Season of Beauty
It was a beautiful spring morning, and even the Haunted Woods seemed less murky. Spring is the best time to start anything new, the Acara mused as she put the final touches to a green mirror, placed it on the growing pile next to her, and pulled another identical one out of the shopping bag in front of her.
The two Skeiths grumbled as the walked. "Nothing but junk." "Hours and hours we've spent playing." "Aggie got a Starry Paint Brush yesterday. And us? Bah!" "Stupid promos."
Finally they reached the Money Tree and dumped everything they carried - books, stamps, and other stuff - at its base. The crowd gave them a wide berth: these guys were angry and they looked like trouble.
Only one waif-like Blue Kacheek dared approach. Mira was hungry enough to do anything. She hadn't been able to fight the hungry mobs to get at the Money Tree donations in so long! She looked now at this pile and tried to stifle a whimper. No food...
Something flashed. A green mirror. She picked it up and admired the delicately carved leaves and vines twining around the handle. Then she looked into it at the most stunning thing of all. Herself.
Her blue fur was glossy, her eyes shone. She looked like the spirit of spring. "I'm beautiful," she breathed softly, but not so softly that the towering Skeiths before her did not hear.
"Beautiful, are you?" one of them jeered. "You're beautiful," sniggered the other, "and I'm Queen Fyora."
As the crowd joined in the laughter and fell upon the duo's rejects, Mira bolted. Her eyes sparkled, but with tears, not beauty. She flung herself into a dark corner and began to weep.
"Hush, dear," said a voice. Mira hiccupped. Wouldn't they leave her alone? "Do you want me to leave, Mira?" She looked all around. No one was about. Did it, could it, come from the mirror? "That's right, dearie. Now look into me again."
Mira obeyed. That voice was so kind!
She saw herself, dressed in a filthy Ultra Fashionable Potato Sack. Her fur needed a good wash, and her eyes were pink and puffy with crying. "They were right to laugh, you know," the voice murmured. Mira knew.
"But," it went on, "wouldn't you like to look like the reflection you saw earlier?" Mira nodded. If she was so beautiful someone would surely adopt her. She'd have a family!
"Think bigger, dear Mira. If you do as I say, you can have anything. Anything at all!"
"Hey, Kiara, wanna go shopping?"
"'Fraid I can't," drawled the Pink Acara, "I'm busy. Got lots of things to do tonight." She hurried off. The last thing she needed was for her friends to meet her dumb kid sister...
Prance was waiting for her. Kiara saw the little Red Acara standing quietly outside the Neoschool gates. "Alright, let's go," snapped Kiara. "But Kiara, tomorrow's Champ's birthday and Mom said - " "I know, I know. Let's go to the Plushie Shop already." Champ was their baby brother.
"Can we go play Key Quest first?" Prance asked. Kiara groaned. "But I don't have any money! You borrowed my allowance to buy that lipstick," her sister accused, her eyes on the Pink Lipstick Kiara was reapplying. Prance is such a whiner, thought Kiara, but she only said, "Fine. One short game."
The game was over soon, but not soon enough. Kiara let her sister win - power-ups depend on luck, right? - and, pocketing her winnings, said, "Now can we go?" "Wait, let's visit the Vault. Maybe we can get a colouring book for Champ..." Kiara rolled her eyes.
Kiara sneered as her sister joyfully picked up a Maraqua Colouring Book. She used her own key.
And there it was. The loveliest mirror she'd ever seen. She looked into it and saw a face. Not any face, but her face made perfect: her eyes as blue as the April sky, her hair flying in the spring breeze, her horns curving so gracefully. She murmured, "I'm beautiful."
Then the vision faded, and the mirror showed her true reflection: mussed hair, eyes dull and tired after school, lipstick badly applied. "No, but you are pretty," a voice whispered.
"WHAT?!" Kiara yelped in shock. "The mirror spoke!"
"Hearing things," Prance said smugly, "is the first sign of madness."
"I can talk, Kiara," the voice said, "but only you can hear. I can also make you beautiful."
Her sister's voice cut in. "Stop looking at your silly mirror, and - " Kiara looked up and Prance faltered. Had her eyes just been red? Must be a bizarre trick of the light. Then, even more bizarrely, Kiara gave her sister her money.
"Buy whatever you want. I have things to do."
Prance shouted her sister's name, but Kiara was deaf to everything but the voice of the mirror in her hand.
"Zara, not again!" begged the Yellow Wocky. "We spent months saving for a White Paint Brush!."
"I know," Zara, a White Kyrii replied, "but I still think I can win the next beauty contest if I'm Faerie."
"Zara. Zara. No, listen, Zara! You came second! Isn't that enough?"
"If you're my friend, Nellie!"
Nellie glared at her best friend for a moment. Then she bit her lip and pretended to think. "Ok, but only if you come to Faerieland with me after. I've got to apply for a summer job at the library."
Zara chuckled. Nellie knew she wanted to go look at Faerie Neopets! She said in mock-seriousness, "That's a lot to ask, Nellie. Tell you what, I'll come if you beat me to the Games Room." She ran off laughing, knowing that she'd win easily. The two were still giggling fifteen minutes later when they joined a Key Quest game...
"So," Nellie said, as they walked to the Vault after three games, pockets clinking with neopoints, "I was thinking of how to save faster. I've been reading up about the current state of the stock market and if we invest in..."
Zara wasn't really listening. She had unlocked the gold door with her first key. Two books lay inside, along with a mirror.
"Enjoy, Nellie." Zara handed the books to her friend, who was still going on about the stocks, and picked up the mirror. It was the same green as the newest of spring leaves. If only she had a gown of that colour! She looked into it, and almost dropped it in shock, staring at what was her face, yet not her face.
Her mane was longer and intricately braided. Her skin was flawless. Her coffee-coloured eyes, her worst feature, had turned a warm brown, lit up by all the tints of spring. There was something else, she couldn't say what, in her face that made her want to take a second look... If she had that something, the beauty contest would be in the bag!
"You could be beautiful," a voice, which seemed to come from the mirror, said, and the image faded, giving way to Zara's familiar features: ugly eyes, childish hairstyle, inadequate make-up which couldn't mask her zits...
"A Faerie Paint Brush will give you nothing." Exactly what Zara was thinking. "Only I can make you beautiful. I can lead you to everything you desire in merely a month. Just get rid of your friend." Zara hesitated. Nellie, her best friend... Who was the voice, anyway? "Is she your friend, Zara? Look at her."
Zara did, and saw her best friend truly for the first time. How had she stood that hideous Wocky with those baggy clothes, those bookish glasses, that basic colour! Nellie was still talking. "...or is it too much of a risk?" Whatever else the voice was, it was right.
"I don't know, but I want to be beautiful, Nellie. I can't be your friend, you're ghastly. Bye."
Nellie stared after Zara for a long, long time. At last, she sighed and told herself firmly, "She's just upset about that stupid contest. I'll talk to her in school tomorrow." She was being silly - Zara was very disappointed, maybe she needed some alone-time, and, anyway, this wouldn't be their first fight. So why couldn't she shake off the feeling that something was terribly wrong?
The sun had set. Though the Acara was accustomed to the gloom of the Haunted Woods, even she could barely see what she was doing any more. She stood up and stretched. Time to sneak the mirrors into the Vault, she thought, and began gathering them up.
Suddenly, she caught sight of her own face, with its black twisted horns, its ugly green fur, its scary red eyes. Revulsion twisted it monstrously. "It won't be long," she said through clenched teeth. "Anyone who falls for my mirrors will turn uglier than I am in a month. A month after this silly Spring Promotion is over, and I will be the most beautiful Neopet in the world!"
Vira picked up the last modified Spring Mirror and set off.
Author's Note: This is something I made up! There is nothing wrong with the Spring Mirror, or any other mirror, as far as I know. This is, however, my first submission, and I would love to hear from you! Please give me feedback.