Ember and the Chocolate Ball: Part Six
The attention of all the occupants in the hall suddenly shifted from Ember and Lexi to a yellow Kiko dressed elegantly in a solid gold chocolate top hat, a black tuxedo, and a chocolate peppermint candy cane by his side; it was unmistakably the factory owner, only he was not wearing his normal sunny disposition, but rather a harsh scowl, and it was directed not at Ember or Sabrina, but at the deceptively charismatic Wocky pointing the finger at them.
“Aha!” Lexi celebrated as she spotted the Kiko. “I told you! You’re in for it now!”
“Well well, it looks like someone has been sneaking around my factory while I wasn’t looking, or at least you thought I wasn’t looking, didn’t you, Lexi?” He was standing directly in front of her at eye level, glaring at her with contempt. Lexi was taken aback at this behavior.
“How DARE you accuse me of such actions!” She scowled and looked to her sisters for support, who were quickly backing away. “You think you can just go around accusing guests of crimes they did not commit?”
“Of course not,” he said calmly. “But apparently you can.”
“But that’s where you’re mistaken, you old fool,” said Lexi, her voice echoing throughout the hall. Many of the guests were frowning and shaking their heads at this insult. “The proof is right under your nose! Do you not see the bow on top of the statue?”
“Oh, I see it alright,” said the factory owner stiffly. He then extended his arm, snagged the bow with his cane and eased it gently down for everyone to see. “I can feel it too. It’s made of chocolate.”
“Well, yeah!” cried Lexi. “Exactly! There’s your proof that Ember is the one who defaced the statue!”
“No,” the Kiko corrected her, “It is proof that she isn’t the culprit; she is completely innocent.” Whispers of confusion were filtering throughout the hall at the ridiculousness of this statement.
“Innocent? Her? Not a chance!” shrieked Lexi with pure bliss.
“Do you really doubt me, Lexi? Am I not the one who has made this entire event possible? Did you not think that I know everything about my guests before I invite them?”
“Well, you didn’t know someone was going to ruin the statue, did you, sir?” said Lexi disrespectfully.
“No, I didn’t. You got me there. But I do know that the bow found on the statue does not belong to Ember.”
“Oh yeah? And how do you know that?” Lexi demanded.
“Because,” said the factory owner tensely, “Ember does not own a chocolate Usul bow.” He then turned to face her. “Do you, Ember?” All eyes were on Ember now, awaiting her answer, although most of them could already guess it.
“No, I do not,” said Ember, her voice trembling a little, though she stood her ground. “I lost it when I entered the pound.” The uncertain whispers began to get louder at this new piece of information, for the majority had never heard of it before.
“That’s right,” announced the owner, “Ember here, not unlike many pets in Neopia was once a pound pet, and not only that, a lab rat. How do you think she became chocolate to begin with?” The whispering was growing in volume.
“Hold on a second,” said Lexi, cutting in. “I’ve seen her many times wearing a chocolate colored bow!”
“Yes, I’m sure you have,” replied the owner smoothly. “Chocolate colored, but not made of chocolate. Ember, would you care to tell Lexi what your bow is actually made of?”
“Gold,” said Ember proudly. “Simple yet effective. And no one can tell the difference.” Lexi scoffed at this, unimpressed.
“Yeah well, you still have no proof that I’m the one who tampered with the statue.”
“Ah, but you’re wrong again,” said the owner softly. “You see your sister here apparently got wind of your intentions and after she and Ember informed two of the caterers here,” he pointed in the general direction of the back of the hall where Jimm and Pandora were beaming proudly, “they decided it would be a good idea to keep an eye on the kitchen, and they spotted you and your sisters defacing the statue.”
“If that’s true,” Lexi countered, “then why did you go through with unveiling the statue if you knew we had destroyed it?”
“To show everyone here that you and your spineless siblings do not deserve the high status that your fortunes in life have bestowed upon you,” he boomed loudly. “Just because one is born with good fortune does not mean they deserve to keep it, and vice versa. Ember is a prime example of this.” He took a step in her direction and pointed toward her softly as she blushed a little, and then continued.
“As you may have guessed,” said the chocolate factory owner, “Ember was not born into the best of situations. She was experimented on in the Secret Laboratory, and one of the side effects, among many less noticeable ones, was her chocolate coat. When she was released into the pound, she had nothing but her name and newly acquired lab stats, but it was her attitude that has brought her here tonight. It is time you learned, Lexi, that life is not about what you are given, but rather what you do with it.” His tone took a sudden turn from gentle to stern. “You and your two siblings are hereby banned from attending the Chocolate Ball from this moment on. Security!” Two very large Grarrls rushed to the front of the hall, awaiting the owner’s instructions. “Guards, please escort this Wocky and her two no-good siblings out of my factory. They are hereby banned for life.” They nodded and forcefully began dragging them out.
“I’m warning you, you haven’t seen the last of me! None of you know what you have just done!” shrieked Lexi in one last cry of desperation. It fell on deaf ears, however, as the owner was now commending the efforts of the two brave Usuls in the front of the hall.
“As for you, he said, motioning towards Sabrina this time, “You have shown great courage in the face of adversity and have risked your very being to save another. For that you deserve much more than neopoints can buy.” Sabrina blushed at this remark.
“Sir, if I may, I can fix the statue for you,” she said softly.
“My dear, you do not have to do that. It’s alright.”
“It’s really no trouble at all. I insist,” she said imploringly.
“Very well then,” replied the Kiko. “If you must.” Sabrina smiled, pulled out her want and instantly restored the statue to its former glory. The entire crowd gasped and clapped at this display of heroism. Even Lexi, who was still being hauled away, managed a glimpse of the deed.
“So... that’s how she managed all this... She won’t have it for long.” Before she could utter another word, however, she and her siblings were outside the factory gates in a flurry of forceful pushes and bitter tears laced with ill intentions with no hope of reentry.
“As for you, Ember,” said the factory owner, “you have shown much bravery yourself, as well as perseverance and great loyalty. Your efforts have paid off. Let it be known to both you and Sabrina that the two of you are forever invited to the Chocolate Ball for as long as you are able to attend.” Everyone began to clap at this proclamation as the two Usuls huddled together and began blushing simultaneously.
“And now,” the factory owner began again, “let us all have some cake and gaze upon the statue now that it has been restored.” The attention was now diverting away from Ember and Sabrina, which they were both very grateful for.
“Hey you two, get over here!” Jimm and Pandora rushed towards them they hugged both of them in turn. “You’ve done it! You saved the ball!” cheered Pandora.
“Well, we couldn’t have done it without you two,” said Ember graciously. “He wouldn’t have known if you hadn’t been keeping an eye out.”
“Aww, come on, Ember!” Jimm retorted. “Do you really think the owner of the chocolate factory would be careless enough to let the most sensitive areas of the factory go unguarded? By the time we told him what was going on, he already had the whole thing under control. He knew what they were doing, even before they snuck back into the kitchen.” Ember was surprised at this explanation and gave Jimm a confused look. He continued.
“He also saw how you and Sabrina were responding to the situation, and rather than just fixing the statue himself, he decided to reveal what had happened to the entire party so that they would know what the two of you had tried to do, and to show them that you don’t need to be rich to be great.” Ember was even more shocked than before.
“So, wait, are you saying I got here just for being me?”
“Yes, Ember. That’s exactly what it means,” said Jimm coolly. “How do you think you got invited in the first place? You had enough gumption to write that letter to the Pet Spotlight committee, didn’t you?”
“Yeah!” said Sabrina, chiming in. “And why do you think I’ve been helping you this whole time? You’ve been a better friend to me than anyone I’ve ever had a chance to get to know before.”
“Yeah, Ember! Don’t cut yourself short,” agreed Pandora. “It was because of you we had the chance to cater the ball this year.”
“It’s true,” said Jimm, nodding. “And I have a feeling he’ll let us back next year, too.” Ember couldn’t believe her ears. Could everything her friends were saying really be true? At this thought, however, a bell sounded, which meant the event was ending and that it was time to go home. Guests were rushing to the exits, albeit slightly slower than when they were rushing into the factory, and there were many groans and sighs as everyone was preparing to leave the premises.
“Well, Ember, it’s time for you and Sabrina to leave now,” said Jimm. Ember was confused once again.
“Wait, aren’t you guys coming with us?” Ember asked.
“We have to stay and clean up,” said Pandora. “Go on, they’re giving out the goodie bags now!” Ember was frowning slightly, but Pandora just laughed and touched Ember’s shoulder lightly. “Don’t worry,” Pandora assured her, “Jimm and I won’t be leaving empty handed. We’ve already gotten our bags.” Ember smiled and looked at Sabrina with pure glee.
“I can’t thank you guys enough,” Ember said with gratitude. “All of you.”
“Yeah, yeah, we know,” said Jimm dismissively. “Now get out of here!” At that Ember and Sabrina sprinted for the door alongside the other guests. Everyone was lining up in single file awaiting departure. Standing at the exit doors, however, was the chocolate factory owner Kiko himself, handing out bags and personal thank-yous to each guest heading out the door. Ember’s nerves were trembling with excitement at the prospect of what she might receive, and just how the factory owner Kiko would greet her when it was her turn to say goodbye. At long last she and Sabrina were at the front of the line, and the factory owner paused when he saw them and gave them a thoughtful look.
“I cannot tell the two of you how proud and grateful I am of your behavior tonight. Your actions showed great courage in the face of great hardship, and you both deserve to be rewarded for them.” He then reached for two bags apart from the others and handed them carefully to the two Usuls in front of him. “These are for you,” he said gently. “You deserve much more than I am able to give, but I think you will be happy with these just the same. Goodbye to you both, and I hope to see the two of you for many years to come.” Ember and Sabrina could not help but grin from ear to ear at these words.
“Thank you so much, sir,” said Sabrina bashfully.
“I never thought I’d ever hear those words, from anyone,” said Ember, tears coming to her eyes.
“I know,” said the Kiko kindly. “And you deserve them all.” He then motioned for her to come closer. She did so, and he whispered in her ear, “I’ve put something extra special in your bag. It is something I know you will appreciate, more so than anyone else here. Goodbye, Ember.” He gave her a wink and a smile and bade her goodbye as she and Sabrina headed outside the factory gates. Sabrina was eager to open her bag, and Ember couldn’t help but be excited as well.
“Ooh, Ember, look!” Sabrina opened her bag to find a chocolate lover’s Usuki doll (brand new to the market), chocolate Fyora crown, and a sugary candy wand. “Look!” Sabrina squealed, “It really works!” She pointed it at a nearby flower and the petals changed color from blue to red and back again.
“Cool!” said Ember. “Did you get anything else?”
“Yeah, there’s something else in here too,” said Sabrina as she pulled out a note hand-written by the chocolate factory owner. It read:
“Sabrina – The wand in this bag is fully functional and is 100% lickable. No matter how much you try to devour it, it will never get any small and it will never break. It will do wonders for your magical pursuits. Use it well.”
“Wow! That’s amazing, Sabrina!”
“I know! It’s so great! Open yours, Ember!” Ember’s fingers began to tremble as she reached into her bag and pulled out the items inside. Inside she found a candy heart necklace (the tag attached to it pointed out that it never gets any smaller no matter how much you lick it), a chocolate lipstick, and the third item appeared to be a bow. Upon a second glance, however, Ember could tell that this was the special item the factory owner was referring to. She carefully pulled it out of the bag and her eyes widened in surprise in what could only be described as pure delight. Upon closer inspection, Ember could tell that the bow was made specifically for a Usul. Upon touching it she discovered that it had a smooth texture and was a white creamy color; it was her very own chocolate Usul bow. Ember was so thrilled she shrieked with delight.
“Ooh! Is there a note with it?” Sabrina asked. Ember reached into the bag and pulled out an envelope with her name on it.
“Yeah, there is!” She opened the envelope and read the note aloud.
Your bag is filled with wearable items that will never break, run out, or go sour. The items in this bag will enhance your fashion sense and they will never go out of style. You may notice the third item in this bag is much rarer than the other two. This bow is made of the finest white chocolate and is much shinier and glossier than a normal chocolate bow. It is also indestructible and will never remain eaten. And if there is any confusion as to who this bow belongs to, just read the inscription printed on the inside. May you always remember where your home is and who your friends are, and never forget that you are the one who makes yourself great, not your wealth. You can never be poor if you are rich in friends, and you certainly have made a lot of them. Keep up the good work, and never stop fighting for what you believe in. You wouldn’t be here if you had.”
A tear was peering out of the corner of Ember’s eye as she read the factory owner’s thoughtful note. ‘You can never be poor if you are rich in friends,” it had said. That had certainly been proven true tonight, Ember thought as she looked over the note once more. She then pulled out the bow again and flipped it to the side with the inscription. It was printed in chocolate brown cursive script and flowed in a circle on the inside of the bow. It read: ‘This bow is the property of Embercat999 and no one else. Let it be known that this bow was hand crafted at the chocolate factory, is indestructible, and may it never be confused for another chocolate Usul bow. If lost or misplaced this bow shall be returned to its owner immediately.’ After reading it aloud to Sabrina the little Usul was nearly moved to tears.
“Oh my goodness! That’s incredible! You’ve finally got your identity back!”
“Nah,” said Ember humbly. Sabrina gave her a puzzling look. “I never lost it in the first place,” said Ember, “but it took me up until now to realize that everything I ever needed was right in front of me.” Sabrina gave her a loving pat on the shoulder.
“It’s alright! I’m glad you found what you were looking for. But now that we’ve got all this great stuff, what do you think we should do with it?”
“Well,” said Ember thoughtfully, “I think we’re gonna do what we’ve always done. I think you’ll continue to practice magic, and I’ll continue to work on customizing my wardrobe. Only now, I think we’ll be doing a lot of it together.”
“Yay!” said Sabrina joyfully. “Do you think things will change much?”
“You know, I don’t think they will,” said Ember honestly. “You’ll still be that magical faerie Usul who risked your life to save my reputation, I’ll still be myself, and no matter what happens, we’ll always be looking out for each other.” Sabrina nodded in agreement.
“Yeah, I didn’t think they would,” Sabrina said happily, and the two of them walked off into the night together, imagining what adventures they might have tomorrow.