There was no going back now, not after that horrendous performance. She was practically laughed out of the stadium. If she went back home now, she would be not only the laughingstock of her family, but of the whole of Maraqua.
Aquarmira the Maraquan Gelert stood on a large rise of the sea floor covered in vibrant corals in various shapes and sizes. The coral thankfully camouflaged her vivid purple fur and green fins so she could look out undisturbed on Maraqua, the place she had always called home, for the last time. She glanced over in the direction she knew her house to be and spotted one of her sisters tending to the garden bordering their house. The baby Draik flitted carelessly to each group of flowers that she diligently took care of each day. Aquarmira sighed and pulled her water faerie backpack more snugly against her back.
“That’s just because she doesn’t know yet.”
Aqua had two sisters who both happened to be painted baby. One was Velare, a Draik, and the other was Verguenza, a Cybunny. Aqua could remember the day her owner Laura had introduced her to Verguenza and about a year later to Velare. Aqua was ecstatic to finally have siblings to play with, get into trouble with, and just to talk with. They had become a tight family, a coven of girls nestled away on the outskirts of Maraqua, happily living their lives with the occasional visit from school friends.
Aqua could feel a slight sting against the back of her eyes as tears threatened to escape and she swallowed against a large lump in her throat as she thought about her sisters and her owner. Her sisters had always looked up to her; she was the unofficial leader of their trio. She choked back a sob as she reflected on how she had failed them...
Aquarmira raced forward evading the burly players trying to block her from stealing the Yooyu from the Lupe who was barreling down the field towards Aquarmira’s goal.
This year would be the perfect year for Aqua to finally achieve her desire of securing a spot on the roster of Team Maraqua. No one exceptionally talented had showed up to try out and it was clear that Aqua was the fastest. Her long lean form gave her an advantage in the speed department when compared to the other players.
Aqua easily caught up to the Lupe and quickly tackled him, stealing the Yooyu and getting ready to pass it up the field. This was her biggest mistake. She threw the Yooyu wildly in the direction of a Maraquan Uni who was jumping up and down, calling madly for the Yooyu – and the Yooyu traveled behind Aqua, startled her inattentive goal keeper, and landed in Aqua’s goal.
Her hopes of making the team deflated as rapidly and as suddenly as a severely punctured balloon. She fell to her knees as the field around her erupted into hoots and laughter at her mistake. The Lupe she had only recently bested was rolling around on the field pointing at her and laughing hysterically. Her goalie, a Maraquan Kougra, glared at her venomously. When she looked beyond her goalie into the net her eyes rested upon none other than a Darigan Yooyu. She hadn’t even checked the type of Yooyu in her possession! She quickly fled the field after mentally kicking herself for her stupidity. She didn’t look back as the shouts and guffaws chased her out of the stadium and into the locker room.
She couldn’t believe it; she’d scored on her own net! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! She violently threw her gloves in the direction of her locker and quickly changed out of her tryout uniform and into her shorts and shirt. She plopped down on the bench and thought the situation over. She had never been able to accept failure. While most can understand that failure is a valuable learning experience in which you can learn from your mistake and try harder the next time, Aqua saw failure as a weakness. If there was one thing Aqua hated, it was being considered weak. She is a perfectionist at heart, but in situations like these her ambition can unfortunately lead to drastic measures.
In a split second decision she leaped up from the bench and ran out of the locker room in the direction of the bank of Maraqua, she was going to need some neopoints for her newest plan...
Aqua shook her head in growing embarrassment as she reflected on her abysmal performance at tryouts. That had only been a few hours earlier and her stomach still felt like there were spyders having a dance party inside of it. She quickly turned away from her view of her neohome and walked the ten minutes to the ferry station before she lost her nerve. She quietly approached and slipped up to the booth to pay for her ticket. She fished out the correct fare for the ride and dropped it into the machine which in turn gave her the ticket. A few steps further and another machine ate her ticket and she pushed through the turnstile stepping onto the dock.
She glanced around at all the commotion on the dock. Aqua counted fifteen ferries docked at the station with pets rushing on and off each one. Many were even decked out in their land’s team colors. Colorful banners whipped around due to the water current and when she spotted the brown and aqua blue flag of Maraqua she quickly whirled around and hurried away.
Aqua worried her lip as she was jostled and pushed by pets who were in too much of a rush to stop and apologize. She grinned when she finally found what she was looking for: the Mystery Island flag. She hopped aboard the ferry and plopped down on the seat next to and island Flotsam.
“LAST CALL FOR THE MYSTERY ISLAND FERRY!” boomed the loudspeaker.
Aqua finally exhaled the breath she didn’t realize she was holding as the ferry pushed off and began to travel upward through the crystal cool water to her final destination.
“Where are you off to?”
Aqua turned to see the Flotsam staring at her curiously.
“A beautiful island! As you can tell, I quite enjoy it,” replied the Flotsam motioning to his Mystery Island coloring. “Oh, by the way, I’m Amaro.”
“Aqua,” she replied shaking the fin he offered her.
“Nice to meet you, Aqua. Now if you don’t mind me asking, why is it that you are leaving Maraqua all by yourself? Surely you can’t be on a vacation all by your lonesome.”
“Erm... I’m looking for a job on the island, because I want to save neopoints on my own,” Aqua mumbled.
“I’m going to need something to live off of,” she thought to herself sadly. She came up with this plan while sitting in the locker room after that dreadful tryout. She had decided that she would go to the closest land first (which happened to by Mystery Island) to search for a job, and if none presented itself she would move onto the next closest land. She knew that Laura would never allow her to go off by herself so suddenly, hence her quick and sudden flight from Maraqua. She needed a place to stay, at least until the Altador Cup was over.
“Well, don’t worry about that! There are plenty to go around on the island,” the Flotsam said happily.
Aqua smiled and looked up as the ferry breached the face of the water and swiftly traveled to eventually softly bump against the dock. All of the pets quickly exited the ferry while more piled on.
Aqua stepped off the dock and glanced around but quickly jumped back as a JubJub sprinted by huffing and puffing while he dragged a cart which held two pets eagerly snapping their cameras at whatever they fancied.
“Tiki Tours... doesn’t look like such a fun job...”
She opted to walk along the beach and she smiled sadly as the cool water lapped at her feet. She noticed so many happy pets splashing in the crystal blue water, others making giant sand castles, and others soaking up the warm rays of the sun. She sorrowfully remembered that only last weekend her sisters and she had built a giant sandcastle equipped with towers, a moat, and seashell adornments. They had all posed by the entrance and the photo was now proudly displayed above the fireplace in their neohome.
After walking along the beach for quite some time, admiring the powerful waves that crashed over the shore, Aqua reached what seemed to be a closed off area surrounded by rocks and... Tiki head rocks? The water was calm here and formed a pool...
“Come join us at the Rock Pool!”
Aqua walked towards the yell and noticed a yellow Kougra, his paws surrounding his mouth as he belted out invitations.
“Maraquan Refugee Petpets!”
“Get the perfect friend to swim with you at the beach!”
“A great sale price!”
The yellow Kougra noticed Aqua and grinned, spreading his arms wide.
“Hello, Miss! Come here and have a look at all of these new arrivals! Now isn’t this Peo just darling?... or I’m sure this Pepito will remind you of home... this Trunkard may find you something special!... Or-”
“Actually, I came wondering if you were hiring,” Aqua said, surprising even herself. Usually she wasn’t one for spontaneous acts and would rather have a carefully thought out plan, but there was no time for dilly dallying. She needed a job now if her plan was to work.
“Oh...” the shopkeeper said, his good mood slightly deflating. “Well, I sure could use some help with advertisement!” he said excitedly, grinning from ear to ear.
“Well, I’m sure I could do that, shouldn’t be too difficult.”
“No, not at all!” he replied, bouncing slightly on his paws “I’ve got just the thing to try out, but I haven’t had anyone interested in this position... well, actually I haven’t had anyone interested in any positions, but that’s beside the point!”
The yellow Kougra turned suddenly to rummage in a large bag supported by one of the Tiki heads.
“Oh, by the way, my name is Kel.”
“I’m Aqua; it’s nice to meet you.”
“My pleasure, Aqua, I’m so glad to have finally found someone who is willing to advertise with me because honestly my business has been lacking lately, even with all the new merchandise. Can you believe it? I certainly can’t... I mean the petpets are so cute and most are low maintenance- here it is!” he suddenly exclaimed straightening up and shaking out what seemed to be some sort of grey sack.
“Here you go! I saved enough neopoints for this all by myself” Kel said proudly holding out the object.
Aqua cautiously took it from Kel’s grasp. When she held it up to get a better look at it, she had to stifle a groan – it was a big Tiki head costume! She turned back to Kel with a forced smile. Obviously he didn’t know her well enough, because she wasn’t the type of pet to draw unwanted attention to herself, especially if it was going to embarrass her this badly. She was brave when need be in certain situations like her sisters being threatened or having to present a huge project in neoschool, but nothing this embarrassing.
“Well, put it on! You can start now.”
Aqua sighed and started putting the costume on; she couldn’t very well complain on the first day at her new job, now could she?
“Thanks, Aqua! See you tomorrow!” Kel said excitedly as he bounded off down the beach to his hut on the edge of the trees.
“Yeah, see you tomorrow,” she mumbled.
Aqua tried not to grimace when she thought about how her day had gone. After endless laughter, pointing, and one thrown ice cream cone, she wasn’t sure if this advertisement job was worth putting up with. She knew it would be bad from the start as soon as she saw that unfortunate costume.
“I came here to get away from the laughter.”
She sat down on a flat rock on the beach, put her head on her paws, and glanced out at the setting sun. The pinkish tinge of the sky reminded her of her sister Velare and she sighed, reflecting that she probably wouldn’t see any of her family anytime soon, at least until the Altador Cup was over... she wiggled off the rock and sat in the sand resting her head against the rock.
“I’ll rest my eyes for just a few minutes, until I need to find a place to sleep.”
A fierce shake tore Aqua from her peaceful sleep. She yelped and scrambled up kicking sand everywhere in her effort to see who had awoken her.
Cool ice seemed to travel down Aqua’s spine and she shivered as she focused on the person that she had least expected to see.
Her owner had found her! Laura crossed her arms and glared at Aqua, one foot tapping as she shook her head, her blonde hair blowing around her face.
“And when were you planning on coming home?!”
“I-I... t-tryouts, I-I just couldn’t go back there!”
Laura’s eyes softened as she moved forward and embraced her pet in a tight hug.
“I know all about tryouts. When you didn’t come home last night, I went to the stadium to find out where you might be and I met a janitor who had been watching the tryouts earlier. He told me that you might be a little distraught,” she said, smiling sadly.
“I’m sorry, I was just so embarrassed,” Aqua replied, hanging her head.
Aqua tried to avoid embarrassing moments at all cost, because she hated that churning feeling in the pit of her stomach that felt like a school of Blandfish racing around inside. Not only had she been extremely embarrassed during tryouts, but she felt as though she let her family and her team down.
“There is nothing to be embarrassed about. Do you think you are the only pet in the history of the Altador Cup who has scored on their own team by accident?”
Aqua shrugged and Laura lightly put her hand under Aqua’s chin to guide her face up so she could look into Aqua’s eyes.
“The janitor also told me that you had the most potential out of anyone, anyone there to make the team,” Laura said, smiling. “I was so proud when I heard that.”
Aqua threw her arms around Laura’s neck. The Blandfish vanished and Aqua suddenly felt a hundred times better when she knew she had the support of her owner behind her. All she wanted was for her owner to be proud of her and now she had her wish.
“I’m so sorry for making you angry with me!”
“I was angry because you ran away and decided to not tell me what was going on. I worried all day. Thankfully when I arrived on the Mystery Island dock, Fiamenta, Guen’s best friend, was leaving to return to Maraqua and let me know that she saw you earlier today.”
Aqua smiled and shook her head; those two baby Cybunnies will never let her live this one down. If there was one thing her sister Guen liked it was to make tease Aqua. They liked to playfully argue all the time to see who could outdo the other’s comments.
“Come on, let’s go home; your sisters are waiting for you.”
“Never thought I would hear those words!”
Laura and Aqua walked down the beach laughing and when Aqua glanced over to Kel’s hut, she decided that maybe returning to Mystery Island tomorrow for one more day of advertisement couldn’t hurt anyone.
“Hey, Aqua! Done crying now? Are you actually going to play the right way this time? See, your net is over there and mine is over here,” taunted the Maraquan Lupe as he pointed out both goals.
Aqua smirked at him.
“I didn’t come back to tryouts to waste my time. When I’m done with you, you will be the one crying and I’ll be the one to make Maraqua’s team.”
“We’ll see about that!”
“Oh no, I’m sure of it,” she replied, smirking as she effortlessly dodged the Lupe and blasted the Yooyu past his goalie.
Aqua ran back to her team huddle laughing with joy. No one could dampen her spirits, no one could tell her she couldn’t do it - because the tryout troubles were no more.