Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 187,881,945 Issue: 519 | 4th day of Storing, Y13
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The Co-Worker and the Missing Sister: Part Three


by dudeiloled

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"Rosie!"

     Rose turned around as she was walking home from Meridell Castle, startled by her old nickname being called. She looked searchingly through the darkness to find the culprit but failed to see them. Then she felt someone tap her on the shoulder. She whirled round, and found herself face to face with someone she never thought she'd see again. "Alistair," Rose breathed, astounded. "What are you –?" She couldn't complete her sentence. She was practically speechless for a few moments.

     Alistair had the flicker of a smile across his mouth. "Rosie," he whispered, blushing slightly. He ducked his head, embarrassed, then straightened up and looked her in the eye. "It's been too long."

     "What did I tell you about calling me Rosie?" Rose laughed, but she wasn't annoyed. A part of her was truly happy at seeing her old friend.

     Her old co-worker.

     The scattering of leaves in the air made the area around them multicoloured as Alistair and Rose spun, holding onto each other as they shrieked in delight at the world spinning at their fingertips. Auburn colours whirled past their eyes and for a fleeting moment they understood everything. Then the wind died and so did their smiles. Behind them, a tall and important looking Moehog was walking towards them. As he drew nearer Alistair recognised him immediately as the great Judge Hog.

     "Miss Engtortia and Mr Aarant. You two signed an application asking to join the Defenders of Neopia," he told them, in his loud voice. "I have come to tell you personally that we accepted you and you are now part of our squad. You two shall deal with issues in Meridell, Brightvale, and Darigan Citadel along with two other agents, and you will obey, answer and report back to King Skarl. If there is an emergency, I myself or one of the other important agents will call for you. Is this understood?"

     Alistair gasped, clapping his hands over his mouth. This had been his dream, to help Neopia, for the eighteen years he'd lived on it. Rose, who was two years younger than him, shared this dream and they both squealed in delight.

     "Yes, yes, it is understood." Alistair nodded excitedly.

     "King Skarl has your first mission for you. Go and see him now. Oh." Judge Hog smiled for a moment. "He's not as grumpy as he seems."

     The mission was a great success – with one dreadful accident. Alistair lost his eye while he was fighting the opponent. He insisted it was nothing to Rose, but inside the fear of losing another haunted him. So he made himself get better and better. But he was never as good as Rose, who had a pure natural talent for the job. And after a while, three or four years to be more precise, this made his ambition turn to jealousy.

     They were the greatest of friends, and yet Alistair never told Rose about his jealousy. He didn't explain why he blushed every time she spoke to him, or when she went on a mission on her own he missed her. But the jealousy was what eventually drove them apart, because King Skarl sensed this and decided to put a stop to it in his own way.

     "I'm sorry, Alistair," King Skarl murmured. It was an uncomfortable moment. Rose was away on a mission and it was just those two in the room. "You simply aren't dedicated to the job anymore. I'm going to have to let you go. Rose is shining while you are dulling."

     Alistair widened his one eye in shock, and touched the patch covering his other, blind eye. Then without saying a word he turned and strode out of the castle, determined to prove him wrong. To prove them all wrong. Somehow. The last words he said to Rose were so trivial, just a simple good luck, and a see you in three days. But he wouldn't see her in three days. It would take much longer and this was the sad fate he had allowed himself to be in. However, he didn't cry.

     Rose came back from her mission, fresh faced and happy. Her mood dropped when she found out about her friend. She was sadder than the news about her parents four years earlier. And one shred of her was guilty, for not helping him more and allowing herself to become that much better. She didn't tell her sister how she felt. Her sister was only twelve and didn't know exactly what Rose did yet. Or what she'd done.

     "What are you doing here, Alistair?" Rose questioned, after embracing her friend warmly. "What brings you back to Meridell? I haven't seen you in..."

     "Twelve years," Alistair stated in monotone. He waved his hand impatiently. "But that's not why I'm here. I'm working on a case, and I need someone like you to offer their opinion about what to do next. If you could just come with me and tell me what you think?"

     Rose looked surprised. "You still solve cases? For who?"

     "Does that matter?" Alistair seemed put out for a moment, then recovered with an easy grin. "Come on, Rosie. It'll only take a second."

     "Well, as long as it does, then sure." Rose shrugged. This was Alistair, after all. She owed it to him to teach him something for once, even though he was older than her and far more intelligent. He'd read every book in Neopia, like her sister's friend, Oliver, and if she remembered correctly, wrote a book of his own on the history of Meridell.

     Alistair gestured at Rose to follow him, and the two walked in silence down the path, the opposite way to Rose's home.

     * * *

     The morning sun crept through the curtains and shone onto Engtortia's peaceful sleeping face. She groaned and turned away, but the sun shone stronger until she had to accept it was time to get up. Crawling out of bed blearily, she looked out of her wide window to the scene outside. The sky was a brilliant blue, and there were Pteris and Eyries flying through the air gracefully, their wings shining in the light. Down on the ground, she saw Oliver making his way to the bakery. She felt like calling out to him, but didn't want to embarrass her friend. He got embarrassed very easily. Instead, she turned away and washed her face before dressing in her favourite trouser suit. For some reason, she wanted to pretend she was a detective today, secretly, and this suit always made her feel like one. It was her day off from work, after all.

     After a glance in the mirror to check she looked presentable, Engtortia strolled happily down to the dining room. It was Rose's day off too and she wondered whether they could do something together for once. Their arguments were always over quickly so she should be fine. But to Engtortia's surprise Rose wasn't in the kitchen, making breakfast. Engtortia grabbed some cheese omelette and cooked it absent-mindedly. Once it was finished, she put it on a plate then onto a tray, along with a glass of orange juice, and made her way back upstairs. She'd make up for yesterday by bringing Rose breakfast in bed. That would cheer her up.

     "Imogen," Engtortia whispered softly, knocking twice before entering. She switched on the light, expecting moans of protest, then got the shock of her life. Rose's bed was still made from yesterday. It hadn't been slept in. And now that Engtortia thought about it, she didn't remember hearing Rose coming back last night. Where was she? "Imogen!" Engtortia called again, louder this time. There was no answer from anywhere in the house, but Engtortia still looked in every room before accepting Rose still wasn't home.

     This wasn't like her sister. If there was one person to rely on, it was Rose. She was always home at night, she only went out when she had work, always informing her when she had a mission, and she always left notes if she was going somewhere else. Engtortia searched hopefully for a note but didn't find one. Her sister had disappeared. This couldn't be a revenge act from yesterday – Rose just wasn't that sort of person. They didn't hold grudges in this household. The younger of the two wasn't sure what to do now. She pulled at her top, and wondered if the feeling of becoming a pretend detective earlier came from the subconscious knowing her sister had vanished. Because she had definitely gone missing. She wasn't at work today, it was her day off.

     Don't be so ridiculous, Engtortia thought with a frown. She'll have gone to work for some reason even if it is her day off. Something must have came up and she forgot to leave a note.

     Just to be on the safe side, Engtortia grabbed her jacket and left her house, striding forcefully down the path until she reached the castle, which was only a few minutes away. A Royal Grarrl was guarding the door today and stared down at her as she approached him and clanked the staff he was holding onto the ground two times. The door behind him opened and revealed the grand hallway, but before Engtortia could step inside he moved in front of her.

     "What business do you have here? Who are you?" he growled, sounding more ferocious than he probably was. Rose had told Engtortia all about how the guards had to act very tough to scare troublemakers away.

     So Engtortia wasn't scared of this guard. She stood as tall as she could, which wasn't very tall as she was a short Gelert, and spoke in a clear, confident voice, the one Rose had told her to use many years ago when wanting something to be done quickly and properly. "My name is Engtortia. I am here to discuss the whereabouts of my sister Imogen Rose Engtortia with King Skarl. She did not return home yesterday so I need confirmation she is on a mission, being a Defender of Neopia. Thank you. Allow me to pass now, please."

     The Grarrl nodded slowly. "So you're the sister of Rose?" he murmured thoughtfully. "Funny. You look exactly alike."

     That stopped Engtortia in her tracks after she started to walk past the guard. She turned back to the Grarrl and rolled her eyes. "Don't be stupid. She's tall and beautiful. I am short and your average Gelert. She has a tail; I don't. I have two hazel eyes, she has one green, one brown. Need I go on?"

     "Yes, that is all true. But to me you look the same despite all of that."

     Engtortia ignored him, irritated to be mocked like that, although the Grarrl was being genuine and she chose to refuse his thoughts as his honest opinion. She stomped away, blotting out the sound of his chuckles and pushed open the door that lead to the throne room. Sure enough, King Skarl was sat on his throne, listening to the joke of some poor purple Blumaroo. When he finished saying the joke, King Skarl scowled and told him to go away in his most angry voice. The Blumaroo did so, quickly, frightened by the King's loud dominating voice. Watching the Blumaroo scuttle past the Gelert, King Skarl made eye contact with her and was startled to realise it was Engtortia.

     "Goodness, is that you, Engtortia?" he called, beckoning her closer. Engtortia stiffly obeyed him, and stopped when she was only two metres from him. "I have not seen you in many years. Not since..." He coughed suddenly to cover up what he was going to say next. "What brings you here now?" he continued tiredly.

     "Where is Imogen?" Engtortia demanded, cutting straight to the point. She wasn't one to beat around the bush, as they say.

     "Imogen?" The King seemed puzzled for a moment, then his face cleared. "Oh, you mean Rose. Sorry, I forget you call her by her first name."

     The Gelert exhaled, impatient already. "Yes. My sister. She didn't return home last night so I wondered what mission you had sent her on and why it was so urgent I couldn't be told where she was going first."

     King Skarl leaned forward, a confused expression fixed on his face. It moulded into a frown. "But I haven't seen Rose since last night," he told Engtortia, and they both stared at each other with the realisation Rose had gone missing.

     Engtortia gasped. Something had happened to her sister. She had to find out where she was. But she couldn't do this on her own. She'd have to get help in the form of a little Orange Grundo. Thanking King Skarl hurriedly, who was looking very concerned, she rushed out of the castle and ran as fast as she could all the way to Oliver's house.

     * * *

     Engtortia had been knocking for five minutes before she realised she had seen Oliver walking to his bakery job earlier on. Without wasting a second more, she was there in record time, bursting through the store and shouting fit to burst. Oliver appeared in the doorway to the kitchen, covered in flour and gaping at Engtortia. She had never come to see him at work before. He beamed, pleased. Then his expression saddened when he saw the desperation on his friend's face.

     "What's wrong?" he wondered as she spotted him. "What's happened?"

     "Imogen didn't come back last night and I asked King Skarl where she was but he hadn't seen her since last night! She has been missing for hours and hours!" This all came out in a burbling rush, but Oliver managed to catch what Engtortia was saying.

     Oliver swallowed. "I'll be two minutes," he promised.

     "What?" Engtortia blinked at him.

     "I'm finding your sister with you, of course." Oliver smiled at Engtortia warmly, then was running up the stairs leading to the shop owner's room. It was only one minute later when he returned, closing the shop, dressed in the trouser suit Engtortia had bought him only a few days before, after he finally caved in and agreed to have one. This was his first time wearing it, however, and Engtortia had to admit he looked pretty good. They both did. They looked like detectives solving a case.

     The case of the missing sister.

     Engtortia smiled wryly. This wasn't quite what she had in mind for her first case, but she was going to make darn sure she solved it, and fast.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» The Co-Worker and the Missing Sister: Part One
» The Co-Worker and the Missing Sister: Part Two
» The Co-Worker and the Missing Sister: Part Four
» The Co-Worker and the Missing Sister: Part Five
» The Co-Worker and the Missing Sister: Part Six
» The Co-Worker and the Missing Sister: Part Seven



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