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Who Needs a Royal Paint Brush? IV: Christmas Finale


by 3dcourtney12044

--------

We've all been waiting for it. Well, maybe. Or, maybe not. The point is, if you've been following my Who Needs a Royal Paint Brush? series, then hurrah for you. If not, shame, shame. For quite a while I have been writing the 'WNRPB' series for your enjoyment. Sadly, this is the last tale in the series that should wrap it up for you. If you haven't read them, have no fear. You'll catch on as you read. All you need to know is that this is the finale in Cuni the Uni's story that is forever altered by the Royal Paint Brush.

The weeks leading up to Christmas were quite a treat, especially since December 21st was the last day of Neoschool until Christmas break, a day many pets had been waiting for. In fact, when a young girl by the name of Courtney called up the stairs to her pets, "Time for school! Get up!" she did not have to wait ten minutes filled with constant, agonizing nagging to get her pets out of bed like usual. The first to slide down the banister was the smart-aleck jelly Blumaroo called Alec.

     "You look happy," Courtney observed, amused as she slid some bacon and toast onto his plate. Alec positively beamed.

     "You bet!" He grabbed some toast. "Last day of school! I could sing!"

     "Don't," advised a voice from the kitchen doorway, and Alec spun around wildly in his chair to see his older sister, Xrai.

     "Like you could sing any better," he sneered, piling Neggs onto his plate and wolfing down bacon.

     "Maybe not," the Halloween Shoyru said, buttering toast for herself and taking a seat across the table from her brother, "but at least when I sing, I do it in choir, not in the shower, and usually, windows don't break when I hit the high notes."

     He scowled and flung a bit of Negg at her. "Hey!" warned Courtney, brushing aside her blond hair, her eyes flashing dangerously. "The last thing you'd want is to be grounded on your first day of break."

     Alec shook his head disapprovingly but did not press her. Instead, he nodded in the direction of the new arrival, the third brother, a plushie Kougra called Snickers. "G'morning," Snickers said, stifling a yawn with his sketchpad tucked under his arm.

     "Oy, Snickers," Alec exclaimed at once, "Negg?"

     The Kougra eyed the offering suspiciously and regarded his older brother with narrowed eyes. "It's not going to explode or anything, is it?"

     "Of course not."

     Snickers shook his head, tearing his gaze away from the Negg. "I think I'll just have cereal." Alec shrugged and popped the Negg into his mouth, chewing carefully.

     The Halloween Shoyru raised a hand and piped up with, "Get me some too, will you?" Snickers disappeared into the walk-in pantry and rummaged through until he located two large boxes. "What kind?" he called. "Enchanting Strawberry or Neocrunch?"

     "Neocrunch," Xrai replied, twirling a spoon about her paws and grinning.

     "Coming up."

     Snickers busied himself with the cereal and Xrai grabbed a couple of bowls. Alec had decided to categorize his burnt Neggs privately into "disgusting", "gross", and "revolting"; Xrai was the official cook in the family, but Courtney insisted on making breakfast each morning, resulting in all four of her pets buying extra large lunches at school whenever forced to eat it.

     Courtney looked up, twirling her white chef's hat and wiping her hands on her apron and said, frowning, "Where's Cuni?"

     "HERE!"

     A baby Uni hurtled into the room, knocking over Snickers so that the Kougra toppled over and the Neocrunch skidded across the tiled floor. The plushie Kougra fell against the round kitchen table so that it moved a few feet and rammed into the wall; Alec fell out of his chair at the sudden occurrence and Xrai dropped the spoons she had been getting as Alec's chair flipped and nearly slammed her full in the face.

     Courtney hurried forward to help repair the damage; all four of her pets were sprawled on the floor. Snickers gingerly got to his feet and began to recollect the scattered bits of Neocrunch that had littered the floor. Xrai snatched up her spoons, and Alec, clinging to the side of the table, glared at his youngest sister. "What in the name of White Weewoos are you doing Cuni?"

     "Sowwy!" exclaimed the Uni, dropping back to her knees so that she could snatch up the piece of lined paper and a newly sharpened pencil that she had been holding. "But I haff an assignment due today -- Miss Keekers's paper!"

     Like most young pets of her age, Cuni still had trouble speaking properly, but she was improving. Courtney sighed as Snickers popped back up and retreated to the pantry for a new box of cereal. "Cuni, you know you shouldn't leave assignments until the last minute!"

     "What's it about?" questioned Xrai.

     "The topic is, 'What Christmas Means To Me,' and I can't fink of anyfing to write!"

     "Well that's easy," Alec laughed. "Cuni, what does Christmas mean to you?"

     She hung her head. "I don't know!" she said sadly, looking hysterical.

     "Well, just think," Snickers said gently. "There must be something that reminds you of Christmas." Suddenly, through the kitchen doorway flew a blur of color; it skidded to a halt at the table, nearly bumping into Xrai's chair leg.

     "Oh, Cybana!" Xrai bent low and picked up the plushie Snowbunny carefully. She scratched her behind the ears and grinned.

     Suddenly, Cuni's eyes lit up and she jumped to her feet. "I know what to write about now!" she cried. "Fanks, Xrai!"

     Looking bewildered, Xrai watched her little sister depart the scene, her prominent eyes very wide and her tail billowing behind her. "What idea did I give her?" Xrai asked the room at large.

     "Who knows?" Alec said, picking up a Negg and popping it into his mouth. He pulled a face. "Courtney, can Xrai go back to cooking breakfast tomorrow?"

     * * * *

     "Look Kaunna!" cried a voice excitedly. "I got -- berry!"

     A Royal Acara by the name of Sylannya looked up eagerly, holding a bright red Loveberry. She shook bits of fluffy snow off of her elegant features and beamed up at her older sister.

     "Great job, Syl!" the red Acara said, grinning. In her hands, she held various items of food and clothing that they had gotten after a morning's work at the Money Tree. Kaunna took the Loveberry in her arms and added, "How about you go find us a bag to carry all of this?"

     "Okay!" With a swish of her long velvet cape, the younger Acara had hurried off. Kaunna gazed up at the bright blue sky and the patches of clouds from which snow sprinkled to Neopia's grounds. The red Acara turned her eyes upon her little sister, who was hurrying about, finally managing to grab a leathery sack.

     "Bag!"

     "Nice one, Syl," commented Kaunna, emptying the items into the bag and taking it over her shoulder. "This should keep us going until Christmas, don't you think?"

     "Yes." The Royal Acara nodded and then added quickly, "Tree?"

     Kaunna's face fell. "Sylannya, we -- err -- well, we don't have enough for a tree -- "

     Syl's eyes were shining with unshed tears, but she nodded, her eyes on the snowy ground. "Okay," she mumbled, and together they set off. Though their new Neohome was nothing but a tiny, one-roomed brick building perched on a hill on the outskirts of Neopia Central, it was still home, and it kept them warm.

     Their life on the streets had come to an abrupt halt on that fateful day when Kaunna and Syl met Cuni the baby Uni, whose owner had supplied them with Neopoints and everyday needs. Kaunna and Sylannya could not allow this to continue as they could never accept so much and vowed that they would get items themselves now.

     It was easier thought than done, however.

     "Visit Cuni?" inquired Sylannya after a few moments of walking.

     "I don't think we can right now," Kaunna replied. She swallowed and continued in a shaky voice, "They have school right now, remember? But maybe after Neoschool we'll stop by."

     Syl nodded and Kaunna felt regret wash over. She felt guilty that she could not provide a better life for her sister, because they had a life in which she could not even send her to Neoschool yet. Syl shot her sister a sideways glanced and then reached into the bag and pulled out a bright orange carrot. "For Cybana," she added, in answer to Kaunna's questioning look.

     Kaunna smiled. Cybana, the Snowbunny owned by Cuni's older sister Xrai, had a condition that caused her to lose her eyesight and would one day cause her to go blind. When Sylannya had accidently dropped the Royal Paint Brush that had once belonged to their mother, it had been Cuni who had found it and was fighting an inward battle; should she return it to whom she knew it belonged, or sell it to assist her older sister so that they could pay for the cure for Cybana?

     In the end, she returned it to the two Acaras and made two new friends as well.

     "Almost home," panted Kaunna, shaking her head roughly to clear her thoughts. It was painful to remember a time when they had had a mother. She gazed off into the distance and felt a pang in her heart as she saw an area where the land became rather hilly and the trees grew dense. It was a place she did her best to avoid; it was the place where their first home had been, when they had lived with their mother.

     She knew the old house was in shambles and was on the very edge of a small cliff, so it was not fit for living quarters any longer. It seemed that it had been so long ago that she and Sylannya and their mother had been living in their, sharing stories near the loose floorboard and eating ice-cold soup.

     "Kaunna, open door!"

     Syl's voice brought her out of her reverie and Kaunna gave a start. They were home, and Sylannya, whose arms were full (she had taken the bag from her sister) could only stuff the carrot unceremoniously back into the leathery bag before nudging her sister and nodding at the door.

     Kaunna held it open for her and, with one last look at the hilly area, she thought she saw a blur of blue -- a blue Acara? A beautiful blue Acara, like her mother? The image was so vivid, that she blinked and stared at the place where she'd seen her mum. But no. The wind picked up, the snow obscuring her view, and she retreated into their one-roomed house.

     * * * *

     A green Aisha adjusted the large-rimmed, red glasses perched on the bridge of her nose and smiled at the small pets grouped together, all nervously rereading what they had written. "Alright, class, who would like to share their paper next?"

     "Oh!" exclaimed a baby Uni, her hoof shooting into the air so fast it was a wonder that it didn't just keep on going and crash into the ceiling. Miss Keekers smiled; Cuni62 was always one of the first to volunteer.

     "Okay, Cuni," the Aisha said kindly. "Let's hear what you wrote."

     The baby Uni stood up at her desk, holding a sheet of paper in one hoof, and smoothed out the lined essay as all eyes turned to her. She cleared her throat and read, squinting because she had just learned to read and was not very good at it. She tried her hardest to pronounce the words properly, but she was distracted; as she read, flashbacks of what she had done the previous day intruded her thoughts.

     "What Christmas Means to Me," she said loudly and, her eyes focused on her paper, she began.

     "Christmas is a special time of year. Most people fink it is just about da pwesents, but I don't fink so. Most Neopians fink dat dey can go out and buy a gift, which dey can, but I know that there is a better gift than any pwesent you can buy at a store..."

     * * * *

     The previous day, Cuni had, along with thinking about Miss Keekers's assignment, wondered what she could possibly get her new friends, Kaunna and Sylannya, for Christmas. True, there was a lot that they could use, but she wanted to get them something special.

     What was there that she could give them, then? What was one thing they wanted most of all?

     Her heart sank. She knew that they missed their mother very much, after she had passed away one day and their life on the streets began. But how could she give them a present concerning their mother?

     * * * *

     "...I have two fwiends named Kaunna and Sylannya. Dey are very poor and don't have a wot of items. Even worse, dey lost deir Mum one day when she passed away. My family and I haff twied our best to help them all we can, but I just couldn't fink what I could do for dem about deir Mum..."

     * * * *

     What Cuni knew about her two friends was that they had once lived in an old house out in the hills with their mum. Perhaps this was a clue.

     So, after considering it all day during school hours, she told Xrai to let Courtney know that she was going to go and visit the two Acaras. She watched her siblings as they walked home from school down the snow-covered sidewalk and took off at a gallop down the Neopian streets.

     Would her plan work?

     When she found the old path of footprints that led to Kaunna and Syl's front door, she hurried off into the distance where a small forest was. She trudged, hoping Courtney wouldn't find out what she was up to, until she came to a small cliff and was cautious. The wind picked up and howled in her ears as she squinted. She knew her owner wouldn't really want her to be poking around an unstable house on the edge of a cliff, but she had to do it.

     * * * *

     "...So I would have to say that Christmas, to me, means a lot more than just haffing pwesents under da twee. Christmas means we can comfort each other when needed and be kind and thoughtful to each other, especially when someone doesn't have as much as you do and if dey haff lost someone in deir family..."

     * * * *

     The door was hanging off of its hinges, she recalled, and she stepped over it reluctantly. Inside of the house was not much warmer than the bitterness outside, but was without the constant snow in her face. She looked around and felt her sympathy rise. There were cracks in the walls, and there was absolutely nothing left in the old, run-down shack.

     "Aw, c'mon," Cuni whispered, glancing around. There had to be something...

     She trotted around and found a silver spoon. It was oddly bent and covered in filth. She let it pass and turned around to take a look at the other half of the room when she felt her hoof catch something and she let out a yelp that echoed throughout the small house, bouncing off the walls.

     "What's dis?"

     She bent low and squinted to see a loose floorboard. She freed her hoof and pulled at it -- it creaked loudly, but there was a space beneath it as the board finally gave away.

     * * * *

     "...This year, we'll celebwate Christmas wiff Kaunna and Syl and let dem know dat we're here for dem. We've gotten dem pwesents and the best fing we can do about their mother is to let them know dat we care about dem, too..."

     * * * *

     She reached in and, unsurprisingly, found nothing. Cuni felt her heart plummet and let out a breath, realizing she'd been holding it in. Disappointment washed over and she felt her hope leak out instantly.

     But wait... what was this? A crumpled piece of paper?

     It was yellowing, the writing was faded, but by the light of the bit of sunlight that was streaming in, Cuni squinted and read it...

     Tears leaked out of her eyes and she closed them so that the tears trickling down her cheeks. She had found what she was looking for, and knew it would help her friends.

     * * * *

     "...And, along with dat, I also found dem a wittle somefing dat I fink Kaunna and Syl would like for Christmas, dat will remind dem of deir mother. In da spirit of Christmas, I hope maybe deir mother will be here for dem, too. Fank you!"

     Cuni sat down and felt tears burning behind her eyelids as the class and Miss Keekers applauded wildly. In her pocket was the crumpled piece of paper, and in her mind, she reread it, the words, softly spoken, having a much greater impact on Cuni than anything she'd ever read...

     * * * *

     The days went by after Cuni read her paper. On Christmas Eve, Kaunna and Syl spent the night over on Guild Street at Cuni's house. Courtney was delighted to have them, and the two families had a great time laughing around the Christmas tree and wondering what Santa would bring the following day. When it came time for their departure, Cuni pulled Sylannya aside and gave her a tiny gift-wrapped box.

     "Open it tomorrow, on Christmas," Cuni advised the bewildered Royal Acara. "It's a pwesent from me... and... and someone else."

     The following morning, Syl showed the gift to her sister and the two slowly tore at the wrappings, which were decorated with tiny Raindorfs. Inside was a small box, and inside that was a gift greater than any other the two could ever get. Tears came to Kaunna's eyes as she read:

      Dear Kaunna and Syl,

     I am aware that my time is short, but I do hope that someday you will read this, once I have left. I want you to know that no matter what you choose to do with that Paint Brush -- I am proud of you... You are two clever, beautiful Acaras who are royalty no matter your paint job.

     Never give up. Perhaps, by the time you read this, your life -- our life -- will have turned around. Perhaps that special someone will bump into you one day and, though you are unaware of it, help you to create a better life.

     Remember what your grandmother said: "The Royal Paint Brush brings good fortune!" Do remember she was also a believer of such things and it may not be true. But, perhaps, the Royal Paint Brush will assist you in your quest for a better life.

     Love,

     Your proud mother

     Kaunna looked back on everything that had happened over the weeks, since that fateful day when they had met Cuni and, with tears in her eyes, flowing freely down her face, she realized that it was true: the Royal Paint Brush was lucky, after all.

The End

 
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