Getting the Beats: Part Four
The next day on his way to the locker, Eric happened to pass by the school's most famous student.
"Me, fool. AAA."
He had not expected AAA to even know his existence, let alone his infamous moniker as that Yellow Blumaroo always had his eyes and ears focused on his game consoles... so much so that though they have managed to convince him not to bring his gaming chair, the teachers had given up trying to extract him from them. At the moment AAA was doing just that, never removing his eyes from the screen once. "I've got your attention? Good. Now, I'd hear out what Lind has to say if I were you. "
"What? But how-"
"You're not the only one that hangs around after class for after school activities. Anyway, I also overheard the whole thing yesterday. Keep an eye on Chadley, and Lind will be worth your time listening to. Something to bear in mind if you ask me."
"Which I didn't. Why are you so interested, anyway?"
"Ah, that. Quite a few reasons, actually. There's more to Lind than meets the eye, despite his superficial liking to look the best, and I am curious to see what I can make of him. Also, it'll be fun to see what happens to both yours and Chadley's little dance teams. Especially Chadley's."
Well. That's no secret, it was known throughout the student body that AAA has little tolerance for Chadley. Eric wondered if he just saw everyone around him as pawns in a game for his own means and put the question to him as AAA bleeped and blooped throughout the whole time. "See it as what you will. Seriously, I'd take my own advice if I were you. You're getting it from the one and only Game Master of Neopia, top student of our year, and a longtime classmate of Lind and Chadley, after all."
At that moment, a crowd of students passed through and AAA vanished into it, leaving behind a bewildered Eric wondering if he should actually heed the advice of that crazy gamer. He was in fact, planning to ignore Lind should they meet at all. And that opportunity came when he saw Lind waiting by his locker. He acted as if he didn't exist while he got his things for class, even when the Uni wished him good morning.
"So you won't hear me out then?"
"There's nothing to hear or say out," he replied, at which Lind just nodded with resignation.
"Fine. Since you're not willing to, it has come down to this." At that, he forcefully dragged Eric away from his locker, despite the loud protests drawing some surprised glances from passersby on their own way and would have gotten a boxing there and then if Chadley's locker wasn't just down the hallway. Chadley was there, waiting and surprised to see King Skarl coming towards him being dragged along by L. "Hey, Lind- and Eric... Why is he here with you?"
"Since he overheard us yesterday, he's here to hear my answer to your offer himself: I decline."
"What? Why?" a stunned Chadley asked, clearly not expecting this.
And so was Eric, who quietened down upon hearing Lind's answer. "Simply, I want to remain with the team I had been working with all this while. It's too late to change anything at this point and I don't want to mess up the choreography that this team had planned already."
"But I have my way with words, I know how to get them to see my- our predicament and how it will be beneficial for everyone to have a team of good looking dancers!"
Then came the words Eric never expected to come from Lind. "So do you. But aside from the trouble involved to switch teams, I actually like my team and will not be switching because of that."
For a brief moment, Eric thought he saw that megawatt smile falter for once. But it might have been a trick of his eye as Chadley just continued smiling as he replied "Well, if that's the case... I guess it can't be helped. All the best, then!"
"The same to you," replied Lind.
"Lind? What in Neopia is this about?"
"Well Eric, you've heard what I had to say about this. Now, am I still in your team or will I have to take myself out of the tryouts?"
"Since you want so badly to dance, I can't kick you out now as you told Chadley that you aren't interested in joining his team."
"Good. Then, I'll see you at practice like usual today."
Eric thought that all would be well after that incident. But at lunch time later that same day, as he and his friends entered the already crowded mess hall, Eric heard something new called out to him other than the normal "Your Highness" or the fairly recent "Big D."
"Hey, Momma's boy! Put in a word to her that the sauce is not salty enough!"
"Huh? Now what-" he spluttered in confusion.
"Loudmouth Jr., will you be treating us all for lunch today?"
"Your mum is Mrs. Loudmouth, isn't she?" It finally hit him. He looked at his friends in shock and accusation. And they all looked back at him with similarly shocked expressions that also said that they were puzzled as to how everyone else even got to know about this. He called out to the crowd somewhat shakily, "Where did you hear this from?" At that, everyone said they heard from so and so, who heard it form so and so. And by the way, wasn't it Lind who mentioned this to someone who somehow got this around? Lind?!
"That- doesn't even make sense!"
"True," agreed the other three who had already heard about what happened that morning.
"Speak of the Pant Devil, there he is!"
Lind came up to them, with a very concerned Rai and Davin in tow. "What's going on, Your Highness?" asked Davin, who was obviously much better already and had taken to calling the Skeith that after so many practices together. "Is this for real, about your mum being... her?"
"And what's Lind got to do with this? How did he even know?" asked Rai.
"Now before the accusations start, I want all of you to know that when I found out about Mrs. Loudmouth, it was entirely by accident. His Highness here, practically threatened to pull out my mane and tail by the roots should I breathe even one word of it to anyone. And that's not something I want happening to me; my glorious mane and tail are part of what makes me Lind Cheval!"
"Phew! Eric, you needn't have threatened to that extent," Greg remarked though he couldn't help smiling at Lind's compliant.
"If I didn't, things could have been worse," growled Eric.
"There now, everyone, we're just going to have lunch now, alright? Bug His Highness about free lunch after his dance tryouts!" Julian tried to lessen the unwanted attention that was coming their way.
"Julian!" The growls were now directed at the Mynci. "For real?" exclaimed someone.
"On His Highness honour," promised Julian. "What?" This was directed to the fiery glare coming from Eric. "At least we got everyone off your back for now!"
"You didn't have to bring in the free lunch!"
"Alright, enough." Greg, ever the voice of reason calmed everyone down, got them to sit at their normal table and into the lunchtime discussion. "First off, who let the Meowclops out of the sack if not Lind? It's definitely not any of us three here, Rai and Davin didn't even know about it and all of us here know that Lind had no reason to do this."
"Actually, Rai and I don't quite get it. Mind filling us in someone?"
And so, the locker scene from this morning was relayed to the two younger ones. When it was done, they sat in stunned silence, letting the news sink in. Then Davin wondered aloud, "What if there's someone else who knew about Eric's mum? Aside from the four others?"
"But how's that even possible? None of us would even mention about this in front of other Neopians!"
"Still, that's the only other theory we can come to if none of you said anything."
"Eric, do you act like you know the mess hall lady very well when you collect your food?" inquired Rai. "No. Last thing I would do if I don't want anyone to know about my mum. Whenever she talks to me, I keep it very short."
"Hm. Then do you think that you might been followed back home and someone saw your mother coming back as well?"
"I don't know," sighed Eric with frustration and misery. "That could've happened."
"Oh, now that you've mentioned it, Rai, there were times I thought I saw a shadow lurking around the windows. There were a few times I also saw someone that looked like Davin following us from a distance whenever I was at His Highness house for our lessons," Lind recalled.
"What? I can honestly say that I've never been to your house, Your Highness, and I don't even know where it is! I didn't know about your mother until today," protested Davin.
"But if it isn't you, then who?"
"You know what," interjected Miles. "From a distance, I can mistake Davin for Chadley and vice versa. Both of you are about the same height and have almost similar hairstyles. There were times I nearly called out Davin's name only to find that it was Chadley." With that, Eric suddenly flash backed to the day before where he made the same mistake.
"How is it that you can miss seeing the crowd of fans that follow him?" Julian asked Miles incredulously.
"I did say, that happens when I see one of them from a distance," came the huffy reply.
"Is that so? That may explain why sometimes people come up calling me Chadley. Hey-! It's just a thought but what if whatever AAA said is true?" exclaimed Davin.
"About the fact that you'll have to keep an eye on Chadley. He's friendly and well liked by everyone, but thinking about it I am not entirely sure if this is something he wouldn't do."
"You might have a point there, Davin," mused the Uni. "Chadley had always made sure to be among the very best at everything and would do anything to strengthen his popularity. In fact, there were instances that made some of us ask if what he was doing was alright. Also, whenever I hear any sensational news in school from him, he always says that he hears it from someone and that news happens to be about someone or something that have potential to 'threaten' his popularity."
"Why don't we confront him about this?"
"Wait Eric, are you serious? You don't even have proof to say that he's the one who started this!" cautioned Greg. "I don't care. I would rather hear it from him and we all know that none of us have reason to do this."
Eric got up and headed over to the table where Chadley is sitting with his group of friends before anyone could stop him. The loud chatter around that table dropped a muffled one to as he approached and all present stared. "Well, what brings you here, Eric?" politely inquired someone.
"I just want to ask: Was it you who told everyone who is my mother?" Eric directed this to Chadley, who just sat back in his seat and gave him blinding smile.
"What makes you think that I would do that?"
"Oh, lots of things, really. But here's the thing: Lind proved himself to have no reason for doing that and so did the rest. You're the one with 'something to lose' by not having your good friend on your team, so you got a reason to squeak."
"I don't get your reasoning, King Skarl. Something to lose? What will I be losing out on? My team has got the good looks and skills to go around."
"Are you so sure? Why did you bother asking me to join then?" Lind and the rest joined Eric and got there just in time to catch what Chadley was saying. That was nearly drowned out by Eric's furious reply.
"Don't lie!! You did say so yourself about how it'll be good for everyone to see a team of good looking dancers! Even if you want to deny what I said, Lind can back me up!"
"Aren't you going to answer, Chadley? I am sure what he asked simply needs a 'yes' or 'no'." Greg had known Eric long enough to know that Eric was very close to the boiling point and very willing to start using fists on Chadley.
"Well," here Chadley dropped his voice so much so that only he and Eric (and those who were in extremely close proximity) could hear, "even if I did spread the news, what difference does it make except to your reputation and your team? A fair price I think, for using one of the good looking students in school." Had Greg, Miles or Julian been the ones to hear that, they would have to grab hold of Eric. But neither three were that close to hear what was said so softly. Lind was the one who stopped Eric's fist. Anyone who had not seen or heard the exchange of words happening in their midst would've by now felt the tension coming from Chadley's table. The whole table was in fact, silent.
"A price for using good looking students? Now I know how you see things," Lind replied coldly.
"Ah, Lind... I didn't mean it that way-"
"You didn't? Then you'll be cool with this good looking student quoting the fair price of remaining with this team and making sure that it beats your team in the try out. Get ready to meet us! Come, everyone!" Lind lead the whole team away from Chadley's table after giving that bold declaration of war, leaving behind hushed whispers in its wake.
"Lind! That was-"
"Yeah, awesome. I know, Davin."
"Well, you've taken it out of my mouth. But what made you say that? Fair price?"
"I'll tell you all later-"
"Why bother to tell the rest? What he said was not worth repeating. Besides, this is between me and Chadley," Eric gruffly stated.
"Sorry, but this also involves me as one of the people he and I both are. I'm not letting him say as he pleases about other Neopians. Besides," Lind turned to look at Eric with determined eyes, "this is something that may motivate the team to do their best. Chadley will regret ever saying that."
To be continued...