The Kacheek Club: The Yooyuball Match
Gwen the Island Kacheek glanced around the crowded cafeteria as she and her friends made their way to their usual lunch table. Everywhere she looked, her classmates sported Altador Cup Jerseys in assorted team colors. So far, she had counted two Terror Mountain jerseys, five Shenkuu jerseys, seven Krawk Island jerseys, and one lone Faerieland jersey. "I guess the Altador Cup craze has started," she said, rolling her eyes.
Bridgette the Faerie Kacheek nibbled the crust off of her Ham and Cheese Wingwich. "Oh, is that the reason why everybody's starting to wear those team jerseys? Phew, I thought I was missing out on a new trend or something." She sighed in relief and wiped imaginary sweat from her forehead.
"I hope Coach Stryke doesn't make us play Yooyuball in gym class again like last year." Xana the Disco Kacheek twisted the cap off of her Bubbly Roseatte Juice. "You were one of the best players out there, Gwen. I mean, scoring five goals in one game? I can hardly make one."
"Thanks." Gwen smiled. "My grandma takes me to watch the Altador Cup every year. She's a huge fan of Meridell. I guess I watched so many Yooyuball games in the Colosseum that I picked up a few good plays."
"You're so lucky, Gwen." Sarina sighed enviously and gulped down her Berry Mynci Juice Box. "I always beg my parents to take me to watch the Altador Cup, but they're always too busy. Oh, by the way, you know the Yooyus they use in the Yooyuball games? Well, do you know if they have tight security?"
Gwen immediately knew what Sarina was thinking. "Don't even think about it, Sarina." The Island Kacheek could practically picture Sarina sneaking into the Yooyu cages wearing a black thief hood and taking one for herself. Sarina always wanted to own an 'exotic' petpet.
"Would you guys like free Altador Cup Shenkuu Keyrings?" Velma the Camouflage Elephante approached their lunch table holding a clear plastic bag of red-and-gold keyrings. Along with her three friends (Kora the Island Korbat, Neera the Shadow Krawk, and Lucie the Purple Draik), they were the most athletic pets in the grade.
"Um, no thanks." Bridgette waved the Elephante away as she wiped her mouth with a napkin.
"Aren't you going to show your support for a team this year, Bridgette?" Kora asked incredulously. She adjusted her ill-fitting Shenkuu Team Beanie.
"What's the big deal with the Altador Cup, anyway?" put in Gwen. "I mean, it's just a bunch of sweaty players running around trying to score a Yooyuball."
Velma, Kora, Neera, and Lucie gasped in unison and exchanged shocked glances.
"Yooyuball is way more than that," explained Lucie, "It's a game of true skill, agility, and intelligence!"
Gwen stifled a yawn.
"Let it go, Lucie," Neera said, trying to comfort the Draik. "That's what most pets who are uneducated about the art of Yooyuball say."
"Excuse me?" Gwen abruptly dropped her forkful of Veggie Lasagna and stood up from her seat. "Just because I don't like the Altador Cup doesn't mean that I don't know anything about it."
"Oh yeah?" Velma snickered and said, "What position does Garven Hale play?"
"Goalkeeper!" Gwen grinned and slapped Bridgette a high five.
"Who's the right defender on Team Kreludor?"
"Speed, craftiness, and strong nerves." Gwen smiled triumphantly.
"Okay, so maybe you are educated about the Altador Cup," Velma said slowly, "But I bet you and your friends couldn't stand a chance in a Yooyuball match."
Gwen squinted. "Wanna bet?"
"It'll be me, Kora, Neera, and Lucie against you guys," explained Velma, "The match will take place two days from now after school at my house. Are you still in?"
"Please don't do it, pleeease don't do it," Bridgette muttered under her breath as she watched Gwen hesitate.
"We'll do it!" Gwen shook hands with Velma. Beaming proudly, she turned to face the Kacheek Club.
"So, let me get this straight. In two days' time, we'll be playing Yooyuball against Velma, the girl who scored twelve goals in a row in gym class?" Xana asked Gwen nervously.
"That's so cool!" squeaked Sarina, clapping her paws together in excitement.
"You mean, that's so not cool." Bridgette's eyes widened in horror. "Didn't any of you guys hear that rumor going around that Velma locked a Techo in the janitor's closet just because she lost to him in an arm wrestling match?"
"That's not true," Sarina argued.
"Thank you, Sarina." Gwen nodded in agreement.
"No, I meant that it was a Skeith she locked in the janitor's closet, not a Techo."
"Oh." Gwen bit her lip, then turned around towards Xana. "What do you think about all of this, Xana?"
"How are we going to beat them, Gwen? You're probably the only one here that actually knows how to play Yooyuball," said Xana.
"Easy. I'll just teach you guys how to play."
"You do realize that you only have two days to teach us, right?" asked Bridgette.
Gwen sighed. "I guess that means that we've got a lot of work to do."
"I'm pretty sure that you guys are all aware of why I called this emergency Kacheek Club meeting." Gwen wrung her paws nervously as she walked back and forth in front of the Kacheek Club. "Today is our first practice for the Yooyuball match the day after tomorrow. Instead of jumping right in and practicing our Yooyuball skills, I decided to start with something simple." She walked over to the Pink Aisha Bookshelf in the corner of her bedroom and pulled out four books. "Since some of us in here don't even know the rules of Yooyuball, I thought that we should spend today reading Yooyuball-themed books."
"Bridgette," Xana coughed.
"Hey, I heard that!" said Bridgette.
"Heard what?" asked Xana, her eyes widening innocently.
"How you coughed Sarina's name like that. You really shouldn't do that when she's sitting right next to you." Bridgette pointed over to the Cloud Kacheek who was seated next to Xana.
"Oh, right. Sorry, Sarina."
"No problem." Sarina smiled, though it was clear that she had no idea what Bridgette and Xana were talking about.
"Okay, let's start." Gwen handed Bridgette a thick golden book with the Altador Cup symbol on it.
"What's this?" Bridgette wrinkled her nose and stared at the heavy book in her paws.
"It's the Altador Cup Rule Book," Gwen informed her. "Granny Sabatha bought it for me at the Souvenir Shop last year."
"You're kidding! Your grandma actually spent Neopoints on this thing?"
"I told you, she's crazy about the Altador Cup." Gwen shrugged, then headed over to Xana. "Xana, you'll be reading 1,001 Yooyuball Tips. If I were you, I'd skip the intro and head straight for the goalkeeper tips."
"Why?" Xana asked, confused.
"You're gonna be the goalkeeper for our team," said Gwen. Before Xana could object, she quickly continued, "Moving on. I know you've been trying to cut down on reading, Sarina, so I'm going to give you the shortest book available. It's called The Underdog Story."
"Does this book have any pictures in it?" asked Sarina, examining the front cover of the book.
"Every five pages."
"Well, I suppose I could read it." Sarina opened to the first page of the book rather reluctantly.
"Get reading, everyone!" Gwen settled into her Fyora Print Bean Bag and opened her copy of Krawk Island Altador Cup Media Book to the page where she had left off that morning at breakfast. She figured that reading the media book of last year's Altador Cup winners might be helpful for the match. Pretty soon, however, her eye lids slowly began to droop.
"Gwen! Wake up already!"
"What's the emergency?" Gwen reluctantly opened her eyes to see Xana shaking her awake.
"You, Bridgette, and Sarina all fell asleep. I was reading Garven Hale's tips on how to be a good goalkeeper, and I looked up and saw that you guys were long gone." Xana adjusted her Green Disco Kacheek Glasses.
"Really? Sorry." Gwen yawned and closed her book. Looking around, she saw Bridgette lying facedown on the Lavender Faerie Rug in the center of her room. The Faerie Kacheek was using the rule book as a pillow. Sarina was lightly snoring from behind The Underdog Story, which she had placed over her face before falling asleep.
"I guess the reading session didn't go so well, huh?" Xana asked, looking around at the sleeping Kacheeks.
"Well, hopefully Bridgette and Sarina managed to learn something from their books before falling asleep." Gwen stood up and shook Bridgette and Sarina awake.
"Did you guys learn anything from your books?" asked Xana curiously.
Bridgette rubbed her eyes and groaned. "I learned that the Altador Cup Rule Book isn't really comfy enough to sleep on."
"What about you, Sarina?"
"I learned that the underdogs were the Rooligans. Then I fell asleep and I had a dream that Velma locked us all in the janitor's closet after she won the match." The Cloud Kacheek shuddered.
"Actually, that might become reality." Bridgette tried to smooth the tangled yellow fur on the top of her head.
"Not helping, Bridgette!" Gwen glared at her friend.
"Sorry," Bridgette mouthed.
"Okay, we have to work extra hard tomorrow because it's our last day of practice," Gwen announced to her friends with mild disappointment.
"Oooh, can you hold the practice tomorrow at my house?" asked Bridgette enthusiastically. "If we're going to practice playing Yooyuball hands-on, then the extra space in my backyard should come in handy. Plus, I'll probably be really tired after the practice, and I'd rather just go up to my bedroom and rest instead of walking home."
"Fine with me." Gwen nodded. "See you guys tomorrow at Bridgette's house!"
Gwen adjusted her Abigail Sweatband and glanced at her lavender wristwatch. "How could Bridgette be late for the practice?" she asked out loud. "I mean, it's being held at her house!"
Xana shrugged. "Maybe she lost track of time or something."
"Or... she got abducted by Alien Aishas, and now she's their hostage," Sarina offered. She saw Xana and Gwen exchange confused glances, and the Cloud Kacheek rolled her eyes and sighed as if the answer should have been obvious. "I tried to tell Bridgette not to pop that Alien Aisha Balloon at my birthday party last year, remember? The Alien Aishas are probably just trying to get revenge. I can't say that I'm surprised."
Gwen shook her head hopelessly. She was used to Sarina and her slightly crazy ideas.
"Sorry I'm late. I was a little too wrapped up watching my favorite faerie soap opera on Neovision." Bridgette appeared out of the back door and joined her friends in the backyard.
"Oooh, so what happened?" asked Gwen, her eyes sparking with interest.
"'Kay, so it turns out that Celestia was actually a dark faerie instead of a water faerie," dished Bridgette, "and don't worry about Alice; she eventually found her missing Pandaphant and was reunited with her long lost sister."
Gwen gasped. "I can't believe I missed that episode."
"Uh, hello? What happened to the Yooyuball practice?" Xana waved her paw in front of Gwen's face.
"Oh, right." Gwen cleared her throat and made direct eye contact with Xana, Bridgette, and Sarina before continuing. "In a typical Yooyuball game, there's supposed to be five players. But since we've only got four, I suppose that can't be helped. Xana, you're going to be the goalkeeper. Keep your eye on the Yooyu at all times, and always be ready to throw yourself in front of the Yooyu. Bridgette and Sarina are both going to be forwards, along with me. The three of us will be busy passing the Yooyuball to each other. When you think you're in a suitable position, then throw the Yooyuball as hard as you can at the goalie net."
Xana, Bridgette, and Sarina nodded and acted as if they understood what Gwen had just said.
"One question: What are we going to use for a Yooyu?" asked Xana.
"See? It's times like these that make me wish I had a Yooyu," Sarina said, stomping her foot in the grass. "Then we wouldn't have this problem."
"I just thought of something. Be right back!" Bridgette dashed into her house. A few minutes later, she reappeared in the backyard. In her paws was a Faerie Yooyu Plushie.
"Great idea, Bridgette! We can use your plushie as the Yooyu in the game!" Gwen reached for the plushie. "Plus, it's a good thing that the Yooyu is really soft. It's just the thing for our practice."
"Wait, what? My idea was that I wanted my Faerie Yooyu Plushie to watch us as we practiced. After all, it's important for us to get used to playing in front of an audience. That way, we'll be prepared if Velma invites the entire grade to watch the Yooyuball match."
Xana groaned quietly. "I hope she doesn't."
"Well, since we have nothing else to use as a Yooyu, I'm afraid we're gonna have to use your plushie, Bridgette," Gwen said.
"I guess if it helps the cause." Bridgette patted the plushie tenderly on the head.
"Excellent! The Yooyu, please." Gwen stretched out her paw and waited.
"She has a name, you know," said Bridgette, referring to the plushie.
"Fine. Could you pass me Palia, Bridgette?"
"Hmm, I dunno... Well, okay, since you asked so nicely." Bridgette beamed and handed Palia over to Gwen.
"Alright. Positions!" Gwen ran to the center of the backyard and stood there. When she didn't hear the sound of footsteps behind her, she turned around to find Bridgette, Xana, and Sarina looking around uncertainly. "Bridgette - left forward. Sarina - right forward. Xana, step into the imaginary goalie net."
Xana sighed and stepped inside her imaginary goalie net. "Eeew, there's imaginary gum stuck in here!" she muttered in disgust.
"Let's begin!" Gwen began running towards the place where Xana was standing.
"Pass it to me! I'm open!" Sarina hollered, waving her paws in the air.
Gwen tossed Palia over to Sarina.
"Caught it!" Sarina held the plushie securely as she headed for the goalie net. Just before she could throw it, she tripped and fell on the grass.
"Are you okay, Sarina?" asked Gwen, jogging over to help the Cloud Kacheek up.
"Yep. I think I tripped over a rock or something." Sarina quickly brushed the dirt off of her arm with her paw. "Let's keep playing!"
"Okay. Everyone back to their original positions!" commanded Gwen.
"Gosh, how come Yooyuball requires so much running?" Bridgette panted. Her Tennis Headband was lopsided on top of her head.
"You'll get used to it in time. Nooow, begin!" Gwen threw Palia over to Bridgette.
"I've got it! I've got it!" Bridgette stood on her tiptoes to catch Palia. The plushie slipped through Bridgette's paws and landed in a purple and pink heap on the grass. "Oh... never mind."
Gwen quickly fixed her Abigail Sweatband and held her arms out. "Bridgette! Pass Palia over to me so that I can throw it!"
Bridgette scooped Palia up and (with a little difficulty) managed to toss it over to Gwen.
Gwen jumped up and caught the plushie. She began running towards Xana.
"Please, not the face!" Xana placed both of her paws in front of her face and shut her eyes.
Gwen took a deep breath and stopped running. "Xana, c'mon. It's just a plushie."
Xana bit her lip uncertainly and finally sighed. "Okay, throw it."
Gwen wound up, then she threw the Yooyu plushie into the imaginary net.
"I... caught it!" Xana leaped into the air and caught the plushie in between her paws.
"Yaaay!" Gwen cheered.
"Go, Xana!" praised Bridgette.
"That was so cool! You totally looked like a Mortog when you jumped into the air like that!" said Sarina, her eyes bright with excitement.
"Erm, thanks, Sarina," replied Xana, not entirely sure whether or not her friend had just insulted or complimented her.
"Alright, guys. Just a little more practice, then we'll be ready for tomorrow." Gwen clapped her paws, and everyone returned to their original positions.
Gwen slid open the glass patio door to reveal the colossal-sized Yooyuball field behind Velma's house. After Velma's mom had shown the Kacheek Club the way to the backyard, Gwen and the rest of her friends had simply been impressed with all of the exotic and rare paintings that hung on the walls in Velma's house. But the Yooyuball field took the cake. White paint drawn on grey cement marked where the boundaries of the field were, and two Yooyuball goalie nets occupied the ends.
"This looks exactly like the real Yooyuball field in the Colosseum," murmured Gretta the Pink Kacheek as she followed Gwen out the door. Gretta was Gwen's little sister, and Gwen had invited her to the match to be a referee for the game. The Pink Kacheek was now dressed in a black-and-white striped referee shirt, and a Green Whistle dangled from her neck.
"Finally, you guys are here." Velma and her team approached the Kacheek Club from one side of the field. Velma, Kora, Neera, and Lucie looked intimidating in their matching Yooyuball uniforms.
Gwen, Bridgette, Xana, and Sarina looked down in dismay at their mismatched color combinations.
"Can we hurry up and start?" whined Neera. "I have piano lessons in an hour."
"Okay, sure." Velma nodded and placed an Inflatable Fire Yooyuball in the center of the field. "Let's begin."
Gretta quickly scampered over to the other side of the field and held the Green Whistle in her mouth, in case she had to call any fouls.
"Team Extreme, get in your positions!" hollered Velma. Kora and Lucie hurried over to their forward positions while Neera took her place inside the goalie net.
"Why didn't I think of a team name?" thought Gwen as she bit her lip. "Positions, Team Kacheek!" she called. She ran to the center of the field and faced Velma, who was the center forward for Team Extreme.
"Team what?" asked Xana, confused.
Gwen looked back and hissed, "That's you guys!"
"Oh!" Bridgette, Xana, and Sarina said in unison, and they rushed to their positions.
Gretta blew the whistle, and the game began.
Velma grabbed the Yooyuball and passed it to Lucie. Lucie immediately caught it and soared up into the sky.
"Hey, that's no fair! She's using her wings to fly!" protested Bridgette, watching as Lucie performed loop-de-loops in the air as she made her way to their goalie net.
"You have wings, too, remember?" Gwen said to the Faerie Kacheek.
"Oh yeah!" Bridgette grinned and ascended into the sky right after Lucie.
Lucie unsuccessfully tried to get Bridgette off of her tracks, and she eventually dived to the ground and passed the Yooyuball to a rather impatient Kora.
Kora raced towards Xana's goalie net with both Gwen and Sarina pursuing her. The Korbat threw the ball towards the net at the same time as Bridgette landed on the ground in front of the net.
"Ouch, I've been hit!" screeched Bridgette as the air-filled Yooyuball hit her left arm. She slowly sank to the ground and said dramatically, "Continue the game without me, guys!"
Gwen knew that there was no time to argue with Bridgette, so she grabbed the Yooyuball and bolted towards the opposition's goalie net.
"Pass it to me! I can catch it!" shouted Sarina.
Gwen was just about to pass the Yooyuball when she saw her friend, who was so occupied with being passed to, accidentally run straight into one of the tree trunks that lined the edge of the Yooyuball field.
"Oh no!" moaned Gwen. "Time out!" She threw the ball on the ground and dashed over to Sarina.
"Sarina, are you okay?" asked Xana, who had left her position in the goalie net to check on her friend.
"How many paws am I holding up?" inquired Gwen, holding up both of her paws.
Sarina squinted and finally said, "Erm, all of the above?"
Gwen sighed and glanced at Xana. "Since one of our players is down, I guess-"
"Two!" Bridgette called from the other side of the field.
Wondering how Bridgette had managed to hear her from all the way across the field, Gwen corrected herself. "I mean, since two of our players are injured, then I guess it's just you and me."
"Shouldn't we just forfeit or something?" said Xana worriedly. "It's four players against two."
"Never!" replied Gwen, walking back to the center of the field where Velma and the rest of Team Extreme were waiting.
Gretta blew the whistle once again, and Velma captured the ball in two seconds. The Elephante charged down the field with Gwen only a few inches behind.
"Hi-ya!" Velma grunted as she threw the Yooyuball inside the net with as much force as she could muster.
"Aaaaah!" Xana screamed as the ball flew straight into her arm. The force of the impact caused her to fly with the ball straight into the net.
"Goooal!" hollered Velma as her friends rushed over to give her a round of high fives.
Gwen watched sadly as Xana retreated to the side of the field. There, the Disco Kacheek examined her injured arm.
"Look, let's continue the game," said Gwen once Velma was finished receiving her high fives.
"No can do, sorry." Gretta appeared out of nowhere and was suddenly standing next to Gwen. "According to the Altador Cup Rule Book, you can't play a game of Yooyuball if it's four players against one. Technically speaking, you guys were supposed to stop playing when Bridgette went out of the game."
"What? Then why didn't you end the game earlier?" asked Gwen incredulously.
"Because I wanted to see what would happen," replied Gretta casually, shrugging. "It's not every day you get to be invited to an action-packed Yooyuball game."
Gwen shook her head hopelessly. "I guess that's what I get for asking Gretta to be referee," she muttered under her breath.
"Here's some ice, guys." Gretta walked out of the kitchen and into her and Gwen's living room. She held four bags of ice in her paws. Xana's right arm was in a sling, while the top of Sarina's head was entirely wrapped in bandages. Gwen sported numerous scratches and scars, and Bridgette kept on insisting that the 'bruise' on her left arm would start swelling any second.
After handing out the ice bags, Gretta took a seat in the middle of the Intricate Faerieland Rug in the center of the room. "Sorry I kept the game going longer than I should have," she apologized to Gwen, Bridgette, Xana, and Sarina.
"No harm done," said Gwen nonchalantly. "Well, not much, anyway."
"I still think we could've taken Team Extreme if we hadn't all gotten injured," put in Sarina. She untied her bag and popped an ice cube in her mouth.
"Are you serious? Did you see the way Velma scored that goal? We would have gotten-" Bridgette stopped midsentence when she sensed Gwen's and Xana's glares. "Er, I mean, yeah, totally."
"Well, at least we can rest knowing that the Yooyuball match is over," said Xana. She and the Kacheek Club shared a sigh of relief.
"Actually, it's not over," replied Gretta in a casual tone. She was looking down at the patterns in the rug as she continued. "While Velma's mom bandaged your wounds, I told Velma that Team Kacheek wanted a re-match next week. Velma and the rest of Team Extreme were all up for it."
Gretta grinned widely as the Kacheek Club groaned in unison.