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Six Names, Six Lives, Six Owners, One Terrible Tale: Part Three

by ilovcanis


I tried to behave like Bhima would, but it did no good. The first time I had been in the pound, I had been in the midst of many pets, with a few cheery ones. Now I was in... the Corner.

      Every neopet dreaded the Corner doubly more than the pound itself. The Corner was the end of the line. The Corner was for those neopets who couldn't find a home. The neopets who had lost all trust for humans and other pets. If you end up in the corner, you aren't leaving. If you are in the corner, you will not be adopted. No one goes to the Corner. The Corner has worn-out pets who want no one, and no one wants them.

      On both sides of me were neopets, of course, but they weren't like any others I had seen before. On one side of me was a white grundo. I never discovered his name. He would just stare into space and ignore the world.

      On my other side was a green Lupe named X_Filly_X. Usually, a healthy Lupe would have a good chance at adoption, but according to her, she had been in the pound longer than any other pet. She was really in pitiful condition. Magenta, in an attempt to get more adoptions, would occasionally groom the long furred pets, and always made sure they had plenty of food, but Magenta never came to the Corner. No, Dr. Death was in charge of us. He fed us, of course, if he remembered, but we were never shown a kind hand, and it showed all too clearly in Filly's ungroomed pelt and dull eyes.

      Neither of these gloomy companions of mine, however, were in any mood to talk, so I spent all too much time in total silence.

      Four months passed. Four months. Tens of regular pets found new homes, but out of half a dozen 'Corner Pets', only one, a green Kacheek, was adopted in that time, and she was back in a week, for she'd been scared of everything, simply because she'd never been exposed to them.

      Most of my day was spent mentally labeling pets. If you train yourself to look, to really look, you can figure out exactly how long each one has been there. Parts of them seem to disappear... first to go is laughter. A few pets were optimistic enough to smile or even giggle, but that disappears quickly. Next to go is trust. A human will come looking for a pet, and the pet will shrink to the back of the cage, rather than sniff the potential adopter hopefully. Next goes their words. They have nothing to say, and the words resound in their heads only, making them deaf to the world around. Finally, finally go the tears. The tears are what keep you sane. The pets that curl up and have a good cry, they are the ones with half a chance, but one day the tears will disappear, the eyes will become dry and staring. These are the pets in the corner. Feeling, hope, trust, joy? These disappear slowly, leaving an empty shell where once was a sentient being.

      A few of the corner pets, however, retained a scrap of feeling even when their tears were lost... they were the worst. They were vicious, and they would often scare away humans hoping to adopt. They would pace their cage, they would chew the bars, they would throw themselves against the side of the cage. There would be no healing for them, either.

      Finally, after one-hundred and twenty-seven days in my cage, a boy came into the pound. Most of the pets raised their heads curiously. Not me. If my time in the corner had taught me anything, it was 'never get your hopes up'.

      Magenta greeted the boy, and he said something back that I couldn't hear. I heard the door opening, and Magenta's hooves clicking on the floor.

      “Lupes?” she said. “No, no Lupes. Maybe you should come back next week.”

      “What about that one?” the boy asked, pointing to Filly.

      “Oh, Filly?” Magenta asked. “She's-”

      “A corner pet, I know,” the boy said. “That's what I want.”

      “If you're sure, Alex,” Magenta said. “Some of the corner pets have never known anything except a cage, and they are more likely to be vicious.”

      “That's pretty much what I'm looking for,” Alex said. He approached Filly's cage and rattled the bars a little. Filly shrank backward.

      “Not her,” Alex said. He knelt down and rattled two more cages, much to Magenta's horror. One pet stared blankly, without feeling, and the other squeaked in fear. “Not these two either.”

      He came to my cage and rattled the bars. Annoyed, I hissed and bristled. I wasn't going to let this guy shake my cage! All I wanted was to be left alone!

      A smirk spread across his face and he shook the whole cage to the point where I was afraid the whole thing might topple to the floor. Angry now, I attempted to claw his hands.

      “You got some kind of problem, buddy?” I asked angrily.

      “This one,” Alex said. “I think he's what I'm looking for.”

      “O-okay,” Magenta said hesitantly, unlocking the cage. Alex took out a long chain-link leash, probably meant for a petpet.

      “Alex,” Magenta said. “We would appreciate it if you don't-” Too late. Alex looped a long link around my neck and half-dragged me out of the cage. I immediately attempted to claw his legs, but he held me back, preventing me from getting my teeth or claws within a foot of his leg.

      “Thanks, Magenta,” Alex said, handing her a small bag of neopoints. Magenta looked after us sadly as Alex pulled me out the door.

      If leaving the pound was so smiled upon, why did I feel so horrible?

      Alex made no conversation until we entered his home. “Come meet your new partner, boys!” he called.

      “And girl!” a feminine voice responded. In only a few moments, a tall blue Lupe, a yellow Shoyru, and a red Lutari filed into the room.

      The Lutari was the one I really noticed. She was the only girl, and stood with an air of superiority, as did her 'brother', the Lupe.

      “What do you think, Lupin?” she asked. “Do we have a keeper?”

      The Lupe shrugged. “I dunno, Lilith,” he said. “he doesn't look like much.”

      The Shoyru didn't respond, but nibbled his short claws nervously.

      Alex released me from the chain. “Let's find out,” he said. The group grinned happily as Alex stepped back.

      Lilith was the first to make a move. She chittered and screamed at the same time, surprising me. As I was distracted by her, Lupin crept in behind me and attempted to pounce on my back. Months in the pound had worn down on me, but I was still fast. I darted out of the way just in time. No good. Confused and panicked, I rolled over, escaping him, and ran into the farthest corner, arching my back, ready for another attack.

      Alex clapped his hands very slowly. “Fine job, boys... and girl.” He smirked once more. “I think he'll hold his own.”

      “What level is he?” Lilith asked, putting her hands on her hips.

      “Two,” Alex admitted.

      “Two?” Lupin shouted. “Are you insane? You have me, a level 144, Lilith, a 217, and Litchen, a level 48, and yet you bring a level two here?”

      “We'll whip him into shape,” Alex promised. “What's your name, Xweetok?”

      “I'm Xander,” I said.

      “Not anymore,” Alex said. “From now on, we'll call you Lance. Now, Lilith, give him the house rules.”

      “Sure, Alex,” Lilith said, turning to face me. “We are serious Battledomers here, Lance. We take zero nonsense and zero weakness. Got it?”

      I did not reply.

      “Got it?” she hissed, glaring. I remained silent. Silent and angry. I almost wished I was back at the pound, rather than with this violent bunch.

      Lilith stepped forward, allowing her to tower over me. I didn't see her paw move. I didn't hear her paw move. I didn't even smell her paw move.

      But I felt it. I felt her paw connect with the side of my head. I staggered backward, clutching my bruised cheek.

      “Listen, Lance,” she said. “You respond to me when I talk to you. Got it?”

      “Yes,” I muttered. Lilith crossed her arms and smirked as Lupin began to laugh behind her. They were enjoying it! They were enjoying bullying me!

      “Litchen, show our little brother to his room.” Lilith tickled under my chin, just like I used to do with Azarel. I dared not push her away.

      Litchen, who had not said a word since I walked in the door, shrugged silently and turned around, beckoning for me to follow. I edged past Lilith nervously and followed him upstairs.

      Litchen showed me to a small bedroom. Surprisingly, it didn't look unused. Pirate posters hung on the wall, a pirate bed took up one corner, and a lone eyepatch sat on a dresser.

      “Whose room was this?” I asked, though I didn't expect an answer.

      “Lewis's,” Litchen said quietly. As I heard his voice for the first time, I realized that he was still young, probably even younger than I was.

      “Who's he?” I asked, confused.

      “He was my brother,” Litchen said sadly.

      “What... what happened to him?”

      “Alex abandoned him,” Litchen said. “Alex adopted us at the same time. We trained with Lilith and Lupin at the same time. He was a Bruce, and he wasn't painted pirate, but that was what he wanted more than anything.” He looked up, as if expecting me to stop him, and then went on.

      “He kept losing. We were the same level back then. Twenty-three. I would win most of the time, but Lewis lost again and again.”

      “So Alex just... gave him away?” I asked meekly.

      “To Alex, neopets are... disposable. We're-” His sentence was cut off as a huge paw reached over his shoulder and clamped over his mouth. Lupin snickered.

      “Who's your favorite brother?” he asked Litchen, holding his paw firmly in place. Litchen mumbled around the Lupe's paw. “I can't hear you,” Lupin taunted. Litchen tried to gasp for air, but was held tight.

      “Let him go, Lupin,” I said. I don't know what made me stand up to him. Maybe I was already fed up with the bulling in this house. Maybe I felt bad for Litchen. Maybe I was crazy. Lupin dropped the young Shoyru and stalked up to me. He held up his claws.

      “Do you know what these are, Lance?” he asked.

      “My name is Xander,” I insisted, refusing to back down.

      He pressed his claws close to my face. “I said, 'do you know what these are?'”

      “Claws, dummy,” I shouted. He clenched his fingers.

      “Under normal circumstances, I'd beat the stuffing out of you,” he said. “but maybe I'm feeling a little lenient today. Next time you even think about talking back...” He poked my chest. “Remember.” He poked me again. “These.” Poke. “Claws.” Poke. Then, he turned on his heel and prowled out of the room.

      “You were really brave,” Litchen said, getting to his feet. “I mean... you were stupid, but brave.”

      “How can you let him do this to you?” I asked angrily. “How can you let him push you around, tell you what to do?”

      “I... I don't know.” He shuffled his feet. “Lewis was always better at it then me. He would always stand up to them, whether for me or for himself. I was never that brave. He really was my brother.”

      I placed a paw on his shoulder. “I'll be your brother, now, Litchen,” I said. “We'll get through this, really.” Then, that little guy did the last thing I expected. He hugged me, and I was like “Ooookay...”

      I'd never been hugged by another pet before. I mean, who was going to do it? Mavis? Cutesy? No way. Anyway, it was kind of awkward, but... good. I kind of nervously patted him on the back. I kind of found myself feeling very protective of the younger Shoyru. I kind of liked it.


      A sickening thud seemed to resound around the room as I hit the wall. Stars danced in front of my eyes, and my ears rang so loudly that I was surprised my opponent didn't hear them.

      I stumbled to my feet and faced the angry Tonu who had just blasted me with some weapon I'd never seen.

      “You win,” I muttered. He sort of laugh-grunted as I half-walked, half-tripped down a set of stairs and out of the Battledome. Outside, my new 'family' was waiting for me.

      “You lost,” Alex stated angrily. “That's the third time this week!”

      “I beat that Poogle,” I protested, “and the mutant Acara!”

      “Barely!” Lupin snapped. “You little...”

      “It's not just him,” Lilith pointed out. “It's Litchen too. He couldn't even beat that Ogrin last week!” Litchen shuffled his feet nervously.

      “Let's go home, guys,” Alex said angrily, stalking away with Lilith on his right and Lupin on his left.

      “Here, Xander,” Litchen said, handing me a bottle of healing potion and not bothering to call me by my new name.

      “Thanks,” I replied gratefully, taking a draught. “What about you? Didn't you get put up against that Aisha?”

      “I already took some,” he explained, “right after I lost.”

      The past months had been torture for me. Every day, Lilith and Lupin would train me for the Battledome, or Alex would take me to Neofu lessons. Over time, I had leveled up, but it hadn't done much good. I won every once in a while, but losses were still common. Lupin said that if I didn't 'buck up', I'd be due for another trip to the pound. I, luckily, had learned to ignore him and get back at him later. Lupin had found his bed infested with angry spyders more than once.

      It might have been bad for me, but it was worse for Litchen, and not improving. He wouldn't (or couldn't) stand up for himself, and was bullied almost daily. Due to the bullying, he had lost all confidence in the dome, and lost almost every single match.

      And in that neohome, losing was not an option.

      Litchen and I stole a few moments of peace in my room. Litchen was nearly as avid a reader as I, and loved to pull books off of shelves and immerse himself in the lives of pirates, thieves, petpets, and overlarge socks. However, unlike me, I don't think he just read because he wanted to. I think he read because he needed to.

      He needed to escape from the world and go into his own. He needed to get away from his teasing, bullying older siblings. He needed to pretend that he was a brave hero, rather than a nervous little Shoyru with a bad habit of nibbling his nails.

      As we curled on my bed, reading together, I was reminded of my past. Laura and I used to read like this. Azarel would sit with me as I read like this. So much changed over time, but books were always there for me.

      Suddenly, Lupin poked his head into the room. “Aww, are the wittle babies reading a picture book?”

      “Go away, Lupin,” I said. Lupin smirked.

      “Alex told me to get Litchen, dummy,” he growled. “I wouldn't even be talking to you if he hadn't. I don't think I've even been in this room five times since Levon was abandoned.”

      “His name was 'Lewis',” Litchen said.

      “I've almost forgotten what Levon's room looked like,” Lupin went on, ignoring the Shoyru.

      “I wish I could forget what you look like,” I snapped.

      “Temper, temper,” Lupin crooned. “Come on, Litchen.” Litchen did not resist as the Lupe grabbed his arm and dragged him downstairs.

      I dared not interfere, as I knew I would never win an outright fight with Lupin, and only waited for Litchen to come back.

      Five minutes later, I heard a downstairs door being opened. Seconds later came a frenzied shout.

      “Xander! Xander, help me!”

      My ears perked up, and I rushed downstairs to discover Lupin and Alex holding Litchen tightly, and Lilith standing firmly in the middle of the room, her lips curled up at the corners in a terrible leer.

      “Aw, here comes little Lancey, come to save the day, how sweet!” she snickered.

      “Help, Xander!” Litchen said. “Don't let them take me away! Don't let them send me to the pound!”

      “If you wanted to stay here,” Lupin said, smiling smugly. “you should have worked harder in the Battledome. I'm afraid you've gotten a bit sloppy as of late, little bro.”

      “We don't have room for losers in this family, Litchen.” Lilith chortled as if she had told a joke, rather than given an innocent pet his prison sentence.

      “Go ahead and take him, Lupin,” Alex said. Lupin snickered along with his sister and pulled Litchen roughly towards the door.

      “Xander!” Litchen called, panicky. I chased after the Lupe, but was blocked by Lilith.

      “Where do you think you're going?” she asked.

      “I won't let this happen! If Litchen goes, I go!” I declared. Lilith smirked, reminding me all too much of Mavis.

      “Fine with me,” Lilith snickered. She grabbed the scruff of my neck and dragged me after her brother, me protesting and fighting the entire way.

      Soon, all five of us (Alex included) were inside the pound. Magenta looked a bit nervous at having a lithe Lutari fighting a very angry Xweetok in her pound, not to mention a wailing Shoyru and burly Lupe.

      “Can I help you?” she asked Alex, obviously attempting to keep away from the angry pets.

      “I'm abandoning two pets,” he said, ignoring the huge racket that Lilith and I were making. We rolled near the reception desk, and I attempted to shove her into it. She immediately leaped onto my back and held on tightly. I ripped away and ran right into a stack of Magenta's books, folders, and papers.

      Magenta winced at the loud noise of the toppling pile. “Which two?” she asked, clearly struggling to remain composed.

      “Which tw-” Alex broke off angrily. “That blubbering Shoyru and the belligerent Xweetok.”

      Belligerent? That's a laugh. If there was one fur-covered animal in that family that was not belligerent, it was me.

      “Meredith!” Magenta called. “Little help!”

      “Do not call me by my first name! It's embarrassing!” Dr. Death called, coming out of his dark door and grabbing my scruff (which was not doing so hot, by the way; it had been grabbed way too much) and picking me up.

      “Well, lookie here,” he said. “It's Xander, back for another stay. You just can't keep away, can you?”

      “Corner for him?” Magenta asked, tenderly picking a still-wailing Litchen.

      “Corner,” Dr. Death said, “and this time I don't think he'll be leaving.”

      Lilith and Lupin slapped each others' paws as Alex handed over the abandonment fee. “Come on, guys,” he said. “We're done here.”

      Lilith's heartless cackle rang in my ears as, for the third time, I was placed in a cage.

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» Six Names, Six Lives, Six Owners, One Terrible Tale: Part One
» Six Names, Six Lives, Six Owners, One Terrible Tale: Part Two

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