It was a cold day in Neopia Central, or so Winter supposed. The shops were decorated with a thin dusting of snow that only grew larger as more flakes continued falling. The streets were crowded with warmly bundled up pets who chatted and laughed together as they did their holiday shopping. Having been a Snow Xweetok since the day she was created, Winter had never known what it was like to feel cold. Well, either that, or she was always cold and just didn't realize it. She liked her colouring fine, and it certainly came in handy considering that she lived on Terror Mountain. It did get a little frustrating, though, that her siblings could all rush off to have fun in warm places like Mystery Island and Moltara, while she had to stay home for fear of melting.
Winter’s view of the falling snow was briefly obstructed by a pink and yellow blur as a Faerie Wocky zipped past overhead, arms full of brightly wrapped parcels. Winter couldn't help but stare enviously at his wings as he soared through the air. Yes, being Snow was fine, but she had always dreamed of being Faerie. It was a dream that would have to remain a dream for quite a while, though, as her owner simply couldn't afford such an expensive paintbrush. Still, she couldn't help but imagine what it would be like to dive into the Rainbow Pool and then fly out with her new wings shimmering in beautiful shades of teal and brown...
"Winter_snowflake8, are you listening?" Winter jumped at the use of her rather long and embarrassing full name, and snapped back to reality. "I said we need to get going if we want to get all the shopping done before our owner gets back," her sister Patches continued with an annoyed look. She carefully adjusted her red and white Christmas scarf, which was more of a fashion statement than something to actually keep her warm. As a Bori, Patches wasn't much bothered by the cold either.
"Right! I knew that," Winter replied hastily. "Christy should be back in about three hours, so we have to hurry if we want to get all our shopping done in secret." Their owner was off playing games, trying to earn enough Neopoints to get presents for her pets.
Her brother Six nodded. "Exactly. I say we meet back here in two hours, so we have enough time to get home before she does." The Camouflage Lupe checked a piece of paper, which, knowing him, was probably a detailed schedule he had drawn up to ensure that he could finish all his shopping in time.
"What do you mean, meet back here?" Winter’s other brother, Max, demanded. "In some random spot on this street? I say we meet at Pizzaroo and get some good pizza to celebrate finishing our shopping."
Patches grinned at him. "Okay, that's a better plan. Now let's hurry up and get going!" She dashed off, scarf flapping in the wind as she called back "See you in two hours!"
Six sighed. "Yes, all right." He turned to the two Xweetoks. "Make sure we all start in different directions, okay? We don't want to run into each other and spoil any surprises."
"Aye, aye, sir!" Max responded, giving him a mock salute. The Cloud Xweetok headed left, Six went the opposite direction with an exasperated roll of his eyes, and Winter was left alone. She glanced around carefully, and then slipped off towards the lottery.
Winter knew her family wouldn't approve of her spending money on one in a million chances, but she still couldn't help occasionally throwing Neopoints down the wishing well and buying lottery tickets on the off chance that it could lead to her getting the paintbrush of her dreams. She clutched her ticket tightly as she approached the counter. The Zafara running the booth today took the ticket with a smile that quickly froze as he read the numbers. Winter’s eyes widened as he reached under the desk and quietly pulled out a large bag of Neopoints.
"Congratulations, miss! You've won 10 million Neopoints! Don't spend it all in one place," the Zafara said in an excited whisper, not wanting to draw attention to Winter. The Xweetok managed to squeak out an astonished thank you as she took the bag and wandered off to the marketplace in a daze.
10 million Neopoints! That was enough to buy herself a paintbrush and still have plenty left over for presents! Winter paused for a minute. No, she had to get the gifts first. As much as she wanted to grab her paintbrush right away, she was supposed to be shopping for her family, not for herself. She bounced with excitement, thinking of how happy her family would be when they saw so many presents.
Winter zipped through the marketplace, picking out dozens of gifts. She quickly realized it would all be way too much for one small Xweetok to carry, so she arranged to have everything delivered to their house. She bought books, clothes, plushies, candy, posters, even some rare snow globes for her owner's collection... once Winter thought she had gotten enough gifts for everyone, she checked her bag of Neopoints. There was still about half remaining, plenty for her to buy a Faerie paintbrush and still have some left over.
Heading to the Trading Post, Winter pushed her way through the crowds of shoppers. Her literally snow-white fur blended in so well with the weather that she found herself bumped and jostled by many pets who didn't see her, and perhaps some who did but were just too rude to get out of the way.
While browsing lots in search for the best deal, Winter absent-mindedly ran her paws through the bag of Neopoints, and then froze in shock. There was hardly any left! She counted carefully and came up with a little under a million, instead of the 5 million she had left the marketplace with. She frantically ran back, retracing her steps, but the rest was nowhere to be found. One of the pets who bumped into me must have stolen it, she thought furiously.
Winter trudged dejectedly in the general direction of Pizzaroo, her dream of flying evaporating as quickly as snow in Moltara. She tried to console herself with the thought that the remaining Neopoints would at least contribute to a future paintbrush, and that she had managed to buy so much for her family, but she still couldn't stop the tears that came to her eyes.
Gradually, Winter noticed some music in the distance that got louder as she continued walking. She soon discovered a group of pets standing on the street corner and singing carols. They wore old tattered clothing, but their faces were alight with joy as they sang. A small Kacheek walked up to her and held out an old hat.
"Spare a few Neopoints, miss?" he asked hopefully. Winter started to reach into the bag for a handful and then stopped herself. What was she doing? She was lucky to have a family that loved her, and a cosy house to go home to. These pets had nothing, and yet they still managed to be happy. What did she need these Neopoints for? Together, her family would earn more, and one day she could be painted Faerie. This was the month of Giving, after all.
Winter dropped the whole bag into the waiting hat. The Kacheek gasped, staggering under the weight of it. He blinked up at her with wide eyes, completely speechless. The other pets gathered around excitedly, counting the money. Winter smiled and turned away, wishing them a happy holidays.
As Winter headed back to meet her family, she heard the choir’s voices behind her, raised in a joyful song of thanks. Her paws barely skimmed the ground as she bounded through the snowy streets. She may not be a faerie yet, but Winter already felt as though she could fly.