Time To Shine
“Hey, Shone! Where do you think you’re going?”
Shone’s heart sank to her paws. The voice belonged to Vile, a Darigan Yooyu, who’d been her enemy the moment she landed in the cage underneath the Altador Cup field, along with the other Yooyus who’d been collected to become the balls for the famous game.
“What’s wrong?” Vile smirked. “Meowclops got your tongue?” Thorn, Vile’s Mutant Yooyu half-sidekick, half-friend, mockingly mewed.
Shone said nothing.
“Or are you just a coward?” Vile jeered. “Normal Yooyus don’t know what courage means!”
It all came down to the fact that Shone was a Normal Yooyu. If she were Fire, she could burn Vile. If she were Snow, she could freeze him. But no, she was Normal – completely powerless to do anything in defence. And that’s why Vile targeted Normal Yooyus – but mostly Shone. Maybe it was how all the other Normal Yooyus obligingly shrank in the corner, unnoticed (as Vile wanted), or maybe it was because of her name: Shone. As if once, in some age long ago, she had shone with happiness. But not anymore. Shone, not Shining. Past tense, not present.
“Hey, Vile. Why would you call her a coward, when you are the one who’s bullying a Yooyu who won’t bother fighting back, because she knows you’re not worth it?”
Shone’s shoulders sagged with relief. Steel, a Clockwork Yooyu and also her best friend, had come to the rescue as usual. She turned to face Steel, standing with her paws on her hips, glaring with her bright green eyes at Vile and Thorn.
“Well, if it isn’t Metalface,” Vile retorted. “Come to rescue the wimp again? You’d think she wouldn’t need rescuing all the time!”
“Go back to wherever you came from. No one wants you here.”
“Exactly.” Thorn grinned, revealing two dirty rows of sharp teeth.
Shone winced, remembering the damage a Mutant Yooyu’s teeth could do to another Yooyu, but Steel wasn’t afraid. (After all, she was made of steel...) “Your silly act doesn’t fool anyone, Thorn. Your teeth may look scary, but that’s just because you never bother to brush them. And they’re just what you rely on to make others afraid.”
“I guess you would be Shone’s set of dirty teeth, then?” Vile smirked.
“Just go away,” Steel snapped, losing her patience.
“Don’t get touchy!”
“Speak for yourself.” Shone was surprised to hear the sound of her own voice.
Vile sneered. “Finally found your vocal chords, have you?”
“What is going on here?”
Shone whirled around to face Leader, the Fire Yooyu who was in charge of all the Yooyus in the cage. He was also in charge of the metal claw that thrust a Yooyu onto the field above, and pretty much everything else.
“Nothing, Leader,” Vile snickered.
Leader glared at him. “I’d say you were picking on Shone again, but...”
Vile mockingly gasped. “Oh, my, Leader! You, accuse an innocent Yooyu of bullying another without proof? Oh, how my heart trembles!” He clutched his chest in fake horror.
“Quit the theatrics,” Leader snapped. “You need to learn a lesson. That’s a one-day wait before you can even think about being a Yooyuball.”
Vile, indeed, did “quit the theatrics”, and glared at Leader. “Again?”
“You need to learn a lesson,” Leader repeated, and zoomed off to scold a pair of bickering Snow Yooyus, leaving a trail of smoke behind.
“Well, that’s Shone for you, isn’t it?” Vile spat. “Always needing his mommy and leader to save her. Wimp.” And with that, he turned around, unfolding his purple, thorny wings and flying away, with Thorn rolling after him in close pursuit.
“Ignore him,” Steel told Shone.
“I’m trying,” Shone sighed. “I just hate how I’m so useless... What Vile said is right; I always need someone to rescue me.”
“Oh, come on, Shone. That’s not true.” But they both knew it was.
Shone whirled around. “Go away, Vile. Can’t you leave me alone, for goodness–”
She stopped abruptly: the Faerie Yooyu standing behind her was Wisteria, her only other good friend.
“Sorry, Wisteria, it’s just that Vile and Thorn have been worse than usual, and...” Shone sighed.
“It’s all right, I know how annoying they can be. But hey, if you become an official Yooyuball before they do, you’ll be able to rub it in for the rest of their sorry lives!”
“But that’s never going to happen. I’m just a stupid Normal Yooyu...”
“Come on, Shone! Gain some confidence! You’re going to outshine those bullies,” Wisteria insisted, flittering an inch above the ground.
“Leader’s too busy admitting other Yooyus who actually have it in them to become a Yooyuball. Why would he care about me?”
Wisteria sighed. “Where’s Steel? She’d do better in talking some sense into you. You don’t deserve to be made fun of just ‘cause you’re Normal.”
“Steel’s off on the other side of the cage. I dunno what she’s up to.” Shone recognized the familiar twinkle in Wisteria’s eyes. “Hey, don’t jump into any conclusions! Nothing’s ever gained by being hasty!”
“I have faith that one day, you’ll beat Vile and Thorn at their own game!”
Shone snorted, but couldn’t help letting Wisteria’s encouragement get to her.
“Oh, look, there’s Steel.” Wisteria pointed to behind Shone, who turned instantly. The Clockwork Yooyu was striding over to them, with a smile on her face.
“Guess what?” she cried. Not waiting for an answer, she went on: “I’ve had a little talk with Leader!”
Wisteria burst out laughing. “I knew it!” Shone just frowned. “Steel, come on, you don’t have to do–”
“Anyway,” Steel interrupted, “just listen, Shone. I told Leader about how you were bullied by Vile and Thorn, and how you should become a Yooyuball before they do.”
“Did he say yes?” Wisteria was flying around them in rapid circles, and even Shone herself couldn’t help feeling hopeful.
Steel frowned. “Well, this is where the chief-like Leader kicks in. He says that Vile and Thorn bully too many Yooyus, and it wouldn’t be fair if just Shone became a Yooyuball... And he certainly can’t get them all to become Yooyus. So he’s going to host an event tomorrow – anyone can become a Yooyuball... if they can get in the claw first! Of course, everyone’s allowed to participate... including Vile. Darn, I just don’t get why Leader has to be so fair.” Steel scowled. “But whatever. Shone, this is your chance!”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Shone held up her paws. “Stop for a moment. What do you mean, if they can get to in the claw first?”
“Well, imagine a time when someone – any Yooyu – could be a Yooyuball at last... Don’t you think there’ll be brawls?”
Shone gulped. “Uh, no thanks.”
“For goodness’ sake, Shone, you have a chance, and here you go saying that you don’t want to enter just because there’ll be fighting!”
“I won’t make it, anyway,” Shone said. “Vile or Thorn will get to it, and then they’ll laugh at me.”
“Shone, you are entering, and that’s that. Please!”
Shone stared at Steel and Wisteria’s pleading faces, and took a deep breath. “Well, I guess I can.”
“What?” Shone saw Wisteria fluttering frantically towards her. “What’s the matter?”
“It’s Steel,” her friend panted. “She – she’s been accepted to become a Yooyuball, right now!”
First Shone felt pride for her friend, and happiness. Then she realized the magnitude of the situation. “What?! But she’s Clockwork!”
“Exactly!” Wisteria cried. “They’ll switch on her Explode button, and if the players don’t get her in the net fast enough, she’ll – she’ll – she’ll explode!”
Shone felt there were no more words to be said. Curling up into a ball, she rolled as fast as she could towards the claw, not caring if she knocked down anyone in her path.
“STEEL!” she screamed, unfolding herself and looking up in horror. Leader was reaching – just a few inches away – and he pressed Steel’s Explode button. She watched as her best friend was lifted up in the claw, towards the opening in which she would be deposited on the field.
Steel turned towards her. “Shone,” she cried. “Don’t worry, these Altador Cup players are professionals; they’ll score before I explode, and they’ll turn off the Explode button, and I’ll be back before you know it.” She was smiling with pride.
“But – but, Steel...”
“Don’t worry!” Steel called. She was being lifted up further away. “Besides, I left you a little something. Just in case, you know? But I won’t explode... I’ll see you in no time! Bye!”
“Steel!” Shone shouted, but she was gone, up above on the field, and there was nothing she could do but hope.
Shone knew something was up the moment she heard Wisteria’s trembling voice.
“What happened to Steel?” she demanded, trying to keep the fear and dread from creeping into her voice (unsuccessfully).
“Shone, she... she... oh, the players weren’t as professional as she thought, and they thought it would be okay to have some fun...”
“Wisteria, what happened?!” Shone yelled. But she didn’t need the tears welling up in Wisteria’s lavender eyes, the sad tremble in her voice, to know what fate Steel came to.
“One team threw her to the other side’s goalie, and the other side followed her, and... and she blew up, knocking half the other team, including the goalie, off the field.” Wisteria started to sob.
“No,” Shone said numbly. “Not Steel. She couldn’t have.” Wasn’t it only a few minutes ago when Steel was laughing happily with her? Wasn’t it? She couldn’t have exploded, no. Wisteria had to be wrong.
She rolled rapidly to a corner, ignoring Wisteria’s concerned calls. Curling up into a ball, she finally let the tears fall, reliving the vivid memories of her best friend, Steel, as if they would make her come back.
“Shone. Shone. Wake up.”
Shone uncurled herself to a bright light. Squinting, she made out Leader, his bright fire shining all over her as he looked at her, concerned.
“It’s time for the event, Shone. Are you coming?”
Shone wanted to laugh. The event. She’d forgotten all about it. Who cared about being a Yooyuball anymore? Who would?
The thought came from nowhere; the deep, forgotten area at the bottom of her brain. It was true. Steel would want her to achieve her dreams, no matter what happened.
But Steel wasn’t here anymore...
Does that make any difference?
It seemed wrong, though. Steel was gone, and here she was, trying to become a Yooyuball...
Steel would be proud of you.
That was all it took. “I’m coming.”
Shone stood among the crowd of Yooyus, staring up at Leader, who cleared his throat. His speech sounded rehearsed. It probably was.
“I’m sure you’ve all heard by now about the event that’s taking place today...”
Shone didn’t join in the cheering that followed this.
“Remember that you have to be nestled inside the claw, not on it, next to it, under it. There are no other rules. And most of all: Have fun, and good luck!”
He promptly sounded a buzzer, and all chaos broke loose.
Shone caught a glimpse of Vile making his way towards the claw, but he was sharply cut off by a Faerie Yooyu sweeping about. She recognized her as Wisteria, and couldn’t help but smile.
Off to her right, Thorn was zigzagging through the crowd, threatening to pierce anyone in his way with his thorns. Not about to let him win, Shone curled into a ball and sped after him. Not long after, she thudded into Thorn, who let out a surprised yelp and bounced off course. Shone didn’t wait for him to recover. Instead, she zoomed towards the claw. She was so close –
Something landed heavily onto her. Gasping for breath, she fell and somersaulted before coming to a stop. Vile had slammed into her, and was flying towards the claw, smirking all the way.
Every single thought in her brain calmly said in unison the one word Shone had been waiting for. She curled up into a ball, gave it all she had, and bounced up speedily towards the purple Yooyu.
She wasn’t, actually, but it felt like it. For a whole second, she was flying in the air, like the Faerie Yooyu she should have been. She was gliding to success, with all her dreams coming true at once. She was hurtling through the air...
She slammed straight into Vile, who rocketed off in a spiral, bounced off the mesh of the cage, and landed with a thud on the floor, bouncing exactly six times before stopping. She hovered in the air for a second, before gravity could catch up with her, grinning a you-never-got-the-best-of-me smile at a shocked Vile, and dove into the metal claw.
She was lifting up, up, up, towards the heavens... She stared down at the other Yooyus, with a strange feeling mingled with happiness, pride, and triumph, before the skies opened up, and she was deposited onto the field of the Altador Cup.
It was dark.
That was the first thing she noticed. Then she remembered the routine – right now, she was enveloped with shadows. She waited a few seconds, and when the shadows lifted, she flew up into the air, and curled up into a ball.
This is my turn.
Someone kicked her. She didn’t know which team – she didn’t even know which teams they were – but it didn’t matter to her. She hurtled off into a random direction, and felt the foot of another player.
Sometimes you’ve just gotta do what you’ve gotta do.
She was bouncing off in an angle, and then she felt the clang of the goalpost. Bouncing off amid groans and cheers, another player grabbed her, sending her flying off again.
Without hope, you’ve got nothing.
She bounced off the sidelines, and was immediately speeding off into another direction. Someone got hold of her and kicked.
You can’t do anything without trying...
She felt the goalpost again, and hurtled off into another direction, where she was kicked back.
Wishes come true, whether you believe in them or not...
One more kick, and she flew off, gathering speed every second.
The taste of success is always worth it in the end.
Shone bounced into the net with a swish, and the buzzer sounded. Goal.
She uncurled herself, hearing the ecstatic cheers and disappointed groans. She smiled as the floor underneath her opened up, and she fell back down, down, down...
She landed on her feet, staring up at her fellow Yooyus, still not completely taking in what had just happened.
Leader put a paw on her shoulder.
“Congratulations, Shone,” Leader smiled. “You’re a Yooyuball. I knew you had it in you.”
She always had; she just hadn’t realized it until now.
Shone peered at the crowd, trying to find the familiar pink face. Wisteria.
They hugged each other. “I knew you could do it,” Wisteria cried. “I knew it! I’m so proud! And Steel would be, too,” she added softly.
“I know.” Shone smiled. “I know.”
She turned around just in time to see Vile being lifted up into the claw, still scowling. It had happened. She had finally outshone Vile, becoming a Yooyuball before he did. For once, Vile was shadowed by her success. She smiled again, but remembered something that Steel had said...
“I think I’ll go for a moment,” she told Wisteria, and rolled off. Where would Steel leave it?...
Of course. The little nook to the right the claw, where she, Steel, and Wisteria used to hide in, giggling and talking to each other. They called it the Friendship Nook. Shone sped towards it.
“Besides, I left you a little something. Just in case, you know?”
Steel’s words echoed in Shone’s ears as she landed smoothly in the nook. Glancing around, she spotted it at once – a little piece of paper, pinned to the wall. She took it and read:
Shone – never give up, honestly. Have faith. I just know you’re going to become a Yooyuball. I’m so proud of you. And even if I explode, well, I’ll never forget what a wonderful friend you were. Pshaw. XD Well, I suppose I ought to stop blabbing on and on... But I just want you to know, Shone... Your name might indicate you shone once, but I’m telling you. You still shine, as much as ever. And I am so proud of you.
Shining smiled. No, Steel would never forget her, but she would never forget her, either. After all, if you’ve got faith, any of your promising dreams and wishes can come true, just as long as you try a little more. But for now, it was time to shine.