Brain of Neopia: Part Five
“That was brilliant!” said the Producer.
“Yes,” said Roan, striding away from the building.
“No, really. You really proved that you know everything!”
“The way you pretended not to know anything at the start...”
“...but I saw through it! You can’t fool me that easily.”
“And you’ve qualified for the next round!”
“Tomorrow morning. That means the rest of the day is free. Are you going to come and assess the competition?”
“I understand. Why bother? You’re clearly going to win. Shall we go and get celebratory smoothies?”
“No,” said Roan, stopping, and turning to face the Producer.
“No?” queried the Producer.
“No,” said Roan, and saw the look of blind admiration in the Producer’s eye start to fade. “I mean... I don’t think it’s... fair to the other contestants. I mean, they’re all busy learning things. I should probably... pretend to do the same.”
“Good idea!” said the Producer, sounding impressed. “Go, then. You can go and sit in your tent and... revise.” The Producer laughed. “Like you need to!”
“Yes!” said Roan, and forced a laugh. He waited until the Producer was out of sight, before sinking to his knees. He’d done it. He’d actually won a round. The feeling of relief built up inside him suddenly, and he shouted into the empty air, a long, triumphant shout of joy, happiness, and various other bottled-up emotions. It was a fairly short shout – Roan tended to sell most of his bottled emotions for profit, and his mental cupboard was fairly empty.
Still, he was far from done yet. I made it through one round, by a combination of luck, fortune, more luck and skill, although the last one’s a lie. If I’m to have any chance of avoiding total humiliation, I need to do some more revision.
He decided to return to his tent, and read a bit more of his Neopedia. After all, he had the rest of the day to learn everything there is to know about Neopia, and that’s not an easy thing to do. That could take an entire afternoon, he thought with dread.
Returning to his tent, he saw the Shoyru who had helped him construct the tent yesterday, carefully dismantling the tent and rearranging the poles into a more tent-like structure. After a good shout, the Shoyru, apologising profusely, undid his work, whilst Roan, managing to withdraw his Neopedia from inside the wreckage, found an additional use for it as a club.
After encouraging the Shoyru until the tent had returned to its elevated position, Roan sat down and began to read, leaving the Shoyru to run away to a safe distance.
Roan, however, had severely underestimated the time necessary to read the whole of the Neopedia. As the sun began to set, he looked at the article he was on (“AISHA: A highly intelligent creature with a natural gift for magical things.”), and the number of pages he was through the book (about half). He examined the spine.
“Neopedia Vol. 1 Aabaroo - Bendecadron”
This is the first volume, thought Roan with a jolt. The shopkeeper lied to me!
Irritated, and deciding that the best use of his time would be to shout at somebody else rather than learn things, he carefully put a bookmark in the Neopedia, slammed the book shut, and left it lying in his tent, out of sight of everybody, unless they happened to be near it, whilst he stormed off towards the bookshop.
Initially, he stormed in the wrong direction, and, since it is frowned upon to change direction suddenly whilst one is storming (he had learnt this from the article on “Affron’s Tips for Angry Striding and Other Non-Verbal Methods of Offending,”), he continued to walk farther and farther away from the bookshop, until he found a road that turned back the way he wanted to go. By that point, he was so in his stride that he stomped angrily straight past the bookshop, and was forced to perform an Angry Reversal that would surely have earned full marks at the National Storming Championships, had any of the judges been watching.
He pushed the door angrily open, and swept himself inside, attempting to slam the door behind him. Since the door was almost as old as the owner, this was a lengthy process, and the shopkeeper had time to look up from the book he was reading, put a pair of glasses on, return the book to the shelf and have a bite of his sandwich before the door closed.
“It’s nearly closing time,” he said, as Roan strode towards him, rage evaporating from every pore, although it could just have easily have been sweat.
“I’m very angry!” he shouted, to emphasise this.
“Angry about what?” asked the shopkeeper. “Everything?”
“Probably!” raged Roan. “I can’t quite remember at the moment, but I plan to continue shouting until I do or until I think of something equally good to complain about.”
“But I want to close the shop soon,” explained the shopkeeper. “Is there any chance you could save your anger until tomorrow?”
“No!” bellowed Roan. “I’ve got a quiz tomorrow, and... oh yes, that was it. You only gave me one volume of the Neopedia!”
“Yes, I know,” said the shopkeeper. “You ran off with the first volume while I was getting the rest of them.”
“Yes. You left everything behind!”
“Would you mind not saying that word?”
“I sense this conversation could go on for a while,” said Roan. “Can I just have the rest of the books? I don’t want to pay any more for them.”
“Certainly. You’ve already paid, anyway, so I shouldn’t need to...”
“A small donation? Say, a thousand neopoints?”
“If you like.”
“Two thousand, then!”
The shopkeeper disappeared into the back room for a minute to retrieve the rest of the copies of the Neopedia, whilst Roan stood in the main room, naming ever increasing prices.
Finally, the shopkeeper returned, dumping a large pile of books on the counter, each one as thick as the copy that Roan had.
“But I can’t afford a million neopoints,” protested Roan. “I only have a few thousand on me.”
“I’ll take that, then,” said the shopkeeper, and Roan handed over an amount of money that would have allowed the shopkeeper to restock everything in his shop twice, and still have enough for a holiday.
“Thank you,” said Roan, grabbing the book on the top of the pile and leaving the shop without another word, apart from those from the shopkeeper shouting after him, reminding him of the stack still sitting on the counter.
With his book in tow (“Neopedia Vol. 2 Bendecathlon – Crystal Boomerang”), Roan returned to his tent, the direct way. As he arrived back at the site, he put the second volume of the Neopedia down, and looked around for the first.
It wasn’t there.
Roan checked again. The narrative wasn’t lying. There was no sign of the first volume.
What? was his initial reaction, followed by Why?, How? coming a close third. It was so secure. Only somebody who knew it was there could steal it. And only somebody in the competition would know I had a copy of it. Therefore, it must be sabotage. Somebody is trying to sabotage my chances of winning this competition...
There was a loud thud behind him. Roan turned. Somebody had thrown his copy of the Neopedia over a wall. Roan walked across, and picked up the tome. All the pages were still there, in the same quality as he had left them. Even the bookmark was in the same place.
Correction. Somebody is extremely unsuccessfully trying to sabotage my chances of winning this competition.
Confused, Roan sat back down inside his tent, and resumed his reading of the book. As the night grew darker, colder, and generally more night-like, it became harder and harder to read, until, finally, Roan decided to re-enter the town and fork out on an Altadorian Desk Lamp, as recommended by the Neopedia. The fact that it was not really recommended, was vastly overpriced, didn’t always work properly, on top of the fact that Roan didn’t have a desk, still added up to Roan to mean ‘good deal’.
The shop advertised the lamp on a large poster outside, as ‘award winning’ (although admitting in the small print that it won ‘Neopian Times Scam of the Year’, and ‘Least Recommended Item of All Time’), ‘magnificently illuminating’ (‘when used in conjunction with the sun’), ‘with a choice of four illuminating colours’ (‘black, more black, very black and anti-white’), and ‘the stuff of dreams’ (‘transforms unexpectedly when you least want it to’. Words can easily be twisted). Roan, seeing the lamp as an excellent bargain, managed to negotiate the cost of the lamp to merely twice the advertised price, and, pleased at the thought of money well spent (or, at least, spent thoroughly), he returned to his tent to continue reading.
By midnight, he had read every article in the ‘A’ section.
By one o’clock in the morning, he had read every article in the ‘A’ section.
By two o’clock, he had read every article in the ‘A’ section.
He had fallen asleep at midnight.
To be continued...