The Restless Gnorbu
Yifeb had started working at the Chocolate Factory when she was very young. “It’s like my second home,” she was fond of saying. “Some Neopets are born with silver spoons in their mouth—for me, it was a candy cane.”
But secretly, in her heart of hearts, the chocolate Gnorbu was becoming restless. It wasn’t that her career hadn’t been varied, or that she didn’t enjoy the work. When she was no more than a babe, she’d scuttled around the building, carrying buckets of lollypops and Neggs on her back. Later, she’d graduated to the mixing rooms, stirring vats of chocolate and flavourings. And now, she was out the front, taking guests on tours and working at the register, which she adored; it was so nice to say goodbye to people knowing they were happy and chocolate-filled.
No, it wasn’t the Chocolate Factory. It was that Yifeb had never been outside of Neopia Central. Every day she saw Neopets from the most far flung corners of Neopia (the Lost Desert, the Ice Caves, Maraqua...), or even Kreludor. They all told her the most fabulous stories of their home countries. Yifeb would look out the window, at the familiar green grass and paved streets, and imagine they were sandy, or snowy, or that she was underwater, and sigh with longing.
But there were always cupcakes to ice, or chocolates to mould, and Yifeb would have to put her dreams away, and get to work. Before she knew it, she was becoming quite a grown up Gnorbu, and she’d still never left the little town. As much as she loved her workmates, and as much as she loved the Chocolate Factory, Yifeb simply wasn’t happy.
Happiness was, however, not far away—and it came from an unexpected source.
You see, every week, a chocolate Usul named Sylfio came into the Factory, pulling a cart laden with frothing bottles of ice cream soda. One of Yifeb’s jobs was to meet Sylfio and collect the delivery. She would then store the bottles out the front, ready to be poured into customers’ glasses, or sent in bulk to other local stores.
One such delivery day, Yifeb was feeling particularly down. That day, she had shown around faerie Neopets, who had talked animatedly of the beautiful colours and clouds of their home. It sounded magical, and Yifeb wondered if she would ever see Faerieland for herself. There weren’t any customers in the shop at that point, so Yifeb allowed herself to have a little cry.
“Are you alright, dear?”
Yifeb looked up through her mist of tears, to see Sylfio standing in the doorway of the factory, her brow furrowed in concern.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Yifeb said, wiping her eyes with her paw, and stepping out from behind the desk. She took a deep breath, and swallowed her tears. “I wasn’t expecting you for another few minutes. Where’s the cart?”
Sylfio shook her head. “Never mind that now. What’s wrong?” She darted over, and put her arms around Yifeb. “You can talk to me, Feb. We’re friends, aren’t we?”
Yifeb smiled weakly. Maybe it was Sylfio’s sympathetic nature, or maybe Yifeb was simply tired of pretending to be happy; whatever the reason, she really did feel like she could talk to the Usul. “This is going to sound silly. But I—I’m bored. I’ve never travelled anywhere in my life. I love the Chocolate Factory, but I’m scared I’ll never leave and see Neopia.”
“Why don’t you?” Sylfio asked, her tail swishing around in confusion. “You’ve got enough neopoints saved, surely.”
“I do,” admitted Yifeb. “It’s just always so busy here. I don’t want to let anyone down.”
Sylfio looked at Yifeb thoughtfully for a while. Finally, she said: “No, I’m sure you don’t. Listen, I have a proposition for you. I live all the way over in Brightvale, as you know. It’s only a day trip for me to come here, quite doable, but I’ve become quite snowed under with orders recently, especially as it gets close to the holiday season.
“I was thinking of suggesting to the Chocolate Factory that they send someone to me to collect the orders, instead of the other way around—with me reducing my price accordingly, of course. If you like, I could recommend you.”
“To collect the orders?” Yifeb said, staring at Sylfio in wonder. “In Brightvale?” Her mind filled with images of stained glass windows, bookstores and beautiful green meadows.
“Yes. You could come over in the morning, explore Meridell and Brightvale for the day, and I could send you back in the evening with the cart. It’s quite a simple trip, not far to travel at all, so you wouldn’t be overwhelmed.”
Yifeb hugged Sylfio tightly, unable to bring herself to speak.
And so it was that the following week, Yifeb trotted away from Neopia Central for the very first time in her life, with a light wooden cart trailing behind her, humming a jaunty tune. It was a clear, sunny day, and sunbeams shimmered on the cobbled road. Everything seemed exciting and new. She was glad to be a Gnorbu, knowing that other species might not be able to travel quite so quickly.
Around midmorning, when the castle of Brightvale rose over the horizon, Yifeb couldn’t help but gasp; it was the largest thing she’d ever seen. She stared in awe at the stern soldiers guarding the gates, and was thrilled to see that tourists were allowed in, to discuss matters of wisdom with King Hagan sitting at his throne. Although Yifeb didn’t dare approach the imposing Skeith, she was impressed by the smooth marbled walls of the castle and its green and gold tapestries.
At the bookstore, she bought herself a copy of Brightvale Maps, figuring it might come in handy; and after some consideration of the contents of her purse, Poems of Brightvale as well. She didn’t expect to see anything she liked at the armoury, but the cloaks were gorgeous—though after glancing at the price tag on an elegant jewelled robe, she quickly dashed out. For lunch, she bought a Tangella from the fruit store; although it was somewhat expensive, it looked more appetising than the orange and brown Icky Fruits lining the walls.
She couldn’t resist having a spin of the Wheel of Knowledge, which told her, “There are some lessons that cannot come from a book... they must simply be lived.” Yifeb couldn’t help but think of all the books she had read about Brightvale, and how the real experience was so much better, and agree.
At that point, she thought she’d perhaps better go and see Sylfio, so she checked her maps and the address Sylfio had given her, and headed off. Eventually she came to a little cottage in a grove of trees.
Sylfio rushed out before she even got to the door. “Feb! I’m so glad you made it!”
Yifeb smiled. “Yes, and it’s been an amazing time. I thought I might leave the cart here while I visit Meridell, is that okay?”
“And to think that only a week ago you hadn’t even dreamt of leaving Neopia Central,” Sylfio said fondly. “Of course, that sounds like an excellent idea, and I’ll happily load it up for you. But come inside, there was something I wanted to say to you, first.”
Inside the little cottage, Yifeb and Sylfio sat down on a flowery sofa, with glasses of creamy ice cream soda. Yifeb looked around, wondering where Sylfio worked; the building seemed far too small to accommodate any kind of major supply operation.
Sylfio noticed her looking, and laughed. “I do all my work in the basement. It’s cooler down there. Now, my dear, I have a suggestion for you.”
“An expanded version of the first suggestion, really. I thought I’d see how you liked Brightvale before recommending it, but I’m fairly confident now.”
Yifeb sipped her soda. “Go on.”
“You see, there are other distributors in my position,” Sylfio explained. “As you’ll know, many of those who work outside the Factory, growing and making ingredients and products, deliver directly. I just don’t think it’s very efficient for us all to make separate trips like that, and the Chocolate Factory agrees with me. We thought that perhaps it might make more sense for someone at the Factory to travel regularly to every part of Neopia, and pick up whatever’s grown or made there. For instance, at Terror Mountain, you’d pick up Neggs from the Ice Caves, slushies and ice cream from Happy Valley, and Chia Pops from the top of the mountain.”
Yifeb stared at Sylfio, her soda forgotten. “You’re saying—”
“I am indeed,” said Sylfio. “They think you’d be perfect, and so do I. Of course, you’d need to spend a month or so travelling around those places before you started, to work out the most efficient procedure, and the Chocolate Factory’s quite happy to pay you full wages during that period.”
“Well, this is what occurred to me last week,” Sylfio said slowly. “When you said you didn’t want to let anyone down. See—you’ve been working at the Chocolate Factory since you were knee high to a Meepit, forgive the expression, and working six day weeks, too. I couldn’t help but think that perhaps the Chocolate Factory was starting to take you for granted. You’re an amazing worker, Feb, and they won’t easily be able to replace you as a Factory worker—but on the other hand, you can do so much more for them in a more challenging position.”
Yifeb’s eyes filled with tears. “I can’t thank you enough.”
“It was the least I could do,” said Sylfio. “You’ve made a lot of customers very happy, you’ve made the Chocolate Factory very happy—and now, I think, you need to learn to make yourself very happy.” She grinned. “You could make a good start on that by finishing your soda.”
“And Meridell this afternoon,” said Yifeb, happily. “I’ll go talk to the cherry growers and find out what they think about this distribution idea.”
Sylfio laughed. “That’s the spirit.”
And so Yifeb took a month off to travel, and see the sights of Neopia, and it was just as amazing as she had always dreamed. She met new people from exotic places like she always had, but now she was in those exotic places too, and it was they who listened to her travelling tales with envy. By the time the month was up, she had several notebooks filled with plans and timetables. Eventually, she became head of an entire department of travelling Chocolate Factory workers.
She still loved the Factory, and she always liked coming home and seeing her friends again, but she was finally doing what she had always dreamed of doing: seeing the world.