My eyes locked with a pair of bright emerald. They belonged to a Kougra, one that was glowing radioactive green. I held his gaze for a few moments as the pink Uni behind me shifted hopefully. The feline's face grew anticipative as I contemplated my options. Glowing pets were not exactly the rarest of the bunch. Those paint brushes were fairly cheap and easy to come by. Well, that was nothing a good paint job couldn't fix. I turned to the Uni and asked for his name.
When she told me, my heart dropped. It was not a bad name. Rather exotic sounding, actually. No, it was the _xxxx that follows that warded me off. I hesitated for a moment before saying, "Sorry, never mind." The Uni sent me an angry glare as I turned away from the Kougra. Despite this, I didn't miss the despair that filled his eyes as I began to trudge back down the damp halls of the Pound.
Each step echoed off the metal walls. As I passed by row after row of cages, I couldn't help but look into them. Some were clearly full of new pets. Those were the ones with fresh heartbreak written across their faces as they peered at me, paws clutching the bars. Others huddled in the corner, not even bothering to glance up. Those were the ones that knew they would probably never be adopted-the ones with long names that were impossible to pronounce and trailed after by lines of numbers. If they were lucky, a kind owner would find them. Perhaps they'd be morphed into something new, or thrown in front of the lab ray until they changed into one of the more desirable colors.
But most likely, they wouldn't.
I tried to ignore the guilt nagging at me as I continued to scan the cages. If I found a species I liked, I'd take a glance at their name tag. Every time, I saw the underscores and numbers and was forced to continue on. You see, I wasn't looking for a fancy color or limited edition pet. I was hunting for names. If I could find a pet with a good name, I'd take them home and introduce them to the mad scientist who ran the secret laboratory. They were bound to get a good zap sometime.
It seemed that day was not my day, though. After a few more minutes, I gave up. The gloomy atmosphere was starting to get to me.
I bid the Uni farewell before hurrying back home.
The moment I walked through the doors, my baby Lupe greeted me. Kiba_566, my first pet. He was back from my newbie days, when I didn't understand the importance of a good name and a better color. Despite this, I wouldn't trade him in for anything. Name or no, Kiba is my baby, and I'm not letting him go anytime soon.
"Did you find me a brother?" He asked as I began to pull some jelly out of the fridge.
I smiled. "You know it could be a sister," I tried.
The Lupe immediately wrinkled his nose and shook his head. "Nah. It has to be a brother." The melancholy left from the pound begins to turn into a warm glow as he turns his chocolate-brown eyes upon me. "So, did you?"
I shook my head. "Not today." His face immediately fell in disappointment, and I quickly added, "But soon. The moment I find someone, you'll have a new sibling."
Kiba's face lit up immediately. Then an expression of curiosity came over him. "But why is it taking so long? There are lots of pets, aren't there?"
Suddenly, my mouth went dry. I honestly didn't know what to say. I tried to explain to him, tried to tell him that I needed to find a pet of the right species and name. He, with his childish innocence, just didn't understand. Why did names matter? A pet was a pet, right? As long as they were loved, did it matter what he or she was called?
I was forced to pull some ice cream out of the freezer to distract him. Thank Fyora for baby attention spans. The crisis had been diverted for the moment.
That night, though, I couldn't sleep. Kiba's words swirled around in my mind and refused to let me be. When I finally slipped into my dreams, they were haunted by luminescent tears dripping down a glowing green face.
The next day I went out again. The Uni huffed as she saw me walk in. I hesitated, put off by her obvious dislike of me, but steeled up my nerves and approached. "I'm looking for a pet..." I began nervously.
"And what would be the name?" she asked in a clipped tone. When I told her, she seemed surprised. It really was no wonder, given my previous attitude. The Uni's eyes softened. "I'm sorry, but he's already been adopted."
I stumbled out of the pound in a haze. He had been adopted? I suppose I shouldn't have been so astonished. Even if glowing wasn't a rare or expensive color, it was technically a step above basic. I told myself it didn't matter. I had been a fool anyway, letting Kiba's words get to me. He was just a baby pet. He didn't understand anything, didn't grasp such concepts in this cruel world.
The next day, I asked for his address. The Uni directed me to the new owner, and I went there. It was a quaint little house in Terror Mountain, clearly belonging to a newbie from the lack of decoration. Feeling incredibly like a stalker, I peered through the windows.
There, I saw him. The Kougra was playing happily with a plushie, a blue Kacheek beside him. The other pet was munching on an apple. Behind both of them, the young owner watched proudly.
I swallowed thickly, unable to tear my eyes away from the sight. They looked undeniably like a family, were genuinely happy with their current status in Neopia. Color didn't matter. Species didn't matter. Names didn't matter.
They loved each other and that was what counted.
I could only wonder how long this would last.
When I got home, I took Kiba out to buy some smoothies. He was surprised, but ecstatic. I never treated him to such meals. Why should I, after all, when I could simply get free food at the giant omelet?
That night, over a dinner of orange chicken, I finally asked Kiba if he'd like to come to the pound with me. "We'll pick out your new brother together," I told him. I was already considering which petpet to buy.
Before I went to bed, I found a paper and pen. I had the odd urge to write. For an hour, I scribbled page after page to the new owner. I illustrated the importance of ownership, begged her to ignore concepts such as good names, and repeated over and over that love made a pet and not color.
I stared at it, several hundred words of instruction and warning. Then I crushed it into a ball and tossed it into the recycling bin. That done, I picked up my pen and a clean sheet of paper. With the ink still drying, I called over the mail Weewoo and gave it the address of the Kougra's new owner.
On the paper were four simple words.
Take care of him.