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Petpet Name: Fleur
Pet Name: Meiau
Breed: Fire Yooyu
The AC is over, the players are enjoying a (little) bit of much needed relaxation, the fans are going home, and the angry Yurble janitor is busy cleaning up yet another mess. This Cup was history in the making, too! Virtupets won the Cup, making them the first team ever to have placed last in the tournament and then become a strong enough team to win the Cup. Krawk Island made its fifth appearance in the Final Four, its fourth appearance on the podium, and its second silver trophy. Moltara... well, Moltara finished last again this year, but of their most notable achievements was a main-event win against Krawk Island during the Double Round Robin. Was that a spark of greatness that will burn brighter over the coming years? Only time will tell, but it shows the newest team to the Cup has more potential than most of the critics will ever admit... at least, will ever admit until Moltara's captain is standing on the podium, when they'll say they predicted it years ago.
As much as everyone looks forward to the AC every year, it's an intense month of competition, and Neopians look forward to it ending, too. But when the fans trickle away and the players go home... what happens to the Yooyus? Do they have owners they go home with too, or do they spend the rest of the year... alone? Or worse?
Well this year, Meiau -- a lovely young Kiko with brilliant blue eyes -- was determined to find out.
Gosh, it's so deserted! Meiau thought as she bounced along. She would have thought there would at least be a few fans hanging about, hoping for autographs after the previous day's exciting final match, or players still packing up there gear, or team managers talking with players they wanted to recruit for AC VII... but there was no one around.
Well, almost no one! Mei thought to herself as she dodged out of sight of the janitor, who was muttering under his breath and angrily stabbing a pile of debris with a broom.
Shrinking into the shadows, the Kiko frowned. He gets grumpier every day! How does he manage that?! she thought, a little grumpy herself.
Once the acerbic janitor passed out of earshot, Meiau continued on to her destination -- the Yooyu Pen. This year, she had to know what would happen to the Yooyus when the world forgot about the Altador Cup.
The closer she got to the pen, the more horrible the visions in her imagination got. Perhaps they make this year's Yooyus -- who worked so hard each match! -- work the fields around Altador! Or fight in the Petpet Battles in Darigan Citadel! Or perhaps they feed them to the Turmaculus in Meridell! she thought, shuddering. Each thought was more horrible than the last, but this year, she vowed, she would save them!
When Mei finally arrived at the Yooyu Pen, her heart was thudding in her chest, and she was ready to burst in and fight for the poor over-worked Petpets. But if she had thought to see horrible things, the room surely didn't keep the promises in her dark imagination.
As it was during the year, the Yooyu Pen was clean and smelled faintly of straw bedding. There were no frightened or neglected Yooyus -- in fact, there were barely any Yooyus in the room at all.
In fact, there was only one, a petulant-looking fire Yooyu. But if she had thought to find the Pen deserted, she was disappointed, for next to the Yooyu -- which was making rather rude sounds! -- was an exasperated-looking blue Kacheek.
"But little girl, you can't stay here," he said, sighing. For some reason, Meiau thought that wasn't the first time he had said those words.
"The Stadium is empty during the year!" he said, a pleading tone in his voice. He reached out to stroke the Petpet, but cringed when the Yooyu's flames flared brighter. "Yow!" he cried, holding his singed hand.
Mei was interested despite herself. "She's a girl?" she asked, speaking before she'd really thought it out.
The Kacheek gasped and turned to stare at her; Meiau froze, but not because of the Kacheek -- the fiery Yooyu had curled into a ball and launched itself at her!
"NO!" cried the Kacheek, diving after the quick Petpet, but he was too slow and far, far too late.
Meiau cringed and closed her eyes, expected to be burned as the Kacheek had been burned or at the very least knocked around -- but to her surprise, she merely found herself holding a very warm little ball.
Cracking her eyes open, she looked down to see a rather content-looking Yooyu in her arms. For his part, the Kacheek looked flabbergasted.
"Oh, you'll burn your Keeper, but a random child shows up and you're her best friend, huh?" he asked, sounding cross, but Mei could see the tiniest hint of a smile at the corner of his mouth
"Phhhhbbbbt!" The Yooyu was sticking outs its -- her? -- tongue again, making rude sounds at the Kacheek. Meiau couldn't help but giggle.
"Hi," she said, suddenly shy. "I'm... I'm Meiau. I came to see if the Yooyus are... okay... after the Cup is over." The words came out haltingly; here in the clean little room where the Petpets were clearly well cared for, her worries seemed unfounded and a little silly.
"I'm Henry," the Kacheek said with a knowing smile. "I'm the senior Yooyu Keeper here in Altador. I've been in charge of caring for the Yooyus since ACI, and you're not the first concerned party to come check up on these little guys."
"I'm not?" Meiau felt sillier than ever, but the warm little bundle in her arms was starting to drowse. It was comforting, somehow.
Henry snorted. "Nope. You wouldn't believe some of the stories people get in their heads and come down here to 'rescue' the Yooyus. One Cybunny last year was worried we fed them to the Turmaculus!" he said indignantly.
"Phhbbbt!" The Yooyu in Mei's arms blew another raspberry at Henry, but the sound was sleepier this time and less petulant than it had been before.
"Imagine that," Meiau said, somewhat weakly.
Henry just nodded. "I know. Crazy kids! I've taken care of the Yooyus for years -- no harm will come to them while I'm on watch! Except..."
"Except?" the Kiko asked, staring at the Keeper with wide eyes.
The Kacheek sighed. "Except that little girl has me worried. Most of the Yooyus have homes to go to for the summer for a much earned rest, but that one won't go with anyone. She can't stay here -- she'd be all alone!" he told her, worry plain in his voice.
"Oh no!" Meiau cried, staring down at the drowsy little Petpet.
"Except..." Henry paused, staring at her speculatively.
The Kiko glanced up, staring back at him.
Suddenly, he grinned. "What's your name?" he asked.
Mei paused, caught off-guard for a moment. "Meiau..." she trailed off, wondering if she was in trouble. "I didn't mean to cause any problems; I just wanted to help the Yooyus!"
"Well, Meiau, I think you can do just that!" he told her, smiling a little smugly.
"I can? But..." she stopped, confused.
"Do you have a Petpet?" Henry asked.
"Uh, no? Asellus says I can, but I haven't found one yet."
Henry's grin got wider. "Want one?"
Meiau gaped at the Keeper, dumbfounded. "What?" she finally asked, somewhat lamely.
"The only catch is," he told her, "she needs to be back here next summer for ACVII... but I have a feeling she'll go back home with you after that."
The Kiko stared down at the fire Yooyu in her arms. "Do you want to come home with me?" she asked, uncertainly.
Her only answer was a sleepy sigh.
"Sounds like a yes to me!" Henry said, eagerly shooing them out the door. Meiau found herself outside the closed door to the Yooyu Pen, shocked.
"But what was that about next year?" she called, still stunned at the turn of events.
"Don't worry," Henry yelled through the closed door. "She'll bring you back -- no Yooyu ever misses a Cup!"
And so Meiau did end up helping out the Yooyus -- but not in the way she had expected. She and Fleur -- as she ended up calling the fiery Petpet -- have been together ever since. Well, except during the month of Relaxing; Henry was right, of course. No Yooyu ever misses an Altador Cup.
Judge's Note: If you'd like to read more about Henry, please check out Storytelling Contest 510!
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