DDD-3: Tension, Deception, Cooperation

Story Title: Diary of the Dreamers and Dreamless
Chapter Title:  Tension, Deception, Cooperation
Chapter 3 Quick Peek: “I don’t know if Ailia is trolling with us or is being serious.” Chyse deeply wondered out loud.
Disclaimer: This chapter is rather incomplete in my opinion. However, I believe I should stop it at around 7.5k words because any more will be a mouthful and ultimate eye death. This chapter was meant to be titled Voices and Opinions, but due to the chapter cut, the title has been changed. This is part one of whatever event is happening in this chapter— highlighted by the abrupt cut.

*Posted by Popular Demand

She found herself running through the halls yet again. This time though, the required attendance caught her off guard. She had been out of commission for over a month due to Chyse’s membership. Chief Dalv had decided to send Chyse to as much missions as possible rendering Ailia’s services null.

Well, Ailia didn’t mind— she still needed time to contemplate what she was going to do with her dream. With her senior year closing in, she had to figure out if she would pursue the dream on her dream diary or give up on it. Well, it did show her ways of attaining such a dream, but she would dismiss it most of the time, causing it to change constantly. Yet the effect of unending dismissal and uncertainty led to her inability to select a college course.

Of course she had to please her father who was relentless concerning Ailia’s course. He monitored Ailia’s course choices, ensuring that’d she pick something along the sciences. Well, for her application to the most prominent university, where coincidentally her father graduated, Ailia selected Geology as her first choice while Food Technology was her second. Something turned her off from that university that she’d rather study in her mother’s university if she stayed in the country— which her father didn’t agree to. So with the help of her mother, she was able to apply for that university secretly with a double degree course of Chemistry with Material Science and Engineering. If she were to get caught, hey, at least it wouldn’t be a harsh reprimand since she still selected a science course.

However, she now faced a new dilemma— to go against her father’s course wishes for the school’s she’ll be applying to abroad. The only reason she continued to write science courses in her local applications is that her father would be there watching her for the duration of her college life. He’d be looming over her shoulder every single minute, making sure she was doing something along the lines of science. It was suffocating and in all truth, making her lose her drive to actually do well in the sciences. Well, the university she wanted to go to wasn’t opening applications until January, which was a long time from October in Ailia’s opinion. Also, she’d be away from her father’s clutches, allowing her to pursue her dream. She was determined to get a high score in the ITSPE (International Tertiary Schools’ Proficiency Exam).

For the first time in weeks, she found herself at HQ. Her distance from the place caused her to forget the feeling of what it’s like to be in there. The bustling movement of people she had gotten used seeing in the school’s hallways overshadowed the sight of people just simply walking past you, minding their own business. The sounds of gossip that had become a usual melody to hear was now replaced by the sound of keyboards and monitors. What she was used to a month back had become foreign to her to the point she had forgotten where the mission briefing room was.

“Just one month out and you’ve forgotten where the briefing room is.” An amused voice yet all to familiar voice said.

“Well I’m sorry I forget things easily.” Ailia bickered.

The boy who had called to her, Teito, escorted her to the briefing room, which was simply the door right beside them. Ailia faceplamed— how directionless could she be. Entering the room, they realized they were the last to arrive. At least one thing didn’t change— her apparent lateness.

“It’s tardy Teito.” Chyse called out.

Ailia threw a raised eyebrow at Teito who simply shook off the look. Sounded like Teito earned a habit during her one-month absence. But why lose an exceptionally welcomed habit? She had no clue what happened to Teito during her absence. They didn’t speak to each other as often as she liked. Then again, their usual conversations dealt with work and his unyielding like for Brittany— though right now, she was unsure about the latter.

There was one vacant seat left. Ailia knew she had lost a place in that meeting table, so she simply took a place against the wall, leaning on it. Teito looked like he was offering the chair to Ailia— a chair Ailia declined to take. She wasn’t supposed to be in the meeting room since she was placed out of commission. It made her wonder what this meeting is exactly about and why her presence was needed. She scanned to room of its occupants; all the Dreamless members were there— the actual Dreamless. Teito was with Chyse and Yoshii. Across the trio was a team of girls whose names people would always mix up— Mai, Mio and Mae. Beside that girl trio was another trio made up of two guys and one girl— Blaz, Charlie and Jean.

“Settle down people.” Chief Dalv called out. The noise gradually turned into silence. When the moment of silence had been reached, Chief Dalv began the discussion with an excited tone. “That time of the year has arrived again!”

The whole room groaned. Was it really October? The only thing running through the minds of the Dreamless team was how to escape the predicament. Chyse, clueless of what was going on, nudged Yoshii and Teito to give her an explanation— but they too didn’t want to think about the event that was conspiring. Yet with the groaning going on, Ailia simply fiddled with a coin. It made sense to her— why she was called back. She had to defend her title as champion of last year’s Dreamless tournament.

“What’s going on?!” Chyse shouted out.

The group quieted— right, there was a new member who had no idea of the torture known as the Dreamless tournament. The other members gave each other looks, hoping one of them would explain the tournament without intimidating Chyse.

“Dreamless Tournament.” Ailia simply stated in reply to Chyse’s outburst.

Chyse threw a look at Ailia— a look asking Ailia to explain further what the tournament was. Ailia was about to begin her explanation when Chief Dalv decided to cut in.

“Dreamless Tournament—” Chief Dalv began in fear Ailia would input fear into her explanation. “—is a tournament for Dreamless team members. Teams compete for a token usually guarded by the winner of last year’s tournament. If no one gets the token within 24 hours, the guardian remains the winner. The tournament is broadcast on the ASA’s TV network for non-Dreamless to watch.”

“That doesn’t sound bad.” Chyse innocently commented.

The other members sighed. It looked like Chyse was about to learn the hard way the difficulties of the tournament, considering the winner for the past 3 years was Ailia. Then again, Chyse was clueless about Ailia’s power and strategic skill. Behind the sighs, Ailia smirked— looked like there’d be fresh meat in the year’s competition.

“I like your enthusiasm.” Chief Dalv joyously said.

“Should we warn Chyse?” Yoshii whispered to Teito who simply shrugged in reply.

“Tournament is two weeks from now so take this time to strategize your starting location, battle plan and locating plan. Dismissed!”

Chyse was excited for the tournament— well, it was her first, so she didn’t know the challenges that actually came with it. She skipped over to Yoshii and Teito with a grin.

“So what’s the game plan?” Chyse inquired. “I’m not familiar with the tournament, but I catch on quick.”

Teito and Yoshii glanced at each other. They have used the same plan ever since they were partners— start anywhere, fight whoever and hope that lady luck was on their side. It didn’t matter where they started because they’d still have to locate Ailia— a very elusive player. With Chyse now on the team, they might have to work a strategy.

“The difficulty of the tournament is basically locating the token and getting past its guardian.” Teito stoically said.

“So the battle confrontations aren’t that difficult?” Chyse thought there was something wrong with that. Battles caused energy drain and injuries— two factors that can inhibit the pace of a team.

“I’ll give you a handbook, written by yours truly, with the battle styles and profiles of the different members if it makes you feel better.” Yoshii quickly stated.

He knew Teito would start rambling why battle confrontations aren’t difficult— a ramble that can cause tension between Yoshii’s teammates— a tension not needed. They needed to think and work as the team from the very beginning up to the very end. That’s how they’ll survive and have a chance of getting the token.

Chyse took the offer of Yoshii wholeheartedly.

A few days passed and Ailia was called out by Sir Dalv. Ailia headed towards the faculty center with Koko, her best friend since the start of High School. They weren’t the typical best friends who you’d always find together or who would share secrets and information. They were best friends with this insane bond that no matter the distance or strain, they, in an unexplainable occurrence, returned to each other for simple chats and moments.

That day was one of those. Well, it wouldn’t have been if Ume, Koko’s love interest, wasn’t absent. Koko and Ume had this connection and spent most of their time together, making people think they’re together— which isn’t the case. Ailia knew that Ume was scared of commitment, so she couldn’t push herself to date Koko. Koko, on the other hand, was willing to wait— an action not a lot of boys could do in their day and age.

“You were looking for me, Sir Dalv?” Ailia asked as she popped her head into the cubicle.

Sir Dalv acknowledged her presence along with Koko’s, who was attempting to conceal himself. Well, the concealment was explainable since Koko avoided interrogation from Sir Dalv— an interrogation concerning his distracted state during Economics class.

“Yes I was. It’s about the Dreamless Tournament.”

Koko saw this as a signal to leave. He wasn’t part of the Dreamless team nor its ground team, so what purpose would he have in the discussion. He was about to silently walk off when Ailia held him by his collar— a feat Ailia had difficulty doing because of the height difference that they had. He wasn’t getting away from Ailia that easily, considering she was using her weight to pull him back(more like down actually).

“Do you need the basic details right now, Sir?”

“I just need those who you plan to drag in to the tournament. I’m sure you’d be getting Train, but just him?” Sir Dalv inquired.

Ailia pondered. She had a great pair up with Train in last year’s tournament as he was able to hold off the players before they reached her. That feat made the other Dreamless waste energy and concentration allowing swift disposal. Yet would that work this year?

“Hey Koko, would you like to feel how it’s like working as a Dreamless through a tournament? You don’t need to fight since I’ll be doing that. I might need you as back up though.” Ailia looked at Koko.

She wasn’t expecting a yes. Who would want to know the struggles the Dreamless went through? For most of the student body, Dreamless were simply useless people. The bottom of the social food chain, but they knew that those same people protected them— a fact people scorned.

Koko wondered if he should risk wasting part of his time for the tournament. A glimmer in his eye gave away that he was about to agree to Ailia’s deal. “Sure. It sounds interesting. Plus, Teito stated that his frisbee throw’s power originated from Dreamless training.”

“Great! I hope to see great things in this tournament.” Sir Dalv cheered. “By the way, Koko, you’ll be part of the Dreamless network once the tournament is over.”

“Huh?! What.” Koko replied cluelessly. Everything was happening so fast for him that Ailia laughed at his typical nature

Chyse headed to the room of Teito and Yoshii. Exactly a week has passed since the announcement of the tournament and she wanted to discuss plans with them. Strategizing wasn’t something Teito and Yoshii liked doing— they were adaptors. They adapted to the situation, not strategize what to do in case plan A fails. They agreed to Chyse’s wishes though since it’s her first time.

“So from reading each profiles, I’ve deduced that we’ll have to worry about Jean. Copying and stealing power is a formidable advantage.” Chyse concluded.

Teito and Yoshii glanced at each other, silently conveying one of them had to explain what occurred in the past Dreamless Tournaments.

“Try analyzing the members by teams. Teamwork is needed in this game and ultimately in our line of work. The others may sound weak, but they have as a great a role as its strongest link.” Yoshii pointed out to Chyse.

“I’ve done that too! But something bothers me…” Chyse’s voice trailed. “Why isn’t there much detail on Ailia’s strategy?”

That question got Teito thinking. Ailia was the odd one out in the Dreamless team. Technically, she wasn’t supposed to be in it anymore. After figuring out her dream, she was supposed to leave. But she stayed- a move out of the ordinary. Well now, it looked like she wanted to get out already.

“We never saw her fight in a Dreamless Tournament.” Yoshii hesitantly said. Chyse raised an eyebrow at that statement.

“While the three of us joined ASA’s Dreamless team in the same year, Ailia was assigned to another team— a pair of juniors. You can say she’s like you, in a way— having teammates who are older than you.” Teito explained.

“Teito and I were teammates right away since our powers were compatible— the same reasoning goes for Ailia’s partnership with the juniors. In our first year, we were out right off the bat since we were new to the system. Ailia, on the other hand, had experienced teammates, so they taught her how to survive the Dreamless Tournament ordeal.” Yoshii told the story.

“That’s it?” Chyse skeptically asked. Yes, she was skeptical. There was a lot more to the story that meets the eye. Neither Teito nor Yoshii was telling her the complete details about Ailia’s unknown battle tactics. “Then what about last year’s tournament? Her teammates would’ve graduated, so she fought alone?”

“Well…” Yoshii’s voice trailed. “Sir Dalv’s rule for single person teams is that he or she is allowed to take, at maximum 2, people from outside the Dreamless team. Last year, she only took Train.”

“Train? The computer geek who scouted me?” Chyse was incredulous.

For Chyse, Train was a weird person. There’d be times he’d be logical and in others, completely out of the box- out of the box to the point she couldn’t understand what he’d say. Along with that, when they first met, he had hit her on the face with a microchip. It was an unconventional first encounter and a bad one to boot. Working with him on the Dreamless team made her impression about him even worse. He’d ditch mission meetings just to spend time with his girlfriend and only came when threatened by Chief Dalv. Not only that, whenever she asked Train to background information hunting, he’d do it at the last minute, prompting to spend more time coding his day away.

“Don’t think to little of him.” Teito said. Teito was classmates with Train on normal school days. He knew Train’s capabilities- capabilities shadowed by his immaturity from time to time. “He and Ailia are best friends- exactly why he listens to her right away. Exactly why their partnership in the last tournament worked.”

“So are we going to assume that Ailia’s team will still be the same?” Chyse cleared up. She needed an exact answer in order to formulate the final plan, along with its detours when it occurs.

Simultaneously Teito and Yoshii said yes, though in different intonations.

The tournament day was approaching. Three more days left for training and strategy making. The different teams were holding meetings at different parts of the campus- in locations away from the prying eyes of other teams. Well, that was the case for all teams except for Ailia. She had already told Koko and Train how protecting the token would go. As for Teito, he ditched the meeting.

Teito ditched simply because he didn’t like the air of the room. With the game plan finished, the three of them were simply chatting- well, more like two since Teito was being left out in the conversation. It looked like Yoshii had taken a fancy to Chyse, so he was trying to get close to her. Yoshii’s actions frustrated Teito because Teito thought Yoshii was going for Brittany. Yoshii was apparently doing the collect then choose method- a method Teito never approved of. So to avoid seeing or hearing anything further, he walked out the room. Well, he assumed neither of his teammates noticed.

A meeting caught his eye while he headed to an unspecified place— okay, in truth, Teito was heading wherever his feet would take him, but that’s not important now. What became more important is the vision he encountered. Right in front of him was Ailia talking to two people he could never forget. How could Teito forget those two people if they had summer activities with Teito AND were Ailia’s Dreamless teammates.

The two were Paul and Matthew— currently in second year of college in the same university. Paul towered over Ailia while Matthew, not that much. Paul was the typical tall and lanky guy who had an affinity to do well in sports— well, both he and Matthew were. Matthew, though taller than Ailia, had more fill in him— he wasn’t anorexic thin, way far from it in truth. No wonder Ailia survived her first two years of Dreamless team work— her teammates were both guys. But that wasn’t important to Teito at that moment because all he could do was watch Ailia being energetic from afar. Her energy radiated from afar- she had let her guard down.

“There you are!” A familiar voice exclaimed- a voice that made Teito groan.

Chyse appeared beside him, panting. She had been running- a desperate attempt to look for him probably. She placed her hand against the tree to ensure her stability.

“Why’d you run off? We haven’t finished our discussion.” Chyse beckoned.

Teito found the best route to not answer her question. He was sure Chyse would be furious if he said the reason for his disappearance was that he felt awkward in the room. She would’ve rebutted that there’s nothing to be awkward about between teammates. Teito believed that Chyse was dense to Yoshii’s advancements— a trait he didn’t know was a good thing or not.

“Who are they?” Chyse suddenly changed the issue and her finger was directed towards Ailia, Paul and Matthew.

“Those with Ailia?” Chyse nodded. “Those are her old teammates, Paul and Matthew. Probably here to visit her.” Teito concluded.

Chyse had a suspicious look in her eyes. She was reading into Ailia’s actions— probably going to the lengths of lip reading what was happening. While Teito liked Chyse’s enthusiasm when it came to the Dreamless Tournament, he found her over-competitive attitude a handful.

“To all you viewers, welcome to ASA’s one and only network, Fantasy!” The host shouted.

The room boomed with the excited nature of the host from the TV— a noise that excited the people in the room. Circled around the coffee table in front of the TV were Jin, Ume, Ai, Amber and Rigel. They were in the common room of the Fortuna dormitory— a room currently filled with more people than chairs could accommodate. They sat on the floor, but with pillows to make themselves comfortable. There was one blank seat to Jin’s left. It was for Saori, who, for some unknown reason, was missing.

“I’m your host Lia and today, we’ll be airing the annual Dreamless Tournament. With us today are two special guests. Come on out Paul Eir & Matthew Riot!”

Lia was a friend of the group. She had a lively personality— great for hosting purposes on TV. She was the icon of Fantasy and a very memorable one to boot. She has managed to garner the attention of viewers ever since her first appearance on Fantasy.

“So Paul and Matthew, you were both Dreamless members correct?” The two boys replied with a simple yes. “So what do you expect from this year’s tournament?”

“We’ve heard that ever since our departure, the Dreamless members have been lazy in this tournament. We decided to spice up the tournament by giving each group an incentive in trying to win.” Matthew explained.

“Simply put. We’re expecting a lot of excitement in this year’s tournament with the added incentive.” Paul summarized.

“Great! I’d love to see some action.” Lia gleefully said though there was a hint of flirtatious in her tone. “Who are you looking out for the most this year?”

“Ailia of course!” The two said and brofisted. The sight made Lia laugh lightly.

Of course they’d put their bets on Ailia, their teammate when they were still in ASA. With her help, they were able to attain the token in Ailia’s first year on the Dreamless team. They’ve protected the token ever since they attained it— a duty Ailia continued to carry until this year. She had managed to protect it last year without their help and that made them feel proud. It’s like everything they have taught her was being put to use.

“Such supportive ex-teammates. Recap on the mechanics for the forgetfuls and newbies. Each team is composed of 2-3 members. The teams have selected their starting location on campus through their assessment and approval of Sir Dalv, Economics teacher and Chief of the Dreamless team. The tournament lasts for 24 hours and within it, a team must win by attaining the token or the winner’s position is returned to last year’s winner.”

The screen was filled with Ailia’s starting location, which was quite dubious in the quintet’s (Jin, Rigel, Ai, Amber & Ume) opinion. Then again, Ailia probably knew she was going to be shown first, so she might as well not show immediately where her base was. Of course, along with Ailia was Train.

“So that’s where Saori is!” Jin pointed at the screen where Train was.

It looked like Train was being given a good luck kiss by Saori before she was helicoptered out of the playing area. The group acknowledged that Ailia’s team was simply her and Train once again— or so most of them thought. Ume knew better because she was given a heads up, but she didn’t want to spoil the fun or the surprise.

“With the mechanics explained, let’s get on with the tournament. Paul or Matthew, would you head the countdown?” Matthew took the microphone from Lia.

“Three.” The screen added the starting location of Blaz’s team.

“Two.” From two teams on screen, it became three with Teito’s team as the newest addition on the screen.

“One.” The final team, Mai’s team, was added to the now four teams on the screen.

The bell rung and the teams dashed at different directions— except for Ailia and Train that is. With a simple press of a button from the remote in Train’s hand, they were transported to the area below them, disappearing from the aerial view

Underground, Ailia and Train were setting up the defense system— this time with an extra pair of hands. The trio knew that’d it take the other teams a quarter of the day to figure out where they were. But just figuring out the new location isn’t going to give them the spot. No. Ailia wasn’t willing to give that token to just anyone— they HAD to work for it. Hey, at least she was decent enough to leave clues this time— cryptic clues that one would be better off guessing the location as opposed to analyzing the riddle.

Ailia had decided to move location of the base to avoid simplistic and ‘walk right into the den’ scenarios. From the Computer Science laboratories, which seemed to have its own building, Ailia decided to have the base underground. Where exactly underground would be the question that the teams will have to figure out. It took Train and Ailia a week to conceptualize the underground base. It was meant to be strenuous and energy-sucking— just that. But the additional member gave them prankster ideas that were too good not to try.

“That’s about it.” Train said as he placed the last laser in place.

“Good.” Ailia looked at the long and straight hallway that led to the token room. She would be the last boss— that’s all there is to it. “With that done, Train head to your station and you stay with me.” Ailia concluded with her tugging the shirt of her other teammate.

“I’ll make sure to keep my room camouflaged. If I go down, then we’re screwed. Right?”

“Not exactly, but I’ll have a harder time once you disappear.” Ailia corrected.

Train bid good luck to the duo who’d be left to guard the token as he monitored the status of the different cameras elsewhere.With Train out of her sight, Ailia dragged her other temporary teammate into the conveniently conjured ‘final boss’ room— that’s where they’d be hanging out for the next 24 hours. Hey, at least it had the amenities they’ll need to last 24 hours.

Not a lot of people stare at the TV the whole day to watch the events that transpire in the Dreamless Tournament. So it was expected that after 3 hours, the room would be desolate of people except for avid fans of either the tournament or Lia. For others, they continue to watch to make sure their friends are okay. This is where the quintet, that now became six because of Saori, was classified.

Saori and Ume were watching intently the TV. Saori was watching Train with worried eyes. He had told her not to worry about his well being considering he survived last year’s tournament. She had told him not to be cocky or it’ll result to his downfall. The other four had decided to play cards while waiting for something eventful to happen. Jin, Rigel and Amber were teaching Ai how to play different card games— other than Solitaire, the only card game Ai knew.

“Here comes trouble!” Lia’s voice perked up suddenly. “It looks like there’ll be a clash between Team Blaz and Team Mai at the Science building’s 3rd floor hallway.”

The screen was engulfed with a three-dimensional map of the school. A marker was placed at the exact location on the map. Markers are placed on the map to determine locations of battles and pit stops or resting areas. Once the marker was placed, the map quickly disappeared followed by the full airing of the encounter.

The quiet room slowly filled with people and phone noises. Those who were already in the room were texting their friends that a battle was about to begin. The card game of the four was put to a halt by the renewed energy in the room. Blaz was Jin’s classmate and Jin knew the leadership skills Blaz had.

“Jean, once again, is hiding away along with the original Charlie, leaving Blaz to handle Team Mio along with Charlie’s clones.” Lia expectantly said, which was followed by a gasp— a gasp Lia never expected to do on screen. “Is that—”

Jean, for once, appeared on the battlefield with the true Charlie beside her. Within the grasp of her left hand was a katana. A smirk covered her face— a smirk not often seen. It looked like her sadistic mode was on. The camera was zoomed in at Jean’s face, taking in all of the folds her skin made as her expression changed.

“Normally, I’d hide away and let Charlie and Blaz do the work.” Jean lifted the katana and pointed it at Mio. “However, this year’s tournament is an exception because I want to have free dessert everyday!” She exclaimed as she waved the katana around, making Charlie duck to avoid any injuries.

“Well, we’re not messing around either, right girls?” Mae looked at her teammates. Mio gave her a ‘game on’ nod, while Mai was as stoic as ever in gesture. “We want to color the briefing room to our liking whenever we want. We’re not giving it to you pack of losers who are always dead hungry.”

Mae’s and Jean’s glares at each other gave the audience the shivers. Yep, that year’s tournament was going to be exciting with the added incentives. One of Charlie’s clones charged at Mae in an attempt to catch the girl off guard. However, Mio saw through it and prevented the attack by stopping the clone through the shadow. The clone struggled in the shadow’s clutches, but escape was futile. Charlie had no choice but to cancel out the clone.

Mai helped out Mio by setting up lights at locations Mio deemed as important. As Mio distracted Charlie, Mae battled Jean. It was definite that Jean was new with the katana. She was wasting too much energy by how she swung the katana around— movement that made Jin facepalm as he watched it on screen. However, Jean’s erratic movement distracted all three girls that they didn’t notice Blaz disappearing all of a sudden.

“Holy shit. Blaz is missing.” Mio exclaimed.

The three girls suddenly became cautious in their movements. Mae, preoccupied with Jean; Mio, Charlie. Mai was the most alert of the three. She was the only one not in direct battle, which meant she was the likely target. Since she was never in direct battle, she had learned how to detect movement through simple air wave changes— of course not the very small ones— those were reserved for the ASA students with hypersensitive type of powers. Mai felt the air move at her right, quick to grasp what may be not air. To her luck, it was the left wrist of Blaz. With all her might, she flung Blaz, who showed himself once he hit the ground.

“Haven’t lost your touch I feel.” Blaz groaned as he slowly stood up from the ground.

“Duck!” Mai screamed.

By instinct, Blaz did as so, saving him by a hair from Jean attack. “Watch where you’re swinging, Jean!” Blaz shouted out, but apparently, Jean didn’t hear him. He sighed at the immaturity of Jean. Jean and Mae were always at odds and Jean was willing to go all out just to prove to Mae she was better.

“I’d rather you get hurt through an actual battle and not through a misswing.” Mai cleared up as to point out she was simply being considerate.

Mai’s care for him was apparent— her stubborn attitude giving it away. Blaz smirked before disappearing once more. Mai heightened her senses. Something felt off when no one was approaching her after a few seconds. She though Blaz would’ve attacked her right off the bat.

“It’s strange.” A voice familiar to Mai said. She knew it was Blaz speaking and judging by the loudness, he was behind her at a distance of more than 5 meters. “We don’t normally meet this early. I wonder…” He appeared exactly where Mai estimated he’d be. “Why’d you decide to go here?”

“We found a note saying to go here in order to find the next note.” Mai said nonchalantly.

“In Ailia’s handwriting?” Blaz questioned as he pulled out a paper in his pocket.

Blaz showed the paper to Mai— a paper of the same color as the one Mai’s team had found minutes after the start of the tournament. She took a step closer, making sure not to get to near to Blaz because maybe, just maybe, it was all part of his plan. But how could it be when the note he showed her was exactly like the one she had in her pocket? Could he have… Mai checked her pocket just to make sure and the paper was still there, crumpled due to her constant movement.

“I believe that Ailia is intentionally pitting us together. However…” Blaz’s assured voice began to trial off to a tone of uncertainty. “Where is Team Teito?”

“Smart enough not to follow what’s written on the paper I guess.” Mai said in a stoic manner, but the hint of sarcasm was heard in her voice.

In unison, Mai and Blaz told their teammates to stop fighting. Of course, the members did as they needed to follow the leader’s orders. Mai and Blaz explained to the four that Ailia had set them up and that as of the moment, they should at least try to work together.

“It looks like Team Mai and Team Blaz have made a pact of teamwork.” Lia commented at the event the camera had just filmed. “I wonder how this will hinder them or Team Teito.”

“Not a first in the tournament, but it does have nasty end results.” Paul stated, which Matthew nodded in agreement to. “Speaking of Team Teito, what’s their status?”

“Good question!” Lia was excited. “Let us take a look at the camera following Team Teito.”

“The camera is zooming in on us. Looks like we’re the team of the hour.” Yoshii yawned.

The trio have been walking since the game had begun. They started out at the Computer Science building in an attempt to see if Ailia left any clues behind. They found one after a few steps, which made Chyse suspicious. A clue wasn’t supposed to magically appear after a few steps. Something was up and it was a feeling that Chyse couldn’t shake off. Even though the note had instructed the to head to the roof top of the Science building, Chyse had decided that it was better to search for the place instead— brute force and luck was all they needed.

Chyse was still leading the trio to god knows where. Yoshii threw a pleading look at Teito. Teito was the leader of their team as he was the most rational under pressure thought hot headed. Well, at least he was rational, but to Yoshii’s disappointment, Teito decided not to spoil Chyse’s fun. He wanted to see what tricks the girl had up her sleeve to find the place.

“Lets stop here and reevaluate the possible locations.” Chyse took out the school map from her bag, laying it out on the ground. The two boys circled around the map. “We’ve checked here, here and here.”

Chyse pointed to the Computer Science building then the Organizations building then the Pool. They were currently heading down from the pool as they found no leads there. It seemed like Ailia didn’t hide at the pool.

“I still think that weird door had a connection.” Teito nonchalantly said.

Teito was trying to keep his temper in. In truth, he was furious about Chyse’s choice to shove off his idea that the door they encountered in the pool felt off. The door looked like the door leading to a normal changing room, but somehow Teito couldn’t believe that the door simply led to a storage room. There was something weird with the door the moment he walked past it. It was like he felt waves of energy and mischief.

“I told you. It’s just a normal storage room.” Chyse defended herself.

“Well, I THINK there’s something wrong with that room.” Teito growled. He was trying his best to keep his temper in though his flushed cheeks said otherwise.

“I don’t like wasting my time, Teito.” Chyse defiantly said.


Yoshii shivered in fear at the tone of Teito’s outburst. Chyse had just flipped the switch in Teito’s system— a switch Teito had control off, but on certain occasions, blew up. Yoshii, though biased to Chyse, felt that Chyse actually deserved Teito’s wrath. She had overstepped her boundaries by defying the request of the team’s leader, Teito.

“I’ve been nice enough to let you handle the planning of this tournament, but it looks like you’ve forgotten your place.” Teito exclaimed with no signs of his temper subsiding.

Chyse finally found out the side of Teito that appeared under great stress. It wasn’t her plan to figure out his defense mechanism, but after finding out what it is, she surely didn’t want to flip that switch again. She lowered her head in defeat— maybe it was for the best that she stop leading. Yoshii gave her a pat at the back, but Yoshii’s eyes still gave away the feeling that she deserved the wrath.

“Looks like tension is brewing among the members of Team Teito.” Lia said with mischief in her tone.

“I feel sorry for the girl.” Matther sympathized. “Teito has managed to control his temper, but damn, he still bursts as hard.”

“Well looks like all the teams are stuck in the ruts. With the Team Blaz and Team Mai’s partnership, will the tournament development speed up? How about Teito’s temper problems? Either way, stay tuned for battle updates.”

“We’re going on break?” Matthew’s eyes expressed disappointment.

“Yes.” Lia straightforwardly said. “Unless there’s something you want to watch or talk about?”

“How about checking up on Ailia?” Paul butted in. Matthew agreed to Paul’s wishes, which made Lia sigh.

“You guys care about your former teammate too much.” Lia rolled her eyes. Seriously, could there be a guy in the world who’d be as supportive as them except towards her?

“She’s our princess!” The two said in unison, which made them look at each other for a while, discerning if the simultaneous reply was intentional or coincidental.

The camera changed views to that of Ailia’s location. The cameras took a while to sync with the station’s tower— it must mean she was hidden beneath the surface, a place difficult to handle for broadcasting purposes. However, they heard booming music coming from the place, so it must mean the area wasn’t void of life.

Once the camera’s vision cleared up, Ailia was directly looking at the camera completely sure she was being watched. She gave a peace sign as a way of acknowledging that she was being taken a video of. She was taking the tournament almost too lightly with the carefree nature she depicted through that one gesture.

Lia couldn’t help but sweatdrop at the sight. The girl on screen was being too cocky just because of that fluke of a win last year. If she hadn’t tired out the other Teams with obstacles in the only pathway to get to her, she would’ve been generally screwed. Okay, Lia was being too bitter about Ailia receiving attention— she shouldn’t be bitter about a close friend of hers.

“Well it looks like last year’s champion is taking it easy as no team has entered her domain.. YET.” Lia emphasized the ‘yet’ with fervor.

“How are our defenses doing?” She said.

Ailia heard typing sounds through her earpiece— a sure sign that Train was doing what she asked. The monotonous sound of the keys were putting her to sleep. If Train didn’t come up with an update any second, she’ll find herself collapsing to take a nap. It’s not that Ailia was tired, but rather when she is bored, she’d sleep her day away.

“So far no one has entered our base, just as projected. However, cameras show that Team Teito is attempting to solve how to open the entrance through the Swimming Area.” Train reported.

“That early?” Ailia was surprised.

She didn’t expect someone to figure out the off-ish designs of some doors. That was the actual clue she left for the teams and not the note scribbled with instructions. The note was the long cut method of locating the base. One note would lead to another, which would lead somewhere else and the trail goes on until the final note drops them off at an entrance farthest from the token.

“Yeah. Chyse has a skeptical look on her face, but Teito is relentlessly figuring out how to find the hidden door.”

Train muttered ‘shit’ quickly cutting off his conversation with Ailia. Ailia could hear buzzing at the other end of her earpiece. From the sound of it, one of the teams must’ve entered their domain. She took a look at the timer on her watch. The team managed to find their base after 4 1/2 hours. It was certainly earlier than Ailia expected, but somehow she knew it would’ve occurred. She was also sure that the surprise she left for her incoming guests was a challenge that would test their limits.

“Teito’s team is in.”

“We’ve spent an hour and a half in this storage room and nothing has happened. NOTHING.” Chyse emphasized her bitterness in the word ‘nothing’.

Chyse wanted to prove that her hunch was right and not Teito’s, except Teito wouldn’t submit to her— he was too prideful to give up on a hunch. Teito kept moving items to see if any of them activated the entrance way. He had gone through half the room and so far, all he got were tangled buoys, dilapidated floaters and lost towels & swimsuits. Currently in his hand were unused googles.

“I’ve got to agree with Chyse now, Teito.” Yoshii felt disheartened by telling Teito that.

It’s not that he didn’t want to defy Teito; on the contrary, he could do that at any time. What worried him is that by agreeing with Chyse, he’d make Teito feel alone and closed off. Unknown to Yoshii, Teito had already felt that whenever Yoshii was talking to Brittany or when Teito was blatantly left out in Yoshii’s talks with Chyse. Finally, he didn’t want to hurt Teito’s pride— he didn’t want to see a hot tempered Teito. Chyse was probably going to do the ‘I told you so’ move on Teito— a move Yoshii was sure would hurt Teito’s ego.

The trio heard a tick as Teito moved a stuffed toy out of its location. Suddenly, Chyse found herself tripping as her right foot’s sudden drop put her off balance. Yoshii was beside her to make sure she didn’t hurt herself badly. On the other hand, Teito was simply looking at the stuffed toy— it was a white cat. To make it even weirder, the white cat looked exactly the same as the one he gave Ailia 2 years ago during Valentine’s Day. He held on to the cat in hopes that maybe, just maybe, it’d have some purpose in the tournament. Then it hit him, he actually activated the doorway leading to Ailia’s underground base.

Teito couldn’t help but throw a smug look at Chyse. He had won that round of their debate, silencing Chyse from any retorts. The three went down the steps, unsure where the doorway would exactly lead them to. Once they encountered a hallway, they were sure they’ve entered the base. The walls were made of material great for conduction and were wide enough for battles. The sheer size was amazing and it made Teito wonder if the place was built in just those three days.

“Welcome Team Teito!” Ailia’s voice vibrated along the walls.

The team became alert with the mere resounding of her voice. Was she gung-ho this tournament? The trio doubted that considering she didn’t make her presence known right away. They were at an unknown location with no clue whatsoever of the terrain of Ailia’s domain. They were at a complete disadvantage. Taking any step further in would be a hazard.

“I know what you guys are thinking. You don’t want to enter because this place is unfamiliar to you. Guess what… It shouldn’t be! To make your lives shit load easier, here’s a map of this location.” A tablet dropped from above which was quickly caught by Yoshii. “Of course, there are multiple ways to reach the end— luck will show you the easier option.”

The speaker cackled and the hallway was filled with silence. Yoshii booted up the tablet to see a digital map of the underground base— or maze. Apparently, Ailia’s hint of multiple ways was her telling them that they were stuck in a maze. Chyse grabbed the tablet from Yoshii but the map was covered quickly with a brief message.

Welcome to ASA’s Level 7 Testing Center! I’ll be your guide, Angel. Feel free to use the options on this tablet to assist you.

“I don’t know if Ailia is trolling with us or is being serious.” Chyse deeply wondered out loud.

Chyse carefully looked at the tablet searching every inch of it for any bugs that Ailia must’ve placed to mess with them. She then heard footsteps walking away from her— footsteps owned by Teito. Teito didn’t want to simply stand around analyzing every move of Ailia. ‘Keep moving forward’ was one of his mottos in life— one he took special care in following. There’s no use wallowing over other people’s motives because one has his own motives that must be attained first.


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