Note: Leo is Kugelmugel's human name
I dropped my pencil in disgust. There was no way I would finish this in time for the Expo tomorrow. I leaned back in my chair and glanced over at Leo. He was almost done with his work, painting the courtyard below his window. Somehow he always managed to finish things more quickly than I did. I looked at what I was trying to draw. It was a person, or at least a person on steroids. How come Kugel’s always ended up perfect? It wasn’t fair. He would always be the better artist. Leo met his clear violet eyes with mine. He tilted his head a little bit, his braids shifting ever so slightly. “What’s wrong, Ladonia-kun?” I sighed and gestured at the paper in front of me. "This isn't working. I'm not naturally talented like you are." Kugel shook his head, his eyes shut. "That's not true at all."
I was suddenly kind of angry. "Stop lying to me! I know it's bad!" I said, my voice raising. Leo looked concerned. "Ladonia-kun?" My eyes flashed in rage. "You're always so perfect all of the time!! I always have to hear 'Oh, your art is okay, but look at Kugel's to see how it's supposed to be done!' You, the little goody two shoes who never cares about anyone else's feelings!! I wish you couldn't make art anymore so it didn't get rubbed in my face all of the time!!!" I immediately regretted saying that. Kugel's eyes were filled with tears, spilling down his cheeks and landing in his lap. "I....... Didn't know you felt that way about me...." He stood up and rushed out of the room, his silver braids whisking behind him. "Oh, no....." I whispered.
What if Leo stopped being an artist forever? I would never forgive myself. I flopped onto my bed, trying to ignore the feeling of dread inside. I cried myself to sleep, so focused on my error that I didn't hear Kugel enter the room hours later. I woke up when I felt him gently wipe the tears out of my eyes with his striped sleeve. As he leaned down, I felt his soft hair touching my cheek. I pretended to be asleep so that he wouldn't leave. He curled up next to me and I heard him lightly snoring fifteen minutes later. I sighed, reaching over to move Kugel’s bangs out of his eyes. My friend was so loyal. I can't believe that after I told him such terrible things, he was kind enough to brush tears off my cheek.
The next morning, I woke up to the smell of Kugel's cooking. "Your dorm was unlocked." He said quietly. I sat up and yawned, rubbing the tiredness out of my eyes. I padded over to where my friend was standing.
"I am so sorry about yesterday." Kugel looked down at what he was cooking. "You should be." He responded. I shook my head.
"Please forgive me. I don't know what I'd do if you hated me." Leo sighed. "I could never hate you." He was still wearing his clothes from yesterday, I noticed. Kugel closed his eyes.
"I tried drawing this morning." He whispered.
"What happened?" I asked, concerned.
"What?! Because of what I said?" Kugelmugel contemplated this.
"No, it definitely wasn't that. What you said hurt me for an hour or so, but not really. When I tried to draw, my arm wouldn't let me touch the paper with my pencil. It was like two opposite magnets facing each other..... No matter what I did, some force refused to let me draw."
"Do you think it's some psychological thing?" I said. I was really worried now. Leo shook his head.
"No, I really wanted to make art.... It was like a glass wall was separating me from the paper. It was all very weird." Kugel turned to face me. "What exactly did you say last night?" I cringed.
"Don't make me..... repeat it. I hurt you, and I don't want to again."
"Really?" He said sarcastically. His face matched his tone. "Does it look like I'll be offended?" He had a good point there.
"I said... Oh gosh, Kugel-chan, I said that I wished you couldn't make art anymore!!! What if it came true?! Try and draw for me." Kugel grabbed a pen and my science journal and tried to doodle something. His pen couldn't get within a centimeter of the paper. "Try writing." The pen suddenly gave way and Leo wrote "Hello" on the lined paper. "What the heck?" I said.
"It's just like I told you!" said Kugel. "If I'm willingly trying to make art, then my body seizes up."
I rubbed my temple. "That's confusing. A lot of stuff can be classified as art, but it only won't let you make art if you yourself consider it to be art?"
"Stop being confusing!" Said Kugel. "Our readers won't understand!"
What? I thought. Kugel sighed. "So far, I can't draw, paint, do sculpturing..... anything I consider to be art, I can't do."
"What should we do?!!!" I asked. Kugelmugel tilted his head, thinking.
"I read a story about a place you could go to reverse wishes. It's really cheesy, but it's pretty much our only option here." Alexis walked over to the shelf on my wall. I think I left it here...." He ran his finger along the spines. "Here we go, Wünschen Hoffen." He held up a book with a faded leather cover and silver lettering. Kugel thumbed through the pages until he found the one he was looking for. "Ah, here we go. 'Sometimes, to teach a lesson, star demons will grant wishes for people. The wishes are hardly ever are wanted by the person. To remove the wish, the person must find the demon and offer their most prized possession to trade. If it isn’t their most prized possession, the star demons will often kill the human in the most gruesome way for lying to them.' Wow, that's cheerful." he finished sarcastically. I shook my head.
"Do you know where the demons are, if they even exist at all?"
Kugel sighed. "Yes, actually, I do." My face changed in concern.
"Wait, are you actually going to go?!"
Kugel smiled. "I have to. I would rather die than not be able to make art ever again."
I pulled Kugel close. "Don't go. It's all my fault, and I never would be able to forgive myself if you died."
"Ladonia-kun...." Kugel looked up at me. His eyes were full of tears. "I have to go. I'm so sorry." He blinked, and tears spilled down his cheeks.
"Shhh..... Don't cry." I said, stroking his white hair. He pushed away from me.
"Come back to my dorm with me and help me pack." He said softly.
I trailed behind Kugel down the hall, my shoes squeaking on the patterned linoleum. He unlocked the door to his dorm and I trudged inside after Leo. He sighed and looked around the room.
“What should I bring? I don’t even know where to start!” I mulled this over.
“Well, water, for starters. Lots of water. And food, too. Bring something to climb with and something to keep you warm.” Kugel got a backpack out of his closet and loaded it with water bottles, freeze- dried fruit, a blanket, and a rope.
“Is that good?” He asked.
“Better pack a small tent and the Wünschen Hoffen, too.” Kugel put the large book into the backpack. He opened a drawer and dug around in it. “Here we go, a tent.” He shoved a rather large canvas bag into his backpack.
“The only thing left is my most prized possession.” he said.
“Do you even know what it is?” I asked.
“I have no idea. Maybe my ring or my paintbrush? I’ll bring both just in case.” Leo said. He pulled the paintbrush from where it was perched on his ear and dropped it in the backpack. “I’m already wearing the ring, so I’ll just keep it on.” He looked down. “I need to change my clothes; this isn’t going to work for hiking and climbing.”
I helped Kugel look through his clothes to find some to wear. We ended up choosing a loose white shirt and black shorts. He put them on and modeled for me. “What do you think?”
I blushed. “Well, it looks good… Are you going to wear your hat, though?”
“Oh, you’re right!” Kugel took off his hat and put it in the backpack. “I’m going to write the directions to where the demons live. If I’m not back in a month, follow the directions and come rescue me. I would draw a map, but, you know.... " He wrote down the directions in his notebook and tore it out, leaving a jagged edge in his notebook.
He handed it to me, his hand lingering a second longer than it should have. He picked up the blue backpack and turned to leave, but I grabbed his hand. He turned back to face me. “What is it?” he asked softly. I pulled him into a warm embrace, rocking him back and forth.
“Be safe.” I whispered into his hair.
“I….. can’t promise that.” He said honestly. I released him, blushing, then averted my gaze.
“So, um… I’ll see you then?”
“Yeah….” said Kugel. He walked out the door, but then rushed back and pecked me on the cheek. Kugel blushed and then turned to dash out the door.
I gently touched my tingling cheek.