Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 124,888,518 Issue: 252 | 11th day of Hiding, Y8
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Air Heart

by micrody


"Welcome to the fifth annual Regional Faerie Cloud Races Tournament!" the lively Acara said into his microphone, his voice echoing throughout the stadium via dozens of megaphones blaring. "This is Masa Kran reporting for commentators' duty."

     She leaned back, comfortably watching Masa through the magically-enchanted, long-distance window, a pane of glass that had been hung up on the wall before her.

     "And this is Anali Vadner commentating beside him," a red Aisha said into her respective microphone as she stared intently down onto the field of clouds and the raging spectators.

     "It's funny to see you here," another voice said and caused her to turn away from the long-distance window; an Earth Faerie had just walked into the racer's lounge.

     "Why is it funny that I'm here?" she asked hastily, crossing her arms.

     "Well, you're an Air Faerie," the Earth Faerie responded, "and I don't see many Air Faeries with their heads out of the clouds." She held out her hand. "I'm Rosanna Briar; are you a racer, too, or just a fan?"

     The Air Faerie smiled and shook Rosanna's hand. "I'm Euras Zephyr, and, yes, I am a racer." She glanced back at the long-distance window, where she caught a glimpse of the massive stadium and the thousands of cheering fans in the stands.

     "Well, then," Rosanna answered with a grin, "let's make this a fair game today, alright?"

     "Definitely," Euras answered with a sly smile.

     "... Now as you all know," Masa was saying as they both turned back to watch the enchanted long-distance window, "Faerie Cloud Racing has become one of the most popular sports in all of Neopia, though nonetheless, it is customary to explain the rules of the game before the match begins."

     "And what exactly are those rules, Masa?" Analia said beside him.

     "Why, thank you for asking!" Masa answered enthusiastically. "The game is played in the air--the racers steer their vehicles while dodging the cloud-streams that they produce! The last one flying is the winner of the match! Today's tournament features sixteen racers with eight pairings in the preliminary rounds, four pairings in the quarter finals, two pairings in the semi finals, and one final pairing in the final round that will decide who will go on to represent Faerieland in the Neopia National Tournament later this year!"

     "Alright, Masa," Analia said with excitement, "let's talk about the cloud-streams for a while. What exactly are they?"

     "The cloud-streams are produced by the fliers using a powerful combustion engine located within the flier itself," Masa answered.

     "That must be pretty harmful for the environment," Anali replied with shock, "What is being done about that?"

     "Two words, Anali: faerie magic." Anali gasped in wonder as Masa continued. "The combustion engines are fueled not by coal or wood--but by faerie magic! The faerie magic is unlimited and not harmful to the environment at all, but maybe more importantly, it doesn't explode as dangerously as normal fuels do!"

     "Wow, Masa, that is definitely something," Analia replied.

     There was deafening cheering about the whole stadium as Rosanna and Euras leaned closer to the magical long-distance window to watch the ensuing action as Masa spoke up once more over the jeering crowds.

     "Entering the stadium now," Masa said into his microphone, "is 'Flash Fire' Therma, the current world champion of Cloud Racing in Neopia!" The crowds cheered more and more as the rough Fire Faerie walked onto the field of clouds and waved her one hand to the fans as she held onto her helmet in the other.

     "Flying against Therma today is 'Sky Chaser' Matt Brian!" The crowds cheered even more furiously as the red Techo entered the field. "As you know," Masa continued, "Matt was the world champion until he lost the title to Therma in an unprecedented match! This will be one heated match, folks! These two haven't got at each other since the finals!"

     "Who do you think will win?" Euras asked Rosanna.

     "The match or the tournament?" Rosanna asked without taking her eyes from the window.

     "The tournament," Euras said as they watched the two racers get into their fliers.

     "Therma's really good," Rosanna answered, "though Matt's been training all year and hasn't looked any better!" She paused and sighed. "I put my coins on Matt, but what about you? Who do you think is going to win the tournament today?"

     Euras smiled and grinned. "Me," she said--there was a loud horn and they both faced the long-distance window as the two racers took off and began flying against one another. Therma's cloud-stream was bright and fiery. Matt's was a stream of thick, red clouds. The two racers flew around one another, soaring into the sky and then diving rapidly to dodge their cloud-streams, until, at last, Matt crashed into Therma's cloud-stream and the victory was called. Amid cheering crowds, Therma bowed to her fans and left the field.

     "Whoa," Rosanna said, letting out a breath of astonishment. "I can't believe it..."

     "I believe it," Euras replied without much surprise in her voice. "His flying was entirely off today--first, he had a bit of a slow reaction time the whole time; then, his steering was a bit jerky; and, finally, he seemed too caught up in his own self-confidence to realize that Therma was too much of a match for him this year."

     "Wow," Rosanna said in wonder as she stared at Euras, "you really do know this game, don't you?"

     Euras snorted. "People see that I'm an Air Faerie and they think, 'Oh, she must be in it for the beauty product endorsements,' but that isn't why I fly. I fly because it is my passion, my fuel--my greatest dream is to be the world champion! And I will be soon enough."

     Rosanna had no time to reply as a stressed-looking Usul ran into the room panting and gasped, "Rosanna Briar--it's your turn to race!" The Usul leaned against the wall to catch her breath as the earth stood up from her seat.

     "Wish me luck," she said and shook Euras' hand once more.

     "Definitely," Euras said with a grin. "You'll need it if you plan on getting past me today."

     "We'll see," Rosanna said and quickly followed the Usul out of the room.

     * * *

     "Let the match begin!" Masa yelled into his microphone a moment later as Rosanna and her opponent--a blue Bruce with a measly flier--left the ground. The two racers shot forwards, though quickly turned away from hitting each other head on. The crowd went wild in amazement of their skill--nothing could be more exciting than a near-hit! Rosanna spun around her flier, its leafy, green cloud-stream turning with her, and shot back towards her foe. The wind blew forcefully--the updraft caught beneath Rosanna's flier and she was spun sideways. The crowd roared with both horror and excitement as the Earth Faerie skillfully balanced her flier and shot once more towards her opponent.

     The leafy, green cloud-stream wrapped around the blue cloud-stream of the second racer as Rosanna laced her flier between the myriad of cloud-streams that had come to litter the field. The crowd became silent as the tension grew in the stands. Rosanna jerked her steering wheel, spinning off to the side in a downward spiral--the crowd gasped in shock. The Bruce stared in wonder at the tumbling flier--there was a loud crash as he flew into the field wall and Rosanna pulled out of her feigned down-spin.

     "Maybe she's better than I thought," Euras said through gritted teeth as she watched Rosanna proudly leave the field, her opponent walking away in abashed shame. The door burst open another time and she caught a glimpse of the hurried Usul run into the room. "I know," she said before the Usul could speak, "it's my turn to race."

     Hardly minutes later, Euras stood just before the exit of the hallway to the cloud field where she would be racing. She waited in anticipation for Masa's cue. In seconds, Masa's echoing voice filled her ears. "And here's Euras 'Air Heart' Zephyr, a newcomer to the sport whose repertoire as an expert racer is quickly growing. But will she make it today?"

     Euras ignored Masa and Anali's commentary as she walked into the light of the field and was assaulted by the crowds rampant cheering. She ignored her fans as well, however, keeping her mind focused only on the task ahead of her: winning.

     She walked up to her flier, running her delicate hand across its metallic surface. It glistened in the light, its pale-purple and pastel-green coloring and elegant wings standing apart from all of the other racers' fliers. This was her pride and her joy. She had named her Flutter and since they had begun racing together, she had never lost a match.

     She jumped into Flutter and grasped the steering wheel tightly as she flipped the switch that turned on the engine. After a moment, a green light flashed on Flutter's dashboard, signaling that she was ready to race. After another moment, the referee nodded to both her and her opponent--a smug, rich little Kacheek in a golden-plated flier--that it was almost ready to take off and begin the race.

     The horn sounded.

     Flutter jumped into the air, catching the wind instantly and riding it upwards. The glimmering, sparkling, purple-and-green cloud-stream that fell behind her excited the crowd, calling forth cheers of wonder and amazement. The sun scintillated off of Flutter's wings, more exclamations of beauty surging through the spectators' stands.

     A flash of gold whizzed past her, the wind shaking Flutter as it pushed into her. Euras grinned. The race had finally begun. She tilted the steering wheel forward, urging Flutter to level out and begin descending. The wind rushed into her hair, brushing past her helmet and joining with the cloud-stream behind her. She turned Flutter to the right, turning her upwards and just barely maneuvering around the golden cloud-stream that had just appeared in front of her. She laughed hysterically, crying out into the wind in her sheer excitement. Things had truly begun now.

     Euras directed Flutter higher into the sky once more. Her only plan to negate the sheer speed of her opponent was to outsmart him. The only way to outsmart someone so rich was to make them want something that they couldn't have. The golden flier zoomed up in front of her and arched above her, spiraling downwards behind her. She smiled, knowing exactly what she had to do now. His trick had been quick--but she was quicker, nimbly lacing around the cloud-stream and flying up alongside her foe.

     The sunlight glinted off of her opponent's flier as he caught her sight and begin grinning. In only a second, he would jerk aside and send her flailing to her defeat. Euras watched his eyes, sensing his anticipation. He turned towards her--she dove downwards, cringing as she heard the metal-tearing sound of her opponent crashing into her cloud-stream.

     With a renewed sense of calm and confidence, Euras slowly let Flutter glide back to her starting place, where she calmly stepped out of the vehicle. The crowds cheered for her, their noise almost dizzying. She ran her hand across Flutter once more. "Thank you," she whispered, pleased ever more with her obedient companion.

     "I'll be in the racers' lounge," Euras said to the still-stressed Usul as she walked back into the structure beneath the stands. "Get me when it's my turn to race again."

     * * *

     "After fourteen ruthless matches," Masa's voice echoed through the stadium, "it has finally come to this: the finals! The winner of this match will go on to represent Faerieland in the Neopia National Tournament later this year! This will be a match to remember."

     "And what an incredible match it will be, Masa," Anali responded. "These two racers are nothing to be toyed around with. It was a given that 'Flash Fire' Therma would reach the finals after her almost instantaneous victory over Matt Brian, though who would have ever thought that newcomer Euras 'Air Heart' would have made it this far in such a prestigious tournament as this!"

     "Yes, Anali, that is right--no one would have guessed how just skilled 'Air Heart' truly is. But now, though," the crowds became silent in anticipation, "let the match begin!" The familiar loud horn echoed through the stadium and the final match had begun.

     Flutter lifted from the ground, Euras at the wheel. The crowds roared in excitement. The wind blew with an air of anticipation. Euras flew forward, catching a glimpse of Therma out of the corner of her eye. She would not be intimidated. She would have this match for herself.

     She turned Flutter to the right and began lifting off of the ground. Feigning her first strategy of victory would trick Therma. Trickery wasn't cheating--feigned maneuvers only became more popular as the racers became more skillful. Therma shot upwards, ready to strike as Euras quickly turned Flutter to the left--Therma jerked her wheel, spinning aside just inches before hitting the cloud-stream that Euras had set up for her.

     Euras instantly initiated a dive, pummeling Flutter downwards towards the clouds beneath her. Feigning her second strategy could work. But then again, Therma may have already caught on to her strategy. Above her, Therma flew in smooth circles, creating a cage of fiery-red cloud-stream around them. The battle was just beginning.

     Euras spun Flutter around--speeding forward. The raging crowds became silent. Time seemed to move in slow motion. Therma yelled in anger--Euras had broken through the cage before it had been completed. Therma changed the direction of her flier and in seconds, she, too, escaped the cloud-stream cage and flew higher into the sky after Euras.

     The pale-purple and pastel-green flier tilted upwards and curved over itself, a giant loop written into the sky. Euras smiled. Artistry was her final strategy. She spun Flutter around and began entwining her cloud-stream around the first loop until it was twisted three times. She broke away, writing into the sky the letters A-I-R H-E-A-R-T.

     The crowd gasped in amazement at the spectacle. Therma growled in anguish as she wove her flier through her opponent's fanciness as she tried to pursue her foe. Euras spun around once more and sped forward, turning Flutter until she was flying slightly behind Therma. If Therma saw her, it could all end quickly. Very quickly.

     The sunlight broke through the clouds--the light reflected off of Flutter and towards Therma and she turned her head to see the oncoming racer. She screamed in frustration and confidence as she spun her vehicle around and shot towards Euras. Flutter jerked upwards--the two racers collided, a massive explosion of sparkling, green-and-purple, fiery clouds rippling across the stadium, clearing the sky of the cloud-like artwork.

     All was deathly silent as the smoke cloud began to be blown away by the wind. There were gasps--there were shouts of joy and amazement. Far below the stands, Euras was crawling out of Flutter with barely a scratch to show her having been in the accident. Therma was lying a few feet from her own racer with a few more scratches than Euras.

     The Air Faerie silently walked up to Therma, the crowd watching in tense wonder. Euras bent down and reached out her hand. "Are you alright?"

     Therma forced a small smile and grabbed Euras hand for assistance as she stood up. "I'm alright." She paused, sneering. "Nice little trick up there."

     "I do agree," Euras said with a cocked grin. "Shall we find out who won?"

     "Absolutely," Therma said with dry anger.

     "The referee has concluded," Masa said into his microphone, his voice echoing throughout the stadium, "after watching the instant replay with astute eyes," the stadium became soundless in expectation, "that Euras is the winner!"

     The crowds erupted with wild cheering, flowers and confetti being tossed onto the cloud field. Euras turned around, waving ferociously to the crowds one last time. She stopped. Therma was walking away. The world suddenly seemed a little bit darker.

     "Wait," she called out and ran up to Therma. Therma stopped walking away and looked at Euras with heartless eyes. "I look forward to this match next year."

     Therma snorted and started walking away again, calling back over her shoulder, "Then you better start training now or else you'll lose quicker than I did."

     Euras smiled as her rival walked away. They would race again someday.

The End

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