Where there's a Weewoo, there's a way Circulation: 145,521,815 Issue: 253 | 18th day of Hiding, Y8
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Soup's Up!


by bellababy265

--------

Sequel to "Behind the Silver Circles," climax inspired by my Neofriend Ambrou!

"Have you heard? Have you heard have you heard have you heard?"

     Kela rubbed her eyes. It was a lovely morning, and the sun brightened her Neohome through the open front doorway, in which Alianci the Faerie Aisha stood.

     "What, Ali? What is it?" moaned Kela.

     Ali's eyes were bright with excitement. Kela and Ali were the best of friends, though had only known each other for a year. Ali lived on Kela's road and had caught her notice after he was given a special award for recovering hundreds of stolen scratchcards. He was also very rich, but Kela never let that intimidate her because he used his money well and he was generous.

     "They've made a new wheel, right here in the Ice Caves! It's called," at this point Ali closed his eyes for effect, "the Wheel of Wonder!"

     Kela sighed. "Great, Ali, you woke me up at quarter to seven for that?"

     "You know, for a Xweetok you aren't always very cheerful. Aren't you excited?" He looked almost disappointed.

     Kela shuffled out of her bed, and padded across the room to make some Banana Cream Coffee. "I'm ecstatic. You want some coffee?"

     Ali shook his head. "I just thought it might make you happy. Recently you've seemed quite - well, bored."

     "What?!"

     "You've just been hanging around your Neohome doing jobs; it's been ages since we've had some fun."

     Kela sighed. "I'll come with you to this wheel then. Just don't expect me to be enthusiastic, because I'm not in the mood, alright?"

     ***

     The Wheel of Wonder seemed to be popular. There was a queue that stretched all the way from the wheel to Happy Valley. The pets at the end of the queue were able to buy slushies at the Slushie Shop for their wait. Not that they seemed to be bored; everyone was bursting with anticipation. Kela and Ali joined the end of the queue and bought some Jelly Slushies.

     ***

     It was midday when they got to the front. Kela was half asleep, but Ali had yet to wipe the goofy grin from his face. A Krawk sat behind a little desk, and a Jetsam stood by the wheel. Neither of them looked that happy.

     The wheel was an array of beautiful colours, with indecipherable symbols on each segment of the wheel. It stood about five times as tall as the Jetsam.

     The Krawk rapped his claws impatiently on his desk. "Hidey ho, campers. You got the money or what?"

     It became apparent that his friendliness had been sarcastic.

     Ali dug into his trusty satchel and pulled out two thousand Neopoints.

     Kela nearly exploded. "WHAT? What kind of freakish rip-off is this? Besides, you can't pay for me, Ali, it's not fair."

     Ali laughed. "Keep your knickers on! Anyway, I want to pay for you; if you don't let me, it will hurt my feelings." He put on his puppy-dog eye expression that he knew Kela couldn't resist.

     "Go on then, spin the wheel. It better be a good prize."

     Ali approached the wheel but the Jetsam put out a fin to stop him. "Sorry kiddo, I do the spinning. It's a security thing, y'know?" Kela rolled her eyes, but Ali didn't seem to mind. The Jetsam spun the wheel, and Kela watched the colours turn to a blur. Eventually it slowed down and stopped.

     Ali pointed to the symbol that it had stopped on. "What does that mean then?" he asked the Jetsam, who had disappeared behind the wheel. He reappeared a few seconds later, with a Blue Ixi Plushie. Ali took it and hugged it. "Look, Kela, isn't it cute!"

     Kela looked at the Plushie. "You have got to be kiddin' me, Mr. Jetsam. You can get those things practically for free from the shop wizard!"

     The Jetsam shrugged. "You pay, you get the prize, you go home - that's the deal."

     Ali didn't seem to mind at all. He was making baby faces at his newly acquired Plushie. "This wheel is brilliant! Let's do it again!"

     "Are you out of your MIND?" Kela despaired. The Jetsam spun the wheel again, for Kela's turn. Kela tried to stop him, but the Krawk growled and pointed to the No Refunds sign.

     The wheel stopped, and the Jetsam produced a plain omelette on a plate. Ali laughed with happiness, and punched Kela playfully. "How great is that? And to think - you were just saying that you were getting hungry!"

     Kela looked down at the plate of mush. "I could have got this free from the Giant Omelette, heck, I would have got a better one too!"

     Ali rolled his eyes. "There's just no pleasing you, is there?"

     Kela shivered and looked around. "Can we go to the Soup Kitchen? I don't have any food for tonight."

     "Come to my place, I've got plenty!"

     "I know," she sighed, "but I really feel rubbish when I'm constantly eating your food. I've eaten at yours almost every night this week, I'd rather get something myself."

     Ali lowered himself so that Kela could get on his back. Since Ali had Faerie wings, he had been able to fly one other normal-sized Neopet around if they needed to get somewhere far away. Ali flapped his wings and ran forward, and before long they were rising into the sky.

     ***

     Neopia Central was deserted. Even most of the shops were closed. Kela and Ali were baffled as they flew past the Kadoatery, the Arcade, and the Money Tree... all of which looked abandoned. The Kadoaties mewed in their cages, but no one was around to feed them. The Arcade was closed. The Money Tree was all on its own.

     They landed at the Soup Kitchen. The Soup Faerie looked so pleased to see Kela. There were other pets around, but they looked as if they were waiting for something.

     "Kela, I'm so glad you heard. I need someone like you at a time like this!" The Soup Faerie picked Kela up and hugged her.

     Kela was confused. "What's happened, Soupy? I came because I needed soup!"

     "Not you too..." Soupy nodded towards the small crowd of pets hanging around. "...I've had to turn them away. There's nothing left! Ever since that wheel started in the Ice Caves, it seems the whole of Neopia has hitched a ride to Terror Mountain to see what all the hype is about! Everyone's spending so much money at the wheel that people haven't donated to the Money Tree. I don't have the funds to make more soup!" Soupy genuinely looked distraught. It's sweet that she cares so much for them, Kela thought.

     Almost instantly, Ali offered to help. "I can give you enough to start it again! I'll have to go and make a large withdrawal from the bank, but -"

     "No," interrupted Soupy, "we couldn't possibly take all our funding from just one person. It would be scroogey, and that's not good for our reputation. Donations would be great, but I don't think more than 5% of your money is fair. We should put up a sign, a big 'Please Donate!' sign."

     Kela shook her head. "No one would come, Soupy. They're all at Terror Mountain. We need a better idea. Or something to move the hype from the wheel to us."

     They pondered in silence. Soupy and Ali looked at Kela, who was known among her friends for being extremely creative.

     "I've got it!" she gasped. "Let's make a new soup! An amazing new soup, that tastes so good that people come from far away to taste it." Kela grinned, and Ali couldn't help thinking that he hadn't seen her look pleased with herself for a long time.

     Soupy also broke into smiles. "That's great, Kela! But how will we get the money for that in the first place?"

     Ali had already caught on. "My five percent will cover that. We can give out this new soup for free, but maybe we should give out a little less than normal. When people see the Soup Kitchen needs their help, they'll happily donate!"

     ***

     After Ali had donated, Kela and Soupy went back to Ali's and brainstormed the perfect soup.

     Kela frowned. "Can you get Tigersquash soup?"

     Soupy shook her head. "No way. It would taste revolting."

     Ali, from across the room, chimed in: "Besides, I'm allergic to Tigersquash soup."

     Soupy and Kela stared blankly at him.

     ***

     The next morning, everything was ready. The signs were up, the stand was ready and the soup was being made.

     "Kela, are there any more Fish pops?" asked Soupy.

     Kela chucked two more over. "That's all," she said. Kela was busy chopping the hotdogs and melting all the chocolates. Ali was watching all this happen from a distance with wonder.

     "Are you sure this is going to taste good?" Ali queried.

     "As long as it looks as good as it tastes!" laughed Kela. It was true, the soup in the cauldron so far was a rainbow of swirly colours that looked fantastic.

     An hour later, and the soup was finished. The cauldron was full to the brim, and there was an extra cauldron in the back in case that one ran out. They'd taste-tested the soup. They'd already gathered the attention of a crowd of onlookers who seemed to be hungry.

     "Soupy, will you do the honours?" said Kela.

     Soupy shook her head. "I do this every day. It was your idea, so you can have the honour."

     Kela grinned. She took a step towards the growing crowd, took in a deep breath, and bellowed, "SOUP'S UP!"

     ***

     Their soup was a hit. Their first customer, a friendly Nimmo, had taken his little bowl of soup and drank it dry in no more than a few seconds.

     "That's absolutely..." he struggled to find words to match his feelings: "unbelievable!"

     Kela glowed with pleasure. "You think so?"

     He nodded enthusiastically. "What do you call it?"

     At this point Ali nearly lost his head. "CRIPES, we forgot to name it! How about... the Soup of Wonder!"

     The Nimmo frowned. "Sounds familiar. You need a name that will hit people when they hear it like POW!" Ali nearly fell over. "Something awe-inspiring, something astronomical."

     "Xweetokela's Super Duper Rainbow Sunsmash." Ali grinned. Soupy nodded in agreement.

     "Wait," Kela interrupted, "you've worked on this too - I shouldn't get all the credit! And what the jeepers is 'Sunsmash'?"

     Ali shrugged. "It's a new word. The soup is bright like the sun, and we all know it tastes smashing. Soup is not a good enough word to describe it. So, 'Sunsmash'!"

     Soupy put her hand on Kela's shoulder. "Besides, we couldn't have done this without you. It was your idea, and you've helped out so much when it wasn't even your responsibility. You deserve it! But I'm afraid Xweetokela has more of a ring to it than Kela, so we'll be using your full name!" Soupy grinned.

     Kela wrinkled her nose. "If you're really sure..."

     "Enough, we have customers to serve!" Ali nodded indicated the huge crowd of pets.

     ***

     It was midday, but the line of customers had lengthened rather than shortened. Everyone loved the sunsmash; its delicious taste sent them spiralling into mesmerism and in some cases back to the end of the queue for second helpings. The grateful customers kept Kela, Soupy and even Ali on their toes: pouring out sunsmash, answering questions, receiving compliments and making more sunsmash. The bag of donations was brimming with Neopoints. Even the sun was shining happily.

     "I love happy endings," laughed Ali.

     "I wouldn't get too excited," frowned Soupy, "because usually the funds that come from the Money Tree are huge - the number of poor Neopians that need my help is terrible. That's why I'm so grateful that people like Ali donate to the Money Tree so much - it's what keeps the Soup Kitchen running."

     ***

     The Soup Kitchen and its helpful staff were busy until late in the evening, serving what seemed like the whole of Neopia. By the time the long, long queue was beginning to grow shorter, Kela, Soupy and Ali were exhausted, and fast running out of soup.

     Kela sighed. "We might just manage to feed the pets already in the queue, but after that we'll need to buy more ingredients."

     Ali nodded. "But even then, we'll have less customers tomorrow because we've served most of Neopia already, and the Money Tree is still empty so Soupy won't be able to carry on serving unlimitedly."

     As the three of them looked up into the inky black sky, they couldn't help but gaze at the stars and wonder if there really was any hope for them at all.

     ***

     "That's it. We have to stop this!"

     Infuriated, Kela crumpled the Neopian Times and threw it in the garbage. After reading that 'the unbelievable success of the newly founded Wheel of Wonder estimates at least another week of hype traffic in the Ice Caves due to customer queues', she had decided that something had to be done about this pesky rip off. "I mean it, Ali; we have to go back to the Wheel and sort this out!"

     Ali mumbled incoherently and lowered his back so that Kela could jump on, and the flight to Terror Mountain seemed shorter than ever before.

     ***

     The queues were about the same as they had been the other day. Kela and Ali landed a few yards away from the Wheel and they strutted towards the Krawk and the Jetsam, who glanced at them with shifty eyes. Ali pushed to the front of the excited queue of customers and attempted a fake cough to gain the Krawk's undivided attention (a cough that, in Kela's opinion, sounded more like an Elephante sneezing).

     The Krawk looked up impatiently. "In case you didn't notice, there's a teeny weeny line you gotta queue in before playing."

     Kela decided to go about things politely. "I'm sorry, mister, but we think it is only appropriate that you lower the price of your wheel. The poorer Neopians are struggling to find food because instead of donating, everyone is spending their Neopoints on this wheel-"

     "Good for them!" sniggered the Krawk. "If there are Neopians too poor to buy their own food, then they are not worth worrying about anyway. It's entirely their own fault."

     Kela felt her cheeks turning a dark shade of pink. "In most cases, it is not their fault. Some of them have had to spend all their money on medicines to cure themselves of a disease. Some of them have had their bank accounts robbed. And some of them," Kela swallowed as tears sprung to her eyes, "were attacked by the Pant Devil and were robbed of their prize possessions. It is NOT our fault," she stuttered angrily.

     The Krawk broke into a toothy smile. "Did you just say, we?"

     Oh no. Kela closed her eyes in frustration and waited for what was coming next.

     "Are you saying, that for people like you," the Krawk said loudly, "these honest customers here have to give up their fun so that you can all eat for free?" He sniggered and the pets near the front of the queue erupted into nervous laughter. It pained Ali to see Kela in such discomfort. "Well, no one is about to let you close us down, so you might as well go back into whichever hole you crawled out of." With that, the Krawk bashed down on his desk and yelled, "NEXT!"

     As the next customer stepped up to waste his Neopoints on the wheel, Ali took Kela aside and hugged her. Even Kela's best friend in the world couldn't console her now. She was beyond humiliation, her positive outlook on life shattered. She couldn't hear Ali's kind words; all that she could do was stare at the cause of all the trouble.

     The wheel was spinning, spinning so fast that the symbols disappeared and the colours mixed into a disgusting swirl. The Jetsam became the only Neopet in the world, and the wheel the only thing. As it spun selfishly, the poor were starving. The wheel began to slow, turning clockwise like a windmill. The symbols appeared again, and the wheel was turning so slowly it was barely noticed. It stopped, and for a split second it was perfectly still.

     And that's when Kela spotted it.

     It moved anticlockwise.

     It was just the tiniest, fraction of a millimetre, but it had started to spin the wrong way, like the passengers in a braking car that are flung back into their seats. And she so, so nearly missed it.

     It's all a scam...

     "IT'S A SCAM!" yelled Kela. "They're using magnets..."

     The Krawk and the Jetsam looked up at her so suddenly they looked as though they may have wrenched their necks. The look behind their eyes turned from superiority to fear. Kela marched up to the wheel and gave it a push round.

     "See? It always lands on the same symbol. No wonder they make sure the symbols are indecipherable! And I wondered why we weren't allowed to spin it ourselves. Because we might have spotted the backspin, like I just did now."

     The Krawk was opening and closing his mouth in utter astonishment. He glanced at the Jetsam for help. The Jetsam shrugged as if to say, "Don't look at me!"

     Ali was smiling from ear to ear. "Kela, you're a GENIUS! If anyone could've worked it out, it was you!" Kela was now speechless, but the look on her face was one of pure relief.

     ***

     "It's from the Neopets Team!" Kela opened the letter.

     Ali was almost bouncing up and down with excitement. "What does it say? What does it say?"

     Kela smiled as she read it. "The Neopets Team have inspected the wheel and they found stolen Uni Hoof Magnets on the back of the wheel and on the arrow. The wheel has been taken down, and the Krawk and the Jetsam are now official 'dung cleaners' in Neopia Central as community service. And you know the best part of it? They're donating all the money to the Money Tree! The Soup Kitchen is running again!" Kela felt as if her heart was in the skies.

     Ali could never have been more proud of anybody. Just that moment, there was a knock on Kela's front door.

     It was Soupy. "Kela, I cannot thank you enough for all that you've done. But I do have some great news!"

     Kela didn't know how life could get much better, but she was listening intently.

     "I've been getting neomails all morning. Your 'Sunsmash' flavour seems to have made quite an impact on the public. The smoothie, pizza and jelly industries of Neopia want to buy the new flavour! It's a HUGE hit!"

     Kela looked at her two favourite people in the world, and wondered if there was anyone that had ever been happier than she felt right now.

The End

 
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