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The Pant Devil's Desire


by schefflera

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Inspired by a strange conversation with Nimras23. Thanks!

"Are you completely out of your mind?"

     There was no answer. The Grundo Leader contemplated this. He couldn't shout, not when he was visiting the Dire Cloud (looking innocently pink and fluffy) where the more dangerous "prizes" from the Wheel of Excitement lurked and waited their turn.

     A gesture sent a couple of Money Tree ghosts to tug on the waistband of the Pant, but this had no apparent effect either.

     The Grundo Leader sighed, crossed his legs on the pink cloud that matched his unfortunate skin condition, and rapped the Pant Devil over the head with a Draik Transmogrification Potion he'd swiped from a (formerly) fervent Sloth supporter. It was the best of his haul for the day so far.

     (In fact, it was leading the month, though he had an eye on one careless user who had wandered off with an Aisha Myriad in his inventory; it was really too bad sneaking in and passing the disappearance off as "a glitch in the substance of Neopia's magic" was considered poor sportsmanship. At least by Glitch, a hard-working and often maligned red Pteri in Queen Fyora's service.)

     The blow didn't get the Pant Devil's attention, but the trail of howls, whines, threats, and bitter imprecations still clinging to the sinister little bottle did when it fell down around the approximate location of his ears.

     "Ow! Hey! Stop it." The Pant Devil glared, rubbing the top of his head, and then remembered himself and hastily returned his gaze to the young human and her four Neopets loitering around the line for the Wheel of Excitement. "What was that for?"

     The Grundo Leader shrugged his wings, taking this divided attention philosophically. At least it was an improvement over the previous total oblivion. "You weren't listening. As I said, are you completely out of your mind?"

     "Is this about my wardrobe choices again? Because I honestly don't think you have much room to talk."

     The Grundo Leader looked down at himself, briefly distracted. "What are you talking about? I don't even wear clothes."

     "Exactly my point. That and the Peophin Nail Polish."

     The Grundo Leader sighed and wiggled all four of his toes, regarding them glumly. "The color's natural." They were a very pretty, Air Faerie-like eggshell blue. Despite the red eyes, bone-and-leathery wings, menacing musculature, and theft skills, the Grundo Leader strongly suspected that his pastel complexion was interfering with his ability to be taken seriously as a threat.

     "Huh." The Pant Devil eyed the toes. Briefly. "Maybe you should try painting them after all."

     "You are avoiding the point. You're obsessing over that... that... owner."

     "I am not! She's my next mark."

     "She might actually win something, you know."

     "Nope."

     "Or the Lava Ghoul might get her."

     "Nope."

     "Or she might spin a disease. What's the current one, anyway? I ought to be sure to pick up a few cures."

     "Nope. Oh, uh... Chickaroo, I think."

     "Why are you so sure--" the Grundo Leader began, and then broke off as the Pant Devil suddenly zipped down, faster than the average eye could follow. The Grundo Leader leaned down over the edge of the cloud, relying on his natural camouflage to blend with it. After several long, puzzled seconds he caught a glimpse of deep blue pants right at the back of the Wheel of Excitement.

     For some reason, he had a bad feeling about this.

     The object of the Pant Devil's obsession... or, as the Pant Devil himself insisted on calling her, his next mark, but the Grundo Leader resisted this because she would also be the next, the next, and the next, and probably the next one after that until the Pant Devil recovered his senses or she took the necessary steps to shake him off...

     The Grundo Leader shook off this semantic confusion, himself, and compromised on "the Pant Devil's current target."

     The Pant Devil's current target approached the Wheel of Excitement and paid her fee.

     The Light Faeries in charge of the Wheel reached up and gave it a vigorous spin.

     As the bright blur slowed, the Grundo Leader watched, worried... and yet, despite himself, intrigued.

     The Pant Devil reached a finger surreptitiously upward.

     The Wheel slowed further.

     The Grundo Leader realized that the prize designations and the probabilistic weights were both visible from the rear of the wheel.

     The Wheel slowed further still....

     During what should probably have been the third or fourth turn from the end, at a time when the Wheel was moving slowly enough to look as if it might stop and yet not quite slowly enough that it might stop before he could intervene, the Pant Devil's raised finger jabbed hard against the back of his own panel.

     The Grundo Leader winced. The Wheel still had enough momentum that he was sure this had to be painful. The Pant Devil's finger bent sideways in a distinctly alarming fashion, and the mischievous grin fixed itself into a grimace as the spot dragged on sideways, just past the top of the Wheel.

     But then the Wheel stopped... hung... and rocked back, and the Pant Devil pounced on the girl with a wild cackle of glee and stole...

     The Grundo Leader squinted...

     ...A plate of Herbal Scrambled Eggs. Well, of course. Chickaroo. He blinked as the Pant Devil zipped into a blur and then near-invisibility; after less than a second, a gleeful cackle came from right beside him, and there was the Pant Devil, grinning over the medicine and his sprained finger. "I got her!"

     "So you did--"

     The girl howled in frustration. "Oh, come ON! That's the eighth time today, and that's just HERE! Never mind shopping! Never mind on the way to the Kadoatery! Never mind--"

     "Yeah, never mind!" said the next human in line. "Maybe you should quit spinning the Wheel of Excitement if your luck's that bad, and give the rest of us a turn. Or clean out your inventory so it's not full of stuff you're afraid to lose."

     "I've got lots of junk in it, but I need to use some things instead of keeping them in my Safety Dep...." The target trailed off into a sigh upon realizing just how little interest the others had in the details of her plight. She backed away from the Wheel of Excitement, and an Eyrie corralled her before she could fall over the edge of the cloud.

     The owner who'd gone after her in line groaned and headed for the Healing Springs while his Koi made clucking noises and tried to peck and claw at the cloud.

     The target girl sighed and started back down toward sea-level Neopia.

     The Pant Devil zipped off again.

     Too late, the Grundo Leader started to ask, "What are you doing?" Then he muttered, "Why do I bother? By the time I ask what he's doing, he's already too busy doing it to hear me."

     Below, the girl stopped in surprise as a random event popped up, offering her (the Grundo Leader's eyes popped nearly as much as hers) a Purple Paint Brush.

     The Pant Devil sneaked away, shedding his Jacko the Phantom Painter disguise and peeked back down over the sun-gilded edge of the pink Dire Cloud, mixing a gloating cackle with a wistfully happy sigh.

     The Grundo Leader stared at him. "You just gave her that."

     "Yeah."

     "Didn't you steal it from her yesterday?"

     "Yeah...." Another longing sigh.

     The Grundo Leader heaved a sigh of his own. This was going too far. "You know, you've got to stop obsessing over humans."

     "I am not obsessing." The Pant Devil hesitated. "Well... only a little."

     "What is it about her that's got you so worked up? Appearance? Talents? Inventory?"

     The Pant Devil shook his head vigorously, causing the Pant he wore to dance. "She's fascinating in her own right. I want her to be my... my friend."

     "Come on. You know what you really want."

     "I beg your pardon!"

     Impatient with the Pant Devil's indignation, the Grundo Leader shook his head. "You do know. We both do. Just take it from her, why don't you!"

     "That's not it," the Pant Devil protested. "That's not it at all!"

     But the Grundo Leader thought he detected a hint of half-heartedness in the tone, and he pressed his advantage. "Come on, lad. Think!"

     "This from a Grundo," the Pant Devil grumbled.

     The Grundo Leader gave him a stern look. "Do we have to take out our stats and compare them? I've read as many of the books I've stolen as you."

     "All right, I'm sorry. That was uncalled for."

     "Thank you. Now. When did you first start noticing this... human?"

     "Four days ago, at 11 NST."

     "And what was the first thing you took from her?"

     "A Breadfish."

     The Grundo Leader nodded solemnly. "And where did she get that Breadfish?"

     "Fishing with her foster pet, in the ruins of Old Maraqua."

     "How long had she had it?"

     The Pant Devil squirmed a little, but he answered, "Oh... just a few minutes...."

     "What else did she catch when she went fishing that day? With her more experienced Neopets?"

     "That doesn't matter!"

     "Answer me, old pal. This is for your own good."

     The Pant Devil slumped under his Pant, hanging his head in defeat. The words came out soft and low, but to the Grundo Leader, they were a great relief. "A Pant Devil Attractor."

     Ten minutes later, the item had been stolen. Forty minutes after that, with its Attraction temporarily neutralized, it had been sunk deep in the sea.

     The Grundo Leader flew off to his collections again, his friend's sanity reassuringly restored.

     At least until the next catch.

The End

 
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