Several hours later, Samaritain returned to give us the
news and found each of us dozing in various uncomfortable positions. He cleared
is throat. I woke up with a start and immediately shook the two pets awake. "It's
Samaritain!" I hissed. Celestilla bolted up, pen and paper ready.
"I wasn't able to determine anything definite
from the tests I ran, but I think I can conclude a few things safely. Orayny
told me that Wisteria had the mind of a very young infant, but my tests have
shown that at the moment she has the intelligence of a one-month-old Neopet
or a three-year-old human."
"So she is growing out of it! I was right!"
I exclaimed triumphantly. Celestilla gave me an evil look, presumably because
she hadn't thought of this theory first. I felt mildly sure that the article
she was writing would say otherwise.
"Yes, for some reason her body has kicked into
a sort of hyper-growth spurt. It's extremely odd," said Samaritain.
"I extracted the entire story from Orayny before
I ran any tests on Wisteria," he continued. "I have a few theories about the
cause of this sudden spurt, but I think the most likely one is that the second
paint job did it. It wasn't enough to return her to normal immediately, but
it began to slowly cancel out the effects of the tainted brush. It's exactly
what I would have prescribed.
Now it was Andromeda's turn to look triumphant.
"You see?" she crowed. "I was right! We didn't even need to come here at all!
Samaritain's just an expensive qua-" Just in time, Celestilla tackled Andromeda
and stuffed a hoof into her mouth.
She looked up at Samaritain with a syrupy smile.
He cleared his throat, and with a hurt look
at Andromeda said, "Personally I've never seen a case like this. I contacted
all of my colleagues in the field and none of them admit to treating a patient
with symptoms like Wisteria's. However, when I contacted Neopian Central Headquarters,
they said that there have been a rash of fake paintbrushes manufactured lately.
They look exactly like regular Baby Paintbrushes,
but you are familiar with their side effects. Apparently there is a group of
bored millionaires behind this. They buy or bribe a ghost to steal a Baby Paintbrush,
alter its effects, and then put it back in the marketplace. However, this wasn't
amusing enough for our little crime ring, since it was too easy for the staff
to track down the prank brushes before anyone used them.
For a spectacular bribe fee (probably the only
good thing that will come from this affair; millions of Neopoints went straight
to the Money Tree) several ghosts agreed to dress up like Jacko the Phantom
Painter and drift around in search of a good place to plant the rigged brushes.
Still, few of them were used for painting before the Neopets Team found and
confiscated them. Apparently they hit the jackpot with Jessimen and Wisteria."
"Well! That's excellent news!" exclaimed Celestilla.
Samaritain gave her a look that plainly said that she was a good candidate for
his professional services. However, Celestilla was in journalism heaven and
absolutely nothing could bring her down. "Don't you realize what kind of story
this could be? It's an exclusive scoop on an undercover crime ring… I haven't
covered something of this magnitude since I got an interview with that evil
pirate captain guy right before Maraqua was destroyed! Hmm…of course it would
be even better if I could uncover the ringleader myself…" Andromeda and I rolled
our eyes. We were quite familiar with Celestilla's forays into the fantasy world.
According to her, all great geniuses go into trances like this occasionally.
Samaritain looked like he would have dearly
loved to comment, but he politely shrugged off my Uni's odd behavior. "It may
be good news for Celestilla, but it's not good for Orayny. I estimate that it
will take Wisteria at least a week to grow up to where she was before all this
happened. All of her stats went back down to one, but she's gaining them back
now without the help of books or training. As far as I know this sort of thing
has never happened before, and there is no previous case for me to go by. I
can't say for certain what will happen when she returns to her original state.
I hope that she will resume growing in the normal way, but she could very well
continue going at this rate infinitely. In any case, I'm keeping her here for
observation. I've already gotten her settled into a room on Floor 12. Orayny
has gone home to be with Jessimen. You might want to go see her tomorrow, for…moral
support. She was very upset by my news."
"It isn't very encouraging," I said softly.
Orayny and I had become friends during our little adventure and I felt truly
sorry for her.
We sat in silence for a few minutes, mulling
over the situation. Finally I heaved a sigh and stood up. "I don't suppose there
is anything else we can do here, Doctor?"
Samaritain shook his head. "You've done everything
you can. Go home." I gathered up my errant pets and made my way to the door.
Apparently Borealis held a grudge; she gave my party a very unpleasant glare
as we passed by. Andromeda stuck her tongue out at her.
"I'm very impressed with your detective work,"
said Samaritain as he showed us to the door. "According to the Neopets staff,
the other owners who used the tainted brushes often didn't notice that anything
was wrong. If they had, I doubt that they would have had a clue what to do about
it. Orayny and Wisteria are lucky to have such devoted and clever friends."
All I could think of to answer was a simple
"Thank you," but Samaritain's words were on my mind all the way home.
All of us were absolutely exhausted. After a
meal of omelette, smoothies, and a negg each (I decided we had all earned a
treat) we each fell into bed and slept like logs.
When we went to visit Orayny the next day, she
seemed to have collected herself somewhat. She and Celestilla had a long talk
while Andromeda and I played with Jessimen. Later that day she disappeared for
several hours and reappeared smug but secretive. Orayny burst into our NeoHome
a few minutes after Celestilla's arrival waving a Neomail. Apparently the Neopets
staff was offering full compensation in the form of a Faerie paint brush to
return Wisteria to her original color. Celestilla claimed no involvement.
Wisteria, meanwhile, spent a good week and a
half in the hospital. The Neopets staff assured us that she would grow no stronger
than she was at the moment she was painted. Sure enough, she was herself again
in a week and violently protesting bed rest, hospital food and her "dreary plain
color." When the ten days were up, Samaritain discharged her and life went back
to normal. Almost.
Orayny and I are now excellent friends, while
Celestilla has found a best friend and arch nemesis in Wisteria. Her piece made
it onto the front page of the Neopian Extra, which broke sales records all over
Neopia. She is now acknowledged as Orayny's official publicist, and young Neopians
stop her on the street and ask for her autograph. Reporters say that everyone
in the business gets one life-changing story before they retire, but in my opinion
Celestilla is due for many more. We'll just have to wait and see.
To be continued...