Fading to Joy
Also by repulsives
Growing up, Vaesrin has always been more comfortable to be the observer rather than the observed, and perhaps this is what prompted her to take up the coloring pencils and sketchpad at such an early age. The two Gelerts next door spend all their time with the Xweetok and the Bruce down the street, and day after day Vaesrin admires their easy comradeship while she sits on her porch, idly doodling on a spare bit of paper.
She has been teased more than once about her lack of interest in joining others for picnics and pranks, mischief and mayhem. "Go paint yourself gray, Vae," they giggle over and over. She knows they do not mean to be unkind, and she is not hurt by the words.
The years pass, and she grows strangely restless. She no longer feels a thrill when she is able to capture the exact shades of green of the Money Tree’s leaves, and she no longer feels the urgency to reach for a pen and paper whenever she walks past the rainbow pool whose vibrant colors used to elicit such awe and inspiration.
She wonders if it is time for a change.
"You should go explore the world, Vae," her mother had once said to her. Vaesrin had been reluctant then, wary of leaving the only home she has ever known, and apprehensive about the myriad of lands she knows only through hearsay. Standing in the middle of her living room now, she closes her eyes and hears the bright chatter of her neighbors outside as they enjoy the spring sunshine. She briefly contemplates joining them, one last attempt to find the friendships that comes so naturally and easily to everyone else.
She knows it would be futile.
She glances around the room, mentally reviews all the items she couldn't live without, and the list is surprisingly short. She pictures herself setting off with nothing but the clothes on her back and a small backpack for her art supplies, and the vision is surprisingly appealing. Her neighbors would undoubtedly find it odd, but Vaesrin has never had a problem with oddities, as long as they make sense.
"It's a mad world out there, Vae. I'm confident that you will find somewhere you feel comfortable." Vaesrin decides to leave Neopia Central that very day, her mother's last words a fading whisper in her memory.
* * *
She moves to the neighboring Brightvale, but discovers very quickly that she won't fit in here, either. Hagan is a wise king, and a kind king, but he also expects all his citizens to be extremely well-educated and spouting philosophy in every other sentence. On her first day, she wanders up Scholarly Crescent to discover a group of Yurbles discussing the articles which had appeared in most recent Neopian Times. They glance at her briefly as she approaches, but resume their discussion without offering her any greetings.
"Hi, I'm Vaesrin," she tries.
They are not unfriendly, but when they discover that she has not read Experimental Physics or Trigonometry Hyperbolics or even Calculus Basics, their gaze becomes disinterested, and somehow she is left feeling an outsider once again.
Not Brightvale, then. No matter; it's not like she expected to strike gold so quickly anyway.
Vaesrin turns her gaze north, to the icy Terror Mountain.
* * *
It takes a while, but she finally manages to secure passage with some travelers who are most impressed with her doodles. They accept their portraits with gratitude as she steps out into the snow and begins her trek up the mountain to the village. Almost immediately, she knows that this is not the place for her either. The air is chilly, the wind biting, and the errant snowflakes most unwelcome on her fur. She rushes into the nearest building she sees, but backs out in a hurry when she realizes the temperature inside is controlled to be even lower for the benefit of the petpets the shop sells.
She gazes with interest at the skating Bruce on the ice rink (how can he keep going, and going, and going with no signs of tiredness?) and waves off the hopeful Lutari trying to tempt her with ice cream.
The slushie shop is empty save for the shopkeeper when she wanders inside, and is a most welcome respite from the cold. The Striped Eyrie looks on her shivering form with understanding and a little pity, and says the words she already knows.
"This place is not suited for you, my dear."
Vaesrin nods. She politely declines the offer of a free slushie, exits the shop, and slowly makes her way down the mountain.
* * *
A small stretch of open sea, and she reaches Shenkuu. She is immediately enchanted by the beauty of the land, with its cascading waterfalls and charmingly built houses. Tentative hope blossoms in her mind, and she is almost scared to let herself grasp onto the fleeting whispers of maybe and finally and home. As the weeks go by, however, the trees lose their color, the houses their charm, and the waterfalls their splendor. Once again she starts to feel the same restlessness that had plagued her in Neopia Central, and knows it is time to move on.
Moving south, she finds the inhabitants of Altador extremely warm and welcoming. She makes daily trips to the Hall of Heroes, often spending entire afternoons simply sitting amongst the grand statues of the notable heroes and reveling in the peace and solace. However, festivities in the city are already starting for the yearly sporting event, and she soon finds herself overwhelmed and longing for a slower pace of life.
* * *
Although she enjoys the guarantee of three free meals a day, she finds the Tyrannian speech incomprehensible, and stays for less than a week.
Moltara is too noisy, Maraqua too wet, and the heat of the Lost Desert is as unwelcome as the cold of Terror Mountain.
She tries to hang onto her vision, but her hope is beginning to fade.
* * *
It happens en route to Krawk Island.
Vaesrin has heard of pets whose colors suddenly change: red when they are especially infuriated, or blue when depressed (it has also crossed her mind more than once that surely grey would be more appropriate?). She is aware of the Baby Bruce whose magical ray gun so often elicits screams of delight or screams of horror, the mythical faerie who can grant almost any color in return for a rare item, and the curse of invisibility that can strike pets without warning.
It is all over in a flash. A sudden tingling of her fur, and the breeze that ruffles over her feels strangely magical and awkward and wrong. When she looks down at herself, she sees nothing but the wooden deck of the ship.
Vaesrin considers this turn of events.
She has never thought about changing her color; the echoes of "explore the world" and "find new lands" has been a constant mantra throughout the past few months. Yet her new state is not entirely unwelcome. In the following weeks, she wanders back through all the lands she has previously traveled to, and she finds unexpected joy in the simple freedom of finally being able to observe and draw without being seen.
Neopia is a magical land, and the sight of a pencil moving by itself causes little more than a raised eyebrow to those who are accustomed to things being a little out of the ordinary. So one day if you should hear the branches crackle when nobody is there; if you should see the grass move in an empty field; if you should feel the slight shift in the air as something passes you by, please do not be alarmed, and remember my tale of how one Kacheek finally found her own happiness.