The Neopian Times' Glory
It was 4th day of the Month of Swimming, the day that the 350th issue of the Neopian Times would be released.
Down in Neopia Central at the Neopian Mint, a celebration was ongoing. Mike, a blue Zafara, and the CEO of the Mint, had decided that in addition to ordinary party materials, the entire mint would do something special for all of Neopia. And so, they decided to create a singular neopoint bag worth exactly 350 neopoints and donate it to the Neopian Times itself.
After the bag’s creation, Mike took the honor of its custody until the bag was to be unveiled to the public. He stored it on his desk, as his office was always locked. Nobody, he figured, would be able to break into his office and steal the bag. After all, he had the only key, besides the one attached to the master set. And, the master set was only to be used on special occasions.
Mike obviously did not realize that the 350th issue of the Neopian Times was a very special occasion.
* * *
Talia walked alongside her best friend, Matt, holding his hand. They were buddies on the Neoschool trip to the Neopian Mint and had to stay together at all times so they would not get lost. The two Lupe cubs – Talia was painted blue and Matt green – walked next to each other, in the middle of a line with the other pairs.
Their teacher, Ms. Baboo, was far ahead and she led them into a room filled with coins. There, the class admired a set of Y2 Neopian coins. Talia pointed out one that had the Rainbow Pool on it to Matt and he giggled. It had always been one of their wishes to be painted there. He whispered to her that one day, when they were all grown up, he would pay for a Rainbow Paintbrush with which he would paint Talia. She merely snorted and retorted that he could never save enough neopoints.
“Matt,” Talia hissed, “I Double-Gelert dare you to touch that coin over there!”
The green Lupe shook his head. “What about the alarms?”
“Pooey,” Talia pouted. “Fine, then I Triple-Gelert dare you to tap Ms. Baboo without her noticing.”
Matt accepted the challenge. After all, it was a Triple-Gelert dare and among the small Neopets, those just weren’t turned down.
He snuck out of line and up to Ms. Baboo. Now, he was first in line and directly behind his teacher. The green Lupe took one look back at his blue friend. She had a large, reassuring grin on her face.
Matt took a deep breath and steadied his paw. He reached out and made contact. Mission successful! But, that was only the first part of the Triple-Gelert dare. Looking up at Ms. Baboo, the Lupe saw her head began to turn around. To Matt, it was as though the world was moving in slow motion. He dove down onto the ground, safely hidden by tourists and the herd of pets.
Ms. Baboo turned around and stopped, peering down suspiciously at the crowd of her students. Matt held his breath and stayed as still as he could. Ms. Baboo couldn’t have seen him, could she?
“Talia!” Ms. Baboo snapped. “Where is your buddy?”
Matt stopped. This wasn’t part of the plan – neither of them had thought that the teacher would single out Talia.
“M’am,” Matt called out from the floor, “I’m Talia’s partner. I was tying my shoe.”
Ms. Baboo nodded and turned back around, though she looked slightly disappointed that there was no misbehaving student to scold.
“That was close!” Talia whispered to Matt. He nodded as the class entered a new room and stopped.
“This,” Ms. Baboo announced, “is the CEO’s office.”
As she continued to lecture the class, the blue Lupe leaned over to whisper in his friend’s ear.
“Hey, I Double-Gelert dare you to steal that bag of neopoints on the CEO’s desk,” he said, pointing to a bulging brown sack.
“Okay,” Talia responded, a devilish glare on her face. She snuck off from the group, grabbed the neopoints, and hid them under her jacket. Ms. Baboo did not even blink.
Throughout the rest of the day, the bag of neopoints stayed in place under Talia’s jacket. When she got home, the Lupe saw her owner, Joey, sitting on a couch reading issue 349 of the Neopian Times.
Talia greeted her owner and showed him the bag of neopoints. At first, Joey didn’t question and merely praised Talia. But then, he noticed the number on the bag: 350. Three fifty? Joey looked back down at the newspaper in his lap.
One-of-a-kind 350 Neopoint Bag for Issue 350, it read.
Joey looked back up at Talia and the sack of neopoints in her hand. Why, it must be worth a fortune! Joey contemplated a hard decision – whether to return the bag or sell it.
“If I sell it,” Joey thought to himself, “we can afford a new Neohome. I can buy anything I want. But, of course, I can’t just sell it anywhere. I’ll have to find a buyer who doesn’t mind... bending the rules.
“But if I return it, Talia and I might wind up in trouble with the Chia Police. Not to mention that all of Neopia would be angry that we disrupted their Neopian Times celebration.”
Joey walked over to the small green Lupe.
“Talia,” he began, “can I have the bag of neopoints? I’ll give you seven hundred whole neopoints – double what you’d be giving me.”
Talia thought about it, before nodding and reluctantly passing over the bag. In a way, it was like removing all proof of her great theft. But she knew it would be better to comply than to defy her owner. And so, Talia departed for her room, empty handed.
Later that night, when Talia was fast asleep, Joey took the bag and brought it out to sell. He went through alleyways, using vacant routes. It was pitch black out and not a sound could be heard save the squeaking of Joey’s shoes.
Suddenly, the sound of pattering rang out from up ahead. Joey clutched the bag of neopoints close to his chest, kept his head down, and sped up his pace. But, a few paces on, Joey found himself face to face with a large shadow Grarrl. The Grarrl glared down intensely at Joey, and Joey stared back.
While the rest of Neopia was safely in their beds sleeping, an exchange was made between the Grarrl and Joey.
* * *
Back at the Neopian Mint, the last-minute preparations were being put up. Balloons were being taped to the walls and cookies were being set out on dishes. Mike was going back to his office to retrieve the 350 neopoint bag. On his way, he was whistling “Flatulence in A Minor,” strolling happily among the decorations.
Mike reached his office door, and stuck his key in the keyhole. Turning it, the Zafara opened the door. After one step inside his office, Mike stopped short. He did a double take, and his Zafara jaw dropped. The 350 neopoint bag was gone.
* * *
It was beautiful outside in Neopia Central. The sun was shining and the Money Tree smiled a commercial grin right back at the sun.
“Pick up my items,” the Money Tree exclaimed. “But don't be too greedy!”
Among the many Neopians waiting for their lucky break among the junk, there was a yellow Acara by the name of Ralph. Ralph was poor, and hoping to find a paint brush or morphing potion among the fishing gear.
Ralph adjusted the potato sack he was wearing. About a week ago, he had found it in the dumpster behind the Chocolate Factory and worn it ever since. Something about it made the Acara feel rich, like one of the snobby, customized neopets.
Suddenly, Ralph saw a flash of light come from the Money Tree’s roots, and he dove down in an attempt to snatch whatever it was. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the sun reflecting off of a Rusty Old Can, which Ralph promptly discarded.
The yellow Acara sighed, and sat down in the grass. He put his head in his hands and sat there for some time. Then, he slowly looked up from his hands. There, in front of him, was a bag of neopoints hanging out of a Grarrl’s pants’ pocket.
Ralph began to try to decide whether or not he should steal it. It would be immoral, but yet he needed the neopoints badly. He couldn’t remember the last time he had a hot meal and his stomach was constantly growling. And so, Ralph reached up and plucked the bag out of the pet’s pocket, then ran off to the food shop to buy himself a hot meal.
After arriving, Ralph quickly chose a Bottle of Water and a Turkey Drumstick Dinner. As payment, he took the stolen neopoints out and handed them to the Nate, the Chia running the store. Nate’s eyes bulged as he accepted the bag.
“You-you’re giving this to me?” he blurted. Ralph nodded, confused. The storekeeper grinned. He had just been handed Neopia’s most coveted bag of neopoints for the cost of one dinner. A sly smile planted on his face, Nate opened the door for Ralph to leave. On Ralph’s way out, the Acara was handed an apple.
“Take care,” Nate crooned, shutting the door behind Ralph. He immediately put a ‘Closed’ sign up on the door and ran into the back storage room of his shop. Nate collected neopoints as a hobby. He had everything from a Bag of Broken Neopoints to a One Hundred Million Neopoint Stamp - everything but a 350 neopoint bag. Nate took his newest find and set it down next to a Neopoint Bag Charm. Then, he left the storage room, closing the door with a slam. He fanned himself with his hand, and opened his shop back up as hoards of Neopians came pouring in.
* * *
There was a crowd of Neopians gathered in Uni Meadows. They all sat on fold-up metal chairs, or huddled together in a giant mass, waiting on their toes for the spectacle. There was a large stage set up in front of them, consisting of a platform, four columns, and a tent for a roof. A microphone was placed at the front of the stage for the speaker.
Behind the stage, Mike was pacing.
“What should I do?” the blue Zafara murmured to himself. “What should I do?”
Mike was to go onstage in a few minutes to present the grand appearance of the 350 neopoint bag, in dedication to the 350th issue of the Neopian Times. The only problem was the lack of the bag itself.
The stage manager came around back, a clipboard in his hand.
“Mike, the audience is waiting for you,” he informed the nervous wreck of a Zafara. “Let’s move.”
Mike gathered his courage as he forced himself onstage, like a pet unwillingly being brought to the Lab Ray. He took a deep breath and quietly adjusted the microphone to his height. The crowd was as silent as a Miamouse.
“Hello...” the Zafara shakily began. “Um, I’m afraid I have some bad news, but I’d like you to all just bear with me for a second.”
The crowd broke out in a murmur – what happened? Where was the bag? Why was Mike so nervous?
“Excuse me!” Mike shouted out. The crowd became silent once more. “The 350 neopoint bag has disappeared. But, I have a proposition to you all: The Neopian Times has never once been about monetary gain or physical objects. Why should it be celebrated with an item, rather than the spirit with which it is carried throughout generations? Instead of getting worked up about a lost item, why not focus in on the great feat it is to have reached 350 issues of great writing and artwork? Why not celebrate the contributors and all the work they have put into their entries? I say that we remember all the good that the Neopian Times has brought us – all 350 issues – and celebrate that.”
The crowd cheered for the Neopian Times, the contributors, the staff, the work, the achievements, and the glory.