The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Sugar
The wind whipped through the Yellow Blumaroo’s long ears, and his cheeks started to glow red with laughter. This ride was still the best attraction in the land and he would have it no other way. Nothing could beat the exhilaration of the rotations, or the thrills everyone else was experiencing at the same time. It was an attraction like this that really made life worth living!
Jair Tollet, Team Roo Island’s Maraquan Eyrie, watched her Team Captain cry in excitement on Roo Island’s famous Merry-Go-Round. She always found this amusing to watch during the off-season of Yooyuball because even though Lilo Blumario was a grown Blumaroo, he still managed to retain his childhood innocence. What was more entertaining to witness was that the rest of her Yooyuball squad were riding fake Neopets with him! She never had this kind of fun in Maraqua.
Lilo called over to her as she was not on the merry-go-round with them. “Come on, Jair! It’s LOADSA fun. Only fifty Neopoints a ride, it’s totally worth it!”
Jair rubbed her neck awkwardly. She knew that she shouldn’t be embarrassed to join her friends on the attraction but she always found it uncomfortable to sit on the plastic saddles given that the lower-half of her body was a tail.
She waited until Lilo had completed a full rotation before responding. “Uh, I’d love to, Lilo, but remember what day it is...”
Fenny Vail, the team’s bubbly red Usul, shouted over her; “It’s my birthday!”
Uh-oh. Jair did not expect that to come up as an answer! Of course it was Fenny’s birthday! How could she forget that?! But that was not what Jair was planning to say at the end of her sentence.
Today was the day that she was returning to Maraqua to spend a few weeks with her family whilst Yooyuball season was over. It had been a date marked on her calendar for months! Now she would either have to sacrifice her time spent with Fenny on her birthday, or delay her trip to Maraqua. It was a hard decision to make.
“Oh, yes! Happy birthday, Fenny!” she cried happily, masking her inner-dilemma. Oh dear, I still need to buy her a present as well, she thought in dread as her friends hopped off the merry-go-round to join her.
The young Usul jumped around hyperactively, showing off a huge “Birthday Girl” badge that her parents had bought her.
“Today is going to be AWESOME!” she said cheerfully, tightening the pigtails in her raid hair. “Next we can get ice cream and play some Dice-A-Roo and maybe practice some arcade games to beat AAA in the next Daily Dare? Then tonight we can party, I can open my pretty presents and then we can have some EPIC cake that my aunt made. This will be the BEST day ever!”
Jair was now feeling horribly conflicted. She did not want to be the sole Neopian responsible for ruining her friend’s day by not being present. She decided to ask for some advice from her Captain.
“Uh... Lilo? Can I speak to you in private? I have a query about, um... about my field tactics for Altador Cup VI.” It was a poor lie but she needed to speak to him in private about her current predicament.
“Tournament queries? Now?” he enquired quizzically, thinking it was a weird question for such a laid-back day off. “You can ask me tomorrow. Now is the time to have some real fun!”
“Uh – as nice as that is, can I please talk to you now? I won’t keep you long, I promise.” She had to be careful to repress the desperation in her voice. She did not want to appear suspicious in front of her teammates.
Lilo thought that this was odd but could not turn down a friend’s request. “Sure, Jair, we’ll chat at the picnic table over there.”
“Thank you,” she sighed with relief as they made their way to a wooden table near an ice cream stall.
“So what’s up?” he enquired, pouring each of them a glass of lemonade. “Are you still worried about the hop-skip thing?”
“No, I’m not actually here to talk about Yooyuball,” she confessed sheepishly.
“Huh? Then what’s the problem?” he asked in surprise.
“Today was the day I planned to leave for Maraqua to visit my family for a little while, but I forgot that it’s Fenny’s birthday and now I don’t know what to do! I can’t leave on her birthday, that’s mean!”
Lilo now understood her predicament and placed a hand supportively on her shoulder. “If your family are expecting you back home soon, you should go. Just leave Fenny her gift and explain that you want to visit your parents. She’ll understand.”
Jair’s guilt was obvious. Her shoulders hunched involuntarily before she explained, “Lilo, I haven’t bought her a gift. I completely forgot, remember, and now I don’t even have the time to get her one!”
“Oh...” He gave this some thought. “I really don’t think that she’ll be offended. You could always bring her something pretty from Maraqua when you return. That’d be nice.”
“Yeah, but that will mean I’ll miss her birthday entirely. She deserves something today.”
“Then why not get her something from the Roo Island Souvenir Shop?”
“Arts and crafts? Make her something special.”
“That will take AGES!”
Lilo was short on ideas. “Just stay and enjoy her birthday until you have to leave for Maraqua, Jair. You’re worrying too much about this.”
Jair was about to agree with him when she was struck by a sudden notion. “I know! I’ll swim to Kiko Lake really quickly to get her some sweets or something.”
“Okay, just come back as soon as possible,” he advised uncertainly, hoping that she wouldn’t miss most of the activities.
“No problem, Lilo. I’ll be back in about an hour, but if you could let Fenny know that I won’t be gone for long, that’d be great!”
“Okay, seeya later!”
* * *
The swim to Kiko Lake did not take very long and by the time Jair arrived, she knew that the trip to the sweet shop would be over quickly. The water was crystal clear in Kiko Lake and the surroundings were thick with a forest of dense trees.
There were three buildings on land in Kiko Lake, all shaped to look like the species themselves. The blue house with a brown roof was the Glass Bottom Boat Tours, which were very popular with the tourists on a good day. Another was a completely wooden building with a dock running along front belonging to the Kiko Lake Carpentry shop. The carpentry building also sported a huge flesh-coloured plaster to make it look more Kiko-like. Finally, the only other visible building was blue with a brown roof, and this was the store Jair was after. Kiko Lake Treats – she hurriedly made her way, knowing that time could not be spent browsing.
Now most Neopians claimed that not a lot happens on this tiny land, but the Tubular Kiko Racing games and Glass Bottom Boat Tours should give everyone a hint that there is a lot more to be discovered about this place, though the Kikos do like to keep a lot of things secret about themselves. And no one ever bothers to ask if they will reveal what lies beneath the lake... but that’s another story.
Jair was not here to explore Kiko Lake! She had a birthday party to attend and a long journey to Maraqua to undergo, so she wasted no time in entering the quiet little sweet shop.
The first thing that hit her was the inescapable smell of sugar that saturated the air of the shop. There was toffee and Kiko Lake rock by the shelf-load, everywhere she turned. The whole of Team Roo Island would be bouncing off the walls hyperactively by setting even one foot in this place!
The Kiko Lakers must have high dentist bills, Jair thought grimly at the thought of all of this sugar. And stomach aches.
“Hello there!” a purple Kiko exclaimed boisterously, floating out of the kitchen with a chef’s hat on his head.
Jair almost jumped out of her skin in shock but composed herself in time to hear him say:
“Welcome to Kiko Lake Treats. We have lots of toffees, cookies by the dozen, soft drinks and our famous rock is our best seller!”
“Rock? What type of confectionery is that?” Jair asked curiously as she had never heard of the stuff before.
“It’s a hard candy. Take a look around you! We have Tigersquash Rock Slices, Pink Rock Sticks, Yellow Rock Sticks...” He listed all of his current stock.
The Eyrie glanced up at all of the hard candies and wasn’t entirely sure what to pick. She eventually made a generic choice and hoped that Fenny would enjoy them. “Oh, wow, so much to choose... Um, how about some Mixed Rock Slices, please?”
“Certainly, miss,” the shopkeeper said politely, scooping up some of the sweets into a paper bag. “Anything else?”
“Hmm...” She couldn’t leave without something else; otherwise, her gift would be too cheap, so she browsed the shelves and chose some raspberry, peanut and strawberry flavoured toffees that were in the cute shapes of Kikos. Then she thought of the rest of the team: “Oh! If you could also include five Fudge Kiko Lollies, that would be great.”
“Of course.” The shopkeeper accepted her payment and handed her the goods. “Have a nice... Oh no...”
Jair turned around and saw a masked, red Scorchio standing in the doorway. He held up a Sword of Domar menacingly.
Seriously? Was this a robbery? In a SWEET SHOP?!
“Hi, Jack. I’m back,” the shady figure said darkly, advancing dangerously towards the Kiko.
Jair watched the Scorchio in bemusement. She was torn between fear for the shopkeeper’s safety and bursting out in hysterical fits of laughter. This would be a fun story to tell her friends when she got back to the island! But for now she was just curious about how this situation would play out.
“Oh, uh... Hello, Gary, what will it be today?” the Kiko asked nervously, beginning to shake as the sword pointed level to his left eye. That eye twitched awkwardly.
“Gimme ALL of your money, y’hear me? All of your Neopoints, all of your customer history and the ‘special’ rock stick, if you know what I mean...”
“Oh... um, but our sugar supplies are low, Gary! We haven’t had our shipment from the sugar beet factory yet and –”
“NO excuses, Jack,” he snarled, cutting off a strand of the trembling Neopian’s hair with a skilled flick of his blade. “The rock stick NOW.”
Jair gasped in disbelief at the robber as the shopkeeper dashed to the back of the store. Was the sucrose in the air making her see things that weren’t there? She decided to ask the thief what he was doing instead.
“Gary, is it?” she enquired, receiving acknowledgement from him in the form of the blade point at her chin. The sword stayed there but she did not flinch. “What the heck are you doing? This is just a sweet shop in Kiko Lake... This is hardly a hotspot to steal from.”
“Who are you and shut up?!”
“None of your business and no,” she retorted coldly, staring him right down the edge of his sword. “Leave the shopkeeper alone and get a real job.”
Gary kept the weapon steady but smirked and laughed in spite of her comment. His eye smouldered fearsomely. “I am stealing the most sugar-loaded rock stick in the world. This twerp only ever makes them once a year and I intend to be the ONLY customer who obtains it! With it I can cause the most horrifying spread of tooth decay in the world, and that darned Tooth Faerie can’t do anything to stop me! Mwahahaha!”
Jair stared blankly at Gary for over a minute before doubling over with relentless laughter! Even at sword-point she couldn’t take this weirdo seriously. Tooth decay? Taunting the Tooth Faerie?! This was hilarious!
The masked Scorchio glared at her but switched his attention to the Kiko who re-entered the shop floor with a HUGE stick of glittering, blue rock. He nervously set it down on the counter and proceeded to open the till to extract Neopoints.
Jair regained her composure, stood up and swiped the huge rock stick from the counter before the Scorchio could lay his sticky claws on it. This aggravated the thief - good - which was all going to plan because she wanted an excuse to teach him a lesson about consuming too much sugar!
The sword was aimed at her throat this time and Gary growled, “Give it back, meanie!”
The Maraquan Eyrie forced herself not to giggle at his immaturity and stepped back to cross the enormous rock stick with his weapon. She addressed the Kiko at the till. “Put your Neopoints away, Jack. (Can I call you Jack?) You don’t need to take any rubbish from this bully. He’s not a threat; he just doesn’t like the Tooth Faerie.”
“Whenever SHE’S around, I always lose a tooth!” Gary spat, displaying several missing teeth in his mouth. “Sure, she pays me for them, but my teeth weren’t even loose at the time!”
Jair was now trying to figure out his motive for trying to cause tooth decay in Neopia with an oversized sweet. “So... where does mass tooth decay come into this plan?”
“I want that blue-haired monster to chase them instead of me!” he wailed, dropping his guard as his emotions took over. “If she was distracted by many Neopians at once then maybe she’d leave me alone.”
Ah, now it made sense. “Okay, that definitely won’t work.”
“Why not?” he demanded, steadying his blade once again.
“Because faeries can vanish and reappear all over Neopia in split seconds. Your plan has that as its major flaw, because the Tooth Faerie, if need be, could come back for your pearly whites in no time at all.”
Gary gasped in astonishment. Great, his plan was flawed and foiled in one day! He then changed his mind as he addressed the shopkeeper instead. “Jack, the Neopoints NO--OW!”
With a CRACK! Jair had connected the massive stick of rock with the Scorchio’s head and knocked him out stone cold. Incidentally a couple more of the poor villain’s teeth fell out as a result of this. Jair felt a bit sorry for him, but decided that the Tooth Faerie could deal with him when she got there.
After this, Jair handed the sweet back to the shocked shopkeeper and turned to leave the store.
“I don’t have time for this,” she declared, clutching her own bag of sweets for Fenny as she made her exit. “Jack, call the local law enforcement to arrest that moron for a ridiculous attempt at a robbery. Thanks for the sweets, now I have a party to attend!”
* * *
Jair arrived back at Roo Island just in time to join her teammates in Fenny’s back garden. Balloons, streamers and all manner of colourful decorations were strewn about in the chaos that was her happiness. The table was laid with a feast fit for King Roo!
Lilo whispered to her as she sat next to him at the table. “What took you so long?!”
The Eyrie giggled as she said, “Kiko Lake must get a lot of visits from the Tooth Faerie. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you that I met her arch-nemesis.”
“What?” He was now thoroughly confused.
“Never mind, Lilo.”
“Well, Fenny’s about to cut the cake, and then you can give her your presents.”
After singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to their friend and each of them devoured a piece of triple-chocolate cake (courtesy of Fenny’s aunt), the team proceeded to play ‘Pin The Tail On The Pteri...’ where Clutch Billaban, an old Green Pteri on the team who was losing his feathers, immediately hid out of view.
Gordo Gunnels, their brutish-looking blue Defender, allowed Fenny to give him a makeover just for today. He really did look funny in a dress!
Lilo put on a magic show. Not that he was very good at it, but he wanted to say he had tried something different in his life.
And Jair, whilst Fenny was busy opening her gifts, told her tale about Kiko Lake to the team. They naturally didn’t believe a word of it, but they all agreed that too much sugar was a bad thing. Even though the Rooligans loved to eat sugary things! They enjoyed the sweet contradiction of their sugary objection by chewing on the Fudge Kiko Lollies that Jair had purchased for all of them.
Jair stayed for the rest of Fenny’s party because there was no use ruining such a good day. She could leave for Maraqua in the morning... but for now she just wanted to spend some more time with her friends.