The First Relic
Erty the Shoyru was like every other Shoyru. He collected stamps, adored his gruslen petpet, regularly cleaned his toenails, and enjoyed long walks on the beach. There was nothing particularly odd about young Erty. He was, quite honestly, a bit boring.
When he walked down the crowded Neopian streets, no one spared him a second glance. And why should they? He was nothing special. Erty knew so. As a child, he found himself quite content with just blending in. While other neopets raved about being special, while they tried on big feathery hats and made up odd nicknames for each other, while they established identities, Erty let himself become one of the crowd.
Now and then, the red Shoyru had an urge. An urge to up and leave; an urge to head to Maraqua or Mystery Island; an urge to act spontaneously. Although the thoughts remained in the back of his mind, he couldn’t help but wonder if his friends would be surprised, worried, or if they’d even notice. Perhaps they’d mistake another boring red Shoyru for him, and it’d be like he never left to them.
Of course, he would never actually leave. That would just be weird.
And Erty was not weird. He was normal.
His owner had only one other neopet. She was different, and it was obvious at first glance. She was a Grarrl with scaly skin that shone, like freshly polished gold. Not surprisingly, as she was painted gold. It made her stand out in the crowd, it made neopets take second looks at her. Her gold paint made her stand out. Well, her gold paint and her dress. Before she had been painted gold, she’d been painted royal.
Constantly the Grarrl, called Molo by her friends but Molly by her owner, pestered poor Erty. She didn’t understand him, not one bit. Didn’t he want to stand out, didn’t he want shine? Surely he didn’t want to blend into the background for all of eternity.
But that was exactly what Erty wanted. To blend in, forever.
It wasn’t stage fright. He wasn’t afraid of other’s attention. Everyone was entitled to their opinion, but he was entitled to ignore their opinion. Erty was quite calm in front of an audience. So what was it, if it wasn’t shyness? It stumped Molly thoroughly, and aggravated her.
Nothing changed, though. Days, months, ticked away, and young Erty remained quite the same. He never stood out, never broke out of the mold; he never was different.
Then his owner lucked out, and poor Erty’s normalcy was destroyed.
“Erty!!” screeched the young girl, as she half danced, half sprinted to where her red Shoyru was drinking some sort of smelly tea. Erty quickly put his azzle tea down, and pushed it towards the center of the mahogany kitchen table. Just in time; his owner tackled him, knocking him and his chair to the ground.
“Haha, Cassie, hey.” The Shoyru laughed good naturedly. Normally, should anyone else tackle him, he would become aggravated and annoyed. Cassie, though, his beloved owner, was an exception to that rule.
The young girl rolled off her pet, giggling. “You won’t believe it!” Cassie gushed, hugging a fat dull blue box to her chest.
“Oh?” Erty asked, sitting up. A small smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. Every time the young girl acquired any item of any sort of rarity, she became flustered with joy. It was sweet, and he found her happiness contagious.
Cassie fiercely bobbed her head several times, dislodging her pink headband from where it had been snugly resting. Erty reached forward, and pushed it back into place as the young girl eyed her prize joyfully. “It’s the bestest, Ertypie.”
Wincing slightly at the childish nickname, Erty laughed lightly and asked, “Well, what is it then?”
The child’s eyes sparkled, and she pulled the box’s lid off roughly. One pale hand darted into the box, and she paused. Fighting the urge to roll his eyes, the Shoyru did his best to look excited.
Then she pulled out a paint brush.
Immediately, Erty sat back and frowned. His forehead creased in confusion, as he looked at the gray paint brush she wielded. He wasn’t sure quite what it was; he’d never seen such a thing before. The brush end of the paint brush was stuck in rock, like some sort of Excalibur spin-off. Whatever it was, it had to be new.
Whatever it was, it wasn’t normal.
“Do you like it?” squealed Cassie, overjoyed as she waved the paint brush in the air. Remembering to be nice, Erty relaxed his face, and smiled.
“It’s great,” said the red Shoyru calmly; he kept the anxiety out of his voice. There was no need to make himself look like the sort that overreacted. Paranoia wasn’t one of his traits, no. Paranoia was something that weirdoes had. Normal folk, they did their best to be calm. Like him.
Though, that paint brush was making him feel awful paranoid. It was giving him cold chills all around, and if he hadn’t been so normal, he might even have recognized them as maybe a sort of precognition.
Cassie squinted one eye shut, tilted her head, and stuck out the hand that held the paint brush. Erty gulped as her little pink tongue slipped out of her mouth in thought, and she imaginarily ran the paintbrush several times over his face.
Things were about to get very, very weird.
It was embarrassing. No, not the evitable paint job. Wait, well, that was embarrassing too. But the way Cassie and Molly tricked him to going to the Rainbow Pool with them was, well, humiliating. Against his better judgment, he believed them when they said they’d sold the Relic paint brush, and had bought a normal brown paint brush.
Brown paint he was okay with. It wasn’t as normal or common as red, but in relation to most of the other colors, it was normal enough. Besides, how could he say no to Cassie’s puppy eyes? There wasn’t a neopet alive that could.
After finding himself cornered at the edge of the pool, Erty was confronted with two options. Either let them paint him, or fight for his freedom. Being painted would be absolutely terrible, but then again if he, a healthy strong Shoyru, wrestled a young girl and a diva Grarrl, he would surely create a scene.
So he relented. His shoulders sagged in defeat, as his young owner brandished her weapon of choice: a Relic paint brush.
How odd it was.
The next day, he refused to leave the house. He huddled behind the Simple Purple Sofa, his stony tail curled around him. It wasn’t normal behavior, but it also wasn’t a normal situation. His skin had been transformed, hardened, grayed. His wings had small cracks racing across their surface. Beneath his feet, a platform of stone followed him like a solid shadow.
Molly thought he was being silly.
“You’re the rarest color in the world, and you’re embarrassed?” she demanded, as she leaned around the furniture. Erty turned gruffly away from her.
“I am not embarrassed,” he corrected stiffly. “I just don’t feel like going outside.”
“So you’re hiding behind the couch,” stated Molly blandly.
The comment stung, and annoyance burned through Erty like a fire. What right did she have to criticize him? This was her fault anyway. If she hadn’t teamed up with Cassie...
But what was done was done. Erty knew it was childish to lash at Molly. Despite that, he growled curtly, “Who asked your opinion?”
Even though Molly was offended easily, she never took offense like others. While some neopets would simply get angered by such a rude remark, and storm off, Molly wouldn’t. She wasn’t the kind to storm off, the kind to give up.
Erty would never admit it, but if anything that was the one trait he admired the Grarrl for. He’d never seen stubbornness like hers; mind you, he wasn’t jealous of her. Such unusual stubbornness wasn’t something he wanted for himself.
The Shoyru squealed like a little girl when Molly lurched forward and grabbed his literally rock hard bicep. “We are going to hit the town,” she hissed, pulling his face close to hers, her gold eyes sparkling threateningly. Erty tried to protest, but his words got stuck in his throat.
Molly could be awfully convincing sometimes.
An hour later, Erty found himself being dragged after the buoyant Grarrl as she fluttered from stand to stand. Molly seemed to be having quite a good time, pawing through piles of clothes and jewelry, shifting through books and coins, haggling over prices with the shop keepers.
Oddly enough, she was acting normal, while Erty was the one acting off. He was the one slouching, the one avoiding eye contact with every other neopet in the area. In his mind, he simply pretended that he was still a simple red Shoyru. He wasn’t painted Relic, he wasn’t one of a kind, and he definitely wasn’t drawing stares from every shopper and shopkeeper.
In his mind, he was normal. But in reality, he stuck out like a meepit among feepits.
“Oh my god.” Molly had paused, her eyes fixated into a small wire cage. Erty stopped behind her, so busy pretending he didn’t exist that he didn’t notice what she was looking at. “It’s so cute!”
The whole exchange seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. One second, she was kneeling forward, and peering at whatever was in the cage. Then, her gold coins glinted as they were handed to the shopkeeper, and before Erty could compute what happened, she was reaching inside the cage.
“For you!” purred the Grarrl, shoving the petpet in his face.
It would have created one heck of a scene if he had started screaming at her, and he knew that, but he almost did. Anger boiled over, as he glared at the helpless petpet.
It was weird. Six blue ears decorated its head, four more than what it should have had if it was normal.
Erty forced himself to speak calmly. “I. Don’t. Want. It.” Why was it so hard for Molly to accept that he was only into normal things? He didn’t want some freak petpet. Not the didn’t like the petpet! It was cute, in a weird way. But that was the problem! It wasn’t cute in a normal way, like his gruslen.
It didn’t even occur to him to point out he already had a petpet. He was too caught up in the thing’s ears.
“Too bad!” Molly snorted, as she pushed the mouse petpet into his arms. “He’s a Seece, and his name is Molo-lolo.” Gritting his teeth, Erty did everything to contain his rage. Was she serious? What kind of name was that? It was weirder then her nick name, Molo, which it was obviously based after. If he was going to name a petpet, he’d name it something nice and normal. Like Joe, or Bill. Not Molo-lolo.
Holding the petpet tentatively, Erty scowled. “You can have him.” His stone hands held the petpet out to Molly, but she had already turned and was skipping down the street. Aggravation rippled through him, and Erty stomped after her.
He was keenly aware of every other neopet’s eyes trained on him. He must have been quite a sight, a Relic Shoyru, marching angrily down market street carrying a blue and white mouse petpet with six ears.
Whatever happened to being inconspicuous?
“Molly, stop!” Erty cried after the Grarrl, as she wound through the streets, always a few yards in front of him. She seemed to ignore him, until she turned down an empty alleyway and finally stopped. Huffing, Erty caught up to her, stopping a few feet away.
Following her had given him some time to relax, to calm. The anger was still there, but it’d subsided. Now he was ready to try and reason with her. “Listen, Molly,” Erty began.
Molly cut him off abruptly.
“You don’t need to be normal.” There was a heavy silence between the two pets. Even though they were just feet a part, their trains of thoughts were respectively continents apart. Erty closed his eyes, focused on being calm. He knew that Molly would bring that up.
Molly refused to give in.
“It’s just... stupid!” In a way, it was a lame understatement. Being normal was more than just stupid, at least to Erty. Right now, being normal was very hard. What with having rough, stony skin and heavy, rigid wings. Very hard.
“No, shut up. I’m talking,” growled the Grarrl viciously. Erty blinked at her in surprise. It seemed odd that she would care so much about such a trivial issue. If he wanted to be normal, he would be. End of story. Yet Molly took a step forward, and continued, “You try so hard to be just like everyone else. But you know what?” Erty remained silent. “You aren’t everyone else. You are a stupid, paranoid, big baby!”
He didn’t want to listen to her. Below his feet, the platform of stone rippled and shifted anxiously. He was normal.
“Stop trying.” Molly’s last comment came out as a whisper. Shocked, the once red Shoyru found himself staring at the most sincere face Molly had ever had. Despite her calling him so, Erty wasn’t stupid. If Molly was concerned about something, then it was serious. Not some joke, not another piece of the gossip she loved, not trivial.
To her. To him... it was still trivial. But, seeing her concern, he sighed. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to rethink his goals a little bit. Maybe a little bit of deviation would be healthy, and maybe it would make Molly a bit happier.
A strange thought occurred to him. He’d much rather have Molly, who was essentially his only friend, be happy, then for himself to be normal at all.
Shock. Molly gazed at him, her mouth hanging open. “What?” she asked, dazed by his answer.
“Fine,” Erty repeated louder, crossing his stone arms. His Seece skittered up his arm, and sat itself on the Shoyru’s shoulder.
Molly continued to gawk for another couple of seconds, before she finally reacted. “No way!” the Grarrl exclaimed. “You’re caving? Already?” A large grin was growing on Molly’s face, her sharp white teeth showing.
“I’m not gonna be super weird, but-” Molly didn’t need any more explanation from Erty. She let out a devilish squeal, and grabbed his stone paw, and dashed past him. It was clear she wanted to drag him back to the market place, but well, a Relic pet is impossible to drag. So instead, he stayed rooted to the spot, while she chatted and tugged on his hand.
“Oh my god!” she said once again. “There’s no time to waste! On the way here, I saw the cutest goggles- the swirly green flight kind!” Before Erty could snap that there wasn’t a chance in Darigan he was going to wear swirly green flight goggles, Molo had let go of his paw and was drifting down the alleyway, back towards the noise and crowds. “And I saw the best on fire shoes! No, I mean it! They were literally on fire! And they were part of a fire sale too!”
Rolling his eyes, Erty decided to not argue. His opinion probably meant little to the stubborn Grarrl. Usually, this bugged him. Today, though, he found himself taking it pleasantly. Unusually pleasantly.
“Come on,” Erty said with a chuckle to his new petpet. “Let’s catch up with her before she buys something outrageous, like poisonous Spooky Food or Battle Bones or something.” His Seece squeaked in agreement, all six ears twitching.
Hmm. Being odd couldn’t be all bad. His weird new petpet was pretty cute.
“I think I’ll call you Bill,” said Erty thoughtfully, as he jogged to catch up with Molly.
What? Just because he accepted the petpet doesn’t mean he was about to let it keep the weird name Molly had come up with.
There’s nothing wrong with being a little bit normal.