Still thwarting Sloth's mind control... Circulation: 177,073,856 Issue: 335 | 21st day of Running, Y10
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Backfire!: Part One


by raizindaroof

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Jhudora was reclining in her throne, examining her long green fingernails with evident boredom. Her gaze flickered to the magnificent Faerie City, a vision of perfection and wonder against a backdrop of deepest blue, the sky. She narrowed her eyes. One of these days, she would execute her brilliant plans, and she wouldn't be sitting here on this infernal cloud, giving out quests to overeager Neopets...

     A shadow Cybunny appeared out of nowhere, startling her. "Hey, Jhudora!"

     She was surprised at first, but this quickly passed. She scowled. "What do you want, Kaz? Don't tempt me, or I'll turn you into vapor again."

     Kaz smirked. "Don't worry. I'm just here for a favor."

     "I don't do favors," she spat, giving the word a nasty tone. "You know that."

     "I know, but this'll be good," he wheedled.

     Jhudora sighed deeply, drumming her fingers on the armrest of her throne, clearly annoyed. "Another prank, I assume."

     Kaz nodded eagerly.

     "And why would I help you?"

     The Cybunny narrowed his eyes and looked off into the distance. "My stupid sister told on me for something I didn't do. She told Taylor I was the one that threw water balloons at our neighbors while they were having a garden party outside. I mean, if I'd've thought to do that, I would've done it, but..."

     Jhudora exhaled deeply. "You missed my point. Why should I care?"

     Kaz looked as if he'd been prepared for this question. "Because it'll cause my sister pain, suffering, and intense embarrassment."

     The Dark Faerie seemed to consider this. "Look, Kaz... compelling though your reasons may be..."

     "It'll also give her a really bad fur day," he added.

     Now Jhudora let a thin smile tug at her lips. "How may I be of assistance?"

     ***

     Asha was a Royal Zafara, and as far as everyone else was concerned, she was perfect -- pretty, popular...

     Not to mention a complete airhead.

     She was also a pain in the rear. Kaz was convinced that her only purpose in this world was to make him miserable by any means necessary. Perky, smiley -- that was how she played the game. She couldn't string together a sentence without unwittingly weaving in the words "like," "totally," and "whatever," but she was smart enough to use her charms against him. After little Benny, the neighbor, had been discovered soaking wet near bits and pieces of burst balloons, Asha had immediately pointed out Kaz, and nobody questioned it. Kaz was a loose cannon, a prankster -- Asha knew he hadn't done it, he'd been in his room preparing to Negg the house across the street. Why would he pick a little gardening nut of a Bruce to be a water balloon target, anyway? But there was innocent, smiling Asha blaming the troublemaker, Kaz, and with a fierceness he hadn't believed possible, Kaz was grounded.

     This'll teach her.

     As Kaz hopped gleefully onto the front porch, he paused and held up a beautiful necklace. The chain was an intricate silver and at the end dangled a gorgeous golden heart. It caught the light and dazzled, and even Kaz, who wasn't an expert on such matters, had to admit that it was a true treasure.

     Perfect. Asha will put it on, no question.

     And Kaz would have the last laugh when it exploded.

     He frowned then. Jhudora had agreed to place a spell upon the necklace, but she told him that it would take time for the spell to take effect -- four hours, to be exact. It wouldn't be a large explosion, but it would scare the fur off of Asha. Kaz grinned fleetingly, then masked his diabolical smile with a look of disinterest, and pushed the door open, enfolding the necklace in his paw.

     Kaz raced up the stairs and skidded to a halt at a closed door. The sign read, "ASHA'S ROOM," and the letters were entwined in hearts and flowers interchangeably. Feeling as if he might retch, Kaz took a deep breath.

     In and out in five seconds... just to give her the necklace...

     Without bothering to knock, Kaz grimaced and, against his better judgment, entered.

     Asha was at her mirror, obsessing over her reflection. Typical. As if that weren't enough, the room itself made him gag. He was overwhelmed by pink. Pink furniture, pink ceiling, pink carpet, pink bed... she even seemed to have acquired a few new pink plushies since his last forced excursion here. Trying to keep the bile from rising, Kaz turned his eyes to Ashalica.

     Rolling his eyes, he said, "Hey, Ash, I've--"

     She cut him right off. "Whatever it is, I don't have time. Go away."

     Kaz blinked. "But I--"

     "I'm meeting Krista at the marketplace in two hours because she said that Lucas is going to be there, he works at the Smoothie Shop, you know, and it'll be, like, totally meant to be, you know what I mean?"

     Smile, nod. Kaz did this as if he had some clue as to what the feminine mind entailed. Recalling his purpose, he tried again. "Asha, I--"

     "Look, Kaz, I'm busy, okay, I've got to get ready, I've got to find something to wear, I need to get Tay to give me a few Neopoints so I can buy a smoothie--" She grabbed a letter off her desk. "--and I've got to read this, it's from Lydia, I need to find out if--"

     Growing impatient, Kaz snapped without thinking. "No, she won't go with you to the NC Mall this Friday, yes, she's going to the M*YNCI concert tonight, no, she's not bringing you, and yes, she's wearing that green top." Asha whipped around and regarded him suspiciously, and Kaz cleared his thought. "And, erm, no, I did not read your mail..."

     Asha scowled, turning back to her own reflection. "If you've got something to say, say it."

     Kaz thrust the necklace forward. "I saw -- er -- your friend, Danielle, at the Marketplace. She said she got this for you, for... your birthday. And she wanted me to bring it to you, because she didn't have the time to--"

     His smooth lie was wasted, however. Asha was instantly dazzled. "Look! It's gold!" she squealed. "And it's got sparkles!"

     Kaz nodded unenthusiastically. "Ew."

     "I am so going to wear this today!" Asha enthused. "And Kizzy's got some earrings that will totally match!" And with that, she sped past Kaz and flounced away.

     The Shadow Cybunny beat a hasty retreat from the vomit-inducing pink room, thinking some candy from the kitchen would wash the taste out of his mouth. But as he thundered down the stairs, he was smirking.

     Mission accomplished.

     ***

     Redsy was reclining on the sofa, flipping through one of Kizzy's hardcore, 900-page-long novels. He snorted in disgust as he thumbed through the pages. No pictures, no colors. And the words were tiny. He squinted to make out the text. These novels were obviously a conspiracy by the optometrists of the world, sucking people in with their interesting plot twists and dynamic characters, and then forcing them to buy glasses because they couldn't read the miniscule words.

     When he snapped the book shut, there was Kizzy, Kaz's twin sister, smirking, three inches in front of his face. The rainbow Lupe squealed and tossed the book aside. "I wasn't reading it or anything, I swear," he babbled at once, knowing how territorial Kizzy could be about her books.

     But the Shadow Cybunny rolled her eyes. "Forget the book." He blinked. He never thought he'd hear those words come out of her mouth. "Listen, Redsy. I know that you're the one who bombed little Benny with water balloons, and you let Kaz take the blame."

     He couldn't figure out if he was being reprimanded. He aimed for damage control. "No, it wasn't me, seriously -- I was at the Battledome--"

     "Right. And you came back soaking wet? With a couple of water balloons in your backpack?" Kizzy smiled. "That's a battle I would've liked to see."

     Knowing he was caught, the Lupe hung his head. "You going to tell?"

     "Not if you clean my room for me."

     "Done."

     "For two weeks."

     "Oh sure. Only if I get hazard pay." Redsy was pleading now. "C'mon, Kizzy, you share that room with Kaz. There's rotten food, Negg shells... possibly human remains."

     "Then just clean my side," she amended. "Wouldn't cleaning your noble, selfless older sister's room for two weeks be better than being locked up for two months with Taylor breathing down your neck?"

     Redsy sighed. "Fine."

     "Starting now."

     Kizzy watched as Redsy trotted hopelessly for the stairs, and she grinned, satisfied. What was the point of having a little brother if you couldn't blackmail him into cleaning your room? She turned and padded into the kitchen, glancing at the table. Her half-finished article for the Neopian Times was partially obscured by Asha's favorite sweater. Scowling, Kizzy moved it aside. How dare Asha let fashion override art.

     But Kizzy was hammered by writer's block. Hoping that something to drink might help, she opened the refrigerator and spotted the last can of NeoCola -- way in the back, blocked by a cheese wheel. Kaz's doing, of course. She pulled out the cheese, some milk, and a bottle of mustard, and closed her paw around the can. She took a generous swig, and made to set the can down on the table.

     The NeoCola knocked into the milk, which banged into the mustard, which hadn't been closed properly, and promptly spilled all over Ash's favorite sweater.

     "No!" Kizzy snatched up the sweater and ran it under the sink. Sure, Asha was a moron, but even she couldn't miss a mustard stain the size of Tyrannia -- especially on her favorite sweater. She'd gotten up at 4:30 to get to Uni's Clothing the day of the sale to get it. And Kizzy had destroyed it.

     Was it her imagination, or was the stain actually getting bigger? She yanked it away from the water and attempted to rub it out. She froze at the sound of footsteps in the hallway. In a whirl of panic, Kizzy wrenched open the walk-in pantry and tossed the sweater inside, slamming the door shut just as Taylor entered.

     "Hi, Kizzy," Taylor said cheerfully. "Guess what? Our guild's collecting stuff for the needy. We're going to make a big donation to the Money Tree tonight."

     "Nice."

     "Got anything you want to donate?"

     "Erm..." Kizzy was fighting her fear. Taylor was a slim fifteen-year-old girl, but she ate a constant stream of junk food that caused shocked expressions and raised eyebrows whenever people came over who had not yet been exposed to her manic eating habits. She had an odd schedule when it came to her precious potato chips and candy. Kizzy had once caught her scarfing down cupcakes at two in the morning. The urge to snag some chocolate could strike at any time, and Kizzy found herself slowly positioning herself in front of the pantry, in case Taylor bolted. "Well, I'll let you know."

     Taylor dropped a box overflowing with clothes on the kitchen floor, next to three others. "Oh! Idea!" she said brightly. "Canned food would be good, right? We've got some extra stuff in the pantry--"

     "No!" Nightmare-quality fear turned her insides to ice. "I mean -- yeah, canned food is good, but we've got a lot of stuff in the basement that we don't use anymore. Clothes, and whatnot... and I'd raid the basement now, if I were you, in case Kaz figures out what you're doing and tries to hoard it all." She looked at Taylor meaningfully. "You never know. He probably has some good pranking supplies hidden down there. Water balloons, maybe?"

     And with that profound speech, Kizzy sighed in relief as Taylor took off for the basement. The Cybunny waited a few seconds for the sound of Taylor pounding down the stairs, and then she pulled open the pantry door and flipped the light switch.

     There was her twin brother, Kaz, a bag of potato chips in one hand and in the other, Asha's ruined sweater, wearing the sort of smirk that told Kizzy he'd heard everything.

     ***

     Asha was searching Kizzy's room in a frenzy. What a slob, the Zafara thought in disgust. She was tossing jewelry over her shoulder, searching for the beautiful hoop earrings that she knew Kizzy had in here somewhere.

     "Come on, Kizzy," she muttered out loud, impatiently. "You've got to start leaving your earrings out where I can steal them!"

     A shout from below deviated her from her task. "Asha! Come down here!"

     "Forget it, Kaz! I'm busy!" she bellowed.

     "ASHA, SERIOUSLY, YOU NEED TO--"

     The Zafara straightened up, intrigued. She heard the sounds of muffled arguing and a very loud slap. "Kaz?" she called.

     "KIZZY, LET GO--"

     This sounded like an urgent matter that required her attention. At the very least, she'd get to see the twins fight. She sprang from her position in front of Kizzy's mirror and ran smack into Redsy in the doorway.

     "What are you doing?" the Lupe demanded suspiciously, rubbing his sore head where they'd collided.

     "What are you doing?"

     I'm cleaning Kizzy's room because she blackmailed me into doing it, so she won't tell Taylor that I was the one who threw the water balloons at the neighbor. If he told Asha, what was to stop her from blackmailing him, too? She'd force him to clean her room, and with the abundance of pink, the millions of clothes and plushies, and the make-up fumes, this was a death sentence.

     "I'm -- uh... looking for Kaz's... toothbrush."

     Right. A toothbrush. Real smooth.

     Asha was too vain to be interested. "For what?"

     "To... clean the toilet."

     "Ew. Why?"

     "It needs cleaning."

     Asha shuddered. "Nasty. I don't even, like, want to know. Try the bathroom, first drawer down." And she hurried along down the hallway, eager to get downstairs. In her haste, as she rushed down the steps, she forgot entirely about the beautiful golden necklace that glittered on the dresser, a lonely, forgotten time bomb.

To be continued...

 
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