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The Would Be Detective: A Question of Strength

by silentbutterfly


Strife woke up to the loud sobs of someone just outside her bedroom window. “It cheats! It cheats I tell you!”

      Very concerned, Strife jumped out of bed and went to investigate.

      “Are you alright?” she asked as she saw a green Zafara walking with their head down.

      “No! I’m not alright!” the Zafara began. “Countless hours and Neopoints and nothing! Countless training, codestones, and dubloons and still nothing! Oh how it mocks me so!”

      “I’m sorry,” Strife replied trying to hand the Zafara a handkerchief. “But I still don’t understand what you are talking about.”

      “The Test Your Strength game at the Deserted Fairgrounds! The jackpot is huge, but all I manage to get is little prizes and it constantly telling me I’m useless! The highest score I was able to get yet is a mere 21...” the Zafara tried to explain but began to sob uncontrollably

      “Don’t worry so much about it,” Strife tried to comfort the Zafara. “It’s just a game.”

      “Just a game!” the Zafara snapped. “Just a game?!?! It is NOT just a game! You clearly have not seen the jackpot to say such a thing!”

      “That’s true,” Strife replied. “I haven’t been to the Deserted Fairgrounds in a long time. The last time I went to visit, I turned one of the wheels and one of my items turned into a pile of sludge! That didn’t seem like such a great prize to me!”

      “Then perhaps you should take another trip to the fairgrounds,” the Zafara suggested. “After you go and see the jackpot you’ll know what I mean. We’ll see how you like being called useless!”

      “I may just have to do that, thank you,” Strife replied, not exactly liking the fact it was implied she was useless. True, she may be a beautiful Uni, but she could still knock out a few opponents if she needed to.

      “And if you do find out the secret, let me know!” the Zafara called. “I’ll be in the training school improving my strength!”

      Strife nodded her head, but she still didn’t know what all the fuss was about. So there was only one thing she could do, and that was to pack up and head on over to the Deserted Fairgrounds.

      It didn’t take very long to get there, but Strife didn’t like the spookiness of the place. It’s gotten a lot creepier since the last time I was here, Strife sighed, but let me find out more about this Test Your Strength game.

      Just a few steps in, Strife saw the dreaded wheel. You won’t fool me this time, Strife thought, I’ll keep my Neopoints and my items!

      It was when she turned her head that she saw the Test Your Strength game... and the jackpot.

      Strife must have been standing with her mouth open because she heard a voice directed towards her: "Step right up!"

      She was a little startled, but then saw the Mynci make a gesture for her to try, "I see you've noticed the riches you can gain. Just 100 Neopoints in the simple game of skill and it can all be yours!"

      There was something in his smile Strife didn't trust, and the strength tester Mynci, Arnold, seemed to notice.

      “All you need to do is use this light mallet,” Arnold told her as he tossed it from hand to hand, “hit the big circle and if you ring the bell, that jackpot can be yours!”

      Strife still wasn’t sure, but decided to give it a go anyway. The top didn’t look too high, and she had done some training in Mystery Island herself. She wasn’t the strongest Uni in Neopia, but she could probably hold her own if she needed to. She handed over her 100 Neopoints, hit the hammer down as hard as she could and...

      "Pathetic," the voice said just as Strife was reading the word. "Well, come back in a few hours and you can try again," Arnold said as he went around to the back of the game, another easy 100 Neopoints.

      "Excuse me, could I possibly ask a favor?" Strife asked.

      "A favor?" Arnold asked as he swung the mallet over his shoulders. "Just what kind of business do you think I run? Go help yourself to a favor if you want one!"

      "I just wanted to ask if you could share the secret of the game?" Strife was hopeful.

      "Share the secret?" Arnold almost scolded. He then paused and changed his tone. "Perhaps I can share a secret, but you first must do something for me."

      "Thank you," Strife replied in disbelief. "What would you like me to do?"

      "Well," Arnold began. "It's really simple, but I am far too busy to do it myself. Why don't you bring me 10 bottles of sand, it doesn't matter which color, and I will tell you the secret."

      "No problem!" Strife replied, knowing she had quite a few stashed in her closet back home. "I'll be sure to get those for you!"

      "Excellent," Arnold replied. "Now be quick about it before I change my mind!"

      She dashed back to her home and just as she knew she would, had several bottles of sand stashed away in her safety deposit box. The only problem was, once Strife counted, she realized she only had 9 bottles.

      "I'm missing just one," she sighed and spoke to herself. "Perhaps I will get lucky and the Tombola man will give me one more. I don't think I'll have time to search the marketplace or stop by the bank to get more Neopoints."

      She packed up the 9 bottles and headed towards Mystery Island. She considered going to the Training School to let the Zafara know what she found out, but decided to wait until after she knew the secret to share. Things didn't look good once she reached Tombola, however. The Tombola man was out of funds and needed donations. Strife reached into her purse, but came up only with a hoof full of 5 measly Neopoints.

      Strife let out a long sigh and waited eagerly for more Neopians to come and donate. A blue Eyrie named Zigmarni was just the pet to do so – giving Strife a smile and donated the full amount the Tombola man was asking for.

      Before Strife could thank him, the Tombola smiled to Strife and asked her to pull out a ticket.

      Strife reached in and pulled out a ticket. 16.

      She pouted, but the Tombola man reached under his Tombola stand and handed Strife a bottle of black sand!

      “Thank you!” Strife squealed and ran off, leaving the Tombola man very confused. He had never seen a Neopet so happy to have a bottle of sand before. Maybe I should start giving these out as winning prizes, he thought to himself as he watched her running.

      Strife ran all the way to the Haunted Woods, and then slowed her pace. Even though she knew where she was going, Strife just didn’t like the way the Haunted Woods felt. She kept her bottles of sand close and headed to the Test Your Strength game.

      “Well, you’re just in time!” Arnold spotted Strife from a distance. “You can now try again for 100 more Neopoints! Look, the jackpot has even gotten larger!”

      “I’m not really here for that,” Strife replied.

      “Why not?” Arnold insisted. “You’ve tried it once! It’ll only get easier each time you try!”

      Strife was confused. “Don’t you remember me?” Strife asked. “You told me if I brought you 10 bottles of sand, you would tell me the secret.”

      “What?” Arnold almost went into a panic, and then he remembered. “Oh yes! Now I remember. Well, do you have the ten bottles of sand?”

      Strife didn’t answer, but simply handed Arnold the two bags she was carrying them with. Arnold took the bags behind the game and took each one out separately, counted loudly and clearly as he did so.

      “Very good!” Arnold replied. “That’s just what I needed. Now,” he made a motion for Strife to come closer, “the secret of the game is…”

      Strife leaned in closer, anxious to what the secret was when…

      “STRENGTH!” Arnold screamed, sending a shot of pain through Strife’s ears.

      “But…” Strife stuttered.

      “There is no secret, silly Uni,” Arnold started shooing her away, “This is a game of skill, so go back and train and come back when you have enough money and enough skill to win.”

      Strife walked away defeated, not only had she lost Neopoints and a few bottles of sand, she also lost some of her pride. Even so, she promised the Zafara she would share what she learned. She had just hoped it would be better than what she did.

      Arnold made sure Strife was out of sight and returned to the back of the game. “Silly Uni indeed,” he replied with a smirk. “This sand will be the perfect amount to place under the platform. It will absorb most of the hit and keep the scores these Neopians get low. That jackpot is mine to keep!”

     Arnold let out an evil laugh that Strife heard at the very edges of the Haunted Woods. Strife shook her head and worried about the poor Neopet that was humiliated.

     “Oh well,” Strife sighed. “I knew I didn’t like the Haunted Woods. I just wonder what he’s going to do with all that sand…”

      The End

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