The Kacheek Club: The Petpet Whisperer
"Thanks again for volunteering to take care of my petpets while I'm gone, guys," Olive the Brown Xweetok thanked the Kacheek Club as her parents loaded their suitcases and duffel bags into the trunk of the yellow Eyrie taxi that was parked on the curb. Olive was a classmate and friend of the Kacheek Club.
"No problem, Olive," Gwen the Island Kacheek said, "After all, I'm a huge fan of petpets. Rest assured that your petpets are being placed in the absolute best care."
"I really wish that I could take my petpets with me, though." Olive sighed and frowned slightly. "It's just too bad that my cousin is allergic to petpet fur. My mom told me that my only two options were either to find a petpetsitter, or shave off the fur on all of my petpets."
"Yikes, I'd choose option one, too," Bridgette the Faerie Kacheek replied.
"You don't even have a petpet, Bridgette," Xana the Disco Kacheek reminded her friend.
"Well, not technically, but I consider my Faerie Yooyu Plushie as my petpet," explained Bridgette matter-of-factly.
"It'd be just like the real thing if you exclude the cotton stuffing and the stitches," Xana put in sarcastically.
"Don't forget the 'Made in Altador' tag," Sarina the Cloud Kacheek added.
"Are you guys ready to meet your new charges?" asked Olive, smiling in anticipation.
"Totally," Gwen answered confidently. Bridgette, Xana, and Sarina nodded in unison.
"Okay, let me go get them." Olive dashed into her Neohome and came back a few minutes later. A Plushie Doglefox, a Rainbow Angelpuss, a Starry Faellie, and a Checkered Pandaphant trotted in her footsteps.
"Awww, how cute!" Bridgette cooed.
"They're all so angelic," Xana exclaimed, adjusting her green tinted glasses.
"The Doglefox's name is Muffy. Gwen, you'll be taking care of her." Olive lifted Muffy off of the ground and deftly transferred her over to Gwen. "Muffy enjoys playing with her Rainblug Chew Toy. It should keep her busy for about an hour or so." She handed Gwen the rainbow-striped petpet toy.
"No problem." Gwen lovingly stroked Muffy's fur.
"Xana, you'll be taking care of my Angelpuss, Jade," Olive explained. "Please keep in mind that Jade is allergic to regular milk. Instead, she usually likes to drink Kau Kau Farm Soy Milk."
"Acknowledged." Xana nodded as the Rainbow Angelpuss leaped over to her side.
"The girl who gets to take care of Nova the Starry Faellie is... Bridgette!" Olive handed Nova over to Bridgette like a game show hostess handing over the ultimate prize.
"Quadruple yay!" Bridgette excitedly patted Nova on the head.
"Nova likes to be brushed at least twenty times a day with her Pink Sparkly Brush," explained Olive, giving Bridgette a pink brush. The glitter on the brush sparkled beautifully in the sunlight.
"It's like we were meant to be." Bridgette pressed the Faellie's head next to hers in a friendly embrace.
"Last of all is Queenie the Pandaphant." Olive scooped the petpet into her arms and gave her to Sarina.
Sarina looked as if she would explode any minute and start oozing out excitement goo. "We're going to be the best of friends," Sarina promised Queenie, who simply stared uncomprehendingly back at her.
"I always read The Polarchuck and the Snow Storm to her every night," Olive informed Sarina, handing the Cloud Kacheek a blue book with a white Polarchuck on the cover. "Remember, start reading at chapter five. Queenie can't stand the beginning of the book." She lowered her voice to a whisper. "Evidently, she hates the part where Pansy the Polarchuck gets lost in the snow storm because her Pandaphant friend locked her out of the Mountain Lodge."
Sarina's bright smile slowly faded. "But I've been trying to cut down on reading lately," she protested.
Before Olive could say anything, Xana quickly jumped in. "Don't worry, Olive, we'll make sure that Queenie gets her fair share of bedtime stories every night."
"Great!" Olive grinned as she slid on a pair of Heart Shaped Sunglasses. Judging from her sandals and the brightly-colored beach tote slung over her shoulder, Xana concluded that she and her family were probably going to visit her cousin in Mystery Island.
"Have fun on your trip," Gwen told the Xweetok. She picked up one of Muffy's paws and waved at Olive.
"Watch out for Lizarks!" Bridgette warned, her mind racing back to her recent trip to Mystery Island with the Kacheek Club and the Scouts of Neopia. She shuddered as she remembered being attacked by Lizarks in the Deserted Tomb.
"Oooh, if you see any, could you capture one and give it to me?" Sarina asked hopefully. "I've always wanted a Lizark. They're so cute, don'tcha think?"
"Uhhh... I'll see what I can do." Olive smiled in support at Sarina, then gave each of her petpets one farewell hug. "See you guys later!" She waved at the Kacheek Club, then slid into the Eyrie taxi.
Once Olive was gone, Sarina turned around to face the Kacheek Club and grinned excitedly. "I'd better start making room in my bedroom for my new Lizark," she announced grandly.
Gwen could feel the boiling sun beating down on her as she, Bridgette, Xana, and Sarina walked through the stone arches leading to the local park in Neopia Central.
"Are you sure this is really necessary?" Bridgette asked as she fanned her face with her paw. "I'm already beginning to sweat, and that means that the temperature must be burning hot right now. After all, I don't even sweat during gym class at Neoschool."
"You don't sweat in gym because you always hide under the bleachers during gym class, remember?" Xana reminded her. "Coach Stryke still thinks that your ankle is broken, even though you told her that two months ago."
Bridgette shrugged innocently. "I told her that it was one of those long-term injuries."
"Listen, guys, we promised Olive that we would take good care of her petpets," said Gwen, adjusting her Golden Sun Glasses, "and since Olive always takes her petpets to the park every day, then we have to do the same." She carefully lowered Muffy to the ground. The Doglefox immediately bounded over the grass and out of sight. Bridgette, Xana, and Sarina did the same with their petpets.
"Hey, how about we get some ice cream?" Sarina pointed over to the ice cream stand that was located in the park.
"Let's go!" Gwen led the way as they headed for the ice cream stand.
Mikki the Yellow Xweetok somehow knew that she had customers without even looking up from her copy of Love, Laughs, Xweetoks. "How may I help you?" she asked the Kacheek Club, turning the page of her book.
"Um, I'd like a Rainbow Sherbet Ice Cream, please," Gwen ordered.
"I'll take a Mint and Chocolate Ice Cream," said Bridgette. After a moment's pause, she added, "Actually, make that just a mint ice cream cone. Lose the chocolate chips."
Xana quickly glanced at the menu that was taped to the purple counter. The menu was splattered with drops of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice cream. "I'll have one Chocolate Chomby Ice Cream Sandwich."
"One Double Chocolate Ice Cream, please," Sarina said. "Make it a triple-scoop."
Mikki sighed and reluctantly put down her book. "Your orders are coming right up," she said in a voice that was meant to be energetic. She shuffled over to the cooler and began digging around.
Bridgette suddenly gasped. "Hide me!" she squeaked. She quickly dashed behind a nearby tree.
"Bridgette, what are you doing?" Gwen asked her.
"Coach Stryke is coming this way!" she whispered from behind the tree.
Gwen, Xana, and Sarina all looked at the sidewalk at the same time. Sure enough, they could see a Yellow Kau slowly jogging towards them.
"I totally forgot that Coach Stryke likes to go jogging in the park," Bridgette explained to them. Before she could say anything else, Coach Stryke jogged up to the group.
"I didn't expect to see you girls here," she said, running in place as she talked to them. Gwen noticed that the teacher still wore her silver gym whistle outside of Neoschool.
"Yeah, we were just taking a stroll in the park," replied Xana. Her eyes darted back and forth between Coach Stryke and the tree.
"Does Bridgette still have that broken ankle?" Coach Stryke asked them.
"Yep. She told me to tell you that she totally misses being in your gym class," Gwen exclaimed. She saw Bridgette give her a quick thumbs-up from her hiding place.
"Bridgette told me that she especially likes playing dodgeball in gym," added Sarina. The Cloud Kacheek didn't notice Bridgette flip her thumbs-up upside down.
"Well, then, I'll remember to schedule a dodgeball game on the day she's back in gym class," Coach Stryke continued. "Poor girl." She shook her head sympathetically. "Well, I'll be on my way now." She waved good-bye to them, then resumed jogging down the sidewalk.
Bridgette appeared from behind the tree. "'She especially likes playing dodgeball in gym'?" she quoted sourly to Sarina.
Sarina giggled nervously. "Okay, okay, so maybe I should have replaced the word 'playing' with 'watching'."
"You're wrong, I like neither of those!" Bridgette huffed.
"Look, guys, can you take this argument outside? You'll scare away my customers," Mikki told them as she added chocolate syrup to Sarina's Double Chocolate Ice Cream cone.
"Erm, we are outside," replied Gwen, glancing around at the trees, grass, and shrubbery.
"And, as I speak, we're the only customers here right now," added Xana.
"Whatever." Mikki rolled her eyes and plastered a fake smile onto her face. "Enjoy your treats." She handed out the ice creams and said in a bogusly upbeat tone, "Have a wonder-riffic day!"
As they walked away from the ice cream stand, Bridgette watched in disgust as Sarina gobbled up one of the scoops of her Double Chocolate Ice Cream. "Ugh, aren't you afraid of calories?" she asked her friend.
Sarina wiped the chocolate mustache off her face with her paw. "Aren't you afraid that the mint flavor of your ice cream will attract the Meepits?" she shot back.
"What?" Bridgette stopped mid-way from licking her ice cream cone.
"It's a known fact that Meepits love mint ice cream," Sarina explained. She looked over at Xana (the smartest one in the group) for support, but she got none in return. "It's true!" the Cloud Kacheek insisted as her friends continued to stare at her.
"O-kay." Gwen shook her head, as if to erase the awkward conversation from her mind. "We'd better head back to Muffy, Jade, Nova, and Queenie before they get lost or something." As they got nearer to the place where they had left the petpets, Gwen began a mental checklist of Olive's petpets. Jade's rainbow-striped fur stood out from a patch of Scented Heart Flowers nearby. Queenie could be seen climbing a tree a few feet away from the Kacheek Club, and Nova was basking in the sunlight on one of the wooden park benches. The only petpet missing from the scene was...
"Has anyone seen Muffy?" Xana interrupted Gwen's thoughts.
"Is that her?" Bridgette pointed to a Plushie Doglefox that was chasing a Pink Kadoatie around a tree.
"I think so-" began Gwen, but she stopped mid-sentence when a red Zafara ran over to the Doglefox.
"There you are, Misty! I was getting worried about you." The Zafara scooped the Doglefox into her arms and walked away, muttering something about how Misty wasn't supposed to chase innocent Kadoaties at the park.
"Okay, either Muffy just got petpetnapped, or that Doglefox wasn't her," mumbled Bridgette sarcastically.
"Wow, that Plushie Doglefox looked exactly like Muffy," Sarina pondered in amazement, "And their names were almost the same, too! Misty, Muffy. Misty, Muffy. Misty, Muffy..."
"Okay, we get the point!" said Xana, rolling her eyes.
"Hmph, excuse me for thinking that maybe Misty and Muffy were related," grumbled Sarina. "You know, like long-lost cousins."
Even Gwen and Bridgette had to roll their eyes for that one.
"We need to get back to the situation at hand. Muffy's obviously missing. How are we going to find her?" Gwen bit her lip in thought. Olive would be beyond mad at her if the Xweetok came back from her trip to find that Muffy was gone.
"Hmmm..." Sarina crunched on her empty waffle cone as she tried to think of a plan.
"I know! Since Muffy's nowhere to be seen, we should just buy a replacement Plushie Doglefox," explained Bridgette. Her eyes glinted with excitement at the thought of shopping.
"That's not an option, Bridgette. Not all Plushie Doglefoxes like to play with Rainblug Chew Toys like Muffy," Xana retorted.
"Oh... right. Well, it seemed like a good idea when I thought of it." Bridgette shrugged and resumed thinking.
"Hey, look! Gretta and Autumn are right over there. Maybe we can ask them to help us find Muffy." Sarina pointed towards the direction of the sidewalk.
"Sarina, that's got to be the best idea you've had today." Gwen smiled at her friend, then gestured to Gretta and Autumn to join them.
"Hey, guys," Gretta the Pink Kacheek greeted them.
"Did you need us for something?" asked Autumn the Purple Korbat curiously.
Gwen sighed and knew that asking her little sister to help her find a lost petpet was an all-time low, but it was their only hope. "We need you guys to help us find a Plushie Doglefox," explained Gwen.
Gretta's eyes widened as she suddenly understood. "You bought a Plushie Doglefox? Mom said that we could only care for one petpet each!"
"No, Gretta, what I meant was-"
"You're gonna be in so much trouble! And what about your Snowbunny, huh? You aren't going to expect me to care for Snowy now, are you?" continued Gretta. "Because my room is small enough as is."
"Listen, Gretta, the Plushie Doglefox isn't mine. It's a friend's, and I accidentally lost it here in the park," Gwen quickly explained before Gretta could interrupt.
"Ohhh, that makes more sense." Gretta nodded slowly.
"So, are you guys in?" Xana asked.
"Sure," Autumn replied.
"Wait a second!" Gretta leaned in and whispered something in Autumn's ear. Then she announced, "We'll be right back. I think I have the key to finding Muffy." With a quick wave, she and Autumn dashed out of the park entrance.
"I hope Gretta and Autumn get back soon." Gwen checked her lavender wristwatch for what seemed like the four hundredth time. Where had Gretta and Autumn gone to?
"What if they bailed on us or something?" Bridgette asked. "I mean, I wouldn't blame them. If I wasn't supposed to be taking care of Nova right now, then I would probably leave, too."
"Here they come!" squeaked Sarina.
Xana's jaw fell open as she spotted Gretta, Autumn, and their 'key to finding Muffy.' "No way," she muttered under her breath.
Lily the Plushie Cybunny strolled towards them at a carefree pace, looking like a combination of Judge Hog and Captain Scarblade. The blue-and-yellow Defenders of Neopia cape tied around her neck rustled in the light breeze. A fake golden pirate hook was in the place of her left paw. She probably would have worn a black eye patch if she hadn't already been wearing a Defenders of Neopia Cowl. A black neck scarf with a white skull-and-cross bone print finished the outfit.
"What are you wearing?" Bridgette blurted the minute Lily stopped in front of them.
"My Defenders of Petpets outfit," explained Lily in an obvious tone. "I only wear the hook and scarf because I think it helps Neopians take me more seriously."
Xana snorted in disagreement.
"So, um, why are you here?" Gwen asked.
Gretta was quick to explain. "You see, since it was obvious that you guys had absolutely no clue where Muffy was, I decided that we should ask Lily for help. Remember how she has that weird ability to talk to petpets?"
"Ahem, it's called 'one-of-a-kind', not 'weird'," Lily corrected her.
"But the point is, we figured that Lily could maybe talk to some of the petpets in the park and see if they saw where Muffy went," Autumn finished for Gretta.
"This will never work," mumbled Xana, shaking her head.
Lily spun around and glared at Xana. "Look, just because you guys weren't paying attention to Muffy doesn't mean that they weren't, either." She pointed to Jade, Nova, and Queenie as if they were the witnesses to some sort of crime.
"I think that we should give Lily a chance," interrupted Bridgette.
Lily and Xana both turned to look at Bridgette. Lily's eyes sparkled with gratitude while Xana's eyes were filled with disbelief.
"Did you just say what I think you said?" Xana asked her.
"Well, Gretta and Autumn are right. We really do have no clue where Muffy is," Bridgette told her, "And besides, I'm up for anything that doesn't involve running around the park and getting sweaty."
"I agree with Bridgette," said Sarina, "We should let Lily help."
"Me, three." Gwen carefully managed to avoid Xana's eyes.
Xana looked around at the group and finally sighed. "I guess I'm for it, too."
"Great! Let's begin." Lily led the group over to Nova. She helped herself to a seat next to the Faellie on the park bench. After clearing her throat a couple of times, she asked the Faellie, "Ronga tiffur niso. Blurgh san wran?"
Nova wiggled her nose a couple of times, then shook her head no.
"What'd she say?" Autumn asked Lily.
Lily stood up from the bench. "She told me that she didn't see Muffy."
Xana unsuccessfully tried to hide the smirk on her face.
"Can we maybe speed this process up a bit? This is taking just a little too long for my liking," Bridgette said.
"I'll try to be as speedy as possible, but talking to petpets takes time. Did you know that there's over forty different petpet languages? And don't even get me started on the sign language of petpets. Simply wiggling your ears can mean-"
"Lily, back to the mission," reminded Gretta.
"Right, right." Lily nodded and headed over to Queenie.
The Pandaphant looked at Lily curiously as the Cybunny approached her.
"Flurgh de broten Muffy?" asked Lily.
"Huffun!" Queenie wrinkled her nose and added, "Pung du luff."
"Any leads?" Gwen asked hopefully.
"Queenie says that she saw Muffy about fifteen minutes ago, but she hasn't seen the Doglefox since," reported Lily. "Oh, and she also said that I smell like sewing machine oil."
Sarina gasped. "Queenie, that wasn't very nice," she scolded the petpet.
"No, it's actually a compliment," insisted Lily. "The smell is coming from my new Eau De Plushie perfume."
"Yeah, who'd want to smell like lavender perfume when you can smell like stuffing and oil?" Bridgette said, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
"I know, right?" Lily held up her paw for a high five, and Bridgette reluctantly returned it.
"So far, we aren't even close to finding Muffy." Gwen sighed as Lily led the group over to Jade.
"C'mon, Jade, don't fail us," pleaded Autumn.
Everyone held their breath as Lily leaned down to talk to Jade.
"Furner gore ponin. Dafs gurf plurg?"
"Dretfa minur." Jade firmly shook her head no and eyed the green and brown Bagatelle Bracelets on Lily's wrist.
"Jade said that she'll exchange her information on Muffy for my bracelets," Lily announced.
"She's diabolical," murmured Gretta in a slightly awed voice.
Lily quickly slid off her Bagatelle Bracelets and handed them over to Jade. The Angelpuss slipped the green bracelet over her left ear and the brown one over her right ear so that they resembled extra-large hoop earrings.
"Jade obviously has major fashion potential," praised Bridgette in approval.
"Kiona turg?" asked Lily.
"Genu jika nola. Muffy medu fluna." Jade pointed over to the ice cream stand.
"Does she want an ice cream cone, too?" asked Xana.
"No, she told me that Muffy disappeared over there near the stand," translated Lily.
"What are we waiting for?" Gwen began walking over to the ice cream stand with her friends in pursuit.
"Is this Muffy's or something?" Autumn bent down and picked up a discarded Rainblug Chew Toy in the grass.
"Yeah! I remember Muffy bringing it with her when we came into the park," put in Bridgette.
"That means we're getting close." Sarina rubbed her paws together in anticipation.
The group headed over to the ice cream stand. A pink and purple 'At Lunch' sign was placed on the counter of the stand. Mikki was nowhere in sight.
"She's back here!" squealed Gretta.
Autumn, Lily, and the Kacheek Club raced behind the stand. Sure enough, Muffy was sitting contentedly in a patch of grass. Splotches of vanilla ice cream were matted into her fur.
"Muffy!" Gwen smiled as she picked up the Doglefox. Muffy licked Gwen's cheek in response.
"Well, it looks like the Petpet Whisperer has done it again." Lily beamed and gave herself a pat on the back.
"I'm sorry I doubted you before, Lily," apologized Xana. "It looks like your talent actually did find Muffy."
"No problem at all," responded Lily. "I'm just glad that I could be of service. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'm going to go and buy myself some new Bagatelle Bracelets."
"Buy yourself a new Defenders of Petpets outfit, too," added Bridgette helpfully as the group headed back to where they had left Jade, Nova, and Queenie.
"Thanks again for finding Muffy, Lily," thanked Gwen.
Xana scanned the area around them. "Um... has anyone seen Jade?"
Lily took a swift look around and sighed. Tightening the knot of her Defenders of Neopia Cowl, she said, "No worries. I've got this handled."