Don't Be Such a Baby!
The edge of her robe was held high as we walked, the soft rosy material flowing gently with the slight breeze. My older sister, Cherry, listened eagerly as I spoke of the mishap that had happened that day at school, of how our brother Riley had landed himself in some hot water by placing a Mortog down the back of a popular Ruki’s shirt. She laughed as I told her of the screams of the Ruki, followed by the shouts of Riley as the Ruki girl gave him quite the hiding.
Cherry smiled, and reached up a moment to adjust the flower accessory of her headband. Her voice was soft and elegant as she spoke, the accent of Shenkuu clinging to her words, a memory of her former life prior to her adoption.
“Our brother often gets himself into hot water. But you are one to talk, Stella. I have many memories of you running to me for help, a result of a prank gone wrong.”
I laughed along with her. She wasn’t quite wrong there. Often I would pull pranks on Clegra, our oldest and more adventurous sister. Unafraid of almost anything, including the lab ray, she could be quite intimidating at times. Despite her intimidation, however, she was not the strongest member of our family, and I had learnt from a young age that hiding behind Cherry would often stop Clegra in her tracks.
Unfortunately, it didn’t quite help with our human owner, Genevieve.
As I watched my sister brush a stray strand of jade coloured fur away from her eyes, I wondered why she would have been abandoned. Prior to being Royal, she had been a simple Red Kacheek, but the nature of Royalty came to her with ease. She was kind and courteous, and nothing short of graceful.
She blinked slowly, her eyeshadow glittering in the sunlight, and gestured towards the art centre.
“Coffee, Stella? I believe I have some spare coins on me.”
I nodded and she patted her waist for the Red Coin Purse that was tied to the sash around her waist. It clinked with the sound of the neopoints cluttered inside, and I followed her to The Coffee Cave.
She spoke gently to the kind Shoyru at the counter, and left a handful of extra coins as a tip, smiling kindly as the young Shoyru gave her a flustered thanks.
“I’m having Jasmine Tea,” she told me as she sat across from me, “I got you a Caramel Latte.”
I reared back in horror, about to demand an order change. I was a beauty contest pet, I kept my diets very limited!
But then, I saw the smile on her face, and I knew she was kidding.
She laughed, and then frowned, quite seriously.
“I do hope you still like Gobi Fruit Tea.”
I nodded ferociously as the young Shoyru placed our orders in front of us, drawing a laugh out of my sister as we stood to take our drinks and leave.
From the corner of my eye, I caught a flash of pink.
I turned my head quickly, and my sister followed my gaze, but there was nothing there.
“Are you quite alright, Stella?”
“I thought I saw something… Something pink.”
“Pink?” She murmured, “Hm… Pink…” She sipped her tea thoughtfully as we walked, as though she was racking her brains for what I could have seen.
A high-pitched chuckle seemed to echo around the room, and I watched as my sister’s ears twitched with the noise. She lowered her take-away cardboard cup and frowned.
“Cherry?” I asked, beginning to grow nervous, “Cherry, what is it?”
“Stella,” she murmured, her voice stern, “Get behind me.”
I did as I was told. My sister was a force to be reckoned with, and I ducked behind her swiftly, keeping to her back as she turned towards the noise.
“I suggest you show yourself,” She spoke with a sense of authority, “Your stealth is tragic.”
A nearby bush rustled, and I clung to my sister’s rose-coloured gown.
The rustling increased, and my sister lowered her stance, prepared to fight, when out of the bush emerged-
A small, Baby Bruce.
With a ray gun.
I’d read about all kinds of things, from the history of Neopia, to the caring of Petpets. I recognized the small, pink Bruce from my books.
My eyes widened, and I swallowed as the Bruce spoke from his place.
“So, fair lady, you noticed me, eh?” His voice was youthful and high in pitch, but his vocabulary did not fit his appearance.
“You are not the stealthiest, nor the most camouflaged, young Bruce.”
“I’m older than you!” He snapped, “I’m not a child, you’ll all see!”
“Somebody needs a nap,” my sister murmured jokingly to me, “Perhaps we should knock him out.”
They faced each other, and within a moments silence, my sister sprung forward, her jade paws extended out to attack the Bruce when suddenly he lifted the ray gun and-
There was an almighty clap of thunder, a flash of light, and the wafting smell of… Baby powder?
I coughed and waved a perfectly manicured paw in front of my face, trying to clear the smoke. As my vision cleared, I took in my surroundings.
Boochi was gone. He’d vanished in the smoke. But so was my sister.
Her gown lay in a heap on the ground and her Cherry Blossom Necklace was crumpled. There was absolutely no sign of my sister.
For a split second I panicked. Perhaps she had been vaporized?
But no, I was well versed in Neopian knowledge. Boochi and his ray gun, they didn’t vaporize people, no. They…
Very slowly, I lifted up the hem of Cherry’s gown, revealing a small lump further in amongst the layers of fabric. And as I pulled back the rest of the gown, I found my sister.
A tiny, lavender-coloured Kacheek sat in amongst the fabric, a too-big crown sloping sideways on her head.
“Goo,” she murmured softly at the world, “A-bah.”
I ran a paw through the stray tuft of white hair on the edge of my forehead.
“Oh Fyora,” I swore, “What am I going to do?”----
My oldest sister paced back in forth in front of me, watching as I delicately placed my once-royal sister on the Cream Rug that adorned our living room floor.
“So you’re telling me,” Clegra said, rushed and nervous, “That Boochi, an incredibly rare event, came out of nowhere, and Cherry tried to fight him? And then got zapped?”
“This is just your luck Stella, Genevieve is going to have a field day with this!” Clegra ran a paw through her blue Xweetok mane, panic evident in her features as she referred to our owner.
“She’s never going to forgive me,” I wailed, “I’m going to have to sleep outside for months!”
“Forget Genevieve,” Clegra hissed, “Do you know how mad Cherry is going to be when she gets back to normal?”
“What if she never gets back to her royal colour?” I hissed back and Clegra covered her eyes, muttering prayers to Fyora for protection.
“Okay,” Riley snapped, not having spoken since I brought my sister home, “We need a plan of action!”
“Genevieve gets home in…” Clegra checked the clock on the wall as she spoke, “Three hours! Okay, we don’t have much time! How can we get Cherry back to her royal colour?”
“There’s only two ways,” I muttered, “And it’s not looking good for us.”
“What are you talking about?” Riley shouted, grabbing me by the shoulders, “Spit it out!!”
“Okay!” I shouted back, “Our only options are either the Lab Ray, or to buy a Royal Paint Brush.”
There was a pause as my siblings considered the options.
“Well thing about the Lab Ray,” Clegra spoke, pondering, “It hurts. A lot. Cherry is a battle pet, so I’d say she can take it, BUT!” She interrupted Riley as he was about to speak, “It’s totally random, and it only works once a day. So if we take her in there, the chance of her turning royal is absolutely minimal. She’d be more likely to come out as a very grumpy Mutant Kacheek.”
We agreed with her words of advice. Clegra was close acquaintances with that Lab Ray, so we had no reason to doubt her.
“So that leaves one thing,” Riley murmured, “The paint brush. How much are they again, Stella?”
I blinked, turning my gaze skyward as I thought.
“At the Hidden Castle, they’re about one-point-seven-five.”
“Thousand?” My sister asked, hopefully.
But I shook my head.
There was a long pause, until my sister shouted at the top of her lungs.
“Everybody grab your Snorkle Banks!”
We immediately scattered into different directions, rushing towards our rooms to grab our savings. I dove on the floor, reaching under my bed to grab at the Petpet-shaped point bank, and carried it with two hands back to the living room, stumbling over Clegra’s creepy Meepit as I ran.
We took turns shaking out the Snorkle Banks, emptying the neopoints onto the coffee table.
As we kneel around the table, I count the neopoints quickly, and there’s a tense moment before I lean back and sigh.
“Well?” My brother asks, concern evident in his voice.
“It was a good hustle,” I say nodding my head in surprise, “But not good enough. Between us we have sixty-two thousand, four hundred and thirty-six neopoints.
“Well, that’s a lot more than I expected.”
“Half of it is Clegra’s,” I explain, and Clegra blushes with embarrassment, “She’s always at the Games Room.”
We each look at each other, defeat written across our faces when Riley pipes up again.
“Well that’s it then! Clegra goes to the Games Room, Stella, you try and sell some things, and I am going to try my luck at Pawkeet Slots,” He explains his plan with high hopes, “Between the three of us we can probably make a fair bit!”
“Are you sure?”
“We’ve got three hours, we can do anything!!”
“Alright!” Clegra throws her fist into the air with determination, “Let’s do this!”
But amidst the celebrating, I look around, and a terrible realization settles in my stomach.
“Hey guys?” I ask, “Where’s Cherry?”----
We’d found her in the garden, making her way towards the gate at a rapid speed, considering she was now limited to crawling. Her knees were grazed and dirty, and her crown had fallen to the stone path. She stared up at me, her oil-drop eyes no longer filled with wisdom and kindness, but confusion, and something akin to embarrassment.
I scooped her up, and turned to my brother and sister, red faced from rushing and trying to find Cherry.
“The running I can deal with,” Riley muttered breathlessly, “As long as she doesn’t need a diaper change.”
Cherry seemed to grow displeased at that, kicking her small feet into my sides, winding me with the force only a battle pet held.
“A-bah-bah!” She shouting, pounding at my chest, and I knew she would leave bruises.
Clegra winced at the sight of me hissing in pain and shot her hand up.
“I vote we leave Cherry with Stella!”
“Agreed!” Riley shouted before I could get a word in.
“Oh c’mon,” I pleaded, “Why me?”
“Clegra needs to focus on gaming,” Riley countered, “And I don’t quite think it would be appropriate to take a baby gambling.”
Cherry let loose another long string of angry gibberish at being called a baby, and Riley and Clegra scattered, running from the house.
“We’ll meet back at the shop, ten minutes before Genevieve comes home!”
They were out of my sight quickly, and I sighed, glancing down at the very grumpy, very small Kacheek in my arms.
“You want to come sell things with me?” I asked her, receiving a frighteningly adorable glare in return.----
Time had passed quickly, with only eight customers coming in. Of the eight that came in, two came in just to coo at my sister, ending with my sister blowing raspberries at them from her place on a beanbag behind me.
I rested my head on the counter and groaned loudly, hearing the bell ring as my siblings entered. I sat up quickly, trying not to seem disappointed, or let down.
“How did you go?” I immediately asked, and Riley and Clegra looked at one another.
“Err…” Riley murmured awkwardly, rubbing the back of his head, “Well I lost more money than gaining I think.”
“That’s what you get for gambling,” Clegra said with a sigh, “But I’ll admit, I did rather poorly as well.”
They plonked their bags of neopoints onto the counter, as I emptied the shop till, counting our earnings.
As I slid the last golden coin into a bag, I sighed, dread filling my bones.
“We’re ruined,” I wailed dramatically, “We’re not even close!”
Clegra joined my melancholy, burying her face in her paws.
“Genevieve’s never going to forgive us,” She cried, leaning over to shake my brother, “Never, Riley, never!”
The doorbell jingled again, and we all froze, the tension in the room growing immediately.
“Hey guys!” Our owner smiled cheerfully, “What’s up?”
There was a pause, and she arched an elegantly shaped eyebrow, shifting her position and folding her arms.
“What have you done?”
We looked at one another awkwardly, each clearing our throats before Clegra spoke up.
“Well you see, Stella came home with a dilemma…”
“… And slot machines are rigged…” Riley chipped in.
“Also Boochi…” I added, rubbing the back of my head awkwardly.
Genevieve glance shifted from each of us, and she leaned to the left slightly, seeing past our group.
“Is that…” She murmured, pointing to the tiny Kacheek positioned on the Blue Bean Bag Chair behind us, “Is that your sister?”
“Goo.” Responded Cherry.----
We all sat in the kitchen quietly, awaiting the return of Genevieve and our sister. We picked at our dinner, too embarrassed to even enjoy the burgers that graced our plates.
The door clicked open, and our owner walked in, immediately seating herself at the table beside my sister. We all watched the door, staring at Cherry in pure relief as she walked in, all jade fur and rose coloured gown, with not a hint of lavender in sight.
But as she sat down, and Clegra opened her mouth to make a smart comment, she held up a paw and cut my sister off with a glare.
“We will never speak of this,” She said calmly, her elegant voice returned, “Ever.”
“Gee Cherry,” Clegra said with a grin, “Don’t be such a-”
She was cut off by an entire cheeseburger, which pelted her in the face.