“C’mon, Greyfur! You can do better than that!”
Vanny was screaming at her small grey Altachuck, who was sitting in the arena of the Petpet Battledome, frightened out of his wits. Vanny, a yellow Ixi, stood on the outside of the ring, shouting like a crazed fan. Except she wasn’t shouting her approval; she was shouting her disapproval.
“C’mon!” Vanny called harshly again, “Get up! Show ‘em the fury we’ve practiced!”
Greyfur stood his ground, eyes wide. He didn’t want to upset his owner, but on the other hand, she was forcing him to act in a way he wasn’t used to. Greyfur was weak and didn’t like fighting; he’d rather be munching on cookies. With his mistress in mind, the Altachuck charged, aiming for his opponent’s head.
The opponent, a Gallion, decided to strike out with his talons, successfully landing a blow to Greyfur’s torso. The Altachuck cried out, more in fear than pain.
Meanwhile, up where Vanny was standing, the Ixi screamed, “GREYFUR! What the heck are you doing out there?! This isn’t what we practiced!”
Suddenly, a paw settled on Vanny’s shoulder. She spun around to see her brother there, looking slightly worried.
“Vanny,” the ghost Hissi said, “don’t you think you’re pushing Greyfur a little too much? Just look at him... he’s in horrible shape. You might want to consider cancelling this match...”
“I don’t need your help here, Court,” spat Vanny. “Greyfur’s my Petpet, not yours, last time I checked.”
Court shrugged. “Well, just don’t come crying to me when—”
“I WON’T!” Vanny barked defiantly. But as she turned back to watch the match, she saw her own Altachuck, staggering from vertigo.
“That’s it, Fluffy!” the opposing Neopet called to his Gallion. “Finish him off!”
Fluffy, the Gallion, reared, then dashed towards Greyfur, horns stuck forward. The Altachuck had little time to react to the attack. He was thrown out of the arena and landed right in front of Vanny.
Greyfur squeaked at Vanny, then his eyes went blank as he fell unconscious. Fluffy’s owner cackled, “Yes! That’s our tenth win today! Good job, Fluffy!”
The Ixi stared in disbelief, although there really was no need. It had been her third loss this day, and her seventeenth loss all week. However, Greyfur had never fallen comatose before. Vanny would fail to believe it was the more-than-intense training she put him through.
Vanny picked up her Petpet and gave him a squeeze. “Oh, Greyfur!” she cried. “Greyfur!”
Court resisted the urge to say, “I told you so.” Instead he counselled, “Why don’t we just head home and let him rest? He’ll be fine in a few hours.”
“No,” said Vanny flatly.
At first Court thought she was talking to him. Then he realized she wasn’t really listening, just talking to herself. “I’ll never let you fight again,” she mumbled into the Altachuck’s fur. “I’m going to keep you inside and never let you out ever again so you don’t get hurt.”
As Court heard the Ixi’s words, he felt a shudder creep down his spine. Would she really shut her Petpet up indoors, never again to see the day? He felt a tinge of regret, and thought about what he could do to convince his sister what the best decision might be.
Greyfur woke up in his little Petpet bed.
He sniffed around. His bed was in the kitchen, which could be described as a small detail. However, to Greyfur, it was something very enjoyable, for he could smell all the wonderful food smells the room had to offer, and from time to time he ever got a small morsel or two himself.
Greyfur grinned as he caught a whiff of his favourite dish: blueberry pie. He climbed up a table leg using his clingy claws, hoisted himself up onto the table top, and saw a big slice of blueberry pie, calling his name with its rich aroma and flaky shell.
The Altachuck scrabbled over to take a bite, when suddenly two hooves scooped him up and placed him back in his Petpet bed. Greyfur looked up to see the face of his owner staring back.
“Now, now, Greyfur,” the Ixi said cautiously, “climbing is very dangerous. You could get very hurt! And you can’t go eating big things like that. What if you choked?”
Greyfur couldn’t speak the same way his mistress could, so he chattered at her in disbelief.
“Now,” said the Ixi, “you aren’t allowed to move from your bed. You’ll stay there unless I tell you otherwise. I’m going to get Mercury to make sure you don’t go anywhere.”
The Ixi vanished out of the room, leaving Greyfur to contemplate. She returned a moment later with Mercury, an Airax that belonged to one of her brothers. She set him down and said, “Now Mercury, make sure Greyfur doesn’t move from his Petpet bed, okay? Good.” And she strode off.
Mercury gave Greyfur a look. “Are you in trouble or something?” he inquired.
“No,” said Greyfur. “Or at least, I don’t think so.”
“Why is she keeping you grounded, then?”
“I don’t know,” admitted Greyfur. “All I remember is that I was in a battle in the Petpet Battledome, and I was shot high into the air... then I woke up. But I don’t think it was a dream.”
Mercury nodded. “I myself have never been to the Petpet Battledome,” he said, “but if you were knocked out, maybe your owner thought she wasn’t being responsible enough. You know her; always over-exaggerating about everything.”
“I suppose,” said Greyfur, resting his head on his paws. “I just hope she smartens up soon enough. I really would like some of that blueberry pie on the table.”
In an instant, Mercury flew up to the table and returned with a fair chunk of pie. “Here,” he said, “let’s share.”
Greyfur smiled gratefully and began to feast.
Vanny marched out of the room, glad that she’d made the decision she did. Now she wouldn’t have to worry about Greyfur getting hurt anymore. She looked back over her shoulder. Should she go back and check on him? No, she trusted Mercury would do a good job protecting him.
The Ixi trotted into her room and sat down, arranging a game of Sakhmet Solitaire for herself. She played for about three minutes and won (with the aid of cheating, of course). At that time, there was a knock at the door, and after Vanny’s approval, Court entered.
“Hey,” he said. “Are you following through with your little plan?”
“What little plan?” sniffed Vanny.
“The ‘I’m going to keep Greyfur inside and never let him out ever again so he doesn’t get hurt’ plan.”
“Oh, that?” Vanny sat up proudly. “Yep, I’m using it. I think it’s the best idea I’ve ever come up with. Now, Greyfur will never ever get hurt, and we’ll both be happy!”
Court slithered in closer to Vanny, sighing. “Tsk, tsk, tsk... where do I start? Vanny, you’re not doing any more for Greyfur when you keep him locked up inside all the time with no freedom. How would you like it if you had to stay in your bed all the time, with no freedom? Always having someone come and feed you, and never getting outside?”
“I... I’d hate that,” Vanny admitted.
“But if I let him go wild, he’ll get harmed!”
“Let me finish, please! Now, I’m not saying you have to be too rough on Greyfur. You can still do Petpet battles with him. Just don’t push him too far, alright?”
Vanny thought for a moment. Then she looked up and said, “Alright. I’ll, uh... go check on him.”
A couple of days later, Vanny was standing again on the outside of the Petpet Battledome ring, watching Greyfur fight. He was against Fluffy again, but failing a lot less this time.
“Atta boy, Greyfur! Now finish him off!”
The Altachuck gave a nod, then lurched towards the Gallion with an extra burst of speed. He gave a shot to the head, disabling Fluffy’s ability to fight.
“YEAH!” cried Vanny as Greyfur ran to meet her. He licked her face as she continued to shout in glee, “We win! We win! Good job, Greyfur!”
Court was watching from a short ways away. “Well done,” he commented.
“You were right, Court,” said Vanny. “I can’t push him too hard, but I can’t completely shut him away.” She turned to her little Altachuck. “Come on, buddy. How about I take you out for some blueberry pie to reward your efforts?”
All at once, Greyfur’s ears pricked up. It was the exact kind of thing he wanted to hear.
If you asked him, he’d probably say it was the best decision Vanny ever made.