"Choo choo choo!"

"Ugh, no, Dad, don't go away..."

"Choo choo choo choo!"

"No, not the train... Don't go..."

"Choo!"

"Unh?" Drowsily, I raised my head, which collided right into something scratchy. My eyes snapped open and I found myself face-to-face with a purple thing, and it was alive.

Taken off-guard, I screamed and scrambled backwards. The creature squeaked loudly and jumped off me. It raced away, behind the house. Still scared, I grabbed the journal and flipped through the pages.

"Oh," I said. "Oh." It was a Mousemallow. But if Mousemallows ate turnips...

I stood up and walked over to the front of my house. The door was open just a crack. Pushing on it, I walked inside. The refrigerator door was ajar and the turnip I had placed inside it was missing.

"You little rascal!" I exclaimed, half-astonished and half-amused. The Mousemallow, who had been peeking his head around the corner, disappeared.

Closing the door carefully behind me, I walked around the house's corner and scooped up the Mousemallow before he could run.

"That will be your name," I said to the struggling pinata. "Rascal."

Rascal immediately relaxed and looked up at me. "Choo?" he squeaked.

I smiled. "Poor thing."

Rascal looked helpless. The mouse pinata was lavender with darker purple highlights. A band ran across his face and his large ears made him look smaller than he already was. In a strange way, though, he was adorable.

With a squeal, Rascal wriggled out from my grasp. Wondering what set him off, I looked around, only to see a snake pinata slithering along the ground. I remembered the old pet shop back at home... they fed mice to the snakes. Gasping and realizing what this meant, I ran off after Rascal.

I saw him, cornered against the house. A snake was rearing up on its tail, hissing loudly. My blood ran cold and I raced forward, picked up the snake—I thank my lucky stars that it wasn't slimy or cold!—and hurled it away. The snake rolled onto its stomach and, casting a debilitating look in my direction, quickly slithered out of the garden.

I picked up the shaking Rascal and stroked one of his large ears. Mesmerized, he slumped against my shoulder. I sighed, walked over to my house, and placed him inside. He was sleeping before I set him down.

I closed the door and fell to the ground. Benjamin came over. I petted him absentmindedly.

"Hey, are you alright?" Leafos' voice roused me from my thoughts.

"Hmm? Yeah, I'm fine," I replied. "Why?"

"I saw that whole ordeal from the house. You seem to be very protective over your pinatas," Leafos said soberly. She brightened up almost immediately and said, "But that's a a good thing! Not all gardeners care for their pinatas so much."

I made a sound that was half a chuckle and half a snort. "Well, what were those things?"

"Syrupents. As you may be able to tell, they eat Mousemallows."

"How do I get rid of them?" I asked. "Or just keep them from eating Rascal—my Mousemallow, I mean?"

"Well, you can't get rid of them completely, but there are a few ways," Leafos said. "You'll need some chocolate coins, but you can buy a Mousemallow house from Willy. Then you could attract another, romance them, and—"

"Wait, what?" I interrupted. "What am I doing with them?"

"Oh, right, I forgot that you're new to the island." Leafos chuckled. "My bad. Romancing is... well, maybe it's better if I show you!"

"Show me?" I asked, cocking an eyebrow.

"Yeah! Okay, here's what you have to do. First you need a Whirlm house. Do you have fifty-five coins to spare?"

"Yeah, I think so," I replied.

"You need to build your pinatas houses anyway, so this is a good excuse. I'll alert Willy. Just a sec'..." Leafos pulled a strange device out of her pocket.

The device was square on the bottom but semi-circle on the top, all coloured black. The screen glowed and played a short but merry tune. I couldn't see what Leafos was doing, but she was rubbing her thumb on the screen, rather like it was one of those touch-screen phones.

"Willy," Leafos said, holding the phone-like device in front of her and speaking into it. "We need you at Emma's garden to build a Whirlm house. Yes, we have the pay, before you ask. Hurry, it's important." There was a short pause and a chiming sound could be heard.

"I'm on my way," Willy's voice said through the alert system. "I just gotta grab some supplies and a bacon sandwich, heh."

"What is that, some sort of cellphone?" I asked.

"Huh? No, no, it's an alert system. After you make some more money, I'll take you to Lottie's store and help you pick one. They're pretty cheap, but they're essential for a gardener."

So, Leafos and I lounged around for a while. I pointed out to Willy where I wanted the house (in the corner-area) and then we lounged about some more. Leafos filled me in on all of the residents of the town.

"So I said I saw a Syrupent with two heads, and Petula said she saw one with four. She always has to be one bet—"

"I'm finished! The house has been built!" Willy cut Leafos off, bursting out of the usual patched box that allowed nobody to see inside. He turned around and slammed the box with his hammer like when he had built my house.

I was truly intrigued at what I saw. Honestly, I wasn't sure what the house would look like. Would they live in a cabin? I thought. A mansion, even? But why don't I just move in with them, then? Seeing the house nearly made me laugh aloud.

The 'house' looked more like a wooden yellow tube. Like one of those crazy plastic hamster cage tubes, it ran horizontal to the ground, went up into the air, came back down a bit later, and finally went into the ground.

It seemed to be recycled from some sort of giant sink... you could even see a water-pressure wheel on top of one part of the wooden pipe. There was a single piece of tube sticking up out of the ground, and on the raised part was some sort of barometer. Its pointer only moved slightly back and forth.

Arrows were etched into the wood, and little stones surrounded the house. Beside it all a post was stuck into the ground, and it had a picture of a Whirlm on it. It was all just so... so... whimsical.

I quickly headed into the house, counted the coins, and handed fifty-five to Willy. After thanking him and seeing him out of the garden, Leafos spoke up.

"Alright, now we can start!" she said. "Go get your Whirlms. Just pick them up and put them together, and watch!" But you might want to put them away from the house."

"Uh, okay..." I said, confused. A few minutes later, I returned with the wriggling, squeaking Ben and Annie. They sounded just like those old dolls you could squeeze.

Walking over to a more open area, I set the Whirlms down, facing each other, and backed up. I glanced at Leafos, but she was staring at the Whirlms with a strange, glazed-over in her eyes. Like she was recalling a memory, almost...

When I turned back towards the Whirlms, I blinked in surprise. They certainly looked happy. They were both 'standing' on the back part of their bodies and whirling their heads in circles. In fact, it looked kind of silly, but incredibly cute. But then I spotted something sticking up out of the ground. It was... sizzling?

"Hey, Leafos, what's—"

"Whoa! Back up!" Leafos grabbed me with a gloved hand and pulled me back. Moments later, large red bombs sprung out from the ground! Shrieking, I jumped back.

"Calm down, your pinatas need you to guide them through the maze!" Leafos exclaimed.

"What? Maze? Guide?" I asked frantically, eyeing the bombs.

"Okay, here's the rundown. You need to navigate your pinata to the other pinata. Use your voice and hand signals, and don't let them run into the loathers."

"Loathers?"

"I'll explain later. Hurry, you've only got twenty seconds left!"

"Until what?"

"Until the loathers explode!"

"WHAT? !" I screeched.

"Hurry!" Leafos shoved me and I stumbled, luckily managing to catch myself before I tripped.

19, 18, 17...

"Uh... uh... Benny, come here, Ben," I said, moving my arms towards my body. I was standing behind the waiting Annie. Ben began to crawl forward, looking at me.

He trusts me, I realized. I couldn't let him down.

16, 15, 14...

I saw that Benjamin was approaching a loather. They formed a somewhat s-shaped wall that resembled a worm.

"Uh, turn right." I waved my hand right. Ben did.

13, 12, 11...

I noticed the crinkly, silvery tinfoil covering a chocolate coin, the local currency, as Leafos has informed me. I'd been keeping the coins I had found in the fridge, and I will admit that I couldn't resist eating one of the bronze ones as a midnight snack.

Ben brushed against the coin. Only then did I realize it had been partly transparent before. So... now it was real? But how was it not before?

10, 9, 8...

"Alright, turn up!" I exclaimed. Ben, under my instruction, had gone after two more bronze coins. This sucked away some time, but I knew he could make it.

7, 6, 5...

Ben, with Annie in sight, rushed forward as fast as he could push himself. I could hear the bombs begin to make a loud ticking noise; surely that meant they were about to go off. Closer, closer, Ben drew until...

4, 3, 2...

I could almost hear a fanfare play as Ben plowed through the dirt, trumpeting and squeaking all the way. Annie did her little dance like she and Ben had been doing a few minutes ago. The loathers sunk into the ground, along with the coins that had been left untouched, but one silver and two bronze chocolate coins were on the ground.

Annie and Ben, crawling in sync, immediately began to head towards their house. My heart was still pounding, and I was excited, although I was also just so confused.

"What just happened?" I asked, shaking my head in disbelief.

"That was the romancing minigame," Leafos said with excitement in her voice.

"You call nearly blowing up my garden a game?" I asked, staring at Leafos as if she had grown two heads, like that Syrupent she was talking about earlier.

"Ah, don't worry, the loathers are small. The worst they would do is make a small hole or burn some grass. They're not even deadly to small species. Speaking of them, loathers were made to keep pinatas from being happy. A long time ago, pinatas would just romance and be done with it. But now you have to go through the maze. The creator of the loathers are Prof—" Before Leafos could continue, she was again interrupted by something, but this time it was music. "Never mind. Come on, you've got to see this!"

Leafos ran over to the Whirlm house, where Ben and Annie had disappeared to. She sat down on her knees by the tube that ran into the ground and motioned for me to come over. I crouched down beside her. Leafos showed me a little piece you could raise to look down, so I did.

And I nearly burst into laughter. Ben and Annie were dancing, or so it seemed. They were sliding around, literally doing the worm, along with other crazy dance moves. I closed the wooden flap when they stopped and sat back, allowing my laughter to burst out.

"Wh—" I suppressed a laugh. "Why are they doing that?"

"That's how they—"

"YOUR PINATAS HAVE MADE AN EGG!" Both Leafos and I jumped and looked up, only to see somebody... what? She was flying!

"—do that," Leafos finished. "That's my sister, Storkos. She delivers eggs to all the gardens on the islands."

I couldn't get a good look at the girl in front of me, but I managed to make out wild brown hair matching Leafos' shade and a blue-and-yellow outfit, as well as a stem branching up from the person's head, supporting a matching yellow egg on it. She was also holding something...

"That's right!" Storkos exclaimed. "I have an egg for you now." She swooped down and set the aforementioned egg inside of the aforementioned tube that jutted out of the ground. The egg looked... well, like a Whirlm; same colours, but in circular form.

"And another successful mission for Storkos, the people's champion! I'd stay and chat, but—" An alert system chimed and Storkos whipped it out. "Sahari's Camellos just romanced." With that, Storkos took off towards the nearby mountain.

I blinked several times. I opened my mouth and then closed it again. Finally, I said, "...What."

Leafos began to laugh. Ben glanced at her, but fixated his gaze on the egg again.

"No, seriously. What in the world just happened?" I shook my head again. "I mean... random bombs and mazes, dancing pinatas, flying people, and... who's Sahari? What's a Camello? What, just... just, what." I laughed weakly.

"That's Pinata Island for you." Leafos winked. "But to answer your question, a Camello is a Pinata. A woman named Sahari, who lives in the Dessert Desert, raises them."

"Why'd you say it twice?"

"Huh?"

"Desert desert?"

"No, silly! Dessert Desert. Never mind; it's just an area near the village. I'll show you later. Maybe we'll even see a Pieena!" An excited glint appeared in Leafos' eyes. "Dad had a Pieena once. It was sooo cool! But anyway, we better get started on making your label before this egg hatches!"

"What's a label?" I inquired.

Leafos gently picked up Annie and showed me her side. I saw a little white piece of paper jutting out of her middle.

"It's basically a way to show other owners, in case your pinata gets lost, that this pinata belongs to you. It can't be applied to adult pinata tamed from the wild, unfortunately, but you can put it on any baby pinata you hatch," Leafos said. "Stay here! I'll go get some supplies."

So while Leafos ran off to her house, I leaned back and watched the egg as it shook slightly. Benjamin and Annie were both staring intently at it.

"May I?" I inquired, reaching my hand out towards the egg. Ben and Annie both squeaked gently, so I picked it up and set it on the ground beside them. My hand lingered on the top, where the little pieces of green paper were coarsest. I gently, affectionately rubbed the egg, before retracting my hand. I couldn't help but chuckle to myself at the fact that the egg was bigger than they were.

Ben crawled closer to the egg and wound himself around it. Annie did the same, but on the opposite side. They closed their eyes nearly at the same time and their breathing evened out as they drifted off to sleep.

"Aww..." I whispered, high-pitched. They were just so adorable... my Benny and Annie were parents...

Just then, Leafos came pounding down the path leading from her house to the garden. She slowed to a walk when she saw Ben and Annie.

"I have everything you need," Leafos whispered, holding up some paper and coloured pencils. "I'm so glad I still have my art supplies from when I was a child. I still sketch, but I don't usually colour. Here." Leafos sat down opposite to me. I took the paper, pencils, and binder to lay the paper flat on.

"Alright, so where do I start? What kind of picture do I draw?" I asked.

"Use a pencil and trace lightly. First, draw a border, any sort of border. Then, inside the border, draw a design. It can be anything you want; it could be a picture of you, the sun, a Whirlm..."

"Alright." Picking up the pencil, I began tracing the border. Copying the triangulated designs I saw on islanders' clothes, I made sharp lines and edges.

I paused when I was done. What should I draw for the picture? I thought of things I liked... Apples, but those were a bit boring. I liked elephants too; the massive creatures always fascinated me, but they were too hard to draw. That's when something popped into my head, something that would be easy to draw and not so boring.

I began to gently sketch, taking careful note of every painstaking detail. When I was done, a dog looked back at me. My dog, specifically Lavinia.

I had loved that dog with every fiber of my being. She was a Lab, complete with long ears, a sweet face, and a muscular body. Forever a puppy, Lavinia had an insatiable desire to never stop moving. When she finally collapsed, exhausted, beside me once night hit, she was such a snuggler. But now she was gone.

Despite having to draw from a long-dead memory, the little picture looked a lot like her. I had drawn the textures of her fur already and she was gazing southwest, slightly facing me.

Next was the colouring. I started with the picture of Lavinia, shading in her brown fur. Her coal-coloured nose was next, and I switched back to brown to fill in her eyes. The picture only went down to her shoulders, so I didn't have anything more to draw.

Next came the background. I chose a simple, solid blue, like the sky behind her. The border I filled in with purple and a lighter shade of blue. And then I was done.

"That's really good!" Leafos exclaimed.

"Oh, it's alright..." I said modestly. I wasn't a good drawer and I knew it, but I did like my label.

"Alright, the next step is to print out some copies of this in a small enough size to fit your pinata, make a normal-sized copy for you, then send this off to Langston," Leafos said, gathering up all the supplies. I helped her.

"Who's Langston?" I asked.

"He runs Pinata Central, the city you arrived in. He has to keep everything in order. He'll send the label to Pinata Lost and Found, and if you ever lose a pinata, they'll send out an alert to everybody nearby with a picture of your label and the details," Leafos explained.

"Oh, good. I was wondering what would happen if one of my pinatas got lost." I laughed nervously, trying to avoid thinking about my poor Whirlms out there, alone... "You need any help carrying this in?" I asked quickly.

"Nah, no thanks," Leafos said, taking the art supplies from me. "It's nearly sundown anyway, so I better get back home before Dad has a fit." Leafos snorted with amusement. "I'm nearly seventeen, and he still wants me home before dark, despite the fact that I'm right outside the window. Bye, Emma."

"Seeya, Leafos," I said. "Thanks again for the help!"

"No problem!" Leafos called over her shoulder as she ran for her house.

Sighing, I plopped down on the ground. What a day. I had attracted a Mousemallow—who ate my dinner, by the way!—built a Whirlm house, nearly turned my garden into a bomb crater, and now I would have a new Whirlm to take care of soon! And it wasn't even time for bed yet.

"Snap, forgot to ask Leafos how long it would take for this egg to hatch!" I said to myself. Oh well. I could wait a few hours, after all. How long could it take?