A Question of Worth: Part One
Christopher slammed the door open and stormed in. The blue
Lupe glared around the entryway of his house, breathing shallow and fast. Anger
tinted his vision red, and he snarled deep in his throat.
Springing forward, he swiped a vase off its
table and watched it smash on the floor. The resulting crash, and shards of
pottery, were satisfactory, but not quite enough. Christopher's paws shot out,
and he heaved the table up, pitching it over as well. One of the table legs
cracked in half, with a noise like a Kyrii Cork Gun being fired.
The Lupe froze in place, then slumped, the anger
draining out of him. He glanced up from the floor as his owner paused in the
doorway, wiping her hands on a towel.
"Oh, Christopher," she sighed. "What was it
Christopher hunched his shoulders up protectively
and muttered, "Alex can't come to Roo Island with us tomorrow."
His owner looked sympathetic, but she didn't
move toward him to comfort him. "Christopher..." she said. The Lupe looked up
warily, hearing something off in her tone. She had always been nothing but sympathetic
before, offering hugs, sweets, and condolences until he felt better.
"Christopher," his owner started again, "I was
thinking... I mean, you do this a lot." She gestured toward the broken vase
and fallen table with the towel she still held. "Usually a few times a week,"
she added bleakly. "And, well... it's getting expensive. Replacing the vases,
and the tables, and all that."
Christopher stared at her. She had never mentioned
"So I signed you up for classes with the Techo
Master," she continued, straightening up.
Christopher perked up. "I'm gonna learn Neo-Fu?"
he asked, excited.
"Well. Sort of," his owner said. "It's an introductory
class for a form of it. To help you learn control."
The Lupe hardly heard her as she went on, "It'll
be more in the way of meditation and calming exercises, the way I understand
it." He was too excited. Learn Neo-Fu! Him! All of his friends would be envious
next week when he went back to school and told them. Christopher grinned.
"When's the first class?" he asked, interrupting
his owner in the middle of another explanation and justification of signing
"What? Oh--it's tomorrow, tomorrow afternoon."
She gave him a bright smile.
Christopher nodded happily, and then paused.
"What? But--we were going to go play Dice-a-Roo tomorrow!"
His owner pressed her lips together. "I'm sorry,
Christopher. You'll have to Neomail them and tell them you can't go."
The Lupe sank down to the floor, staring at
nothing. No Dice-a-Roo... this learning Neo-Fu idea was looking worse all the
"Dinner's in an hour," his owner added, and
disappeared back into the kitchen.
Christopher nodded absently. His gaze turned
to the broken vase and table, and he winced.
As his owner started clattering pots and pans
around in the kitchen, preparatory to cooking dinner, the Lupe picked up his
backpack and slunk up the stairs, his shoulders low with shame.
"Hey, Thomas," Christopher wrote later that evening,
after dinner had been had and the dishes cleared away. "My owner signed me up
for Neo-Fu, so I can't go play Dice-a-Roo tomorrow. Sorry. Maybe we can go on
Sunday, or next weekend?"
He glanced up at his owner, who was busy writing
a letter of her own on the other side of the table, and then back at the paper.
"I'll tell you all about Neo-Fu after my lesson
tomorrow," he added, the pen scratching across the paper. "Maybe I'll even show
you a move or two! Or I could always just practice on Brandon or someone, haha."
Christopher paused, contemplating, and then
signed his name underneath the message.
"Okay," he said, folding the paper neatly. "It's
ready." He placed it on top of a stack of three more letters. They all bore
similar messages, to others of Christopher's friends.
"Ready? Good!" his owner said cheerfully, looking
up from her own letter. "Just a moment, and I can send them all off together."
The Lupe nodded. "May I go up to my room?" he
His owner smiled, scribbling out another line.
"Indeed you may," she said, with a grin up at him.
Christopher smiled back and got up from the
chair carefully. He padded through the kitchen and out into the hallway to the
stairs, trying to not look at the ruins in the entryway. The table had been
tipped upright, but it stood at a tilt now that the leg was broken, and while
the shattered pieces of china had been swept into a pile, they still seemed
to exude accusation.
Christopher caught himself looking and glanced
away guiltily. It wasn't his fault his owner kept buying those fragile vases,
he told himself. But somehow, that didn't make him feel any better.
He padded up the stairs slowly.
Christopher wasn't really expecting any of his
friends to send back Neomails when they heard the news, but the next morning
there were two of them waiting for him. In between bites of toast and fried
eggs, he ripped them open and read them, one after another. They were very similar,
expressing regret and annoyance, but hoping they could reschedule.
Another thing they had in common was the clear
envy of Christopher--though that wasn't precisely in the text of the letters.
"Well?" his owner asked, taking a careful bite
of toast. "How'd they take it?"
"Fine," Christopher said, shrugging. "When's
my lesson start?"
"Three o'clock," she said, wiping her hands
on a napkin and picking up her fork to start on an egg. "So we'll have to take
the two o'clock ferry out of the docks. Would you mind looking up fares?"
Christopher glanced down at his empty plate,
then at her half-full one, and nodded. He took his plate into the kitchen and
put it in the sink to be washed, and then went back out into the living room.
The red-bound Directory to Neopia's Ferries
was sitting on top of the coffee table; the Lupe picked it up and flipped through
to the page for the Neopia Central - Mystery Island ferry.
"It's a thousand, seven hundred and... fifty,"
he called, scanning the rows of numbers. "For each of us."
"Robbery," his owner sighed as Christopher came
back into the dining room. "Ah well. It's not that much, really." She smiled.
"And the class should be fun. Right, Christopher?"
Christopher nodded obediently, even though his
excitement at taking Neo-Fu was wearing off with all the waiting he was doing.
He wondered idly if the others were going to play Dice-a-Roo without them or
if they were waiting until Alex and Christopher could come, too. Whatever they
were doing, the Lupe decided, it didn't concern him. Anyway, they'd be envious
of him for taking Neo-Fu when he got back to school on Monday, and that was
even cooler than a trip to play Dice-a-Roo.
Once they were on the ferry to Mystery Island
and the ocean spray was in their faces, Christopher found that he was starting
to get excited about the class again. He looked from one side of the boat to
the other, eyes bright with anticipation. All he saw were the waves, and occasionally
a passing ship or boat. After ten minutes had passed with no event, the Lupe
turned his gaze on the horizon, watching for the sandy shores of Mystery Island
to appear on it.
Halfway there, the other passengers on the ferry
rushed for the sides. Christopher glanced back at them, puzzled, and then looked
down, as they were doing. He gasped. The water was pure, clear aquamarine, and
he could see all the way down to the bottom--where the buildings and constructions
of Maraqua lay along the ocean floor. Hundreds and hundreds of seadwellers swam
through the streets in layers: the top was the fastest, the bottom the slowest.
Christopher caught a glimpse of an ancient-looking Maraquan Shoyru trundling
along, his flippers flapping just above the sand.
It was only another half-hour to Mystery Island
after they left the piece of ocean that was Maraqua City. As soon as it was
visible, Christopher tightened his grip on the rail and grinned until his face
felt sore. Neo-Fu! At last!
His owner came quietly up beside him and glanced
over at his grin. "I'm glad that you're happy to be going," she said quietly,
reaching over to pat his paw. "I was worrying you might not want to..."
Christopher's happiness faltered a little, and
he glanced over at her. "Why would I not want to?" he asked.
She shrugged. "Oh, I don't know--I was just
worrying a little, I suppose."
The ferry slowed to come in to the dock, and
bumped against it gently as lines were thrown and tied to keep it there. The
captain emerged from the steering-house of the ship and stood by the edge of
the ship, giving farewells and warnings to the ferry-goers exiting.
Christopher shuffled his feet impatiently as
they waited to get off the ship, but it was really only a minute or so until
they were nodding goodbye to the captain, and then they stepped off the ship
and onto the sea-soaked wood of the dock. Following the others, they made their
way off the dock and onto the packed dirt of the largest Mystery Island thoroughfare.
Christopher's owner pulled him aside once they were on the island itself and
checked her watch.
"So it's... oh! We only have ten minutes to
get there!" she cried in surprise, and glanced around. "This way," she said,
and started off quickly. Christopher followed her, glancing around excitedly
when he wasn't looking out for tree roots or other obstacles on the path.
To be continued...