The Mystery of the Maraquan Ball: Part Seven
"Are you insane?!" the Peophin asked incredulously. He read what she had written several times, as if he couldn't quite believe that she had defied him. "Everything I've worked and planned for... ruined! I can't believe you did this!" He uncorked the swirling purple and green mixture and smoke escaped in billows around his hooves. "You're going to be sorry. I warned you!"
Something heavy hit the Peophin in the back suddenly and as he stumbled forward, the Malice Potion went sailing over the counter. The glass shattered loudly on the kitchen floor and Lady waved away the smoke to see her sister sitting squarely on the Peophin's chest. Kelp waiters and waitresses flooded into the kitchen, responding to the sound of what they assumed to be a tray-carry gone bad.
"Tell me the truth," Grey hissed at the Peophin. "Right now!" she added when she saw that he was stumbling for an excuse.
"Grey! How did you know I was in trouble?" Lady asked. She was thrilled that her sister had come at precisely the right moment.
"Call it sisterly intuition," Grey answered. "I'm sorry if he scared you. I wasn't sure when to jump on him because I didn't want that potion to accidently spill on you."
"Ladies and Gentlepets!" a high-pitched voice called loudly from the ballroom, "May I have your attention! It's time to give out the annual Paint Brush Protection League honorary awards!"
"Paint Brush Protection League..." Grey mused. For the moment she was ignoring the Peophin as she strained to hear the announcements.
A deeper voice took over the announcing amid tumultuous cheers and rounds of applause. "Thank you very much! I would like to begin by recognizing two new members for their extraordinary service. Without them, we would truly be at a loss. Sally and Lenore, please come on stage. My dear friends, these two Neopians have worked tirelessly to assure a bright future for all painted pets everywhere. They have made flyers and started neighborhood committees in the hopes to start hourly shifts of guard duty for any gallery that still contains paint brushes. While most of us are content to store away our paint brushes here and wait for times to change, Sally and Lenore are actively working to change our communities and make galleries a safer place for paint brush storage. We are all truly in their debt!"
"This is a safe storage place for paint brush owners...?" Lady asked and raised an eyebrow at the Peophin that Grey was still perched on. "Why in the world would you want to take down these people? They aren't doing anything wrong. They aren't stealing paint brushes!"
"My vendetta isn't with them," the Peophin spat out. "It's with your mother. I wanted her framed for ruining their gathering. And I was using you two to do it."
Multiple gasps sounded around the trio and the Peophin grinned toothily at the gawkers. "She deserves it, believe me!"
"Are you crazy? Mom's never done anything wrong. She loves everyone and people love her," Grey stated loudly. She couldn't believe what she was hearing.
"Not everyone! She didn't love me!" the Peophin wailed. Surprisingly, his eyes were suddenly full of tears. "I was stuck in the Neopian Pound the first time I saw her... she trotted in with her big bags of neopoints in one hand and a mug of Earl Grey in the other, and I knew she was meant to be my mother! I'd read her articles in the Neopian Times every single week for a long time... but I never dreamed to see her looking to adopt a pet. I frantically called her name and batted my eyelashes and did everything in my power to win her over, but she just smiled at me and chose some stupid yellow Kacheek instead! I was heartbroken... and I've been trying to get revenge ever since."
"Well, that's... quite a story," a familiar voice said from behind them. Feather pushed her way slowly past the small gathering of Kelp servers and crouched beside Lady. Gently, she peeled Grey off and helped the Peophin sit up straight.
"Feather..." the Peophin said miserably and hung his head.
"I've been looking for you for hours," she told Lady and Grey in an irritated manner and then turned towards the Peophin. "You know, I think you're drastically overestimating me. More times than not, Grey and Lady and that 'stupid yellow Kacheek' act more like adults than I do. I'm not the perfect mother, and I'm aware of my flaws. I didn't choose you because I've never taken care of a Peophin before. You're naturally strong-willed and exploratory... plus the hooves and the tail. Where do Peophin even like to live, anyway? The water? The land? I have no idea. A Kacheek was just an easier pick, and I knew I could take care of him without issue. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. But it looks like you have an owner now, don't you? You're not in the pound anymore."
"I stayed there for months and was never adopted," the Peophin replied. "I escaped."
Feather dragged a hand down her face, apparently weary from everything from the current conversation to the time she had spent searching for her Neopets. "Look... I'm very, very angry at you for dragging my girls into this. Maybe a little less angry because both of them were suddenly painted Maraquan..." She glanced over her shoulder at Lady and Grey, who smiled innocently. "However, I think you should come home with us. I have room for you and I think you'd be a lot less of a disaster if you had some parental guidance..."
"What?!" Lady shrieked and she and Grey launched into a chorus of rejections.
"Zip it, girls," Feather said sternly. "Don't think I'm not going to punish you for leaving me alone with Todd for four hours." She turned back to the Peophin and said, "Well?"
He fidgeted nervously with his front hooves and stared at the ground. "Can I have a nice name?"
"Yup. Nothing but the best vowels and consonants," Feather said. She stood up and waved aside the Kelp servers, who were had been watching the whole situation with bated breath. "Nothing to see here, folks... Oooh! Cannoli..."
"Mom... Lady and I ruined a whole room full of cheap paintbrushes..." Grey said very quietly as her mother snagged a small cream-filled pastry from a silver platter on the counter.
"And when she says 'cheap,' she means things we still could never afford. We even used two invisible ones. Plus the two Maraquan ones," Lady added.
"Well, then we'd better hurry before they realize what you've done," Feather replied with a full mouth. She licked her fingers and began briskly walking towards the kitchen's exit.
"But shouldn't we-"
Feather turned and waggled a finger at her Neopets. "I don't have nearly enough neopoints to replace them anyway, so no we aren't going to do anything. These celebrities and stock market connoisseurs make enough money every year to buy three billion paint brushes like that. I think they'll be fine. Let's just get out of here."
And with that, Feather, her girls, and the new addition to their family left the annual Maraquan Paint Brush Protection League Ball with no intention of ever making a second appearance. They joined Todd on the boat, apologized to the coconut men that he had been terrorizing during Feather's absence, and set sail for home.
What has two hooves, a tail, and is less trustworthy than Jhudora on Illusen Day? I can't answer that precisely since Mom hasn't named him yet... but I can tell you that the Maraquan Ball mystery has been solved and the outcome was much less scandalous than we had hoped. As always, I send my adoration.
Feather's household never quite returned to normal after that one night among Maraqua's finest. Her new Peophin son had some initial trouble adjusting, but soon found his place in the hierarchy. Nicknamed 'Blue,' he is now living the high life as a spoiled Skeith thanks to a few lab ray zaps. Todd continues to terrorize the entire household and regularly holds Feather's slippers for ransom with outrageous demands for expensive gourmet teas. Usually he succeeds, but Feather recently invested in a squirt bottle so the war is still raging. With Kado the 'stupid yellow Kacheek' now a labrat Jetsam and three other finned Neopets living in her house, Feather decided to invest in several pools and fountains for her home to make them all happier. At first she threatened to paint Grey and Lady back to their original colors as punishment for not telling her the truth, but they knew that she secretly liked them Maraquan too much to actually go through with it. Lady's gossip petpage is more popular than ever, although she did witness some initial backlash over the entire Maraquan Ball scandal, since she never did tell her readers the truth of what had actually happened.