The Tales of Maraqua: Part Five
Art by desert_gp_dragon2oo5
Chapter Five: Today and Yesterday
The Blandfishes weren’t going to come back.
Earlier this year, during the Month of Sleeping, I went to a cliff overlooking the remains of Old Maraqua. Not far down from where I was lay the ruins of the town where I was born.
I first came to New Maraqua early in Year Eight, but I never really wanted to see what had become of Old Maraqua. It would have brought back terrible memories...
It’s been nine years since the whirlpool first turned. I finally decided to come here and face the truth. My team believes that I can’t call myself a Maraquan until I’ve seen the wreck. They believe I don’t have a right to live in New Maraqua since I did nothing to rebuild it. I didn’t serve in the war, either.
But I’m a victim too.
Around that time of the year and again in the Month of Hunting, massive schools of the fish would pass right over our homes. Life was simple in Blandfish Village. We went to school, my parents would make me study a bit, and then my sister and I... and sometimes our friends... would come together to play a good game of underwater Yooyuball (otherwise known as Coralball or Seaweedball back in the old days.) Eventually, though, my friends lost interest in Yooyuball. The same happened with my sister. My only remaining friend who still played the game, Vanbar, unfortunately moved to another village.
It’s hard to get in touch with my old peers. As Team Maraqua’s manager, well, I have all these legal stuff to sort through, and oftentimes I’m elsewhere in Neopia.
From what I know, Vanbar doesn’t play the game much now. I bet he’s too busy to deal with it nowadays. I’m busy too, but I play it all the time since it’s part of my job. I’m not exactly sure what Vanbar is... a construction engineer? They don’t make Utility Fish anymore, and with the Maractite shortage they’re trying to find out how to build more efficiently with coral or looking for new alternatives. Well... I haven’t talked with him in person for years, actually. An occasional letter every few months or so... that’s it. He asks me how I am... He asks me how my sister’s doing.
I never reply.
We’re pretty distant now.
The kelp forests were slowly beginning to engulf the ruins again. Maybe the Blandfishes found another migration route, but some wild Petpets now roamed the ruins. Soreens, Arkmites... even Maraquan Flouds like the ones we used to chase when we were kids. Perhaps it’ll turn out well for the new life.
“Welcome home, Mom... Welcome home, Dad.”
Years have passed since the whirlpool separated me and my parents... They came to Roo Island during a time of bad economy. Because of King Kelpbeard’s strict orders, I wasn’t able to come to them until after the war. Even when we were reunited, homes in New Maraqua were notoriously pricey due to the shortage of Maractite. My parents still remained in the waters of Roo Island, unable to afford a house here. We had to save up. I would have gotten them home much earlier, but I received a massive pay cut after that incident. But that didn’t matter now...
“It’s beautiful, son.” My father gave me a good pat on the back, and then we spent the day putting new furniture into the house. Afterwards we celebrated by having dinner together in the new home. All the hard work had finally paid off.
I left after dinner for my own home. I had a long day of work ahead of me, but I was happy.
I was home. We were home.
“Sir, your order: Fresh Oysters, the Fish Special, and an Octopi Soufflé. Would you care for a cocktail, sir?”
“...Alright. I’ll have the Tchea Juice.”
The waiter jotted the order down. “That would be 69,300 neopoints, sir. Are you fine with the order?” I gave him a nod. “Very well then. Thank you, sir.” He made off with the menu and left me to wait.
There are many perks to being Team Maraqua’s manager. If I wanted to, I could have a full-course dinner in Kelp once a week... though I’m not as rich as Elon. He certainly could afford one every day of the year. Players are just paid more, hmmpph. We managers have just as much to do on our hands.
My job takes me everywhere in Neopia. I’m always looking for talented new players. We managers also have to make big decisions, especially when it comes to roster changes... Jair and Filo were hard to let go. They were both very talented... but eventually I realized that those talents were being wasted. Roo Island’s manager took an interest in Jair, anyway. She’s much happier working with Lilo, and she’s popular with Rooligans and Maraquans alike.
“Fresh Oysters, sir.” The waiter placed the plate in front of me. I then gorged down the appetizer.
I always order Fresh Oysters. I just love them. Sometimes, though, I kind of miss the simple meals that my mother used to prepare...
The job’s hard, but I never really wanted to quit, even with a jerk like Elon on the team. Even if they don’t think I’m the best manager available, I still love the work I do. I get to play Yooyuball like I always have.
The big difference is that I’m no longer ‘Pitallo’ or ‘a good friend,’ I’ve come to be known as ‘boss,’ ‘sir,’ ‘the manager of Team Maraqua.’ Or ‘Mr. Ysovechz.’
Almost all of my old friends now call me by that.
I can’t help but wonder... What’s the difference? I’m still the same person I was long ago, right?
Maybe I’m not. I don’t know.
Sometimes I just want to be a kid again.
“Ghie, I hear Team Roo Island’s here, and they’re giving away photos and autographs!”
Oh, Mom. She’s a bit of a Yooyuball fan. I am, too, but I had a special plan for that particular vacation in Roo Island.
It was the first time that we had been there since I was little. It was also the first time we had a vacation without dad. “Just get an autograph for me, Mom.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to come? Jair Tollet is there as well!”
For obvious reasons, Jair’s my favorite Yooyuball player. We’re both Maraquan Eyries. My hair’s blue, though, not white, and I can’t play Yooyuball at all. I’m just a fan, that’s all. A friend of mine, Vanbar Letteo, used to play Yooyuball, and he used to poke fun at me about the fact that I looked like Jair... then I realized his surname was almost an anagram of ‘Tollet.’
“No thanks, Mom. Just get me an autograph from Lilo, Clutch, and Jair.”
My mother shrugged at me. “Well, if you don’t want to come, it’s alright. Where should we meet later?”
“Near the souvenir shop, maybe?”
“Fine with me. See you later, Ghie dear.” Mom and I went our separate ways. I spent my time walking through Roo Island’s parks. I also had a few games of Dice-a-Roo... but I saved the best for last.
“My, my... Do my eyes deceive me?” The same ride operator was still there. He didn’t look much different from when I first saw him, except for a couple of wrinkles here and there.
“Yep! It’s me,” I replied.
The Blumaroo chuckled. “Well, you’ve grown. So are you here for a ride on the Merry-Go-Round?”
“Sure.” I gave the operator fifty neopoints and chose a colorful wooden Uni to sit on. As soon as the other seats were taken, the ride operator pulled a couple of levers to start the ride.
As the Uni moved up and down and the surroundings blurred past me, all I could remember were the fun times we used to have in my childhood. I was a kid again.
Thanks so much, Dad.
“So, are you done fixing my chair yet?”
“Which one is it? Was it the one with the purple seaweed seat?”
“I think... the legs are made of black sea fungus-”
“Oh, that one, yes... I’ll go get it in a moment.” The purple Koi shopkeeper headed out of the room. Another Koi- a white one- looked through her papers. “That’ll be 600 neopoints for the fix.”
I handed over the Neopoints. “Thank you.”
She pulled out a cashbox and put in the sack of coins. “Thank you,” she said to me.
While I was waiting, I noticed a little piece of coral on the desk. “Do you mind if I-”
She quickly glanced at the coral. “Oh, go ahead.” I examined the small piece of coral. It had ‘Eller’ written on it... Well, this was the Eller Furniture Shop, according to the sign outside. There were some scratches under the name, though. “What’s this?”
The White Koi looked at the coral and smiled. “Oh... it’s a water faerie.”
“Sorry, Team Maraqua, for the delay...” Our manager, Mr. Ysovechz, was late to the first practice session of the off season. “Is everybody here?” He looked at each of us. “Good, good. Now, we’ve lost enough time, it’s time to practice.”
We experimented with new defense strategies. Most teams change their tactics during the offseason, and we should always be prepared.
“Now, team, first we shall review the basics. You should always be on guard for opportunities to gain possession of the ball...” Mr. Ysovechz paused for a moment. Suddenly, he hurled a ball in my direction, and I managed to barely catch it in my sling. I chuckled to myself. “Whoa, look at that! I cau-”
Suddenly I felt a bang on my sling, and before I knew it Elon had dashed around Dorina and Oten and hurled the ball past Tonie and into the goal. “Nice catch, Barit.” Elon grinned smugly.
Mr. Ysovechz shook his head. “...You should maintain your guard as soon as you are in possession of the ball. Thank you, Barit, for the demonstration... that’s one of the oldest tricks in the book.”
The rest of the team had a laugh at me. It’s always best to join in. “Hah... I’ll get it right next time.” Tonie passed the ball back to me.
“I won’t lose again!”
It was the 18th day of the Month of Hiding, just recently. To Meercas, it’s their special day. To Maraquans, it’s the day the whirlpool first destroyed our home. To Maraquan Meercas, it’s a day to wonder whether they should be celebrating or not, but don’t mind those prickly little guys.
On this day every year we are excused from work... It’s a day to look back and honor the souls lost in the disaster and in the war. I live in the Village of Scout Peralta, named after a Peophin who saved countless lives during the whirlpool, among them mine. Most of the families would leave their gifts at the base of Peralta’s statue.
I stared at the face of the statue. The stone Peralta portrayed him in full battle armor... He had served in the Battle for New Maraqua, too. But I’m sure those who truly knew him knew him best not as a war hero, but just as a humble scout bringing food to those who can’t reach it.
“Thank you, sir.” I saluted to the statue, and then went on my way...
There was another place I had to go to.
I returned to that same cliff overlooking what once was Blandfish village. The place where my house was is now just debris, half-buried by sand. The Yooyuball courts I used to play in were being taken over by kelp and other marine plants. I left this place a long time ago. It’s not good to stay in the past. With New Maraqua, our lives became much better than ever before in most aspects... most.
There are some things that are left behind and never found again...
“I’m sorry, little sister.”
I never found her.