Many Neopians who are not familiar with Kiko Lake culture have no idea the significance of the bandages that adorn the Kikos' heads. Many of them just assume that Kikos are simply accident prone, but the truth is far more complex. Bandages are considered a sign of health and vitality in Kiko Lake, a sign of someone who has been through battle and won. Of course, Kiko Lake is a peaceful society and the majority of the inhabitants there haven't been to battle for years, but it still remains a tradition that when a Kiko is of a certain age, they get a bandage of their very own, a symbol of their cross from childhood into adulthood.
Feeance was now of that very age, and he wasn't particularly enthused about the idea. He found the tradition to be a complete waste of time, something silly and pointless and needlessly old-fashioned. None of the other Neopets had to wear bandages on their heads, it was only Kikos and their silly backwards traditions.
Everyone else in his school was brimming with excitement to get their bandage, but Feeance simply couldn't understand it. What was so exciting about a stupid bandage?
"Tomorrow is the ceremony!" his friend Alyssa said to him enthusiastically, grinning from ear to ear. "Are you excited or what?"
Feeance shrugged. "Not really," he said. "I don't really see the point."
Alyssa gasped. "Seriously?!" she asked. "But it's a rite of passage! You don't wanna be the only Kiko in the whole Lake without a bandage, do you?"
"Why not?" Feeance asked. "Makes a statement, doesn't it?"
Alyssa sighed. "I just don't understand you," she said.
"Honestly, though," Feeance said. "What's the purpose behind it?"
"It signifies entering into adulthood," Alyssa said. "It's a nice little tradition, is all. Don't read so much into it and ruin everyone else's good time, Feeance."
"Don't you think it looks a little... silly, though?" Feeance asked.
Alyssa thought for a moment. "No," she answered. "I think it looks sort of cute. It's iconic, you know? Everyone knows a Kiko by their bandage."
"Everyone knows a Kiko because they look like a Kiko," Feeance told her. "Bandage or not."
"Whatever you say," Alyssa said, rolling her eyes. "Either way, I'm going to have fun at the ceremony tomorrow. If you want to be a big fuddy-duddy, be my guest."
It was the day of the ceremony, and every Kiko in Kiko Lake was gathered to witness it. One good thing, Feeance thought, was that he got school off, but that was about the only thing positive about it. He had to watch all the young Kikos - most of whom he shared classes with - go up to the stage one by one and have their bandaged placed firmly on their head by the mayor. It went in alphabetical order, so Alyssa was one of the first. She stepped up to the stage, and the mayor gave her a big grin and announced: "With this, I decree you no longer a child, but instead entering into the world of an adult, as so many have before you..."
He continued on with his speech. Feeance had gotten awfully sick of hearing it, considering he had to hear it every single year for every young Kiko. By now, all the Kikos in the Lake had it memorized, so why repeat it? Oh, of course, he thought, rolling his eyes. Tradition.
The mayor then raised up the bandage so that everyone could see it, and placed it on Alyssa's head with as much care as if it were a crown. In fact, Alyssa looked just as honoured as she would if he were giving her an actual crown and decreeing her queen of Neopia. Her eyes lit up and she grinned as widely as possible, bowed her head, and said: "Thank you."
She then walked off the stage, and then it was time for another. By the time they got all the way to Feeance's name, he was practically falling asleep. Finally, his name was called, and he walked to the stage unenthusiastically, as if he were walking to the most boring thing in the world - which was true for him. A family reunion would be more exciting. Math class would be more exciting.
He got up to the stage, listening to the mayor's old, tired spiel again for what seemed like the fiftieth time today. A few times he thought of cutting to the chase and saying that he simply wasn't interested, but he didn't want to be disrespectful to the most powerful Neopet in Kiko Lake. When the mayor went to put the bandage on Feeance's head, however, Feeance shook his head and said:
"I'm sorry, but I'm just not interested."
The sound of shocked silence washed over the Lake, apart from a few gasps from older Kikos who thought breaking tradition to be absolutely unthinkable. Even the mayor was frozen, unsure of how to respond to this sudden act of rebellion.
"Well, this doesn't happen very often," the mayor said awkwardly. "Is there any reason you don't want a bandage, young man?"
Feeance didn't want to have to get into this on a stage in front of all of his friends and family, but he didn't want to lie, either. He weighed the options in his head for a moment, and finally spoke.
"I just think it's silly to be honoring this tradition that most of us don't even care about," he said. "Just... what's the purpose of it? Everyone talks about it so excitedly, but do we know what it's all about, really? Who wants to look wounded all the time? I think we should all get rid of these bandages, every one of us. They're stupid looking, and no other Neopets do this sort of thing."
There were more gasps from the audience, and Feeance imagined several little old ladies fainting. The mayor looked stunned, unsure of how to react.
"We should all get rid of these bandages," Feeance said. "That's what I think. Who even cares about them?"
The mayor gave a few uncomfortable laughs. "Er, yes, well, that's a unique perspective," the mayor told him, trying to keep things moving along. "Next, please!"
Feeance hopped down from the stage, feeling pleased with himself. He wouldn't have to get a stupid bandage after all. He was feeling incredibly chipper and proud, beaming from ear to ear, when he caught sight of Alyssa. She was looking at him in a way she never had before, with a mixture of anger and disgust. Feeance felt his cheerful mood immediately crash down, hating to see his best friend look at him that way. Suddenly, he was unsure if he had done such a good thing.
"I can't believe you!" Alyssa said, practically yelling, barely able to contain her anger. "We should all get rid of our bandages? What about the people who like them? Aren't you just doing the same thing in the opposite direction? Making everyone NOT have bandages instead of making everyone have them?"
"Who would want to have them, though?" Feeance asked, chuckling slightly. "They look ridiculous."
"Maybe to you," Alyssa sneered. "But I like mine, and I don't think it looks ridiculous. Maybe some people like looking 'wounded all the time' and 'ridiculous'."
She said the last bit with disgust, rolling her eyes as she did so. Feeance felt guilty and ashamed. She was right - who was he to dictate what other Neopets could and couldn't do? Just because he didn't like something didn't mean everyone felt that way.
Alyssa sighed. "I don't even want to talk to you right now, Feeance," she said.
"Alyssa, wait!" Feeance called out, but by the time he did, she had already stomped off.
Feeance woke up in the morning feeling terrible, guilty and ashamed. He thought after he had slept, that some of the pain would have subsided, but he still saw Alyssa's angry face in his dreams, frustrated and disappointed to her core. He worried that she now hated him, that she would never want to be around him again after he had made such a buffoon out of himself in front of the entire town. Frankly, he wouldn't blame her. He got a sinking feeling when he thought of how many of the other Kiko Lake residents - many of whom were his friends - felt the same way she did. Somehow, he had to make things right again.
Feeance thought of making a public apology, finding the mayor and announcing to everyone how he had realized the error of his ways. However, this seemed too cheesy, and he wasn't quite ready to face the entire town again, worried that he would yet again make a fool of himself. The Neopet he was most worried about was Alyssa. She had been his best friend since he was young, and he couldn't imagine losing her over something so stupid and petty.
He had to keep it simple. A big, dramatic apology would likely end up embarrassing them both, but he had to do something just thoughtful enough to show that he cared, that he truly meant he was sorry.
Then, suddenly, he got an idea. It was something he could do that was easy but meaningful, and that would, hopefully, get her back on his side.
He swam up from his home under the Lake, onto the shore. He didn't usually venture far from his home under the water, but there was something in particular he was looking for, something special.
He walked into Kiko Lake Treats, hoping to Fyora that they would have it, otherwise he would have swam all this way for nothing. He supposed he could get her something else, but it wouldn't mean as much as what he had in mind. He walked in and looked at the display case where they kept the pastries, and for a moment he thought they didn't have it, but then he saw them: Candy Floss Cupcakes.
Candy Floss Cupcakes were held a deep meaning for him, because they represented the first time he had met Alyssa.
It was his first day at a new school, and he was excited and nervous at the same time, a ball of chaotic energy. In his frenzy of fussing over what he was going to wear and what he was going to do, he had forgotten to pack a lunch. He ended up sitting alone in the cafeteria, starving, his stomach rumbling loudly, when a young Kiko girl came up to him and stated what felt to him to be terribly obvious: "You look hungry."
Feeance nodded and laughed. "Yes, very," he said.
"Here," she told him, splitting her Candy Floss Cupcake in half. "You can have some of this. I don't usually eat it all, anyways."
She sat with him for the rest of the lunch hour, and they talked and laughed and shared interests. Soon, they were best friends, and Feeance owed it all to a cupcake. He smiled as he thought of the memory.
"Give me a whole case of Candy Floss Cupcakes," Feeance said to the Kiko Lake Treats shopkeeper.
"Rightyo," the shopkeeper said with a smile, and then wrapped them up in a nice little box. Feeance had to pay a large sum of Neopoints, but it was worth it to get back in good graces with his friend. He just hoped that his plan would work.
It was later that day at lunch that Feeance saw Alyssa again, and she didn't look happy to see him. She barely looked at him, shrugged nonchalantly and said "Hey, Feeance", the way you would greet an acquaintance rather than your closest friend. She never greeted him this way. Usually she was very enthusiastic, waving him over and grinning, ready to tell him her newest story.
He sat down next to her, feeling slightly nervous. He didn't want to get into another argument. "Hey, Alyssa," he said as casually as possible. "I'm sorry about yesterday. I made a real jerk out of myself."
"You can say that again," Alyssa said bitterly.
"You were right, really," Feeance said. "I may not want a bandage, but that doesn't mean everyone doesn't."
He put the box of cupcakes on the table in front of him. Alyssa's eyes widened slightly at the sight of them, but then she went right back to her icy exterior. "I brought you this as a peace offering," Feeance told her. "You don't have to take it, but I'd really like it if you did. For old times' sake?"
Feeance grinned at her hopefully. Alyssa smiled, the first time he had seen her smile that day. "I accept your peace offering," she said, taking out a Candy Floss Cupcake and nibbling on it. "But only because it's so delicious."
The two of them laughed, and after that, things were back to normal between Feeance and Alyssa. They talked and chatted and told jokes like nothing had changed. Something had changed, however, in Kiko Lake. Feeance's speech had started a small rebellion, and many Kikos were getting rid of their bandages. Just as many, however, weren't. It was just as Alyssa had said, really - some liked having their bandages and some didn't. The mayor changed the laws so that a Kiko had to be interested in order to take part in the ceremony, and from that point on no one was forced into tradition if they didn't want to be. It was the best of both worlds, and everything worked out just as it should.