My Year in Shenkuu: Part Two
Also by heeken
In the blink of an eye, almost half a year had passed, but Tanny’s life had not been made any easier. In fact, due to Tanny’s repeated attempts to apologise (albeit half-heartedly) to Aceliane, the little Queen Buzz had ordered her Swarm to attack the outsider even harder.
It was no surprise that Tanny was soon down to her last few Neopoints.
Of course, she could always ask to borrow some from her foster siblings. An even more permanent solution could be selling her Shenkese home and moving back to Maraqua, but Tanny was much too patriotic to do that. And plus, she never accepted defeat easily. If she had to squash the Queen Buzz in order to have a more normal life, then so be it.
Tanny did not have any friends, either. The Shenkese Neoschool was rather new, and therefore it was not very populated. All the currently enrolled Neopets belonged in one of the three groups: Aceliane’s friends, Aceliane’s ‘bodyguards’, or those who feared Aceliane’s ‘bodyguards’. Whichever category they fitted in, it was not the smartest idea to start getting friendly with this rebel.
The only thing that kept Tanny’s mind off things was homework. Of course, pleasant conversations (which were actually just her finding a victim and ranting until they fell asleep) did wonders as well, but few of them dared to visit her for the above reason. So, within no time, the Pteri’s grades skyrocketed and she began topping the grade.
Queen Buzz was not exactly happy about that.
Then, as if things were not bad enough, came the half yearly exams. It was not too bad, actually – just the simple few subjects of maths, language, history, science, spelling, potions and physical education – but quite obviously the other students did not think so. And what was even worse was that Tanny came first overall in the grade and received a one-thousand Neopoint reward.
Coming first in the grade was actually an achievement! The only problem was that Aceliane did not accept defeat easily, either. And of course, it was not as if she was going to let Tanny walk out the school peacefully with her cheque.
Unfortunately for Tanny, her dreams of buying replacements of everything she had lost were shattered.
It was another normal school day. Tanny was pushed into the lockers three times, tripped over four times, hit by water bombs twice, and sneered at who-knows-how-many times.
What was not quite so normal was having the whole grade crowd around the grade noticeboard. Usually, the Pteri was the only one that bothered. Being left out, she obviously wanted to take a look at what was going on. However, there was no need. From the random scraps of conversation and shouts she could catch, a little picture of the big news began to form in her mind.
“Wow, five thousand Neopoints to the winner of the grade!”
“Not only that, all honorary mentions receive five hundred Neopoints!”
“I bet I’ll win—”
“I want that twenty thousand Neopoints! Not that I won’t get it... I’m the best singer in the school...”
Tanny had heard enough, and turned to walk away, a large smile on her face. She was alright at singing – she still had a few awards at her Maraquan school – and twenty thousand Neopoints would be a neat sum of money.
Twenty thousand Neopoints... not only would that be able to buy her some more stationery, but it also filled up the emptiness of Tanny’s wallet, which had been steadily deflating. Maybe some day she should open a bank account, because no matter how little, she desperately needed some interest.
Twenty thousand Neopoints...
Twenty thousand Neopoints...
The thought repeated itself over and over in Tanny’s head as she played through all her favourite songs. Which ones would she perform?
Twenty thousand Neopoints...
The Pteri’s eyelids felt heavy. She let them droop over her eyes. A small smile came to her lips.
Twenty thousand Neopoints...
Tanny let go of her consciousness and drifted to sleep.
Tanny shook nervously as she looked around at the other contestants. Most were dressed incredibly well, and she found herself staring at her plain grey dress a little unhappily. If only she had borrowed a few dresses from Ferrellin before she left Maraqua...
An icy feeling passed over her, and instinctively, she scanned around the room. Aceliane was staring at her as the Acara put on some more eyeliner. As much as the Pteri hated to admit it, she did look rather pretty. In fact, if this was a beauty contest, she would easily win. Luckily, it was not.
“Contestant number one!” came a shout from the outside. Gracefully, a faerie Peophin stood up, looked down her nose at everyone else in the room, and walked up to the stage. Just then, a chain of jumbled syllables and random screeches floated into the room.
Hmm... no control over her voice... lyrics need to be clearer... thought Tanny as she listened. That was one contestant she did not need to worry about.
Similarly, she silently criticised the twenty-six contestants that followed the faerie Peophin. Her self confidence began rising as she did. Even if she did not win the twenty thousand Neopoints, she was quite sure that she would get ten thousand Neopoints as a reward for third place.
“Contestant number twenty-seven!”
Aceliane stood up, smiled coldly at Tanny, and gave her a ‘you-will-so-be-owned-by-me’ look. Straightening her dress, she elegantly walked up the stairs.
Really? Tanny thought smugly as the Acara disappeared. I think I’m going to be the one that owns you...
Just as quickly as her confidence went up, it went back down again when the Acara began singing. And just as Tanny wanted to deny her beauty but could not, the same thing happened with her voice. By the end of the song, she was shaking, and did not even know why.
“Contestant number twenty-eight!” shouted the tiny red Kiko, who was sitting on his best friend, a red JubJub. Taking a deep breath, Tanny stood up, straightened herself, and walked up to the stage.
“Over here, please,” said the JubJub, who hopped over. His friend, the Kiko, handed the microphone to Tanny. Thankfully, she took it, and they hopped off the stage.
The Pteri gulped as she faced towards the sea of Neopets in front of her. She had not gained a good reputation at the school, and she had not been performing for a long time. However, thinking of the prize money, she took a deep breath, and began to sing.
“Flying... reaching for the stars...”
The audience cheered loudly, and confidence filled Tanny once more. With a much more powerful voice, she finished the song, smiling widely with relief as she handed the microphone back to the Kiko-JubJub pair.
“Thank you for the wonderful performance, contestant number twenty-eight!” they said in unison, gesturing towards the stairs. Tanny’s smile faded a little when she remembered that all she was dignified with was a number. However, as she faced the audience once more, she forced the wide smile back up, and walked off the stage with many cheers.
As she walked out of the hall, she sneaked a glance at Aceliane. Although she had not looked for long enough to be certain, she was quite sure that the Acara had a very unhappy expression on her face. And knowing the Acara, that must have meant she did rather well.
Good enough to claim the major prize, anyway.
This was the day. This was the long-awaited day for Tanny. This was day when she would receive her precious twenty thousand Neopoints.
Yes, so, Aceliane was popular. However, luckily, that was only within the grade, which meant Tanny had enough votes outside of the grade to keep her in first place. That did not mean she loosened her guard though – Aceliane came close, only a few points behind, and they had caught each other listening to each other practising.
Tanny gripped the edges of her dress, but it was only out of habit – after six rounds of singing and coming first, she had found her lost confidence again.
So, when contestant number twenty-eight was called out, she walked – no, glided – onto the stage just as elegantly as all the other royal Neopets, and paused for effect as the crowd cheered.
As she raised the microphone to her beak, the cheers, died down, and she began to sing. It was a nice song – great melody, meaningful lyrics, and sung by the very well-known and much liked Shenkese singer, Sin Ying the Kau. And with her confidence full to the brim, Tanny managed to give the best performance she could ever remember.
Not that it was very surprising – who would not for twenty thousand Neopoints? None of her other competitions had any more than a measly few hundred.
However, things might have been better if Tanny and the crowd were not so deep into the song. Just after the third verse, Aceliane’s friend, Skrylix the blue Aisha, nudged her urgently.
“Are you really going to let that... thing... take the money?” she asked, looking up at the Acara in surprise. Aceliane smiled slyly.
“I’m not stupid. It’s obvious the crowd would like her. However...” From an unseen pocket, she produced her best inanimate friend, a wind-up Zytch. “I did a little research, and apparently, unlike me, the kid really doesn’t like bugs.”
As they turned to look on the stage again, they could hear the Pteri’s voice building up slowly. Tanny was prepared to give the best ending she had ever given...
... Not that she was allowed to have it her way.
As the song flowed into the last chorus, Aceliane quickly wound up the little robot, and handed it to Skrylix, who sneaked over to the stage and precisely judged the angle to set the Zytch off at.
Tanny opened her eyes again when she heard a quiet, but annoyingly constant clicking sound. At that moment, although she was still singing, it had lost the magic, and many of the audience were beginning to lose interest. Then, she saw the creature she had hated so much.
No, Tanny, you’re performing, you can’t scream now! Tanny yelled at herself mentally. She forced herself to smile, desperately ignoring all the sweat drops that began to slide down her feathers.
Although the result was not quite as dramatic as Aceliane had wanted it to be, it did the job. In nervousness, Tanny had forgotten the last line, and was shaking all over by the time the song was over.
Skrylix, Aceliane, Tanny and two other finalists sat there, waiting anxiously for the judging to end. Even though no one could see the remaining contestants, the tension was so great that most of them felt it.
A loud sigh of relief came from everyone when the Kiko-JubJub pair spoke. They looked around, surprised, oblivious to everyone’s eagerness to know the results.
“Anyway... we have the results!” they announced in unison. The Kiko held up a tiny red card.
“Fourth runner-up is...”
There was a long, dramatic pause.
“Contestant number fourteen – Skrylix the blue Aisha!”
The school burst out in applause as she walked up, curtseying every second step. After being handed her prize money, a small bag and a bunch of flowers, she curtseyed once more before rushing off the stage.
Tanny sighed in relief. She had not come fifth.
Nor fourth or third, since the two other contestants were called.
Now, she was the only one left in the room. Well, along with Aceliane.
Please... I need the prize money! The Pteri crossed her fingers hopefully.
“First runner-up... Contestant number twenty-eight – Citanula the purple Pteri!"
Tanny groaned inwardly, forced a smile, and began ascending the steps up to the stage. However, just before she went, Aceliane spoke in a tone she did not like.
“You did really well, Tanny. It’s just that... it’s unfortunate that the Zytch showed up at that moment.”
The twinkling in the Acara’s eyes immediately told Tanny who the culprit was.
“Thanks,” she said as sweetly as she could, and walked up to the stage. Just like the others, she received a small bag, a bunch of flowers, a bag of Neopoints, as well as a small silver trophy. To her disappointment, they had not accidentally given her the twenty thousand Neopoints.
My twenty thousand Neopoints... she thought angrily as she walked off the stage, desperately trying to keep her anger under control. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Aceliane smirk. How she wished she could wipe it off... even better, with the strongest acids from the Korbat’s Lab!
When their eyes met, they exchanged murderous glares. It was quite lucky no one else saw it, or else they might have been sued for causing unnecessary harm to others. Of course, no one would have really wanted that.
To be continued...