"I'm sorry, Nitri, but I doubt you'll ever be able to play yooyuball again. You see, your back legs are slightly deformed, the right one more so than the left. As a result, your bones don't quite heal properly, and I'm afraid there's not much we can do."
A part of Nitri's mind shut down. No... yooyuball? Ever since she was a little girl, when she'd watched the Krawk Island team, headed by the brilliant Dasher Soley, flinging yooyuballs up and down the field at top speed, she'd wanted to be on that team someday.
She'd practiced for hours in her free time, sacrificing a chip of her front right hoof and a perfect smile in the process. She'd even convinced her parents to buy her a Snow Yooyu as a pet- sure, Sera was slower than a Fire or normal yooyu, but that just made practicing with her that much more challenging, and made her that much better of a player.
And now... what?
"Isn't there anything that can be done?"
"The best I could do is try repair the damage. The trouble is, you'd be back within a few weeks, or even days, with the same problem," the Doctor, a yellow Quiggle with thin, wire frames and grey hair, replied.
"But... why is this just happening now? I've been playing for years- why... why would something like this just be happening now?"
"Basically, every time you take a step, a small amount of pressure is exerted on your bones. When you run, that amount increases. When they take up a sport like Yooyuball or volleyball or racing, most Neopets' bones are able to adapt to the increased pressure over time, with nothing but the occasional fracture from doing too much too soon. Your bones, on the other hand, don't do that. Or at least, not very well. So over time, the stress on your legs accumulated, until one day they simply couldn't handle it any more. If you'd kept playing for too much longer, you'd probably have ended up in a cast."
"Why can't you fix it?"
"I'm sorry, Miss Cassale, but I'm not a magician."
Nitri swallowed. "Thank you for your time, Dr. Gorich," she replied calmly, and steadily exited his office.
She made her way to the waiting room and paid the secretary (a pink Skeith wearing a garish blonde wig and too much make-up) her five dubloons robotically.
Two minutes later, and she was outside. The glass door, with its oh-so-fancy golden lettering, closed with a thump behind her.
She saw her father, a retired semi-professional left forward, laughing with her brother across the street, waiting for her. Her father turned, locked eyes with Nitri- and abruptly, his smile vanished.
Her dad whispered something to her brother and stood up. Even from a distance, the high-pitched screech of the chair against the ground made Nitri flinch.
Moments later, her dad was there, asking what Dr. Gorich had said.
Nitri's voice cracked as she spoke. "He said... that I'd never be able to play again..."
Her dad enveloped Nitri in a hug, and it was only then that the tears began to fall.
Two weeks later, and Nitri was at a loss with what to do with herself. She'd gone to her coach yesterday. The Coach who'd, only two weeks before, been planning on giving Nitri the position of starting Right Defender. She'd told her she was out for the season.
She hadn't been able to bring herself to tell Coach the full story.
She lay in the middle of her family's sandy yard, unenthusiastically playing with Sera. Today... today she should be at practice, should be listening to her Coach give a final prep talk before the first game of the season. She should be drilling her right-pivot passes, which had always been a weak point.
She should be with Killigrew, the odd but brilliant Bori who played Goalie for her team, betting pints of Tchea Grog on who'd stop the most goals the Warfer forwards sent their way.
In a few hours, she should be with her team at the Golden Dubloon, drinking Cannon Fodders and eating Belt-Busting Burgers, laughing as Elfrith and Worley dueled with the torches from their drinks over the last Shiver Me Shrimp.
Instead, she was at home, sprawled on the ground and pretending to enjoy tossing Sera up – five feet – and down – six feet, that time. Before , she'd loved just relaxing in the bright sun with Sera, watching the occasional wispy cloud float by.
Now, the sand just felt gritty, and the sky was merely a blank, blinding blue that hurt Nitri's eyes to look at.
After one final toss, Nitri caught Sera and dragged herself up onto her hooves- the useless, ugly things that they were.
She went over to check on their Habitarium, which was situated in a sunny corner, precariously perched atop a barrel she'd won in a barrel rolling contest when she was five.
Idly running her hoof along Sera's leathery skin, she watched as the tiny petpetpets- P3s – went about their daily lives. They had no idea how doomed they were. It was day 6 for them, Day 6 and 23 hours if her father's timer was right (and it always was). They didn't have much longer, and yet they carried on blissfully, collecting tiny bits of mud and rock to build themselves tiny houses to live in, and tiny spears to defend themselves from the pesky blue creatures that seemed obsessed with eating the innocent Mootix or Pinchit eggs.
Then the first one went. A nester, of course. Those were always hatched first. A baby blue diamond was left in its wake, perched alongside the egg it'd been nesting to its final moments.
None of the other P3s seemed to notice.
From there, they all went like dominoes. One after another, vanishing in a brilliant white light and leaving no sign that they'd been their but a shiny rock.
She'd seen it happen dozens of times before- her father loved raising P3s, and seemed intent on one day teaching them how to build mighty cities- but this time, for some reason, it was different.
Each P3 was just chugging along, until one moment... blink. Gone. It could have had dreams, hopes, or aspirations. But now... it'd never get there.
"Thinking heavy thoughts?" her father's gruff voice interrupted. Nitri started.
"No... it's just... what's the point? P3s only ever have one skill. What would happen, if they couldn't do that skill anymore- like, if a nester couldn't nest- because of some stupid reason? What would be their reason for even existing anymore?"
Nitri's dad didn't say anything for a moment. "Well, I imagine that they'd find something else to do with their lives. Maybe that nester, who wasn't so good at nesting, would be a brilliant architect, or sculptor. Maybe that nester would be the one to invent the first hospital, or a barracks specifically for soldiers to live in."
"But what if they aren't smart enough, or talented enough, for something like that? What if all they were ever good at, all they were ever going to be good at, was nesting?!"
"Nitri, everyone has multiple skills. Some are just harder to find than others. That nester would find her niche eventually. It just might take her some time, and some effort."
Nitri didn't say anything for a moment. Obviously, they were no longer talk about a P3, if they ever really had been at all. She turned her dad's words over in her mind, and then she made a snap decision.
"Dad, can I borrow a couple dubloons? I think I want to go on a trip."
He gave her a look, and nodded. "They're in a chest by the door. Take the golden one, but remember, the rest of Neopia uses a different currency, Neopoints. You'll have to visit a currency exchange before you can buy anything elsewhere. Probably your best bet is to stop at Mystery Island- they're only eighty miles away, so you can probably get a pirate ship to take you that far. There's a Trading Post there; you should be able to get more Neopoints for them there than if you tried to go through a middle man."
Nitri nodded, and started making her way to their house. It was only when she was halfway there that the rest of her father's words registered: take the golden one. As in, the one worth twenty times more than what she'd spent yesterday.
It didn't take Nitri long to find the dubloon (although it did take a few minutes of staring at it in admiration before she was able to tuck it into her pocket, carefully zipping it away inside) and soon she was ready to go, with nothing but the clothes on her back and Sera hovering along beside her.
She was afraid that if she waited, she would never leave.
As she stepped out the door, she glanced over at her dad one final time. He was engrossed in his work, gingerly hatching a tiny egg and guiding the resulting P3 into a house. It didn't feel right, somehow, to interrupt him, so with an unseen wave, she left.
As the gate clanged shut, she swore she heard a "Good luck!", but maybe it was just the breeze.
It took her about two hours to get to the docks- she'd had to wait for someone to give her a lift on their cart, since Dr. Gorich had warned her against walking for more than short bursts unless she wanted a broken leg. That had slightly put a damper on her newfound determination, but it'd also given her time to think.
Despite what her dad said, she realized she wasn't quite ready to give up on her dream yet. The doctor said she'd need a magician. Surely, somewhere in all of Neopia, there was a magician that could cure her? With the riches she now had, she'd surely be able to afford whatever their price was, and it would be more than worth it.
She scoured the docks for a ship that looked to be getting ready to leave. It didn't take long to spot one, and she approached it quickly, only to-
She'd bumped into a bulky docker Bori carrying a crate which, when it crashed to the ground, shattered and released several Clockwork Yooyus.
Clockwork Yooyus that automatically activated as they hit the ground. Instantly, the sound of dozens of ticks could be heard, a thundering noise that, for an instant, ground everyone at the docks to a halt.
The Bori was the first to recover. "QUICK! Get these in the water! On their own, they're only slightly dangerous, but with this many..." He opted not finish his thought, instead springing into action himself.
They were heavy enough that they sank quickly. Nitri didn't have time to think. Around her, the yooyus were starting to glow red. Automatically, she started grasping at the yooyus around her, slinging them like cannonballs into the water.
One in, then two, then three. They were starting to become impossibly hot to the touch. They were about to blow. But between her and the Bori, there were soon only two left. He grabbed one, and it was in the water. She grabbed the other. Her arm drew back.
And it went off. She was blown backwards, straight into the water, with a massive SPLASH!
Water sprayed all around her. She sank like a cannonball. The air had been knocked straight out of her. She struggled for the surface.
It didn't seem to work.
And then, there was someone else there. Two thick, furry arms hugged her; suddenly she was moving in a different direction.
A moment later, she broke the surface. And then she was on the docks, spluttering, staring straight into the eyes of the Bori she'd bumped.
"You alright?" he asked.
Nitri took a quick mental inventory. Hooves, tusks, eyes, ears... yup, everything was still there and working. She nodded, and asked a question that'd flitted across her mind during the chaotic seconds when they'd be slinging the Yooyus.
"Do you play Yooyuball?" She sat up.
"Used too- goalie. Wanted to be professional," the Bori replied.
Was he like her? Did he have some similar problem? Maybe they could team up, work together to find a solution, and then one day, they could both play for the Krawk Island team! After all, they played different positions and- Nitri was getting ahead of herself again, she realized.
"Why don't you play anymore?"
"It was too much."
"So what, you just... gave up?" Had the Bori known Nitri at all, he would have recognized the dangerous edge her voice was taking on.
He shrugged again. "This is better."
Nitri stood up, shortening the gap between her face and the Bori's to a more respectable difference. "So you're just going to be a docker for the rest of your life? Because what, because you were too lazy? Too afraid to put in the effort? Too afraid to try?!"
The Bori seemed taken aback by her vehemence, but recovered quickly. "And who are you to judge?" he growled. "Yooyuball doesn't pay until the pro's, and even then it's a pittance. There are other concerns."
"What, a sackful of dubloons is the most important thing in the world now? If you're so easily swayed, maybe you should go be a useless Jester! Clearly, that's the only thing you're good for anyway!" Nitri flung the words at him.
From saving her only a minute before, the Bori now looked ready to deck Nitri.
"No, but family is more important!" he bit out.
Nitri stopped dead in her tracks. "I... what?"
"You think I wanted-? My sister is the only family I've got, and she- the only hope for her now is Marina. And now- after losing that cargo-" He didn't have to finish.
In an instant, Nitri knew what she was going to do. Knew what she had to do, if she wanted to be able to look at herself in the mirror every day.
The trip to Faerieland was expensive, especially coming from a place like Krawk Island, where the nearest Air Ferry was hundreds of miles away.
Her problems... well, Healing Springs Faerie- Marina- could only fix the current injury, not change Nitri's very DNA. She knew that would be a dead end for her from the start.
But the Bori's sister...
Well, that was an entirely different matter. She called Sera back to her, the familiar feel drawing her thoughts further into focus.
A zip later, and a heavy weight slipped into her hoof. She closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them and said simply, "Here," before dropping the coin into his hand.
"Someday, be as great as Dasher," Nitri said. She turned and left, escaping into the mass of dockers before the Bori could properly react, or try to refuse the gift. If she was being honest with herself, escaping before she could second-guess her choice and let him refuse.
"Someday," she whispered, "we'll both be great."
Note: This story is about as based on real events as it is fiction, although I'll leave you to decide which bits are which. ;D