The Skunk and Woodlander
My heart nearly leapt out my throat as my paws pounded across the ground, leading me into a large forest. I had no clue what lurked behind the foliage of the trees, yet at this one single moment, I couldn't care less.
Once I had made my way to what I assumed was near the center of these unknown woods, I finally allowed myself to rest. My exhausted legs did everything in their power to keep me from collapsing onto the nearby bushes, my chest moving like a rapid wave as I tried desperately to refill my lungs. If I weren't hyped enough already, a small, Miamouse-like voice shattered the air:
"Are you looking for something?"
I leaped back in a somewhat cowardly fashion into the nearby bushes, only to relax my muscles and return to my original form when I saw that it was merely a Woodland Acara.
"N-n-no..." I said. "I-I'm not... looking for anything..."
The Woodland Acara emerged from the tree she was standing behind, revealing herself beautiful, yet free of any wearables, just like myself.
"Then... why are you here?" she asked in a voice that was just a touch louder than her previous tone.
"I... uhh..." I felt my grey cheeks flush. To be honest, the reason I had fled into this forest was kinda embarrassing. "Welp... you see... I mean, you can see that I'm a Skunk Lupe."
The Acara nodded, her big, misty brown eyes looking at me quizzically, as those what I said had no importance.
"And... err..." I had no idea why this was so hard for me to say! "I... smell. I'm a skunk pet, so I smell... skunky."
She kept staring into my bright yellow eyes, her look refusing to change.
"And... because I smell... you know, 'skunky', other Neopets aren't exactly... 'fond' of me. They... bully me. And this isn't just the ones in Neoschool... but also my siblings... and... my owner..."
I lifted my pupils, digging them right into her unmoving ones.
"And yet... for some reason... you don't seem to really mind me..."
"Of course not," she replied so instantly it nearly made me jump. "Out in these woods, the only thing you need your nose for is to find food. Judging a Neopet for how they smell is ridiculous."
"Yeah, yeah... I know," I replied, nearly bedazzled by her words, considering I had never heard anything close to them in my life.
"My name is Jinnia," she said. "...You?"
"Uh, Bickers," I replied. "My name is Bickers."
She suddenly made a "follow me" gesture with her wooden paw, then quickly began to scamper off through the overgrown plants. I swiftly leaped after her and raced behind her little leafy tail, realizing that I was doing something absolutely crazy. This Acara could be insane; This could be my end! But... my life was pretty bad, I didn't really had anybody who cared about me, or would miss me if I were gone... maybe it wasn't that bad if I risked it, potentially started a whole life in a beautiful world...
Suddenly, all my depressing feelings about my life seemed to fly away like birds as the sight swam into my vision. It was a treehouse, but it looked much more like a tree palace. It was like a giant, wooden mansion that sat comfortably between two huge branches in a gigantic tree, decorated in multi-colored lanterns and flowers. I felt a very peculiar feeling in my chest as I stared at this wonder; Everything just... felt right, like I was truly home for the first time in my life.
My silent admiration of the beauty was interrupted by Jinnia's abrupt stating of "Follow". She climbed onto a huge wooden plank that appeared glued to the tree, and began to jump on to another, and another, and yet another, until I realized that these planks made up a staircase around the tree. I cautiously stepped onto the first, then repeated my actions with the rest, refusing to look down, and growing more and more comfortable with the unusual action as I went on.
Finally, the "stairs" ended at the back of the Treehouse, where I was greeted with a large, sturdy door made entirely of treebark that appeared much darker than the walls. I slowly gripped the side in my large, furry black fingers, and swung the door into the building. I entered, my heart beating caution through my body not to slip. At long last, I pushed the door closed with my hindleg, allowing myself to get a full view of what, if I could possibly be lucky enough, would be my new home...
It was glorious. Flowers grew along the roof and walls, coating the place in vibrant color and a fragrant aroma that covered up even my deadly reek. There were two huge windows that captured a magnificent view of what felt like the entire forest. They had no glass panes like the windows of average Neohomes, but instead curtains of what appeared to be dirty, old rags, probably only to be used during severe storms.
A giant bed stood in the corner. At first glance it looked like nothing more than a huge pile of leaves, but when I looked more closely I noticed that said leaves appeared to actually be very carefully arranged on an expertly built wooden frame. Some Petpets were cuddled next to the bed, likely wishing that they could reach what appeared to them as a heavenly cloud of slumber paradise. Others chose to simply roam around or play with their friends, as though they had been living here for years.
"Don't mind them."
My eyes were ripped from their wandering, and yanked towards Jinnia, who I had just now noticed was sitting by the window to the right, staring blankly yet strangely determinedly out at the forest.
"I let them wander and go. Please don't mind them, they are very nice."
"What? Oh, yeah, yeah, the Petpets, I-I don't mind them," I said as I hurried over to her side.
For a fully awkward, yet strangely wonderful moment, we both stared out at the trees. My eyes wondered, drifting from tree to tree, cloud to cloud with the wind, while her's simply stayed locked on one particular part of nothing. Finally, I took an air-shattering breath and destroyed the silence with a simple sentence.
"This is the most wonderful place I have ever seen."
Okay, it came out way more floral than I planned to, but at least I finally got her big, brown eyes to swish their current's up into my oceans, the frothy waves of her pupils crashing onto the rocks of my own.
"Thank you," she said. "I've been working on it since I was a small child. I don't have anyone. Stay? Will you?"
"Uh, um, yes!" I blurted out, caught with a hook of surprise by her strange form of questioning.
She grabbed my dark paw much tighter than I expected, only to lift it up and place it on what would normally be the window sill. Her wooden paw was surprisingly warm and soft, and was the cherry on the sundae of comfort I was currently feeling inside. In less than an hour I had traded a life of absolute misery in nearly every element for something most Neopets could barely even wish for.
And that was just the start of it all.