Kep and Shaye: Forever Friends
Caw, caw! Caw, caw!
Tandrak Shaye awoke to the sound of a Crokabek calling outside his window. The Darigan Gelert pulled his blanket up over his head with a groan and mumbled something about wishing it would shut up. After he came around to being fully awake, he realized that light was beginning to stream through his blanket. Wait, light? He could not believe that it was already morning and threw the blanket off to the side of his bed. Yup, it was morning. He rolled over on to his side and looked up at the clock on the wall across from him; it was 6:00.
Perfect, he thought. That’s exactly when I wanted to wake up. That’ll give me plenty of time to get ready.
Tandrak knew he should have been excited about the day, but he wasn’t. It was the day when his Yooyuball team would be headed to Altador for the sixth annual Altador Cup, and though he loved being in the old city and was looking forward to the upcoming season, he had never enjoyed the act of travelling. Tonight they’d stay overnight in Faerieland, then head for Altador in the morning. He dreaded the idea of doing nothing but travel for the next two days.
But maybe Faerieland will be fun, he thought, pulling the covers back over himself. He planned to lie there for just a few minutes before he got up; he was way too comfortable to move right away. It’ll be neat to see what it looks like now, and if we aren’t too tired tonight, maybe we can do something.
That was his last thought before drifting back into sleep.
The next thing he knew, he was waking up some time later to the sound of someone pounding on his bedroom door.
“Tandrak Shaye, you’d better not be sleeping in there!” a voice screeched, carrying throughout the entire house. It was a female’s voice. Uh oh. Tandrak knew he was in trouble now. He had very little time to react before Kep Bonnefie came bursting in the room. “What are you still doing in bed?” the Darigan Buzz asked angrily. “Do you know what time it is?” He looked at the clock; it was now 8:15.
“Oh no!” he said, slapping a hand to his forehead. “I can’t believe I fell back asleep!”
“Whatever, it doesn’t matter now,” she said, pulling clothes out of his drawer and throwing them at him. “Just get dressed; I’ll be waiting for you outside. And don’t waste any time, the boat leaves at 8:30. Got it?”
Shaye could only nod silently; Kep was not one to be messed with.
“Good,” she stated. Then she left, slamming the door behind her.
Though one would probably not guess it from this situation, Kep and Shaye were best friends. Yes, all the teammates of Darigan Citadel were good friends, but these two were different. They had known each other growing up, and couldn’t be any closer. She knew everything about him, and he knew everything about her; he especially knew that she could sometimes have a bad temper and over time had learned not to take it personally, but rather just do as she said because she was scary when she was upset.
He only spent a couple minutes getting ready to leave and rushed out the door to find her. As soon as he met her outside his house, he began to apologize repeatedly.
“Don’t be sorry,” she told him. “Just accept that you messed up and move on. You’re here now and I’m over it. In fact, I was never really upset with you to begin with. I was just worried that we’d be late and we’d have to catch the next boat, which doesn’t come for another two hours, and we’d get into Faerieland at who knows what hour.” The team was taking a boat which would take them down the coast of Meridell and Brightvale to a point slightly south of Kiko Lake; from there they would make their way over land to Faerieland.
“So we’re still friends?” Tandrak asked playfully.
“Of course; we’ll always be friends,” she replied, looking up at him with the kindest expression he had seen all morning. “Forever.”
“Good,” he said with a smile.
“Now let’s go,” she said firmly. “The guys aren’t going to be too happy with you, you know.”
“I’m quite aware,” he mumbled as they began walking. “Must be why they sent you, huh?”
“They sent me because I have the spare key to your house.”
“And because you’d be able to get me moving the fastest, right?”
Tandrak laughed. “I thought so.”
“What’s so funny?”
“I don’t think it’s any secret that you have the power to motivate me,” he said, giving her a friendly push.
“You’re just easy to scare,” she replied, shoving him a little harder, causing him to lose his balance for a moment.
“Throw me off the edge of the citadel, why don’t you?” he teased.
His Buzz friend stopped, looked at him and asked in a completely serious tone of voice, “Why not? That’s where we’re going anyway, isn’t it?”
Shaye stopped as well and gave her a confused look. He took a moment to let his brain process what she had just said; she managed to keep her stoic expression the whole time. When he realized it was a joke, though, and burst out laughing, she couldn’t help but laugh along with him.
It did not take them long to reach their meeting point in Meridell, and they managed to make it just on time. The other three were relieved to see them, but not thrilled that Tandrak had almost caused them to miss their transportation.
“You made it,” Reshar Collifey commented sarcastically as they approached.
“Slept in,” Kep bluntly told the Darigan Jetsam. “Don’t beat him up over it, I’ve already done that.”
“At leasst we’re all here now,” their captain, Layton Vickles said. “As long as we move quickly we’ll ssstill make it in time.”
“But if we just miss it are we all going to blame the Gelert?” Tormo “The Terror” Frein asked, still miffed about the situation and looking to hold someone responsible. Kep shot him an icy glare.
“No,” she scolded the Darigan Bruce. “I already told you guys he doesn’t need this; he heard it once from me already.”
“Okay, calm down,” Layton said. “This isssn’t like you guyss at all. How about we all just go sso we do get there on time and don’t have to lay the blame on anyone?”
“That sounds good,” Tandrak thanked the Darigan Hissi. “Let’s do that.”
Fortunately for Tandrak, and for everyone’s sanity, they managed to arrive at the dock just as the boat was preparing to depart. They had a rather long journey ahead of them and were glad that they did not have to wait for the next boat, because then they would have to leave at 10:30 and make their day even longer. They were relieved to see that it was a nice day, so the trip would at least be somewhat pleasant. On the way they discussed possible game tactics to use in their first game against Faerieland, roster changes they had heard about, and whether or not they thought the rumor about “Dasher” Soley retiring was actually true.
“I wonder if we’ll meet up with any other teams,” Reshar thought aloud.
“Chances are we will,” Tormo said. “A lot of teams take the same general route as us, and the past few years we’ve seen at least one other team on our way.”
“We’re very likely to meet up with Roo Island,” Layton informed them. “I’ve been neomailing back and forth with Lilo Blumario lately, and it turnsss out that they’ll be in Faerieland tonight as well.” The other four looked at him for a moment, but did not say anything; they were all wondering whether or not he was actually serious. “What? Am I not allowed to converssse with other captainsss?”
“Great,” Kep grumbled sarcastically, leaning on the edge of the boat. Tandrak walked up beside her and leaned on the edge as well. There was a slight breeze that carried the smell of saltwater through the air, and he took a moment to enjoy it before asking the question that was on his mind.
“What’s that supposed to mean? Do you have something against Roo Island, or is it just that they’re one of our rivals and you don’t feel like dealing with them?”
Kep sighed and then answered, “They’re fine as a whole; actually they’re quite a nice group of Neopians, from what I’ve seen. It’s just...” she trailed off.
“What about her?”
“We don’t get along; it’s just a personality conflict, really.”
“And you’re worried about running into an awkward situation where you’d have to talk to her,” Shaye observed.
“Well, I’ll tell you what,” the Gelert said, casually putting his arm around her. “If we meet up with her, then I’ll turn on the charm; that way she’ll be so distracted by me that she won’t have time to even think about talking to you.”
“You’re so self-absorbed sometimes,” she giggled, elbowing him in the ribs. “And I’m not sure that would work. I haven’t exactly seen that she’s been affected by ‘Shaye Fever.’”
“It was a joke,” he giggled as well. “You have to admit, it was pretty good.”
“Yeah, it wasn’t bad,” she agreed. “Though it wasn’t quite as good as my ‘throwing you off the citadel’ joke.”
“It almost was.”
“Okay; if you want to believe that, be my guest,” Kep said, finished with that conversation. Tandrak pouted for a moment until he saw something off in the distance.
“Hey look, there’s Kiko Lake,” he observed, pointing out its buildings across the water.
“So we’re getting there, then.”
“So we are.”
It did not take long for the boat to reach its destination; afterwards, the team had a short journey over land. They arrived in Faerieland just before dinner time, so they decided they had time to explore the beautifully rebuilt world after checking into the inn where they were staying. Layton, Tormo and Reshar headed to Faerie City hoping to find the Hidden Tower while Kep and Tandrak wandered off in another direction.
“You feel lucky?” Tandrak asked. “We could try spinning the Wheel of Excitement.”
“Not particularly, but if you want to risk your own neopoints, then go right ahead. I won’t stop you,” Kep answered.
“Okay then, but when this thing makes me rich,” the Gelert said as they approached the wheel, “I’m not sharing any of my fortunes with you.”
“And when you end up losing money?” she asked. He did not seem to hear her, but she guessed that he was probably just ignoring the question.
“Step right up for the Wheel of Excitement!” The Light Faerie who was running the wheel encouraged them. “It only costs 500 neopoints to give it a spin and see what it lands on.”
“What’s 500 neopoints?” Shaye asked his best friend. “Even if I ended losing it all, I could make it back easy.”
“What if you land on the one that makes you sick?” Kep pointed out.
“The Healing Springs are right over there.”
“Okay, but if you land on the Pant Devil he’ll probably steal something from me rather than you, so I’m just gonna go stand over here,” she said, backing away a few feet. She watched anxiously as he spun the wheel; while it would be exciting if he did win big, she secretly hoped that he would win a small enough amount of neopoints so he’d end up losing some in the end, just to prove she was right about it being a waste of time and money.
“Congratulations!” the Light Faerie exclaimed. “You won 500 neopoints!”
“Hey, that’s not bad,” Tandrak said.
“It means you won nothing,” Kep pointed out. “It cost you that much to play.”
“Oh yeah,” he remembered disappointedly.
“You can come back and try again in two hours if you’d like,” the Faerie suggested.
“No thank you,” Kep said, dragging Tandrak away.
“I don’t even know why they have 500 on there, it’s so pointless,” he complained. “You want to try the Poogle Races instead?”
“To be honest, not really,” she replied bluntly. “With your luck I doubt it would be profitable for us. Besides, I’m getting hungry. Let’s head back to the inn.”
When they arrived at the inn, they were only slightly surprised to find team Roo Island was in the restaurant along with the rest of their own team; they had expected to see them at some point, but had not really thought they would be staying in the same place as them. Kep looked around. Layton was chatting away with Lilo Blumario and Fenny Vail, and though it sounded like they were discussing the upcoming tournament, she thought they made a bit of an odd threesome. Gordo Gunnels and Clutch Billaban were enjoying a meal in a far corner, but she could not seem to spot Jair Tollet. She hoped that the Eyrie was already in her room or off doing something else as she and Tandrak took seats at the counter. The two conversed as they waited for their food until Layton called Shaye over for a moment. It was in this moment that she spotted someone out the corner of her eye taking the stool beside her, and she could not seem to ignore the blue and yellow figure as they ordered a meal. She took a quick glance to confirm her suspicion; it was Jair. She quickly got up and walked over to where Tandrak was now sitting with the other three.
“Hello Lilo, Fenny,” she said politely before turning to the Gelert. “Tandrak, I need your help.”
“What’s up?” he asked.
“Can I just... talk to you for a moment?” She pulled him off to the side as she did not want to discuss the issue in front of any Roo Island players. “Remember what you said earlier about keeping Jair distracted?”
“Yeah, but it was a joke,” he said, looking over to where they had been sitting. “You want me to actually do it now?”
“Anything to keep me from having to talk to her.”
“Sure, I can do that for you.”
“Thank you so much,” she said, giving him a hug to show her appreciation.
“No problem,” he replied, accepting the hug; it was odd as she was not the type to usually give hugs, but it was kind of nice, too.
The two walked back over to where they were sitting, but this time they switched seats so that Tandrak sat next to Jair. He immediately began speaking to her, starting with “Hey Jair, funny to see you here; how are you?” They ended up having a rather nice conversation that lasted throughout their meal, and Kep never had to speak a single word. She actually found that she enjoyed listening to them talk, but was grateful that she did not have to be a part of it.
After dinner everyone decided to call it a night; they were only halfway to Altador, after all. The Darigan Citadel team set out early the next morning for their trek across the Lost Desert. They stopped in Sakhmet for lunch, where they met up with the Lost Desert’s Yooyuball team. They decided to travel to Altador together to keep each other company because, though there were no close friendships between the two teams, they thought it would be nice to have more Neopians to talk to. They arrived late in the evening, and were two of many teams to get there that day. Roo Island reached the city shortly after them, and Shenkuu and Moltara had evidently arrived around lunch time. Terror Mountain and Tyrannia were due to come sometime the next day.
The rest of the sign-up week seemed to pass quickly, and the next thing they knew the Altador Cup had started and the teams were playing their first games of the season. Darigan Citadel started off the season well with a win against Faerieland; though the Faeries put up a good fight, the Darigans were able to defeat them by a fairly large margin. They felt confident in their abilities and had a feeling that they would do well this season.
Then they found out their second match would be against Meridell.
“I think these guys are gonna be tough,” Tandrak confided in Kep; they were in the locker room right before the game when he decided to confess his anxiety about it. “I’ve heard they could be really good this year.”
“Me too,” she told him. “But we can beat ‘em, can’t we?”
“Well, with you as a defender I doubt they’ll even get near the goal very often,” he told her. “So I’d say we have a pretty good chance.” She blushed at the compliment.
“I suppose, but they’ve got to get past you first before they even get near me, so I guess I have nothing to worry about as long as you’re doing your job.”
They said nothing else as they entered the tunnel that would lead to the playing field, but could both tell the other was nervous despite the encouragements they had given each other. As they waited for the door to be opened, Tandrak could almost feel how tense Kep was as she stood next to him. He placed his hand firmly on her shoulder and felt her relax some, which in turn helped to calm him down a little as well.
Then the doors opened.
It was a cloudy day, so they weren’t blinded by any bright sunlight. In fact, the sky was rather dark and it looked as if it might rain. As usual, though, many fans had come to watch them play, and the cheering of the crowd rang loudly in their ears as they took their positions. Each player evaluated their situation, and different thoughts ran through their minds. Layton was confident, Tormo was unsure of what to think and Reshar knew to defend the goal like he would in any other game.
They have one defender but he’s bigger than I am, Tandrak thought. But then again, he can’t block both me and Layton. One of us should be able to slip by him.
That’s right, they have three forwards, Kep remembered. This will be a little tough.
The first ball came up through the floor and the game began. It was a normal yooyu, of course, as the games always began with this type.
Then it all happened in what seemed like a split second.
“Wizard” Windelle was the first to grab the ball, and slipped past Layton and Shaye with ease. Tormo and Kep barely had time to react before he was upon them as well, and could not quite manage to stop him. As if by magic, he landed the yooyu in the goal before anyone even had a chance to see what was going on. Perhaps that was why they called him “Wizard.”
Okay, time to step up our game, Kep thought as it began to rain. It started out as a sprinkle and then grew steadily into a downpour; but unless it thundered, the game would go on. She could not see what type of yooyu they were dealing with next through the thick sheets of water coming down, but she was determined to keep it away from the goal at all costs.
Fiorina had it first this time; that much the Buzz could tell. It looked as though the yooyu was passed back and forth between the two teams’ forwards a few times, but eventually the Eyrie managed to retrieve it, and was on her way to Darigan Citadel’s goal. This time Kep was ready, and because one of her strengths was stealing the ball she was quickly able to get it away from Meridell’s right forward.
Had she taken the time to look at what kind of yooyu it was, she probably would have realized she was making a big mistake.
With a loud “KABOOM!” a force knocked her off her feet, and she felt a sensation of pain in her right arm. She struggled, half-conscious, to get up off the wet coliseum floor, but weakly fell back into a puddle before blacking out completely.
The next thing she knew, she was waking up in the hospital. She felt dizzy as she came back into consciousness, but the feeling soon passed. Then she noticed her arm was bandaged, and soon afterwards became aware of the pain once again; that caused her to remember the situation. There was some sort of... explosion.
And then she noticed Tandrak sitting by her bedside.
“Hey Kep,” he said gently. “How you feeling?”
“It hurts...” she mumbled, looking at her arm. Then she looked back at him and asked, “What happened?”
“You grabbed a clockwork yooyu as soon as it was ready to go off,” he explained. “You’ve suffered some pretty bad burns and it knocked you out for a couple hours, but thankfully the doctors think that’s all. They say you should be able to play again in a couple days.”
“Did we win?” she asked hopefully. Tandrak shook his head sadly.
“I’m afraid not. I mean, how could we without the greatest defender in the world?”
“I’m not the greatest defender in the world,” she laughed.
“Well, then you must be pretty darn close,” he told her with a smile. “There was no way we were going to win that game, but if we'd had you the whole time, it could have at least been close.”
“So what was the end score?”
“You don’t want to know.”
“Okay then, don’t tell me. I’ll probably hear it sometime before the tournament’s over anyway. But I guess it doesn’t matter. A loss is a loss and that’s all it’s really going to count for in the standings; the specific score doesn’t really mean much of anything in the long run...” she trailed off and stared at the ceiling, deep in thought for a moment. Then she changed the subject. “You know, I always knew that if I ended up in this situation you’d be the one by my side, waiting for me to wake up.”
“Oh yeah?” Tandrak asked curiously.
“Yeah,” Kep answered, looking back at him now. “Because you’re my best friend, remember?”
“Of course; we’ll always be friends,” he replied, looking at her with a kind expression. “Forever.”