Irregular Bane: Part Five
Art by saro_the_legendaerie
Saosis opened the black door to the Cybunny's shop warily. "Bane, are you in here?"
A laugh rang out from the back room, then the Cybunny trotted forward. "What's up, pudding cup?"
"Don't call me that." She scowled. "I've been hearing some... reports about this shop. It's restocking at an astonishing rate, even while the Employer's away. Like, suspicious much?"
"And?" Bane played idly with his light-red-tipped ponytail.
"And... you're suspected of stealing to stock your shop."
He lay his paw on his chest with an air of injured dignity. "Me? Steal? Never."
Saosis' little pony-like ears pinned flat against her head. "I'm warning you, Bane, quit it or I'll send you back to the Pound."
This took him off guard. "Back? " he bluffed, feigning casual confusion. "What are you talking about?"
"I've done my research on you, Brukin," she smirked, watching Bane wince at the mention of his real name. "A clever little Pound Escapee. How long did you really think you could run?"
"You wouldn't," he growled, feeling fear knot up in his stomach again. I can't go back!
She sighed with the pretense of being merciful. "No, I can't. Not until I find a replacement, otherwise I'd totally be stuck in here again. But don't think that'll stop me from doing what's right. Thieves belong in the Pound, and Neopets belong with Owners. So, like... clean up your act."
The Cybunny let out a breath as the Brown Uni exited the shop, closing the door neatly behind her. Blast! What am I supposed to do now? I can't help who I am!
He scowled. I wish I'd just stayed with the Irregulars... at least no one tried to change me there.
Just kill me.
A good three hours later, Bane was still sitting behind the counter, waiting for a Yellow Lenny Plushie to be picked up. Neopet after Neopet wandered through the store, glancing at the plushie then shrugging and leaving.
This is so boring! Why isn't it selling?
Bane itched at his black neck-ruff impatiently. Come on, come on... sell already! I don't have time for this! Patience was a virtue, all right, just one Bane had never learned. He was a quick minded and quick footed Cybunny who'd rather smash and grab then wait it out. Competitive pricing was his more law-abiding way to express this.
Stretching stiff legs from sitting still for so long, Bane wandered forward to the door of his shop and waved down a Golden JubJub with a star-spangled hat.
"Excuse me, Shop Wizard?"
The JubJub nodded. "Yes, that is me. How can I help you?"
"What's the cheapest price for a Yellow Lenny Plushie?"
There was a flash, a sparkle, then the JubJub reappeared. "It's 214 Neopoints, sir, in the shop Greenwing's Neogear. Right over there, sir," and he pointed across the path to where an Alien Aisha in a white dress was lounging on a shiny pink table. Catching his eye, she tossed her long dark green braid over her shoulder.
Bane's crimson eyes narrowed as the Aisha waved tauntingly to him. "Oh yeah?"
He strode over to the plushie, snatching the price tag up and boldly marking out the price. "Mine's 209."
A bright-eyed Royal Kacheek looked at him curiously, then giggled, picked up her skirts and trotted over to Bane's shop. "Sounds like a good deal-"
"187," challenged the Aisha. The Kacheek paused before turning around to jog over to the Alien Neopet's shop. "Um... ok then, I'll just-"
"173!" came Bane's bold statement as Neopets started to gather.
The Aisha's reply was as calm as her eyes. "164."
The Royal Kacheek was quite confused and uncomfortable to be caught in a Shop Keeper pricing war, and stood in the middle of the path looking shy as the words flew by overhead.
The Aisha smiled coldly. "126."
Bane went a little pale. That's dirt cheap. I'd be crazy if I dropped my price any lower.
The Kacheek, feeling very much the center of attention, pattered over to Greenwing's Neogear and was just pulling out her Neopoints when-
"117," rang out Bane’s baritone voice.
Every Neopet in the crowd stared at the Cybunny, and the Alien Aisha shrugged as the Kacheek nimbly skittered over to Bane's shop and bought the Plushie.
"I'll take your Plushie, ma'am," called a Skunk Xweetok from the edge of the crowd as the Aisha turned back to her shop. "Can you afford 213?" she queried.
"Why not? It was well worth that show."
Bouncing the bag of Neopoints from one paw to the other, the Aisha cast a smirk at the stunned and furious Cybunny across the street. "Never let your pride dent your profit."
With cheeks red with shame, Bane slipped back into his shop and closed the door. Foolish Cybunny! The Employer bought that for 156. You just lost valuable Neopoints!
I better go make it up to her. One last thieving run, then I gotta stay on the straight and narrow, or it's back to the Pound for me. With that decisive thought, Bane slipped back into the jungle, headed for the Ruins of Geraptiku.
The undergrowth here was thick with the scent of darkness and decay, mingling with an ominous aura only a Tomb could give off. I better be on extra alert around here. You never know what might pop up.
A quiet, uneven munching sound echoed through the otherwise silent darkness. Bane slid forward noiselessly, and spotted a Mimbi daintily nibbling on a fern a few body lengths ahead of him. The little tan and red deer-like petpets were notoriously spookable- he would have to be a perfect combination of stealth and speed to catch it.
Even as he crept forward on his belly, a Zombie Pteri came swooping out of a low tree, snagged the Nimbi in his talons, then was flapping in uneven flight to the Beach. Pinning his ears back in fury, Bane hissed and scored his metal-clad talons across the forest floor.
Blast that Pteri! I almost caught-
The shrill scream of a Mimbi in pain rang through the jungle, and the Cybunny took off after the source. As he neared a shaking bush, he saw the Petpet tear away, eyes huge with panic and scratch marks on its back from the Pteri's talons. The bushes were ominously still, and the air was tinged with the distinct rank of Zombie.
Cautiously, Bane approached the bush, feeling the empty spot on his belt where he used to store his Obsidian Dagger. For the umpteenth time that week, he wished he still had a weapon.
The Cybunny sniffed the air. The scent was fading. Looks like he left. But I can’t be too careful. Still sniffing, he pushed away the bush. The space was empty save for a few rotting greenish feathers and the general smell hanging around. Bane sighed and sat down. He got away...
The scent was oddly familiar, though. Zombies had their own distinct smell, but if Bane didn't know better, he would have sworn he had met this Pteri before.
Still racking his brain, Bane turned and followed his tracks back to the marketplace.
"Hey! Little Darigan!"
The call came from the Alien Aisha across the street. Bane paused in the doorway of his shop. "Who, me?"
"You see any other Darigan pets around here? Yes, you. Wanna grab lunch?"
The Cybunny eyed the other Shopkeeper suspiciously. "Why?"
She shrugged. "It's break time for all the shops right now. You're new, so I didn't figure you had anyone else to hang out with. I'm Greenwing."
Taking the offered paw with a flicker of suspicion, Bane followed the evergreen-haired Aisha into the main part of the Island.
"Tongue beans?" she offered, popping one in her mouth as she did so.
"Um, no thanks."
She shrugged. "Whatever." Settling down on the rich soil at the base of the volcano, she tossed a Skullberry into Bane's lap. "Here. This should be more your taste."
Bane crunched into the blue-shaded fruit. "Mmm, thanks. Why are you being so nice to me?"
"Why not?" Greenwing brushed her four long ears out of her face with the back of her hand, tilting her head to the side that reminded Bane painfully of his dear old friend Lyce. Silently, he wished she was safe and happy.
Seeing Greenwing eye him a little suspiciously, Bane recovered, then shrugged. "Well, I figured you had something against me after the whole thing with the plushie this afternoon. "
"Oh, that? " She tossed her braid carelessly. "That's business. We're both Shopkeepers- in the end, we stick together against the thieves, you know?"
"Not.... really. I'm new to all of this."
Greenwing laughed, a surprisingly deep bellow for a female. "You'll learn. I like your style- you've got the charisma and spine that being a good Shopkeeper takes. You'll go far, Little Darigan. Just give it some time."
Bane forced a laugh and played along, even though his insides twisted up with the thought of being half and half. Would you still be my friend, Greenwing, if you knew what I was?
To be continued...