Grunts erupted throughout the Neohome, startling a pink Cybunny from her sleep. Her name was Rina, and she was a cheerful Cybunny who enjoyed exploring Neopia Central. She gasped for a moment, puzzled about the peculiar noises. Moments later, she remembered her Snorkle, Mimi, always making the same grunts when asking for dinner. Rina glanced out her bedroom window and saw yellow and orange hues, signaling another day’s conclusion. It was the perfect time to wake up.
Rina was usually awake at night and slept during the day, preferring moonlight over sunlight. Bright stars always seemed to talk to her, sharing stories about life in the night sky. Those stories were what Rina wanted to listen to more than Neopets complaining about sunburns and fears of darkness. Though many shops were closed by the time Rina traveled outside, she never worried.
Unfortunately, her Snorkle preferred being awake at earlier hours, despite Rina training it to play games quietly while Rina slept. Mimi slowly adjusted to her owner’s sleeping habits, yet occasionally grunted for food close to when Rina regularly woke. However, the two got along very well, and Rina always spent time talking to Mimi before her nightly stroll.
“Good evening, Mimi.” The pink Cybunny yawned, stretching under her pink and purple blanket. “Is it dinnertime already? The sun’s been setting a lot later lately.”
A squeal erupted from Mimi, and the Snorkle scurried toward the kitchen.
“Okay, okay, I’m coming!” Rina hollered, hurriedly making her bed and running after her Petpet. The Neohome Rina and Mimi resided in was a one-story cottage, resembling the size of a school library. There were only three rooms in the house – a bedroom, where Rina spent most of her time, a kitchen, and a bathroom. A single hallway ran through the house, splitting it exactly in half, with the bedroom on the right and the other rooms on the left. Rina moved into her Neohome five years ago, choosing it mostly because of the fact that the main shops of Neopia Central were a two-minute walk away.
Mimi squealed louder as Rina arrived in the kitchen, impatiently waiting by her pink food dish. Rina poured the food, and then glanced through the cupboards for a quick snack. Suddenly, she realized that it was her weekly grocery shopping day; nothing edible was in the cupboards. The Cybunny petted her Snorkle before leaving the house.
By the time Rina closed the front door, the sun almost finished setting. Some Neopets were returning home for the evening, while many were scrambling for last-minute treats and books. Rina sighed, relieved that the one shop she wanted to visit was open for another three hours. She skipped through panicked crowds and waved to whoever greeted her. The pink Cybunny dodged rampaging Shoyrus and puzzled Chias to the coffee shop, one of the most serene sanctuaries in Neopia Central.
Not surprisingly, there were only five other customers sitting at tables, sipping their coffee. The yellow Shoyru waitresses gossiped about future Art Gallery events as Rina took her usual seat by the window. One of the waitresses, Julie, floated to Rina’s table and smiled.
“Hi!” Julie exclaimed, pulling out a pen and a pad of paper. “What would you like tonight, Rina?”
“One Purplum Mocha, please. No biscuits,” Rina replied, also smiling. “Do you still put cream on top, Julie?”
“Yup, cream is definitely still available! I think all coffee should have cream on top.”
“I do, too, and please add extra cream.”
“No problem! I will be right back!” Julie scribbled Rina’s request and returned to the other Shoyrus, asking for help with finding the cream. Rina smiled and glanced out the window, watching other Neopets talking about poetry. She admired those who could write, since poetry was her weakness in school. The pink Cybunny continued seeing Neopets leaving for home and moonlight shimmering from the sky above. Unfortunately, there were not any stars in the sky that evening.
Two or three other customers exited the coffee shop, and the other waitresses collected the dishes and scrubbed tables. One of the waitresses almost dropped an expensive plate on the floor, but her tail wrapped around the plate just before it landed. Julie returned with Rina’s coffee, along with a spoon and napkin for overflowing cream. She gently placed the cup in front of Rina and left to assist the other waitresses with washing dishes.
Rina mixed the cream into her coffee, blotting the table after stirring. As she drank her coffee, she noticed the remaining customers leaving and the sky suddenly darkening. Most of the Shoyru waitresses were preparing to close the shop, and outside was deserted. Julie patiently waited for Rina to finish her coffee before picking up the cup and taking it back to the kitchen. Rina left 1,500 Neopoints on the table and silently exited the shop, wondering if the other shops were closing early as well.
She was correct; most of the shops already closed for the evening, the shopkeepers sensing a dangerous storm approaching. Clouds gathered in the sky, hiding all moonlight and causing surroundings to darken significantly. Rina could barely see where anything was, and apprehension turned into fear. She tiptoed in a straight line, remembering that she would not get lost if she traveled in one direction. The Cybunny’s ears perked as thunder rumbled.
Suddenly, rain began pouring throughout Neopia Central, strong winds causing leaves to rustle loudly. Lightning stroke a nearby tree and Rina hopped to avoid injuries. After the damaged tree crashed onto the ground, the storm ceased, clouds still covering the night sky. Rina was soaked, yet glad nothing else happened. She stood and looked around, trying to figure out where home was.
Moments later, Rina saw a flickering orange light and decided to follow it. She was not sure where she was going, yet she wanted to know what the light was. Her feet slid several times while following the light, almost falling into the mud in front of her. The flickering light intensified, revealing a Neohome that looked exactly like Rina’s own house. However, there were two more windows compared to where Rina lived. A figure revealed itself behind Rina, the shadow resembling a giant beast. Rina gasped and kicked whatever was behind her.
“Oww!” a high-pitched voice shrieked, crouching in fear. The figure turned out to be a Faerie Scorchio, with delicate wings and non-sharpened claws. The Scorchio examined her leg, which had a bruise the size of a small Neopoint coin. Rina ran into the front door of the Neohome, which immediately opened.
“I’m very sorry!” Rina exclaimed, helping the Faerie Scorchio in the house. “Even though I’ve been outside at night for five years, I still have no idea where I am.”
“Are you crazy?” the Faerie Scorchio yelled, sitting on a nearby chair. “You should have known that there was going to be a very brief storm tonight! Everyone was talking about it, and shops had notices of closing early since dawn! I came from Faerieland this morning and even knew about it! You should really pay attention!”
“I said I was sorry, okay?” Rina fired back. “I can’t help it when I sleep during the day and am awake at night!”
“You can! It’s called ‘changing your sleep schedule!’ You’re like a Korbat!”
“I can’t stand this anymore! I’m going home!” Rina pulled the door open, and suddenly hundreds of Clockwork Grundos were lined up outside. They appeared in all shades of colors, showing the same evil smile. Behind the Grundos was a red Grundo, taller than both Rina and the Faerie Scorchio. Panicked, Rina slammed the door and pivoted.
“What are those?” Rina asked, still angered from earlier. “Did you arrange them to come?”
“Not at all!” the Faerie Scorchio screamed. “I’ve never seen them before! Now you’re trying to blame me for sudden events? I’m trying to tell you that-”
“Wait!” Rina interrupted. “We really shouldn’t be arguing now! There could be actual danger outside!”
“You’re right. Besides, I don’t know who you are at all. What’s your name?”
“I’m Rina.” The pink Cybunny held out a paw. “What about you?”
“Fire. I still don’t know why that’s my name.” The Faerie Scorchio lightly shook Rina’s paw before the two Neopets heard the red Grundo trying to destroy the door with his fist, the Clockwork Grundos becoming louder. Rina and Fire raced to the backdoor in the kitchen, and Fire grabbed several cartons filled with pink liquid.
“What are those?” Rina inquired.
“Strawberry milk cartons. I can’t stand the taste of regular milk, and I’m not a fan of chocolate. You’ve never had strawberry milk before?” Fire hurriedly gave Rina three cartons of milk.
“Never,” Rina answered. The Clockwork Grundos broke through the front door, and Rina and Fire pushed the backdoor and exited the house. They scrambled around to the main area of Neopia Central, where there was still no one around. Dark clouds continued filling the night sky, though a tiny light peaked through once in a while. Rina almost dropped the strawberry milk several times, causing Fire to worry.
Thunder rumbled as Rina and Fire began hearing the Clockwork Grundos again. They were wondering why the Grundos were after them. Fire suddenly stopped and turned to Rina. The Faerie Scorchio’s face returned to suspicion. Rina looked toward the sky and saw the clouds dissipating; moonlight appeared once more.
The Clockwork Grundos, however, managed to catch up, surrounding Rina and Fire, and the red Grundo snickered. The moonlight began fading as pink and orange hues filled the sky. Rina suddenly felt ill and curled on the ground, strawberry milk cartons slipping from her paws. She looked up to the red Grundo, who hurriedly scooped up the milk before Fire had a chance to react.
“I see,” Fire said. “You wanted the strawberry milk, didn’t you? That milk was a special treat from Faerieland and very expensive!”
“There’s been a shortage of strawberry milk lately,” the red Grundo snarled. “That means it is more valuable, and I can make more Neopoints selling it at a much higher price! Thank you, Fire, for bringing the strawberry milk to Neopia Central!”
“How do you...?” Fire began, but she heard a light cry from behind. Several Clockwork Grundos had attacked Rina, and the pink Cybunny tried standing before collapsing. She was awake for too long and grew pale. Fire growled and flew toward the red Grundo before avoiding other Clockwork Grundos and remembering why the Grundo knew her name.
“You tried stealing strawberry milk cartons from the Faeries too, didn’t you?” Fire yelled. “I saw you because I was eating at that restaurant! You used to work there before greed got the best of you, and then you tried to steal all of that restaurant’s food! Right, John?”
The red Grundo snickered. “That’s right, Fire. You know me too well.” He pointed at Rina and Fire, and about ten Clockwork Grundos charged toward them. John then ran in the opposite direction, surrounded by the remaining Clockwork Grundos, while the charging Clockwork Grundos attacked. Fire swung her tail and sent the Grundos flying toward Kreludor. She floated to where Rina was.
“Are you okay?” Fire asked.
Rina shook her head. “I feel sick...” She turned away. Fire snarled at approaching Clockwork Grundos, while John snickered. The red Grundo told the Clockwork Grundos to follow him, and they disappeared behind several trees. Fire initially sighed but figured she would deal with the Clockwork Grundos later. She lifted Rina and flew to Rina’s house, opened the front door, and sprinted to Rina’s room. Rina crawled under her pink and purple blanket and closed her eyes for a few minutes.
Mimi entered Rina’s room and grunted angrily to Fire, initially distrusting her. However, after Fire went to the kitchen and refilled Mimi’s food dish, the Snorkle smiled and went to the front door, grunting for Fire to follow. Fire did so, and saw a carton of strawberry milk John accidentally dropped while escaping.
“Jeez, John is so clumsy,” Fire muttered, picking up the carton. “It’s not damaged or anything, so it should be okay. Thanks, Snorkle.” Fire patted Mimi, closed the door, and both of them returned to Rina’s room. By then, Rina opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling. Fire sat next to her, opening the carton.
“Here, drink this,” Fire said, handing the carton to Rina. “It’s strawberry milk. John forgot it.”
Rina sat up, nodded her head, and began sipping the strawberry milk. It was very sweet, and the temperature was perfect; it was not warm yet. The pink Cybunny never had anything that tasted better than the Purplum Mocha from the previous evening before. She placed the empty carton nearby.
“How are you feeling?” Fire inquired. “You should have mentioned earlier that being awake during the day makes you ill. How do you manage?”
“I’m still sleepy,” Rina replied. “I lived in the Space Station before moving to Neopia Central, so to me day and night always looked the same – dark sky and millions of stars. I loved looking at the sky after school and before going to bed. I never adjusted well with the sky changing twice a day, so I just slept whenever it was light outside. However, I’m fine when I’m indoors during the day; I just can’t go outside. Someday, though, I want to be awake during the day and be a normal Cybunny. Besides, Mimi never liked me sleeping during the day at first, but she got used to it. Thank you for the strawberry milk. It was very delicious and calming for my stomach.”
“I’ll bring more strawberry milk tomorrow, then.” Fire rose and started walking toward the door, adding, “Get well soon,” and left, minutes before Rina falling asleep. Mimi followed, returning to the kitchen for breakfast. Fire smiled, exited the house, and flew back to where she last saw the Clockwork Grundos. The Faerie Scorchio found John and the Clockwork Grundos near the bank and decided to follow them.
Fire flew a small distance behind the Grundos to avoid being noticed. She saw them marching toward the coffee shop, and John pulled out a burgundy-colored key. He slid the key in the lock, cautiously opened the door, and the Clockwork Grundos went ahead inside. Fire landed on the ground by one of the windows and watched. John quietly closed the door behind him and led the Clockwork Grundos to the kitchen.
Fire hurried to the front door and softly opened it, constantly checking for a random Clockwork Grundo or two. She dove to the yellow and orange floor whenever she thought she was noticed. Her blue wings folded in, and Fire snuck around the counter, hiding near wooden storage cabinets. She turned her head around the kitchen and realized John had chocolate milk as well.
Shelves upon shelves were filled with strawberry and chocolate milk cartons, like the coffee shop suddenly became an ice cream shop instead. There were hundreds of cartons, and they seemed to only be from Neopia Central, until Fire squinted and saw a picture of a pair of pink and purple wings, the representation of a package from Faerieland. Faerieland very rarely had strawberry or chocolate milk, and whenever shops would restock, the milk would always be sold out within a minute. Next to the shelves were about thirty Clockwork Grundos.
Suddenly, while John was calculating milk costs, Fire flew in the kitchen and began grabbing several Clockwork Grundos at a time. One by one, she threw them out of the coffee shop, avoiding the other rampaging Grundos. Several other Clockwork Grundos were thrown by John, missing Fire and landing outside the coffee shop. Before long, all of the Grundos were destroyed, and Fire and John were the only ones in the room.
“John, why are you doing this?” Fire angrily asked. “You will never make Neopoints by taking everything, you know.”
“It’s easier than working at the Faerieland Employment Agency,” John replied with a shrug. “I can never find a job at that place without a coupon.”
“That happens, but working there or even purchasing items from shops around here has more integrity than just taking and hiding both strawberry and chocolate milk. Just because things don’t work out doesn’t mean you should start doing this. What is more important – what you are doing right now or honesty?”
John remained silent, unable to come up with a response. Fire began snarling at John’s silence; she knew that the answer to her question did not require any pondering. John hesitated, his red feet sweating from uneasiness. The Grundo then ran past Fire out of the kitchen, abandoning the milk. Fire followed him, quickly catching up and stopping right before he could exit the shop.
“You’re clueless!” Fire yelled with enragement. “I’m getting sick of chasing you all over Neopia. You’ll be coming with me to Faerieland, and I’ll have the Faeries deal with you.”
“I’m not going to Faerieland!” John yelled back, attempting to get past Fire. He was then grabbed by the hand, and he and Fire traveled to Faerieland. The sun began setting in the sky as the two Neopets disappeared behind several clouds.
Meanwhile, during Fire’s journey to Faerieland, Rina woke and felt back to normal. The pink Cybunny watched the darkening sky. She wondered what happened to Fire and John and whether the milk was going to be returned or not. She sighed, knowing there was no way she could find out anytime soon.
Rina was worried about Fire, not hearing any news about her. However, she did not let the worries get to her. Mimi entered Rina’s bedroom happily grunting and sitting near the bed.
“Good evening, Mimi!” Rina said cheerfully. “Do you want to have dinner?” The pink Cybunny got out of bed and hopped to the kitchen, Mimi closely following. Rina fed Mimi, realizing she completely forgot about food for herself; the cabinets were still empty. She sighed, thinking about what to do about food.
Mimi continued eating while Rina ran to her bedroom and searched for any Neopoint coins she could find. Fortunately, there was an entire bag of Neopoints hidden underneath her bed in case of something like the previous night occurring. Sighing with relief, Rina counted the coins. She had ten thousand Neopoints, enough for about a month’s worth of food from the Food Shop, assuming Rina did not go immediately to the coffee shop again. She lifted the bag and made her way toward the front door.
“See you soon, Mimi!” Rina called. “Don’t worry about me!” Right when she opened the door, Fire was there, carrying a paper bag filled with strawberry milk cartons. The Faerie Scorchio grinned at Rina and entered, flying toward the kitchen. Rina did not respond for a moment, filled with shock. It was like Fire knew she was worried about her. The pink Cybunny sighed with relief and closed the door before following her new friend to the kitchen.
“Never mind, Mimi,” Rina said in a quieter voice.
“Mimi’s a well-behaved Snorkle,” Fire commented, placing the strawberry milk on the counter.
“Thank you,” Rina replied, also grinning. “What happened earlier, and where did the strawberry milk come from?”
“Oh, I found John and took him back to Faerieland. He apologized to several shopkeepers and will be working for Fire Faeries for a while. The Clockwork Grundos were eliminated, and the milk was returned to the shopkeepers. You seemed much better, so I decided to buy more strawberry milk before coming back. It’s more delicious than last time.”
“Thanks, Fire!” Rina and Fire pulled out several cartons of strawberry milk. They spent the rest of the evening chatting about life in Neopia Central and Faerieland while enjoying the special treat. Both Neopets promised to speak to each other again soon. The first challenge, however, was for Rina to adjust to being awake during the day and sleeping at night – she and Fire would go to Faerieland every couple of days to search for work at the Faerieland Employment Agency and see what daily life was like. Rina looked forward to visiting Faerieland.