22 of March, 2021 – Physical Health
“And they’re off!” I announced excitedly. I had a microphone in hand and was seated in the first row of bleachers with two of my favorite people around. “And, not to brag, but the Hunters have taken the lead!”
“When the hell did you three get down there?!” Axel shouted from the top row.
“And where did you get a microphone?” asked Max from the same area.
“None of your business, peasants!” Oreste taunted from my left. “Just let your upper-sass-men do our thing.”
I gasped. “That was really good!”
“You think so?”
“Eh, a bit of a reach,” Feliks commented from my right.
I shook my head at Oreste’s appalled expression. “Don’t even, babe. There’s no pleasing him.”
“I can see that!” The witch scoffed, feigning offense. “So, these kids are kind of bad.”
“Hey, some show some promise!” I objected, before turning back to Feliks. “Right?”
Feliks made a gesture that was a blend between a stiff shrug and a nod. “The Hunters are pretty good. I doubt any of them will shatter the records that Zahra, Luke, and I put in place, but they’ll still make good time. The Haunters are a close second, and the Enchanters are all pacing themselves in last place. So, this is pretty expected.”
“Yeah, but isn’t the point to walk as fast as you can around the track?” Oreste pointed out before cupping his hands around his mouth and shouting: “GET A MOVE ON, NOOBS!”
“Oh, look! Some kids are in the last stretch!” I gushed. “Let’s see; A few werewolves, the two new mermaids, and the unicorn are all about to cross the finish line! I especially love the way Angel Wang has turned this race into a catwalk. Way to represent equine beasts, Angel!”
“Storm Cloud’s taken the lead,” Feliks commented, leaning over so as to speak into my microphone. “Dorea Sidney and Cosmia Garcia are a close second. Kurt Evans, Cinnamon Swan…”
“How does he know all their names?” Oreste asked me in a whisper that was much too loud. I shrugged.
“Arima-sensei gave me the attendance sheet for the freshmen,” revealed Feliks, handing us a folder. I opened it hurriedly; it had the names of every first year student beside their school photograph, organized by surname and divided by classification. “I already memorized it, so you can use it.”
“Gods, Feliks is so cool!” I squealed with delight and handed the folder to Oreste. “Storm Cloud is the heir of the Denver Pack, right? I heard he had no interest in athletic electives.”
“Even so, the physiology of a Hunter will always be above that of an Enchanter,” Oreste offered. “Not to mention, he’s slated for alpha, right?”
Feliks nodded. “Alphas tend to be the strongest and smartest.”
“There seems to be a Haunter among the Hunters that are about to cross!” I snapped my fingers at Oreste and pointed at the folder in his hands. “I believe he’s the new reaper under Omoyeni’s care.”
Oreste’s eyes widened sarcastically. “Okay, sass-master general… Taeyang.”
I gazed over my shoulder and scanned the bleachers until I found Omoyeni. “Yo! What can you tell us about your new charge?”
The psychopomp grinned from their spot; their onyx hair was twisted into thick Bantu knots, and their lips were painted a mulberry red that matched their eyes. They had been chewing gum when I called on them.
“We reapers despise physical activity; that being said, we’re naturally athletic in order to hunt down those who think it wise to cheat death. That being said, Taeyang hates losing to me more than anything else.”
I cocked an eyebrow, intrigued. “And what does that mean?”
“It means I lied and told him I held the record for the fastest walk around the track, and he’s trying to beat that record right now.”
Feliks broke out in a wide grin as he chuckled; the sight filled my cheeks with warmth. “You came in dead-last our freshmen year, Omoyeni.”
The reaper winked at us and gestured toward the track. “He doesn’t need to know that.”
“Oh, look!” I gasped, forcing my jealousy back down. “Storm was the first to cross the finish line! Let’s see if they’ll give us a comment.”
I waved the freshman over; their black hair was an absolute mess, though I wasn’t sure if they had intentionally styled it that way or if it was the product of their power-walk around the track. Their eyes were an intriguing blend of olive green and slate grey.
“Hi, Storm! What’s it feel like to cross the finish line first?” I asked.
They shrugged and huffed out between pants: “It’s whatever.”
“What was the motivation behind your win?” Oreste asked. “Impressing your peers? Aiming to shatter a record?”
Storm shook their head. “Nah, I just wanted to get it over with.”
Coach Hartley called the werewolf over as Oreste and I exchanged knowing glances.
“They’re so cool!” The witch gushed, fanning himself. “Too cool, even!”
“Talk about a heartthrob!” I swooned, before elbowing Feliks playfully. “They might give you a run for your money.”
A smirk tugged at Feliks’ lips as his blue eyes bore into mine. “You think I’m a heartthrob?”
My mind went blank at his expression and question. I-Is he flirting with me?
Oreste cleared his throat and threw me an amused glance. “The Hunters have all crossed the finish line, and the Haunters are all in the final stretch… Except Taeyang, who was the third to cross the finish line and is demanding to know if he beat Omoyeni’s record.”
“You beat their record, sweetie!” I announced through the microphone. Taeyang’s red eyes widened as they let out a whoop and danced in place, much to the chagrin of Coach Hartley, who was desperately trying to check the reaper’s heart rate. “Let the coach do his thing.”
“The Enchanters are pretty close behind the Haunters,” Feliks noticed, seemingly impressed. “Especially Aerwyna Marvin, who’s actually passed Tao, Suzu, and Lankesh.”
I looked at Oreste expectantly; he took the hint. “Those three are a jiangshi, a jikininki, and a preta, respectively.”
I nodded. “A zombie and two ghosts. Not exactly fast.”
“Actually,” offered Omoyeni, who had stealthily moved behind us while we weren’t looking. Oreste and I jumped as they spoke up; Feliks showed no reaction, which told me he had known that the reaper was there. “Zombies and ghosts have been known to move rather swiftly–the whole, ‘shambling herd,’ depicted in mortal media is a negative stereotype.”
“So, Aerwyna passing those three is actually impressive?” Oreste confirmed. Both Feliks and Omoyeni nodded. “Dope. Though she’s the only new elf this year, so we’re basically comparing her against witches and Haunters at this point. I’d love to see how she’d fare against other elves.”
“Teagan Love is the second Haunter to cross the finish line–the first one after Taeyang,” Feliks announced. “She’s also the only new vampire this year.”
She’s the one Jude was supposed to guide, right? I thought to myself as I watched her. Teagan waited dutifully for Coach Hartley to check her heart rate before she dropped down and began her series of curl-ups for Coach Cynisca. She had a front-row seat for the incident.
“Suku, Rika, and Nehha have all crossed the finish line,” Feliks announced.
“That’s a kishi, a zashiki-warashi, and a yakshi, respectively,” Oreste added, before glancing behind us. “Anything to add, Omoyeni–?”
“Kishis are powerful demons,” the reaper revealed from Oreste’s left; they had a microphone in hand, and spoke in their usual low tone. Their change in position forced Oreste to startle again, nearly throwing the attendance folder in the process. “Him crossing the finish line as early as he did is to be expected. Rika’s cooperation with today’s activities, however, is surprising. Zashiki-warashi prefer to do their own thing.”
“Will you stop moving?” Oreste pleaded, his hand over his heart.
“And where did you get that microphone?” I asked.
“Where did you get yours?” They countered with a wink. “Anyway, Nehha’s physical prowess is also interesting. Nature spirits like her are only physically active for the sake of fun and frolicking. They’re similar to fairfolk in that aspect.”
“The first witches to cross are Elisabeth Haro and Helena Corey,” Feliks reached for my microphone, wrapped his large hand over mine, and pulled the device closer to him. “Next are Edgar Calixto and Millicent Ritter. While Haro’s early cross is not a surprise, the crossing of the three who followed her make up for that. The Serafim, Bach, and De Ardo covens haven’t had any promising athletes in the history of AOA, so it’s good to see these fresh faces.”
“Next are Lilly Naismith, Xavier Millian, and Cari de Ardo!” Oreste cheered through Omoyeni’s microphone. “And bringing up the rear is Elyse Hawkins, who doesn’t look so good.”
“Have we ever had a kid barf on the field?” I asked Feliks, who shook his head.
“Not that I’ve seen. I think Tailor Vega mentioned that someone threw up during their first night, but that was before our time.”
“Yeah, but knowing Tailor, she made it up to psych us out,” Omoyeni snickered.
“You can do it, Elyse!” Oreste and I cheered the little witch on. Her natural honey brown hair was pulled back into two high Afro puffs, and her eyes had darkened to an inky black as she wheezed and staggered in the final stretch.
Suddenly, a freshman jogged over to her staggering classmate, tucked herself beneath the taller girl’s right arm, and helped Elyse closer to the finish line.
“Cari de Ardo has run back onto the track to help Elyse!” revealed Oreste. “Is that even allowed?”
“Having records for the one-mile power-walk is just for the students,” Feliks reminded us. “The students can do as well or as poorly as they want; the professors just want to see how fit we are individually.”
I watched the two witches cross the finish line with renewed intrigue. What kind of person are you, Cari de Ardo?