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Week 646
You are on Week 647
Week 648

Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...

We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!

Story Six Hundred Forty Seven Ends Friday, March 14

A green balloon swung lazily above the chair to which it was attached, practically whining about its existence with an inaudible creak.

In the chair, halfheartedly pulling at the string to put some life in the otherwise dead balloon, rested a downcast Scorchio, also poking at a limp-looking slice of cake in front of her. She struggled with the forkful of chocolate cake, but even on her birthday, she was just too downhearted to force it to pass her lips. The Scorchio sighed, put the fork down, and pushed the plate away with a gentle scrape, not caring to eat even though it was her birthday.

The trouble was the same as it was every year: no one would come to visit Irena on her birthday. Such were the complications that arose from being born on Illusen Day, where everyone was off celebrating or helping Illusen with something or other. Irena couldn't help it -- it made her green with envy.

Not so green, mind you, that she considered plotting disaster upon Illusen and all she knew and loved, oh no. Irena had much more sense than that. The Scorchio did, however, wish that she had the courage to tell Illusen how she felt about the colliding days... without being overly disrespectful, of course. Illusen had her glory, yes, but Irena did not have hers. It was only fair that she had something of significance on her birthday -- if not, at the very least, the company of one person.

The Scorchio had seen it time and time again: Neopets who got a free biscuit with their coffee because "it was their birthday" or another opportunity to spin the Fruit Machine because "it was their birthday." Irena had principles. She was far too honest for that sort of cheating and would never tell anyone it was her birthday at all. Most years, it passed just like any other day.

And yet, she thought, that may have been the reason none of her friends had visited her at all. Perhaps it had less to do with her friends being occupied by Illusen's quests than she had imagined.

Irena scraped the chair backward, making the balloon dance with a hopeful flutter. She'd go over to Illusen's Glade and make herself known to the earth faerie. If Illusen was as kind and understanding as Irena had heard she was, then what could go wrong?

The Scorchio immediately spread her wings and headed for Meridell. Cool, not chilly, air whistled into her face. The harbinger of spring gently guided her toward the glade, where she landed neatly with a soft rustle as her feet touched grass.

Irena gasped, dismayed at the long line of questers in front of her...

Author: flufflepuff
Date: Mar 10th
...The line of bodies meandered back and forth through the valley, creating a barrier of fur, feathers, and everything in between, preventing her from progressing any further. Irena craned her neck desperately, flapping her wings slightly to elevate her point of view. There was a particularly large, round Tonu in front of her, clasping a small Lupe plushie in between his enormous front hooves. The plushie's head lolled over awkwardly on one side... yikes. If she could just get around this guy, Irena thought, then she could skirt down the line and get Illusen's attention, and everything would be fine...

"Hey, the line is here!" The rough voice that boomed next to her made Irena jump with fright, her whole body whipping backward in surprise. "Sit down and stop flapping your wings, kid. It won't get you there any quicker, and it's making me cold, to boot."

Irena coughed, and then took a few awkward steps backward, ashamed of being caught. "I-I'm sorry, Sir. I--" She paused, her mind working. "Uh, it's my birthday?" she piped hopefully.

"Ha! As if! You just want to get to the front first, eh? Well, I'm already running out of time to get my quest completed, so I'll see Faerieland fall before I let you past." The Tonu grumbled, tiptoeing forward as the line moved on. "Like I said, sit down, birthday girl."

"But Faerieland alrea-- wait, it really is my birthday!" Irena stomped her foot, somewhat offended, but the huge creature ignored her with an over-exaggerated huff. "Fine, I'll just wait, then."

Minutes ticked hesitantly by, seemingly at a Slorg's pace. Everyone seemed to be buzzing excitedly around her, talking about quests and prizes and time limits, but Irena failed to feel even a shred of their joy. What a day. Not to mention the rising tension between her and the grumpy Tonu, especially when the group of friends that stood behind her kept shoving her into his back. He huffed, every single time, and glared at her past his huge nose-horn like it was her fault. She'd had her fair share of bad birthdays, that was true, but this really took the cake. The birthday cake, to be exact.

"So, uh... you're here to finish a quest?" she started lamely as the silence between them became too much for her to bear.

"Look, you don't have to make conversation just so--" he began, but was cut off by a loud bang that sounded like an explosion. "Kid, get down!"

The next thing she knew, Irena's face was being pushed into the dirt by one of those oversized hooves...

Author: cloudwhiskers
Date: Mar 10th
...She vaguely heard someone shout "False alarm!" and the pressure on the back of her head released. Irena lifted her face to breathe and coughed out a mouthful of dirt. If she thought her birthday couldn't get any worse, then she'd definitely spoken too soon. She swirled her tongue around her mouth, feeling clumps of gritty earth, and shouted toward the Tonu between each spit.

"What... did you... do that for?" she cried.

He folded his arms and gave her a defiant huff. She followed his gaze and saw that, a few spots behind them, stood a purple Korbat holding a smoking yellow cannon. He smiled guiltily and shifted it uncomfortably in his hands. "Sorry, I forgot to make sure the safety was on."

"That cannonball went whizzing an inch past your head," someone pointed out to Irena, who turned to see a giant metal ball lodged in a nearby tree. "He practically saved your life!"

Irena shuffled uneasily, swiping the last bits of dirt off her wings. With a resolute sigh, she turned toward the Tonu and said, "Thank you."

If she had expected his expression to soften, then she was wrong. He continued to stare at her stonily and only replied, "I've been telling Illusen for years that she should stop requesting such dangerous items." He trailed off mumbling something about careless Neopets.

A few minutes passed, and the others in line went back to discussing their quests, leaving Irena to return to the awkward silence of being in the Tonu's presence. She rolled her eyes. "I'm Irena, by the way," she offered.

The Tonu grunted. "Bob," he said without turning. "Is it really your birthday?" he asked.

Irena nodded as he squinted over his shoulder. The silence stretched on and then he seemed to emit a low growl before stepping out of line, shoving her in front of him and resting in a spot behind her. He'd actually let her cut! It hadn't made a huge difference, but the fact that someone had made a kind gesture toward her because it was her birthday was quite touching to her.

Before she could thank him, though, they'd reached the base of Illusen's tree and a loud ringing had hit their ears. Illusen appeared as if from thin air and threw her hands apart, tossing confetti into the air.

"Congratulations!" she cried, looking toward the Scorchio. "You're the 1,000th quester today, so you get a very special prize..."

Author: treeword
Date: Mar 11th
..."Me?" Irena asked dazedly, pointing at herself. "I'm the 1,000th quester?"

"Gee, too bad I let you cut..." Bob muttered behind the Scorchio, sighing.

"Yes, you!" Illusen said cheerfully. "Here, it's right in my house..."

Irena gave an awkward wave to Bob, who returned it only half-heartedly. She then followed Illusen into the tree. Inside, everything seemed to be either green, brown, or wooden. Green counters lined the walls in the back, along with a brown stove, where a kettle was whistling loudly. Illusen gave a quick grin over her shoulder to Irena and hurried to it. She poured a cup of tea and handed it to Irena, who hesitated and took it.

"This is my prize?" she asked, not sure if Illusen was kidding.

"Of course not, silly! The gift's much more special." Illusen winked at Irena and put up one finger to tell the Scorchio to wait. She then hovered over quickly into a back room.

Irena awkwardly waited in the doorway. She glanced over her shoulder to see some 'pets sighing and tapping their feet impatiently, while others asked those in front of them what the holdup was. Irena found Bob, who was talking to the Aisha behind him, clutching his Lupe plushie and squeezing it so hard that the head looked ready to pop off. Irena sighed and turned around, only to find Illusen skipping back with a small green wrapped present with a red ribbon tied perfectly on it. Irena took the gift.

"Open it," Illusen said proudly. "I really hope you enjoy it."

Irena nodded toward Illusen silently and tore off the wrapping paper to find...

Author: fairygold
Date: Mar 11th
...A small green object. Irena felt herself frown as she reached out a paw. She'd barely plucked the item from its box before Illusen's hands wrapped around her wrists, guiding her paws to the light. "It's a lucky clover," Illusen enthused.

Irena took a step back. "A lucky clover?" The red Scorchio was mystified and she didn't try to mask the uncertainty in her voice. Her breathing hitched as she glanced from Illusen to the gift. The earth faerie's pale features were aglow with excitement and her eyes sparkled as she smiled. "Count the leaves," she prompted in a stage-whisper. "Go on." Illusen nudged Irena's shoulder with her own, playful.

Irena complied with some bemusement. It was an odd request. "Ten... eleven... twelve." She blinked. The object in her paws was a 12 Leaf Clover. Why, that was four times as many leaves as a normal 3 Leaf Clover and--

"Three times as lucky as a 4 Leaf Clover!" Illusen interjected. The sparkle in the faerie's jade eyes had brightened further and her tone was threaded with the same eagerness. It was as though, Irena thought, her lips twitching, it were she who gave the present and Illusen the one who received it.

Thoughts abuzz, a memory surfaced in Irena's mind as she fiddled with the sprig of clover. She was almost positive that she'd heard something peculiar about clovers with twelve leaves. The Scorchio started when she looked up. Interest plain on her face, the earth faerie had been watching her. "You've heard of lucky clovers, haven't you? Not the four-leaf but twelve-leaf kind?" Illusen asked. "Rumour has it," she went on, "that, if you wish upon a 12 Leaf Clover, the wish you make will come true." Irena's pulse quickened with each fervent word the faerie spoke.

"Is that true?"

The faerie clapped her hands at the expression on Irena's face. The gesture was repeated by several Neopets by the door as they leaned in to watch, their stares wide-eyed. "There's only one way to find out for sure."

"Oh boy, a 12 Leaf Clover!" one Skeith said loudly to his friend, jealous. Behind him two Kougras traded an envious look as Irena's cheeks warmed with a mixture of pleasure and embarrassment.

The Scorchio re-focused on the tiny green object. Admittedly, the giver hadn't known that it was her birthday. Despite that, however, the clover was every inch the birthday gift she'd long wanted but never had. Receiving the present had, somehow, made Irena feel rather... special. "It's like a birthday cake," she half-laughed to herself.

"A birthday cake?" It was now Illusen's turn to be confused and she arched an inquisitive eyebrow. "Why a birthday cake?"

Irena recalled her own birthday cake at the question. She hadn't bothered to adorn it with candles that morning -- there was no point in blowing them out if no one was there to see her make the traditional birthday wish. The red Neopet gave a snort without meaning to. The clover was a far cry from the chocolate confection she'd eaten earlier. Where her cake had appeared to droop, the green sprig stood proudly upright in her paw in all its vibrant glory. It was as if it demanded that it be wished on. "It's actually my birthday," Irena told Illusen by way of explanation.

"Ah." The jade eyes widened in seeming understanding. "Your birthday?" Illusen dashed a look through her doorway. Cheers had erupted among those closest by. "It's too loud," the faerie continued quietly, her enthusiasm ebbing, "sometimes. It's nice to sit back and enjoy a quiet treat every once in a while." The faerie stirred sugar into her tea before her glance flicked toward Irena. "What will yours be?"

Caught off-guard, Irena opened her mouth...

Author: fairyxhearts
Date: Mar 12th
..."A treat? Um... cake?" she offered, for it was the first thing to come to mind.

"Certainly. I'm quite partial to it, myself." She glanced at the Neopets crowding outside the door. "Could you give us a few minutes, dears?" she called. "I'll be back very soon, and don't worry about any time limits on your quests."

The crowd grumbled, but pulled back a few feet, which was probably as good as they were going to get.

"Is this okay?" Irena asked nervously. "I mean, there are so many 'pets waiting..."

"Everyone needs a little quiet now and then," Illusen assured her, "and everyone deserves something special on their birthday."

Yes. Yes, they did. Wasn't that exactly what she'd hoped for?

Cake honestly didn't sound very appetizing, as it brought to mind the sad, nibbled-at mound that still sat in her kitchen at home. What Illusen brought out of her kitchen, however, was bright and looked delicious. Two small pieces of vanilla cake that glistened with glittery green icing, each topped with a beautifully crafted sugar flower. The faerie set one plate down in front of Irena and one down for herself.

"Happy birthday... ah." The faerie grinned bashfully. "I'm afraid I never got your name."

"Irena... and happy birthday to you too, miss Illusen."

"What a lovely name that is. Happy birthday, Irena."

"Thank you." Irena smiled; right now, she felt very warm inside. So rarely had she ever been acknowledged, especially today. She'd always been overshadowed by Illusen, but here she was, sharing tea and cake with the wonderful faerie and she couldn't remember the last time she'd felt so special.

"So, what brings you to my glade today?"

"Mmm, this is delicious." The cake was every bit as delectable as it looked -- Irena suspected that faerie dust was somewhere on the list of ingredients. "Oh? Um, well." She looked down. "It's kind of a silly reason..."

Illusen's smile turned soft. "I promise, dear, I won't think anything of it. If it drove you to come here, especially on a day like today, then it must have been a good one."

"A-all right." The Scorchio swallowed. Admitting this to Illusen herself felt awkward, but maybe it wouldn't be so bad? "It's... well. I want you to know, I never thought anything less of you because of it. However, I always... I'm always alone on my birthday, because everyone's always doing your quests today, even my friends. I thought that, if I could come to talk to you about it, then maybe you would understand."

She cautiously searched Illusen's face for any trace of anger or disapproval, but the only thing she could find was compassion.

"That's not a silly reason at all." The faerie set her fork down. "I'm so sorry, Irena, if it felt like my day was overshadowing yours. I never intended for anything like that to happen to any of you." She smiled gently. "Everyone is special. Nobody should ever get left out."

Irena didn't mean to sound so bitter, especially after everything Illusen had done for her, but the comment slipped out before she could stop herself. "Some more special than others."

Illusen looked out the window. Her smile was still there, but it was tinged with sadness. "If you could call it that. I'm very grateful for all of them, but..." She sighed. "Sometimes popularity isn't all it's cracked up to be."

"Huh?" Irena blinked. She couldn't imagine being doted upon as a bad thing. For a long time, it had been the only thing she'd wanted. "What do you mean?"

"Can I tell you a secret, Irena?" Illusen clasped her hands together. "Truly, you mustn't tell."

"Um, okay? If you're sure? I won't tell anyone, but... why me?"

"You've confided in me today. Surely I can do the same for you." The faerie glanced around, then dropped her voice. "Sometimes I wish I didn't have to be here."

"What?" Irena just... couldn't comprehend it. "Why not? It's your special day!"

"Yes, and..." Illusen looked down at her hands. "It used to be a quiet thing. I'd take the day off, enjoy a nice smoothie and a slice of cake, listen to the leaves and the breeze and the Petpets. Sometimes Neopets would show up, too, and give me gifts, or offer to do favors for me. I loved that. I was so grateful. I felt so appreciated.

"However, with every passing year... more and more of them came, and when they wanted to do favors, well... I can't simply refuse a quest. Soon I had more questers than quests, though, and it got to the point where I can't even leave my glade today, there’s so many." Illusen sighed. "It's Illusen Day, but sometimes I feel like it's not really my day, if that makes any sense."

"I... think I understand?" Irena glanced outside. Several Neopets were leaning into Illusen's doorway again, watching her and the faerie with poorly-veiled envy. Others were starting to peek into the windows. A few of them were giving her distinctly angry looks. If she listened closely, she could hear bits of their conversations -- "attention hog," "who does she think she is," "holding up the line." Even the Tonu was glaring at her.

"Anyway," Illusen said. There was a note of forced cheerfulness to her voice, and Irena guessed she'd noticed the Neopets, too. "Why don't you make a wish?"

"Oh, with the clover?" Irena looked down. The bright, perky stalk was vibrant green and ramrod straight. It seemed to glow with life. Could it really be magical? Certainly it wouldn't hurt to try?

She looked back to the crowd of Neopets -- impatient and eager to shower Illusen with their attention -- and then to Illusen, who handled it all with good grace but quietly longed for some time to herself.

"I wish..."

Author: dianacat777
Date: Mar 12th
...Irena paused as she closed her eyes. All of Neopia seemed to pause with her as she no longer heard the mumbling of impatient Neopets or felt their eyes upon her. All she heard was her own sad heartbeat as she struggled to put her wish into the proper words. "I wish," she repeated, "that for just one day, my birthday, I could be special and that Ilusen could have this day all to herself."

A soft wind, perfumed by a thousand wildflowers, danced through the glade and surrounded Irena. She could feel the silky petals whirling about her as the clover began to glow. Even through her closed eyelids, she could see the emerald glow as she felt a comforting warmth wash over her as if being bathed in the rays of summer sunshine. She smiled as she could feel her wish becoming reality.

The wind died down as the glow faded, and Irena couldn't help but feel a little disappointed. Now that the warm feeling was gone, she felt no different than before, and she feared that she had made a wish that the clover could not grant. "I guess that was a silly wish," she said as she opened her eyes, but she was not prepared for what she would see.

It was like looking into a mirror as she gazed down at the red Scorchio that stood in Illusen's place, except that this reflection was not moving in sync with her. There was a surprised expression that plastered the Scorchio's face as she looked down at her own limbs. "I can't believe this," she gasped with Illusen's voice.

Irena turned and looked into an oval mirror that was framed by twisting vines that hung nearby. Her green eyes sparkled with excitement as she pushed aside the auburn braid from her now-freckled face. Her wish had come true.

She turned to Illusen, who was still examining her new Scorchio form. "It's only for today," she assured. "That's what I wished for. You can be me and relax at my house. It's quiet and peaceful there. I'll stay here and take care of your duties. I can pretend that this is all a part of the biggest birthday celebration ever. Won't this be great? We'll both get our wish today!"

Illusen smiled gently, but there was uncertainty shimmering in her luminescent eyes. "This was a kind gesture," she replied, "but are you sure you can fulfill my duties? It can be overwhelming, and as me you will now have enemies. It might be dangerous."

"I'm sure I can handle this for one day," Irena answered. "Let me explain how to get to my house so you can go there and relax. I'll take care of things here."

As she gave Illusen directions, she forgot all about the clover that she still grasped tightly in her hand. The stalk was no longer straight as the entire plant had begun to wilt and crumple...

Author: tj_wagner
Date: Mar 13th
...With a wave and smile, the Irena counterfeit exited the foliaged cottage; the newly-formed faerie trailed behind.

"Irena!" Bob yelled, greeting the Scorchio with a touch of melancholy in his voice. "I'm so sorry the clover didn't do anything for you." There were nods and general murmurs of agreement from the others in the crowd.

The Scorchio smiled. "I received cake," the actual Illusen said with a shrug, "and it's been a fairly excellent birthday, as far as birthdays go." She turned around and winked at the earth faerie behind her.

The authentic Irena winked back.

"Out of curiosity," Bob started slowly, "in the event that I want to... visit you today -- on account it being your birthday -- where might I find you?"

The Neopet spun her head and glanced at the real Irena.

The earth faerie nodded her approval of her false self revealing such information, and the Scorchio did so.

She then walked away from the Tonu and down the cobblestone path leading away from the glade. "Bye, everyone," the now somewhat famous Neopian finished, giving one last glance to the crowd. "Have fun, and good luck!"

Irena released a breath she did not realize she had been holding. The "good luck" was probably intended toward her more than anything. Taking a moment to steady herself, she grinned and clapped her hands in much the same way as the faerie she now resembled. "Who's next?"

Bob stepped forward. "Here's the Lupe plushie you asked for, Illusen," he stated with a slight bow as he bestowed the stuffed toy unto her.

Smiling, Irena accepted it. "Marvellous!" She looked down upon it -- what would Illusen have needed this for? "Let me just put this, er... with the other things."

The faerie glided back to the cottage and found a nice place for the plushie on a leafy-green couch. "This should do," she said to herself as she scanned the general area for something to give the Tonu. "Hopefully something to make him less disgruntled," she whispered, thinking back to his earlier irritation at her. Irena discovered a seemingly infinite collection of cream cookies in a container on a shelf in what appeared to be the kitchen and, carefully, she removed two.

Returning outside, the Illusen look-alike shoved the two cookies at the Tonu's face -- she hadn't meant to be so rough to him, but having longer arms and more slender fingers was an adjustment.

The Tonu grimaced. "You gave me cream cookies 24 quests ago!"

Illusen frowned as a wave of anxiety panged her; clearly she had failed in her intent, and was now caught in a difficult situation. Then, remembering one of the most fundamental rules to the quests, she grinned. Clapping her hands together, the counterfeit declared in a manner that was entirely too peppy, "You were late giving this item to me and as such you've been reset to level one! I hope you've had fun, and better luck next time!" Thinking ahead, she shouted to the whole crowd, "You've all been reset to level one! Cream cookies for everyone!"

Bob's eyes widened and he began to breathe more heavily; his nostrils flared. "Oh, that Irena," he started slowly, his temper rising with every release of angry air. "She'll pay for this." He paused. "WON'T SHE?" he yelled to the crowd.

An explosion of chatter regarding the cream cookies and failed missions circulated 'round the the questers, who were now forming themselves into a mob.

False Illusen gaped. "Er, that's not what I--"

"I know where Irena lives," Bob announced, interrupting the faerie and riling the group. "Let's go storm her house!"

Off went the frenzied mob, leaving the real Irena speechless and uncertain of her next move...

Author: rielcz
Date: Mar 13th
..."Now wait a second!" she cried, flapping her wings frantically to catch up with them.

Bonk! Her faerie head crashed into a tree branch. Dazed, she sat up and gingerly moved her wings. How in Neopia did Illusen navigate with these?

After a few more tries she got it and then flew valiantly forward again. "Wait!" she shouted to the Neopets, who were gathering bunches of twigs and lighting them to make torches. "Don't g--"

The word "go" was barely out of her mouth when one of Illusen's cream cookies slammed into her face. Coughing and gasping, she wiped the cream from her mouth and eyes to find herself staring at the purple Korbat who had earlier fired the cannon in his haste to get it to Illusen.

"You lied, Illusen!" the Korbat snarled. "You lied about extending the time limits! This is what happens to frilly, scummy liars who LIE!" He hurled another cookie, which landed on Irena's front.

"Now look here," the Scorchio-in-faerie-form spluttered indignantly, "it's my day! This is not how you are supposed to treat a birthday faerie on her day!"

"Oh yeah?" the Korbat said. "What about my avatar, huh? I waited an eternity in line to get your quest and almost blew someone's head off in order to get your stupid cannon to you, and then you tell me that I'm too late?" He grabbed his torch and rose up in a huff.

"I'm sorry!" Irena wailed to the crowd, but nobody was listening to her. Wings, talons, paws, and tails slapped all around her as the mob surged in the direction of Irena's house. She couldn't comprehend it. She was a faerie now, for goodness' sake! A faerie, and nobody was paying any respect to her!

Was this the kind of thing Illusen had to put up with on her special day? Did the questers not care about her? All those gifts that they'd brought -- were they only after their rewards and avatars?

A most unfaerielike sob bubbled up in Irena's throat. Her flimsy body was pushed this way and that as the mob charged forward. She could dimly see Bob at the front -- Bob the Tonu, who had been so nice, who'd saved her from the cannon and allowed her to cut -- even Bob was only after a quest reward, after all.

How did Illusen handle it all?

Irena knew then that she didn't have Illusen's grace. She didn't deserve to be a faerie. She would never be as cool as Illusen.

"I'm not Illusen," she whispered tearfully as her house came into sight. Then, with resignation, she forced her way into the air and shouted in a broken voice, just before the torches came into contact with the garden fence, "Stop! Stop! I'm not Illusen, do you hear me? I'm not Illusen..."

Author: swordlilly
Date: Mar 14th
...At first, only one head turned upward toward Irena.

"I'm not... I'm not..." She breathed, nearly in tears. As more of the crowd silenced and gazed in her direction, the louder her voice seemed.

"You're not Illusen?" a voice from below shouted, sending a ripple up Irena's spine. There was an air of suspended disbelief floating around the crowd and she could feel it. Their prodding eyes and open mouths... they didn't believe her.

"Yes," she began, scanning the face of everyone who had bothered to look up at her. "I know it sounds ridiculous... impossible, even, but it isn't." A murmur washed over the crowd and, after a moment, another voice rang out.

"How are we supposed to believe you? You could just be lying so that you can cheat us out of our avatars and prizes!" The murmur rose to a hum in seconds.

"I'm not doing that!" Irena sputtered, not sure what else to say. She felt like flying away and leaving Illusen to deal with the mob at this point.

Don't think that way, she scolded herself. She had already come this far; she could solve this herself, for Illusen's sake.

"Why would I do that to you? I care about every one of you more than to hurt you intentionally. Just think beyond the avatar or reward for a moment. Think about how I feel -- no, how Illusen feels. It's her birthday today, and you're mobbing her with requests and expecting her to be able to bend over backward to supply your rewards." Irena's voice cracked and she paused for a moment. There were expressions ranging from angry to shocked to understanding plastered on the Neopet's faces. "Yet not one of you even considers paying her back, showing her a little respect. Even just a 'happy birthday' or a slice of cake. I... I know how that feels myself, and I wouldn't wish that feeling upon anyone, so I volunteered to shift bodies with Illusen for the rest of the day. So, if you're mad with anyone, then it should be me, not her." Finally done with her speech, Irena hovered, waiting for a response.

For a minute, there was none. Finally, though, Bob stepped forward, a pained expression on his face.

"I... I didn't ever think of it that way. Now that you've expressed it from your perspective, I feel ashamed of what I've done today." The hum of chatter among the questers lowered to a murmur again, there were three phrases that stood out the most in the conversation: "I'm ashamed," "I'd hate to be overcrowded on my birthday," and "We should do something." These simple lines made Irena smile.

"We can do something. We can do something amazing," she said, her voice gaining back its bounciness with every word.

"How?" the crowd echoed, each one of them looking at each other in shame.

"Follow me!" the Scorchio in a faerie's body exclaimed, landing and beginning to fly in the direction of Meridell.

***

"Ahh... this is nice, being able to relax." The faerie in Irena's body sighed contentedly as she sipped a glass of ice-cold lemonade. The Meridell sun felt unbelievably warm against her scaled skin. It was neither too hot or too cold, but instead the perfect temperature. She closed her eyes behind the sunglasses that rested over them, for once in her life enjoying her special day.

"Illusen?" a familiar voice asked. Illusen recognized the voice as that of Irena and she smiled warmly. After all, it was because of her that she was able to enjoy the day. Opening her eyes and moving the sunglasses to rest on her forehead, she was only mildly startled to see her own body staring down at her.

"Three... two..." Irena counted down, ignoring the questioning look in Illusen's eyes until she reached the final number.

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" The mass of questers that had, just an hour before, been lined up impatiently at her home shouted. Illusen stood, glancing at them, then toward Irena in wonder.

"We just wanted to wish you a happy birthday, Illusen. You deserve more than just a nice day after how we've treated you every year," the Korbat who'd had the cannon apologized. Everyone else nodded, hanging their heads in noticeable shame. The faerie smiled and clapped her hands.

"Oh, you didn't have to do this! Thank you, though, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you all for coming!" Staring directly at Irena, she then spoke only to her, although everyone could hear.

"Thank you." Then, breaking her gaze off from the Scorchio in her body, she exclaimed, "Everyone is welcome to stay for the rest of the day and celebrate both my birthday and Irena's!" Irena couldn't help but smile at the look of joy on Illusen's face. Everyone cheered, and music floated out of a music box someone must've gotten as a quest item.

Even though she was in a different body, Irena felt as though this was the best birthday she could've wished for.

The End

Author: tttxyv
Date: Mar 14th



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