What Did I Say?
A well placed kick to the door latch sent the outer door of the training room banging open as the yellow Ruki staggered in. The kick was necessary since the Ruki was so laden with Battledome paraphernalia she didn't have a hand free for the latch.
"Whew, these things REALLY need cleaning today," she sighed as she dropped her weapons and pack on the floor of her training room. "Twenty five fights in a day messes up weapons something fierce, even if they were all wins." Opening the door that led to the rest of the house, she called out "Kieri, can you give me a hand with some weapon cleaning, please. They're pretty nasty today and I can really use help with them."
"I haven't seen Kieri all afternoon, Zen," her oldest sister replied. The blue Zafara looked a little worried as she walked into the training room. "Are you just getting back? I could have sworn I heard you moving things around in here earlier."
"I've been at the Battledome all day, Jochi. I even grabbed lunch there. Maybe Kieri was getting stuff ready for her training session this evening."
"Are you still up for that after a full day at the Battledome? I'm sure Kieri would understand if you're too tired."
"I'm okay, Jochi. A lot of my time was just waiting for fights. Besides, training Kieri is fun and helps me keep my skills polished. I wonder where she's gone, though. She doesn't usually leave without a message. Did she put anything on her door?"
"I didn't see anything when I came past, but maybe she put it on her weapon cabinet so you'd see it when you came in."
Jochi glanced at Kieri's weapon cabinet and froze. "Zen, her weapons aren't in the cabinet. Was she supposed to be taking them somewhere?"
Zen shook her head. "No, we weren't scheduled to practice with the cousins this evening. We were going to start work on targeting today, and that needs one-on-one concentration. Kieri's getting pretty good with the general rough and tumble fighting, you know. She did really well against the cousins in yesterday's session. In fact, she did so well that on the way home I told her that she could probably have won some fights against the first wave of Obelisk challengers."
"Zen – you DIDN'T! Please tell me you didn't tell her she was ready for the Battledome yet!" Jochi's voice trembled slightly as she pleaded with her sister.
"Jochi... you don't think..." Zen's voice trailed off as she and her sister looked at each other in awful certainty. Zen reached behind and shouldered the pack she'd so recently dropped. Then, as one, the sisters turned and ran from the house.
Meanwhile, at the Battledome...
The little red Draik stood ready to begin, facing the Licensed Conjurer on the sands of the battledome. With 22 hit points against his 85, this was a challenger she had no hopes of beating. As the round began she charged him recklessly, swarming up the massive individual like a squirrel going up a tree, stabbing with her Whittling Knife and Shard Dagger as she went. She felt him begin his first swing, and then her world went black.
Later, outside the dome...
As they drew near the Battledome, Jochi panted, "How will we ever manage to find her?"
"We'll try the outer grounds first; that's where fighters tend to rest and heal," Zen replied.
The massive crowds gathered at the door waiting to enter and watch the battling halted the sister's progress. Frustrated, Jochi tried to push through the crowds, only to get shoved back again and again. "Not that way, Jochi. We need to get to the fighters, not into the dome." Zen grabbed her sister's arm and led the way around the side of the dome and towards the back.
As they reached the area shaded by the dome Jochi stopped and stared. Lying and sitting all around were fighters in various states of exhaustion. Some were packing up weapons, some were flat on the ground with their weapons stacked beside them, some were leaning on their weapons staring blankly into space, and some were just sitting shaking their heads and muttering.
"Why are there so many of them, Zen?"
"Well, the challengers are getting stronger with each wave. They're up to 85 hit points on the regular level now, and that's hard for a lot of fighters to beat. And it seems like everyone who can swing a weapon in Neopia is fighting for one faction or another in this Obelisk battle. It's not usually this crowded."
"So many of them seem to be muttering something. What do you think they're saying?"
"Probably complaining that 'I would have won, but they cheated!' That's the usual refrain out here."
The two threaded their way through the mass of bodies looking for flashes of red. Jochi's height gave her an advantage and she was first to spot a small red Draik sprawled beside a pile of weapons.
"She's over by that tree, Zen, but she's not moving! Oh, no...."
Zen's speed and agility got her through the mass of bodies easily. By the time Jochi joined them, Zen was pouring the contents of a bottled healing potion into her nearly unconscious sister, scolding all the while.
"What did you think you were doing? I KNOW you weren't fighting first wave challengers. You wouldn't be in this state if you were. You've got the strength and the speed and the weaponry – you're good enough to have beaten those challengers without getting this roughed up. What did you DO?"
"I took the I Used To Be A Great Battler achievement for you, Zen," Kieri replied in a small apologetic voice. "You're way too good to lose to anyone in this wave unless you deliberately threw the fight. And I know your warrior's honor won't allow that. I tried the Minor Warlock from the first wave and lost to him the second time we fought, but I found out that didn't count. To get the achievement, the loss had to be someone from this wave, so I fought and lost to the Licensed Conjurer for you. I had to do it." She reached into the pile of weapons next to her and handed her sister the box containing the Icy Muffin she'd won by losing the battle.
Jochi and Zen looked at their small sister, then looked at each other and dissolved into helpless giggles. Jochi hugged her littlest sister hard and scolded "You had us worried sick! Please don't EVER go off without telling someone where you're going. The next time you get a bright idea, at least leave a note behind, not an empty weapons cabinet."
Zen glanced at the scoreboard and turned, grinning, to Kieri. "You know, youngster, you've got bragging rights to the cousins now. You're the first to put your training to the test. And it looks like you might be even better than I thought. Jochi, she fought on the strong level and brought the Minor Warlock to a draw the first time she faced him!"
"Yeah," muttered Kieri, "and I would have won if he hadn't cheated." She looked up amazed at the two leaning on each other and positively howling with laughter above her head. "What did I say?"