Runaway: Part One
"That was a great battle, Toren!" a sandy-haired boy who appeared to be about ten or eleven exclaimed. "You were all bam – bam – bam! –" here he punctuated each 'bam' with punches made awkward by the large trophy in his arms "— and the other guy just went down!"
"Thanks, Mike," Toren the Stealthy Lutari replied.
He walked a few paces behind his owner. Hanging off one arm was a duffle bag that contained all of his battle equipment as well as his helmet, which he usually preferred to keep off. Trotting at his side was his Petpet, May the Doglefox. May never went into the Battledome with him, but she was his good luck charm nonetheless.
Toren was happy about the victory, but he was also tired and sore. Mike seemed too enthusiastic to notice, but at least he had thought ahead by booking a room in the AstroVilla for the three of them for after the match. The idea of heading all the way back to their Neohome in Shenkuu was daunting to the Lutari, and he had not even lost his match.
"I can't wait until the next tournament! We're gonna keep training hard, Toren, just like we always do." Mike nodded emphatically at his own statement. "But now, I'm hungry so you must be starving, so let's go to the AstroVilla and grab some dinner!"
Lutari, Petpet, and owner strolled through the throng of people in Neopia Central. It really was a bustling place; Toren rarely got to see it unless he and Mike were in town for a Battledome tournament. Some people offered congratulations as they saw Mike's trophy, others seemed more interested in running to whichever shop they felt would be about to stock something valuable.
Toren was quietly taking in the sights. They were approaching a large, gavel-shaped building: the Neopian Auction House. It seemed even busier than all the other shops, though that did not stop Mike from walking past it. People pushed in and out of the building with reckless abandon. The auctioneer's voice could be heard from the open door. Toren craned his neck in curiosity to see what item was being auctioned at the moment.
A human girl who looked a few years older than Mike strode from inside the auction house while clutching a large, glass bottle carefully, but Toren noticed the impending collision too late.
Toren spluttered as he felt something wet cover his head and trickle down his shirt. His skin began to crawl, even in places where the liquid had not touched him. May yipped nervously as she circled his feet.
"You idiot! Look what you did! Do you know how much that cost me?!"
"You're the idiot, idiot. Maybe if you had been watching where you were walking, you wouldn't have bumped into me."
The crawling intensified. It felt as if he were covered in Petpetpets. Just what had been in that bottle?!
"Just because you have a strong battle pet doesn't mean you can do and say whatever you want!"
Toren gasped as he felt two appendages burst from his back. His gasp masked the sound of fabric tearing. It hadn't hurt, but he could tell the back of his shirt was in tatters. Was that a Morphing Potion of some kind?! Oh no... Toren pulled his gloves off quickly. His paws were light blue. Toren's mouth hung open in horror as he tried to imagine what the rest of his body looked like.
Mike bent over to pick up the trophy he had dropped in the collision. "Fine, I'm sorry. Are you happy now?" he snapped.
"No, I am not happy! Flasks of Rainbow Fountain Water don't come cheap, you know! I saved up for weeks to get that one for my gallery! I
demand that you buy me a new one!"
"Flask of Rainbow Fountain Water?!" Mike repeated. He looked over at Toren, who was still standing still, staring at his paws with his eyes wide and his mouth agape. "Are you kidding me? Faerie? I don't want a Faerie 'pet! You should be the one paying me back for painting my 'pet without my permission!"
"Serves you right for not watching where you're walking. He would still be Stealthy if you had been more careful. I don't care what you do with him, but you still owe me for that potion you wasted." She bent in and read his name off the engraved trophy. "Don't worry, I won't let you forget, Mike. Don't take too long."
Without waiting to see Mike's reaction, the girl stalked off and was soon lost in the crowd of shoppers. For a few seconds, both Mike and Toren were silent.
"I can't believe this. Why'd you have to go and get painted Faerie, of all things? No one will take you seriously anymore. You don't look cool at all!"
"If I wear my Stealthy stuff, maybe no one'll notice?" Toren supplied lamely.
Mike laughed derisively. "Yeah, you think no one'll notice those stupid wings sticking out of your back? A Neopet with Blurry Vision could see those things!"
Toren hung his head. Even though he knew in the back of his mind that it wasn't his fault, he still felt bad for the way he looked now. He hated that look of disappointment and anger in Mike's eyes.
"I seriously cannot believe she expects me to pay her back and buy you another Stealth Paint Brush. Why couldn't you have gotten out of the way?"
Toren's shame burned harder. He couldn't even find it in himself to remind Mike that he had not even bought the first Stealth Paint Brush; he had won it from the Alien Aisha Vending Machine.
"I didn't think she would throw it on me, whatever it was. I didn't notice until it was too late. I'm sorry, Mike."
"'Sorry' doesn't change the fact that you look like a girl. A girly-girl 'pet for a girly-girl owner." He snorted derisively. "Take that shirt off; it just looks dumb on you now."
Glumly, Toren did as he was told. It was a bit difficult to get out of the shirt with his new wings in the way, but eventually the black fabric pooled at his feet and he was able to get a better look at himself. His fur was now the same light blue as his paws and it was adorned with pale green swirls.
"You can't be seen in the Battledome like this – I can't be seen with you anywhere like this. And I can't afford a ten million Neopoint Paint Brush on top of the one million Neopoints I'll have to spend on a Flask of Rainbow Fountain Water for that dumb girl."
Mike grabbed Toren by the free paw and marched through the crowd. Toren gulped as they passed the AstroVilla. His heart began to race. May ran around their feet, barking up at them. Where was Mike taking him?
"S-sure you can afford it, Mike," the Lutari supplied as he let himself get dragged behind his owner. "I win lots of stuff from battling each day; we'll just keep that up and sell everything. And we'll enter lots of tournaments and win prizes and we can sell those too. I – I bet you'll have enough money for it all by the end of the month. And then this'll all just be a funny memory. Yeah, we'll be able to look back on this day and laugh, right, Mike?"
Mike was silent as he kept walking. Toren saw a wooden building in the distance. His heart leapt in fear. Mike wasn't taking him there... was he? He wouldn't do that...
Toren began to tug against Mike a bit. "Come on, Mike. You're tired. We had a long day today. Why don't we just go to the hotel and relax? You're hungry, so we can get some food. And... I know we still have that Blue Paint Brush at home, so we can use that to get rid of the stupid Faerie color and wings. Then I can wear my Stealthy clothes and no one will know what happened."
The Pound was drawing nearer and nearer. Mike was still silent, but Toren could not deny any longer that his owner was making a beeline for the dreaded building. He began to try to pull his paw loose harder. He didn't put all his strength into it – he didn't want to hurt Mike, especially if it turned out that he was just being irrational.
"Come on, we don't need to be making any big decisions today," the Lutari pled, his voice rising.
"I can't be seen with an embarrassing Faerie pet," Mike said with surprising calmness.
Toren knew he had to act when his owner strode right up to the Pound and began to push at the door. He wrenched his arm free and backed away, his eyes wide. "I'm not going in there, Mike!" he yelled. A crowd of onlookers was beginning to gather because of their commotion.
Mike looked at the crowd uneasily. His dislike at being seen with the Faerie Lutari was apparent. "Yes, you are. As of now, you are my 'pet and I don't want you anymore, so I am abandoning you. Now come on," he hissed as he grabbed Toren's wrist again.
"I won't!" the Lutari roared.
He jerked himself out of Mike's grip, sending the boy sprawling into the dirt. Toren hardly noticed. He paused only to scoop up May and drop the duffle bag full of heavy battle equipment before sprinting away. He shoved aside numerous passersby in his haste to flee from the Pound and Mike. Only once the sun had started to sink below the horizon and Neopia Central was a speck in the distance did Toren stop and realize that he had no clue where to go.
To be continued...