Tyrannian by Any Other Paint
The giggling gaggle of young Aishas and Usuls put Epsilonic on edge, and rightly so. He hadn't been teaching at the Neopia Central school for very long, maybe three or four months, but that sort of ironic laugh was one that he knew well. After all, it wasn't every day you met a Tyrannian that was also a math teacher. He rolled his eyes and stared hard at his stack of test papers, trying to shut out all else.
Eps was pretty good at that. It wasn't exactly thought of as normal back home in Tyrannian, either. At the end of the day, it was easy to ignore things: Eps had learned that from his students. No one liked to listen to a math teacher drone on about inequalities. Neither did anyone like to listen to a group of schoolgirls giggle mercilessly at their expense. Eps angrily stowed his test papers in his briefcase and stomped toward the door.
In a flash, the girls scampered down the hallway and disappeared through a doorway. Eps looked after them, wondering if he could stay after all, and then decided that his best course of action was to head home. He would probably be alone, since the other pets were usually out during the day, and minded their own business if they were at home.
It was a short walk from the Neoschool to home—at least, Eps had begun calling it that for some reason. "Home" was actually Tyrannia, that wasteland where precipitation, crops, and brains were concerned. But, this little Neohome wasn't that far off from the definition of home, either. This was where he hung his clothes, ate his food, and avoided his house-mates. Kinda like home in all respects.
Eps kicked the door shut after him and looked around the main room to see Anna, the blind Xweetok, sitting on the couch sliding her fingers over the page of a Braile book. "Bad day, Eps?" she asked.
Eps snorted, partially in continued amazement that Anna could tell exactly who it was with only her senses of hearing and smell, and then went over to the couch, leaning over the back of it. "Not exactly." He looked at the page and then at Anna. One of her ears was turned toward him. "I don't think the kids respect me."
She laughed a little. "Why do you think that?"
"They... laugh at me," Eps answered. It sounded silly, though. He was, after all, their teacher. He shouldn't have been concerned about this—like the opinions of a few students should matter. He was a grown-up, after all! He shouldn't care about things like that. Right?
"Laugh at you?" Anna repeated. "Why would they laugh at you?"
"I wouldn't expect you to understand this..." Eps sighed, looking at her for a moment. Anna had to be the trendiest blind Xweetok that Eps knew. She dyed her hair or wore different color wigs at least twice a month and he'd never known her hair to be the natural color of the striped Xweetok that she was. He had also never known her to not "fit in" perfectly in the hustle and bustle of Neopian Central life. Of course... she'd lived here since she was born. Eps... hadn't. Obviously. "But being a Tyrannian math teacher isn't the easiest thing in the world."
"What does being Tyrannian have to do with anything?" Anna asked.
"'Pets expect you to be a certain way when you have a certain job. You know, like they expect Nimmos to be smart and run bookstores." Admittedly, Eps had never met a non-smart Nimmo. They just didn't seem to exist—outside of Tyrannia, of course. Up there, on top of the world, they were still dragging their knuckles across the street.
Anna giggled. "Well, I can't exactly say that I didn't think the same thing. But, Epsy... kids will be kids. They'll laugh at anything and anyone they think is funny."
"I'm not funny!" Eps insisted. "I'm just a math teacher." There were only a million things funnier than a math teacher. Then he sighed. "Maybe I should go get a paint brush. Go checkered or spotted or something."
"Well, that's a good solution," Anna said sarcastically. "Don't go changing yourself to make other people happy. At least not without thinking about it for a good, long while."
"Says the girl who dyes her hair every month..." Eps sighed, going to his room.
Anna didn't say anything, and he was glad. It wasn't as though there were anything more to say about it anyway. He went past the mirror on his door and stopped to look at himself. Still Tyrannian, like he had been on the day he was born. Brown and white with the funny goatee that only Tyrannians had. His mane was black and curly, like some fancy girl going to a ball or something, but any attempts to tame that beast sprouting from his head was just as futile as his trying to fit in among his more traditionally-colored counterparts.
He blinked at himself a few times, trying to imagine his coat magically changing from one color to another, but couldn't do it. He was Tyrannian, no matter what he did.
He tossed his briefcase on his bed and looked around for a second when he realized someone was watching him. He spun around to see Anna standing in his doorway. "What are you doing?" he asked in alarm.
"I wanted to know the same thing," Anna answered. "What color would you paint yourself?"
"I don't know." Eps shrugged. "I hadn't thought much about it. It would have to be something cheap. You know what a teacher's salary is like." Anna smiled. He looked around his room and then at Anna, waiting for her to say something.
"Well, let's go to the Rainbow Pool and see what you like," Anna suggested. She'd already started down the hallway for the door.
"Anna," Eps groaned, following. "I wasn't being serious. I'm not going to paint myself." Then he frowned. "My dad would probably disown me if I did." Then, he was being serious. His dad was a through-and-through Tyrannian. Of course, he didn't like Epsilonic's decision to teach math in the "big city" any more than the big city liked it.
"Come on," she called, obviously ignoring everything he'd just said. "I can't find my way there by myself." He heard her clacking around with her new cane. She still wasn't used to using it, but she'd had to since their owner didn't visit often to take them around town. They could get around on their own.
Eps sighed and went next to Anna, putting her hand on his shoulder.
"Thank you," she said happily, and they went out the door.
The Rainbow Pool was pretty close to the Neoschool, and therefore was also close to home. Anna probably could have found her way there by herself, Eps realized once the magical splashing waters were in view. Anna smiled when she heard the 'pets laughing in the pool. An Eyrie was being painted desert—too expensive—and a Zafara was being painted snow—too... cold.
"I love this place," Anna sighed. "What's happening?"
"Well..." Eps said slowly. "There's an Eyrie over there wading into the pool. His owner is..." He paused a minute to laugh. "Not a very good artist." Fortunately, things like that didn't matter, but the poor Eyrie wasn't getting very good paint coverage. At least, what his owner missed the magic would make up for.
The Eyrie looked pretty happy anyway. A few minutes later, the Eyrie bounded around the pool, splashing the magic water up his sides and then rolled around in a fountain spewing all the different colors of the Neopian rainbow. He emerged a moment later with a rich sandy-toned fur and sparkling blue beak. With a squeal of delight, the Eyrie's owner wrapped her arms around his fluffy tan mane.
"Desert is a nice color," Eps commented.
"Yeah... It's a... warm color."
"Mm," Anna agreed. "I can feel it."
A moment later, the moment was ruined. More gasps and giggles erupted from nearby, and Eps couldn't catch himself before he turned to look in their direction. It was the group of schoolgirls again, laughing their little heads off. He sighed and then looked at Anna.
"We should go," he told her.
Anna held onto his mane, but didn't move, and turned her ears this way and that, listening. She finally zeroed in on the commotion, which had quietly disintegrated into whispers, and then grinned. "Eps, I think it's safe to say that you don't understand girls at all."
"What are you talking about?" Eps demanded. Not that he ever wanted to understand them, of course.
"They don't think that you look silly. And it has nothing to do with your being Tyrannian." She still grinned widely, patted his shoulder, and walked off toward home.
"Then what is it?"
"They think your hair—they think it's cute."
"Cute!" Eps demanded. "What do they mean by that?"
Anna giggled. "How am I supposed to know?" Then she smiled. "Why didn't you tell me you were cute? That's pretty rude, you know. It's not like I can see for myself."
"Because—" Eps was about to spurt out some reason why he hadn't told her that was totally fabricated until he realized he didn't need a made-up reason. "Because I'm not cute! Don't call me cute."
"I'm sorry, but your mane apparently has this adorable quality to it. Who am I to judge?" Anna laughed.
"I'm not adorable, and neither is my mane," Eps huffed. Though, he had to admit, this was better than he'd thought it was. But still... he wasn't adorable. Or cute. His mane was just as normal as any other Uni's. "Just stop it. Let's go home."
"You mean you don't want to be painted now?" Anna asked with a grin. "I mean, who would want to paint over such cuteness?" Eps rolled his eyes and didn't answer. Maybe she'd leave him alone. Eventually. "I'll bet you're just the most loveable Tyrannian math teacher in the whole world. And none of them have as charming a mane as yours." So... this tactic wasn't working... "It's not every day you find a cute math teacher."
"Anna!" Eps pleaded. Maybe he did want to paint over his Tyrannian after all. "Don't call me cute!"