A So-Called Vacation
It's summer. And for the normal families out there, that's the green flag for exploring tourist attractions, trips to the sandy beach, maybe getting accidentally buried in that sandy beach, but having fun nonetheless.
But for us? That's a whole different story.
Literally. I'm telling it now.
It seemed like a normal day at first. Sunny, warm like... summers usually are, except for residents of Terror Mountain, of course. I had been reading through a random newspaper, pretending to be interested. Kougra, the second oldest and a, uh... fire Kougra... was busy trying to see how far he could push a lamp to the edge of the table before it could fall. The youngest of the family, my Kyrii brother Prince, was ducked under the table, messing around with his apparent "action figures". And who knew where Nicky was.
At that very moment, our owner who went by the name of Lizzy burst in. "NOBODY--" she began, when she turned to see the front door's doorknob had rammed a hole into the wall. She slowly grabbed a picture frame and set it over it before turning back to us. "NOBODY MOVE!"
We all stopped moving. And pretty much stopped breathing as well.
"...should we evacuate the building?" Prince whispered Kougra's way and my younger brother shrugged.
Lizzy rolled her eyes at us before slamming the door shut behind her. "Oh, relax! It's nothing bad. Besides, the neighbors still have that permit that ensures I stay twenty feet away from them since I accidentally broke their window and 'traumatized them' or whatever."
"You broke it with a firework," Prince piped up.
"And it was an ACCIDENT. But I digress. All of you, pack up! We're going on vacation to Mystery Island!"
"VACATION?" I shot up from the couch.
"VACATION?!" Prince rose and hit his head on the table.
"VACATION?" Kougra leapt to his feet and the lamp crashed to the floor.
"VACA--OOF!" There was a loud thump and then my Baby Kougra brother, Nicky, came stumbling in, rubbing his aching head. "...tion? When was THAT decided?"
"Exactly five minutes ago! A flying Shoyru whizzed past my head and told me I should go!" my owner chirped happily.
"Right. Because we all just listen to random Shoyrus who nearly take our heads off when they fly by," Nicky mocked as Kougra quickly tried to sweep the broken lamp's remains under the rug.
"C'mon, guys! I promise, it'll be really fun!" my owner assured us, racing down the hall to her bedroom. "We leave in an hour! Get ready!"
"...I really gotta learn how to abandon myself," Prince grumbled.
"I guess we oughta pack," I announced, tossing the newspaper onto the sofa. "We haven't gone to Mystery Island in a while."
"Kougra and I did, to Geraptiku, and it was a nightmare. I'm not sure I wanna go, Tiger," Prince addressed me, his tone worrisome.
I ruffled his hair in that big brotherly way I always managed to pull off. "Don't worry, Prince. We won't go anywhere near Geraptiku. There's so much more to explore."
"Like the BEACH!" Nicky suddenly ran into the living room, lugging a huge beach towel behind him and wearing our owner's sunglasses. "LEZZGO!"
"THAT'S MY LINE!" Lizzy called from down the hall.
It didn't take long for us to reach Mystery Island. Lizzy led us all into a small and rickety hotel that looked ready to fall apart at the next storm.
We all carried color-coded suitcases and she waltzed up to the person at the counter and got us a room. The guy only dropped a key in her hand and reminded her in a low tone that there were no refunds.
The minute we saw our room, we saw why.
Lizzy jammed the key into the lock and opened the door, but the key wouldn't come out from the doorknob. She sighed and left it there, deeming it eternally stuck.
"Here we are, guys," she said with a fake happy tone, motioning to the broken-down room. "Our, uh... vacationing home."
The wallpaper was peeling and an ugly green color and the rug was pulled off at some parts, revealing a bare floor. There was one single bed with faded sheets and a lamp that was missing the lampshade... and the bulb... and the cord.
"Who'll sleep in the bed?" Nicky questioned, pointing to the thing that seemed smaller than our sofa.
"Um..." My owner surveyed the room quickly before shrugging insouciantly. "Uh... you and Tiger can share the bed and Prince and I will sleep on the floor."
"What about me?" Kougra piped up.
We dumped our suitcases next to our designated sleeping spot (and Kougra's stupid suitcase took up the whole bathroom) before we changed out for a day at the beach.
We ran out of there, Lizzy taping the door shut since the key was still forever trapped in the lock, and then we headed towards the sandy shore of paradise.
Prince was drawing patterns in the sand with his finger, clad only in swim trunks, but he had on his "I'm extremely disinterested in this idea" face on.
"Go swim," I suggested, glancing at the crystalline waters.
"Are you kidding? I'm not chancing becoming food to some random Jetsam who thinks I'm just a scrawny fish!" Prince shot back indignantly, sitting on his heels and putting his hands on his hips.
I let my head hit the sand and gazed up at the sky. Prince was right. Despite our happy anticipation of the beach, it was actually a let-down.
I looked over to my owner, who was fast asleep with her sunglasses on, the peculiar sight of only her head sticking up out of the sand available for all to see. Kougra was bent over her, moving in more sand to cover her neck.
"You buried her?" Prince questioned incredulously.
"She asked for it!" Kougra claimed, patting in a last heap of sand. "Can we go get some grub? I'm starving."
"Yeah, I could use a walk." I got to my feet and brushed dirt off my shorts. I froze, surveying the beach before groaning. "Where's Nicky?"
"He's over by--" Kougra halted as he turned, meeting empty air. "Uh... I swear, he was here just a second ago..."
"And thus, our owner's slumber is a blessing." Prince started towards the trail leading out of the beach. "Guess we better go find the little tyke."
Kougra shoved in another small pile of sand on our snoring owner before scrambling to his feet and trailing after us. We walked for a while before Kougra cleared his throat. "So... where are we searching exactly?"
"I have NO idea!" I proclaimed, throwing my hands in the air.
Prince stared up at me with his typical annoying-little-brother face and crossed his arms. "How about we try the Island Mystic?"
"Why him? Trying to get the avatar or something?" Kougra teased, poking Prince in the back of the head.
"No, you idiot! Maybe he'll give us a hint to Nicky."
"You actually believe the stuff he says?" Kougra scoffed incredulously.
"You never know! Maybe he'll help us," Prince pointed out, shoving Kougra back.
"Prince is right. We do need a quick pointer and even if the Mystic is wrong, we might be able to catch a clue. Let's go." I grabbed Prince's hand and raced down the trail, towards the Island Mystic's shack.
It took us the span of ten minutes and we got there gasping for breath, Kougra lumbering behind and grumbling something about too many donuts.
I shoved my way through a mingling line of tourists, who all scowled in that way only annoying tourists seemed to master. With Prince by my side, we approached the Mystic, who grinned at us in an almost clandestine way.
"Welcome to my little hut," he greeted, giving a sweeping bow. "I guess you came to have your fortune told, eh?"
"Yeah. I, uh, lost my little brother, and we could maybe use some help..." I explained as Kougra elbowed through the crowd, gaining more complaints, and he was eventually beside me as well.
"Ah, I see. Well, here it is..." The Mystic sat down at a rickety bamboo table and waved his hands over a cracked glass orb sitting in the middle. He nodded a couple of times and then closed his eyes.
"You... will mistakenly crush all of your neopoints at the food shop."
And with that, he opened his eyes and smirked our way. "Remember to come back tomorrow!"
"WHAT?!" Kougra spat, and I quickly dragged him out before he could throw something at the Mystic... most likely the item being one of the privacy-invading tourists.
"This is ridiculous!" my brother spat, kicking aside a rock. "That gave us no clues at all."
"Maybe we should still look around here," I insisted hopefully. I had only ever lost Nicky a few times... okay, more than a few times... and all usually resulted in everyone panicking and us tackling Nicky in a love hug the minute we found him and almost strangling the poor guy.
Prince tugged on my shirt and I looked down at him. "Prince, seriously, we don't have time for--"
"But Tiger!" he exclaimed. "Maybe the Mystic did give us a clue."
"You're kidding yourself, lil' bro," Kougra snorted. "He's nothing but a tourist attraction and a neopoint sink... well... if he had charged anything."
"But didn't you listen? He said we'd mistakenly crush all our neopoints at the food shop! If I remember right, Nicky was looking after our beach bag... and we lost him by mistake, right?"
"You're confusing me," Kougra grunted. "Cut to the chase."
"Maybe Nicky wandered off to food store here or something! And by crushing our neopoints, he'd be spending it all on the stuff he wants!"
"Prince, you're a genius!" I praised and Kougra glared my way. "And why don't I get to be a genius? ...besides, what if Nicky's not there?"
"It wouldn't hurt to look," Prince insisted, shrugging his shoulders.
"Let's try it. We need to find Nicky before Lizzy wakes up, kills us, brings us back to life, then kills us again." I pushed past walking passerby and followed the trail to the food shop, Prince right by my side. Kougra groaned in frustration and followed us, slowly jogging.
The shopkeeper was counting money once we reached him and he looked down at us with a greedy smile. "Can I help you kids? Want some fruit? I got a new stock of--"
"We're not here to buy anything," I hastily said. "We were just wondering if you maybe saw a Baby Kougra around here, wearing red swim trunks?"
"Perhaps with a bag of neopoints?" Prince added.
"A twerp and a shrimp who likes to steal my stuff?" Kougra huffed.
The shopkeeper shrugged, not seeming too interested since we weren't there for sales. "I dunno. I think. Some little tyke did buy from me, but he headed off earlier."
And the shopkeeper pointed off to the distance. "He went that way. Said something about exploring the volcano."
"VOLCANO?!" I just about shrieked, all eyes turning on me. "Is he CRAZY?!"
"Probably," the shopkeeper said.
"We gotta get going then. Thank you." Again, I headed off, probably looking like a skilled marathoner. Prince yelped in surprise and struggled to catch up to me. Kougra only pushed a kid off his bike, took it from him, and pedaled after us with the kid screaming behind him.
We reached the volcano in record time and a Kougra donning hula girl clothes caught the sight of us and shook her head at our rush. "I wouldn't be too hasty. It's pretty hot up there."
"I would think," I sighed, rubbing my forehead. "Look, I heard my brother ran towards this direction. Baby Kougra... swim trunks... stolen money... yeah?"
The girl looked bemused at the description, but I was done trying to make us look sane. She rubbed her chin in thought before nodding. "Yeah, I turned away a little boy about a half hour ago. He didn't have any codestones with him and it's dangerous going up there when you don't have anything to make that volcano happy. I sent him on his way, and he took that trail." She pointed to the said trail and I moaned, knowing we were on some type of wild Mallard chase. "Alright. Thank you, though. Really, I appreciate it..."
Kougra pedaled up, ringing a tiny bell as he approached. "Hop on! I got it for a five finger discount!"
"You stole it?" Prince gasped, wide-eyed.
"No! I used five fingers to push a kid offa it. By the way, you better hurry, he might be following..."
I hopped into the seat and Kougra held on from the back. Prince balanced himself on the handlebars and we were off, heading down the third trail of the day.
"What'd the girl say?" Kougra inquired.
"Nicky went down this way. If I recall too, the Training School is over here... we oughta check there," Prince suggested, pointing to a faraway building. "Because who knows when Lizzy will wake."
"Even if she DOES..." Kougra chuckled. "I think I buried her too deep for her to get out fast enough. It'll take her probably an hour or so... you know she's not good with digging!"
"I'm not even gonna comment." I pedaled a little faster and then turned off of the path, parking the bike beside the small building. "You guys stay out here. I guess I'll ask if anyone has seen Nicky around."
I got off the bike and entered the small building, finding class was currently in session. Big kids who looked to be my age were swinging around wooden sticks and I could clearly see Nicky in the midst of them. He was only waving the stick around, whacking a couple of kids while he was at it.
I ran up in shock, scooping the tyke up and giving him my best mad-big-brother glare. "Nicky! What were you thinking, running off like that?"
"Huh? But it's vacation! Our owner said we could explore..." Nicky whined, and the class suddenly stopped as they noticed me.
"Who are you?" the Techo Master inquired as the class turned and stared at me.
"Um... I'm his brother. He's not supposed to be here." I motioned to the pouting Nicky in my arms and one of the kids nearby scoffed like I had said the most truest thing in the world.
"Very well. Go on and take him. Now, class... DEATH CHOP!"
All the kids picked up their sticks and swung hard and I yelped, barely avoiding getting my tail "death chopped". I stomped out of the building and Prince and Kougra straightened up at the sight of Nicky.
"About time! We need to get back to the beach!" Kougra threw his hands up in the air and glared Nicky's way. "We were supposed to be enjoying our vacation."
"Our so-called vacation," Nicky grumped as I sat him in the bicycle seat. "Tiger got mad at me for exploring! What's a vacation without exploring?"
"A vacation where I'm not scouring Mystery Island like a madman trying to find you!" I hissed, mounting the bike and heading towards the beach. "We were worried, Nicky."
"M'sorry," I heard the tyke say. "I got bored after watching Kougra bury our owner. And the sand isn't good for any sandcastles!"
I let out a low chuckle to ease up on my anger and tousled his hair. "S'alright, lil' bro. Just... quit running off on us. Next time, I'm calling Defenders of Neopia on you."
"Knowing him, he'd enjoy that," Prince scoffed, crossing his arms.
We reached the beach in no time, since we were all engaged in happy conversation. Much to our surprise, however, Lizzy was nowhere to be seen.
"Um... where'd she go?" I stammered as Kougra groaned. "Don't tell me she ran off, too!"
But just as suddenly, the water receded and we heard a loud shout of "I'M FREEE!" followed by a loud pop.
We turned our head to see Lizzy staggering up, covered in dirt and sopping wet. "Man, that was a workout... good thing the tide woke me up, though. I would've gotten a sunburn..." She nodded at our weird seating on the bicycle. "Where'd you get that bike?"
"...bought it," we all lied in unison.
"Cool! How about we swing by the food shop or something? I'm hungry. Climbing out from your half-grave really works up an appetite." She marched up to the bike and nodded. "Scoot over."
At that moment, a kid emerged from the trees, menacingly waving a tree branch and followed by multiple tourists. "There! That's the guy that stole my bike!"
Kougra yelped and jumped from his seat, racing off down the beach as the kid followed, the angry riot on his tail. Lizzy only watched for a second before taking Kougra's spot. "Eh, he'll lose them eventually. Where'd you guys go anyway?"
"Um... just... around," Prince stated, waving his hand in a no-matter fashion.
"You should've grabbed a tour! But it cost money, so maybe you did the good thing getting a bike. But whatever!" She sat back, replacing her water-smeared and dirt-covered sunglasses. "LEZZGO!"