Unlikely Allies: Part Two
Delma and Ciona knocked on the door of their neighboring suite. Babolino opened the door. “Hi, what’s going on?”
“We need to talk,” Delma said quietly, glancing down the hall.
“Alright. Come in then.” Babolino held the door open for them before closing it quietly.
“Here’s the deal,” Delma said as she took a seat on the couch. Valtonous and Kakoni looked up, expressions curious. “Darigan is staying in this hall.”
Valtonous frowned. “How do you know?”
“We just saw them come in,” said Ciona.
Babolino and Kakoni were silent for a moment, then Kakoni shrugged. “I guess it’s not too big of a problem then... as long as nothing happens...”
Babolino cleared his throat. “I know that we’re all a little bit touchy because they beat us decisively last Cup,” he said uncertainly. “But maybe we should give them a chance. I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to judge them just because they beat us... it’s the point to win, after all...”
Valtonous snorted. “So what, you want us to have a dinner party with them?”
Babolino paused, and then smiled. “Actually, Valt, I think that’s a great idea.”
The faerie Uni stared at Babolino in disbelief. “Surely you must be joking.”
“No, actually. I know you and I don’t always see eye to eye about issues of equanimity, but I think that if we are going to be staying in the same hall as them... it can’t hurt to be friendly with them. Just because we’re opponents in game doesn’t mean we have to be out of game too. I think that’s a pretty poor reason, in fact. A lot of good Yooyuball players are very competitive in-game, but off the court, they are very friendly.” He smiled at Valtonous.
Valtonous eyed Babolino cautiously before looking at Kakoni.
Kakoni paused. “You know,” he said slowly, “I actually don’t think that that’s a bad idea. Babs has got a point...”
Delma exhaled quietly in relief as Valtonous shrugged. “So, when are we going to have one?”
Kakoni turned around and smiled at her. “You know what, Delma, I’ll leave that in your capable hands.”
Delma stared at him for a long moment before cocking her head and thinking. “We have our press conference in two days,” she said slowly. “So how about... tomorrow?”
Kakoni and Babolino smiled. “Sounds great,” Kakoni said. “Can you talk to the Hall staff and make sure that they have a room we can use?”
“I’ll take care of all the arrangements,” Delma assured him, and shot Babs a look that said If anything goes wrong, I am holding you accountable.
“Of course you can.” The Ogrin manager looked at her like she was crazy for even asking. “We’ll set up the Small Ballroom—here’s a map, in case you are unfamiliar with our accommodations—there will be refreshments of course—“
“Thank you,” Delma said cautiously, smiling her friendliest smile and beginning to edge away from the manager. When he made no move to stop her, she turned around and left the foyer, unnerved as always by the celebrity treatment.
Halfway down the hall, though, her confidence waned slightly. Exhaling hugely, she squared her shoulders and walked past the room she shared with Ciona, continuing down to the suite she had seen Team Darigan enter. Idly she found herself wondering if the hall would be selling the rest of the suites at exclusive prices, advertising that renters would be able to stay with not one team, but two.
She stared at the door for a long time before raising a hand and knocking, a sense of apprehension sweeping over her.
Waiting for the door to open seemed to take an eternity at best, though Delma knew in reality that it probably only took a minute or two for one of the Darigan team members to come answer her knock.
She did not expect, however, to feel dwarfed by the Darigan team member who answered her. Seeing one of them up close was almost alarming; Delma felt as if the wind had been knocked out of her by the force of his presence alone. She knew it was just intimidation, that anybody who was painted Darigan couldn’t help but intimidate others, but even so, Delma knew that she was staring.
Tandrak Shaye looked down at the short faerie Zafara in surprise as she stared back, looking for all the world like a trapped Miamouse. Finally, he cleared his throat. “Um... yes?”
Delma sucked in a breath of fresh air and squared her shoulders. “We, the Faerieland team, want to invite you, all of you I mean, to a dinner, um, to a dinner party, we’re having a party and hope that you’ll come join us for dinner—well, all of you, I mean, the whole Darigan team...” She trailed off, still staring at him. Why was he so tall? Were they all so tall? Were they all this intimidating? Delma suddenly wondered if a dinner party with them was such a good idea after all.
Tandrak stared at Delma as though she’d just sprouted a second head. “You are having a dinner party and want to invite us,” he repeated slowly.
“We want you all to come,” Delma added. “It’s tomorrow night, in the Small Ballroom, and I can show you a map if you want...”
“Um, no need. Hold on. Can I have a minute?” He looked very confused now, and so Delma nodded and stepped back as he shut the door.
Tandrak took three steps into the room before bursting into laughter. “Reshar! Tormo! Get this! So Delma Harrence is outside our door right now!”
Reshar looked confused as Tormo joined in Tandrak’s hysterics. “Wait... Why’s she here?”
Catching his breath, Tandrak only allowed a small smile to reveal his mirth. “Well, my guess is that Faerieland is staying here as well.”
Reshar looked thoughtful. Layton emerged from an adjoining room, frowning at the three of them. “What are you three laughing about?”
“Team Faerieland is staying in this hall,” Tormo said before chortling.
Layton looked taken aback for a second, and then shrugged. “Oh well...”
“So, what did she want?” Kep Bonnefie looked down at her teammates with a mixture of curiosity and disdain, resting on the railing of the staircase she’d been about to descend.
“She invited us to a dinner party,” Tandrak explained gleefully, before he and Tormo erupted with laughter again.
Layton looked up at Kep curiously. She was the only female on the team, and as such, Layton had long since learned to invite her opinions, since she was able to provide valuable insight from a different perspective.
Kep gazed off into the distance for a moment, and then she shrugged. “I don’t see why not. It’s free food, right?”
Layton looked up at her before shrugging. “Fair enough. What would prompt them to this course of action, though?”
Tormo looked up from the couch, where Tandrak had joined him. “Wait, Lay. You’re going to say yes?”
Layton looked back at Tormo and blinked. “Why not?”
“But it’s Faerieland! Come on! They’re babies! They’re a joke!”
Layton shrugged. “We’ve never really talked to them, Tormo. We can’t base our opinions off of anything they’ve ever said or done to us. I think meeting them could be a... refreshing experience. Besides, we will be playing them in the Cup this year, so we can use this to our advantage and see if they’ve improved...”
Tormo looked like he wanted to argue, but didn’t say anything. Layton glanced around the room once more, looking at Kep last. She nodded once to him, and he thought he saw the hint of a smile tug at the corners of the usually stoic Buzz’s lips.
Delma was expecting to see Tandrak again as the door swung open, but instead she found herself face-to-face with Layton Vickles, the Darigan team captain. Despite herself she gulped. If it was possible, he was even more intimidating than the Gelert she’d talked to before.
Layton’s expression was unnerving, though Delma supposed it must be what most Darigan smiles looked like. “We’d love to meet you and your team for dinner,” he said in a tone of voice that made Delma feel suddenly like she was being babied. “Where did you say it was at?”
Delma repeated all of the relevant information, and Layton offered her another smile. Delma resisted the urge to shiver until Layton closed the door behind him. When Delma was alone again, she shook her head and returned to her own room. “I hope this wasn’t a mistake,” she said to the silent hallway. Only her echoes answered her.
Practice was grueling, and Delma was sore by the time it was done. Valtonous was out of breath and grimaced as he put a hand to his side. Babolino was flushed and out of breath, but looked the best off by the time it was done. Delma put a hand down to help Ciona to her feet, and the Kyrii took it gratefully before adding in an undertone, “Kakoni’s on a rampage today...”
Delma could only manage a weak smile as they all shuffled or limped over to the sidelines. Kakoni began talking immediately. “Valtonous, your form has improved. Babs, I want you to practice your shooting drills a bit more on your own. You’re our big scorer and you performed well today, so we want to try to keep it up. Ciona, Delma—“ Delma braced herself—“You two should work on ball handling a bit more, so practice some drills together.” Whatever advice the Bruce had for himself, he withheld. Delma knew he was a fair captain, and would be practicing more on his own as well. Additionally, and Delma chewed her lip, they had a dinner to attend in an hour or so.
She suddenly was startled with herself. Was she so distracted by the prospect of Darigan’s company that she couldn’t even stay focused on practice? She pulled herself back to Kakoni’s debriefing speech. “As a matter of fact, there’s rumors that we’ll be playing Terror Mountain first, but as you all know, they haven’t released an official schedule yet, not even to the team captains. As it is, I don’t think rumors are worth much, so we’re going to stick with our regular training and conditioning regimen. And I think we’ll practice with the Darigan Yooyus more, since we seemed to be struggling most when we play with them. Sound good? Alright, team, break!”
“Don’t forget about dinner!” Babs crowed as everybody limped off the practice pitch. “Dress nicely and bring your smiles!”
Delma knew that she, for one, would have a hard time smiling.
To be continued...