SNRPG: Series 1
Keiko And The Chocolate Factory
The fresh, cheery lights of Usukiland shone through the Neopia Central twilight. Normally there would be people milling about now; it was spring, and the evenings were bright and clear. Today a lockdown had just ended, and a scream had been heard. Everyone was inside.
Everyone except a small red gelert, who had dropped her newly purchased Beautiful Bunches Usuki Hair Set when a massive mutant grundo had appeared in the pebeanjay bushes and picked her up. It was the gelert who had screamed. (Well, yelped, really.)
Leslie Tuatara, alias pretty soldier of love and justice Sailor Lupe, ran down the suddenly-clear paths of the Neopian Bazaar and grasped her transformation pen in her hand. "Lupe Neo Power, Make Up!"
The first time she'd transformed, she was standing still. This time she was yanked out of mid-run to find herself floating in glitter and ribbons. When she returned to the ground, she was standing still, in a pose that looked like a half pounce; it took her a moment to get her bearings.
I was going that way, right? Yeah, there's the grooming parlor.
Sailor Lupe started running, invigorated by whatever energy the transformation had given her. She found the grundo quickly, still clutching the red gelert in one hand. It had approached the doors of Usukiland, which were now closed and padlocked - not that it mattered much, as the grundo was too big to fit through the doorway.
"Put her down!" yelled Sailor Lupe.
She got the thing's attention. The massive green bulk turned and fixed its blank red gaze on her.
This thing isn't talking at all. Maybe it's not as smart as the last one, she reasoned. Maybe I can outwit it.
Then the grundo apparently decided that the best way to deal with her was a good smashing. It plodded towards her and raised a fist (the one without the whimpering pet in it) high above her head.
Outwit it. Right. It was like trying to outwith an avalanche. No matter how smart you were, it would still flatten you.
Time for brute force, then. She raised her arms. "Lupe Lunge!"
Green paws shot from her palms and hit the fist. The last time she'd done this, the whole creature had disintegrated. This time, just the arm fell apart, collapsing into ash.
It was enough.
The mutant looked down at the crumbling arm, stupefied. Lupe quickly followed up her advantage: "Lupe Lunge!" This one hit the stomach; it was knocked over, and wavering. "Lupe Lunge!" This time the whole thing fell apart, leaving a frightened pet on the ground shaking the dust from its coat.
Sailor Lupe paused to catch her breath. Releasing those bursts of energy had worn her down. So she wasn't invincible.
The little gelert looked up at her; it looked like it was about to say something, but lost its nerve and dashed off towards the clothes shop. Windows were beginning to open in the buildings around, and heads poked out through doors. Lupe watched the pet run into the arms of a purple-haired young girl coming out of Uni's Clothing. So that was her owner.
Watching them, Lupe smiled. Then she took a deep breath and ran for the copse behind Gifts Galore, to detransform in the shelter of the trees before the Bazaar got crowded and active again.
Sixty-four million years passed, and the battle was reduced to a distant memory. Or maybe it was eighty million years. Time just seemed to stand still in science class.
It was another unusually hot day in Eating, and Leslie was trapped in bio, taking notes on the anatomy of the mortog. She'd been there for an eternity at least: she distinctly remembered the rise and set of thousands of suns and the waxing and waning of Kreludor passing by her window.
But surely there were only a few more eons until lunch, and escape from the giggles of Abira Anion and company, who were passing notes - making sure Leslie saw them - casting wild (and wildly misspelt) accusations about her personal hygiene habits.
Leslie looked at her watch. Five more years. Or, in Neopian time, thirty more seconds.
As the lunch bell rang, Leslie hightailed it out of the classroom, hoping to make a quick getaway to the cafeteria. But it was not to be: The doorway was crowded with a pair of loitering teenagers, including Abira - whom Leslie promptly smacked into.
"Watch it, lupe-tail hair," she snarled, flicking Leslie's shoulder.
Allie Rider, a girl with long blonde hair, chimed in, "Eeeww. Abbie, now you're going to smell like a lupe all day!"
"I'd better go to the girls' room and wash up, then." Abbie smirked and tossed her hair while Leslie studied her shoes. "Coming, Allie?"
But Allie was staring across the hall. "Ugh, check out the acara face!" she exclaimed.
That's new, thought Leslie, following her gaze.
The small black-haired girl walking down the hall did indeed have an odd resemblance to an acara, with her almond-shaped lavender eyes and small nose; but the comparison was furthered by the blue, fuzzy, acara-shaped bag she was carrying. She wore the jumper version of the NCJH uniform, which was uncommon; to make matters worse, she sported white knitted knee socks with loud pink hearts.
Abbie laughed out loud. "Hey, acara girl, are you lost? This school doesn't admit pets, you know."
"Or are you a mutant halfling? I don't think they even have schools for those!" called Allie after the retreating form.
Suddenly Mrs. Filmore, the enthusiastic striped zafara who taught biology, appeared in the doorway behind them. "Shouldn't you girls be enjoying your lunch?" she asked. The question was innocuous, but the tone was unmistakable: Get out of my classroom and leave that girl alone.
Leslie took the opportunity to head after the acara-faced girl, following her in the cafeteria and standing behind her in the lunch line. The new girl (or so Leslie assumed) hemmed and hawed over side dishes. ("Well, I really like baked potatoes, but I should be paying attention to what I eat, and the salad does have croutons . . .") But she finally sat down, and Leslie paused at the end of the cafeteria line.
I've never actually gone up and talked to anyone before. Is it worth it? she wondered to herself. Then, I wouldn't have said hello to her before, but . . . would Sailor Lupe?
Yes, she decided, and with new resolve she approached the table where the black-haired girl sat, munching on a caesar salad. "Umm . . . hi. Can I sit here?" she asked self-consciously.
"Why? So you can call me a mutant acara-face?" grumbled the other girl.
"No!" Leslie exclaimed. "I mean - those girls, uh, they aren't my friends. I'm Leslie. What's your name?" Although Leslie couldn't see the pleading look in her own eyes, it was readily apparent to anyone watching her.
"Keiko," sighed the black-haired girl. "Sit down. I'm sorry to snipe at you like that."
Leslie didn't need to be asked twice. She set her tray on the table and took a seat across from Keiko. One long, awkward pause later, Keiko broke the silence: "What grade are you in?"
"Eighth." Leslie took a sip of her milk.
"I'm in seventh." Keiko hesitated. "You know, no one was this mean at my old school. I had friends . . ."
"So you're new?"
There was another silence as the two chewed on their respective lunches. It didn't last long, however.
"Hi Leslie!" chirped Briana as she plopped down beside her friend. "I've been looking, like, all over for you! It's a good thing I ran into Allie, or else I never would have figured out where you were."
Leave it to Allie, thought Leslie.
"Hey," the blonde squeaked through a mouthful of cheese fries, "I haven't seen you around before. You new?" She gestured at Keiko with her straw.
"Yeah," replied Keiko.
"Hey, that's great! Welcome to NCJH. I swear to Donna, we have the hottest guys ever at this school. Even some of the teachers are to die for! Like that kyrii who teaches ninth-grade math? Mmmm-mmmm! I hope I'm in his class here. You'll love it here," she assured the new girl, downing a can of Neocola in one gulp. "So where are you from?"
Twitching her nose slightly, Keiko glanced at the clock. "I'm from--"
"Oooohmigosh," gasped Bri. "Don't tell me - you're from Mystery Island, aren't you? Yup, I knew it! I could tell from your killer tan." After devouring a few more fries, she continued. "MI is like, my favorite vacation spot ever. I swear to Donna. But it would take me a lot more than a weekend to get that kind of skin." She eyed Keiko's complexion enviously. "Why would you ever want to move away from a place like that?"
"I didn't. My father changed jobs." The girl's lavender eyes continued to watch the time. "Say, do you know a girl named Skye Welsh?"
Bri considered this. "I know the name . . . she's a sevvie, isn't she? Oh, yeah, I don't really hang out with younger kids like her because I'm pretty mature for my age." She giggled. "But she has that, like, red hair and yells at people about the life spirit charakarmas inside of you, right? Yeah, I thought that was her. No offense, but she has really got to try some new makeup! I swear to Donna, she has such nice cheekbones but she does nothing to bring them out. And those long, flowy skirts she wears - what are they called? Pleasants, those do nothing for her figure either."
"Uh, Bri . . ." Leslie stared at the blonde pointedly.
"Oh, sorry Leslie! Do you want some cheese fries?" She pushed the plate towards Leslie's tray. "Take as many as you want. I'm on a diet," she announced, opening another can of Neocola.
Irritated, Keiko stood up. "I'm going to look for her. See you, Leslie, Leslie's friend."
"Bye! Have fun with your classes!" Briana called after her.
"Briana," Leslie began. "That wasn't very nice. What you said about that girl. It sounds like she's Keiko's friend."
Suddenly Bri started to chew her lip. "I'm sorry," she moaned. "Do you want me to go apologize to her? I mean, I - I didn't mean to hurt anybody's feelings . . ." Her eyes filled up with tears, and Leslie balked.
"No - no - it's okay, Bri," she said hastily. "Um, it'll be fine."
Bri sniffled and wiped her eyes. "Thanks, Leslie! Y'know, you're such a good friend."
Briana insisted that they go to the marketplace that afternoon; Leslie wanted to look for Keiko, but her protests were drowned by Bri's insistence that she just had to see these cute T-shirts that Uni's Clothing had just gotten in. While the blonde stood outside the shop window and enthused about the swimsuit on the mannequin, Leslie looked around.
The marketplace didn't look any less bustling than usual, which was odd considering the lockdown and the attack. But then Leslie started to notice the frost cannons. Once she spotted one, more caught her eye; there were plainclothes officers of all breeds behind every corner, each one attending a colored cannon.
With this kind of police presence, no wonder people felt safe being out and about.
Next to the massive Uni's Clothing outlet was a small electronics store, with televisions in the windows; Leslie glanced over at the news. Neil Kauvato was talking about stock prices when the screen flashed BREAKING NEWS. "More on EEEE's progress later," he informed viewers. "I've just been informed that there's an attack currently taking place. For more, we turn to Island reporter Tricia Tapira. Tricia?"
"Thank you, Neil," said the stoic shadow wocky from the scene of the attack. "I'm here outside the chocolate factory, where a hideous mutant recently appeared and began attacking shoppers. Excuse me, sir!" She held out her microphone to a peophin gliding past. "Can you tell me what your impression was of the mutant?"
"Are you crazy, lady? I'm getting out of here!" replied the peophin, and floated off as fast as its fins would carry it.
The mutant grundo chose that moment to lumber around the side of the stone tower that was the Chocolate Factory. "Can we get a close-up of that?" asked Tricia, stepping to the side. "Yes, that's it - there's the creature itself. Freezing weapons appear to have no effect," she added, as frost cannons were turned on it. "Fortunately, most people were able to vacate the area in time, and this attack has not been marked by a hostage-taking."
A sea-green-furred anthropomorphic acara in a tank top and running shorts dashed into view behind Tricia, and she - and the camera - turned to greet the new arrival. "Excuse me, miss," said Tricia, "but you're running the wrong way. What could possibly compel you to approach this monster?"
"My owner's in there!" snapped the acara, pointing to the chocolate factory. The mutant grundo was crossing the drawbridge and approaching the doors. Unlike the strong little entrance of Usukiland, these doors were made of wood and very, very large.
Keiko Wilson had had a long day. She'd been insulted by Abbie and Allie; put down by Leslie's oblivious friend; and she hadn't found the girl she'd been looking for, Skye. She needed chocolate.
She was at the counter, fretting over her options: "I've never tried the iced uni cookie, but I already know I like chocolate cherry moehogs . . . ooh, chocolate lipstick, that's unusual . . ."
Keiko didn't notice the people in line behind her tapping their feet, hooves, claws, paws, etcetera. She'd decided just to get a chocolate bar, and was working on mallowicious versus peppermint praline, when they all went to the window. And by the time she resolved to do something different for once and get the chococherry blumaroo ears, she was the only one left in the shop.
She looked up from the rows of candy to find no one manning the cash register. While she was looking around for someone to take her money, the door broke down.
"Keiko, run!" came a familiar voice from behind the giant mutant that was now staring her down.
"Sea, is that you?" she called back, looking wildly around for a place to hide.
"Yeah, it's me." As the grundo advanced, the green Seaweed_Acara_, who had belonged to Keiko's mother and was now officially hers, appeared behind it. "Run! I'll keep it busy." She ran up to the monster and delivered a judo chop to its ribs.
The creature looked down at Sea, then swatted her against the wall with one massive hand. She fell to the ground, and the creature went back to advancing on Keiko.
The black-haired girl backed up until she reached the far wall of the shop. "This isn't happening . . ." she murmured, sinking to the floor.
For some reason, there was a cup next to her.
She did a double-take. Yes, that was definitely a fancy cup of some sort. Golden and very ornate, with all kinds of jewels. What was that in it? A pen?
She picked up the pen; it was bright blue and soft pink and made her think of water.
Words came into her mind, and she held up the pen and shouted them without thinking: "Acara Neo Power, Make Up!"
A whirlpool surrounded her, and she was engulfed in the depths of the water, suspended, covered, soaked--
And then she was standing, in a short-skirted uniform of with a blue skirt and collar and pink trim. She felt stronger - faster - more alert. She stared down the grundo. "All right, you - you hurt Sea, and you're going to pay for that!" she declared, hoping she could actually make good on her promise.
The grundo took a step closer.
Another phrase came into her mind, and the last one had worked so well that she said this one too. "Acara Purr!"
A beam of sonic energy flowed from her, sounding like a cross between a deep purr and the crash of ocean breakers on the rocks. The mutant fell back, shuddering, its whole body vibrating--
Something slammed into the grundo from behind; it fell forward and crumbled into a pile of dust in a matter of seconds. Keiko (if indeed she was still Keiko) looked across the dust to see another girl in a uniform like hers, with a faerie on her shoulder.
There was a moment of awkward silence.
"Um, excuse me," said Keiko at last, "but who are you?"
"I'm Sailor Lupe," said the other. That explained the ears. "And you?"
"I'm not really sure," she confessed.
"You're Sailor Acara," put in the faerie. "The colors of your uniform make it clear."
Sailor Acara. The name felt right.
"I'll draw off the media, and then we can talk," said Sailor Lupe. "Detransform and meet me in the arcade in fifteen minutes."
"Just concentrate on being your regular self." Sailor Acara did so, and found herself turning back into plain Keiko again. Sailor Lupe's eyes widened, but she didn't comment. Instead, she turned to look at Sea. "Kaen, can you help her?"
"I can try. What level is she?"
"She used to be a Battledome pet," offered Keiko. "So it's pretty high."
The faerie nodded, and blessed Sea with the power of Regeneration.
The camera got a brief shot of Sailor Lupe; she was almost gone before they realized she was leaping out of the shop, and even then she was moving too fast to see.
A minute later, a tired-looking Keiko and a bruised Sea walked out of the shop. Tricia Tapira descended on them. "Were you, as we are led to believe, saved by this woman?" she asked, holding out the microphone.
"We really don't want to talk about it," said Sea briskly, deflecting the reporter. "We've just been through an ordeal. Let us go home."
"There you have it, folks," Tricia told the camera. "A mysterious savior! No one knows who she is or where she comes from, but today she has been caught on film. This is Tricia Tapira, for Channel One news."
Keiko explained everything to Sea, and the two appeared in the arcade exactly fifteen minutes after the attack. Keiko wasn't sure what she was supposed to be looking for; she spotted Leslie and her blonde friend over by Usuki Frenzy, with the blonde completely absorbed in a game.
Then Leslie spotted her and walked quietly over. "Hi," she murmured. "It's me. I'm Sailor Lupe."
That explained the hair.
They had a long conversation, masked by the sound of dings and splats and explosions from the games around them; Briana (the blonde friend, Keiko learned) was too caught up in the game to interrupt.
She listened to the story of Leslie's, Sailor Lupe's first fight, and the backstory of the Sailor Neopets. She was disappointed to find out that Leslie didn't have much battle experience. "I only started last week," she confessed. "I'm not an expert. I just do the attack, and if I do it enough, the mutants get disintegrated."
"So you don't know what they're here for?" pressed Keiko.
"No. They seem to be sent by Dr. Sloth, but I don't know why, or if there's any connection to this Chaos Faerie."
"So our strategy is basically just to wait until something attacks, and hope we show up in time to stop it."
"Well, yes," said Leslie sheepishly. "I don't know what else we can do."
"But there are more of us? So we can find them all, and together we get to save Neopia?"
"That's the plan," said the little earth faerie.
Keiko toyed with her new blue-and-pink pen. "I think I can deal with that," she decided.