Still Faerie Lucky
You know your team is going to lose the Yooyuball match if the other team scores first--and six seconds into the game at that. Especially if your team has always been looked down on and the other team nearly got first place both years it competed. It can look like you're going to win for a while, but you almost never do... the key word being "almost". Some still cling onto that small bit of hope that says that it CAN be turned around.
Babolino is one of these. She is on the Faerieland team, and Faerieland was scheduled to compete with Roo Island for the second time during Year 10's Altador Cup. What made this match so different from the first one, you ask? Simple: it was July 21st, also known as the last day of the Altador Cup, the final match. There was little hope that Faerieland would win, yet Babolino clung to that bit of hope, no matter how tiny it was.
This is what happened.
"That's another goal from Roo Island," boomed the announcer. "Next up, the Ice Yooyu."
Breathing hard, Babolino glanced at the north wall. Two flags representing the Altador Cup hung on it, near a clock that counted down the time left in the game, although it was frozen on 1:34 for the moment. Ignoring those, Babolino's eyes took in the scores hanging close to the clock: the one on her team's side read 03, while the one farther away read 05. She looked away and tried her best to focus on the Yooyu in the middle of the field, but she just couldn't. Too many thoughts were floating in her mind. This was the last Yooyuball game of the season, and then it would be a whole year before the Faerieland team had the chance to even handle any Yooyu other than the Faerie ones. They just HAD to win this year, especially after doing so pitifully the year before. Babolino remembered her disappointment each time the Faerieland team had lost, which was a great many: twenty-nine times out of thirty. They'd have to beat Roo Island by a long shot to come in first place this year, but if they won by just a few points, they'd be in third place.
Babolino hung her head. Of course, how could there be even the slightest chance that Faerieland would win? They had never done very well in the Altador Cup. Every member of the team had a weakness that prevented them from doing very well: Kakoni, a Bruce (and the team captain) had little strength and trouble scoring; Valtonous, a Uni, was too slow to keep the other team from scoring a goal; Ciona, a Kyrii, had trouble concentrating and stealing the ball; Delma, the Zafara on the team, had trouble going fast enough to prevent the other team from getting the ball from her; and Babolino herself lacked tenacity and concentration.
From the other side of the stadium, Lilo narrowed his eyes at the Faerie Kacheek. He knew that she had trouble concentrating and sticking to what she was doing until it was done, two things needed for Yooyuball. If there was a distraction around, she wouldn't score a single point for the rest of the game...
TWEET! The referee, a red Scorchio, blew his whistle, causing the clock to unfreeze and the two teams to scramble for the ball. Kakoni managed to grab the Yooyu first, but Lilo was quick enough to grab her ankles, throwing her off balance and making her fall and let go of the Yooyu.
"Get it, Fenny!" Lilo yelled, struggling to keep Kakoni from getting up quickly enough to get the Yooyu back. The yellow Usul dashed forward and nearly caught the Yooyu, but Ciona managed to grab it first.
"Ciona! Over here!" Babolino hollered. She had managed to place herself near Roo Island's goal while everyone else had been fighting over the ball. The Faerie Kyrii grinned and passed to her, but aimed a little too far. Babolino was thankful that she was a Kacheek as she used her tail to catch the Yooyu. She bounced it a few times on the ground, trying to catch the Pteri defending Roo Island's goal off-guard and thanking herself for wearing warm gloves to protect her hands from the cold Yooyu. She knew she'd have to be quick to get the Yooyu in the goal and not taken away from her, but she couldn't find a good angle to throw it at. Whatever she did would result in the Yooyu being snatched from her and most likely thrown into Faerieland's goal.
"Knock her side, Jair!" came a sudden call.
"Babolino! Throw it over here!" yelled Ciona, waving her hands. Babolino turned around and noticed the Eyrie that was trying to steal the ball from her.
"Get it from her, Jair!" Lilo yelled.
"I'm trying!" Jair called, her eyes not leaving Babolino. "She won't stay still!"
True to the Eyrie's word, Babolino had started running about in a zigzag pattern to make herself harder to catch, but it wasn't working as well as the Kacheek wanted it to. Babolino was on the verge of losing the Yooyu due to Jair's nudges and kicks in the side.
"Help, help, help...!" Barely aware that she was shouting, Babolino looked at her teammates desperately. Only Valtonous was close enough to pass to, and she was being guarded by Lilo. Babolino was getting desperate; she couldn't hold onto the Yooyu much longer if Jair was going to keep knocking her in the side.
"Put your TEETH into it, Babolino!" Delma shouted.
"My TEETH?" Babolino was dumbfounded. "Won't that hurt him?"
"Yes, your teeth! No, it won't hurt him, just bite down HARD and hurry!" the Faerie Zafara yelled.
Seeing that Jair was about to knock her down, Babolino didn't argue and instead bit the Yooyu. She felt the icy cold outer shell freeze her tongue, but she didn't care. She needed to hold onto the Yooyu for just a tiny bit longer...
A glance at the clock told her she had only twenty seconds. Heart racing, she winced as Jair knocked her down. The slippery Ice Yooyu came out of her hands but remained partly in her mouth, and she made a mental note to thank Delma later for telling her to bite the Yooyu. Then she frowned, thinking of what the Petpet Protection League would think of her when they heard about this. Snapping back to attention, the Kacheek shook her head. This wasn't the time to think about that. Besides, the PPL would most likely understand--it was for a good cause, after all.
Babolino stole another look at the clock. Twelve seconds, now eleven, now ten. She had to be fast. She knew winning was no longer an option, but she didn't care anymore. The Kacheek jumped up, still holding the Yooyu with only her teeth, and tried to dodge Clutch. She felt a push from behind and had to resist slapping her own forehead. She had forgotten about Jair! She tumbled head over heels into Clutch, who fell over as well. Babolino tried not to let go of the Yooyu, even though an icy coating had formed over her teeth, and it was quite painful. Still, she knew she had to keep hold of it...
The next thing she heard was clapping, scarce at first but gradually louder and louder until it was nearly deafening. Babolino stood up, realizing she was in the Roo Island goal, and looked over at the scores. A smile shimmered over her face as she saw Faerieland's score marked as 04, but disappeared when she saw Roo Island's score exactly the same as before: 05. It was still a defeat.
Babolino barely noticed the tears leaking out of her eyes as she sat down in the goal. It just wasn't fair. Roo Island had breezed through their goals and she had fought so hard for just one. She tried to convince herself that it wasn't true, that the announcer wasn't yelling that it was Roo Island's victory, that she was still lying in the goal, but it was no use. It was all too true...
"Hey... you were really good out there," Valtonous said as she, along with the rest of the Faerieland team, came up to Babolino, all wearing disappointed faces.
"Yeah, you were," Kakoni chimed in, as Ciona and Delma nodded in agreement.
"What does it matter?" Babolino asked sadly, looking down. "We lost anyway."
Feeling a hand on her shoulder, the young Kacheek looked up again and saw Delma looking at her. "Still, Babolino, you were really great." The Zafara looked up at her teammates. "What does it matter if we lost? We tried our hardest, and that's what's important."
"But... but it's just not fair," came Babolino's soggy reply. "We worked so hard... and now..." She fell into Delma's arms and sobbed, but Delma shook her.
"Stop it, Babolino. Just stop it. You overcame a weakness of yours, do you realize that? You proved that you CAN follow through with what you're doing, and that you try your hardest."
The Kacheek sniffed. "Yet it wasn't good enough... it hurts..."
From the other side of the stadium, a blue Grarrl smirked. "That'll show that little crybaby of a Kacheek."
Clutch and Lilo nodded approvingly, but Fenny's hands clenched into fists. "You know, Gordo, you don't have to be mean about it!"
"Oh, come on. She can't hear us," Gordo replied nastily, and Clutch nodded.
"Serves her right--knocking me over like that!" the Pteri added.
The Usul clenched her fists even harder. "I don't recall anyone making fun of you guys when we lost last year and ended up crying!"
"At least we didn't do as pitifully as THEM," Lilo said, with a slight nod in the Faerieland team's direction.
"That doesn't give you any right to insult them!" Jair burst out. "If you guys are going to be this mean, then I'm going to... to..."
"You're going to what?" Gordo tilted his head a little.
"You'll see," the Eyrie replied, walking away.
Fenny stood in front of her teammates, hands on hips. "I can't believe you three," she said simply before walking over to the Faerieland team. Ignoring the rude glance Ciona shot in her direction, she came over to the young Faerie Kacheek and laid a hand on her head. She looked up, expecting to be laughed at or teased due to Faerieland's many losses.
"Wh-what?" Her voice cracked.
"I just wanted to say... you were brilliant out there," the Usul said, and Babolino smiled through her tears.
"You really mean it?" she whispered, and Fenny nodded.
"Nobody else had the strength to do what you did--to get our teeth into the hard, cold shell of that Ice Yooyu and go flying head over heels into the goal. Nobody else. Even though you lost, you won."
Babolino slowly put her legs down and shook free of Delma's grasp. The Zafara, too, was in awe.
"Sincerely thanked by a member of the opposite team... that's a first for me," Delma whispered, eyes shining, and Babolino nodded.
"Me too... Faerieland got laughed at and teased so many times throughout the years... and when we were told to congratulate the other team, everyone just smirked at us..."
"Fenny!" called a voice suddenly. The Usul turned around and saw Jair hurrying over, carrying the trophy.
"Mmm hmm, cool." Trying not to look too excited while in front of the Faerieland team, Fenny nodded absentmindedly and reached out to take the trophy, but her Eyrie teammate held it back.
"Not for us, silly! Look at what it says here!" Jair pointed to the print on the trophy, and slowly Fenny read it out loud.
"To the Faerieland team... because the winner is not who scores the most goals, but who is the better sport about it."