A Juma's Journey Home
Licking wounds, the little juma cowered in the corner without so much a whimper while his two older sisters fought for food that the shopkeeper placed in the cage minutes earlier. At two months, they are ready to be sold and be part of hopefully caring families. And that was something the juma hoped for, even though his sisters often laughed and looked down on him; the runt of their litter. Wishing he could belong to a family; he never really felt that he belonged to his current one after they were weaned from their mother. Tired of it all, he wanted to just shut his eyes and shut out everything; his sisters, the cage... But he dare not, for the fear that his sisters may suddenly attack him unawares.
A striped Xweetok quietly followed the elderly Xweetok, on the streets of Shenkuu's central marketing district. Rai cringed a little at the shrill shouts from some of the stall and shopkeepers, calling and beckoning their would-be customers to come and buy the wares they have on hand. She never did like the pushiness of some of these shopkeepers, but she can't blame them; they have to make a living. Following her grandmother to the market to help her, Rai felt a little sad that this would be her last trip in a very long time with her grandmother.
"Now let's see... What else do we need, dear?" queried Oba-chan, breaking off Rai from her reverie.
"Well, Oba-chan, I remember you mentioning earlier that we'll need to buy some more carrots, radishes, cabbages and berries. Ah, and I believe we're out of fish as well," Rai gently reminded her.
"Oh, that's right! I knew I asked the right grandchild to come with me to the market today." The elderly Xweetok smiled as they headed to the vegetable stall.
"Oba-chan, all your grandchildren will willingly help you out with anything. You just need to ask."
"Ah, I am so glad that I have such good grandchildren. It's a pity that I won't be seeing one as often as I would like to..." Oba-chan said softly.
Her parents, both who were always busy working are moving to Neopia Central when her father got transferred to the main company branch there. Despite the consoling that her cousins gave her; saying that Central is about one of the most happening places in Neopia and that she'll have access to many things, she isn't sure if she will be happy there. For one, Rai will be leaving behind her grandparents and relatives; she'll miss them greatly, as her parents placed them under their care whilst they were away at work almost all day. Also being the only pup, Rai would be alone for most part of the day after school is over even though her parents now will not be working such long hours like before. So, she isn't looking forward to the move at all even though she is happy for both her parent's advancement in their career.
"I will miss you and everyone else here. But I'll write often!"
"That, I know you will do. And now," as they walked away from the stall with their purchases and headed over to where the fruits and fish stall are "we'll also need to buy a birthday gift for your cousin Kaminari. Would you have any idea what he would like?"
"Well, Kai kept talking about how he would like a new pair of boots for training school, though I think there's a new book that his favourite author had published recently."
"I see... Well, I am very sure his parents and perhaps one or two of his uncles and aunts will gift him those boots! I'll need you to come with me to the bookstore, dear. I will not know which book is the one."
"No problem, Oba-chan. He's been talking endlessly about it, so I know which one it is. Good thing we share the same interests in books," Rai said with a smile. Not only were these cousins of the same age, they were born on the same day that their family members often joke that they're twins that were of different parents; as they had many similar interests aside from the books they read and were almost always together.
A family member that means so much to her, she knew that they'll miss each other's company and the times spent together. "At least, we'll be able to write often and it should be fun; reading the letters and replying to one another," the Electric Xweetok had said, when he was told the news. And when Kai put it that way, Rai looked forward to the idea of letter writing though it isn't the same as talking to one another face to face. After all, she will be losing more than a childhood playmate; he's her best friend.
"There now, have I gotten the right book, Rai-chan?"
"Yes, Oba-chan. Kai will be happy with it," Rai confirmed.
"Good, good! Now... One last trip, and we will head for home." Oba-chan placed the package into one of the baskets that they were carrying.
"Alright, but where are we going to?"
"Ah, wait and see," Oba-chan said with a mysterious smile.
The juma finally let loose a few yelps and tried to bite his sister back. This resulted with a few sharp raps to their cage, making a clanging noise which hurt their ears terribly; jumas have sensitive hearing after all.
"Enough of that now!" growled the shopkeeper.
For a few moments, there was peace... Until one of his sisters decided to nibble her sister's tail, which ended up in a fight and him somehow being dragged into it. The Tuskaninny bellowed and landed a blow on the cage, almost deafening the juma cubs. "Enough! Your fights are as deafening as my rapping are to the lot of you! Quiet; or I'll drown all of you in the river!"
"Ah, good morning, Mr. Ashika, did we come at a bad time?" Oba-chan greeted as she and Rai entered the shop. "Good morning, Mr. Ashika. You've nice petpets here," greeted Rai politely as well.
"Oh! Good morning, Oba-chan Momoki! Nah, it is just the usual ruckus from these rascals," he answered, indicating the cage of jumas. Catching sight of Rai he queried, "This would be one of your grandchildren? Good morning, to you too! Well, what brings you to these parts, Oba-chan Momoki?"
"We're going to chose out a birthday present for her here. What would you recommend for us, Mr. Ashika?"
"Oba-chan, are you serious about this?" queried Rai both in shock and happy surprise.
"Of course, I asked Kaminari what would be a good gift for you. He thought a petpet will be a good companion for you when you move over to Central, you always had a fondness for petpets; knowing everything about them and what is needed for their care. I checked with your parents too, they agreed, confident you can and will be responsible for your petpet."
"Really? Thank you so much, Oba-chan!!!" cheered Rai as she embraced her grandmother.
"Well, remember to thank your Oji-san, your parents and Kaminari later when we get back."
"So, Ms. Momoki, which petpet interests you? Moving over to Central? Then I wouldn't recommend the Razumi unless you can train it not to go poking around other Neopians properties," stated Mr. Ashika once the exchange between grandparent and grandchild was over.
"Well, it may be a little hard since Razumis are curious by nature," agreed Rai. "What about Belonthisses, Mr. Ashika? Will it be alright in Central?"
"Hmm, they should, given they're hardy creatures and can glide through air. But then, they're water creatures so unless your home is going to be near any body of water, I don't think it's a good idea." Rai and Mr. Ashika wandered around the shop, exchanging and giving opinions on petpets whilst Oba-chan sat on a chair and listened to a flock of Naleaps singing their birdsongs. But it wasn't long until Rai and Mr. Ashika reached the cage of troublemaking jumas.
"How old are these juma cubs, Mr. Ashika?"
"Two months. And they're a feisty lot."
The juma cubs immediately went closer to the bars of their cage to sniff out this new Neopian that came. The juma sisters pushed each other out of the way to get a turn at sniffing and licking Rai as she put her paw against the bars. Soft giggles filled their ears as she watched their antics. The runt of the litter came up to sniff her as well, but backed off when his sister snapped at him and pushed herself in front of her other sister. Rai, noticing his wounds enquired the shopkeeper about it. "Ah, that one would be the runt. I feel some pity for him, being beaten up left, right and centre by his siblings. But, fact of life; the strongest will have the highest chances of surviving."
"Poor thing," she commented, as she looked at the juma which looked back at her with gleaming amber eyes, shocked to see that it had a sad, shut in look. But she noticed something else about it...
"So dear, had anything caught your eye yet?" asked Oba-chan as she approached.
"Not yet, but look at these cubs, so lively!" she replied, as the juma cubs now started leaping and somersaulting around the cage.
"Well now, aren't they? A fun petpet to have around, I remember some jumas that your Oji-san and I had, they're playful and good with young ones."
"Why don't I take them out and let you have a closer look at them? You may want to have a feel of them first before you make your choices," offered Mr. Ashika.
Taking up the offer, seconds later, Rai and her grandmother had a nice time playing with the juma cubs. The sisters prove to be extremely sharp and alert, scampering around the shop and delighting both grandmother and grandchild with their gymnastics. Their brother however, was more cautious; not daring to go too close at first. When he did get closer, he finally sniffed both the elderly and young Xweetoks, wagging its tail a little and looking up hopefully.
"Hmm, this one here has calm, wise eyes," commented Oba-chan as she reached down to pet him.
"You can see it too, Oba-chan? I think he's also hoping for something."
"I wonder what that could be...," the elderly Xweetok thought aloud. "Well, Rai-chan. It's your choice. Do you want one of these cubs or do you want to look at something else?"
"I'm positive that I'll want one of these. It can be hard to take care of when I am at school, but I think I can arrange something and keep it out of trouble. Plus, they're really fur balls of fun and charm; what more could I ask for in a companion?"
"Alright then, Mr. Ashika; how much does one of these cubs cost?"
"13500NP, but 15500NP will include fur brushes, food bowls and food."
"Wow, that's pricey! How about 14750NP?" bargained Oba-chan.
"I'm sorry, Oba-chan Momoki, but the lowest I can go for this is 15000NP; I need to make a living too."
"Well, I guess that's a fair price," she replied before turning to her granddaughter. "So, which one do you want?"
"Hmm...," Rai hummed thoughtfully as she looked over the cubs, which by now sensed that one of them will be chosen. Dashing around and letting out a few excited barks, they looked up into their would-be owner's face eagerly, including the youngest brother. He looked with a flicker of hope in its heart, not daring to let it grow for the little one had felt a connection of some sort when the Neopian was outside his cage, and when he went over to sniff her and the older one. Yet, how many times had been, it hoped to be picked but only to be passed over for one of the larger and more outstanding older siblings? Making her decision, Rai bent down... and picked up the brother juma cub, much to its and his sisters surprise. "Oba-chan, this is the one I pick."
"Oba-chan Momoki, since your granddaughter picked that one out, I'll cut 1500NP from the price I was suggesting. It's only fair, since he had been wounded," Mr Ashika kindly offered as he shot a dark look at the still surprised sister cubs.
"Why, thank you Mr, Ashika!" exclaimed both grandmother and grandchild.
Approaching their family home with a new addition, the Xweetoks held on to a basket each and the younger one, her new juma petpet with great care in her arms.
"He's so sweet," cooed Rai as she watched the little juma look around its new surroundings with great interest, though cautiously; sniffing the air the whole time.
"Indeed, such a quaint face it has. What will you name him?"
"Well, I had been thinking since we left the shop... But I can't come up with any at the moment. What about you, Oba-chan? Can you think of a good name?"
"Let's see... What about Nakama? I think it will suit him well, since he will be one of your closest friends in Central," suggested her grandmother.
"Nakama," the Xweetok said, letting the name run over her tongue. "Nakama, I like it! What about you, Nakama? Do you like your name?" she asked the juma, whispering into his ear and he responded with the wagging of its bushy tail. As Rai buried her nose into Nakama's soft fur, the juma realised this is what it felt like to belong. To be loved and cared for. Heaving a small sigh of satisfaction, it snuggled deeper into its new owner's arms as they entered through the gateway leading into his new home, knowing that he is finally in a safe haven.