The Unexpected NC Mall Journey: Part One
Maggie slowly opened her eyes, just as the sun began shining through her window and lighting up her room. It was a beautiful morning! At least, it should have been. Maggie was upset with her owner, Hayley, because of their argument last night. If you can even call it that, as Maggie's opinions didn't seem to matter much at all.
"I'm not a child anymore!" Maggie screamed from her seat at the dinner table, while her brothers and sisters attempted to ignore the shouting and eat the fresh baked chokato pie in front of them.
Hayley shook her head and smiled. "Maggie, that's exactly what you are. You were only created in the purge a few years ago; you simply just don't know how to take care of your things." She continued to pick at the last pieces of chokato that fell out of her slice of pie. She always ate much faster than any of her neopets.
"That's basically a teenager in neoyears!" She pulled at her ears. Didn't Hayley understand? "Makzene is only seven! She gets to wear it all the time!" Maggie was, of course, referring to Hayley's coveted Neocash item, the Court Dancer Collectors Wig. The most attractive and sparkly wig in her closet.
"Makzene is a few months shy of eight, Maggie, and she's the eldest. She has never ruined any of her clothes. For now, you have the choice of any other wig in the closet! I know you love the Court Dancer Collectors Wig, but you're not ready to wear it." And with that, Hayley ended the conversation. Maggie threw her fork onto her plate and ran up to her room, and didn't come out for the rest of the night.
Maggie threw her legs over the side of the bed with determination. Today was the start of a new day, and a new life. She was going to get a job- her own job- and somehow get a hold of her OWN Court Dancer Collectors Wig. She'd never share it with her siblings, or even put it in the family closet. This was going to be her very own Court Dancer Collectors Wig, one that even Hayley couldn't take from her. And she'd wear it every single day!
Quietly, she flipped through her closet. She was off to get a job today! Her very first job, like an adult neopet! She had to look her best- just like Hayley always said, you've got to dress to impress! She slipped into a Vibrant Summer Dress and made sure the sparkly bone accessories in her hair looked perfect, before tiptoeing past the kitchen where her entire family was eating hot Tyrannian pepper omelettes. She'd have time to pick up some breakfast later. Right now she was on a mission!
Her plan was simple; she was going to take a ferryboat from Neopia Central to Faerieland. She had been there before, with Hayley once or twice, to visit the Faerieland Employment Agency. Hayley had been just been hanging out around Neopia when a faerie had flown up to her and randomly handed her some posters for the employment agency. So, Hayley took each of them to get experience working. Maggie's job had been so easy, and when she was finished, the faerie had paid her! She used the neopoints she earned to buy herself a new background, one that showed her swimming on the beach- Maggie sure loved swimming! Surely, if they could pay in neopoints, they could pay in neocash as well. Maggie was determined to work as long as it took to get enough neocash to buy her own wig.
It wasn't a long ride on the ferryboat, but Maggie didn't leave Neopia Central very often. On her way past Roo Island, Brightvale, and Meridell, she wondered what kind of job the Faerieland Employment Agency would give her. Would she be seeking exotic food items from all across Neopia? Or, maybe she'd be gathering makeup for the best makeup artists in all of Faerieland (those faeries always had the most beautiful makeup!). For what it was worth, it didn't matter to her, she would do anything that could get her closer to her own Court Dancer Collectors Wig. She couldn't wait to prove to Hayley and Makzene that she could do this on her own. Even her little sister Rye didn't stand up for her last night- didn't anyone trust her with nice items?
"I'll show all of them soon enough," she said out loud to no one in particular as she hopped off at her stop. This comment earned her some strange glances from a pair of passing Zafaras in top hats and suits, and an old, greying Gelert with his hood covering almost all of his face. Since its fall from the sky, Faerieland had been much easier to access without your own vehicle (and especially without your own access to a National Neopian bank account!).
Maggie made her way through the Faerie City and up to the big, pink towers of the Faerieland Employment Agency. She took a big, deep Kacheek breath and pushed them out of the way. Inside was an amazing sight! Faeries of all colors and sizes sitting at desks, scribbling away on those long lists of jobs they had! Handing out jobs to any neopet willing to take them. She looked to her left and saw the Redemption line- turn in your items for a reward! Just what she needed! She didn't know how many jobs it would take her to get her Court Dancer Collectors Wig, but she knew she wasn't going to stop until she had that wig on her head. The line she was standing on was quickly running down and before she knew it, she was being called over to a small faerie with yellow wings. She smiled as Maggie approached her desk and took a seat.
"Hello, young Kacheek! Do you have a Job Coupon?" the perky girl squeaked and extended a hand, reaching for a coupon Maggie didn't have. Suddenly winded, Maggie shook her head.
"I'm very sorry, Miss," Maggie sighed, "but I don't have one of these coupons. I don't even know where to get one, except for the random faeries flying around handing them out!" She threw her hands up in the air and began to get up.
"Not a problem!" the faerie hurried to tell her, before Maggie could stand. "We have basic jobs as well, they are especially good for beginners! Are you willing to go around and gather items we're seeking? We pay a nice reward in neopoints!"
"Oh, no, Miss, I'm seeking to do some jobs to earn some neocash! You see, my owner, Hayley, has a Court Dancer Collectors wig. I'm sure you've seen them around. I mean, they're kind of rare but they're stunning and you can't miss them! She won't let me wear it; she only gives it to my older sister to wear and I'm off to get my own." Maggie felt proud to tell this stranger of her quest, and as she finished her story she watched as the yellow faerie's face fell into a frown.
"I'm sorry, little one, but we only reward with neopoints!" she cried. "There are no jobs here for you to gain neocash."
Now it was Maggie's turn to frown. "I don't understand! This is where you come to get jobs and get paid. I am not seeking neopoint wigs. I have all of the neopoint wigs I want at home in my closet!" She was so frustrated.
The faerie smiled sympathetically, and leaned in close to speak in a voice no louder than a whisper. "I have heard there is a baker in Shenkuu," she said. "A Cybunny by the name of Noda. He's baking some very interesting fortune cookies, and his shop is at the Neocash Mall! Maybe you can try over there? Even if he's not looking for help, I'm sure someone at the Mall would be willing to listen to your story!" And with that, she waved her small hand to move Maggie along before shouting "Next!" and calling the next neopet on the long line over to her desk.
Maggie couldn't believe it! She had travelled all the way to Faerieland to get a job, and as it would turn out, she can't get paid in Neocash! This was turning out to be a terrible, terrible plan. However, the yellow faerie had provided her with a NEW idea- work at the Neocash Mall! Luckily for her, the NC Mall was located in Neopia Central. Not so lucky, though, was the fact that Noda's (the fortune cookie baker) headquarters were located in Shenkuu, a whole Hot Air Balloon ride away. She would take a ride back on ferryboat to Neopia Central and hop on the next balloon over the mountains and towards Shenkuu. Hopefully, once there, she could convince Noda to help her gather enough NC to trade for a Court Dancer Collectors Wig.
Although Maggie's feet barely touched the ground as she sat on the ferryboat back to Neopia Central, she felt much older and taller than she had when she left her Neohome that morning. Despite failing to realize that the Faerieland Employment Agency only paid in neopoints, the kind faerie she had met with had provided her with a new quest- she was on her way to visit Noda, the Shenkuu baker who sold Fortune Cookies at the NC Mall!
Maggie had lots of experience baking; her and her siblings did it all the time! She loved to bake cakes, and pies, and cookies! Her favorite to bake were strawberry Werelupe cookies, as they were pink and delicious. She licked her lips and smiled, almost able to smell the last time her and Rye baked them. Rye, her sister.... Slowly, the smile faded from her face. Her mind wandered back to her family, sitting and eating breakfast just a few short hours ago as she snuck past them and out of the house to hop the ferryboat to find herself a job. If she wasn't so mad, she'd hope Hayley wasn't worried sick about her. But it was important to Maggie to show her family that she was responsible enough to handle nice items, and even more importantly, to get her very own Court Dancer Collectors Wig.
The boat stopped at Neopia Central, and Maggie stepped through the doors and out into the fresh air of the platform. It was a short walk to the Shenkuu Shuttle, the hot air balloon service that brought neopets over the mountains from Neopia Central to Shenkuu. The ferryboat was pretty good at connecting the cities of Neopia, but some places were just not as easy to get to by boat. Maggie didn't mind, though, because she really liked the idea of flying! She had plenty of wings at home in her closet, but since Kacheeks didn't really have wings, Maggie couldn't use them to fly. Being in a hot air balloon background was liberating! She was excited as she stepped into the basket with a few other neopets, like a Uni wearing ridiculously sparkly gold shoes and an Aisha with way too much facepaint and a bright pink bob wig. No one paid much attention to each other, though, because as soon as the balloon left the ground, they all leaned over the edge and admired the view.
So many beautiful sights! While they soared over the ice capped mountains, Maggie watched baby Bruces having snowball fights outside of their homes, and neopets skiing down the steep sides covered in fluffy snow. Maggie had never been to Terror Mountain, because it was so far north, but she imagined it was even better than this! She made a mental note, when this quest was all over, to ask Hayley if they could go skiing one vacation. She'd have to get some gloves and earmuffs, it sure looked cold down there!
Not long after passing over the peaks of the mountains, the Shenkuu Shuttle touched down right next to the famous Cyodrake's Gaze. Maggie sure wished she had brought her camera to remember that site! Shenkuu was another city in Neopia that Maggie had never visited, but she was glad she was getting the chance now. It was amazing how everything was connected in Shenkuu- by bridges and pathways between different peaks and hilltops. Good thing she wasn't scared of heights, because everything was up in the air here! And, Noda's Fortune Cookie Factory was all the way on the edge of town. She made her way to the last bridge, took a deep breath, and approached the small bakery.
Standing with his back to the entrance bridge was a MASSIVE orange Cybunny in a chef's uniform. She could smell the cookies baking in the oven close by, though she couldn't see where exactly they were located. What she could see, however, was hundreds of carts and piles of different types of fortune cookies, all different colors and sizes, spread out everywhere on this hilltop. It all smelled and looked so delicious, she couldn't imagine how long it took to bake them! As that thought washed over her, she let out a small gasp that startled Cybunny.
He turned around in surprise. "Hello! Are you here to purchase some Lab Ray Cookies? They're over there, in the yellow pile," he smiled, pointing at a pile at least twice Maggie's size just a few steps away from where she stood. "If you're here for Faerie Quest Cookies, you'll have to wait a while, as they're not ready yet, but I've got a fresh batch I just put in so it should be within the hour!"
Maggie shook her head quickly, as he seemed to be very busy and in a rush to finish their conversation. "No thank you! I'm actually here to see if I could help out," she said. "I'm looking for a job."
The Cybunny tilted his head, studying Maggie, and moved a bit closer. He put down the bag of cookies he had been making, and wiped his hands on a towel that hung at his waist. "A job?" he repeated after Maggie, and as he approached her, she realized he was probably the biggest Cybunny she had ever seen! "I think you're in the wrong city, you're looking for Faerieland. You'll find a job at the Faerieland Employment Agency." And with that, he started to turn around.
"Please!" Maggie started, following after him. "You're Noda, the baker." He nodded his head to confirm this. "My name is Maggie. I heard about you in Faerieland. A nice young faerie at the employment agency told me about this place. She said you might be looking for some help here, and that you might be willing to pay me in neocash."
"What use does a young Kacheek have for neocash?" Noda questioned her. "Why don't you ask your owner for some?"
Now embarrassed, Maggie's eye fell to the floor. Her voice was much quieter than before when she answered. "My owner has neocash, Mr. Noda, but I'm looking to make some for my own. I believe I can take care of items, but she thinks I'm too young and I am careless with my belongings. I promise I'm not!" she said defensively. "I'd like to make neocash so I can buy my own Court Dancer Collectors Wig," she finished, before looking up at him. "You understand, don't you?"
Noda chuckled. "I guess I do understand, Maggie. But I don't really need any help here, I've got plenty of workers already."
"I'm a fabulous baker, I bake all the time!" she exclaimed, pleading with him. "Please let me help you! I'll work as hard as I can, and as long as you need me!"
Maggie could tell Noda felt sorry for her. "I do all the baking myself, Maggie," he explained. "It's my grandmother's fortune cookie recipe, it's a family secret. Nobody bakes but myself." He sighed, putting down the towel in his hands. "But, it has been a bit crazy around here, I guess I could use another hand bringing the cookies down to the docks, for shipment out to the NC Mall..."
Her heart leapt. "Of course!" she shouted, running up to Noda and shaking his hand. "Thank you so much!" And with that, Noda smiled and led her over to some petpets who were moving cookies from the large piles all over the place into the carts.
Maggie worked for quite a while, loading the carts full of all different kinds of fortune cookies- Lab Ray, Faerie Quest, Game, Archive, and more! Many different customers stopped by; a group of Ixi from Meridell, two very large Chombies, and a fire Draik wearing a heavy jacket and a hat to match who seemed very suspicious but left without any problems.
As she wiped the sweat off her forehead with her own work towel, Maggie took a look at the clock; she had been working hard for the entire day! She must have loaded thousands of cookies for shipment to the NC Mall, for lucky buyers to get their hands on. Maybe Hayley even bought one of them. She couldn't wait to tell her siblings her story of the day, and more importantly, show them she could take care of nice items! She smiled really wide just as the work whistle blew, apparently sounding the end of the workday. As the petpets began to clean up and store the carts for the next day's work, Maggie caught up with Noda.
"Little Kacheek." Noda smiled. "You did great work today. I'm impressed," he said, patting her on the back. "You've earned your neocash." And with that, Noda handed her one of the same bags he had been filling with fortune cookies all day. But, instead of being filled with cookies, it was filled with neocash! Her eyes got really wide as she couldn't believe her luck, and she gave Noda a big hug around the waist.
"Thank you so much, Mr. Noda!" she said, muffled because she was hugging him so hard. "I don't know how I'll ever thank you!"
"Make sure you take good care of that wig when you get it, young lady. I'll be waiting to see you wear it, please come back and visit some day soon." And with that, he waved goodbye to her and walked over a bridge, disappearing among the mist and buildings of another hilltop. Maggie turned on her heel, holding tight to her neocash bag, and headed over a bridge on the other side of the hilltop towards the Shenkuu Shuttle.
To be continued...