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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 5th day of Running, Yr 23
The Neopian Times Week 118 > Short Stories > The True Champion

The True Champion

by _cherryblossom_40

In a rush of speed, _Cloud_neoneo the pretty cloud Acara scribbled the dates of when the Lupe arrived on the Neopets scene for her Neoschool Early History report that was to be handed in that sunny Monday morning.

     Cloud had earnestly wanted to complete it the night before, but had fallen asleep at her funky desk with her head in her paws, too tired to continue. Now, she was deeply regretting this decision, and was sure she wouldn't receive the A she had been striving for.

     "And… so… the Lupe… was… created. There!" She let out her breath and sighed.

     Suddenly, her owner, kardomania, called cheerily up the stairs, "Come on, Cloud, school starts in ten minutes! Hurry up!"

     Cloud grabbed her brand-new Angelpuss backpack, slid her report into a blue folder and stuffed the whole thing in her bag. Neoschool had only opened a week ago, but Cloud had wanted to make a good impression upon her teachers, who ever they may be.

     Besides, if she didn't hand in this report, she wouldn't be allowed to go to the special race that was being held in Faerieland. This was the first time it had ever happened, so for Cloud, it was very exciting. Instead of only Poogles, any pet could race if they wanted to, and the winner received a big golden "Fastest" trophy. Cloud wanted that trophy for her cabinet with a deep passion.

     Cloud ran down the stairs to the kitchen, said a quick, "Morning" to her taken-aback-looking owner, grabbed a Blueberry Roll off the red and white checked breakfast table, and shot out the front door.

     Cloud ran fast as she could towards the Neoschool. Since she lived in Neopia, so Neoschool wasn't that far away, just a few streets. She flew past pets, shops, and winding roads, desperate to reach the school on time. Cloud was sliding down the halls fast, when suddenly, out of the blue…

     She tripped over.

     Her heart notebook papers whirled in every direction. Cloud reached out and tried to grab as many as she could without anybody noticing, but no such luck. Celeste appeared, and glanced at Cloud, no expressions whatsoever on her face.

     Cloud ducked her head. This was the last place she would ever like to be in! But Celeste merely grabbed the papers and handed them to Cloud silently.

     When all the papers had been collected, she said, "There you go." She then turned down the hall and kept walking. The whole operation had been quick, clean, and painless. Cloud wiped her forehead and took a deep breath before leaping down the halls, determined to get there on time. With three minutes to the bell, Cloud skidded into her first class and slammed the folder onto her teacher's desk.

     Ms. Green, a brown Wocky, smiled up at her and gently patted the folder. "Thank you, and I suppose that you're Miss Coud?"

     "Cloud," Cloud informed her.

     "Ahh, yes, Miss Cloud. Sorry about that." She picked up the folder and, tipping it upside down, gently took out the report.

     Only problem was, there was no report in it.

     Cloud gasped, and covered her mouth with her paw. Where was her report that she had worked so very hard on?

     "Miss Cloud, you're report is not here," replied Ms. Green, looking confused. "You understood the assignment, didn't you? Or did you simply decide that you would not do it?" Her eyes narrowed closer and closer as each second passed. Cloud had no idea what to say. Where was it, anyway?

     Suddenly, she knew. Celeste helped me pick up my papers, she thought, anger flaring inside her. But what if she had decided to keep one of them?

     "Uh… Ms. Green, I-I believe there has been a mistake," Cloud managed, looking at the floor.

     Ms. Green sighed, relieved that Cloud had admitted that there was a mistake.

     Cloud swallowed. "Well, you see, uh… do you mind if I pick it up from where I dropped it? I won't take long, I promise."

     Ms. Green nodded, and she smiled kindly.

     "Yes… but if you don't bring it back within fifteen minutes, I'm afraid that I shall be forced to wipe away all your credit, so be quick."

     Cloud smiled gratefully. "Don't worry, Miss, I won't let you down." And with that, she spun on her heel and left the classroom with a smile. There was still hope.

***

Cloud knocked politely on the potion classroom's door. Mr. Leer, a strange green Zafara opened it, and with a faint hiss said, "What is it? If you have no good reason, you can very well get out."

     Ignoring Mr. Leer's rudeness, Cloud said in her most polite voice, "May I please see Celeste the Fire Uni?"

     Mr. Leer turned around and yelled, still with the faint hiss, "Celeste, get yourself over here, and bring the antidote, you'll need it." With that, he walked over to his large iron desk and surveyed the class through his slit yellow eyes that reminded Cloud of something…

     Cloud gasped. In front of her was standing a Fire Uni with a horrible Cobrall head that was hissing and spitting negg juice occasionally at the class. The black Uni hoof raised itself, a purply-red potion in a glass bottle held in it. The hoof raised allowing the potion to fall on the Cobrall, in which the Cobrall started making a screeching noise and shrunk and morphed endlessly. Just when Cloud believed the gruesome thing would never stop, Celeste's head appeared and said, "Yes? What's wrong?"

     Cloud crossed her arms. "Where's my report? The last time I saw it was when you had it and that was it. Where is it?"

     Celeste's hoof flew to her mouth and she looked very, very sorry. She glanced back at her classmates, and checking no one was watching, hissed in the same faintness that Mr. Leer had.

     "Out, we need to talk, just get out of here."

     Celeste pushed Cloud out the door and down the hallway to the locker room. She turned the combination lock, two, three, four times and it eventually opened. Celeste pulled out some crumpled Red Notebook papers, and then stuffed a runaway dubloon into her Punch Bag Sid backpack. Tears poured down her Fire face as she returned the lost History report into Cloud's open paws.

     "I'm so sorry," choked Celeste, wiping the tears from her face. "I didn't mean…"

     Cloud felt devastated. What was wrong with Celeste?

     "I-I-I can explain," she gulped, and sat down on a nearby bench. "You see, my owner… my owner has had…" Here she broke off, looking unhappy beyond imagination. Seeing the confused look on Cloud's face, she continued, breaking off every now and again to gasp for breath…

     "My-my owner, you see, she… she caught a bad virus. The Healing Faerie had never seen it so she couldn't cast a spell to heal it. The Rainbow fountain Faerie let us try at lea-least four times… the… the hospital told us they had no medicine for it. It was… terrible."

     Cloud leaned over and hugged Celeste. Indeed, the whole crisis sounded awful. Cloud wondered how Celeste had managed to stay together.

     "She… she is better now," Celeste said, smiling weakly. "She said… she said she would like to see me again… I suggested,"-she coughed-"I suggested she come see me run! She said yes… but she said she would hope to…" Celeste broke off, looking deeply depressed, but finished, "To see me win."

     She sobbed into Cloud's back, and Cloud understood. To Celeste, Cloud was her biggest rival, and to get Cloud out of the way would be the best thing that could possibly happen to help her owner see her win.

     "I know now it was very, very wrong," said Celeste sorrowfully. She had stopped crying, and looked straight in Cloud's eyes. "I should have been grateful to have such a good opponent. Will you forgive me?"

     Cloud nodded, and hugged Celeste tightly again. "I understand. But don't worry, I'm sure you'll win anyway."

     "Look at the time," said Celeste softly. She stood up and, brushing herself off, jogged down the hall. "Mr. Leer said be quick! See you, and sorry again!"

     Suddenly remembering her time limit, Cloud whipped the report from the ground to her paws and with breakneck speed sped towards her classroom. As soon as she got through the door, Ms. Green giggled.

     "Back in time, I see?" she said, taking the report from Cloud's shaking paws. Cloud motioned towards a spare desk and plopped down in it, and began taking notes on the lecture that Ms. Green had been giving before she came in about the Hidden Tower's history and the rise and fall of the price of the stone paintbrush.

     Cloud was relieved that Celeste and her hadn't been heard. That would be the embarrassment of the century! Content, she continued taking notes again and thought occasionally about what had happened.

     But, unknown to either Celeste or Cloud, a pair of ears had heard their dismaying conversation, a pair of eyes had witnessed the situation, and somebody was ready to go undercover to find out more…

***

Finally, the day of the big race arrived. Pet's were betting on who would win in class by passing notes in their classes, the cafeteria had been decorated with a racing theme with ribbons. Running shoes and the ever popular NS updates spread like wildfire across the frantic school, delivered by a couple of Gelerts.

     Meanwhile, Cloud was reading out a Lost Desert curse to herself in a spare classroom, meant for Mr. Lupid when his old one got too paint-covered to be used ever again. It was a curse to turn whoever you wanted's ankle an angry red. This particular curse was extremely rare, but Cloud had managed to grab one to help Celeste.

     As she spoke in her loud, maddened voice, her own ankle swelled and burned, as it turned a deep, dark red. Cloud winced.

     Losing the championship was quite painful, as was he ankle, but her friendship with Celeste and Celeste's happiness was well worth it…

     Suddenly, the classroom door swung wide open and in came Mr. Leer. As soon as he saw Cloud, he shouted, "Why are you in here? Get out, OUT! And how come you have that curse sheet and you're ankle is a bright red? Why?"

     Cloud decided to lie. It was a bad thing to do but again, it was worth it.

     "Mr. Leer," she said in a painful tone, "I accidently spilt some 'blistening potion' on my ankle and well…" She smiled weakly, hoping she was convincing enough to fool the cunning teacher of potions.

     "Your championship is ruined," Mr. Leer stared at her, evidently suspicious.

     "Well, that, too. I guess I'll have to wait until the next one pops up. Oh, well. No big thing."

     Mr. Leer glared at her for a moment. "Fine. Whatever. Hold my arm and I'll get you to the nurses office… hurry up then!"

     Cloud gripped his arm, and with pretend agony limped out of the room. "Thank you, sir," she said, keeping her blue eyes focused straight in front of her. "I'll be okay."

     Little did she know, a short while after, someone went back to the classroom and read the curse page with sheer delight… he had them now.

***

"And the winner is… CELESTE the fire Uni! Well, what a surprise! Congratulations Celeste! Second was Ranker5, the male strawberry Poogle, and JackieJane, the jelly Shoyru! Now, after that…"

     Cloud sunk deeper into her huge pillow in the sickroom. She was glad that she had let Celeste win -- now both her and her owner would be feeling over Kreludor right now. She smiled sleepily, and then continued listening to the faint Meridell drawl of the Skeith commentator through the magical loudspeaker that allowed the whole world of Neopia to listen to the results, no matter where you were.

     "And, in last place was-- _Cloud_neoneo!"

     Cloud sat up straight. That was Mr. Leer's voice! She started to panic. What if he had found out? What if Celeste was disqualified? She pulled the sheets up to her quivering chin. Oh, no!

     Mr. Leer continued, his voice softer than usual, more gentle, more like a normal Neopet. "_Cloud_neoneo, or Cloud, as most of you call her, risked the chance of the lifetime to become champion, all because of her friend. As you all know, she didn't race. But it's for a completely different reason."

     Here Cloud listened carefully. Where was Mr. Leer heading, anyway?

     "Technically she came last for not running. But in not running, in a way, she came first."

     Cloud smiled, she couldn't help it. She felt like the happiness was about to burst from her chest.

     The yellow Grarrl in the bed next to her with Ugga Ugga said, "Uggaya, uggah ugg." And the invisible pet down the end said, "I'm a Jubjub, don't worry -- congratulations."

     Soon the whole sickbay was chorusing with congratulations. In a way, they knew -- in a way, they didn't. Then the cloud Acara turned back to the noise of the loudspeaker that was a several miles away.

     "I would like to thank her for being a true friend. With a heart like that, I am sure she is the real champion."

***

It was the day back at school since the big race. Due to Cloud's kindness, the day had been declared "National Kindness Day" and everyone had a holiday, plus a ton of new cloud Acara plushies had been put in the Toy Shop in honour of Cloud.

     She was happy, Mr. Leer was happier than usual, which was really saying something, and probably the happiest was Celeste.

     "I'd like to thank you," she said after school as the pair were huddled under the Money Tree with two Ice-Creamy Jelly smoothies, "for everything you've done." Celeste leaned over and gave the small Acara a quick squeeze.

     Cloud smiled. "No worries," she laughed. "I was glad to be of service."

     The two friends giggled. Then, Celeste pulled out a colourfully wrapped package and handed it to Cloud.

     "This is for you," she said, "as a thank you. My owner and I are leaving here after today -- we're going to explore the many worlds of Neopia, and we're not coming back. Thanks for being such a great friend; I'll never forget you."

     Celeste hugged Cloud again, and then got up and ran out of the shade of the Money Tree and disappeared down the street. "Bye!"

     Curious, Cloud ripped off the Tonu-covered paper. She pulled off the white box lid… and found an adorable Slorg that practically jumped out of the box and slid, fast as a well-shot Forest Arrow, across the floor towards the door.

     "Hey, little fellow!" called Cloud, and ran after him laughing. And when she looked into his large round eyes there was a certain sparkle about them that reminded her of her dearest friend who had taught her so much about true friendship.

The End

Authors note: I hope you like my story! And if you didn't, don't bother sending me a Neomail to complain -- it's just wasting both your and my time. If you liked it, tell me! I'd be happy to listen. Special thanks to the Neopian Times Writers forum. This article was rewritten on the 8th of November. See you!

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