Neela: The Blue Pearl

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Chapter 12

Unbeknownst to the humans on board, they floated under a dome of concealment for the entirety of the trip back to the island. They couldn’t be seen by the naked eye or tracked by any technological device. However, the king quickly picked up on an internal threat to the mystery of his people. He could see the girls’ suspicious eyes on the warriors and himself as they exited the stairwell and joined them on the deck. He took several measures to enshroud the true form of his people from the curiosities of the humans. He hand-selected only Ojigong that had completed missions on the surface to remain on board. The rest were excused, along with the army of allies.

He instructed the remaining Ojigong to minimize their interactions with the humans by only engaging them at their request. Then, before any interaction took place, he flicked his wrist and refined the Ojigongs’ human appearance. Less pronounced ears, a more matte complexion, little things that might tip the girls off that they weren’t quite human. To ensure his ruse was successful, he created some distraction for the girls. Lizzie and Alissa hadn’t witnessed any of the violence beyond what they could hear, so they were not as curious as Delila and therefore not as difficult to distract. A perfectly crafted sunset did the trick nicely. Delila admired the sunset briefly but kept one eye and her suspicions on Cheveyo.

The Ojigong docked the barge parallel to the colorful horizon and adjacent to Neela’s pier. The water surrounding it was far too shallow for a barge of that size, but somehow, with the king onboard, it was possible. The Ojigong lowered the gangway and awaited their next order. Azul instructed his warriors to escort the girls home and return promptly. They approached the girls and offered their assistance in well-mannered form. Lizzie and Alissa didn’t care about the origins or motivations of their liberators; they just wanted to go home, and they were the first to walk down the gangway.

Delila was another story. She couldn’t explain what exactly had changed, but she knew they had done something to tame their brute aesthetic. Their violent nature was still in the forefront of her mind, despite their current appearance, perfect manners, and the beauty of a well-crafted sunset. She was more than a little apprehensive about accepting their accompaniment home.

“I don’t know about this, Neela,” Delila said.

“Go, it will be okay. They won’t hurt you.”

“But who are they?”

“Cheveyo’s friends.”

This wasn’t much comfort to Delila, since Cheveyo seemed to her the most violent of them all. She was uncertain whether Neela was naive to the origins and motivations of him and his friends or very much aware and afraid to divulge the information in their company. Either way, she was determined to get to the bottom of things when she could speak with her friend in private.

“Are you sure you’re going to be okay?” Delila asked.

“Yes, go. Cheveyo will get me home.”

Delila hugged Neela goodbye and asked that she follow up with her the next day. Neela agreed and said goodbye for now. Delila quickly disembarked the barge and joined the other girls, who had awaited her change of heart at the bottom of the gangway. With all of the girls departing for home, Neela felt it was time for her to do the same. She knew Henry had to have been sick with worry since her capture. She felt that he would be even more distraught if he heard that the others had returned home before any word reached him of her safety.

“I need to get home,” Neela said to Cheveyo.

“Yes, we will take you home,” the king interjected. “Go with Cheveyo, and I will be along shortly.”

The king’s gentler way of speaking was new and puzzling to Cheveyo, but it would’ve been hugely inappropriate for him to question the king, no matter how intrigued he was.

For Neela, the king’s softly spoken desire to escort the couple home was worrisome. She didn’t know how her grandfather would respond to the sight of him. She was herself uncertain of how to feel about this powerful being. Was he the villain of Henry’s story, the hero of her own, or somehow a combination of both? She had no idea, but she knew he wasn’t to be trifled with, so she followed the villainous hero’s orders.

She and Cheveyo cleared the barge and began the walk home. The king stayed behind, as he’d said he would, and surveyed the deck briefly before he disembarked as well.

King Azul stood on the shoreline with his back to the couple and his gaze fixed on the barge in front of him. He raised his hands in the air as if in prayer and then spread them apart until his view of the barge fit entirely between them. His insignia lit up, and his body subtly vibrated. He drew his hands back together in a very deliberate fashion. As his hands drew closer to one another, the barge silently crumpled into a mass of rubble and eventually was consolidated into a single cube of its materials. The only remaining indicator of its identity was a small portion of the red lettering that had once spelled out its name. The cube levitated above the water, flew through the air, and landed in the palm of the king. He had conquered the watercraft and its proprietors and removed a negative force from his waters with great ease. He rotated what remained of the barge leisurely within a single hand while he relished his victory.

As the cube turned, it appeared to get lighter and lighter until it was something a human might even be able to carry. He abandoned the lighter but still dense cube in a trash can positioned at the entryway of the pier. Then he effortlessly caught up to the couple, who had achieved quite a bit of distance in a short period of time. Preoccupied with each other, they remained unaware that the vessel had been transformed into an object that could no longer assist pirates in their evil pursuits.

“Neela, tell me, who bestowed this name upon you?” the king asked.

“My mother, sir.”

“What was her reason for the given name?”

“My grandfather says it was because she was very taken with my blue eyes at birth, sir.”

“You never heard this explanation from your mother directly?”

“No, sir, I’m afraid she died just a few short hours after I was born.”

“Pray tell, what was her name?”

“Her name was Anika, but everyone called her—”

“Nika,” the king spoke over her with a deep whisper.

“How did you know that?”

A rush of warm air blew in and wrapped around her tightly. It then released its comforting hold, leaving behind a slight chill in its absence. The sensation stole her breath temporarily.

“What was that?” she said through arduous breaths.

“The king,” Cheveyo explained.

“Sir?” Neela called out to the king.

“He is no longer in our presence,” Cheveyo explained.

“Why did he leave?”

“I am astonished that he stayed as long as he did.”

“Oh.”

“Please do not worry yourself; let us focus on getting you home.”

“Okay,” Neela said, not because she was without curiosity but because she was too tired to continue to investigate the matter.

Cheveyo was also interested in the reason for such an abrupt parting, but he would keep that to himself for now. They steadily made their way back to her cottage. He opened the storm door at the back entrance, but before he could touch the knob of the actual door, it swung open.

Henry grabbed hold of Neela forcefully and let out a huge sigh of relief.

“I’m okay, Grandpa.”

“Where were you? Did someone hurt you?” he asked as he guided her through a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree turn to visually examine her, something he hadn’t done since her childhood spills.

“No, I’m okay.”

“Did he have somethin’ to do with this?” Henry said loudly as he poked his finger into Cheveyo’s chest.

“No, Grandpa, stop it.”

“So help me, God—”

“Stop it! Cheveyo was the one who saved me!”

Henry grudgingly stopped, but he was unable to completely relinquish the anger and animosity he felt toward Cheveyo. In his heart, he still felt that Cheveyo was somehow responsible for her disappearance.

“We have to go to the chief and explain everything. Whoever took you has to pay for what they’ve done,” Henry stressed.

“They already have, sir,” Cheveyo interjected.

“Huh?”

Neela struggled to find the words to conceal Cheveyo’s actions, but he continued calmly, “If I may, sir, we discovered the barge where the girls were being held, overtook it, and eliminated the threat.”

“What?”

“Their captors did not survive, sir,” Cheveyo clarified.

Henry paced and mumbled, mumbled and paced. He removed his cap, scratched his head, smacked it back on, and pulled it snugly by the brim.

“Are you tellin’ ME that YOU killed the people who kidnapped the girls?”

“Not alone, but yes, sir, we killed the men responsible for this,” Cheveyo said with direct eye contact.

Henry was staggered by Cheveyo’s honesty and directness. He stood completely still, mouth ajar. It was difficult for him to believe that this child, in his eyes, had murdered several people, but impossible for him to believe that he would so bluntly reveal it to a stranger.

“I know this is all a bit worrisome, sir, especially after I behaved so badly with Diego, but I promise you, I would never hurt Neela.”

Henry’s still stance and stoic expression transformed into one that displayed some very small amount of acceptance. Somehow, Cheveyo’s words had cut through his benumbed senses, or maybe he was too tired to figure it all out. Either way, whatever the reason, the couple was immensely grateful. They had been prepared for, at the very least, a lecture that went on through the night and/or for Henry to forbid their relationship to continue.

“I guess I should say thank you for bringin’ her back to me,” Henry said unexpectedly.

“It was my pleasure, sir.”

“I said I should say it. I didn’t say I was sayin’ it.’

“Understood.”

“I still think… Hell, I don’t know what to think.”

“I love your granddaughter, sir; I will never let anything happen to her.”

“Yeah, well, see that ya don’t.”

“Grandpa, are you sure you’re okay?” Neela questioned.

“It might be the rum talkin’, but I think I might be okay with whatever had to be done to get you home.”

“Are you sure?”

“No, but I’m glad to have you home safe.”

“I love you, Grandpa.”

“I love you, too, but I’m completely knackered after all this. I gotta lay down. You can stay for a while, Chevron, but you can’t spend the night, understood?”

Cheveyo thought it best not to correct him, since he seemed to be slightly in his favor for a moment.

“Understood, sir.”

Henry lay down on the couch. “Good.” He immediately dozed off. His exhaustion was obvious, not only in appearance but in his lack of resistance to the whole situation.

Neela and Cheveyo walked to her bedroom to prevent waking him with their conversation. As soon as they entered her room, he picked her up, raised her high above him, and spun her around. The force of their movements caused the walls to subtly shake.

“Cheveyo!”

“I love you, Neela.”

“I love you too, but you’re going to wake my grandpa!”

He gradually stopped spinning, slowly lowered her back down, and kissed her fervently. She could feel how happy he was to have her home safe in the depth of his kiss. He carried her over to the bed and laid her down gently. As he climbed up on the bed and hovered over her, she could feel his struggle to contain his true nature. His immense strength, power, and passion radiated just beneath the surface of his artificial human exterior. Without warning, she pushed him away and jumped up from the bed.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to push you so hard.”

He stood up and walked slowly toward her. “You could not hurt me, Neela.”

“We can’t be together like this, not now, anyway.”

He brushed the hair away from her face. “Okay.”

Her mind ran wild with the possibilities of what unleashing his full passion would feel like.

“Have I upset you?” he asked.

“What?”

“Have I upset you?”

“No, no, but I think we should call it a night.”

“I have upset you. I am sorry. I went too far; it will not happen again,” Cheveyo said reassuringly.

“No, I’m not upset, I… just want to wait for marriage.”

“I would love to marry you, but I do not think it possible.”

“Why not?”

“It is forbidden.”

“What is, just marriage? Or… that, too?”

“Both.”

“So we could never be together in that way?” Neela said, with heavy disappointment in her tone.

“I am afraid not, my pearl.”

“That’s… that’s… so… painful.”

“Is it painful?” he asked with a playful tone.

She lightheartedly smacked his arm. “Yes, leave me alone about it.”

“Why?”

“Maybe it’s different for you, but I’ve never done it before. It’s embarrassing.”

“Neither have I.”

“Yeah, right, maybe not with a human, but I’m sure you have, you know, whatever it would be called, with another Ojigong.”

“Actually, no, either way.”

“Are you back to weaving your web again?”

“No. Ojigong do not have these urges until they meet their life’s mate, their blue pearl.”

“What about all of the girls you were dancing with at the hotel?”

“As I said, I like to dance.”

“I guess I’ll choose to believe you—for now, anyway.”

“Good, because I am telling you the truth.”

“Can we really never marry?”

“It is forbidden.”

Neela walked over to the bed, sat down, and put her head in her hands. She was saddened by the loss of something she’d never had. What a beautiful dream that spending the night with Cheveyo as his wife would have been. She could hardly bear the thought of this being all that they would ever be.

He couldn’t stand to see her in any amount of pain. He walked around the room, frustrated and desperate to eliminate any source of sadness for his blue pearl.

“I will suffer whatever the consequences.”

“What?” She raised her head.

“We will marry.”

“But you said it’s forbidden.”

“It is.”

“What will happen?”

“I am uncertain; I have never known an Ojigong to marry a human.”

As much as Neela wanted to agree to a secret marriage and run off with Cheveyo in this very instant, she tried to think of what this would all really mean for them.

“Even if the king didn’t kill you, how could this possibly work? I live on land, and you can only stay here for short periods of time.”

“I thought it was what you wanted.”

“What about children? After I get married, I would like to have children.”

“I like Ojigong youth more so than humans, but if their human parts come from you, I believe I will love them.”

“Is that even possible?”

“Only one way to find out.”

“Cheveyo!” she said with a scalding tone.

“Sorry.”

“What will the king do?”

“Most likely kill me.”

“I don’t think we want that to happen.”

“No, but I could go to him and ask for permission. He seemed to have an interest in you; maybe he would allow it.”

“He left while I was in midsentence. I don’t think he likes me.”

“I am positive that you are in his favor somehow. “

“How did he even get involved in all of this, anyway?”

“I went to him for help, and he agreed.”

“That’s surprising.”

“I thought so, too, but I did not have time to question anything. I needed to get to you.”

“This is all too much for one night. Can we talk about this in the morning?”

“Of course. I will be here when the sun rises.”

“I think we should still meet at the pier.”

“If you think it best, I will meet you at the pier, but first, I need to heal you.”

“Excuse me?”

“The welts on your leg.”

“Oh, I forgot all about that! Thank God I still have pants on.”

Cheveyo walked over to the window, which had remained open. He reached through and grabbed the balm from a planter that hung just beneath it.

“I need to take your pants off,” he explained.

“Excuse me?”

“For your leg.”

“Oh, I can do it.”

“You have to rub it in a certain way.”

“Weaving your web again.”

“Can you blame me?”

“I will just lift my pant leg.”

“It might ruin your pants.”

“I don’t know if I believe you, but okay… Turn around.”

“Why?”

“So I can take my pants off.”

“If I am allowed to see the end result, I should be permitted to watch the process.”

“Just turn around, Cheveyo!”

“Okay.”

“Are you really turned around?”

“Yes.”

Cheveyo did turn around as she requested. She took off her pants quickly and slipped under her comforter.

“I’m ready,” she announced.

Cheveyo thought that Neela’s modesty and anxiety were charming and only made her more appealing. He walked over to the foot of the bed with a strengthened desire. He slowly pulled the covers up from the bottom. She waited eagerly for his touch. He scooped up a generous amount of the balm from his makeshift container made of various materials found under the sea. He was careful to apply the balm gently and keep to the restricted area. He didn’t want this to be the last time she trusted him with this type of closeness. He covered her back up with the comforter and told her to try not to touch the affected area.

He didn’t want to leave, but he had started to tire from so much time out of the water and wanted to respect his love’s wishes as well. He kissed her goodbye for now as she lay comfortably in her bed, and then he exited the room.

He walked through the cottage quietly, so as not to wake Henry, who was still asleep on the couch. At the backdoor, Cheveyo noticed a small catch-all table. It was the home of keys, lighters, mail, and a small photo album with a tiny version of Neela on the cover. Cheveyo couldn’t resist. He stood as still as possible as he flipped through the years of her life.

“She was a beautiful child, wasn’t she?” Henry whispered from across the room as he walked toward Cheveyo.

“I apologize for the intrusion, sir.” Cheveyo quickly closed the album and placed it back in its original position on the table. Henry picked it up and thumbed through the pages, his adoration for Neela evident in his expression. He was quiet at first and then added commentary to each image. Cheveyo laughed when it was silly and remained solemn when he thought it appropriate.

When he reached the last page, Henry asked, “Do you understand what she means to me?”

“I do.”

“I would do anything for her.”

“As would I.”

“I think I just might believe that.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Was all that you were sayin’ earlier true? Did you really kill them devils that took Neela?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And you’re not at all worried there’ll be consequences?”

“No, sir.”

“These things have a way of comin’ to light, you know.”

“There is nothing left for anyone to discover,” Cheveyo explained.

“How’s that?”

“Their captors, they no longer exist.”

“That’s rubbish. They may not be drinkin’ as much as they used to, but they gotta be lyin’ cold around here somewhere.”

“There may be fragments that remain, but that will all be digested in time.”

“Digested?”

“They were eaten, sir.”

“Please tell me you didn’t do the eatin’…”

“No, sir, they were thrown overboard.”

“Oh, I see. King Azul will take care of them, then.”

“You could say that.”

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