From the Rose
“Happy Valentine’s Day,” said Ciona Broan, as she came into the locker room. “It’s a shame that we didn’t get the day off.”
Delma nodded her agreement and took out her Yooyuball jersey.
“You have to admit, though, Kakoni’s not one to celebrate. We barely got him to that Day of Giving party the other day, and then he forced us to do running drills for the rest of the year,” remarked Delma sarcastically. “I’m still sore from the twenty laps.”
Ciona shrugged and said, “Are you going to that party Prytariel’s throwing?”
“What is with you and parties?” laughed Delma. “But yeah, of course I am. Aren’t you?”
The answer was no surprise to her. Ciona was well known as the partygoer of their team, having attended gatherings held by Neopians from every corner of the planet. Naturally, she would be present at Prytariel’s Valentine’s Day bash.
“Let’s go together. How about we head toward there after practice? She’s even arranged some sort of secret-Valentine thing. Apparently, we draw names out of a hat and make whoever’s name we get a card,” said Ciona. “Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?”
The Zafara nodded, only vaguely listening to Ciona’s talk about Prytariel’s party.
They left the locker room and went onto the field, where Babolino had gone all out by throwing confetti at Valtonous, who appeared slightly annoyed, but he wasn’t willing to get up and throw something back. Pink and red confetti rained down on their heads as Delma and Ciona arrived. Kakoni was the last one to arrive at practice, and the second he stepped foot onto the grassy pitch, Ciona sent at him a barrage of requests to get out of practice early. Kakoni appeared largely unruffled, having dealt with something similar before, but agreed to let them out a few minutes early, so they could make it to the party on time.
By the time they were let out, they were actually several minutes late. Valtonous and Babolino had gotten the idea to use the clockwork Yooyus, causing them to be delayed significantly, and even though Ciona had threatened them with maiming and mutilation, neither of them had done anything to speed up the process.
Delma and Ciona were quite late for the party, but Prytariel greeted them and let them in nevertheless. After socializing a bit—Delma chatted with Orie Dinelle about miscellaneous topics, among which were cake flavors and the next Altador Cup, while Ciona was engaged in conversation with the Yooyuball players from the Haunted Woods, discussing the episode of Faerieland’s crash into the Woods—Prytariel announced that they would be starting the Secret-Valentine event. She procured a large bowl, in which were a million little pieces of paper with everyone’s names on it, and instructed everyone to pick a name. Oddly enough, Delma had picked Ciona’s name, while Ciona had drawn Krell Vitor’s name—something she wasn’t too excited about, given that the last time they had met, they had argued about whether or not Faerieland’s Yooyuball team should be held accountable for the fact that Faerieland’s crash had demolished a large section of Haunted Woods.
After an hour of gluing, writing, more glue, and then some glitter, Delma had finished her valentine. Feeling largely uninspired during the project, she had opted for a simple message of, “Happy Valentine’s Day, –From, your Secret Valentine”. She had no doubt that Ciona would easily figure out who had written it.
Her teammate was having a harder time. She had tried hard to find a color that wasn’t pink or red, which she felt did not adequately express her feelings toward Krell, which were more of a Sloth green, given that Sloth was usually known for his ability to destroy, but had to settle. She used absolutely no glitter or clipart, and for her message, she wrote:
Violets are blue,
Roses are red,
I would love to throw something,
At your big head.
Knowing that this would give her away as easily as if she had signed it with Ciona Broan, the Kyrii folded it up haphazardly and addressed it.
“Okay, so once you’re done, put your Valentine into this box!” announced Prytariel, holding out the box—which, obviously, was decorated with hearts and pink paper.
There was a bit of chaos as everyone went to dump their Valentines into the box. When they were finished, the Cloud Aisha called, “Settle down, now! I’ll distribute the cards.”
Someone yelled, “I’d better not end up getting your card, Pry!” which caused Prytariel to roll her eyes in an act of mock annoyance. The Aisha knew well enough who it was that had shouted that, but she wasn’t about to reprimand him.
“Aside from all the random comments, let’s allocate the cards!” the Aisha said, starting to hand out Valentines.
Delma waited anxiously for her name to be called.
Prytariel couldn’t help but laugh at the card Ciona had made, saying, “Krell, someone sent you a poem!” before handing him his Valentine. Krell Vitor did a double-take when he saw Ciona’s little verse, causing Zo Junior to read it aloud. Krell was looking murderous by the time it was over, and was shooting daggers at Ciona.
“Pry, did you rig this? Why did I get your card?” Rinok Fitel called from across the room.
Prytariel gritted her teeth and replied, “Believe me, if I had rigged this, you wouldn’t be getting a card at all!”
Delma took her own Valentine. Daintily crafted and addressed carefully, it was hard to believe that it had been made in less than half an hour. A lace border trimmed the pink paper, and inside was a message.
“From the Rose”
The single message was written in the same spidery script, but there was nothing more than that. The card consisted of nothing but that single note, “From the Rose”.
The Rose... Who was the Rose?
“Ciona,” Delma tapped on her friend’s shoulder.
Ciona was busy admiring her own Valentine, which she suspected was from Fiorina, a noted perfectionist.
“Who’s the Rose?” asked the Zafara.
“The Rose?” Ciona repeated. “I don’t know. As far as I know, no one here is named ‘The Rose’. Ask Prytariel, or something. She organized this, anyway.”
Delma got up and approached Prytariel, who was still trying to distribute a few cards that had no names marked on it.
“Do you know anyone named the Rose?” she asked.
Prytariel raised an eyebrow confusedly.
“I don’t believe so,” she said slowly. “But it has to be someone here, so it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out. Just figure out who has nice handwriting and an ability to craft nice cards. This means you can automatically eliminate Rinok from the list.”
She laughed drily.
“Thanks anyways,” said Delma.
The Zafara wandered off, vaguely taking note of the various Yooyuball players in the room. Krell had finally cracked, after Zo had taunted him repeatedly about his hate-Valentine, and was yelling at both Ciona and Zo, neither of which cared much. Zo Junior was looking around the room, bored, while Ciona was half asleep before Krell could finish his speech’s introduction.
“Ciona Broan, are you even listening to me?”
Ciona jolted awake.
“What? Something about cake?” she said confusedly.
Krell sighed and told himself not to hit her. The fans wouldn’t take well to the fact that he had mauled Faerieland’s left defender, who was several times smaller than he was.
Delma ran up to them and grabbed Ciona by the wrist.
“I’m sorry to interrupt your discussion, but I need her help with someone,” she said apologetically as she dragged the Kyrii away from Krell and Zo.
Once they were alone, Delma said, “I’m not going to be able to find the Rose by myself. You’re going to have to help me, okay?”
“Duh, that goes without saying,” Ciona replied casually.
Delma whipped out the Valentine she had received.
“Who here has nice handwriting and can make a card?” she asked.
“I know that Fiorina is super detail-oriented, Keetra Deile has the nicest handwriting in the league, and Xana DiLanche makes crafts in her free time, if that’s any help,” suggested Ciona.
“I’m not going up to them and asking about it!” protested the Zafara.
“Um... Well, Prytariel’s going to get us to find who gave us our cards,” Ciona tried. “Maybe you can find them then.”
Just then, Prytariel’s voice rang out over the crowd.
“Now, find who gave you your card!” she said.
There was another flurry of activity as everyone tried to find the creator of their Valentine. Ciona, as predicted, knew easily it was Delma’s work, figuring it out in a record of ten seconds.
“I recognize your handwriting,” she said, winking.
True enough, Krell knew Ciona had made the card with the poem about throwing things at him. Rinok didn’t bother finding who had created his Valentine; he knew that it was Prytariel’s work and still had his suspicions about the whole rigging-the-system theory, but wasn’t going to complain.
By nine o’clock, everyone had figured out who had created their card—everyone except for Delma. The Zafara was still in the dark regarding her secret Valentine. Prytariel finally asked everyone who had made Delma’s Valentine, but everyone maintained that they hadn’t done it.
“It looks as though no one knows who made this,” she concluded, shrugging.
Crestfallen, Delma thanked the Aisha for her help and slipped the card back in her pocket. The rest of the night passed with snacking and singing. Ciona managed to get Delma onstage to sing, but the Zafara refused.
“Come on, Delma, you have a great voice,” protested Ciona. She ended up dragging Delma onstage, where she had no choice but to perform. Everyone told her she had a lovely voice, but Delma doubted it greatly.
They left the party tired and worn out, with the Valentine still in Delma’s pocket.
Delma bolted upright in the middle of the night and raced down the stairs. There, lying on her desk, was the Valentine she had received at the party, still pretty and pristine. Her name was addressed in a blue ink, which stood out against the pink paper.
Clutching it in her hand, she threw on her clothes and raced out the door. The sky was littered with sparkling stars, winking down at her as she dashed down her street. At last, she stood on Ciona’s doorstep, where she banged on the door loudly.
Ciona sleepily got up, and, still in her nightdress, opened the door to find Delma, disheveled and mussed, standing there.
“Delma?” she mumbled drowsily.
“Look at this,” ordered the Zafara and shoved the Valentine in Ciona’s face. The Kyrii took it and blinked a few times to clear her vision.
“So? It’s the card you got at the party,” she said. “Now, can I go back to sleep?”
“No no, look at this,” Delma said, pointing to a corner of the card. There was a tiny flower etched onto the paper that she had barely noticed the night before.
“A flower...? So what does that have to do with anything?” asked Ciona.
“Who do you know that draws flowers?” inquired the Zafara. “Wait a second... You draw flowers!”
“I made Krell Vitor’s card, remember?” Ciona remarked.
The Zafara frowned.
Ciona then yawned and said, “Now can I go back to sleep?”
Delma hastily apologized for barging in on her and left.
If Ciona wasn’t the one who had sent her the card, who did? Delma didn’t know anyone else who drew flowers. Unless Prytariel somehow rigged the whole thing, as Rinok Fitel claimed, it couldn’t be Ciona. Her only choice would be to ask everyone who had been at the party—which Delma thought was rather unrealistic, given that there had been at least forty Yooyuball players that attended.
But she didn’t have another option.
She decided that she would just have to work with it. If she was going to figure out who had given her the card—and Delma really wanted to know, for some strange reason even she couldn’t put a finger on—she would have to take drastic measures by actually asking everyone who had been in attendance. It would take too long, but if she could figure out who had done it, she would.
Ciona told her she was being silly.
“You’re making such a big deal of this, Del,” she said gently. “And chances are, you won’t be able to find who gave you the card.”
This hurt Delma to a surprising extent.
“It’s not just a card,” she countered. “It’s a Valentine, and it has sentimental meaning to me.”
Ciona smiled, but barely.
“Find someone who draws flowers, has nice handwriting, and can make crafts.”
That’s what I’ve been trying to do for the last twenty-four hours, thought Delma sullenly.
She went home and looked over the card once more. The flower in the corner, the blue ink, the neat handwriting... They suddenly seemed so familiar to her, yet it was hard to place where and when she had seen them...
Ciona drew flowers on a regular basis, she knew, after seeing the Kyrii doodle on the board last practice, write before Kakoni had used it to draw a diagram of their positioning. The flower seemed just like the ones Ciona loved: Roses.
This couldn’t be a simple coincidence, could it?
She suddenly got an idea.
Taking out a sheet of paper and a pen, she started writing a letter and sent it off.
A few days later, she got a reply.
Of course I’ll give you the card, and you don’t even need to send it back—seriously, Ciona shows enough of her distaste for me outside of writing. Have fun figuring out who sent you the card.
-Krell Vitor, Haunted Woods
Enclosed was the Valentine Ciona had made. She gingerly took out the Valentine and studied it. There was the tiny doodle of a rose in the corner, similar to that on Delma’s card.
She opened it and read the poem, which, she noticed, was written in blue, the very same blue that had addressed Delma’s card. The paper was the same too. She grinned to herself.
It was Ciona, after all.
When Delma turned up on her doorstep once more, Ciona was prepared for her. The Zafara arrived, breathless, and banged on the door again, and Ciona, feeling a strange sense of déjà vu, let her in.
“It was you,” Delma said.
“How did you figure it out?” she asked.
“Well, you draw flowers, and when I took a closer look at it, it was a rose. Roses are your favorite, after all. I sent a letter to Krell asking to see his card that you made, and when I got it, the paper and the ink matched up, so I figured it was you.”
The words tumbled out of her in a tangled up mess. Ciona’s smile grew wider and wider, and finally, she hugged Delma tightly.
“How did you manage to make two cards? More importantly, how did you get rid of my real secret Valentine?” Delma asked.
“It was easy. I just got rid of your name from the bowl,” she explained. “I ate all the Snow Puffs, so Prytariel had to get more, and when she was gone, I looked through the bowl of names and got rid of yours. Then I made two cards.”
Delma marveled at Ciona’s ability to cover things up. She would never have thought it was her, if it weren’t for the little flower.
When she got home that day, she was surprised to see another letter waiting for her. She ripped open the envelope and started reading the letter.
You might want to return Krell’s card. Believe me when I say that you do not want that in your possession.