Overboard: Part Seven
"You really should consider it, Karina. I hate to see you like this, you're ruining your life; I really think you need to move on. It's not healthy, your behavior lately. All you do is sit in the living room and stare out the window these days," Thalia, a neofriend of Karina, said.
"How can I get another pet, Thalia? Xepen was like a daughter to me; I know she's out there somewhere, I can feel it. I'll find her!" Karina replied, fighting to restrain her outrage at the suggestion.
"Karina, you used to be one of the richest Neopians in Faerieland; you've spent almost all of your wealth searching for Xepen. You've searched the entire east side of Neopia, and have found no sign of her," Thalia argued.
"That's not true! We did find some citizens of Krawk Island who said they met her; they were former pirates who saw her on a pirate ship," Karina replied.
"And did they know where she is now?" Thalia asked.
"No, they said the crew she was with hasn't been seen in some time, but that's why I've had some of the search teams raiding every ship in the ocean for the past few weeks," Karina explained.
Thalia shook her head.
"How much longer can you afford to pay these guys?"
"Quite a while, trust me. That's why I sold the mansion, so I'd have more money to pay them with," Karina explained.
"And what happens when you finally run out of money?" Thalia demanded.
"Then I'll walk Neopia myself until I find her. I won't stop until I know where she is," Karina said with a fire in her eyes that almost frightened her friend.
And the human meant it, too- there surely could not be a loneliness in the world quite like hers; it caused a despair that was like nothing Thalia had ever seen.
Xepen would be found.
* * *
Maya got up before the sun rose the next day and quietly left the apartment before Xepen woke up. She counted the pile of neopoints Xepen had stashed beneath her bed, and found they barely had 400. Clearly Xepen had been taking extra money to buy food more often than she'd thought. Maya knew that it was only about 1000 neopoints for an average boat ticket to Faerieland here.
Maya walked around the city, trying to decide which shop to break into. She had promised Xepen she would stop stealing, and she had kept that promise until now, but she had no choice anymore. She could not allow her friend to give up the one thing in Neopia that was most precious to her.
The green Ixi stopped in front of the Food Stall. Aspen would be paying them later that day; Maya knew that if they could skip buying food that one day then she could use the neopoints to buy Xepen a ticket to Faerieland. If she stole enough food right now, then she would have enough to live off of until next week...
With one last glance around, Maya knelt down and crawled beneath the tables where she assumed the food was kept overnight. Using a small piece of twig she'd found, she picked at a lock on the cabinets and managed to have the door opened in less than a minute. Inside was a fairly large stash of assorted Lost Desert foods, all piled in certain categories. Maya made sure nobody was around before reaching back inside the cabinet and grabbing as many things as she could fit inside her pockets, which wasn't much.
Once Maya had emptied a good portion of the cabinet, she struggled to carry everything she had taken in her arms back with her.
Maya had planned to meet Aspen at the Jewelry shop early to ask for their pay and buy Xepen a ticket to Faerieland before she even woke up, but unfortunately Xepen had woken herself up before Maya could return.
As Maya was on her way to the harbor, she spotted Xepen approaching her from the opposite direction, with a large bag of neopoints in one paw and a yellow ticket in the other.
"Maya, where are you going?" Xepen asked as she approached her roommate.
"I... Xepen... Where did you get those neopoints?" Maya asked with wide eyes.
"I told you, I sold my necklace so I could buy tickets to go home," she explained, holding up the two yellow tickets for Maya to see.
At this, Maya froze.
"You bought a ticket for me?" she asked.
"Well, of course. You didn't think I was going to leave you here, did you?" she asked.
Maya felt a strange feeling overwhelm her. Xepen cared about her, wanted her to go home with her... Although Maya subconsciously knew she cared about Xepen as well, she had never quite registered their friendship to be mutual. Maya had not felt compassion for another in a long, long time, and the idea of somebody caring about her was unfamiliar in her mind.
They left immediately; Xepen neomailed Aspen, letting her know that the two of them were leaving; and they boarded the boat to Faerieland.
The trip would only take a few hours, to their relief, and Maya spent most of her time reflecting on her thoughts. She was angry with herself for not working quickly enough to stop Xepen from selling the necklace, but also came to realize she could have been better off if she had simply talked Xepen out of it. It didn't seem to matter anymore, though, as Xepen refused to talk about it during the ride.
As Faerieland came into view, and the ship began to slow so it could dock, Maya's heart raced as another thought struck her. Even though it was selfish, she couldn't help but wish she and Xepen didn't have to part. Now that Xepen was home, what would happen to her? Where would she go? She didn't have her crew anymore, and she doubted Xepen's owner would actually take her in. Even if she did, would Maya even want to live the kind of life she had once before, so long ago?
When they arrived in Faerieland, Xepen immediately looked around for an Eyrie cab to fly her and Maya back home. When she spotted one, her eyes lit up with recognition.
"Hey Valen, over here, it's me, Xepen!" she called out to him.
The golden Eyrie spun around at Xepen's voice, and bounded over to her once he spotted her. The Eyrie was probably one of the biggest Maya had ever seen, and she stepped back at his rapid approach, fearful he would trample them both.
"Xepen, is that really you?" Valen asked as he approached the Wocky, almost in shock.
"Yes, I've returned. Can you take me home? I cannot even imagine how Karina is doing! I can tell you everything on the way, if you'd like," Xepen replied.
At this, the Eyrie's expression filled with sadness.
"Oh, Xepen... there's something you should know. Karina isn't at your old neohome anymore, she sold it. She's living in a small cottage on the other side of the city. I mean, I can still take you there, but..." Valen explained.
"What? Why would she sell the mansion?" Xepen asked as she and Maya climbed onto his back.
The Eyrie sighed. "She sold everything she had, Xepen. She's sent search teams all over Neopia looking for you. She hardly has anything left; I don't even know how she's doing, I haven't seen her since she lost all her wealth," Valen explained sadly.
Xepen was speechless. Karina had spent all they had, just looking for her? She closed her eyes, trying to process the thought.
"But now that you're home, safe and unharmed, I'm sure Karina will recover, at least emotionally. I guess the best thing to do is wait to talk to her. We'll be arriving in only a few minutes, don't worry," Valen assured.
As Valen promised, they arrived at a small stone neohome on the outskirts of Faerieland. It was unfamiliar and strange to Xepen to think of this little cottage as home, but after everything she'd been through, it was fine with her.
When they landed, without hesitation Xepen hopped off Valen's back and rushed to the front door and pounded on it, calling Karina's name. Maya took her time getting off Valen's back, as she had not rode an Eyrie in ages. Once she was on the ground, she glanced over at the door of the cottage, where she saw Xepen's owner had already answered the door and had enveloped her Wocky in a tight embrace.
Maya smiled at the scene; it looked just like the kind of reunion often depicted in books and stories. Xepen's owner had lifted up her pet and was holding her close, tears streaming down her pale cheeks. Xepen appeared to be crying too, but not as visibly. When they finally parted, Xepen turned and pointed at Maya, and the two gestured for her to approach them.
"Um, hello..." Maya said awkwardly. She had not spoken to a human since she'd left home.
"You must be Xepen's friend who helped her get home," Karina said, her voice still cracked from sobbing, and her eyes were red and puffy.
"Yeah, um, we were roommates on the pirate ship, and in Sakhmet," Maya replied.
The human raised an eyebrow, clearly not familiar with the whole story yet, but shrugged it off, knowing she'd hear the entire story later on.
"Thank you so much Valen, for bringing them here. I'll be sure to let you know what's going to happen once we have it figured out," Karina said, handing the Eyrie a handful of neopoints, which he politely refused.
"Don't mention it, and don't even bother paying me; I know you need the money. I'm just glad that Xepen has returned safely. I'll see you all later," Valen replied, and took off.
Karina let out a sigh of gratitude, and she ushered Xepen and Maya into the small neohome. Once settled inside, Karina prepared the two neopets some soup while Xepen explained her story in full detail. Xepen's story carried off until the sky grew dark.
"I probably should get going," Maya said, hours after they'd finished dinner and were preparing to go to bed.
"What do you mean? Where are you going?" Xepen asked, and Karina looked just as confused.
"Well, I can't stay, right? I don't belong here, I belong out in Neopia, travelling, exploring. I may not know exactly where I'll be heading, but it's for the best," Maya explained, somewhat sadly. Maybe there was a part of her that wanted to stay with her friend, but she knew deep down that she couldn't. She just didn't belong in a family.
"Of course you can stay here! I know it's been a long time since you've had a family, but that doesn't mean you can't go back! Karina isn't anything like your previous owner!" Xepen protested.
Maya shook her head.
"I just can't, Xepen. Besides, you two aren't exactly wealthy anymore, can she really afford to take care of two pets?" Maya asked.
"We're not poor! I still have the neopoints from... selling the necklace," Xepen said hesitantly, as if just realizing what she had done. Karina had sold literally every possession she'd owned- including every gift she had ever given Xepen- in order to find her.
Maya gave her friend a sympathetic look, which Xepen turned away from to collect herself.
"Will you at least stay for the night, and tomorrow you can leave once you have an idea of where you'll be going?" Xepen asked once she'd wiped away the tears that had formed in her eyes.
To this, Maya agreed. After all, she still didn't want to say goodbye quite yet. Since the neohome only had one bedroom, Maya slept on the couch while Xepen shared a bedroom with Karina.
Maya awoke to the smell of pancakes cooking in the kitchen, and decided to stay for breakfast, as well. However as the day progressed, Maya didn't pack her few possessions, and gave no indication that she would be leaving. It wasn't until two more days passed, when the Ixi's strength was revitalized and she had a new destination in mind when she decided it was finally time to leave.
She was walking back from the shops when she ran into Xepen outside the cottage.
"Oh, Maya, you're back! Dinner's almost ready," she said as the Ixi approached the path that led into the neohome.
"Um, about that, Xepen... I'm not staying for dinner, I'm sorry," Maya said.
Xepen's smile faded.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
Maya smiled gently.
"I think I've overstayed my welcome. I can't stay forever; but I want you to have this, you know, to remember me by," she replied sheepishly, handing Xepen a small black box.
Before responding, the Wocky opened the box to find a small blue sapphire attached to a dull silver colored chain. Eyes wide, Xepen lifted the necklace out of the box to examine it. It was clearly not the same one Karina had given her; the sapphire was smaller, and was lacking the white gold frame. The chain itself looked to be made of a cheap metal, rather than pure silver, but Xepen barely processed these details as she stared at the piece of jewelry in wonder.
"Maya... what is this?" she asked.
"I know it's not the same, but it's the best replica I could find. I know how much you value gifts, and I want you to have something to remember me by, just in case," Maya replied sheepishly with a shrug.
"But where are you going?" Xepen asked, looking up at her friend.
"I'm going to go where I've always wanted to- the jungles of Mystery Island. I may not be a certified scientist, but maybe I'll make some discoveries. Maybe I'll study at different libraries here and there to collect knowledge; but I'm just going to live freely," she explained.
"And I'm never going to see you again?" Xepen asked, tears threatening to fall.
"Don't be ridiculous, of course you will! I promise to keep in touch, and I'll even visit a few times a year; I just don't want you to forget about me if... I'm ever gone too long," Maya admitted.
"I'd never forget you, Maya. You helped me through the most difficult journey I will ever face. If this is where you think you belong, then I only wish you good luck in all that you do," Xepen replied.
"Thank you, Xepen. I'll write you as soon as I can," she promised, giving her friend a hug goodbye.
When she pulled away, Xepen watched the Ixi walk down the dirt road to the harbor until she vanished from sight. Once Maya was no longer visible, the Wocky glanced down at the sapphire in her paw with a sigh. It almost seemed to glow against its surroundings, which were becoming increasingly dark as the sun set. She relaxed a bit at the sight of the gem that now symbolized the friendship she had gained, and let her worries fade from her mind.
Life has its ups and downs, and though she wasn't sure which direction this part of her life was going, Xepen was sure that whatever lay ahead, she would be prepared for it.