Neovia is nice in that it’s home with a hint of sophistication.
Part of the Woods in everything but name, it’s a quiet haven within the safety of home’s walls. Unlike his brothers who had come to the Woods much later than him, he can remember a time when the town hadn’t quite been rediscovered and yet hardly remembers life without it. The tamer hustle and bustle than that of the Fairgrounds. The friendly inhabitants with a Haunted Woods twist.
Neovia is a shining gem nestled within a diamond in the rough. Everything about it fills him fuller with pride for his home.
Even better is its familiarity and comfort with its neighboring residents. He doesn’t receive the looks so common anywhere else outside of the Woods. Not from Neovia natives anyways, although the classy atmosphere makes it a hotspot for out-of-towners who otherwise wouldn’t step foot in the Woods.
That’s the thing that gets to him.
Their looks that say so much more than they’d ever dare aloud. As if he and his brother and the others like them who call this place home are out of place. Intruding by daring to exist so blatantly.
“I tried to get a reservation for Friday at that cafe we like,” he overhears, not really intending to eavesdrop but certainly not trying his hardest to ignore it. From beside him, he sees Ray’s ears perk in interest. By nature, they’re both busybodies. For them, there’s not much better than pet watching in Neovia on an early fall afternoon.
Yaz, tucked between them on the bench they’d claimed as their own this morning, tunes in at their interest. He seems less inclined to care about the going-ons of other pets though Jax couldn’t say if that came from his age or his general disposition.
The culprit is a Cybunny, bright flowers blooming from her neck contrasting so abruptly with the muted tones of the town’s natural flora. He can hear Yaz identifying the species under his breath, ever the enthusiast. They don’t see a whole lot of tropical flowers around here and Yaz has spent very little time out of the Woods.
Her companion, an Eyrie beautiful like the night sky, hums in acknowledgement and encourages her to continue.
They make quite a picture, popping from the diluted background of town. Jax can’t help admire them in their uniqueness. They stand out here but they are beautiful and he appreciates beauty in whatever form it presents itself.
“They’re booked!” She continues, throwing her paws in the air as the two pass their bench with little notice. He thinks that’s all it’ll be but they pause not six feet from the bench to continue their conversation. “Something about a Mutant Day celebration? How ridiculous is that? What’s there to celebrate?”
His stomach sinks. For him, the comments are nothing new. As much as he loves home, traveling is a passion and before that, before he’d made the Woods his home, he’d spent many years in Neopia hearing much of the same.
It’s not the same everywhere you go. He doesn’t want to believe the worst in pets. There is so much kindness to be found all over Neopia but he would be foolish to pretend it wasn’t common to run into this mindset as well.
It’d taken years but he’d found beauty in himself. Things worth being admired. Things he himself could admire. It never stops hurting to hear but he’s found peace with himself that takes the sting away little by little.
Yaz is young though.
Both Jax and Ray turn to him at the same time, faces falling as a look of shock turns to subtle heartbreak. The Ixi’s hooves scrape against the cobbled road as he averts his eyes to the ground. Taking it in. Jax wants badly to stop him; nothing good comes from dwelling on hurtful words.
The two companions share a laugh, disappearing just as quickly as they came down the path leading out of town. Unaware the damage they’d done. Likely unconcerned if they’d known.
Silence falls at their departure, both Ray and Jax sharing a look. Before, the quiet had been calm. Now it’s heavy with hurt. They don’t know what to say, what will and won’t help Yaz who is already so different from others.
He’d likely been aware of what pets thought of mutants but Jax isn’t certain it’s ever been thrown in his face like this. Yaz was, is, happy being himself.
“What are we celebrating?” the Ixi asks finally, barely audible but the question rings deafening in his ears.
He pauses, considering. There are so many things he could say. Echoes of what their person told him over and over all those years ago but Jax remembers how hollow those words felt when you’re young. He decides instead on honesty no matter how fragile he feels vocalizing it.
“We’re celebrating us,” he starts only to be interrupted by the dark look Yaz shoots him.
“Why?” the Ixi presses, desperate like the world depends on it. Jax supposes it feels like it does even though Neopia will keep spinning no matter what.
Ray hovers nervously beside them, quiet for once. He knows it’s not his place. This is not a battle he’ll ever fight. It’s the most considerate he’s ever been and Jax takes a moment to be proud of him for it.
He tries to think of all the reasons he’s given to others. Reasons why it’s okay to celebrate mutants. Things about them that deserve to be celebrated. It’s exhausting thinking of all the justification he’s had to supply in the years past.
That’s why they celebrate.
“Because some pets think we shouldn’t. Because there are so many uniquely special things about each mutant and some pets think being mutant cancels those things out. We are so much more than mutants,” he explains, sharing a smile with Ray who looks delighted at the admittance. Jax so rarely allows himself to be so exposed.
“But we’re celebrating being mutants?” Yaz counters, confusion coloring his voice.
Jax nods, ears flickering. He’s a little uncomfortable but it’s important his brother never feel the way he did growing up. They’re paving the way for a more accepting future. Jax is okay with having hurt to prevent the hurt of future mutants who may one day only know love for themselves.
“We’re more than mutants but we are mutants. And that’s…it’s great. It’s really good. Some pets say otherwise but we know we’re something special and so, we celebrate. Why not celebrate a good thing?”
He watches Yaz consider his words. Honest consideration nothing like his angry dismissals when he was his brother’s age. It gives him hope to know that it’s a message that can be believed. He hopes that with time, it’s a message that’s known to be fact. Something that doesn’t have to be questioned.
“Plus,” Ray adds cheerfully, cutting through the moment effortlessly like only he can. “We get to go to the cafe on Friday and they don’t. Seems like Team Mutant has one up on that rude bunny!”
“You’re a ghost,” Yaz states with an amused snort.
“Team Mutant!” the Korbat insists, miming the waving of a flag.
They continue like this, bickering playfully beside him but his attention is lost on a shopkeeper coming out to water the flowers in her window. A Pastel Draik he’s always admired for her attention to detail. She notices them and immediately offers a wave with the brightest smile Jax has ever seen on a Neovian. He waves back with soft flicks of his tail and realizes he’s smiling too.
He thinks its pretty nice being on a team.