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The Travels of a Would-Be Knight: The Beginning: Part Two


by daniecelpines

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      Hansuke stood at the reception desk for Max's Inn, trying to smile pleasantly as he said, "Welcome to Max's Inn. How may I help you, sir or...or mentor...no, that not right...magistrate?...Macaulay...?"

      His smile faltered, and he turned towards the double doors leading to the dining room and shouted, "Mo, what fancy word for lady that start with 'M'?!"

      "'Madam!'" a lovely green Kougra with long, curly brown hair replied, poking her head out of one of the doors.

      "Madam! Of course!" groaned Hansuke, facepalming. Mo smiled at the elderly yellow Ogrin, "It's okay, really. You're just practicing anyway."

      Hansuke gestured at the thin air in front of the reception desk. "What if I not?! What if there was big important Neopian standing in front of me right now, and I called them mentor instead of madam?! I not sure how much use I am to the inn like this, Mo!"

      "You're a great help! And it's fine if you're still having a little trouble, that was quite the accident you had during that Tombola game. The doctors are amazed you've recovered your memory at all, let alone this quickly!"

      "But I haven't recovered it. Not ALL of it. I forgetting basic things, like the word 'madam,' and I having trouble remembering proper grammar. Was what I just said proper grammar? I sure not know!" exclaimed Hansuke, gesticulating wildly. He sighed. "You know what I do remember best? My days in Golden Quartet. I was real useful then. I kept my friends, my family, prepared for everything, I looked after them, I saved them from more than one scrape. To say nothing of the...how you say....the...that great feeling you get when you doing something you love, that makes you feel all thrilled and happy and more alive than ever? The THAT I got every time we went to a different land, every time we faced another adventure. I not felt that in a long time around here, not since Tombola accident. I just felt like an old, old man not good for anything but making kids laugh with poor grammar and whacking guests I mistake for old enemies with my cane."

      Mo walked over, and patted his arm. "You know, if you really want to leave for a bit, I could pay someone to help me. I'll have to tap into the savings Dad left for me and Scout till tourist season, but I'll manage."

      "No, no, I can't do that to you, not with Scout about to become ninja. Besides, it no fun to travel alone, and you, Tobi, and Evans are all busy."

      "You could join Evans on her ship," Mo suggested. Hansuke snorted. "No, thank you, Evans is fond of that rapscallion she call captain, and if I stay on same ship as him too long, I can't guarantee he not get tossed overboard!"

      Mo bit her lip, trying very hard not to laugh. "Honestly, I think I'd pay money to see that."

      The bell over the front door rang, signalling that someone had just entered. In stormed Scout, lugging along a bewildered, clearly queasy blue lupe. Scout stopped in front of the reception desk and announced, "Found Roxias Elbuort. Says he's on a pilgrimage and has 1,500 Neopoints to his name."

      Hansuke felt like he'd scarcely blinked before Mo was suddenly on the other side of the desk, giving Roxias a big hug and a kiss on each cheek. "Oh, Roxias, it's so good to see you! It's been, what, two years?! I'm sorry I couldn't meet you again sooner, you seemed to be away at your squire training every time I went to Meridell, and you never joined your family when they came here! And then Uncle Tobi said in a Neomail you were going on that pilgrimage and might stop by sometime, but I never expected it to be this quick! My goodness, look how you've grown! I swear you're at least a head taller than when I last saw you! And so well-built now! But you still haven't got much on your bones by way of meat, do you? No matter, I can fix that really fast! How'd you find my Scout so quickly, anyway?"

      "Well, I was in Faerieland, and I saw her-" began Roxias. Behind Mo's back, Scout quickly moved her hand back and forth in front of her neck several times, glowering at Roxias like she was ready to pummel him to the ground. Hansuke's eyebrows shot up. Roxias grimaced, and continued, "I, um, saw her, and recognized her, and she recognized me, and learned I had no place to stay, so, here I am."

      Hansuke could tell there was more to the story, but Mo didn't seem to notice a thing as she dragged Roxias off to the dining room, rambling about how lunch was ready and how she'd just finished setting things up, and would Roxias prefer the soup or the salad?

      Once they were gone, Hansuke finally began to remember Roxias. Ah, yes, he was one of Tobi's newer grandkids. Well, not NEW, he'd been with them a few years now. He was the...knights' son, right? Right, he remembered now, the son of Molly and Xander Brown. It was no wonder he hadn't recognized him, the lupe had usually been off training whenever he visited the Elbuorts, and when he WAS around he was usually still in his squire uniform. Satisfied with that query, Hansuke turned to Scout and asked her his next one. "What you not telling Mo?"

      "I might've run into a little trouble with some jetsams. I could've handled it, but Blue Knight over there decided to take it upon himself to save the oh-so-fair maiden," said Scout. Hansuke snorted. "He think you in need of saving, poor fella must be dumb as a rock."

      "I know, but I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention the jetsam thing to Aunt Mo."

      "Hansuke's honor," said Hansuke, saluting. Scout smiled, then put a bag on the desk and slid it over to Hansuke. "I got you some of that potion that lets you breathe underwater. For when you try to relearn sailing."

      "You know, you'd be a lot cheaper tutor than one of those coconut jubjubs," said Hansuke. Scout grimaced. "I'll set foot on a boat again when the Hidden Tower becomes visible."

      "Your grandfather one of finest sailors in Neopia. Your grandmother used to joke that she was only his second love, and the sea his first. And he taught you everything he knew. Wayfinding in your blood as much as it was in his," said Hansuke.

      "Yeah, and look where that got him," Scout retorted. A memory of Evans telling Hansuke something about Max, something called the Sword of Razing, and a pirate named Scabeye flashed through his mind. He quickly shook himself out of his reverie. He pocketed the potion and said sternly, "Fine, keep denying who you are. See if I care. Remember to eat your greens, I won't have you getting a cold."

      "Yes, Mother," said Scout sarcastically, following him into the dining room. Hansuke whacked her over the head with his cane. "And for Jhuidah's sake, respect your elders!"

     

*****

      There were currently only two other guests in the inn, and both went out for lunch. Roxias sat with Mo, Scout, and Hansuke, trying to answer all of Mo's questions about his family and his life. Mo then happily shared all about her own family.

      "Well, not much really changes on this island, at least not all that quickly. The inn's doing about the same as it has since Dad left us, and Grandpa Hansuke's recovering his memory wonderfully."

      "Have you heard anything from your brother?" Roxias questioned. Scout gave him such a dirty look that he thought he'd said something wrong, but then, the zafara had done nothing but glare at him throughout lunch, so it was hard to tell for certain.

      Mo shook her head, her smile a bit sad now. "No, not since Christmas. He sent a present for Scout, and a card for me wishing me a happy Day of Giving."

      "He didn't leave any clues as to where he might be?"

      "Funny, I thought your cousin McNabb was the detective," piped up Scout.

      "Scout, don't be rude. And no, he didn't say a word. But after almost thirteen years, I've come to expect that from Brutus," said Mo. Roxias grimaced. "I'm sorry."

      "It not your fault. It that sad excuse for a Neopet's fault," piped up Hansuke. "He what you kids call the worst, and if I ever see him again, I tell him that to HIS FACE! And then I-"

      "Cheesecake, Han?" asked Mo, shoving a spoonful of the dessert into the Ogrin's mouth. She smiled pleasantly at Roxias. "Oh, I just remembered, Scout's going through her initiation tomorrow. With any luck, she'll become a full-fledged ninja!"

      "Oh," said Roxias, surprised. "I had no idea she was training to be a ninja."

      "That's sort of the idea," Scout retorted. "Ninjas are masters of subtlety and stealth, unlike a certain OTHER type of warrior."

      "Well, congratulations," said Roxias, deciding not to start another argument in front of Mo.

      After lunch, Mo led Roxias to his room. When he asked how much he'd have to pay for the night, she waved a paw dismissively. "No, don't talk nonsense, you're here as a family guest, you don't have to give me a single Neopoint!"

      Roxias frowned. "I don't feel right just imposing on you like this."

      "You're fine, Roxias, I promise. Dinner's from six to eight. Just let me know whenever you're ready to eat."

      With that, Mo left. Roxias turned and glanced around his room. It was a nice place, with a plush blue carpet with a white seashell pattern, white walls with a couple of paintings of tropical sunsets, a waterbed, a bamboo bedside table, a coconut lamp, and a mer-Aisha light switch. Since he was on the second floor, there was also a balcony, with an unblemished view of the beach that made up the inn's backyard. Roxias gazed out at the ocean. Somewhere, hundreds of miles away, this ocean touched the eastern shores of Meridell. By now Avvie, Jiopuyd, and Babbles would be in school there, and Rex would be at work at Meridell Castle as Kayla the Potionmaker's assistant. If June wasn't too busy chasing her little daughter Mothwings around, she'd probably be at the nearby village, visiting with the neighbors, alongside Chrystal, Dainileai, and possibly Arthena, if the ghost Kougra wasn't off causing some mischief with Melvin.

      His throat started to ache again, so Roxias tried to think of something else. Now that he was on Mystery Island, he supposed that he could try his luck at the arena. If Mo really had her heart set on giving him a free night here, he'd allow it, but he didn't want to take advantage of her hospitality any further than that. He'd pay to stay here a few more nights, then, once he'd saved up enough Neopoints, he'd resume his pilgrimage.

      Satisfied with this plan, he took a moment to write a Neomail informing his family about his reunion with the Capernaums. Once he'd sent it off, he headed for the Battledome, intending to take the long way there so he could admire the beautiful island. As he walked, taking in the sights, he began to feel optimistic again. Maybe this pilgrimage would be fun after all.

     

*****

      After lunch, Scout shut herself in her room, and put on a Black Roses record. The yellow zafara flopped onto her bed, and let the aggressive music and the barely-intelligible-yet-spirited singing carry her troubles far away. She didn't realize she'd fallen asleep till a loud knock on the door startled her awake.

      "Scout, time to make dinner!" came Hansuke's voice. Scout glanced out the window, and was surprised to see how low the sun was.

      "Scout? You okay?" called Hansuke.

      "Hold your unis, I'm coming!" shouted Scout. She stretched, then made her way out the door. Hansuke already had on his apron, which said in big red letters, "Leave the cook alone, can't you see he's busy?!"

      "Sorry. I didn't even realize I was drifting off," said Scout as they made their way to the kitchen.

      "It fine. You probably needed some rest after fight with jetsams this afternoon," said Grandpa Hansuke, waving a hand dismissively. Scout was surprised when she saw the Elbuort boy's door open, and no Elbuort in sight. "What, the would-be knight get tired of our company already?"

      "Why would he? We are charm itself! I think he just off enjoying the sights. Not everyone get to see this magica-kent place every day. Wait, no, it's magnificent, isn't it?" the Ogrin corrected himself.

      "I've heard it both ways," said Scout, just to annoy the Ogrin. "He better get back before eight, or I'm eating his fill."

      "Only if you want Mo to throw you into Techo Mountain," said Grandpa Hansuke.

      When they reached the kitchen, Scout donned her own apron, a pretty orange thing with a tropical flower pattern, and after washing her hands, she helped Mo knead some dough.

      "So, are you nervous about tomorrow?" Mo questioned.

      "No," Scout replied. When Mo arched an eyebrow, she admitted, "Okay, a little bit. I've been training for this since I was eleven, it's hard to not feel nervous."

      "They'd have to be crazy to not say you're good enough."

      Scout gave her a sardonic smile. "You're my aunt, you're supposed to say things like that."

      "Well, you know what they say, "Speak the truth in love." But, you are sure this is what you want with your life?"

      Grandpa Hansuke, sensing that the conversation was about to turn more personal than Scout would likely want anyone else to hear, began chopping up pineapple in the loudest manner possible.

      "Why does everyone keep asking me that today? Why would I NOT want this? I get to kick butt and protect my island. What more could a girl ask for?" asked Scout. Grandpa Hansuke began singing a song about a lupe and a chia meeting at a crossroads and refusing to step out of each other's way at the top of his lungs.

      "Well, there are other things, like friends," said Mo gently. Grandpa Hansuke tried to make his voice go louder, and erupted into a coughing fit. Scout stared at Mo, offended, "I have friends! I see the other faerie clod racers most every day!"

      "And when's the last time you hung out with them outside of the races? Or had more than a ten minute conversation with one?" asked Mo calmly. Grandpa Hansuke ran over to the sink and poured himself a glass of water, still coughing. Scout opened and closed her mouth for a moment, then began aggressively pounding the dough. Grandpa Hansuke gulped down the glass of water and sank into a chair, massaging his throat. Mo watched Scout for a moment, then remarked, "Don't get me wrong, I am proud of your accomplishments. It's not every person who can compete in those races, let alone be the best one there, and it's even less people who can become a ninja of Mystery Island. But all you ever do is race or train or help out around the inn, and while introversion isn't a bad thing at all, you're anti-social to an unhealthy level. You're even rude to people you've just met, like Roxias. I'm not asking you to become a social butterfly, I just want you to at least ATTEMPT to hold a civil conversation with someone outside of this family every once in a while."

      Grandpa Hansuke threw his hands up in the air, shot to his feet, and stormed out of the kitchen with an exasperated cry of "Women!" Neither Mo nor Scout seemed to notice him leaving, though he slammed the door behind him. Scout glared at her aunt, and said through gritted teeth, "I promise, I will stop ragging on Rox Your Socks, at least to his face. Can we PLEASE stop talking about our feelings now?"

      "Fine," replied Mo. She suddenly groaned, "I completely forgot to put that Dan fellow's payment into the safe! Could you go do that for me? The Neopoints are in the cash register."

      Scout sighed with relief. "Sure, Aunt Mo."

      She washed her hands, then went to the reception desk, where she punched in a code to get the cash register to open and pulled out several golden Neopoints. Once Scout was sure sure the right amount was there, she went up to Mo's room and headed over to a painting of Old Maraqua. She took it off its nail to reveal a large safe embedded in the wall behind it. A few turns of the dial later, and she'd unlocked the safe, which, she was pleased to see, was almost full. The end of the Month of Eating had seen just a dozen guests stay in Max's Inn, but the beginning of the month had been very kind to them. At this rate, they might be able to hire on some extra hands for tourist season.

      By the time she, Mo, and Hansuke (who returned still grumbling about women and their incessant need to talk about feelings till the kaus came home) finished preparing supper, Scout had nearly forgotten about Roxias. She was at the reception desk reading a book entitled 'The Case of the Mystical Mosaic: A Professor Olshem Mystery, by Machiko Smith,' when Roxias came in covered in sweat, sand, and some sort of green liquid.

      "What, did the Jelly Chia explode all over you after you lost a fight with a tornado?" Scout asked before she remembered her promise to Mo.

      "It feels that way, but no. I just got back from the Island Arena," Roxias explained.

      "...Ah," said Scout, catching herself before she could say anything negative. In her mind, she remarked wryly, 'Typical knight, can't go half a day without trying to punch something's lights out. He and his buddies may act like they're all for truth and justice and such, but what they're really after is glory and fame. A good ninja, on the other hand, will never leave a trace of where they've been or what they've done, so when they say they're doing something for honor's sake, you know it's true!' "Well, try not to get...whatever that stuff is all over the stairs, I JUST cleaned them."

      "Yes, ma'am," said Roxias, and he trudged off towards his room. Scout watched him go, noting that he had something in his hands. After a moment, she realized it was a conch shell covered in beautiful carvings. A meraisha a little ways down the beach made those; she'd dress up like a hideous old hag begging for scraps, and if someone tried to help her, she'd give them one of her shells. Scout only saw three or four people with those shells per year. Elbuort couldn't have made more than 1500 Neopoints in the Battledome, so unless he'd already sold the prizes he'd gotten, he had 3,000 Neopoints to his name. Surely he hadn't really been willing to give any of that up for some stranger...had he?

      'Eh, it was probably just to feed his sense of self-righteousness,' thought Scout. She went back to reading, dismissing all thoughts of Roxias from her mind.

     

*****

      Lemon-Fresh stood in her living room in Faerieland, staring at the leader of the Jetsam Thieves in disbelief. "You mean to tell me that one zafara managed to take down all of your gang? ONE zafara beat up SEVENTEEN jetsams?"

      "Well, er, technically, she only took down the five on her own," said the blue jetsam awkwardly. "After that this lupe, Remus Elbuort, came to help her take down the other twelve."

      "You see how that's not much better, right?" asked Lemon-Fresh. The blue jetsam winced. In an effort to avoid the speckled kyrii's judgemental gaze, he looked around the living room, which was very pink and very covered in angelpuss memorabilia. He didn't have much time to ponder the ironic contrast between the room and its owner before Lemon-Fresh remarked, "I hope you realize I'm not paying you."

      "If you just give us one more chance, I'm sure we'll-" began the blue jetsam. Lemon-Fresh held up a hand. "I don't give second chances. You'll have to find some other way to pay back Kanrik for those goods you stole from his Guild, because I'm not giving you a single point. You're dismissed."

      Flushing with anger, but unable to do a thing about it, the blue jetsam left. A moment later, Chip and Speckled-Belly entered the room.

      "Well, what're we gonna do now?" asked Chip. "We need Scout if this plan is going to work."

      "Maybe not," said Lemon-Fresh slowly. She turned to Speckled-Belly. "I want you to go to Max's Inn."

      "Max's Inn?" repeated the camoflauge nimmo. "Why?"

      Lemon-Fresh whispered the plan to him and Chip. Their eyes widened in shock. Chip questioned, "Are you sure we should really go there?"

      "Desperate times call for desperate measures," Lemon-Fresh replied calmly. "Now go. And report back to me once you've done the deed."

      Speckled-Belly frowned, but nodded. As he and Chip headed for the door, Chip muttered, "If I wasn't scared of what she'd do to me, I'd almost be tempted to call it quits. This isn't just some revenge for a cloud racer rivalry anymore, it's downright EVIL."

      "Maybe, but better her than us," Speckled-Belly muttered back. The red tonu shuddered. "Yeah, you're right."

      They set off, determined to fulfill their sinister orders.

     

*****

      It was a little past midnight when Scout awoke with the feeling that something, or rather someONE, had just come into her room. She kept her eyes closed and her breathing steady, not wanting the intruder to know she was awake just yet. She listened closely. The floorboards to her left creaked ever so slightly under the intruder's weight. Faster than you could say "lightning-quick," she had pounced upon the intruder. She drew back her fist, but before she could deliver a blow, she saw that the intruder was wearing a black gi with the Mystery Island crest over the heart. This was one of the Mystery Island ninjas, the very people she was seeking to join, presumably here to pick her up. She quickly released them. "Oh, my bad! That's, that's my mistake!"

      The ninja waved a hand dismissively, then turned to the window, and made a "follow-me" gesture. Scout glanced down at her pajamas, decided that it wasn't the worst outfit she could attend her initiation in, and joined the ninja. Together, they silently scaled down the wall, and headed for the ninja school.

      Both the ninja school senseis and the Mystery Island training school senseis were waiting for them in the dojo. They sat on a slightly raised platform, the single candle in front of them the room's only light. Scout hastily bowed to show her respect. After a moment the Techo Master spoke. "You may stand."

      Scout straightened up, and stood with her hands clasped in front of her. The Techo Master surveyed her, his expression unreadable. "Lila Capernaum, you have successfully mastered every course that this island's schools have to offer. You have demonstrated an agile mind as well as body, a strong sense of honor and loyalty, and an incredible tenacity. No matter how demanding your senseis were, no matter how painful and exhausting the training, you persevered without complaint...though, from what I understand, more than one snarky comment."

      Scout gazed back at him silently, doing her best to keep her face neutral. The Techo Master continued, "You have made it clear that you want to join the forces that protect this island, and all here agree that you would make a fine addition to our ninjas."

      Her heart began to pound. This was it. He was about to give her her final test, something like walking through a bed of hot coals or extinguishing the candle, and then she would finally achieve her dream. The Techo Master paused, then said, "However..."

      However? WHAT however?!

      "...while we WANT you to join us, I am not entirely certain that this is what you NEED."

      Scout couldn't keep herself from staring at the elderly techo in disbelief. "I...I'm sorry, sensei, but it sounds like you're refusing to let me join without giving me my final chance to prove myself!"

      He held up a hand. "I did not say that I was going to reject you. I AM saying that, upon further introspection, I have decided that it is too soon to give you a final test. Not because I do not think you will succeed, but because I am almost certain you will."

      "I'm...afraid I don't follow."

      "Over the years, I have seen you allow your training to consume you. The PHYSICAL aspects of it. A good ninja must be able to defeat the enemies inside himself as well as outside, yet you either ignore yours or flee from them. I cannot help but think you have trained so hard all these years in order to stall meeting them, when the only way to heal is to confront them. Not to mention the way that you treat your fellow Neopians. You shut most everyone out, because you are so afraid of losing them. Yet how can you truly protect this island, if you are not dedicated to its inhabitants? While I still believe you would make a good ninja, I fear you would not stay that way for long, if you keep going the way you are. Thus, I have decided to postpone your final test until further notice."

      Scout tried to think of something to say, but couldn't. She felt her eyes began to sting, and grew angry at herself. 'No! No, don't you DARE cry! That'll just prove his point about your emotional instability!'

      She bowed, then left as quickly as she could without appearing to be running away. She had almost reached the inn when she let out an angry yell, and kicked the sand in frustration. 'Stupid ninjas! Stupid Techo Master! Stupid, stupid, stupid! Why did I ever think that this would work out?! Why did I ever think I had a shot at ANYTHING in my life going well?!'

      She was so consumed with her thoughts that she didn't notice the figure sneaking into Mo's room.

     

*****

      Troubled dreams had woken Roxias up about half an hour ago, and even after his racing heart slowed, he was unable to go back to sleep. He finally gave up on it for now, and, taking his sword and shield out of habit more than fear, he made his way through the inn, intending to take a midnight stroll on the beach.

      A sickly sweet scent wafted up to him from Mo's room, and he tensed as he realized that it was a type of sleeping potion. Someone had knocked out Mo, and, if his nose was correct, they were still in the room.

      He crept silently to Mo's room, keeping a hand on his sword. Just before he could round the corner, the intruder, who, judging by the lack of ears, was either a techo or a nimmo, stepped out of the room, holding a big bag, and Roxias quickly pressed himself against the wall, his heart in his throat. As the intruder walked towards him, he prepared to pounce...

      Just then Grandpa Hansuke came out of his room, muttering something about stupid stomachs interrupting beauty sleep. The elderly yellow Ogrin spotted the intruder, and shouted out, "Hey! What going on here?!"

      The intruder took off running. Roxias gave chase, as did Grandpa Hansuke, who shouted out some very interesting threats. When they reached the beach, Scout, who had finally calmed down and was walking back towards the inn, spotted them. She ran towards the intruder, who quickly changed course and headed into the jungle.

      Hansuke and Scout had both wandered the jungle at night enough to keep up the thief with little effort, but Roxias barely managed to both navigate the terrain without falling on his face and keep following the zafara and Ogrin. An idea struck him, and he called, "There's a quicksand pit nearby, yeah?!"

      "What about it?!" demanded Scout.

      He outlined a plan for them to surround the intruder on three sides, with the quicksand pit on the other, thus trapping them. Grandpa Hansuke thought it just might work, and Scout grumbled, "Fine, since we don't have any better ideas."

      Sure enough, they managed to surround the intruder. But just as they prepared to pounce, the intruder pulled out a freezing scroll, and quickly read from it. By the time they managed to free themselves from the ice, the intruder was long gone.

      "Way to go, genius!" snapped Scout.

      "How was that my fault?" demanded Roxias.

      "Because you....you didn't...I don't know, but I'm still blaming you!" snarled Scout. She stomped off. Grandpa Hansuke slapped Roxias on the back so hard the blue lupe almost lost his balance. "Don't worry, she not mean it. She just upset, and she lashing out."

      'She must ALWAYS be upset, then,' Roxias thought. Aloud, he said, "The intruder was in Mo's room. Any idea what he could've taken?"

      Grandpa Hansuke's eyes went wide. "Mo's room?! Oh, we gotta get back quick!"

      He ran back towards the inn, dragging Roxias with him and panting, "Please let me be wrong, please let me be wrong..."

     

*****

      Grandpa Hansuke was right. The safe containing all of the inn's earnings for the month was wide open and empty. Mo lay in her bed, unmoving. Scout ran over and checked on her, then ran a hand through her hair and quietly breathed out a sigh of relief. "She's unconscious, but otherwise okay."

      "I wish I could say same about Neopoints," said Grandpa Hansuke grimly, staring at the empty safe. Scout groaned, and began pacing the room. "This is great! JUST peachy! Could this night GET any worse?!"

      "Oh, yes, if there was zombie attack, or meepit apocalypse, or yet another arcane artefact appeared and half of Neopia went to war over it right in this very spot," said Grandpa Hansuke seriously. "But, still, this pretty bad."

      "What was in there?" asked Roxias, concerned.

      "Only my family's earnings for the entire month!" snapped Scout. "Aka our way to pay for the inn's electricity, plumbing, and food for the next month, to say nothing of our own expenses! This could shut us down!"

      "Not necessarily. I have savings, and I sure Tobi be willing to help out," said Grandpa Hansuke soothingly. Scout shook her head. "There's no way we can get that many Neopoints gathered up within the next five hours, and I doubt Aunt Mo can convince the bank to give us ANOTHER extension on our bills."

      "Oh, Mo might not be able to, but I am," declared Grandpa Hansuke, hitting his hand with his cane. "I VERY persuasive when I want to be. I go to bank right now, and talk sense into them. You stay here and try to find intruder. He couldn't have gotten far."

      "I'll look after Mo," volunteered Roxias. Scout glared at him. "Literally no one asked for your help."

      "I know, but-"

      "Scout, let him help," said Grandpa Hansuke firmly. "He had good idea before, and it not every Neopet willing to chase possibly dangerous burglar in dark jungle for Neopets he barely knows."

      "Fine," said Scout through gritted teeth. "But you're coming with me. We'll leave a note explaining things to Aunt Mo if she wakes up before we get back."

      "Wouldn't it make more sense-" began Roxias.

      "No. I want to keep an eye on you. You're living proof that the rumors about Elbuorts being danger magnets are true, and I don't want you around my aunt when she's unconscious and unable to fend for herself."

      "I....danger magnet?!"

      "Trust me, it easier on all of us if you just go with her," said Grandpa Hansuke. Roxias sighed, but nodded. Scout quickly jotted down a note and put it on the pillow next to Mo, then grabbed Roxias by the ear and began walking off. "Let's go, Danger Magnet!"

      Grandpa Hansuke shook his head, then headed out himself. "Nice to see she warming up to him so quickly."

     

      To be continued…

 
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