Come dance with the gypsies... Circulation: 142,874,434 Issue: 200 | 22nd day of Swimming, Y7
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The Issue 200 Mystery


by precious_katuch14

--------

Also by shadowcristal

     Cristal the blue Cybunny walked through the Art Gallery, admiring all the beautiful drawings and renditions of Neopets that the most artistic Neopians had put on display. It was almost empty that night, and she could browse easily without getting interrupted or shoved by eager art buffs.

     However, what Cristal didn't count on was actually bumping into someone - when the Art Gallery in the Deep Catacombs was nearly deserted. She found herself facing a faerie Acara who was also browsing the row of exquisite artwork.

     "Watch it!" said the newcomer angrily. "You nearly messed up my fur!"

     "Well, I'm sorry!" sighed Cristal. "You don't have to get all mad and stuff."

     Glitter crossed her arms. "I'm not mad... I'm just... disturbed. You disturbed my peace!"

     "I said I'm sorry already," replied the Cybunny irritably. "Can we just drop the subject?"

     But the Acara was no longer looking at Cristal. She was staring off at something. Scratching her head, the blue Cybunny looked over at where Glitter seemed to be focused on.

     Sure enough, a shadowy figure was creeping around. It tiptoed silently towards something, and crouched down.

     "What's that?" asked Glitter.

     "I don't know," replied Cristal. "Let's follow him."

     The two pets snuck up behind the shady stranger and saw him squeeze into a little hole at a far end of the Deep Catacombs. As he disappeared, the Acara and Cybunny entered the secret portal as well, in close pursuit.

     "Ouch," the Cybunny muttered after a few seconds.

     "What is it?" Glitter asked.

     "Ehe..." Cristal felt rather stupid as she admitted honestly, "I bumped my head." She saw that the Acara was about to say something, and continued, "Anyhow, this seems like a ventilation system or something. It's pretty narrow and the surface is rather rough."

     "Hurry up," the Acara whispered as she pointed to the mysterious figure. "Or we'll be left here all alone."

     "I know," the Cybunny muttered and started crawling.

     Following that stranger, the two pets turned left and right and sometimes forgot to whisper.

     "What do you think he or she is doing?" Cristal asked after an extraordinarily bumpy turn. She didn't like the silence that hung in the air. Her new acquaintance did not reply, trying to get through a narrow pass that the Cybunny herself had just squeezed through a few minutes ago.

     As they kept crawling and tailing that mysterious stranger, the Acara noticed that it was getting brighter and brighter. Soon they heard some noises, and instantly the two pets were aware of the fact that the stranger had stopped.

     "Just a little bit..." Glitter whispered as they inched forward, trying to get a good look at the stranger while keeping their distance.

     A few scratching noises, and the two pets heard something heavy fall to the ground with a thunk. Glitter and Cristal saw the stranger crawl out of the tunnel, and stand up.

     "There's always light at the end of the tunnel," Cristal whispered jokingly as she crept closer to the opening.

     "Very funny," the Acara muttered. "Just get out of here, won't you? My fur is getting more messed up by the second."

     The Cybunny didn't say anything as she got out of the narrow tunnel and stood up. She saw a nice, large dark thing that resembled a desk and hid behind it. Then Cristal gestured to Glitter to come out, and the Acara did so.

     Sitting behind the desk, the two pets watched as the stranger walked to a table in the middle of the room. The Cybunny looked around quickly and saw that there were several desks except for the one they were hiding behind, and that nice, large table in the middle. An evil giggle reminded her that there was also a stranger present in the room.

     "What..." she heard Glitter gasp. Cristal quickly turned around, and the two pets watched the stranger take a large pile of paper from the table.

     "He or she is stealing something," the Cybunny muttered. The Acara was just about to reply when the stranger started walking back to the tunnel they had crawled through. Horrified, the two pets heard the culprit coming closer and closer.

     Glitter turned around nervously and moved her tail just out of the way in time. The stranger didn't seem to notice them, as he (closer up the two pets saw it was a he) passed them and bent down.

     Frozen, the two pets heard the thief crawling in the tunnel. After what seemed like eternity, Cristal uttered some words.

     "That was..." she said, still rather shocked.

     "We need to catch the culprit and..." Glitter said, but faltered. They both realized that they didn't even know what the stranger had stolen.

     The clever Cybunny quickly got up and located a switch, no longer stiff with fear. When the rays of the lamp illuminated the room, the two pets realized where they were. They were in the Neopian Times main office.

     "What did he take?" asked the Acara.

     "We better check before anyone else finds us here," said Cristal. The two crept towards the large table that the stranger had swiped the papers from. They saw several trays on it, labeled accordingly.

     Glitter began to read them. "Issue 197, issue 198, issue 199, issue 200... hey! This thing is empty!"

     The Cybunny observed the other trays. "Look, there are stories and articles from the corresponding issues. And they're..."

     "Rough drafts," finished the faerie Acara. "Prints of the Neopian Times."

     "He must have stolen the ones for issue 200!" exclaimed Cristal.

     Her new companion nodded in agreement. "And unfortunately, it hasn't been released yet. If we don't get those back, issue 200 won't come out at all!"

     The blue Cybunny shook her head. "And that's a bad thing!" She paused. "Is it?"

     "Well, I don't know, but we should still get them back," replied Glitter.

     "Well, what are we waiting for?" asked Cristal. "Come on!" She grabbed Glitter's paw and sprinted towards the portal the thief had used to escape. Squeezing themselves in, the two pets began crawling through the way they had gotten into the office as fast as they could.

     After what seemed like another eternity, the Cybunny and the Acara emerged once again through the Catacombs. The place was totally deserted now... there wasn't even a sign of the shadowy stranger.

     "Look," said Cristal grimly, pointing at the floor. There were muddy footprints, leading from the passageway they had emerged from. "They must be from the culprit who stole the issue 200 prints!"

     "Let's follow them," said Glitter. She helped the blue Cybunny out of the portal and set off, tracking down the mysterious stranger.

     They passed a few shadows that resembled things from Neopia Central. Everything looked different at night, and only after she had passed the weird cylinder-formed thing Cristal realized that it was the Wishing Well.

     "Why do you think the culprit stole them?" Glitter's voice startled the Cybunny.

     "I don't know," Cristal replied. "I bet he doesn't have any good intentions, though." She pointed to the tracks that were growing fainter, but also fresher. "He's losing mud and hopefully we'll catch up to him before he runs out of it."

     The two pets sped up and saw a bridge ahead of them. The Acara was just about to cross it when they heard a dark voice in the air.

     "M-master!" they heard someone gasp.

     "Must be the culprit," the Cybunny muttered and her companion agreed.

     The next few words they could hear from the other side of the bridge were unmistakably clear. The air suddenly turned could, and the shadows grew longer in the soft moonlight as that voice sent chills down the pets spines.

     "Good work, minion," the deep voice said.

     It took a while before any of the pets could talk, but a lot of things flashed in each of their minds after hearing that voice. Glitter was the first one to speak. "That's... Sloth..."

     "You mean the chicken-haired green dude from the Space Station?" Cristal said jokingly. Then she threw a look at the cobblestone bridge, inched forward and gestured to the Acara to do the same.

     "I can't believe it," the Acara mumbled. "What in the world is Sloth doing here?"

     Before any of them could say anymore, they heard the villain's cold, deep voice pierce the night again. Cristal and Glitter decided to keep quiet in order to listen to Sloth's plans.

     "Those insolent little Neopian Times writers have irked and infuriated me for so long with their satirical ideas and their cheesy jokes. Through the years, I have been humiliated, harassed and made fun of. Now, I will have my revenge, by stealing their precious issue 200 and show them just how vengeful I can be!" Sloth laughed in triumph, and made the fur on the Cybunny and Acara's backs stand on end.

     "And we will get rid of these prints, right boss?" asked the shadowy figure they had chased a few moments ago.

     The two pets could see the villain nod in the dark.

     "Get rid of the NT? Why, I ought to - " Glitter clenched her paws into fists.

     Cristal shushed her. "If Sloth finds out we're eavesdropping on him and his crazy, cliched plots, he'll get rid of us too!"

     "But what about the Neopian Times? My owner loves the NT!"

     "So does mine, but I - OUCH!"

     Apparently, Cristal's paw made contact with a fallen thorny twig on the ground, and it made her cry out in pain. Sloth and his minion turned around to see what was the source of the sound.

     "Now what do we have here?" said Sloth maliciously. "A poor little pet, eh?"

     As the villain extraordinaire just glared at them, the two pets got a good look at his evil eyes. Surprised at the fact that Sloth wasn't doing anything to them, Glitter tugged at the twig.

     The elastic thorny twig snapped and twisted itself around Cristal, and the poor Cybunny cried out desperately.

     "It would seem like we have more things to get rid of than just those," the villain said disdainfully. He took out a comb and brushed his hair as another few snapping sounds cut through the air.

     "It's a trap," the Cybunny gasped, but it was too late. Her companion had already been caught in the thorns. The more they wriggled and tried to squeeze themselves out of this contraption, the more they got stuck.

     With a few powerful strides, Sloth reached the two pets. His minion was holding the prints and standing a little bit away.

     The villain waved to the minion, and the little pet crossed the bridge, bearing those valuable papers. A harsh midnight wind grasped one from the pile, and it flew away. A few seconds later an issue of Neopian Times 200 landed in the water below.

     When the minion had reached Sloth, the green chicken-haired dude took a deep breath and did something very predictable. He laughed.

     It wasn't a normal, in-your-face laugh. It was a gloating laugh, truly evil. As the echoes faded, Sloth glared once again at the two pets.

     "How dare you spy on me, the great Doctor Sloth!" he exclaimed. "Since you eavesdropped on moi, villain extraordinaire, you shall feel my wrath!" The way the last word was so clearly and loudly pronounced made the two little pets shrink and feel more tiny than they ever had in their whole lives.

     "That one should be gotten rid of first," said Sloth to the shady figure and pointed at the Acara.

     Glitter gulped. She was scared, trapped with a villain like this, but a lot more angry than that. Many images of pets and owners who would be disappointed when they announced that issue 200 was gone filled her mind. Was this all over now?

     "Is this it?" Cristal whispered. Sloth bent closer and closer, and the two pets wriggled a little. They felt that something was getting loose...

     The villain had reached out one arm to grasp the pet, but in doing that and leaning too much, he tripped and fell on the ground.

     "That is so cliched," muttered Cristal sarcastically.

     "Shut up!" Sloth roared, and in that moment some ropes flew up from the ground and wrapped themselves around the villain. The two pets could hear noises of springs and wooden blocks being made.

     "ARGH!" the villain shouted as he fell to the ground, caught in another trap.

     "Master!" exclaimed the stranger, dropping the prints of the newspaper and running to aid his master.

     The shady minion started forward to attempt to undo the knots binding his boss. But as he reached out a paw to aid Sloth, his foot caught on something and soon he found himself caught in another version of the trap that had claimed his master and the two unexpected visitors.

     Cristal felt something binding her loosen slightly. She wiggled even more, and detected her bonds unravel quite a bit. Seeing this, Glitter followed suit.

     "Are you okay, sir?" asked the culprit, desperately struggling to break free.

     "What do you think, moron?" asked the villain furiously. "Would you be okay if you were this close to apprehending two snoopy pets and got caught in a trap that you made with your own two hands?"

     Meanwhile, the Cybunny whispered to the Acara, "I think our traps are slowly coming loose." Her companion nodded, and the two continued trying to escape. All of a sudden, Glitter's bonds broke, and she plopped onto the ground. The same thing happened with Cristal.

     But before they could jump to their feet and grab the stolen prints, a strong wind began to blow. The blue Cybunny fought against the gale, but her efforts were futile. Her faerie Acara acquaintance decided to take flight and grab the important papers, but the wind was too turbulent for her to even fly and defy the current.

     The moving air caught up with the prints, and lifted them up, rippling in the night sky. Cristal and Glitter tried and tried, yet no matter what they did, the wind seemed to be on Sloth's side. It carried the papers of issue 200 to a nearby river, depositing them there.

     Although the gusts had slowed down considerably, the submerged prints were now quite soaked. The two pets were finally able to walk against the breeze and arrive at the riverbank, but when the faerie Acara picked up one sheet by the corner, she saw that the writing had gone blurry and smudged, and the whole thing was dripping.

     "No," whispered Cristal sadly.

     "It can't... be," added Glitter in the same depressed tone. The two pets looked on at all the prints scattered throughout the river, resembling the one that the Acara had fished out a moment ago.

     "Yes... yes," said Sloth evilly, grinning despite the fact that he was trapped. "Issue 200 has been eliminated. Sometimes in the strangest twists of fate do your plots work out."

     "W-what do we do now?" Cristal's voice was filled with doubt as she held up one of the wet prints. "There is no way..."

     "Master!" the culprit exclaimed, and the two pets whirled around to see Sloth being set free. They watched in silence as he stood up, with that evil wind of fate blowing around him and did something utterly cliched.

     Sloth gave another deep laugh, before he grasped his companion. "You two snoops lose!" He looked at them for a second, as if he was pondering about something.

     "Master?" the stranger asked.

     "We'd better leave. I need my beauty sleep." With that, the villain turned around and started to leave. Glitter and Cristal just stood there in shock, unable to stop Sloth.

     They watched as his ship flew away, and then it dawned on them.

     "What do we do now?" the Cybunny asked again, her voice a little bit stronger this time.

     "I... I guess we'll..." the Acara gulped, "... have to fix this."

     "How?" Cristal asked. "My owner said that the issue 200 is supposed to be out by tomorrow!"

     "I don't know," Glitter said angrily. "It was his fault, and he just escaped." She gestured at the place where Sloth had been bound just a few minutes ago. "He is the one responsible for this mess. We just followed."

     "That doesn't matter now," the Cybunny said. "The point is, we have to do something. And it better be soon."

     "Well, what do you want me to do?" the Acara muttered.

     "I..." Cristal faltered, looking at the soaked prints in the river. Then she looked around the badly illuminated area, at all the NeoHomes which contained owners and pets who would be so disappointed tomorrow...

     "It has to be published somehow," the Cybunny suddenly said determinedly.

     "How?" Glitter asked. "It's not like we can manage a typewriter..." Then she got an idea. "I know what we can do..."

     "Thinking the same thing?" Cristal smiled.

     "Let's get going, we don't have a lot of time," the Acara said, grabbing her companion's paw. Together they started running, as two hundred stars twinkled at the same time in the broad, indifferent black sky above them.

* * *

     "Kat? It's me, Shadow!"

     A black-haired girl opened the door of her Neohome and saw one of her good friends standing there, with a blue Cybunny at her side.

     "Cristal!" squealed the faerie Acara, who had wandered over to see who was the visitor.

     Cristal smiled and waved back at Glitter. Suddenly, the event that had transpired last night came back to the two pets, and they glanced at their owners - especially Shadow, who was clutching the Neopian Times in one hand and pointing with the other. Kat was giggling, and soon the girls sat themselves on the sofa in the living room.

     "Should we... tell them?" asked Glitter nervously.

     Before her new friend could answer, they heard their owners react to the 200th issue of the NT.

     "Is this REALLY issue 200?"

     "I don't know what just happened... but I'm sure there was SOMETHING that happened... oh heck, I don't know what to say."

     Trading a half-anxious, half-amused look, Cristal and Glitter just grinned at their little secret.

     The End

 
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