III

3: Akagi

III

After Keisuke left to go get a glass of water, I instantly began strategizing how to prepare to become the fastest mountain racer I could be. Naturally I was a bit scared of the prospect, I was about on the verge of becoming a medical student before dying, and I had no background or natural talent at racing unlike Ryosuke who I had just replaced.

Now that I thought about it, Ryosuke was a very naturally talented racer as well as having years of experience. Unfortunately, the very FC he drove was before my very eyes, even though we were both people, I was still literally in his shoes.

I had gone go karting when I was younger, but this would simply not compare. Drifting at 80-90 mph without dying again would require skills most regular people like myself did not naturally have.

Ryosuke's 'Fastest Racer Theory' was pretty solid, but sadly he didn't account for tire management. On the downhill during a drift match on Japan's mountain tracks, too much power would just wear down the tires as the race went on and put too much stress on the front of the car. Ryosuke matched Takumi's speed during their entire race, however he forgot that Takumi had been driving the same track for years and obviously knew how to conserve his tires.

The greatest difference between Ryosuke and Takumi was their wealth ironically. Takumi's father ran a tofu shop, had it not been for his father's racing connections his AE86 Sprinter Trueno would not have been tuned at all for precise downforce in curves. Ryosuke's father ran hospitals, and Ryosuke had no incentive to care about tires because he could just buy new ones after every race.

This would change for me of course.

Drifting was a very costly endeavor, mostly because a fresh set of tires are shredded after one run up or down a mountain if done quickly. Takumi knew how to conserve tires and go fast because his father insisted he did so from day one. Takumi's father Bunta trained him by making sure the tofu the AE86 delivered never was ruined by using a cup technique, ensuring Takumi didn't slip too much when turning, creating perfect tire management.

More importantly, as Takumi kept driving he decided he could just drive faster and faster to finish his deliveries, and unfortunately for me he had different responsibilities. His father had no pressure on him academically. Ryosuke was a very dedicated medical student, he could only dedicate so much time to driving while Takumi had much more time delivering tofu.

Unless I planned to drop out of medical school or found some alternative, I couldn't find a way to just put more hours on the track practicing.

I withdrew the keys to the FC and opened the right side door to the FC before stepping inside. When I sat down in the driver's seat of the FC3S of Ryosuke Takahashi, I knew my legend had begun.

I looked around the inside of the car, looking completely normal to me. From the tachometer to the seats, it was a stock FC3S. To me, the stereo and all was especially old, but I had technically gone back thirty years in time so it made sense.

I rolled down the window when Keisuke returned with a glass of water to the garage. "You heading out?"

"I'll be back late, don't worry Keisuke." I told my new younger brother.

He nodded and pressed the button to let the garage door open.

I looked back at the steering wheel and rolled the window back down. I know being the year 1990 this car was brand new but man, it was older than I was still! The second I touched the steering wheel the System registered it. For some reason, being seated here and feeling the leather of the FC's steering wheel felt right to me.

[Savana Mazda FC3S RX-7 (1990)

HP: 190

Aspiration: N/A

Modifications: None

LV 1]

What caught my attention was the window below it.

[Gas: 81%

Tire Strength: 93%

Tires: Balds (Non-Racing)]

This'd be useful when racing, gauging tire strength would let me run at maximum speed while not losing out on grip.

I ignited the engine to the FC by placing the keys in the ignition and turning them forward. The rotary engine sputtered to life, vibrating the engine as I accelerated and pulled out of the rich looking driveway into the rich part of urban Takasaki.

I turned on the radio and the track just ended as I drove on the left side of the road out of a new instinct as the man on the radio spoke. "Hey city pop lovers! Got a great track here from my good friend Cindy! It's called Believing in Ourselves, the seventh track of her new album Angel Touch. Enjoy the rest of your beautiful Friday here in Gunma folks."

The woman began singing and despite understanding every word I felt like I was indeed transported to another world even though I was here. Her voice was as beautiful as 90s Takasaki, Japan at night time.

I left the urban area towards downtown. The city's lights glowed on my new face.

The couples walking hand in hand, the glowing city at night, the cars, the music. I was here. I was in Initial D. I was driving down the street toward a racing legend. Having never heard a song in Japanese before that I understood, I truly felt touched now understanding the lyrics perfectly.

"I'm sorry but. I'm in tears. I do not even have the power to change the future, but your heart hurt. If I can only lighten it, for yoouuu…."

A little boy walked between parents, the couples holding their child's hand.

A beep behind me reminded me to keep driving past Takasaki.

Every frame of the city's of Japan from the anime I watched seem to be alive in front of me. The sights, the sounds I could now fully appreciate as someone who became Japanese. I was here somehow, and it was ethereal to say the least.

As the calm song played I kept driving towards Akagi. It was currently the winter of 1992, meaning I had about two solid years to at least get a handle for racing. Wait no, the anime began around 1996, I had three years as I had assumed before.

Regardless, I rolled my window down and asked the police officer in Japanese. "Excuse me sir, where is Mount Akagi?"

He pointed as he spoke. "Take a right at the next stoplight, keep taking the main road until you see the family ice cream store. That's where the mountain begins."

"Thank you officer." I drove forward towards Akagi.

Japan at night was really beautiful, it really did seem like something out of a movie.

By the time I reached Akagi, I thought about buying an ice cream at the foot of the mountain where the mountain began. Oh well, I'd probably be back later.

I climbed Akagi for the first time. It was only 6:17 PM according to the little clock on the stereo of the FC. From what I could tell, I understood why Ryosuke made it his home course in the anime. It was curvy, with long straight sections and the asphalt of the mountain road offered good grip at least uphill.

As I kept driving, only one car passed. I would likely be alone downhill tonight.

At the top of the hill, I did a slow u turn and stopped for a second. The car hummed lightly as I prepared to go downhill, sitting for a moment in silence.

First I considered how exactly to do this heel and toe braking drift thing. From what I could tell, as you approached the curve, you had to brake hard and clip traction, then downshift and counter steer in the opposite direction you were turning. No that wasn't right, first turn hard in the direction you were turning then lightly in the opposite direction.

It varied on the curve for how hard you needed to turn and in what pattern you'd need to shift gears. On a high intensity turn you'd need to use the higher gears while shifting, and brake very hard, costing a lot of grip. On a lower intensity turn you could grip more and use more of the car's weight and power while using the lower gears.

Cars with lots of power like the BNR32 and FD3S excelled on the less intense turns, and could use their great acceleration and horsepower to speed by, not really needing to turn that much. An FC3S or S13 could do much better on a harder turn, using their lower power yet higher turning potential to be more precise and accurate with more efficient shifting.

Racers tended to use very pretentious terminology to describe racing calling curves and turns "corners" and drifting and gripping techniques "braking." But it isn't that simple, from what I've seen in the anime, great racers like Ryosuke who I know became, embodied every single trait a great tactician would. Maximizing every advantage, acting on every predetermined set of circumstances, and planning down to the smallest minute detail.

How much grip did the road offer? Should I use softer or harder tires? Should I use the car's power or turning potential more? From which gear should the course offer the best speed, handling, and overall tire management?

Every single question that should be asked was, and answered prior to the race itself.

Ryosuke strategized on the track like Caesar would on the battlefield, and ironically he lost because he forgot to calculate the cost in grip hard drifts would, slipping at the last moment. I wouldn't make the same mistake. The Red Suns would rule Japan's racing underworld when the time came.

On that note I began revving up the car's rotary engine, the lack of power was noticeable but I still warmed up my tires for the driving ahead.

Speaking in his own voice I muttered to myself as the FC roared with life. "I won't fail you Ryosuke. We won't fail."

IIIIIIIII

The FC accelerated down the mountain as Ryosuke pushed the car, guiding the FC down Akagi's hill for the first time to race himself. Ryosuke braked lightly, guiding the car around the curve as he began to speed past the leaves of the trees beside the track.

The FC began to increase with speed, the speedometer crawling upward as Ryosuke guided the FC through a light grip by turning lightly and tapping the brakes.

[Light Grip LV 1 Created!]

He ignored the Gamer system's notification and kept driving, seeing the coming curve. Gamer's mind helped calm Ryosuke before he prepared for the approaching drift. The back of the FC's red rings glowed red as the FC backed up and began to slide. Ryosuke's hand shifted to a lower gear, before steering hard to the left and lightly to the right.

[Hard Drift LV 1 Created!]

Ryosuke checked something that the Gamer brought to his attention as he upshifted and began accelerating out of the 'U' shaped turn. He thought quickly after checking this and continuing to go down the hill a tad bit faster, fast enough for his first time ever.

[Gas: 73%

Tire Strength: 83%

Tires: Balds (Non-Racing)]

Even with non racing tires, drifts shred grip. Hm, I have to look out for that.

Ryosuke continued using low gear gripping techniques, holding the inside of the turn as he curved slightly right and left, before seeing the long straight away to accelerate down before another right hard U shaped turn.

Completely collected again, Ryosuke's blue eyes instinctually guided the rest of his body to react to the turn without thinking. He braked, downshifted, turned hard to the right before countersteering lightly to the left opposite the direction he was drifting. His front tires squealed as the pointed to the left and the FC faced the inside of the wall of the mountain, drifting through the entire turn.

The FC's rotary engine hummed again as the FC peeled out of the turn and Ryosuke accelerated downhill returning to a higher gear. Ryosuke straightened his posture and braked lightly before countersteering at a higher gear.

[Light Drift LV 1 Created!]

The speed of the turn was lower but required less grip, Ryosuke quickly feeling the front tires respond much better after they recovered from the heat of the drift. He had no time to react as he was quickly face to face with another wider turn. His tired squealed as the car faced a different direction less harshly than it did during the hard drift.

Ryosuke pressed the gas again and his thoughts filled his mind as he prepared for the coming U shaped turn.

'I think I'm getting the pace of this. Brake and turn, accelerate. Account for the harshness and direction of the curves in between. Always make sure the gas and brakes respond enough. Despite having never drifted before, something tells me I inherited part of Ryosuke's natural aptitude for racing.'

The FC faced inwards again, tires squealing loudly as Ryosuke pointed the tires to the right as his drift slid left.

Ryosuke went down Akagi repeating these techniques. For really intense corners, Ryosuke braked and drifted hard. For curves that barely forced the car to turn he used light grips, and for curves that straddled the line between gripping and drifting Ryosuke used lightly drifts.

IIIIIIIIIII

All the pieces that were missing from my life were rearranged like the perfect jigsaw puzzle as I descended Akagi, flying around turns, hearing the FC hum. Sure I wasn't going very fast yet, but I didn't care.

I had started a legend that was dear to my heart.

For some reason I didn't care about getting ready to beat Takumi as I flew through straight and curve sections. I just wanted to be here. I knew in my heart of hearts, that this is how it was supposed to be.

Just me and this diamond-like perfect FC3S, this rotary engine spinning, my tires squealing, the mountain pass' background blurring behind me. Honestly, I knew it for sure, it was a gift, I would follow this feeling forever.

Drifting was a gift that would just keep on giving, Akagi's hill spoke to me in a way only another world could, and it truly brought a tear to my eye on a specific turn. I was living out my childhood's anime dream.

Akagi had become like an old friend I had never known, any fear I should've had that wasn't erased by Gamer's Mind was erased. I felt like I was a surfer as I tore through the asphalt, sitting right there in the tube.

At the very end I peeled out of the last turn loudly as the FC's headlights formed tiny pin pricks in the sea of darkness that surrounded Akagi's hill.

I completed the final turn and passed the finish line at the very bottom.

Strangely, I felt something off as I reached the finish line.

[Quest Completed! Learning to Race, +500 EXP]

[You have gained +1 to Driving Ability, and +1 to Racing level!]

The System gave me notifications I was not remotely interested in right now.

I knew I had completed my first descent very slowly compared to the speeds I knew I'd need to accomplish. I knew I had, in essence, partaken in my first true contact with the true beauty of a mountain pass. As much as I cherished this feeling, it felt virtual unfortunately. Like I was sitting in an Initial D bucket seat arcade machine at an old pizza shop.

I could interact with all these now real people, Keisuke, Takumi, Fumihiro, Kenta, all these people I would interact with as Ryosuke would've just off screen prior to the anime. But as much as I truly wanted it to be, this world was not mine. I had died and replaced a world I knew to be fictional, a world I truly loved and that formed in an integral part of my life.

I turned off the engine to the FC.

Why was I here? Why was I sitting here as Ryosuke Takahashi? Experiencing his first run, as I was truly someone else? I was a medical school student just like him, but our lives were so different.

In this world, Ryosuke'd become this shining star of racing who was only eclipsed by machinations outside of his control. The world's smartest racer was just not smart enough.

As much as I admired the character the Takahashi brothers became, I truly pitied them. The writer of Initial D did not understand who were the truly interesting characters in the anime, instead choosing to not go the extra mile. The Takahashi brothers were always my favorites, even as a boy.

I think that all the memes I used to watch as a teen, the anime I found as a preteen first experiencing any anime, there was something there that I just don't remember. I don't remember that Initial D was my very first anime, it was just one of my first.

I had turned twenty eight when I began my first year of medical school. After graduating from college, I swore off all things that'd distract me, all the things that served as my only source of entertainment for many years. And now, I had found that little golden egg inside me, that nostalgia I longed to reconnect with.

The feeling of being a child again, the feeling of finding something that mattered to me.

And finally, I believed I found it.

I'd race down this mountain until my tires burnt off. I'd buy more tires and race those until I ran out of money. I'd turbocharge this car to make it more powerful until I ran at speeds my Gamer accelerated mind could no longer take.

Not to rekindle my longing to have Ryosuke defeat Takumi, but as my own victory. Over all I'd lost in my own world as an adult. I'd get another chance as a young man, I'd use my turn to tell Initial D my way, to tell the rise of the Takahashi brothers.

I restarted the FC's rotary engine. It'd be a lot of money to get the right tires and tuning to get the FC up to the AE86 Takumi drove every night to deliver tofu, but luckily I'd almost forgotten something.

I was rich now.

I decided I'd drive home and take Keisuke out for dinner, we needed to have a meal together, and a conversation. Brother to brother.

IIIIIIIIII

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AN: I've been a bit sad as of late. Funimation decided to take Initial D off Youtube for no goddamn reason! So now the only place to find Initial D officially, is on their website. Meaning the way I experienced Initial D for the first time, and the way it should be experienced, can no longer be experienced.

Moreover, I'd like to recommend Initial D to all of you, at least the very first season. It's nothing groundbreaking but it's a barrel of classic 90s fun. Watch it, whatever you think of it, let me know. Peace y'all, stay safe my friends.