by Wraiths under the command of the Darkest Faerie in the middle of the quiet night. He is forced to enter into Darkest's hideout and she steps on him, not allowing him to do any moves.
“Ah, yes, now I remember you clearly…” She raises an eyebrow as she scans him closely. “ Why do you take the form of a silly and cute Usul? You were not meant to be cute!”
Being stepped on by Darkest, he experienced an unexpected sensation, he felt pain for the first time. He could feel her dark energy coursing through his spectral being, causing an agony he had never known before.
"Do you still want to have a physical body? This is what you will feel when you have one." She mischievously smiles under the Ghost Usul's screams of agony. "Remember this feeling, it's what awaits you if you ever achieve this goal. But no, I won't give you that pleasure, at least not yet."
As she stops stepping on Itachiro, he curls on the ground in pain. His form is now half Ghost and half Wraith.
"Consider this a lesson. A taste of what you seek." Says her with a malevolent voice. "However… I can grant you life devoid of suffering, free from pain and sorrow… Just bring me what I desire, and I shall grant your wish."
The Ghost Usul remains lying on the ground, he seems lost as he slowly notices the new grotesque fusion of ghostly and Wraithly essence he received after enduring torment.
"My beloved Wraiths came to tell me… That you have been guarding your sisters and brothers stuck inside a tiny box… What a nice family protector you are!" She walks around, maliciously smiling. "Let's work together to finally free them from this long prison. Shall we?"
The Usul Ghost frowns, knowing Darkest is not someone trustable. "The box is already on its way to Faerieland. It's too late for you to do something! The Faeries will detect you if you make any magic to stop it."
“Faerieland, you say?” She nods thoughtfully, placing the hand over her wand and it reveals the glooming Fire Wocky in the glass orb. “Really? You sent someone like this with the box to Faerieland?”
The Wraiths floating around the winged woman start to cackle maliciously. Itachiro’s face gets worried as he never met these types of evil spirits before. It’s like everything there is new to him since he spent most of his ethereal life under Meridell.
"But you are right..." She glances at Itachiro with an air of superiority. "I can't leave this tiny hideout without being exposed, but… My Wraith servants can." The evil Faerie pats one of the dark evil spirits and continues talking. "You know what's the difference between mediocre ghosts like you and the Wraiths? Souls can't do anything without a living body, they are unable to touch or carry things in the physical world and are only capable of floating aimlessly, but the Wraiths…”
She clenches her fist and magically inflicts more pain on Itachiro. “... Everything they touch leaves a dark energy that consumes everything. They don't need to own a body to be useful. Since I discovered them, I noticed the chaotic energy they spread around is better than giving every bit of my strength to create a single monster. The Wraiths are much more versatile."
Spirits around the winged figure get agitated whenever they are mentioned by their mentor. “We are better! We are hungry! We want to consume! We are unstoppable!!”
Darkest gets closer to Itachiro as she releases the hand and stops the agony on him. She sits by his side on the floor to caress his spectral face while the echoes of his agonized screams fade into the air. Her voice adopts a sinister sweetness. "So… Will you tell the Wocky to bring the box to me or I'll have to tell the Wraiths to do the work for me?"
The Usul Ghost gets heavily worried, not knowing how to proceed. The weight of his decision was bearing upon him. He knew that his friend Teca was alone out there, carrying on the mission he had started and believing that the box would find its way to Fyora, no matter the obstacles in the path.
With the decision on hand, Itachiro slowly gets up from the floor and finally looks at Darkest with a determined face. He will not submit to her twisted offer. "You already have lost this war, you will never have your dirty hands touching the box."
Darkest screams in fury, her screams would be unsupported to hear by mortals if they were near. "WRAITHS!" She calls out the attention of the evil spirits. "Unleash chaos!!! Destroy everything that blocks the way!! Gather all my monster creations to assault Faerieland!! And finally, bring the box for me!"
Her shadowy creations immediately get into action, their sinister laughter fills the air as they move with their forms shifting and swirling, leaving the hideout. Itachiro watches them go with apprehension in his eyes. He stands there, his form half-ghost and half-Wraith, unable to leave the hideout without Darkest letting him go.
Outside in Haunted Woods, Wraiths aggressively consume everything they touch as stated before by Darkest. Mountains, trees, plants… Nothing escapes from the darkness. Their evil energy being spread around hypnotizes every species created by Darkest from thousands of years ago. These monsters now have their eyes glowing in purple, and with their minds subjugated to the Wraiths, they start following the shadows to the Faerieland road in large groups.
Hours later, in the royal halls of Meridell Castle, King Skarl receives his troops from the Cogham mission. The three soldiers wearing golden armour bow at the king on the red carpet, one of them being Elvira, the Acara who fought Teca in the promotion test. She shares the news that the troop successively has expelled the Werelupes from the village.
The king doesn’t seem to be interested much because he is focusing more on the great feast in front of him. Godric is sitting next to the king as always, counting the taxes. Their ears perked up when the Fire Wocky was mentioned using the fire powers to attack the Werelupes.
“HAHAHAHAAH!!! FINALLY!!! MY ARMY IS GOING TO BE THE BEST OF THE WORLD, WE ARE GOING TO BE UNSTOPPABLE!!!” Screamers the king in joy spilling food everywhere from his mouth. “MARVELOUS! MARVELOUS! Bring her to me so I can grant her a medal!”
“But… Your majesty… She vanished!” The joy on the king's face vanished in seconds with the news from the Grarrl commander. “We know she stole our items because we managed to find the trail of her fur, and we also found discarded pieces of her armour on the ground. One of our Unis is also missing, we believe she gave up on being a knight and escaped from us.”
“Escaped?? How in the world did it happen?? How did she slip away unnoticed?? Evading the troops is considered a very serious offence and a betrayal of our homeland!!” His voice echoed through the walls of the castle angrily.
Godric gulps, hoping the worst doesn't happen to his beloved baby girl. And just as the King is about to summon his guards to search for the Wocky, a Faerie Kiko messenger rushes into the room, heavily panting.
"... Your Majesty!!!" The Kiko is struggling to catch his breath. "I bring urgent news from Faerieland!!"
Skarl's irritation is momentarily fading out. "How weird, we rarely receive messages from Faerieland. Speak quickly! My food is getting cold! What is it?"
The small Kiko takes a moment to regain composure and adjusts his own glasses before continuing. "Fyora is sending lots of messengers to every country!! The Faeries detected a massive cluster of Wraiths and monstrous creatures surging from Haunted Woods.They seem to be walking towards Faerieland, but some Wraiths are invading nearby countries to recruit more of these monsters! The Neopets are getting homeless as the shadows consume everything in their path!! It’s a calamity, oh!!”
The Eyes of Skarl widen as he understands the gravity of the situation. The king rises from his seat, his belly colliding with the table and causing part of the food to scatter on the floor. He extends his arm, pointing to the Grarrl commander. “We have a new mission here! We must secure the borders and defend Meridell against this threat! If Fyora needs some of my knights, I am happy to offer my best ones to help!”
The Kiko bows many times in gratitude. “Your knights will be a great help to the Faeries!! These Neopets will be able to slow down the monsters, but not the shadows. Only the Faeries or other spirits can combat these. Follow me the knights going to Faerieland!!! Let’s go, fast!!” Said the Faerie Kiko before leaving the room.
The knights and guards move out of the room with urgency, and when the three golden armour Neopets are about to leave too, King Skarl asks them to come near.
“Urgh… After all those years giving that Fire Wocky girl the best of everything, with the finest luxuries... She behaves like an ungrateful child. If any of you see Tereza again, dispose of her. I erase the story of those who betrayed me. She’s no longer useful here.” Says the king with a deep disdain in his voice.
The Grarrl and Gelert in golden armour get startled by the request, but Elvira smirks a bit as she responds. “Rest assured, Your Majesty. I’ll make sure to not lose the duel with her this time.”
The king nods in response with approval and watches them leave. Godric, who heard everything, gets up quickly trying to make the king stop the Neopets in golden armour, he throws himself at the king's feet and pleads for Teca’s safety,
“Leave her alone!! Please!! She just wants to live her own life for now!! She didn't mean any disrespect, Your Majesty!!!”
King Skarl focuses his attention looking down at Godric and raises an eyebrow at the unexpected display of emotion from his normally composed tax collector. “Did you truly become so attached to the girl? I thought you would hate it, that's why I gave you the orders to take care of her back then.”
“Your Majesty, my initial feelings about taking care of Teca were indeed complicated. But over time, as I was watching her grow and struggling to get the better of herself, I came to the conclusion that being assigned to take care of her was one of the best things that happened in my life!” He pauses briefly and gets up, remembering the first day he met the baby Wocky. “... It is more than just an obligation, we are part of each other's life now. ”
King Skarl's expression remains the same after listening to the Orange Skeith’s explanations. He leans back on his throne, the fingers tapping thoughtfully on the armrest. “Very well, Godric. Your commitment to the task is... Unexpected. However, let me be very clear: I still consider Teca a traitor in my eyes. And traitors have no chance against me.”
Godric feels heavily lost after the king's final statement. Disorientated, he slowly turns away and walks out of the throne room as he's lost in thoughts. He doesn't want to believe Teca's story is near to an end.
The castle servants were weeping on the floor nearby and heard everything. They run in a group to help their friend Godric to calm down.
“I heard everything. I may be elderly, but my four Aisha ears still do not disappoint!” Said Jeanne.
“What a stupid king! I'm sorry you had to hear such tough words, my friend.” Says Altair, an old White Lupe.
“I knew it… I knew the king would discover she escaped and that it would be very bad…” Godric wipes his teary eyes with his own shirt. “... I must do something!!”
“But what if the king discovers you are going to help her??” Asks Faun the Elderly Acara, also a servant of the castle.
“I’m tired of sitting here all day counting values and taxes from the king!” He gets a determined expression on his face. “I’ll go save my baby girl!!”
The Orange Skeith runs outside and the group of servants of the castle is following. There are dark clouds which makes everyone think it’s a storm coming in the skies. The majority of the Meridellian knights have already left for Faerieland and citizens of Meridell are crossing the bridge to the castle, being called to shelter inside in anticipation of a potential invasion by the Wraiths.
“Godric, what are you doing?? Get inside!! It's not safe out here!” Shouts Altair.
The Skeith spots two Unis eating grass and mounts over them. Yes, he needs two Unis to take off with his big belly. “I’ll be looking for my baby girl!!” He screams heroically.
The group of servants have some Neopets with worried faces and others cheer him on as they watch the two Unis departing, carrying the Skeith in the skies towards Faerieland.
Meanwhile, Teca has been walking for hours. She looks at the sky and notices dark clouds above her, which leads her to believe it's a storm coming. “It's going to rain heavily…” She whispers to her White Uni. The dense vegetation gradually darkens, and the vibrant colours of Faerieland fade out on the horizon. The scenery looks intimidating which makes Teca wonder if she is really on the right path. The Wocky checks on her map and there's no doubt she’s really in the right way.
The White Uni remains hopeless. “So, where are we going to spend the night? My legs are already hurting from all this walking.”
“It’s not nighttime yet…” She says with a firm voice, guiding the blind Uni with ropes. “Push yourself a bit more…”
Teca's ears perk up as she detects someone running towards them. Before she can react, a massive creature lunges forward and seizes both her and Vyim. In an instant, everything happens in a blur and the world whirls as they all tumble down the side of a cliff in a rapid and uncontrollable descent.
Upon hitting the ground, the two Neopets and the creature are thrown in different directions. There is pain in Teca's whole body, and even stunned, she gives her best to get up. The Wocky grits her teeth and gets ready for another confrontation with whatever creature attacked her. Pointing the sword to the beast emerging from the dust, she realizes it's Zak who stands before her. But something seems really wrong with him, his eyes are now emitting a weird purple glow.
"Zak, it's me Teca.Have you been following us? What’s come over you to get so angry at me?”
Vyim is between stones, also struggling to get up. His entire body trembling with anxiety for not knowing what's going on. “Did your Werelupe friend attack us?? I knew we couldn’t trust him!!”
“No, Vyim… He’s acting weird this time…” She replies, wondering how to proceed without hurting her friend. “He might be under the influence of some dark magic.”
It seems that talking to Zak has no effect at all as he jumps towards her one more time and, just in time, she raises the Meridellian shield to defend herself from his claws. The phenomenal impact throws her meters away. “What in Neopia is this thing…” Says Teca quickly getting up from the floor and staring at her shield completely destroyed from the attack, it’s a signal she was dealing with something supernatural.
Our Werelupe emits a loud growl and, before she can react, another Zak's aggressive attack comes towards her. She instinctively uses the sword as a barrier, but the strength behind his strike breaks the sword into pieces.
The Wocky is taken by surprise. Teca's world seems to slow down as she witnesses the shattered pieces floating in front of her face with Zak's strike. That sword meant a lot to her and its destruction leaves her momentarily lost as her brain processes the destruction of Genevieve.
In the middle of the chaos, Vyim launches himself at the Werelupe in an act of courage, causing Zak to roll aside..
"Did it work?? Did I hit him??" Asks the blind Vyim with enthusiasm.
“Yes!! You nailed it!!” She makes sure she and the Uni have enough distance between the transformed Zak.
The Werelupe's loud growls continue, and she notices his glowing eyes are fixed on her bag. "Someone is wanting Itachiro's box..." She whispers.
“Teca, use your fire powers!!” Screams the White Uni. “It worked with the Ixi Raiders before!!!”
“No way! I don’t want to hurt our friend Zak!” She shouts. “Please Zak, stop attacking us…”
She knows she can't defeat Zak, but she also can't just stand there and let him attack her. She remembered Magax’s words, that fire can be destructive but also can be helpful if used with the right intentions. So, she decides to use it, not to harm him, but to create a wall of flames between them. Summoning her fire abilities, the flames rise and create a barrier that Zak hesitates to cross, giving them a chance to retreat.
She runs towards Vyim and notices their ropes have been torn apart during the attack, likely when they tumbled down the cliff. The ropes are now lying in tatters on the floor. She grabs the Uni by the chin and guides him through a prairie as fast as possible, away from the transformed Zak and the firewall.
“What a crazy day!” Says the Uni, still panting and worried. “Are we safe now? I wonder what made Zak act that way…”
“I believe so… I will stay attentive to any sound. And yes, he was a very aggressive opponent. I wonder if we lost him forever… ” Says Teca with a sad tone, holding the hilt of the sword that was left over from the fight. “Poor Genevieve… You were the best sword…”
“Oh no!! You lost the sword?? Are we defenseless now??”
“Zak broke Genevieve into many pieces. You had to see his strength, it was something beyond the natural. My shield and sword had no chance. It was... devastating.” The sorrowful Wocky puts the hilt of the sword in the bag and takes out the map. “The Werelupe's attack threw us off course. Maybe we took the wrong way, but I also can’t identify us on the map, there’s no landmark in these prairies it seems... I should have picked up a compass back at the military camp, I totally forgot. Grr…”
“Oh no... This will only delay us even more to get to Faerieland!!” The Uni gets even more hopeless. “I want to have my vision back as soon as possible.”
“And so am I. However… Instead of walking, we can go flying. Your wings didn’t suffer damage.”
“How will I be able to fly if I can’t see?” He shakes his head in disbelief. “This won’t work, bad idea.”
"I can be your eyes." She offers. "Flying would get us to Queen Fyora faster."
“You also can’t ride me without the ropes!” Says the stubborn Uni. “No way this will work!!”
“Well…” She climbs on the Uni. “I can use your mane to direct you. If I pull left, you turn left. If I pull to the right, you turn to the right. Simple, isn't it?”
“Is there really no other way? Ugh… Ok, but pull it carefully... I love my hair.”
With a determined nod, Teca gently holds two strands of Vyim's mane. "Don't worry, I'll be as gentle as I can. Let's make our way to Faerieland!"
A bit intimidated by the hair pulling, Vyim then starts running and spreading his wings, preparing to fly for the first time being blind.
"Watch out for the tree!! Watch out!!" She pulls the wrong way in clumsiness, the Uni hits one wing against a tree and stumbles over a rock. The two are thrown forward and roll in the grass.
"Are you okay?" Teca keeps lying on the grass as they come to stop rolling, their bodies slightly in pain from the tumble.
Vyim lets out a sigh. "I think so. I told you this wouldn't work. I didn't even get a chance to get off the ground."
Teca also lets out a sigh. “Maybe we’ll need a bit more practice...”
Vyim replies with a rude tone. “Something bad always happens when I trust you. I trusted you once when you said nothing bad was going to happen to me back in Meridell. Boom! I lost my vision and now I almost broke my wing!”
“You said you were going to give me a second chance to try to restore your vision back in the military camp.”
"Listen. I said 'second chance,' not 'full trust.'" He replies being rude. “Looks like I am not the only one who has compromised vision, your hearing too.”
Teca huffs with such arrogance. “I'm trying to help you!! You should be kinder! A bit of gratitude wouldn't hurt.” She leaves the place starting to cry, leaving Vyim behind as she runs.
The Uni keeps lying on the grass in the prairie, slowly recovering from the pain and enjoying the breeze. He hears Teca crying and wonders if maybe his words were too harsh on her. The Fire Wocky runs a little further through a forest nearby and collapses crying onto the ground. She has been doing her best this whole time, but it seems her efforts go unappreciated.
Teca sits on the ground, trying to recompose herself. While tears fall from her cheeks, she decides to take the hilt of the broken sword from the bag and starts to dig a hole in the earth as if she's creating a tomb for her sword Genevieve.
Millions of thoughts run through her head, and each time she starts to think about what she already lost in life, she starts to feel more defeated. She has lost her mother, Itachiro, Zak, Magax, and now her beloved sword. The world feels unfair, and knowing that she can no longer return to Meridell adds to her sense of isolation. She truly doesn't know how to proceed anymore.
“I'm a monster… If I didn't have fire powers, my mom would still be alive and I would never be forced to spend the rest of my life in Meridell… I hate everything! Myself included! I'm nothing but a curse to everyone! I wish I had never been born… I will never forgive myself for what I did to my mother...”
Among her sobs and depressed thoughts, a gentle and familiar voice breaks the silence. "Teca..."
The young girl slowly looks up, her teary face has a mix of surprise and sorrow. "... Mom?"
A ghost of a White Wocky approaches her cautiously, she's barefoot and wears the same clothes she wore in the last theatre performance. "I know you've been trying your best."
"Mom!!! I've missed you so much..." Tears flow down Teca's cheeks as she reaches out to try to touch the spirit of Genevieve. Her fingers pass through the ghost, it's a weird sensation of something that's both there and not there at the same time. "I'm sorry, Mom... I'm sorry for everything..."
Genevieve gently shakes her head. “I have been watching over you during all this time, my love. I have seen your struggles and your determination. I am so happy that you mirror me in your actions. And your fire powers are not a curse, it’s a gift that can help those around you. Do your best.”
“But.. My powers… Were what made you lose your life… I’ll never forgive myself…” She sobs.
Her mother's eyes hold a deep understanding. “But I forgive you. Please, don't push yourself so much because of me. This happened many years ago, I want you to get over it and follow the course of your own life.”
Teca sniffles, her emotions are a whirlwind of relief and sorrow. “So you forgive me?”
“Of course!! Sometimes we're faced with challenges we can't control and we need to be strong to overcome them, that is how we find out what we're made of. There's a hero in your heart who can never leave your side and has strength beyond the known, locked within right until that moment you give up. You’re the hero in your heart.”
Teca wipes away her tears, finding comfort in the words. "Thank you, Mom... I love you… More than anything!!"
Genevieve's ethereal form gives a smile and then a worried expression appears on her face. “But there’s someone needing your help, Itachiro is somewhere in danger. We ghosts can hear his screams in pain, but we don’t know where he is.”
The Fire Wocky gets surprised to hear Itachiro still exists, confirming what Magax said was true. He didn’t attack and eliminated Itachiro. “My friend Itachiro!! Something weird is happening with my friend Zak too, I’m gonna help both!”
Genevieve smiles with a nod. "Yes, I know the hero in your heart will find a way to help both. You must not let guilt and regrets weigh you down. Embrace your gift, your strength. That's the power that shapes your destiny. I love you, more than anything!"
As a soft breeze rustles the leaves around them, the spirit of Genevieve gradually fades. Teca reaches out one more time, her fingers touching the ghost until it's gone completely. "Goodbye, Mom. Until we meet again."
The Fire Wocky remains in her current position for a few moments, contemplating what happened to her right there. She takes a deep breath and digs the hole where she left the hilt of her sword Genevieve, taking it back and leaving the place, now with her confidence restored to face the difficulties.
To be continued…