The Mystery of the Maraquan Ball: Part Two
The kadoatie let out a long, low wail and from down the hall Feather called out for them to be quiet.
Lady rolled her eyes and tucked the small creature under her front leg before flying off towards the bathroom. She scrubbed the tiny kadoatie for what seemed like hours before its gutter smell finally began to go away. "I'm sure you're pleased with yourself," Lady told her new petpet, "because I just wasted half a bottle of my best perfume and a whole bar of pumpkin spice soap to make you clean."
The kadoatie miraculously stopped howling and sat calmly in the air faerie basin as Lady drained the water.
"What kind of person would leave you outside, anyway?" Lady grumbled, suddenly feeling a small bit of compassion for the petpet. He looked a lot better all cleaned up. She tied a red ribbon around his scaly neck and smiled just a little bit. "No wonder you were making such a racket... I bet no one has ever paid a lick of attention to you."
"Wow... he looks a lot better," Gray stated when Lady came back to their room with the kadoatie trailing on her heels. "But more importantly... you just put out a hit."
"What?" Lady asked, completely confused. "I was in the bathroom with Todd-"
"Todd?" Grey asked.
"The kadoatie," Lady answered quickly. "What do you mean I put out a hit?"
"I think someone else is on your petpage," Grey answered and pulled out the chair so she could sit down. She waited as Lady's eyes scanned the page.
Lady here. Or am I? I have a question for all of you. How many kadoaties does it take for Lady to tell a lie? Apparently your favorite source of scandalous info isn't quite as reliable as you thought.
Lady gasped and pushed her chair back from the desk, startled at what she had just read. "This is horrible! My blog is going to be ruined thanks to some-"
"Hey, chill out," Grey interrupted. "This is probably the same person that tipped you off about the ball. They're obviously so angry over something that they can't stand the idea of you giving up on this piece of gossip. I think if we go to the coffee shop tomorrow, we'll find answers. I think this response says it all... this person really, really wants you to expose what's going on in Maraqua."
Lady growled something under her breath and sprung up from the writer's arm chair she'd been perched in. "Fine. But I am now making it my personal mission to find out our mystery hacker's identity... and provide adequate payback."
"I don't think you have to worry about revenge," Grey said as they both climbed into bed. She leaned over to shut off the lamp and settled under the covers of her rainbow bed. "Scandal like that is only going to draw in more readers. You're practically on the level of a 50th edition of the Neopian Times as it is... after this little stunt, your petpage is likely to have more readers than the Holiday Neopian Times editions. Imagine how many readers you'll score when you announce the secret behind whatever is going on at that ball. You'll have them eating out of your paw."
"I suppose you're right," Lady said and sighed before hugging Todd closer to her side. The tiny kadoatie purred lovingly.
The next morning was a grey and hazy day. Rain drizzled slowly onto the roof of their Brightvale home and Lady practically had to pull herself out of bed. She yawned and patted Todd, who had somehow mysteriously resumed smelling like a pile of old gym socks sometime during the night.
"That smell..." Grey groaned and rolled over to shove her sensitive Uni nose into her pillow.
"Not exactly rosewater," Lady answered. She tucked Todd under her arm and headed off towards the bathroom.
Grey detached her face from the pillow and began to dress in the archer's cape Feather had bought for her at the NC Mall. She took a moment to nuzzle her face against the soft fabric and then went charging at full speed down the hallway to the kitchen. The feel of the cape flowing behind her always made her giddy.
"Ah, the morning ritual running of the bulls..." Feather noted without looking up from her newspaper. The bold headlines screamed warnings to gallery owners. There had been a string of robberies recently focused on paint brushes.
"Running of the Unis!" Grey answered jovially and poured herself a cup of Earl Grey from Feather's pink Wocky tea pot. "I have to make sure you're awake."
"Every morning like clockwork," Feather answered and scribbled a few notes down in her pad of paper. "I'm awake. I dreamed an idea for a comic last night about the danger of garden gnomes... I'm just checking the latest Times issue to make sure no one else claimed the topic first."
"I doubt it," Grey answered, trying not to make a face. She was thankful that Feather could write well enough to earn neopoints for their family, but Feather did occasionally wander over to the land of insanity.
"I present to you... Todd, the spring-fresh kadoatie!" Lady announced. She had cajoled the petpet into riding in her flower purse for the day and he was mewing in annoyance.
"Well, he's not the handsomest... but at least he doesn't stink," Feather replied and reached out to pet the kadoatie.
In turn, Todd promptly bit into her finger and would not let go until he was allowed to drink tea from a shallow saucer. The petpet looked mighty pleased with himself and immediately began circling their ankles and purring after he had licked the tea from his whiskers.
"Searching for his next victim," Feather noted and drew her feet up into her chair.
"Anyway..." Lady said and scooped Todd up, "We're going to the coffee shop. Do you want us to bring home more tea or anything?"
"Can you stop by the chocolate shop on your way back? I have a craving for some of those gummy things... the ones that look like lily pads."
"Okay, Mom," Grey answered as she and Lady left the house. They could hear Feather yell out that she preferred strawberry over lemon as they made their way across the yard, and Grey chuckled. "I think this might be one of her crazy days."
"Yup. I do wish Todd hadn't bitten her though. I don't think she realizes that I actually want to keep him... and that didn't help his case." Lady stroked the kadoatie's head, silently noting for the second time that he did indeed feel much like seaweed.
They walked for most of the morning and managed to avoid being rained on until the very last leg of the journey, when the bottom seemed to fall out and a violent thunderstorm ensued. Lady and Grey both tucked their wings tight against their bodies and made a run for the coffee shop through the streets of Central Neopia. Todd bounced along merrily inside Lady's purse, thankful that he was dry and warm.
"A star latte and a cup of tea, please," Lady told the shopkeeper. She and Grey shook the rainwater from their fur and feathers in the corner of the shop, which was furnished with a rug for just that purpose. They paid for the hot drinks and settled down at a table towards the back of the crowded shop.
"It seems everyone likes a warm drink to ward off the chills from rain," Grey noted as they sipped their drinks. Dozens of conversations hummed around them, touching on everything from last year's Altador Cup to expensive items Edna had asked for.
"I wonder if my mystery person is here?"
Grey smoothed a napkin out on the table between their plates and nodded towards Todd, who was still residing in Lady's purse. "One way to find out. Make that little Kad cause a distraction. We'll run after him and leave this napkin unattended. Your scandal-suspector can communicate with us exactly like he or she did the last time you were here.
Lady frowned and nudged the purse with her foot, gently knocking it over. Todd twitched his nose and let out one long wail before careening around the side of the table. He made a beeline for the coffee counter, nipping ankles jovially as he went. A series of startled squeals from ankle-owners followed in his wake, but for the most part the shop remained relatively quiet. At least until Todd made a flying leap onto one of the glass shelves behind the shopkeeper and knocked an entire bag of coffee beans onto the floor. By that time, people were jumping out of their seats and generally causing a grand commotion that could be heard three streets down. Todd bridged the gap between two shelves and finished his romp by burying his head in a bag of dry tea leaves. Lady watched him wallow among the leaves with a strange look of pride in her eye, but Grey looked rather mortified.
"Please! Take the kadoatie away!" The shopkeeper moaned and pulled at his hair. "I'll pay you 5,000 neopoints and your drinks are on the house! Just get out of here!"
As if on cue, Todd retracted his mutant head and shook tea leaves from his nose before jumping to the floor. He walked calmly to Lady while Grey sheepishly took the shopkeeper's money and discretely grabbed the napkin she had left unattended on their table during the commotion.
"We'll never be allowed in there again," Grey stated as they made their walk of shame to the chocolate shop. People passing by literally stopped to gawk at them. A tall male Peophin even changed the direction he was headed when he saw them coming towards him.
"Too many moody artists anyway," Lady said. "And besides... I think I just found out something very important. I think tea negates the mutant smell. Here, smell Todd's feet."
Before Grey could refuse, Lady had shoved the squirming petpet into her face. Surprisingly enough, Todd did smell quite nice.
"I'll try Jasmine tea next time," Lady stated, obviously pleased with this discovery.
"That's not the only important thing we found..." Grey said and produced the napkin she had stuffed into the bag of neopoints they had been given. "Oh, no wonder your mystery person hangs out in the coffee cave. It's written in a rhyme. How utterly cliché for a writer to be in the coffee shop..."
What is blue and has a horn?
Make sure to copy what she has worn.
Take the boat from the Isle like me
pick the middle spot and jump west into the sea.
I only tell what truth I know
The latest fashions aren't just sewn.
Don't look for me; you'll just waste time
Stone towers always collect the most grime.
To be continued...