Brain of Neopia: Part Seven
It was the day before the grand final. And Roan was terrified.
The system for the Brain of Neopia meant that the day before the final was left completely free, for contestants to worry. It was traditional for at least one contestant to collapse from the pressure, and some would enter the final gibbering nonsense. Once, when the topic was Tyrannian Translations, this system scored full marks.
However, Roan was far beyond the gibbering stage. He was even past the period of utmost terror. Now, he was in Angry Mode.
Examining his pile of Neopedia volumes, he noticed that he only had two books, and was therefore unable to learn past the middle of C. He stormed angrily back to the bookshop, following the same path as he had the day before, mainly through habit. Outside the shop was a book, a pot, and a notice. The notice read:
For the attention of the angry Scorchio who was in here a few days ago,
Here’s the book you were looking for. It’s free, so put the appropriate amount of money in the pot as necessary.
Have a nice day, and I expect to be enjoying your custom in the near future.
Roan read the notice, snorted furiously, picked up the book, argued furiously with the pot over the price, eventually conceded, dropped some money into it, and returned to his tent to read.
In time, once he had skimmed the book (he had given up on learning every fact about Neopia. It seemed to be too much hassle. Besides, he already knew everything beginning with the letter A, so he had a one in twenty-six chance of being fully knowledgeable on any given subject), he realised he was still missing a volume. By the time he reached the bookshop, the next volume was lying on the doorstep, and the pot had been emptied.
This process set the theme for most of the day. By nightfall, Roan had skimmed all twenty-two volumes of the Neopedia, and was fifty-six thousand neopoints in debt. But, he thought, that’s irrelevant. If I win, there’s a cash sum. I’ll be able to make back all the money I lost.
Still, Roan was not at ease. Not only did he not know everything he needed to know for the quiz, but he had a strange feeling he was being watched. Whenever he looked around, he kept catching a glimpse of movement in the corner of his eye, from somebody trying to see what he was reading. It was making him nervous and paranoid. Still, he reassured himself, there’s nothing wrong with being paranoid. People generally ARE out to get you.
More than once, the Producer had turned up, excitedly reporting on the other three contestants who he would be competing against in the final.
“There’s all really busy learning!” said the Producer on one occasion, toward the end of the day. Roan had continued to hide his books, which had become increasingly difficult as the day went on, due to increasing numbers. At the moment, most of them were stuffed in a jumper, propped up against the wall. “Whereas you’re just sitting here, doing nothing. I mean, you’ve even got people watching you!” He pointed to the pile. “Strange. I don’t recall Paper pets being released yet.”
“They’re special edition,” said Roan quickly, diverting attention away from the mysterious figure. “Anyway, I could use some, er, brain medicine.”
“Where do you get that from?” asked the Producer. “I’ll get it for you!”
“Well, if you’re sure. It’s right across the other side of town.”
“What’s it called?”
“Er... when you get there, ask around. You’ll find it eventually.”
“And don’t leave until you’ve found it. It’s really important.”
The Producer hurried off, and Roan went to retrieve the books from the jumper. There seemed to be one less than he had put in, although when he examined the pile again, there was the right number. Pages were still fluttering on the topmost one. Roan squinted at it for a moment before picking it up and reading an article on rotational farming in Meridell.
By the end of the day, when Roan was too tired even to read by the light of his Altadorian Desk Lamp (“a light to guide the unenlightened, although with this lamp, you’ll probably fall into the latter category”), he mentally assessed his knowledge. I’ve learnt a little bit about a lot, and know a lot about very little, his mind told him. Unless we get questions on the Kiko Nacci Number Sequence, tomorrow’s going to be very miserable. He opened the relevant Neopedia volume, scanned the article briefly, and fell asleep.
A figure in the dark waited for a few minutes before sneaking in and taking the book.
* * *
The next morning dawned. The morning of the final. Roan awoke, lay peacefully for a moment, and then remembered where he was.
When he had stopped screaming and running around, he collected himself, and started to pick up the Neopedia volumes that he had spent the last minute booting around, organising them into a nice pile. He had a final count to make sure they were all there. They were. This was almost a disappointment for him.
The next couple of hours passed in a blur, a rush of pushing through people, walking around, sitting down, panicking, and generally doing nothing, in a pro-active manner. And so it was that, just a few minutes before noon, Roan was sitting, once again, in one of the comfortable chairs in the antechamber, nervously waiting to enter the arena.
Hugo breezed in, cloak billowing. Behind him, the Skeith with the fan followed.
“Good morning, contestants. And Roan. You’ll be starting the final in a few minutes, and I wish the best of luck to three of you.
“The rules for the final are slightly different. The first round will have three questions to each contestant, on no set topic. After the first round, the player with the lowest score will be eliminated. If there is a tie at the bottom, there will be a tiebreaker of a single question – the first person to get the question right goes through. That will leave three contestants to contest the second round, which will be a buzzer round. After a certain number of questions, the person with the lowest score will be eliminated, leaving the two finalists. They will then contest the Grand Finale, the rules of which will be explained at the time.”
Hugo turned, and started toward the doorway, beyond which the crowd
With a final glare at Roan, Hugo swept back out of the door, to the rapturous applause of the audience.
“The time is midday NST,” said Hugo, in a grandiose voice, gliding flamboyantly onto his podium. “That can only mean one thing. The grand final of the Brain of Neopia, Year 10, is beginning!”
The crowd went wild. Actually, that is inaccurate – none of them started living in jungles, waving spears, and eating grass. Apart from the ones that already did, anyway. And those who, through a combination of unfortunate circumstances, found it necessary to do so. Anyway, to choose a less controversial metaphor, the crowd exploded.
“First, we need to remember some more of the honourable failures over the years. Unfortunately, there haven’t been any, so we’ll remember all the dishonourable ones instead. From Year 1, Four-Scythe the Bruce.” There was laughter from the audience. “From Year 2, Bull the Pteri. From Year 3, Versity the Uni. From Year 4, Perry and Mippin the Flotsam and Jetsam twins. From Year 5, Remark the Koi. From Year 6, Red the Gelert. From Year 7, Pat the Kau. From Year 8, Jabber the Wocky. From Year 9, Noise the Eyrie. And, from Year 10, two memorable losers – AAA the Blumaroo, and Roan the Scorchio.”
“I’m still in it!” shouted Roan from the waiting room, but nobody heard him, apart from the other contestants, who gave him odd looks.
“And, of course, special mention as always to Sly Roo the Shoyru!”
A last, mirthful peal of laughter erupted from the audience before they fell silent again, tense, nervous, waiting for the show to begin.
“And now, please welcome our four finalists, featuring three of the finest minds and most discerning intellects ever to walk Neopia. And a game show host with a bit of luck. Firstly, the defending champion, invited back this year after a miraculous run of form last year that saw him answer every question correctly, even the ones that weren’t directed at him. Give a huge round of applause for the immense Kochi!”
A Red Pteri who had been perched on the edge of one of the seats (more for comfort than tension), flapped off and out into the arena, to the sound of great support.
“Next, all the way from Altador, comes the archivist who has witnessed many of Neopia’s great events, and, blessed with a remarkable memory, has remembered everything that has ever happened. A warm welcome, please, for the venerable historian, Finneus!”
A Blue Lenny looked up from an old scroll, which he had been reading whilst waiting, smiled nervously at nobody in particular, and strode into the arena. The clapping was deafening.
“Thirdly, the Kyrii who has proven time and time again that she cannot be beaten for knowledge. She lives as a recluse in the outskirts of Neopia Central, spending her time correcting entries in the Neopedia.” Roan’s heart almost stopped at these words. The Neopedia has faults? “Please welcome the miraculous Sensaba!”
The Brown Kyrii rose, smiled briefly at Roan, and stepped into the arena. Her entrance was greeted warmly.
“And, last and least, we have Roan!”
Roan sat for a moment, waiting for an introduction. When it became clear that he wasn’t going to get one, he rose, took a deep breath, and stepped into the arena.
If it had been full before, it was bursting now. Every spare inch of the spectator stands was crammed full of people, every single person cheering, some waving banners (although some were left over from the most recent Yooyuball tournament, and had ‘Darigan’ crossed out, and ‘Kochi’ scrawled carelessly across instead.) None of them seemed to care that Roan was not favoured by Hugo, and all were cheering wildly. The feeling was incredible to Roan. He had never had a welcome like this at the Meepit Show.
Roan took his seat at the desk. It was a different desk to the one he had had two days previously, and the buzzer seemed to be working on this one. Just as well, he thought. I need all the help I can get if I’m going to get through this.
The crowd fell silent as Hugo began to speak.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the moment you have been waiting for. These contestants have fought their way here, by a combination of skill and good fortune, and, by the end of today, we will have announced the Brain of Neopia, Year 10! So, let the grand finale of Brain of Neopia begin!”
To be continued...