Dedicated to my friend Einon, one of the best friends I could ever have.
Adiba the cloud Ixi strolled through Sakhmet, carrying two Usuki dolls under one arm and a purple backpack on the other, wearing a white shirt and blue pants. It was a blazing day in the city, and compared to being in Altador, Adiba was dealing with a heat wave. Despite the winter season concluding in a matter of weeks, the tan sand grains beneath scorched her shiny hooves. She had been to Sakhmet several times before, yet her recent arrival had her not adjusted to the sudden climate change.
Sakhmet may be known for perpetual heat and Sakhmet Solitaire, but Adiba returned to this city for one specific reason. The annual Usuki Fan Festival was today. Unlike Usukicon, a well-known event across Neopia in the summer, Usuki Fan Festival was an informal event of Usuki fandom. Participants dressed in originally stitched costumes of their favorite Usuki doll or outfit. Several tents close to the Fruit Machine were set up for a buffet, specialized shops of Usuki-themed souvenirs, and local artists drawing complimentary sketches. Admission was free, but because of the small area reserved and overly elated Neopets, only two hundred individuals could attend.
It would be Adiba’s third time attending Usuki Fan Festival. The cloud Ixi had fabric, thread, needles, and paper, but one issue – her costume was incomplete! As a matter of fact, Adiba was unable to ponder any ideas for her costume. This saddened her; she never had idea blocks for Usuki costumes in her life. She continued her walk, speaking to her brain for help.
“What should I wear for Usuki Fan Festival?” Adiba accidentally asked out loud. The other Neopets did not pay attention to her question. Adiba’s brain desperately named several Usuki dolls, including Magical Hair Usuki, which she wore last year to the event. She refused to repeat costumes, thinking it would be a waste to bring needles and fabric otherwise.
Just when Adiba’s brain gave up on suggestions, a purple Ogrin appeared, wearing a shimmering white and green dress that resembled Emerald Queen Usuki. The Ogrin was about ten centimeters taller than Adiba and seemed to be a Lost Desert local. However, Adiba recognized the Ogrin was her best friend.
“Trisha!” Adiba exclaimed, running to her.
“Adiba, I’d knew you would return to Sakhmet!” Trisha replied with a hug. “Are you ready for Usuki Fan Festival?”
“Not... exactly...” Adiba hesitated. Seeing Trisha prepared made Adiba wonder if she would be finished in time. The cloud Ixi saw her friend’s grin before giving a puzzled look. Somehow, Trisha knew about Adiba’s unpreparedness.
“What Usuki dolls do you have?” Trisha resumed the conversation. “I’ve got Emerald Queen Usuki and Lost Desert Usuki.”
“I have Foreman Usuki and King Altador Usuki.”
“Perfect, let’s do King Altador Usuki since you’re from Altador. We don’t have time for either makeup nor paint, so Foreman Usuki would be out of the question anyway. Can I see your supplies?”
“Sure.” Adiba and Trisha knelt, their legs burning from the sand’s temperature and bright sun rays gleaming on them. Inside Adiba’s purple backpack were the exact materials necessary to hurriedly stitch a King Altador Usuki costume. Threading needles, Adiba worked on the brown cape and white armor, while Trisha sewed a gold plushie sword.
It took the Neopets two hours to complete the basic costume. Trisha and Adiba were lucky the costume did not take days to complete, unlike some of the other Neopets’ costumes. Due to lack of time and an infraction if Neopets were tardy to the event entrance, Adiba wore the new costume over her clothes. The cloud Ixi was relieved she could wander around the tents freely and unconcerned about her outfit.
“Thanks, Trisha,” Adiba graciously said.
“You’re welcome.” The purple Ogrin followed Adiba toward the west side of the Fruit Machine, where the entrance was located. About one hundred fifty Neopets were already lined up, impatiently wanting to rush to shops. While waiting in queue, they chatted with twin Usuki Usuls.
The gossiping did not last long as wind velocity dramatically increased. Piles of sand were suddenly picked up and sent flying across by the wind. A desert Mynci, one of the festival’s workers in a tan shirt and matching pants, was shouting to the crowd, “It’s a sandstorm! Hurry inside a tent!”
Shrieking and panic erupted while startled Neopians scrambled in several Usuki Fan Festival tents. Adiba and Trisha dove in a tent that was selling rare Usuki dolls. Several others did the same, hiding under wooden tables as if an earthquake was occurring. Millions of sand grains whipped across the yellow tent, causing younger Neopets to cry in fear.
Adiba crawled to one of them, a yellow Kyrii, and whispered, “It is all right. The storm will pass soon.” The yellow Kyrii nodded and wiped her tears.
Trisha went to a fire Scorchio and repeated the same message. Older Neopians calmed the younger ones as the yellow tent fell apart from repetitive sand blasts. Everyone loudly screamed, Usuki dolls slamming to the ground. The once exquisite toys were ruined, covered in sand heaps. Clueless, little pets resumed sobbing.
Fifteen minutes or so after the tent collapsed, the sandstorm ceased. Crying became whimpers, tension transformed into relief. All Neopets climbed out of the debris, noticing every other tent had fallen as well. Adiba gently placed her two Usuki dolls in her purple backpack. She was glad once again she did not spend vast time on her costume, though it was not the time for such joy. Trisha pulled several Neopians from under the yellow tent, grasping one of the nearby crashed notices for support with her paw.
Many Neopians hugged each other and happily cried, elation resuming the seemingly abandoned area. Adiba wandered toward Usuki Fan Festival’s entrance, completely buried under infinite sand piles. The cloud Ixi sighed, figuring the event was going to be canceled. Trisha came over to her friend and had similar thoughts. The purple Ogrin’s Usuki dolls were somehow not affected by the sandstorm, yet her white and green dress dripped sand on her feet.
The desert Mynci from earlier, sunburned from being outside immediately after the concluded chaos, pivoted to face the crowd. He stood on top of a wooden table. Adiba and Trisha had a feeling their thoughts were becoming reality.
“Due to the sudden sandstorm, Usuki Fan Festival will be -”
“Wait!” Adiba hollered, cutting him off. “Why do we not rebuild Usuki Fan Festival?”
Trisha was initially confused, but suddenly added, “We could have the tents set back up by sunset and have the festival shortened to four hours!”
The desert Mynci glanced at Adiba and Trisha, then pondered options. With a few nods to himself, he agreed. Younger Neopets were kept an eye on by the elderly, while Adiba, Trisha, and the others repaired Usuki goods and prepared Usuki-shaped ham and lettuce sandwiches. Neopians not involved with Usuki Fan Festival stopped by and assisted with securing tents and organizing objects.
To the surprise of many, Usuki Fan Festival was ready to commence an hour before sunset. All Neopets were sweating from constant heat, yet they were yearning to purchase Usuki goods and discuss dolls. The desert Mynci was shocked at the dedication of Usuki fans. Adiba and Trisha stood in front of the new queue for their support of the event.
“I’m glad we can still enjoy the festival,” Trisha told Adiba.
“Me too,” Adiba agreed. “I look forward to this event all year.” The remaining Neopets gathered in line, and an exception was made for the year. Lost Desert residents expanded Usuki Fan Festival in Sakhmet entirely, so everyone who was around could bask in the glow of winter’s favorite Usuki event.
The desert Mynci cleared his throat and announced, “Start the Usuki Fan Festival!” Cheering spread all across the city as thousands of Neopets ran to nearby tents, inquiring about specific Usuki dolls. Adiba and Trisha first stopped by a tent where an elderly red Chomby was sketching Usuki costumes. They stored their drawings in Adiba’s backpack and continued their journey across the area. Negativity was replaced by jovial chatting from all Neopets.
After several sandwiches and violet shopping bags, Adiba and Trisha had to leave. Neopians were being escorted to Sakhmet Solitaire and other regular tents as posters and unsold objects were being packed up. The desert Mynci from before checked five times for abandoned belongings and thieves. Moonlight glowed on the sand as Adiba prepared to return to Altador, returning Trisha her sketch.
“Have to leave so soon?” Trisha asked. The purple Ogrin was disappointed that Adiba could not stay longer.
“I have to get back by morning,” Adiba admitted sadly. “Sorry.” The cloud Ixi waved goodbye to her friend and commenced her walk back to Altador. Trisha helped carry boxes to hidden tents so the goods could ship to Usukiland the following afternoon. With all the help given, both Neopets had a wonderful day. After all, it would not be the same without Usuki Fan Festival every winter.