It has been a long weekend for Kaida and the other students who have patiently awaited the contest results. To keep her mind off things Kaida helped her dad at work, which included fertilizing the plants at the local garden and trimming the branches of bushes that had grown too wild. She invited Rei and Yui for a sleepover. Yui told the two how much fun watching them in the competition was.
"Tomorrow is the big day," Rei commented.
"Yes! I'm so excited!" Yui shouted.
"I can't say the same," Kaida chimed in. "I'll be so sad if I don't make the team."
"Well, I believe you and Rei did a great job. Sure Rei fell on her second round, and you used up both your lances, but maybe some other students did worse."
"Gee thanks," Rei said sarcastically.
"But I think Yui is right, Rei. We shouldn't be so hard on ourselves. I say we celebrate our hard work, no matter the results."
Monday came and Kaida woke up early for school. She got dressed, fed Kumo, and headed out. Yami and Chiyo were still there and she decided to have Yami fly her to school. Despite arriving early there was already a crowd of students waiting outside at the announcement board. Rei was at the front and waived Kaida over to look at the results. Kaida squeezed her way through to look at the announcement poster. She saw five names on the list listed in order by class, starting with the third-year students. Kaida read the names aloud.
"Jun Kita, Yun Kita, Rei Iwasaki, Kaida Fujihara, and Kai Tachibana." Kaida's face lit up. "Rei we did it! We made the team!"
Kaida and Rei cheered and hugged in celebration of the news. "I'm so happy!" Rei exclaimed as the two girls embraced.
"Me too. It's like a dream come true."
"Now the hard work begins," Tsuda said as he emerged from the crowd.
The two girls turned to face him. "Oh, good morning Tsuda sensei," Kaida greeted.
"Good morning Fujihara and Iwasaki. Congratulations to both of you on a job well done. But now, all the pressure of going to the Fantasy Life League will rest on your shoulders. Are you two willing to train hard to win?"
"Yes sir!" Rei and Kaida synchronized.
"Excellent! Today we will start our official team. Meet me out in the field after school today where you will meet your new teammates and their mythical creatures." Tsuda gave a farewell nod to the girls and then left the way he came.
Kaida struggled to focus during class that day. She knew of at least Jun and Yun but was not acquainted with the two-third years or the freshman girl. Her thoughts clouded her mind with questions and curiosities about who her new teammates were. Would they get along? What creatures do they have? The day seemed to drag on until the bell finally rang for school to let out. Without wasting a moment, Kaida gathered her things and rushed to the field. It felt strange for her to not be attending track and field practice. She turned to ask Rei how she felt about meeting the team but there was no one there.
"Oops! Guess I ran out a little too fast."
Rei caught up with Kaida a few minutes later and the two walked to the field together. They were the first students to arrive. They saw Tani assisting Tsuda in bringing the mythical creatures to the field. Kaida could see Yami, Chiyo, and Asa walking side by side. There were three more mythical creatures that she was able to make out but only recognized one of them, a kitsune. The other two were a horse-like creature with a wet coat and a mane of seaweed and a white bird of some kind. Tsuda saw the two girls and called out to them.
"Fujihara! Iwasaki! Come give us a hand!" The two girls ran to Tsuda. "Glad to see you two are punctual. Here, each of you take your mythical creature and warm up with a lap around the field while we wait for the others."
"Ahh, this is our reward for being early?" Rei groaned.
Tsuda laughed. "Don't worry, I'll make the others do two laps."
"Come on Rei, we do more running in gym class," Kaida encouraged.
"I guess." Rei thought of a way to motivate herself. "Last one done has to do my homework!"
It wasn't long until Kaida, Chiyo, and Yami crossed the finish line. By the time Rei finished, the students were visible from a distance. "I guess you're doing your own homework, Rei," Kaida teased.
"Ugh! Now I'm tired and I still have work to do," she sulked. "So not cool."
"Awesome! Were you two having a race?" It was a girl's voice. She was petite and her voice was high. The girl had a smile on her face that almost made Kaida feel more relaxed, even though she had never seen this person before.
"Yes," Kaida replied. "Tsuda sensei told us to run a lap so we raced to make it more fun."
"Cool!" the girl said with much enthusiasm. "I saw the whole thing. You're really fast ms..."
"Fujihara, my name is Kaida Fujihara, and this is my friend Rei Iwasaki. And you are?"
"Oh my apologies, I'm Kei Tachibana. It's nice to meet you! I'm super nervous because I'm the only freshman that made it, but I'm super excited to be on the team. I'll do my very best!" Kaida had a hard time telling if Kei's energy came from nerves or if it was her personality. Either way, she seemed nice and Kaida was relieved to have made friends with one of her teammates.
The two boys followed behind. "Sorry we're late to the party," one of them said. "My brother took his sweet time getting his things together."
"Um, it's because you had to stop and talk with one of your friends," the other remarked.
"Glad to see the two of you made it," Tsuda greeted. "The both of you and Tachibana take your mythical creatures and do two laps around the field. Hurry!"
"What two laps? Ah, man!" Kei sighed.
After the group finished Tsuda had everyone gather around. "Alright, everyone. I want to congratulate you all for being here. The five of you stand before me today because you showed promise in physical and mental strength, as well as a strong bond with your mythical creatures. I applaud you for a job well done." He paused to clap along with the students. " Right, first we will do some formal introductions. Tell us your name, the reason why you wanted to join this team, and then about your mythical creature. I'll go first as an example." He cleared his throat.
"My name is Tsuda Hisako. I am the mythology teacher here at Ashikaga High School. I will be acting as advisor and coach for this team because I have the leadership skills needed to run a successful team. My partner is the centaur, Tani. She is physically strong and skilled in archery." That was something neither Kaida nor Rei knew about Tani before. "Alright let's begin with our third years. One of you go ahead and start."
"Hello, my name is Yun Kita and I am the younger one of the Kita twins. If you need to tell us apart then make us smile. I have dimples while my brother does not. " Kaida saw the dimples form by Yun's mouth as he was speaking. "Let's see, I believe that I am on this team because of my passion to show that greatness doesn't equal strength. My partner is the caladrius, Alba. A white bird of Roman descent that can heal those who are sick. I look forward to working with you all."
Jun spoke next. "So, I'm Jun Kita. Um, I'm doing this for my brother and nothing more. My partner is Dallas. Oh and he's a kelpie." His voice was calm. Kaida found him nonchalant and uninterested in socializing. She didn't want to judge too quickly and just chalked it up to a bad day.
"I guess I'll go next," Rei said to break the silence. "Hi, I'm Rei Iwasaki. I guess I'm here today because I want to have fun and improve my connection with Asa. She's my mummy."
"Not bad Iwasaki," Tsuda noted. "Fujihara you're next."
Kaida nodded before continuing. "Hello everyone. My name is Kaida Fujihara and I," she paused to think of her reason for joining the team. "I, I want to prove that I can pull my weight and not rely on my mythical creatures. They are Yami the dragon, who can breathe fire, and Chiyo the unicorn. We taught Chiyo how to grow plants with her magic over the summer."
"Two mythical creatures?" Jun remarked. "Ha! That's unfair don't you think?"
"Be nice Jun!" Yun snapped.
"Hey, I'm just saying that-"
"Enough Kita," Tsuda cut in. "Fujihara deserves to be here as much as anyone. Now then for our last member..."
"Oh, that's me!" Kei exclaimed. "As I said before I am Kei Tachibana. I am here because I want to be an idol. Getting famous by participating in the Fantasy Life League will aid me on my road to fame."
"That is a big dream you've got," Tsuda said. "Now that you all know each other, get to know each other better. You will be training together, traveling together. This is the Ashikaga Fantasy Team and these are your teammates."