Woes of the Money Tree
"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
"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
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
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.
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|Behind the Forbidden Door: Part Three|
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be worse than that modified many-legged monstrosity. For a brief moment Flingon
considered fleeing the Space Station and going into hiding- but what would be