Chapter 6:

The Rules

Fantasy Life

It was the morning of Ashikaga High School's contest to determine who would be on the Fantasy Life League team. Out of the entire high school, there would only be five selected to be on the team. Despite Kaida's nerves, she felt some excitement within herself that she never thought of before an event. Was it from the idea of competing instead of mock events? Or was it knowing that there was a reward awaiting her? Either way, Kaida was ready for the thrill of an actual competition.

Kaida met Rei at school. All the students were wearing their athletic suits for riding. As the students lined up outside on the field for further instruction, Kaida looked around to observe her competition. She noticed how many people were competing, only 40, fewer than Kaida anticipated. Those who decided not to compete were seated in the audience. The mythical creatures hadn't been brought out yet but Kaida remembered a few of whom she thought would be tough competition. If Yui was right and jousting is the event they were doing then anyone with a creature fit to be ridden will have an advantage.

Behind the students were bleachers set up for an audience. Parents, friends, and other onlookers filled the seats, ready to watch the matches. In front, Tsuda and the principal, along with a few other teachers, come forward to announce the event. The principal was the first to speak.

"Greetings!" He chirped. "As the principal of this school, it is my honor to welcome everyone here to the Ashikaga High School Contest. The five winners of this event will be our chosen ones to compete in this year's Fantasy Life League. Everyone do your best and to our audience, don't forget to give these children a big round of applause." The crowd clapped and shouted. Kaida saw Rei jolt at how loud the applause was. The principal raised a hand and the audience settled down. "Now to explain today's event I present our Mythology teacher and coach, Mr. Tsuda Hisako."

The audience gave a gentle round of applause for Tsuda as he came forward. "Hello everyone. This past week I have had the pleasure of teaching these students, and can't wait to see what skills they bring to the table. I am sure everyone here can't wait to hear what event they'll be doing today. So without further ado, the game will be... jousting!" Murmurs erupted in the crowd of students.

"Looks like Yui was right," Rei whispered to Kaida.

The noises faded as Tsuda began to speak. "Now I will explain the rules. First, everyone will be randomly paired with someone. Then, each student will receive a suit of armor to protect themselves from the lances. Each student will ride their mythical creature and try to hit the opponent's chest. Points will be awarded accordingly. One point if the lance makes contact, five points if the lance breaks, and ten points if the opposing rider falls off. If you hit anywhere besides the chest you will receive negative three points. This process will be repeated three times, each time with a new opponent."

Rei raised her hand but blurted her question out before she was called on. "Um, what should we do if we can not ride our mythical creature?"

"Yes, of course, we have horses that were generously lent to the school that will be used by such students. The trick is your creature will have to ride with you."

"I don't understand how that's fair," Rei whispered. "They're putting us on horses that we've never been on before and expect us to earn points?"

"Remember Rei," Kaida replied softly. "The events that are used for the Fantasy Life League are based on real sporting events with a few rule changes to cater toward the use of mythical creatures. In this case, the point system has been altered."

"Why would they change the point system of all things?"

"Hm, I have a feeling that the points aren't what they're looking for, rather I think they're testing us for something else. Let's keep our guard up."

Tsuda was finishing his speech. "As we are drawing names to randomize people, students please head to the side of the bleachers to collect your equipment and meet with your mythical creature. Return to the field, fully prepared, to hear your pairings."

The students walked toward the bleachers in an orderly fashion. Kaida looked up and saw her parents sitting in the audience and waved at them. A few other children were doing the same. Kaida also saw Yui standing and waving. "Kaida! Rei! Good luck!" Yui shouted.

When the group of teens made it beside the bleachers they were given their lances and armor which included some chainmail and a helmet. Rei was pulled aside to get acquainted with the horse she and Asa would be riding, a fine mare with chestnut hair. Rei brought the horse over to show Kaida. "Her name is Turnip," Rei remarked. "Apparently that's her favorite food."

"She's really pretty." Kaida turned her attention to her lance. "Say have you noticed how old the lances look?"

"They do look beat up now that you mention it."

There was a loud snap and everyone turned to see a boy holding a shattered lance. "Wha- What happened?" The boy said, clearly rattled by the sudden burst of the wood.

An official came over in a hurry. "What's going on?"

Another boy replied, "He was flailing his lance around to see how strong it is, but it broke. Is there another?"

"Another?" The boy with the broken lance shouted. Throwing his broken one he said, "These are trash! They expect us to fight with these?"

The official did not reply. He only brought the boy another lance. This second one had an orange band around the handle. "Please be careful with this one." Nobody said another word but stayed silent as they were led back out into the field.

Tsuda stood back up in front of the group. "Glad to see everyone with their creatures. We are ready to announce the pairings."

Kaida raised her hand. "Excuse me sensei."

"Yes, Fujihara?" What is it?" Tsuda asked.

"Well, I was wondering, is the equipment suitable for use?" She turned towards the boy with the tagged lance. "There was already an incident and the competition hasn't even started yet."

Tsuda noticed the boy's tagged lance and stared at it. "It seems like there has been a mishap. I must apologize. There was one rule I neglected to mention." There was a murmur amongst the students. "Quiet down. I am sure most of you have noticed the shape of your lances. This is no accident. You see, there will be three rounds of jousting. However, each person will only be provided with two lances throughout the entire event."

"Two lances?" Kaida was stunned.

"Hold on!" The boy from earlier shouted. "I already broke the one I was given. Does that mean this is my second one?"

"That's correct," Tsuda replied. "That orange band is what lets us know that it is your second and final lance. I hope you can last."

"That's a bunch of bull-"

"Bite your tongue!" Tsuda shouted. The boy was silent. "Our judging criteria is how you work with your mythical creature to achieve a goal. Work together to find a way around the challenge that has been presented to you. That will be your true goal."