Undisguised Devotion: Part One
Also by ch0c0lat3kik0
“Oh, come on, Kaylee! Aren’t you done with that head yet?”
The shadow Ruki called Kaylee looked up and glared at her little brother, a yellow Kyrii. “Adrian, you know this snowball has to be the perfect size or it’ll tip the whole thing over.” Kaylee continued molding the snow in her paws, adding or detracting from the shapeless mass as she deemed necessary.
“By the time you finish Mystery Island will have frozen over,” Adrian mumbled. He heaved an exaggerated sigh before throwing himself backward into the clean white powder that had fallen only just that morning. The tail of his warm navy scarf fluttered over his eyes, and he lay there for a moment examining the detail of its knitting. Kaylee had made it for him just in time for the first snowfall; sometimes he felt like he really didn’t give her enough credit. The Kyrii sat up and watched his sister shave off the last flakes of snow from the orb before holding it high above her head like a trophy.
“Finished!” Kaylee declared triumphantly. She strode over to Adrian and allowed him to examine her handiwork. The Kyrii shot his sister a lopsided grin.
“Perfectionist,” he snorted as he held a paw out to her. Kaylee laughed as she took it.
“Slob,” the Ruki retorted when she had pulled Adrian up. Snow clung to his fur, and as the sun’s rays peaked from behind a cloud he seemed to have an unearthly aura about him. The illusion was dispelled as Adrian shook himself from head to toe and flung snow in all directions. Kaylee threw up an arm and managed to shield her face from most of the onslaught. Afterwards she just rolled her eyes at her goofball of a brother, who shrugged in reply.
“Just wait, I want to add the finishing touches," Kaylee replied. She walked over to an old tree and found two small, gnarled branches; she could just barely reach them by standing on her tiptoes. The Ruki broke them both off and flakes of snow showered down, landing on top of her hat and coat. Ignoring the snowflakes clinging to her clothes, she walked back over to their creation and popped the branches onto the snowpet’s body, one on each side. She grinned satisfactorily, admiring her newly limbed creation.
"Like it? Now all it needs is a nose," she told her brother.
Adrian glanced from the snowpet to Kaylee, an amused twinkle in his eyes. "No offense, but it looks deformed."
"None taken, as you made most of it."
Adrian stuck his tongue out at Kaylee, then said, "C'mon, Kay, it's freezing. Let's go inside now.”
"You go, I'll be right there." She turned back to her work. Adrian looked on for a while, bemused, but eventually he just shrugged and traipsed inside their neohome without further question.
"Now, what can I use for a nose?" Kaylee muttered to herself. "Better hurry," she added, gazing at the sky. Sunlight had broken through the endless stretch of cloud. Its rays were weak, but if Kaylee didn’t pick up the pace her snowpet would melt before she’d even finished it.
"Kaylee! Come inside now, I have a surprise for you!” Kaylee wheeled around, recognizing her owner's voice coming from her neohome.
The Ruki shot one last questioning glance toward her creation. Deciding she’d find a suitable nose inside and return later, Kaylee followed the path Adrian had cleared through the snow to the back door. She stomped off her feet and brushed most of the snow from her long coat. The aroma of hot chocolate surprised her as she stepped into the house. Making her way into the living room Kaylee found her brother gulping down a steaming mug of the rich drink. She raised an eyebrow at him, and he lowered his mug just long enough to lick his lips and jab a thumb back towards the source of his prize. In the kitchen Kaylee found a tall girl with long auburn hair pouring two more drinks and setting them on a tray.
“Hey, Erin,” Kaylee piped as the girl picked up the tray and turned towards the door.
“Hey, Kay,” Erin smiled while handing her one of the mugs. She decided to leave the tray behind as she followed Kaylee into the living room.
“May I ask what the occasion is?” the Ruki inquired as she plopped down next to Adrian on the couch and took a sip of her drink. Erin sat down in the armchair opposite them with a look of mock annoyance.
“Just because we can’t buy Adrian a bag of dung for Christmas doesn’t mean we’re too poor to indulge every once in a while.”
Kaylee snorted into her mug and fought to suppress her giggles while Adrian’s face took on a rather indignant look.
“Excuse me, but I’ll have you know that battle dung is one of the most destructive forces known in the Battledome today,” he declared while cutting his eyes at the two girls, which simply caused them to laugh even harder. After the hysterics died down Kaylee posed her question again. Erin sat staring at the mug in her hands.
“Like I said, I have a surprise for you two,” she started slowly, “but there’s a bit of a catch.”
"A catch?" asked Kaylee, while Adrian watched them both, wearing a puzzled expression.
"Yeah, well, you know I collect avatars,” Erin said hesitantly. Kaylee and Adrian shot each other a glance, then nodded.
"Well, I have almost all of the Petpet avatars except Snicklebeast," Erin continued, "and since the holidays are coming up, I think it'd be really cool to have it. So I bought one." She paused and glanced at Kaylee and Adrian, who were suddenly grinning from ear to ear.
"Guys, meet Snowball, our new Snicklebeast!" she finished. As if on cue, out from behind Erin’s armchair tumbled a white bundle of fur. Kaylee's eyes lit up in delight. Adrian threw himself to the floor and in a matter of moments had the wide-eyed Snicklebeast plopped in his lap. Kaylee knelt in front of him and scratched playfully behind the petpet’s ears. The Snicklebeast seemed to have no problem adjusting to his new owners, and Kaylee voiced this observation aloud.
“He’s had a lot of owners,” Erin replied. “Guess he’s never really stayed in one place all that long—”
“But he’ll get to stay with us, right?” The question resonated through the air. Erin’s eyes immediately snapped to her youngest pet’s hopeful blue orbs. His ignorant gaze swept over her features, and the girl fought to keep her face neutral. She finally managed a weak smile, and immediately Adrian’s face lit up with one of his crooked smiles.
“Come on, Snowball!” he cried as he jumped to his feet and the petpet followed suit with equal enthusiasm. The two bounded out the back door with Kaylee in tow, but the Ruki hung back a second, wondering if what her brother believed was truth.
"Let’s go, Kaylee!" Adrian called impatiently from the backyard.
“Just a minute, Adrian," Kaylee said casually. She turned away from her brother and approached Erin, feeling surprisingly anxious. Erin had a strained expression on her face, and she stiffened as Kaylee walked up to her. Kaylee opened her mouth and asked the exact question Erin had dreaded: "Are we keeping him, Erin?"
Erin hesitated for a moment before replying. "No, Kaylee," Erin answered, staring at her knees. Kaylee bit her lower lip and turned away, head drooping.
She walked numbly toward Adrian and Snowball. Adrian was laughing and Snowball was running around him in circles, looking awfully happy. "Snowball is so fun!" Adrian told her breathlessly, having just chased Snowball around the yard. "And look, I think he likes you!" Snowball sniffed around Kaylee’s feet, eyes alight with curiosity.
“Um, yes," Kaylee muttered awkwardly, stepping away to avoid the Snicklebeast. She knew she couldn't let herself get too attached to Snowball. She had to spare herself that heartache; and her brother too, if she could manage it.
“What's wrong, Kay?" asked Adrian, eyeing her sister's grim expression. "You should be happy!"
“I... I dunno, Adrian,” she mumbled. The Ruki plopped down onto the back step and rested her chin in her paws. Adrian sat cross-legged in the snow and the Snicklebeast eagerly jumped in his lap. The Kyrii stroked his head and looked hard into his sister’s face.
“Kaylee, what is wrong?” Adrian repeated; his paw fell from Snowball’s furry head. The petpet eagerly prodded Adrian with his miniscule horns, hoping to regain the attention denied him. The Kyrii scooped Snowball into his arms, and now two questioning gazes were turned upon Kaylee. The Ruki’s neutral expression shattered with the realization of what her next few words could do. A petpet that would be forever his was the one thing Adrian had always wanted. He believed his dream had finally come true, and Kaylee was about to take that away from him. She buried her face in her paws and held back the urge to bolt into the house. How could she do this to her little brother? A swat to her antennae compelled Kaylee to look up. When she found that the culprit was none other than Snowball, she recoiled sharply. Kaylee immediately regretted her reaction; looking into Adrian’s face she could tell he was shocked. In all honesty, Kaylee was shocked herself.
“What is wrong with you?” Adrian asked again, though the question no longer held concern for his older sister. “Why don’t you like Snowball? He’s the nicest pet we’ve ever had, and all he wants to do is be friends with you!” Adrian was fed up and began to shout. “Come on, Kay! This is what I’ve always dreamed about, what we’ve always dreamed about! We finally have a pet we get to keep and y—”
“No, we don’t,” Kaylee whispered. Adrian quit screaming only because he knew his sister had said something he hadn’t heard.
“What did you say?” the Kyrii spat, still fuming. Kaylee attempted to swallow the growing lump in her throat. She couldn’t bear to look Adrian in the eye.
“I said... I said we don’t get to keep him.” Kaylee stared at her feet in the snow. She wanted to know how her brother was taking the news, to comfort him if she needed to, but Kaylee couldn’t lift her gaze to meet his. In fact, Adrian was in a state of shock. He couldn’t believe his sister’s words; they couldn’t be true. Snowball was his! Erin couldn’t take him away!
“No. You’re wrong. Erin said...” and that’s when Adrian realized that Erin hadn’t said anything about keeping Snowball. Not a word. Adrian couldn’t believe it. Then his sister finally looked at him, and Adrian realized the truth in her eyes. He stared down at the furry little bundle in his arms and two questioning orbs met his own. The Snicklebeast’s gaze seemed to snap Adrian out of his stupor, and he jumped up in a flurry of snow.
“NO!” he screamed, tears pricking his eyes. Kaylee stood warily and reached out to her little brother.
“No! She won’t take him! I won’t let her!” Adrian stumbled back a few steps clutching Snowball to his chest. He and Kaylee shared one agonizing look before the Kyrii turned and bolted for the forest just beyond their neohome. Half-blinded by tears Adrian failed to avoid plowing into their snowpet, reducing it to nothing more than a pile of slush and twigs. Sniffling, Adrian picked himself up, and together he and the petpet disappeared into the shelter of the trees and the quickly fading light.
To be continued...