The Journey Of A Thousand Miles Begins With One Step: Part Four
Also by drobit
"Saki! Please be home! There's something I need to ask you, I promise it's important!" Edric pounded on the door impatiently.
"Patience, patience. I was cooking and couldn't leave the soup unattended." Saki opened the door, seeing a very frazzled Blumaroo. "What's so important that you had to knock so furiously? Well, come in, I suppose."
Edric sat on the couch, fidgeting as Saki gave him a bowl of chicken dumpling soup.
"So, yesterday I performed at the lunar festival. It went well, but afterwards... this old Ruki spoke to me. I never learned his name, but he told me the story of my viola. He was the one who made it, apparently. It was meant to be for Princess Saki. I've been thinking, and maybe that princess is you. The story fits. The princess left, and everyone in Shenkuu thinks you seem familiar. You say that you used to live in Shenkuu years ago, and then came back." Edric looked up expectantly.
The shock on Saki's face was evident. She did not expect this at all, and never thought that the story of the viola would come back to her after all these years. Sure, she knew that Edric had that viola, and knew that it used to be hers—but she did not think that anyone knew that. Saki certainly did not expect Edric to find out she was the princess.
"Yes, yes, I was the princess. That was a long time ago."
"Why did you run away? And you came back to Shenkuu. Why didn't you return to the palace?"
"Things were different. Going back just didn't seem like a good thing to do. It would just cause unnecessary fuss. After the viola was stolen from the palace, there was a note left in its place, and I started thinking. That was the first time something like that happened, and I didn't understand what had happened at first. Being a princess, I thought I was quite responsible. Neopets respected me and I tried the best I could. But, someone stealing that viola meant that someone was disappointed in me. After all, I never listened to that Ruki. I never thought about what he said to me when he presented me with the viola. It bothered me more than you can imagine, that journey of a thousand miles. So, I decided to leave the palace. I didn't tell anyone, because they would protest or have a new viola made. That wasn't the point. It would be a good change, and I could be someone other than the princess. For me, this was like my 'journey'. It wasn't exactly what the Ruki envisioned, but that viola did end up meaning something to me. I met many Neopians, made friends, and learned to overcome obstacles. You may think that being a princess held much responsibility, and that is true. There were many rules to follow. However, being on my own held more responsibility. I was in charge of my own decisions, and had to make sure I did the right thing. That's why I left—to learn something. Years later, I decided to return to Shenkuu, simply because I missed it. Returning to the palace wasn't an option anymore, it didn't seem right. I caused so much trouble when I ran away, and things finally returned to normal. Princess Lunara is doing a fine job. More importantly, I was content. I like the way things are right now. I cook, offer wisdom to young Neopians, and relax."
"I guess... I kind of understand that. That surprises me, though. You never seemed impulsive," Edric chuckled, but admired the kind of courage that must took.
"Well, it was worth it. Every minute. I had a feeling you would visit today, but I didn't think that you would return with questions like this. Never mind my past, how was your performance?"
"Ah, so you are wise." Edric grinned. "That was the other part to my story. My performance. The Ruki didn't just tell me about the viola's history, he told me about his dream. He thinks that... that I'm... the one who can fulfill his dream. He thinks that I'm the one that can spread music and happiness to Neopians all around Neopia. Isn't that just the tiniest bit crazy?"
Saki smiled, she was glad that Len the Ruki finally found someone worthy. After all, she had unintentionally turned down that task years ago. "Oh, I don't think he was crazy. He took his job very seriously, and making each instrument brought him pride. I don't think he's wrong either. Now that this whole thing is brought up again, you would be perfect."
"This is something so incredibly important, though! I just don't understand, why me?!"
"There is no clear reason for that, Edric. But don't doubt that a single Neopet has the ability to change things. Music can't be kept or captured; the only thing you can do is keep spreading it. Len, that Ruki, knows this. That's why he has his dream."
"So I guess music really means a lot to him. I can understand, of course. When I found this viola five years ago, I had no idea what it meant. I thought it was strange, but now all the loose ends are finally coming together." In a way, Edric was relieved. He did not know what to do, but he agreed that Len's dream was something he would like to see happen. Edric was surprised at the next words that he said. "You know what? I'm happy that Len liked my music so much. I've never had anyone pay attention to my music this much before. And I would be honored to play a part in this."
"You are growing up after all," Saki said cheekily. "I can't say what you should do though, because I truly have no idea. You'll have to figure that one out on your own."
"I don't know either, but I'll follow what I believe in, what I trust. The only thing I can do is wait and see what happens."
"Well, I trust you and hope that everything goes well."
"Like you did so many years ago, I think I'll... be leaving Shenkuu. I'll miss being here, but this will be a good change. I believe in this, I've just never imagined myself doing something so big. Sure, I've always loved music, but I never thought that anything would happen. But after yesterday, I have... hope." Edric did not know what to say.
"No, you don't have to say anything more. I understand. This is your chance, I'm glad you're taking it."
Edric laughed, in spite of the seriousness, "I wonder if this is how Captain Tuan feels before he sets off to sail the seas."
"I'm sure it's something like that. When were you planning on leaving?"
"Tomorrow. The sooner the better right? If I don't, I might lose my courage." Edric smiled wryly. "Oh... I almost forgot. If you ever see Len again, tell him I said thanks. He may have seemed crazy at first, but now I understand. I'm going to try my best. I'll be back someday; the day I think I've done all I can."
The next day:
Edric was walking down the mountains, farther and farther away from Shenkuu. The sun was rising slowly, but Edric was already feeling nostalgic. "Guess this is the last time I'm watching this for awhile, eh?" He sat down, taking some pan-fried dumplings from his bag. "I'm definitely going to miss the food here..." Edric shook his head. This was no time for regret.
As Edric stood watching the sunrise, he heard rustling coming from a nearby bush. "Hey! Those are my dumplings!" Edric yelled out as a Pandaphant appeared from behind Edric and then proceeded to eat the dumplings he had laid out. Despite Edric's half-hearted complaints, the Pandaphant continued eating.
"Are you lost?" Edric said with a puzzled look on his face. He watched the Pandaphant, who proceeded to eat all the dumplings, and then jumped inside of his bag.
Edric laughed, amused. "Shall I take this as a sign that you want to come with me? Okay then. But you better behave! No more eating all of my dumplings either." Edric picked up the Pandaphant and thought. "I think I'll call you Ben. Is that alright?" The Pandaphant snuggled into Edric's paws. "I'll take that as a yes. Now come on, we're leaving Shenkuu for a while now. We're going on a journey."
With that, Edric grabbed his viola and continued heading down the mountains. The two walked for what seemed like forever, and then Edric looked back. Shenkuu was off in the distance. The journey had truly begun, and Edric was ready. He took a deep breath, excitement surging through him.
It had been days since he left Shenkuu. Edric had no idea where he was going, but that was part of the fun of an adventure, right? Of course, Ben had no idea either. The only thing he assisted with was eating all of Edric's food. Still, Edric found himself captivated by the scenery. He passed many Neopets, and could not help but thinking what they were doing. "Are they on a journey as well? Or just visiting a friend..."
"I had no idea that Neopia was so beautiful! Now I feel like going everywhere." Edric pet Ben, smiling. Edric took another step, the forest finally beginning to end.
"Wow. This must be Meridell! The castle is huge! Maybe I should go tell a joke to King Skarl." Edric chuckled to himself. "No, that probably wouldn't be wise. I've heard the stories of Neopets getting thrown out of the castle..." "Ben! Don't wander off by yourself. Yes, we'll find you some food. And when we do, you better not eat all of it!" Edric did not know where to start, but that did not really matter, he had lots of time. With the excitement of being in a new place, thoughts of music escaped. The Blumaroo decided to walk around the medieval kingdom. He figured that he would eventually find something. "Coming through! Move! I'm in a hurry here!" A Lupe was pushing his way through, running Edric down.
"Whoa, be a little more careful there." Edric was irritated. "First day in Meridell and I get run down. Neopets here are sure in a hurry...
"Sorry! My sister is sick and I need to go home," the Lupe said apologetically.
"Oh... I'm sorry to hear that."
"It's your first day in Meridell?! Don't worry, not all Neopets are like me. We won't all run you down! Hey, why don't you come to my house? You look kind of hungry; think of it as an apology. I'm James, by the way!" He smiled brightly.
"I'm Edric. Food? All right then, I haven't eaten in a while. This Pandaphant of mine has been eating all my dumplings." Edric shrugged. He would look around Meridell later.
"Wow, a Pandaphant! I've never seen one before! He's so cool! By the way, where are you from?"
"Shenkuu," Edric answered proudly.
The Lupe's eyes grew wide like saucers. "That's so awesome! Are you some kind of hero or something?" James grabbed his bag, taking out a Toy Sword. "Look! I got this for my birthday. One day I'm going to leave Meridell and explore all of Neopia while defending against evil!"
Edric chuckled; talking to someone so energetic was tiring. "Good luck with that. Weren't you rushing home a few moments ago? Your sister is waiting."
"Oh no! Come on, we've got to hurry, follow me!"
The two walked through a small patch of trees, and stopped just short of some farm. "I live here! Right next to Meri Acres Farm. If you want some berries, that's the place to go!"
Edric opened the door cautiously, following James inside. The Lupe tiptoed across the room towards his sister. "Lori, I've got your medicine." James got the herbal scrambled eggs from his bag, handing them to his sister.
"Thanks a bunch!" Lori looked around the room, and spotted Edric. "Who's that?"
"That's Edric! He's from Shenkuu, and it's his first day in Meridell. I ran him down on the way home," James looked down sheepishly. "So, I invited him over for something to eat."
"Sorry, my brother never watches where he's going. Even though I've told him so many times to be careful," Lori sighed. "Well, time to get you something to eat. There's some chunky meat stew in the kitchen. You're from Shenkuu you said? The food in Meridell is quite different, it'll certainly be a treat for you."
Edric saw the soup on the table. "Hey, that looks good..." He began to eat, while the two Lupe siblings stared at him expectantly. "This is really good! It's not like anything I've had in Shenkuu before."
"Of course not, Meridellian food is completely different!" James laughed at Edric's reaction.
"So what brings you to Meridell?" Lori asked curiously.
"I just... kind of arrived. I left Shenkuu and continued walking through the forest."
"But why did you leave Shenkuu?"
Edric sighed; he might as well tell someone. Maybe one of them would have good advice for him. With that thought, he began his story. After a few gasps and comments here and there, he was finished.
"That's the coolest thing I've ever heard! I want to leave too!" James was quite excited after Edric finished his story.
"Now, now. Don't get carried away, James. You're still young, you won't be going anywhere for a long time." Lori chastised her brother gently. "Sorry, Edric. I don't have any advice for you other than to just do what you believe in. It'll all come together!"
Edric looked out the window; the sun was beginning to set. Where was he going to stay?
Reading Edric's thoughts, Lori began to speak. "You can stay in the spare room tonight if you want, and decide what to do tomorrow."
"Thanks! That's so generous of you," Edric said as he smiled gratefully.
The next morning:
The sky was an orange purplish mix; the sun was starting to rise. Edric couldn't sleep and decided to watch the sunrise. He walked towards the door, making sure that he was quiet. "Hey! I should play for the sunrise here." Edric decided haphazardly, and grabbed his viola. He breathed in the morning air, and began to play. The sun was rising slowly, which was perfect for a slow song like this. Edric closed his eyes; fully immersed in the music. When it was over, he opened his eyes and was surprised to see a few Neopets watching him. They smiled and left after a few shy claps.
Finally, it had begun. Because a journey of a thousand miles really does start with a single step. Edric looked forward to the future. He knew that wherever he went, he would have music, the sunrise, and friendship.