Yanli skipped through the meadow that was just past the park. It was to the southeast of the Uni Meadows, and to the southwest were the main shops of Neopia Central. Her owner had come to restock her shop and told the younger ones they could go play there while she worked. Bluejay had stayed behind to help, but after she knocked over a display for the fifth time while helping, Kristy had asked that she just play and she could help again later. Yanli didn’t mind, really; she wanted to be out here, but she hadn’t wanted to leave them with all the work. At the edge of the Meadow was a small wooded area. It wasn’t very big, only a couple of acres but it was there.
That was enough to tempt Yanli’s curiosity. She screamed over her shoulder to her sisters that she was going in. Not bothering to find out if they heard her, she plunged into the woods. The trees were tall and old; ivy snaked up them and disappeared amongst the leaves. Wild flowers and mushrooms carpeted the ground. Yanli fell to picking the flowers. She braided them into garlands and put them on her head.
She wandered amongst the trees and tried to count them all. The woods seemed so much smaller from outside. She climbed the trees and made it to the top. Looking around, she couldn’t see the either end of the forest.
“That’s so weird,” Yanli thought to herself. “With how tall these trees are and how small this wood is, I should easily see the shops or the park. I don’t even see the smoke rising from the chimneys of the factories. This is kinda cool.”
Yanli climbed back down. She decided that as fun as this place was, she should probably make her way out. If she stayed in too long, then her family might worry. She set out the way she thought she’d come. Shadows were beginning to grow as she walked, but she did not come to the end. Hours passed and soon it was getting so dark that she couldn’t see very far ahead. Her feet hurt and she was really hungry. She sat down on a rotting log and began to cry. Yanli never cried for long so after a few minutes she dried her eyes and started to think.
“Well, I’m sure they are looking for me. After all, there are six of them who can look. Also I’m sure that they would contact the DoN to help search. But what if they didn’t hear me say I was going in here? Then they might not look here for a while. Then I’ll be alone and hungry and thirsty all night. What if they thought I went home? Then I could be alone in here longer. I know I’ll call to them. Kristy! Kristy! I’m over here!” Yanli shouted.
She then waited. The noises grew louder as the light grew dimmer. She began to cry again as she thought about being alone in the woods all night.
“This is worse than the pound. At least I got a little food and I had lots of people around there. I’m all alone and hungry here, and my family might never find me again. What if somebody else finds me? They might try to keep me! Or what if some hungry monster finds me? What if I get eaten? Kristy! Bluejay! Anita! Help! Please anybody!” Yanli sobbed and screamed.
She rested her head on her knees and cried some more. After a few minutes she lifted her head and looked around and saw a cluster of mushrooms. They were such pretty colors and her stomach hurt so much from hunger now. Kristy had told her something about wild mushrooms, but she really hadn’t been paying attention that day. She had been too busy chasing a butterfly to care. They couldn’t hurt her, they were so pretty. She reached down for one and plucked it. She opened her mouth to take a bite when a voice called out, “Don’t eat that!”
Yanli jumped and dropped the mushroom.
“Who’s th-there?” Yanli called out.
“Down here. I’m down here,” the voice called out.
Yanli looked down. A little Kacheek hardly bigger than the palm of her hand stood by the log. He looked just like a gnome, with his white beard and red cap. He carried a little lantern that seemed to shed more light than a large one would have. Yanli put down her hand and he stepped on to it. She held him up in front of her face and looked at him.
“Wow, you’re so small. Almost as small as a butterfly. But you look like you’re old. My big sister was a Kacheek for a while and she was still taller than me. My baby sister is bigger than you and she can’t even walk. Why are you so small and why shouldn’t I eat the mushrooms? Aren’t mushrooms good? We eat them all the time at home. Oh, I’m Yanli.”
The little Kacheek laughed and answered, “My name is Gedda Happycheek. I’m a very special Kacheek. I’m small so I can do a very special job. You shouldn’t eat wild mushrooms because many are poisonous, as those are. Didn’t your owner tell you that or did he abandon you? Is that why you’re out here alone and why you were crying?”
Yanli shook her head, “I think she tried, but I wasn’t listening. I was abandoned once but Kristy adopted me. I’ve got six siblings too. I was playing in the meadow outside, they were on the playground at the park, and I came in here to explore, but I got lost! I’ve been looking and looking for the way out but I can’t find it. I’m afraid that I’ll never see them again. What if they don’t find me? I was crying, but I feel better now that you’re here.”
“I’m glad. Don’t worry, I’m sure everything will be all right. I can show you the way out, but you’re very far from it. But don’t worry, nothing bad lives in this forest. First, since you were about to eat that mushroom, I guess you must be hungry. Come on, I’ll show you where to find berries that are good to eat.”
“Oh, thank you. I am so hungry and I’m sure it's way past dinnertime. You’re very nice. Should I put you down or do you just want to point me in the right direction, Mr. Happycheek?” Yanli replied.
“Oh just call me Gedda, Yanli. You can carry me and I’ll direct. I’m sure it will be faster. Go that way,” Gedda answered, pointing.
Yanli followed Gedda’s instructions and found herself standing by a little stream with starberries growing on bushes by it.
“Ooh, I love starberries. Thank you Gedda!”
She put him down and picked some. She gave him one and started to eat.
“You can have a drink from that stream, if you’re thirsty,” Gedda told her.
“Kristy told me never to drink water from a stream, or anything like that. She said bad things live in the water and can make you sick,” Yanli said.
“Very good advice, that is. But here the water is very clean. The only bad things in this forest are the mushrooms and a few types of berries,” Gedda told her.
Yanli cupped her hands and took a sip.
“Its very good,” Yanli said. “Gedda, you said you were small so you could do a very special job. What is that special job?”
“Ah, yes, well, there are Kacheeks even smaller than I! I look after them and they in turn look after very tiny bugs that live here. The bugs you probably can’t see, but you can see the little Kacheeks. Do you want to see? I think that you are a very special Zafara, so I’ll show you,” Gedda replied.
“Yes, oh, yes! I so want to see them. They must be so cute!” Yanli cried.
“When you’re done eating, then.”
After they finished their berries, Yanli picked Gedda up again and followed his directions. She walked really slowly and watched the ground beneath her feet. She didn’t want to squish any of them. Suddenly she saw little lights spring out of the darkness ahead of her.
“Lie down on your belly, Yanli, and crawl up close. I’ll run ahead and call them out to meet you,” Gedda said as she put him down.
She did as she was told, and as she crawled up close, she could see tiny houses. The houses were only as big as her hand. She heard little voices and saw tiny Kacheeks no bigger than the tip of her thumb coming towards her. Gedda was leading them.
“Oh, Gedda, they’re so small. I didn’t think that Neopets could get so small!” Yanli whispered.
The little Kacheeks were expressing awe at her size too. One child Kacheek pulled on his mother’s sleeve and asked, “If I eat all of my veggies, will I get that big?”
“No,” his mother laughed. “Not quite that big. She’s special. Remember this, my son, I doubt any of us will ever see a big person again.”
“Well, I hate to have Yanli leave so soon, but it is very late and she has far to go to get out of these woods,” Gedda said, regretfully.
Yanli crawled backwards and picked up Gedda and stood up. She waved goodbye to the little Kacheeks and followed Gedda’s directions away.
Yanli seemed to be walking forever and her eyes were so heavy. She couldn’t keep from yawning. Her feet were beginning to hurt too. Gedda pointed to a tree. Beneath it was a bed of moss and flowers.
“Take a rest there, Yanli. We can continue when you are rested. That bed of moss will be as soft as any real bed could ever be. I’ll stay right by you, so don’t worry.”
“Okay, Gedda.” Yanli yawned as she put him down and lay down.
He was right; it was very soft. She could almost hear Kristy singing the lullaby she often sang to her at night. “Good night, Gedda,” she whispered as she closed her eyes. She dreamt sweet things. Then she dreamt her name was being called. She opened her eyes. Some one was calling her name.
“Gedda,” Yanli muttered.
But he didn’t answer. It wasn’t one voice but several voices calling for her. She couldn’t figure out if she was dreaming or not. Sudden she was able to make out a voice amongst the din. It was Kristy’s. Remembering that she had been lost, she shot up.
“Kristy! Kristy, I’m over here!” Yanli shouted as loud as she could.
Beams of light broke from between the trees. Figures emerged from the darkness and then Kristy was there. Her eyes were red and swollen and she was crying, but she was smiling. She scooped Yanli up in her arms and held her close.
“Oh, Yanli! Never wander off again, please! I was so worried. No one knew where you were and it was getting so dark and I was so afraid of what might happen to you! Oh, I’m just glad you’re all right.” Kristy sobbed.
“I’m sorry. I should have made sure my sisters heard me and I shouldn’t have gone so far in. But it's okay, Gedda Happycheek found me. He took care of me and gave me starberries, and he showed me the tiny little Kacheeks! He was showing me the way out, but I got tired and went to sleep here. But I’m happy you found me. For a while I was afraid I’d be lost forever!” Yanli told her owner.
“Oh Yanli, we’d never stop looking for you. But you must have been dreaming. Gedda Happycheek is just a fairytale I’ve told you sometimes. He doesn’t really exist. But come on; let’s get you home. Everyone is so worried about you,” Kristy said.
The company turned and headed back the way they came. Yanli looked back at the tree over Kristy’s shoulder and saw Gedda standing on a leaf of ivy on the tree. He smiled and put a finger to his lips. Yanli smiled back and nodded. It was to be their little secret.