Chapter 137:

Shopping Center 2

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

Fiona and Odell quickly ran into the crazy jungle jim-like market in the direction of the food court. A map at the entrance had given them the way, and they slowed to a walk while they talked casually. The duo assumed that Hal was silently following behind them.

“I wonder what kind of food they have here!” Odell gleefully said.

“I’m sure it must be a mix of all cuisines, given the large mix of species within this city,” Fiona pondered.

“As long as they have some meat, I’ll be happy!” Odell added.

“What do you suppose we should do after?” Fiona asked as she curiously eyed some of the various shops.

“As much as I want to explore some of the shops, we probably should get back to searching the city,” Odell said with a grimaced expression. In his mind, the words ‘am I becoming like my father’ echoed as he said something mildly responsible.

Fiona sighed. She knew Odell was right but wanted to explore the city more before diving into the investigation. Though she ought to have been the one most determined to track down her father’s killer, the blue princess felt largely unattached to the whole situation. The realization dawned on her for a second, but she quickly pushed it down.

“You’d probably like that too, right Hal—” Odell turned around while speaking to Hal, but the green-haired Netzian was nowhere to be seen. The Hobusian prince froze, and Fiona turned back as well.

They immediately began to look in every direction around the busy shopping complex frantically.

“Hal!” Fiona called out, but she only grabbed the attention of the passing shoppers.

“This is bad! He must have run off somewhere without us!” Odell said after a moment.

“And he’s the one who told us not to run off; how rude!” Fiona griped as she crossed her arms.

“What are we going to do! Can we really tell the others we lost him!” Odell said with a worried look.

“Maybe if we find a Netzian that looks just like him, they will never notice!” Fiona suggested. Her younger brother Asha was a collector of rare animals, and she had done just as suggested when she “accidentally” let one loose. The Aqueenian princess and Odell stared at each other blankly as they contemplated how stupid of an idea that was. Fiona blushed and looked down; she hadn’t put much thought into her word before speaking.

“We’ll pretend that was never suggested,” Odell said after a moment. The blue princess nodded in agreement.

The prince took a deep breath.

“We will just have to trust Hal; he is a soldier, right?” Fiona offered. Odell contemplated for a moment.

“You’re right, but we should still try to find him.”

Fiona pointed in the direction of the food hall.

“Let’s start our search that way,” she said as her stomach grumbled.

Odell nodded in agreement.

Both figured it was reasonable to start the search in the food hall. Hal had known they were going that way, and they thought they might meet up with him there. Unfortunately, even after the duo had waited in a line, bought food, sat at a table, and eaten, the Netzian soldier was nowhere to be seen.

Once they had finished, they began to search the whole shopping center for the missing teammate.

“Where could he have gone!” Fiona wondered aloud as she tried to look for a green head in the crowd.

“When we find that boy, we’ll have a stern talking with him,” Odell said. He shivered at another realization he sounded like his father.

After roaming for a while, they finally saw Hal with a pretty Aqueenian girl walking beside him.

Odell and Fiona quickly found a corner to hide behind and peered out. Odell’s short head was below Fiona’s taller, and neither cared about the odd looks the other customers gave while they passed by.

“I can’t believe it; we take our eyes off him for one minute!” Fiona said.

“I suppose he is around that age, but he sure has mixed priorities for someone who told us to stay focused,” Odell added.

“Should we follow after?” the princess suggested.

“Yes, but we need to make sure we aren’t noticed,” the prince added.

The duo began to carefully trail after Hal and the girl. Whenever any sort of cover would be close, they would hide behind it. Neither of the royal duo noticed a pair of strangers who stood on the roof of a shop and stared down at them.

The first of the pair was a Netzian with clawed fingertips, slit blue eyes, and a long, yellow scaly tail. She had short yellow hair cut down to her neck and wore a black suit. Her partner was a short Hobusian with a crown that looked like it would be better suited on a triceratops. He wore equally black clothes as the Netzian.

“Aren’t they supposed to be together?” the Hobusian asked.

“It seemed they are attempting to spy on their friend,” The Netzian said with a chuckle.

“This is no laughing matter, Liv,” the Hobusian grunted.

“We went through many years of specialized training to spy on some silly kids… It’s a little ridiculous, Felix,” the Netzian rebutted. “I’m not getting any younger, you know,” she added.

“Speak for yourself; I’m still young,” Felix replied. His tone remained serious.

“You’re a year older than me….” Liv replied in a distant tone.

“They’re leaving the area; we ought to get another vantage point.”

The Netzian sighed. She had been partnered with Felix for about two years, and he never seemed to keep casual banter going for too long.

Both spies suddenly looked like black blurs as they began to leap across building tops.