Recluse the Shoyru was, as described by his friends and family, energetic and chatty. Once he started talking he couldn't stop, and he could never sit still, constantly getting scolded in class by his teachers for fidgeting and wriggling in his chair.
After another letter of complaint from NeoSchool, his owner sighed. "Recluse, I think you need to find a way to burn up all this excess energy!"
"It's not my fault!" Recluse pulled a face. "No matter what I do, I'm always full of energy!! I sometimes even do laps in the PE tracks!!"
"Well, why don't you go find a hobby?" suggested his owner.
"Don't like nothin'..." mumbled Recluse, scuffing his feet off the floor.
"I'm sure you can find something to do." His owner patted him on the head, smiled, then walked off, headed towards the games room to get their daily income.
Recluse sighed. It wasn't that easy. He didn't like reading, or anything that didn't involve running about, but the idea of becoming an athlete was too tiresome. Nor did he like puzzles, unlike his Cybunny sister Mynn, who could sit playing that silly Kou-Jong game for hours on end. He racked his brain for the next few days and asked everyone that he knew but he just couldn't find the right hobby to fit his likings... Then one day...
Recluse gave a deep sigh and sat down on the kerb. He just couldn't do it. He was doomed forever to be plagued by this burning energy. He stared gloomily at the cobblestones.
Recluse looked up at this sudden intrusion on his thoughts. Peering down at him was a blue Kyrii.
"Are you alright? You look rather down," repeated the Kyrii. He sat down beside Recluse.
Recluse was a little surprised that this complete stranger had stopped to talk to him. "Oh, well, no, not really..."
"Ah, did you lose at the Fruit Machine again? That darn machine, I will win one day!!" The Kyrii shook his fist at the air, a defiant gleam in his eyes.
Recluse looked his companion up and down. He had a calming pair of brown eyes, with a sly, wicked glint to them, and deep blue fur. "No, it's... Well you see..."
And so Recluse found himself explaining his problem to this stranger. The Kyrii didn't interrupt once and sat there merely listening intently and occasionally nodding, which Recluse found to be oddly comforting.
When he had regaled the entire story, he stopped, then took a breath of well-needed air. "Yeah... Well... That's it," Recluse mumbled.
"So y'can't find nothing that you like, huh...?" The Kyrii had a sort of faraway look in his eyes. "Well... I have an idea, follow me!!"
He grabbed Recluse's hand in his paw and took off suddenly, dragging a stumbling Recluse after him.
"Wh-where are we going!?" asked Recluse as they skidded round a corner, almost knocking over an elderly Elephante.
"Sorry!" the Kyrii yelled over his shoulder to the dazed Elephante woman, muttering something about 'youths these days'. "Eh?" He glanced back at Recluse. "Oh, you'll see! I'm Kin by the way!!"
"Recluse!" yelled back Recluse.
"Pleased to meet ya!"
Suddenly, Recluse was met with a blast of warm air and he was led into a shop. It was old, he guessed, as the painting on the wood looked scrapped and tatty, and had a musty smell, not unlike that of the attic above his room.
Kin however, inhaled deeply through his nostrils. "Ahhhh." He let out a deep breath. Then, as if remembering Recluse was there, he turned on the spot. "Allow me to introduce you to my inheritance from my grandfather!" Kin grinned proudly. "Dun dun duuuunnnn!! In-tro-du-ciiiiing Neopia Central's one and only puppet workshop!!"
There was silence.
"Uhm." Recluse stared hard at his feet. Lucky for him, Kin filled the silence.
"Ain't it great? I've been helping my granddad in here since he was little, and I'm really good with all the puppets... You should come see them, y'know; puppets are really cool!!"
Recluse nodded politely, not really having any liking for puppets at all, as his mind scanned over the images of those horrible creepy ventriloquist puppets with their permanent rosy cheeks and horrible forced grins, or the simple felt ones with button eyes that he made when he was younger at NeoSchool.
"Here, lemme just find one..." Kin dived headfirst into an old open trunk of which Recluse could see one or two various wooden limbs protruding and produced...
"Ta da!! I made this one when I was nine all on my own!!" Kin exclaimed proudly. "He looks like you!!"
In Kin's hand was a cross constructed from two pieces of wood nailed together. Tied to those two posts, hanging downwards were strings. And those strings were attached to the limbs of a red Shoyru puppet, with such a likeness to Recluse he had to admit at the time it was a bit eerie.
Yet the puppet... Recluse subconsciously drew breath. It was... well... He just couldn't find the words. Its limbs were of perfect proportion and its coat of red paint carefully applied. Even its wings were flappable!! It had no buttons for eyes, instead shining ones of deep startling green. In hindsight Recluse privately considered this a ludicrous thought, but at the time, it almost seemed like a real Neopet, its eyes reflecting real thoughts and feelings.
It blinked once, tilted its head towards him, flapped its pair of wings and took one step forward.
Recluse gasped aloud.
Kin chuckled, "Don't worry!! It's only a puppet!!" Recluse looked up and found the Kyrii chuckling heartily. With skilled actions, he made the puppet Shoyru do a little bow to Recluse.
"It's... beautiful," murmured Recluse, walking forward and crouching down, running his hands over the wood. It had been sandpapered to complete smoothness, offering no friction.
"You think so?" asked Kin excitedly. He was obviously pleased at Recluse's awe.
"Yes! How... Do you have more?" Recluse turned to Kin.
"Yeah, follow me!!"
The Shoyru followed the Kyrii, who also brought along the Shoyru puppet, into the back room. In the middle was a worktop. Around it was various tools, such as sandpaper, chisels, saws, rulers...
And in another part of the room was puppets hanging up on hooks.
Some of them were incomplete, Recluse noted, missing an eye, or bearing no limbs, but finished ones held themselves proudly. Nearby Kin and Recluse was a noble-looking Lupe. It stood towering on all fours, it's face looking upwards, as if gazing up at the moon, or so Recluse pictured in his mind.
"This is just... wow..." breathed Recluse.
Kin watched him out the corner of his eyes and smiled softly. "Hey... Do you wanna come here tomorrow afternoon and maybe help me out a bit?"
Recluse grinned broadly. "I'd love to! See you then!" He waved to his new friend then dashed out of the shop, racing to tell his owner that maybe he'd finally found something he liked.
The years passed and Recluse and Kin became close friends, and spent long days in Kin's puppet workshop, building puppets and serving customers. But one day...
"Hey Kin, I'm here!!" Recluse walked into the shop, the bell on its door jingling as it announced an arrival.
"Kin?" Recluse looked around the front room. It was empty. He hurried into the backroom to find his friend sitting on the worktop, drooping and looking sadly down at the floor.
"Kin, what's wrong?" Recluse frowned at concern, sitting up on the worktop beside his friend.
"'M moving away..." mumbled Kin.
Recluse was horrified. "What?? But you can't... You can't move away... What about the workshop? The puppets? 'Nd what 'bout me...?"
Kin sniffed and wiped his eyes on his arm. "I'm sorry but... I have to... My family is moving to Mystery Island... I just got told. We're moving tomorrow."
Recluse sat there, staring at Kin, then found that tears were stinging in his own eyes. "To... Tomorrow? But that's so soon..." He choked back tears.
Kin looked up at this sound, then put his arms around his friend and gave him a hug. "Recluse, even if I move away, we're going to stay friends, right?"
Recluse looked up, a grim frown on his face. "Of course!! Best friends forever!!"
And both Neopets shook hands on it.
The door opened. The bell jingled. A red Shoyru trudged drearily into the shop, not his usual joyful self. None of his family had managed to cheer him up, not even when his owner presented him with a blueberry slushie, his favourite. Life just wasn't going to be the same without Kin.
Recluse looked up and paused. Sitting in a slump, leaning up against the wall, was a red Shoyru puppet. The red Shoyru puppet. Recluse bit his lip to force back tears. It was the first ever puppet Kin had shown him. He walked over to it and petted its head fondly, then leaned in closer. Clutched in its little puppet hand was a crumpled piece of paper.
Recluse took the paper out of the puppet's hand, smoothing it out on the counter and read -
I cannot tell you how sorry I am that I was not able to see you before I went. So I went to the workshop early and wrote you this note.
I want to tell you goodbye, and that no matter what other friends I make on Mystery Island I will never forget you.
Also, I want you to have my puppet workshop. I think you could put it to good use and continue to make brilliant puppets.
This isn't goodbye forever. I'll come back. One day. Until then, goodbye.
Recluse crumpled the note in his hand, tears flowing freely down his cheeks now. He looked up and around. Kin wanted him to have it. To have this workshop. His workshop.
A brave smile found its way onto Recluse's quivering lips. It wasn't goodbye. It was a 'see you'. And until then...
The Shoyru gave a happy sigh, and then entered the backroom.
There were puppets to be made.
Wait for it... Wait for it... YES!! If you're reading this, I made it into the Neopian Times!!