Brain of Neopia: Part Six
It was the next morning. Roan was seated in the lobby. The semi-finals were about to begin.
How he had got there was a slight mystery. Some say that he was woken by the Producer, who ensured that he was ready, and had stopped him from running away in fear again. Others say that this would be far too boring, and would invite still others to invent their own stories as to how Roan made it there.
But that was then. This is now.
“And now,” came the voice of Hugo, echoing out from the main hall, “having laughed at contestants past, let us meet our contestants present. Three of them will be joining the list for next year, while the fourth will move on to the final, where the chance to be laughed at less will await them. Let’s meet the contestants! Our first player is a Blumaroo, who has proven his knowledge on the subject of gaming by scoring a first round high score of two thousand points from just five questions – a remarkable record indeed. Please welcome Aristotle A. Avinroo!”
A Yellow Blumaroo stood up, muttering “It’s AAA!”, and stepped out into the arena. He seemed to be quite unpopular with the crowd. Roan liked that.
“Our next contestant is popular in her home country of Brightvale, where her official title is Possessor of All Knowledge. With no wrong answers in her first round victory, please welcome government official Esquita!”
A Yellow Zafara rose from her seat, and entered the arena, without so much as a glance around her. Around her neck hung a large amulet.
“Our third contestant is a member of the Ninjas of Mystery Island, and his knowledge of trivia is second to none. Please welcome the mine of useless information, Fe!”
The only other occupant of the room, a Red Techo, didn’t rise from his seat. Roan watched as he simply vanished, appearing in the arena a second later, to the rapturous applause of the audience. It would have taken a miracle to stop them at this point.
“And finally, a contestant whose brain could be comparable to food from Grundos – empty, tasteless and something that nobody really wants. Please do not welcome our last contestant, Reen!”
It was a miracle. The crowd went deadly silent, as Roan rose from his seat, and walked slowly into the arena. There was the odd, scattered clap from somebody in the audience, who Roan suspected to be the Producer, but, for the most part, Hugo had silenced the room.
The layout was identical to how it had been before, and Roan took a seat at the same desk as he had been at before. The crowd was beginning to mutter. Hugo was enjoying himself.
“Contestants, I trust you have remembered the way the quiz works. This may be harder for some of you.” Roan didn’t even look up. He knew who Hugo was looking at. “So, we’ll begin with Round One. AAA, if you will.”
Roan spent the next three rounds carefully reciting all that he had learned over the past two days in his head. It didn’t take very long, but, even so, he managed to miss AAA score zero on ‘The Life and Works of Ascot the Poet’, mainly because nobody had made a game about it. Esquita answered all of her five questions right on the subject of the Anubis, whilst Fe got six points for his answers on the ancient martial art of An-Choo-Vee.
And then it was Roan’s turn.
“Reen!” said Hugo. “It’s your turn.”
“It’s Roan!” said Roan, as he made his way to the large chair.
“Are you sure?” Hugo frowned. “I’ve never forgotten the name of a successful Brain of Neopia contestant.”
“That’s odd. I’ve never forgotten the name of a normal person. Don’t you find that odd, Horace?”
“Enough banter!” said Hugo. “Not that you can really call it that with you – banter suggests some form of awareness from both parties. Your subject is Species in Neopia.”
Internally, Roan collapsed. That starts with a S. I knew I should have carried on reading! I’m not going to get any questions about Aabaroo, or Avocados, or A Sad Scorchio Day, which, incidentally, surely should be under S as well. Or possibly D for day. But I digress. Back to silent panicking.
“Start the time! Roan, which Neopet comes first alphabetically?”
“That would be the Acara.”
“Correct. Which pet is the only one that can be painted Alien?”
“Correct. Which species happily lives both on land and underwater?”
“Correct. How are you doing this?”
“I’m just very clever. Do I get a point for that?”
“Incorrect. You lose a point.”
“I can’t lose a point!” exploded Hugo. “I’m the question master!”
“So you’re saying you’re better than us? You’re above the petty earning and losing of points?”
“I’m certainly above you!”
“That’s because I’m sitting down. Can I have another question please?”
“Correct. You gain your point back.”
“I’m asking the questions!”
“Actually, I think you’ll find that was a statement.”
Hugo raised his voice.
“Complete the title of this book: ‘Pazo the Lonely...’?”
“Correct. The pet that has occupations on trading cards including Acrobat, Treasure Seeker and Hiker is the...”
“Can I take a guess now and say Aisha?”
“Yes. And that is correct. How did you know that?”
“Luck, I think.”
“ZERO!” shouted the Skeith keeping the time.
“And that’s the end of the round...”
Hugo turned to the Skeith.
“No, you can stop now. We end at zero. Haven’t we discussed this?”
“Never mind. Roan, you scored six points. Return to your desk, please.”
Roan stood up, his head spinning. I answered some questions correctly, he thought. How did that happen?
“And now,” said Hugo, as Roan sat back in his place, “the scores. In a strong last place, with a commendable zero, is AAA. In third place, with five points, is Esquita. In the lead, however, are our ninja Fe, and our resident idiot Roan. The next round will be two questions, directed to each of our contestants. If they do not guess the correct answer, the question will go on offer to the rest of the players. We’ll start with our clear leader, which is Fe.”
“Why isn’t it me?” asked Roan. “I have the same number of points.”
“Yes, but, in the event of a tie, it goes on whoever is more deserving to win.”
“You could have just said it goes alphabetically.”
“But that would have been a lie. Fe, what is the northernmost point in Altador called?”
“Erm... Altador Harbour?”
“Good guess, but no. Anybody else?”
Roan was instantly on his buzzer. But, as he pushed the button, no sound came out. He pushed it a few more times. Sound continued to fail to be produced.
“My buzzer doesn’t work!” shouted Roan. Hugo turned, a delighted smile emerging on his face.
“Really?” he beamed. “Isn’t that a shame? Oh, well. If nobody knows the answer...”
“It’s Temple Point!”
“But sadly, there was no buzzer, so no points for you. Or, should I say, no Temple Points?”
There was a chuckle from the audience. They could tell when they were supposed to laugh.
“Roan, it’s your question now. Anubits is a creature from which game?”
“Neoquest II. Clearly.”
“Correct. Now, you can have a point.”
“How kind of you.”
“Esquita, where is the Archive Primaria?”
“Ah. Now, there are two answers to that,” said Esquita, entering advisor mode. “According to popular theories, the current Archive Primaria is hidden in the Lost Desert, beneath the ancient Pyramids of Geb. However, more recent, accurate research by the scientist Mallett suggests that the Primaria is in fact another word for light, suggesting that the Archive Primaria is merely the past.”
“Correct. You can have two points for such detailed information.”
“Two points?” exploded Roan. “How can you do that?”
“I’m the question master,” said Hugo. “I’m sure you know how it works. AAA, what is the main character in Attack of the Marblemen called?”
“Barry,” said AAA, instantly. “Everybody knows that.”
“Have a point. Now, we return to Fe. Fe, what is the most popular flavour of Achyfi?”
Fe thought for a moment.
“What is Achyfi? Is it some sort of martial art?”
“No, it’s a drink,” said Hugo kindly.
“Er... normal flavour?”
“Sadly not. Anybody else?”
The shout came from Roan, who was beating the button on his desk with his fist. Hugo smiled, and turned to Roan.
“Buzz-flavoured drink? I don’t think that would be popular.”
“No, it’s strawberry. The buzz was just to get your attention.”
“Surprisingly, strawberry is correct. Even more surprisingly, you don’t seem to have cheated at all. And, most surprising of all, I’m going to give you a point for it. Our next question goes to Esquita...”
“Don’t I get my question now?”
“No, because, the way you’re answering questions, there’s a danger you’ll get into the final. And I can’t allow that. Esquita, where is the Altador Coliseum?”
“You mean, where in Altador? I’d say the middle.”
“That’s close enough. Help yourself to a point. AAA – what’s the point? Really? At the moment, you’re officially the worst contestant in history. If you resign now, it becomes unofficial.”
“Will you still humiliate me forever?”
“Oh yes. But I’ll do it in an unofficial way.”
“Oh.” AAA seemed slightly cheered by this thought. “That sounds good. Very well. I resign!”
“Excellent,” said Hugo. “We’ve never had a resignation before. You get to have your very own special humiliation slot at the start of every show. You’ll get an extra-large laugh.”
AAA looked devastated at this news. He rose from his desk quickly, and almost ran out of the room. Roan was impressed. He wished he had been able to do that to him that quickly.
“And now we move on to the final round. Looking at the scores, I see that Fe is still on six points, whilst Roan and Esquita are both now tied with eight points. The last round is on the buzzers. I ask a question, wait for the official buzzer noise, meaning no shouting of the word ‘buzzer’ will be allowed, and then listen to your answer. If there’s no official buzzer noise, I can’t accept the answer.”
“Can I move to AAA’s desk?” asked Roan.
Hugo took a deep breath.
“This is the bit where I give a long-winded speech to you about why I don’t intend to let you move. It’s a... oh, what’s it called?”
“No, not that.”
“Juxtaposition? Metaphor? Discombobulator?”
“No, it’s a... sorry, what was the last one?”
“Discombobulator. It discombobulates things.”
“Does it? That’s quite confusing.”
“Excellent. It seems to be working.”
“Anyway, no, you can’t switch desks. And we enter the final stage. How many apple-based products are available for general purchase in Neopia?”
“That doesn’t count as a buzzer. Anybody else?”
There was silence for a moment. Roan was frantically pressing the large button on his desk, to no avail.
“Nobody? That’s a shame. The right answer was thirty-one. What area is Archivendo famous in?”
AAA’s buzzer went off.
“AAA? No, sorry, that was Roan. You’re not allowed to do that. We’ve been through that.”
Sulkily, Roan left AAA’s desk, and returned to his own.
“Nobody? Again? What a shame. The correct answer was philosophy. Which...”
“...and, despite not starting the time, we seem to have run out of it. So often is the case, sadly. However, I’ve started, so I’ll finish.” Hugo looked quite pleased with himself. “I like that. I may adopt it. Anyway, when did Neoschools open?”
Roan thought about it. It was the first question he had heard all morning that he didn’t know the answer to. He took solace in the fact that nobody else would…
Esquita’s buzzer rang out. Roan’s heart sank.
“Esquita!” Hugo looked delighted. “The person who is yet to get a question wrong! What is your answer – bearing in mind that, if you get this right, you’re through to the final!”
With every word, Roan’s heart fell further, until, by the time Hugo had finished his sentence, anybody hoping to do major heart surgery would have to start their search in his foot.
“This is a trick question!” said Esquita confidently. “Neoschools haven’t opened yet!” She was smiling.
Hugo’s face had frozen.
“They’re closed?” he queried. Esquita nodded.
“Not opened?” he asked. Esquita nodded again.
Hugo looked like he had seen a Ghost pet.
“Did you not see the paper on Tuesday?” Hugo produced a copy of the Neopian Times. The headline was ‘NEOSCHOOLS FINALLY OPEN! EXCLUSIVE!’
Esquita suddenly went white.
“No!” She was almost sobbing. “No! They opened on Tuesday. They opened on Tuesday!”
Hugo was almost sobbing as well.
“I... have to take your first answer. So... you lose a point. Which puts you one point behind Roan. In second place. Roan... has won. Again.” He looked as though he couldn’t believe the words coming out of his mouth. And neither could Roan.
“I... won?” he said, in surprise. Then, “I won! Of course I won!”
“Congratulations,” said Hugo, briefly. “You’re through to the final, well done, you’re very good, everybody else isn’t, etcetera, etcetera, next contestants please. I said, next contestants! Get out of here, all of you!”
Roan was only too glad to. He walked quickly past a devastated Esquita, a Fe who had blended seamlessly into the background, and an empty desk where AAA had been sitting. He strode hastily through the entrance hall, and out into the bright sunshine, not stopping until he had reached his tent, where he collapsed. He had travelled the last few metres on pure adrenaline.
He couldn’t believe it. He was through to the final.
To be continued...