Undercover Defenders - Swamped: Part Three
4:32 PM – Bogshot Village
By the time Levi and I had reached the village, we were pretty much fed up with everything.
First off, we were exhausted by the time we reached the entrance of the swamp but happy to get out of the hot sunlight. However, a completely different battle arose – a battle to walk through the slimy waters of the swamp and struggle through vine after vine to get through. Then there were trees, whose roots rose and twisted unexpectedly out of the ground, blocking out the sky and most of the sunlight. Not only that, both Levi and I now smelled like rotten Neggs because of the swamp gas rising from the muck.
“I hate water and muck!” Levi had yelled thirty minutes into our expedition. “Where is this stupid village?”
“Really?” I had replied. “I’d expect an Acara to like the water.”
“Look at my fur,” she had growled back. It looked terrible, with her silver fur slicked into spikes and turning brown from the swamp muck.
“Live with it.”
In response, Levi had literally thrown me into a deep part of the swamp, completely drenching me.
Note to self: don’t antagonize unhappy silver Acaras. It never works in your favor.
Although we had bickered non-stop after the incident, we finally found Bogshot Village. The shabby huts of the village were built upon wooden platforms, giving the village an aura of poorness. It was quiet, apart from the croaks and caws of Petpets from deeper in the swamp. Looking up, I still couldn’t see the sky from the large trees, vines hanging down from their branches. It was quite a gloomy sight.
“So,” I said, looking around the village. “What do we do if we find Jeik?”
“Something isn’t right,” Levi said, completely distracted. “Where is everyone?”
I looked around and saw no one, not even a Petpet. “Maybe they’re all inside their homes.”
“What, they’re all playing Cheat at the same time? The weather here is fine. Something isn’t right.”
I followed Levi as she walked to the center of the village where a bonfire was crackling pleasantly.
“This way,” she said as she ducked into a hut nearby.
Inside, there were Neopets, all right – Neopets who were coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and suffering from every kind of flu symptom imaginable. I looked around in horror at all the sick patients in what I now realized was the village hospital. Many pets were lying down on makeshift beds on the floor and some were leaning against the wall in dismay.
A red Aisha in white nurse clothes hurried up to us as we gazed around the horrific scene.
“You can’t be in here!” she cried, pushing us back outside. “Hurry, or you’ll catch it as well!”
“What are they sick of?” I asked as we hurried outside. “What’s going on?”
The Aisha sighed wearily. “It’s called the Bogshot plague. One pet got sick from it and it spread quickly and powerfully. Nearly the whole village has caught it. You’ll catch it here too if you stay too long, just like the Elephante who came here the other day.”
“Then why haven’t you caught it?” Levi said curiously.
“Some pets have slight immunity,” she explained anxiously. “The ones who aren’t ill are hiding in their homes because they’re afraid of catching it. There’s a cure for it but there’s not enough pets to help collect it....”
“What’s the cure?” I asked her.
“Bogberries. You need three Bogberries to make the cure. Alas, the berries are extremely difficult to find, as they grow in random places in the swamp and like I said, there aren’t enough pets to collect them....”
“What if....” I began when Levi interrupted, “Hang on. Let me talk to this Xweetok for a second,” and dragged me away from the Aisha.
“I know what you’re about to do,” Levi said in an ominous undertone. “Don’t forget why we’re here.”
“But we need to help them! If we could just gather the berries—”
“That’s not our task, Seg,” said Levi firmly. “Look, I saw Jeik inside that hut. Fortunately for us, he caught the plague. We just need to take him and leave –”
“How could you be so heartless, Levi?” I cried in disbelief. “These pets need us! We can’t let the whole village catch the plague. That poor nurse is the only one helping them now and—”
“It doesn’t concern us,” said Levi coldly. “And by the way, I don’t have a heart, thanks for asking.”
“You’re ridiculous,” I said and turned back towards the Aisha, who was watching our hushed conversation with curiosity. “We’ll help you. We can get the berries for you.”
Levi groaned behind me, but I continued. “We’ll be happy to help.”
“Really?” said the Aisha hopefully. “You would really do that? Thank you, thank you so much! You will have saved our village!”
“No problem,” I said while Levi let out a “tch!” of annoyance behind me; she apparently thought it was indeed a problem for her. “The berries would just somewhere in the swamp then?”
“Yes,” she said, nodding vigorously. “They usually grow on bushes in the heart of the swamp. They’re dark green berries with a dark stem.”
“Okay then,” I said, walking towards the trail. “We’ll have those berries by the end of today!”
“Fare you well!” the Aisha shouted as we walked away. “One last thing bit of advice: stay away from the ruins!”
I waved my hand in acknowledgement as we headed back into the dreaded swamp.
4:47 PM – Somewhere in Bogshot Swamp
“Great job, Seg. Now we’re on a wild Slymook chase to find some berries in the middle of a swamp.”
“Hey, I’m not complaining – we get to help the village.”
Levi and I were scavenging our way through bushes, hoping to find Bogberries. So far, we haven’t found anything except more swamp gas, more muck, and, for some reason, an old copy of A Tale of Two Lupes. Keuna was just watching us contentedly from her perch in an old oak. Lucky her.
“Our mission,” Levi said, grinding her teeth as she slipped a little in the mud, “was to apprehend the criminal Jeik. Not to save some unfortunate village in the middle of nowhere.”
“I joined Undercover Defenders to help others, Levi,” I said passionately. “This is our job as Defenders of Neopia!”
“Well, I didn’t join Undercover Defenders for others,” she said curtly. “I told you on your first day, I joined UDON because it’s fun.”
“Don’t you have a sense of justice?” I yelled, trying to untangle myself from a knot of vines I walked into. “No wonder Evander doesn’t like you!”
“Him again?” Levi groaned as she continued searching. “How does Evander keep getting pulled into conversations today?”
“He looks like he joined the Undercover Defenders for some good!” I said, still attempting to free myself from the vine. “His reason for joining UDON must be much more earnest than yours!”
“Doesn’t that bother you?” I said, exasperated, now ripping at the vine ensnaring me.
Levi seemed to actually consider it. “Not really. We all have reasons for every action, don’t we?”
“You can’t be a true Agent if you’re just doing things to have fun, Levi! That’s not a good motive.”
“Hey, Seg,” Levi said, suddenly grinning. “What rank am I?”
“What?” I said as I finally managed to pull myself free.
“What rank am I?” she repeated.
“Which proves I’m a true Agent,” Levi said, completely smug.
“That reminds me,” I said as I cut vines in my path with a silver sai from my belt. “Why is Evander rank two?”
“Can we stop talking about him?” complained Levi. “I think, even as a conversation topic, he’s still second to me.”
“I want to know,” I said, now slashing erratically to free myself.
“You could’ve asked Kane, Simen or even Prudence before we left.”
Levi sighed heavily. “Fine, whatever, there’s nothing better to do anyway. Hurry up, we need to head deeper in the swamp – there aren’t any Bogberries here.”
After watching me cut my way out of the vines instead of helping, Levi and I began marching deeper into the swamp, Keuna trailing along lazily behind us.
“Evander does different work from what we do,” Levi explained as we continued our fruitless search for the berries. “You and I mainly round up villains head on, which can produce extremely dangerous situations considering the levels of the villains we usually take down. We do an assortment of tasks while Evander does something completely different: infiltration. He infiltrates criminal organizations and takes it down from the inside. It’s tricky, even in my book: you need keep face the entire time, and secretly plan the downfall of the group. Not only that, the missions could go on for months and months; I know for a fact that Evander’s last infiltration took one year until he succeeded. However, considering the delicate balance of the mission when so much can go wrong, he’s failed a couple of times. I did a few infiltration missions myself and although I did my task, I would always cause chaos near the end. We had to work overtime to cover up the damage, but hey, at least I accomplished my goal. Well, what you really need to know is that if Evander did missions like us, he wouldn’t fail. Evander is rank two just because of how difficult the area he deals with is, and because he’s good at his job.”
I mulled this over as I pulled bushes apart to look for berries.
“Why does Evander hate you then? If he could be considered the best at what he does, shouldn’t he be equal to you?”
“That’s where it gets sticky,” Levi said. “I haven’t failed a mission before. Ever. Evander has. He’s second place in all those respects. He feels that he should be first because his area is a lot harder than mine but Adella thinks I’m a better Agent still. That’s the only time I’ve ever agreed with Adella.”
“Are you sure that’s why he hates you?” I said skeptically. “There seems to be... I don’t know, more to it.”
Levi was quiet for a few moments. I couldn’t tell if she was hesitant or just thinking from her impassive face.
“... I think there’s more but I’m not sure. I – I knew Evander before I joined UDON so I think that’s why.”
I jerked up from my work, surprised. “You knew Evander before you joined UDON?”
“Y’ know, I hate it when others echo what I just said.”
I ignored the jab. “Where did you know him from?”
“Classified,” she said instantly.
“Okay...” I said, pondering. “...what if I ask him?”
“He’ll deny it.”
I thought about it for a moment. “You didn’t like each other before you joined, didn’t you?”
“It was a mutual disliking, yes,” she said with a small frown.
“Did he join before or after you?”
“A bit after.”
“Enough, Q and A, Seg,” said Levi, suddenly sounding tired, more tired than I’ve ever heard her. “Let’s just find the berries, and leave, alright?”
“Okay,” I said, crestfallen. It was the first time Levi had talked about herself to me, even though it hadn’t been much. Maybe I was making some kind of progress with her. I had never seen Levi so unsure about something, so hesitant. She usually took something head-on at full speed.
Maybe Levi wasn’t the prankster she always appears to be.
As I wondered, a tree branch from overhead cracked and fell onto my shoulder, causing me to slip into deep muck in shock. This caused Levi to laugh her usual hard, “Heh, heh, heh,” laugh as I tried to stand up with as much dignity as possible.
Then again, I could be looking too much into her personality. Maybe.
To be continued...