DDD-4: Equivocating, Pinnacle, Assurance

Story Title: Diary of the Dreamers and Dreamless
Chapter Title:  Equivocating, Pinnacle, Assurance
Chapter 4 Quick Peek: “Ailia’s being ruthless as usual.” Jin commented as he added a straight flush to the pile. “And you’re being ruthless in Pusoy Dos.” Amber, Jin’s cousin, commented. “Pass.”
Disclaimer: Read this in one sitting at your own risk. This chapter has reached 9.5k words, which makes me wonder if my chapter’s lengths are steadily increasing. Also, the song the lyrics are from is ‘Sky’s the Limit’ by Shihoko Hirata. Sky’s the Limit is the opening song of Persona 4 the Animation. Other than that, Merry Christmas to all the readers of this story. Consider this as an early Christmas gift from me. 😉

Ailia had been fiddling with her keychain as she paced back and forth the width of the wall. More than 3 hours have passed since the entrance of team Teito while for team Blaz and team Mai around, less than an hour. She was anxious for their arrival, whomever team arrived first. What strategy would she use against them? Would the 3rd member of her team be of help in this year’s tournament? She took a deep breath and sat on the ground, leaning her back against the wall. She needed to calm down- unnecessary excitement may lead to defeat. She knew she was being cocky by taking this whole tournament as some mere way of proving how awesome she was. At the same time though, she felt unsure about whether she would try to fight for token ownership or not. If she would let go of the token, she’d be removed from Dreamless duties as there would be nothing bonding her to them anymore. However, she loved working with the team- even if she worked alone. The thrill of adventure and helping others always enticed her.

“Don’t worry about it Ailia. When you’re pressed with time, you’ll truly find out what you want.” The voice coming from her earpiece told her.

Ailia’s mouth formed a small smile. She appreciated the help that 3rd member of hers was giving. He was truly a caring person who always wanted to see a person’s smiling face- though Ailia was sure he’d want to see the smiling face of a certain girl more.

“Updates?” Ailia asked as she fixed her earpiece.

“All of the teams are still in the green zone. Team Blaz & Team Mai are at the safe zone while Team Teito is in the transition zone between green and yellow. Not much going on, though some of my circuits were fried by the gadget breaker power Jean had probably copied and kept.”

Ailia chuckled as she imagined Train’s description. It was like Jean to crack at some point and find some way to rampage the system. To Ailia’s amusement, the thought of Jean realizing that destroying the system was worth the watch. It’s be a glorious scene to watch unfold. However, that would have to wait considering all three teams were far away from her jurisdiction— or for her alertness. She was getting anxious at a meeting she knew wouldn’t happen within the next 3 hours.

“Return to headquarters Ailia.” Ailia’s third member spoke up through the earpiece. “Sleep. Relax. It’ll be a long time until one team arrives. Train will signal us anyway if they enter the red zone.”

Ailia heard a voice of affirmation coming from Train. She had to trust her pseudo teammates. While she treated them like how she would her old teammates, they could never replace the connection she had made with Paul and Matthew. However, these two pseudo members did have their quirks. She sighed in defeat and walked towards the token room, but necessarily entering it. With a press of a button, a hidden door appeared and it was through that she disappeared.

Teito took a look at his watch after they had passed the roadblock. More than three hours have passed since they entered the dreaded maze meaning they’ve survived the tournament for 8 hours already. Ailia was being sadistic for the tournament. While she had given a map of the maze, each line between intersections was filled with a task or trial making it difficult to get to Ailia easily.

He looked at his teammates who were frustrated from the last maze block— Yoshii even going the lengths of hitting his head against the wall to remove his frustration. Well, hitting your head on a surface was said to make you lose brain cells and for Yoshii, he wanted to lose the frustrated ones. Even with the frustrated and tired looks on their faces, Teito knew they still wanted to continue— their eyes spoke of it. Their eyes still had fire in them making Teito wonder if they should rest.

Well, it wasn’t like the roadblocks they encountered were strenuous. On the contrary, most of them required thinking and brain work— just like the last one. The recently finished roadblock made Teito speculate that Ailia was hiding a third person— unless she asked help before the tournament. However, the answers were too much like a certain person he knew that he couldn’t turn a blind eye. It was a question about dumplings and rings— actually, it was more of a choose your path test except there was a right answer.

“Shall we continue?” Chyse suggested. She was still calming herself down, but it looked like she had gotten past the frustration of the last roadblock.

“I’m hungry.” Yoshii commented. Chyse was about to give him a piece of candy, which he denied right away. “For real food.”

Teito took a look at the tablet. The odd thing about the maze was that certain areas had asterisks, stars and other figures. He never understood what it meant and he didn’t want to ask the program embedded in it named Angel. The program was supposed to be helpful; however, the stutters it made while analyzing questions made it dubious for Teito. He tapped different buttons to check if a legend would suddenly pop up.

After a few more taps, a legend appeared. All the figures made sense to Teito now. The colored band symbolized the different roadblocks they’d encounter and the difficulty of each. Along with that realization, Teito felt fulfilled that he might give Yoshii an answer Yoshii would want to hear.

“I think Ailia answered your prayers.” Teito brightened up. He pointed at the star on the screen. “There’s an eating station after one more obstacle. Willing to endure one more?”

“You bet!” Yoshii livened up. “Straight or right?” Yoshii looked at the possible ways of continuing.

“Right.” Teito replied.

Yoshii was about to dash off to attain the food. Teito was sure Yoshii would go through the test on his (Yoshii) own if he had to. However, Teito knew that was a reckless move and held Yoshii at the collar before Yoshii could dash off. Yoshii threw a look of desperation at Teito— a look Teito dismissed quickly. He had seen the look too often and had become immune to it.

As a team, they walked towards the obstacle standing between them and food. He knew the next obstacle was going to be challenging— the bands told him. It made sense as they were going to enter the yellow zone, but if they wanted food, they’d have to endure and succeed in the challenge.

The trio was confronted by a net. This net had three target areas— areas they were unsure on how to activate. Teito held the tablet with the tablet’s camera pointing at the bar code. The code was scanned and the instructions appeared on the screen along with a vocal explanation.

“In this roadblock, the team must kick the soccer ball towards the goal while aiming at one of the target areas. When all target areas have been hit, the net will disappear allowing access to the yellow zone.”

“That doesn’t sad bad.” Yoshii commented. He tried to pick up one of the soccer balls, but quickly let go of the ball.

“In addition, balls cannot be picked up as they release a surge of heat upon lift.”

“Now it has the decency to tell us?!” Yoshii exclaimed.

“It did say kick anyway.” Chyse pointed out. She tried kicking the ball, but it didn’t even touch the net. “Okay, I should probably sit this challenge out.”

Chyse made herself comfortable away from the other two. Teito and Yoshii could only sweat drop at Chyse’s quick disappointment. She had assumed the formation of a ball by tucking her knees towards her chest. The two boys sighed— it looked like they were on their own this obstacle. Teito did some quick stretching while Yoshii dived in head first by attempting to hit the targets. Yoshii’s kicks were reaching the goal; however, they were insanely far from the target area. Yoshii had the power, but not the aim. Well, it was better than having nothing in Teito’s opinion.

“Take a step to the left, Yoshii.” Chyse suggested.

Yoshii did as he was told and that kick managed to land nearer the target area. Teito glanced back and forth between Yoshii and Chyse. The two complemented each other. Chyse had the knowledge in proper aim while Yoshii had the power. Maybe Chyse could help— that’d stop her from sulking.

“Chyse, you help Yoshii with the lower targets. I’ll handle the higher ones.” Teito ordered.

Chyse’s eyes suddenly shined. Teito knew how Chyse was— she liked to have some purpose. While Chyse told Yoshii where to aim the ball, Teito concentrated in hitting the three highest target— two in the corner, one in the center. He knew it was Ailia who had designed the challenge— such an outdoor sports side was an enormous giveaway. However, Teito hadn’t kicked a soccer ball ever since he placed himself in the world of Frisbee. He was trying to escape the memories that involved soccer balls— memories he had formed with Ailia. He wanted to forget all of that and he did— but this challenge had other plans for him. It woke up one memory of his.

“Gah!” A voice shouted.

Teito knew the voice all to well and where it was coming from. He looked at the field to see a girl plopping herself to the ground, staring at the soccer ball in front of her. He walked towards the girl to check up on her. He knew she was frustrated, but she was about to shed tears. He didn’t want to see the person he loved shed tears.

“Don’t cry, Ailia.” The girl looked up. Her eyes met with Teito’s. “I know you’re frustrated. Take it a step at a time. I’ll practice with you if you like.”

The last line made Ailia smile from ear to ear. It looked like Teito had hit the right spot. Ailia stood and looked at the ball then at the goal. With one swift kick, the ball flew and hit the target right at the corner of the goal.

“I did it.” Ailia was amazed.

Teito nodded in approval. The two of them took turns in kicking the ball towards the goal in order to have Ailia practice her fly balls.

Teito sighed. Ailia’s fly balls were her weakness at that time, but from her current status on the soccer team, it looked like she had gotten better. Teito didn’t know if he still had the ability he possessed during that period of time. With all his might, he swung his leg— his right foot making contact with the ball. The ball was aimed towards the target at the corner. It was close, but it didn’t hit the target spot on. Teito smiled; he still had some of that skill left in him.

The roadblock took some time to clear, but they managed to finish it in around 45 minutes. Chyse didn’t shed a sweat, but the two boys did. Yoshii scurried to the eating area. He knew the location simply from the smell of food.

“Food!” Yoshii shouted once be rounded the corner.

Chyse and Teito could only laugh at the simplicity of Yoshii’s mind. If only other people were that easy to please.

“Team Teito has successfully entered the yellow zone.” Train reported to Ailia.

“Looks like the fun is about to start.” Ailia’s third member said.

Ailia couldn’t help but become excited. Her time to shine was nearing; however, she felt sleepy. Maybe it was best to sleep. The chances of them arriving to the red zone within the next 3 hours were low. She was to refute that self argument when she yawned. Okay, she should sleep if that yawn was any indicator. She lied down on the bed conveniently placed in the headquarters. It was her other team member’s turn to keep watch. The two would take turns being on call while Train was alert for the full 24 hours.

“I think it’s best if we break up.” The boy said.

The words stung the girl’s heart, but there was nothing she could do. She had felt it coming and prepared herself for it. She never knew it would hurt that much. The reality of it all made it harsh.

Unknown to the sleeping girl, she had shed a tear.

“Hey all you evening viewers!” Lia’s still energetic voice said. “Recap of the events— all teams have managed to find Ailia’s lair, but are all slowed down by the different obstacles.”

Ailia and Train’s group of friends were still circled near the television. During the 24-hour Dreamless Tournament, students are allowed to hang out in the common room and actually sleep there. The problem with sleeping there though is dealing with the noise and the limited places to fall asleep. However, that didn’t stop Saori from falling asleep. She was sleeping soundly with her head comfortably placed on the table. She had grown tired of reading a book and nothing else satisfied her attention span— except for Train that is. The sad part of it all is that Train isn’t the most commonly featured person in the tournament.

“Ailia’s being ruthless as usual.” Jin commented as he added a straight flush to the pile.

“And you’re being ruthless in Pusoy Dos.” Amber, Jin’s cousin, commented. “Pass.”

The other players, Rigel and Ai, also passed. It looked like the cards in their respective hands couldn’t match the epic blow of Jin’s straight flush. That was their unknown round of Pusoy Dos. They’ve been playing for 8 hours straight and it looked like they’ve reached their maximum total utility. Amber couldn’t take the monotonous game of cards that she gave up and leaned against the couch. It was 8pm in their watch and while it’s normal for people to still be awake at that time, Amber felt like sleeping. She glanced at the peaceful Saori— sleep sounded like a good idea.

“We’ve reached the halfway mark of the tournament. Do you guys want to rest?” Teito asked Yoshii and Chyse.

Teito had taken look at his watch and concluded that they have been awake for 12 hours. Last time he checked the tablet, Teito noticed a rest area. Ailia probably guessed that the teams would spend more time in the maze, so she prepared amenities for them— albeit scattered through out the maze. The food station wasn’t near the rest station— nor was the momentary fun station. Since the soccer obstacle that separated the green zone and the yellow zone, Team Teito encountered 5 more obstacles. Their rate of finishing obstacles wasn’t that bad, but they could speed it up if possible.

“I think we should.” Chyse replied while she pointed at the stumbling Yoshii.

Teito glanced at Yoshii then at Chyse. He raised an eyebrow at Chyse, who simply shrugged off the look. They were near one of the resting areas and this time, there wasn’t any obstacle separating them from it. Chyse opened the door that led them to the room filled with one big mattress. While Ailia had the decency to have convenience stations, she certainly didn’t bother to have separate beds— then again, Ailia might’ve been low on funds or support to create better sleeping conditions.

“A BED!” Yoshii ran over to the mattress and the moment he made contact with it, he drifted to a slumber.

“Aren’t you going to rest?” Teito asked Chyse.

“I guess.” Chyse half-heartedly replied. “You?”

“Soon.” Teito simply replied.

Chyse nodded and took a spot beside Yoshii. Unlike Yoshii, it took Chyse a few minutes to fall asleep, but she certainly slept before Teito. Teito, on the other hand, was distracted. He couldn’t shove off the memory that resurfaced during that soccer obstacle. He was supposed to forget his relationship with Ailia. It was a relationship that ended in failure two times. It was a sign that he shouldn’t even bother trying to rebuild it. He leaned against the wall, sliding down until his butt met the mattress. In his arms was the cat plushie that he had taken from the storage room. Teito slowly drifted to sleep in that upright position with the cat still in his arms. Little did he know that the stuffed cat in his arms was the exactly the same one he gave Ailia.

Ailia had set her Dream Diary’s alarm to wake her up at 6am. At exactly 6am, three-fourths of the tournament would’ve passed and it’d be definite that the teams would be making the final sprint for a chance to battle her. She prepared herself for the encounter by eating a proper breakfast and energizing herself bit-by-bit.

As she scurried around the room, she heard her third team member groaning. It looked like he had a good sleep, but somehow, it sounded like he preferred to stay in bed— an act she wouldn’t allow. She would be encountering the others at any hour and the two of them had to be in tip-top shape. She pulled him out of the mattress to get his undivided attention. He slowly got up, but nevertheless, it was a start.

“Team Updates?” Ailia asked while she fixed the placement of the earpiece. She had removed the earpiece before she went to sleep to avoid any disturbances. If it were an urgent situation, Train would’ve activated the loud speaker in the room anyway. However, instead of getting a quick response, she was getting dead air and soft static. Did Train fall asleep on her? She decided to shout. “TRAIN!”

Ailia heard the falling of materials. It sounded like she had managed to make Train wake up from his slumber. She didn’t get mad at him— being on alert for 24 hours was difficult— what more in a room with limited activities to do. She heard Train mumble a quick sorry while he fixed his work area.

“All teams have managed to reach the yellow zone. Team Blaz & Team Mai are sharing one of the sleeping areas while Team Teito had the other one to themselves. Team Mai hasn’t left the room yet. Team Blaz left around 15 minutes ago while Team Teito 30 minutes.” Train ended with a yawn.

Ailia was right— the teams were making up for lost time. Team Teito was the most eager to reach her area and for Ailia, they were the team she wanted to encounter most. She had worked with Teito and Yoshii before on some missions— usually those that needed an extra pair of hands. It was fun working with them, but her powers were compatible with theirs, so their partnership wouldn’t have an optimum output.

“Continue monitoring the teams.” Ailia ordered Train. She was about to throw another order at her third member only to see him fall back to the mattress to sleep. She sighed in desperation. Getting him to an alert shape was going to be a lot of work.

Team Teito had gotten past one of the obstacles since they left the sleeping room. Before they left, they had planned their route opting for an efficient way to reach the final room. With the help of the colored band system, the team determined the route that’d ’cause the least troubles in both time management. Initially, they opted to doing all the easy level bands; however, the leftover easy bands were far from each other that traveling to them would take more time than dealing with the challenges of the nearby obstacles.

The next challenge was a series of Math problems on optimization and related rates. A certain number of points had to be attained before the laser wall would dissipate. Teito quickly took the paper laid out and started solving whatever problems he could; Yoshii did exactly the same thing. Chyse didn’t know how to help them. Optimization and Related Rates were fourth year Math topics, so she was utterly clueless on how to solve them. There were 30 numbers to choose from, but 15 points were needed. The points in each question varied depending on difficulty.

“Distance equals to rates times time, right?” Yoshii clarified.

“Yes.” Chyse replied for Teito.

Yoshii nodded and continued to solve the optimization problem. Yoshii was better at optimization while Teito was better a related rates. The duo kept on working with Chyse cheering them on at the sidelines. After Teito input the last answer— the answer that would close off the laser, a final problem appeared. The final problem was one they couldn’t remember how to solve. They had forgotten how to prove Trigonometric functions. Chyse realized it was her time to shine. Trigonometry wasn’t one of her best topics— neither was it her worst. Her faced would scrunch up whenever a certain step didn’t lead to the desired outcome. The two boys were growing anxious. Did they have to move to another location? Their worries disappeared when the lasers turned off and Chyse shot a grin at them. That was a close call for the trio.

“How much time do we have left?” Chyse inquired.

Teito checked his watch. “More than five hours.”

“Yoshii, how many more obstacles until the red zone?” Chyse’s leadership vibe suddenly returned— Teito noticed.

“Two if we take both easy obstacles. One if we take a difficult one.” Yoshii said as he blowed up the portion that showed the possible ways they could proceed from where they were.

“Difficult one it is!” Chyse exclaimed. “Lead the way.”

Yoshii hesitantly agreed to Chyse’s demands. He followed the rerouted plan of Chyse. They initially had a game plan on where to pass to reach the Ailia in the quickest time possible. However, the last roadblock that consisted of Math problems was killed more time than they thought, so they had to make up for lost time. After a couple of turns, the trio arrived at the obstacle separating them from the red zone. The obstacle in front of them was a gray metal wall. Upon scanning the bar code of the obstacle, the instructions appeared.

“In this challenge, the team is required to code a program. The gist of the program is catalog songs in alphabetical order. Included in cataloging is the ability to return the data cataloged and the ability to remove songs. The programming languages available for this challenge are C++, Java, Python.”

The Yoshii’s and Chyse’s eyes shined like they had won the jackpot. Programming was something the two connected in right away. However, while they were beaming with radiance, Teito’s face turned into one of worry. He was never part of the programming stream in ASA— he was at the Web Development one. The idea of coding frightened him; he’d rather critique sites and write why they’re crap.

“I’ll sit this one out.” Teito softly said; however his teammates were unable to hear him. They were too busy debating what language to use.

“I’m going to castrate Ailia once this tournament is over.” Mae growled.

Mae’s team had been working with team Blaz under orders from their leader, Mai. The reason behind the team up is that it’ll take more energy if their teams had to do different tasks separately. Two teams working on a task is better than one in terms of speed. However, they’ve been running into too many sports-based roadblocks that it frustrated Mae to no end. She was never good at sports.

“Suck it up Mae.” Jean scolded. “You might as well help than complain your mouth off.”

Mae grumbled and picked up the frisbee on the ground. Sadly, with a flick of her wrist, the frisbee went flying— towards Charlie’s head. The frisbee smacked right at the back of Charlie’s head truly highlighting how much of an epic failure she was at frisbee.

“You did that on purpose!” Jean exclaimed.

“I did not!” Mae refuted.

The bitch war commenced and all the remaining members could do was stand and watch. Frankly, they found their teammates bickering childish and unnecessary, but no matter what they told the two girls, they wouldn’t cool off. They reverted to finishing the roadblock. One pair of hand lost was enough— now they had two. The likeliness of them reaching the red zone within the next five hours was slim and what more reaching Ailia. For the two teams, their hopes were placed upon Team Teito reaching Ailia with enough time to take her out. They didn’t want Ailia to win again.

“And done!” Chyse said when she pressed the key that’d finish their program.

Chyse and Yoshii gave each other a high five. After an hour and a half of coding, they had finally finished the code. Well, about 15 minutes was simply them debating what language to use, but they’ve managed to agree on using Java as they were more adept in the coding process involving stored data.  The two of them stumbled along the way with the occasional missing brackets and improper use of statements, but they were able to finish the code.

“Time to submit the code.” Yoshii cheerfully said. When he pressed the submit button, a message came up.

“Congratulations! You have finished the code. However, you still cannot pass due to unforeseen haphazard work ethics.”

“WHAT?!” Chyse and Yoshii yelled.

There code was perfect— the system even said so. So why won’t it be accepted? Haphazard work ethics? What the hell was the system telling them. Yoshii was about to rage quit the obstacle when Teito took a look at their final code. He was sure he wouldn’t understand a thing, but maybe there was something he could see that the two Programming stream members didn’t. From just a glance, he knew what was wrong and stifled a laughter to avoid ticking of Chyse and Yoshii even further. However, Teito’s eyes were a giveaway prompting Chyse to interrogate him.

“What’s so funny?”

“I wasn’t laughing.” Teito said with the straightest face he could make in a split second.

“You may not have been, but your eyes say otherwise.” There was tension between him and Chyse that all Yoshii could do was look back and forth between the stares.

“It’s obvious why your code wasn’t accepted. Its visual appeal sucks.” Teito nonchalantly said though an air of superiority engulfed him. He pointed at the code. “Your brackets are all over the place and your indentions are inconsistent. Ailia wouldn’t accept such haphazard work after working with Cammy for a quarter.”

Chyse was planning to debunk his theory, but Teito grabbed the nearest chair and started editing the code. As long as he didn’t erase anything and simply fixed the indentions, the code would work just fine after the fixing. And after what was more than 15 minutes, Teito had cleaned up the code. It was more aesthetically pleasing— the widths of the colored bands looked the same; the different colors were seen. For an editing done in 15 minutes, Teito felt fulfilled.

“Shall we check if my theory is right?” Teito smirked. Yoshii and Chyse glanced at each other. Who was going to win their small skirmish? Teito hit the submit button and a new message appeared.

“Congratulations! You have finished the code. You are now allowed to enter the red zone.”

A smug look took over Teito’s face making Yoshii and Chyse admit defeat. So maybe those web development people do have some important skill that they’re missing.

The bell within the room rung. Ailia and her third teammate knew what that meant— within the remaining four hours, they would be encountering one of the teams. However, there was one more obstacle that team had to face and for Ailia, that was her final line of defense. She didn’t want to expend energy, but it looked like she would have to for this tournament— not that it was a problem now that she had actual back-up.

“They’ll be coming at you at checkpoint D.” Train mentioned over the earpiece.

“Got it.” Ailia confirmed. She nodded at her third teammate who split ways with her. “We’ll be waiting in that area now. Keep us updated.”


The line went dead and Ailia headed for the checkpoint. She didn’t have to run— she could take her time going there. It’s not like they’ll get through the final check point quickly. Separating the red zone and the final battle area was the same challenge. It may seem plain, but Ailia knew it would be difficult. It’d require a certain amount of knowledge in order to win. If anything, it was a biased test— if they don’t know her well enough, they’re screwed— horribly.

“Why couldn’t you have air-conditioned my place?!” Her third member commented over the earpiece.

“Sorry, I thought it’d be cool enough.”

“I think my size killed your estimated cooling amount.” He said. Ailia simply chuckled in response.

“Good morning viewers!” Lia’s voice rang through the room. “We come to you with live footage of the remaining 4 hours of the tournament.”

The TV screen split into two showcasing the different locations of the three teams. With team Blaz and team Mai’s partnership, one camera was simply used for them. Team Teito, on the other hand, had a video camera to themselves, but didn’t bother to notice such a presence. From the viewers point of view, they were too busy huddling over a screen clicking things— followed by the occasional screams and fits of frustration. Whatever was the challenge they were dealing with, it sure got them tied down.

“Around two hours ago, team Ailia sent us a map of the underground maze the teams were in.” At the end of Lia’s comment, the map engulfed the whole screen. The map showed the different zone along with the current location of the three teams. Each team had a designated color making it blatant who had the chance of battling Ailia.

“Team Teito has managed to get that far.” Paul commented.

“Is Ailia slacking off this year?” Matthew suggested.

The two boys looked at each other. With just once glance, they’ve reached the conclusion that Ailia wanted to battle a team. However, it bothered them a bit. Ailia wasn’t one for confrontation and would use any other means than direct fighting to stop pursuers. Matthew raised an eyebrow, which Paul returned with a nod— Ailia was searching for something.

“However, Ailia is unwilling to appear on screen at this moment opting to wait for the camera of the first team who’d fight her.” Lia said in a disappointed tone.

“Hey Lia. Is it possible to zoom into what team Teito is clicking at? With their brows knit to that degree, something must be up with that final challenge.” Paul suggested.

“Yes it is!” The camera started to zoom towards the screen huddled upon. It took a while for the camera to focus and upon closer inspection, team Teito was answering a set of quiz questions. However, at that precise moment, they got the answer wrong causing a unison of groans.

“It looks like they have to correctly answer a predetermined number of questions in order to pass.” Matthew deduced. “It looks like the questions are grouped per category.”

“Interestingly, it’s all about stuff Ailia likes.” Lia commented. “Looks like team Teito will be there for a while.”

Yoshii banged his head against the wall for the nth time of the hour. They’ve been stuck at that station for more than two hours. How can a simple quiz type roadblock occupy their time for two hours?! That wasn’t supposed to be humanly possible. However, having a game system modeled after Game of Nerds, it’s no wonder they’re having a difficult time surviving. Three easy questions, then three medium questions then three hard— not to mention there’s the impossible question at the end. However, it seemed like his teammates weren’t fazed by the excessive amount of time being wasted— Teito and Chyse wanted to conquer the roadblock. The only reason Yoshii couldn’t keep his spirits up is that he couldn’t help much in answering. There were 5 categories: anime/manga, song covers, Ailia’s corner, purely fictional and fanfiction— to make matters worse, they’re Ailia-based.

Teito had some form of leverage knowing Ailia more than Yoshii. Chyse, on the other hand, knew information about anime and song covers. While Yoshii knew information of the category purely fictional, he wasn’t up to date with the material Ailia writes in her free time.

“Let’s go Chyse. Anime round.” Teito was cheering Chyse on. Chyse took hold of the mouse readying herself for the questions. They had to get the 9 questions right under 2 minutes while the last questions was given 3 minutes. It was a lot of leg room in time; however, certain questions just made people go ‘what the fuck’.

E1- “Who is the mangaka of Naruto?” > Masashi Kishimoto.
E2- “Main character of One Piece.” > Monkey D. Luffy
E3- “Underdog Magical Girl anime of 2011” > Puella Magi Madoka Magica

M1 – “Number of episodes of D.Gray-man” > 103
M2 – “In the series context, what came first Fate/Stay Night or Fate/Zero?” > Fate/Zero
M3 – “In the anime, Victorique changed her hair color to?” > Silver

H1 – “What is Msyu’s macroflation?” > Overheated economy
H2 – “What is the weakness of Bettenou’s power in Un-Go?” > Inconsistent information.
H3 – “In Mawaru Penguindrum, is Kanba the eldest in age or in adoption?” > In age

“You did it, Chyse!” Yoshii cheered. “We finally made it to the impossible question round.”

Chyse was ecstatic. She managed to last through the nine questions. She almost stumbled in the ninth question considering Mawaru Penguindrum. She was about to answer in adoption when she remembered that Himari became part of the Takakura family before Kanba, so the only choice left was age. Thank goodness she remembered that detail. Chyse was also thankful that she and Ailia had relatively the same taste in anime series— harem-based slice of life avoidant.

For the final round, there will be no choices. The answer must be typed out.

“What movie took seven years to produce and uses purely hand drawn animation even in its car races? Clue: The movie has a distinct song, which has the lyrics ‘right before the sunrise, one thing is on my mind’.”

Chyse started tapping her two fingers on the table. Teito saw that as a sign of Chyse’s cluelessness. She didn’t know the answer to the question— not even a single idea. She was stumbling and with no choices, she’d be unable to guess the answer. Teito knew it frustrated the black-haired girl. He gave her a pat of reassurance— Teito was going to make sure he reached the impossible question of the category Ailia’s corner.

The screen buzzed meaning they had run out of time. So close, but that last question was killer and the chances of it appearing again was high. He needed to save the team. The category Ailia’s corner popped up and Teito knew that it was his turn. Hovering behind him was Yoshii. Yoshii was hoping for a chance to help Teito.

E1 – “First sport Ailia took.” > Gymnastics
E2 – “Ailia’s favorite color.” > Sky Blue
E3 – “Ailia’s first piano piece.” > Für Elise

M1 – “First Persona series game Ailia owned.” >

Teito was about to click Persona 3 FES, but Yoshii stopped him.

“She owned Persona 4 first.” Yoshii stated. “However, she likes the game system of Persona 3 FES more that’s why it appears as her gaming status more often than the others.”

M1 – “First Persona series game Ailia owned.” > Persona 4
M2 – “One of Ailia’s regrets concerning the welfare of others.”  > Introducing her brother to gaming.
M3 – “Ailia’s favorite drink.” > Chocolate Milk

D1 – “The first series she suggested to a friend that the friend finished.”

“GOSICK.” Yoshii quickly said. Yoshii noticed Teito letting go of the mouse, which meant Teito didn’t know the answer and was going to think about which choice to select. However, Yoshii knew the series was GOSICK. Ailia had introduced the series to Yoshii and he watched it until the end.

D1 – “The first series she suggested to a friend that the friend finished.” > GOSICK
D2 – “Ailia’s power.” > Electricity manipulation
D3 – “Ailia’s feel good song.” > Dango Daikazoku

“Wait, isn’t that the song Koko used to ask Ailia to prom?” Yoshii intervened.

Teito nodded. Promenade— an event he didn’t attend last year. Last year, he was too lazy to go to prom. In addition, his love interest in that period, Brittany, had no plans in going. He could’ve gone with Ailia if they had lasted until that period, but they didn’t. The parted a few months before the event making Ailia available. However, would someone try to ask a person who broke off with someone within the span of 3 months? Koko came to the rescue— Koko and Ailia were truly best friends.

For the final round, there will be no choices. The answer must be typed out.

“What is Ailia’s dream?”

“Are you fucking serious?!” Chyse raged. “Ailia is such a coward. Hiding herself behind such a question.”

However, Teito told Chyse to move aside. He knew Ailia’s dream— a dream that caused her great grief upon realization. It caused a clash between her and her dad. For her dad, it was a worthless dream— a dream aspired by so many people that to get in was difficult— what more staying in it.

She cornered herself at the library. She wanted to be alone— to think of that over the phone argument she had with her dad. He knew she was hurting, but giving her space was the best decision. In the end, he’s just a spectator in the family issue— he had no say whatsoever. All he could do was support Ailia in her time of need. Tears were trickling down her face. She had kept the realization from her dad for months— however she could leave such a news untold to her parents. She never imagine that the whiplash of her father would be that horrendous. 

Teito slung his arm over her shoulder assuring her that he’d be there to listen to her cries— to remind her that there is someone who cares. She leaned her head against his chest and silence engulfed them. There was no need for words of sympathy— it’d only make Ailia feel worse.

“I’m such a horrible daughter.”

A simple kiss on the forehead silenced her afterwards. Her escape from problems was through belittling herself. How could she be a horrible daughter when she upheld her dad’s standards.

A lock was heard and the metal door slowly opened. Teito had gotten the question right— a question thought to be impossible. However, Chyse started to wonder— how much did Teito know about Ailia? The nine questions were answerable as long as you were best friends with Ailia— or so Chyse deduced. However, the last question was a secretive one. Who is Teito exactly? Are he and Ailia simply co-workers? What is his true connection with Ailia?

“Let’s go.” Teito cut Chyse’s train of thought.

Chyse glanced at Teito only to see his hair covering his downcast eyes. That last question must’ve struck a nerve within him. At his current state, he looked horrible. She spotted a water droplet on the floor. She looked up, but Teito’s face was still covered. Was Teito crying?

“We’re not going.” Yoshii spoke what went through Chyse’s mind.

Teito looked at Yoshii— Teito was unamused with the order. Teito continued to walk forward even with Yoshii shouting out his (Teito) name. Yoshii pulled Teito back— Yoshii was not letting Teito get away easily. Teito glared at Yoshii, but that earned Teito a quick punch at the jaw. Chyse gasped— what unfolded before her was unnatural. Yoshii wasn’t the type to use force, but here he is. It looked like she hadn’t known Yoshii long enough.

“And team Teito got through winning a chance to fight against the keeper, Ailia.”

“Teito!” Yoshii’s voice boomed throughout the studio. Even though his voice came from a camera, it was loud enough to get a person’s attention— even Lia’s.

“It looks like there’s trouble boiling within team Teito.” Lia inferred.

At that precise moment, Yoshii threw a punch at Teito’s face. This earned a gasp among the audience in the studio. This also included the people who were currently watching the scene unfold at the Fortuna dormitory. All six of them, Saori, Amber, Jin, Rigel, Ai & Ume, were shocked. Yoshii wasn’t the type to violent— more so settle issues through a punch. What was going on?

“We are not moving from this area until you get yourself together. YOU ARE NOT FIGHTING AILIA IN THAT STATE. NO EXCEPTIONS.” Yoshii argued with the same loudness and tone.

“Putting Yoshii and Teito in the same team was a good call by Chief Dalv.” Matthew stated. “I never imagined Teito would break during a tournament, but Yoshii is handling it skillfully. Look how silent Teito is now.”

“Well, it looks like team Teito will be taking a rest for an indefinite number of minutes.”

“It looks like team Teito will be taking a while. Teito is causing the hold-up.” Train informed.

“Haaa?! I have to stay here longer?!” Ailia’s third member grumbled.

“I think that last question hit him hard.” Ailia inferred. “Nevertheless, I’ll be placing my earpiece on music mode, so I might not be able to hear your calls properly— except for Koko’s.”

“Sorry if I can’t help in actual combat.” Koko squirmed in his hiding place.

“Have you calmed down now?” Yoshii checked up on Teito.

About 30 minutes have passed since Teito’s mess. Teito’s head hung low, but Yoshii acknowledged the small nod. Teito had gotten most of his sense back. However, that one flashback killed him. Ailia was hurting at that moment in time and he couldn’t do anything more. That’s why he silently raged when he remembered the flashback. He thought he placed all his memories with Ailia behind him. Apparently, wounds run deep. He had spent so much of his time with Ailia that even behind the walls of forget, she managed to make her way back to Teito’s sane mind. It was driving Teito crazy.

As they headed down the hallway, they came across mediocre traps ranging from falling debris to laser-mazed floors. With the Dreamless training they had, they were bypassed quickly. It looked like that was Ailia’s last ditch effort. They had talked about what they were going to do once they face Ailia— they had some sort of plan. They were three; Ailia was one. They were bigger in number, but Ailia must have something up her sleeve to have the guts to fight them. They had exactly one hour left to take Ailia down— they’ll do whatever it takes.

As they were heading down the corridor, they saw a white spark in front of them. This spark was growing in size and heading straight for them. It was directed to Yoshii who was quick to dodge it. The trio heard a cling and when they looked at the floor, they say a coin. No doubt about it— Ailia was in front of them.

“Killing your competition while we’re far away. Huh?” Chyse sneered.

Yoshii brought out a knife. The trio looked at each other and nodded. It was time to set their opening plan into action. The three quickly dash towards the end of the corridor with equal spacing in between each other. Another coin was flying towards Yoshii, which Yoshii dodged with no hesitation. It was going to take more than coins to stop him. Then they saw Ailia who nodding her head to a certain beat. With no hesitation, Chyse and Teito sped up while Yoshii supplied needles and paper.

Going through each of their minds was where to strike. Chyse was going to strike at the bottom; Yoshii, at the middle; Teito at the top. They were going to attack Ailia simultaneously— they’ll beat her through teamwork. That’s the beauty of fighting with numbers— fighting a single enemy expends less energy.

“Simultaneous attack. Best place to escape is up.” A voice rung through Ailia’s earpiece. She acknowledged the information. They thought she was alone making her vulnerable to a unison attack. She had managed to trick them— she wasn’t alone anymore. She had an ‘angel’ helping her from above.

One of their weapons was supposed to at least mark Ailia. They never expected her to use the rod as a means of escape. Instead of their weapons meeting with flesh, they got a clang of metal. Ailia had thrust herself into the air landing gracefully away from them. She had a smirk on her face— she wasn’t to be underestimated. She was dancing to a certain beat— probably listening to some music. It clicked for the three of them— Ailia was in the zone with a simple string of notes.

Chyse sprung forward to attack Ailia. She had monitored the movements of Ailia to understand the beat she was following. It was a simple 4/4 beat— nothing to hard to follow. She made a whip out of the paper— a whip meant to put Ailia’s foot down and in place. Chyse was going to do whatever she could to get through Ailia’s defense. One, two, three, four! The whip was able to follow the beat; however, Ailia managed to double step on the other foot that the beat went off.

“How was she?!” Chyse was flabbergasted.

At the precise moment of attack, Ailia managed to break out of her beat. Chyse was starting to get frustrated. Yoshii tried a whack at it, which ended in utter failure. He dashed towards Ailia without a plan, which could’ve worked if his movements weren’t that blatant. Ailia blocked the knife’s movement with the rod in her hand and swiftly pushed Yoshii back with her foot.

Teito, however, wasn’t doing anything except watching the scene unfold before him. Ailia held this air of assurance as she moved. It was like she was sure what they were going. Not only that, she was accurate in dodging certain attacks. Yoshii and Chyse kept on throwing barrages of attacks towards Ailia. Ailia didn’t have a single care in the world.

“Teito, help us over here!” Chyse screamed.

“Shut up! I’m thinking.” Teito retorted.

“Thinking is wasting precious time and—” The voice of Chyse droned out when Teito blocked his ears with ear plugs.

Teito had always found Chyse’s voice to be irritating. When heard too much, it gets onto a person’s nerves, especially his. This was his first time using the ear plugs having no need to use it before because of Yoshii’s incredible skill to stop Chyse from complaining. Maybe that was a sign that Yoshii and Chyse were meant to be. He chuckled at the amusing thought.

Teito continued to watch the fight. There were 30 minutes left until game over. Teito noticed that Ailia had a tick of adjusting a certain item in her right ear. An earpiece perhaps?

“How are you able to read our movements?!” Chyse panted out. The words were disjointed in tone, but the coherent idea was there.

“Train isn’t my only team member you know.” Ailia replied with a smirk.

Then everything clicked. If he had pieced the information together properly, then the movement reading made complete sense. It was worth a shot. He dashed towards Ailia as she occupied herself with blocking off Chyse’s and Yoshii’s attacks. She noticed his presence waiting for his attack. However he wasn’t going to attack. With her hands currently protecting herself, Teito had skillfully grazed the earpiece making it fall on the floor. Yoshii stepped on it obliterating any other use of it.

Ailia’s eyes bulged out. Worry started to cover her face and Teito knew he had attacked the proper item. Attacking Ailia was made a whole lot easier, which was defined by Chyse’s attacks making contact with Ailia. Ailia had some grasp on the situation, but the extra help she had gotten from whomever spoke to her, it was now gone. She was vulnerable and alone. Ultimately, the number of attackers can overwhelm a person. Yoshii was about to attack Ailia from behind when an entity swooped down and knocked Yoshii down.

On top of the pinned down Yoshii was Koko Yome. Teito knew Koko all to well since he had been classmates with Koko in first year along with Ailia. Never did Teito imagine that Koko would help out in the Dreamless tournament— that made things more interesting. However, it was a bummer when Koko managed to pin down Yoshii using his (Koko’s) weight. It looked like Yoshii would be out of commission.

“Way to put use of your weight, Koko!” Matthew amusingly said.

The heroic and ultimately, laughable entrance of Koko brought the house down in the studio. The audience was amused by the event that unfold. However, Lia was surprised at Koko’s appearance. Ailia decided to take a third member in this year’s tournament? Why?

“At least he managed to turn the fight into a 2v1. That’d make things a whole lot easier for Ailia.” Paul explained. Matthew and Lia nodded in agreement to that statement.

Ailia was getting tired. She was used to prolonged one-on-one combat, but 2v1? She was heavily panting. She was discharging too much electricity. She looked at her watch— 15 minutes left. She just needed to protect the token for 15 more minutes. Nothing more, nothing less. She was going to put team Teito at bay. She was struck by the paper whip causing her to fall to the ground. Ailia tried getting up, just to find a part of her outfit pinned to the ground. When did Teito? She looked up to see Teito and Chyse giving each other a high-five. It looked like it was the end. Ailia closed her eyes and contemplated.

This was for the best. She could finally break herself away from the Dreamless team with this loss. Plus, she need not come back next year just to protect the token. Yoshii and Teito would be the ones to worry about that now. So many responsibilities were about to be lifted off her shoulders. She would be able to breathe and live life as she wished. She could go spend her time discovering new places. She could go on anime marathons again. It was a win-win situation for her yet why did she feel empty?

“Get up Ailia.” Her teammates called out.

“I can’t.” Ailia mumbled.

“You CAN.” Her teammates emphasized. They even tried to carry her.

“You are not giving up because we’re in this predicament. I haven’t lost hope; neither has Matthew.” Paul attempted to snap her back to her sense.

“I can’t—” 

“Are you just going to give up when things are going rough? Are you going to throw away the chance to make yourself know among the Dreamless? Are you a coward?!” Paul emphasized the last question. “You are NOT a coward. Never were and never will be.”

“Never will be.” Ailia’s voice croaked.

She knew what she wanted now. She wanted to continue helping people. She wanted to continue being known. She wanted the feeling of purpose— a feeling Dreamless work gave her. She was not going to be a coward— she will not run away from Dreamless duties. She was going to leave normally— through graduating as an ASA student and acknowledging her dream. Her blurred vision showed her Chyse and Teito hadn’t walked that far.

“What was so much of blurry vision turn into bright clear prospection…” Ailia’s voice sung out.

With her earpiece gone, she had no source of a rhythm returner. She had to sing certain songs to get her rhythm back. She plucked out the needles that had kept her pinned to the ground. She slowly got up and saw Chyse simply standing.

“My instinct tells me to keep going forever… going forever.” Ailia continued to sing.

The word forever rolled out of her tongue with such ease. Unknown to her, she had captivated those within her radius except Teito. Teito halted when he felt no presence following him. He looked back to see Ailia up and about saying something. Whatever it was, it managed to entice Chyse. Was this…?!

“If she starts attracting people or living things, please tell an ASA doctor.” The doctor mentioned before he left to check up on the other tests.

As the technician opened the door for Ailia to exit, Haru had a small conversation with Teito about the happening.

“Don’t tell Ailia. She might freak if she finds out.” Haru requested.

“Not planning to. I don’t want her over-expressive self attacking me.” Teito assured Haru. The statement made Haru chuckle even though it was partially degrading Ailia. “Although…” Teito trailed off, which caused Haru to stop laughing. Was he planning to go against the request? “…do you happen to know what general classification of the color orange is?”

“Oh.” Haru noticed Ailia approaching them, so she whispered the answer to Teito. “Anything pheromone-related.”

“Shit.” Teito said.

Teito was the only capable person left to get the token. He made a run for it hoping Ailia wouldn’t be able to catch him. The token was at the end of the corridor. A jolt of electricity suddenly hit him resulting to a fall. He attempted to gain his composure quickly, but by the time he did, Ailia was already blocking his way. She was still singing— it was creating an invisible barrier— one that can be entered, but entrances the entree.

Teito had no choice but to fight Ailia one-on-one. To make matters worse, he didn’t have any weapons with him, then again, so did Ailia. He lunged a punch towards her, which Ailia effortlessly pushed away. The next punch Teito threw, Ailia grabbed and flung Teito to the ground. Teito sprung back into action and this time swung his leg below precisely hitting Ailia’s feet causing Ailia to fall to the ground. As Ailia fell, she grabbed a hold of Teito’s shirt, which resulted to him falling to the ground too.

“truly thinking you and I can do anything…” Ailia continued to sing, but that one lyric line bothered him.

Teito was momentarily distracted. Was that line supposed to bother him? How come he heard that line with more emphasis than the others? Selective hearing perhaps. Ailia had gotten up and was prepared to continue blocking his way to the token. She was singing with a smile on her face. She looked happy and stress-free. It made sense to Teito why, but that elated? He threw a punch towards Ailia’s face, but Ailia blocked it with her forearms. She kneed him at the stomach— Teito barely escaped that attack. The two were simply throwing kicks and punches hoping to make a connection. They were both prideful and headstrong people— neither of them wanted to back down. Maybe it’s that trait of Ailia that got them connected.

Teito knew he had to end the fight soon. He knew the move he was going to do was cheap, but it incapacitated a person well-enough if the move connected. He swiftly punch Ailia— at the solar plexus. The punch connected and Ailia suddenly had a difficult time breathing— she was even clinging on to his shirt. Her breathing had become erratic, but Teito was sure she was going to survive. He didn’t use a lot of force, but as he was removing her hands from his shirt, Ailia made a desperate. Ailia knew it was a weaker move than what Teito did, but she might as well give him some trouble before he headed for the token room. Before Teito removed her left hand, Ailia, with all her effort, kneed Teito at the groin before falling to the ground. She was 100% sure it made contact— Teito groaned in pain and stopped removing her hands from his shirt. She actually let go of his shirt herself due to having no more energy to cling on. She smiled as her back landed on to the ground— she protected the token the best she could.

Teito was still writhing in pain. Why did he have to have guy parts at that moment?! Who cares now. No matter the pain, he was going to walk to the token area. He’ll take it step-by-step— anyway, it looked like Ailia was out of commission in terms of physical fighting. However, she was still able to mutter certain lyrics though in spasms. Teito had grasped the handle of door and was about to open it.

“RIIIINNNGGGGGG!” The bell signaling the end of the tournament had rung.

“And there you have it folks!” Lia’s voice energetically said. “The tournament has ended with a close call, but Ailia managed to protect the token until the end.”

“I can’t believe she was desperate enough to use an underhand move.” Paul commented.

“Her groin attack hurt a lot.” Matthew stated. “You’re just lucky enough to never have been the receiving end of it.”


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