Clarence swivelled around to meet the new voice, only to freeze.
An Eyrie. A Kiko. A Lupe. Even more Neopets appeared out from the bushes, or rose from the water. All different species.
None of them Blumaroos.
"Uhhh....?" Clarence asked.
Darla's eyes were practically gleaming as she gestured to the group with a paw.
"Clarence, meet the Troo-ists."
Clarence could only stutter. "T-the what?"
The Eyrie from before strode forward. Large and broad-shouldered, he towered over Clarence with tyrannian horns and a jagged beak.
"Troo-ists," repeated the Eyrie. "You heard it right."
Someone in the back snickered, but quieted at the Eyrie's growl. Clarence gulped, trying to make himself small without drawing any extra attention, ears flopped all the way down.
But the Eyrie had his eyes trained directly on him.
"I am Et'korr, leader of the Troo-ists," said the Eyrie. "We have issue with King Roo."
"You know how the Blumaroo Day parade is closed to tourists and outsiders in general?" Darla asked from beside Clarence, and he nodded. "Well... let's just say the Troo-ists want in on the celebrations."
If he was anxious before, he was downright terrified now. Clarence played with his ear nervously.
"Couldn't you just... ask?" he ventured.
Et'korr and Darla shared a look, then smiled, shaking their heads. Guess not.
"We needed a Parade King or Queen who nobody on Roo Island really knows," Darla continued. "So that excludes me. We needed someone who wouldn't be followed by friends all the time, or get too swept up in things once they got into King Roo's court to help us. Someone like you, Clarence."
He frowned. "Y-you... you nominated me."
"We all did," Et'korr interjected.
Clarence stood there for a moment, mind racing. Outsiders at the Blumaroo Day parade. Joining a group of suspicious strangers for an unknown cause. Not being able to just go home and get out of this mess, because he was surrounded, a million eyes on him, and his heart was thumping a mile a minute, legs frozen to the ground.
Et'korr tilted his head. The Troo-ists seemed to be waiting for an answer of some sort. Clarence let out a deep breath. Okay, he had a choice. He could say no. He could leave. He just needed to say so. That was all. He could do this one thing, right? This one thing, and then he could go home and be comfortable and never come out again.
Having gained his resolve, Clarence mustered the small bit of courage he could find in his heart, puffed out his chest, and asserted himself.
"W-what makes you think I'd want to help yo--"
Darla interrupted him. "We can get you out of here."
Clarence's words died on his tongue.
"Tyrannia does not have parades," stated Et'korr.
"Kiko Lake is always peaceful and quiet," said a Kiko.
"Mystery Island loves cooking and making new recipes," a Kougra purred.
He could leave Roo Island? For a place that suited him more?
He'd never had the opportunity before this.
How had they known?
"You can go anywhere you want. Outside of here." Et'korr smiled, as if he could read Clarence's mind. "We had the means to sneak into Roo Island on parade day. We can sneak you out with us."
Everyone around Clarence seemed to exchange knowing looks. They had expected this. They had targeted him specifically. They eyed him, expecting an immediate answer, because both they and he knew that this offer would not last long. He was outnumbered, overwhelmed.
At Clarence's prolonged silence, Et'korr barked a laugh. It was gravelly and deep and sent ice down Clarence's spine. It seemed the leader of the Troo-ists had taken his silence for acceptance of their terms.
The Eyrie turned his back, then looked over his shoulder, as if expecting Clarence to follow.
"The plan starts now," said Et'korr.