Never Finish Last: Part Two
Art by renzyboy
Roo Island draws crowds of various melting pots for different reasons. For once, the subjects of a kingdom enjoy having a king. King Roo governs the island with a "jelly fist" making his everydays legendary. One might think: if every day's a jolly holiday in Roo Island, then no day is a holiday in Roo Island. But in the sheer prospect of merrymaking, Roo Islanders, or, as what they colloquially call themselves, Rooligans, make it happen.
Perhaps the wow factor is the fact that the entire island is a proud amusement park. Exclusively why it's a summer getaway (or any other sort of seasonal getaway) is because of the carnival appeal. Roo Island boasts of housing the Games Room (thanks in part to the overhaul from the bug invasion earlier this year), the Merry Go Round and the Art District: hot spots for creativity and fun.
Perchance a most well-known landmark in Roo Island is its grand boardwalk, located in the port city of the kingdom, Blumaria. It wraps around the island's bay for tourists and locals alike to browse through modest establishments such as eateries, souvenir shops, and, of course, the Games Room. People visit it every day, from the early morning when the sun hits the boulevard at high peak to the late night when the neon lights are bright and the pets can view the picturesque sunset.
A smattering of Neopets scuttles through the olden floorboards of Blumaria's sea-misted boardwalk. It is early morning, and the hard earners from the Games Room have just emerged out of the late-night tournaments of Meerca Chase II, clutching sackloads of Neopoints and eyes bagged like yesterday's laundry. They scuffle, blindly leading each other to a post or a lowly Neomailbox. They open their half-open eyes to see somebody coming towards them. The floorboards creak and bounce with every step, and with a few demanding steps to the side, the groggy Neopets make it just in time to get out of the way of a hooded Lupe.
After his breakfast with Keila, Squeaky convinced her to allow him to jog a few rounds before meeting up with the team. He doesn't want to rush towards seeing the likes of Lilo and the gang. Besides, afterwards will be their first practice, and a week in the slump could stiffen any pet's muscles; especially the ones he hasn't used in a long time. A rhythmic bouncing on the wooden platforms shakes the walk surrounding his steps, but Tressif plows through.
One thing that Roo Island is not famous for is its weather. Humidity fluctuates every now and then, and even though the sun shines brightly and the breeze cools slightly, the air makes everything and everyone muggy. He scoops up his jacket sleeves past elbow length as he jogs the boardwalk; the salty wet fog seeping into the crevices of his partially limp body. The sun barely helps, the heat wringing him of any drop of sweat in his body. He hasn't sweat like this since the day he dropped Brightvale.
A table stood on a platform in the middle of the Altadorian coliseum, surrounded by stringers with notepads and cameras interspersed with coaches, investors, managers and devoted fans. Two burly Yurbles walked on the wooden platform protecting a Red Lupe. His appearance uttered a loud clapping with a mixture of booing and rambling. The Lupe was accompanied by a spotted Tuskaninny in Brightvalean garb, contrary to the Lupe's modern olive green suit. He fixed his gold satin necktie, affixed adjacent to his green shirt, which stood for his homeland's colors; an irony considering that this was the official press conference on his departure from the team. His face was unnerved but sallow. He sat down beside his manager, mentally recapped his lines and focused the microphone near his muzzle.
The flurry of flashes and the fuzz of voices made for a hashed, blurry experience. The Lupe squinted as the cacophony died down. Out of the silent, determined crowd, a Tonu waved her quill, and the Brightvalean manager pointed his hand to her. She stood up, unabashed, and asked her question. "Is it true that Mr. Tressif, 'Squeaky' to his supporters, is leaving the team?" The noise from the crowd reemerged until the Lupe tapped his microphone.
"My years with my homeland team have given me the opportunity of a lifetime and gained me things I could never imagine—friends, experience, and a chance on a poor boy like me to be in a fascinating world such as this. But as I continue with my journey as an athlete and as a Neopet, I feel that it's about time to set for... something mew." He glanced at his wrist. "I-I mean something new. It's about time I set for something new." He rolled down his cuffs to hide a scribble of prewritten answers.
An Ogrin aggressively waved his right hand. The Tuskaninny blew a sigh out of his mouth and reluctantly gave this reporter the open chance to question. "Does this departure have anything to do with the several offences your fellow teammates have incurred for the past years? From record, Mr. Tressif, your history is clean... but as for your colleagues..." The slurry of noise clouded the sticky air, only to cease after a harsh shush was thrown for the crowd.
The Lupe tilted his head, waiting for the Ogrin to finish his statement (only to have him trail off right there,) before taking in a breath and replying:
"I have served my homeland and my teammates justly and to the best of my *cough* abilities. But as a player I felt it was high time I try my luck on other turfs." He nodded to assure the people (and to extent, himself) that what he was saying was true; that the good guy wasn't lying, because he had nothing to hide. He browsed the crowd to ease the tension between him and the microphone. He eyed a Starry Blumaroo crossing her arms; the only adamant soul in the complex, and returned to his notes. Mainly, his wrist.
Several questions were shot at the manager and his player before the Lupe surreptitiously gestured for the conference to end. The Tuskaninny motioned for a last question, and a Krawk with a fedora keenly flicked his tail in front of several photographers. It caused a ruckus and caught the manager's attention.
"Mr. Tressif," the Krawk bellowed after the manager's go signal, "you have made it clear that you will be leaving the stands of Brightvale. Will the Yooyuball community see more from you; even if it was behind the bylines?"
The Lupe maintained his determined expression and responded. "This will not be my final year playing Yooyuball. Even though I have finished my time in Brightvale that doesn't mean I will finish my time in the profession I love doing the most. If there are any offers pending, granted I will be so blessed, I will consider and hopefully play in the fields next Altador Cup."
Several flashes went off as the Lupe gently took off from the table, his bodyguards treading lightly. The Tuskaninny, forehead wrinkled and sinuses acting up, addressed the crowd a good evening and thanks for being such good sports.
A white flash goes off in his eyes and Tressif finds himself hazy and lost from his jog. Oh Fyora! What in Faerieland was that? It is a young Buzz holding a camera right in front of him. The boy gawks with a blank stare on his face, aware of the presence in front of him; a legendary player who has come to crack his knuckles and play. The Buzz recognizes the lines on his face, the physique and the stance, but he isn't the clean-cut Lupe he would see in the playoffs. Captured in his photograph is the mangled wreck of what once was a Cyodrake's Gaze, now an inner tube on the onset of his team career juggling.
Squeaky stops, blinks in succession and rubs his face from the sweat. Oh look, a young 'un, he realizes. Try not to scare him off. He kneels, using his stronger foot to support, lowering his eye level to meet the boy's. He raises his eyebrows and tries to wipe away any ounce of scary maturity. Children are afraid of older people. He gently looks into the young scrap's globular eyes and, with his right hand, reaches for the boy's camera. Though not breaking the eye contact, the boy latches on to his device; his pudgy hands wrapped around it like a garden vine on a trellis.
Tressif may not be a joy when it comes to dealing with fans, especially the rabid ones, but he is grateful for them. Every single one of them. So even though he would prefer to scoot out onto the boulevard to finish his jog, instead he holds the boy's shoulders and politely asks him one question.
"Would you like a picture with 'Squeaky'?"
To be continued...