It was a typical afternoon in Sarah’s Neohome – well, besides the fact that Sarah was on vacation in Faerieland and had left her pets at home to fend for themselves. Freyalene, Jovial and Endiive were seated at the kitchen table. Endiive was doing his homework, his pencil scratching quietly on the pages of his lined notebook. Jovial was mindlessly chewing on one of Endiive’s spare pencils. Freyalene was playing with her Blue Acara plushie, swaying it back and forth, a bored look on her face.
“This is so boring,” complained Freyalene, the baby Lupe, as she threw the poor plushie onto the floor. “Our owner’s on vacation. We should be doing all sorts of crazy things that she never lets us do!”
Endiive, the yellow Cybunny, shrugged without even glancing at her, and continued doing his homework.
“I slept on the roof last night. Normally she yells at me when I do that,” Jovial replied, spitting out the pencil he was chewing. It flew through the air and hit Freyalene in the forehead.
“Hey! Watch it!” Freyalene growled. She dashed up to the Christmas Ixi, snatched his Ixi Bandit Feathered Headband off his head, and scampered off with it.
Jovial jumped to his feet. “Where are you taking that?!”
“I’m flushing it down the toilet!” she called from the stairs.
“Nooooo!” The Ixi, almost clumsily tripping over his big hooves, ran after her. He always wore his Ixi Bandit Feathered Headband, and although to him the toilet seemed like a logical place to wash it, flushing it was definitely a no-go.
Suddenly, the front door burst open. Endiive looked up and saw the tall silhouette of his Lupe brother, Neddison. Neddison strolled into the kitchen, and Endiive noticed that there was something different about him.
“Neddison, you’ve painted yourself checkered,” he observed
Neddison, who was previously a scruffy Halloween Lupe, glanced at his gleaming black-and-white checkered fur, fresh out of the Rainbow Pool, and swished his tail proudly. “Well, so I did. How about that?”
“Where did you get the money?” the Cybunny asked curiously, scratching his head.
“Oh, that big pile of neopoints Sarah keeps in that box in her room,” the Lupe answered casually. “You know the one I’m talking about, right?”
“But that means you stole it. Sarah never lets us use that money for ourselves,” Endiive said.
Neddison shrugged. “And...?”
“Sarah’s totally gonna kill you for this.”
“Sarah’s not here.”
“Then Revlemore will! She’s practically like our owner, just stricter and better at cooking.”
“Hmm? What’s this about me?” asked Revlemore the cloud Cybunny, who had just walked in.
“Neddison used all of Sarah’s cash to buy a paintbrush for himself!” Endiive sputtered before he could stop himself.
Revlemore’s jaw dropped in shock. “What?!”
“Neddison used all of Sarah’s cash to buy a paintbrush for himself.” Jovial, who was now standing right behind Revlemore with his soaking wet Ixi Bandit Feathered Headband wrapped proudly around his head once again, repeated Endiive’s reply word-for-word right in her ear.
Revlemore jumped and turned around to scowl at Jovial, who grinned sheepishly. She then turned to face Neddison. “Neddison, I can’t believe you’d do this.”
“You can’t? Because it sounds exactly like something I’d do,” the checkered Lupe replied smugly.
“Sarah will be crushed when she realizes she has no money left,” Revlemore said. She sighed. “And I heard she was saving up for something special.”
“Chillax, Rev!” Jovial reassured her. “Nedd’s obviously going to get all that money back somehow. Right, Nedd?”
“That wasn’t the original plan, but... sure,” Neddison muttered, uneager.
“Good,” Revlemore said with a nod. “You can start tomorrow.”**
The next morning, Neddison rolled out of bed and bounded up to the mirror. He grabbed his comb and groomed his smooth checkered fur. He didn’t regret buying that paintbrush one bit, and didn’t even remember why he had been dreading today. He glanced over at the early morning rays of sun shining through his window. It was going to be a nice, sunny day. Even though he wasn’t much of a fan of nice sunny days, he’d get to show off his snazzy new paint job to everyone in Neopia Central, and he was actually looking forward to it. That is, until he entered the kitchen and saw Revlemore writing something down on a pad of paper, a warm mug of Strawberry Kiwi Tea placed in front of her on the table and her heart-shaped glasses perched on her nose. Then he remembered.
Revlemore looked up and smiled as she heard him come in. “Oh, Nedd! I’m glad you’re here. I was just writing down a list of ways you can earn NP!”
Neddison frowned and slumped onto a chair. “Great. Let’s hear them.”
“Well, you can play some games...”
“Pssh. It’ll take months to earn all that money back just from playing games.”
“Well,” Revlemore continued, taking a sip of tea and looking back down at her list, “you can run errands for people. I’m sure they’ll pay you enough money.”
“The only people rich enough to pay me enough money probably have their own servants,” Neddison contradicted.
Revlemore impatiently placed her paper and pen down on the table and folded her arms. “Well, do you have any ideas?”
Neddison thought for a moment. “Hmm... you work at the Soup Kitchen, right? How much do they pay you?”
“Nothing. The Soup Faerie only gets her cash from Money Tree donations, and she uses that to buy soup ingredients, not to pay volunteers.”
“Then why do you work there?”
“Just to be helpful,” Revlemore responded.
“You know, you should volunteer at the Soup Kitchen sometime,” suggested Revlemore. “You’ll make millions – millions of pets happy, that is. And besides, you used to be homeless, right? Wouldn’t you like to help poor, homeless pets who can’t afford food?”
“No,” replied Neddison. “And I believe we were discussing how I can earn money to pay for that paintbrush, not how I can help others with nothing in return.”
“Oh, right! We’d better get back to that, then!” She furrowed her brow in thought and concentrated on her list, reaching for the pen.
“Wait,” Neddison said, grabbing the pen she was about to pick up and placing it out of her reach. “You said the Soup Faerie buys soup ingredients, correct?”
“And she’ll buy these ingredients from anyone?”
“I suppose so. She’s not very picky about where she buys them.”
“That’s it!” Neddison exclaimed, jumping to his feet. “I’ll sell soup ingredients to the Soup Faerie! Then she’ll have to pay me!” He rushed out the door, eager to start his new job.
Revlemore shook her head and sighed. “Why do I have the feeling this is not going to end well...?”**
Before collecting ingredients, Neddison decided to look around the Soup Kitchen for inspiration. The pale orange wallpaper was peeling and the old wooden floor looked like it had been walked on a thousand times. The long tables were crowded with hungry, scruffy pets who were gulping down soup while perched on uncomfortable wooden seats. The Soup Faerie was mixing a large pot of steaming hot soup and pouring it into bowls which were snatched up by the hungry pets.
Boy, am I glad I don’t have to eat at this dump every day, Neddison thought to himself with a smirk. He noticed a pink Kacheek, who had been helping the Soup Faerie dish out soup a moment ago, staring at him. She didn’t seem to look very pleased. Neddison quickly turned away and walked to the other side of the room. Either that pet can read my thoughts, or she just doesn’t like me. Maybe I should try not to be a jerk to these guys , he mused. Remembering what he came here for, he strolled over to the closest table and pulled up a seat next to a hungry purple Grundo. “Say, what kind of soup are you eating there, young man?” Neddison inquired.
“Vegetable soup,” replied the Grundo, not even sparing a glance at Neddison.
Neddison peered closer at the soup. “There’s dung floating in it.”
“So?” The Grundo just kept shoveling soup into his mouth.
“Okay...” Neddison hopped off the chair and approached a young red Kougra. Her bowl appeared to be empty, but she was still slurping it up as if it were full of soup.
“Uh, you know your bowl is empty, don’t you?” he pointed out.
“It’s invisible soup,” the Kougra stated.
“Right.” Neddison walked away, and chuckled to himself. Invisible soup. As if. That faerie must be running low on ingredients.
Neddison shoved his way through the crowd and made his way outside, breathing in the cool air. He had to find some ingredients to sell to the Soup Faerie – but where?
Suddenly, something shiny caught his eye. It was a pile of neopoints. “1200 NP!” he exclaimed. “That’s almost one two-hundredth of the price of my checkered paint brush.” He dove through the air and landed with a thud, clasping his paws around thin air. Someone had already taken the money. He looked up and saw a tall tree with what appeared to be a smile on its face. Its spindly branches looked like arms and were holding bags of neopoints. Cheap items were scattered around its roots. Pets and owners swarmed around it, grabbing whatever items they could.
“Ah, the Money Tree. My old acquaintance.” Back when he lived on the streets, Neddison would occasionally make an attempt to grab an item or a few NP, but he was never fast enough and the other pets always got it first, so he gave up and took to stealing from the local shops, which he found somewhat easier.
He suddenly got an idea – he could steal ingredients and sell them to the Soup Faerie! “Wait, no,” he said to himself. “I... can’t.” Although it seemed like a perfectly easy solution, he just couldn’t. He didn’t know why. Something was stopping him. Could all Revlemore’s boring lectures about being honest and doing what’s right finally have gotten to him? Could he be opposed to stealing because it was... wrong?
His thoughts were interrupted by something bumping into him. “Sorry, sir,” a small voice squeaked. Neddison turned around and saw a small yellow JubJub. “I wasn’t looking where I was going, and--”
“Look, I don’t care,” Neddison assured the JubJub. “It’s fine. So, what’s your name?”
The JubJub tilted his head to one side, confused. “Name? Um... I don’t have one.”
“Really, now?” Neddison replied. “Okay, I’m just going to call you Ted. So Ted, I take it you don’t have an owner?”
The JubJub shook his head.
So, he’s homeless, huh? Just like I was. Neddison pondered. Somehow he didn’t think this little guy could survive living out here. This was one pet that actually needed an owner. “Listen, Ted, you can go to the Neopian Pound. You’ll get three meals a day, you’ll have somewhere safe to sleep, and you might even get adopted...”
“No!” howled the JubJub. “I can’t go there... my owner will find me...”
“You said you didn’t have an owner.”
“I don’t anymore. I ran away.”
“My owner was mean. She brought home a new pet - a faerie Xweetok - and didn’t care about me anymore. The Xweetok was mean to me and called me names and made me do her homework,” he took a breath, “and made me clean her room and stole my toys and whenever I told my owner about how mean the stupid Xweetok was she didn’t believe me and said that since I was being mean to my new sister she wouldn’t buy me the paint brush I wanted and--”
“That’s it?” Neddison cut him off, shocked. “That’s why you ran away?”
“Yeah...” The JubJub cast his eyes back down to the ground shyly.
“All you had to do was get your owner to catch that Xweetok in the act! You didn’t have to run away! Did you really think living on the streets would be better than living there?”
“Yes, I did! And what would you know, anyway, you prissy painted pet? You probably live in a huge mansion where you’re waited on by your millions of servants!”
Neddison stepped back, insulted. He hadn’t expected such strong words to come from such a timid little pet. “Look, Ted. I don’t live in a mansion. I don’t have servants. I live in a normal home with an owner. And believe it or not, I know what it’s like to live on the streets. I know what it’s like to go days without eating, to sleep in a soggy old cardboard box, to walk past all the warm Neohomes and wish I didn’t have to be out in the cold. I lived on the streets for years. I’d never go back there. And now I see some spoilt brat running away from home because his sister was mean to him and his owner wouldn’t buy him a paintbrush? Believe it or not, your family is probably worried about you right now, and you’re just running away from them, trying to be all independent? You’ll never survive out here. What kind of delusional idiot are you?”
The JubJub nervously glanced up at him, trembling, too scared to reply.
Neddison realized he’d been a bit harsh. He cleared his throat. “Look, I’m sorry. I don’t usually go off at people like that.” He forced a polite smile. “So, since you have an owner, I’m guessing you do have a name. And it’s probably not Ted.”
“Sunny,” the JubJub replied almost inaudibly. “My name’s Sunny.”
“Sunny, huh? That’s nice. I’m Neddison.” Neddison held out his paw for a handshake. Sunny timidly took his paw and shook it, managing a small smile. “Now, Sunny, do you want to go back to your family?”
“No! I don’t like them! They’re mean!” He scurried off before Neddison could reply.
“Didn’t anything I yelled just a minute ago get through his thick little skull?” Neddison muttered. He decided to head home for lunch.**
The next day, Neddison headed out to find some ingredients. He hadn’t found any yesterday, as he’d gotten distracted by that JubJub. Sarah would be back in about a week, so he didn’t have a lot of time. He sauntered up to the Money Tree, and his eyes scanned the area around it, hoping to spot some food he could snatch up and sell to the Soup Faerie. A crisp green apple caught his eye, and Neddison leapt swiftly through the air... crashing to the ground. The apple was nowhere in sight. He grumbled to himself as he got up and dusted himself off. Spotting an organic peach, Neddison stumbled over to it, but it was snatched up by a familiar-looking yellow JubJub.
“And you said I wouldn’t survive on my own,” the JubJub said smugly, taking a bite out of the organic peach. Neddison stared helplessly up at Sunny, panting tiredly.
“Say, Sunny,” Neddison began, standing up and smoothing down his fur, “how would you like to learn all the tricks of living on the streets from the expert?” He pointed to himself.
“What about all that stuff you said yesterday?”
“Oh, forget about all that,” Neddison replied. “Don’t you want to learn how to survive out here? I mean, getting food from the Money Tree is all well and good, but people don’t donate nice food very often. Today you were just lucky.”
A look of great interest crept across the JubJub’s face. “Teach me everything!”
“Certainly,” replied Neddison. “Come with me.”
Neddison walked toward the food shop, Sunny following eagerly behind him.
“Now, I’m going to distract the shopkeeper while you sneak in there and steal some food.”
Sunny’s eyes grey wide. “Stealing?”
Sunny nodded, and they both headed into the shop. Neddison strolled up to the Chia at the counter. “Good morning, Mr. Chia!” he greeted enthusiastically. “That’s quite a fine apron you’re wearing! Might I ask where you purchased it?”
The Chia narrowed his eyes. “Mr. Lupe... either you’re being sarcastic, or you’ve gone crazy. You’ve never paid any attention to me before.” Neddison’s eyes darted toward Sunny, who was attempting to balance four purple neggs in one foot while hopping toward the door on the other. Neddison took a step to the left to block Sunny’s thievery from the Chia’s view and looked back at the Chia, waiting for him to continue. “Anyhow, this apron was a gift from--” Neddison heard the door creaking open and glanced over at Sunny sneaking out.
“That’s nice! Gotta go! See ya!” Neddison sped out the door after Sunny before the Chia even finished his sentence. “Good work, Sunny.”
Sunny smiled. “That was pretty easy.”
Although Neddison couldn’t seem to manage to steal things himself anymore, somehow the thought of getting someone else to do it for him didn’t deter him. Part of him felt a little bad, but he ignored the feeling. “Now, promise me something. You have to give me half of whatever you steal.”
The JubJub thought for a moment. “Okay!” he replied. He gave him two of the four neggs he’d stolen.
Perfect, thought Neddison. “Meet me again tomorrow and I’ll help you steal something else,” he instructed Sunny.**
Over the next few days, Neddison and Sunny stole more and more food, and split it 50-50 each time. Neddison was gaining a hefty sum of neopoints from selling this to the Soup Faerie. All this time, Neddison had a nagging little voice in the back of his mind chastising him for what he was doing, but he paid no attention to it. He’d learnt many things in his life, and one of them was that it often pays to take the easy way out.
By Friday evening, Neddison had collected enough money. And just in time, too – Sarah would be coming home any day now.
Very early the next morning, the house was awoken by a loud shriek.
Neddison jumped swiftly out of his bed and sprinted to the source of the sound – Sarah’s room. Freyalene was standing there, staring at an empty box which had previously been filled to the brim with shiny neopoints. “Someone stole it!”
Then it came to him. He knew who the culprit was. “Darn it,” he muttered. “That stupid thieving JubJub. It was probably him. I knew I shouldn’t have taught him how to steal things.”
“You made someone steal things for you?” Freyalene gasped loudly.
“You didn’t think I got all that NP the honest way, did you?”
“No. But still, someone stole it!” The baby Lupe waved her arms frantically. “And I don’t even know who it was!”
“This really bites,” muttered Neddison. “Well, at least we have a better excuse for why it’s missing.”
“Yeah. Well, um, see ya!” Freya sped out of the room, and Neddison could’ve sworn he saw a cheeky grin on her face.
Revlemore suddenly appeared from around the corner. “I heard everything.”
“Bravo, Revlemore,” Neddison replied. “You heard that our money was stolen. This may be partly your fault, because you didn’t convince Sarah to get proper security for our Neohome, so--”
“How could you?!” Revlemore interrupted. “You exploited a troubled young pet for your own monetary benefit and turned him into a criminal!”
“You told me to get that money back in any way I possibly can,” Neddison reasoned. “So, in a way, it’s still sort of your fault.”
“I didn’t say in any way!” Revlemore countered. “Neddison, I made you all that because I thought it would teach you a lesson.”
“You can’t teach an old pet new tricks.”
“You taught that JubJub how to steal!”
“I suppose he wouldn’t qualify as old, whereas I would, considering the fact that your attempt to teach me something new failed miserably.”
“The only thing that failed miserably was my attempt to teach you about honesty and hard work, which appears to be something you’re not capable of learning!”
“That’s... kind of what I just said.”
Fuming, Revlemore spun around and stormed out of the room. As she walked down the stairs, she took a deep breath and calmed down, regaining her composure. It wasn’t like her to get so angry. She entered the kitchen. “I’m so mad at Neddison right now!” she complained.
Jovial, who was sitting at the kitchen table shoveling down spoonfuls of Gnome Crunch Deluxe Cereal, simply responded with, “Why?”
“Don’t you know what he did?” Revlemore asked, plopping down on a chair.
“Yeah.” Jovial shoved another spoonful of cereal into his mouth and chewed noisily.
“And you don’t care?”
“Nope. I mean, Neddison had to get that money somehow, right? And you said he had to earn in it any way he can!”
“I did not say that,” Revlemore insisted. “Why does everyone keep saying I said that?”
“It doesn’t matter. The point is, Neddison did learn a lesson. I’m not sure what it was, but... hey, here comes Endiive! He’ll be able to enlighten us!”
Endiive yawned and rubbed his eyes. “Huh? What’s going on?” he asked, confused. “I just came down here to have breakfast...”
“You also came here to tell us that Neddison learnt an important lesson – sometimes you have to bend the rules in order to get what you need,” announced Jovial. “Hey, whaddaya know? I do know what lesson he learnt!”
“But Nedd knew that already,” Revlemore said.
“Let’s pretend I didn’t, so that you can pretend you actually taught me something,” offered Neddison, who had just walked through the door.
Revlemore turned around and opened her mouth to argue with him, but then closed it and smiled. “Okay.”
“Wow, I’m glad that’s all out in the open!” remarked a loud, shrill voice. Everyone turned to look at Freyalene, who was standing on the kitchen counter. When she was sure everyone was watching, the baby Lupe hopped down from the counter and opened one of the kitchen cabinets, revealing the stash of money which had been ‘stolen’. “Look what I found!”
“Freya? You took the money?” Revlemore uttered in disbelief.
“Yep! It wasn’t stolen after all!” Freyalene giggled. “I knew what Nedd did all along. I’ve been planning this stunt for the past week. I thought it would be funny to see your reaction.”
“I’m just glad everything’s alright now.” Revlemore breathed a sigh of relief.
“Well, almost everything,” Neddison added. “There’s just one thing I have to take care of.”**
“Why did you bring me to the Soup Kitchen?” Sunny asked Neddison. “I just stole a cake from the bakery. I don’t want to eat soup.”
“Stealing is wrong,” Neddison said.
“But you taught me how to steal!”
“And now I’m teaching you that it’s wrong. Besides, you’re not going to eat here.” Neddison shoved a pink apron into Sunny’s paws. “You’re going to work here.”
Sunny slipped the apron on and frowned at Neddison. “You used to be cool.”
“I still am,” Neddison replied. “You, however, are wearing a frilly pink apron.”
“I don’t want to work here!” whined the JubJub. “Anything is better that this!”
“Even going back to your family?”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. You were right all along. I miss them.” Sunny threw off the apron and decided to go back home to his owner.
Neddison smiled to himself. He liked being right. And although he himself had not learnt very much in the past week, he knew that he’d taught that JubJub some valuable lessons – and not just about how to steal.