Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 119,635,638 Issue: 241 | 26th day of Hunting, Y8
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It's Not Worth It


by weaponstar

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Drano7463 opened one eye, and then shut it again as a wave of harsh sunlight flooded into the room. He began counting under his breath.

     "One… two… three… four…" There was muffled banging from the next room.

     "Five… six… seven…" A door burst open.

     "Eight…" And then slammed shut.

     "Nine…" Drano's bedroom door was flung violently open.

     "Ten."

     "Oh Brootheeeeer!"

     Sighing, Drano sat up in bed and squinted across the room at Stardust3974, his younger sister.

     "Morning," he said.

     "Morning to you too!" The red Usul bounced up and down on the threshold. "It is eight-oh-clock, you know."

     The red Draik rolled his eyes. "Soooo?"

     Stardust took a deep breath. Drano clamped his paws over his ears.

     "IT IS A GREAT DAY TODAY, BROTHER!" proclaimed the Usul as loudly as possible.

     "And why is…" Drano was cut off mid query as from below the following came:

     "CUT the noise, kids, per-LEASE!"

     "Sorry, Mum!" called Drano and Stardust in unison. Stardust giggled, then scurried out the room and down the stairs.

     "Hey, Sis, wait!" Drano hurried out the room after her. Then he hurried back in, yanked open the window and darted back out. There was a thump as he hit the floor at the bottom of the stairs, then all was quiet.

     A Yullie stirred in its bed as clean morning air drifted into the room.

 

Down in the kitchen…

     "So, Star," said Drano, as he took his porridge from the stove and sat down at the table, "what is so great about today?"

     "You should know," replied his sister, idly flicking through the Neopian Times.

     "But I don't, Dust, and I want you to tell me!"

     "You would like me to tell you?"

     "Yes!"

     "Okay then…" Stardust paused, sighed, and ate a mouthful of her breakfast before speaking. Drano fidgeted.

     "Well, Bro," began Stardust at last, "it is EXACTLY six weeks until your birthday." She giggled.

     Drano snorted in irritation. "But that's ages away!"

     "Uh, uh." The Usul shook her head.

     "Is."

     "Isn't."

     "Is."

     "Not to all those poor people who have to plan ahead for presents." Star nodded wisely. "It could take years for Mum to save up for whatever you want. What do you want anyway?"

     "I hadn't really thought about it," said Drano lightly.

     "Oh yeah?" Stardust raised her eyebrows.

     "No," admitted her brother.

     "What do you want then?"

     Drano shook his head. "Too expensive."

     Stardust pouted. "Have it your way then. Don't get what you really really want. Like I care."

     They finished their breakfast in silence. Drano went to feed his petpet. Stardust read a short article in the Times, and then retreated to the bathroom.

     At nine am sharp they met up again in the study, the boy's Yullie trailing at his heels and the girl cradling several plushie miniatures of herself.

     They seated themselves and waited for their mother to turn up and begin today's lesson. Drano thought impatiently of TNT's promise of a school.

     Soon their mother entered, smelling tantalisingly of the outdoors and the Swab Bushes. She selected some books from the nearest shelf, and then joined them on the seats.

     "To start off, we will do some maths," she announced.

     Drano groaned, but his sister hastily arranged the plushies on the seat beside her before leaning forward, attentive.

     At "break" time, Stardust grinned through a mouthful of Triple Carrot Sandwich and nudged Drano. He looked up from secreting his Yullie part of his Cheese Sandwich and raised his eyebrows quizzically.

     Their mother, who had been watching Drano's secretive movements for minutes now, also looked at his sister.

     Stardust chewed frantically, swallowed, and then said, "Erm, Bro, what did you say you wanted for your birthday?"

     "I didn't say," said Drano, cautiously. It was obvious what she was doing; she was bringing up the subject now just so that their mum would hear and perhaps make Drano say what it was he wanted but was keeping so quiet about.

     "You should say," said Stardust. "Why don't you?"

     "I told you! It is way too expensive."

     "Come on, Drano, we might as well hear it," said his mother.

     Drano lowered his sandwich in reach of the Yullie as it climbed on to his lap.

     "Honey, pets only need feeding two times a day," said his mother.

     "I know, I know. He likes cheese."

     "Hey, hey!" Stardust prodded her brother again, "Don't change the subject!"

     Drano sniffed. "Don't poke then."

     "Fine." The Usul folded her arms. "Spit it out. I'm not poking."

     "Kids, kids," their mother soothed.

     "Spit. It. Out."

     "Okay…" Drano paused. He took a breath and said in a rush, "What I'd REALLY like is a Royal Paint Brush."

     His family exchanged glances.

     "I know it's too much NP," added Drano, and looked down at his sandwich. The item was now devoid of cheese.

     "Well, it is a bit…" his mother ended the sentence half-finished.

     "That WOULD take years," commented Stardust, her eyes tracking the Yullie as it hid under Drano's chair.

     "Thought so," said he, pretending not to be bothered. If only Dust hadn't made him say! He wouldn't have been disappointed that way.

     There was a short silence.

     "Where's my petpet gone?" asked the Draik.

 

     Drano opened one eye, and then shut it again as a wave of harsh sunlight flooded into the room. He began counting under his breath.

     "One… two… three… four…" No muffled banging came to his hearing.

     "Five… six… seven…" He strained his ears. Nothing.

     "Eight…" Still nothing. He carried on just for the sake of it now, totally puzzled.

     "Nine…

     "Ten…"

     "Oh brootheeeeer!" screeched Stardust from the bottom of the stairs.

     The Draik leapt off the bed and careened out the room and along the corridor. He stopped at the top and peered down the dimly lit stairway.

     "Are you all right, Sis?" asked he.

     "Good morning to you two!" The Usul flicked her tail. "Of course I'm not all right. I'm even left-pawed; how can you think I'm ALL right?"

     "But are you?"

     "Yes, thank you."

     "Good. Move aside then, I'm coming down."

     Stardust didn't budge. "Window," she said imperiously.

     "Oh yeah." Drano trotted back to his room and dutifully opened his window.

     He hit the floor with a thud, and then hopped backwards onto the first step as his mother rushed by, looking for all the world as though she were about to go out. Out farther than the Swab Bushes, Drano corrected himself.

     "In a hurry, Mum?"

     "Just going to Central to pick up some groceries," she explained.

     "Which might take a while as the shop is always so full at this hour," added Stardust, sauntering into the corridor, also looking ready to take leave of the neohome.

     "Uh, okay," said Drano. So many habits being broken in one morning, he thought; Mum never goes shopping on a Friday. "And you're going too, Sis?" he asked.

     "Yes…" she paused as her brother raised his eyebrows in disbelief. "I'm only going because I want to nip in the toyshop."

     "What about lessons?" asked Drano, perplexed.

     "We'll shift them into the later hours," decided his mum. "Okay, Honey? We won't be TOO long."

     "Okay, that's fine." He grinned to cover his expression of bewilderment.

     "Let's go then!" squeaked Stardust. There was a rush of air, and then they were gone.

     Drano blinked, and scratched his head. Weird…

     A familiar thop, thop, thop, thop noise penetrated his thoughts. He turned to see his petpet laboriously descending from the first floor, thopping down onto each step.

     "Good show, Soldier," he said, "Work that cheese off."

     The Yullie paused half way and gave him a Look.

     Chuckling, Drano made his way to the kitchen and prepared himself some cereal. As he got the milk from the fridge, he noted the profusion of vegetables therein. He frowned, memories of when he used to play at being a detective drifting up from the bottom of his mind; it was a clue.

     Having devoured his breakfast in thoughtful silence, Drano fetched a Yellow Lined Notepad and a Blue Draik Pencil from his room and returned to the table, where the Yullie was thoroughly cleaning his bowl for him.

     The Draik removed it and the bowl from the tabletop, and then gave the mouse-like creature its own food. He then seated himself and placed the notepad on the wooden surface. The pencil-tip hovered in the air above it for a moment, before Drano wrote the following:

     CLUES

     1) Mum went shopping for groceries when there was none needed. Star went with her.

     He surveyed the kitchen meditatively. Everything was as it should be, as far as he could tell. Apart from behind the fridge door, though that was as it should be really. It was his mother that wasn't.

     "Time for an investigation, I think," announced he, "Will you help me track out clues, little cute petpet?"

     The little cute petpet Looked up at him.

     "You will? How I thank you for your generosity!" Drano pocketed his notepad and pencil, scooped up the reluctant Yullie and started a full-scale examination of the premises.

 

     Drano sat down on the lawn. His search had not revealed much, but there was one thing…

     2) Mum left in such a hurry she didn't water the potted plants.

     He did have a faint inkling at the back of his mind that would explain why they would pretend to be going shopping and in fact be going somewhere totally different, like to a Game…

     Drano suddenly scrambled to his feet, dislodging the petpet who had been spread-eagled across his lap. It looked up at him reproachfully.

     "Sorry," said Drano, picking it up and making for the house, "The plan now is, Cutey, that you stay here and cover for me, while I take a trip into town. You will do that for me, yes? Thank you!"

     After depositing the petpet on his bed, he broke into his sister's room and rummaged in the dressing-up chest, withdrawing eventually some pieces of clothing that were not pink or yellow. Then he made his exit, on the way grabbing an Apple from the kitchen and, along with his notepad and pencil, stowing them away in a large pocket.

     The double NP game this day was Pterattack, which, sadly, neither Stardust nor her Mum were very handy at. But they had a go, flying the little Pteri through the canyon and blasting down any monsters that tried to stand in their way.

     Later, as they left the Game, a mysterious watcher in a large coat and floppy hat heard the Usul say: "Well, 4304np isn't bad considering how many times you crashed into the wall."

     The other made a face and replied: "Cheeky. How many times did you get eaten by the big red monster exactly, Hon?"

     Stardust shrugged, "Who cares? Come on, let's get back before Bro starts wondering why we are being so long!"

     Drano turned and hurried along a series of shortcuts, suddenly concerned that he might not get home ahead of them.

     Drano had just replaced the disguise in Stardust's room when the front door banged open and the Usul charged in, followed at a more respectful speed by her mother.

     Drano went down to greet them, saying: "Hi, Mum, Sis. I noticed earlier we didn't actually need any veg; the fridge is full…" he glanced around at the lack of shopping bags, "Which maybe you remembered?"

     "Uh, no. Is it really full? Gosh, good thing we… er… "

     "Good thing the shop was shut," put in Stardust. "They were taking in a delivery," she added.

     "So why did you take so long?" asked Drano, faking a look of puzzlement.

     "The TOY SHOP was open!" Stardust said.

     "And you know how long a 'nip' is in there," agreed her mother.

     "And we popped to the National Neopian on the way home," said Stardust, now enjoying herself immensely.

     "You weren't worried, were you?" asked their mother, perhaps attempting to halt the Usul's embroidering before it got out of hand.

     "No, not really," Drano shook his head, "I DO know how long a "nip" is in the toy shop."

     "Good. Well, we better get on and do some lessons, hadn't we?"

     Drano rolled out of bed and landed with a loud thump on the floor, where he lay for some time, listening. There were kitchen noises coming from the kitchen, but apart from that the only sound in the whole house was that of his Yullie snoring.

     "…Eight… nine… ten…" counted the Draik. "Eleven? Twelve… thirteen… fourteen…"

     "Honeeeey! Breakfast!"

     Drano stood, opened the window, and then receded from the room with a very thoughtful and slightly amused expression on his dragonish features.

     As he entered the kitchen: "Where is Stardust?"

     "Out," replied his mother, "A friend came round earlier to inform her of The Last Smiley's appearance as the double NP game."

     "Ah." Drano sat down at the table. He was well aware of his sister's obsession with smiley "emoticons" and suchlike, and the day The Last Smiley had been released… well; she had been overly excited to say the least. As the Draik ate, he became aware that his mum was hovering, on the verge of saying something but not quite ready to.

     He looked up. "You okay?"

     "Yes, yes." She went over and inspected the Insect Eating House Plant.

     Drano shrugged to himself and returned to his food. Then he remembered something. "Oh, Mum?"

     "Yeah, Hon?"

     "Did you neomail Three-Legs to tell him I'd decided to practice with the sword today?"

     "Um, weeeeell…" She paused, and then said quickly, "I was actually thinking maybe you should take a break from training, kind of."

     "Uh," Drano raised his eyebrows and tried to think of something to say, "Uh… whyyyy?"

     "Well, you know, you practice every week and that is good and all, but I thought perhaps a break would help, you know, like you'd benefit from the rest and then you'd be really ready to do something difficult next time… or something. Would that be okay?"

     "I suppose," repeated Drano.

     "Don't look so downhearted! You'll still have a good day! You could go out and play with your friends, or play with your petpet, or…"

     "Yeah, I'll do that," said Drano, abruptly rising from the table and vanishing into the hall.

     As he arrived in the room, his Yullie wriggled its nose and looked at him.

     "I'm not really going to play with you," said Drano, tickling the petpet between the ears, "I must keep up training, whether on Krawk Island or elsewhere!" He reached under his bed and retrieved his second most prized possession: a Silver Draik Sword. The first most prized was of course his nameless Yullie.

     "Though," added he, a tinge of uncertainty in his voice, "Where 'elsewhere' might be I have not a clue."

     His gaze wandered idly about the room, eventually settling on the Yellow Lined Notepad that lay forgotten on his desk. A clue? He sat down at the desk and picked up his pencil.

     3) Mum didn't want me to go to the academy for training.

     "Because…" said Drano out loud. "Because what, Fluffball?"

     The Yullie blinked.

     "Because… Mum is saving up," said the Draik, "for?"

     The Yullie put its head on one side.

     "My birthday. For my birthday."

     The Yullie curled up and went back to sleep.

     "So," said Drano, disregarding his uninterested audience. "So she has to save the money she uses for my weekly dubloon. So she has to take regular trips to the Games. So who knows what else?

     "Though even with all that I don't see how she can save up for a Royal Paint Brush in only SIX WEEKS! What if she's saving for a less expensive paintbrush? What if I get all excited over a paintbrush-shaped parcel on my birthday and it turns out it isn't the one I wanted all my life?"

     Drano sighed and flopped onto his unmade bed. "If this, if that. I'm not as sure of the situation as I thought I was, Oh My Splurgey Little Petpet."

     The sleeping Yullie made no response.

     The next money-saving incident occurred that afternoon. Stardust was back home, and was engrossed with her plushie Usuls in her bedroom. Drano was in his room, reading Popular Draik Names, hoping to find that his name was one of the more unusual ones.

     His mother had knocked on his door.

     "Yeah?"

     "Hi, Hon," she had said, entering and holding up a cardboard box, "Stacy-next-door and her kids are selling the old toys in their front garden. And she said if I had anything I wanted to get rid of I could come round, use one of her tables as a stall and benefit from the crowd at her place. So the question is have you got any old stuff you never use any more?"

     Drano had gone back to his book when she had left, but soon he found he could not keep his thoughts off "the case". Though, seeing as he had practically solved it already, it wasn't a "case," as such, anymore.

     "So that was 'what else' she was going to do to save up," said the Draik to himself, inadvertently awakening his petpet.

     It looked over at him from where it lay on his bed.

     "I do hope she's not going to stop me going to The Academy for all the weeks leading up to you-know-when. What do you think, Fluffy?"

     The Yullie rolled onto its back like a dog.

     "YOU need a name, don't ya, Cheese Scoffer?" The reason it had never been given a name was because whatever Drano tried (be it "Mousy," "Cream Coat," "Daisy," or "Pig-like Gnawing Rats' Spawn") it just didn't answer to. It never paid any attention when called anything, other than giving the caller a Look. AND they didn't know whether it was male or female. Drano tended to refer to it as a "he," but visitors usually assumed the Yullie to be a "she" because of its brightly colored fur.

     The Yullie gazed up at him defiantly.

     "Don't you want a name?" asked Drano.

     The Yullie blinked.

     "Maybe I'm just not picking the right name," mused the Draik, "Maybe you do have one, but we just haven't thought of it yet. Is that it?"

     The Yullie blinked.

     Drano sighed. "This is useless. Back to work, I think." He picked up his pad and pencil and headed to his sister's room.

     When he knocked on the door…

     "Yes?"

     He entered, "Hello, Star, I was wondering if…"

     "I don't do interviews," said Stardust, backing out of her toy-cupboard and narrowing her eyes at him.

     "How did you know what I was going to ask you?"

     "'Hello, Star, I was wondering…!'" mimicked the Usul. "That's what you always used to say when you were being a detective!"

     "Oh."

     "'Oh' is right. Now be off." She dived back into the cupboard.

     "But…" began Drano.

     "'But…!'" interrupted Star, "NOTHING! Do you want me to call the police?"

     "Oh." Drano grinned. "You're playing along."

     "Finally, he catches on," muttered his sister, from the plushie-enveloped depths. "Now GO AWAY!"

     "Now, calm down, Miss," soothed the Draik. "No need to panic, it's only a few questions."

     "No."

     "Please, you do want me to get to the bottom of this, don't you? Just a little cooperation on your part could work wonders and…"

     "What do you need to know?" asked Stardust doubtfully, poking her head out.

     "Thank y…"

     "I haven't answered anything yet! Now get on with it before I change my mind!"

     Drano sighed inaudibly: Stardust, the ever-unwilling citizen who always seems to know some vital fact. "Well, Miss, if you could kindly tell me where you were this very morning at half past eight…"

     "I was playing The Last Smiley."

     "And where were you the morn before that?"

     "Nipping in the toyshop."

     "I see. May I ask if you purchased anything?"

     "You may. I didn't, however; I was after a Blue Xweetok Plushie, but the restockers made an amazingly fast dash as soon as it was put on the shelves."

     "Stardust?" said Drano, sitting down on the end of her bed.

     "Yes?"

     "This isn't going to be nice if you have to play games for more than enjoyment and I can't go to The Academy."

     His sister flopped out of the cupboard onto the floor. "I know."

     "What are we going to do?"

     "How do you mean? What can we do?"

     "I don't know, but it is just not worth it, all this sneaking off to the Games."

     "I know," repeated Stardust, "and it won't work. I made some rough calculations; we won't have enough NP in time."

     "How much would you have to make a day?" asked Drano.

     "Well, I didn't work it out that specific." Stardust ran over to her desk and grabbed her calculator. "Six weeks is forty-two days, and the Royal Paint Brush (this I got from some person who was selling one) is one million seven hundred and fifty thousand, which, divided by forty-two, is forty-one thousand six hundred and sixty-six."

     Drano whistled. "I TOLD you it was too expensive," said he, grinning.

     Stardust giggled. "So… so what do we… what do we do, Bro?" she asked, trying to control laughter.

     "I haven't yet a plan. But," said the Draik, "I will shortly." He settled down to think.

     The Yullie entered the room and scampered over to him.

     "Hello, Nameless," said Drano.

     Stardust shook her head. "Really, Brother, the poor petpet has no name."

     "I don't believe it wants one. Do you, My Little Yullie?"

     The Yullie pricked up its ears and looked at him; it ran round in circles on his lap a few times and then tried to lick his nose.

     "Aaah," crooned Drano.

     "Its name," said Stardust slowly, "is Yullie. Isn't it, Yullie?"

     The petpet suddenly bolted away from its owner and landed in Stardust's arms, squeaking.

     "Wow," said Drano, and paused. "You're right. Yullie the Yullie."

 

     Back in his room, Drano eyed his Yellow Lined Notebook. It now read:

     CLUES

     1) Mum went shopping for groceries when there was none needed. Star went with her.

     2) Mum left in such a hurry she didn't water the potted plants.

     3) Mum didn't want me to go to the academy for training

     4) Mum is joining in the garden sale.

     5) Miss Stardust has been interviewed and has admitted to her deeds.

     CASE SOLVED

     "But Determined-Mum problem is yet to be," murmured the Draik.

 

     Drano opened one eye, and then shut it again as a wave of harsh sunlight flooded into the room. He began counting under his breath.

     "One… two… three… four…" There was muffled banging from the next room.

     "Five… six… seven…" A door burst open.

     "Eight…" And then slammed shut.

     "Nine…" Drano's bedroom door was flung violently open.

     "Ten."

     "Oh Brootheeeeer!"

     "Yes!" Drano clenched his fists and grinned from ear to ear.

     "What?" Stardust looked at him quizzically.

     "You! Came! On! Time!" yelled the Draik, punching his pillow to emphasize each word.

     "Loony," muttered his sister, hastily retreating from the room.

     "Hah! That's all you know!"

 

     "Morning, Mum," said Drano, entering the kitchen at a dead run and skidding to a halt beside her.

     "Hi, Hon," she replied.

     He sat down at the table and cleared his throat.

     She looked up at him from the Neopian Times she had been reading.

     "Yes?" she said.

     "Erm. Look… um. You know… you're not going to do it on time?"

     She blinked.

     "I am very happy that you wanted to try," said Drano, "But me and Stardust did some calculations and, well… it is too soon."

     "Mm," said his mother.

     "So it's just, you know, not worth trying."

     "Mm," she said, "I was thinking about that last night."

     "You were?"

     "Yes. I was thinking, well… that, by next year, or Christmas or something… We might have enough neopoints. What do you think?"

     Drano grinned. "I think that is quite likely."

The End

I hope you liked my second short story, and any comments would be very welcome. Thank you.

 
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