Chapter 31:


Fantasy Life

Kaida watched in horror as her friend fell from the top of the rock wall. Every instinct told her to run and help Kei, but even as the fastest runner, Kaida knew she'd never make it. There was a command from Rei, then Asa launched a strip of cloth at Kei and wrapped it around her waist. Rei joined Asa in directing Kei's fall in their direction where they caught her in the air. Kei's momentum pushed Rei and Asa to the ground where they lay, relieved that their friend was safe.

Kei cried as she sat up, "Are you two ok?"

Rei lifted herself and patted Kei on the head. "Shouldn't I be asking you that?"

Kei's fear and disappointment took over as tears streamed down her face. "I'm sorry I failed!"

Seeing their friend cry, Jun and Kaida left the side area with Tsuda close behind. Kaida knelt to hug her friend. "It's alright, Kei. You're safe now and that's all we care about." When Kei pulled away, Kaida's shoulder was wet from the tears. "There, there."

"I sent Yui to go fetch the medical team," Tsuda informed them. "I can't believe the equipment broke on you like that. I'll have a firm talk with the authorities later."

"I'm alright," Kei sniffed. "Where did Yun go?"

Jun was the one to answer. "That leprechaun did a number on him. He was taken to the hospital for treatment. Hopefully, he'll be able to play the final game tomorrow."

"We made a mess of things, didn't we?" Kei stated.

"Not true!" Kaida said. "You all did your best, right? So you have nothing to apologize for."

Before Kei could argue a girl with a merlion approached the group. "Hello, I came to check to make sure you were alright." She had a sweet tone to her voice. The girl seemed rather shy so Kaida was surprised that she approached them at all.

"We're all fine," Tsuda replied. "Thank you for asking miss-"

"Aya, Mori Aya sir." She pointed down to her creature. "And this is my merlion, Skip. We are the belayers for the Naha team. I know Ken and Goro roughed that girl and that other boy up pretty bad. I came to apologize on their behalf."

Tsuda gave a nod, accepting her apology. "Thank you for your concern. We will all be fine after some rest."

"Good, I hope to see you all tomorrow then." At that, Mori went back to her team.

Yui ran towards them with the medical team in tow. "I brought them sensei!" She exclaimed.

"Excellent," Tsuda praised. "While Rei and Kei are getting looked at, why don't the rest of us go check on Yun?"

The hospital was near the arena in case of any emergency. It was large and updated with modern furniture. Tsuda got them permission to visit Yun who was laying down in a hospital bed, reading a book. He appeared happy to see everyone.

"How are you feeling?" Jun asked abruptly.

"Better now. The doctors had to stabilize my breathing and I have some internal bruising but I am fine otherwise. And Kei? Last I saw she was falling."

"Her rope snapped but Asa was able to catch her," Kaida replied.

"It broke?" Yun asked shockingly. "But it was incredibly durable. I can't imagine it just snapping on her."

"I already told the others that I will have a firm conversation with the authorities on the matter," Tsuda said firmly. "What happened today could have been outright disastrous!"

Yun thought to himself for a moment. "Sensei, do you believe they purposely gave us faulty equipment? Or something else?"

"Why do you ask?"

"As Kei and I were climbing, we noticed there were fewer and fewer people. Sure some teams had to worry about attacks but mostly everybody was too focused on not falling than trying to take out the opposition."

"Actually," Rei interrupted. "Now that you mention it, I did notice something strange. There was one team where one of the climbers came back down before ever reaching the second screen. I'm not sure why though, but I thought it was odd to just give up and come down like that."

"Hang on," Jun exclaimed. "Just so I'm clear, you two think someone sabotaged this game?"

"I am implying it, yes," Yun replied. "It would also explain why Kei's rope broke when it did."

Tsuda clenched his fists. "I don't want to believe that anyone would do something so underhanded, but I trust your judgment. Kita, once you are discharged, all of you go back to the hotel. I will bring this to the board immediately."

It felt like a cloud hung over the hotel that night. Jackel and Jessie tended to the teens the best they could but little did it help to lift their spirits. Tsuda came back late and everyone was still up. After a quick scolding, they all went to bed. For Kaida, sleep didn't come so easily. She got up and tip-toed out of her and Rei's room and went for an evening stroll through the hotel. After a few feet on her walk, she saw Jackel resting outside in the garden. He turned and saw her staring at him.

"Shouldn't you be asleep miss? The man will be cross with you again if he finds you out of bed."

"Can't sleep," Kaida said briefly as she made her way over to Jackel.

"Heard you had a long day."

"Not as long as Yun and Kei's I'm sure."

"Well miss, staying up worrying about it ain't goin' to do you any good." Jackel took a deep breath before continuing. "Besides, everything turned out alright, didn't it? Sure you didn't win the game but your friends are safe, your belly is full of some of our delicious food, and you got to soak in a nice hot bath. What more could you want?"

Kaida laughed at his statement. "The food was good. I guess I'm worried about making sure that everyone is safe, you know?"

"Why, that's up to your creatures ain't it not?" Kaida stared at him blankly. "Listen, I don't know how much of this you were told but mythical creatures and humans didn't always get along. They were enemies. But over time, a bond grew and both sides began to work together. I know that your dragon and unicorn would move time and space for you if they could and that you'd do the same. I feel that way about Ando. Right now, all your creatures are getting some good shut-eye because they have full faith in you and your friends to help them out of a pinch. Miss, you and your buddies need to trust that your creatures will be there for you, and keep you safe."

Back in her room, Kaida thought long and hard about what Jackel had said. Did she not trust Yami and Chiyo? As she laid down, Kaida's thoughts drifted to her creatures, she thought only of them. Kaida closed her eyes and fell asleep.