Three Years Before
"Come on boy! Come on! Kumo, it’s time for bed," Kaida exclaimed as she tugged at her dog's collar. Kumo is a big, porcelain-white akita inu. When Kaida first saw him as a puppy, she thought he was a cloud, hence the name Kumo. Kaida tried once more to get Kumo back into his bed but her hands slipped and she fell to the floor with a loud thud. As she rubbed her head, the bedroom door creaked open letting a ray of light beam into the room. It was Kaida's mom, Ayumi.
"Are you alright in here, dear?" Ayumi asked concerned.
Kaida sat up, rubbing her sore head before responding. "Kumo won't lay down and sleep. He keeps waking me up, it's so frustrating!"
"Well, we don't want the others to wake up. Why don't you take Kumo on a walk outside to tire him out?" Ayumi left for the kitchen and found a flashlight in one of the drawers. As Ayumi checked the flashlight to make sure it had full batteries, Kaida put on a jacket and changed into her outside shoes. Kumo pranced around her, ready to go outside and play.
Ayumi walked over as Kaida was putting a leash on Kumo. "Here you are." She handed Kaida the flashlight. "I just put some new batteries in so you should be all set. Be careful and don't wander off too far."
Kaida giggled under her breath. "Don't worry mom, I'll be back shortly." Before she knew it, Kaida was dragged out the door by an anxious Kumo.
As the door shut Ayumi thought aloud, "Oh my, I wonder what we're going to do when we have another beast in this house." She paused to yawn before continuing. "Well, I guess they'll be alright. I'm off to bed."
Outside, Kaida is woken up by the chilly night air. She manages to reign Kumo back from running around. "Oh, man! How do you have so much energy? Nobody should have this much energy in the middle of the night." Kaida looked around at all the city lights. She and her family lived on the outskirts of Ashikaga City, about an hour and a half north of Tokyo. As they walked Kaida let her thoughts flow out. "Tomorrow is my last day of summer break. And before long it will be my thirteenth birthday. The wisteria flowers are supposed to be in bloom soon. Dad said I can help him tend to the park tomorrow while mom is at work. Having something to do will help keep my mind off of things. Who knows maybe I'll get my mythical creature tomorrow. I guess I'm just worried because I'm the only one in my class who doesn't have one yet." She fiddled with the leash in her hands for a little while, then glanced at Kumo who was yawning. "I guess you don't really care do you." She smiled, "Let's head back and get some sleep." And they did.
The following morning, Kaida came down the stairs all dressed and ready for the day. She sported a white sundress paired with a straw hat and a pink ribbon wrapped around it. On the right side of the hat was a pink carnation brooch that Ayumi made for her. Ayumi was in the kitchen preparing breakfast for the family while her father, Masashi, was reading the morning paper. "Good morning Kaida," he greeted. "Did you sleep well?"
"Eventually yes," Kaida replied as she took a seat next to her father. Masashi was a plain-looking fellow but rigid in how he carried himself. He sat up straight and confident at the table while looming over the paper with discerning judgment. "What are you reading?"
"Oh, nothing much. They posted an article about the upcoming celebration in the flower park tonight." He set the paper down before continuing. "Looks like I've got my work cut out for me. Are you still available to lend me a hand today, Kaida?"
"Excellent. We'll leave right after breakfast."
Just then a small voice spoke out, "I'm coming too, right sir?" The voice belonged to a gnome wearing a long red hat. The gnome was heavy set and stood roughly 100 centimeters. He used his hands and feet to climb the up the leg of the table and stand so as to look Masashi directly in the eyes. "Or have you decided that Kaida is going to replace me?" He pouted.
Masashi laughed, "You're coming too, Jin. I'd never replace my mythical creature. Besides, your ability is indispensable for my work. I wouldn't be nearly as successful without you." Jin gave no response, only blushed.
Once the Fujihara family finished eating breakfast Masashi, Kaida, and Jin started their walk to Ashikaga Flower Park. Along the way, Masashi noticed a melancholic look about Kaida. "What's wrong? Are you not feeling well?"
Kaida glanced up with a forced smile. "No, no, I'm alright." She looked back down at the sidewalk. "It's just that, I was thinking last night about how I really want my mythical creature to hatch soon. I'm the only kid in school whose egg hasn't hatched yet. I want to raise a fine creature and join a team to win the Fantasy Life League, the first team from Japan to ever win!"
"Oh, I see. Well, your thirteenth birthday is just around the corner. Have patience, your egg will hatch in plenty of time before the next tournament."
"I guess," Kaida sighed, staring blankly out into the distance. She knew Masashi was correct in what he said, but it is not what she wanted to hear.
"Kaida, do you remember the legend?"
Kaida stopped in her tracks and turned to face Masashi. "What kind of question is that? Everyone knows about it!"
"Why don't you explain it to me then?" He glanced down at her face, watching her fiery expressions and listening intently.
"When a child is born God takes a part of that child’s soul and places it in the form of an egg. This egg contains a mythical creature, such as a yeti or the loch ness monster. Just a creature from what once were considered myths and legends. No one knows for sure why but the eggs always hatch before a person reaches the age of thirteen. And once the creature hatches, it becomes a lifelong companion."
"Well said, Kaida," Jin chimed in. "I still remember the day I met your father. I was just a little gnome at the time but I knew your father and I would be great together. But let me tell you it wasn't easy looking after him. He would get into all sorts of trouble."
"Really?" Masashi inquired. "Because I remember it was you who caused me the trouble. Like the time you wandered off and got stuck in a pipe. Or the time you locked me out of the house and couldn't find the key."
"Okay, maybe it was a mutual effort."
Masashi gave a brief sigh and then turned back to Kaida. "Point is Kaida, our mythical creatures hatch when we need them, not when we want them. Just be patient and I know you'll get a fantastic creature. One that will win Japan the trophy for sure!" Kaida showed a slight smile. "Now cheer up. We have gardening to do before the festival later."
The three arrived at the park. Kaida looked around, glad to see that there weren't many people there to crowd them. The few individuals who were at the park were co-workers, most of whom Kaida had met before. Two men she recognized were walking along the sidewalks, examining the lining of wisteria trees which were enticing for tourists. The garden was abundant in other flowers including a variety of roses, hydrangeas, and water lilies that floated right on the pond. Flowers were not the only abundant thing Kaida saw in the park. All over she could see kodama and dryads assisting the workers with taking care of the plants.
Another man that Kaida recognized gave a holler to Masashi. "Good morning! You bring Kaida with you?"
"Yes! She is here to lend us a hand. What would you like us to help with?"
"One of the dryads is setting up the gift shop if Kaida and Jin want to start with that!"
Masashi turned to Kaida, "Do you think you could give the dryad some help while Jin and I get to work on fertilizing some of the flowers?"
Kaida nodded. "Sure, but I don't remember how to get to the gift shop."
"I'll walk you there and then come back." Masashi looked down at Jin to address him. "Jin, would you go on ahead and prepare the fertilizer for when I return?"
"You got it, sir!" Jin saluted as a soldier would and then took his leave.
On the way to the gift shop in the park, Kaida and Masashi both examined the park. For Kaida, it was more out of delight at seeing all the flora and fauna, and for Masashi, making sure all the plants looked to be in pristine condition for the festival. Just as they approached their destination, a gust of wind came down and pushed them back. Having to cover their eyes from flying debris, neither of them saw the large manticore that landed right before them. As the two got their wits about them a man spoke from atop the manticore's back.
"Am I to presume the young lady is Kaida Fujihara?"
Kaida managed to look up at him nervously, still shaken by the earlier gust. "Yes sir. I am Kaida Fujihara. Is there something I can do for you?"
The man spoke in a high, over-enthusiastic voice. "I am here on behalf of Japan's National Hatchery. We request that you return home and bear witness for we have delivered your egg. Congratulations! Your egg is about to hatch!"