Of Potions and Paintbrushes: Part Five
Also by antiaircraft
Compared to last night’s adventuring, the journey to Neopia Central was almost outright boring, and Frostgleam found herself dreaming up all sorts of changes to her formula that might perhaps result in a successful potion. She knew none of them really made any sense, however, and that gathering more ingredients to try them would be a ridiculous risk with little chance of success. Someday, the Aisha resolved, I’ll go back and complete this potion. But for now, I need that paint brush.
It wasn’t long before she found herself walking through the National Neopian’s grand, imposing, metre-thick doors and into the lobby inside. Despite having visited the bank a few times before (although it was usually one of her brothers who went in to actually withdraw the money), she still couldn’t shake the sense that it was so much bigger on the inside than it seemed from without. Still, it didn’t take her long to find her way through the towering maze of corridors and glass doors with their brushed chrome handles, and she was soon standing outside one of the four familiar entrances to the Personal Accounts Department.
As she sidled forward towards the security box just in front of the door, Frostgleam nervously began to wonder how she was meant to continue. There was a stern-looking security guard standing right next to the box, but if he couldn’t see her, then she would have to get his attention somehow, and if she startled him she might end up getting in trouble. To her surprise, however, the moment she stepped inside the box, the guard looked up, smiled at her, and handed her a numbered queue ticket without the slightest hint of surprise.
“Good morning, madam, and welcome to the National Neopian. Go right on through,” the guard said cheerfully, buzzing Frostgleam through the door. As she stepped gingerly forward, the guard added, “By the way, if the tellers don’t notice you right away, you might want to try jumping up and down a bit - sometimes the weight pads get a little stuck.”
Frostgleam almost chuckled as she stepped through the door and went to find a seat. Of course the people at the bank had figured out how to handle invisible pets. They probably had more invisible customers in one day than most people would meet in their entire lives. As if to drive home the point, the seat the Aisha settled on startled her by popping up an ‘Occupied’ sign right over her head as she sat down. A few nearby pets shot funny looks in her direction, probably wondering if the seat had a loose spring or something, but most of the customers were too busy scanning through copies of the Neopian Times or glancing impatiently at their watches to notice.
The impatience was hardly warranted, though, as the bank was running with its usual smooth efficiency. The ticket numbers were being called out so fast that the mechanical clacking of occupied signs swinging up and down was an almost constant accompaniment to the usual chatter. Glancing around, Frostgleam noticed that the tellers were discreetly relaying messages between each other and other bank staff using hand signals, with different signals prompting all sorts of responses.
Every now and again, a teller handling a particularly large transaction would flash a three-fingered swipe behind their backs. Moments later, somebody would pull a large trolley, heavily laden with Neopoints, around to the front, replenishing the supplies of any teller who happened to be running short. On one occasion, a red Lenny seemed to be particularly aggravated over some charges to his account, shouting angrily and waving his wings threateningly in the air. As his teller coolly explained the situation, she casually brushed a few strands of hair behind one ear, and a pair of security guards wandered over in her general direction, ready to intervene if things got out of hand. As soon as the Lenny calmed down, a second brush across the teller’s other ear sent the guards wandering back towards their usual rounds. And of course, as soon as any customer was about to finish with their business, their teller would place a hand flat on the counter, after which a bored looking Peophin would call out the next ticket number, check the ticket (placing it on a silver tray sitting beside her), and direct the next customer to the free counter. Every few minutes, a brown Quiggle would replace the tray with an empty one, and carry a fully laden tray of tickets out to one of the entrances.
Frostgleam was so preoccupied with watching the bank staff work that she almost missed her own number being called. “Number nine-six-nine, please step forward with your ticket,” the Peophin repeated a second time, frowning as she scanned the room. Frostgleam hurriedly hopped to her feet (allowing her ‘Occupied’ sign to fold back down behind her) and rushed over to the ticket station. The queue officer nodded curtly as she checked Frostgleam’s ticket, still looking as bored as ever, and pointed towards a counter on the far side of the room. “Counter three, right over there. Have a nice day now!”
“Thank you,” Frostgleam murmured in reply as she headed over to the counter. Remembering the advice of the security guard outside, she made sure to step a little more heavily than she normally would on the tile just in front of the counter. The teller, a smartly dressed blue Eyrie, looked up immediately from the ledger she had been scribbling in. “A very good morning to you madam. If you could just hold on for a few seconds, I’ll be right with you.”
True to her word, the teller spent only a couple of seconds finishing whatever she had been writing in the ledger, then peeled a small slip of paper off a nearby pad and pushed it across the counter to Frostgleam, placing an unmarked black pen on top. “All right, sorry about the wait - things have been going a little faster than we’re used to this morning. If you could just write your name and account number on that slip of paper, and sign on the back, we can get started. Do remember to grip the pen firmly, it’s a bit smooth and sometimes people end up dropping it.”
“No problem, thank you,” Frostgleam replied, a little bemused. Making sure to hold the pen tightly, she carefully wrote out her name and all twelve digits of her account number on the slip of paper, then turned it over and inscribed her signature on the back, before passing the pen and paper back to the teller.
The Eyrie quickly checked both sides of the slip to make sure everything was written correctly, then casually placed the paper on one side of the counter, just in time for a Poogle to run by, grab the slip, and dart through a door near the back of the room. “Okay, Miss Frostgleam, thanks for stopping by, how may we help you today?” the teller went on, seemingly completely unfazed by the prospect of talking to an invisible customer.
Distracted as she was, it took Frostgleam a few seconds to come up with her reply. “Um... yes, I’d like to make a withdrawal. One hundred and fifty thousand Neopoints, if that’s all right.”
“Certainly, Miss Frostgleam,” answered the teller, smiling, “we’ll just have to double-check your account, and if everything’s in order you can withdraw the amount you need. Might I ask what the money is for?” As the teller was saying this, she deftly peeled a strip from what looked like a roll of transparent sticky tape and wrapped it tautly around the handle of the pen Frostgleam had been using.
“Oh... well, I need to buy a Ghost Paint Brush,” Frostgleam explained, feeling slightly embarrassed as she did so. “You see, I’ve been getting hit by an invisibility curse a lot recently, and it just happened again. It’s really quite annoying.”
“It definitely is,” the teller replied sympathetically, carefully peeling the tape off the pen and using a small white cloth to clean the pen’s handle. “Well, we just need to check your account records to make sure you have enough in there, then we can get you the Neopoints you need to get everything sorted out.”
Before the teller had finished her sentence, the Poogle who had run into the back earlier darted back out and handed the Eyrie a clipboard. The teller leafed through several of the pages attached to the clipboard (one of which Frostgleam recognised as the piece of paper she had signed on), making a few quick notes in her ledger as she did so. “All right, Miss Frostgleam, I can see you’re listed here as a Ghost Aisha - I’ll amend our records for now, but once you’re back to your normal colour, do send in a Neomail to our records office so they can keep things up to date.”
“I’ll make sure to do that,” Frostgleam replied, nodding. The Aisha watched patiently as the teller retrieved a small magnifying glass from a drawer under the counter and proceeded to squint through it, flipping back and forth between various pages on the clipboard. Comparing my handwriting, no doubt, Frostgleam decided.
“So the record here says you live in the Haunted Woods, and have two siblings. It can’t be too easy living in that area. How’s your family doing right now?” the teller inquired cheerfully as she continued to check through different pages.
Frostgleam was a little taken aback by the personal question, but she supposed that the bank staff were required to be as friendly as possible. “Oh, Sun and Drakovitch are doing all right,” she answered, “we know how to take care of ourselves, and the Woods aren’t all that bad once you get used to them. The shopping in Neovia is really great too. Sun might be a little tired after we trekked through the woods yesterday, though. Luckily he should be able to get plenty of rest today.”
“That’s great to hear,” the teller responded amicably, picking up the piece of tape she had pulled off the pen earlier and holding it up to the light with one hand. The Eyrie continued to hold the magnifying glass with her other hand, using it to carefully examine the piece of tape, as well as one of the pages near the bottom of the stack on the clipboard. After a few seconds, she gave a satisfied nod and stuck the piece of tape to a page in her ledger. She must have just checked my fingerprints, Frostgleam realised, so they really do take security seriously here.
“Okay, it seems like everything is in order,” the teller finally announced. “We’ll have your Neopoints here in a jiffy. However...”
The teller hesitated for a moment and flipped back through the clipboard, running a talon down one of the sheets with a frown. “It says here that you actually have one Ghost Paint Brush stored in your safety deposit box right now. Are you sure you don’t want to retrieve it? Or are you planning on buying extra?”
Frostgleam’s mouth formed into a silent ‘O’, and she stood dumbfounded on the spot for several seconds. So there had been a paint brush in her deposit box all along! She’d thought it might have been a possibility, but after sifting through her memory as best she could, she’d dismissed that as a vain hope brought on by sheer frustration. Of course, when it came to long lists of items that she hadn’t taken the time to note down, her memory wasn’t exactly the best...
“Yes!” the Aisha cried once she realised she’d been gaping for several seconds. “Yes! Thank you! I’ll take the one in my safety deposit box! I’m sorry, I had no idea...”
“Don’t worry,” the teller assured Frostgleam with a knowing wink, “unlimited storage does that to the best of us.” Brushing off a few specks of dirt that had somehow ended up on her right sleeve, she continued, “If you ever need to check on the contents of your safety deposit box in the future, you can always send a Neomail over to our storage office to have them check our records for you. It might take one or two working days for them to get back to you, but if you’re busy, it will save you the travel time. Right now, though, Bernard can take you down to the vault if you like.”
Frostgleam turned to see the Poogle she had spotted earlier standing behind her, holding a stack of documents under one arm and a large, complex-looking deposit box key in the other. “Good morning, Miss Frostgleam,” said the Poogle. “We’ve already gone through all our usual security checks for your account, so if you’ll just come with me, we can go and grab that paint brush of yours right away.”
“Thank you!” Frostgleam exclaimed once again, moving to follow the Poogle. Turning back to the teller, she added, “And thank you for all your help as well.”
“Just business as usual, Miss Frostgleam. Thank you for using the National Neopian Bank, and do feel free to come back any time you like!” the teller replied, as cordial as always, as she placed one hand flat on the counter in front of her. Somewhere behind Frostgleam, the queue officer called out the next ticket number.
To be continued...