...Nico slumped, despondent, against one of the sides of the boat. Fran shrugged and mirrored his new acquaintance.
"You know that just sitting here isn't going to solve anything," Fran stated, an odd sense of authority present in his voice.
"Yeah," the Pteri adjacent him responded. "We can't really do much until we get back to shore, though, can we?"
Fran then got up. "What?" he asked, with a sarcastic kind of smile on his face. "Of course we can! Remember all of those questions we wanted to ask the tour guide?"
Nico sat up. A grin slowly came to his face. "Oh yeah!" he said, and then rose to his feet.
The two young boys trudged toward the rest of the tour group, where the Techo was spitting some kind of fact about water composition.
"Drat!" Nico stressed in a voice hardly above a whisper. "He's occupied."
In response, Fran merely smiled mischievously. "This may be a greater opportunity than any 'Question Time,'" the Kougra replied.
Fran then started walking toward the guide's quarters, motioning for Nico to follow. He wasn't sure exactly where it was, but figured it couldn't be too hard to locate...
"Guide's Room," the Kougra said, reading the name plate on the door.
Fran stepped into the cluttered room first. "Wow!" the Kougra proclaimed with a smile as he took in the vastness of the guide's room. His smile then waned as he realized the area was mostly filled with junk.
Nico followed his friend into the quarters and navigated toward what appeared to be a desk. The Pteri examined a few scattered pieces of paper that sat on it before grinning malevolently. "I think we have ourselves a clue," he said to his friend. "Come here!"
Fran walked over to Nico, who read the handwriting on the paper -- it appeared to be a piece of stationary. By the end, he was gaping. "According to this, the guide--"
"Simon," Nico interrupted. The letterhead had specifically said, "From the mind of Simon the Techo, Glass Bottom Boat Tour Guide."
"Yes," Fran continued, not irritated in the slightest by the Pteri's interruption. "Simon here is... trying to win the Coral Garden Decorating Award!"
"Seems so," Nico respondent gravely. His demeanor then changed to be a bit more peppy. "I never would have imagined him to be a decorator!"
"Also, he's somehow in cahoots with the Jetsams!" Fran said, but then frowned. "I'm not entirely sure how, though. Plus, what's this about the rock wall?"
"Either way," Nico stated with a harsh look on his face, "something is definitely up."
"Up?" a voice asked from behind them.
The two youngsters spun around to see Simon.
"There you two are... trespassing in my quarters, eh?" the Techo said, resentment thick in his voice. He marched up to them as they huddled in fear. "We docked 20 minutes ago. I was looking for you two everywhere... shame, I guess you'll end up as the next Neopets to disappear..." He tried to snatch them, but they quickly ran around him.
A chase ensued, with the Techo stalking them all around the ship until the lads outran him and jumped off.
"Ah," Simon said as he nonchalantly waved his hand. "They'll never solve the whole puzzle."
The Techo then left the ship himself. He told the crowd that he was off to take a quick bathroom break before returning.
Instead, he walked toward the Jetsams' Cave. He had some business he had to attend to...
Meanwhile, the boys had found their way into the office of Mayor Fuff, a Kiko who opened his arms to all the young Neopians! After all, they were the paying tourists of tomorrow!
This pair seemed more rambunctious than usual, however...
"And that's why you have to follow us to the cave where we saw those two Jetsams dragging that sack!" Nico finished.
Fran handed him the piece of stationary. "Here, read this!"
Fuff took a glance at it and his eyebrows immediately rose. "Why, that Techo in the letterhead is my Head of Tourism..." he trailed.
The mayor then sighed. "Alright," he said with a slight smile. "Lets go and see that cave."
Nico and Fran shared a high five.
The three arrived just in time to see Simon leaving.
The Techo saw his boss and immediately attempted to conceal his identity. He wasn't exactly sure how he'd pull it off... maybe he'd take off his hat, or pull it down more, to shield his eyes?
"Simon!" the mayor called out to him.
Curses, Simon thought. I've been spotted.
"Simon!" the two children shouted in unison. They smirked at him.
The Techo sighed. There was no use running now. He walked toward the three.
"Yes?" Simon inquired.
"Please step into this cave with us," the mayor said in a harsh tone.
Sighing, Simon followed them in.
Inside was... rock. There appeared to be nothing out of the ordinary... but that didn't deter Nico and Fran! They explored for a bit and found a loose rock in the cave lining. Upon pressing it, the back of the cave opened, revealing that the back was just a wall that concealed the more draconian things inside.
The two smiled at each other. This explained the rock-thing in the letter, they both thought to each other and themselves.
Inside was a network of Jetsams, with what appeared to be the King Jetsam sitting atop a giant throne at the back. Against the left-hand wall sat a myriad of decorating supplies, and against the right-hand wall was a giant prison.
Nico immediately recognized his sister.
Fuff immediately recognized the winner of last year's decorating contest.
The mayor pulled out a Wocky's Choice-brand Wocky-Tocky and called down to the main office. "I'm going to need every officer to come down to the small cave in section X-19."
In the end, Simon and the Jetsams were behind bars and the prisoners had been released. Most still waited around, however, to see the outcome -- undoubtedly, the perpetrators would receive whatever harsh penalties they most-certainly deserved.
"So," Fuff interrogated harshly, "what happened here?" He turned and faced Simon. "What's this about you wanting to win the Decorating Contest?"
"Well," the Techo started in defeat, "it wasn't me. It was the head Jetsam. I was just helping him. He had a plan to rid the undersea of all the previous winners or likely candidates for this year's Decorating Trophy, and I -- as the tour guide -- knew where these Neopians lived."
He turned and faced the youngsters. "So, what you saw in the bag before wasn't your sister, Pteri, but rather one of the impressive decorators down there."
Fuff sighed. "Oh, but why'd you risk your position in the tour industry to help them? Were they threatening you?"
A Jetsam took over this question. "Uh, no sir. We had a trade-thing goin' on, man. Ya see, there was a buncha tourists who... well, would enter this cave while 'sploring, and we had to imprison' 'em. We arranged a deal, right, with Simon, that he could use these 'disappearances' and blame them on the lake monster to, y'know, boost tourism."
Simon sighed. "It's true. I needed something to boost tourism and fast -- folks were coming on these tours less and less frequently -- so I decided to... turn the lake monster into an evil-doer and create this whole story with them." He pointed at the Jetsams, and then looked back down at Nico. "Your sister was one of the cave trespassers."
"But," Fran piped in, "why were the Jetsams wearing those strange-looking suits?"
"That's our team-clothing," the head Jetsam responded in a deep and melancholy tone. "Just like an Altador Cup team has a uniform, right?" He kind of laughed at the end.
Fuff frowned. "Well," he began, addressing the crowd, "it's time for you all to scatter while I try to find a punishment for these three." He then sent them all off.
"Well, that was certainly interesting," Callista said to the two young boys.
"Yes," Nico said. "You know, there's still another day left on this vacation-tour, and... well, I doubt we'll have a tour guide tomorrow. Can I spend the day with Fran?"
Callista smiled. "Sure."
The two lads beamed at each other.
Nico and Fran sat atop a low-hanging cliff on one side of the lake.
"I still wish we would have seen that monster," Nico said with a sigh.
That's when there was a large rumbling sound... and a giant serpent-like thing leapt gracefully from the water, shrouded in droplets of mist!
Nico and Fran were stupefied.
As soon as it had come, however, it was gone... and it seemed to have left behind some kind of bottle on the cliff.
Fran reached for the bottle and uncorked it. There was a message inside, which he read aloud:
"Dear Nico and Fran,
Thank you for clearing my name. I really am a good 'monster,' as you call me -- unlike what the rumors that nasty tour guide was spreading about me revealed. So, have a wonderful life, and may you be eternally blessed by the spirit of Kiko Lake!"
The two boys smiled at one another, and then gave each other a big hug.
This really was the greatest vacation either of them had ever had...