"The Grey Faerie wants a Hopso,” Natalia says.
I turn around and look at her through my glasses, trying to read her expression. Happy, I decide. She’s happy.
“We’ll find a Hopso,” I say quietly.
We’re on our way to the Faerieland Employment Agency like we go every Monday. Natalia – my mom – fixes tea for the faeries while I run odd jobs like finding Blueberry Beetle Crackers or Ketchup Ice Creams. The sun is shining and a leaf drifts off a tree, swaying down gently onto my paw and nestling in my green fur. It’s the same color, the leaf and my fur. I stare at the leaf for a moment before removing it, letting it fall to the grass.
“So Karakk,” Natalia continues, her voice taking on a squeaky timber like it does when she’s excited, “what color do you want to pick?”
Of course we know the rumors. A Grey Faerie quest usually means she’ll let her friend, the Fountain Faerie give the reward. Which means I could change my color: be anything I want to be.
I shake my head. It’s too much. I don’t want to think about it right now.
“Can we just get to work?” I say.
“There are a lot of beautiful Bori colors,” she says.
“Please. Let’s just drop it.”
Natalia raises an eyebrow, but says nothing.
The work day was exhausting but productive. I got a lot done. I even dug up some Limited Edition Plushies by following a mysterious trail from a specialty plushie shop that took me to an underground plushie haven.
Back home, Natalia and I sit next to the fireplace, sipping tea.
I remember the day I first met my new mom.
I was scared and shivering in the pound. Alone. I didn’t talk to anyone and everything was a blur for a long time. I couldn’t see clearly. They were just big blobs who came close and then went far away again.
Then there she was. A short, thin woman with blue hair, with wide eyes and a big smile that seemed to light up the cold four walls as though the ceiling had burst and the rays of sunshine that I almost never saw had come pouring through.
She was looking at me as though expecting something magical to happen. I didn’t know what to do so I just sat there, my eyes blurry, waiting for her to nod and go on to the next room.
She nodded to a Pink Uni next to her and they both walked away. My heart thudded. The air felt thick around me. I wanted to bang on the walls, on the steel bars, on the floor, and beg the pretty lady to come back.
I slumped onto the floor on the side of my four walls. For once, I was happy not to be able to see clearly. The floor was all I needed to see now.
But then, after about twenty minutes, I heard the faint telltale sounds of footsteps. They grew closer.
The door swung open.
It was her: the lady from before. The Pink Uni was smiling and so was she. The lady knelt onto the floor and opened her arms.
For a moment, I couldn’t move. It felt like my paws had melded into the cold floor. Then, like an electricity jolt, my body sped forward. She scooped me up and twirled me around, like a scene out of a movie. Then she fished out a little object from her pocket. It had two circles and a thin line connected them. She put them on my face.
Everything changed. I could see clearly. Faces, lines, colors, they all exploded within me in a burst of amazement and my mouth fell open.
“Your records say you could use this. I hope it helps,” she said. I could barely nod my thanks, my mind whirling in shock.
As we walked side by side towards my new home for the first time, I couldn’t stop smiling.
“What is it?” she finally asked.
“I’m just so happy to have found a mom,” I said. I paused. There was something else too, but it was going to sound silly. I looked up at her face – open, accepting – and decided to take a chance.
“There’s another thing too,” I said. “I had never seen it properly before today. The outside. Grass. Sun. Trees.”
She stopped and looked straight at me. I could see tears welling in her eyes, but she was fighting them back. She walked over to me and pushed my paw down onto the ground.
“You are a part of the outside world, Karakk,” she said. “Look at your beautiful green fur. Your fur is like the grass, like the leaves. You are one with everything here. You never have to feel alone again.”
Natalia’s teacup is on the table in front of me.
“What’s wrong?” she asks, her voice gentle. Fire tendrils flicker and dance within the fireplace. I take a sip of cold tea.
“So much has changed since that day in the…pound,” I start, my mouth tasting bitter bile at that last word. “It’s been wonderful. Magical. Surreal. You’re the best mom anyone could hope for.”
She’s smiling at me, waiting for me to continue. I inhale, trying to gather my thoughts. Exhale.
“That day when I saw clearly, when I realized that I was part of the world, changed my whole life. I felt like Neopia was a part of who I was and I was a part of it. I hadn’t known that before,” I say.
I take a big sip of tea. This is it. The moment of my decision.
“I like that my green fur is the same shade as the trees and grass. I don’t want that to change.”
Natalia tilts her head to one side, eyes wide. She shrugs.
“If that’s what you want, I don’t mind,” she says.
“Don’t get me wrong. I know I would be of more value if I changed my fur. Rare. Other people would envy us. At dinner parties, we can talk about the magical day that a Grey Faerie quest changed our lives but –“
She walks over to me and hugs me tightly, cutting me off midsentence.
“I’m thrilled I met a Grey Faerie, Karakk, and I’m excited about getting her something that might help her. But today isn’t the magical day that changed our lives. The day I saw you in the pound was.”
Natalia smiles widely, the same beautiful smile that lit up my four walls so many years back.
“And as far as being rare goes,” she continues, “I think you’re priceless.”
A week goes by and the quest finishes as we thought it would. I’m good at searching out objects and a Hopso was pretty easy to locate. The Grey Faerie was very thankful and generously offered us a Fountain Faerie wish.
My brother, Riodhor, pounces in. I shriek.
He’s Stealth painted.
“Don’t I look intense? And…stealthy?” He strikes a pose, tail in the air dramatically.
“Yes, you look great,” I say. “Do you feel any different?”
“I feel great,” he says, bouncing from a chair to the table. His tail knocks over a teacup. He doesn’t notice. I smile.
“Good,” I say.
Natalia comes in and sits down next to me. She leans over and whispers in my ear.
“You’re wise to not change your fur color, Karakk. But it’s also okay that your brother, Riodhor, really wanted to. You see, each one of you is different and special in their own way – and you all find meaning in different ways.”
I nod and smile, the message sinking in.
“Just make sure you keep that in mind when you find out he just broke your favorite teacup,” I say.
And we both laugh.