A Well-Deserved Vacation
She really needed a vacation. And that was a large irony in and of itself. She worked at a Neolodge, after all.
"Welcome to the Royal Neopian, how may I help you?" the Shoyru said promptly, a speech she had rehearsed many times. A Grarrl approached the desk, and growled something about dinner reservations. Kia motioned towards the concierge desk and the pet stomped off without so much as a "thank you".
She sighed. It was like this, day in and day out. Pets demanded that they deserved upgrades, a cheaper rate, or a room with a balcony and a view. The hotel itself was moderately priced, but it was grand enough that many pets assumed they could boss around the staff.
When a pink Usul stormed down the front staircase carrying a Babaa whose fur was as pink as his owner's, Kia could tell this was trouble.
"My room—341—looks like a Snorkel sty! There is filth all over the floor and even the comforter on the bed has bite marks all over it. I demand a refund!" the Usul huffed. Kia resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Without looking too closely, Kia could already see bits of blue fabric in the petpet's fluff.
"Ma'am," Kia said in as calm a voice as she could manage, "you were made aware of our petpet policy when you chose to stay in one of our petpet-friendly rooms. All of our rooms are cleaned and inspected upon the departure of each guest to ensure that our next customers have a clean and pleasant experience."
"And?" The Usul sniffed impatiently.
"And that means that an owner is responsible for managing his or her petpet for the duration of the stay. Any accidents must be paid for by the owner."
"What?" The Usul's tone had switched from annoyance to pure outrage. She was a good actress, Kia noted. "You think my little Fluffy did this? How dare you even suggest that! And you refuse to give me a discount!"
"Ma'am..." Kia began placidly.
"Don't you 'ma'am' me! The Times will hear about this for sure! Why—the health inspectors will have a field day here! Where's your manager?"
With impeccable timing, as always, the fire Tuskaninny glided smoothly to take his place beside Kia. "Hello there," he said, his voice polite but firm. "I'm the manager here at the Royal Neopian. What can I help you with?" The Usul explained her predicament, as angrily as ever, and the manager nodded and murmured sympathetically.
"Of course, we can compensate you fully for this. I've included discounts for future stays with us as well. I'm sorry you had to have such an unfortunate experience on your first stay with us." The Tuskaninny glanced over at Kia and the Usul smiled smugly.
"Well, thank you for your help," she said as she swept out of the lobby. Kia's frown was etched across her face and her head was pounding furiously.
"Kia," the manager sighed once the Usul had left. "Was all this trouble really necessary?" He was not terribly angry, but he seemed a bit exasperated, as if Kia had caused all of this ruckus on purpose.
"Sir," the Shoyru said once the two of them were out of earshot of the other guests, "I was just following procedure and trying to make sure that she didn't rip us off. You know as well as I that her own Babaa caused all of that mess. And now we're going to have to pay repair costs. And we apologized to her for the trouble!"
"Always placate the customer, Kia."
"But just last week you reprimanded me for moving that elderly Ogrin to the ground floor suite because she had trouble getting up the stairs!"
The manager frowned. "Kia, why don't you take the rest of the day off? You're clearly worked up over this, and you can relax a bit. Go for a walk, read a book, and come back when you've cooled off."
"Sir, I—" she was about to argue with him, but then she stopped. "You know what? That's a good idea. I think I'll do that."
"Good." The Tuskaninny sounded relieved.
"But I won't be coming back," she added, almost as an afterthought.
"You... quit?" Her manager stared blankly.
"I quit? Yes, yes, that's right! I'm quitting!" Kia announced, her voice growing more confident once she realized her own decision. "Thank you for the job, but it's time I go elsewhere." Kia felt a little guilty as she gathered her belongings and stepped out the front doors, but she knew this was her only chance to leave; it was now or never.
"Leaving early today, are we?" a Blumaroo called from behind the thick bushes that hedged the entrance to the Royal Neopian.
"Actually, Horace, I quit today," Kia admitted, shrugging sheepishly as the Blumaroo gardener came into view.
"Quit? Well... good for you!" Horace said, leaning on his rake. He smiled and wiped the dirt off of his brow. "You've been such a big help with these gardens, you know. I still hope you'll come by occasionally... to help me with the weeding if not just to say hello."
"Don't worry," Kia told him, leaning over to give the dirty Blumaroo a sideways hug. "I'm sure I'll drop by."
Kia whistled as she gazed at the view before her: the gentle bubble of healing waters greeted her and she could catch a glimpse of a magnificent castle partially shrouded in the mist. She had decided that Faerieland was a good first stop to make. She had only traveled here once, years ago, and it had been a pleasant enough trip. Plus, she thought to herself, The Employment Agency is right over there, and there's no harm in trying to find a job while I'm here.
She approached the counter of the Employment Agency and cleared her throat. "Excuse me," she said, directing her question to a blue Kacheek. "I'm looking for a job..."
"Most pets are," the Kacheek told her, smiling. "Here, you'll just have to fill this out." The Kacheek slid a form over the counter to Kia, explaining how there were spaces for previous employment, skills and hobbies and contact information.
Once Kia had finished and returned the form, the Kacheek exchanged it for pink ticket. "Keep it with you, as your reference number," he advised. "We'll be able to get back to you in a few hours. If you come back by the end of the day, we can let you know what we've found. Until then, feel free to wander around Faerieland. The castle, if I do say so myself, is quite magnificent."
Kia thanked the agent and took his advice, wandering around Faerie City and enjoying all the sights. She had been admiring the castle from afar, so after purchasing a book at the Faerieland Bookshop, she decided to see the castle for herself.
The purple Shoyru walked the grounds for a little while, admiring the grandiosity of the castle, and trying to stay out of the way of the many faeries that flitted past. In the distance, Kia noticed a faerie Korbat who seemed to be mulching around fruit bushes, and so she decided to say hello and congratulate him on the well-kept grounds.
"These gardens are gorgeous," she said as she approached.
"Why thank you," the Korbat replied, dipping his head in appreciation. "Although I can hardly claim credit for all of this!"
Kia smiled and admired the shrubs at their feet. "Is that a Star of Paradise?" she asked.
"Sure is," the gardener said. "Although it's a tricky little plant, that one. I can't get it to flower."
"Does it need more water, perhaps? The soil does look rather dry." The two pets turned around to find a faerie standing behind them. She was dressed in a hooded emerald green cloak, and she stood poised. Kia guessed she was an earth faerie based on the color of her robes and the fact that she was spending time helping the gardener.
"I don't think so..." the Korbat said slowly. "I've been making sure to give it a lot of water over the last few days and its condition hasn't improved."
"It needs sunlight, actually," Kia said matter-of-factly. "The bottom leaves are turning brown, so that's a hint. Plus, those new shoots are angled towards the light." The Korbat nodded in understanding. "Since those fruit bushes over there grew, they seem to be blocking the sun. Trim those down and I'm sure the Star of Paradise will bloom in no time."
"That was extraordinary!" the Korbat exclaimed. "I'll be sure to trim those down right away. Do you have gardening experience, miss?"
"Just a bit," Kia admitted. "I worked in a hotel, actually, until a little while ago, and I helped in the garden a few times. Plus, I've gotten used to figuring out what customers want rather quickly. Plants let you know what they want too, even if they keep quiet about it." The Shoyru smiled at the flowers at her feet. "They're more polite than pets, that's for sure!" she joked.
The faerie was watching her with interest, but did not say anything, so Kia continued. "See those fruit bushes over there? I'm guessing you may have a Slorg infestation rather soon. They leave their trails by the roots, you see."
"You'll attend to those problems, Trig?" The faerie's musical voice drifted through the air, and the Korbat nodded and gave a small bow. The faerie turned to Kia and said, "That was quite amazing. Would you mind walking with me for a moment?" Kia agreed, and so the two of them continued along the garden path.
"Are you searching for a job currently?" the cloaked faerie asked, nodding towards the pink slip that was poking out of Kia's bag.
"Yes, I am, at the Employment Agency."
"How would you like a job?"
"If you have a quest, I assure you I can be quite fast..." Kia said quickly.
"No, not a quest. It's more of a... position." With her last words, the faerie removed her hood, revealing flowing purple hair and a small silvery-blue crown perched neatly atop her head.
"Fyora!" Kia gasped and then realized her manners. "I mean, Your Highness, I had no idea, I—" Fyora smiled at the Shoyru's stammers.
"Do not worry, little one. As I was saying, I have a job for you to consider. I happen to have a garden that needs tending."
"Yes, I'll do it!'' Kia blurted out.
"It won't be an easy job," Fyora warned. "You would be tending my personal garden of Health Shrooms. It's my private, secret garden, so you may have to be by yourself for many days at a time. And taking care of the garden will be hard work itself."
"Don't worry," the purple Shoyru replied, thinking back to her old job, hectic and draining. "This is exactly what I've been looking for."
"Excellent!" Fyora said, and she beamed a dazzling smile that made Kia glow from the very inside. "I'll help you get settled right away." The two walked side by side, the majestic faerie queen and her tiny Shoyru companion.
"What's your name, young one?" Fyora asked in her gentle, lilting tone.
"Antikia," the Shoyru replied. "Antikia Lighten."