The whistle blew and the girls stopped running. All of the students were dripping with sweat from practice. Kaida wiped the sweat off her brow before encouraging her track friends. "Good practice everybody." Still panting the other girls nodded in reply, and one of them gave a thumbs up.
"Man, we need to get back into shape for the meets this year," one of the older girls pointed out. She glanced over at Kaida, "Glad to see you didn't lose your edge over the break."
Kaida smiled and was going to reply before being interrupted by the track coach. "Fujihara, you're needed in Tsuda's office."
"I'll go right now, sir." Kaida ran towards the school building. She already knew what this meeting was about and longed to get it over with. It had been a long day and all she could do was think about heading home and soaking her aching feet in a nice warm bath. Kaida slowed to a walk as she entered the main campus building where she met up with Rei. She was all sweaty having been in her kendo uniform. "Hey Rei, how was practice?" Kaida waved.
"Tiring. I should have practiced more over break." Rei let out a yawn before continuing. "Are you heading up to the teachers' lounge as well?"
"I see, he asked you to come too?"
Rei nodded. "Hopefully this won't take long."
Rei and Kaida entered the teachers' lounge where, along with Tsuda, Yui, and the principal were seated on some of the chairs. Tsuda heard them come in, "Welcome girls. Have seat, make yourselves comfortable."
Kaida handed Rei a chair and the two sat with anticipation. The principal spoke next. He was middle-aged, just starting to grey on the head. He sat with a demeaning posture and a permanent scowl that made Kaida nervous to be around him. Despite his appearance, he spoke in a mild voice that didn't sound angry at all. "I'm glad you could come, Fujihara and Iwasaki. Mr. Tsuda and I just finished discussing with Yui her actions and we believe she has something to say to the two of you." He gestured for Yui to speak.
Yui turned in the direction of Kaida and Rei but kept her head tilted to the side so as to hide her red eyes. "Um, I wanted to say, that," she let out a heavy sigh. "I'm sorry. There I said it!"
"For?" The principal asked.
"I'm sorry for trying to get you out of the games."
"And?" Tsuda added.
"And I'm sorry for being mean to you. I was letting my jealousy get the best of me."
"Whatever are you envious about?" Kaida asked. "You're popular, get good grades, and-"
Yui stared Kaida in the eyes. "I was jealous of your mythical creatures!" She took a deep breath before reminiscing. "When I first met you last year I thought we could be friends. But then I found out you had two creatures from a newspaper my dad had read. He wanted me to prove myself by raising my cyclops better than you could raise your dragon and unicorn. After he told me that, I began seeing you as a threat."
"But we work as a team. Why did you see me as a threat rather than an asset?" Kaida questioned.
"Because the school forms a team based on our own individual performance. And even if we made it to the championships the media only like talking about the most popular players. If you and I were on a team then you would outshine me for sure."
Rei asked the next question. "If you're so gung-ho about being so great then why not go to an elite school who have better teams?"
"I tried. I applied to all the schools with the best teams in the region but I didn't get accepted. Fujihara, not only were you famous but you were so talented. I'm sure any elite school would love to have you go to their school, and not someone lame like me."
"Hirota," Kaida said sweetly. "I never thought you lame or uncool or whatever you're thinking right now."
"Yeah really!" Rei chimed in. "Even though you're a big pain, you are super smart and great in athletics!"
"And, I've seen you with Oden. The bond you two share is very strong. I think those other schools would be lucky to have you."
"Stop trying to make me feel better." Yui's eyes watered up, she turned away.
Rei and Kaida looked at each other then back at Yui. Tsuda joined the conversation. "You know Hirota, if I may say, I don't believe competing in the Fantasy Life League is really what you want. Is it?"
Yui perked up. "Of-of course it is. I mean, it's been my dream for years now."
"Are you sure it's not just your parent's dream?"
The tears fell from Yui's face. Her voice was shaky as she spoke, "Don't laugh but, I-I've always wanted to be a musician. I watched a concert when I was a little girl and that inspired me to pursue music." Yui clenched her fists. "But my parents would have none of it. They thought it was a waste of my time and that I should be practicing with Oden. They went so far as to throw away all the CDs in the house. And now, because of my actions, I won't even be allowed to compete. It's not fair! "
Kaida watched Yui cry, realizing how lucky she was to have such kind parents who love her. She grabbed Yui by the hand. "Hirota, let's start over."
Yui blinked her eyes. "What?"
"Let's start over. I forgive you for what happened and if you're willing, I'd be happy to become friends with you."
Rei laughed then stuck her hands on her hips. "Hey don't exclude me. I wanna be friends too."
"The two of you want to be my friends? Even after what I've done?" Kaida and Rei gave a firm nod. Yui fought to hold back more tears. "Alright, but from now on I want you to call me Yui."
"Of course, Yui." Kaida giggled. "But can you call us by our first names as well?"
"I can do that, Rei and Kaida."