Undercover Defenders - Swamped: Part Two
8:18 AM – Adella’s Office, Undercover Defenders of Neopia Headquarters
“So,” said Adella, handing us files across her desk, “this is your mission. You need to capture an Elephante named Tel Jeik—”
“Nice name,” snickered Levi.
“Anyway,” Adella said, glaring at her. “Tel Jeik—” (another snicker) “sells information to other crooks and villains. He was last seen near Bogshot swamp a few days ago so I want you to go there and pick up the trail from there. If you’re lucky, he still might be there.”
“Um...” I started. “Where’s Bogshot? I haven’t really heard of it.” Levi snorted amusedly and I kicked her chair. Stupid Acara thinks she knows everything – but she does sure seem to know a lot, from the times I’ve spent with her, I reluctantly admitted.
“Bogshot is a swamp off the road between Meridell and Brightvale,” Adella explained. “It’s not very well known; I’m not surprised you’ve never heard of it. The village is quite small and not very many are willing to trek into the swamp.”
“Got it. Why are we capturing him?” I asked, scrutinizing his misdeeds in the file.
“He seems to be selling a lot of information to low criminals and thieves. I just want to stop him before he finds the right buyer if he has good information. His activity seems to be up recently and I’m a bit worried—”
“This is boring,” Levi said unexpectedly.
There was a silence. “Um... boring?” I asked cautiously.
“This mission,” Levi said, jabbing her finger at the file. “Locate a villain. Capture him. That’s it. Why can’t you give us something better, Adella? We took down one hundred thieves three weeks ago in less than ten minutes!”
“At least there is a mission,” I hissed to Levi. There was no way I was going to be stuck in the building for the rest of the day because of Levi. “Don’t be an ingrate just because this isn’t an ideal mission for you. As for me, I want to do this!”
“But it’s so boring, just like last week,” Levi complained.
“If you think getting chased around by angry criminals is boring, something is wrong with you.”
“Hey, Seg, this was already established by Evander—”
“Enough!” Adella yelled between us. “Seg, I understand your concern so stop arguing with Levi. Levi, please, just get a grip.”
“Why don’t you ever side with me, Adella?” Levi said, shaking her head in mock dismay. “Ah, the Meepits must’ve already gotten to you, those evil little Petpets....”
“Dismissed,” said Adella, annoyed. “Seg, watch your partner and Levi—”
“I know, stop causing trouble. Sheez, why’s everyone preachin’ me today....”
As we walked outside with our manila files, I told Levi, “Congratulations, you’ve made me, Adella, Kane, and Evander mad within the same hour. How do you feel about yourself?”
Levi considered the question carefully. “I feel that number is lower than it should be. I’ve been too nice today.”
9:18 AM – The Money Tree, Neopia Central
To work, Levi shows up precisely at 6:00 AM, the moment work starts. No one, including me, could ever work out how she manages to arrive at the exact second each day, as we had to climb eight flights of stairs a day just to get to Headquarters in the Defenders of Neopia building. It was one of the many oddities of Levialy Descot.
However, when it comes to meeting with me, Levi is always late.
I stomped my foot in frustration, causing the nearby Money Tree goers to look at me uneasily. I didn’t blame them; I must look odd with my utility pack of weapons I reserved for missions and my large backpack for daily necessities. Hopefully, I just looked like a rather grumpy traveler; I didn’t want my cover in the secret department blown. I didn’t know exactly how long this mission was going to be – it could take a day or even weeks to find someone in Neopia.
Even as I glared at the grassy ground, I still couldn’t remove my mind from the fact Levi had specifically told me to meet her at 9:00 at the Money Tree, and according to my watch, she was currently nineteen minutes late. I sighed and sank to the ground. The worst part was it was an extremely humid day of 86 degrees in a sunny Neopia Central. Even though I only wore shorts and a ripped Moehawk shirt in the shade of the Money Tree, I was still sweating badly. At least my Neohome had fans to keep me cool.
Finally after another excruciating fourteen minutes, the silver Acara showed up.
“You’re late,” I groaned, too enervated from the heat to chastise her.
“I’m only fashionably late,” she said, as if it made a difference. “Let’s go.”
“Wait,” I said, examining her. “How in Neopia can you wear that?”
Levi was wearing her usual regal black robe with black pants with her green metal scarf around her neck. She was also wearing her boots of jumping as well as her pack of holding and utility belt around her waist. All of her would be completely normal (for Levi at least) if weather wasn’t so scorching that even a Moltenore would probably sweat.
“What are you talking about? This is nothing!” Levi looked amused. With a jolt, I noticed the Acara wasn’t even sweating a little bit.
“Honestly,” she laughed as she looked at my sweaty body, “I lived in the Lost Desert for a while. This weather has nothing on that.”
“If you say so,” I muttered as I got up from the blessed shade of the Money Tree. I already felt exhausted. Levi tended to have that effect on me but now with this weather... how was I supposed to make it? Then I noticed someone in our party was missing.
“Where’s Keuna?” I asked Levi. I didn’t see her Faerie Seti anywhere, even though I knew Levi took her precious Petpet everywhere.
“She’s over there,” Levi said, pointing into the branches of the Money Tree. “She seems to like it up there.”
“You shouldn’t take her with us, Levi,” I warned. “It’s too dangerous.” That’s why I didn’t take my beloved Zomutt with me anymore; I didn’t know what trouble I’d get into these day with Levi around. The poor guy was currently inside my Neohome, probably missing me... though he at least was in the cool indoors.
“Keuna’s fine,” said Levi, waving her hand dismissively. “She’s hung around me long enough to know how to not get into trouble. She could be a ranked UDON Agent from all of the work she’s done.”
“UDON” was Levi’s acronym for Undercover Defenders of Neopia. She used them in public when she needed to talk about the secret organization and battle techniques, formed based off delicacies from Shenkuu. I’ve heard a few of them so far: there was SATAY, which was Seriously Attack The Antagonist Yourself and MISO, which was Make It Snappy Or else. Levi said they were more acronyms, but I honestly didn’t want to know more after she told me SATAY for the first time last week.
“Look!” shouted Levi suddenly, startling me and everyone in the vicinity. She was pointing at the sky, but there seemed to be nothing there. In that moment, I noticed her speed towards a root of the Money Tree, grab something, and speed back towards me in the same second. I’m pretty sure with her speed no one else could’ve seen Levi move; I only saw her because of my extensive training in Krawk Island had paid off. By this point, everyone glared at Levi, irritated for her obvious attention-seeking moment and went back to tackling each other for Money Tree goods.
“What did you get?” I said, looking in her hands. To my disappointment, it was only a jar of pickled olives.
“What?” said Levi. “These things are useful!”
“Can’t be worth enough to distract crazy Money Tree lurkers,” I said, pointing to a Skeith and a Chia who were wrestling each other for a broken fishing rod. “They’re pretty scary.”
“Trust me, this is worth it,” she said earnestly as she tucked the jar into her pack. “Now, we should go to Brightvale for lunch and head towards Bogshot. Agreed?”
“Whatever,” I said as we began walking. “The sooner we get there, the less I’ll feel like Sloth getting a sun tan.”
Levi whistled and Keuna promptly flew down from her branch and onto her owner’s shoulder. Then we took the small path out of Neopia Central and headed directly towards Brightvale.
1:15 PM – Brightvale Castle, Brightvale
Like most Neopets, I really didn’t fancy dying of heat exhaustion, so I badgered Levi into stopping every once in a while as we walked towards Brightvale. After a while, Levi didn’t mind; halfway to Brightvale the heat started to take its toll, and she began to sweat as well. Only Keuna remained unaffected, because Setis were native to the Lost Desert. I was relieved from this; not only did we take more frequent breaks, but it also proved Levi couldn’t help but be normal sometimes.
But because of the breaks, we were one hour off schedule. We planned to get to Brightvale at noon. We needed to pick up the pace if we wanted to get to Bogshot before three o’ clock – which wouldn’t be possible since we were too tired to care about pointless things such as schedules.
I thought Brightvale Castle would be more extravagant when I first saw it. I had never been anywhere except for Neopia Central and Krawk Island, but I didn’t feel impressed one bit as I saw the towering turrets and protective parapets of the castle. Maybe the heat had burned my impression process. After all, Brightvale was significantly warmer than Neopia Central had been in the morning, because it was further south.
“Okay,” Levi said enthusiastically as we hung out in the shadow of the castle. “I’m going to ask around to find out whether or not Jeik had been here recently. I’ll do it myself, seeing that you’re so tired you wouldn’t be able to find a clue even if it hit you on the head. You can just do whatever.”
“Who’re you going to talk to?” I asked, not really caring about her answer.
“Petty criminals. Thieves. Who else? Even in a scholar town you can find these types.”
“What makes you think they’ll talk to you?”
“Don’t worry, Seg,” Levi said, grinning maliciously. “I can be quite persuasive. Meet me here in an hour.” She ran off into the town, with her Petpet pattering after her. How did she have such energy in this boiling inferno?
I sighed. What was I going to do for an hour? I reluctantly got up from the precious shade and walked towards the town as slowly as possible.
I thought Brightvale was really nice in my detached impression process. It was quaint with decorated buildings and Petpets roaming the streets, giving it a feel of a countryside town. It seemed less populated than I thought, as if the scholars retreated inside their homes from the heat. I walked towards the Wheel of Knowledge and, for kicks, gave it a spin. I won a really thick book called Advanced Learning. I didn’t know what use I would have for it but nonetheless stuffed it into my backpack. Oh well. It wasn’t the Wheel of Excitement, after all.
I stopped in Fruits of Brightvale and bought a Dewy Apple. It was blissful, eating a cooling, juicy fruit in the middle of a wonderful seventy-degree shop. That is, until someone punched my back and caused me to drop the fruit in the shop.
“What’s wrong with you?” I shouted at Levi, who stood innocently behind me with Keuna on her shoulder. My half-eaten apple was now a dusty patch of floor, ruined. The shopkeeper gave us a sharp glare as other patrons stared at us curiously. I dragged the silver Acara outside behind the shop.
“Why did you do that?” I yelled at Levi angrily. Now I had no juicy apple and no chilly shop – there was nothing to hold back my temper now.
“No reason,” said Levi, looking at her extended hand as if she hadn’t done anything wrong. “But really we need to leave now. I got some good information.”
“Do you think I care?” I roared. “Go buy me another apple!”
“Simmer down, hot head,” she said, eyebrows raised. “It’s just an apple.”
“But it was a good apple!”
“Seriously, Seg, now you’re scaring me – you’re starting to sound like Kane.”
I tried taking deep breaths. It didn’t really work because the hot air was difficult to breathe. So I tried distracting myself.
“What did you find out?”
“Well,” Levi said, staring at me apprehensively as though I had just become a Juppie, “I got really lucky. Turn out the thieves I found in their hideout were contacts of Jeik. I... how should I put this... persuaded them to tell me more. A Lupe said Jeik was going to get a top secret information packet from Bogshot for him and Jeik was getting paid to deliver it to him in Meridell. However, Jeik never showed and the thieves went back to Brightvale. They were just about to go to Bogshot to find out what had happened when I caught up to them. According to them, the information was on Malkus Vile, a big shot criminal in Adella’s book. I decided to tie up the thieves for good measure and called Adella on my Virtupets communicator for good measure. That’s quality information they got, if it’s accurate. Adella was right; Jeik was moving up in the criminal world, even if he was still only doing grunt work.”
I consider all this for a moment. “So... this is good and all... but then where is Jeik?”
“Well, think about it,” said Levi haughtily. “Jeik never went to Meridell. If he did, he would’ve been seen by the thieves, who were waiting there for him. He didn’t go to Brightvale either because the thieves didn’t see him here or hear about him. So he’s probably still in Bogshot. This is a good break for us. We won’t need to go on a wild Pteri chase for him.”
“Are you sure you’re right, though?” I said, doubtful of her theory.
“Even if it’s the one in a millionth chance I’m wrong, Bogshot is still a good place to start looking.”
“Good point,” I said but I was a bit unnerved. Levi tended to show times of good judgment and rationality at weird times. These times always made me wonder if Levi was actually a rational thinker inside... but then I remember it was Levi we were talking about. No way in Neopia.
“Alright then,” she said as we walked towards a path with a sign pointing Meridell down the path. “Let’s go. Oh and by the way....”
“What?” I said, looking at the never-ending path miserably.
“You do know that swamps are rather cool compared to other environments? And that they’re sheltered from the sun? That means the faster we get there....”
I didn’t hear what she said. I ran as fast as I could towards the cool swamp in the distance.
To be continued...