Chapter 27:


Fantasy Life

At the sound of the whistle, Kaida thrashed the reins and the creatures took off running. During their practice over the past few months, Tsuda had the team run laps around the field. Kaida was always the first one to finish but over time, she and Chiyo learned how to run at pace with the others so as not to leave them behind. Now that practice was paying off. Chiyo and Dallas were running in perfect sync. This synchronized running gave more horsepower to the chariot, pulling their team ahead of the others.

"Hey, hey, hey!" Shoji shouted. "Looks like we've got an early lead from the team hailing from Ashikaga in Tochigi. Following close behind is the team from Sapporo and Kyoto. Let's all cheer them on folks!" The audience clapped and cheered the racers on.

Jun looked back at the Sapporo team. "They're catching up to us Kaida!" 

"I can't run Chiyo and Dallas full throttle at the very start. They'll tire out."

The Sapporo chariot soon caught up and the two chariots were side by side. One of the girls on the Sapporo team was tall and lean. She had a full face of makeup which was visible underneath the helmet. The other girl was just as tall, but more stocky. She was the one holding the reins. The one with the makeup spoke first.

"Wow! A unicorn. Isn't it pretty, Haruhi?"

"Etsuko! I'm trying to focus here! Why don't you try doing something instead of admiring them?" Haruhi gave a flick of the reins.

"Fine! Hey girl! Would you mind slowing down?"

"What?" Kaida asked.

"Yeah. It seems like you're the best competition out here but we want to win, so would you mind slowing down for us?"

Haruhi cocked her head. "It doesn't work like that, Etsuko. They won't slow down because you asked nicely."

"Oh boo. Guess I'll have to try something else." Kaida and Jun stared at Etsuko, not sure whether or not to take her seriously. That was until she unfurled a whip and lashed it under Chiyo's hooves. Chiyo startled and slowed down her pace. "Buh-bye!"

Kaida handed the reins off to Jun as she talked to Chiyo, getting her to calm down. During that time both the Kyoto team and the Tokyo team passed their chariot with the Naha team coming up behind. "Is she alright Kaida?"

"Yes, but we need to get back up there!" Jun gave a whip of the reins and Chiyo and Dallas began their synchronized running once again. The first lap passed.

For a while, they stayed in fourth place just behind Tokyo, who passed Kyoto as they neared the end of lap two. "It feels like we're getting nowhere," Jun grunted. As Chiyo and Dallas pushed themselves to get back in the front, there was a commotion behind them. The Naha team was attacking another chariot that had pulled up next to them. At some point during all the ruckus, there was a voice shouting, "Look out!" Kaida and Jun looked behind them to see a wheel from one of the chariots ricocheting off the ground and flying toward their faces.

The audience gasped as they watched the wheel nearly decapitate the two riders. Before the wheel struck their heads, Chiyo let out a cry and purple light shone around her horn. In the blink of an eye, the wheel was gone and their chariot was back in the first place. "Did we time travel?" Kaida asked.

"I think Chiyo just saved our lives. This is the start of the race before that girl from Sapporo startled Chiyo."

"Did anyone notice?"

"Let's not worry about that right now. We know what's coming. Let's make sure we fix what was messed up the last time. Then we can worry about the time magic. Like before, the Sapporo team brought their chariot next to them.

"Not this time!" Kaida exclaimed. "Chiyo, grow some vines to block their path."

Just as a light green glow surrounded Chiyo's horn, there was an order from Etsuko. "Not today girly." The sphinx's eyes shone a deep emerald and then Chiyo's magic vanished.

"What happened?" Kaida asked, seeing the glow disappear from Chiyo's horn.

"I think it's that girl's sphinx," Jun answered. "Both sphinxes and griffons are highly protective and love treasure but a sphinx can neutralize magic from other creatures. That means two things. One, they probably don't know about the time magic or they probably would have stopped it. Two, that Chiyo's earth magic will be useless unless she can do it without the sphinx noticing. I'm also willing to bet her power will work on any water magic Dallas can do as well."

"Great! So we're helpless now?" The first lap passed, again.

"We're not helpless. We need to cool our heads and come up with a plan."

Kaida nodded. "Calm down. Think of a plan. Think. Think. Think." Then she got an idea. Kaida leaned over and picked up a stone from their chariot and tossed it back.

"What are you doing?"

"I made a plan."

At the sight of the shiny stone, the sphinx and griffon halted to catch the stone. "No! Don't stop!" Haruhi shouted. The other competitors were too close behind to stop and there was a collision with five chariots. Another wheel came loose but instead of hitting Kaida and Jun, the wheel rolled into their chariot, knocking the wheel on Jun's side off. As the chariot dragged on the ground, Jun fell off just as they had finished the second lap. The race was at a standstill.

"Woah! Look at that folks! I've never seen such a holdup. Even during morning rush hour!" Shoji shouted. "How will they get out of this?"

Over at the sidelines, Yui turned to Tsuda. "Will they be alright, sensei?"

"That will depend on them. For now, all we can do is wait and cheer them on."

Jun sat up and rubbed his forehead which was bleeding. "Ouch, that's going to leave a mark."

"Jun! Are you alright?" Kaida asked.

"Yeah, just a throbbing headache. Can we fix the chariot?"

Kaida looked around at the damage from where she stood. "I don't think so." 

"We need to come up with a plan before the others pull themselves together. Man, I wish Yun was here. He'd know what to do."

"He's not. But if you and I put our heads together, maybe we can come up with something." Chiyo and Dallas both pounded at the ground anxiously. "What is it you two?" Both steeds flicked their heads back as though to indicate something behind them. Jun and Kaida both looked in the direction of the crash, not sure what to be looking for.

Jun's face lit up. "The sphinx! That girl's sphinx is preoccupied right now. Chiyo can use her magic!"

"Ok, but what could we use her magic to do?" Kaida looked at what she had to work with; a broken wheel, a chariot, earth magic, and another person. "I got it! Jun how much can you lift?"

"A good amount, why?"

"Grab onto the part of the chariot that the wheel was on. Hurry!" With no remarks, Jun went and grabbed onto the chariot. "Chiyo! I need you to grow a giant rhubarb leaf. The biggest one you can." At her command, Chiyo began to grow a rhubarb plant from the ground below.

"Want to tell me what you're planning, Kaida?"

"You'll see." Chiyo's plant grew and grew till the leaves were big enough for Jun to stand on. "That's good. Now we need to slide in under Jun's feet." Using her horn, Chiyo cut a leaf off and passed it to Dallas who reached it back to Jun. "Ok Jun, place that underneath you. Then lift with all your might."

"I don't think I like where this is going." Jun lifted the chariot. "Now!" Kaida gave a flick of the reins and they were off.

"What's this?" Shoji exclaimed. "I don't believe it, folks! The team from Ashikaga is using one rider to hold the chariot up as he surfs on a giant leaf!" The audience gave a big round of applause.

"That's my brother!" Yun shouted. "Go Jun! Go Kaida!"

Kaida looked over at Jun. "You alright back there?"

"I must say, this is a blast! But you might want to hurry. My arms are getting tired.

"Aye, Aye!" Kaida gave another flick of the reins to have Chiyo and Dallas run full speed. The other teams stood in awe as they were about to be passed.

"I don't believe this!" Haruhi shouted.

"Don't worry. I'll stop them." Etsuko prepared her whip to strike Jun but Dallas kicked up some sand in her face, blinding her until they passed.

"So long!" Jun teased. The audience roared as Kaida and Jun completed their third and final lap around the stadium.

The whistle blew and Shoji announced, "There you have it! The winner of the first game is the team from Ashikaga High! Give a big round of applause to our winners!"

Jun collapsed as Kaida brought Chiyo and Dallas to a stop. She jumped off to help Jun to his feet. The rest of their team ran out and embraced them as they celebrated their first victory.