Jumper: Secret Story of the Forwards of Team Maraqua
Jair Tollet swam over to one corner of the bedroom of her Maraquan Neohome, examining a small desk made of finest oak, which she had bought on a voyage to Mystery Island she had taken when she was young. The merchant that had sold it to her claimed it provided good luck, and he had been more than happy to paint the wood blue for free, in honor of her Maraquan roots.
Of course, it held a special significance to the Maraquan Eyrie. Memories lay all over the desk: pictures, presents, her lucky Yooyuball sling, and the shell collection that she had travelled all across Maraqua to find. Sure, it would be highly unlikely that a pirate would swim over to Jair’s homeland, steal the blue oak desk, and destroy her home in (yet another) whirlpool, but it was still a treasure to her.
She gently used one of her fins to hold a Rainbow Colored Shell from her collection, the one that had always been her favorite. Just for the fun of trying to see if her best friend would respond to their traditional meeting signal, she put the thinner, tube-like part of the seashell into her mouth and blew it like a trumpet.
Sure enough, a Maraquan Acara swam as fast as he could over to the Neohome.
“Hey, Jair!” he greeted. “You’ll never believe what I just found out!”
“Oh, and now you’re going to tell me that you single-handedly defeated Captain Scarblade and his entire pirate crew, Elon?” Elon Hughlis, who had introduced her to the sport of Yooyuball, was her age, but still acted like his young Acara self: he never stopped telling nonsensical stories about the ‘marvelous adventures’ he had while traversing Maraqua.
“No, nothing like that.”
“Oh, so now you’ve moved up the ‘Neopian hero’ scale and decided to take on Sloth this time?” Jair started to burst out in laughter at the thought of Elon fighting the leader of the Virtupets Corporation.
“No, but with some battle practice, I’m sure I could beat Sloth easily!” Elon said good-humoredly. “Since you’re not able to guess, I’ll just tell you.”
The Maraquan Acara paused to increase drama and then yelled at the top of his lungs, “I made the new Maraqua Yooyuball team!”
“Good for you. Which position do you play?”
“I’m the new team captain, for starters. I’m also a forward, but our team probably won’t get very far without the other forward.”
“Our team? You’re not suggesting...”
“Yes, Jair... you made the team as well.”
“Passing is an important skill for any Yooyuball player to have,” started Coach Riki, who was (quite amazingly) the head coach for all sixteen Yooyuball teams.
Jair listened attentively. Despite the fact that her passing skills were already quite accurate, she knew that there was always something to be learned from the wise, experienced Lutari coach. She could listen to his wisdom about the Yooyuball field all season long, but she knew that the season was starting in a matter of weeks, and that Coach Riki had to move on to another team.
“I hear he’s moving on to Team Darigan Citadel next,” whispered Barit Jowes, a Maraquan Techo defender on her team. “I suppose all we can do is wish him luck from there.”
“Either that, or we can listen to what he says to them and hope to pick up some of their strategies in the process!” joked Filo Desenz, a Green Flotsam and another one of her teammates.
“Be quiet and listen!” yelled Jair. “What he says is true; passing skills are important and should be treated as such!”
“Do you hear that, Elon?” Filo was up to his tricks again. “You should be listening too, since I’ve heard that you need to brush up on your passing!”
This time, Coach Riki had had enough.
“Filo, never question your team captain! Remember, I talked about that last lecture!”
Jair sighed. No one knew quite why Filo and Elon argued so much. No matter how many times she’d been sent in to mediate for them, they just found something new to debate about.
At first, she’d thought that Filo just wanted the attention, and possibly was jealous that Elon was chosen to be captain instead of him. However, the rest of the team, even the usually quiet Koi goalkeeper Tonie Plessix, started to feel the same way about him. As his best friend, Jair would usually try to comfort him in some way, but something just seemed different about Elon. Perhaps it was just a natural part of obtaining such leadership.
While the rest of the team quieted down, allowing their disgruntled coach to speak yet again, Elon was listening halfheartedly while drawing something on a notebook that he once used for Neoschool. She was just too curious about what he was drawing to pay attention to the coach’s lecture much longer.
“What is that you’re drawing?”
“Oh... hi, Jair. I’m just drawing the MVP trophy they give out every year. I’ve been dreaming about winning it for as long as I can remember!” An eager look appeared on Elon’s face. “Just think, all I have to do to win it is to score as many goals as possible, and of course, Team Maraqua will win, and it’ll be all thanks to me.”
“Uh... you will let Filo, Barit, and me score a few times, right?” questioned Jair. “I mean, that’s the true attitude of an MVP, right: to let everyone have an equal contribution, whether it be in victory or in loss? Isn’t sportsmanship the most important thing?”
“Well stated, Miss Jair Tollet!” rewarded Coach Riki (who had been listening the entire time, apparently). “Now, I’ve arranged a small match with the Roo Island team to help you with your passing. Be careful though, they happen to be one of the teams to watch this year!”
“We’re ready,” said Jair. The team approached the Yooyuball field, noticing that Coach Riki had notified Team Roo Island in advance, as they had gotten there first.
“Do you mind if I work in the exercise room a little?” asked Elon. “I know my passing skills pretty well, but I need to work on my strength a little.”
Filo muttered a somewhat threatening, “That’s what you think,” but wisely stopped talking to prevent Coach Riki from reciting last week’s lecture again.
“That’s understandable,” remarked the coach. “After all, both passing and strength play key roles when game time comes around. I still can play well enough, so why don’t I play forward for Roo Island, just for this match, and Lilo Blumario can switch over during this scrimmage and play forward for you in place of Elon?”
At first, Jair feared that Lilo would refuse to play for them, but he moved to the other side of the stadium next to her in forward position.
She was able to focus on the game well enough to manage a victory for her team, but she couldn’t help but wonder why Elon had been so hesitant to play. Back in Maraqua, he was the one who always wanted to play Yooyuball, and she had always just gone along with him.
“He must be hiding something,” Jair thought. “I’m going to find out what it is, no matter the consequence.”
This was it. A Faerie Yooyu flew out onto the field, the first Yooyu of the entire season.
The bright lights dappled the entire field. Luckily, Elon was able to find the courage to play again.
Elon grabbed the Faerie Yooyu and scored the first goal of the entire season. Unfortunately, the other team was still able to win, despite Elon’s attempts at scoring. Jair tried as hard as she possibly could, sweat taking over her entire body. Every time, just when she was about to score, her childhood friend would step in and steal the glory.
Loss soon began to take over the entire team, despite their strong practice round win against Roo Island. Now, they couldn’t even beat them. Slowly, the end of the first round was approaching, and Team Maraqua’s chances of winning were in great danger. Sure, they didn’t lose every game, but they somehow just faded from the spotlight, not even putting up a fight, letting teams from the Haunted Woods and the Darigan Citadel take their place.
On the day of what could be their last game of the season, Jair walked up to her fellow forward, ready and waiting for the face-off.
“Let’s win this for the team,” she whispered to Elon.
“No,” he corrected. “Let’s win this for our team captain.”
The day kept getting stranger and stranger as Team Meridell, the opposing team, grew more and more relentless. Miraculously, Maraqua was only one point behind, with less than a minute on the clock.
“This is my chance,” thought Jair. She snatched the Mutant Yooyu in one sweeping motion. “If I tie this game, I’ll be hailed as a hero. I’ll finally be able to have my chance in the spotlight right next to Elon, where I belong.”
She tried to swerve to avoid the other players, but despite this effort, she ran into one of Meridell’s defenders. Her chances of winning this for Team Maraqua were ruined... until she heard a familiar voice.
“Get away from her,” the voice snarled. Jair couldn’t believe her eyes.
Ignoring her, the team captain continued, “If you think you stop us from winning this game and winning the tournament, I may be able to understand your position. But if you think that you can keep me from that MVP trophy... you’re horribly, horribly wrong.” Before Jair could say a single word, Elon picked up the Mutant Yooyu and started to head straight for the goal.
“Listen to me,” she said to Elon. “You can’t score that goal.”
“Why can’t I?”
“You have to pass it. You don’t need to be in the spotlight every game.”
“I’m not in the spotlight every game, trust me!”
She sighed and yelled, “It sure seems like it to me.”
“You don’t understand! I have to do this!”
“Why don’t you pass anymore? Back when we used to play Yooyuball at home, you always used to let me have some of the goals, some of the glory.”
“I can’t pass. You’ll never understand, Jair. You don’t have this much pressure placed on you. From the start of the Altador Cup, I was slated to be the best. I just can’t let some random Halloween Kyrii or some Darigan Hissi steal my dreams!”
“Thanks to you, Maraqua isn’t even a team anymore, just a bunch of benchwarmers waiting for their chance, only to have it plucked away by the team member they’re supposed to trust the most! Now, I know exactly why and how you became this way.”
Elon stayed silent.
“Remember those old stories from Meridell we read when we were young? You’re not the friend I once knew: you’ve become like those Darigan dictators, consumed with power, willing to destroy any chance of victory for your homeland.” She paused for a while and finally repeated, “You’ve become consumed with power.”
“This isn’t about power!”
“No,” said Jair. “This is about destroying the rest of the team’s chances of becoming MVP, just so that you look like the only one worthy of winning it, right?”
Elon countered, “I never said that!”
“You did, because we’ve never met a Halloween Kyrii or a Darigan Hissi back home. The only ones we know are Krell Vitor and Layton Vickles... and both are favorites to win MVP this year.”
Just then, the clock ran out. Any chances of Maraqua advancing to the second round were quickly shattered, thanks to Elon, the Maraquan Acara Jair had once trusted so much.
“I can’t believe that you didn’t notice it until now,” whispered a voice from behind her. “After all, they don’t call Elon Hughlis ‘The Black Hole’ for nothing, you know.”
She turned her head to see Lilo Blumario behind her.
“Sorry about you losing and everything.”
“That makes no sense whatsoever! Aren’t you supposed to be happy that we lost, so that you have a better chance of winning?”
“Maybe that’s how Elon thinks of it, but Roo Island is known for having some of the best sportsmanship in the entire league. We can’t stand it when any team is knocked out of the tournament.” Just when Jair was about to open her mouth, he added, “Even if Team Darigan had lost in your place. To be honest, the announcers make up everything about the rivalries my team has: we really don’t care who wins, even if we ourselves do.”
Elon and Lilo were so different: no matter who won MVP, Jair could clearly see Lilo standing there, cheering them on...
If only Elon could’ve been that way.
“So anyway, stargazing is somewhat of a secret hobby for me,” continued Lilo. “Not many people know it, but the stargazing is great in Roo Island, since there aren’t too many Neopians crowded around and not as much light distorting the sky.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“I’ve read some books about intergalactic objects before. Once something gets sucked into a black hole, nothing can free it. Not even light can pass by a black hole without disappearing. The nickname suits Elon, don’t you think?”
Jair nodded. Her teammate was so focused on winning the MVP trophy that he wouldn’t pass to anyone, almost as though the Yooyus were being sucked into his sling—his vortex, thinking figuratively.
“Team Roo Island has it no better than your team does, Jair. One of our players, Dayla, says that she’ll retire at the end of the season. I really don’t know why, but for some mysterious reason, she just won’t be coming back after we’re knocked out of the tournament.”
“Which position does she play?”
“She’s a forward. Why do you want to know?”
Jair knew that this was the only thing to do. She’d have to move quite some distance away, and some might criticize her, but she couldn’t stay with Maraqua any longer.
The only way to escape the black hole was to find the light. After this conversation, she knew just where that light was... and where she needed to be.
“Everyone,” she shouted, loud enough for the entire stadium to hear. “I’ve decided to take Dayla’s position!”
A spectator remarked, “Dayla? But doesn’t she play for...”
Cutting them off, Jair remarked, “You heard me right. As of next year, I am transferring to Team Roo Island!”
As practice for the second Altador Cup was about to begin, Jair glided across the Roo Island beaches.
This was her home now, and like her old home in almost every way but one.
Elon was gone, back in Maraqua. The Maraquan Eyrie kept asking herself how she would deal with him once she met up with him again during the second Altador Cup, but she was able to tune thoughts of him out.
In the short time she’d lived in Roo Island, she’d managed to befriend the other team members. Lilo was her best friend now, and she knew for a fact that he’d never turn out like Elon. Every one of those pictures of Elon that had once cluttered her desk had been replaced with pictures of Lilo and the rest of the Roo Island Yooyuball team.
Now, she had two Rainbow Colored Shells: one from Lilo, and one from Elon. She walked while holding the latter of the two shells, trying to overcome the pain she’d suffered as a member of Team Maraqua, and learning to channel it as a player for her new team.
All of a sudden, she lost her footing and fell in the sand. When she got up, she noticed that the shell she’d been carrying was shattered.
She didn’t need it anymore.
As she continued to skim the beach, she noticed that her shell had turned out just like her friendship with Elon: beautiful and shining at first, but now shattered and cracked into millions of pieces while under pressure.
Jair realized as she went along, leaving the shell behind, that the shattering hadn’t started during her confrontation with Elon at the end of the first round. Rather, it had started with just one simple, seemingly insignificant sentence, the one that had changed both former friends’ lives forever.
As Jair walked, she couldn’t almost hear that same voice speaking to her.
“I made the new Maraqua Yooyuball team!”
Hope you enjoyed it, and look for more entries to 'Secret Stories' about other Yooyuball legends, coming soon!