White Weewoos don't exist. *shifty eyes* Circulation: 121,679,817 Issue: 245 | 23rd day of Relaxing, Y8
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Woes of the Money Tree

by ava_ked



     "No, mine!"

     "Ooh, you rotten cheater!"

     "Give that back!"

     "I saw that first!"

      No, it wasn't a skirmish at the Altador Cup. It wasn't even an argument taking place in somebody's Neohome - an oft occurring situation, I assure you, with three or four Neopets running around the place - no, this was something I have had to put up with from morning to night, day in and day out, for the past few years. And I didn't even have any Neopets, much less a Neohome!

      Even now, in the early hours of the morning when all sensible Neopians should be asleep in their beds, there were visitors here. Running around, grabbing, screaming at each other. Not one minute would pass between arguments. I waved my branches threateningly over the head of a particularly aggressive Grundo, whose intelligence seemed limited to grunting and pushing at his opponent, a dainty Faerie Xweetok. She was holding her own surprisingly well. In fact -

      I moved the branch obstructing my view, and saw the Xweetok jab viciously at the Grundo. One swipe of her paw then swept up the Piece of Wool lying on the ground, and she flew triumphantly out. The Grundo limped back towards me and grumpily snatched the Mau Codestone which had just been left there milliseconds ago.

      I sighed. Not the brightest creatures, Grundos. And people always admired the high-flying Faerie Neopets, but that Xweetok I just encountered also seemed to be a few cards short of a Neodeck. My internal reflections were once again interrupted, this time by a Royal Draik, a Plushie Kau, and a Grey Uni. They reached the base of my trunk at the same time, and began scrabbling for the various Kelp and Bottles of Sand left there. The Kau seemed particularly fierce. I heard voices rising up in volume as their respective owners retreated back to fight it out. That'll take a while, that will, I thought gloomily. All three were painted expensive colors, and it was likely their owners had equipped them with top-notch weapons likely worth tens if not hundreds of millions of Neopoints. Which rather begged the question of why they were here desperate for old sandals and boots, but there you go. It was situations like these which seem to prove that the impressiveness of a bank account seemed to be inversely proportional to its owner's intelligence.

      I heard the sound of Battledome weapons being whipped out, and sighed again. It often came to violence in the end, and in fact I was surprised it had taken them this long to start fighting. I craned my trunk to see if there were any other pets coming. There were, but it seemed as though they would be your standard 'grab and snatch' visitors, probably not inclined to arguing over the items. I settled back down with relief. Thank the Space Faerie I never needed sleep, for it looked like these last few hours before morning were not going to be quiet ones.

      And yet it hadn't always been like this. In the early days when I had been newly planted, there had been far less pets, far less arguing. You would get the occasional griping, of course, but it seemed like the rise in Neopian population had definitely contributed to a corresponding rise in tempers. Why, back in the old days... My thoughts travelled down a well worn road.

* * *

      Even three years back, now. The pets who came looked as though they genuinely needed the donations left so generously at my trunk. I remembered a particularly shy blue Acara, who had stood nervously for nearly half an hour, watching bewilderedly as items arrived and left besides her. It didn't occur to her that she had to be fast to snatch up the items. "That won't do, my dear," I spoke in my gentlest tones.

      "Wha...?" The Acara jumped, and her eyes shot upwards to see my branches waving above her. Her eyes leapt to my trunk, where, after some more searching, she saw a pair of eyes. "You can talk? But you're a tree!"

      "I'm the Money Tree, dear. I don't often talk, but I occasionally do so to help Neopets like yourself." It had been funny, initially, to see them looking so lost as pets swept up behind them and snatch items from beneath their noses. Oh I know it sounds horrible, but I was only a seedling back then! It wasn't long before I matured and realized I could - and should - help these pets whose owners were likely new to Neopia. Since then, I had made it my job to guide those pets who might have starved otherwise. Why, their owners probably didn't even know the existence of the Giant Omelette! And the Giant Jelly, of course, didn't exist. So I helped those who needed helping, and intervened when I saw bullying. It was fortunate that my swift beating of branches upon their hides was most often attributed to the various ghosts who visited the tree.

      I explained to the Acara the well known Neopian adage that speed was everything. She wasn't dumb, and soon realized that the blurs of movement around here were in reality pets speeding up to grab items and Neopoints. It wasn't long before she made a respectable attempt to imitate them. I waved aside my branches to look at the item she was waving triumphantly at me. "A Secret Laboratory Map Piece! Is that valuable?"

      Another hapless soul who didn't know about the Shop Wizard. That map piece would likely go into her shop for 400NP if I didn't help her. I shuddered to think how many codestones and paint brushes (for she seemed a lucky pet, that Acara. A map piece on her first visit to me!) her owner had mostly likely sold for a pittance. I explained patiently about how to check prices, and was rewarded with a brilliant smile. "Thank you so much - er -"

     "Just call me Money Tree, dear. And you're welcome."

      Her blue eyes flashed, and with another beaming smile, the Acara scampered off, the map piece carefully tucked away. I rooted myself a little farther into the soil, content with the thought that I had helped yet another pet.

* * *

      That had been over three years ago. You still got, of course, the pets who needed help. There was an increase in new pets, in fact, as Neopia grew more populated. It wasn't as though they were rude, either. No, I still got very polite thanks after I had guided them into getting their first item from me. It was just that the sheer number of other Neopets - pets which had grown accustomed to the fact that you had to be aggressive to get anywhere in Neopia these days - made the polite ones seem few and far in between. Most likely they scared the newcomers off, I thought grumpily.

      A triumphant cry broke through the night. With a start, I remembered the three pets who had been battling it out. It seemed as though the Kau had emerged victorious, as the Grey Uni was lying on her side, exhausted with no health left. The Draik, strangely enough, was standing off to the side, with not a scratch on him. A glint in his blue eyes, he advanced on the Kau who was attempting to get at least one healing potion down before facing another opponent. A smart one, that Draik. Waiting until the other two had fought, so he would only have to face one weakened opponent.

      However, he had not taken me into account. My sap had been steadily rising during the day, and this exchange was enough to make it boil over. I carefully began positioning my branches around the Draik, ready to teach him exactly why battles were best conducted at the Battledome, but he was faster. Before I was ready, he had drawn out a gleaming white sword, clearly ready to battle.

      Tired from her fight with the Uni, the Kau had not been able to heal herself in time. Severely weakened, she looked at the Draik attired in a blue tunic and recognized its freezing properties. Her gaze swung to the sword in his hand and her sharp ears registered an ominous ticking noise that doubtless belonged to a bomb to match the sword. The Kau was already weakened from her previous battle, and she was not stupid. She decided she had business elsewhere.

      Smirking, the Draik turned his eyes to the wounded Uni, who struggled to get up but failed and sank back down onto the grass. "Oh please, just take what you came to get. It's not as though I'm going to be any threat to you, am I? You saw how I didn't want to fight that Kau even if she had taken my item - she swung her blade at me before I could explain properly!"

      To my surprise, the Draik nodded and put away his weapons. So that was why it had taken them so long to come to blows - the Uni had been trying to negotiate. Thank the Space Faerie these two seemed reasonable - I could use some quiet. A flash of red caught my eye; the Draik had tossed over an Essence of Everlasting Apple at the Uni. Astonished at this rare display of kindness, I continued watching the two. The Uni healed herself, mumbled a thank you, and trotted off, clearly heading to the Healing Springs to regain her remaining hit points. The Draik, after glancing at the bottles of sand on the floor, snorted and also seemed ready to leave. I mentally snorted too. Three clearly well-off pets, visiting me to get items their owner probably discarded everyday! Fighting over said items, and then slinking off after the fight without even taking anything! Honestly, pets these days...

      The Draik was still there, gazing thoughtfully at the items. Due, no doubt, to the enormous variety in the choice. Such a difference in value between an Old Rotten Right Shoe and an Old Rotten Left Shoe! You must excuse me. I always get a bit sarcastic as morning drew nearer, bringing with it another tiring day of fighting and shouting. However, the Draik hadn't yet made a single attempt to grab an item. I wondered at his inactivity - he was certainly fast enough, as proven in his brief exchange with the Kau. But then I saw his gaze swing unerringly from the items on the ground up to my trunk.

     "Er, Money Tree?"

      I jumped, or I would have, if I had legs. Instead, a couple of my branches jerked and a few leaves landed on the ground. I looked closer at the Draik. It didn't happen often, but sometimes a pet did come back a few days later to thank me again after I'd helped them. However, I had the distinct feeling that I would have certainly remembered a Royal Draik - or any Draik for that matter - not knowing how to get items at the Money Tree. And this Draik looked very comfortable in his current species and color; he clearly hadn't been hatched or painted recently.

     "We... have spoken before?" I asked him uncertainly. I never spoke to pets unless they needed help - had my... ah... "interfering" somehow gotten back to the Chia Police? They had never minded me bending the rules to help other pets. I wasn't strictly supposed to talk to them, but a Lupe I had guided in my early years was most helpful in explaining to the Chia Police exactly why I should be allowed to 'continue my clearly constructive contributions to the general Neopian public.' They hadn't known about my more - shall we say - violent contributions, but that had always been attributed to the ghosts... I looked anxiously at the Draik and waited for him to answer.

     "You don't recognize me?" A pair of blue eyes swept up and down my trunk searchingly before finding my eyes.

      I jerked again and more leaves fell to the ground. Those eyes... they were a lighter blue, and the voice no doubt belonged to a male rather than a female... the shyness was nowhere to be seen, replaced instead by this confident arrogance, but all the same...

      "No offense, but you weren't... an Acara before becoming a Draik?" I asked rather nervously, for many species, Draiks and Krawks in particular, hated being reminded of their previous forms.

      "You do remember!" The Draik crowed delightedly. "I always meant to come back again and thank you, but both my owner and I were so overjoyed at the amount we got from selling the map piece that I forgot. It might not seem as much now, but that ten thousand Neopoints really helped in those days!"

      I sighed again - despite my efforts, it seemed as though the poor pet had sold it for way under what it was worth. Then I realized that we were talking three years ago when map pieces - even Secret Laboratory map pieces - could be bought for a lot less than they could now.

      I congratulated the Draik rather enthusiastically, before realizing my felicitations were three years too late. My voice petered out in embarrassment.

      The Draik laughed, and in that instant I recognized the same happiness of the blue Acara, who had been so exultant in her first successful snatch at an item. "I'm the one who should be feeling silly, coming back three years after the event! But I felt that it was better late than never. Why did you seem so angry when I arrived at first?"

      He stayed for a few more minutes, listening as I ranted about the screaming and shouting so often seen at my trunk. I suddenly realized I was including him in my tirade, as all three of them had been conversing in rather loud tones... Would I never think before I spoke? "Present company excluded, of course," I added rather hastily.

      An amused glint in his eye, the Draik waved aside my apology and said rather regretfully that he ought to be heading back. "Nearly time for my next training session, you know. And my owner does get so upset if I arrive late." He thanked me once again and left.

      I looked around. There had been a few very minor disagreements among pets as we had talked, but none that had come to blows. I could see the faint glow that heralded the rising of the sun, and settled down into the soil. Really, it hadn't been that bad a day and night, rather typical really, and my job wasn't that bad, come to think of it...

      It was astonishing how fast my tolerance vanished, as I heard, once again, the voices raised in volume.

      "That was mine, you dirty cheater!"

      Another day had begun.

The End

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