About Last Summer: A Yooyuball Player's ROOlization
Wantayn kicked another yooyuball towards the goalkeeper absentmindedly. It bounced off the right edge of the goal and flew backwards, almost hitting him in the face. He dodged the yooyu, which came uncurled after it landed and sauntered away, annoyed.
“Wantayn, what are you doing?! You’ve been practicing so well lately!” said the Jelly Chia.
“I don’t know.” Wantayn sighed. “I think I need to break for today. I’ll go home and get some rest and be back in the morning bright and early for our last day of practice before the games begin.”
Wantayn walked away from the practice field. In the stands above, he heard fellow Roo Island fans practicing their cheering, making as much noise as they possibly could. He walked out of the side stadium and past the slushie shop, where other Roo Island team members were practicing their customer service speed and etiquette, serving up slushies with a smile. Wantayn had practiced all of those tasks endlessly, and felt fairly confident in his abilities. As he walked along, he stopped in his tracks to stare: The Altador Cup XV Yooyuball Stadium.
He wandered in, a place where he hadn’t been spending any of his time during the practice days leading up to AC XV. He stared longingly as he watched Lilo Blumario and Jair Tollet pass the yooyu back and forth, until Jair finally lobbed it towards the net, but it was caught just in time by Clutch Billaban, the Roo Island goalkeeper.
Wantayn had always wanted to be a part of the Roo Island Yooyuball team, ever since his owner taught him and his siblings how to play in the backyard at a young age. He had never found the courage to sign up for the team during the practice days. Something about being a species-changing lab pet made him feel like he didn’t belong. At least with the side games, he could blend in. No one was watching him when he was scoring goals with Jelly Chia or serving slushies to thirsty fans. When he was ROOting on the team in the stands, he was just another Roo Island team member. But, as a player on the Yooyuball Team?! That was front and center. That was all eyes on you. And he couldn’t confuse the fans by being one species one day, and another the next!
Still, Wantayn looked on in envy as he saw the team practice. He caught his reflection in the shiny metal yooyu rest area: a Green Vandagyre didn’t belong on the Roo Island team! Honestly, he was still getting used to his life as a Vandagyre; he had been zapped by the Secret Laboratory Ray just one week prior into a Green Vandagyre from a Red Korbat! Wantayn usually enjoyed being a lab pet, though. He loved that he could change his species and his colour just as often as he changed his clothes. It was always so exciting for him to enter the lab, not knowing what he would come out looking like. Or feeling like! Wantayn loved how the lab sometimes made him feel stronger and faster. Healthier even, too! He was training to be an incredible battledome fighter, because that was his dream when he was adopted. Maybe he had a new dream, though. Not instead of, but in addition to. Maybe he could be a battledome star AND a Yooyuball all-star. One day, maybe, that could be him. He dreamt about it his entire walk home.
At dinner that night, his owner was concerned. It was a rare night alone with just the two of them; all of his siblings were out. “Wantayn, you’ve hardly touched your Negg Lasagna. Is everything okay?”
Wantayn considered telling her that everything was fine, that he was just nervous for the Altador Cup to begin, because he wanted to play his best for his team. But when he opened his mouth, all of his thoughts from the afternoon came gushing out.
“I want to play on the Roo Island Yooyuball team but I don’t think I will fit in. With my species able to change at any moment from the lab, I don’t feel like I can do it! I’m too nervous. I love visiting the lab every day and getting stronger and faster, I really do. And I don’t want to stop going, because you worked so hard and paid so much for me to gain access to it. I appreciate everything you do for me, I really do. But I want to play Yooyuball so badly this year! I just can’t join the team as a Vandagyre, I can’t. Sometimes I just wish I could be a Blumaroo.”
His owner met his concerns with grace and empathy. “Sweetie, I want you to be happy. And I want you to know that I love you no matter what species you are, and so will your Roo Island teammates! But if you want to play on the Yooyuball team, and you’ll only be comfortable doing that as a Blumaroo, and you’re really, really sure, then let’s make you a Blumaroo.”
That was easier than Wantayn expected. “Wow, do you really mean it?!”
She leapt up and put on her shoes. “Of course I mean it. I’m headed to Kauvara's Magic Shop, I’ll be back before you know it!”
Wantayn was so happy about their conversation, and so excited for her to return with a Blumaroo Morphing Potion. But while she was gone, he couldn’t help but let his mind wander: was he making the right decision?
She came back within about two hours. “I’ve got you a Zombie Blumaroo Morphing Potion! I know this is maybe not the colour you prefer, but it’s all I could afford with what was in stock. Are you sure this is what you want?”
“I’m sure, thank you so, so much!” Wantayn was bouncing around the Neohome with joy, all doubts erased from his memory. (It’s no wonder he wanted to become a Blumaroo, with all that bouncing!) He took the morphing potion and swallowed it in one gulp. Suddenly, his ears grew three times as long and his tail turned from feather-y to solid. His face grew taller and his body became much less wide. His owner handed him a mirror. He was a Blumaroo!!!!
The next day, Wantayn bounced into the Roo Island AC practice area with glee. He didn’t even stop to say hi to his friend the Jelly Chia; he headed straight for the Yooyuball Stadium. He was bouncing so fast, that he ran straight into Lilo Blumario himself! Wantayn was star struck.
“Hey buddy, watch where you’re going there!” Lilo exclaimed. “We haven’t met. Are you here to watch?”
“Hi, I’m Wantayn! And actually, I want to try out for the Yooyuball team this year! I know I missed the first few days of practice, but I’ve been working hard at all the side games, and I’m a natural when it comes to playing defender, and I really think I have what it takes to play this year!” Wantayn was talking a mile a minute.
“Okay, okay, kid, let’s see what you got!” Lilo said.
Lilo and Wantayn walked out onto the field, and Lilo introduced Wantayn to the rest of the team. As Wantayn mentioned, he was a great defender. Those years spent playing Yooyuball with his siblings in the backyard really paid off.
“Wantayn, you’re a natural! Where’ve you been all these years, why haven’t we seen you on the team!?” Jair Tollet asked him during their lunch break.
“Oh, here and there. I’ve been… travelling.” Wantayn fibbed. He quickly changed the subject. He didn’t want anyone to know the secret about who he was.
“Well, we’re glad you’re here now, Wantayn.” Lilo patted Wantayn on the back with his stubby little arm. “Welcome to the Roo Island Yooyuball Team!”
The Altador Cup kicked off, and Wantayn was thrilled. He was so happy to be playing on the actual team this year! He loved getting to defend Lilo and Jair. Fenny and Squeaky, his fellow defenders, appreciated the break from playing every now and then, and gave him all sorts of pointers and tips before and after daily matches. He was really starting to feel like part of the team. Wantayn was living his dream.
One night, after a tough loss to Shenkuu, Wantayn stopped at the lab as he did every night. His trips to the lab lately had been full of anxiety that he’d never experienced before. This is the price I’ll pay to convince all of my new friends I’m a Blumaroo, Wantyn thought.
Wantayn approached the Lab Ray Scientist, who asked if he was sure. “Of course I’m sure, you see me every day!” Wantayn snapped.
“Uh-oh…” the Scientist said.
Wantayn looked in the mirror, and found himself looking at… a Yellow Bruce!
Wantayn’s eyes welled with tears and bolted from the lab area. “See you tomorrow!” shouted the Scientist. Wantayn, who normally loved to chat with the Scientist, didn’t respond. He ran all the way home.
When he got there, his owner didn’t even have a chance to welcome him home before he exclaimed “I NEED ANOTHER ZOMBIE BLUMAROO MORPHING POTION. RIGHT. NOW.” Wantayn burst into tears.
His owner looked at him with love in her eyes. “Sweetie, are you sure? I think you look dashing as a Bruce, and your new teammates love you. They’ll love you for who you are, I just know it.” she said gently.
“I’m sure.” Wantayn said in between sobs. “Please.” So she went off to Kauvara’s once again.
The following days’ matches were tougher for the Roo Islanders, but Wantayn and his team gave it their all. Most days were met with Yooyuball defeats. No matter. Lilo Blumario frequently took his team out for ice cream in the evenings to celebrate their hard work, win or lose. Wantayn loved spending time with them and getting to know his teammates, but his inner thoughts were clouded with anxiety about his trips to the lab, or with fear that someone would find out what he was really doing after a long day on the field. He always had to duck out just a little bit early from the ice cream parlour to make it to the lab before it closed.
One night, after Wantayn was saying goodbye to the Scientist (only lost 2 levels—phew!) Wantayn ran into Clutch Billaban, the Roo Island goalie. Clutch was a quiet Pteri, and was probably the teammate that Wantayn had talked to the least. He froze, as if he’d been hit with a rival team’s Ice power-up.
“Wantayn? Is that you?” Clutch asked.
“Oh uh, hi Clutch! I was just bringing my friend, the Lab Ray Scientist, an ice cream cone!”
“I didn’t see you order any extra ice cream before you left the shop…” Clutch was unsure.
“Oh, I stopped at another ice cream shop! The Scientist likes a very specific kind that I buy specially for him, from the Super Happy Icy Fun Snow Shop. What are you doing here?!” Wantayn covered. Act natural, he thought.
“Well, to be honest, I’m a bit tired of being a Pteri.” Clutch admitted.
“What? But you’re an awesome Pteri!”
“You’re right, I am.” Clutch grinned. “But it’s been 13 years! I’m ready for a change, and I’m willing to embrace the uncertainty to do so.”
“But aren’t you afraid of what the Roo team might think? Or the rival teams? Or the fans?!”
“You know what Wantayn, I was at first. Did you know I used to be a Blue Chomby? Lilo and I have been best friends since grade school. We’ve been playing Yooyuball together since we were tiny, and I was a Chomby. A year after I joined the team, I wanted a change. But I was afraid, so I talked to Lilo. He told me that he and the team would love me no matter what species I was or what I looked like. ‘We’ll always love yooyu for yooyu!’ he said.”
“I had no idea, Clutch. I love that story. And I do love our team’s puns!” Wantayn grinned.
“...As long as I wasn’t a Kiko on the day we play Kiko Lake.” Clutch chuckled.
At that last sentence, Wantayn’s face fell in disappointment.
“Wantayn! I’m just kidding, I promise. Lilo never said that. But you should have seen the look on your face, ha! Lilo and the team are so accepting, and so is the rest of the league. Our rival teams become our friends and training buddies after this is all over. Erli Quinnock, the Kiko Lake goalkeeper, and I play Godori together every Wednesday night during the offseason. The Altador Cup players are warm, welcoming, and accepting everywhere. You’ve just never met them anywhere but the Yooyuball field, where they act tough and competitive. And the fans? They are too busy trying to see who can scream the loudest for the longest. They cheer us on, no matter what.”
“Oh, oh, that’s great to hear, Clutch. Thanks for telling me.” Wantayn felt relieved.
“So do you want to tell me what you are really doing here?” asked Clutch.
“I told you, it was to bring the Scientist some ice cream! Hey, it was great to see you Clutch, I gotta get home. See you tomorrow!” Wantayn ran off.
On his way home, he pondered what Clutch had said. That night, Wantayn lay in bed dreaming of his days as a Vandagyre. Maybe that first morphing potion had been a mistake after all. Oh well, it was too late now Wantayn reasoned, as he drifted off to sleep.
A few more days went by. Games were won, matches were lost, ice cream was eaten by all. As Wantayn grew closer to his teammates both on and off the field, he couldn’t help but feel guilty that he wasn’t showing them his true self. He’d seen a noise-making fan in the stands one afternoon with a banner saying “GO WANTAYN!” with a picture of a Zombie Blumaroo. It had taken Wantayn a minute to realize the fan was cheering for him. It didn’t feel right.
That evening, Wantayn went to the lab as normal, again thinking about being a Vandagyre. He was lost in thought as the Scientist asked him if he was sure. Wantayn nodded, not paying much attention.
“It’s good to see you like that again!” the Lab Ray Scientist exclaimed with glee.
“What?!” Wantayn rushed towards the mirror. He was staring back at a Blue Vandagyre. His mind tried to fight it for a second, but in his heart, it felt right. This was who he was meant to be right now. He wasn’t done being a Vandagyre yet. “You know what, it’s good to see this too.”
When Wantayn arrived home that night, he hugged his owner the second he walked in the door. After the embrace, she pulled away, took one look at him, and looked at her watch. “If I hurry, I can make it to Kauvra’s before it clo—”
“No, no, it’s okay. I want to stay like this. This is who I’m meant to be right now.”
Wantayn’s owner beamed with pride and joy. “They’ll love you just the way you are, Wantayn. I know it,” she said, hugging him again. He knew it, too.
The next morning, Wantayn bounced into the Roo Island Team ROOm, where the team gathers each day before the match. (He might not be a Blumaroo anymore, but he still loved to bounce!)
“Hey there, we haven’t met. Are you lost?” Lilo asked Wantayn, so similar to that first time they met.
Wantayn’s face fell. “Lilo, I’m—” he started.
“Hey Wantayn, it’s good to see you this morning. I like the new look!” Clutch interrupted, his eyes full of recognition. He gave Wantyn a wink. “I hope you’re ready to ROOffle some Tyrannian feathers today!” Clutch exclaimed.
Wantayn smiled at Clutch, and then took a deep breath.“Clutch is right, it’s Wantayn. I haven’t shared this about myself yet, but I figure it’s time to tell you that I visit the Lab Ray to get zapped every night! I’ve morphed myself into a Blumaroo a couple of times recently… But for right now, I know I’m meant to be a Vandagyre.” Wantayn watched his team member’s faces around the room as he revealed his big secret, but they just smiled at their rookie teammate as they always did. No shocked gasps, no looks of abject horror. They were just… normal. Maybe his big secret wasn’t such a big deal after all. His owner had been right. They loved and accepted him for who he was, no matter what he looked like.
“And I know I’m also meant to be the team’s best defender! Haha!”
His jest was met with a few “HEY!”s from Fenny and Squeaky. The team room erupted in chaos and chatter as everyone started joking around with each other.
“Team, team, settle down! It’s a tough match against Tyrannia today, but we’ll give it everything we’ve got. Are you ready to ROOmble?!” asked Lilo.
“Let’s ROOffle some feathers!” shouted Wantayn, as he led the Roo Island team out onto the Yooyuball field, filled with excitement for the match to come.
Author’s note: it should be acknowledged that Wantayn did a lot of soul searching this year, and finally decided that he likes himself best as a Halloween Blumaroo. He has since retired from his trips to the Secret Laboratory. However, he will always remember last summer when he played for the Roo Island team in the Altador Cup as a Blue Vandagyre, and felt fully accepted and embraced by his teammates just the way he is. Wantayn is very excited to lead his Roo Island team to victory this coming season!