Many thanks and hugs go to sparklinganise, crazydanceparty, and AutumnDreamer, for letting me use their pets/usernames.
I followed that Techo that every pet has nightmares about through the pound, reading the card he had handed to me. All my information had been written on it in a fine, precise hand.
Name: EbonyDragonFireWind; Color: Shadow; Species: Scorchio; Gender: Female; Level: 2; Strength: 10; Defense: 11; Movement: 15; Likes: Reading and Learning; Attitude: Try and make friends; Habitat: Town. My whole self, laid out for anyone to read.
“Here’s where you’ll be during your stay at the Pound.” Dr_Death opened a cage with two other pets in it, and motioned me inside.
There was a Peophin, green, and an Flotsam, blue, there. They smiled grimly at me, their eyes showing how long they’d been there.
“Hey, I’m-” The Peophin didn’t even finish her sentence.
“Omigosh, a shadow pet! Adopt!”
I was pulled from the cage by the Uni that every pound pet dreams of seeing almost instantly. A teenage girl, much like my last owner, was standing next to her.
“Alright. EbonyDragonFireWind, this is your new owner, AutumnDreamer,” the Pink Uni said in that bubbly tone of hers. She said something else to AutumnDreamer, but I wasn’t paying attention.
I had turned back towards my brief home- my home for mere seconds. The Peophin snorted at my expression.
“You’re painted. No regrets. My name’s Nistemme. This is Glittmina. What’s your name?”
“EbonyDragonFireWind,” I replied.
“If we ever get out of this cage, we’ll Neomail you. But when that happens, Dr_Death will have a good heart.” Nistemme laughed hollowly.
“Ebony? Let’s go!” my new owner yelled.
“Bye,” I said half-heartedly.
“Talk to you later.” Nistemme gave me one last smile.
“So, I’m AutumnDreamer, but you can call me Mistysky,” AutumnDreamer was saying. “You’re my third pet.”
“Who are your other pets?” I asked timidly.
“Syette and Pannadalia. I’m sure that you three will get along great,” Mistysky said brightly. She stopped walking, and glanced at her watch. “Ugh, not enough time to walk home. Luckily, you’re not on your own. We owners have special tricks.” Mistysky grinned, and pulled out a map of Neopia.
I was about to ask her what she was doing, when she tapped the Haunted Woods. The air shimmered, and we were standing in the middle of that exact forest.
“How-?” I began, but the question fell short.
“Explore,” Mistysky explained with a gleeful grin.
“Um, alright. Now how do we get to your house?” I shrank back a little, terrified of the response.
“We’re walking.” She shot me a glance. “Unless you like flying better than walking.”
“Ah... no, walking is fine...” I mumbled. Owners! They were just so strange...
Within a half an hour, a small castle loomed in front of us. Mistysky took out a key, and opened the front door.
“Welcome home, EbonyDragonFireWind. Welcome home.” ***
Over the next few days, I got to know my new family. Syette liked to read and write. Pannadalia was a crazy Ogrin who had dreams of wandering the wild and starting a family band. I felt myself fitting in.
Everyone except Mistysky was really welcoming. Mistysky was at first, but then she grew distant. She seemed to be fighting some internal battle.
I paid little attention to her, and instead focused my attentions on helping Dalia- that was Pannadalia’s nickname- with Operation Ninja Flute. This boiled down to helping Dalia’s dream of a band by purchasing me a flute to play, because that instrument was just so gorgeous. We had done our research by, eh, “borrowing” Mistysky’s search tool. We had discovered that we would need anywhere between ten and ninety-nine thousand Neopoints for that instrument.
It was lucky that Dalia was good at coming up with plans. We had an idea to get the Neopoints out of the bank, buy the flute, and return while Mistysky was doing all of the dailies with Syette (with her because traveling with Mistysky made Dalia and me motion sick).
The only problem- getting to the bank and back.
“I hate to say this,” I said gravely, “but to carry out Operation Ninja Flute, we’re going to need to borrow the Explore to get to Neopia Central.”
“But how?” Dalia had questioned. “Mistysky and Syette take it with them whenever they go on the dailies.”
“Exactly... so we’re going to need to distract her for long enough for one of us to steal the Explore, go to Neopia Central, get the Neopoints, come back, and hide the loot. Can you do that fast enough?”
“I think so. Distract her.”
And then Dalia had vanished. I wandered into Mistysky’s office. She was doodling.
“Hey, whatcha doing?” I asked, looking at the drawing. It was just random doodles, a couple stick figures.
“Just doodling,” Mistysky replied, taking back the paper. She didn’t look at me. “Anyways, it’s almost time for the dailies.”
“Wait, wait!” I cried, trying to buy Dalia time. “Um... did you hear that there’s a rumor going around that a Neomillionaire is going to build a world made out of jelly and call it Jelly World?”
“That’s just silly,” Mistysky said abruptly. “Jelly World is a silly lie.”
“Did you realize that you just used ‘silly’ twice in two sentences?” I said. “I’d vary my vocabulary a little. You know, I find that ‘nonsensical’ is a very fun word, and a better word than ‘silly’, even though they mean the same thing.”
“That’s great, Ebony, but Syette’s waiting for me to come and take her to all the dailies.”
“Uh, while you’re in the Lost Desert, can you drop by Qasala and see if they have any... Spicy Queela Dip?”
“Some Spicy Fruit Punch would be good, too,” Dalia said from behind me. I let out a sigh.
“Okay, guys. Sure.” Mistysky left her office, giving us a weird look.
“Operation Ninja Flute is go! The loot is safely put into Location X!” Dalia whispered to me.
I snorted. That girl had way too much fun with codenames. “So the cash is underneath your mattress?”
“Shh, not so loud. The S Suspect might here, or worse, the AD Suspect.” Dalia waved her paw frantically at me.
“Or... the sad suspects?” I added with a laugh.
“Make fun of my genius codenames, sure, when I just got one hundred thousand Neopoints for us to get your flute with!”
“Okay, I take it all back. Grab the cash- to the Shop Wizard!” ***
Dalia and I were standing at the Shop Wizard’s Haunted Woods kiosk. As we approached, he shouted:
“Alakazam!!! It's the Shop Wizard! The Shop Wizard is your friendly guide to online comparison shopping. Type in what you want to buy and he will search through all the shops in the market to find you the best prices. (He searches a different section of the market each time to get more results!)”
“Anyone who speaks in third person and uses three exclamation points is definitely a nutcase in a nutshell in my book,” Dalia muttered in my ear.
I laughed. Leave it to Dalia to make such a random comment.
“We’d like to find a flute, in the shops, identical to my phrase, price not mattering,” Dalia said professionally.
“Searching for... Flute!!!” the Shop Wizard yelled. He handed them a list, which had highlighted names- the shop owners- with the item name and prices next to each name. Dalia touched the first one. The air shimmered, and we were standing in a shop.
“Ciara says, ‘Hello...’,” the shopkeeper said, and drifted away.
A shop blog floated in front of us, and shimmery stars blinded us briefly. We grabbed the flute, paid for it, and left.
“Well,” I remarked as we returned to the Haunted Woods via the ‘New Search’ portal on the list, “that was odd.”
“Yeah, but we have the flute! Operation Ninja Flute is complete, with eighty-three thousand six hundred and fifty Neopoints to spare!” We high-fived.
The two of us returned home, and stashed the money in Location X (under Dalia’s mattress. How does she sleep like that?). I took my flute and tried playing it. By some strange miracle, music flowed out from the silvery instrument.
“You’re a natural!” Dalia cried in excitement. “Yes, yes, yes, yes! Try playing a song!”
Both of us stiffened- Mistysky was back, and we had no way of explaining the flute.
“Where’d you get the flute?” Mistysky asked.
“Uh... um...” I stuttered.
“We... um...” Dalia added. Not a very helpful addition, actually.
“You guys bought a flute?” Mistysky raised her eyebrows.
“Well... yeah... sorta...” I looked down at the incriminating instrument in my hands.
Mistysky just started laughing. “Oh my gosh, you two are funny. Well, let’s hear you play.”
I tried playing again. It worked. I strung notes together into a melody that sounded frightened and nervous, and jumpy. By concentrating, I smoothed out the rougher edges of the song, and made it into a sleepy song.
“Pretty.” Mistysky applauded.
It was the happiest day of my life yet. ***
After Operation Ninja Flute, Mistysky just bought Pannadalia an ornate grand piano, as a regular grand piano was just too expensive, something I found confusing.
Together, Dalia and I wrote a beautiful song. Mistysky listened to it, but something was off. I think everyone sensed it. There was tension in the air. Something big was about to happen.
It all happened one afternoon. I was practicing on my flute- it was one of my favorite activities nowadays. I had just perfected one of the trickiest parts in a new song, so I was in a really good mood. Mistysky came in, looked at me, and sighed.
“Ebony, can you come and do the dailies with me today?” she asked after a moment. I blinked.
“Um... sure?” I replied, not exactly knowing what else to say to that.
Mistysky smiled at me. “Thanks. Let’s go.”
We went around Neopia, visiting all of the worlds. Finally, we ended up back in Neopia Central. Mistysky stopped by the tea shop, and we each got a cup of our favorite drink. For me, that was Sakhmetian Brew, and for Mistysky, that was a cup of Strawberry Spice Tea.
We sat there, sipping our drinks of choice, when Mistysky spoke up.
“Ebony... I’m going to have to abandon you.”
My initial reaction was that this was a joke. A cruel joke. It didn’t make any sense. Mistysky and her family had been so loving... why would they abandon me? For a new pet?
“But you only have three pets...” I croaked.
Mistysky stared into her tea sadly. “It’s a hard choice, Ebony. But the problem is... I adopted you because you were painted shadow, on advice of a friend. I’ve always disliked Scorchios, for some reason. I want you to be somewhere that your owner can love you... and not dislike one part of you.”
“So... this is how it ends?” I asked quietly.
“Afraid so, Ebony,” Mistysky said sadly. “But I do have your flute. You can keep it, and if your new owner lets you, you can still come and see us.”
I took my flute from her. “Operation Ninja Flute would have been pointless if I didn’t get to keep this,” I said with a grin.
The two of us stood, and started walking towards the Pound. I looked at the flute in my hands as Mistysky began to speak again.
“You two were always so crazy. It’ll be sad having you out of the family, but... I’m sure that you’ll manage. I’ll be in touch with your new owner as soon as you’re adopted.”
“See you,” I said, as we approached Dr_Death.
“I’d like to abandon my pet,” Mistysky said.
“Fill out this form,” Dr_Death said impassively. He pushed a card towards Mistysky. It looked like the card I had been given last time.
“No toys,” he said, turning to me. “Give it back to your owner. Pronto.”
“But-” I began, my voice squeaking.
“No buts. Give it back to your owner.”
“I’ll send it to your new owner,” Mistysky promised.
“Come on,” Dr_Death said to me. “Say goodbye to AutumnDreamer, and come with me.”
“Bye,” I said, thinking it was odd to hear her called AutumnDreamer.
“See you around, Ebony,” Mistysky replied.
I followed Dr_Death through rows of cages. He opened one, and motioned me inside. Before I entered it, I asked, “Hey, are two pets named Nistemme and Glittmina still in the Pound?”
“Nope. Adopted yesterday.” He pushed me into the cage. It clicked shut. The red Ruki in the cage ignored me.
“Hey, a shadow Scorchio! I love Scorchios! Adopt!”
The Pink Uni drifted over, and said, “Okay, crazydanceparty, you have chosen to adopt EbonyDragonFireWind. That will be...”
I stopped paying attention, and merely stood up out of the cage. I blinked in and out of here, being painted as I was.
“Okay, Dragon, let’s go,” crazydanceparty said. “I’m Madarose-eyes.”
“It’s Ebony,” I said with a smile. “Not Dragon.”
“Okay,” Madarose-eyes agreed. “You’re my third pet. My other two are Dairyflour and Glittmina.”
“You adopted Glittmina?!?” I asked with a great deal of surprise.
“Why, you know her?” asked Madarose-eyes.
“Yeah... I met her the last time I was in the pound. She’s really nice.”
“Well, it’ll be fun for you to see her. Let’s go!”
We took off for her house- my new home.
I knew that this time, I would have a good life.