For the Hotaru Park Snow Fort Contest, my *family formed our castle brick by brick and cemented them together with *ice. We were the Gods and *Goddesses of the event that everyone aimed to beat. @vssCollab@twitter.com LiminalChronicles

@vssCollab@twitter.com For this year’s entry, we upped the ante by adding *swirls of flowers in the bricks, representing the *zephyr that swept in to bring us the snow of this event. Our fort would be breathtaking and able to withstand the impending onslaught. @vssCollab@twitter.com LiminalChronicles

Knowing every other contestant would *bee-line it to our fort for an attack, we made some of our décor into traps—the moat was obvious. But the flowers? Those subtly added an imperceptible force field. We’d need it this year. @vssCollab@twitter.com LiminalChronicles

Ichiro wanted to make a ‘security system’ with an *orb that lights up if someone even touched our fort, but Ken and I vetoed it. This is small town Nonogawa. Who would be a threat to our entry in the contest? @vssCollab@twitter.com

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When we arrived the next morning for the judging, we found our fort *ringed with onlookers. Had someone tried to get *revenge for our winning streak? We pushed through the crowd to find the orb *tattered on the ground. @vssCollab@twitter.com LiminalChronicles

“Electronics are prohibited in the forts!” The judge pointed at my brother. “You used lights in yours. Disqualified!”

“The *aurora *cloud was naturally phosphorescent. Not electronics.” I put my hands on my hips. “So, who destroyed our orb?” @vssCollab@twitter.com

The judge glared at me like I was an *alien with five eyes. But I wouldn’t let him stare me down or let go of my *pursuit to find who smashed a piece of our fort.

A boy, maybe five years old, trudged forward and bowed. “I-I s-so sorry!” @vsscollab@twitter.com

“I was l-looking at it and…and it was just so pretty.”

My heart went out to him. “What if you help us make a new one? Instead of a ball, we’ll make a glowing *port window.”

His round face lit up like the sun. “Really?”

My brothers and I nodded. @vssCollab@twitter.com

A crowd gathered. My brothers zipped home to prep the colorful inclusions. We weren’t about to demonstrate the magic for it. The boy (Kai) and I drilled the *space in the wall for the window. Kai chipped away with enthusiastic tenacity. @vssCollab@twitter.com LiminalChronicles

After Kai’s *arm fit through the hole, my brothers returned with the secret ingredient. Using dry ice allowed us to freeze the hot water quickly, and we inserted an ice panel with magically glowing crystals. @vssCollab@twitter.com

The official gave us time to finish the repair after scrutinizing our ice window’s creation, *traveling around to judge the circuit of other entries. I made sure to thank him, despite his earlier accusation. @vssCollab@twitter.com

After the judge returned and declared our fort the 2nd place winner after the emperor’s palace miniature, the other contestants *descended on our fort. Three of us against about thirty. Snowballs flew. @vsscollab@twitter.com

In a frenzy, invaders congregated to *orbit and surround our structure, keeping us from attacking the other forts. Little did we realize, young Kai and his mom, joined the fray. The Pelting of our fort halted. And Kai proudly approached. @vssCollab@twitter.com

The judge declared us the fort siege winner. Kai carried flags for all the other forts and handed them to me as I gaped.

My brother said, “Everyone’s *flight to *crush us allowed you to take over the others?”

Kai nodded. “Easy!” @vssCollab@twitter.com

I swallowed down the lump in my throat. Everyone had been out to get us, like when we fled Hokkaido. Kindness to this boy had allowed us victory and gained us a young ally. It wasn’t my brothers and I against the world. I *rasped, “Thank you, Kai.” @vssCollab@twitter.com

Kai was like a *satellite circling me, babbling about how our fort was sure to win for most beautiful. So I asked, “Join us for the snowball fight afterward?”

His mother *approached, shaking her head. “Your fort will be everyone’s target.” @vssCollab@twitter.com

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