A Drop of Rain
“Hurry up, Violet! You’re going to be late for tryouts!”
“’Kay, I’m going. Bye, Mom!” Violet, an athletic pink Mynci, cried as she dashed out the door of her Atadorian home, duffle bag in hand.
She sprinted down the cobblestone streets of Altador, heading for the fields of the youth Yooyuball team. Violet had tried out for the past two years, and both times the coach had told her she wasn’t quite ready—she should train and return the next year.
But this year was more important than before. This year determined the Mynci’s ultimate fate—if she made the team, she would continue playing the beautiful sport, and would pursue her ultimate dream of becoming a professional Yooyuball player and play for a team in the Altador Cup. If she didn’t make the team this year, however... Well, she would be forced to give up on Yooyuball altogether.
“Just in time,” Coach Winter, a female white Kougra, said when Violet came to the field. “Get your stuff on; we’re about to start.”
Violet, breathless with anticipation, nodded obediently and pulled on her rancid, overused Yooyuball equipment.
Then the tryouts began. Violet was well-prepared this year; she had gone running every morning for the last two months, and she had practiced playing with her two brothers.
But these Yooyuball players were in an entirely different league. They had both natural ability and skills that had been practiced and built up over the years. Violet tried not to be intimidated, but it was nearly impossible. She felt her previous confidence slipping away.
Three hours later it was all over. There was nothing more she could do—the ordeal was finished, and she would find out in a few days whether or not her efforts had paid off.
Violet couldn’t help but feel doubtful about her chances of making the team. Three of their starting players had left, but there were always more, equally skilled players to replace them.
The Mynci moped around her house for the next two days, wishing she was a natural-born Yooyuball player with effortless talents like the other players. It just wasn’t fair!
By the third day Violet had completely convinced herself that she had not made the team. So when the Neomail from Coach Winter arrived that day, she simply gave it to her mother.
“Aren’t you going to read it?” her mother asked. The red Elephante had a concerned look on her face.
“No, Mom,” Violet replied. “I know I didn’t make the team. You can just throw it away if you want to.”
Instead of throwing it away, however, her mother abruptly opened the envelope and pulled out the single sheet of paper. She read it while remaining completely expressionless.
“I’ll throw it out—” she said, sighing. So it was certain—Violet, for the third year in a row, had not made the team. “—But I figure you’ll want to frame it.”
“You made it, Violet!”
Violet grabbed the paper and read it.
Thank you for trying out for the Altador Gladiators, associated with the Neopian Youth Yooyuball League (NYYL). You have been selected to play in the forward position. Practices begin on Saturday at 2:00 PM on the western youth field. Please come fully equipped.
Violet could not believe it. She had made it... She was a Gladiator!
“Mom!” she cried, jumping up and down. “I finally made it!”
The next few weeks proceeded quickly and eventfully. Violet attended practice every day, and there were often many games packed into a single weekend.
The Gladiators traveled often, since they had to play every team in the NYYL, which included almost every territory—Mystery Island, Faerieland... even Maraqua!
Violet found herself truly becoming a part of the team—her teammates, although some had played on the team for years, were extremely welcoming and encouraging. Violet seldom saw playing time, but the Gladiators’ wins and losses were always taken to her heart, whether or not she had contributed in the match.
Coach Winter had taken a liking to Violet. She offered countless tips and advice during practice, and Violet improved immensely.
Finally, after one of the starting forwards broke her arm in a tragic collision with the Haunted Woods’ goalkeeper, Violet became a starter, and she found herself playing every game for almost the entire time.
Soon the regular season began winding down, and there were only a few league games left before the quarter-finals. The Gladiators had had a decent season—they were in fourth place out of sixteen teams. The biggest tournament of the league, the Christmas Cup, was approaching, and things were looking bright. And then...
“I am announcing my resignation,” Coach Winter said to her gathered team, her eyes dampening. “You’ll meet your new coach tomorrow.”
There were hurt gasps and cries out outrage.
“You’re leaving? Just like that?” exclaimed the second starting forward, Torus. His muscular, red Techo’s body was shaking. He was a veteran Gladiator. He had grown up with Coach Winter.
“Yes, Tor,” Coach Winter replied, trying to fake indifference.
“But... Why? It’s mid-season! The Christmas Cup is in two weeks! You can’t leave now!”
“I’m afraid I have no choice,” Winter replied. A tear now ran down her white cheek. “This is my only chance—you see, the Terror Mountain professional team has asked me to be their coach, since their previous one was fired due to his horrible temper. I have accepted their offer.”
“You mean you’re ditching us so you can coach another team,” growled Spike, the Skeith goalkeeper.
“Please, you must understand,” Winter pleaded. “It has been my dream to coach professionally. It was now or never. If I hadn’t accepted their offer, they would have found someone else. It’s almost impossible to become a professional coach, especially since the Altador Cup is so popular now. I - I had no choice!”
Their beloved ex-coach tearfully grabbed her bag and left the field at a run.
“I cannot believe this,” Torus said. In addition to being the team’s main forward, he was also the team captain, and this news had hit him the hardest. “A new coach could demolish us. This was going to be the year we won the Christmas Cup—we were going to become legends in the youth Yooyuball world!”
Violet said nothing. She was in complete shock. Coach Winter had guided her so much. She had encouraged her, even when Violet had been at her worst. And now, all of a sudden, she was gone.
The next morning the Gladiators met at the field for practice as usual, but there was a sense of dread in the air. No one was looking forward to meeting the new coach. After a few minutes of aimless passing of a ball, she finally arrived.
She was a tall blue Lupe with a sweet face and kind smile. She walked with a slight bounce in her step, as if she could take off running at any moment.
“Hello!” she called cheerfully, waving at the gloomy team. “I’m Coach Rain, and I’ll be coaching you for the rest of the season—perhaps even longer! Why don’t you all start by telling me your names and positions?”
“There’s no time for that,” Torus said coldly. “The Christmas Cup is in two weeks. We need to train.”
The others—Violet included—nodded in agreement, glaring at their new coach.
“Alrighty then! Why don’t you split into groups of two and pass to each other?”
“You realize we actually want to win, right?” Torus said.
Coach Rain raised an eyebrow. Suddenly her expression turned to ice, and she rounded on Torus.
“Indeed, young man. But you realize that I am the coach, right?”
“I suppose, but—”
“What is your name?”
“Ah, the beloved captain. Six laps, Captain Walker.”
Torus hesitated for a moment, but then took off to run the six laps he was assigned without another word.
Coach Rain turned to the rest of the team.
“Would anyone like to join him?” she challenged. “Good. Now, as I was saying, find a partner and pass.”
The Gladiators were shocked by Coach Rain’s sudden change of personality. And they did not like it. Her coaching style was different; she was different.
After a week of practicing with Coach Rain, the team’s first game with her as dictator was approaching. It was against the Darigan Citadel team—the five-time champion of the Christmas Cup. The Gladiators had never even come close to beating them. Until now.
The game started as it normally did, with the Citadel’s team fouling almost constantly—tripping, shoving, and even spitting were some of their favorites. However, unlike previous matches, this did not benefit their team. Instead, the Gladiators’ quick, short passes that Coach Rain had been developing easily overcame the Citadel’s brute force, and the Gladiators pulled away with a 5-3 win—Torus had scored four times and Violet had scored once.
After that game the team’s view of their new coach shifted completely. She had led the team to do the impossible. Torus stopped questioning her authority, and the Gladiators began laughing at her jokes. They easily won their next two matches, and they weren’t even nervous for the quarter-final, which was also an easy win.
They beat the Haunted Woods in the semi-finals, and suddenly they found themselves in the championships, facing the Darigan Citadel once again. Except this time their best scorer could not play. Indeed, Torus had caught a rare ailment called menotritis. He could not participate in a sport for the next three weeks—well after the championship game.
Violet had scored goals here and there, but not nearly to the extent of Torus’ practiced hand. Suddenly she felt the pressure of being the Gladiators’ main forward. Although there was a substitute forward playing with her, the team was depending on her to score.
It was the morning of the game, and Violet felt sick to her stomach. She missed Torus immensely. She felt alone and worried.
“You read for this match?” Coach Rain said, sitting next to her on the bench while the team warmed up.
Violet kept her mouth shut and shook her head.
“Don’t worry,” Coach Rain reassured her. She put an arm around Violet’s shaky shoulders. “You’ll do great.”
Half an hour later the game had begun. The Darigan Citadel was trying a new, faster-paced tactic, and it seemed to be working. They were ahead by three goals at the half.
In the second half both the substitute forward and Violet, to her immense relief, had scored. But they still needed one point to tie it up, and another one to win.
Then during the match Violet found herself with the Yooyu at the center line, and there were no defenders in sight. She held the Yooyu tightly and ran toward the goal. She was about to shoot—the net was open! And then--CRUNCH!
Stabbing pain shot through her right shin. She fell face-down and tasted turf. A sharp blast of the referee’s whistle pierced the air.
Violet lay there, her head pounding. She felt warm hands pull her to a sitting position—Coach Rain.
“You okay, Violet?” she asked.
“Y-yeah, I think so,” Violet replied shakily. Coach Rain nodded and turned to face the referee.
“Sir,” she said furiously. “That was an intentional foul from behind! That player needs to be kicked off the field!”
Suddenly the Darigan Citadel coach was also on the field. The coaches and the referee broke into a yelling match. The crowd was screaming and the Gladiators were gathered around Violet, who was still sitting on the ground and nursing her leg.
The team helped her up and she gingerly stepped on the injured leg. Fiery bursts of pain pulsed through her shin. She cried out in agony.
Coach Rain was immediately at her side again, abandoning the argument.
“Take a few small steps,” she suggested. “The pain will seep away.”
Violet did as she was told and, sure enough, she felt the pain easing away, although it was definitely still present.
“The ref called a penalty throw,” Coach Rain explained. “I want you to take it, Violet.”
The coaches left the field and the Yooyu was given to Violet. She took her place at the middle point of the goal lines, and the referee blew his whistle. It was just Violet and the goalkeeper now. Her heart pounded. She took a step and flung her arm forward. The Yooyu flew from her mitt and soared toward the goal... It bounced off the crossbar. It now was flying through the air, directly at Violet’s head, so she lunged forward without thinking. Her head made a dizzying contact with the hard armor of the Yooyu, changing its direction. The goalkeeper had been caught unawares... The Yooyu hit the back of the net, still spinning rapidly.
The crowd screamed, the Gladiators cheered, the Darigan Citadel team groaned, and Coach Rain smiled.
The referee blew his whistle—the time had run out. There would be extra time for the win to be decided, since it was now tied 3-3. The first goal would decide the win.
The additional time began and both teams were hungry to score. Spike made an impossible save and looked for a pass.
“Violet! Go long!” he cried, and threw the Yooyu with all of his might.
Violet sprinted to the opposite end. The Yooyu was directly in front of her. She dove, stuck out her arm, and slapped the Petpet into the goal.
“VIOLET!” Coach Rain screamed. “YOU DID IT!”
Violet suddenly found herself riding on the shoulders of her cheering teammates, with Coach Rain following tearfully.
They had done it—the Altador Gladiators were now the champions of the Christmas Cup—the biggest part of the Neopian Youth Yooyuball League.
Who would’ve guessed, thought Violet, that this new coach, who came out of nowhere, would lead us to victory.
She turned around on the shoulders of her friends and faced her beloved coach.
“Thank you,” she said, trying to convey the series of emotions and thoughts that were running through her mind.
Rain simply smiled, clearly understanding.
Author's Note: Thanks for reading, and happy holidays! Feel free to Neomail or join my guild! ~Rose