Voice of the Neopian Pound Circulation: 197,075,226 Issue: 961 | 3rd day of Relaxing, Y24
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Zix Defends Neopia


by __doctor

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Zix the blue Aisha ran up the grey steps of the Defenders of Neopia HQ, a Simple Snowflake Cape fastened around her neck trailing behind her. At the top of the steps, Zix made sure her Holiday Thief Mask was fastened securely around her eyes in order to keep her true identity a secret. Zix had always wanted to be a hero and thus she sought to join the ranks of the Defenders of Neopia and prove her heroism in the Battledome. Zix kicked open the front doors of the Defenders HQ and stepped into the entrance with her hands on her hips. Once inside, she announced, “Defenders of Neopia, say hello to your newest member!”

     The only person to hear her, however, was an Usul at the front desk. The Usul blinked a few times, processing the grinning blue Aisha who had appeared before her. The Usul smiled and said very kindly, “I’m sorry sweetheart, but we don’t have any Trick-or-Treat bags here. In fact, it's not even the Month of Collecting...”

     “What?” Zix yelled. She stamped her foot and balled her hands up into fists. “This ain’t a Trick-or-Treat costume, Usuki! This is my Defenders of Neopia uniform.” The little blue Aisha twirled so as to show off the cape.

     “Ohoho,” the Usul chuckled. “How precious. The Defenders of Neopia are always looking for brave heroes. Where's your owner, sweetie?”

     Zix crossed her arms and squinted. “Owner? Who needs an owner! I can take care of myself.”

     “Aah.” The Usul nodded. “I understand,” she said. “Well, I’m very sorry, dear.”

     “I don’t need your pity, lady!” Zix bared her teeth.

     The Usul raised an eyebrow. “You may call me Brenda.”

     “Alright, Brenda.” Zix said, standing on her tippy toes to peer over Brenda’s front desk. Zix pushed a small sack of Neopoints onto the desk and winked at the Brenda. “Who do I gotta talk to in order to become a Defender of Neopia?”

     “Oh, stop it you rascal.” Brenda the Usul pushed the sack of Neopoints back to Zix. “Today might actually be your lucky day. I do think Judge Hog would like to have a word with you.”

     “An interview already?” Zix said, excitedly pocketing her Neopoints. “I'm killin’ it!”

     The Usul smiled and kindly led Zix throughout the halls of the Defenders of Neopia. Heavy books and glorious statues were displayed upon pedestals, the great history of the Defenders of Neopia. Behind glass, the capes of legendary defenders of Neopia were on display. Zix wondered if there had ever been an Aisha among the ranks of the Defenders of Neopia. Would she be the first?

     Zix was feeling pretty good about her prospects. She was happily chatting to Brenda the Usul, saying things like, “You know what they say, dress for the job you want!” And asking Brenda whether fighting Judge Hog himself in the Battledome was a part of the interview process. Just as Zix was giving Brenda a play-by-play on how she would beat Judge Hog in a fight, the renowned Moehog himself came into view.

     Judge Hog was the tallest Moehog Zix had ever seen. He looked wise and collected. He was currently studying what looked to be an empty bottle of Kikoughela Syrup. This dignified hero snapped out of his deep contemplation and turned to smile at Brenda and Zix. Brenda patted Zix on the back and left the two of them to talk.

     Judge Hog took one look at Zix in her mismatched cape and mask and chortled. “And what are you supposed to be?” He smiled.

     Zix indicated her outfit. “I'm a hero!”

     Judge Hog patted her on the head. “Wearing a cape and mask doesn't make you a hero, little one.”

     “Are you kidding? I’m practically a hero in the making!” Zix showed off some of her moves by boxing an imaginary opponent. “I can beat up baddies, fight foes, and capture crooks!”

     “Those are all the same thing,” he said patiently. “And while that’s all good and well… How do I know you have what it takes to Defend?”

     “Oh, easy.” Zix dismissed. “I’ve done loads of swashbuckling training at the Krawk Island Academy. I practise my sweet moves on an Inflatable Balthazar almost every day. I even beat up a Chia Clown once.” Zix whispered in a hushed voice, “And those are scary.”

     “That is not what it means to Defend.” Said Judge Hog. “To be a Defender of Neopia, you must have compassion, empathy, and courage.”

     Zix yawned.

     Judge Hog sighed. “It’s clear to me that you are a hands-on learner. Very well… I have just the mission for you.”

     All four of Zix’s ears perked up. She couldn’t believe her luck--walking into the Defenders HQ and receiving a mission on the same day.

     “They say there is a Mutant thief wreaking havoc right here in Neopia Central. This thief has been stealing from shopkeepers all week. Your job is to put a stop to this.”

     “You want me to give him the old one-two?” Zix punched the air.

     “Not exactly.” Judge Hog said, sternly.

     “You want me to teach him a lesson?” Zix winked, pounding her fist into her palm.

     “Warmer.” Said Judge Hog. “Young Aisha, this is your mission and you will have only succeeded if you have done the right thing. Now, go and defend!”

     Zix saluted and left Judge Hog. “Sheesh, you'd think I was a loose cannon by the way he talks to me,” she said to herself.

     Zix ran down the steps of the Defenders of Neopia HQ and ran around the Neopian Plaza for a while, searching for the Mutant thief in trees and bushes. After a fruitless search, Zix reasoned that since the Mutant was known to strike shops, she ought to investigate those.

     Zix ran through the shops, pushed past the Mall crowd, and made her way to the Bazaar. Zix hadn’t been to Usuki Land in a while, so she decided to check it out. When Zix asked the Shopkeeper about the Mutant thief, she responded, “She was an ugly Mutant Shoyru--a sickly thing. That monster didn’t come into my store, but I heard that it went and terrorized the Neopian Pharmacy.”

     Zix said “Thank you!” and left. Pleased that she had a lead, Zix doubled back to the stores and walked into the Neopian Pharmacy. She greeted the Elephante pharmacist within. “Hello, there.” Announced Zix in a proud and serious voice. “I’m with the Defenders of Neopia. What can you tell me about the Mutant Shoyru who struck this week?”

     “They sent you?” The Elephante said, disappointed. “The Defenders of Neopia must be very busy these days.”

     Zix seemed oblivious to the Elephante’s attitude. “We sure are!”

     “Right.” The Elephante said. “Well, anyway… The night the Mutant Shoyru struck was very late. In fact, the sun rose not long after. I awoke to a noise in my shop, so I came downstairs and lo, a Mutant Shoyru with a bottle of Kikoughela Syrup in her hands was looking right back at me from the darkness! When I shined my lamp at her, she fled out the doors and into the night, flying toward the trees…”

     “Sounds like she’s got a hide-out. Any idea where that might be?” Zix asked.

     “‘Fraid not, kiddo.” Said the Elephante pharmacist. “Hey, shouldn’t you be in NeoSchool right now studying books?”

     “Books… That’s it, you’re a genius!” Zix said, and she ran out of the Neopian Pharmacy all the way to the Magical Bookshop without stopping. Maybe there was a book that could advise her on hunting down Mutant Shoyrus.

     In her cape and mask, Zix searched through the shelves of the book shop. The Nimmo shopkeeper glanced at her suspiciously, but then resumed reading his issue of the Neopian Times. Zix was just about to give up on all the boring pages when she heard a familiar voice...

     “Zix!” Someone called. Zix whipped around and saw her friend--Baezzl the blue Kacheek.

     “Baez! How did you recognize me?” Zix asked, adjusting her mask.

     “I’d know those ears anywhere!” Baezzl said. She was wearing some type of hairy, brown fabric.

     “I like your dress!” Zix said.

     “Thanks, it’s a potato sack!” Said Baezzl.

     “Wow, cool!” Said Zix.

     “So what are you doing in the Magical Bookshop dressed like that?” Baezzl asked. “Are you looking for Trick-or-Treat bags or somethin’?”

     Zix and Baezzl giggled together. “Nah,” Zix said, “I finally made it, Baez. I’m a Defender of Neopia, now.”

     “I told you you could do it!” Baezzl said, wagging her tail happily.

     Zix grinned, but she looked troubled.

     “What’s the matter?” Baezzl asked.

     “I’m looking for a Mutant Shoyru who’s been stealing from shops all over Neopia Central... but I’m having no luck finding her.”

     Baezzl scratched her head. “Hmm. Well, according to Shoyru Shenanigans, she’ll be hard to catch if she’s trying to escape, especially since she can fly. Plus, they know nighttime is the best time to remain unseen.”

     Zix said, “Yeah, that makes sense! The thief struck the Neopian Pharmacy at night. You think maybe she only operates at night?”

     “Maybe!” Baezzl said. “And you said she’s a Mutant, right? I was forced against my will to read Mutant Musings, but in those monotonously boring pages I learned that Mutants feel like everyone hates them. They seclude themselves from the rest of the world. Sometimes, they get lonely and they learn to fend for themselves.” Baezzl pondered that for a moment. “That sounds sad…”

     Zix, on the other hand, said. “Aha! I knew this thief must have a hide-out. She’s probably a real loner. What do you know about hide-outs, Baez?”

     Baezzl said, “Hide-outs can be like lairs in a way. The Snowager keeps a huge treasure horde in his lair. I read all about it in the Snowager Collectors Guide.”

     As Zix was listening to Baezzl, she was pacing. Finally, when she formed plan, Zix put her fist in her other hand and said, “I know what to do. I will wait until nightfall. Then, I’ll follow this Mutant Shoyru to her lair and find her horde full of stolen items. Then, I can give them all back to their rightful owners!”

     Baezzl smiled. “That sounds wonderful!”

     “And I’ll beat her up, too!” Zix added.

     “Wait, what--?” Baezzl blinked.

     “Thanks a bunch, Baez! Wish me luck!” Zix hugged her friend and ran out of the Bookshop.

     As Zix waited for sundown, she practised her fighting moves all around Neopia Central. She practised hiding in bushes and behind trees. As a self-proclaimed Defender of Neopia, she offered autographs to passersby who seemed disinterested. Some of them even laughed at her cape.

     When the sun finally went down, Zix patrolled all the shops in the Plaza, the Bazaar, and even the Market Place, keeping an eye out for the Mutant Shoyru. Things were starting to get boring. And all of the other Neopets’ laughter at her costume was starting to get old. It seemed to her that she was on a wild Meerca chase. Zix had shown up to the Defenders of Neopia HQ first thing in the morning when she received this mission and now it was late in the night. Her ventures had been worthless. Judge Hog and the rest of the Legendary Defenders were probably off beating up mega villains like Dr. Sloth or Balthazar in the Battledome and here Zix was out in the cold getting laughed at by passerby.

     Zix felt stupid.

     Zix was no Defender of Neopia. She was no hero, either. She took off her dumb mask and took off the tacky cape and threw them at the dirt and walked away from the discarded garments. She shivered in the cold and headed back toward the Defenders HQ so that she could hand in her resignation.

     As Zix passed by the storefront, she heard a shout. “Stop, thief!” Someone was yelling. Zix glanced at the direction of the shout and saw the form of a Shoyru in the sky, flying in the moonlight.

     “What happened here?” Zix asked.

     “That disgusting creature just stole donations from the Money Tree!” Said an Elephante.

     “Stay here,” Zix said, “I’ll handle this.”

     Zix ran through the forest, very quietly so as not to alert the Shoyru above. She pursued the Shoyru for so long, she thought they would end up at Kiko Lake. Once the sun started to rise, the Shoyru descended. As Zix approached, she saw the Mutant Shoyru retreat into the hollowed trunk of a tree. Was it a secret pathway into a deep, underground lair? Only one way to find out, Zix thought--she followed the Shoyru.

     When Zix arrived at the tree with the hollowed trunk, she found that it was not a secret passageway--just a tree trunk. The Mutant Shoyru was munching on something. Apparently, she was so hungry she didn’t even notice Zix sneaking up on her with raised fists.

     That was when Zix noticed how small the Shoyru was--no taller than Zix! Weak, thin, and eating a bruised Tchea Fruit. Zix sighed. This was no monster--she was just a hungry kid--and Zix was no Defender of Neopia. Knowing she had failed to become a hero, Zix tried to at least make a friend.

     “Hey there.” Zix said.

     The Mutant Shoyru held the food to her chest defensively. She looked frightened at the sight of Zix.

     “Relax.” Said Zix. “I ain’t gonna hurt ya. I can see you’re hungry. You out here all alone?”

     “Yeah.” Said the Mutant Shoyru. She looked ashamed. “You're not afraid of me?”

     “What? Heck no!” Said Zix. “You look awesome! I wish I had wings. Then, I could fly like you!”

     The Shoyru smiled. “You really mean it?”

     “Of course, or my name isn’t Zix!”

     The Shoyru offered her hand. Zix shook it. “My name is Scarlet.”

     “That’s a pretty name.” Zix said. “Where's your owner?”

     “My owner… He took me to the lab ray. I used to be red, until I was zapped into this.” Scarlet indicated her transmogrified form. “After that... I never saw him again.”

     “No owner? No problem.” Zix shrugged. “Who needs ‘em! I can take care of myself. Here, I'll show ya the ropes.”

     “You will?” Asked Scarlet.

     “Sure! You don’t have to steal stuff anymore. I'll show you the Money Tree and the Soup Kitchen. There’s even a land where you can eat from a giant omelette every day!”

     Scarlet beamed, “And Jelly, too?”

     Zix laughed, wiped a tear and slapped Scarlet on the back. “Don't be ridiculous, sweetie.”

     Scarlet let out a confused laugh. She seemed relieved. “I’m sorry I stole the medicine and the food. After people threw things at me and hurt me, I was afraid and lonely. I just felt out of place looking the way I do.”

     “There’s a place for everyone in Neopia.” Said Zix, gesturing outside of the hollow tree. “I’ll help you find yours.”

     “But… If I go out there... “ said the Mutant Shoyru, “They might hurt me again.”

     “No they won’t.” Zix took her by the hand and led her into the sunlight. “I'll defend you!”

 
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