Chapter 21:


Fantasy Life

Yun and Jun made their way back towards the river when they saw Yami flying around them. "What's he doing here?" Yun wondered. "Is he on his own?"

Behind him, Dallas pranced in place and Alba flapped her wings in panic, dropping a few white feathers as she did. "Something is bothering them," Jun said. "Could Yami be here to warn us about something?"

Alba flew over to Yun and tugged his hair to get him to follow. Alba flew up into the sky and landed on a nearby tree. Yun understood and began to climb the tree until he felt Jun's hand on his shoulder. "Let me do it, Yun." Jun climbed the tree to where Alba perched and looked out into the distance. At first, he couldn't register what he was looking at. A big, black cloud rose from a short distance and an orange glow shone brightly, even in the daytime. "Oh no."

"What do you see?"

Jun climbed back down before answering. "There is a fire up ahead, and we're not talking about no baby fire either."

"But the girls are up ahead."

"That must be why Yami is here, to lead us to them."

Yun called Alba. "Go let Yami know that we understand and will follow him." Alba flew and joined Yami in the air. "Jun, get on Dallas. We need to hurry."

"Right." The two jumped on Dallas and rode off into the forest.

Up ahead, the girls ran along the edge of a stream. There wasn't enough water to go submerge but it was better than nothing. Just as they thought they got to a safer area, the wind blew and sparks leaped over to another part of the forest. The fire would catch up with them soon.

"What do we do? I don't think we can outrun this fire," Kaida asked, panting from running.

Rei looked around from atop Chiyo's back. "Is there a bigger water source we could go to?"

"Only in the direction of the fire," Kei replied. "It's too risky."

"Then we'll just have to keep running."

"Kaida wait!" Rei exclaimed as she was readying to dismount Chiyo. "You need to ride for a little while. Your lungs won't be able to handle the running plus the smoke."

"I'll be fine. Stay on while we find a safe place." The group only went a few more yards before getting blocked in by the fire on the other side of the forest.

Kei gripped tight around Rei's waist in fear. "We're trapped."

Rei slid off of Chiyo and approached Kaida who was catching her breath. "If we can't beat the fire then let's use our mythical creatures to help."

"But Rei, none of our creatures are suited for fire. I mean, I know unicorns can learn water magic but Chiyo only knows earth magic. And Asa would get burned to ash."

Rei turned to Kei who was still seated. "What about Matsume? Some kitsune can use fire, right?"

"Yeah, making fire but not controlling fire." Kei got off of Chiyo before continuing. "Even if I had taught her how to use fire it would only worsen our situation."

"So basically we're screwed?" Rei asked in frustration.

Before Kaida or Kei could comment, there was a roar from above them. The three girls looked up to see Yami flying above them. He was a small silhouette in the sky, high enough so he didn't blow the embers any further. Seeing him gave Kaida hope. It must mean that he found Yun.

Kei stared at Yami. "Is Yun with him?"

"I can't tell," Rei said.

There was a rumbling sound on the ground that startled the girls. As they looked around for the cause, a large wave splashed into them. Everyone was soaked all over, but so were the nearby trees and plants. A figure emerged from the remaining water. It was Dallas followed by Yun and, to everyone's surprise, Jun.

"Is everyone alright?" Yun asked frantically.

"Yes, I think so." Kaida didn't get to finish her response before a tree snapped and began falling toward her. Tired from running and in pain from all the smoke, she couldn't react in time to avoid the tree. There was a tug at her waist and she was yanked away from the place where the tree smashed against the ground. She looked up at her savior.

"Are you hurt?" Jun asked, still holding Kaida.

She pushed him away. "Why did you save me?"

Jun lowered his hands and eyes before bowing. "I am sorry. Sorry for what I've said. And I'm sorry for ever hurting you and the others." He stood back up. "I was being a real jerk and I know you will probably never forgive me, but even jerks shouldn't let their teammates die, right?"

Kaida didn't know what to say to the abrupt apology. Her brain was still wondering if the man before her was the same jun she hated just minutes ago. She could tell he meant what he said. Jun stood gently, not rigid like before. Kaida noticed a sadness in the smile he was trying to force. She nodded before responding. "I might not be able to forgive Jun the jerk. But I am willing to get to know the new Jun. So long as you promise to apologize to Yami later."

"Of course."

Rei stepped forward. "I hate to interrupt but Dallas's wave wasn't enough to keep the fire away from us long. Let's get moving before we're trapped again."

Everyone nodded and they all made a break for the small opening created by the wave. They came to the edge of the forest, and soon would be out of the fire. But even the little distance they had to get through become more difficult than before. The smoke swirled around them so everyone had to cover their mouths with their hands and be careful where they stepped. Kaida's eyes burned and her lungs were full of smoky air. Her only desire was to escape and see Yami again.

As the others pushed on, Yun fell behind. Rei looked back to see him collapse, gasping for air. "Yun!" Rei shouted as she rushed over to help him up.

Jun turned quickly at the sound of his brother's name only to shout, "Watch out!" A gust blew the fire across their path, separating Yun and Rei from the others.

"Oh no," Rei said hopelessly as she held a limp Yun on her back. She too was coughing hard and could barely keep standing.

"Yun! Rei!" Kei shouted.

Another gust blew by and knocked some branches down over where Rei was standing. Unable to do anything about the fire, Kaida and the others stood dumbfounded on what to do to help. Before anyone else could react, Chiyo let out a cry as her horn shone a purple light. A flash surrounded the group, blinding them.

When Kaida opened her eyes, she was surprised to see everyone standing outside the forest. More surprising to her, the forest was still there.