She still didn't know what had possessed her... or why she hadn't stuck to
her guns about staying home. At first, she had done precisely what she had told
Dr_Death she was going to do... she had indulged herself in a large mug of cocoa
with raspberry marshmallows melted in it and then had taken a long relaxing
bubble bath. Afterward, however, instead of returning to her room to sulk the
evening away, she had found herself spending nearly an hour in front of the
mirror, meticulously brushing and styling her mane and tail. Afterward, she
had rouged her cheeks and applied a bit of lip gloss... and now, here she was.
Rose looked herself over in the mirror as she had a few days ago, still just
as uncertain. She wore her dress again, this time with an opal necklace and
a pair of small golden earrings in the shape of moons that winked faintly. Her
mane hung in shining curls over her shoulders and down her back and her tail
had been brushed perfectly straight and tied with a bow that was the same colour
as her dress.
She had given no one any warning, she had no one that would vote for her,
and felt she stood no chance against her competition, yet for whatever reason,
she had decided she was going to the contest tonight.
"It's not too late, you know. You can still back out of this," a voice
said somewhere in her head. She told that voice to kindly shut up as she checked
herself one more time and then hesitantly turned away, crossing her living room
to her front door. She lingered for a moment with her hoof on the knob before
forcing herself to step outside and close the front door behind her. The sun
was at its highest point in the sky, not quite ready to set, and her neighbourhood
street, mercifully, was mostly deserted since everyone was either having dinner
or already at the contest to watch the judging.
Holding her head up and determined she was going to go through with things,
RoseMadder walked briskly down the street and in the direction of the Neopian
Bazaar. As she drew nearer to her destination, she found herself surrounded
by hundreds of other Neopets, all of them prettied up just as she had been.
"Stop struggling, Kiyomi!" a black-haired human girl complained nearby as
she busily ran a rainbow paint brush over her faerie Nimmo's wings, trying to
get the colour to stick instead of running off and puddling in the grass. "If
this works, you'll be the most beautiful Nimmo there!" Rose vaguely wished she
had an owner to help HER prepare. Or even a paint brush to make herself look
more unique as she passed through the throngs of costumed and painted pets that
loitered outside of the Centre, all of them making last minute preparations
for the contest.
Rose passed them all by, feeling dizzy from all of the activity as she made
her way up the centre's walk and went inside. The spectators were all gathered
in the auditorium and the low rumble of their thousands of voices made her feel
nervous as she hurriedly walked through the back hallway and in the direction
of the backstage dressing rooms. Quickly, she pulled the dressing room door
open an slipped inside, sighing with relief as she closed it again behind her.
"Hey gramma, you in the contest?" a snide voice inquired. Rose looked over
her shoulder at a younger Uni, painted a dazzling gold colour who was glaring
at her as though she was the ugliest spider she had ever seen.
"I'm in the contest, yes," Rose said, embarrassed by how small her own
voice sounded. The gold Uni tossed her mane and chuckled.
"That's cute, grams, real cute."
"My name is Rose," she said defensively.
"Whatever. Actually I hope all of the competition's like you. It'll make winning
a lot easier," she smirked. RoseMadder, though she didn't make a habit
out of hating people, found herself strongly disliking this brat more and more
by the minute. She opened her mouth to retort when the door blasted open behind
her and a rather unkept Uni, a pair of lopsided sunglasses on his muzzle, trotted
into the room.
"I'M KEWL!!!!" he cried at the two fillies. The golden Uni rolled her eyes.
"You're entering AGAIN, you loser?" she sighed. "Why don't you go help your
owner root through the dumpster for omelettes or something?"
"I'M KEWL!!!" he announced again, grinning and seeming proud of himself. Rose
supposed his intelligence was rather low... probably because his owner couldn't
afford to buy him books. Poor guy...
"Moron," the gold Uni scoffed, trotting daintily to the corner of the
dressing room where she had set her duffle bag. Rose drew in a slight gasp as
she watched the spoilt equine withdraw several ungodly expensive plushies from
her bag and begin to idly play with them. Her owner must have been incredibly
wealthy. Another wave of uncertainty washed over Rose and she was uncomfortably
aware of her unpainted fur and her age.
The door banged open again as more Unis began to filter inside.
"Hey, you work at the pound, don't you?" a slender Faerie-painted Uni inquired,
grinning at Rose as she passed her.
"I... uh huh...." she nodded.
"Wow... I bet you've got all sorts of inner connections for votes then, huh?"
the faerie asked, looking a little dejected.
"No... not really. I don't think anyone even knows I'm competing tonight."
The stranger studied Rose's face a moment to see if she was kidding before breaking
into a smile.
"Name's FluffyRabbit," she informed her, smiling.
"Rabbit?" Rose asked, quirking a brow.
"I used to be a Cybunny," the faerie Uni shrugged. "My owner and I decided
to give the lab ray a try and... heh... this is what we ended up deciding on."
"You look very nice," Rose told her.
"Oh bah... I'm just a face in the crowd. There's all sorts of faerie Unis
that compete every week and never get anywhere," FluffyRabbit informed
her. "Scuse me, hon, but I need to go get ready." And, in a shimmer of gossamer
wings, the faerie Uni had crossed the room to examine her reflection in a vanity
mirror. In the corner, the golden Uni that Rose had butted heads with earlier,
continued to survey the crowd distastefully as she cuddled her Snowager plushie
and Rose favoured her with a dirty look. Though she was sure that nobody would
vote for herself, she certainly hoped that no one would vote for such a disrespectful
"Honestly, Doc, you should try sticking to your own species," Hubert sighed.
"Huh?" the frost-haired yellow Techo asked distantly, his eyes never leaving
the stage, a look of utter infatuation in them. Though he didn't have anyone
he would call a friend, Hubert and he had taken to watching the judging of the
contest together since they both attended every week. The blue Mynci slapped
"Never mind. I shouldn't even waste my breath talking to you when the Zafaras
are being judged," he grumbled. "What do you see in them anyway? I mean,
floppy ears? Spiny backs? Big legs? Give me a nice pretty Mynci gal with a big
curly tail any day over one of those freaks. You don't even stay around for
the Techo girls so how do you know you don't like 'em??"
"Shush," the doctor muttered, though he hadn't heard a word Hubert had
just said. The hot dog vendor glared at him for a long moment and then sighed
again, turning his eyes back up front as a starry Zafara female in a cheery
yellow summer dress sang her own rendition of one of M*Ynci's most recent hits,
"Jungle Of Love". She, a faerie female, and a purple male were the finalists
of their species and were all competing for first place. After them would be
the Skeiths and then the Flotsams and then the Unis
"How long you stickin' around tonight, man?" Hubert asked as the girl on-stage
finished her song and the applause began.
"Oh... I don't know." Dr_Death shrugged. "I'll probably stay for the Unis
and then head home and get to bed."
"Why the Unis?" the Mynci asked.
"I want to tell Rose whether she would have had a chance of winning or not
if she had had enough guts to show up tonight," he replied simply.
"Man, was Rose gonna enter??" Hubert asked, perking his humanesque ears a
"She was... she decided to hide her head in the sand instead," the doctor
"Aww, that's too bad. I bet a lot of people would have voted," he sighed.
"I mean, think about how many pets she's helped stick with an owner."
"I tried to get her to show up by entering her anyway after she bowed out,
but she says she's still not going. And it's not my problem," the Techo
told him as the judge stepped on-stage to announce that the faerie Zafara was
the winner and she bounded forward to accept her trophy and give the audience
a tearful and blubbering speech amid the applause and flying rose blossoms.
"Still a shame," the Mynci told him. The stage was cleared and the participating
Skeiths began to file on-stage
"Yech..." Dr_Death grunted, looking distastefully at the pig/dragon Neopets
as they began to parade across the stage. Hubert elbowed him sharply in the
"Be nice," he warned.
"I can't watch this," the Techo groaned as a rather obese red female
Skeith, somehow crammed into a dress that was far too small for her, waddled
across the stage and grinned toothily at the audience. "I'm going outside."
"Concession stand closed about a half hour ago... they don't sell during the
show," Hubert warned.
"I don't really care," he replied.
"SHHH!!" an Elephante hissed at them from a row behind them. "I'm trying to
watch the show!" Dr_Death and Hubert exchanged a vehement glance with the elephant
NeoPet before both of them got up and sidled out of the isle, quietly exiting
into the outside hallway. The doctor breathed a long sigh of relief as he reflexively
reached for his coat pocket that he usually kept his package of cigarettes,
only to remember he wasn't wearing his lab coat tonight.
"If you're not going to sit through the entire show, why do you even come?"
Hubert inquired, leaning up against the wall beside the auditorium door.
"When you go to a concert in Tyrannia, do you sit around all week waiting
for ALL the bands to play or just the one you came to see?" Dr_Death asked with
a shrug, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his black slacks. "I go to the
contest to see the Zaffies, is that a crime?"
"Nah... chill, man," Hubert told him. "Wasn't trying to get you all ruffled.
So you wanna head in after the Skeiths are over or wait till it's time for the
"Dunno, I was thinking maybe I might--" he trailed off, hearing someone approach.
"...and can you believe the idiots I'm up against this time? From what I've
seen, at least half of them aren't even painted and even more of 'em probably
don't even know what a book IS from the way they talk," a female voice
"Oh I know... they should have some quality standard you should have to pass
before you get in the show or something..." As the Techo and Mynci watched,
a dazzlingly gold Uni and a white Usul strode into view, coming from the direction
of the ladies room. The Usul busily ran a brush through her hair, her eyes fixated
on her reflection in a small circular compact mirror as the Uni checked herself
over to ensure she was immaculate. "It's not really a contest anyway... ever
since you joined that guild, you've had all sorts of friends to vote for you."
"I know, and it's nice that they can actually recognise someone who deserves
to win instead of half these trolls. It's like mum says... you can put blueberry
jam on an animal cracker, put it on a golden tray and call it a French tart,
but it's STILL just a sticky animal cracker."
"I like that!" the Usul giggled. "I should remember that one!" She looked
briefly up from her compact to scowl at Dr_Death and Hubert as they passed.
"Hmph... losers," she remarked snidely.
"I hear ya," the Uni agreed. "So anyway, this week I thought if I win
the gold for species again, I'd get the trophy melted down so mum's boyfriend
could make us matching charm necklaces."
"Will they let you do that?" the Usul inquired.
"Don't care. I've already got plenty of 'em already and I'm running out of
room so I thought--" at that point, they had passed out of earshot and their
voices became intelligible against the echoes they created.
"What a couple of snobs..." Hubert remarked, shaking his head. "You notice
Neopia's bringin' in more of them each day?"
"I haven't been paying attention, but what do you expect at this sort of thing?
All these social rejects crawl out of their caves and come here to show off."
Dr_Death sighed in exasperation. "Did you hear her, though?"
"When she said we were losers? Loud and clear, brother."
"No..." the Techo grumbled. "What she said about the votes. Like this is all
a matter of who has the most connections."
"Yeah... and what's sad is the judges can't really do anything about it because
it's not cheating asking people to vote for 'em," the monkey shrugged.
"Well, I'm glad Rose didn't show up tonight then," the doctor sighed.
"That's sweet, doc, that you'd be worried about her feelings like that," Hubert
"HER feelings? Feh... I'd have to listen to her whine and cry all week about
it if she lost," he replied sharply, stuffing his hands into his pockets.
"Guess she had better foresight about this than I did. At least she's home instead
"Rose, Hon, c'mon out of there... we've got to head backstage now!" a musical
voice floated down the hallway, making both the Techo and the Mynci whip their
heads in its direction.
"Just a minute..." a muffled and painfully familiar voice replied. "This stupid
lipstick just refuses to look right..."
"You look fine, now hurry!" the other voice laughed. A door opened and bumped
shut again and Dr_Death felt his mouth drop a little as Rose emerged from the
same hallway the golden Uni and white Usul had come from earlier, walking side-by-side
with a younger faerie Uni They bustled past without noticing him or Hubert and
disappeared down the same hallway the two obnoxious girls had moments ago.
"She... she..." Dr_Death faltered after a moment.
"You told me she wasn't entered..." Hubert said, blinking.
"That's what she told me!!" the Techo shot back. "She's... oh great..." he
sighed, slapping his forehead loudly. "I knew someone up there hated me..."
"So now what?" Hubert inquired. "You know she's gonna lose to The Golden
"I know it," the doctor shrugged. "What am I supposed to do about it?
"I dunno," the hot dog vendor replied. "Wanna see if we can scrounge
up some voters for her?"
"It's a little late to start a campaign," the Techo told him. "Especially
if the ballot's already fixed. As soon as that brat sets hoof on that stage,
she's as good as won. The others don't stand a chance."
"Yup," the Mynci remarked. There was a moment's pause and then, as though
the idea had settled into their brains at the same time, Dr_Death and Hubert
both exchanged a quick glance and lit off in the direction the girls had gone..
To be continued...