One Usuki Fanatic, One Important Lesson: Part One
“Taaaaallie! Time for Neeeeoschoool!” Emilia’s shrill voice cut through the air like the claws of a Crablett, meeting Tallie’s ears with a sharp pain. She groaned and rolled her eyes, then chose to ignore the call and continued to play in her room.
“Dear oh dear, Sir Greemilot!” Tallie said in a squeaky tone, as she moved the Meridell Usuki up and down. Why this was supposed to indicate talking, she didn’t really know. But it was a general rule throughout doll-playing. “How are we supposed to save Meridell with only five minutes until the big explosion?”
Now she grabbed the Usuki Musketeer doll dressed in armor and bobbed him up and down in the air. “I don’t know, Miss Molly,” she said in a baritone voice. “But is Meridell really worth saving anyway? I mean, it’s full of Mortogs and mouldy vegetables--”
“TAAAAALLIEE! PANCAKES ARE GETTING COLD.”
“I’ll be down later, Emmy,” Tallie called, irritated. She kept on playing.
“As I was saying,” Tallie continued, making her voice deep again. “Is Meridell worth saving, Miss Molly?”
“No,” Miss Molly said after some thought. “You’re right, my dear Sir Greemilot. Let’s go live in Brightvale. It’s much more sophisticated.” Then Tallie loaded her two dolls into the Usuki Dream Car and pretended they’d driven off into the sunset. She drove them over to the Usuki Dream Castle and dressed Miss Molly in the perfectly-fitting Pretty Princess Usuki outfit.
Tallie lived for them. Every inch of her room was painted, wallpapered, or carpeted Usuki pink. “Usuki Frenzy” and other doll-themed posters covered her walls. Her bedspread was printed with Usukis. Boxes for her Usuki sets were stacked neatly in a pyramid. All of them were empty - that was because inside her walk-in closet they were all being used. Each set, from the Usuki Dream Pool to the Usuki Dream Swing Set, were perfectly arranged in Tallie’s “Usuki Village”. All of her Usuki dolls were out, set in places throughout the little village. She had a doll-sized cabinet with tiny hangers for all her many outfits for the Usukis.
It could make a person sick just walking into that room. I know it’d make ME pretty ill.
Tallie played with Usukis at literally every spare moment. She had given them all names - Princess Pinkypatoolie the Teenage Usuki, Mr. Dreamygrill the Barbecue Chef Usuki, Lady Cloudmallow the Air Faerie Usuki, and on and on. She dressed and redressed them all each day. And none of them went unplayed with for more than twenty-four hours. Tallie had Usuki fever, one of the worst cases Neopia would ever see. It had started when she was three years old, when her owner Emilia had gifted her a Magical Hair Usuki.
That prized Magical Hair Usuki that was the reason for all this chaos, Yolanda Madeline Jessica Tamara (Tallie was never very good with names), was still with Tallie and had been dubbed the “Supreme Empress of all of TallieUsukiLand”.
Yes, Tallie had every single piece of Usuki merchandise ever made -
Okay, you saw that coming. But it was true: the very rare and highly valuable Summer Fun Usuki remained missing from Tallie’s extensive collection. Seven million Neopoints was the cost of this doll, no lie, no exaggeration. Seven MILLION Neopoints. It was one of the most expensive Usukis on the market, and what had thrifty Emilia told her Zafara? If she wanted the Summer Fun Usuki so bad, she’d have to earn the Neopoints herself.
Tallie had begged for the Usuki. Whined for it. Pleaded for it. Done chores for the doll (for which Emilia paid her three thousand Neopoints toward her until-then nonexistent ‘Usuki fund’). At the time this story takes place, Tallie was still saving money. She had collected over the months one million Neopoints from game-playing, a few chores here and there - though she did so despise doing them - and even walking Prince Fluff, Emilia’s Spardel. It was going to take forever, Tallie often groaned. Emilia would not cave in.
So! Now that you know a bit about Tallie, we can continue.
“NATALLIA ARMSTRONG! YOU GET DOWN HERE THIS INSTANT!”
Muttering, Tallie stood up, put on her pink fall jacket, and headed out of her room. She clomped down the stairs and reached the kitchen just as Emilia was walking out of it to come fetch her.
“Why you need to spend all that time playing with your toys, I’ll never know,” scowled Emilia, a usually very pleasant person, even if she did spoil Tallie horribly. She meant well, anyway. “I think you’re getting just a little too old for Usukis,” continued Emilia. It was the seventh time that month she’d mentioned it. Her Zafara ignored this comment as usual.
But today Emilia was adamant. “Tallie, listen to me! You are twelve years old now, thirteen in a couple of weeks! Girls stop playing with Usukis at about ten, typically. Don’t you think this has gone on a little long, sugar-Floud?”
“Nope,” was Tallie’s reply, mouth full of blueberry pancakes. “Never.”
Emilia sighed heavily. “Why do I bother?” she said aloud, half to herself and half to her pet.
“No idea,” Tallie shrugged. “Don’t ask me.”
“Just... go get your backpack and head off to Neoschool, okay?” Emilia closed her eyes in exasperation and pointed to the backpack hanging on the end of the stairs banister.
Wordlessly Tallie got up, stuffing the rest of her pancake into her mouth. She slung her pink backpack over one shoulder, slipped her bubblegum-colored sneakers on, and headed for the door.
Emilia shook her head. What was she going to do?
The next day, in an attempt to get Tallie’s mind off the Usukis, Emilia took her to Neopia Central park - an especially pleasant place in October, when the leaves were turning color. The only way that Emilia had persuaded Tallie to come, however, was to let her carry along Yolanda (the aforementioned Usuki that was Tallie’s first). Tallie had no intention of actually playing with the doll, but merely tucked it under her arm as they strolled. As long as she didn’t go an entire hour without laying eyes on an Usuki, she’d manage, decided the Zafara.
They walked down the path lined with trees, Emilia trying at small talk.
“So, how has Neoschool been, Natallia?” she asked.
“Have things gotten better since I got that note a few weeks ago?”
Emilia had gotten a letter from Tallie’s language teacher, a complaint that Tallie had been doodling Usukis in her notebook. She’d also gotten a note from an art teacher, reporting that during a project where Tallie SHOULD’VE been trying to use as many colors as possible in her picture, she had used only hot pink. And also, a letter from a history teacher saying Tallie was only interested in the history of Usukis... there were many more notes, none much worth mentioning.
Emilia decided this wasn’t the best “bonding time” subject.
“Your birthday is coming up fast, you know,” Emilia offered. “Thirteen’s the year I promised you a petpet. Have you narrowed it down to a few species? It’s hard, since there are so many options.”
“No,” Tallie said mildly. “But I have narrowed down the top sixteen Usuki outfits I’d like.”
Emilia sighed. “But, sweetie, you have all the Usuki outfits already,” she protested.
“But I only have one of most kinds,” Tallie explained. “What if I want two Usukis to wear the Pretty Princess outfit at the same time? What then?”
“Tallie...” Emilia stopped walking and looked her in the eye. “I was serious yesterday when I said it’s time to stop playing with Usukis. Maybe it’s time to find another hobby, like collecting... rocks.” Emilia winced. Rocks? In replacement of dolls? Even she wouldn’t agree to that.
“...Or books!” she tried again. There wasn’t a distinct expression in Tallie’s eyes. “Or pens! Or game trophies!”
Emilia was about to suggest another hobby when a tiny pink Uni who looked no more than five years of age dashed between them. She almost knocked Emilia off her feet as she went by. Emilia staggered, but caught herself, then turned her attention to the little girl.
The Uni was only just above the height of Emilia’s knee. She had pretty green eyes, a shiny gold horn, and was as cute as a new plushie. She skidded to a stop, walked back over to Emilia, and looked up at the owner.
“I’m sowwy,” she apologized, paws behind her back. “I wasn’t wooking where I was gowing.”
Emilia laughed. “It’s okay!”
Another girl, apparently the Uni’s owner, came over. She snatched the little girl’s paw and scolded her.
“Lilani!” she said angrily. “I told you NOT to wander OFF.” The owner seemed to accent every other word.
She looked at Emilia. “I’m sorry about this little RAGAMUFFIN. It won’t happen again, WILL IT, Lilani?”
“Really, it’s alright,” Emilia assured the girl, slightly startled by the loudness and cruelty of the Uni’s owner. “Nobody was hurt. All she did was surpri--”
“Mommy, look, an Usuki!” cried Lilani, wiggling in her owner’s iron grasp. She pointed to Yolanda, tucked under Tallie’s arm. “She’s so pretty! I’ve never had an Usuki before.”
Sensing her chance, Emilia smiled at Tallie and said, “Well, Tallie doesn’t need that one anymore, right? She’s got a closet full of them at home. Tal, maybe you should give that Usuki to Lilani. I’m sure she’d take great care of her.”
Unbelieving, Lilani looked at Tallie with awe and admiration. Tallie’s face contorted with anger. She grabbed Yolanda and held the doll to her chest.
“Never!” she snapped. “Yolanda is mine! Nobody else’s! And if I was to share her, it wouldn’t be with a bratty toddler like you!”
“Natallia!” It was Emilia’s turn to be angry. “You. Are. In. So. Much. Trouble.”
Lilani’s eyes filled with tears. Her owner’s gaze sharpened and without a goodbye, she led the Uni away.
Emilia seemed to tower above her Zafara, even though she only outdid Tallie’s height by three inches sharp. Tallie set her jaw, squeezed Yolanda to her chest, and repeated: “Mine.”
That flipped a switch. Emilia exploded.
“WE ARE GOING HOME,” she screamed. “AND WE WILL TALK ABOUT THIS.”
“Psh,” Tallie scoffed. “You mean you’re going to send me to my room without a discussion.”
“You can forget about those Usuki outfits for your birthday!” yelled Emilia. “Or a petpet, for that matter! Let’s GO, Natallia!”
As ill-mannered as Tallie’s last comment was, it was correct. Tallie was sent straight to her room, and ordered not to come out until morning. Tallie spent all evening playing with Usukis, especially Yolanda.
“I almost lost you today,” said Tallie lovingly to her first doll as she brushed its purple-and-green sparkly hair. “But it’s okay. A little brat like that will never get her hooves on you, Empress Yolanda. Never! Now, why don’t I put you in your Little Angel Usuki Set clothes and bring you to tea with Little Sorceress Usuki and Prom Queen Usuki?”
At her bedtime, Tallie put her Usukis neatly back in their places and changed into her pajamas. She settled down into her fluffy magenta comforter and fell fast asleep.
One thing about Tallie: she was a heavy sleeper. Most of the time, her alarm clock didn’t wake her up. So instead, Emilia would have to put in a CD and turn the music up to an unbearable volume in order to get Tallie out of bed. Today, however, was Saturday. Tallie could sleep in all she wanted.
That was why it wasn’t hard for Emilia to do what she needed, and why it wasn’t until 11:45 the next morning that Tallie received the shock of her life.
The key elements of Tallie’s room.
There was a shortage of them, an unacceptable shortage, when Tallie opened her eyes to the morning sun. It didn’t shine through her pink Usukicon curtains. It shone through deep, purple curtains, that were kind of pretty if Tallie had looked at them twice.
She shot out of her bedcovers. Her carpet was still pink, but other than that...! Tallie’s walls were removed of their Usuki posters and painted over purple. Her bookshelf: replaced with a violet one. Her desk was white with a fashionable purple trim. Even her comforter had somehow been switched in the night!
Purple dresser. Plum-colored closet doors. Wait! thought Tallie. My closet! My Usukis!
Frantic, she flung open the doors of her walk-in closet and nearly crumpled to the ground in a faint.
Gone. Everything! Meridell King Usuki, Ladybird Usuki, Air Faerie Usuki, all disappeared!
“No!” Tallie cried aloud. “Where could they all--
Tallie screamed in rage and tore through her room, emptying dresser and nightstand drawers in a panicked search for her prized Usuki collection. There was only one Usuki to be found, and that was Yolanda, who lay on Tallie’s desk. She was dressed in her default clothes, stained from the wear and tear that comes with being the first and most beloved doll. Tallie, trembling, held Yolanda close. Her eyes were open wide in shock.
Then the shock passed and turned to fury. Tallie threw Yolanda down and ran as fast as a Poogle racer to the kitchen. Emilia was innocently turning pancakes, like she had no idea how her Zafara’s bedroom had been completely transformed.
“EMMMMEEEEE!!” Tallie shouted at the top of her lungs. Emilia dropped the pancake turner to cover her ears. Now she pretended to notice Tallie.
“Morning, sugar-Floud!” chimed Tallie’s owner. “Oh, no! What’s wrong, sweetie? You’re hyperventilating!”
“You... know... why...!” panted Tallie. “Fix... it...!”
“Oh, that,” Emmy remarked casually. “It’s an early birthday present! Did it surprise you? I figured, you’ve had the same bedroom since you were three, so why not mix things up a bit?”
“MY USUKIS ARE GONE!” Tallie yelled. “Gee-oh-enn-ee GONE! What have you done to my precious little babies?!”
“Tallie, we’ve had this discussion.” Emilia sighed. “They’ve cluttered up your room for nearly ten years. Consider this a purge of old toys and part of yesterday’s punishment.”
“This is past punishment, Emmy!” Tallie was frantic. What had become of her Usukis? “Those dolls were my life!”
“That’s why I had to do what I did, Natallia,” Emmy explained softly. “It’s not healthy to have Usukis be the only thing you think about. It was even spreading to your schoolwork! That’s why it had to stop.”
Tallie tried to get a word in, but Emilia continued, “I knew you’d be upset, so I’m giving you more than half the Neopoints I got for your Usukis. That’s a lot of money.”
“The Neopoints you got for them?!” Tallie felt like every vein in her body had burst. “What Neopoints?! You SOLD MY USUKIS?”
“I put them up for auction this morning,” Emilia nodded. “You’re getting eight million Neopoints, Tallie! Happy early birthday!”
Tallie only screamed and ran from the room.
“Tallie, but I brought something for you.”
“If it’s not an Usuki, I don’t want to see it.”
Emilia sighed and opened Tallie’s bedroom door wider. She sat on the side of the bed the way owners do when they’re trying to comfort you, even if they’ve done something unforgivably evil. Nothing, Tallie thought with all the fury she could muster, nothing she tries to give me will ever replace my Usukis.
“Here,” Emilia said, setting down her plastic shopping bag marked ‘Neopia Central Toys: the quality you paid for!’. She pulled the items out one at a time.
“I got a yo-yo, a springy toy, a sticky Techo,” Emilia listed. “A cloud JubJub Puzzle, this cool yellow Origami Wocky, a jump rope, some Meepit vs. Feepit action figures, and the most darling doll!”
“A doll?” Tallie sat up straight. “What kind? Barbecue Chef? Prom Date? Air Faerie?”
“It’s not an USUKI doll,” Emilia laughed. “This is much better. See, I got this special from the Plushie Palace - handmade! It’s a blue Gnorbu plushie!”
She pulled out the little stuffed Neopet. It was kind of cute, even Tallie had to admit. But she scowled anyway and did another face plant in her pillow. Emilia got up and quietly left the room.
“Just give the new toys a chance sometime, okay?” Emilia asked. “You’ll get bored sometime. Anyway, tomorrow’s Sunday, so since there’s no Neoschool, maybe you can try them out then.”
Her owner was right, Tallie did very quickly get bored. She groaned, sat up, and stared crossly at the shiny, brand-new toys. First she picked up the sticky Techo and gagged at its sliminess. Disgusted, Tallie drew her arm back and hurled the gross toy at the plum wall opposite her. It stuck where it hit the purple paint.
“Weird,” Tallie grumbled, and reached for the yo-yo. She’d seen someone at Neoschool use one, and it didn’t seem hard. She grabbed the end of the string and let the wooden yo-yo spin to the mattress. It did not return back up as Tallie thought it would. The stubborn Zafara threw this toy down as well.
The next thing Tallie picked up was the jump rope. Three times she tripped over it and discarded the item on the ground. The Meepit vs. Feepit action figures she considered unruly, so crude next to the craftsmanship that was her Usuki dolls. Speaking of dolls, thought Tallie, what about that plushie Emilia had bought?
She picked up the Gnorbu and looked blankly into its eyes. “You’re kind of sweet-looking,” admitted Tallie. “Though my Beautiful Bride Usuki, Allison Janet, beats you any day.”
She put her hands on the plushie’s back and walked him around her bed.
“Emilia was right, I’m too old to play with dolls.” Tallie wrinkled her nose. “But especially you!”
And she flung the plushie at the wall. It landed below the sticky Techo. Immediately Tallie was sorry, for the doll really was irresistibly cute, and she picked him up again. Stroking his mane, she lay down and fell asleep.
Tallie dragged herself down the stairs the next morning, much earlier than usual on a Sunday. She was already dressed, she had brushed her hair, and she was carrying the Gnorbu.
“I didn’t think change happened overnight!” exclaimed Emilia, shocked, when she saw Tallie enter the kitchen. “It’s only nine o’clock! This calls for a special breakfast. How about blueberry muffins?”
“Sheesh, Emilia.” Tallie rolled her eyes. “I only got up a little earlier is all. Not a big deal.”
“I see you like your Gnorbu.” Emilia pointed to the doll, cuddled in Tallie’s arms. “Does he have a name?”
“Prince Gregory Hancock Beorn the First,” Tallie replied proudly, her head held high and her eyes closed in a gesture of superiority. “His arch nemesis is Lord Gruelly of Stinkhaven, the sticky green Techo.”
“Well, at least you like ONE of the toys I got you.” Emilia shrugged.
“I don’t like Gregory Hancock one bit as much as my Fire Faerie Usuki,” lied Tallie. “And Prince Gregory is only a knight under Yolanda’s reign. The evil sires Duke of Feepitville and Duke of Meepitville serve Lord Gruelly.”
“Sounds to me like you’ve set up quite a game.” Emilia smiled, quite satisfied with herself but still a little weary at Tallie’s childish doll games. Tallie immediately scowled.
“They are NOT as fun as Usukis!” she protested. “And until I get my collection back, I am not going to play with any of them again!”
Emilia groaned as Tallie stormed back upstairs.
“It was progress,” Emilia said to herself reassuringly. “I’ll remember not to mention how much she likes her new toys next time. It’s like she can’t stand knowing I’ve won! As soon as I hint that she’s having a good time, she makes a point not to.”
Tallie, in truth, really did love Gregory the Gnorbu. She’d never had a plushie before. But a vow was a vow, and Tallie put Gregory, Lord Gruelly, the Dukes of Meepitville and Feepitville (her new action figures), and all her other new toys into the closet. She was determined to have Emilia buy her collection back.
But that might take weeks, Tallie thought in her room, shoulders sagging. What would she do to entertain herself? Could she live without Usukis for that long? No, was the answer she gave herself. I’d die before that time was up. And I can’t play with my new toys, either, or Emilia would win.
“What a corner I’ve backed into,” Tallie said aloud. “There’s only one option left. I’ve got to get my hands on a new Usuki. Just having Yolanda isn’t enough - there has to be another doll for her to play with!”
It was then that Tallie noticed a bag sitting on her desk. Looking inside, Tallie found a note from Emilia placed on top of a hoard of shiny Neopoints. It must’ve been placed there during the night.
Upon reading the short note, Tallie discovered the bag contained the eight million Neopoints made from the auctions of Tallie’s Usukis. She was, instructed Emilia, to spend that money on anything but Usukis. But that was just what Tallie intended to do.
Her goal, prompted by those eight million Neopoints, had just been reached. She could, and would, buy that Summer Fun Usuki she had dreamed of for years.
To be continued...
Happy Usukicon, everybody! Remember that there is such a thing as too many Usukis!