Cleo winced as once again her pet, William, was defeated by the Pant Devil. She didn’t understand it. Will was equipped with the greatest things she could buy for him. If her older sisters--Marisa and Lillian--found out that her pet had lost again, they would mock her for the rest of the week.
She ran out on to the field as soon as the battle was over and revived the little Kougra with a potion. She smiled faintly at the determined look on his face. He looked at her as though he could fight another round. She scooped him up into her arms and walked off the arena.
She didn’t believe William had ever won a match.
“I’m telling you, Cleo, that time I had him into a corner. If he wasn’t such a coward and didn’t bring a potion to battle with him, I would have beaten him,” the little blue Kougra said, shaking his fist at the Pant Devil, who had begun another victory dance.
“I know, Will. I saw you out there. What a brave little solider you are. With your willpower, I’m sure you could have taken him a hundred times without ever getting discouraged. What a fighter,” she sighed, scratching behind his ears. The purring sound made her laugh.
They walked onward, away from the Battledome, and Cleo thought things over. William had been so distant with the world lately. He would spend time sitting beside her, yet never even notice what was going on. She had previously tried to approach him on it, but he deflected it, asking for a codestone so he could train, or something else along those lines.
As they were walking, they passed the smoothie shop. She was about to keep walking when she saw his tiny head turn and look at it longingly.
She smiled and whispered into his ear, “I bet a big solider like you wants a big smoothie, huh? Don’t worry; it’ll make me feel better, because I have to take you shopping to pick up stuff for Marisa and Lillian. I know, I know, shopping’s a drag for me too.” This was a lie. They both secretly liked it because they were able to spend time together and keep each other company. Cleo allowed her little solider to pick out the biggest thing he could hold and politely paid the man. They walked onward to the grooming shop.
Cleo could tell that Will had something to say. She decided she’d help get it off his chest by playing the “what if” game with him. “What if... you could have anything in the world you wanted? What would you get?”
“All the neopoints in the world! So we’d never have to worry about anything anymore.” Will had the biggest smile on his face as he listed off the things they could buy. Books, dubloons, food, paintbrushes. But even in the tiniest bit of materialism that that little Kougra possessed, he didn’t forget her. He knew she had a weakness for key rings, plushies, snow globes, furniture and faerie items. “What if... you could only do one thing for the rest of eternity? What would you do?”
“I’d spend it all with you. What if... you could only eat one thing for the rest of the week? What would it be?”
“Another smoothie.” They continued to play for quite some time, laughing at each other's answers.
Finally it came. The question she was waiting for. The thing that had been preying on William’s mind. “What if... I didn’t want to fight anymore?”
Cleo had to admit, this had caught her off guard, and it showed. “That would be just fine. If you didn’t want to, I’d support you. I only want you to be happy.” Cleo compared the prices between the dark blue blush and the black, waiting for his answer. He gave none, so she continued, in a rather unsure voice, “Do you want to stop?”
“No... do you want me to stop?” he asked, with equal hesitance.
“No!” She responded much too fast in an attempt to make up for talking so slowly before. “I mean, if you want to... I mean, it doesn’t matter to me... that is to say, it does matter to me, but it would be--” Cleo stopped suddenly and took in a deep breath. She thought over her words for a moment as William stared at her, waiting for an answer. She put both blushes into her cart, then leaned over so her face was level with William’s. “You see, Will, when you were first born, I made a promise to myself. I promised myself that I would try to make you happy. I vowed I would protect you with everything I had in me and more. I promised that I would help you excel at everything you attempted and that regardless of all circumstances you would always have a place to call home and lay your pretty little head. I promised that no matter what, I would be there for you, until the end of time, and then some. The second you opened your eyes I knew I wasn’t worthy of such a magnificent pet. You were the most devilishly handsome and precious thing I’d ever seen. I promised that you would be the most loved pet in all of Neopia. And I could only hope and pray that I would do all I could to keep my word.”
She kissed his forehead and stood upright again. She pushed the cart around to the next aisle in utter silence. She grabbed a bottle of shampoo and looked at it, wondering if it was worth it. She felt a slight tug at her pant leg, and glanced down immediately, hoping that nothing was wrong with her baby William. He stood there looking up at her with soft, solemn eyes. He moved a claw in a way that said come here. She leaned over again, wondering what could be troubling her little one.
“When I first saw you, Mommy, I made a promise to,” he said in a little voice, dripping of his youth. “I promised that to the fullest extent of my abilities I would try to make you happy. I promised that I would love you forever and defend you to the end of time. I knew from the first moment I saw you that you weren’t special. You were extraordinary. You were the most beautiful and fascinating thing I’d seen and I have yet to see anything that amazed me more. And that was why I made my promise.”
Cleo dropped the shampoo. It burst from the impact of hitting the ground and lay in a puddle of blue mess at their feet. Cleo knew how hard it would be to get it off her clothes, shoes, and his fur if she waited, but that didn’t matter. In that moment all that mattered was the little Kougra that she threw her arms around and hugged so protectively.
She whispered into his ear, so softly that he wasn’t even sure if his mind was playing tricks on him to make him feel better, “You’ve kept your promise.”
Just as she was about to stand, he hugged her and whispered back, “You too.”