Tales of Cadmium, Athena, and Saffron: The Fight - Part Four
Placing the last cleaned dish back in the cupboard, Athena turned to Saffron. "I'm going over to see Misty. She and I need to talk about-" she paused to swallow a large lump in her throat. I will not cry again. Not while SHE is right here, the Faerie Peophin willed herself. "We need to talk about stuff." She felt rather than saw Cadmium looking at her.
Not waiting for Saffron's answer, she brushed past her sisters and went to the bathroom to wash her face. "I can't have Misty knowing right away that something's wrong. And Marcie certainly can't find out," Athena murmured to herself. "After all, she'd just Neomail Elspeth and that would make things even worse." She glanced at herself in the mirror and groaned. Underneath her eyes were trails left by salty tears. Her hair was mussed as well. She sighed and ran a comb through her mane. "This is as good as it's going to get," she muttered, scrubbing at her face with a wet washcloth to get rid of the worst of the tear trails.
Suddenly it hit her just how lonely she felt. Usually this was the time of night when she and Cadmium would do something together, even if it was just eating ice cream out of the same container and listening to music. Sure, she and Saffron had become close friends; but she and Cadmium were truly sisters - by blood and by heart. And even Misty, whom she had met on her first day of Neopia kindergarten, couldn't fully replace the Cadmium-shaped hole in her heart.
Athena shook herself out of her reverie and went to the front door, making a deliberate effort to walk right past the kitchen without giving Cadmium so much as a glance. She stepped out onto the covered porch and groaned. In the minutes between fixing herself up and coming outside, it had started absolutely raining Kadoaties and Doglefoxes. Oh well. It's kind of fitting, Athena thought bitterly. Not even bothering to go back inside and get a coat, the Faerie Peophin braced herself and stepped out into the torrential rainshower.
She hadn't been walking - actually, alternately slipping and walking would be a better description – for very long when she heard a bicycle behind her. A Cybunny in a raincoat rode right past her through the hugest puddle Athena had ever seen. Or worn. The bicycle sent up a huge wave that washed right over the Faerie Peophin. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you did that on purpose!" a completely soaked Athena yelled ahead. Sputtering, she shook the water out of her eyes but realized it was completely futile as the rain was still coming down. She heaved a sigh and trudged on.
She stopped as realization dawned on her. She knew of only one Neopet with a raincoat quite so pink. And that was Tansy the Plushie Cybunny. Infuriated, she marched along the sidewalk to Brett, Misty, and Marcie's Neohome. She couldn't believe that Elyse's little crew would stoop so low as to do that. Well, actually she could. As she gratefully stepped on to her friends' Neohome's covered porch and rang the doorbell, she couldn't help wondering if Cadmium knew anything about that. I'll bet she did. She's testing me to see if I'll take that too 'seriously,' she thought fiercely. Any former grief she felt over her and Cadmium's rapidly dissolving friendship was gone. Now there was only one thing on her mind - revenge.
As gentle yellow moonlight filtered through the filmy curtains, Saffron lay in bed that night, unable to sleep a wink. Her mind was filled with thoughts of the previous day and of things to come that night.
The evening had been wrought with tension, even with the fragile peace between Cadmium and Athena. Not a word had passed between the Faerie Peophin and Royal Aisha. After having washed the dishes, Cadmium had flounced upstairs, locked the door, and spent the entire time until bed talking - very loudly and pointedly, Saffron noticed - with Elyse, who'd come over after she had finished, to quote the White Kyrii, "eating dinner at the Kelp - yes, that's right, the Kelp!" Athena had made some excuse about having to meet Misty, Brett's Maraquan Uni sister and the Faerie Peophin's other best friend. Brett had told Saffron that Misty was out of school because she had Sneezles, but apparently Athena didn't care about catching the illness. Maybe she wants to give it to Cadmium and Elyse as revenge, Saffron mentally mused.
Now her sisters lay in their beds, pushed as far away from each other and as close to the opposite walls as possible. Her sisters' peaceful breathing let the Yellow Xweetok know they were truly asleep, probably worn out from the conflict of the whole day. Saffron glanced over at Cadmium's infamous Lenny alarm clock for what must have been the twelve millionth time. 10:25... I'd better get ready to meet Brett.
Her stomach aflutter, she crept out of bed, quietly opened the closet door, and put on her darkest clothes. A squeak emitted from the rusty hinge as she closed the closet door, causing Saffron to freeze in her tracks. Her heart pounding and blood roaring in her ears, she waited for a full minute to make sure the noise hadn't awoken her slumbering sisters. Satisfied, she grabbed a Seek Visor conveniently left on Athena's Queen Fyora Vanity Desk and left the room, closing the pink wooden door silently behind her. Feeling slightly lightheaded, she tiptoed downstairs and left to meet the Baby Bruce formerly known as Brett.
The tiny creature with the huge, sensitive ears awoke with a start. Sniffing delicately, the Pink Miamouse headed straight for the kitchen. Waking at midnight always made Ivy hungry. On her way to the well-stocked Faerie Refrigerator, something shiny on the marble counter caught her eye. Humming with pleasure, the pink petpet snatched up the object and dangled it in front of the refrigerator's light. She loved the way the object sparkled, reflecting off of the window above the sink. Although the creature had no idea what the object was called, she knew what its purpose was. When her owner's owner had come home from the Paintbrush shop, Elspeth had used them to gain access to their front door. Cadmium was always forgetting hers, causing the Royal Aisha to have to repeatedly bang on the door. Athena kept hers safely tucked away in a scrap of purple fabric that held precious memories for the Faerie Peophin. And Saffron? Well, the normally careful Yellow Xweetok had placed hers on the counter after dinner and left it there. Saffron's house keys...
A full moon shone brightly on the tiny figure making her way to the bench. Glancing this way and that, the Yellow Xweetok nodded. The street was quiet, with not a light on in any of the Neohomes. Satisfied that no one could see her even in the bright moonlight, Saffron sat down on the cold, hard bench at the corner and waited. Shivering slightly, she tucked her tail around herself and tried to occupy her mind until Brett arrived. She had recited the list of Brightvalian kings and was on to the list of Booktastic books when a rustling in the leaves above her startled her. The Yellow Xweetok pricked her black-tipped ears, straining to determine what creature was making the noise. Lenny? Nah. Too graceful to be that, Saffron thought wryly. Pteri? Draik? Usul? Bruce? That's it! Just as she had deduced what was causing the rustling, a little pink Bruce with a ray gun hung upside down from a branch in front of her face. Boochi!!! Her brain screamed at her to run away before she was changed into a gurgling yellow and purple creature. She had opened her mouth to scream in terror when the Bruce's hand - flipper? wing? - clamped over her mouth.
"Shhhhhhhh!" the pink creature hissed in her ear.
Is this what Boochi usually does to his victims? Tells them to be quiet so nobody can hear him zap them with his ray gun? the Yellow Xweetok thought. Saffron braced herself for the inevitable electric zap and the sensation of being shrunk.
"Saffron! It's me!" A familiar male voice made its way through Saffron's panic-stricken brain.
Shoulders sagging in relief, the Yellow Xweetok yanked the "Bruce" down from the tree branch. "Brett! What were you thinking? You nearly gave me a heart attack!" Saffron was relieved yet annoyed. She gave the Silver Shoyru her best death glare.
"I always wanted to do that." Brett grinned mischievously, apparently immune to Saffron's caustic look.
"What? Dress up as a baby Bruce and scare the living daylights out of me?" Saffron shot him a sarcastic grin. She signaled Brett to continue following her down the street. Just then, a Noil came out if its petpet door and into the yard of the Neohome directly in front of the two pets.
Brett went over to the petpet and started talking to it. "Hey, little guy! What're you doing out here so late at night?" He reached out a hand - flipper? wing? - to pet the Noil. The little creature backed off menacingly and gave an earsplitting roar. As a light came on in the Neohome. Saffron and Brett swapped horrified glances and bolted down the street as fast as they could before anyone could spot them. Or so they thought. They had just rounded a corner when a terrified scream came from a Neohome's upstairs room. "BOOOOOCHIIIIIII!!!!!!!!!!!!" a female voice shrieked.
"Oh no! Oh no! Oh no!" the Yellow Xweetok whispered furiously to Brett. "That wasn't supposed to happen!" Images flashed through Saffron's brain - images of the Neopet - whoever it was – screaming for the Defenders of Neopia, who would have the two of them hauled off to town, where they would have to give an explanation to the real Boochi for impersonating him. She was so preoccupied with her imagination's going into overdrive that she crashed right into Brett. The two of them "oof"-ed and fell right onto a lush green lawn.
"Hey!" Realization dawned on the Silver Shoyru. "Do you know where we are?" he asked, taking in the enormous Neohome before them.
Saffron scanned the immense structure from top to bottom. It was surrounded by huge trees with leaves and buds of all different colors. There was a fenced-in rose garden complete with a fountain. Hedges cut into the shape of Kyrii posing in various ways surrounded the immense brick patio. But all of that was nothing compared to the Neohome itself. It had four stories, with a tower and spire on top. Balconies and bay windows adorned every level. Saffron nodded; there was only one Neopet in their whole school who had a Neohome this... this... Cha-ching, Saffron thought. That's the only word that describes this. "We lucked out. This is Elyse's Neohome!"
Wiggling his Baby Bruce eyebrows, Brett nodded. "Maybe that Noil knew that by scaring us, he would somehow steer us in the right direction."
"Yeah, but it would have been easier just to use a map." The Yellow Xweetok paused for a moment. "You did bring the map... right?" she asked, a trace of suspicion in her voice.
"Um, well..." the Silver Shoyru shuffled his foot - flipper? - along the perfectly manicured lawn. "Man, their grass is soft! I wonder what kind of stuff they use to make it like this?" He elbowed a glaring Saffron. "Maybe they use conditioner. Hey, do you use conditioner?" He ruffled her fur. "Your fur is soft." Realizing what he was doing, he snatched away his hand - wing? - and gave Saffron a sheepish smile.
Saffron sighed heavily. The already stress-filled night had just become even more tense. It was just by sheer luck - Or was it? the Yellow Xweetok wondered - that they had gotten to Elyse's house. Now they had to worry about finding a way back home at a relatively decent hour. "Well, I guess we'll cross the bridge of how to get home when we come to it."
Brett smiled teasingly. "I didn't know there was a bridge called 'How to get home.'"
The Yellow Xweetok smacked him. "Come on, Boochi. Time for you to get to work." Glancing up at the suspiciously quiet Neohome, the two pets crept across the deliciously soft grass, which Brett couldn't fully appreciate because of his pink costume, and made their way to an immense tree.
Hefting his fake ray gun, Brett craned his neck, as if he were sizing up the tree. "How are we supposed to get up there, Saffy?" The Silver Shoyru glanced to his side, where the Yellow Xweetok had previously stood. "Saffy?" Panic rose in his chest. Where did she go? Suddenly, he heard a rustling in the leaves above his head.
"What'd you say?" Saffron quietly called down from her perch.
Apparently Brett had underestimated Saffron's climbing abilities. Smiling somewhat wryly, he called back, "I was wondering how we're supposed to get up there, but you seem to have figured that one out on your own."
"You mean you didn't bring a rope too?" Saffron stage-whispered back. The Yellow Xweetok shifted her weight as a slight breeze blew the branch she was on. Shivering slightly, she grinned to herself and waited for his reaction. His voice filtered up between the quivering leaves. Cocking her black-tufted ears, she strained to hear him.
"Was I supposed to bring that too?" Brett grimaced. While waiting for an answer from the hysterically laughing Saffron, Brett placed his hands - wings? - around the tree's gigantic trunk and attempted to heft himself up. He heard even louder laughter from the Yellow Xweetok up above him among all those branches. "Shhhh!" he reminded her.
Up on the tree branch, Saffron clasped her paws over her mouth. She felt ashamed as she realized her outburst of laughter could have gotten the two of them caught. How could she forget the importance of her mission?
To be continued...