The Unexpected Winter of the Heart
The air of Terror Mountain was cold, colder than anything she'd ever felt. It rushed through her fur and tickled her nose as she walked. It was a nice-but terrifying-feeling. It definitely wasn't something she was used to. The young Usul was accustomed to living in the tropical areas of Neopia, and the fact that she was being forced to move to Terror Mountain was a horrifying aspect of her new life.
Hinata had always been in and out of the Neopian pound. By now, the pound staff had come to know her like the back of their paws. She had been there so many times that they had a special cell just for her. Was that a bad thing or a good thing?
Now, Hinata was going to live with yet another owner, this time with a Shoyru and a Kacheek in her midst. Better yet, her new siblings were both boys. And to make matters worse, Hinata would be the middle "child" in her new family. It was well understood through Neopia that the middle child never got anything at all. Hinata had never been the middle Neopet before; she was always either the oldest or the youngest, never in between. And at one time, she had been the only Neopet. But that was before everything changed.
"Are you cold?" The Uni's voice shook Hinata back to reality. The pink Uni, a beautiful Neopet of about twenty-nine, looked at Hinata with soulful blue eyes. "You feeling alright, honey?"
"I'm fine," Hinata replied quietly, looking over her shoulder. Happy Valley was getting farther and farther away, and she could smell the frosty air coming from the top of the mountain. They had skipped the Ice Caves entirely, instead taking a mountain path up to Hinata's new home in a tiny mountain village north of the main peak. As it would turn out, Hinata would now be living in Cirrus Peak, a town of about 20,000 Neopians, including the owners. (20,000 residents wasn't much in Neopian standards.) "Just sleepy, mostly. And... I'm not exactly looking forward to my new home."
"Why not?" Ursula, the Uni, asked.
"It's just the fact that I'm always getting abandoned after getting adopted. Every new house is a disappointment." Hinata cringed at the harshness in her voice; she sounded as icy as the mountain path. "I hate having to live like this. It's not fair."
"Honey, you can't think that way. You have to open your heart. Who knows? This could be your last home," Ursula said, nudging Hinata with her foot. "Come on, darling. You know that one day, you'll find your perfect home. This could be it."
Sure, Hinata thought. Sure.
The remainder of the walk to Cirrus Peak was long, cold, and lonely. Ursula and Hinata rarely spoke during the rest of journey, only occasionally commenting on how beautiful the snow was or Oh my Neopia it's cold! But to be honest, Hinata enjoyed the silence. In all her years of living in and out of the pound, the quiet had always been there for her. Sometimes, she felt that the silence was her friend.
Maybe the silence was her only friend.
Frost had begun to collect in Hinata's tail fur and in her fluffy ears. Snow was stuck between her toes and her mouth was filled with the taste of ice and wind. At first, Hinata had been excited to live on Terror Mountain. Not so much anymore.
Finally, a sign came into view. CIRRUS PEAK: ONE AND A HALF MILES. One and a half miles away? "It's still that far?" Hinata murmured under her breath, clearly disappointed.
"Don't worry, darling," Ursula cooed. "They do have, like, ten clothing shops in Cirrus Peak and a cute little coffee shop. I promise you, once you get there you'll love it. And I promise you that you'll love your family.
Of course I will, Hinata thought bitterly, like you always say.
Finally, Cirrus Peak came into view and Hinata was not disappointed. Perhaps it was because her standards were so low; or maybe it was the fact that Cirrus Peak was a cute little town after all. Either way, Hinata was definitely not let down.
"Alrighty then, we need to find 721 Westway," Ursula said with a strange drawl Hinata couldn't place. "It should be north of Elwyn..."
And so it began, the impossible quest to read the map of Cirrus Peak and find 721 Westway.
An hour and one ruined map later, the pair was sitting in the coffee shop Ursula had mentioned earlier, the Bracken Street Brew. They were pouring over some random tourist's map after their own sheet of paper had been blown away by a freak wind. The Brew was actually quite pleasant. It was simplistic yet appealing in design and the extensive menu was amazing, not to mention the coffee. Hinata filed this information away for later.
"There it is! Right there, on the corner of Westway and Mountain Road 40 – the last house on the block. Hinata, honey, you'll enjoy the solitude. There's only one other house nearby, and it's across the street," Ursula said, grinning at the young Usul.
"Okay," Hinata murmured quietly, standing up. "Let's go," she continued, trying to add a dash of enthusiasm to her voice. "I want to get there before the sun goes down."
The house was a sight to behold. It was a two-story house covered in snow, with pine trees leading up to the entrance. A bike rack stood lonely by the road, a rickshaw chained to it and a padlock lying on the ground near it. Bushes were scattered throughout the yard, frozen solid by the bitter cold. It was a beautiful home; it spoke to Hinata, the words it said of sadness and loneliness, but there was also hope. Perhaps it was telling her to stay hopeful for the future?
The walk down the pavement proved quite difficult. The cement was slippery and neither party could get a grip on the sidewalk. It took about fifteen minutes just to get down the twenty-five-foot stretch. Not that Hinata minded; after all, she was not looking forward to meeting her new family.
Ursula rapped on the door twice. Knock, knock.
The door creaked open, revealing a red-sweatpants-wearing girl with long brown hair and friendly hazel eyes. "Hi," she said, smiling. "Welcome home, Hinata. Please, come in, you two." She turned sharply and called upstairs, "Boys! Hendgen! Jay! Come meet your new sister."
The girl, whom Hinata presumed was her new owner, motioned for them to sit down in front of the hearth. Ursula and Hinata obediently sat down and looked at each other. "Well?" Ursula said, smiling broadly.
"It's alright, I suppose," Hinata ventured, eyeing the Uni carefully. Her new owner was in the kitchen, preparing some sort of drink-presumed to be hot chocolate-and humming some weird mountain folk song. How lovely.
Finally, a Shoyru and a Kacheek tumbled down the stairs. "Hi," the Shoyru said with a Moltaran drawl. "I'm Hendgen. And this is my little brother, Jay."
Jay smiled and waved timidly from behind Hendgen.
"Oh, boys, you're finally here! And by the way, Hinata, I'm Emily." The brown-hair girl grinned mischievously, making the Usul question her new owner's sanity. "I'm so glad you'll be joining our family. I'm sure you'll have fun. Just a warning, though; we're kind of... 'different'." Hendgen giggled at this.
"Yeah, we might be too weird," the Shoyru-the older of her two new brothers-cackled. "Just let us know if we scare you too much!"
Now, it was Hinata's turn to laugh. "It's alright; I'm strange too."
"Then we'll get along fine," Emily said, her hands on her hips. "Now, let me show you to your room."
As the two girls walked upstairs, Hinata couldn't help but feel that maybe this was her final home. Perhaps there was hope for her-in the form of a strange family living on a mountain. Which, in all honesty, wasn't so bad.
Maybe Ursula was right after all.