“So, uh, where’d you get this?” Adrienne asked, holding up a bowl of Tentacle Rice to the shopkeeper.
The bespectacled Nimmo frowned and shifted uneasily. “Where did I get this stuff? Erm... you’ll have to talk to the Captain about that.”
“Oh,” responded Adrienne. The blue Poogle tried to mask her disgust as she tentatively set the rice back on a shelf. Despite the shopkeeper’s continuous assurances that his products were, in fact, edible, Adrienne merely smiled politely and slipped out of the quaint little shop. A cool breeze greeted her as she walked slowly along the rickety bridges that connected the little town of Shenkuu. Even though she had only moved a week ago, Adrienne was dreadfully sick of her new home and wanted nothing more than to move back to Neopia Central.
She arrived home to her one story townhouse that was open rounded in design, just like most of the Shenkuu architecture. Inside sat her owner, Greta, and Sammy, her little brother. The latter was sitting cross-legged in the ground, attempting—and failing—to use chopsticks.
“Hi, Adie,” called Sammy as she pushed open the sliding door.
“Hey, Sam.” She smiled. She quickly wiped the grin off her face when she turned to look at Greta. “Nothing at the store. Again,” she said accusingly. Greta sighed and looked up from where she was sitting.
“What do you mean, there was nothing?” she asked. “There must have been something.”
“Sure,” Adrienne said, “if you like Urchin Surprise.” She rolled her eyes. Behind Greta’s back, Sammy pretended to throw up.
“Adrienne,” Greta sighed, “you need to be more... adventurous. We’re not moving back to Neopia Central. Everything we need is right here in Shenkuu.”
“Everything but dinner,” snapped Adrienne.
“I’ve had enough out of you,” said Greta, frowning. “I want you to go to your room.”
“I’ll have to go back to Neopia Central to do that,” Adrienne said, biting her lip.
“You know what I mean. Like it or not, this is home now. I don’t see you going to your room!” Greta said, raising her voice. Blinking back tears, Adrienne walked slowly and gracefully to her room down the hallway. She walked in quietly then slammed the door as loud as she could. Now full-out sobbing, the blue Poogle collapsed on her bed, reaching for her favorite pink pen.
Dear Monica, she wrote,
Today was another horrible day here in ShenkPOO. I wore my Yes Boy Ice Cream T-shirt to school and all the kids stared at me like I was insane. They didn’t even know who YBIC was! Imagine! Then I got lost on one of those creepy bridges walking home, and I had to ask this kid in my Language Arts class named Dao Min how to get home. I bet she told her friends and they all started cracking up! Then Greta sent me to get dinner, and almost everything there involved the word surprise. I’m sorry, but I like to know what I’m eating! Anyways, I miss you and Neopia Central so much!
Your best friend,
After finishing her letter, Adrienne set her pencil down and sighed, looking around at her room. The day they had moved here, she had torn down anything Shenkuu-related in her room and tried to make it as normal as possible. The walls were now cotton-candy pink and covered in posters of her favorite stars and faeries. The traditional Shenkuu outfit Greta had bought her was hidden in the back of her closet, covered by bright T-shirts and jeans.
“Adie?” Sammy’s voice shocked Adrienne as her little brother walked into her room.
“Hey, Sam,” she said, patting her bed in invitation. The green Poogle sat next to her and smiled with concern. “What’s wrong?” she asked, looking at her little brother’s crumpled face.
“Nothing...” he said quietly.
“Sam, I’m your sister. I can tell when you’re sad. C’mon, tell me.” She hugged him softly.
“I—I miss Dougie,” Sammy gulped, breaking into tears.
“Oh, Sammy,” whispered Adrienne, hugging him tighter. Dougie was Sammy’s petpet Polarchuck. He was Sammy’s best friend and confident, but Shenkuu’s climate was just too hot for the winter petpet, and Sammy had been forced to give him away. He pretended he didn’t care, but Adrienne knew her little brother cried himself to sleep many a night.
“Adrienne, Sammy, come out here please,” called Greta. The siblings exchanged a look and got up, dreading what was to come.
They found Greta in the living room, sitting on a plush red pillow.
“Greta, don’t you think you’re taking the whole ‘adopt their culture’ thing a little too extreme?” Adrienne sighed. “Don’t forget, we’re not from here.”
Their owner smiled and patted the ground next to her. As Sammy and Adrienne sat down, Greta began to speak once more. “Funny you should bring that up, Adrienne,” she said. “I realize you two are feeling a bit left out of things here in Shenkuu—”
“Of course we are, Mom,” wailed Sammy. “These people are freaks!”
“Samuel,” scolded Greta. “This is the problem. You two are becoming extremely prejudiced. For this reason, I have signed you up for an after-school class called Discovering Shenkuu. You’ll be able to talk to people your age about their wonderful culture. Doesn’t that sound exciting?”
“Come on, guys, it will be fun,” Greta said in a pleading voice.
“I can’t,” muttered Sammy.
“Why?” snapped Greta, eying him suspiciously.
“I joined the Godori club at school and we meet every day from 3:30-4:30.”
Greta smiled, “Oh, excellent, Sam! You’re learning about the culture your own way!” She grinned from ear-to-ear, obviously proud of her pet’s involvement.
Adrienne, however, was furious. She shot daggers at her little brother, who merely smiled apologetically. As soon as Greta dismissed them, she grabbed Sammy’s arm and dragged him out of their owner’s hearing range.
“Since when do you play Godori?”
“Since Fondi invited me to join the club,” he retorted.
“Yeah, he’s this kid in my class. Anyways, it’s not like I really wanted to join. But I figured it would be better than just wandering around like an idiot.”
Disgusted, Adrienne rolled her eyes and walked away from her brother. Even though Shenkuu was bustling with people, she felt completely and entirely alone.
“Welcome to Discovering Shenkuu.” The elderly Aisha smiled, looking down at Adrienne. “What’s your name?”
“Um... Adrienne,” mumbled the blue Poogle.
“Excellent,” the Aisha said. “You may take a seat and we can begin.”
Adrienne scanned the room, taking note of the four bored-looking pets sitting on the ground. A pink Lupe sat nearest to Adrienne, filing her sharp nails and not bothering to look up. Next to the Lupe was a red Mynci flipping through a volleyball magazine. Beside her was a tall shadow Kougra staring at the ground. Sitting by him was a purple Uni who kept tossing her mane in an annoying way. On the end was a petite white Acara. When she noticed Adrienne looking at her, she smiled in embarrassment. Politely, Adrienne returned the smile and sat down next to the Acara.
“All right,” said the elderly Aisha who had greeted Adrienne, “let’s start by introducing ourselves. I am Kitani, and I was born and raised here in Shenkuu. How about you?” She looked at the purple Uni.
“I’m, like, Brittani. I, like, don’t want to be here. Oh, and I’m, like, from Faerieland.”
Shocker, Adrienne thought to herself.
The red Mynci, realizing she was next, set down the magazine and began, “I’m Alessandra, but you can call me Ace. I’m from Mystery Island.”
The purple Uni was next. “I’m Giselle,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I’m from Meridell and I don’t want to be here either.”
“I’m Katar,” said the shadow Eyrie in a deep, booming voice. “I’m from the Lost Desert.”
“I’m Jazzmine, but you can call me Jazz,” said the Acara confidently. “You can call me that or Dani. I’m from Altador.”
There was a long pause before Adrienne realized it was her turn.
“Um, I’m Adrienne. I’m, uh, from Neopia Central.”
The group smiled and nodded approvingly.
“Okay, everyone,” said Kitani. “Let’s meet your new mentors.” She gestured towards the door as four pets around Adrienne’s age walked in. She recognized one of them as Dao Min, the Kougra whom she had asked for directions the day before. Dao Min caught her eye, but Adrienne looked away, cheeks burning furiously. She was sure Dao Min thought she was a complete idiot.
“You will each be assigned a mentor who will teach you the wonderful culture of Shenkuu,” said Kitani. “Brittani, you will have Faelin.” Brittani rolled her eyes as a tall green Ruki walked over to her.
“Alessandra, you are with Ein.” A strong, athletic-looking Kyrii smiled at Ace and sat down next to her.
“Giselle, you have Kimiko; Katar, you’re with Matsuu; Jazzmine, meet Dao Min.” Each of the pets met up and began talking quietly.
Adrienne sat, looking at her feet. There wasn’t a mentor for her. Maybe that meant she could go home!
“Oh, and Adrienne...” said Kitani, looking at her, “you can be with Dao Min for the day.” She gestured towards where Dao Min and Jazz were sitting.
Great, thought Adrienne, just perfect. She walked slowly towards the two girls, who were smiling and chatting with each other.
“Hi, Adrienne,” said Jazz, grinning, “Min says she knows you?” Adrienne bit her lip. So they had been talking about her?
Noticing the look on Adrienne’s face, Dao Min piped up immediately. “I just told her that you were in my Language Arts class. You can call me Min, by the way.” She held out a pink paw. Adrienne shook politely and then sat down.
“So, uh, what are we supposed to do?” she asked, looking at Min.
“Well, Kitani wants us to teach you about our culture. She said we should show you a few books and stuff like that, but I disagree. I’m more of a hands-on learner, so I thought it would be fun if I could show you around Shenkuu. You know, take you to the places that mean a lot to me.”
“Sounds amazing,” breathed Jazz. Adrienne, on the other hand, had her doubts. Where would Min be taking them? What if she expected them to go to a party? Adrienne suddenly felt sick to her stomach. What if she made a fool of herself in front of all the kids at her school.
“What do you think, Adrienne?” Min and Jazz looked at the Poogle, waiting for an answer.
“Um, that sounds... great,” she said, attempting a smile. This was going to be a nightmare.
“Adrienne, there’s someone at the door for you,” called Greta, not even attempting to hide the proud surprise in her voice. Adrienne put down her book and walked to the front of the house slowly. Who would want to talk to her? It had been a week since her first Discovering Shenkuu meeting, and she had done little to involve herself. Min was planning on taking them on a tour the next day, and Adrienne was dreading the very thought. She arrived at the door to find a small white Acara standing in the foyer, grinning from ear to ear.
“Jazz?” She was utterly surprised. After the meeting, Adrienne had noticed Jazz around school. Bubbly and outgoing, the Acara was very popular. Adrienne had assumed she had lived in Shenkuu for a long time. Now, seeing Jazz standing on her doorstep, Adrienne was shocked.
“Hi,” she said, “I hope you don’t mind that I didn’t call ahead. I was just in the neighborhood.”
“How did you know where I lived?” Adrienne was shocked at her own rudeness, but was still completely dazed.
“Oh, I looked you up in the school directory after the meeting.” She blushed. Grinning, Adrienne realized she had done the exact same thing.
“Well, come on in,” she said. “I think my owner is making some snacks.”
“Excellent,” gushed Jazz. “I love food!” She giggled and rubbed her stomach.
The two made their way into the kitchen, where a grinning Greta was waiting, a plate of Starberry Satays in her hand. They thanked Greta for the snack and sat down at the table.
“If you don’t mind me asking,” Adrienne began, “when did you move to Shenkuu? You seem like you’ve been here all your life.”
Jazz sighed. “I only moved a few months ago. My cousin, Dali, grew up here, so knowing her definitely helped. I really do miss Altador, though. I had lots of good friends there.” She stopped, looking down at her feet.
“Oh,” Adrienne said uncomfortably.
“So.” Jazz perked up. “What about you?”
“Well,” began Adrienne, “I just moved here two weeks ago, from Neopia Central. We move a lot, because my owner doesn’t like to stay in one place for a long time. It’s hard, but you get used to it after a while. I’ve lived in Maraqua, Terror Mountain, Tyrannia, Brightvale, and Neopia Central. Out of all the places, we lived in Neopia Central the longest, and I loved it the most. I had some really good friends there, and it was hard for me to leave them.
“The day I found out we were moving, I tried to run away. I packed all my stuff, but I only made it a few blocks before Greta found me. I think she realized how hard it was for me, but she didn’t do anything about it. When we moved here, I refused to talk to anyone for the first week. I’m still adjusting, and I miss my old friends every day.”
Jazz looked at her, eyes wide. Adrienne realized it was the most she had said since moving to Shenkuu. Something about Jazz made her feel comfortable enough to tell her.
“I know what you feel like,” she said softly, “but now that I’m here, I’m glad I moved.”
“You are?” Adrienne asked, dumfounded.
“Yeah, I mean, look at this place. It’s so beautiful, and it’s rich with history. I love learning the culture and mixing in with my own personal style. I love adventure, and so this is like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.”
Adrienne stared at Jazz. At first, she appeared to be a peppy, happy-go-lucky type of girl with not much depth. She was amazed to realize that she was so much more. Jazz made her think.
“You know what?” Adrienne said, smiling. “I think you’re right.”
The next day, Adrienne and Jazz arrived in front of the palace together, each wearing a traditional Shenkuu outfit. Min walked out of the front door, grinning widely.
“Ready?” she asked.
Wow, second time in the NT! Questions and comments are welcome. :)