Voice of the Neopian Pound Circulation: 123,710,650 Issue: 248 | 14th day of Swimming, Y8
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The Health Food Crime


by zen_reina

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Also by mygoodguild

"Haai, would you stock the food already? Customers will be pouring in at any moment! After all, it is half price day," Quinton, the manager of the Health Food Store, said. "It's just a waste of money, though, selling all my things for so cheap! I wish I didn't have to do it," he muttered.

     "Of course, Uncle," Haai said, and smiled as she began to put vegetables up on the shelves for display. "What all are you selling today?" she inquired.

     "Organic things, expensive things. We want to make as much money as possible, and besides, I need to get rid of these organic vegetables. They're already rotting, and I want them off my hands now!" Quinton growled.

     "Yes, Uncle," Haai said. "But don't you think it's unfair to sell rotting foods? Neopians pay good Neopoints for this food and then they couldn't eat the things they bought. And they might even get sick!" she protested.

     "Haai, this is business. In business, you cheat and you scam until you're the best and the richest. And that's just how I'm doing things. The word fair isn't anywhere in the description of my store," Quinton argued.

     "Fine," Haai said, turning back to continue placing fruits and veggies on the shelves. "At least if they eat rotting food, it's healthy," she said to herself.

     "Haai," Quinton started. "Come here, to the back of the store. If you're going to work here, you can't keep thinking this way... Follow me." The Quiggle led his niece to the back of the store, where they sat on crates full of tomatoes. "Now listen to me. You can't tell a soul what I tell you, or it will ruin me for good!"

     "Tell me already," Haai said, quite impatient. She always loved being let in on a secret, especially one this important.

     "The food isn't really healthy at all," Quinton confessed. "It's much cheaper this way, and I can make an enormous profit selling this junk for as much as I can sell the real stuff!" Quinton winked. "But don't be alarmed, my girl. It's all in good business. Just don't tell anyone. Now go open the store and start making me some good money, or you're fired!"

     "But Uncle Quinton, I came here to help you, and this is my summer job. I didn't come to cheat others out of their Neopoints."

     "For the trillionth time, Haai, it's business! Now just go work in the darn shop, fill it up, restock it when necessary, and play a good salesperson so the people come again! Now, I'll be here in the back of the store, reading my comics," Quinton growled. "Run along now, or else!"

     Haai frowned, but she slowly went to the front of the shop. A couple of customers came in and purchased some of the organic vegetables. The vegetables that aren't really organic, and maybe not even vegetables at all. The unhealthy, rotting vegetables, thought Haai.

     Haai realized how very troubling this had become as the day went by. Numerous times, when she was stopped and asked, "What's the healthiest thing in the store?" she merely responded with a shrug, not knowing what to say. At the day's end Haai was getting pretty fed up with this lie looming over her. She knew quite well what she had to do though it may cost what little affection her uncle had for her.

     At around four o'clock in the afternoon a jittery blue Techo came in and immediately became lost amongst the "fruits" and "vegetables." If you can even call them that, Haai thought bitterly. Haai put on the sweetest voice her little yellow Quiggle body could sustain and said, "May I help you, miss?"

     The Techo spun around; obviously she didn't realize others were in the room. "Ah... hmm, well..." she muttered.

     "Is there anything you're searching for in particular?" Haai offered with a sincere smile. Silly little thing, she thought. But her insides turned hollow when she realized this poor woman may have been deceived many times and believed what she was eating was healthy.

     "I'm on a... err... diet," she said softly. "I was hoping to find something... healthy?"

     This was her chance. "Then you're in the wrong store."

     The Techo's eyes widened. "But surely... surely this is the Health Food Store!"

     "That's only what the sign says, miss. Let me explain--"

     But the Techo cut her off: "Don't 'miss' me! What is the meaning of this foolishness? Hmm?"

     Haai sighed. "Look," she tried again, "I'm Quinton's niece, he told me- the food isn't healthy. I don't like it just as much as you." Haai put her head down, ashamed.

     "You're not joking, are you?"

     "No, but I wish I was." It took Haai a moment to realize what she saw in front of her- a scaly claw.

     "I'd like to introduce myself," she said as Haai shook her claw gingerly, "I'm Nurri and I think it's very brave of you to tell me that. Probably had it bottled up, didn't you?"

     Haai nodded.

     "Well, you don't want only me knowing do you? Would it be alright with you if I... oh, leaked the word to a few friends?" Nurri, who came in with what seemed to be no confidence at all somehow changed, and Haai saw a woman of great character. Haai nodded again and before she knew it, Nurri had left, thoughts of diets, sapphire scales and all.

     ***

     At the Health Food Store the next morning, as she stocked up the food, Haai thought about the previous day. Mostly, she thought about Nurri. Last night had been quiet and lonesome, spent in her room, thinking. Today there was work to be done, and things to prove.

     Haai looked up to see Nurri banging on the door. Haai turned to make sure her uncle wasn't looking, and then she opened shop early to let Nurri in. The Techo rushed in and grabbed Haai's arm, pulling her to a corner of the store where they were sure Quinton was not.

     "I leaked your story," Nurri said. "It's tremendous news! Why, it's all over the Neopian Times! The article was written last night and printed up this morning. Haven't you heard the buzz?"

     "Um, no," Haai responded. "And I don't think Uncle Quinton has, either, or he'd be fuming and fussing at me for telling."

     "Well, this one is big." Nurri seemed excited. "My whole life has been rather... bland. This is the first exciting thing for me in a long while. No one ever tells me secrets, especially ones this important. I'm a star!" Nurri grinned.

     "Good for you," Haai said, only half meaning it. "So, do you happen to have a copy of the recent issue of the Neopian Times?"

     Nurri pulled it out, jabbing her finger at a certain article titled, in bold letters, Confession Made! Health Food Not Healthy! Then, in tiny, fine letters, was the story. Haai began reading it. It all started yesterday at the Health Food Store when a young Quiggle working there told blue Techo Nurri the news. The Quiggle, Haai, is Quinton's niece and she is there for the summer. He had told her this exciting piece of news confidentially, but Haai spilled the truth...

     Nurri pulled the paper away. "Isn't it exciting?!"

     "No." Haai felt sick to her stomach. It was only a matter of time before Quinton found the paper. He might kick her out of the store, or worse, kick her out of the family! "Nurri, please. What am I going to do now?"

     "Be famous," Nurri replied, as if thinking, This girl is insane! Nurri was not the same Nurri she had been before. This had changed her.

     "Fame... isn't everything," Haai said softly.

     "What are you talking about? Of course it is!" Nurri replied.

     "Quinton is going to kill me, Nurri! Really, kill me! Oh goodness, goodness, goodness... " she muttered, beginning to pace the room.

     Nurri looked at her oddly and hesitated before saying at last, "Aren't you happy that everyone knows? Isn't this what you wanted?"

     "Yes... I assume you're right. I just need to lay low. I'll just make sure Quinton doesn't see the paper this morning."

     Nurri smiled and assured her that everything would be fine and left as quickly as she'd came.

     Over the course of the day, Haai was on high alert as to what information Quinton did and didn't hear. Never did she let him near a customer or the outside for that matter. She just needed to keep this news away from Quinton, at least for a day, to get her head straight.

     Haai succeeded at this attempt at secrecy until around five o'clock when she was leaving the store. She had walked no more than a few feet outside the door when she felt someone behind her. Haai spun around to face Quinton, who was puffed up twice his normal size. There were hints of red in his usually green face. "What," he uttered coldly, "is the meaning of this?" He held up a copy of the day's Neopian Times. Actually, it wasn't so much a copy as it was a clipped out article. "Some hooligans tied this to a rock and threw it through the window. And it's a right good thing that they did. At least now I know my own flesh and blood betrayed me."

     Haai looked at the ground; shame filled her faster than a Poogle race. "I-I'm sorry, Uncle, but the truth had to be told."

     "Did it? Did it now?" he asked. The volume of his voice was attracting a crowd of onlookers.

     "Yes," Haai said louder. She loved her uncle but he needed to be set straight. "Those people weren't getting 'Health Food.' They were getting lies."

     Quinton must have been ten shades of red as he said harshly, "How dare you?"

     The crowd that was assembling now was not just eavesdropping for market gossip. Nay. They were piling behind the now empowered Haai and glaring fiercely at Quinton.

     He looked around frantically before shouting, "Oh, oh I see. This is how you play it? I feed Neopia for years and this is the thanks I get?"

     A path cleared between the people and from out the back of the crowd came a sharply dressed starry Chia. "Mr. Quinton, I presume? You're in a lot of trouble, sir. A little thing called fraud; you're going to have to come with me."

     "What? I most certainly will not!" Quinton protested. "You'll have to drag me away from my own shop before I'll move!"

     The Chia obliged.

     ***

     Haai giggled as she placed cauliflower on the shelves. "And think, Nurri," Haai said to her partner in the business, "this shop is ours now! It seems like just days ago that this place was a sham... But now, thanks to us, those health obsessed Neopians, or Skeiths on diets are getting the food they deserve!"

     "I feel kind of sorry for your uncle, though. He had worked on this business for years, right?" Nurri asked, handing fresh fruit to her new best friend.

     "Most of his life," Haai admitted with a sigh. "But he deserved it, you know. He was lying all these years, to hundreds and hundreds of Neopians! Even you, remember? And I set you straight."

     "Yeah..." Nurri sighed. "I can't believe the authorities agreed to let us run the shop together, though."

     "Us?" Haai asked, raising her eyebrows.

     "Well, you... But you asked me to assist you, of course, because you couldn't handle the shop alone. And it's ours now! I can't..." Nurri sighed. "It just boggles my mind. To think, I help run one of the most famous shops in Neopia!"

     "Look who's coming!" Haai screeched, dropping a tomato. "Could you get a rag and clean that mess up, Nurri? I'll deal with this," she muttered.

     "Oh my," Nurri hissed, running off to the back of the shop for a rag. "Good luck, Haai!"

     An angry green Quiggle rushed into the store. "This is my Health Food Store!" he cried, shaking his fist in fury. "You can't take it away from me like this!"

     "Uncle, I didn't," Haai protested. "And what brings you here, anyway? Weren't you forbidden?"

     "No!" Quinton cried. "Not forbidden from coming here, but prevented from owning the store..." Then he sighed. "I can't find a job, Haai. You're my niece, I only thought..."

     Nurri rushed over and, without a word, quickly wiped up the dropped tomato. She then ran to the back of the store to get out of the way, so she didn't have to say anything to this upset Quiggle or her friend.

     "You thought what?! You thought?! You're desperate and you want a job here, right?" Haai asked, angry. "Leave my store right now."

     Quinton glared. "You are my relative. You are the same as me, practically. And you're being cruel to me. All I did was try to make good business. And I slaved here in this very shop, earning Neopoints to support YOU, Haai! Maybe I did it by saying some stuff was healthy when it wasn't, but is that really the point?"

     Haai sighed. "Fine. You can have a summer job here." She smirked. "But I'm in charge. And you don't handle the food. You can work on financial things and stand behind the counter, dealing with customers. The food is my job, and Nurri's."

     Nurri came back in. She had apparently been eavesdropping. "Now here, sir, is your apron and nameplate for working in our shop." She smiled. "Welcome to the Health Food Store! And if we see you slacking off, you're fired!"

     Haai and Nurri winked at each other and then set a huffing but job-needy Quinton to work on his first task. And this is how the health food crime was set right...

The End!

 
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