The Grass is Always Greener: Part Two
It was quiet. That was the first thing Wroulf noticed. The second thing was that a blinding yellowish hue hung over the landscape. He was still holding onto Jatalle’s paw, and could see Vilmori a sort distance away. But all of the other pets had disappeared and they appeared to still be right by the--- He looked around. Right by the Wishing Well.
Jatalle stirred and looked around with surprise. She also saw where they were.
“Did either of you wish for all of them to disappear or something?” She asked. But both Lupes shook their heads. It was admittedly difficult to recall the last few moments of panic, but still, they didn’t remember that thought. But while still unsure, Wroulf suddenly noticed something. His sister looked... different, somehow. So did Vilmori. He couldn’t put a finger on it, but there was definitely something.
Jatalle reached up to straighten her headdress, but stopped short. She tugged it. It didn’t move. Vilmori tried, but it seemed stuck. Very stuck, in fact. It wouldn’t come off, no matter how much she or the Lupes tried. It was strange, but soon their attention was drawn by something else.
There were pets walking around now, but they looked different somehow. Less... solid. Jatalle saw a blue Kougra, a grey Meerca and a green Buzz. But they weren’t how she was used to seeing them. There was something missing.
Wroulf leaned in and whispered. “They’re not wearing clothes, any of them!” And she realized that was what she had been noticing. It wasn’t strictly true, however. She spotted a few royal pets wearing their robes and crowns. But they seemed static and almost painted on. There was none of the other clothes she was used to. No jewelry, facepaint, shirts or shoes. It all seemed very plain.
She poked her brothers to come with her, then approached a friendly-looking green Gelert who appeared to be playing some kind of game.
“Excuse me, but what are you playing? I haven’t seen that game before!”
The Gelert looked up at her, amazed.
“But it’s Destruct-O-Match! It’s one of the most popular games around here, I thought everyone played it.”
Jatalle looked, and there were similarities. But the blocks were different, the power-ups were different.
“Is that the old version?” she asked hopefully.
“Old?! No, this is the one and only version!” answered the Gelert.
Jatalle opened her mouth to reply, when suddenly, there was a jolt, and the air fizzed around them. When everything swam into focus once more, the pets were still wandering around, but some had subtly changed. The pose of the Gelert in front of them had changed a bit. She backed away nervously.
Wroulf grabbed her hand and motioned to Vilmori to follow.
“This must be the old Neopets, things are different but the same! That’s definitely the first version of Destruct-O-Match, which we can’t even play properly anymore. And we’re back before clothing, before customization. I don’t know how!”
But Vilmori did, the moment he said that. The Wishing Well. The crowd wanting things back to the way they were. He explained his guess to his siblings.
“So, somehow, with all the pets wishing for the same thing, the Well tried to respond. But we got sucked in, and now we’re way back in time! How do we get home?”
But an idea struck Jatalle, suddenly. Back home didn’t seem so appealing, what with all the discontent and the crowd. Maybe there was a way to solve all that from back here? It definitely seemed a more exciting time plan than just making a speech. She explained to her brothers, but Vilmori looked skeptical.
“But you don’t actually have a plan! What can we do from here to make things happier back in normal time?”
Jatalle saw his point. But added that as they didn’t know how to get home, they might as well search for a solution to both problems at the same time. And to this, her brothers agreed. But where to start looking for a solution?
The obvious start was to try the way they got in. All three pets linked hands, turned to the Wishing Well, and fervently wished to be home, back in their normal time, back with their owner, anything like that! They tried jumping in the Well, splashing in its waters, everything. Apart from getting cold and wet, nothing happened. After an hour of trying, they gave up and dried themselves off in the grass miserably.
It was getting late, and they were starting to feel hungry. Jatalle grabbed her bag of Neopoints and went into the food shop. She came out carrying bags and bags of shopping, looking a lot happier.
“Everything is so cheap here! Only a few Neopoints each.”
“Be careful, though, I don’t think it will be easy to make more if we get through all of ours,” replied Vilmori. “There’s no Key Quest back here, and unless you remember all of the lottery numbers since the beginning of Neopia, it might be a tiny bit difficult.”
After they wandered around aimlessly for a while, darkness fell, and brought with it an incredible coldness. Huddling together, the same thought occurred to all of the siblings. They needed a place to stay. And to get a house, they needed an owner. That would be the plan for the next day. With that, they spent an uneasy night under the Money Tree waiting for the morning.
Jatalle awoke with a plan in mind. “Right. To get adopted, we need to find an eligible owner.”
“The pound?” asked Wroulf. But Vilmori began to shake. He had spent a while in the pound before joining Jatalle’s family, and hated it. He knew how difficult it was for an unpainted pet to be adopted, and suddenly an icy feeling swept through him. He pictured the island Aisha and the baby Lupe being led away by a smiling owner while he was left alone and hungry in the pound.
“I need to be painted,” he declared. Jatalle and Wroulf looked at him in shock. He had never expressed any interest in being any colour but green before. Actually, he had argued many times to keep his basic colour, and it was how he was happiest. But Jatalle brought out her Neopoints again and they headed to the Trading Post together.
“Wow, things are cheap!” she exclaimed, looking around happily. “What colour would you like to be?”
“Something people want to adopt,” he replied.
“Halloween then?” suggested Wroulf. “People seem to love Werelupes.”
And with that, the decision was made. Even with the deflation, Jatalle was noticeably low on Neopoints after the transaction, but there was an air of excitement among the group as they headed to the Rainbow Pool. Painting was always fun. Even Vilmori got caught up in it.
Although he still had reservations. He liked being a green Lupe, and never wanted to be anything else. But the fear of being abandoned was still present, and more pressing. He made a silent promise to himself that, when this was all over, he would get himself green again, no matter what he had to do. And with that, he grabbed the Halloween Paint Brush and jumped into the Pool.
Jatalle and Wroulf watched from the bank as a intimidating-looking Werelupe emerged, shaking off drops of pearly water. It didn’t look at all like their brother, and they were a bit nervous. Maybe he had really changed?
“Do I look OK?” asked the strange Lupe. But he sounded like Vilmori. And his eyes were still the same.
“Of course!” replied Jatalle, smiling. And the Werelupe smiled back. She felt that she might be able to get used to her brother looking so strange. Eventually. Now just to find an owner.
Nervously, the trio approached the Neopian Pound. There was a group of pets milling around while potential owners grabbed the ones they liked the look of. Nervously, Jatalle, Vilmori and Wroulf joined hands. Then they crept past the wall of people and in with the pets. Instantly, people went mad.
“Painted pets!” came the cry from all sides, as people ran towards them. Jatalle snatched up Wroulf, terrified that someone would step on the small Lupe. But the crowd carried on coming, and in the ensuing chaos, she and Vilmori’s hands were wrenched apart and someone grabbed her. Keeping a tight hold on Wroulf, who under any other circumstances would be appalled by this treatment from his sister, she dragged him behind the person who had her. She tried speaking, but her voice was drowned out. And the next thing she knew, she and Wroulf were standing outside the Pound, with a new, strange owner sporting a friendly smile on his face.
She quickly looked him over. He didn’t look too bad, really. Certainly pleased to find himself the proud owner of two painted pets. But she felt guilty. She already had an owner. The best owner in the World, just she was in the future. And they did need somewhere to stay while they sorted out how to get back.
And then it finally hit her that Vilmori was not with them, and she turned back with an agonized look at the Pound. There was still a mass of people, but she couldn’t see the familiar green shape. Not that she was looking for that shape, she sharply reminded herself. She was looking for an unfamiliar brown shape. But still. Nothing.
“Well... Hello!” said the strange Neopian (her new owner, she reminded herself quickly), “and welcome to the family! Well, you’ve probably just been abandoned by someone heartless and cruel, but I will look after you and be the best owner ever! I have lots of omelette!”
Jatalle forced a smile onto her face. Wroulf looked ready to cry. But they obediently followed the stranger into his Neohome. And were immediately accosted by a young blue JubJub.
It was difficult to understand what he was saying, but Jatalle decided, after mentally interpreting it all, that he was called Ticcico (‘but everyone calls me Tico’), he had been the only pet in this family until they arrived, and that he was incredibly energetic. It was quite a shock to her, who was used to living with the quiet Vilmori and the thoughtful Wroulf. Every time she thought of Vilmori, she felt as though a splash of icy water had been dropped on her head, but she wasn’t sure what to do about it.
“Alright, I’ve got to go shopping for school supplies, so help them settle in, Tico!” yelled the owner as he backed out the room. Tico looked delighted.
“Wait, you have Neoschool?” asked Jatalle, surprised.
“Not yet, but it’s starting really soon; everyone says so!” said Tico happily. “We’ve been stocking up on school stuff for months, before the rush. I’m really looking forward to it!”
“Well, if I were you, I’d not bother buying too much more,” remarked Wroulf under his breath. It seemed cruel to ruin the young JubJub’s mood. Out loud, he asked, “So, what do you want to do today?”
“Wanna play Tug-o-War?” asked their new ‘brother’. And neither had the heart to say No. So they found themselves a few minutes later in long grass outside the Neohome. Wroulf looked down, and was surprised and more than a little happy to see it was petpetpet-free. No itching!
They played together all afternoon, and Jatalle decided, once she managed to forget about Vilmori, that life wasn’t too bad. Tico was really friendly, if naive, and life back now didn’t seem as bad as she thought it would be. But regardless, they couldn’t stay. After a while, she and Wroulf explained to the JubJub about how they’d lost their brother. He was really sympathetic, and promised to help them out. She guessed that he was bored with no siblings, and he eagerly helped them hatch a plan to find their brother.
The next day the three pets started looking for Vilmori. The basic plan was simple, but they couldn’t think of a better one. It essentially included just... looking. So the trio set off. They started off in the Lost Desert, which seemed as good a place as any to find someone. As they moved along, Jatalle noticed something that hadn’t been as apparent the day before. They were moving... more easily than normal.
“Must be the lower graphics quality,” mentioned Wroulf, who had also noticed it. As they passed through the sand, among the Neohomes, there were pets walking around looking at tablets.
“But what does it all MEAN?” Jatalle heard one say in exasperation. Smiling slightly, she walked past without saying anything. They moved through the desert and into snowy Terror Mountain.
Suddenly, Wroulf let out a cry. Coming towards them was a strict-looking owner. And marching stiffly by her side was a slightly-familiar brown shape with very familiar blue eyes. Vilmori.
To be continued...