Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 192,211,816 Issue: 636 | 14th day of Running, Y16
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sugar and spice and everything nice


by pandora

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Witch-faerie. Evil, wretched girl. Enemy. Monster.

     Your cloud falls to the war but you don't. You build yourself again, like all of Faerieland—you make a home among the tree-bends and grass. Jhudora's Cloud, Jhudora's Buff. All is the same, again.

     And you are still alone.

      Illusen is alone, too, but your sister is never lonely. Where you have spells and artifacts she has friends. Where you are sharp and angled she is gentle. She is loved. You are not.

     You are alone.

     X

     These days, less and less come to fulfill your quests. A part of you is spiteful but a part of you can't blame them, either; your words are harsh and your rewards aren't much. But you do what you must.

     And you do what you can.

     "P-please," a Uni-girl begs, "I don't have enough money to buy that."

     "That is my request, wench," you snarl, your bone-arms folded. "Do not ask for a quest if you are incapable, child."

     "Please," she says, again, "It's going to be Valentine's Day. I would've gone to Illusen for a quest, but I already came to you twice before, and I need potions, because he loves magic, and—"

     You stiffen. You've never liked fate—you've always found it had a sick sense of humor. You are celebrated, like always, days before the Day of Love. The pets, the children, the faeries—they come flocking one day, and go running the next.

     Nobody loves you; you spend your day in power, and that day all alone.

     "Fine," you say, surprising yourself. Your voice is harsh and nasal, but the words are not. "I'll find something else for you to do."

     The Uni brightens, her smile like moon-beam.

     When she leaves, no one else comes.

     X

     Your sister is holding all sorts of celebrations. She hands out earthen love-potions and cards, and receives them back in tenfold. Your sister is Meridell's Sweetheart, Neopia's Emerald.

     And what does that make you?

     You absently tug at a blade of faerie-grass. Your hands come away sea-green, colored with magic, and for a moment, you do—honestly—miss your sister.

     Why don't you write her? a voice in your head murmurs.

     Why, indeed, you seethe.

     X

     "You look lonely," says a Usul-child.

     She hands you the items you requested; you take them in a sharp sweep.

     "Silence, fool," you snap, "You know nothing about me."

     The Usul's face goes gentle. "You're right. I don't know anything about you."

     "Exactly."

     "But I know what it means to be lonely."

     X

     The days pass in a cold, quiet blur.

     And then:

     "For you, Miss Jhudora," the faerie says.

     She is of Earth; her hair is brown-tangled and her eyes are jade-pale. Illusen's assistant—your sister's 'true' sister, as Neopia likes to call her.

     Her name is Irma, if you remember correctly.

     She hands you the red-wrapped chocolates. Illusen's homemade gifts—you receive them every year.

     "Take them back," you scoff, your tone hard. "I don't want them."

     "But—"

     "Leave." Your voice booms. "At once."

     Irma obliges.

     X

     She forgets the chocolates.

     You leave them to rot.

     X

     Or, you try to.

     On the tenth day of the month, you eat one.

     It tastes like a different time.

     X

     "C'mon, Jhudora, let's bake them together!"

     "That's so lame," you tell your sister. "Why would we bake chocolates if we could just buy them?"

     "It's the principle of the thing," Illusen says. "And lighten up! It's the day of love! But mostly, the day of roses and chocolates. Thus, we should plant roses and make chocolate."

     "For who?"

     "For us, silly! The coolest sisters in all of Neopia."

     You let out an over-loud sigh. "Fine."

     Illusen smiles knowingly.

     You turn away, and smile back.

     X

     For an entire day, you only request cook-books for your quests.

     It takes seventeen quests before you find the right recipe.

     X

     "Illusen likes milk chocolate," you say to yourself, "And green sprinkles... tacky, of course..."

     You spend hours mixing sugars and cocoa and spices and hoping it'll turn out right. But it always comes out tasting a little bitter and you think – why am I doing this?

     Why?

     You stand in the middle of your spell-room, bowl hanging over your make-shift oven-fire. You're making chocolates for your sister whom you haven't spoken to in years. Your sister—Illusen, the kindest of faeries—who will get chocolate from everyone, anyway.

     So, what's the point?

     You drop your half-cooked chocolate onto the ground, letting the plate break. You brush out of the room like air and think 'I'm okay, I was just being foolish, it is alright to be alone.'

     Really.

     X

     The Usul-girl comes back, eyes green with the palest shade of pity.

     "Hello, Jhudora," she says.

     "Do not," you snarl, "address me by my name."

     "Alright," she says, gently, "Okay. I'm here for a quest."

     "Oh?" you ask, voice high. Sharp. "I see you are quite loyal. This makes what, twenty? Thirty?"

     "Thirty-five quests," she tells you, breezily. "But. I'm not here for the reward."

     "Oh?"

     "I'm here for a promise."

     "I," you tell her, "do not make promises to those beneath me."

     "Then make an exception," she says. "Because my promise is important."

     X

     She returns, an hour later, with the item you requested and the words ready in her voice.

     "Alright, brat," you tell her. "What is it you want?"

     "I want you to..." she starts, and you listen. "...to be happy."

     Silence.

     And then, "What?"

     "Be happy, Jhudora," she says, voice kind. "You are a powerful faerie. And I admire you. I want to be as strong as you, one day. But you always look sad."

     "I'm not—"

     The Usul is already gone.

     X

     You don't make any chocolate.

     You curse the Usul-girl for her impertinence, and then yourself for being so foolish.

     And then, you write—

     X

     Illusen,

     I don't miss you, or anything, I don't know where you would get the idea.

     But I remembered how we used to make chocolates, when we were younger. And the ones you sent me weren't good at all. I was thinking you—definitely—needed my help.

     A talentless faerie like you should be grateful for my generosity. Write back.

     Jhudora.

     X

     Illusen doesn't respond.

     X

     It's Valentine's Day. You only have one quest, from the Usul, again.

     "You don't look like you kept your promise," she says, her voice low.

     I don't make promises to those beneath me, you almost say.

     But you remain silent.

     "Are you here for a quest?" you ask.

     She says, "Not quite."

     The door swings open—

     X

     "Hi, sis."

     X

     The Usul stands by Illusen's side.

     "Thanks," Illusen says, "for watching over my sister for me."

     The Usul smiles, all teeth.

     And you scowl.

     "What are you doing here? Don't you have quests?"

     Don't you have friends who care about you?

     "Nope," Illusen says, beaming. "Today, I just have chocolate to make, and a sister to spend time with."

     Against your better self, you find yourself softening at her words.

     X

     "I bet mine'll taste ten times better than yours."

     "No way, mine will be one hundred times better."

     "Two hundred!"

     "Three thousand!"

     "Shoot—is that smoke?"

     "...Possibly?"

     "I'll find a water-spell if you save the chocolate."

     "Done."

     "Done."

     "And—Illusen?"

     "Yeah?"

     "It's not like I'm thanking you. But. Thanks."

     Your sister smiles.

     "Right back at you."

     X

     Illusen leaves the next day, and so does the Usul-girl, but they leave their presences in their wake. Illusen, in the form of house-touches: a now-green lamp, a batch of chocolates, a note that reads: SEE YOU SOON.

     The Usul—Dina, you learn, her name is Dina—leaves with a promise:

     "I'll be here tomorrow," she tells you. "To see my friend."

     X

     Quests start pouring in. You aren't kind, by any means, but Faerieland stops regarding you as cruel. You have your sister. You have your quests. You—you might start making friends.

     And just like that, you are not alone.

The End

 
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