The Altador Cup was Marcia’s favorite time of the year. Everyone was abuzz to support their local team, and Shenkuu was no exception. The whole region held an annual festival leading up to the Altador Cup to celebrate their players and wish them luck. There was a hustle and bustle all over, and merchants tried extra hard to sell their wares. Shenkuu was already a merchant’s paradise, but during the Altador Cup festival and the Lunar Festival, they went all out. Marcia always lent a hand to her family at their food stall, but secretly, she wanted to be out playing Yooyuball with the best of them. She had been practicing at home with her petpet, Xana the Yooyu, that she was given for her birthday three years ago. Xana, of course, was named after the famed Shenkuu Yooyuball player of the same name. Most other Shenkuu fans were obsessed with Mirsha Grelinek, but Marcia always had her eye on Xana. This year, Marcia wanted to find Xana at the festival and speak to her and get some tips and tricks so she could possibly join the team someday. There was always a big parade at the end of the day where the team walked through the town, waving to everyone. Every year, Marcia had tried to get Xana’s attention, and every year, she never could. But this year was going to be different. She was going to wait at the end of the parade, where she might be able to have a minute alone with the Lutari Yooyuballer.
“I’m gonna find her,” Marcia said to herself in the mirror as she was getting dressed for the first day of the Festival. Her Yooyu was snoozing away on the bed, completely ignoring Marcia’s affirmations. “I’m gonna find Xana DiLanche!”
“Marcia, are you ready?” Her mother called to her from the kitchen, where she had been cooking up a storm all night.
“I’m coming, Mom!” Marcia called back. It was going to be a long day, so the sooner she got out there and started working, the sooner she could escape to go enjoy the festival. The pink Ixi brushed her hair back and bounded out into the kitchen, where her mother was holding a tray full of food.
“Could you do me a favor and grab the noodles over on the counter?” Her mother, who was an Eventide Ixi asked. “We just need to get the last of it out into the stall before the Festival starts.”
Marcia nodded and grabbed the pan of noodles and brought them outside to where her father and older brother were setting up. Her father, a striped Chomby, was checking the money till to make sure they had enough to make change for people. Her brother, Soren the white Grundo, was arranging the food in an organized fashion. The only one missing was her little sister.
“Where’s Shaya?” Marcia asked as she handed the pan to Soren.
Her father barely looked up from his counting. “We gave her some Neopoints and let her out into the Festival. She wanted to meet up with a few of her friends from school.”
“But Daaaaaad!” Marcia whined in disbelief. “You told me I could have time in the Festival! I have to go meet Xana this year!”
“I know, I know,” her dad reassured her. “As soon as she comes back, you can have your turn. But right now we need you to help us out and take orders.”
Marcia huffed and kicked her hooves on the ground. “Fine,” she mumbled.
Her father looked up and nodded in the direction of an approaching customer. “Look alive, we’ve got someone here now.”
“Oh! Sorry!” Marcia rushed up to the front of the stall and put on her best merchant smile. “Hi there! Can I interest you in some delicious food today?”
The Moehog scanned their wares carefully, squinting in the light of blazing sun that was shining down on everyone. “Um… I’ll take three of those rolls,” he said, pointing at a particular display.
“Excellent choice!” Marcia said enthusiastically. She turned to Soren. “Hey, we need three veggie rolls!”
Soren bagged them up and handed them over to the customer. “That’ll be 300NP, please.”
As her brother took care of cashing out, Marcia’s father came over and smiled at her. “You know, you might be able to take over the family business someday. You do a great job with the customers.”
Marcia frowned. “But I don’t want to sell food, I want to be a Yooyuball player!”
“I know, but you might want to think about what you’ll do if being a Yooyuball player doesn’t work out,” her father suggested. “Everyone ought to have a backup plan.”
“What about Soren? He loves cooking with Mom!” Marcia asked, gesturing to her brother.
“I think he might be better off being the head chef at a restaurant,” her father said with a laugh. “He’ll always have a place here, but I think you’d be a much better choice for manager.”
Marcia groaned and turned away from her father. “No, you’ll see. I’m gonna be the best Yooyuball player in Shenkuu! They’ll be begging me to play on teams from here to Kreludor!”
“I believe in you, sweetie, I really do. Keep dreaming big, but make sure you know what you’re doing in case playing Yooyuball doesn’t work out for you,” her father told her before she stomped away, kicking dirt up with her hooves as she went. “Come back in a few minutes, there’ll be more customers waiting!”
Marcia stormed into her room, slamming the door behind her. Xana the Yooyu was waiting on Marcia’s bed, curled up in a ball. But as soon as she heard the door slam, she perked up.
“Hi Xana, I promise we’ll play a little Yooyuball later,” Marcia reassured her petpet, sitting down next to her on the bed. She thought about all her friends from the school Yooyuball team and how they were probably all on the field running drills. Her biggest competitor, Thalia Angelo, practically ate, breathed, and slept Yooyuball. She bragged every day about how the coach of Krawk Island had been wanting to recruit her for years and was just waiting for her to get out of school. “It’s not fair, Xana! I bet Thalia Angelo doesn’t have to stay home and help her parents during the festival. She’s probably out there playing with all of my friends!” Xana made a little brrp noise in agreement, curling up next to Marcia’s leg and bouncing on the bed. “I know. We just need to wait until Shaya gets back. Then you and I can go out and play.” Xana made a more enthusiastic brrp noise and bounced higher, making Marcia laugh. Finally, Marcia took a deep breath and headed back out to the stall. There were customers waiting.
She walked back out to the kitchen and helped her mother bring a few more things out to the stall, then chatted with the customers. At one point, her coach from school stopped by. He was a Sketch Buzz with a great sense of humor off the field but trained them hard on the field.
“It wouldn’t be a festival without your mother’s delicious chicken!” Her coach said as he took his bag from Soren. “Anyway, how are you doing? Have you been practicing a lot since our last game?”
“Of course, Coach Max,” Marcia assured him. “Xana and I have been working real hard. Gotta play just as well as the real Xana, you know.”
“I’m pretty excited for this year’s season. We’ve got some pretty good matchups planned already and I’m sure there will be more to come,” Coach Max said with a nod. “You’re definitely one of our best players and I look forward to your performance this coming year.”
Marcia blushed and looked down at the ground. “Well, thank you. It’s really nice to hear that.” Every time Coach Max praised her, she felt prouder and prouder of herself.
“I’m gonna head back out into the festival. You enjoy yourself! Who knows, maybe we’ll be seeing you in the Cup next year once you’ve graduated,” Coach Max said before handing over his Neopoints and heading out.
“Was that your coach from school?” Marcia’s dad asked from behind her.
“Yeah, we were just talking about the season and stuff,” Marcia answered. “He said I’ve been doing a really good job!”
“Haven’t I told you that enough?” Her father joked, elbowing her side. “But that’s great. You know we’re proud of you, dear.”
“Thanks Dad. I hope Shaya comes back soon so I can get to the fields. I think all of my friends are practicing right now. I really want to get out there and play with them,” Marcia said with a slightly sad sigh.
Her father nodded. “Don’t worry, you’ll be out soon. Shaya hopefully won’t be out for too long. She has an earlier curfew than you do.”
“Yeah, I figured,” Marcia giggled. “Alright, I’m gonna get back to work now.” She turned outward, ready to face the next customer. Hopefully she could distract herself enough to make the time go faster.
To be continued…