Chapter 24:


Fantasy Life

A couple of months had passed since the camping trip. The team had welcomed Yui as their team manager and Chiyo had yet to use her time magic again. The team had worked hard, training every day after school with different types of games. Through the training, each person discovered what they attributed to the team and what their weakness was.

Kaida and Jun were the muscle of the team. Both they and their creatures were athletic and quick-witted in any situation. However, Jun had a habit of getting cocky when he was in over his head and Kaida would frequently lose her head if a situation got out of control. On the other hand, Yun was the brains of the operation. Though physically weak, he kept a calm, clear head during any event.

Rei and Kei were neither as athletic as Kaida and Jun, nor as level-headed as Yun, but both were reliable and possessed skills that made the team complete. Kei's sweet demeanor made people underestimate her, making it easy for her and Matsume to have the element of surprise. And both Rei and Asa were good with their hands. During one practice session in a nearby park, the two of them put together a fort big enough for the whole team, excluding Yami, to hide out in using nothing but sticks, some sap, and Asa's thread.

Tsuda and Tani were proud of the progress made by the team and they held a positive perspective regarding nationals. With the competition drawing closer by the day, Yui wasted no time doing her homework. When not watching practice, she gathered as much intel as she could about the other teams from Japan. A few nights before nationals, Tsuda gathered everyone together at the school to devise a strategy.

"I am glad you all could make it tonight," He began. "All of you have done so well and have improved so much. I applaud your efforts." Everyone clapped their hands before Tsuda continued. "Now, as you know, the Fantasy Life Nationals are just a few short days away and I want us to use this time to hear what Hirota has to say about our competition. Hirota, if you will," he introduced.

"Thank you Tsuda sensei." Yui stepped forward. "First off, I want to agree with the earlier sentiments made by sensei. You all have done so well. I know you all have a definite shot at winning nationals. As for who you'll be up against," she said fiddling with a stack of papers. "The opponents to be weary of are the teams from Sapporo, Tokyo, and Naha. These three teams have the best facilities and coaches in the country. They will be tough opponents. Tokyo is the one to beat, especially since they have home-field advantage, but Sapporo and Naha won't be far behind. The biggest asset we have on Naha is that they have had an unusually warm year and will have a hard time adjusting to the winter cold in Tokyo."

"Excuse me, Yui?" Rei asked. "Do you have any information on the individuals on their teams?"

Yui shuffled through some more papers. "I couldn't find much of anything on Sapporo's team. But Tokyo has a typhon, which will be a fearsome opponent. Also, a member of the Naha team has a minotaur. Those can be quite nasty creatures to go up against."

"Um, what's a typhon?" Kei asked

Tsuda motioned to respond but it was Yun who answered. "Typhon is arguably one of the most dangerous creatures to originate in Greek mythology. They are described to have a torso of a man, feathered wings on the back, the lower body made of several serpent tails, and hands from the heads of snakes. A terrifying creature indeed."

"Yes, and if trained well a typhon can use wind and fire, and use poison against its opponents," Tsuda added.

Kei gulped. "If they have a creature like that, no wonder they are the top team in the country."

"Yes," Tsuda said quietly. "They do have an excellent lineup this year. That's why we must strategize a plan for taking on such a creature. Even if we can win against Tokyo's typhon, we still need to find a way to deal with any mythical creature no matter what."

"In that case, I say we focus on our own weaknesses and try to counter those with our strengths," Kaida exclaimed. "Before the competition, I can prep some herbal remedies for several kinds of poisons we may encounter."

"That is an excellent idea, Fujihara. Anyone else?"

Yun thought for a moment. "We won't be informed what kind of game we will be playing or how many games until the very last minute. I say we devise two strategies. One for any games that are physical and the other for games that are more physiologically intense."

Jun put on hand on his hip before speaking. "Well you know Kaida and I have got the physical challenges in the bag, don't worry."

"That's a lot of pressure don't you think, Jun?" Kaida said nervously.

The conversation lasted for several hours, to the point where Tsuda had to suspend the meeting until the following evening. Once all plans were developed, the team spent the next few days drilling each of their ideas till every person and creature knew the strategy by heart. Several days of hard work came and went. One morning, Kaida woke up, realizing that the next day was nationals.

Kaida began packing her things. Several pairs of clothes, a first aid kit, and some food for Yami and Chiyo. Even though Tokyo wasn't a long drive from Ashikaga, she still wanted to make sure she had everything she could possibly need. As she was packing, her father and mother knocked on her door. "Come in!" She shouted. Ayumi and Masashi entered the room with Kumo following behind, who decided to take a rest in Kaida's suitcase. "Ugh, Kumo!" Kaida tried pulling him off.

Ayumi giggled. "Seems like Kumo doesn't want you to leave."

"It's only going to be for a week, and it's not that far away."

"Yes, but you're going for a big event," Masashi said. "I'm sure he could tell you're nervous."

"Of course I'm nervous! We are up against some really tough teams."

"Just make sure you stay aware of how your feelings affect poor Yami and Chiyo," Ayumi said, putting a hand on Kaida's shoulder.

"What do you mean, mom?"

Masashi spoke next. "She means that a mythical creature will perform just as well as the human is capable of being a leader. If Yami and Chiyo sense how nervous you feel, it will only make it harder for them to compete."

Jin popped out from behind Masashi's leg. "Ah, so that's why I'm not strong. It's all your fault, scaredy cat!"

"I'm not scared, Jin. You and I don't train as often as we should."

"You mean we don't train at all!"

"Whatever!" Masashi exclaimed before turning back to Kaida. "The point is that you and your mythical creature are one, born of the same soul. So do your best for your creatures and they'll do their best for you."

"Thanks, dad," Kaida smiled.

Ayumi perked up. "Don't forget, we're going to be watching on the tv so give us a show! And call us if you need anything, alright?"

"Yes, mom." Kaida embraced her family wishing that the moment would never end. But it did, and when she awoke the next morning, she was in the van on the way to nationals in Tokyo.