I'm Your Biggest Fan
"Ohhhh holy Kau did you see that goal by Hawkshanks yesterday?!” Terra squealed before taking another bite of her olive salad.
“The one that tied the game?” her blue Grundo Hyren chimed in. “Yeah—and don’t forget about Kevix’s crazy pass in the last third! That Yooyu was about to explode!” He took a gulp of fruity nectar, then glanced down to make sure none of it had spilled on his vintage Team Kreludor jersey.
Hyren and his family sat in Exquisite Ambrosia on a warm afternoon in the month of Relaxing, nibbling on tasty food and discussing his favourite topic this time of year—the Altador Cup. Hyren wished it would never end. Then again, perhaps it was a good thing it only lasted for a month, because for those thirty days he became a raving sports maniac.
The Grundo sat back in his chair with a sigh. “It’s just a shame we lost,” he said. “And to Meridell, no less.” He spat out the name of the other team like it was a disease.
His brown-haired owner chuckled. “Yeah, but look at how awesome Kreludor’s doing in the standings,” she said.
“Also,” Blynn, his Disco-coloured Zafara sister said, “if you cared so much about winning, we wouldn’t root for Kreludor every year.” She crunched into a pita chip.
“No, you’re right,” Hyren said. “It’s a matter of pride. I’m proud to support Kreludor no matter how they perform.”
“Me too,” Terra said. “Gotta love a team whose colours are purple and orange. Not everybody has the audacity to pull that off.”
Next to her, her faerie Draik, Pharazon, chewed ponderously on a hunk of cheese while he read a copy of Advanced Learning perched in his lap. “Would it kill us to care about being on the winning team just once, though?” Pharazon asked. “Or at least a different team?”
Hyren shot him a glare. “Where’s your team spirit?” the Grundo asked. “The Altador Cup isn’t just a numbers game. These are real Neopets out there, giving their all for the lands they represent. They’re like a family. And I’m not about to switch families just because they don’t win a lot.”
Pharazon folded his arms, puffing out his cheeks and sending a small wisp of faerie dust out of his nostrils with a snort. “Maybe I should root for Team Altador or Team Brightvale by myself, then.”
“Team Brightvale cheats,” Blynn said.
“Okay, fair point,” Pharazon said. “But I could still support Team Altador—“
“Nnnnooo!” Hyren howled, slamming his palms on the table. “We will not be a house divided! Right, Terra?” He looked up at his owner, who suddenly seemed preoccupied with something else a few tables away.
Hyren turned to see what it was, and his breath caught in his throat. Sitting at a table by herself was a petite, but athletic purple Gnorbu with bright orange hair. She looked up from her menu to talk to the waiter and Hyren got a good look at her face.
“Oh, neat,” Terra said with a smile. “I know today’s an off-day for Kreludor, but I wasn’t expecting any of them to show up here.”
“I wonder what Derles is doing here alone, though,” Blynn said.
Pharazon raised an eyebrow. “’Derles’? You know Derlyn Fonnet?”
His sister glanced over at him. “No. You don’t have to know somebody in order to make up nicknames for ‘em, silly. Everybody knows that. Psh.”
“We should go say hi,” Terra said. “She looks kinda down. I’m sure she could use some cheering up.”
Hyren’s antennae twitched. “Are you serious?”
His owner blinked. “What? You don’t want to?”
“Athletes hate when people bother them,” Hyren muttered, turning his head in the opposite direction of the captain of his favourite team. “I’m sure Fonnet doesn’t want to be mobbed by crazy fans right now—or ever.”
“Well, we are crazy fans,” Terra said, “but we’re not going to mob her. And I know some sports stars don’t like the attention, but Fonnet’s always seemed really diplomatic and professional to fans. I see her signing autographs before games.”
“Also she looks sad,” Blynn said.
Hyren glanced over his shoulder. The waiter had brought Derlyn a gyro, and the Gnorbu stared at it listlessly for a moment before taking a slow bite. “I guess…” he said. “But I still don’t know if I can talk to her.”
“Why?” Blynn asked.”
Hyren paused. “I’m scared,” he admitted. “She’s just… well, she’s too cool. She’d never want to talk to somebody like me.”
His sister gave him a dubious look. “’Too cool’? Seriously?”
“Bruh,” Terra said, “you were straight-up the commander of Dr. Sloth’s space marines. Few Neopets have the kind of coolness cred you do.” She took a sip of juice. “Also, if people only ever talked to people on their same coolness level, I never would have talked to you.”
Blynn gave him a toothsome grin. “We’re good at ignoring dumb rules like that,” she said.
“Okay, fine,” Hyren said with an exasperated smile. “Thanks for deconstructing my anxieties.”
“It’s what we do best,” Terra said. “Because you always do the same thing for us.”
“Aww, bonding,” Blynn said, putting an arm around them both. “Pharazon, bond with us!”
The Draik just reached for another chunk of cheese. “You people are weird,” was all he could say, his eyes still trained on the text in front of him.
“Sorry,” Hyren said to his owner. “I guess I’ve just… never had to deal with being… awestruck by someone. I suppose that is a side effect of being, ah, pretty high up on the coolness ladder.” He inspected his fingernails absently.
“Understandable,” Terra said. “I’m sorry you’re feeling nervous. But I think this situation could turn out a lot better than you’re worried it will.” She pushed herself to her feet. “I’m going to go say hi. Anybody want to join me?”
“I will!” Blynn said, jumping off of her chair.
“I’ll just watch from afar,” Pharazon said, turning back to the book in his lap.
For a moment, Hyren warred within himself. Then he decided that he knew from prior experience that his owner and sister tended to be right about this kind of thing, and he slid off of his chair to join them.
“Excuse me, Miss Fonnet?” Terra asked as the three approached.
The Gnorbu glanced up at them. “Yes?”
“We just wanted to say,” Terra said with a smile, “that we really admire your athletic skills and all the hard work you put into playing Yooyuball. We’re lifelong Team Kreludor fans.”
“Or, at least,” Blynn said, “we’ve been fans since the Altador Cup came back.”
Derlyn chuckled. “Thank you,” she said. “I appreciate that.”
Hyren had been hovering behind his owner like a child, but now he felt like he had to say something or this would be a missed opportunity. “And—we don’t care whether you win or lose,” he added. “You play hard, you give it your all, and you never give up until that clock hits zero. That’s what I really admire about your team.”
The Gnorbu looked him over for a moment. “Thanks,” she said. “I’m really glad to hear that.” She thumbed the edge of the table and bit her lower lip. “It… does get kind of hard sometimes,” she admitted. “Kreludor isn’t nearly as popular a team as the likes of Haunted Woods or Darigan Citadel, and we don’t have any superstars on our team like Vickles or Hughlis. If I can confide in you, I’ve been feeling a little down today—sort of wondering why we even go out there and compete every year.”
Hyren stepped forward. “It means a lot to my family,” he said. “We don’t care that you’re not the flashiest or the most famous team. You have a lot of heart.” He grinned. “And that’s what I like in a team more than winning all the time.”
“Even though you are winning right now,” Blynn said, “which is awesome.”
“It’s all thanks to my guys’ hard work and our fans’ support,” Derlyn said. Her ears perked a bit. “But I think you’re right. If we go out there and do our best every time, we have nothing to feel ashamed about, regardless of the score. And I would rather captain a mediocre team with a lot of heart, than a team that wins all the time but doesn’t have a good rapport.”
“Well, you’re doing a great job,” Terra said. “I’m sorry you’re feeling down, but it’s definitely not what you deserve. You guys are awesome. We love watching you play every year.”
“And this guy,” Blynn said, jabbing a thumb at Hyren, “paints his face orange and purple and screams his lungs out in the stands.”
Hyren blushed. “Well—only because you can’t hear me over everyone else—“ he sputtered.
Derlyn laughed. “Now that you’ve told me,” she said, “I’m going to keep an ear out for him!” She winked at Blynn, who stuck her tongue out at the horrified look on Hyren’s face.
Terra put a hand on his head. “You know that’s not gonna stop you from being a rabid fanboy,” his owner said with a wry smirk.
“True,” Hyren conceded.
“Anyway, thanks for letting us chat with you,” Terra said. “I hope we didn’t interrupt your meal too much. And I hope you feel better.”
The captain smiled. “Thank you. If anything, I have more of an appetite now. You guys have a great day.”
“You too,” Terra said as they turned to go.
“See you on the field tomorrow, Derles!” Blynn said. The Gnorbu’s smile turned confused.
“You just had to,” Terra said as they made their way back to their table.
“Of course,” Blynn said.
Pharazon poked his head up from his book. “That seemed to go well,” he said.
“It did,” Hyren said as he climbed back into his chair.
Terra pulled him into a hug. “I’m proud of you,” she said.
He hugged her back. “Thanks.” He knew, no matter what, he’d always support Kreludor. And that included cheering up its players when they needed to be reminded of how much their fans loved them.