The twelve year old Kougra looked up from the forms and at the Ixi who was sitting in front of her. He groaned loudly, complaining, “Would you just lock me up already?” for the umpteenth time. Brynn gave no response, but the way she gripped her quill tighter every time Hanso would whine showed him how annoyed she truly was.
They had only known each other for a few minutes now, which had consisted of her catching him in the act of thievery, chasing him down, handcuffing him, apologizing to the stern-looking shopkeeper, and then holding in laughs at his witty remarks as they marched towards the Brightvale dungeon. All in all, it had been exciting, it had been exhausting, and they both wanted the whole rendezvous over as soon as possible.
“I’m almost done...” the Kougra lied, flipping through the next few pages she was required to fill out whenever a prisoner was apprehended, whether it be a repeat offence or not. She didn’t know how the others could stand asking all these pointless questions every time they brought someone in, because honestly, how could knowing their favorite juice flavor ever come in handy?
“Okay, next question... What is your land of origin?” she asked, glancing back up.
Hanso immediately straightened up out of his bored position and demanded, “Why do you need to know?”
A bit surprised, the Kougra stared at him for a few seconds before coming to her senses. “It’s on the paper.” She pointed towards the question, and he leaned forward to see that she was indeed telling the truth.
“Oh,” he muttered, slumping back.
“So where are you from?” she asked again, getting as impatient as Hanso had been earlier.
“I... Uh...” The Ixi’s gaze travelled upwards, and after a few moments of thought, he suggested, “Mystery Island?”
“Was that a question or an answer?” she asked, giving him a doubtful look.
“A qu- An answer,” he said quickly, avoiding her eyes.
“You know, Hanso, for a thief, you are a terrible liar.” Brynn almost laughed at his pitiful attempt at fooling her.
“I’m not a liar!” he insisted, pouting and crossing his arms like a child. She rolled her eyes.
“Oh yeah? Then where are you really from?” she insisted, interested now. Was he possibly part of some evil land filled with plans to take over the world, and therefore trying to hide it from her so she could not discover this plot? Briefly she imagined herself standing proudly before Fyora and the other nobles as they congratulated her on her bravery and her dedication to saving Neopia. Outlandish though the dream was, she found herself scooting forward so that she could easily hear his answer.
He shuffled his feet and stared down at them. Slowly he opened his mouth and muttered, “Mmreh mmehm.”
He glanced up at her for a reaction.
“I... didn’t understand a word of that. Speak up.” She tapped her quill against the paper impatiently, the smile that had spawned from her imaginings replaced with a deep frown.
“Kuuuh- No! I’m not telling!” He squashed his face up to show his refusal to answer.
“Hanso!” Brynn said, and threw her arms up into the air, sinking back into her chair, exasperated. “It’s just a little question, not that big of a deal! Just answer it!”
“No way.” He shook his head, closing his eyes and sticking his nose up into the air so that he couldn’t look at her.
“You’re acting like a baby!” she shouted. If all prisoners acted like this, she was sure she would have to quit right now. “I will find out one way or another, you know!”
“You’ll laugh,” he grumbled.
Brynn rolled her eyes. “I will not. I mean, it’s not like you’re from Kiko Lake.”
It grew larger as the seconds passed and Brynn stared at the guilty expression on Hanso’s face. The realization slowly dawned on her, causing her eyes to widen at the thief, who was blushing profusely under his fur. She could see that he was right about his previous statement, laughter was building its way up her throat and she had to cup her hand over her mouth to keep it all in.
After what seemed like a lifetime to Hanso, Brynn spoke. “So, uh, Kiko Lake, huh?” she asked conversationally, trying to disguise her giggles with a cough.
“Yeah.” Hanso sighed.
“But you’re not a Kiko,” Brynn pointed out.
“Well, thanks for noticing,” he said, his tone still mopey. “Look, can you not tell anyone?” he asked her, trying to look as innocent as possible so that she might be persuaded to side with him.
“Hanso, I have to write this down...” she insisted, dipping the quill in the bottle of ink. He lurched forward and wrestled it out of her hand, snapping it in half.
“Hanso!” she shouted, running around the desk and yanking the broken writing utensil away from him. “What was that for?!”
“You can’t write it down!” he insisted.
“Why not?! It’s just a land!” she said.
He took a deep breath. “Look, if you write that down, it could ruin my whole reputation.”
“Your reputation?” she asked, hardly impressed with the young Ixi’s reasoning.
“Yes,” he said, pleading at her with his eyes, “I’ll be the laughing stock of the thieves’ guild!”
“No one but other guards are going to see this,” Brynn pointed out, rolling her eyes once more. She held the stub of the quill awkwardly in her paw and dipped it in the ink again.
Desperately Hanso pulled the paper away and said, “Then I’ll be the laughing stock of them!”
“Look, I can’t break the rules; you’re from Kiko Lake and I have to put down...” Brynn trailed off, trying to stare at the object that had just been pushed up to her face. Slowly her eyes adjusted so that she could see what it was. “You’re giving me juice?” she questioned, raising one eyebrow curiously and taking it into her paw.
“Yeah. I bought it, so you don’t have to worry about it being stolen or anything. It’s my favorite kind. I thought you could have it,” he said, flashing a quick smile.
Deep down, Brynn knew he was just trying to bribe her, but mostly she was surprised he would give her anything. In training they had been taught how selfish criminals were, and how all they ever did was take. Half in awe and still staring at the small carton, she asked, “You bought this? With your own neopoints?”
“Eh... Yes.” He looked down at his feet, deciding now was not the best time to mention he had received the money from pawning off stolen goods.
“Oh.” Brynn’s gaze traveled to the paper again, and to the question that had caused so much trouble. Finally, she said, “Mystery Island, was it?”
Six years and thousands of heists later, Brynn and Hanso found themselves in the familiar old dungeon. Having done this too many times to count, Brynn had memorized the answers and the process only took a few seconds.
However, even though it was unnecessary, Brynn would always ask him, “Land of origin?”
Hanso had long ago learned the ritual and with a slight grin he brought out an offering- a single box of juice- which may or may not have been purchased.
“That’s right,” Brynn said, putting the drink away for later, “Mystery Island.”