The first day she set foot in the fishing cavern was the most terrifying day of Chili's life. Little did she know, it would also be the most exciting.
The cavern was cold and muggy, and the colors on the walls and ground looked like something from a horror painting. Stalactites hung from the ceiling and dripped cold, smelly water onto the ground. The rickety dock looked like it was ready to break at any second; yet numerous fishermen still sat on its edge, poles in the water with faces lowered in complete concentration.
"Why are we here?" Chili whimpered, grabbing her owner's hand and moving closer to her.
Her owner, Anna, smiled sympathetically. "Because sweetie, every Neopet needs to know how to fish. It's important. Remember how scared you were when I first took you to the Battledome? And now it's not scary at all."
Chili did indeed remember. She'd remember the sight of that eerie ghost Lupe and creepy clown as long as she would live. But since she beat them in a fight on a daily basis, they were slightly less scary now.
She watched as Anna purchased a fishing rod and some bait for her at the fishing shack. A poster on the inside wall showed pictures of all the things that had ever been caught in the cavern before. There were little things like seaweed and old boots, and slightly cooler looking fish, including an enormous squid that took up almost the whole poster. But what caught her eye was a shiny potion filled with water all the colors of the rainbow.
"Hey, mister, what's that rainbow potion looking thing?" Chili asked the Jetsam behind the counter. She was so curious that she didn't even notice the Jetsam's intimidating appearance; he was as ancient as time itself, with numerous scars and a shiny gold tooth. A weathered nametag on his chest said Mick.
Mick chuckled heartily, causing the other fishermen to glance over. "That there is a Flask of Rainbow Fountain Water. You'll never get one of those. I've had regulars come in here for years and they've never had any luck getting those."
"Well, what do they do?" Chili asked.
"They can turn you any color that you want," he responded. "But it's entirely random. You can come out looking like a beautiful faerie, or you can come out looking like a grotesque Darigan creature. It's all up to luck," he said.
"That sounds amazing! I'm gonna totally get one!" Chili exclaimed eagerly.
To Chili and Anna's shock, the whole dock erupted with laughter; they'd been listening the whole time.
"You'll never get one," Mick said almost harshly. "They're rarer than the Space Faerie."
Anna's face turned red in embarrassment on Chili's behalf. But she wasn't fazed; inside, she was already imagining what types of beautiful colors she could turn into. What if she turned rainbow? Or pink? Or maybe even faerie! She could fly around everywhere and see the entire Neopian world just like she always wanted!
"Come on, sweetie, let's just go get you set up..." Anna said gently, taking Chili's hand and leading her to the dock. Once there, Anna set up the bait on the end of the fishing pole for her. Chili paid close attention, eager to be a good student.
Before long, she was sitting on the edge of the dock, pole outstretched, looking seriously into the water just like the other professionals. Anna sat next to her, reading a book. Chili could just make out "mythology" on the spine of the book.
"Hey, Anna, do you think I can catch a special potion?" she asked her eagerly.
Anna's dark eyes flashed with doubt for a millisecond. "Oh of course, sweetie!" she said quickly. Her voice had shot up an octave or two, which is how Chili knew she was lying.
"You don't think I can?" Chili asked, let down. She needed Anna to believe in her like she always did.
"No, I do!" Anna said quickly. She paused, biting her lip nervously. "I just think that... It might take a while," she said carefully. "I mean, like Mick said, some Neopets have been coming here for years and it's never happened for them. You just need some time and experience first. Good things come to those who wait."
Chili harrumphed. She didn't want to wait. She wanted to be a beautiful faerie right now. "I don't think good things come to those who wait. I think good things come to those who want it badly enough to make it happen," Chili countered.
"You know what, sweetie, you might just be on to something." She patted her Neopet on the head and smiled. "So what color would you want to be?" she asked curiously, crossing her legs under her.
"I'd wanna be something pretty. Like pink. Or rainbow. Or faerie! So I can fly all over Neopia and come back with lots of stories for you," she said.
Anna smiled at her Neopet. "That sounds awfully fun. Be sure to tell me what Faerieland is like," she said. Chili knew that Anna was obsessed with Faerieland.
But before Chili could respond, she felt something hook at the end of her pole. She felt a rush of adrenaline.
"Anna, my line is moving!" she yelled excitedly.
"Well, pull it in! Hurry!" Anna encouraged, her eyes gleaming.
Chili hurriedly reeled up the line, tense with anticipation and excitement. She brought it to the surface only to find... a gross old shoe.
Her heart dropped. "But... I wanted the potion," she said, feeling close to tears. She had already planned out in her head what clothes to buy if she turned pink.
"Oh, sweetie, it's ok. We can come by again tomorrow," Anna said, gently trying to take away her fishing pole.
"No! I want to try one more time," Chili said fiercely.
"Chili, you know I can only afford one bait per day..." Anna began. But the look on her Neopets face was so sad that she just couldn't say no. She went back to Mick and got some more pieces of bait. Mick clicked his tongue at his in disapproval but handed over another one.
"Ok, sweetie, this is it for today. If it doesn't happen, you just have to accept that, ok?" she said sternly.
"Yes, yes, I understand!" Chili said, eagerly adding the piece of bait to her pole perfectly. This time she was going to be lucky, she could feel it.
After about twenty minutes of idle talking, Chili's line began to tug again. Underneath the surface, she saw a faint glint of rainbow.
"Oh my gosh, this is it, this is it!" Chili practically screamed, pulling up the line as fast as she could.
Sure enough, at the end of the line was a sparkling bottle filled with rainbow water. The other fishermen on the dock stared slack-jawed in shock at Chili. Anna looked just as dumbstruck as the other.
Chili held the little glass bottle in her hand, turning it around gingerly to make sure it was real.
"Chili... You found one," Anna said in shock. "What are you going to do now?" she asked.
"Drink it, of course!" Chili said with excitement. Before anybody could stop her, she gulped down the multicolored water, swallowing every last drop. If happiness had a taste, it would taste like that water.
Chili looked down and saw her fur begin to slowly change color. It went from green to... tan? Small white markings began appearing on her legs and on her cheeks. A lei appeared around her neck, and a flower fashioned itself in her hair. Before long, the transformation was complete.
"Oh, sweetie, you look amazing!" Anna exclaimed, rushing forward to hug her Neopet. Chili hugged back, tears of joy in her eyes.
When she looked over her shoulder, she saw mean old Mick smile at her, his gold tooth glinting. "Lucky catch, kid," he mouthed at her.
Chili smiled and snuggled into her owner's shoulder, feeling better knowing that the grumpy old coot had believed in her all along.