From Mud to Royalty: Part Five
“Well, I was about halfway home when I realized the answer to my question - my dad sells some of the finest Battledome weapons in all of Neopia.” Ruka paused and waited for my reaction, but I was at a loss. “Some of them are even worth millions,” she added.
“So... you stole money from your dad?”
“Yeah, I guess. But technically I’m his apprentice, so it’s mine too. And you should have seen how much he had in his safe, he probably won’t even notice this is gone.” She grabbed the bag in one hand and my hand in the other. “Now let’s go get that paint brush!”
I pulled my hand away. “Wait, what happened to all that stuff you said? How you’re tired of everything being about me and all that?”
“Well, we came to Faerieland because you wanted to, so we might as well do what you want here. Let’s call it even when we stop at the Lost Desert on our way to the Altador Cup, okay?”
“Sure.” I grabbed her hand, climbed onto her back, and we were out the window. Luckily, she remembered where the entrance was and it only took us a couple minutes of feeling around the invisible wall until we found it.
Fyora didn’t seem very surprised to see us again. “Welcome back, did you get enough money for that Royal Paint Brush?” she asked with a fake smile, knowing there was no possible way we could have earned that many Neopoints overnight.
“As a matter of fact, we did,” Ruka said as she tossed the bag of Neopoints to Fyora. “That should be enough.”
Fyora weighed the bag in her hand and, after a few seconds, looked content. She raised her other hand over her head and a Royal Paint Brush shot out of the pile and landed in her palm. “Thank you for your custom. Remember that you’ll have to go to the Rainbow Pool in Neopia Central to use this Paint Brush.”
“Nonsense, Naia can paint him,” Ruka spat as she swiped the brush out of Fyora’s hand, grabbed me, and flew towards the Rainbow Fountain.
The Fountain Faerie was lying face down on a rock, her face turned away from us. Her tail gently swayed back and forth, barely scraping the surface of the pond and sending ripples through the crystal clear water. She slowly turned her head as we approached.
“Welcome back, I see you found the Hidden Tower. To be honest, I’m quite surprised you even got that far, but to have enough Neopoints to buy the Paint Brush? I underestimated you two,” Naia said in her calm and soothing voice. It took me a few moments to understand what she was saying, and when it clicked, anger started bubbling inside me. Then I remembered how close Ruka had been to losing it, so I shoved it back down and grabbed her hand before she could do anything stupid. Ruka tried to shove me away, but when she deemed it pointless, she just started shouting.
“You knew? You knew the entire time that the tower was invisible and that we’d have to spend a fortune for it? For Fyora’s sake, why did you send us on that impossible wild-Bruce chase?” There was no stopping her now; Ruka was at full force. She yanked her arm away from me and flew straight at Naia, who had swum into the fountain trying to evade Ruka. Ruka slid into the water without a hint of a splash, then violent waves started forming and the water swirled with colors, eventually becoming a light brown with white and red accents.
Ruka was flung out of the water and landed with a loud crack, then tumbled a few more yards. I looked back toward the Rainbow Fountain and Naia was hovering over the pond with a smirk on her face.
“Not what I was going for, but I’m not going to waste any more of my magic to make you any uglier.” Then she turned to me and said, “I couldn’t even paint you using that brush if I wanted to. Have fun going to the Rainbow Pool.” She plopped back into the fountain and it iced over, then sharp rocks poked through the ice.
“Well, I guess we’re going to miss the Altador Cup, but I guess there’s always next year,” I chuckled and turned back to Ruka.
“DON’T LOOK AT ME!” Ruka used her wings to shield her face and body, but I noticed a dollop of whipped cream peeking out over her head. Naia’s last words to Ruka began to make sense.
“Are you... chocolate?” I don’t know why I asked; it was painfully obvious.
“Yes, I’m hideous, I know. I had that stupid faerie’s hands pinned to the bottom, but when I needed to breathe, she smacked me in the back with her tail, then blasted that magic water at me.” She relaxed her wings and walked toward me. “Well, at least we’re both hideous now.” She paused and waited for me to say something, but I was dumbfounded. I know clay isn’t one of the best colors, but I’ve never considered myself hideous. A laughingstock, maybe, but only because it’s an odd color at best. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that. It’s just that we’re both unhappy with how we look now,” Ruka said quickly, realizing how hard she hit me.
“It’s fine,” I said, mainly because I didn’t know what else to say. “Chocolate isn’t bad at all compared to clay, especially on you. You look fantastic, seriously,” I hesitated, “but if you want, you can take the paint brush back; it was your, or your family’s, money.”
“No, you’re right.” She was looking at her reflection in the ice. “It’s not as bad as I thought, plus my dad’s rich; I can just get a cheap paint brush if I don’t like it. Come on; let’s get to the Rainbow Pool fast so we don’t miss the end of the Altador Cup.”
I hopped on her back, happy that she was back to her nice, normal self. She leaped into the air and we were off, heading back the same way that we started.
We touched down in Neopia Central just as the sun was setting.
I took in a deep breath and said to myself, “It’s hard to believe that Kiko Lake is so close, and yes, I still feel so far away from home.”
“Yeah, yeah, save the sappy speech for when we have time; we’re here to get you painted, then we’re back in the air and heading to Altador.” Ruka shoved me toward the small pool in the middle of the circle of shops. “Let’s see... we take the brush out, throw you in the pool...” She literally picked me up and tossed me into the water. “Now I wet the end of the brush and paint you. Seems easy enough.” Ruka dipped the bristles in and the entire brush began to glow and vibrate. “Okay, not so easy, let’s just do this quickly.” She slathered the paint all over me with her eyes closed. It tickled a bit, but I tried to be as still as possible. She stepped back and opened her eyes.
“Wow, I’m actually kind of jealous.”
I looked down and saw my reflection. I looked amazing. The brush that Ruka had dropped on the ground stopped vibrating, but started glowing a hundred times brighter. We covered our eyes, and when it had died down enough to look, there was a shimmering lightning bolt in its place.
“Whoa,” we said in unison.
The sun was rising; we had been in the air for hours now without any stops. I kept asking Ruka if she wanted to take a break, but after answering me the first two times with, “The Altador Cup ends in a week; we have to get there,” she just ignored me and started flying faster each time. In the end I just gave up and nestled my head in the dip of her neck to protect myself from the wind. I figured her body would eventually tell her to stop and take a break. Just as I was drifting to sleep, I remembered my promise to go the the Lost Desert with Ruka after Faerieland.
“We’re still stopping at the Lost Desert first, right?”
“Of course not, we’re going straight to Altador,” Ruka said and flapped her wings. After a long pause she broke the silence, “I’ll go on my own after the Altador Cup, it will be better on my own anyway.”
We continued flying with the sun on our backs in silence.
The sharp turn upward woke me up. I rubbed my eyes open and looked up at where we were going. The noon sun blinded me for a moment. As my eyes adjusted, the city of Altador came into view. It was so majestic; the architecture was amazing. Soon we were over the city and I spotted the Colosseum filled with tons of people. On one half sat Neopets wearing purple and black; the other was green and brown.
“It looks like we got here just in time. Kiko Lake is playing!” Ruka said.
“Yeah... They’re playing Darigan Citadel; it’s going to be a shutout.”
We landed on one of the many open seats in the Kiko Lake half. I looked at the scoreboard, it was three to one. Darigan Citadel was winning, obviously. There were two minutes left and it looked like Kiko Lake had taken a timeout. Just as Ruka and I settled into seats, the teams broke and got ready to play. Meela Kitah grabbed the Yooyu right away, dodging both Layton Vickles and Kep Bonnefie. She then threw it to Holbie Pinnock and he buried it in the back of the net. I let out a loud cheer and shook my lightning scepter above the crowd. With Kiko Lake’s morale boosted, “Poke” Cellers snatched the Yooyu from Layton Vickles and hurled it across the field, right into Holbie Pinnock’s sling. With ten seconds left in the game, Pinnock faked a shot to the top left corner, then, as Reshar Collifey dove to the left, rolled the Yooyu in. This time our entire half of the stadium cheered as the Darigan side hung their heads in shame.
As we cheered, Ruka screamed in my ear, “They’re going to a shootout! Kiko Lake is amazing!!”
The shootout went on for a long time; both teams kept making the goals. Eventually Tormo Frein stumbled and Erli Quinnock managed to flick his tail in front of the Yooyu just in time. More people had showed up on the Kiko Lake side because of their hate towards Darigan Citadel, plus it turned into a great game. All of us cheered as Cellers came out to make the final goal and save the game.
Before taking the shot, he turned to us, pointed at me, and mouthed, “Thank you.” He took the Yooyu and shot it straight forward. The entire stadium was silent; so silent that we could hear the ball whizzing through the air. The Yooyu hitting Collifey straight in the chest was like thunder. He stumbled backwards and let out a cough. The Yooyu dropped to the ground and uncurled itself.
“It’s in!” Ruka yelled. And the referee blew his whistle.