Story:To Belong

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To Belong
Written by IllaRouge and MartineauQC

Game 6, and the Winnipeg Voyager's playoff run was over in round 1. The final buzzer had sounded, and the teams were finished shaking hands. Peijun did so honorably, never one for doing anything disrespectful or unexpected. But as the fans began to filter onto the floor, the orchid mantis slipped away to the tunnels. She headed for the locker room. She suddenly felt awash in filth. She just wanted the sensation of water burying her.

Inside the locker room, she tore off her uniform and threw it against her locker. She marched to the showers. She didn't even remember turning on the water, but she snapped to, cloaked in steaming water. Her condition made her seem calm, never a sour word to pass her lips, but inside, she felt the turmoil of the season bear down on her. No points. Their elimination game, and she felt as though she'd contributed nothing. Her mind analyzed this game, and then the previous one, and then the previous one; her brain spiraled down her contributions over the season. She felt unsuited to this. She slapped the exoskeleton surface of her cheeks. She didn't usually get this angry. She didn't like the feeling.

She turned off the water. Heading back to the locker room, she looked at the clock. Only a few minutes had passed. She felt as though she'd spent an hour under the water. She sighed. She picked up a few towels and dried off, and it wasn't long before she'd changed into her street clothes. Since arriving in Canada, she'd taken a liking to jeans and suede jackets.

But at the moment, everything felt out of place.

Peijun picked up her bag, and she headed back toward the arena floor. Lost in her head, she didn't notice as she walked straight into the shoulder of her teammate, Yves.

Yves just returned from the homecourt, as he stayed until the very end with the fans. After his valiant triple double game, it still wasn't enough to get past the Bikers. He stumbled as Peijun connected with him. "Oh, hey Peijun, still around?"

Peijun snapped her head up. She signed an apology to Yves. She reached into her bag and pulled out her phone. She typed into her text-to-speech app. "[Yes. I thought you would be gone by now. Is everything okay?]"

Yves smiled, clearly still looking exhausted from the game "Just stood after the game to be with the fans, you know. The least I could do after we managed to give them another game."

Peijun nodded, embarrassed now that she'd left the court as soon as she could. "[You played admirably. I am sure they are proud of you.]"

"You did what you could as well too. I'm proud of all the gang." Yves smiled. "It's quite a task in your rookie year taking on a team like Dakota."

Peijun frowned at the mention of her performance. "[I am not sure I can accept that excuse for myself.]" She gave a light bow. "[Please enjoy your off-season,]" and she rushed to leave.

Yves blinked as he looked on. "Hey, Peijun, wait now. You don't need to put so much pressure on yourself. Your career just only begun."

The mantis stopped. She wasn't sure how to take his words. She was not a favored rookie, but she felt this invisible pressure on her. She turned her gaze down. "[I am not so sure after this season.]"

Yves walked towards her. "Look, like any other rookie, you want to impress, but everyone is unique in their own way. You can't judge someone after just one year. It comes down on your desire and commitment. I believe in you, your teammates believe in you, and your coaches does too."

Peijun still didn't seem convinced. "[What was your first season like?]"

"Me, to be honest, it wasn't really great. I got a shot from Winnipeg after I went undrafted. Coming from Montreal in college, you had expectations, but the transition between here and there is really real."

"[When did you start getting better?]"

Yves pondered. "By my second contract. Shown the organization and my coaches gave me a chance to show what I could be capable of, and it's slowly started to look up."

The mantis knew that success was never guaranteed, but she found herself still blaming herself for what she was experiencing. "[I am worried I am not contributing in a manner that fits with this team. You all seem to complement each other's skills. I am worried that my style of play is incompatible.]"

"Nonsense, you are a right fit to our team. You just need to continue training and improving yourself with the chances you get. Not only from me and Kevin, but your coaches. It will come, trust me. It's a marathon in the FBA, not a sprint."

She thought over what he said. "[I will need some time to believe what you say, but thank you for saying nice things.]" It was silly of her to think that this would quell her fears, but she did feel better. "[I have spent so much of my life preparing for this. My family sacrificed for my opportunities. I want to honor them. I hope I will someday.]"

Yves smiled and patted her shoulder. "I'm sure you will, as long as you work and believe in it. You will make your family proud."

"[I hope so.]" She smiled. "[Maybe I will ask Kevin for help when we come back for training.]"

Yves nodded. "That's the spirit, now excuse moi, I reaaally need a shower." He laughed.

The two waved at each other, and they parted. She did not feel like going home. Her coming season would need to see her becoming more personable with her teammates. She was a team player, but she kept herself guarded. Her upbringing saw her training strictly for basketball, so her lack of other hobbies made her feel ill-equipped to connect with her other teammates. And yet, she'd just done so with Yves, even if through basketball.

Her phone rang.

It was a video call from her parents. This was her moment of respite. She accepted the call, and she pushed a few on-screen prompts to bring up her text-to-speech plugin for the app. Once she did, her parents started talking over one another in Mandarin. It filled her heart to hear her parents, and she waved at them in greeting. They continued talking, though she had trouble making out their words. Not that she needed, as they seemed very happy to talk to her. She tapped the screen and switched her keyboard so she could type in her home language, and she responded to them.

"[I am sorry.]"

They both exclaimed, but her mother took over first. "{Sorry for what, you foolish little thing! Your father and I are so proud of you!}"

"[For what?]" her selected voice came through their speakers, "[We lost. I performed poorly.]"

This time, it was her father that answered, "{Poorly? You are on international television! You are performing on the world stage, my daughter. You are so strong!}"

The praise was not what she was expecting. Her parents went on to list specific accomplishments from the season, small victories she'd already forgotten. From her number one position in the Strength trials all the way back in the Combine to her six rebounds in their elimination game and everything in between. Her parents were her biggest fans, perhaps her only ones, but their passion brought tears to her eyes. They really had done all they could for her. They'd nearly gone bankrupt sending her to sports specialty schools, even going as far as to fund her initial transfer to Harvaardwak. She felt honored.

"[I won't let you down.]"

"{And you never will,}" they said together.

The sound of metal clacking against metal rang through the Voyager's gym at the training facility. Peijun, the rookie orchid mantis, breathed heavily after a round of squats. While most of her team had gone off after their elimination in the playoffs, she had not. Returning to Taiwan for an extended period of time was a logistical nightmare, so she had opted to stay Canada-side. The only other person there was one of the trainers. The mantis waved, receiving the greeting in return. She wiped down the equipment. She headed for the locker rooms to shower. As she stood under the water, she was struck by a sense of determination.

Featured Characters

Peijun Lin Yves Carbonneau The wikipage input value is empty (e.g. <code>SomeProperty::, [[]]</code>) and therefore it cannot be used as a name or as part of a query condition. The wikipage input value is empty (e.g. <code>SomeProperty::, [[]]</code>) and therefore it cannot be used as a name or as part of a query condition. The wikipage input value is empty (e.g. <code>SomeProperty::, [[]]</code>) and therefore it cannot be used as a name or as part of a query condition.

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