Of Squibble Berries and Olives: Part Four
"Hanso, what in Neopia is your problem?!" Brynn demanded to know once they were safely out of the dining hall. She had somehow managed to avoid being hit with anything and still looked as pretty as ever. "This is even more embarrassing that the coffee incident!"
"Sweetheart, I didn't start this," Hanso protested. Someone had managed to hit him in the upper chest with a salad, so both his suit and his hair now had bits of vegetables and cheese stuck to them, and he smelled of salad dressing. "Well, it was... kind of mine and Ileana's idea, really, but Eselde made the decision to start the food fight! You can't blame me for that!"
"You and Ileana? Honestly, Hanso...!"
She trailed off, and Hanso waited for her to continue, but she didn't. "I what?" he asked.
"I don't know!" Brynn shook her head. "I just... I can't believe you!"
"Are you jealous?" he teased.
Brynn growled and kicked him in the shin. "Don't you dare joke like that, Hanso! Ileana's just a child!"
"Ow! I know, I know, I was just being silly," Hanso said, hopping on one foot for a moment until the pain had subsided. "You're kind of touchy, aren't you?"
"...It's been a long day," Brynn said with a sigh. "You really are corrupting Neopia's youth, you know."
"Nooo, I think it's just Ixi nature to be mischievous," he argued. "Ileana gets it. She's a smart kid."
"I beg to differ, Ixi. You are a despicable influence on the youth of our planet."
Hanso and Brynn turned to see than Jazan had joined them. Hanso felt a dread unlike anything he'd felt in a long time; he hadn't spoken personally with Jazan in ages, and had hoped that Jazan was still involved in the food fight. Of course, he wasn't actually afraid of the Kyrii, but he wasn't really too keen on the possibility of getting blasted with powerful magic, and right now, Jazan didn't look to be pleased or amused in the least bit. He was also perfectly clean, meaning that no one had taken the opportunity to ruin his royal robes. What a shame!
"Honestly, Eselde had it coming to her!" Hanso exclaimed, throwing his arms up in a dramatic gesture and overwhelmed with frustration since it was clear that neither Brynn nor Jazan could see his point of view. Why couldn't they?! "How does she still work here? She publicly humiliated Brynn a few days ago and got away with it! Ileana told me that her mother keeps a record of everyone's likes and dislikes, and she just edited Eselde's entry and then made sure Eselde got some food that she hates. That's it! I didn't expect Eselde to react like that, but now everyone knows how unstable she is, right?"
"Hanso, that still doesn't make it right," Brynn argued. "Eselde is good at her job—"
"I don't care! I hate the way she treats you!"
"You don't need to interfere! I can take care of myself!"
"Oh, really? So why'd you insist that I stick with you while you were on duty today, huh?"
"She humiliated you in public?" Jazan asked Brynn.
"Yes, she found out I didn't like squibble berries, and made a big show of trying to make me cut some open," Brynn said. "It was so stupid, but... I refused, and she won't let me live it down."
"I, uh... wasn't intending to do anything," Hanso continued. "But Ileana helped me come up with the idea, and we thought it was too good to pass up. Nearly everyone hates Eselde, so we just wanted her to get a taste of her own medicine by making sure she was served something she didn't like. I never expected her to react like that! In fact, I'd like to go in there and see it to the end, if you don't mind!"
Hanso turned and began to step away, but Brynn grabbed his arm before he could go anywhere.
"No, you are not going in there," she snapped. "Haven't you had enough excitement for today?"
"I must hand it to you, thief, you know how to stage a memorable public humiliation," Jazan said. "I am sure that no one will soon forget this."
"Yeah, I hope so. I'd rather everyone talk about this instead of the squibble berry incident!" Hanso glanced at Brynn, who still had his arm in a tight grasp to keep him from getting away. It kind of reminded him of the days when she would arrest him... "Brynn didn't deserve that at all."
Jazan nodded, then added, "By the way, thief, I am aware that you recently stole a scroll from my library."
Hanso cringed. "Yeah, Queen Fyora—"
"All you had to do was ask me," he went on. "But you managed to break into a room that I thought was thief-proof, which was a most impressive feat. I don't like you, but you clearly have an exceptional talent for thievery. I just... I mean, Nabile wants me to tell you that we forgive you for that."
"Really?" Hanso first looked at Brynn, who was staring at Qasala's king in astonishment (and finally released her tight grip on Hanso's arm). He then turned to Jazan, half expecting him to say he was joking. However, Jazan nodded an affirmative.
"If I must be honest," Jazan added, "When I realized you were snooping around the library, I expected you to take the scroll sooner than you did."
"Brynn didn't want me to take it," Hanso explained. "I just waited out of respect for her!"
"And I remember you saying for a while that you weren't completely sure which scroll was the right one," Brynn muttered. "Once Hanso figured it out, nothing would stop him from stealing it. I couldn't do anything."
"The scroll is safer in Fyora's hands," Jazan continued. "I forgive you for taking it... but I am afraid I cannot forgive you for ruining the coffee."
"Ahahaha... well..." Hanso rubbed the back of his neck, his face a little flushed, "you know I'm allergic to angelpi, right?"
"I am aware of that."
"And you got an angelpuss because you knew that and wanted to make me miserable, right? So we're even as far as I'm concerned."
Brynn muttered something that Hanso couldn't understand, though he was certain it wasn't good.
"...I suppose that may be the case," Jazan admitted after a few moments. He looked at Brynn. "Does he pull practical jokes very often?"
"Not really," Brynn answered. "But when he does, they're memorable. He's a good guy, honestly! I just..." She turned to Hanso. "I just don't understand what goes through that brain of his sometimes."
"I'm far too complicated for anyone to understand, sweetie," he said proudly.
"If you'll excuse us, your majesty... Hanso, let's go get some sandwiches from the kitchen and eat in our quarters, okay?" Brynn suggested. "I'm hungry and tired, and you really need to change!"
"Just the two of us? Sure, that sounds good to me!"
"Hmm, I would like to ask Nabile the same thing," Jazan said. "I should find her... By the way, thief, I do have one thing I to ask of you."
"What's that? And could you please stop calling me 'thief' or 'Ixi'?" Hanso asked. "I mean, I might kinda sorta still be a thief, and I'm definitely an Ixi, but I do have a name, you know!"
"...Hanso," Jazan corrected himself. "I will call you that only if you put my proper title of 'King' before my name."
Hanso thought about that for a moment. "...Deal," he finally said. "King Jazan."
"That's much better. I ask that you refrain from pulling any more pranks on us—or, on me or my wife, in particular."
"To be honest, I've got nothing against Na-Queen Nabile. But, for you, promise to keep that stupid angelpuss from me, and we've got a deal," Hanso said.
Jazan... er, King Jazan nodded. "That is acceptable. I don't know whether you will be coming to Qasala soon, but if you do, we will keep the angelpuss away from where you stay."
"Great!" Hanso looked back at Brynn. "Sooo... sandwiches? Or, maybe you'd like to cook, perhaps?"
"You're kidding, right? I don't think anything I'd cook would actually be edible," Brynn said. "Come on, let's go get some sandwiches!" She grabbed Hanso's hand and nearly dragged him away, while Jazan wandered off to find Nabile.
The food fight had one immediate effect: the next day, Eselde was nowhere to be found. "She got suspended," Brynn said once her shift was over and she met Hanso in their usual place by the castle's entrance. "Not fired, mind you, just suspended. Her commanding officer told her she would be off duty for an entire month!"
"Well, I hope she learned a lesson," Hanso said.
"And, uh... Queen Fyora said she has a new mission for us and wants us to leave within the next couple of days."
"Ooh, excellent!" Hanso rubbed his hands together. "Where are we going?"
"Really? We were just there a couple of months ago..."
"Yes, well, the queen has done a lot of thinking, and decided that we should collect any remnants of the Clockwork Negg and pick up anything that may have been with Rutu, provided there's still anything there," Brynn explained. "The residents of Shenkuu finally gave her a proper burial, but some of her belongings might still be there, and may be useful to us. And the negg shouldn't be dangerous anymore, but just in case..."
"Gotcha. Well, this doesn't sound like too bad of a mission," Hanso said.
"She's asked Captain Tuan and his crew to take us there on their way home."
"The Cyodrake's Gaze? They're in town?"
"They were delivering supplies. So as soon as we're ready, we'll all leave."
Hanso had had bad run-ins with some members of the crew, but most were all right, and they'd apparently forgiven him for any... past mishaps. "Okay. That's not too bad. That's a pretty easy mission compared to most of the other stuff we've had to do!"
Brynn nodded. "It's tough to get around in Shenkuu, but overall, this should be a simple mission and probably won't take too much time. So, maybe..."
Hanso's ears perked up. "Yeeees?"
Brynn managed a shy, adorable smile. "Maybe, just maybe, we could get a little vacation of some sort in, too? I've never done much sightseeing around Shenkuu..."
"You, suggesting a vacation?" Hanso pretended to be shocked, though he was actually almost bouncy with joy. Of course, he had to keep his cool, lest Brynn came to the conclusion that he was crazier than he already was. "I thought I'd never see the day!"
"I guess I'm a little tired out from everything that's happened recently," Brynn admitted. "And I love Shenkuu. It's a beautiful place."
"Sure. So we get the negg and whatever else is there, and then have a nice, relaxing vacation in Shenkuu. Sounds great to me!"
Brynn nodded. "I don't think anything could possibly go wrong there!"
"...Don't say that. You'll jinx it."
"Oh, come on, don't tell me you believe in that stuff," Brynn said. "Let's just get packing so we can leave! I'm ready for a break!"