Chapter 24:

Countdown to the Nationals (Taiki)

Special Fighting Club

Our birthday came and went. Next was Christmas, Takara, Kei and I went to karaoke together and ate cake.
Back in school the second term ended relatively good for most of us, at least Hisagi-sensei was pleased.
Manami-san asked our opinion of a short training camp at the end of the year, to prepare us for the nationals.
Takara and I offered to have it at our house; we have a gym there after all and it wouldn´t cost anything.

So a few days later the whole team gathers at our house again. We walk them to the gym; it´s big enough for us all to train in and even to have a training fight or two.
After a while of training someone quietly opens the door to the gym, Dai-nii-sama enters.
He looks around awkwardly and walks towards me and Takara.
“I thought I could help a bit. You know with me being a pro and all.” He says.
Takara´s eyes begin to sparkle. Dai-nii-sama has never trained with her before. Now that I think about it he never really trained with me either.
Dai-nii-sama starts walking past everyone, looking closely at what they’re doing.
Manami-san notices and smiles.
From time to time Dai-nii-sama corrects someone’s stance, he gives Kenta the tip to pretend he´s fighting in a boxing match and to focus even more on it, he encourages Ran-chan and tells her that with more confidence she´s going to be a great asset to the team.
I´m confused; he´s nice to everyone, gives constructive criticism, is actually helpful and takes his time to explain things. I think my brother has been switched with a nicer version, I don´t want the other back.
At last he makes his way to Takara and me.
“I want to teach you something.” He says.
Takara and I stare at each other. “Ok.”
“First off you two already have quite the strength. You can change form pretty fast. Takara likes to punch more and Taiki´s more a distance fighter, right?” Dai-nii-sama says.
We nod; he got that from just a few fights he watched?
“Because Takara´s knee is injured I couldn´t see too much of her real potential, but whatever. What I want to teach you is, let me show you.” He goes into hybrid form and opens his hand. Gems appear, like expected, but they´re shaped like arrow heads.
“You can change the form of the gems?” Takara and I ask.
“Yes, but it needs some training. To be honest I like the arrow gems I showed you a lot better than the normally shaped ones, these just fly better. You can make any shape; flowers, knifes, needles, ninja stars, whatever your imagination allows.” He says.
Takara goes into hybrid form and tries it out, the gems are a bit misshapen but nowhere near an arrow.
“You have to concentrate.” Dai-nii-sama takes her hand and with his finger draws an arrow on it. “You have to visualize the shape in your head.” He thinks for a moment then says: “You know how, when you want to make a normal gem you just have to think about it? Do the same but with a different shape. You have to keep imagining it like that until it´s there.”
I decide to try it too.
Both of us try for what feels like hours. Manami-san tells us to eat dinner and go to sleep.

The next day Takara and I are still trying to get the gems to change form.
Dai-nii-sama helps Manami-san and the day is over before it even really started and with that our last real training before the nationals.

Then the days go by fast. The old year goes and the new year comes. We go to a shrine with Kei and Dai-nii-sama. He´s starting to get along with Kei. Personally I think that´s a bit creepy but I do appreciate Dai-nii-sama´s efforts.

And then, in what feels like the bilk of an eye, we arrive in Tokyo. We check into our hotel, go to the Onsen there and lay down on our futons.
The boys and girls sleep in the same room.
Manami-san shows us recordings of our first opponent Kuroihakauchō. Honestly they’re nothing special, they´re fast I give them that but they don´t seem like the biggest threat.
I´m a bit relived.
Hisagi-sensei puts up a plan of the D Block and colors in our name in blue.
“Tomorrow´s the entrance ceremony, the day after the nationals really begin. The A and B Blocks will have their first two rounds, the day after the C and our D Blocks, the E and F Blocks are after that and so on. So you have two more days before you have to fight, I want you to use them to rest and do very light training.”
Akaya-kun raises his hand.
“Yes you´ll be participating in the opening ceremony.” Manami-san says. “So go to bed early we have to be there at twelve.” With those words he and Hisagi-sensei leave for their rooms.
The rest of us decide to play some card and board games and go to bed.

The next day we get ready, wearing our jerseys, and leave for the gym.
It´s huge. Like ginormous. One of the organizers hands Takara a sing written on it our schools name and our prefecture.
After a while of standing around with many other teams we and Akaryuu walk into the gyms main hall, where the semifinals and finals will be held.
We stand and wait for the other schools to walk in. I look around and see a lot of famous schools: Kinkami representing Fukuoka all dressed in gold, Moneko representing Kumamoto dressed in pink and red, Yukihana representing Hokkaido dressed in light blue and of course our friends Aoshira representing Miyazaki dressed in blue and gray and Midohebi representing Chiba dressed in yellow and green.
A few people say speeches that I´m way too nervous to actually listen to.

After the whole thing we go back to our hotel. Most of us are so hyped for the day after tomorrow that we go for a light jog until the sun goes down.
After a nice bath in the Onsen I decide to lie down and get some sleep. I lie awake longer than I thought, excited to watch Aoshira fight tomorrow and to fight the following day myself.
I finally fall asleep, with the fights constantly on my mind.

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