Chapter 52:

Nemean Lion

Fantasy Life

Kaida felt like she had been flying forever. She turned to Yun who was sitting behind her on Yami's back. "See anything?"

"Just another herd of deer."

"Maybe we should send Alba to find the others. The sun will be setting soon and we-" She stopped abruptly.

"Kaida, what is it?" Yun asked.

"I think I see a piece of cloth tied to the top of that tree." Kaida pointed at a tree in the near distance with a single strand of white cloth flailing in the breeze. "That must be where they are."

"Go ahead and tell Yami to land. I just hope the others had better luck than we did."

Yami began his descent into a clearing next to the tree. Kaida and Yun slid off of Yami's back and were startled when Dallas appeared right before them. Jun rode on his back, carrying an injured Maria in his arms. "Glad to see you made it," Jun sighed a breath of relief.

Kaida looked at Maria's injured tail before exclaiming, "What in the world happened?"

"No time to explain." Jun slid off of Dallas. "Rei and Kei are in trouble. They need Yami's help. Yun will you stay with Maria and perform first aid?"

Yun took Maria from Jun and inspected the cut. "This is a deep wound. I'm not sure Alba is capable of healing it completely. We'll do what we can."

"Thank you, Yun." He turned to his kelpie. "Will you stay and look after them?" Dallas gave a loud whinny and a nod.

Kaida jumped back on Yami's back. She reached out a hand and said, "Show us the way." Jun took her hand and the two flew off back to where their friends faced the nemean lion.

Back in the forest, Rei and Kei stared at the peryton, not sure whether it was friend or foe. Asa and Matsume kept their eyes locked on the lion. "Woah there fella," Rei said calmly to the peryton. "We're not going to hurt you." Before Rei finished her words, the creature charged in her direction.

"Quick! Jump!" Kei shouted as her and Rei both moved out of the peryton's way. It passed right between the two girls and their mythical creatures, and rammed its great horns into the lion's chest. Neither creature budged from the collision, but the nemean lion was quick to swipe a paw at the peryton. The stag was flung back into Asa. "Matsume, let's use your fi-"

"No, Kei!" Rei exclaimed. "Matsume could set the whole forest on fire."

Kei clenched her teeth in frustration. "You're right." Asa helped the peryton regain it's balance before charging at the lion. She used her cloth to strangle the beast but her fabric was cut by the lion's claws.

"Kei," Rei called out in desperation. "You know a lot about mythical creatures. More than anyone else on this team. You must know this creature's weakness."

"Uh, let me think. I remember learning about the nemean lion but not the details." She clenched her eyes and thought hard, back to her mythical creatures class with Tsuda. "Think Kei, think."

As Kei stood in thought, the peryton let out a bleat that boomed throughout the woods. Soon, the lion was surrounded by a heard of deer and a flock of birds. The deer all tackled the lion, only to get swatted away. The birds served as a distraction by encircling the creature's head. Rei stood in awe. "So this is the peryton's ability to communicate with deer and birds. I certainly wouldn't want to be the nemean lion right now."

One bird dived with its talons out and scratched at the beasts eye. Some blood spurted out and dripped down the lions face. Kei starred at the gash from the bird. "That's it! I remember its weaknesses now!"

"About time, what do we need to do?"

"There are two options available to us. Only the nemean lion's skin is impenetrable so the first would be to keep pummeling it, causing internal damage. It would be better for us to avoid this option until Jun can get back here with Kaida and Yami. The other thing we can do is attack any where except the skin like its eyes, nose, and mouth."

"But that second option requires Asa, Matsume, and the peryton to fight close quarters."

"I'm afraid that's our only option. Asa, hold him down so the deer can attack!" Asa once again used her cloth to bind the lion and was careful to restrict movement of the claws. At the peryton's command, the deer and birds all took turns tackling the beast.

"Matsume, attack its nose," Kei commanded. Matsume dashed for the lion's face and bit hard on its nose. A roar echoed from the creature as it used all its strength to break Asa's threads and toss Matsume aside. Kei took a step back in fear. "I can't believe that didn't work. All three  mythical creatures attacked at once and all it did was make it mad."

The nemean lion crept forward towards the girls. Asa and Matsume sprinted back to their original place in front of their humans. Before the lion got close, a gust of wind blew through the trees and Yami came crashing down right over the lion. "What's up?" Kaida asked.

The nemean lion sprinted out from under Yami's stomach and pounced, only to be knocked back into the forest by Yami's tail. Both Rei and Kei exhaled a sigh of relief. "Phew! I thought we were goners for sure," Rei said.

Jun landed on the ground before asking, "Are the two of you alright?"

"We're fine thanks to our mythical creatures," Kei replied. "And of course to our new peryton friend." Kei indicated to the creature standing in the woods.

"Oh, so that's a peryton," Kaida commented. "A beautiful creature." As few seconds later, it turned and dashed off into the woods.

"I'm glad that it we're all safe and sound," Jun stated. "But we need to get back to Yun and take Maria back to Sofia. Can Yami carry everyone, Kaida?"

"He's tired, but I think he's got enough in him to do one more trip."

The group all mounted Yami and met up with Yun to make their way back to the reserve. Only two thoughts remained on Kaida's mind. Would Maria's tail heal up? And did they fail their mission?