A Friendship to Span the Seasons
Credits to my sister and a dear friend in looking through, critiquing the story and naming the characters.
The Shadow Lupe stepped into the grounds of the boarding school. He breathed in the fresh clean air of Spring, taking in his surroundings. It was nothing like his old school in Shenkuu. Yong's new school had the grandeur that was relative to its country. For a moment, he felt a pang of longing for the familiar red pillars glided with gold leaf, the porches and the walkways that he was accustomed to since he was a Lupe cub.
But his father had long decided that he finish his education in the country that valued it most of all: Brightvale; land of scholars, like his brothers before him. It helped that his father was one of the more important ministers in the Emperor's Court, thus ensuring his enrolment into the more prestigious school aside from his decent results. So, there was nothing much Yong could do except make the best of it and just enjoy his time in Brightvale. After all, this would be his first time actually staying away from home for a long period of time and he was excited with what his time in boarding school could bring him.
Yong decided to walk around the school, while waiting for assembly to start. It was then his sharp ears picked up a squeal and he headed behind one of the buildings, where it was coming from.
"Ouch! Stop, please! It hurts!"
"It was meant to hurt, silly."
"Please, stop! I'll give it to you tomorrow, alright? I just have enough for lunch today!"
Yong turned the corner and stopped when he saw a group of students surrounding a small looking green Cybunny. The Cybunny was wincing, massaging his ears and looking frightened. His bag was forced open, its contents strewn on the grass. "What? That doesn't matter! We can take it now, and you give us more tomorrow!" sneered one of them. Yong had had enough; he had always hated it whenever someone one smaller sized is getting bullied.
"Stop that!" All turned and focused on Yong.
"Oh, and who is this?"
"Just someone who dislikes what you're doing now."
"Hah, fine. Clear off now. This isn't your business."
"'Sides, you don't sound like you're from hereabouts; you don't know how we do things here," added another.
"I may not be from hereabouts, but I do know how I'll do things when I don't like what I see."
"So? What are you going to do then?" challenged a mean looking Krawk.
"I ask that you stop, while I am asking nicely."
"And if we don't?"
"I'll take your "friend" along with me as I go on my way, if you've no problems with that."
"But we do have problems with that! You there, take him on!" ordered the Krawk.
"Are you alright?" asked Yong.
"Y-Yeah... Are you hurt anywhere, yourself?"
"No, don't worry. I've been through tussles like this before and had been trained to fight."
"I see... You're really cool, beating them all up like that! I won't ever forget that Krawk's expression when you immobilised him!" Yong looked over the Cybunny, he had an appearance of being timid and was now looking up to him with shiny grateful eyes.
"Haha, it's nothing much really..." laughed the Shadow Lupe modestly. Bending down, he gathered up all the contents of the bag, mainly books. "You sure do have a lot of books."
"Well... unlike most Cybunnies, I prefer to read and solve puzzles. Weird, I know. And I don't think I am all that great at it actually or anything much at all, for that matter," said the Cybunny with embarrassment as he bent down and started picking up his belongings as well.
"Nah, I think there's nothing wrong with your preferences. And some of these titles sound interesting," remarked Yong, as he scanned the book covers quickly. "Really? You think so?" asked the Cybunny eagerly. "But still, I wish I had even one-tenth of the skills that you have! I even wish that I am cooler coloured or a Neopian species, not a green Cybunny!"
Yong slipped what he gathered into the bag and handed it over to the Cybunny who also started to put the things he collected into the bag. "Well," started Yong, "I think regardless of colour or species, it helps more if one has confidence."
"Hah, I wish I look confident! You, you exude confidence, even when you're just standing and breathing. "
"Anyone can be confident and not just look it. And you don't necessarily need my type of fighting skills to be more confident. Everyone has their own way of fighting, their own strengths. In your case, you seem good at problem solving, understanding and thinking fast."
"Me? Really??..." queried the Cybunny incredulously. "Oh, and about the group earlier? Neopians like them are usually cowards and find it troublesome when people stand up to them. They need to be told "No" straight out, or they won't stop." Yong continued.
"So in other words and bringing in what you mentioned earlier, I'll need to learn how to say "No" in my own way, right? And since they would know what they're doing is wrong, they find it a problem when someone stands up to them, right?"
"Yup," Yong answered, with a smile and the Cybunny smiled back. "By the way, what they said was right; you don't sound like you're from Brightvale. Where you from and what's your name? I am Cay by the way."
"I am Feng Yong from Shenkuu. Just call me Yong."
At that moment, their introductions were cut short by an Electric Lupe calling out at Yong's direction. "Oh, my brother's calling me and he's an impatient one, can't keep him waiting for even a minute! Hope we can meet again soon, Cay!" At that, Yong dashed off towards his brother, leaving Cay behind staring at his back.
"Yong... I didn't manage to thank you. But I hope I'll get a chance to soon."
A year later:
"Do you have anything to say for yourself?"
"I am not guilty of this."
"We saw you! And we have proof! Do you still deny it?"
"I'll have to, I know what I am capable of and this isn't it." There were sighs from all around, the head master, professors and a group of students. Yong shifted uncomfortably. For the all bravery front that he put up, he can't help but feel nervous about what is happening now. A deeper hurt ached in his heart, knowing that this group of students, his "friends" were the ones that set this trap in the first place.
"I'll ask you again, did you or did you not see the exam papers? Did you leak out any information to other students?" questioned the astute looking Lenny professor of Mathematics.
"No, sir; I didn't even know the papers were on your table."
"But why were you in the room in the first place? You do know that students are not allowed in the rooms two weeks prior to the examinations."
"I was here on an errand, sir. A teammate gave instructions from Professor Weaver to get a name list and a stack of schedules from his table. I did so with what I found at his desk and returned to the field to find that Professor Weaver actually had those items all along. I presumed he forgotten that he had the papers and got me to fetch them, only realising later that he has them."
"Hmm... I am sure you immediately returned the items you brought out, Feng? And that you didn't do anything else?" inquired Professor Weaver. "I don't think you're capable of divulging such confidential information but given the circumstances, you're a prime suspect."
"Remember, Professor," added in one of the students, "A set of hand copied questions was also found in his bag!"
"Pardon me," said a voice from the doorway of the room "but I think that Ashworth's side of the story doesn't match up."
Everyone looked up to see a medium sized Fire Cybunny leaning against the doorway, quietly appraising the situation before him. "Ah, Steele; I see that you're back from your family expedition." remarked the head master, who had been quietly observing the whole time.
"Indeed sir, it was very mind-stimulating. But on to the case at hand, I think this incident was done to frame Yong here." Yong looked in surprise at Steele, that he would actually know him as "Yong"; only friends knew he could be called that. Steele wouldn't know him in any way as he was on leave from school for almost the whole year due to his family expedition, returning only on the day of the final exams.
"I believe the walk to and from the field from here would take at least ten minutes? Assuming Yong could walk faster than that and had the time to quickly go through the questions; don't you think it's too little time for Yong to copy down the questions by hand?" Steele started.
"But it's possible to copy things down in five minutes if you write fast enough, Yong could do that easily," countered Ashworth.
"In that case, may I see the papers he had on him?" Upon receiving it, Steele glanced through and passed it back; remarking that for an assumed five minute hand copied work, the handwriting looks messy enough.
"Judging the way the ink smudged on the paper, I am sure that ink should have gotten onto the writer's cuff sleeves. Since it's specially designed by the school chemist to be waterproof, there will be ink stains. Yong, could you show us your sleeves?" Confirming the absence of ink stains on Yong's cuffs, Steele scanned the room, catching sight the nervous passing of glances of the students and one of them quickly looking at his cuffs. "Lee could have been careful about the smudges and wore another shirt to cover up his deed," remarked a Pink Kougra.
"That's true. But, someone else could have easily forged Yong's writing... Something most students are capable of doing," answered Steele as he looked pointedly at the one who glanced at his own sleeves, making him look the other way. "And I have something else to proof that this incident's a frame job," he added before going to the door, beckoning someone to come. Yong's eyes widened when the aforementioned teammate made his entrance.
"Lindon? Well, I never! What hand have you played in this deed?"
"Well..." the yellow Tonu began, before looking around and stopped, upon seeing the dark expressions of the other students.
"Don't worry, Lindon. Whatever the outcome, they won't be able to give you trouble unless they're asking for it themselves. Just tell the professors what you told me earlier." Steele prodded gently.
"O-ok," stammered Lindon before launching into his testimony: he wasn't getting the optimal results needed to take part in any school activities. Desperate to remain part of the sword-fighting team, Lindon did whatever asked by Ashworth and Co who was eager to incriminate Yong in some way; they didn't like that he's doing well in both academics and sports. He had to make Yong be seen entering and leaving the room with papers, and then pass out the questions copies with other students; claiming Yong had gotten tips and practice questions from the professors and was asked to pass it out. In return, Lindon will get the answers to the questions from them, intended mistakes included to escape the suspicions of cheating. Lindon was not to breathe word of the plan or else, they will reveal that he's the guilty one in the attempted cheating.
Just as Lindon finished, a purple Shoyru, followed by a Brown Mynci and a Striped Ruki barged into the room, brandishing a bundle and shouting;
"Cay, we found it!!! It was just where you said it would be!"
"Good work, guys. Bring it here," replied the Fire Cybunny.
"What??" gasped out Yong in shock upon hearing who the Cybunny was.
"Oh! Sorry, Yong. I forgot you might not be able to recognise me. I'll explain later, once we're done here." Cay took the bundle from the Shoyru and brought it over to the head master and professors.
"Sirs, this was found in the rubbish pile for burning. You'll find ink stained cuff sleeves and its owner's name on this shirt. You'll probably have to include those who were involved in this aside from the copier, for trying to frame an innocent student."
The master and his professors took the bundle from Cay.
"Thank you, Steele. We'll look into this and get those who were involved."
"You're most welcome sir. In the meantime, is Yong free to go?"
"Lee is free to enter in and out of any room as he pleases, so long it's not off limits!" replied the Ogrin head master, with a twinkle in his eye. "After all, you managed to prove his innocence in a fantastically spectacular manner."
"Thanks, Cay. Your help was untimely."
"Don't mention it. I should be the one thanking you from that time last year; I didn't manage to thank you then!"
"Well, you can blame my impatient brother for that then."
The spring breeze rustled through the flowering cherry blossom trees, bringing down a shower of petals upon the group as they walked through the school grounds. Introductions were made, and Yong learnt that Gannis; the Mynci, Loue; the Shoyru and Omarion; the Ruki were part of the expedition that Cay went with his family; their families all decided to combine their expeditions. The decision was sudden and Cay couldn't get a chance to tell Yong. Everyone had a laugh when Yong recounted the many times he came across any Green Cybunny in school and competitions, asking if he was "Cay" since he didn't know his full name.
Yong still couldn't believe that the same Cay that he'd save from bullies on the first day of school is also Caymund Nauritus Steele; who would eventually become top student in academics for their year. In fact, Cay's results were so outstanding; he gained the moniker "Mysterious Genius" as none had ever seen, nor met him.
"How is it, that all of you could still sit for tests and exams while being on expeditions?" asked Yong. "Oh, our parents requested the school to allow us to sit for them. We received lots of mail via post, for our assignments, papers... you name it." Loue replied.
"Phew, I guess that wasn't easy," remarked Yong
"You can bet on that! Good thing we could help each other out. And the poor Eyries that brought our post had to bring three different sets of papers each time, since Gannis is one year our senior and Omarion is two. Come to think of it... he mentioned that he's in the same year as your brother."
"Really? I'll ask my brother about it when he meets us, he would have heard about what had happened to me by now."
"Haha, do you think he'll interrupt us like last year?" asked Cay with smile.
"Knowing him, he may! By the way, you've changed Cay."
"Me? Oh, I am sure I did! I got painted Fire when my results for mid-year exams came back, my parents were so happy that they bought the paintbrush. I even told my father about what you had said about being confident, he agreed with everything. He also added that "Sometimes, it good to kick start with looking the part as well"."
"Well, that's true. But more than that, I see that you've grown bigger in stature and the way you carry yourself... You're not the same timid Cybunny that I first met last year."
"Thanks to you, my friend!"
At those words, Yong knew. He might have been back-stabbed by those whom he regarded as friends. But then, he found another group of friends that would genuinely encourage each other to do their best, and be counted on for help, like he would do for them. The group of companions continued their chatter as they headed to the direction where another group, with an Electric Lupe in its midst calling out to Yong made its way towards them.