Battle Quills... ready! Circulation: 155,374,162 Issue: 219 | 9th day of Celebrating, Y7
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Searching For Paradise: Part One


by cpmtiger

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Tye clopped slowly down the wet, puddle-strewn sidewalk, feeling glum and annoyed. The gleaming white sidewalks and bright, colorful signposts didn't make Tye feel any better. The faerie Ixi had just left her house after a big argument with her parents. So now she was wandering the wet streets of Gold Palace Road. There was nobody out, because the millionaires didn't venture outside unless it was sunny and warm.

      Tye's parents were the same way, boringly traditional and concerned with money. They had insisted on naming her Tirana, the name given to all ten faerie Ixis in the family. She was the youngest in a family of money-concerned idiots. Or so she often thought.

      Her two older sisters, Jeralyn and Ellen, were used to being pampered and spoiled, and generally being treated like royalty. They loved having servants do things for them, wore large, expensive necklaces and bracelets, and were always having their fur brushed or their horns shined.

      Tye, on the other hand, preferred doing things herself, wore no trinkets or fancy pendants, and looked slightly scruffy more often than not. She hated the private school she went to. Tye had no friends there, and absolutely everyone was concerned with the price of their school supplies. It was sickening.

     The faerie Ixi knew how to eat with fourteen pieces of silverware. She'd been taught how to drink tea with hooves. A small amethyst box in Tye's room was overflowing with gold and silver necklaces and bracelets, all laden with diamonds or emeralds or rubies or sapphires. Twice Tye had tried selling the ornaments, but was caught before she could manage the feat.

      It seemed that Tye's parents had come to their last option, which had caused a loud shouting match over breakfast. Tye's parents wanted to send her to boarding school. She couldn't believe it. Boarding school! Tye became so angry at the thought that she picked up an empty Neocola can with her horns and tossed it into the alley as she passed, not even looking at it.

      Something else did notice the can, however. A dark shadow, hidden in the darkness of the alleyway, flicked its tail and bared sharp teeth as its green eyes narrowed. The lithe figure crept around the back of the alleyway, following the Faerie Ixi, always sticking to the darkness.

      Tye was about to turn the corner and continue down the block when she caught sight of the bright green eyes. She leapt back, rearing up instinctively. The black shape pounced toward Tye, landing in front of her.

      It was a shadow Kougra, about Tye's age, all black except for her emerald colored eyes and the gold band on each front leg. The Kougra's sharp, silver teeth were bared, and her claws were unsheathed. The Kougra's back and sides were spotted with small scratches and cuts. Thin, dirty fur, matted and tangled, wasn't thick enough to hide the Kougra's ribs.

      Tye's blue eyes narrowed. She waited for the Kougra to make a move, ready to toss the Kougra on with her horns, if necessary. After a moment of silence, the Kougra spoke.

      "Why'd you throw a can at me?" she snarled, her voice hard and angry. "You lookin' for a fight?"

      "No! I just-"

      "You're one of the rich pets, aren't you?" the Kougra asked, cutting her off.

      "Yes, but-"

      "Ever lived on the streets?"

      "No, but-"

      "Then what're you throwing cans for?"

      Tye's temper ran out. "I wasn't throwing it! I kicked it, but it's not like I was aiming for you or something! My stupid parents decided I need to go to boarding school, so maybe you can understand that I'm really, really annoyed right now!"

      The Kougra looked at her a moment, then sat down. "You think boarding school's bad? Personally, I'd switch places with you." Seeing the appalled look on Tye's face, the Kougra smirked. "Never thought about the life of an alley Kougra, eh?"

      Tye continued to stare. "You're an alley Kougra? But you're like…like…. just fifteen!"

      "Yeah, well, you work with what you've got. Not everyone's as lucky as you."

      "Lucky? Me? My parents hate me! I'm going off to boarding school to learn how to sew and cook and other boring stuff!"

      The shadow Kougra grinned slightly. "That can't be as bad as living off of the trash."

      "You have to live off trash?" Tye asked before she could stop herself.

      "It's the only thing you can eat around here. Alley pets can't afford store food."

      "But how do you make yourself eat it?"

      "When you're starving and don't have any choice, you don't really notice what you're eating."

      Tye was silent a moment. "How about shelter?"

      "A wooden crate. I found it near the docks."

      "You're kidding."

      "Why would I kid around?" Tye didn't reply.

      Just then, a call echoed down the street. "Tirana? Tirana, get back to the house this instant!" Tye made a face.

      "Tirana?" the Kougra muttered. She leapt to her paws.

      "No!" the faerie Ixi protested. "It's TYE."

      "Allehya. Nice meeting you." And with a flick of her long tail, Allehya turned and disappeared back into the shadows of the alley.

      A few moments later, Tye's father, a large purple Ixi, appeared around the corner. "Tirana, you are coming back to the house, and so help me, you're going to be grounded for a month!"

          That night, Tye picked gloomily at her salad. Her bowl of red tomatoes remained untouched. The tall glass of Neocola hadn't been sipped once. Try as she might, Tye couldn't help thinking that as she was here with fresh salad, Allehya was out there eating something she'd fished from the trash.

     Tye looked over at her sisters. Jeralyn, an Island Ixi, with a coat so shiny it sometimes hurt Tye's eyes, was sipping her Neocola carefully, as if it was a precious elixir. Ellen, a small, Desert colored Ixi, was festooned with jewels as usual. She was using a tiny, silver fork to search her salad for the horn ring she'd just dropped. Jewelry picking forks were a necessity for Ellen.

      Tye turned back to her tomatoes, glaring at the tiny fruits.

      "Tirana," her mother scolded, "Eat that salad or there's no desert for you." The snow colored Ixi was eating her own salad with a fork, nibbling the leaves as female Ixis were expected to do.

      "It's TYE, Mother, not Tirana," Tye said through clenched teeth.

      "Tye is a boy's name. Your proper name is Tirana, and you should use it, instead of calling yourself something ridiculous."

      "No, Tirana is something ridiculous! I don't want to be named after the stupid Faerie Ixis in the family-"

     "Young lady, your disregard for history is disgusting!" Tye's father boomed.

     "It's HISTORY, it's over, we're done with it!" Tye was so angry she leapt from her chair, front hooves on the table. The chair's wooden legs screeched as it was pushed back.

     "The floor, Tirana! It was just put down!" Tye's mother shrieked, her eyes widening at the thought of her precious floor being scratched.

     Tye's sisters gave each other terrified looks and began digging into their salads.

     "I'VE HAD IT WITH THESE STUPID TRADITIONS! ALL OF YOU THINK IT'S SO SPECIAL BEING RICH! WELL, I HATE IT! THERE'S MORE IMPORTANT STUFF THAN BEING RICH!" Tye shouted, everything she'd been feeling for fifteen years pouring out of her.

     "Like what?" Tye's oldest sister Jeralyn asked skeptically, the beads on her neck rattling. Ellen began gulping down her tomatoes, trying to stay out of the argument. Tye's mother put her head in her hooves.

     "Like having an iota of intelligence!" Tye shouted, rounding on Jeralyn. "Like learning stuff that's useful! Like being who you are instead of a snobby rich pet whose only "friends" are people who want their money!"

     Jeralyn gave Tye an icy stare. "You think being rich is a curse?" she demanded.

     "As a matter of fact, I do!" Tye snarled, slamming the table with a hoof for emphasis. Her glass of Neocola spilled onto the table, turning the white silk tablecloth brown. Tye's mother leapt up and raced for a towel.

      "ARE YOU SUGGESTING," Tye's father roared, standing up, too, "THAT WE ARE UNEDUCATED, USELESS, AND CURSED?"

      "Yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying!" Tye boomed, turning back to her father and staring him in the eye.

      Tye's father was breathing heavily, his left front hoof twitching as though he longed to paw the ground with it. Tye's mother returned with a towel and began mopping up the spilled Neocola. She didn't look at her husband or her daughters.

     For a moment, all was silent. Then Tye's mother stood up and wailed, "Now the tablecloth is ruined!"

      "Good!" Tye said before she could stop herself. "Besides, it's just a tablecloth!"

      "JUST A TABLE CLOTH?" her father thundered. "THAT COST OVER TEN THOUSAND NEOPOINTS!"

      "Well maybe next time you'll find a better use for those Neopoints!"

      "What do you suggest?" Jeralyn asked scornfully, every syllable laden with spite and accented with a click of beads.

      Tye took a moment to consider her words before answering. "Did you know that there are hundreds of pets in Neopia Central alone who are strays? They live off food they fish from the garbage, they sleep in things like old crates- Oh, knock it off!"

      Ellen had made a disgusted face, and started to fake vomit into her salad dish.

     "Some of them are my age! Or younger! And that's how they have to live! Why not donate the money to them?"

      "Tirana, we're not responsible for every stray in Neopia!" Tye's mother said exasperatedly, still with her head in her hooves.

      "Oh yeah? I bet you'd feel differently if you had to fight to stay alive!"

      "TIRANA, WE'RE NOT GOING TO WASTE OUR MONEY ON OTHERS! HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO PAY FOR THIS HOUSE? ALL THE JEWELRY? YOU EXPECT THOSE THINGS TO PAY FOR THEMSELVES?"

      "WE DON'T NEED JEWELRY!" Tye was trembling with anger. "ALL I WANT IS A NORMAL LIFE WHERE I DON'T HAVE TO BE SOMEONE I'M NOT!!" And Tye ran out of the dining room, up the sweeping staircase, and into her room. Opening her window, she decided that maybe Allehya's life wasn't so bad after all.

To be continued...

 
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