|Gadgadsbogen was a very mundane time for Walda the Baby Kacheek because she wasn't a fan of fruit. She preferred chocolate by a large margin, and would consistently throw tantrums to get it. However, her sister Lerlifia was a foodie, and would try anything to see what it tasted like.
Lerli gazed at the fruits for sale in the Tropical Food Shop, trying to decide which one to spend her hard-earned Neopoints on. Because she had come at night to avoid the blistering heat, no one else was there to buy out the stock before she could decide. She gazed at the Strong Berry and its fascinating crimson shape. The Shopkeeper, noticing her interest, told her, "You should try a Strong Berry! You will be one of the strongest beings in Neopia for about 30 minutes once you bite into this delicious fruit!"
Lerli smirked mischievously. For a long time, she had been jealously eyeing Walda's Battledome accomplishments; the child, despite her small stature, was quite a force to be reckoned with. With the aid of the Strong Berry, she could defeat Walda in the upcoming Mystery Island Battledome tournament at the much-celebrated Pango Palladium arena. She would win a massive amount of Neopoints as her prize, and no one would find out she was cheating...
Date: Mar 18th
But her sister would know. ...Was that worth it?
Yes, she was jealous of Walda's accomplishments, and of course her whining and tantrums were some of the most annoying sounds in Neopia, but at the end of the day this was still her sister. No matter how great Lerli's own desire to get the glory, it'd come at the cost of humiliating and probably hurting her family.
The Kyrii sighed. "I probably shouldn't," Lerli admitted.
"The berry will stay good for a while, but only for a few days," the Shopkeeper said. "If you do want it, I'd recommend getting it now. Otherwise, someone else will come soon and certainly grab it for themselves, and who knows what they'll do with it! Not to mention, it is our only one in stock..."
The Shopkeeper grinned at Lerli, almost daring her to buy the fruit.
"...How much is it?" she asked.
The Shopkeeper grinned almost too widely. "For you? Discounted, only 500 Neopoints," was the answer.
She was originally expecting it to be costly, but 500 points spent out of 11,000? ...Not that bad, actually.
Lerli bought the Strong Fruit. Not for the tournament, she told herself. Just to try out, or maybe convince Walda to try tomorrow morning.
The rest of the stock were foods she'd either already tried or could never afford, so she had to head out. Leaving the building to the Shopkeeper's call of "Come back later", the Kyrii set out on her way, Strong Fruit in her bag.
Neopia's moons shone bright on the beach path. For a single moment, all was still. Just a Neopet walking down a road at the twilight hour, the light from the moon and its reflection casting below her a shadow.
Then someone knocked into Lerli. She backed up and stared up at the stranger, about to apologize...
Date: Mar 19th
until she realized she was staring into the malicious sneer of the Pant Devil. His greedy, glowing red eyes glared down at her as his mouth widened into an evil grin.
Lerli was frozen in terror, but her mind was racing. As if watching the scene in slow motion, her mind registered the Pant Devil’s arm as it reached out toward her. He was going to grab the bag that held her Strong Fruit! Quickly, without taking a moment to think about it, Lerli snatched the fruit out of the bag and swallowed it whole. Just as it slid down her esophagus, the Pant Devil grabbed the empty bag. He snorted with disgust and turned his back on her, tossing the bag over his shoulder as he left to prey on someone with more to lose.
She stood there in the dark, shivering despite the warm island breeze. Her stomach grumbled and gurgled as it digested the Strong Fruit, while her mind tried to digest what had just happened. Dazed, she began to walk slowly down the path in the direction of her NeoHome.
Now what would she do? The Strong Fruit was rumored to only last 30 minutes after eating. Her stomach gurgled. She didn’t feel any different.
Suddenly, she heard breaking glass from one of the store fronts nearby.
Date: Mar 23rd
A scream quickly followed, followed a moment later by thin, reedy "Hellllp...."
Without pausing to think, Lerli took off towards the commotion. She didn't have a plan, but something in her was called to help. She'd never been the heroic type before, never really considered what she'd do in a crisis, but in the moment there was no gap between crisis and reaction. She simply ran.
The scene before her was chaotic. An elderly Draik was on the ground in front of what Lerli assumed was his shop, and a hulking Gelert was methodically smashing through his wares. Bits of broken glass and pottery littered the ground, as did the more exotic bits and bobs that had been the merchant's stock. The Gelert looked vaguely familiar, but there was no time to ponder that - he was turning threateningly towards the old Draik.
Lerli couldn't make out most of the words, but she clearly heard, "Where is it, Cravis?"
She expected him to cower, but the Draik - Cravis? - only glared. His mouth moved, but Lerli couldn't hear what he said over the crunch of the Gelert's footsteps.
The Gelert growled and raised a hand towards the Draik. Something was in his hand, causing the Draik to flinch. Lerli didn't hesitate, didn't stop to think - in a split second, she....
Date: Mar 25th
immediately slammed into the Gelert with no fear and catapulted him all the way to The Mystery Island Academy.
"Where.... Where am I?" The Gelert groggily looked up in terror as Ryshu, one of the most prestigious warriors of Mystery Island, holding his Moehog Skull, prepared to banish him to The Lost City of Geraptiku, never be seen again.
"I can't thank you enough", the shop owner sobbed. He picked up his keys and used them to open his sacred deposit box.
"Here, take this". He pulled a berry that looked awfully familiar. "This is the Strong Berry, it will give you--"
"Strong Berry?" Lerli was flustered. "I purchased one earlier from the market."
Turns out, the Gelert was a swindler who had posed as a shopkeeper at the recently opened Tropical Food Shop and sold Lerli a counterfeit berry. Apparently all the magical berries in that store had been fraudulent.
"So wait... That means, if the Strong Berry I ate was not genuine, where did my strength come from?"
"Your strength came from your heart. You saw that I was in danger, and instinctively came to my aid," as Lerli held back tears of happiness, the elderly Draik handed her the rare berry.
"This Strong Berry will give you decades of prosperity, wealth, and happiness."
Together, Lerlifia and Walda would enter the upcoming Mystery Island Battledome tournament, side by side, where they will compete together in the Pango Palladium arena.
How will this story end?
Date: Mar 30th
Lerli placed fourth in the tournament. There was no trophy for fourth place, just a shiny medallion on a ribbon. Lerli would wear it with pride.
She watched Walda receive the first place trophy, feeling no resentment. Walda had trained harder. Walda deserved the fame and glory.
Leslie had plenty of fame and glory of her own, these days. The Neopian Times ran a story on her valiant rescue of the shopkeeper. She had been interviewed on Neovision. All her friends and neighbors called her a hero.
So, not to brag, but Lerli was kind of a big deal.
She still had the Strong Berry safely at home. She wasn't sure if it would ever spoil. So far, it was still the same bright red as the day Cravis had given it to her. Maybe someday she'd eat it, when she really needed it. For now, she had her own strength to rely on.
Besides, if she was going to beat Walda in the tournament next year, she was going to do it fair and square!
Date: Mar 31st