It Must Be Love
“Mother, I still don’t understand when you say that love is the most powerful thing in Neopia. Love won’t buy you a slushie.”
“But if your owner doesn’t love you, she won’t buy you the slushie in the first place.”
“You’re missing the point!” The pet shakes his head and glares at his owner. “Love is immaterial. You can’t pick it up, hold it, see it!”
“Yes,” agrees the owner, her voice annoyingly tranquil and smooth. “But if you can’t just pick it up, you can’t just drop it. Once a bond of love is established, it’s almost impossible to break. That’s part of what makes it so powerful.” Her eyes peep out of the darkness and look simply, openly at the pet. “Look.” She pulls a One Neopoint Coin out of her pocket and holds it over the kitchen sink. “Look at me just throw money away.” She opens her fingers and the little red coin falls, landing with a clatter. “I can’t pick up the love I hold for you and just drop it down the sink.” Her eyes track slowly across the ceiling and land on her pet, daring him to make a comment, do something to prove her wrong. Gladly, he takes the dare.
“Ha!” shouts the pet, leaping up and looking into the sink. “The plug’s in! You weren’t really throwing it away at all! Look, Mum, I’m going to take you to a place that proves the greatness of cash - cold hard cash, over love, and then will you give the lectures a rest?” The pet is a Shadow Shoyru, male, very cynical and sarcastic.
“If it really does show the greatness of ‘cold hard cash’.” The owner is a teenage girl, very peaceful and quiet. Slim and very withdrawn into herself. She’ll argue about anything and will nearly always win.
“Alright. Let’s go.” The pet starts for the door.
They make a strange pair going through the Marketplace – pet dragging his owner by the hand, while she appears to be taking her time glancing into the shop windows.
“Here’s a point, Mum!” he shouts, as she lingers at a window proclaiming ‘Plushies! All Shapes and Sizes!’ “If you really loved me, you’d keep up and want to see what I have to show you.”
“I do love you,” she replies, blinking at him from under the hood of her jacket. “I’m looking for a good birthday present for you. Wouldn’t you like that?” She waves a gloved hand at a box with the words ‘The ultimate evil fuzzle collection! Contains 17 different fuzzles! Includes Striped, Royal, Spotted and Cloud!’ written in black, curvy script. The pet blushes, his guilt and embarrassment evident. After that, he walks at her pace.
“Ahhh,” she sighs a few minutes later. The high, windowless building of the Neopian Pound rises up in front of them. “Are you daring me to adopt somebody because it costs money?”
“No,” says the Shoyru. “Though that’s a good idea. We’ll just sit down and wait, and watch some Neopians disown their pets.”
“Ahhh,” says the girl again as they walk in. Her reputation as infallible in arguments is at stake. She raises her eyebrows until they threaten to leap off her face and she mentally rearranges her options. The human brain is that fastest computer in existence. In barely seconds she has predicted what are likely outcomes, written an argument for each, and an argument for his answer after that. The pet and owner sit down on some hard plastic chairs and wait.
“Adopt or disown?” asks Dr. Death of a tall, thin boy, perhaps a year or two younger than the girl. The Shoyru holds his breath, waiting for the inevitable ‘Disown’. He and his owner look at each other, their cool never wavering, just a strange, challenging stare breaking the space between them.
“Adopt!” says the boy excitedly. The Pink Uni leads the boy into a back room and the Shoyru looks at his owner.
“Well?” says she. “This boy wants to adopt a pet. He could create his own pet, even getting some Neopoints for it, but he is spending Neopoints to adopt a pet, because he has pity on the poor pets locked away in here.”
“And how do you think those pets got here in the first place?” asks the pet, but they both fall silent as the boy steps back in, holding a Baby Pteri.
“Is it, well, awake?” he asks.
“‘Course I’m awake!” comes a voice from the egg.
“How do I feed it?” says the boy, looking all over the egg.
“Trade secret. You put the food on my plate, go off to wash your hands and hey presto! When you come back it’s gone!” The egg laughs at his own joke.
“I love him! He’s brilliant!” The boy hands over some small stacks of Neopoints and walks out, cradling the egg in his arms.
“See?” says the girl. "He even said it - 'I love him'."
Her pet just groans and shakes his head.
“I’m bored. Let’s go to Faerieland.” She stands abruptly, slowly turning her pale, resolute face towards her pet.
“I don’t want to go to Faerieland.” The pet folds his arms across his black chest and looks at the girl. It’s another test of her love for him.
“Alright. Where do you want to go?” She raises her eyebrows at the pet. Dr. Death is looking from one to the other like watching a tennis relay as the arguments are – almost – served over the imaginary net between them.
“Tyrannia.” The pet doesn’t like Tyrannia that much, but his owner hates it more. It’s another dare. ‘Go on, I know you hate Tyrannia and you know that I know and I know that you know that I know. Come on, come on, come on...’
“Alright. We’ll go to Tyrannia.” A grimace twitches at the corner of her mouth as they walk back into the sunlight. She does hate Tyrannia. The smell of the earth, the dirt floating around in the air, the unpredictable and wild inhabitants.
Fifteen minutes later, pet and teenager stand on the edge of the Tyrannian Plateau. Spread out far below them, the lush green wilderness of the Tyrannian Jungle. All through the trip up, the pet was wondering and planning some new arguments. Now, looking at the spread of trees below, he delivers one.
“The only reason you agreed to come here is because of the free omelette.”
“Sometimes I get the feeling that you don’t like me.” Dodging the original comment of her pet. She can dodge so many questions. She looks down at him from her total height of five foot ten. He’s never felt that she was overly tall (even though for a fifteen-year-old she was) but he’s feeling it now.
“Not true,” he contradicts. “We only argue loads because it’s fun, right? Right?” He's not asking her now - he's asking himself. For the first time he wonders if he really doesn’t like her. She’s always been there – grey, no white love or black hatred, just grey.
“Maybe.” She smiles, as though she knows what he's thinking. “Maybe.”
“Hey,” he says slowly. “What’s that massive cloud down there?” He lies on his stomach and his arms dangle over the drop. A herd of Elephante stampeding to the West charge along the base of the cliff. “Yeah! Whooo!” he cheers, clapping his hands as the dust cloud rises.
“What’s that in their path?” asks the girl. She too lies down on her stomach, pointing at a space in the path of the Elephantes. It’s a girl about her own age, standing there too terrified to move. She closes her eyes and raises a forearm over her face. Suddenly a Faerie Pteri, a beautiful display of colour and light, zooms down from the sky, knocking the girl out of the way. It’s all over in a matter of seconds. If you’d blinked you would've missed it. They speak briefly and then hug, the girl sitting down and breathing deeply. The Pteri stays nearby, probably owner and pet.
“Did you see that?” asks the girl, grabbing her pet’s arm and helping him up as the Elephante dash past and round the corner. Human and Shoyru brush off specks of dirt. “No cash involved, no benefits of any kind, just knowing that you’ve saved your owner. That must be love. If that pet didn’t love her owner, she might not have dived so fast, so urgently. Or if she didn't love her, the Pteri might not have been looking for her owner in the first place! That must be love.” She looks at him, knowing she’s won.
“Yeah,” says the Shoyru quietly, looking down, tasting defeat. “It must be love.”
Thanks for reading! Hope you liked it!