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The New Player


by dgj377

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It was a nice crisp clear day on Roo Island. With a cool breeze and a warm sun, it seemed as if everyone was going to be in high spirits. Well... almost everyone. Young Jair Tollet trudged the brick road with a dark cloud over her head.

     “Hmph, stupid managers,” she muttered to herself. “I can’t believe they still want to keep that selfish joker of a captain. Is talent really all they care about?”

     One might ask what a star Maraquan player would be doing on Roo Island. Well, if you look back a few days you would probably understand why this spunky Eyrie would rather be anywhere other than her home.

     The door opened as a very strict-looking Peophin swam in with a clipboard under his arms. “Can I have the attention of everyone in this room?”

     The five Maraquan all-star players stopped what hey were doing and immediately sat down.

     “So what’s the final verdict?” asked Barit Jowes, the Techo on the further left side of the room.

     “I’m pleased to say that despite Maraqua’s heavy loss in the last tournament, there will be no cuts to the main team’s roster.”

     “What?” groaned Filo, the green Flotsam in the back row. “Are you saying we have to deal the black hole for yet ANOTHER year?”

     Elon, the Acara in front of him, crossed his arms. “You say that as if that were a bad thing.”

     “That’s ’cause it is,” Jair said. “I was so sure that your ball hogging and showy performance that cost us the first round would at least demote you to a reserve.”

     “I beg your pardon?” Elon turned to face his senior forward with an indignant frown. “I just so happen to be the most valuable member on the team!”

     “Maybe,” said Tonie, the large striped Koi. “But we really don’t know for sure since you’re the only one performing out there.”

     Everyone but the manager and Elon laughed.

     “Ahem. As I was saying,” continued the manager, “while there have been no changes to the roster, there have been changes to the team formation.”

     Everyone eagerly looked up in interest.

     “This is the new team line-up that will be used come next year’s tournament.”

     The manager handed each of them a sheet from his clipboard. When Jair looked at it, she immediately stood up.

     “What the- Why does it show me in a defender position?”

     “Because that’s what you’re playing as from now on,” said the manager.

     “WHAT?!”

     “As per request from the team captain, you will be starting from behind the lines from this point onward.”

     That took the cake for Jair; not only was Elon staying on the team, he was also forcing her to step down.

     “You can’t be serious! You’re listening to him?” she shrieked.

     “Elon explained very thoroughly that he felt this was a much better strategy. After all, it was this kind of lineup that won the cup for the Haunted Woods.”

     “This is absurd! Elon just wants the glory for himself, he doesn’t care about strategy!”

     “Yes I do,” Elon interrupted. “As a matter of fact, the reason I was unable to come through with my full potential was because you continued to interrupt my plays.”

     “Why you greedy ball hog! I ought to-”

     “That’s enough, Jair!” boomed the manager. “The rest of the team committee agrees with Elon.”

     Jair froze, then slowly turned to the manager. “What? You’re... you’re siding with him?”

     The manager nodded. “All players have their strengths and weaknesses. Depending on how they play or in what situation they are in, they can shine beyond any brightness or fall like a rock. Elon just so happens to be most capable in this grouping.”

     “But-”

     “We cannot afford to make compromises! It’s that kind of thinking that has kept the team divided all these years! We have already calculated the odds. This will be our winning tactic!”

     “No! I won’t accept this! I have been a forward for over three years now! I’m not about to give that up just to satisfy that snobby Acara’s desires!”

     She then turned to the others. “Tell him! You’re just as angry with this as I am! Right?”

     The other three remained silent.

     “Guys?”

     “Actually, Jair,” said Tonie, looking up from the sheet, “I think Elon’s idea might actually work.”

     “What?”

     “Well, think about it, all these games we’ve been sore about how Elon acts like he’s the only one playing and have tried to keep involved. What if we actually went along with it for once?”

     “You can’t be serious...”

     “It’s not that we don’t hate Elon,” added Filo. “We’ve just never found a play that could work for all of us. This may be it.”

     “No...” Jair backed away in disbelief. “You’re siding with him too?”

     She then turned to Barit.

     “Barit... you’re with me, right? You’d been pushed around by Elon ever since you came here. Right? You’d... you’d understand what this means to me, right?”

     Barit kept his head down.

     “Barit?”

     “Sorry, Jair,” he slowly murmured. “But I want to win for once.”

     Jair felt as if a sword just went through her. Her teammates hated Elon just as much as she did, yet they abandoned her for a winning strategy.

     “You... you... you’re all a bunch of selfish jerks!” she cried, choking between tears. “You don’t care at all how I feel about this!”

     “You’re taking this way out of proportion,” said the manager.

     “Shut up! I’m sick of you all favoring Elon just because he’s the best on the team!”

     “If you don’t like my idea, why don’t you just go work for another team?” teased Elon.

     Jair tore up her paper and grabbed her bag.

     “Fine! Maybe I will!”

     And trying her best to hold back the tears, she stormed out, slamming the door behind her.

     Jair’s head hung low from her recollection. It had been a month since she had left the team, yet it still felt like yesterday. Since then she had been all over Neopia, trying to get in with other teams. As she passed by the Roo Island Yooyuball dome, she sighed.

     “Looking like I’ll be in the stands this year...”

     Suddenly, she heard shouts coming from inside the practice dome. Curious, she wandered inside to see what the excitement was about.

     There, on the playing field, was Roo Island’s team. What had once been thought of as one of the biggest underdogs of the sport was now a favorite among many fans. She could see why too. All the players were hard at work practicing their passes, tackles, shots and blocks. What she also noticed, however, was that each of the players had smiles on them. She rarely saw anyone smile during her practices with her former team. It looked as though they were having fun.

     “Over here, Dayla!” waved a little red Usul. “I’m open!”

     A red Lenny then snapped the Yooyuball to her.

     “Yes! I caught it!” the energetic Usul cried.

     “But can you get past me?” said the bushy-eyed Pteri at the goal net.

     “Just you watch, Clutch! I’m not gonna miss this time!”

     The red Usul ran up to the goal and fired it straight to the upper center part. The Pteri leapt up, and missed it by a hair.

     “Oof!”

     “Yaaaay! I did it!”

     “Shoot, you got luck that time.”

     “Well, it could be that, or it could be you’re putting too much bounce in your jump,” said the blue Grarrl from the corner of the field.

     “Well, if you’re finding so much fault in me, Gordo, why don’t you come here and goalkeep for a while?” wisecracked Clutch.

     “I never said it was a fault, and I’ll pass. If I’m in the goal area, I won’t get to tackle anyone.”

     “Alright team, that’s enough bickering. We’re not here to debate flaws,” said a yellow Blumaroo walking toward the group.

     Jair kept watch from a reasonable distance.

     That must be the legendary Roo Island captain, Lilo Blumario!

     Lilo wiped the sweat off his brow as he crouched to the Usul’s height. “You’re doing much better than before, Fenny. Your shots have gotten really accurate since the past few months.”

     Fenny beamed. “But of course! I gotta keep trying so I can be as good as you are someday, Captain!”

     Lilo laughed. “Well, you may not be that far off. Give a few years, and you’ll be best shot on the team, I wager.”

     “Come on,” said Dayla, walking up to him. “We all know you’re just saying these things to be nice to us rookies.”

     “No, I’m serious,” Lilo said. “And Fenny’s not the only one. Your passes have become much faster than before Dayla. And Clutch, Gordo, you guys are smart to improve your strengths rather than just focus on your weaknesses. You all make me proud to be your captain.”

     Jair was astounded by Lilo’s humility.

     Wow, he is so kind to his players. I wish I had a captain like him.

     “Alright now, everyone. Break time. I got the manager to prepare us some drinks to re-hydrate ourselves.”

     “Just one more shot, Captain,” said Dayla. She walked over and picked up one of those new clockwork Yooyus and ran straight at the goal. She was almost in range when all of a sudden another clockwork Yooyu rolled out of the rack and right in front of where she was stepping.

     *Boom*

     Dayla screamed in pain as she fell to the ground. Lilo turned in the direction of the sound.

     “Dayla!”

     Jair gasped, then saw that the clockwork Yooyu Dayla had been holding had slipped out. It bounced off the goalpost and straight back at her. Before she knew what she was doing Jair leapt out right in front of Dayla and caught the ball before it hit, then threw it in the opposite direction just as it exploded.

     “Wow!” exclaimed Fenny. “She’s good!”

     Jair’s mind finally caught up to her as she realized where she was now standing. “Oh, I’m sorry... I wasn’t thinking and-”

     “Sorry? You just saved me,” Dayla said.

     “Hey look,” Gordo said, pointed at the uniform in her bag. “Isn’t that the Maraqua Yooyuball uniform in her gym bag?”

     “So she’s from the Maraqua team?” asked Clutch.

     “Not... not exactly,” Jair said. “I left the team about a month ago. I’m freelancing at the moment.”

     Lilo walked up to her. “Ah, then you must be Jair Tollet. I’ve heard of you.”

     Jair felt slightly flustered in front of him. “Y-yeah, and I’ve heard of you. You’re the famous Lilo Blumario.”

     Lilo laughed. “I wouldn’t know about famous, but I guess I leave an impression on many.”

     “So uh, how do you know about me?”

     Lilo scratched the back of his head. “Well, you’re a big talk around the Yooyuball world as of late. One of the most experienced players in Maraqua had her position taken by a new recruit.”

     “A... new recruit?”

     “Yeah, what was his name? Oten Runeu, I believe.”

     “I see.”

     Jair felt a heavy weight on her heart.

     So they’ve already replaced me... I really wasn’t that important to them.

     Jair’s thoughts were interrupted by a painful moan. She turned to see Dayla kneeled down. Fenny couched over her.

     “Dayla? Are you okay?”

     “I-I don’t know,” she replied. “I can’t seem to stand up.”

     “We better get her to the Hospital,” Gordo said.

     “Yeah, let’s hope it’s nothing serious,” Clutch said.

     That evening at the Hospital, the whole team was gathered at the waiting room. The Gelert doctor stepped out of the double doors.

     “How is she?” asked Lilo.

     “She’ll be fine,” the doctor said. “But unfortunately, it seems she has broken both her legs. She’ll need to be in a cast for about two months.”

     “Two month? But the Altador Cup is in a week!” cried Clutch.

     “If we don’t have a full lineup by the time of preliminaries, Roo Island will be disqualified!” exclaimed Gordo.

     “What are we going to do, Lilo?” asked Fenny. “We don’t have anyone who replace Dayla.”

     Lilo shook his head. “Oh yes, we do.”

     “We do?”

     “Who?”

     Lilo looked at Jair. “We have her.”

     “M-me?” Jair pointed at herself.

     “You said it yourself, you’re not under any team at the moment. And when you saved Dayla back there, I knew you had great talent. I’m sure King Roo and the rest of the committee can have a full contract ready for you by tomorrow.”

     “I-I-I don’t know, I... this is so sudden. I mean... I was looking for a new team, but-”

     “Jair.”

     Jair turned around and saw Dayla walk out the medical room in two crutches.

     “Jair, you’re a forward like me right? You should have no trouble fitting in. Because... our captain... Lilo... he treats all of us like family.”

     “Like... family...”

     Dayla nodded. “Will you please help us in this year’s tournament? We’d be honored to have a friend like you with us.”

     “A friend? You consider me a friend?” a surprised Jair asked.

     “Of course. You helped me out of a jam; what else would you be if you weren’t a friend?”

     Jair looked from Dayla, to Lilo, to the rest of the team. They were all smiling at her with friendly faces.

     And pretty soon, she was smiling too.

     “Sign me up!”

The End

 
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