The moment Jaileen opened the door to her Neohome, she knew something was wrong. Usually at this time of the day, her owner would be messing around in the kitchen (and creating many questionable smells), while Mrushoo would be throwing one of his many mutilated plushies around the living room, dining room, entrance hall, study, or anywhere other than his own room. But today, there was suspicious silence. Pure peace. A questionable quiet.
Jaileen carefully twitched her short green ears back and forth until she finally heard what she had been listening for. There it was- a muffled sound, coming from the living room. Muffled, but still audible. Jaileen shook her head and walked into the house, closing the door behind her and dropping her Hasee Backpack on the floor.
At precisely that second, a loud (and quite obnoxious) shriek rang through the house, closely followed by a series of oscillating wails. Jaileen rolled her eyes and jogged off towards the living room, which was a few rooms away due to the suspicious lack of hallways in the house. So she passed through the playroom and study, reached the doorway that led into the living room, and saw exactly what she had expected to see.
A teenage boy and a baby Moehog were both sitting on the floor, absorbed in their current tasks. The Moehog was bawling at the top of his lungs (thus creating the unseemly noise she was currently hearing) and beating at the carpet with his hooves, while the human was muttering darkly under his breath and holding his right hand gingerly. Jaileen shot the Moehog a tired glance before turning to the human.
“Let me guess, Jisc- he bit you,” she said, the tone of her voice sounding barely interested. Jisc was her owner. His real name was James_is_so_coo1, but that was too much of a mouthful, so the family had officially shortened it to Jisc. He had gotten used to it with time.
“He did, the little bugger!” Jisc held up his hand as proof- indeed, there was a tooth-shaped indent in his palm. “I was just trying to get him to be quiet, too!”
“There are better ways of doing that than clapping your hand over his mouth,” Jaileen drawled.
“Whatever. You’re a girl, make him stop!”
Jaileen could have pointed out that being female really had nothing to do with her amazing skill of calming banshee babies, but Mrushoo choose that moment to scream even louder, though it hadn’t seemed possible for him to do so before. So Jaileen was forced to carefully edge towards her baby brother and awkwardly pat his back with a green, webbed hand.
“It’s okay, Mru. Jai-Jai is here. Can you tell her what’s the matter?”
Jaileen could still fondly remember the days when she hadn’t needed to use baby-talk on Mrushoo. He was actually only a few months younger than herself, but ever since he had been zapped by Boochi, he’d acted like a true, defenseless, and exasperating baby.
“It’s- it’s tewwible!” Mrushoo sobbed out, beating on the floor with his hooves even harder now. “Snawkie is gawn!”
Jaileen blinked. Normally, she would have supposed that that meant that Snarkie had run away. However, at her home, Snarkie was Mrushoo’s Petpet- a Rock. An Island Rock, to be exact. Jisc had, about a month or two ago, let Mrushoo zap his Warf with the Petpet Lab Ray as a joke. Snarkie had been the result.
“It’s okay, Mru,” she murmured consolingly, trying to figure this mystery out. “I’m sure Snarkie will be back.”
“He won’! He got- he got eaten!”
Jaileen slowly blinked. Then she blinked a bit more quickly. Trying to get some control over herself, she turned to her owner. She didn’t want to have to blink yet again, as the events following a triplet of blinks were usually dire. “Jisc. Explain.”
“It’s really actually funny,” Jisc mumbled, still rubbing his hand. He refused to meet her eyes. “We were over in Meridell, and I wanted to see if Snarkie could be useful. So I convinced Mrushoo to let the Rock tap dance for the Turmaculus.” He paused ominously. “It seems that Snarkie wasn’t a good dancer, ‘cause Turmy woke up, and, well... you see what happened.”
Jaileen stared at Jisc in disbelief.
“But I got a new avatar!” Jisc continued, brightening up.
Jaileen rolled her eyes. “You are so insensitive,” she informed her owner stonily. “Look at poor Mru! He’s heartbroken.”
“We-ell... I suppose I could get him a new Petpet,” Jisc said thoughtfully after a moment. “Do you think he’d mind an Abominable Snowball?”
Mrushoo wailed even louder, covering up the sound of the front door opening. But he wasn’t quite loud enough to muffle the next sound that was made.
Jaileen shook her head wearily. Little brother #2 was back, apparently. Leaving a screaming Mrushoo on the floor, she waddled over to the doorway and stuck her head out into the study, which led to the playroom, which led to the entrance hall. “We’re all in here, Tralper!”
Tralper was the youngest pet in the house, well under a year old where the rest of them were over two. As soon as Jisc had heard of the wonderful new Neopets called Ogrins, he had just about insisted on adopting one. Of course, that had resulted in a two-week-long period during which Jaileen and Mrushoo were dragged throughout the halls of the pound by their owner as he searched for the perfect pet. Finally, early one Saturday morning, they ran across a yellow Ogrin whose name was Tralper. Jisc talked to him for a few minutes, and then decided to bring him into the family. It might have been simpler if Jisc had just created on Ogrin, but he was against creating when one could adopt. And Jaileen couldn’t say that she was sorry- that was how he’d become her owner, after all.
Tralper stumbled through the entrance hall and into the playroom, his ears flopping around. He still had Screecher, his Angelpuss, attached to her leash, and was dragging her behind him. Screecher was living up to her name- she was screeching her protests almost as loudly as Mrushoo. Almost.
“Hey, Jaileen!” Tralper’s grin was so infectious that, if the situation hadn’t been so grim, Jaileen would have smiled in return. “Screecher and I had the awesomest walk back from school today! Right, Screecher? We saw someone’s Puppyblew running around, an’ Screecher tried to chase it, an’ I think we saw the Pant Devil but it ran away when Screecher tried to claw at it an’ I think it was really just that Usul who lives next door ‘cause it had brown legs, an’ I found a bag on the sidewalk that had ten Neopoints in it, an’-”
“That’s nice,” Jaileen interrupted as soon as her brother stopped to take a breath and to jump over Jisc’s rolling chair in the study, “but could you tell me later? You see, Mrushoo is-”
“Oh, right! I gotta say hi to the others!” Tralper galloped past her into the room, dragging Screecher behind him. “Hey, Mrushoo, guess what Screecher did today!”
Back in the room, Mrushoo had been slowly calming down, mostly because no one was paying attention to him. The baby Moehog was now curled up on one of the beanbags, sucking his hoof and sniffing every now and then. But at the sight of a Petpet in the room, he broke down. Again.
Jaileen raced into the room behind Tralper, taking the scene in. Jisc, sitting in the corner, curled into a fatal position with one eye trained on Mrushoo. Mrushoo, thrashing around on top of her yellow beanbag and throwing any object he could reach (at this point Jaileen had to duck in order to avoid a flying bottle of sand). Tralper, the grin slowly fading off of his face, obviously on the edge of panic. And Screecher, screaming her lungs out as she tried to tug away from her leash.
Jaileen grabbed the Angelpuss and unhooked the leash, breaking into a clumsy run so that she could deposit the Petpet into the backyard without getting clawed. Yes, it would be a long day.
“Jaileen?” a hesitant, yet excited, voice asked.
Jaileen was sitting on her bed, tending to her wounds. She had already visited the Neopian Hospital, but they had no way to treat such a thing as deep scratches. They had merely given her a bandage, suggested that she put warm wet towels on her arms and, in the future, stay away from any angry Angelpi.
“Jaileen, I got an idea!”
Jaileen sighed to herself before looking over to her doorway. Tralper was standing there, and doing his best not to look at her arms or the towels wrapped around them. Well, it had been his Petpet that had caused those scratches!
A few days had passed since Snarkie had been eaten, and the household was slowly returning to its normal state. Mrushoo had only burst into tears three times that day instead of constantly, and Jaileen had managed to keep Screecher locked in the backyard pen with Maybelle, her Feepit. Jisc was back to his usual blustering self, and Tralper was, well, Tralper. Both Jaileen and Tralper had reported to Neoschool, as usual. Yes, life was normal. Mostly.
With an effort, Jaileen managed to keep her voice down to its typical intensity. “Okay, Tralper, what is it this time?”
“It’s awesomely cool! We can go over to Meridell, and while Turmaculus is asleep I can get Screecher to crawl into his mouth and find Snarkie! It’d work perfectly, see?”
Jaileen valiantly fought to urge to slap her forehead. It mostly worked, though she did make some interesting grimaces. “Tralper, it doesn’t work that way. Screecher would just get eaten, too.”
“Oh.” The grin slowly faded off of Tralper’s face, and he shuffled his hooves. “Okay, then. I’ll just think up another idea, I guess.”
Jaileen watched as Tralper made his way through the center room that connected the four bedrooms on the second floor and bounded down the stairs, then let herself fall backward onto her bed. If only there was some way to force Tralper and Mrushoo over to Jisc, to tell him that they were his responsibility. But Jisc, for all his care and owner kindliness, wasn’t all that responsible. He had to be reminded to feed them, reminded that there were things to do around the house, things which couldn’t be put off. Jaileen was always stuck with the reminding.
If only Samstrun was home...
Samstrun. How long had it been since she had last seen him? He certainly wasn’t forgettable. Samstrun was a burly red Grarrl, loud and boisterous, but confident. Samstrun had been Jisc’s first pet, the first pet he had seen in the pound. Jisc, then a newbie and unable to understand the different types of Neopets, had just picked the first one he saw. He had lucked out.
Samstrun was just as responsible as Jisc wasn’t. He had been the one in those old days to show Jisc all the different parts of Neopia, to explain when one should buy from the user shops and when to go to the bigger stores instead. And Samstrun had brought her into the family. Once the Grarrl had realized that Jisc was starting to understand Neopia, he had suggested that Jisc try adopting a new pet.
Jaileen was just a normal run-of-the-mill green Quiggle back then. Her old owner had decided a mere week after creating her that Neopia was boring, and had left forever. Jaileen had wanted nothing but to stay in the back of her cage in the pound and hide that day that she was abandoned, convinced that she was useless as a pet. But then a boy and a Grarrl stopped by her cage, and that Neopet had struck up a conversation...
Jaileen shook her head wearily, trying to chase away the flood of angst-like memories. What was done was done, and she couldn’t go on reliving it like some bad sob-story. Samstrun was deep in training for the next war and was now living on Mystery Island so that he could train with the Techo Master and visit the lab ray as much as possible. He would return eventually, but not just then. She would have to keep managing the family on her own.
Jaileen sat upright, sighing inwardly. There went Mrushoo again.
A minute later she was downstairs, surveying the damage done. Mrushoo was sitting in Jisc’s rolling chair in the study, spinning around while he screamed at the top of his lungs. Tralper took a bit more time to find- he was crouched under the large desk, a guilty expression plastered on his face. Jaileen shot the Ogrin a look of exasperation before turning to Mrushoo.
“Mrushoo, please calm down, I’ll... I’ll give you a Snorkle-back ride through the house if you do.”
Mrushoo’s wailing abruptly stopped, reduced to a couple of sniffles and hiccups. Jaileen resignedly got down onto her hands and knees, waiting for Mrushoo to climb onto her back. A few seconds later, she felt a small body settle on her back and two short legs clutch around her neck. Suppressing a groan, she stood up.
“Jaileen, I’m sorry! I thought it was a good idea, that the codestone would remind him ‘bout Snarkie in a good way, but then I could only find a Bri codestone in the deposit box and it didn’t really look like an Island Rock but I wanted to try anyway... guess I was wrong again.”
Jaileen lowered her head and walked out of the room, into the playroom, without answering Tralper. Tralper had been trying to help, she knew, but in her opinion, the last thing Mrushoo needed was a replacement for his lost Petpet. Even if half of the screaming he did was due to his need for attention, at least some of it was because of his sore need for the presence of his old beloved friend.
A small pair of hooves kicked at her back. “Fasta’, Jai-Jai!”
As Jaileen broke into a clumsy run, she realized exactly what it was that she needed to do.
It was later in the day, and Mrushoo was sitting in the kitchen, absent-mindedly pouring a cup of water onto the ‘mouth’ of his green Aisha plushie. Jaileen tip-toed into the room from the direction of the dining room, careful to keep the item behind her back concealed from her brother’s view.
Of course, Mrushoo still heard her. The baby Moehog looked up and blinked at her. “Wha’ is it, Jai-Jai?”
“I’ve got a present for you.” Jaileen offered him the item she had been holding behind her back, and mentally crossed her fingers. She was reasonably sure that her gift would work, but with the current mental state Mrushoo was in...
Mrushoo took the offered item and stared at it for a minute. Then he spoke. “Bu’ da paddewn ish wong.”
Jaileen smiled, relieved, and sat down next to her brother. “It isn’t wrong, Mru. Just different. Do you know what that word on it is?”
Mrushoo nodded, still looking at the object. “Twust.”
“Right. It means that you can still have trust, ‘cause even if Snarkie is gone, he’ll always be here in your heart, looking out for you.”
Mrushoo was silent, still staring at the object. It was simple, really- a rock Jaileen had picked up in their backyard, painted with her art supplies to resemble the shade of an Island Rock. But instead of the symbol that was found on Rocks, it had one word written across the front. Trust. It hadn’t taken her long to make, but it could go a long way towards healing Mrushoo’s grief.
Mrushoo gently hugged the rock and smiled. Jaileen let out a quiet sigh of relief. “Tanks, sis. I’ll name him Twust. Maybe Twusty.”
Jaileen’s heart quickly fell. She wasn’t free from trouble yet. “Um, Mru? That isn’t a Petpet- it’s just a rock.”