Once upon a time, there lived a little blue Gnorbu. His name was Indy, and he had never had an owner. Usually this did not bother him, because unlike many ownerless Neopets, Indy was lucky enough to make his home in the lush meadows of Brightvale. Sometimes, though, when he watched a fellow Neopet being spoiled by their owner with books, clothes, toys... he did feel lonely, and longed to be adopted.
This story is all too common amongst ownerless Neopets, but once again, Indy was lucky. One warm spring day, a young girl arrived in Neopia for the first time. Her name was Alice. The first time she lay eyes on Indy, she just knew she had to be the one to take the little blue Gnorbu home.
Just like that, it was arranged. Indy had an owner, Alice had a Neopet, and within days the two were fast friends. Alice was the best kind of owner – smart, kind, and generous with her Neopoints. She and Indy bought a little house on the outskirts of Brightvale, and soon Indy was the one being spoiled. Every time they went into town, Alice would buy her Gnorbu a new book or a stylish hat. Their house was richly furnished, with paintings on the walls and delicious food on the table. Indy was happier than he had ever been in his life.
Then, one day, that all changed.
It was on one of their many trips into Brightvale. Alice was wearing a bow in her hair, while Indy sported two shiny new pairs of boots. They were on their way to Brightvale Books to buy Indy the latest in a series of comics about the Defenders of Neopia. "I'm up to issue 29," Indy was saying excitedly. "The Defenders are just about to unmask the identity of the Shadow Man!"
"That's nice, Indy," Alice said. For once, she didn't really seem enthusiastic. Alice was as big a Defenders fan as Indy was – something was clearly wrong.
"What's the matter?" Indy asked nervously.
"Nothing," his owner replied with a sigh. She seemed very distracted and didn't even look at Indy when she spoke to him. Instead, her gaze was trained on...
"Wow," Indy said when he saw it.
A group of Neopets was gathered at the entrance to Brightvale Castle, and every single one of them was garbed beautifully. The female Neopets wore long, flowing robes and flowers in their hair, while the males were sporting elegant coats and trousers. But it wasn't just the clothes that made the Neopets stand out.
They were, each and every one of them, painted.
As Indy watched them, he felt his heart break. Never mind his new boots – he felt scruffy and grubby compared to that colourful cohort. Purple, white, island, faerie, every one of them clothed to match their colour... how could he, a basic blue Gnorbu, ever hope to match them?
"Aren't they beautiful?" Alice sighed.
And Indy knew that she wished he were like them.
They went straight home and Alice did her research. She consulted books, paintings, magazines and more, desperate to find the perfect colour for Indy. "I'll make you a thousand times more beautiful than any of them," she told him determinedly. "I'll save up for months to buy the perfect paint brush. All I have to do is figure out what to paint you..."
The search went on for days. Christmas? Too common. Disco? Too flamboyant. Halloween? Too spooky. Mutant? That wasn't even a question!
Finally, Alice found it. The perfect colour for Indy. "Every one of those Neopets we saw will be jealous!" she declared. "They'll queue up for miles to see you. You'll be gorgeous, Indy. You'll be featured in the Neopian Times and all the magazines. They'll write songs about your beauty! Indy: the royal Gnorbu."
Indy's jaw dropped.
"R-royal?" he quavered. "I... I'm not royal! I don't know how to act royal. And, Alice... royal paint brushes are expensive!"
"I know," Alice said. "But it'll be worth it!"
They saved up for months. Gone were the days of new books and new clothes every time they visited Brightvale. In fact, they sold all the books Indy had read before, and the old clothes that he no longer wore. They sold their grand house and moved into a smaller place, auctioning off much of their furniture as well. Indy missed his clothes and books and toys, but he knew that it was what Alice wanted, and so he didn't complain. He was pretty excited to be painted, too.
At last, at long last, they were ready. They travelled all the way to Faerieland to make the purchase from the fabled Hidden Tower, which Indy hadn't even known existed. As they descended the invisible spiral staircase, their feet tapping gently on the invisible marble floors, Indy felt his heart pound with nervous excitement. After months and months, they were finally going to get that paint brush, and then Indy could truly make his owner proud.
When they paid for it – such a huge sum of Neopoints! – Indy could scarcely believe his eyes as he watched Fyora hand the brush to Alice. It lay on a royal red cushion, sparkling with power.
"Th-thank you," Indy said timidly to the Faerie Queen.
She smiled gently at him in response, but then her beautiful smile turned into a frown. "Come here, child," she said, beckoning him over.
Indy obeyed nervously, trotting towards her and then bowing. "C-can I help you, my lady?"
The Faerie Queen touched his mane gently, then stared into his eyes and peeked into each of his ears. "Have you visited my sister before? The Fountain Faerie?"
"N-no, my lady. Never."
"Strange," Fyora murmured. "You bear what looks like her mark... Never mind. Carry on. I wish you both the best."
Alice was giddy with excitement as they made the trip to Neopia Central. "Can you believe it, Indy?" she squealed. "You're finally going to be royal! Gosh, I can't wait to see the expression on everyone's faces when they see you! You're going to be the prettiest royal Gnorbu there ever was."
"But what about what the Faerie Queen said?" Indy asked nervously.
"Oh, don't worry. I'm sure she just meant you're going to look beautiful when you're painted. Now hurry up! I want it done before it gets dark, so I can see you properly."
Alice's enthusiasm was infectious. Indy soon forgot the Faerie Queen's curious words as they travelled into the heart of Neopia Central. The Rainbow Pool glimmered with the same sparkling light as the Royal Paint Brush, clutched protectively in Alice's hands. "I'm finally going to be painted," he murmured. Never in all his years in the Brightvale meadows had he imagined this. "I'm finally going to be painted!"
They reached the edge of the pool and stared into its shimmering, swirling waters.
"Ready, Indy?" Alice asked.
"Ready, Alice," the Gnorbu replied, and he trotted into the pond.
Alice followed after him, giggling. "Gosh, it's warm!" she exclaimed. "Don't splash me – careful! Now come over here." She held the paint brush up and beckoned Indy over. The Gnorbu closed his eyes as she made the first stroke, right down his face.
"It tickles," Indy muttered, squirming.
"Shh! Hold still. Just remember, soon you'll be beautiful." Alice painted him quickly but masterfully, not missing a single strand of fur. The shimmering paint on the end of the brush gradually began to disappear as it melded into Indy's blue fur, sparkling a little before fading.
"Is it working?" Indy asked breathlessly, eyes still closed.
Alice was frowning as she painted a stripe down his leg. "I don't know, Indy... you're still awfully blue. And I don't see you growing a crown or a cape anywhere."
"Oh." Indy opened his eyes and stared down at his body. It was, as Alice had said, still awfully blue.
"The paint's all gone," Alice said nervously, staring at the brush. "Maybe you need to roll around in the water a bit?"
Indy did as she suggested, but all that happened was his awfully blue fur became awfully wet blue fur. "It didn't work," he said. "Maybe the brush was faulty?"
"The Faerie Queen wouldn't sell us a faulty brush," Alice said. "Quick! Indy, think. What did she say to you?"
"She said... she said I bore the Fountain Faerie's mark. What does that mean, Alice? I've never been to the Fountain Faerie! I've never even been painted!"
Alice stared at him, her eyes wide. The used brush and its tasselled cushion fell from her hands into the pool.
"Indy, you can't," Alice whispered. "You can't be painted."
Indy shook his head, droplets of water flying out of his mane. "But I was! I just was!" he cried. "You just painted me, Alice! You said I was going to be royal!" Tears welled in his eyes as the truth sank in. "I can't be painted. I'm never going to be royal."
"Oh, Indy, I'm so sorry." Alice knelt down in the water and hugged her Gnorbu tightly. "Don't worry! You mightn't be royal, but you're still my beautiful Indy. It doesn't matter if you're blue or brown or yellow, or if your fur is wet or covered in dirt. You'll always be my Indy, and you'll always be beautiful."
Indy sniffled. "Truly?"