The young Flotsam was certainly not the richest treasure hunter in all of Neopia--by no means. Neopoints were tight, and lunch usually consisted of nothing more than Breadfish and an occasional Omelette if she met with a traveler from Tyrannia. The treasures that she hunted for were not codestones, paint brushes, or Nerkmids, or even rare books. All of Neopia didn’t recognize the worth of the treasures that she tirelessly searched for. But the valuables were often priceless items.
“So this is where you dropped it?” Zisse inquired politely, a notebook held firmly in one fin. She fixed her eyes on the elderly Shoyru, who nodded with a forlorn sigh.
“Quite sure, young one. I remember it so well!” She stopped, her feet enclosed in the sands that stretched across the shore of Mystery Island. But from the pained look in her wise eyes, it was clear that the comforting warmth of the sand was not enough to shed light on her mood. “It was during a Tiki Tour so many years ago... We were walking along the sands at high tide.” The fresh memory explained her short pause. “The chain around my neck must have been loose. My beautiful golden ring slipped right away with the surf.” Raising her right wing to shade her aged eyes from the harsh glare of the afternoon sun, she pointed. “That spot--there. That crooked palm tree is still here. Just how I recalled.”
Zisse scribbled in detailed shorthand, made a note of the tree, and nodded. “Thank you for your time, ma’am. I will do the best that I can to find that ring.”
“Good luck, child,” she replied, her grateful smile proving to be contagious, “Please find my ring.”
Zisse watched as the Shoyru shuffled back across the sands, and then turned her gaze to the vastness of the ocean. The waves lapped peacefully, and the rhythm provided a soothing background for her thoughts. With one of her fins, she flipped through the pages of the now admittedly tatty notebook. Previous jobs flashed past. From "Beautiful Golden Ring" to "Blue Ixi Plushie," then "Wooden Shield," then "Ghostkerscarf." And then, the title page of her notebook: "The Agency for Misplaced Things."
Her gaze lingered on the page. It had been roughly a year since the founding of her agency. She really was far from her home in Maraqua, that was certain. But since word spread of her particular talents and peculiar line of treasure-hunting, she took to traveling the seas, in search of an opportunity to earn a few Neopoints, and reunite pets with what had been thought lost. The idea occurred to her after coming across the Compass Bracelet she misplaced years ago. It had been nestled tightly between two towers of coral, as if waiting for her.
The metal parts had long since rusted and tarnished from lack of proper care, but when the Flotsam gazed at it, she remembered how she wore it every single day. How she turned to it as a guide when she was lost and searching for direction... The moment she slid the bracelet back onto her slippery wrist, she knew that she wanted to bring this feeling of reunion and reconnection with the past back in other pets all over the Neopian globe. That was the true sort of treasure she sought--the years before following faulty maps and hearsay were long gone.
These days, she received mail from hopeful Neopians describing long-lost treasures that they wished to be reunited with. Those whom she felt she could help, she wrote back to, and slowly made a circuit around the globe. This summer she happened to be working on Mystery Island.
She gently returned the notebook to the waterproof pouch attached to her belt, and with a flick of her flukes, dove beneath the waves. The warm water lapped over her back, and she watched the swaying of the seaweeds beneath, taking note of how they waved back and forth with each coming wave in the little lagoon. A ring, she thought, was nothing compared to even these tiny ripples. She swam slowly in the direction of the current, until the fine sands and occasional sea pebbles dropped away to reveal the first hints of the reef to come. The coral grew in rocky, porous turrets that straggled their way towards the surface and the dancing light above.
Fortunately, there did not seem to be so much as a Jetsam in the area. Zisse began to comb the area, peering through little pockets in the coral, and excusing her intrusion to a few watery inhabitants when necessary. Minutes washed by, and soon, hours. Zisse returned to the surface occasionally for a few breaths of air, and realized with dismay that she had not searched even a fifth of the enormous reef. A rush of disappointment filled her, but she had known from the beginning that this would be a challenge. "Perhaps I should have asked around town some more," she groaned to herself, "It was silly to think that I would be able to find a tiny ring in an ocean!"
Within another two hours, it would be dark. The first signs of sunset were appearing over the horizon--a soft orange spread across the sky, along with a deep, royal purple. The sun had taken on the glow of the hottest magma in Moltara, and Zisse was about ready to turn back when a quick metallic flash caught her eye. A figure swam in the near distance. She sped forward to catch up, and found herself face to face with a surprised Koi who looked to be about her age.
“Excuse me,” Zisse managed, her eyes locked on the unmistakable shine of a gold band on the Koi’s right fin, “I’ve--” But the Flotsam could not finish, because the spooked Koi had taken darted off into the darkening waters, leaving nothing but a swirling trail of bubbles behind. Zisse knew she was too weary to give chase, and she did not know the reef well enough to find the Neopet before night fell. Feeling defeated, she headed back to shore, the water feeling cooler by the minute. She returned to the same pier at which she met the Shoyru earlier in the morning, and was pleasantly surprised to see that she was waiting there, a scarf wrapped around her neck to ward off the chill of a breeze that swept in from the ocean.
“How was the search, young one?”
“I’m afraid I let you down.” Zisse felt even more terribly about the situation now, while trying to explain. “I was pretty sure that I found your ring, but I wasn’t able to bring it back.” The Shoyru gazed at her gently, encouraging her to go on. Zisse obliged. “I searched for it all day in the sands and in the reef, but it wasn’t until sunset that I found it. A Koi was wearing it! I tried to speak with her, but I think I frightened her and she swam away too fast for me to follow. I’m so sorry.” Lifting her head temporarily from the shameful position in which it hung, she was startled to see that her elder was smiling.
“You have done a wonderful job, child.”
“But--I lost the chance! I didn’t bring the ring back--”
“Maybe not. But somebody has found the ring and is enjoying it. It’s no longer lost; that is all that I need. Thank you, young one.”
That night, as Zisse closed her eyes to take a well-deserved rest, she thought back to the reason why she founded her agency in the first place. She had brought happiness to that Shoyru, after all, because she discovered that while her own memories with the ring had ceased long ago, there were still some coming to life, elsewhere. And that was enough.