Daily Dare Chronicles
20th Day of Swimming, Y15
I stood in the doorway of my room, watching my brother drag his suitcase, hover chair, and enormous head out the door. My cousin Lulu waved at me, and I waved back. They were leaving for some summer camp that involved campfires, canoeing, and programming games – a strange arrangement, to me at least. I would be alone for the whole summer, a bleak prospect I tried not to think about. Although AAA's presence in the house showed itself through the clanking of video game controllers, the beeping of games, and headache-inducing whining, it was better than being alone with my Usukis and a lingering empty feeling.
"Have fun, Aristotle," I shouted. "I'll miss you." I started to wonder if that last sentiment was completely sincere, but before I could, I had a sudden flashback.
"It's the Month of Running", complained my brother, "And all the hullaballoo is about that stupid obelisk thing in Tyrannia. Everyone's too busy equipping stuff and sticking each other with the pointy ends to pay an ounce of attention to me. I'm not holding Daily Dare like this. Maybe I'll wait until, the Month of Swimming or something. I hope all the fuss is over by then. Don't you agree, Abigail?"
I opened my mouth but he was gone already, sitting in his hover chair, starting a game of Extreme Herder.
I looked at the date and my heart skipped a beat. I ran out the door and shouted "But what about D-"
My brother was, once again, already gone.
I took a deep breath and remembered a dreamy face, a green Zafara who had come over to play games a few times, almost matching AAA's abilities, unlike any of his classmates. Who had smiled at me with his impeccable, toothpaste-commercial-worthy smile. I blushed involuntarily and my heart beat even faster. Chadley.
29th Day of Swimming, Y15
So this is it. Daily Dare is rolling out to the public, four months late, with one old face and one (extremely attractive) new face. Despite the shock on every Neopian's face as Chadley and I stood on either side of the flashing Daily Dare sign, despite their cries for the familiar face of the Games Master, I have high hopes for Daily Dare Y15. Chadley's charm and manners stand in stark contrast with my silly brother's oversized ego – and don't even get me started on his dreamy looks. My brother would do well to take notes from his outfit (and, as an afterthought, his hair).
Maybe this year, his style will rub off on this event, just like he promised. Daily Dare could have been so much better than it was all these years. Not to mention, a foreseeable twenty-two days in Chadley's company, cooperating with him to run a huge Neopia-wide event? Who knows what might happen?
1st Day of Hiding, Y15
It was afternoon, and I was on break from handing out cups of Jubble Bubble Tea. I was sitting placidly at home in my beanbag chair, practicing for Goparokko, blinking to stop the tiles from blurring together into one color, when I heard the screaming.
"CHADLEY! CHADLEY IS EVERYWHRE! CHADLEY IS SPREADING!"
I almost threw AAA's prized controller across the room as I ran out the door. Among the discernible bits of screaming, I identified the cause of the ruckus: apparently every smiley on the Neoboards had been replaced with Chadley's face.
I was stunned. And I thought my brother was obsessed with himself. Fame and adoration had gone to Chadley's head even more than it had gone to AAA's – is that even possible? I remembered his smarmy comments from the few days past – he thought the crowds were here for him, not the games. I snorted. Even my brother never went that far.
Afraid I was going to be crushed by the mobs running around in panic, I retreated into my big, empty house. I sat back down on my beanbag chair, watched my game run out of time, and turned one of Lulu's postcards over in my hands. I hadn't heard from AAA once.
I sighed. I was never going to admit it, but I knew I had made a stupid, childish mistake, blinded by Chadley's showy charisma. My adoration of him had faded as quickly as it came. Feeling like a fool, I walked to my room and made a beeline for the corner of my bookshelf, where a small Morse code transmitter sat, silent. I picked it up and tapped out a message already formed in my head: three short, two long, one short and three long. SMB. Save Me Bro. As I tapped and tapped, my mind wandered. All of Neopia's best gamers were on my side. Maybe if they sent in scores high enough to beat my brother, it would be enough to alert him to come back and save me.
I walked to his gaming room, and peeled his all-time high score list off the wall.
Three short. Two long. One short three long.
S. M. B.
6th Day of Hiding, Y15
"Free pictures of myself... do you want one, Abigail? I can sign it, 'to my biggest fan.'"
All these years I was so wrong. It's more than possible for a living thing to be more deeply in love with himself than my brother. I stood on my side of the flashing sign, handing out Chocolate Kookith Cakes, regretting not being able to hold my ears to block out Chadley's nonstop droning. I muttered grouchily under my breath:
The fans are here for the prizes, not your face.
No, we're not more interested in your life than the games.
No, you are not as awesome as you think you are.
No, I am most certainly not your biggest fan. At least not anymore.
No, my brother is not a dweeb. At least he knows when to keep his mouth shut.
Chadley didn't hear a word I said. He was too busy winking at swooning fangirls, signing autographs, and flashing his stunning smile.
I briefly wondered whether I would prefer to be here with him or back in Roothless's dungeon.
The line of Neopians waiting for their prizes shortened, then disappeared. I tapped my fingers absentmindedly against my skirt.
Three short. Two long. One short three long.
10th Day of Hiding, Y15
I feel like Chadley is taking over my mind. How could I ever thought that I would enjoy 22 days with him? His compliments toward himself are like a bad song, stuck in my head playing over and over no matter how much I beg it to stop.
I jumped at the first chance to get away from his face and his voice, and I'm in my room fiddling around with an old tangram set. AAA and I used to have a lot of fun making up new shapes with the seven simple pieces.
Why hadn't I heard from him? Neopia's gamers had jumped at the chance to earn extra prizes, and scores shaming him off his throne of Neopia's top games master were being sent in in the thousands. He must be having way too much fun at camp.
I flipped over the few recent postcards I had received from my cousin. Why'd you push him into that lake, Lulu? I need him to come back and save me from this relentless egotistical green thing calling itself Chadley. I looked around my room, and suddenly noticed ink splotches on my game controller. I picked it up and looked at it closely: Chadley had scrawled his autograph across it. I groaned.
Come back, AAA. Save me. My hands reached for the Morse code transmitter.
14th Day of Hiding, Y15
A reporter is coming to interview Chadley. Ugh. So he can tell the whole world that his face needs to be carved in the mountains in Shenkuu? Or that he's blindingly awesome, generous, popular, and the best gamer in Neopia?
I'd never felt defensive of my brother's title before. I guess there's a first time for everything.
I ran into Chadley backstage, behind the curtain and the sign. He was holding up a mirror, combing his hair and smiling at his own reflection.
"How do I look, Abigail? Just awesome enough to captivate my fans, but not so too awesome as to strike them blind?"
"Whatever," I snapped. "Shouldn't you be practicing Escaping to Kreludor or something? This is Daily Dare, not the Chadley show. Contrary to what your overblown head thinks."
"Seriously Abigail? Looking at your brother's head, you call mine overblown?" Chadley smirked. "The only reason I would ever need to Escape to Kreludor is to escape my fangirls. They're probably more dangerous than Jazan's, Hanso's, and Kanrik's all put together. Besides, with my score so amazingly high already, don't Neopia's gamers deserve a break?"
I walked straight out the door.
15th Day of Hiding, Y15
It was early morning, and I was checking my mailbox for Lulu's postcard. I found a note stuck to it. My heart leaped with happiness when I recognized my brother's handwriting.
It should take me a day to get to Daily Dare.
"You're in a good mood today, Abigail," Chadley said to me, flashing his perfect smile. "Clearly it must be enlightening to be near my awesomeness."
It was my turn to smirk.
16th Day of Hiding, Y15
"Good morning, Abigail!"
I was suddenly wide awake, and I smiled wider than I had for the last 17 days.
"Aristotle! You came back!"
"The irony, little sis. You try to run a gaming event by yourself, fail miserably, and come begging to the doorstep of Camp Wannamakagame to make me come back. Well, I did, and everything's good now. Get up. It's time for Daily Dare to go back to the way it should be."
"What about Chadley?" I asked. "Where's he going to go?"
AAA snorted. "Who cares about that dim-witted, self-preening loser? I can't begin to believe that you thought he could replace me. I sent him packing, just like he should. He was just an inferior substitute for the real thing. Me."
For once, I wasn't annoyed by my brother's ego.
"And he just left? Just like that?"
Was it just me, or did AAA's eyes suddenly look shifty and furtive? Then I blinked, and the look was gone.
"Come on, Abigail. The crowds are waiting."
19th Day of Hiding, Y15
Daily Dare is over. I've never seen my brother look more relaxed and satisfied. I'm just relieved. The last few days of Daily Dare had been extremely enjoyable: the family affair I remembered it to be. AAA was simply too happy to be back in the limelight to pose impossible challenges, and we caught up on more than two weeks apart as we traveled from Terror Mountain, to Neopia Central, to Kiko Lake, where we enjoyed a glass bottom boat ride, and later a relaxing swim.
Now we were sitting in back our house, me in my beanbag chair, him in his newly un-confiscated hover chair, away from the hordes of screaming gamers, who were busy celebrating and commiserating over their trophies and prizes.
"I hope you did learn your lesson, Abigail," said AAA. "Trying to replace your dear older brother with a random throwaway guy you found on the street? Look at all the havoc he caused. Neopia's gamers were surely heartbroken."
"Hey," I said a little grumpily, "You forgot about Daily Dare and up and left. I had to do something. Besides, Chadley is the best gamer in your class! Second best, I mean. Aside from you"
AAA snorted. "He's probably busier sulking that the trophies didn't have his face on them than playing games."
I laughed. "I hope you learned your lesson, Aristotle. Never forget about Daily Dare again."
For the first time since he had come back, AAA looked a little sheepish.
"Thanks for coming back and saving me, bro." I murmured.
"Hey, I'm the games master – and your older brother. It's what I do." AAA looked at me with a rare depth of affection. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to start practicing for the Games Master Challenge. It's only a few months away!"
I smiled as he booted up a new game. I headed to my room to be reunited with my Usukis.
Out of the corner of my eye, for only a split second, I saw a whisk of green fur and a large grin in the window.