Miyshabella and the Little Knight
The bell above the door chimed. An old Kazeriu stirred from her cushion at the store's counter, blinking wearily towards the source of the noise. The door opened, and a mother and son walked in hesitantly, coughing slightly at the cloud of dust their entrance had stirred up from the doormat.
Sharing the counter with the Kazeriu was a young Elephante. She moved deftly over masses of thread and colorful cloth on the counter, cutting, measuring, and sewing. She was almost indistinguishable from her work on the counter, such were her clothes – a mishmash of colors and patterns, hectic and yet somehow artfully combined. She was so focused on her work that she didn't look up as the duo walked in, and with a practiced sigh, the greying Kazeriu floated from her perch and began nudging the Elephante under her arm.
"Ow, Faraasha, what are you doing that for, cut it – oh!" At an impatient cough from the Cybunny mother, the Elephante finally caught sight of her customers, springing to a standing position. Spools of thread and scraps of fabric went bouncing and fluttering to the ground. "Welcome to Kazeriu Clothing, the one-stop shop for all your costume apparel needs!" she said, while trying (and failing) to gather her work into a pile and shove it aside. "My name is Miyshabella. What can I help you with today?"
The Cybunny mother glanced at Miyshabella up and down, an eyebrow slightly raised. Her own clothing cut a sharp contrast to the Elephante's: a neatly-pressed suit, only slightly dusty from the shop entrance. She ushered her son out from behind her.
"Benjamin here needs a costume for his Neoschool play in a few days," the mother said crisply. "An acquaintance of mine recommended I come here to find something for him. He's supposed to be a knight."
"A knight, huh?" Miysha said to the boy. He nodded, eyes never once leaving his shoes. "Well, Faraasha and I have plenty of suits of armour, don't we?" The Kazeriu, curled up once again on her pillow, huffed in acknowledgement. "And if I remember correctly, we even have some in your size. If you'll come with me, we can pick one out," Miysha said, tucking her sewing scissors into her apron and emerging from behind the counter.
The Cybunny's mother pried the boy gently from her side, before ushering him towards the Elephante. "You have fun, Benny," she said, before promptly taking a notebook out of her purse and becoming absorbed in whatever was written there.
The young Cybunny crept towards Miysha, ears back. She tried to give him an encouraging smile. "By the time we've picked something out, Neopia will have no knight more dashing!" Now, if you'll come with me, I'll show you to our armour section.
Benny was all but dwarfed by the rows upon rows of clothing – Miysha was sure that, even if he leaned all the way back, the little Cybunny would barely be able to see the top shelves of her store or the flickering lightmite bulbs swaying from the ceiling. She tried to mentally shuffle through her repertoire of costumes to find something that would work as they made their way into the depths of the store. The full-visor helmet with the emerald feather? Too heavy. That one jousting cape with the hand-stitched Alabriss insignia? No, surely, it was too long...
"I don't want to be the knight!" Benny's small voice interrupted her musings.
"Hmm?" Miysha stopped short, right between the shelf of firefighter hats and bin of fake moustaches. "Why is that, Benny?" she asked.
"It's... it's my mom," he mumbled. "She made me try out for the main role in our school play. She even talked with my teacher to make sure I got the part. I just wanted to help writing the script and making the set, but now I have to say lines and give speeches in front of the whole third grade class and all of their parents!" He sniffed and pushed his spectacles a bit higher up on the bridge of his nose.
"I see," Miysha said, frowning. "And did you tell her this?"
He shook his head, long ears flopping in all directions. "I thought that... I thought that if I was the star, she would come and see me in the play for once. So I worked really hard on memorizing all my lines. But even though I know 'em by heart, I'm not like a knight at all. My friends all say I'm too much of a scaredy-Angelpuss, too small and shy. I don't want to be a knight or anything anymore, I just want to quit."
Miysha looked down at the little Cybunny, wondering how far he must have been pushed to open up to her, of all people. She wished there was some way that she could help him... unless...
Suddenly, Miyshabella knew which pieces would fit Benny perfectly. She could only hope that they were ready.
Miysha she spun around to look at the items lining the shelves around her, as if they had an answer for the Cybunny. "I thought just a silly old costume would do, but to help with your problem, we're going to need something special." She peered down at Benny, paw on her chin, hoping she looked suitably mysterious and impressive.
"Something... special?" he asked, with eyes so wide they could melt the Snowager's heart.
Miysha nodded gravely. "Quickly now, follow me," she said. Her patchwork skirt billowed out behind her as she turned and swept down the aisles, Benny close at her heels. Down past the jesters' and doctors' and petpet ensembles, through the ever-popular Faerie section, a slight detour around the Villains section (the Monoceraptor costume, while far from actual size, was terrifyingly lifelike) until they stood before it: Kazeriu Clothing's specialty case.
The Elephante rooted around under the scarf tying back her dark hair until she produced a silver key on a long band, then deftly unlocked the glass display case.
"Most of the items we have here are costumes, pieces of clothing made to replicate actual outfits. But this belonged to a real knight... and it looks just about your size."
She gestured to a silvery-white suit of armour, surprisingly light and painstakingly polished until it shone. Miyshabella had originally chosen to practice on it because of its small size: who would ever need such small chainmail? But it seemed as if it would come in handy anyway - that is, if it worked.
"A real knight? No way!" Benny said, voice slightly muffled with his nose and paws pressed up against the glass.
"Yes way!" Miysha said, carefully unhinging the chest plate from its hooks in the case and bringing it down for him to inspect. "His name was Sir Wesley, and he was a Cybunny, just like you. Even though he was small and quiet, he was very brave, because he knew that his family and his friends depended on him. See this dent here, on the shoulder? This is from when he fought the Ghost Lupe!"
She let Benny hold each piece in turn while she detached the others from their perch, and he inspected the dent she pointed out with wide eyes, imagining the mighty set of jaws that had made it.
"This is his insignia," Miysha said, gesturing towards the side of the helmet and the design embossed there. "A scroll and a quill pen: because Sir Wesley knew that however strong his sword was in battle, his words and ideas were much stronger." She lightly placed the helm on Benny's head – it was a bit large for him, but still, with his shoulders thrown back proudly he wore it well. "See, you look just like him!" She continued, considering the Cybunny with her paws on her hips. "Whoever said you weren't knight-like was definitely wrong. I'm sure that if you practice very hard in Sir Wesley's armour, some of his courage will rub off on you, and help you in your performance."
Miysha finished removing the armour from its case, and turned to lock the sliding glass doors back up. "Now, Benny," she said as the key turned with a click. "Normally, I don't rent out items in my specialty case" – his ears drooped slightly – "but..." – he perked up again – "I'll make an exception, just this once, if you make me a promise."
"A promise?" he echoed.
"I'll rent you Sir Wesley's armour if," Miysha said, crouching down in front of him, "after the play, you tell your mother how you feel."
Benny was silent for a while, shuffling his feet as he turned a mailed glove over in his paws. Finally, he met her eyes and nodded. "I promise."
Miysha patted his helmet. "Alright, then, it's a deal. Now let's go and show your mom your new armour, ok? I'm sure she misses you!"
With renewed enthusiasm, Benny hastily gathered up the pieces in his arms and started to run back to the front of the store. As she tucked the display key back underneath her hair, Miysha couldn't help the small smile that crossed her face.
They emerged back out of the twists and turns that compromised Kazeriu Clothing. Benny ran up to his mother, who was tapping her quill pen idly near the front desk. His arms completely full, Miysha had spent the walk back picking up dropped gauntlets and other armoured bits and pieces.
"Look, Mom, look! This armour belonged to a real knight, and now I'm going to wear it!"
"Of course it is, dear," the mother Cybunny said, smiling obligingly as she moved forward to rescue the jumbled heap from her son's grasp. Upon seeing the armour, Faraasha, unmoved from her pillow, raised her head to affix Miysha with a sharp stare. The Elephante shot her petpet a sly grin, but otherwise made no comment.
"Rentals last for two weeks, but can be renewed or returned at any time for no extra cost," Miysha began to reel off, taking some dusty paperwork from the drawer. "Kazeriu Clothing is not liable for any injury to those wearing our clothing or to others, including but not limited to: Meepit attacks, petpetpet infestations, or spontaneous transmogrification. Last but not least, any damage done to the item must be compensated for in full, that is, unless you'd like to buy our optional insurance package. If you'll sign on the dotted line?" She proffered the forms, and, with a flourish, Benny's mother signed them, before pulling out a bag of Neopoints.
"You know what? I'll let you rent it free of charge," Miysha said, giving Benny a wink. "Business from the Shenanigifts bunch alone covers most of our operational costs."
Benny's mother put the bag back in her purse, and with an appreciative nod and a few words of thanks, they left back out the dusty doorway, the bell chiming same as when they had entered. A good way down the Neopia Central street outside, Miysha could hear Benny: "Mom, let me tell you all about Sir Wesley...!"
"Well, what do you think, Far? Should we make an appearance?" Miysha asked, already thumbing through a coatrack of feathered boas to wear. Faraasha wound up her arm in response, her greying head coming to rest on Miysha's shoulder.
A few hours later, the duo picked a corner of the Central Elementary gymnasium to sit in. The folding chairs that had been set up in front of the mock stage were too small for her, and she was met with curious looks from nearby Neoparents, but she munched on her tea biscuits and stared resolutely forward as the curtains opened.
Benny was, in a word, superb – well, as superb as an Elementary Neoschooler could be. A noticeable change had come over the little Cybunny, who stood with his shoulders back and his ears perked up under his helmet. His voice, still high-pitched, had lost any form of stammer or stage fright as he recited the lines which he had worked so hard to memorize. Best of all, it looked like he was actually having fun as he banged swords with his classmates playing Darigan minions and rescued the princess, a Pteri girl as small as he was.
"See? Aethia was right about it," Miysha whispered "And I pulled it off admirably." Faraasha nipped her ear in response.
After the cast had given its final bow and begun to stream off of the stage to their waiting parents, Miysha began getting up to go congratulate Benny. She stopped halfway out of her chair as she saw him run to his mother, who swept him up in a hug and spun him around, chattering excitedly. When the Cybunny mother plopped Benny back down, however, he put a paw to her arm, looking grave, and said something that the Elephante couldn't hear. He then led his mother out of the auditorium, where Miysha suspected that a much-needed discussion was about to be had.
No, the armour might not have actually been real, Miysha mused... but the courage spell she had spent months trying to weave in with the chainmail, well, that was a different story.