It was another warm day in Meridell. Neopets walked from stalls to buy and bargain. Among them was a female Zafara with blue hair and sharp sapphire eyes. Her hoodie hid most of her face however as she passed through the shouting crowds who screamed for the best prices. Today, she wouldn't be stealing little things from pockets like bronze items and the occasional pocket of fruits. In fact she hadn't much stolen anything from anyone in a while.
Even as a Double Agent, she was allowed to have a break once in awhile.
She walked through the people until she came upon the open fields of Meri Acres Farm. It was much quieter thankfully, and the sent of both berries on one side and disgusting waste on the other filled her nostrils. Despite its confusing scents, this usually calmed her nerves from hustle and bustle of the crowded streets. Not to mention her clients who were in high demand nowadays. All the unwanted stress was just too much to think about for one day.
Still, she couldn't deny she felt a little lonely. Sure she enjoyed her quiet days as much as the next person, but sometimes she wished to spend a fun day with a friend. Sadly, though, she had fewer to count than she would like to admit. Being a known spy was hard road to take, even if it paid really well.
"Alright, over here!" shouted a familiar baritone voice. The Double Agent gave a start, her instincts telling her to run for cover at the authoritative cry. However, another shout from a nearby farm caused her curiosity to grow, as it usually did when things caught her interest.
Stepping around a bend of a home, she spotted none other than Jeran the Brave out on the yards, hauling bags of wheat onto a cart. His brow was soaked with sweat from her standpoint. Even with nothing on but a simple tunic and on a mildly cloudy day, his clothes looked wet from the neck, showing he had been working very hard indeed. The sight of him out of his usual golden armor surprised her. She was sure the proud Lupe wouldn't go anywhere without his shining tin coverings, declaring his title as leader of the Meridell knights. She once even thought the Lupe slept in his armor.
What's more, the Agent thought him to be the kind to be doing indoor work like shouting at guards to stand around straighter at library doors.
Yet here he was, doing meager "peasant" work. Not an everyday occurrence, that's for certain. Jeran helped an old Acara farmer with his haul, heaving off a bag from the cart full of wheat that looked as heavy as a body. With a grin, he waved up at the graying pet when they were done, and watched as the farmer departed for the insides of his home.
Somehow finding this the most interesting thing all day, she stuck around to spy just a bit longer and stayed much longer than she anticipated.
He helped with another family with their crops. He pushed a cart of hay across the road when their Turtum got an injury. He carried a basket of fruits for an old woman to her home. He even climbed up to someone's roof to fix a hole. The more the Double Agent followed, the more tired she got from just watching him work.
By the time it was sunset, he was finally taking a break, sitting under the shade of a tree sipping water. He looked exhausted. The Double Agent sneaked over from behind, taking a moment to observe before tapping his head. To her amusement, he leapt up from his perch, going for a sword hidden at his belt. She grinned at his surprised expression which sighed back into tiredness.
"What are you doing here, Seraphina?" he asked, dropping back down, letting his sword fall from his grasp. It seemed that little fast move left him even more tired than before and he fell backwards to stare up at the sky.
"I could be asking you the same thing, Jeran," she said strolling around his form casually, picking at the leaves. "Doing farm work now? That sounds so unlike you," she commented.
"I always do this. Once a month," he said. He shifted to get more comfortable on the dirt, folding his arms to pillow the back of his head.
"That sounds interesting. Why haven't I heard of this?" she asked.
"Because I go by the name of Steve when I do this," he answered evenly. He glanced up at her. "How did you know it was me?"
She gave a secret smirk, holding a finger to her lips. "That's easy, you stand too straight for someone who would toil at farms. Like a real soldier on stand," she said. "That and I can tell it was you even a mile away."
Jeran quirked a brow curiously at this then shrugged, letting it be and dropped his head back down. "What of you? I haven't seen you in months."
"I happen to be on vacation from work as it were." The Double Agent, also named Seraphina, said. Few knew her name and lived long enough to tell the tale. Jeran was the few who knew, but was too difficult to not let live.
"I find that hard to believe," he said, a smile in his voice even though she couldn't see it.
Seraphina grinned. "I could do honest work too, you know. You 'honorable' pets make it seem so hard, but it's not difficult for a grown woman to change her ways."
Jeran sniffed slightly to cover a snort that would have escaped. Teasingly, she jabbed her foot into his side, making the laugh come out anyway. "And what honest work are you doing now? Spying on Meridell's finest knights?" he teased right back.
"No, but it does have its benefits," she shot back, jabbing her foot again, and this time he grabbed it. But even on Seraphina's worst days, she was as graceful as a Faerie, leaping over his body and slipping out of his foot with ease. He was never rough with her, though. The thought he was going easy on her was confusing at times but not uncomforting. Their friendship was mutual to give each other space for their lines of work, and when needed call for assistance when things got too hairy for either party.
The Lupe reclined up to fold his arms over his knees, staring as the sun cast long shadows over the homes and its people walking home. "I want to do my part to the people of this town. There is little I can do by signing papers at the castle. We are at peace, but I can't find it even after war," he said, his voice thick with tiredness, but a different one she felt she knew. It was one a soldier would have after a long battle, seeing comrades at arms fall and broken and having to bear the burden of being a strong leader no matter the costs. The responsibilities must be so grand, she could see how heavy they were on his shoulders. Even in peaceful times, Jeran as head of the knights might never find peace within himself.
Dropping down elegantly beside him, she placed a hand his opposite shoulder facing her and then resting her head on the one nearest. He didn't push her away. They were too much of good friends for the awkwardness of closure to bother them. "You could always talk to me you know, whenever you have these troubles in mind," she offered kindly. Others always thought of her cruel and cold, always thinking on prices to be bought and sold. But even she could manage a heart for an ally. Many times he turned a blind eye when she was nearby, even if he could have handed her to the dungeons at any given time for her crimes. There were times she was sure he had evidence against her, yet never once used it. In turn, she would often give him clues and hints to upcoming robberies or treasures the kingdom could use. Before either one knew it, they were on a first name basis, greeting each other when one would spot them in a crowd or a tavern.
Kindness like that isn't so lightly considered.
"Thank you, Seraphina. Really." Jeran sighed, nodding and smiling down at her. "But really, it is not your burden to bear."
"Who says it's a burden for me to hear you speak?" she said honestly. Seraphina nudged his shoulder. "Come on now, don't be so doubtful in my usefulness. It takes more than a few sad tones to bring me down. You should know I can handle myself just fine."
Jeran offered her a small smile. "You sound confident to hear my tales."
"What could be so bad about them that you would deem me unfit to hear?" the Zafara countered. She placed a hand over his, noticing the sun had set and the roads will soon fall into darkness. "Trust me, I am your friend Jeran. I would not judge you, nor am I the best person to even judge you in the first place," she snickered.
Smirking at her, Jeran blew at her face, making her reel back with a laugh. "Your hair is always such a tease. I can sometimes see both your eyes and sometimes not see them. How can you stand such unruly bangs?"
"When you tell me how you could handle a tin suit everyday with ease. It looks like it would chafe till your red with grief!" she laughed, glad to see him back to his playful side. Noting how he changed the subject, she decided to probe later. "How is your sister?"
"Fine, good," he said, nodding. "Learning about the kingdoms, enjoying herself far too much for my comfort... it would seem there are also lads out for her hand." He sighed. "She's growing up too fast. I need a potion to keep her small forever."
"I might find something like that," she said inspecting her nails proudly. "For a price..." she added with a sly expression.
"Oh? And pray tell would that be?" He grinned.
"Permission to go into your room through your window," she said.
"I'm being serious."
"So am I," the Double Agent said, turning to face him as he grew puzzled. "I'll come in at night and have a chat with you now and again. By the bags under your eyes you don't sleep well, do you?" By the way he turned his gaze away guiltily, she guessed right. "Don't worry, I would not enter until invited. Nobody would see me and think ill of you for compromising with... well, a thief," she said with a shrug.
It wasn't a secret she was a spy. Since the wars, people began to suspect her underground work and had begun to avoid her in public. It was bound to happen sooner or later, but the thought of losing her closest friends because of this bothered her more than she liked to admit.
Jeran snorted, shaking his head. "How about... instead of that, I invite you to the castle when I need you?" he offered. He scratched his cheek bashfully. "I must admit, you'd be the first "friend" I would invite over, seeing only overseers and generals only come to see me nowadays."
Seraphina the double agent smiled warmly at him. "Agreed... but I will come in disguise."
"Somehow I felt you would." He sighed with a roll to his eyes. "You do like to come in costumes."
"Your king still wants my head!"
"Only because you told the whole dang kingdom of his fancy in romance novels! He was furious, though he doesn't know its actually you, there are rumors around still." He laughed, unable to keep the grin from growing. After a length pause between them, he added, "I'll make sure he won't harm you." When she opened her mouth to protest he added quickly, "Do not worry, he won't do anything to you while I am around."
Seraphina stared at him then sighed, seeing the old Lupe was as stubborn as she was. Jeran pushed himself up on his feet, offering a hand to her to stand. "Then it is decided, I shall arrange a dinner for us."
"Why couldn't it be just a simple visit?" she whined. "I don't want a big grand thing on my arrival!" she said, folding her arms, a flush over her cheeks. "It's humiliating to be waited on so much like a pampered princess."
"You'd be surprised how much you'd like our cook's food!" he said. She rolled her eyes, poking his side. "Alright, nothing fancy! I swear. But you'd make a lovely princess, I'm sure. One who plays in robes and sneaks into dusty old dungeons."
Grinning in victory she hooked her arm around his as patrols walked down the road.
He raised a brow at her. "Are you really that paranoid the king will sick his men on you?"
"One would imagine he would take anyone bearing my resemblance at this point..." she mumbled.
With a pat on her arm, Jeran led his Zafara friend down the road, his head held high as usual, but thanks to his companion, a smile now plastered on his face. "As you wish, my lady."