It’s the last day of October – and you know what that means? It’s Halloween!
You remember Xiaolong telling you to visit the Pond on Halloween in your last visit. You could tell that she was trying really hard not to smile the last time you spoke. Knowing her, she’s probably hiding something, just like the time she and the others pranked you on April Fools.
The Pond feels especially warm and inviting today, the air thick and alive with magic. You can see that your Pond friends have decorated their home with glowing pumpkins with faces carved. Except, the pumpkin faces aren’t menacing or scary. Someone (probably Cuddle) has carved kawaii faces into the pumpkins.
“Frienddddddd,” a familiar voice drawls behind you. When you turn around, there’s a Xiaolong-shaped ghost!
Hi Xiaolong! you greet, kneeling down to look closely at her Halloween costume.
“What?!” Xiaolong untangles herself from her costume and looks up at you, pouting. “How did you know it was me?” But before you can tell her, she says, “Ah, I can feel it. Your magic is so strong today! Your attuned magical sight must have felt my magic!”
“This isn’t my costume though,” she says, folding the sheet neatly. “Varian is making all of our costumes now! Do you want to see them? We’re going to be wearing them for the rest of the night!”
You follow Xiaolong to Varian’s favourite spot by the pond underneath the lotus leaves, where they look like they’re just applying the finishing touches to one of the Pond friend’s costumes. Everyone else looks like they have got into costume though, and they look so good! Varian really outdid themself this time!
Gen is dressed up as a bee! When you ask him why he’s a bee, a big smile – bigger than you’ve ever seen! – lights up his face. “Bees are so important! And they are so cool! Did you know that honey bees have to gather nectar from two million flowers to make one pound of honey? And – ooh! – they’re so smart too, they are able to learn and remember things, such as making calculations about how far they have travelled! Bees are amazing!”
Wow, bees are amazing! You tell Gen that his costume suits him so well. He blushes a little bit and thanks you.
You already had a preview of Varian’s costume when they recommended some spooky reads to you yesterday, but they look just as fabulous and colourful as before!
“Well, what I really wanted to be was to somehow make a costume that would represent the essence of magic,” they say when you ask them about their costume. “But that was too hard to make. So I am dressed as the second best thing: a unicorn.”
When you ask why a unicorn, Varian gives you a suspicious side-eye. “But why not a unicorn?”
Cuddle looks very handsome with their chef costume! Cuddle strikes a little pose for you, giggling while doing so! But when she strikes another pose, through the pillar of moonlight you can see a little silhouette of something above her head! Is that–?
“Party and I are Linguini and Remy from Ratatouille!” Cuddle lifts the toque, and you can see Party, the plush otter, propped on Cuddle’s head! (And you’re not quite sure whether it was a trick of the light, but you swear you see Party’s eye twinkle before Cuddle set the toque back on her head.)
Sprout, your newest friend at the Pond, spreads their wings with a triumphant chirp, revealing their dazzling and fiery wing-extensions. They wink at you from behind their fire mask, and do a twirl to show off their costume.
“I’m a fènghuáng!” Sprout twitters. “Fènghuáng are not the typical phoenixes that people know from Western mythology. Fènghuáng and the colour of their feathers represent some of the highest virtues, such as being kind to one another, knowledge, helping others, and loyalty!” Sprout does another twirl, and you can feel the magic radiate like embers. “And I feel amazing!”
Last but not least, Xiaolong is dressed up as – oh my! – the plumpest dumpling you have ever seen! And you have never seen such a big smile on Xiaolong’s face.
“I’m a Xiaolong-bao!” she announces before collapsing into a fit of giggles.
And indeed, she does look like the cutest soup dumpling you’ve ever seen – Varian even got the folds of the dumpling right.
After all the Pond friends admire each other’s costumes and praise Varian for their hard work, the Pond friends gather around for their Halloween dinner. (“Cuddle cooked the dinner because she’s an amazing cook! Gen helped too and we used herbs from his garden,” Xiaolong whispers to you.) When you look at what is served, you see pumpkin, pumpkin, and even more pumpkin! Pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, roast pumpkin, pumpkin lasagne – everything is a beautiful and glorious orange.
“Thank you for joining us in our first Pond-o-ween dinner, friend!” says Xiaolong. Your other Pond friends nod and smile, echoing her gratitude.
Your heart feels full and your cheeks hurt a little bit from smiling so much. It definitely was a nice Pond-o-ween!