Author's note: If you're reading this, then that means that Neopets has decided to post all of Rugy's story. Or else I've gone and decided to post this at Fanfiction.net. Since I know that few people actually read the author's note, I'll just shut up now and let you read.



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Rugy groaned and shifted, then slowly opened his eyes. He had the sensation of slow falling, and guessed that they were landing.


"Have a nice nap?" Silver's voice came from behind him.


"Yeah... how long have I been asleep?" The Zafara asked, rubbing his eyes with a green paw.


"About an hour. Maddy is a fast flier, so we're nearly home."


He yawned and stretched, his back arching like an earth cat's. Silver's hands steadied him, and kept him from falling off. "Where do we live?"


"The Haunted Woods." Rugy froze. "Don't worry, it's not as bad as people make it out to be. Just stay near Ryo, Maddy, or Tide for a while, until you can find your way around on your own."


"Finding my way around isn't what I'm worried about..." He muttered. If Silver heard him, she chose not to reply.


"We're going to the ray first. Might as well get your first visit over with." Rugy shuddered. Even if Tide had said that it didn't hurt, he wasn't so sure.


There was a fierce jolt, and Rugy's chin hit the back of Maddy's neck. "Ow..." He winced and rubbed it with a paw, decided that it wouldn't bruise, and huddled down in the dark blue feathers emblazoned with turquoise lightning bolts.


Maddy trotted to a stop, and Tide glided in to land on her head. The draik folded his wings, and proceeded to coil up for a nap. Silver slipped off the Eyrie's back, and gently gathered the Zafara in her arms. She then began carrying the trembling Neopet towards a large building, partially covered in vines. It was run-down, and looked abandoned. Fortunately, it didn't look like it could collapse on their heads at any moment.


Silver pushed open the door, and walked inside the dimly lit room. It took up the entire former warehouse, and the only light was what managed to filter in through the grime streaked windows.


A yellow scorchio with an Albert Einstein hairdo looked up. He was wearing a white lab coat, and some swirly lensed glasses. At his inquiring look, the scorchio said "They help me to see in this light."


"Oh..." Rugy gulped as Silver carried him to a table in front of a MASSIVE ray gun that took up most of the space inside the building.


"So, Al, had any luck on building that portable model yet?" She asked as she placed him on the table. She grabbed a pair of sunglasses and put them on his face, fixing them so that they wouldn't fall off.


"I still haven't gotten the funding for it. Seems most people think me crazy." Silver's now familiar low chuckles combined with the Scorchio's hearty laugh.


The ray hummed, and a light started to gather at the end. A few seconds later, a bright light shot out and engulfed him. Now Rugy knew what the sunglasses were for.


Tide had been right. It didn't hurt. All that he felt was a weird tingly sensation, similar to if an arm or foot had fallen asleep, but all over his body. Not pleasant, but not painful, either.


The light faded, leaving Rugy feeling different. The Zafara couldn't place how, though.


Al ran a scanner over his body, and reported "Gender change."


"Oh no... I'm a girl..." Rugy moaned as she sank to the table.


"And just what is wrong with being a girl?" Silver asked as she scooped her up.


"Uh... nothing..." Rugy sighed as she submitted to an ear rub from Al.


"Don't worry..." The scientist murmured. "They may act weird, but they're good people. You'll be fine." Rugy looked into the scorchio's wise eyes, and slowly nodded.


Rugy whimpered and closed her eyes at the sudden brightness as Silver carried her outside. After allowing a few seconds for her eyes to adjust, she opened them. And now she was able to get a good look at the Haunted Woods.


Immediately, she knew that the rumors had been greatly exaggerated about the place. The trees actually did have leaves on them, and soft grass covered the ground. The plant life was a bit wilder and more tangled than in the other forests she had been in, but that was the only difference she could see.


Rugy was brought back to reality by the sounds of her new family talking. Tide gave a sympathetic look at the report of the gender change.


"Don't worry. Being a girl isn't TOO bad, I guess..." A couple of scorching looks from Silver and Maddy, and he wisely shut up.


***


The flight to her new home wasn't nearly as long, and only about five minutes later, Maddy glided in to land in front of a hole in the ground.


"That's it?" Rugy asked, a bit disappointed.


Silver didn't answer, as she dismounted and put Rugy on the ground. This was fine with her, as her legs were slightly numb. She walked even with Silver's legs, in that particular half walk, half hop that is particular to Zafaras. Basically, her front half walked like a normal four-legger, and her back half hopped along. This gait was developed because a Zafara's forelegs are slightly shorter than their hind legs, and their hind legs were shaped like a rabbit's or kangaroo's, in that they didn't have much in the way of ankles. It looked funny, but it got them where they were going.


Rugy blinked and sighed as they were enveloped in darkness. Her eyes were getting a workout today in light adaption.


Slowly, her eyes adjusted, and she was able to see with the help of the flickering torches set into the wall. The tunnel was roughly oval, with a flat bottom. It was wide enough for Maddy to easily walk down with room to spare. By this time, she had to hurry to catch up.


Rugy was just about to catch up. All that separated them was a shadow.


A very SOLID shadow.


Rugy groaned and rubbed her head as she picked herself up. "What hit me?"


"More like, what hit ME." A voice said in front of her. She looked up, and gulped as she met a pair of disembodied golden eyes.


"YAAHH!!! SILVER!!!!" Rugy yelled as she fell over backwards in her attempts to get away.


"Hey, chill!" The voice came again. Then, after a short pause, "Oh yeah, I'm faded out. I forgot about that. Here." With that, the form of a shadow Kougra materialized around the eyes.


Rugy closed her eyes and concentrated on taking deep breaths. "Don't DO that!"


"Well, sorry, but I'm used to people just knowing I'm there. I've lived with these guys so long, that it's instinct for them to step over me." The Kougra said defensively. He then lowered his head and took a few slow sniffs.


Rugy opened her eyes, to stare down the muzzle of the largest Kougra she had ever seen. She gulped, and he chuckled.


"Don't worry. You're too scrawny to be a meal for me. By the way, I'm Ryuou, but everyone calls me Ryo." He looked her over, actually circling her once, which didn't help Rugy's nerves much. "So you're the new pet, huh?"


"Uh... yeah... I guess so..." Rugy shifted uneasily at the pitied look Ryo gave her.


"I wonder how long it will be before she takes you back to the pound."


Rugy's jaw dropped. "What?"


A dark look briefly flashed across Ryo's face, before he got his expressions under control. :You mean they didn't tell you? No, of course they didn't... after the last one freaked... still, you have a right to know..."


"Know what?"


Ryo sighed and plopped down, crossing his forelegs and resting his head on them. "Silver could find no use for our Lab Map after Tide was through with it, and since she very well couldn't get rid of it, she decided to try to help. So she adopts pets, takes them to the ray until they're something that will be more readily adopted, and takes them back to the pound, so that they can find new owners."


Rugy looked down, fighting back tears. "Oh... I should have known that no one would want me..."


"Hey, hey, don't go and cry now. It's not that bad. Silver's a good person, and you'll like it here. Besides," Ryo flashed her a grin, "Silver wouldn't have picked you if she didn't think that you had potential." He leaned down to whisper in her ear. "Prove her right, for her sake... what she's doing is killing her inside..." With that, he faded into the shadows, leaving behind a very bewildered Zafara.


***


To be continued...