Greenglade: Part Six
Laerya's eyes snapped fully open, staring at Jinny as though the white Kyrii held the answer to all of her problems. The intensity of the Cybunny's stare caused Jinny to shrink away, clearing her throat and hiding behind her long grey hair.
"Lorelei is going to have one powerful group beside her," Laerya murmured, still keeping her gaze fixed on Jinny, watching the Kyrii play cautiously with her tail. "We also need to retaliate with Neopets just as powerful."
"How?" Akorri asked. "Alex already said he's going to take care of this without us, yet you want to do it... so... how are you going rally the troops?" The red Xweetok frowned in thought. "And who are these troops going to be?"
"I don't know." Lae shifted her attention to Akorri.
"We can't do this by ourselves, so don't even go thinking it'll be just the two of us," Akorri muttered, a finger pointing at Lae in warning.
Lae nodded impatiently. "We need help. I know one Neopet who may be willing, but he won't be enough. Someone else, someone with a lot of power, someone who isn't bound by Alex's words of caution."
"Who's that, then?" asked Akorri.
Laerya nodded towards Jinny, hopping on the rock so she could get a better view of the Kyrii. Jinny's purple robes hung over her body like clothes might hang off a mannequin – she was slight, every feature of hers was small, even her ears. Right now her visible brown eye was enlarged, expectant yet cautious, like a scared Petpet. "Jinny..." Lae began slowly.
Jinny did not blink.
"Will you help us out?"
The white Kyrii's eye grew even larger, the shock apparent on her face. Lae could already see Jinny's decision reflected in her eye, so when the tiny headshake came, the Cybunny expected it.
Jinny shook her head again. "I'm sorry... I can't."
Akorri scoffed from his place beside the rock. "Now that's just silly, Laerya. How could you expect Jinny to help?"
Laerya sighed; a fleeting feeling of pity crossed her as she saw Jinny wince. She slid off the rock, patting Akorri's shoulder in mock appreciation as she said, "That was so tactful, Akorri. Well done."
"What for?" The Xweetok looked dumbstruck.
"Don't insult Jinny," Lae murmured and leaned in closer to Akorri so only he could hear her next words, "She would be very helpful to us. She controls three elements and is supposed to be powerful. We should do our best to convince her."
Her whispered breath raised Akorri's eyebrow. "Really?" he replied in an equally hushed register. "She's way too meek to do anything."
"I thought you were better than this," Laerya snapped quietly. "Don't be a hypocrite. You already told me not to call you a coward and I won't; why should Jinny be any different? Maybe she's got nerves of steel hidden under all that... meekness, as you put it."
"She already refused," Akorri murmured, but his flushed face showed how deep Laerya's words struck.
"Maybe you can help me," Lae suggested. "Ask her to help us."
"Me? Ask her?"
"Just do it."
Akorri narrowed his eyes and he looked away, drawing in a deep breath. "Okay, okay. Gosh, you can be so bossy sometimes." The Xweetok leapt onto the rock, landing beside Jinny with the elegance of a Kazeriu. Lae watched as Akorri seated himself before speaking.
"Yes?" Jinny turned to him, her ear twitching.
"Listen, Jinny," Akorri said, looking carefully at the white Kyrii. "We'd really appreciate your help. You possess some excellent powers that I know will come in useful."
Jinny stroked her hair nervously. "I'm..." she trailed off, as if trying to find the right words. "I'm... scared of using my powers."
"Why?" Akorri asked.
Jinny looked away. "I don't know," she murmured. "I don't know why. I know that's stupid, but..."
"You don't know why you're scared of using your powers?" Akorri sounded incredulous. He folded his arms, though if this was in impatience or disbelief, Lae couldn't tell.
Jinny flinched. "It's ridiculous. I shouldn't be afraid. But... what if, when in the heat of battle and everything depends on me... what if I can't summon my powers? What if I mess up?"
"It's a chance you have to take," said Akorri. Lae smiled as she heard how sincere the Xweetok sounded. "It's okay to be scared of failure, but it's not okay to let it control you."
Jinny nodded as she ran a finger through her grey hair. "I've been told this before. I know this, but it's just difficult to implement it."
"I know that too." Akorri glanced down at Laerya. "In spite of that, I think you should help us. Don't worry. When the time comes for you to use your powers, I know you won't mess up."
"What makes you so sure?" Jinny asked, though to Lae's relief she sounded interested now.
Akorri seemed to brace himself for what he was about to say. He looked at his hands for a moment, his ears twitching. "Because when I was in a tight spot, I bailed. I messed up. I couldn't hold myself together and I ran away. But you've got some kind of strength that I didn't have. Or at least, you just have to believe that you do."
"I have to believe that I can summon my powers when the need arises?" Jinny raised an eyebrow. "Are you saying I have to believe in myself? I don't know... that sounds like the kind of thing they teach in children's stories."
"It might be the moral of a kid's book, but it's true," Akorri said. "You just have to believe that you're brave and that everything will turn out all right in the end. It will, trust me."
"Yeah, but how do you know for sure? You're just hoping."
"Hope's a good motive." Akorri looked down at Laerya again. "Besides, I know it's helped Lae out of more scrapes than she can count. Right?"
Lae blinked. "I guess." She thought back to her encounter with Vacerus and the whole Cloud Flute ordeal. She'd almost lost hope, but Akorri's rationality and sudden bravery had grounded her. "Hope and bravery play key roles in adventuring, you know. And because I do that full-time, I have to be full of it!" She hopped on to the rock to join Akorri and Jinn, taking care not to slip on its smooth surface. "Actually, it was Akorri who helped me out of my most recent scrape. It was his bravery that gave me hope."
Akorri's face flushed; Lae grinned as she saw the Xweetok try to hide a smile. "My bravery?"
"Yep! When we confronted Vacerus and he looked just about ready to deal with us, you belted him right in the face while I stood there like a scaredy-Angelpuss. You remember?"
Akorri bit his lip, but the corners of his mouth turning up betrayed his delight. "Yeah, I remember."
"It was because of you that we even made it out alive! You should be proud." Lae giggled as Akorri turned away in embarrassment. Sudden warmth and endearment towards the red Xweetok filled her heart. Full to bursting with emotion, she wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug. She knew Akorri would find it awkward, and she did too, slightly, but it was fun to give the unsuspecting Xweetok a hug.
"H-hey!" Akorri gasped, unable to move under Lae's strong grip. His tail fluffed up as it often did whenever the Xweetok was surprised or uncomfortable. "Let go, come on, I can barely breathe!"
Lae released him quickly, still giggling. She watched Akorri smooth his tail down with his hands. "Sorry." She turned, beaming, to Jinny. "Have we reached a decision?"
For the first time that Lae had seen her, Jinny smiled back. "I want to help you out."
Jinny was willing to help? Wow, the impossible had been achieved! Laerya punched the air with glee. "Aw, yeah! That's what I like to hear. Overwhelmed with happiness and triumph, she even gave Jinny a hug. The Kyrii reacted the same way as Akorri, spluttering with surprise. "Glad to have you on board, Jinny!"
"Yeah..." the Kyrii sighed. "But surely it's not just going to be the three of us that stop Lorelei?"
"Of course not," said Lae. "I have one more Neopet in mind, but I don't know how easy it will be for us to convince him to help us. He'd be ready to thrash Lorelei by himself, though."
"Hold up," Akorri warned, "You aren't thinking about...?"
"Tayheir?" Lae clicked her tongue at Akorri's dismayed expression. "Yeah, I am. No worries, we'll convince him. You managed to convince Jinny!"
"I'm not sure how I did it," Akorri admitted. He and Jinny exchanged uncomfortable glances.
"What you said made sense," Jinny replied bashfully. "I like Neopets that talk sense."
"Hopefully Tayheir does too." Lae jumped off the rock, her heart pumping with excitement. "Let's go, we have no time to lose!" She already skipped away, her sharp ears catching Jinny and Akorri's words as she left.
"Wow, she's spontaneous," the Kyrii commented.
"That's Laerya for you," the Xweetok replied.
To be continued...