AN: This is a story I wrote a few years back for the NT. I'm currently working on a sequel to this that I hope to post here, but I want the original up to do so. It's not as great as it could be, and I would love constructive criticism. So here it is, for the most part unedited from the Neopian Times Version. Enjoy!
Ivy clutched the paintbrush in her hands, tense from her win on the Fruit Machine. Her Xweetok, Runningcrystal, came running up from where she was waiting outside.
"What did you get - Holy Fyora!" Runningcrystal exclaimed. In her owner's hands was a Faerie Paint Brush, the colour Runningcrystal had always wanted to be! They both stood in awe for a moment before Runningcrystal began running out of Sakhmet. Ivy followed, and the pair ran excitedly to the Rainbow Pool.
It didn't take them long to reach their destination. The Rainbow Pool wasn't particularly busy that day. Ivy gave Runningcrystal the Paint Brush, and the young Xweetok walked through the pool until she was fully submerged. After a single stroke of the paintbrush, the Xweetok felt herself sprout wings, and in an instant she had popped out of the pool, wings fluttering and new coat shining. Runningcrystal twirled around and giggled. She felt great, she felt refreshed, she felt... free.
"Crystal, you look great!" Ivy called. But Crystal was barely listening. She had just realized all the freedom she had now. She could go places that she could not go before, travel faster, float, all while using her silvery-blue wings. A longing to use them without ties or worries tugged at her heart. Crystal floated down to her owner.
"Um, Flight and Streamer are staying in the AstroVilla hotel tonight, and they invited me to join them. May I? I would love to show them my new wings," Crystal reluctantly asked. Ivy sighed before answering.
"All right. You can go. I'm going to be waiting at the bank with Icefeatherstream to pick you up in the morning. Have fun, dear!" Ivy said. Crystal was off in a hurry, as Ivy made her way to the bank.
Crystal bid her friends farewell as she headed towards where her family was waiting. Her sister Feather was stretching her wings with Ivy on the Island Eyrie's back. Crystal flew up to join them. They exchanged nods, and they flew back to their Terror Mountain home. Once they arrived, Ivy got her serious face on.
"Crystal, when I painted you yesterday, I noticed that you were acting ever so slightly different. I know why. Sometimes when pets get painted, they feel their new freedoms and all they want is to use them." Ivy walked closer to Crystal. "That is why I have decided to set you free." Ivy began to take off Runningcrystal's necklace, which symbolized Ivy's ownership of the young Xweetok. Surprised, Crystal stepped back.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, are you serious? I know I want to be free, but I don't want to be alone!" Crystal protested. Ivy smiled a weak smile before speaking.
"You won't be alone. You'll meet countless other pets on your journey. And you can always return home, whenever you want. You'll always be welcome," Ivy said, before hugging Crystal. "I wouldn't be doing this if it wasn't the right thing for you, sweetie," Ivy whispered into her ear. She then took the necklace off of Crystal. Crystal felt as though a huge burden had just been lifted off of her shoulders. She took off reluctantly, waving to her old family.
"Argh, I was such a fool!" Crystal mumbled to herself. She was sitting atop an Altadorian building, reviewing her past. The day she had left her family was between seven and eight years ago. She had wandered Neopia, which, over her travels, never seemed to change too much. A new generation of Neopians had come, and Crystal was glad to be among them, but she missed her family.
Sighing, Crystal slung her bag from its spot over her shoulder and laid it on her lap, opening it up and taking out a golden flute. Taking a deep breath, Crystal lifted her flute up to her mouth and began to play an old tune she had picked up during her travels. It was beautiful, quickly transferring from sad to gleeful and back. The tune echoed through the streets, causing an awestruck crowd to gather under the perch. Crystal felt her wings flapping to the rhythm of her tune, which was growing in speed.
Soon she was floating above the ever-growing crowd. It seemed that playing her flute was the only thing she ever enjoyed anymore. Soon Crystal found herself floating above the streets, with the large crowd of Altadorians still gathering beneath her. Her tunes carried magical qualities, it seemed. Soon the final notes began to lengthen, and Crystal gently lowered herself down to the center of the crowd. The last note hung in the air, and once Crystal lowered her flute from her lips, a cheer rang out from her audience.
Crystal sighed quietly. Neopoints were flung from the Altadorians and onto the ground around her. Once she had picked them all up, Crystal simply smiled and flew back up to the top of the building to get her bag. Putting away her flute and the Neopoints she had gathered, Crystal flew off with the setting sun to her left. She knew exactly where she was going: Shenkuu. Why, she didn't exactly know. It seemed that an old, forgotten memory was compelling her to go there; like something or someone would provide an answer to a question she didn't even know. The first stars of the night began to glimmer overhead as Crystal flew on towards one of her favorite places to go.
By dawn Crystal arrived at the little land of Shenkuu. It was unusually busy that day. Crystal guessed that some shop was having a big sale or something. She shrugged and landed on one of the bridges and began to make her way towards the Exotic Foods shop, where she would pick up some Stramberry Juice and Chokato Dumplings with the Neopoints she had collected the previous day. Anxious to get something to eat, Crystal transferred from a walk to a slight jog. In her haste, she bumped another Neopet, sending it falling from the bridge. Realizing what she had done, Crystal reached down and caught the falling Neopet. It was a semi-young Female Plushie Kacheek with a familiar air to her. Crystal pulled the Kacheek back onto the bridge.
"Sorry 'bout that. I wasn't exactly looking where I was going," Crystal said once the Kacheek was safely on the bridge.
"It's fine. I should have been more careful and had my paw on the railing like my owner always told me to," the Kacheek replied, stifling a giggle. Crystal chuckled a bit herself.
"Well, I gotta go. Nice meeting you," Crystal said, jogging off in a hurry. Where had she seen that Kacheek before? She certainly didn't know any Plushie Kacheeks personally. But something about the way the Kacheek smiled, or maybe it was something else, tugged at Crystal's memory. She simply shrugged and continued to move towards the Exotic Foods Shop.
Crystal walked casually into the shop and up to the counter. The Nimmo who ran the place smiled at her. "What can I get you today?" he asked.
"I'd like some Stramberry Juice and Chokato Dumplings, please," Crystal replied, digging out her Neopoints from her bag. The Nimmo put her order on the counter and smiled, taking the Neopoints.
"Hey, I think I recognize you. Word on the street is you're a pretty decent flute player. Would you like a job here?" the Nimmo asked.
Crystal pondered for a moment. "I'll do it just for today, under the condition that I get the food for free," Crystal replied. When it came to free food, Crystal wouldn't turn down an opportunity.
The Nimmo thought for a moment before replying. "It's a deal," he said, giving her the food and the Neopoints she just gave him. Crystal put the Neopoints in her bag and took out her flute. With the food in one paw and flute in the other, Crystal sat down to eat her meal before playing. Once her stomach was full, she pulled her flute up to her lips and began playing one of her old tunes, drawing Neopets from outside into the little hut.
After playing for half the day, Crystal decided that her job was done. She walked out of the shop, sat on a nearby ledge, and played a soft tune. A gentle breeze blew, carrying the notes into the distance before they were lost in the noise of footsteps from traveling Neopians. The notes were too soft to be heard, so nobody did. Crystal knew that the only benefit of this song would be comfort for herself, since no crowd would gather to hear this song. Yet after six years this was the first of her melodies to be played for nobody but the player, and as the wind blew the notes into oblivion, a part of Crystal knew that this small variation was the first of many.