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The Missing Shopkeeper


by orlytheowl

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Kara the Kau was a familiar face for many Neopians. She had managed to do the impossible, - building a career working as a jokester for King Skarl. He had personally taken her in after she told him the best joke he had ever heard, one beautiful Spring day a few years ago. Kara had soon become close with the King. He would confide in her, complain to her about other Neopians' terrible jokes and tell her his worries and troubles. He was in fact quite a moody man, but Kara had somehow managed to get on his good side.

     Two things the King desired were food and wealth. The days passed on, making sure the King had what he needed and trying to keep him happy. It was a full-time job. One day King Skarl told her that he had heard rumours that the oh-so-wealthy Post Office Shopkeeper was missing:

      “If anyone gets their paws on that Chia’s fortune before I do, good Fyora, they are going to regret it!” King Skarl said with a vengeance.

     Kara saw an opportunity to get some time off from her usual duties and quickly replied:

     “Dear King, if you like, I could go check out the situation for you. I could look for clues about the whereabouts of the missing Chia. I mean, what good would it be to get your paws on his fortune if the Chia were to return next week and reclaim his fortune?” Kara said in a friendly tone.

     “THAT IS NOT FUNNY! YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY!” The King yelled. He sighed. “But I guess you’re right. You are to report back to me immediately when you find either the Chia or the Neopoints. And bring me a Skarl kebab when you return, heh heh.”

     Kara agreed and hurried back to her room to pack. She had a simple room. Stone walls, stone floors, a simple bed, a bookshelf, a chair and a table. But Kara liked it. She had decorated it with some cute pillows and blankets and for her, it felt like home. Although the King was a moody, needy and greedy king, he was still her King, and she felt honoured working for him.

     The next morning Kara left the Castle and Meridell headed for Neopia Central. She did not know what to expect and had very little information about what had happened at the Post Office. In reality, she only knew that the Shopkeeper was missing, not how long or how or why.

     Kara reached Neopia Central a couple of days later and checked in at the Neolodge. She walked around the buzzing city, just taking in the vibes and feelings of it, while simultaneously slowly heading for the Post Office. As she approached, Kara noticed that the Rainbow Pool was shining as bright as ever, the Money Tree seemed to be thriving, and the line at the NC Mall was as long as ever. Everything seemed to be in order. That made the disappearance of the Shopkeeper perhaps even weirder.

     When Kara approached the Post Office, she immediately noticed two Defenders of Neopia outside the building. One of them was a Krawk and the other a Shoyru. The entrance to the Post Office was blocked, partly by the Defenders, and partly by a big chain. The Defenders didn’t look too friendly, but Kara cleared her throat, put on a smile and introduced herself:

     “Hello, honoured Defenders! My name is Kara the Kau, and I have arrived from Meridell. The rumours of a terrible disappearance have reached King Skarl. I have been sent here to receive news and to see if there is anything we can do to contribute to finding that beloved Shopkeeper once more.”

     The Defenders looked at her and the Krawk answered in a monotone voice:

     “We have clear orders from the Merchant’s Council not to speak to any outsiders. This is an internal affair.”

     “Oh!” Kara exclaimed, smiled reassuringly and answered “That is lovely! You should know that I am not an outsider. I actually used to live around here. That is why the King has ordered me back here to help.”

     Kara immediately felt bad for lying. She had never lived at Neopia Central, but she had visited on numerous occasions. Also, she felt suspicious about the Merchant’s Council apparently trying to keep a lid on the case. Perhaps they were trying to get their paws on the treasure themselves? “King Skarl would definitely not like that…” Kara thought to herself.

     The Defenders looked at each other, obviously uncertain of what to do. Their orders had not been very specific about what to do in a situation like that. Eventually, the Shoyru cleared his throat and said in a rusty voice:

     “Very well. We could definitely use some help. Follow me.”

     He proceeded to remove the chains that surrounded the entrance to the Post Office, unlocked the door and entered the building. Kara and the Krawk followed. When the lights got turned on, Kara saw that the Post Office was a mess. She must have made a noise or an expression because the Shoyru said slowly:

     “Yes, it was like this when we first entered. As coincidence will have it, my friend here, Corian the Krawk and I were the first ones to enter the building the morning of the disappearance. My name is Lucas.”

     Kara nodded and looked around. The shopkeeper's desk, which usually was kept in order, was floating with stamps. The desk seemed to have a sort of sticky substance on top of it. She noticed that both the safe and the cash register were closed.

     “This is weird,” Kara said. “With the known fortune of the Shopkeeper, one would think someone would have at least tried to open the register or the safe if that was the motive of the disappearance. I can’t see any clues of this happening.”

     Corian answered: “We noticed that as well. For the time being, we have no idea of what has been going on in here.”

     The next couple of days went by in a haze. Kara, together with her new friends Lucas and Corian, examined the Post Office from floor to ceiling. They gathered all the evidence they could find, discussed, and took samples of the sticky substance to see if they could find anyone able to analyse it for them. They looked for strands of fur and paw prints and talked to the Shopkeepers at the neighbouring shops. Nothing led to anything new. Nobody had seen anything. Every paw print had seemingly natural causes. The Merchant’s Council did not intervene in the investigation, but Kara could feel their presence in the distance, watching and waiting.

     Kara had never been so busy in her whole life. But oh my, how much fun she had! Two days had passed without them having found anything suspicious. Time was of the uttermost importance. The investigation trio was gathered yet again at the Post Office discussing various theories when they suddenly heard footsteps. They turned towards the entrance and saw the Kacheek Mail Carrier entering. The Kacheek carried a big, rounded package. It looked heavy. Both because the Kacheek seemed to be struggling with the weight, but also because it was completely covered in stamps.

     “Hello. What have you got there?” Kara asked.

     “I picked up this package from the Post Office some days ago, but I can’t seem to find an address. I was wondering if you could bring me to the Shopkeeper, so he can tell me where to send it?” The Kacheek answered.

     The trio looked at each other. A realisation slowly dawned on Kara. She approached the package that the Kacheek had placed on the floor. Lucas and Corian must have had the same realisation as Kara had because they hurried to her side. Together they started removing the stamps in a frenzy. It was not long until they found the Shopkeeper, hidden beneath hundreds of stamps. When the stamps were removed, the Shopkeeper was finally able to move and speak once more:

     “Oh my! Oh my! Oh my! How glad I am to see you here! What a terrible adventure this has been!” The Shopkeeper exclaimed.

     They gave him something to drink, and the Shopkeeper proceeded to tell his story. One late night, about five nights ago, the Shopkeeper had been doing inventory at the Post Office. He had decided to fill his Stamp album with missing stamps when he burned his tongue on some too-hot Borovan. To spare his tongue, he made the fateful decision to use Meerca Brothers Glue to fasten the stamps in his album instead. It was late. He had fallen asleep and somehow must have gotten the glue all over him, with stamps sticking onto every piece of his body. The next thing he knew, he was unable to speak, move or see and was being held in a tight department.

     “Eeehem. That must have been my Mail Carrier Bag.” The Kacheek said swiftly.

     Everyone went silent and looked at each other. The Shopkeeper made some weird barking noises. Kara hurried over to him, thinking it was his trauma that needed to come out. She put her front legs around his shoulders. The Shopkeeper lifted his gaze and looked at her. She looked at him with a surprised face when he started to laugh loudly. She was startled before she saw the comedy in the situation herself. Nobody was hurt, and everything was fine – well, at least until the King found out that he was not to receive the Shopkeepers fortune after all. She could worry about that later. Kara, Corian and Lucas started to laugh as well.

     “This adventure has not been completely useless”, Kara thought to herself, wiping away the tears of laughter. Not only had she gotten some time off, but she had also made some new friends along the way. And, when the dust had settled, she would have a whole arsenal of new jokes to tell King Skarl.

     The End.

 
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