Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 123,711,044 Issue: 249 | 21st day of Swimming, Y8
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A Change of Heart


by stars_and_stripes180

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"How much do you need, Advini?" a young woman asked her pet, as she tied her hair up in a neat bun outside of the Trading Post.

     "Whatever," Advini the Lupe replied bluntly.

     "Well, um... how about 100k?" the owner prompted, trying to get some feedback.

     Her pet stared at her, his unfathomable features cast in shadow. Slightly annoyed, she handed him the bag of Neopoints, and turned to walk away.

     After a few steps, she looked back at him, and whispered, "Be safe." Then she guided her attention forward, and disappeared into the crowd.

     The shadow Lupe rolled his eyes. Kelly, his owner, was always being protective. And she was always trying to start conversations. He remembered a time when he had enjoyed that, but that was before he had gotten painted shadow. Now, he just tried to ignore her.

     He knew Kelly was worried for him. Any owner would be; most shadow pets didn't eat much, play much, talk much, and, over all, do much. But to him, it didn't matter. Somehow, nothing mattered anymore. That was the way Advini liked it. No worries, no cares. Just me, myself, and I, he thought.

     Advini kicked at a pebble with his foot, wondering what to do until Kelly came to get him. With each kick, he became more aggressive, kicking the pebble harder and farther than the previous time. After watching the pebble fly into the air and land about two yards away, he decided that it was time to do something else, before the pebble hit someone.

     Advini shuffled around, loitering at flashy displays, until he came to a large crowd of people huddled around a trading table. Hoping to find something to entertain him, Advini pushed past Neopets and owners until he came to the front. On the table, surrounded by thick metal bars, sat a lone petpet, its skin as black as his.

     He turned his great, black eyes from person to person, his eyes resting their gaze on Advini. The caged petpet looked up at him, his eyes sad and begging. They looked like pools of void against his dark fur, glistening in the noon day sun.

     Advini directed his stare from the petpet to the large gold Skeith behind the trading table. "What is it?" he asked, referring to the petpet. Maybe he could buy the petpet for himself. As much as he liked his privacy, he sometimes felt too lonely. He found himself wondering if a petpet would solve this problem.

     "A Gangee. A black Gangee. Only one for sale," the Skeith bragged in a lazy voice.

     "How much?" Advini questioned, raising one eyebrow. He knew that rare items usually sold for a lot-or at least more than he could afford, but he asked anyway.

     "200k firm, kid. You're lucky I couldn't sell him for more, or he'd cost a fortune."

     The Lupe knew he had only half that much, and he knew the Skeith wouldn't pity his situation. Advini needed to find Kelly; she would have the money he needed. But the crowd was eager to get the petpet as well, and it would certainly be gone by the time he got back. "210k if you hold it for me," he offered.

     "Hmm... alright. No one in this dump seems to have much more. Waiting one hour maximum, kid."

     "Deal," Advini told the Skeith eagerly, and turned back to push his way through the crowd. Once he was clear of the large gathering, he headed toward the book section. Advini knew the Trading Post by heart; he had had been there many times before. And, normally, after he was done lurking around, he would go back to find Kelly in the book section. Kelly went to the book section every time they came to buy books for Hallie, who loved to read and learn. Advini snorted. Thank God his sister wasn't old enough to come, or he would probably have to drag her along. He'd rather do his bidding alone, in all honesty.

     Not long after he entered the book section, he spotted Kelly. She was near the front, trying to haggle on a rather large book, owned by a very persistent and annoyed looking Lenny, who was, at the moment, waving his wings furiously while Kelly tried to shout above his high pitched squawks.

     Advini walked up to the rambling pair, cool and calm as ever, and put a paw on Kelly's shoulder. The two immediately stopped the racket at the sight of the shadow Lupe.

     "Yes, Advini?" Kelly said, her throat dry from shouting and her face red from her effort.

     "I need 110k," he replied bluntly, not bothering to elaborate.

     "For what?" she asked curiously.

     Advini shrugged. "Stuff."

     Kelly gave him an odd look before reluctantly handing him a bag, clutched in her hand, along with a book. "I suppose I couldn't have won this fight anyway," she sighed, giving up on the Lenny's trade.

     Advini accepted the burlap bag, and began to run somewhat eagerly away from his owner. Turning back to look at Kelly, he noticed that the book she was holding was titled 'Parenting; How Do I Get Through to My Pet?' Suddenly, foreign emotion swelled inside him, forcing him to stop in his tracks. Starting again to a quick pace, he tried to shrug it off. Advini couldn't. For the first time in many, many months, he felt a mix of feelings. For the first time in many, many months, he felt anything at all. Advini felt torn, every little emotion that he masked for the last year or so came pouring out, making him stagger.

     "Are you all right, Advini?" Kelly asked, jogging up to him.

     "Y-yes, thanks for worrying..."

     "Thanks? Are you feeling alright?" There was genuine concern in Kelly's voice.

     "Y-yeah..." Advini felt that Kelly ought to know what was going on, so he continued, "I just felt a bit weird."

     "Advini, what's wrong?"

     "Nothing. And I have to, uh, be somewhere," Advini said awkwardly, and rushed off.

     "Wait, Advini!"

     "Can you wait? I really do have something reserved. Let's just talk about this later," came his dry reply. The Shadow pet didn't have time to give his owner the details she asked for. She would have to wait.

     "Fine," Kelly agreed, and ran after her pet.

     The pair pushed their way through the big crowd to the front, where the Skeith sat waiting.

     "Ok, well, here's your money," Advini said, handing the petpet's owner his and Kelly's money.

     The Skeith hastily and greedily counted the Neopoints, and took the cage carelessly, half tossing, half handing it to Advini. "Take care of 'im for me," he said, letting out a low, rumbling laugh.

     The crowd thinned, as disappointed onlookers departed. Advini walked behind a red Aisha, next to Kelly.

     "Ok. Can we talk now?" Kelly asked him, as they exited the Trading Post.

     "Um, sure," Advini murmured, stroking his new petpet.

     "Alright, what happened out there?" She gestured to the front of the book section.

     "I dunno, I just felt kind of, well, everything at the same time. It was as if I had locked up all my feelings, and I finally found the key," Advini admitted, as they strolled out of the Trading Post. Even he was surprised at the way he put his experience. "I just realized how different I had become. I think... maybe... I missed being unpainted." He looked up at Kelly. She had a tear in her eye and a smile on her face. "Are you ok?" he asked, concerned.

     She nodded. "I... I just haven't seen you like this for so long, and it makes me so happy to know that you're finally yourself again. I've been waiting months for this. I was afraid it'd never come. But, please, continue."

      "Oh, don't get mushy on me." Advini smiled wryly at that. "By the way, can I ask you something?"

     "Shoot," Kelly joked.

     "Ok. Here goes. If you missed the old me so much, then why didn't you just paint me red again?" Advini questioned.

     Kelly paused for a long, awkward moment. Then she spoke. "I was afraid that you would still stay the same. And I knew you would protest if I tried to paint you again."

     Advini smiled. "At least that day never has to come."

     At last, they had reached their cozy cottage. As Kelly searched for the key, Advini smiled, really, truly smiled, just long enough for her to catch a glimpse. And, at that very moment, he felt a release, the end-no, the beginning-of a change inside himself. He looked down at his petpet, afraid to see sad, beady eyes. Instead of finding sadness, he found a glimmer of hope, a spark of light.

     Advini, over time, fully shed the shadow of himself, and found the real person, deep within him. He learned that he had been wrong about the paintbrush and its effects. True, it was still more than a style; it was a lesson. Chosen by fate for those who must learn. Advini became a satisfied pet, and devoted himself to exploring everything he had missed before that one fateful day.

The End

 
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