I was a young goddess looking for something to amuse me. Do you know how boring it is, being a goddess? There’s no one on your level. You look out at the expanse of the universe and wonder if there’s anything out there that can still challenge you.
It was one of these nights that my gaze happened to fall upon the Mushroom Kingdom. Creatures I had interacted with before were bounding around some sort of field, hitting what appeared to be a small Luma back and forth. This curious phenomenon caught my eye, and I descended to the planet below.
One of these men was familiar to me. I approached him. “Mario,” I asked. “What are you doing?”
I had never seen such a sport before. Players bounded around various courts, to my relief hitting a small ball and not a Luma with a racket. Somehow, they mustered up unexpected and inexplicable feats of strength as they did. They even proved capable of growing to extraordinary sizes.
I decided to play. Since the sport was unfamiliar to me, Mario insisted I take on a partner. He called over a Toad, introduced him as my amiibo and wished us well in the matches to come.
I remember our first meeting. I sized up this little mushroom man and asked, “Do you know anything about tennis?”
“Oh no!” He exclaimed. “I’ve never played before. I’m just a servant to the Princess!”
It pleased me to hear such a thing. Such a man would know his place. But that he was also a beginner concerned me. “Perhaps you should run along, then.” I pondered. “Though I am a beginner, I’ve spent eons watching the stars as they soar through the sky, guiding Luma with my powers. I obviously possess natural talents that will assuredly emerge.”
“But I can’t do that!” Toad was so flustered. His arms were flailing and he began pacing in circles. “I made promises! I have to do my best! My family worked so hard to get me a position at court!”
“Your family needed to pull strings to earn you a position as Princess Peach’s aid?”
This stunned Toad enough to make him stop his scurrying. He frowned.
“No, the tennis court. I live on the other side of the tracks, in World-6. It’s quite far from World-1. They knew I wanted to compete, so they insisted I sit back and relax the entire trip while they drove.”
“But still! I can’t waste this opportunity. Please!”
I acquiesced. It might not have been the wisest decision. This little amiibo of mine was a blank slate. He had no experience or rank, and I was right about my own skills. (I’m always right, after all.) Our first match against another of his race, a young woman named Toadette, and it took some time getting used to the game. For a time, the score was even tied at 5-5, but it wasn’t long before my natural grace and strength guaranteed us our first victory.
The matches came and went. We faced icons, Luigi in particular, monsters and even other monarchs, like Princess Daisy. With each match, I greatly improved. Our wins racked up. The crowds screamed my name and flipped placards over to show a likeness of myself as a measure of support.
He wasn’t always so great, but he tried. My little Toad amiibo did his best. Sure, sometimes he would stand idly when a ball would fly his way, he’d start running to return too late or beaned me in the back of the head with some friendly fire, but he never left my side. He always made the effort, but I was the only one who ever received any acknowledgement.
I asked him about it. “Doesn’t it bother you, that they’re always cheering for me and not you?”
He blushed and wouldn’t meet my eyes. “I’m just happy to be here, your highness. It’s an honor to serve, even though I never get to actually serve the ball.”
I felt my own cheeks warm at his humble response. “Toad, please. Call me Rosalina.”
He looked shocked, his mouth agape. But slowly, a smile came to his face. “Okay… Rosalina.”
I noticed a change after that day. He had ranked up. I never noticed him training, but apparently, in secret, he was. Maybe it was even being around my incredibly magnificent and magnanimous self. Suddenly, his skill had increased. He never asked for my input or direction, but made his own decisions about what would be best for us as a pair. It didn’t result in a notable difference in his performance, but something was there that wasn’t there before. Perhaps it was friendship? Maybe more?
It didn’t last.
The stakes were raised on our eighth match. Our opponent was the games’ hostess herself, Princess Peach. Toad was his normal, chipper self the day of the match. I greeted him warmly. “How’s my little amiibo?”
“Oh Rosalina, I’m always ready to go!” He smiled.
“Not even nervous?” I laughed. “She is your monarch.”
“She may be my princess, but you’re my goddess!” He retorted with a wink.
I felt flush. Seven games ago, I would have chastised him for such impertinence. But now, it was a welcome advance. I smiled. “And you’re my favorite amiibo.”
We lost. I couldn’t find my groove. Toad behaved as if he’d never ranked up. Time after time, Princess Peach bested us both. I looked to my amiibo in confusion, but he avoided my gaze. Within ten minutes, our fate was decided. I was out of the competition.
As we walked off of the field, Princess Peach ran to approach us. She called out to us, “Hey, wait!” I turned and expected something along the lines of, “Nice try, good game.” Instead, she made directly for Toad.
“You’ve really come around, little guy!” He blushed at her praise. “I’m super impressed. My usual partner had to step down. Is there any chance you’d join me for the next few matches?”
“Absolutely!” He said, jumping with joy. The princess left, with him watching her every step of the way.
“What the hell, man?” I slapped the amiibo on the side of his head. “Was any of it real, Toad?” Nearly knocked off balance, he righted himself and looked at me gravely and serenely.
“You were real, Rosalina. You were real.” He replied.
I smacked him once more, for good measure. “You stole that line from The Truman Show!”
As I floated off the field, I heard him yell, “You used to love my pop culture references!”
I never played tennis again.