Hunter sighed as he tapped his claw against the concrete wall of his cell. It made a clear clacking sound that echoed through the silent pound. It was 4:00 in the morning, and Hunter couldn’t sleep. He had been abandoned by his owner only a few hours ago; it had been close to midnight. He was sure some greedy owner would snatch him from this dreary place come morning.
It was technically his first time ever actually staying in the pound. The grey Lupe had been traded from one owner to the next countless times throughout his life. He was what most owners would consider “badly named”, but he was still valuable for his avatar color. Most of his owners didn’t want a pet with a name like Wolf_Hunter712, even if he was painted.
The teenage Lupe had not had a definite home in over five years. He had still been young when his first owner, a boy in his early teens, discovered the pound board and traded Hunter for a pirate Ixi.
Hunter chuckled to himself, thinking about how ironic it was he had actually been abandoned. His previous owner, a hot-tempered avatar collector in her early twenties, had lost her temper at him after he’d dropped her Ice Scorchstone and shattered it. Three million neopoints were suddenly gone.
“Hey, will you stop that tapping? Some of us are trying to sleep you know!” A voice shouted at him from another cell.
He couldn’t see the pet that’d yelled, but he assumed it was the moody green Acara he had seen sulking alone in her cell on his way inside. He had wondered why she didn’t have roommates before, but now he figured why. He stopped tapping the wall, and decided to try and sleep instead; who knows, maybe the morning would be better.
He snorted at the thought. Ha. Yeah, right.
* * *
Hunter woke up to find bright sunlight pouring through the small glass window above him. The pound didn’t seem as gloomy with the summer sun illuminating the corridors outside his cell, though not many of the other pets seemed to pay attention to it.
Hunter yawned and sat up. He could tell it was still early. There weren’t any clocks in the pound, but he assumed it was nearly 7:30 by the position of the sun outside. He noticed his two roommates were awake, but neither had risen from the old bare mattresses they were given to sleep on.
He figured they didn’t plan on being adopted anyways, and didn’t want to waste the effort of getting out of bed before breakfast time. One of them, a Christmas Kyrii, smiled politely at him, but didn’t introduce herself. The other, a blue Shoyru, was glaring at him. Hunter figured the Shoyru was envious of his color, and Hunter was sure that he’d be adopted by the first greedy owner that set their eyes on him.
Sitting close to the bars of the cell, he watched the adoption door for when potential owners would begin coming in. He didn’t care too much what kind of human would take him, as long as they had at least a decent bed to offer him.
Hunter assumed he had lived with every type of owner that existed in Neopia. Restockers, contest winners, rich, poor, stuck-up, shy, even some kinder humans from time to time had adopted him for a while.
A half hour passed before he heard the door creak open, and the pink Uni led a girl into the adoption area. Hunter couldn’t see the human very well from where he was, but he assumed she was new. She was looking at each pet in each cell with vivid interest. She was rather short, from what he could tell, and was dressed in plain, simple clothes. She also didn’t appear to have other neopets with her, so he assumed whoever she adopted would be her first pet, unless of course the girl’s pets were at home, still sleeping.
Still, Hunter quickly lost interest. He didn’t really want to go with a newbie, especially one as clueless as her. He settled onto the concrete floor of his cell and rested his head on his paws, hoping to appear uninterested in being adopted, not that that would make a difference to an avatar collector.
Soon enough, the human approached his cell, and studied the three pets inside. Her eyes passed over the others and rested on him. Great, he thought. When she didn’t leave, Hunter rolled his eyes up at her. What he saw caused him to stand up.
He looked at her with curiosity. She wasn’t just short. She was young. A child, he realized, as he studied her small features. He didn’t know much about humans, except that most of his owners were either teenagers or adults. This girl looked about eight or nine. Her face was round, with pink cheeks and large blue eyes full of wonder. Her blonde bangs were pulled back by two glittering barrettes, and she was beaming at him with a childish smile he usually saw plastered on the faces of baby pets.
“Hi!” she said to him. Her voice was high pitched and giddy.
“Hi,” Hunter responded with uncertainty. This human wasn’t actually going to adopt him, was she? He was six years older than her, for Fyora’s sake!
“Do you want to be my pet?” she asked happily.
Hunter almost scoffed at her. Why would he ever want to be adopted by an ignorant newbie? Not to mention she probably would have him taking care of the neohome by himself, as she certainly wouldn’t be able to do it on her own.
“No thanks,” Hunter answered flatly.
Her face fell. “Aw, why not? We’d have so much fun together!” she said.
Hunter raised an eyebrow. Have fun? What was ‘fun’, anyway, to him?
“I... uh...” He didn’t get to finish his sentence, as the pink Uni walked over right as he was trying to think of a response.
“Did you find a pet you want?” the Uni asked with a smile.
“Uh-huh! I want this one!” she exclaimed, pointing at Hunter.
Hunter’s eyes widened and he took a step back as the Uni unlocked the door.
“Actually, I don’t think I really-”
Hunter was cut off as the girl wrapped her arms around his neck in a hug. He let out a cough as she nearly choked him.
“Yes, my first neopet!” she exclaimed happily.
The Uni seemed to think this was the sweetest thing she’d ever seen. She smiled at Hunter as if he were the luckiest neopet in the world.
As they exited the pound, Hunter noticed he was a good two inches taller than his new owner, just walking on four legs. He was almost four feet tall, and she was still shorter than him. He had never been taller than a human; even the tallest Eyries and Grarrls he’d met before were usually shorter than most humans.
“So, what’s your name? I’m Callie,” the girl said.
“Uh, I’m Wolf_Hunter712. Everyone usually calls me Hunter, though,” Hunter said monotonously.
“Oh, can I call you Wolfy, then?” Callie asked.
Hunter blinked. “What?” he asked.
“When I tried to create a pet through the other adoption centre, they wouldn’t let me use the name Wolfy without numbers or something. So since you already have ‘wolf’ in your name, I can nickname you Wolfy like I wanted!” she explained.
“Wolfy...” he repeated, stunned. What kind of name was that for a fifteen-year-old grey Lupe? It was ridiculous!
“I’m so glad you like it, Wolfy!” Callie said, mistaking his distaste of the name for happiness.
He sighed. Whatever, he thought to himself. It’s just a name, right?
They approached a small neohome made of wood. As they went inside, Hunter (or Wolfy) noticed it only had five rooms. There was a kitchen, one bathroom, two bedrooms, and a living room.
The second thing that caught Wolfy’s eye was the decor. The living room consisted of mostly pink and purple furniture. There were two Ultranova Sofas, an Ultranova Rug, a Fyora Print Bean Bag, a Fyora Inspired Bookcase, an Ultranova Lamp, and a Disco Fireplace. There were also several posters of faeries plastered on the walls.
“Want to see your room? I already have decorations and everything in it!” Callie said as Wolfy scanned the walls of his new home.
“Sure, I guess,” he replied reluctantly.
Wolfy was hoping his room would at least have less pink than the rest of the neohome. As he entered the room, he found himself squinting at the bright colors that adorned the once brown walls and floor. It wasn’t pink, but to him this was just as bad.
A rainbow bed, rainbow sofa, rainbow rugs, pillow sets, and strings of multicolored lights decorated his room. It was practically blinding.
“Isn’t it pretty?” Callie asked him.
Wolfy tried not to growl in annoyance. Did she have any idea how ridiculous it looked? It’s not like he was a baby.
“You know, I’m fifteen years old,” he muttered.
“Cool, I’m nine and a half!” she responded, obviously not picking up the hint.
Wolfy suddenly found himself missing the pound boards. It was usually pretty hectic having humans circling him, admiring his dull coat and begging his current owner to trade for their less superior pets.
* * *
Months passed. Wolfy had been getting used to his new home. Callie’s childish behavior sometimes got on his nerves, and other times he found it amusing. Callie didn’t know how to restock or invest in the stock market. She liked to play games. She always brought Wolfy along with her to play games; she never went alone like most of his old owners had.
She wasn’t very good at most of the games, and Wolfy found himself helping her most of the time. She made a decent amount of neopoints, enough to feed them both. Callie didn’t seem to save much. She enjoyed buying toys for Wolfy and playing with him with plushies and other trinkets. She would also buy grooming supplies, brushing his fur with different brushes and combs.
Wolfy had started to realize that he had been starting to enjoy being outside all the time. Playing games and going shopping became enjoyable activities to do on a daily basis. Callie enjoyed Neopia the way owners and pets were supposed to enjoy it.
For Callie, it wasn’t about ambition. She didn’t care about having the most neopoints, or the best pet. She was happy with Wolfy as her best friend. She never went to the boards, claiming the people there were mean. Callie didn’t restock, either. She didn’t like haggling, because she felt it was unfair for the ‘poor shopkeepers’ to lose neopoints because of her greed.
Wolfy had never experienced having a true friend, and that’s exactly what Callie was. She would sometimes call Wolfy her best friend, and Wolfy had grown to like the title. They had fun together, an owner and her neopet. Going to concerts, playing games, completing quests to be ‘nice’ and entering contests for fun rather than trophies. It was the life Wolfy could only have dreamed of having.
This was what Neopia really was in Callie’s young mind. She saw Neopia through the innocent eyes of a young newbie, and Wolfy found himself secretly hoping she would never become like other typical humans. But he knew it was unlikely to happen. Eventually Callie would grow more experienced, and even if she kept him, she would discover ‘dreamies’ and become as arrogant and ambitious as all humans were.
Sometimes more experienced owners asked Callie if she was lending Wolfy for the avatar. Every time Wolfy heard this question, he almost expected to hear her say: “What do you have to offer?” But instead, she would wrap her arms protectively around her Lupe and reply: “No, Wolfy is my pet and I’m not giving him away for anything!”
At first, Wolfy had been surprised by his owner’s reaction. And for the first few weeks she said this Wolfy would roll his eyes in embarrassment, and avoid eye contact with the other owner. But as the weeks rolled by, Wolfy found himself starting to smile every time Callie defensively refused these offers for her pet.
One day towards the end of the summer, Wolfy had awoken to find Callie not home. She always woke up before him, but she was always either making breakfast or playing with plushies. So Wolfy became concerned to find his young happy-go-lucky owner nowhere to be found. He checked all five rooms and the new garden full of mainly gnomes and multicolored plants that Callie had installed in the backyard.
Wolfy decided she had probably gone to play games or buy food. He was considering going to the Neopian Bazaar to look for her, as it was much too dangerous for her to be on her own. Wasn’t it? What if Sloth was invading the Toy Shop or meepits attacked Unis Clothing?
Wolfy knew both these worries were rather nonsensical, but he still didn’t want his little owner lurking Neopia Central by herself. As Wolfy was preparing to leave, Callie walked in the front door with a big smile on her face.
“Callie! I was worried about you! Where did you go?” Wolfy demanded as he heard the door.
Ignoring the Lupe’s questions, Callie simply grinned. Wolfy noticed she seemed to be hiding something behind her back. He raised an eyebrow.
“I have a surprise for you!” she announced, almost bouncing with excitement.
“What is it?” Wolfy asked, trying to see what she was holding.
Callie’s smile widened even more and she brought her arm around to reveal a Rainbow Paint Brush, shining faintly in the dimly lit kitchen. Wolfy just stared at it.
“Isn’t it cool? My first paint brush! I got a Disco brush from a guy in a hooded cloak this morning on my way to the Food Shop, and I traded it along with some extra neopoints on the Trading Post for this!” she explained.
“You got it from a guy in a cloak?” Wolfy repeated with concern. ...Unless it was from Jacko the Phantom Painter! Of course, he suddenly thought with relief.
“Well, good job, then,” Wolfy answered.
“Thanks! Let’s go!” she said, turning back towards the entrance.
“What do you mean?” Wolfy asked.
“Let’s go to the Rainbow Pool!” she said as she opened the door.
Wolfy took a step backwards.
“You’re not planning on painting me with that, are you?” Wolfy asked.
“Of course I am! I wanted to paint you something pretty, but I didn’t have enough neopoints before, but now you won’t look so dull!” Callie explained.
“Callie, do you know how much a grey paint brush is worth? Rainbow is a much cheaper color! Besides, it’s not very popular anyway,” Wolfy exclaimed.
Callie gave her pet a puzzled look.
“Who cares if it’s not as many neopoints as grey? Grey’s boring and it makes you look sad. Rainbows are cheerful and fun. Also, if rainbow isn’t as rare as grey, then people won’t bother me about giving you away!” she reasoned.
Wolfy sighed in defeat. He still didn’t want to give up his color, but he just couldn’t say no to his owner’s excited blue eyes. He hated nothing more than watching the luster in her bright happy eyes drain as she became disappointed, so he agreed simply to please his owner; something he had not done in a long, long time.
Am I really going to trade my 6-million-neopoint paint job for a ridiculous 600,000 neopoint-color? he thought to himself as he trailed his owner through Neopia Central. Callie probably didn’t even know what rainbow Lupes looked like; she’d just bought the paint brush assuming it would look good.
The walk seemed to take an hour for Wolfy, even though it couldn’t have been more than ten minutes. As they approached the pool, Wolfy’s heart started beating faster. What if rich pets made fun of him? Even the poorer neopets surely think he was a newbie when they saw his multihued coat.
Luckily there were no other pets at the pool. The only pets he saw were a few poorer Neopians waiting by the Money Tree for donations. Wolfy reluctantly stepped into the cool sparkling water and took the rainbow-tipped brush from Callie. Sighing, he submerged himself in the water and ran the brush along his back. The paint automatically began spreading itself along his fur, making him feel sticky. When he felt the wooden handle of the brush dissipate in the water, he stood up and stepped out of the pool. He shook himself off, and looked around for a mirror. There was one displayed near the Neopet Colors list, and he walked over to it, Callie following him happily.
Wolfy simply stared at his reflection. He didn’t feel much different; he felt like the same Lupe he had always been. Only this time, he had an orange face and purple paws. His eyes were no longer red and they didn’t automatically droop. Even his fur seemed to be standing more upright.
Then he turned to Callie. For the first time in what felt like a decade, Wolfy smiled. And this time, his smile didn’t look forced or unnatural. If anything, it only made him appear even more vibrant.
“Do you like it?” Callie asked.
“Yes,” he said finally. “Yes, I really do.”
And it was true. He couldn’t even remember the last time he had felt so happy. As pet and owner made their way to the games room, Wolfy couldn’t help but notice how bright and sunny the day was. He could’ve sworn it had been raining when they’d left the house.