It all started with a zap.
Not just one zap, of course. That isn't how the lab ray works. It took multiple tries. The first few zaps made Sunshine stronger on some days and weaker on others, faster and then slower, and so it went. The day before the zap that changed everything, Sunshine finally received a more interesting change, which the Techo did not notice until an illuminating trip to Illusen's Glade.
"You've changed somehow," Illusen remarked that fine, Faerieland day.
"How have I changed?" Sunshine asked. "My owner and siblings wouldn't tell me! They just giggled and said I would know soon enough. And my brother's been acting strange about it."
Illusen frowned. "Hmm, I'm not sure the change is so obvious. I can just tell that you're different somehow." The faerie thought, and then she gasped and snapped her fingers. "I've got it! You're a female now, Sunshine!"
"I am?" Sunshine squeaked. She looked herself up and down. "I suppose that explains a lot. I don't really feel different, though."
"No, I suppose not," said Illusen. "Your owner's been taking you to the lab ray, I take it?"
"Yes," said the Techo. "She's hoping it will change my color to something interesting."
"I'm sure she'll get her wish," said Illusen. "Now, about my quest for today..."
And so, the next day when Sunshine returned, Illusen should not have been surprised at the change in the Techo. But she was.
"Sunshine!" Illusen exclaimed, her mouth falling open. "You've changed!"
"I know! And I know what it is this time!" the Techo said happily, oblivious to the horror in Illusen's expression. "What do you think?"
"Er," said Illusen. "It's certainly interesting. Your owner must be pleased."
"Thank you!" Sunshine said.
At that moment, a group of questing Neopets approached. The Neopets wailed in dismay, and a blue Kacheek flung himself bodily between Illusen and Sunshine.
"You stay away from Illusen, you hear me!?" the Kacheek screamed.
"What?" Sunshine said, nonplussed. What was this Kacheek's problem?
"Get back. Get back, I said!" the blue Kacheek said loudly. The other Neopets gathered around and murmured their agreement.
"Go away!" they spat.
"Why? What's wrong?" Sunshine said, exchanging confused looks with Illusen.
"Don't pretend you don't know what's wrong, you Darigan Techo!" the blue Kacheek said disgustedly.
"Oh, you've got it all wrong," began Illusen. "Sunshine is my dear friend, just like all of you—"
The Neopets didn't hear or listen to Illusen in their eagerness to defend her. They stomped their feet and began to shove and kick, and within a few moments, Sunshine found herself falling head over tail in her hurry to escape.
"Try Jhudora's Bluff, you Darigan pet!" someone yelled after her.
Feelings utterly hurt, Sunshine brushed herself off once she made it out of the hostile Neopets' sight. She had never experienced nor could the naïve Neopet have even imagined such animosity. It got her to thinking, what about Jhudora? Has she experienced the same thing? And this inevitably led to the decision. She thought to herself, why not? Why not try Jhudora's Bluff? Always eager to make new friends, the Techo decided to get herself over to Jhudora's as soon as possible. She didn't really think this entirely through, in case you were wondering.
As Sunshine approached the bluff, she was sad but unsurprised to meet an angry-looking Jhudora. This would probably be typical from now on, Sunshine thought sadly. Could anyone love a Darigan pet?
"Ah," she said, clearing her throat. "Good morning! I realize that I am, er, Darigan, but nevertheless—"
"Get out!" Jhudora snapped. "You don't think I'm blind, do you?"
"Oh," said Sunshine. She had never really been one much for crying, and she hadn't thought being a female would really change that, but now she really wanted to cry. "I'm sorry that I'm Darigan," she said.
"Darigan? I could care less that you're Darigan!" Jhudora laughed.
"Really?" Sunshine said, a happy grin spreading infectiously on her face. "You don't mind?"
"No, you stupid pet. What I do mind is your obvious affinity for her!" Jhudora jerked her thumb in the direction of Illusen's Glade. "I saw you come from there just now, and I'm not interested in your help if you've helped her."
Sunshine smiled. "Well good, because I haven't helped her! I was just kicked out because I'm Darigan."
"You can't be serious? I thought she took anyone," Jhudora sniffed. "Unlike me. I have standards, you know."
"Do I measure up to your standards?" Sunshine asked, trying not to sound too hopeful.
"I suppose you would do in an emergency," said Jhudora with exaggerated disdain. "Fetch me this item. And be quick about it." Jhudora shoved a list at the Techo.
"No problem!" Sunshine said.
She scurried off, eager to please. Ah, this item looked easier to obtain than any item she'd ever gotten for Illusen! Who would have thought? The Techo returned to Jhudora's Bluff within a minute.
"About time!" Jhudora snapped, but her impressed expression belied her harsh tone. "Come back later, when I have something else for you to do!"
"Ye,s ma'am!" Sunshine chirped, and then proceeded to skip away happily. She was going to make friends with Jhudora, she just knew it!
From below, Illusen watched from her glade, a worried expression on her face. Her face grew more worried as several days passed, and then weeks. Every day she saw Sunshine return to Jhudora with her usual goofily happy expression on her face. Every day Illusen wished that Sunshine would return to smile at her, not that awful Jhudora!
One day, it became too much for Illusen as she watched Sunshine head towards the bluff.
"Wait!" she called, but Sunshine didn't hear her. Illusen wasn't going to leave it at that! She jumped away from the Neopets surrounding her glade and rushed up towards the bluff.
"What's this?" Jhudora said with a scowl. "What are you doing on my bluff? Scram, Illusen!"
"I didn't come for you," said Illusen. "Sunshine, please! Come back with me to my glade. I'm sorry about how you were forced out before. I honestly don't care that you're Darigan! Please, just come back."
Sunshine, standing next to Jhudora, stared at Illusen for a moment. Then her grin appeared.
"Well, I'd be happy to, Illusen, but I really must run an errand for Jhudora first," said Sunshine. She meant it sincerely, for the Techo hardly ever lied.
Jhudora interpreted it differently.
"Huh!" Jhudora puffed. "You see that, Illusen? She doesn't want to go with you. Get out."
"That's not what she said," Illusen yelled, her face turning red from rage.
"It's what she meant! Can't you read between the lines?" Jhudora shouted.
Slowly, looking from the two faeries escalating into a louder and louder argument, Sunshine backed away. She wasn't sure she was quite up to fetching items for either faerie at the moment. The Techo picked up her tail and tiptoed delicately away from the bluff, then turned and ran all the way to the Haunted Woods, where the shouts of Illusen and Jhudora weren't audible.
Sunshine sighed and allowed herself to lean sadly against a dead tree, which promptly broke, and so the Techo flailed around before falling on her tail. Ouch. From her spot in the dirt, Sunshine wished fervently that she could just make friends with someone who didn't care what she looked like or who she did quests for.
"You're in my way," said a voice from behind Sunshine.
She spun around to see a small, intimidating-looking green Zafara standing with her hands on her hips. She was dressed up like a witch.
"Are you a witch?" Sunshine asked, a hint of awe in her voice. A real witch!
"Of course I'm a witch! This is the Haunted Woods. Half the Neopets here are witches," said the Zafara. "Although, I'm the best witch there is. You've probably heard of me."
The Techo thought for a moment.
"Are you Edna?"
"That's right!" Edna cackled. "Did you come looking for me? If so, you're out of luck. I just came back from the market, and they didn't have the ingredients I need for my latest potion. I can't help you until I get it made."
Sunshine felt a familiar smile spreading on her face. "Do you need me to get some things for you? I'm very good at fetching things. Oh, but... you wouldn't mind if I ever did quests for anyone else?"
Edna cackled some more. (She was very good at it.)
"Mind? You'd do me a favor if you did a quest for the Esophagor once in a while! I'm so tired of hearing him moan about his hunger."
"And quests for faeries...?"
"Be my guest! I don't care. I need my ingredients, and I can't afford to be picky about who fetches them for me."
"You don't care what I look like?"
Edna looked Sunshine up and down sarcastically. "My neighbors have more interesting appearances than you, Miss Techo."
Sunshine jumped up and down. She was so happy! And now she knew what she was going to do.
The next day Illusen felt a twinge of disappointment, but she was mostly unsurprised to see Sunshine head towards Jhudora's Bluff. The very next day, however, Sunshine didn't go to the bluff, but rather straight to Illusen! Sunshine explained to both faeries her decision to take turns visiting them each day. Neither faerie was exactly happy that they had to share Sunshine with the other, but they had both grown so fond of the Techo that they didn't disagree. As Sunshine was leaving Illusen after successfully fetching her item, Illusen stopped her.
"Sunshine... you realize that you are heading in the direction of the Haunted Woods?"
"Yes, indeed! I'm a very popular Techo these days. Goodbye!"
And with that the cheerful Techo hurried off to do more quests.