What is Truly Important
At six-thirty in the morning, Sakhmet was already alive with activity. Pets and owners flitted busily about, popping in stores and hesitating next to stalls, while the shop owners and kiosks shouted appeals—each one louder than the last in their desperate struggle to be heard over the existing cacophony.
Though one might be led to believe that early morning was a quiet and peaceful time in Sakhmet, it was, in fact, the opposite that was true. Located within the Lost Desert as it was, Sakhmet grew extremely hot during the day, and thus, the only sensible times to venture outside were before the sun had risen and after it had fallen—directly resulting in the morning and evening bustles.
It was into this morning swarm of activity that Mr. Benjamin the grey Ogrin ventured quite comfortably. Though not young, he had yet to reach an age that would mark him as old; and as such, he maneuvered his way through the crowded market with little difficulty. His destination, as always, was the Scratchcard Kiosk.
While he didn't have a precise schedule, Mr. Benjamin did have a routine, which was to buy a scratchcard from the kiosk before making his way to the food stall to buy his meals for the day; after which, he would return back to his home and store. It was a simple routine, but it worked well for him.
There was a long line leading up to the Scratchcard Kiosk, but Mr. Benjamin reached the front without much waiting. He smiled at the desert Cybunny manning the kiosk, who returned his smile warmly.
"Morning, Mr. Benjamin. Fancy trying your luck at winning a fortune again?"
"I do at that," Mr. Benjamin replied, and dropped five hundred neopoints into the Cybunny kiosk's paw in exchange for a Scorched Treasure Scratchcard.
"Good luck today, as always!" the Cybunny said, as Mr. Benjamin turned away.
"Let's certainly hope," the Ogrin responded, and then began threading his way towards the food stall. As he neared it, he scanned the crowd of pets and owners gathered around the stall, and then felt a small prick of disappointment at the lack of a certain familiar face. But a moment later, he caught a flash of neon blue fur, and the corners of his mouth twitched upward. He dove into the crowd and, after numerous pushes and shoves, managed to find his way to the front—directly next to an electric Ogrin.
She glanced over, and then smiled brightly. "Good morning, Mr. Benjamin. Fancy meeting you here!"
He smiled in return, choosing to ignore the knowing look in her eyes. "Good morning, Miss Fraey. It is quite a coincidence to find you here at this time, isn't it?"
"Oh, yes, certainly," she said, a hint of laughter coloring her tone. "And haven't I told you to call me Elene?"
Mr. Benjamin averted his gaze, pretending to study the food set out on the counter of the food stall. "Well, that would hardly be proper, I would think."
There was a moment of silence before she said, "You are quite the gentleman." Before he could respond, she continued, "And what is on your menu for today?"
Now legitimately scanning the selection of food, Mr. Benjamin frowned thoughtfully. "Anything other than the sand food. I never can acquire a liking for it."
"It has a rather dry taste to it, doesn't it?" Elene teased, and Mr. Benjamin stifled a laugh.
"Quite right," he answered instead, and then called over the desert Grarrl in charge of the stall. "Some tchea fruit, sutek muffins, red eye eggs, pyrapples, and... oh, yes, desert kabobs, please," he ordered, and the Grarrl nodded, gathering the food into a bag with quick efficiency. Mr. Benjamin handed him neopoints in exchange for the food, and then turned back to Elene. "Well, until another day, then, Miss Fraey."
She raised one eyebrow, still smiling. "Yes, another day, Mr. Benjamin."
He hesitated a moment longer, and then turned, heading for home.
Mr. Benjamin lived in a small building near the edge of Sakhmet, on the floor above his store, which he had simply named Collections. His only merchandise was typically small trinkets: snow globes, key rings, and other such items. He didn't have many customers, but he rather enjoyed running his store, regardless; and as his living expenses were few, the small amount of business wasn't of any concern.
It was late afternoon, and he was busy sweeping the floor, when the bell on the entrance sounded. He looked up and saw a young green Kyrii hovering in the doorway, looking about in seeming nervousness. Mr. Benjamin set his broom aside and padded quietly across the wood flooring towards the younger neopet.
"Welcome," he said, smiling. "How may I help you?"
The Kyrii slowly entered the shop, the door swinging gently shut behind him. He bit his lip, and then said quietly, "I wanted to buy a snow globe."
"For yourself, or as a gift?" Mr. Benjamin asked.
"As a... gift. For my owner."
"Well, that can certainly be arranged. What kind of snow globe are you looking for? A large, medium-sized, or small one?"
"Umm, small. She doesn't like flashy items," the Kyrii answered.
Mr. Benjamin turned. "Well, my smaller snow globes are over here, so if you'd just follow me..." He led the Kyrii over to the left hand side of the store, and then stopped in front of a row of shelves where numerous small snow globes had been lined up. "Now, what kind of snow globe do you think your owner would enjoy?"
"Well, she really likes winter... even though we live in the desert. And her favorite type of pet is a Kyrii," he said, a touch of pride in his voice.
Mr. Benjamin raised one eyebrow, amused. But all he said was, "I'm sure I have one snow globe like that... Ah! Here we go." He grabbed one of the smaller snow globes off the shelf, which showed two Kyrii building a snowman on a short slope in front of a snow-laden cottage. He shook it gently and then showed it to the green Kyrii, who looked at it with wide eyes.
"Do you think she would like this one?" Mr. Benjamin asked.
"She... Yeah, she would, but..." the Kyrii hesitated.
"But?" Mr. Benjamin prompted gently.
"But... But I don't have enough neopoints for it!" the Kyrii confessed. "It's my owner's birthday, and I've been saving up my allowance for months to buy her a present. She wants to move to Terror Mountain, but we don't have enough neopoints, so I thought I'd buy her a snow globe that she could look at, instead. But then, yesterday, I passed by the Battle Supplies store and they had the desert arrow launcher in stock, and I've wanted it for weeks, so I..."
"You spent most of your neopoints on that," Mr. Benjamin said quietly, and the Kyrii nodded, looking miserable.
"So now I don't have enough to buy my owner's birthday present. I'm sorry I wasted your time." He turned to leave, but Mr. Benjamin stopped him.
"Here, take this with you," he said, handing the snow globe to the Kyrii.
"But... But, I can't pay you," the Kyrii said, confused.
"You can have it," Mr. Benjamin said. "Just promise that you'll have your priorities in the right order next time, yes?"
A wide grin spread across the Kyrii's face, and he jumped excitedly. "I promise!"
"Good. Then let me wrap this up for you," Mr. Benjamin said, and walked over to the counter. He wrapped the snow globe carefully and then handed it to the Kyrii.
"Thank you so much!" the Kyrii exclaimed, still grinning.
"You're welcome," Mr. Benjamin replied sincerely, and then watched the Kyrii bound away until he was out of sight. Sighing contentedly, Mr. Benjamin resumed his cleaning.
The next morning found him back at the Scratchcard Kiosk, and he greeted the desert Cybunny there cheerfully.
"No luck with that last scratchcard, I presume," the Cybunny commented.
"Not yet," Mr. Benjamin replied, handing over his neopoints.
"Let's hope today is different," the Cybunny said, handing over a scratchcard.
"Somehow, I feel that it is," the grey Ogrin answered, looking down at the Coltzan's Cash Scratchcard. Usually, he would wait until he'd returned home before scratching off the six out of nine pieces, but today seemed to require a slight change in routine.
Halfway to the food stall, he stopped out of the way and scratched off the first square. It revealed a picture of a book, while the next showed a sand snowball. The third, however, showed a pile of neopoints with the word JACKPOT at the bottom. A hint of excitement growing in him, he scratched off the fourth square—a bag of neopoints—and then the fifth square...
His eyes widened. He'd never gotten more than one jackpot square before. Trying not to become too hopeful, he scratched off the first half of the sixth square...
A flash of green fur out of the corner of his eye distracted him and he looked up, recognizing the young green Kyrii that had visited his shop the day before. The Kyrii was with a tall human girl who Mr. Benjamin presumed was the Kyrii's owner. From the bags they held, he assumed they were running errands.
The Kyrii seemed to feel someone watching him, as he glanced over. His eyes widened in seeming recognition when he spotted Mr. Benjamin, and after speaking to his owner, the Kyrii bounded toward the grey Ogrin.
"Good morning," Mr. Benjamin greeted him. "Have you given your owner her present?"
The Kyrii nodded, grinning. "She was really excited and said she loved it!"
"I'm glad," Mr. Benjamin said, smiling.
"I just wanted to say thanks again!"
"Well, you're very welcome."
The Kyrii glanced back at his owner, who was waving him over. "Well, yeah, I've gotta go," he said, turning to leave.
Mr. Benjamin hesitated, and then said, "Wait." The Kyrii paused, and then frowned as Mr. Benjamin handed him the scratchcard. "Give this to your owner, too," the grey Ogrin said.
The Kyrii looked at the card, and then up at Mr. Benjamin, shocked. "But, don't you—?"
Mr. Benjamin looked over at the food stall, where he could easily see Elene's electric blue coat in the midst of the crowd. "I'm happy where I'm at," he assured the Kyrii. "All those neopoints would only be wasted on me. Just remember what I told you, and don't forget what is truly important."
Before the Kyrii could argue, Mr. Benjamin smiled and walked away. After fighting his way through the crowd, he managed to get close enough to Elene to draw her attention.
"Here again, Mr. Benjamin?" she said, the same knowing look in her eye from the day before.
"Well, as they say: you can't teach an old pet new tricks," he said sensibly.
She smiled teasingly. "Are you calling yourself old?"
"Certainly," he answered, and smiled.