A Growing Family
“YO, PEOPLE!” Lola, the snow Kiko shouted through her family’s safety deposit box. “Look what I found.”
“Shut up, Lola! Do you want Dragon to find us?” Ben, a magma Kougra, hissed as he turned into the aisle of the vast cupboard. At the other end of the aisle, a tall blue Gelert and a red Eyrie were running up. The four pets had snuck into the safety deposit box and were on a mission to find something their owner Dragon wouldn’t realise was hers already for her birthday.
“Sh! If we get kicked out of here, we’re toast!” Zeru said.
“And I really haven’t got enough NP to buy her a present right now,” Tatsu, the Eyrie, said.
“Yeah, but look at this! It’s one of Dragon’s old notebooks,” Lola said, flipping through the fuzzy notebook. “And I think it’s actually got a finished story in it!”
“Oh! We could get it published in the Neopian Times for her birthday!” Tatsu exclaimed.
“Yeah, if it’s any good.” Zeru agreed. “Read it.”
“Ok. Here goes...”
“HEY, GET DOWN HERE RIGHT NOW!!”
“What did you do now, Ben?” Lola, the green Lupe, shook her head at her red Lupe brother.
“Me? I never did anything! What did you do?”
“Aw, come on, you know I would never get into trouble...”
The two Lupes raced each other down the stairs of their brand new neohome. Lola skidded at the bottom, slapping into the door before running into the living room.
“What?” Ben asked their owner, Dragon, who was clearly excited about something.
“You know I’ve got a side account, right?” Dragon said. She was clutching the latest copy of the Neopian Times to her chest.
“Yes! Akatonbo, right?” Lola said excitedly. Excitement was one of those things that spread very easily.
“What about it? You finally decided Zeru and Tatsu are going to move here?” Ben asked, sitting down on the sofa.
“Look!” Dragon thrust the Neopian Times into Lola’s face. “Look at the comics!”
“Wow! Like, oh my gosh, WOW!” Lola yelled. “Did you do that?!”
Dragon nodded. Lola chucked the newspaper at Ben and hugged Dragon very hard. Both girls were squealing extremely loudly.
“You got into the NT?” Ben said unbelievingly. “Wow, congrats!”
Dragon did a little happy dance, clapping her hands.
“Thanks! I’m so happy about it, I mean, I submitted it ages ago, before you were even born, and I thought it had been rejected because I never got a neomail or anything!”
“Wow, we need to throw a party!” Lola yelled, jumping up onto the other sofa. “When can we have it?”
“Ooh, we need to have it as soon as possible!” Dragon yelled. “I’ll sort out the invites!”
“And I’ll sort out the decorations!” Lola yelled after Dragon, who was running into the kitchen to get some paper.
“I suppose I’ll get the food then,” Ben said, who was the only one who hadn’t lost it right now.
Lola ran up to the loft and crammed out the box of party stuff. She toppled back downstairs again and started throwing streamers everywhere, singing, ‘we’re gonna have a party!’
Meanwhile, Ben took a bag of neopoints from the cookie jar and headed off to the market place.
When Ben arrived at the marketplace, he found it bustling as usual. He decided to go to the bakery to get some cakes first.
Ben bought a lot of cakes - you could never know how many people Dragon was inviting. As he turned around, a blue Gelert popped up in front of him, giving him a fright.
“Zeru! What did you do that for?! I almost dropped the cakes!”
“Oh, you know how fun it is scaring you.” Zeru, Ben’s cousin, bought herself a cookie and came outside with Ben.
“Why have you got that many cakes, anyway? Did I miss someone’s birthday?”
“No, but Dragon’s throwing a n00b party. She hasn’t gotten over her comic yet.” Ben paused. “I think I can hear her squealing from here.”
“Uh-oh, not again!” Zeru pulled up the hood of her jacket. “It might just be the comic fan club. They’ve been asking me about Tonbo all morning.”
“Oh yeah, you don’t call her Dragon, do you?” Ben said, looking around for the source of the squealing. “Can I suggest we get out of here quick before anyone recognizes you?”
Zeru nodded and pulled her hood down further. “Is it just me, or does it look like it’s going to rain?”
Moments later, it started raining very heavily. Ben ran into the chocolate shop, dripping everywhere. Zeru followed, and pushed down her hood, revealing messy blue hair.
“Where’s Tatsu, anyway?” Ben asked her, running his paw through his hair to get the water out.
“She said she was going straight to your house,” Zeru said lightly as she flicked some hair out of her face. “Speaking of which, I’d like to get there very soon.”
“Me too. All this chocolate is too tempting,” Ben said, and bought two bags full of chocolates. “What else should I get?”
“Hot dogs?” Zeru pointed out across the street. “And while you’re getting those, I can get some smoothies, if you want.”
“That would be great, thanks, Zeru,” Ben said, and they both ran out of the door, into the pouring rain again.
“We’re gonna have a party,” Lola and Tatsu sang together as they hung balloons up all over the sitting room.
“Think we should put some outside?” Dragon asked, lighting some candles on the table.
“No, you definitely shouldn’t do that,” someone said from the doorway.
Dragon turned round to see her pets Ben and Zeru standing in the hall, puddles surrounding their feet.
“In case you haven’t noticed, it’s raining,” Zeru continued.
“Now, if you take the food, we can go upstairs and get changed.” Ben added, handing Dragon the box of food.
“Wow, that’s heavy,” Dragon muttered. “Oh, and Zeru, you can just take some of Lola’s stuff.”
“Thanks,” Zeru said as she hurried upstairs after Ben.
“How many people did you invite?” Lola asked as she dried the carpet where Ben and Zeru had been standing.
“Oh, a few,” Dragon said vaguely. “Speaking of which, I think there’s someone coming now.”
Lola opened the door just in time for three pets and their owner to come running in. They all slammed into the wall opposite.
“Tina!” Lola shouted as the smallest pet extracted herself from the wall. The tiny Cybunny rubbed her nose and blinked a lot.
“Hi,” she said after a bit. “Heard about the comic.”
“Hard time not to, know how many neomails Dragon sent us?” Max, Tina’s Darigan Kougra brother, asked in his usual deep, sad voice.
“Um... ten?” Lola guessed, grinning.
“At least fifty!”
“Ha ha, I feel so sorry for you!”
Everyone stayed up late that night, chatting, eating or drinking. Several pets went mad, and there was an incident involving a lot of jelly.
Since it was too late for Zeru and Tatsu to travel all the way back to Krawk Island when the party was over, they simply stayed at Dragon’s house. The two extra pets meant there was a slight problem with the beds.
“I want to sleep on the bed!”
“Well, that’s just tough, because I am,” Zeru argued with her little sister.
“But I want to!”
“How about we all go and sleep downstairs in the sitting room?” Lola suggested before her cousins started hitting each other. Both of them agreed to that, so, at about 3:00 in the morning, the girls could be seen walking downstairs, trailing various blankets and pillows. Although it was late, none of them were tired yet.
“So, what’ve you two been up too lately then?” Lola asked when they had all settled down.
“Oh, not much, trying to sell off all the stuff in our safety deposit box. And polishing the new, shiny trophy on our window sill!” Tatsu laughed.
“And you, Zeru?”
“The usual. Neoschool keeps me busy, Mrs. Plum keeps me out of trouble, and Tatsu is trying to drive me into an early grave. It’s not easy when your owner is off all the time, you know.”
“Yeah, I suppose... I think she’s planning something, Dragon is,” Lola said thoughtfully, swinging her legs over the side of the armchair she was sitting on.
“Wonder what,” Tatsu said, rolling round on the sofa.
“Maybe another NT entry,” Zeru suggested, piling up her pillows on the last sofa.
“Ooh, speaking of which,” Lola started. “I want to get in, too!”
The three girls were chatting long into the night, until they had finally run out of things to say. After being silent for a while, Lola noticed something.
“What’s this jelly doing under my blanket?” she said in mock anger as she hurled the offending jelly at the ceiling, where it stuck, before landing on the floor with a squishy flupp.
All three of them fell asleep laughing.
The next morning, everyone was woken by Dragon as soon as she got out of bed. This was roughly 12:00 NST.
“Gah, it’s still so early!” Zeru moaned as she collapsed onto the kitchen chair, still in her pyjamas, as everyone except Dragon was.
Lola and Ben agreed to this; Tatsu’s head, though, just fell onto her omelette.
“Yes, she is dead,” Zeru said matter-of-factly after poking her little sister with a spoon. “I am now looking for a new sister, preferably a Gelert like me - oh, she’s only sleeping.”
Everyone except Tatsu laughed, tucking into their omelettes.
After breakfast, everyone was considerably brighter. Until Dragon told them the bad news of the day.
“You can’t expect me to clean it up all by myself,” Dragon explained.
“Why tidy it up at all? I mean, the girls slept on it, so we could easily use it as a sitting room,” Ben argued.
Zeru, Tatsu and Lola nodded, jelly dripping off them, big grins on every face.
“Yeah, sure, and look at them now! It’s not like they’re a total mess, or anything.”
Lola shook jelly out of her sleeve, Tatsu hid a huge chocolate stain on her top and Zeru flipped her hair around a bit so it looked neater.
“Nice try. You’re still helping.”
“All right then, fine,” Ben grumbled. “But I am going to have a shower and get dressed first.”
“No way, I’m going in the shower first!” Lola yelled as she grabbed hold of her brother’s sleeve.
“I’m a guest, I should go first!” Tatsu shouted, pushing Lola out of the way. While the three of them argued, Zeru quietly slipped out of the room and was just entering the hall when Ben spotted her.
“Hey! Zeru’s half way there!”
Everyone started running, and Dragon heard a slam as the first pet won.
Shaking her head, Dragon wondered if it really was a good idea to let her two side-account pets move in.
“Attention!” Dragon yelled, and immediately all four pets scrambled to line up in order of height: Zeru, Lola, Ben and Tatsu.
“Right. Zeru, get all of the jelly into the bin!” Zeru saluted and ran to get a bucket.
“Lola, same thing for all the other food!” Lola saluted too, and hurried to find a bag.
“Ben, remove all the stains!” Once again, Ben saluted and went to find a mop.
“Tatsu. Put everything back to its own place!” Tatsu snapped a salute and slammed against the armchair, pushing it back towards the corner.
“And I’ll get the shopping,” Dragon yelled, and left the house.
“Typical,” Zeru snorted, slopping some jelly into her bucket. “We get to slave our backsides off and she goes shopping!”
“Ben, you’re just spreading the chocolate around!” Lola said in exasperation. “You mop after we picked up the food, OK?”
For the next hour or so, all four pets cleaned the sitting room, Zeru slopping jelly, Lola scraping dried chocolate, Ben mopping and Tatsu grunting while trying to move the sofa. (What she didn’t know was that Zeru had sat herself at the other end, deliberately stopping her from moving it.)
When Dragon came back, the room was half cleaned. Everyone stood to attention when she came in, until she yelled ‘carry on!’.
“Heh, I can just imagine Dragon posting a topic on the neoboards. ‘Trusty 4-pet cleaner army; 1,000 NP a room!’” Lola joked when Dragon had went upstairs.
“Never, ever say that while she’s listening,” Ben said seriously, prodding Lola with his mop. He shuddered. “It would never do to give her ideas.”
Zeru and Tatsu nodded hastily.
“I’d hate to do this as a job,” Zeru growled as she picked up more jelly from underneath the sofa.
“Shame, that’s about the only thing you’ll find as a job offer,” Tatsu laughed, and dodged the jelly Zeru threw at her. “You’ll have to clean that up now!”
“Right! Inspection time in five!” Dragon yelled from upstairs.
“Ack! We’ll never get it done!” Tatsu yelled as she flapped her Eyrie wings in agitation.
“Of course we will. We just need to find a place for all of this rubbish!” Zeru said calmly, but she was flicking her tail herself.
Ben stuck his mop and bucket in the cupboard and helped Tatsu move the last of the furniture.
“Oh no, we’ve got, like, two minutes before she comes down! Where should we put the... UFM?” Lola said nervously.
“UFM?” Zeru raised her eyebrow as she tipped the jelly into Lola’s bin bag.
“Unidentifiable Food Mixture.” Lola grinned. “Hey! We should sell it, saying that it’s a great Battledome weapon!”
“Oh, just give it here,” Zeru pulled the bag out of Lola’s grasp, and dragged it out of the front door. “Get rid of the bucket.”
The bucket Zeru had chucked back landed on Lola’s head. Hard.
Zeru came scurrying back in just before Dragon came downstairs. They formed a line again, and stood to attention once more.
“Hm, let’s see.” Dragon muttered as she inspected the sitting room. “Furniture? Check. Tatsu, you’re free to go.
“Stains? Check. Ben, you’re free to go.
“Food? Check. Lola, you’re free to go.
“Jelly? Check.” Dragon turned back to Zeru, the only one still standing at attention. “Where did you put all of it?”
“Every bit of the UFM was disposed safely on the Meridell Rubbish Dump,” Zeru said smoothly. So that’s where she put it, Tatsu thought.
“UFM?” Dragon asked.
“Unidentifiable Food Mixture.”
“Ha ha! Excellent! Zeru, you’re free to go!”
Zeru saluted, as the three pets before her had done. All four of them ran outside, arguing over who got to be on what team for yooyuball.
That evening, everyone was gathered at the kitchen table, chatting happily while waiting for Dragon to serve dinner.
“So, have you guys had fun today?” Dragon asked as she placed a pot of steaming soup on the table.
“Even the cleaning was ok, I suppose...”
“What?!” Zeru, Tatsu and Lola looked at Ben as if he had gone mad.
“Well, the whole ‘4-pet cleaner army’ thing was cool,” he said, and “Ow!” as Zeru hit him on the head with her spoon.
“What happened to ‘not giving Dragon any ideas’?” she said, but Dragon only laughed.
“Zeru, you seem to be using your spoon a lot more today than you usually do,” Tatsu commented, using her own spoon to point at Zeru’s.
“Yeah, well, this is my Super Attack Spoon!”
After they had all stopped laughing, Dragon started talking.
“How would it be if Zeru and Tatsu came to stay with us?”
“Ha! Told you!” Lola yelled, pointing at Ben across the table. “I made a bet that you would ask us that before dinner,” she said smugly at Dragon’s quizzical look.
“But it’s not before dinner anymore,” Ben argued.
“Anyone started eating yet?” Lola asked. No one even had soup in their bowls yet.
“Told you so,” Lola said, and Ben stuck his tongue out at her.
“Moving on,” Dragon shook her head. “So, how would it be, girls?” She looked at Zeru and Tatsu.
“Hm...” Tatsu said, pretending to be lost in thought.
“Hm...” Zeru copied. “Well, I think... We’d love it!”
Lola and Tatsu squealed and hugged each other.
“Finally I’ll have a sister!” Lola said excitedly. “I’ll have someone who will actually listen to me for a change!”
Again, Ben stuck his tongue out.
“But where are they going to sleep? We’ve only got three bedrooms,” Ben asked.
“Oh, I’m sure they’ll be able to share with Lola for a while,” Dragon waved a hand as she poured soup into bowl with the other.
“I know...” Zeru said slowly.
“THE SITTING ROOM!!!” all three girls squealed.
“Just to let you know,” Ben waved his spoon at Dragon. “I’m quitting the cleaning army.”
“Aw, look! That was right at the beginning, when it was just us four!” Tatsu said, smiling.
“Yeah,” Ben sighed wistfully. “I wonder what happened to those good old days...”
“Shut up, you!” Lola hit her brother on the arm. “It was also before you got turned into a Kougra.”
“And you got addicted to the lab,” Zeru added. “So, what do you think? Should we?”
“Yep,” Lola said happily.
“Sure,” Ben agreed.
“Deffo!” Tatsu made it final.
“Okey-dokey then. I’ll sort out the paperwork, but I have absolutely no responsibility for her reaction. Remember, I was only here to repay a favour to Ben.” Zeru tucked the fuzzy notebook into the inside pocket of her coat. “Come on then. Let’s move out.”