Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 157,654,463 Issue: 272 | 29th day of Celebrating, Y8
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The Hoarders: Part Four

by ruff_zette



Everyone stared at the tangled mess on the main street. A Kougra lay, moaning, on the ground, a dazed looking teenager hauled herself to her unsteady feet, and bags were littered across the flooded road. A lot of the more snobby Neopians walked away, muttering rude comments.

      Kannice sat up, rubbing her head. "I am so sorry. It was so crowded…"

      The girl sighed. "I know, it's just so stressful being here."

      A wild-looking Lupe split away from the crowd, and walked over. "Are you okay? Here, let me help." He picked up a bag, while the girl eyed him suspiciously. Cane smiled, but it only made him look more untrustworthy.

      Which was exactly what Kannice wanted. She carefully pushed one bag away so it was separate from the others, then began helping the girl pick up her grocereies. After a few minutes, the pets had piled all the bags back into the girl's arms. "Thank you," she sighed, then walked down the street, her own pets bounding after her.

      Kannice picked up the bag and strode away casually. When she had walked off the road onto the soft grass. Cane had disappeared again. She knew that was the plan, but she began to feel slightly more miserable. She couldn't remember the way back to the house, and she always felt so lonely without her companion.

      She stood there feeling lost and confused. Why had he just abandoned her? They hadn't even arranged a meeting place! Suddenly Kannice understood. It was just part of the trial! She set off confidently to the meeting place. The big tree next to the Petpet Shop. Just like he'd told her earlier.

      The red Lupe grinned at her. "So you remembered? Very good. But now… are you ready to go back and have some breakfast?"

* * * * *

      It was a relief to crawl through the hole and out of the rain. Kannice tried to wring out her fur, but her attempt was ruined when Cane shook himself, and sprayed her with even more water.

      He then took the bag away from her, and held it above his head. "We have food!"

      All the pets scrambled over and started snatching at the bag, grabbing whatever they could get a hold of. Cane reached into the writhing mass of pets and pulled out a pile of pumpkin cookies and a carton of milk. He split the cookies between them, and they shared the milk.

      Kannice stared at Cane, and wondered why he was on the streets. Where he was from, what his life had been like, and why he wanted to work with her, when he usually chose to work alone.

      A few more pets came scrambling through the hole, and woke Kannice up from her trail of thoughts. There were about six of them, so she assumed that more than one group had arrived back at the same time. They threw the food that they carried out onto the floor, and all the pets that hadn't already eaten (as well as some that had) scrambled over. Kannice couldn't stand to watch them snarling over a few bits of food, so she simply turned away.

      A short while later, Treal and his partner came in. They were carrying a blanket, and a small, dirty pouch. The blanket they gave to Kannice. "You don't have to use Cane's anymore." Then they turned to the Lupe. Treal whispered something, then handed him the pouch. Cane then slipped away, and Kannice was left with nothing but some food and a mind full of curiosity.

* * * * *

      She laid her blanket out on the ground in a tiny bit of space. She sighed, and realised that she would no longer be separate from the other pets. At least this would help her get more used to her new lifestyle. And she couldn't sleep in Cane's spot forever.

      She walked slowly towards the exit. She had only just come out of the hole when she saw that something was very wrong. The pets were all talking very quickly, and rushing around, looking very stressed.

      Cane was standing on his platform, talking to Coji and Nariah, both of whom looked alarmed and upset.

      Kannice, desperate to know what was going on, looked for someone she knew. Finally, she spotted Strine, and picked her way through the crowd towards him. The Eyrie looked very concerned.

      "Strine, what's going on?"

      He shook his head. "No-one knows. That's what we're all trying to find out. Coji and Nariah just arrived, and said they needed to talk to Cane. Said it was very urgent. And it must be, because we don't make a fuss unless we have to."

      Kannice turned and looked at Cane. Coji was handing him a very old-looking Shoyru plushie. The Lupe closed his eyes. Kannice began to move towards the platform, so that she could find out what was happening.

      Cane was still talking when she got close enough to hear them. "…happen?"

      Nariah shook her head. "Well, we all went where we'd decided, but when we put the plan into action, she didn't show up. We went to the money tree, but she wasn't there. Only that."

      Cane stretched out the faded tag of the toy. Kannice squinted, and could only just make out the blurred writing: "Flarren."

      "Everybody, QUIET!" Cane roared. "We've had a disappearance. Flarren is gone. Everybody spread out. We'll search the whole town - the whole of Neopia if we have to. Nobody rests until we find her!"

      Everyone started swarming towards the exit, dragging Kannice along with them. They burst out into the rain and scattered. Some ducked down behind the unkempt houses, others ran away down the road. The little Kougra sat, once again alone, and feeling more useless than ever. She didn't know anything about Flarren. How would she know where she went?

      She trudged away down the street. Most of the pets had vanished out of sight - they were much more street-smart than Kannice - so she had no-one to follow. Vague thoughts drifted in and out of her mind, except for one, which hovered in front of her, clear as the ocean. Right side of the tracks… We've had other posh pets… Look at Flarren…

      The Kougra set off sprinting down the street, just one thing on her mind - Bracknell Road.

* * * * *

      She stared at all the fancy houses that surrounded her. It had been just yesterday that she had had a happy life in one of them, but already she felt alienated from the street that had once been her home.

      She couldn't see much through the heavy rain, so she found herself straining her eyes to try to extend her vision. A blue Shoyru would be difficult to see anyway, even without the blurry storm.

      Kannice shivered as she trod in one of the many puddles that were scattered across the road. The water went right up to her ankle, and she shook her foot to try and dry it off. She felt as if she were in a memory, like this had happened before.

      Last night, when she first left. It was just like that. Only this time, she wasn't leaving something, she was finding someone.

      Kannice heard her before she saw her. A faint, muffled sound, like someone scuffing their feet on the grass. She walked through the heavy veil of rain, following where her ears led her.

      The Shoyru no longer seemed so harsh. Now she was just a tiny lost pet, much as Kannice had been last night on the steps of the Food Shop last night. She was curled up on a lawn, out the front of a large house, with wide stone steps leading up to the grand front door.

      The Kougra sat down. She knew that although Flarren didn't acknowledge her, she was aware of her presence.

      "Why did you do it?"

      Flarren's shoulders shook as she sobbed onto her knees. "This was my house. I lived here. Right here. In this mansion. I was happy, and I never wanted anything to change." She wiped her face, but Kannice couldn't tell if she was brushing away tears or rain. "We went down the street yesterday. To rob someone. We spread out, and my position was near the Money Tree. And it was there. My little Shoyru plushie, that I had forever, was there. The last time I saw it was here. At this house. And now, they don't want it anymore. So they tossed it aside like…" She trailed off, and Kannice felt a need for knowledge. Something she didn't know.

      "You said… you made it seem like… like I was more privileged than you. You said…"

      "You were more privileged than me. But I wasn't talking about upper-class, lower-class stuff. I was talking about you, and your choice. You were a runaway. You chose to leave, while so many others, weren't given the option. So many others like me."

      Kannice ran this through her mind. Flarren had been abandoned. Thrown out like a piece of rubbish. Kannice felt lucky, appreciated. But she knew, Flarren was too.

      "They miss you. Everyone's so worried about you. They all want you to come back… and I want you to come back."

      Flarren looked at her for the first time since she'd sat down beside her. "I want to come back."

      If anyone had looked out the window, they would have seen not a simple hug, but an understanding. A meeting of the ways. A connection.

To be continued...


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Other Episodes

» The Hoarders: Part One
» The Hoarders: Part Two
» The Hoarders: Part Three
» The Hoarders: Part Five
» The Hoarders: Part Six
» The Hoarders: Part Seven

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