Hunting for a Petpet
“So, you want a petpet now?” Steel said to Jaeger with a smirk.
Jaeger gave a lopsided grin at his human owner. The young green Lupe was tall and muscular, and wore a lucky bone necklace around his thick neck. He was wearing ragged cut-off shorts and stood as a biped most of the time, but would quickly resort to four legs if he needed extra speed or stealth. This was the first time he had seen his owner in several months. Steel had been gone, away from Neopia, and today was his first visit back.
“Come on, you’ve been away for ages, leaving me to fend for myself. A petpet is the least you could do,” the big young Lupe reasoned. “I’ve been living all on my own on Terror Mountain for the last six months. If you end up leaving again, I’ll at least need some little critter to keep me company.”
“Yeah, okay, I see where you’re coming from.” Steel gave in.
They were standing in a small park in Neopia Central. As Steel gave a good hard look at his pet, he noticed several differences. When he had left six months ago, Jaeger was an energetic pup in a big, gawky body. Today he was an independent, fierce-looking young adult. Steel began to wonder if maybe his Lupe had changed from a social butterfly to a solemn recluse in his absence. He almost shuddered at the thought. Maybe a petpet would be a good way to bring him out of his shell. Steel continued to examine the Neopet, looking for any similarities to before he left. At least Jaeger still appeared to be clean and relatively polite.
“Have you been playing... err, hanging out with anyone while I’ve been gone?” Steel asked.
“Yeah, I did some stuff with Looney. Chia hunting, mainly, and a few other things too. I haven’t seen him in over a month, though. I’ve just been up in the Ice Caves until I got the message that you came back,” Jaeger replied.
Looney was a Lupe that belonged to harpyeagletimberwolf, otherwise known as Mo, Steel’s cousin. Looney’s legal name was Lunikar555, and although fire in color, he had a far-from-fiery disposition. He acquired the nickname “Looney” from having a zany personality.
“So,” Jaeger broke the silence, “how about giving me some neopoints to buy a petpet?”
“How about you go pick one out and let me know when you’ve found one?” was the quick reply from Steel, who wasn’t eager to hand out his money to a changed Lupe he hadn’t seen in months. “I’ve got some business to take care of, anyway.”
Jaeger gave a small, uncaring shrug.
The two went their separate ways. Jaeger went to the Neopia Central market, looking for petpets. He had a few varieties in mind, but otherwise had a pretty open mind. He walked through several stores, looking at many petpets. Some just didn’t appeal to him, and others had a certain snootiness to them that made them turn down their nose at seeing Jaeger. Jaeger knew he didn’t live a life of ease. He didn’t have a Neohome, so he had to made makeshift homes out of places like the Ice Caves. He ate a steady diet of omelettes and jelly, and he didn’t have the neopoints to buy a luxurious petpet bed or litter box. Any petpet of his would have to be rugged and tough with a no-complain attitude.
One store in particular had some petpets that grabbed Jaeger’s attention. There were some he just hadn’t seen before, and others were rare varieties from Shenkuu. Jaeger looked at a Peo swimming around in a glass bowl. The aquatic petpet took a look at him and let out a disdainful snorting sound in a spray of bubbles. Shaking his head, Jaeger walked over to a cage containing a fiery Vaeolus and a wise-looking Yackito. The bird-like creatures were intriguing, and the Vaeolus in particular held Jaeger’s attention. It had a fierce hunter expression, as well as keen eyes and sharp ears.
“Hey fella, you could probably be taught to hunt Chias, hey?” Jaeger tried to get its interest, but the Vaeolus had its mind on other things. It wouldn’t look at Jaeger long enough to form any sort of bond. Eventually the green Lupe just walked away.
Jaeger stepped into a pen with several different species of petpets in it. One walked up to Jaeger as soon as he stepped in. It was a bizarre, stout little lizard-like creature with a distinctive overbite. It was called a Gumblesh. Jaeger cocked his head, looking down at it. It looked back up at him through big, gangly blue eyes. Then all of a sudden, it flashed out with its short arms and pulled down Jaeger’s shorts.
All eyes in the store turned to Jaeger, humans and pets alike. Jaeger’s face burned under his green fur. He quickly bent over and pulled up his shorts, tightening the rope he had been using for a belt. He let out an embarrassed laugh and shrug to the others in the store, causing them to turn away and continue on with their business.
Jaeger squatted down quickly, giving the Gumblesh an extremely stern look.
“You’re Skeith fodder, you know that? You know that?” Jaeger whispered in a harsh tone, waving his finger dramatically. “Watch your back.”
An Antwerph suddenly stuck out its long tongue and licked a dark button on Jaeger’s shorts, mistaking it for a petpetpet. Jaeger whizzed around to see the creature, wondering if it would possibly make a good companion for him. The furry, long-nosed petpet only glanced at him briefly before continuing its search for petpetpets to lap up. Jaeger shook his head.
Then he received a small poke in the back of his leg. He turned around to see a furry fox-like petpet called a Juma. Overcome by its adorable appearance, Jaeger reached out and began petting it and ruffling its very soft coat. Delighted to receive the attention, the Juma bounced around, incredibly light on its feet, and snatched a small squeaker toy to get Jaeger to play.
“You’re just too great.” Jaeger laughed. He quickly stopped, though. He didn’t want to get too attached to the cute little critter until he knew it was within his price range.
“Excuse me, miss?” he said to the shopkeeper, an Emo Usul. The shopkeeper quickly came towards him.
“How much is this Juma?” he asked.
The shopkeeper’s wide eyes, heavy with makeup, didn’t blink as she thought it over. “Jumas are 88,888 neopoints.”
“Excuse me while I pick my jaw up from off the floor,” Jaeger responded after a silence. “Do you have any other petpets that are cheaper? It’s just that the Juma is the only one here I really like, and it’s far too expensive for me to afford.”
“Well...” the shopkeeper hesitated. “There is a new arrival from Geraptiku that we’re letting go for 4000 neopoints.”
“That’s more in my price range,” Jaeger said, his interest perked. “Can I see it?”
“Sure. Right this way, please,” the Emo Usul said, her expression very worried. She led Jaeger to a back room and pointed to a heavy cage that shook and clanged as they got close.
“He has a bit of a temperament problem that we can’t seem to break him of.” The shopkeeper spoke loudly over the racket that the shaking cage was making.
“Only a little,” Jaeger replied sarcastically as he watched the cage rattle and hiss. Yet despite the total tantrum that the petpet was throwing, Jaeger had a hard time believing it was just a temperament problem. He had spent a lot of time in Geraptiku with Steel and had come to see it as one of his favorite places. Thus, he had accumulated a lot of experience with creatures from the abandoned jungle city.
Jaeger slowly walked up to the cage and began taking apart the lock. The shopkeeper behind him quickly admonished him not to do so, but it was too late. He opened the door to the cage, and a snake-like petpet latched onto his large paw with its little vice jaws.
Jaeger winced and immediately pinched the sides of its mouth to make it let go. Right away, the creature tried to strike him again, and he and the Quetzal wrestled for some time in a rush of adrenaline. It was amazingly strong, tough, and fast, and it took a minute until Jaeger could finally grip it in a way that it could not escape or bite him again. He held it carefully, examining its bright red, orange, and yellow body.
Then Jaeger saw it. Right near the end of the Quetzal’s tail, a small tip of a splinter was poking out. Jaeger carefully adjusted his grip so as to pull out the splinter. He gripped the tip in his paw and yanked out a very long, sharp piece of wood. Instantly, the Quetzal stopped struggling.
The shopkeeper watched in amazement as the petpet slithered up Jaeger’s furry body and looked him in the face. The ends of its mouth curved upwards in a smile, and then it licked Jaeger on the snout with its forked tongue. Its large blue feathers on its head ruffled contentedly. Jaeger gave a wide grin, being perhaps the first genuine grin he had grinned in several months. He felt an inner bond with the creature, and he knew it was what he had been looking for.
“I’ll buy this Quetzal,” Jaeger told the stunned shopkeeper. “But I have to get my owner in order to pay for it. Can you hold him here for me?”
“Sure,” was the Emo Usul’s short response.
Jaeger didn’t waste any time. He ran out the store in search of his owner, and found Steel catching Slorgs at the Shop of Offers.
“Alright, I know you have neopoints, little Slorg...” Steel muttered as he readied himself to strike at a small, cornered Slorg.
“Steel!” Jaeger interrupted, causing Steel to look the other direction while the Slorg easily made its escape.
“Aww, Jaeger, you let him go!” Steel exclaimed angrily. “Couldn’t you have waited a second longer? I had him! That’s what gets me; I had him!”
“Yeah, of course you did,” Jaeger said sceptically. “Anyway, I have something important to tell you. I found a petpet that I want.”
“Really? What kind?” Steel inquired.
“He’s a Quetzal. I have the shopkeeper holding him for me,” Jaeger explained.
“A Quetzal? That’s great! I was thinking something from Geraptiku would be good. They’re awfully tough little guys,” Steel commented.
“Let’s go now. I didn’t like the look of that Emo Usul. Now that the little creature hasn’t bitten anyone, I wouldn’t doubt she’s going to try to sell it to someone else,” Jaeger said, jogging forward.
“Bitten?” Steel yelled after his running Lupe. “What do you mean?” Steel ran after Jaeger, the look of glee on his face now transformed into a look of worry.
The two of them reached the store, with Jaeger only slightly winded and Steel gasping for breath. Jaeger walked confidently up to the shopkeeper.
“I’ll take the Quetzal now,” he said. “Here’s your 4000 neopoints.”
The Emo pet just stared at Jaeger without any emotion.
“Now that he’s no longer vicious, the Quetzal is now 5500 neopoints,” came the shopkeeper’s response.
Jaeger’s eyebrows furrowed in a look of anger. Steel watched with dread as his Lupe pulled a long dagger out of its sheath on his belt and held it at ready.
“I was the one who helped that neglected petpet,” Jaeger said through clenched teeth, holding the dagger dangerously close to the Usul’s body. “If it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t be able to sell that Quetzal to anyone for 500 NP. Now, we agreed at 4000 NP, and that’s what I’ll give you. Understand?”
The stunned Usul gave a quick nod, and Jaeger slipped his dagger back into its sheath, handing over a bag of neopoints to the shopkeeper. The tall green Lupe then looked around the shop. He had gained the attention of every single customer. It wasn’t the first time he had made a spectacle of himself in this shop.
“Just taking care of business, folks; it’s not a robbery. Have a good one,” Jaeger said loudly to the others in the shop, feeling just a little embarrassed.
The Quetzal was let out of its cage, and it quickly slithered up to Jaeger and climbed up his body, perching itself on Jaeger’s shoulders. It remembered him as the one that removed its splinter and ended its pain in the cold, steel cage. The three of them then walked out of the store, without a single word from Steel.
“So, do you want to explain your behavior in there?” Steel asked as they came to a secluded park.
“Sure. The shopkeeper tried to pull a fast one on me by raising the price of the Quetzal after we had agreed on a set price. I just had to correct her, and let her know that that wasn’t a very nice way to treat customers.” Jaeger looked at his owner with a mischievous half-smile.
Steel couldn’t really argue with his Lupe. Although Jaeger was his only pet, he had previously owned Lupes in his other accounts. He remembered well his adventures with Harpy, Shadow, Brazen Ice, and Jeger Quaid. He had a mind much like all of his Lupes he had in the past, and he knew what made the majority of true Lupes tick. That Usul had to be corrected. As Steel thought about it, though, he also remembered all the dangerous experiences his former Lupes had dragged him through.
“Jaeger, you do realize that acting that way will get you into trouble, don’t you?” Steel asked with a sigh.
“Of course. But I’m not going to let a little trouble stop me from doing the right thing,” Jaeger replied.
Steel knew that to the majority of Neopians, holding a shopkeeper at dagger-point would hardly be considered “the right thing”. But all the same, he appreciated his Lupe’s attitude.
The Quetzal came down from Jaeger’s shoulders and over to Steel, making a point that he would not be ignored. He looked up at the human through inquisitive, bright eyes. The little creature was fearless and curious.
“Jaeger, what did you say earlier about this Quetzel biting?” Steel asked a little nervously as the Quetzal approached him.
“Oh, well, the ignorant guys that took him from Geraptiku were obviously too rough in capturing him, and he ended up getting a huge splinter stuck in his body. Obviously, because he was in pain, he became vicious to anyone who came near him. So they locked him up in a cage and kept him in the back room of the shop, saying that he had a ‘temperament problem’. But I knew that it couldn’t have been that. There had to be something deeper that was troubling the little guy. So I opened the cage, and he bit me, and I had to struggle quite a bit with him until I noticed the splinter. Anyway, after the splinter was out, he completely calmed down and hasn’t bit anyone since,” Jaeger explained.
“Heh heh...” Steel said nervously as the snake-like critter climbed around on his body, finally stopping to look him in the face with ruffled head feathers. With a small smile, the Quetzal flicked its forked tongue, carefully observing the human. Steel ended up melting at the petpet’s adorable expression and scratched its feathered head with his hand.
“So what are you going to name him?” Steel asked, now smiling.
“I think I’ll call him Kar,” Jaeger replied, watching his new Quetzal.
“What do you think of that, Kar?” Steel asked the Quetzal who was still staring him in the face. Kar responded by licking Steel’s chin with his slender tongue.
“You know, I think you did a good job, Jaeger. Kar is great,” Steel said, lifting up the Quetzal’s body and setting him on the ground. “And you’ve definitely got a loyalty thing going on with him. It doesn’t look like he’s the type to run away as soon as he gets the chance.”
Kar climbed back up Jaeger and began to bat the Lupe’s lucky bone necklace around with his head. Jaeger laughed, and then turned back to Steel.
“You know, now that you’re back in Neopia, we might as well live together again. I mean, I can move away from the Ice Caves and we could go somewhere you like,” Jaeger said with some difficulty.
Steel gave his Lupe a big smile. He was very happy that he now had his Lupe back. His worries that Jaeger had become a recluse and a criminal had now faded. He saw that Jaeger had just become like all of his Lupes in the past in that he wasn’t content with injustice and boring routine. Steel knew that life with his Lupe and new Quetzal was going to be one big adventure, and he didn’t have a problem with that.