Him and Not Me
"Highland's attack will surely arrive early in the morning. We have to be ready for anything." Flik announced.
The others nodded in agreement. Kairi, Joey, Viktor, Flik, and Apple sat in Muse's bar planning their next attack. A map of the Muse area was laid on the table underneath everyone's meals.
"Highland has soldiers coming from the west and northeast." Apple pointed out, moving blue blocks towards Muse. "We must spread our guard thickly around these areas. Their weakest point is to the south. Should Highland attack there, we will have more than enough time to bail reinforcements."
The others nodded. Kairi, on the other hand, gave his friend a puzzled look. "What does that mean?" he whispered.
"It means that Highland is coming from the west and northeast like so." Joey whispered back, drawing a map of the Muse area with his mashed potatoes and using his peas as army units. "For Highland to attack south of Muse, they will have to go around." He moved some peas south of the mashed potato Muse. "In that time, we will supply troops with more than enough time to counteract them, granted we are ready."
Kairi nodded slowly.
"Flik, your team will be dispatched to the west. Viktor's team will stay northeast. Flik, your job is to recruit Gilbert from Highland before anything. Viktor, you guard Muse. Kairi, your unit will stay to the south in case Highland should come around. We will leave you with two other units under your command. Prevent Highland from entering Muse. Understood?"
"Huh?" Kairi blinked. "I guess so."
Viktor slammed his fifth helping on the table. "Great! We start tomorrow. Everyone get some shut eye."
With that, everyone left. Everyone except Joey. Something troubled him. 'Why? Why are they paying so much attention to Kairi when he's not interested in war? Why can't I have that same treatment? What does he have that I don't?'
"What's the matter, Joey?" Kairi asked, snapping Joey out of his thoughts.
Joey smiled. "Nothing, Kairi."
"You sure?" Kairi's concern for his friend was genuine.
Why should you be concerned, Kairi? You of all people? Joey thought angrily. "It's late. You had better go to bed."
Kairi reluctantly agreed. He gave Joey one last concerned look before leaving.
Joey slumped in his chair, sighing. His emotions were a turmoil. He rested his head in his left hand. His right hand thumbed the red and blue blocks used to represent Jouston and Highland's army units. All that time, no one asked Joey his opinion. Only Kairi's. Wasn't it plain obvious to them that Kairi wasn't interested in the war?
"Stop lying to everyone, Joey. You are troubled." Leona called from behind the bar.
Joey didn't say anything.
"Would you like a drink?"
The blond haired young man approached the bar. Leona handed him a glass of orange juice. "Not spiked. I know how you detest alcohol. What is troubling you, Joey-kun? You can tell me. I have no intentions to tell anyone else."
Joey was silent for a few seconds. "Leona-san, what do you think of Kairi?"
"He is a nice young man. He cares genuinely for those around him."
"I see..." Joey quietly sighed. He finished his drink and thanked Leona.
"Anytime." Leona nodded.
Joey walked over to Apple's war strategy once more. He will be fighting alongside Kairi. Did it even matter if he was there or not? Would anyone notice if he stepped out?
He thought over Apple's strategy in his head. Suddenly, it occurred to him. Apple's strategy had one overlooked flaw. Joey had to tell someone fast. Certainly not Flik, Viktor, or Apple. They only listen to Kairi.
Kairi will listen!
His urgency made him temporarily forget his jealousy towards his friend. Joey dashed up the stairs, hoping Kairi was not asleep. Sure enough, Kairi was still awake waiting up for Joey. The dark haired boy noticed the urgency on his friend's face.
"What's the matter, Joey?" Kairi asked.
Joey, all out of breath, closed the door. Very quickly, he explained to Kairi the flaw in Apple's strategy. Kairi listened, nodding slowly. He never understood war strategy but Joey made it easy for him to understand.
"What can we do, Joey?" Kairi asked.
Joey lined out a brief but detailed plan of what he was intending to do. Kairi blinked.
"Hm. That makes sense." Kairi said. "You're right, Joey. I hope Flik, Viktor, and Apple don't get angry. Anyway, I'm happy you're okay. I hope everything goes well tomorrow. I trust you more than anyone, Joey. Good night, Joey!"
"Good night, Kairi."
The next morning, Kairi and Joey awoke bright and early thanks to Nanami. Flik, Viktor, and Apple were waiting downstairs.
"Highland ain't here yet." Viktor sighed. "I'm getting annoyed."
"What do you think, Kairi?" Flik asked. "Should we send out our troops now or wait?"
Kairi looked at Joey for help. Joey whispered his suggestion in his friend's ear, then took off to brief the troops. Kairi turned to Flik. "Joey says to wait, otherwise our position will be given away too quickly and Highland can counterattack us sooner. Or something like that. Let's wait for Joey." He closed his eyes. 'Joey, it's only because of you that I understand this complicated war business. What will I do without you?'
Joey's briefing was quick and to the point. He did not have to explain himself twice for all the soldiers understood. "Any questions?" Joey asked.
One soldier raised his hand. "Did Kairi authorize you to plan this strategy?"
A stab hit Joey. His jealousy was beginning to return. "Yes he did."
Another soldier raised his hand. "How can we trust you? We will only listen to Kairi!"
Cries of agreement rang through the soldiers. Joey bowed his head, clenching his fist. Once again, Kairi and not him. Why Kairi? Why not him?
"You all joined the Jouston Alliance intending to do away with Highland, did you not? We only have one chance at this. Highland will attack any minute. I cannot gain your trust ask quickly as Kairi, but please trust me. Just this once."
The soldiers grumbled in agreement. Joey hid his silent tears, turning them into jealousy.
Once Joey returned, Kairi gave the okay. Joey advised, through Kairi, that the troops are to wait along Muse's border until Highland arrived. Highland arrived right on schedule. Solon, Seed, and Krugan along with their grunt units arrived from the north, prepared to capture Muse. Along with them was the traitorous Gilbert. Flik's team moved ahead first. Tsai's fire spears kept the grunts at bay. Flik's team raised their bows in attempt to get Gilbert's attention.
Viktor's team went second. They held off the troops along the northeastern end of Muse.
Unexpectedly came the help of Matilda's blue knights. Their commander, Microtof, arrived just in time before Highland's troops barged through the northwestern entrance. However, their troops were not yet enough. Highland knew that their weakest point was south of Muse and safeguards were placed to prevent their entrance. Solon cleverly sneaked Highland grunts behind Viktor's back. They were scattered so all were difficult to chase at once. The grunts successfully entered Muse. Apple realized this only too late.
"Oh no..." Apple gasped.
"Damn!" Flik growled. "Kairi! Kairi, I hope he gets his units into Muse in time."
Inside Muse, the Highland soldiers were not surprised to find the city empty. They separated from each other, each choosing a house. They opened the doors, swords drawn, ready to kill innocent lives. All were met by a bloody death from the Jouston soldiers hiding among the houses and the dark corners in Muse. Their deaths were quick and silent. Those solders who escaped ran away from the capital, screaming.
"Commander! Commander Solon!" the grunts cried. "We can't get into Muse! Jouston hid soldiers inside Muse and many of our soldiers were killed! We must retreat!"
Solon growled. "No! We must keep fighting!"
Krugan shook his head. He gestured to the Highland soldiers already fallen to Viktor, Flik, and the now Jouston-recruited Gilbert's units. "We have lost too many of our men. We must withdraw."
"Damn it all..." Seed growled.
Highland made a hasty retreat. The members of the Jouston army cheered their victory. Flik rode over to Viktor and grinned.
"Hey. Kairi came through after all." said Flik.
"Yeah!" Viktor agreed. "He deserves a hero's honor!"
The joyous members of the Jouston army met Kairi and his friends. Viktor hoisted Kairi on his shoulders. "All hail Kairi, the hero of this battle!"
The soldiers cheered. Kairi tried to protest but his words were drowned out by the cheering. He was paraded down the streets of Muse. The villagers cheered their hero. Nanami, having no idea what was going on, nevertheless supported her brother. The only one left behind was Joey who stood near Muse's entrance. He was both shocked, speechless and upset. This was the last straw. Kairi got the credit for something he did not do. Why did Joey even have to bother?
"But I didn't do anything!" Kairi protested.
"Nonsense! Stop being so modest. You're a hero." Viktor declared.
"Let's make you our leader!"
"Yeah! Long live Kairi!" the soldiers cheered.
Joey looked at the Dark Blade Rune imbued in his right hand. He was not the kind of person to resort to violence, but he was at a breaking point. His anger, jealousy, and rage reached his peak. He began to summon the dark cutting blade of the true rune. 'Kairi....'
"Stop this at once, Viktor!" Leona's voice rang out.
The parade came to a halt in front of Muse's bar. Joey halted the spell and looked curiously. Leona stood at the Muse door, arms folded, glaring angrily at Viktor.
"Why don't you let the young man explain what really happened, Viktor?" Leona asked angrily.
"He's a hero." Viktor butted in. "His carefully planned strategy saved us all."
Leona shook her head. "Don't give Kairi credit for a job he did not do. For it was Joey's strategy that saved you all."
"J-Joey...?" Viktor and the members of the Jouston army stood stunned. "You're talking nonsense, Leona."
"Absolutely not!" Leona shot back. "I happened to overhear Joey discussing the plans to Kairi last night."
Nanami raised her hand. "That's right! That's right! I heard Joey talking too! He was in a panic when he explained. Kairi was nice to reassure him."
Viktor was puzzled.
"Can't you see that Kairi isn't interested in the war?" Leona demanded. "Didn't it get past your thick skulls that every time you talk to Kairi about war, he always asks Joey to explain your words to him? You're making a mistake to ignore Joey all the time."
Joey pushed his way through the crowd. "Thank you, Leona-san. But you can't change their mind. Trust must be placed by one's own judgement. Otherwise it is forced." He smiled slowly. "I appreciate you helping me."
He looked longingly at Kairi. Kairi looked back with large innocent eyes, eyes that said he didn't want this to happen. Huh? That can't be possible. Joey refused to believe Kairi would think such a thing. After all, everyone loved Kairi, even if he did nothing. Nobody liked Joey, no matter what he did. It was as if he wasn't there.
Kairi didn't care. Nobody else did.
Joey turned his back on everyone and walked away. No one, not even Leona or Kairi, stopped him.
That night, while Nanami and Kairi were having a conversation in Kairi's room, Joey was in Pirika's room. He was visited by a mysetrious cloaked ninja named Kage.
"Yes, I understand." said Joey.
Kage nodded. "Don't fail us, Joey. Highland is depending on you."
The mysterious ninja flew out the window. Pirika saundered into the room. She gave Joey a puzzled look as to what that noise was.
"Just the wind, Pirika." Joey replied simply. 'Just a head start to showing Kairi I can be a leader too.'