Chapter 61: Crazy Little Love
"All right." I mumbled to myself. "Let's do this one last time."
I rolled up the garage door in the Takahashi Mansion.
In it lay the last two cars anyone would ever see of the Red Suns. The first two cars anyone saw in the anime of the Red Suns would ironically be their last tonight.
I hooked up both RX-7s to my laptop and a few seconds later had the results, first for the FC.
Cooling System: Unchanged
13B-T 1: Unchanged
13B-T 2: Unchanged
Gearbox and Shift-Train: Unchanged
Rear Axle: Unchanged
Front axle: Unchanged
Tire Pressure: Unchanged
Cooling and Engine Pressure: Unchanged
System Summary: Unchanged
"You ready?" asked Keisuke as his FD provided the computer with the exact readings.
"The question is are you?" I asked. "After tonight you won't be a street racer anymore. It's from here to the K2 from now on."
Keisuke shrugged. "I made some great memories over the years. This has always been the best part of my life for some time now."
"Yes. I agree." I said.
Keisuke sighed. "The simulations for tonight?"
"Relatively straightforward." I said. "Go Hojo will not be able to keep up when you go all out. As soon as you do so entering the last third, it'll be over, the NSX will not recover. The 86 however will be much more challenging. It's simply too fast to outpace and Inui knows the course too well to exploit very much, I'll have to push my only advantage."
"Experience. See as fast as he is, which is alarming in my opinion, he has no real history in battles on the downhill. He has no idea what the FC's capabilities are, and where, when, and how I plan to overtake. I've isolated a single corner where I have enough advantage in speed to take the lead. From there, I will be taking lines much faster and more dangerous than even the ones against God Arm."
I rubbed my eyes. "It's getting late. We should start heading out."
Sidewinder's silver two door AE86 coupe driven by Shinji Inui climbed the hill followed by Go Hojo's red NSX amidst the light cheers for a few fans.
Takumi took note of the way the 86 climbed the hill.
"Hell yeah!" Itsuki cheered happily as the Akina Speed Stars took their spots to watch the races. "Look how many people are out here tonight!"
Iketani chuckled. "Yeah, the Takahashi brothers are born superstars, even out here in Kanagawa. Seeing as how many people know this is their last street racing battle, I'm actually surprised they're showing up this late to get good spots."
"Doesn't that make us late too?" Kenji pointed out.
Before Iketani could respond, Itsuki started to ball his fists and speak. "Oh man I can't get pumped any freaking more for this race! Ryosuke Takahashi, Gunma's number one driver, the most badass racer of all time! The pride of our entire prefecture, is going to throw down with someone nearly my age driving almost the same car!"
"Well I wouldn't call it the same car." Kenji mumbled.
"I stand by what I said. It's like Takumi's getting out there himself. Right. Takumi. Takumi!?"
Takumi glanced at his best friend before turning towards the road. "I haven't seen very much of this mountain's 86, but what I did see from the way it turned was that it was completely different to mine."
"Completely different?" asked Iketani. "It's still an 86 right?"
"It's tough for me to explain. But it looks like this local 86 is better suited for the road than mine. It seemed stiffer when it climbed the hill than mine would. I don't know, it's just different."
Itsuki spoke loudly about how impossible it was for Takumi to determine so much as Kenji just mumbled to Iketani. "He got all that from watching the 86 barely push itself on the uphill?"
"It is an 86. If anyone knows about 86' it's him." Iketani responded.
Itsuki crossed his arms. "Well if you know so much then why don't you tell us how the race is going to go down?"
"Um." started Takumi quietly. "I haven't seen the 86 race at all. But if I had to guess I'd say Ryosuke'd probably win."
"Really? He's amazing, yeah." Iketani said. "But I hear the kid driving this 86 coupe is out of this world. The leaders of the Kanagawa teams could've picked anyone, which is saying a lot, to be the last person to stop the Red Suns from running over the prefecture and he picked a 16 year old kid. Er, no offence guys."
"I normally would agree with you." muttered Takumi. "But I was sure Ryosuke was going to lose the race against the S2000, and he somehow pulled a win out of that. The main factor tonight is racing experience, especially with how fast they should be if they're in the fastest race in the fastest prefecture. And unless the 86 guy can manage to outclass Ryosuke there, that might be crucial."
"Don't say nonsense like that Takumi!" Itsuki growled. "Everyone knows Gunma is the fastest! Always was always will be!"
"Only because the Red Suns spent the last year proving it to everyone." Iketani frowned and looked down at his feet as Kenji did the same shameful look. "Otherwise they'd be damn right."
A bit farther down Tsubaki's mountain pass, Impact Blue were speaking.
"So Ryosuke's last race huh?' asked Sayuki.
"Yup." Mako said. "Promised we could spend more time together after the Red Suns were disbanded."
"I mean I knew it was going to happen eventually. But to actually be here tonight and know it's over for them. It just feels strange."
A black FD with a vented hood pulled behind the guardrail near Mako's Sileighty.
Kyoko Iwase got out and walked closer to the girls.
"Yours?" Kyoko asked them, pointing towards the Sileighty.
"Hell yeah!" Sayuki said proudly. "Got this baby around the same time when. Well. Mako here started getting the hots for Akagi's White Comet."
Mako pretended Sayuki had said nothing as Kyoko smiled. "I actually know the Takahashi brothers personally. Or, well. Keisuke at least. We're friends."
Mako smiled towards Kyoko. "I'm Mako. This is Sayuki."
"Kyoko. I'm part of the Saitama Alliance.
"So you know Keisuke. But how well do you know him?" Sayuki raised her eyebrows.
"Drop it. Please." Mako asked quietly.
"What? He's the hotter one of the two, at least in my opinion, and that's saying a whole lot."
Mako ignored this comment about her own boyfriend. "I will not dishonor Ryosuke's last hours as a street racer by gossiping about guys. This is a historic night."
"Oh my god." groaned Sayuki. "Lighten up! Damn. I'm sorry, ever since they started dating she's inherited part of Ryosuke's stone statue personality."
"You're dating Ryosuke Takahashi? But he's like...a legend. Has been for years right?" Kyoko said.
"I know right?" Mako sighed. "I can hardly believe it myself half the time."
"Counting the days until the wedding bells ring and the baby carriages come if you ask me." Sayuki whispered to Kyoko.
"What about you Sayuki. Do you have a boyfriend?" wondered Kyoko.
"What!?" Sayuki squawked. "That's! That's unimportant. We were talking about Mako."
Kyoko sighed. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize."
She saw the look growing on Mako's face.
"Are you alright? I didn't mean to intrude-"
"It's not that." Mako began to shed tears. "This is all Ryosuke's ever wanted. His dream. His fastest racer theory. The Akagi Red Suns, all of it. And it's all about to end."
Sayuki nodded. "Yeah."
The air between the three young women changed. Silently, they began to wait for the race to start.
"Now this was worth the drive wasn't it?" Next to his Jade GT-R BNR34, Kozo Hoshino waved a hand towards the large collection of street racers and racing fans from all over who had come to watch the race. "Ever since we met these Takahashi brothers no one could shut up about them. Should be fun."
"Hm. This won't mean it'll be easy. For either party, especially on the downhill." Doctor Toshiya Joshima said.
Kozo chuckled. "After beating us, those two boys driving the RX-7s shouldn't have any trouble."
"See at first that's what I thought too. Then I considered the obvious question. Why in the world would a team full of skilled and professional racers in Kanagawa leave a mostly untrained boy of 16 as their last hope to not be completely defeated? The answer is quite obvious, at least to me."
Toshiya stepped forward and pointed around the mountain pass ahead of their section behind the guardrail. "It might not look like it. But this course packs many tricks up its sleeves. The real trap must lie in the course, and how the driver exploits it. It's the only way Kanagawa can have any hope of victory tonight against someone like Ryosuke Takahashi."
"Exploiting the course? Doesn't look like there's much there."
"Like I said there is." Toshiya explained. "The only logic I can see behind using a kid this young to stand up to a beast like Ryosuke must be because he must understand the course on a level to where he not only knows the exact ideal speeds and lines, but has it down pat. Cold. For someone to know a course so well, he or she must basically have it burnt into their memory, for years."
Toshiya turned towards Kozo. "Those are just my instincts. But everything I know about both sides tells me Ryosuke's FC is perfectly well suited for this kind of course, but so is his opponent's car. Not to mention the fact that Kanagawa's driver seems to possess an enormous advantage. This will be quite the battle I promise Ko."
Kozo chuckled. "Better be. I didn't drive all the way here for nothing."
I was leaning on the side of my FC.
The uphill race was about to go underway.
Everyone was hanging back, the crewmembers, everyone at the top of Tsubaki's hill.
I was closing my eyes. Listening, drinking in the moment.
When I would step into my FC, this would be the last time anyone would see Ryosuke Takahashi lead the Red Suns anywhere. To any victory.
My FC. My precious FC. My team. Victory meant it was over. For good.
I could have races in the future to come out of retirement, but for now. The muttering I heard, the excitement in the air. It would be last time I could enjoy racing in the mountain passes.
I remembered what it felt like to pass the three lane turn and keep the lead against the 86. The entire world seemed to be sitting on a knife's edge, all I could think about was holding my traction and speed well enough through the turn to keep my legacy alive.
And then I passed the turn. My grip didn't give out. And the 86 stayed behind me.
I had won.
It was around then I realized that my turn had begun. And now it was almost over.
I was resisting the urge to cry. For many reasons, but above all because this was one of the last moments where my FC would still be known as Akagi's White Comet.
The comet that soared across the entire Kanto region. Defeating the first 86, to race the last.
I had beaten an 86 before. I could do it again. But the friendships I had created amongst the team, the futures I had changed.
Everyone I knew from the series I had grown up on would be proud of me. Even Takumi Fujiwara, would understand withstanding defeat in one lifetime to ensure my FC could have its moment to shine.
That the same team that had humiliated his friends on their own mountain only to never appear again would become the super star racers of tomorrow.
This was a risk I had taken many times. Especially when I raced Joshima. But I was willing to give my life tonight if it meant I could ensure the FC's perfect record.
It was impossible that this would happen, but everything told me I needed to enjoy this race the best I could.
To push the FC beyond the gargantuan limits I had tuned it to. Every single Yen, every one of the dozens of hours spent maintaining it.
The 86 ahead of me. And the driver no one had any idea why was racing against me tonight.
There weren't as many people up here as there were the night I raced Takumi Fujiwara's 86, but there were plenty.
I opened my eyes. I wanted to enjoy tonight properly.
I remembered a small sound file from the days I was watching Initial D. A chilling, ethereal sound, that encapsulated everything about Ryosuke Takahashi and contextualized what Takumi's final race at the end of the first season meant:
"Akagi's White Comet."
Ironically, if my memory were to serve me correctly, this would be the last time I could remember it appropriately.
The entire peak was silent for a moment, dozens of conversations, stopped dead.
Even the crewmembers ensuring the status and safety of the race lowered their walkies and glanced away from their computers.
The boy was shorter than me, nearly eight years younger. But still, he wasn't scared. He looked like he had just gotten off school.
"You must be Shinji Inui."
He nodded and shook my hand.
[Shinji Inui LV 87 - Downhiller]
In a split second I got stats that were actually useless to me at this point. All I wanted was to speak to him.
"And you're Ryosuke Takahashi. The superstar from Gunma everybody and their brother's been talking about."
I nodded in return. "I wanted to thank you for not dropping in last minute. The last 86 I raced, he had a flair for the dramatic. Always chose to show up no more than a minute before the race was scheduled. But I wanted to ask you something before we started."
"Sure thing. What is it?" Shinji asked.
"I take it teenage boys your age would much rather be chasing girls or getting caught up on their favorite TV show or video game right now. What in the world convinced you to drive here at all tonight?"
"Well for the longest time I did just that. Kind of bounced around from after school club to after school club just doing whatever. Problem was, I was only really interested in street racing for what you said, girls. Things changed when I remembered a certain debt I owe. To Sidewinder, to Mr. Kubo. And downhill racing."
Never for a million years would I expect an almost seventeen year old Shinji Inui to be talking like this.
"What in the world came over you then?" I asked.
Shinji turned to his car. "I mean, my family really only ever owned one car. This 86. My dad used it to become the World Rally Champ three times over. After he passed, my mom wanted to get a different one, but Mr. Kubo convinced her to keep it. So we just took the racing decals off it, and turned it into our family car."
As surprised as I was to hear this I spoke. "I'm sorry to hear about your father. I think he'd be proud to know you were racing tonight. You must have a tremendous amount of pressure on you tonight, but I want to assure you your skills on the downhill probably are the envy of your entire prefecture."
Shinji actually smiled and laughed a bit. "Now what makes you say that? All I really know is the road I guess."
I chuckled too. I remembered how similar Takumi's humble reply was.
"This might sound odd. But you were in all likelihood destined to race me tonight. And my first real race as a Red Sun was against a driver similar to you in so many ways. That night was one of the most important and memorable of my entire life, I hope you realize this too. That tonight just might be for you as well."
Shinji nodded again. "I hope we have a good race."
"I promise you we shall."
I was going to win this. I repeated this in my head several times. If I beat one 86, drivers everyone thought were underdogs when it was the opposite really, it would happen again.
I heard Fumihiro clear his throat behind me, and I turned around to see him walk towards me, walkie in hand. "That's the second checkpoint. They're going to be here in a few minutes."
"Right." I said walking away from Shinji.
The next few minutes would be agonizing. Sitting in the driver's seat of the FC, waiting for Keisuke to take home the win for the Red Suns, and the electrifying feeling that it would be the very final battle for our Kanto expeditions.
I had started the team. It was time for me to cement its place in racing history.
The mountain was completely silent. Which was odd, considering every person the Red Suns had ever raced were there, waiting behind the guardrails.
All that could be heard was the beeping of the walkies.
"This is the chicane between the blind corners. Course is clear."
"Thirteenth corner. Conditions are fine for racing."
"All clear at checkpoint one."
"Corner twenty two. Clear."
"Checkpoint two. We're good to start the race."
"Checkpoint three. We're clear."
"Finish line. We're good."
Fumihiro clicked a button on his walkie. "This is the starting line. We're in position to start the race."
"All right, get ready!" he called out.
Ryosuke was sitting behind Shinji in the FC.
The FC was about half a car length behind the 86 on the starting line. Mako, Kyoichi Sudo, and the Akina Speed Stars looked on from behind the guardrail.
Both drivers started tapping the gas, revving their engines.
"Countdown starts now! Five!"
The spinning of the rotaries buzzed. The notable lack of a turbocharger didn't make its revs different, if anything they were highlighted.
Shinji's 4A-GE red top had strangely smooth revs, but it paled in comparison to how much power Ryosuke's engine seemed to have. Both drivers were staring downhill calmly.
"Two! One! Go!"
Fumihiro threw his hand down and the crowd cheered the second Ryosuke shot off.
"That was one of the best starts the White Comet's ever had!" a spectator called out amongst the cheers.
Right off the line, Ryosuke's timing on the gearbox and throttle let him get much better traction to follow Shinji down Tsubaki's first straight.
Holding the gas down at full throttle, the 86 led the FC down the first straightaway reaching second gear in under fifteen seconds.
Entering Tsubaki's first corner, a sharp right at 90 degrees, Ryosuke watched as Shinji barely used the brakes, steering lightly and taking his foot off the gas for a split second before flooring it again.
Ryosuke meanwhile had lightly applied the brakes and gone from the outside to the inside.
Ground was given in favor of the 86, Ryosuke didn't appear to be slower after the corner.
On the exit, Ryosuke had far better acceleration, quickly catching up again.
Into the sharp right, the 86' tires screeched first, followed almost instantly by the FC's tires.
Exiting the turn recovering the tiny bit of ground he lost entering the turn, Ryosuke was squinting at the rear of Shinji's 86.
'He's supernaturally fast. No 16 year old could hold a line that fast on the downhill without flying clean off the mountain.'
The tires screeched, both cars sharply changed direction to enter the long and curvy straight requiring extremely precise throttle and steering.
Both cars were accelerating at full speed down Tsubaki's hill. The FC's headlights glowing brightly, nearly reaching the rear bumper of the 86.
In the straightaway, Ryosuke had far greater speed, but was unable to exploit it from how the 86 barely dropped from its top speed during any section so far.
'This 86 is indeed a rally car. It's been tuned on the inside perfectly. But the driver. No human being can drive this smoothly at this speed. I'm at full throttle and he's cruising.'
Changing gears to again to exit the curvy straight straddling between a long corner and straightaway, Shinji was able to maintain perfect traction even from how sharply he changed the 86' direction into a long right turn.
Ryosuke's FC had tires that were screeching very loudly. While he looked as fast and smooth as Shinji moving through the long right corner with barely any brakes, Ryosuke was struggling.
The traction of the road Ryosuke needed just where he need it to be, the speed the FC was at was almost too high for Ryosuke to control meanwhile Shinji's 86 looked like it was on rails.
The 86 appeared to be driving on nothing but the strongest amount of grip in all of its lines through the long right and left curves. Even switching directions smoothly and able to barely keep up, the FC teetered on the edge of losing grip through the strong corners.
Shinji again maintained a perfect line and perfect traction through a left corner at nearly 75 kilometers per hour on the entry. With just the tiniest hint of brakes and the exact steering input, Shinji was able to enter the corner at the very last second, not use either pedal for a split second and get right back on the throttle.
Ryosuke on the other hand was trying all he could to prevent the FC from beginning to slide out. Even with how much grip and downforce the FC had, the pace the 86 was setting was so high that in order to keep up, Ryosuke had thrown all caution to the wind.
Accelerating down the long straight with both drivers flooring the gas, Ryosuke was able to catch his breath.
The FC started to catch up, instantly regaining the small fractions of seconds lost in each corner.
The engines of both cars hummed loudly as the 86 accelerated, leading the FC in the lead strongly.
Entering the slight left, the 86 again got better traction and a faster line on the entry, but Ryosuke compensated by purely adapting, reading the corner's braking point later.
Both drivers only had to let off the gas for a second before putting it back down again, steering lightly to enter the slight right curve for a second and start accelerating at full power.
Ryosuke was able to recover better from the corner than Shinji, but they were driving downhill so fast by the time the FC had stabilized from the turn the 86 was already entering a ninety degree left at full speed, the FC zooming loudly into the turn after it a split second after.
Requiring every ounce of the FC's monstrous grip and downforce, Ryosuke timed the brakes and steering perfectly to just barely not get left in the dust completely by the 86 after a single corner.
The upcoming ninety degree right looked like the devil's cruel joke, the utter drop in speed again would paint the 86 as the much smoother car due to the difference in handling.
The short straightaway offered a moment's breath to Ryosuke, and he again bit the inside hard, tapping the brakes and entering from the very left of the road to the very right, and accelerating at just the right fraction of a second before the apex as the traction returned to all four tires.
Accelerating hard off the apex, the rear tires of the FC spun, and Ryosuke began to get the fastest and cleanest exit speed he ever had.
On the straight, Ryosuke again used the long straight to recover time and regain his bearings.
'To the untrained eye it might not look like he's braking. But for the faintest hundredth of a second he is. The timing on that is ludicrous, I don't know if even I could pull it off at that speed. But the fact that I've read it means I've won the battle, if I can only survive that is.'
Around the right corner, the 86 was going at speeds that even Akagi's famed FC was needing everything it had to keep up around the turn.
'No easy feat.'
Into a ninety degree left corner, Ryosuke gripped the steering wheel tighter, braking later than he did previously to try to give the FC better entry speed and a line closer to the 86.
On the exit, the FC had better grip and speed down the straight, drawing the gap to now less than half a car length.
Shinji didn't look into his rearview, thinking. 'He's kept up with me. I can hear his engine behind me. I didn't start making mistakes so what gives?'
Shinji shook his head. 'Ignore him. Push it.'
Changing gears, Shinji held his foot flat on the gas down the straightaway.
The 86 continued to throttle at full speed as Shinji's use of the accelerator and steering remained laser accurate, the FC following at all costs.
Through the tight left hairpin, Ryosuke had to go wide, while Shinji had gone tight, and on the exit the better line of the 86 fell to Ryosuke's superior traction and timing on the gearbox.
Down the straight, the FC had much better speed, but in the corners, the 86 held such a strong advantage on the entry that it took all Ryosuke had to keep up.
Ryosuke saw how long yet tight the upcoming right ninety degree corner was and both drivers now began to barely use the brakes, instead nearly all throttle and steering.
The resulting speeds became similar on the entry, but on the exit, Ryosuke again had better footing in the FC and held his line strongly.
Through an almost exact copy of the previous turn yet a left instead, Ryosuke and Shinji took very similar lines, the 86 zooming first through the turn at full speed followed less than a second later by the FC.
Hard on the throttle on the exit, Ryosuke's FC was starting to find better traction than it ever had. Ryosuke's timing had improved from how well the Gamer had improved his reaction times on the entry and exit.
The next corner, a long and slight right, required the slightest tap on the brakes before needing to steer and change directions to again get back on the gas instantly. And the 86 and FC only seemed to be getting faster despite it seeming impossible to crowd.
At the sharp left corner, Shinji took his foot off the gas at the last second, found the perfect line to steer into the turn and accelerate once more. The 86 was tearing through the corner ripping asphalt hard and loudly.
The FC meanwhile was just barely slower, zipping downhill with Ryosuke timing his braking harder and earlier, but getting a strong exit after compensating with slower entry able to catch up on the straight instantly.
Both drivers had passed the first checkpoint in spectacular fashion, everyone in the crowd cheering louder than they likely ever had at the display of speed and control.
"They're six seconds ahead of the course record! I swear to God, six seconds!" a crew member announced to the mountain as the downhill battle continued.
Ryosuke upshifted and pressed the gas down, thinking quickly on the exit while tailing an 86 going so fast downhill it might as well have caught on fire. 'There are no straights at all, this course is practically all curves. The lighter and underpowered 86 has the advantage here on every corner entry. And the driver is just...'
Screeching into a left corner at full speed, the 86 appeared to be barely cutting its speed down when cornering, and still maintained a perfectly straight line and full traction.
'Shinji Inui could surpass all of Kanto, no, all of Rally at some point, if he had the kind of training Fujiwara had by his age. This level of natural driving instinct should not exist within the confines of human ability. It's fascinating. Exhilarating.'
The FC's twin rotary system howled, at full boost down the short straight, a small jet engine appeared to be screaming right behind the 86 while its pistons sang.
'However, as naturally fast as he is, he lacks a severe amount of skill and awareness outside of how well he can focus. That will be crucial when determining the exact place where I have a speed advantage.'
Into a slightly less than ninety degree left, Ryosuke was forced to slide the car a little by causing wheel lift with counter steer on the entry, doing whatever it took to keep up with the 86.
Nearly striking the guardrail at full speed and causing a complete loss of traction, Ryosuke anticipated the traction loss with instant use of the clutch and steering before gaining speed on the exit, hard on the accelerator.
The FC's 13B-Ts spun again, whirring as Ryosuke chased after the 86 downhill.
Seeing the right turn approach, Ryosuke began letting his foot off the gas later, trying his best to use as much of the road as possible from outside to inside, while Shinji didn't seem to pay attention to the track at all, simply taking turns calmly.
All he did was throttle until the last possible moment, apply the tiniest hint of braking on the right corner entry and steer lightly in to use the 86' full traction to maintain his line around the turn completely smoothly despite his daunting speed. The moment the 86 began to stabilize once more Shinji placed his foot completely on the gas once more, pinning it to the floor.
The FC's corner was more reliant on the brakes but only slightly slower, barely regaining the time lost on the corner exit at full throttle.
Peeling out of a slight left bend, their tires screeching hard, tearing through the night sky loudly, both drivers got back on the power at almost the same time, and with full traction returning to both cars, it was the FC that got the upper hand when accelerating.
Ryosuke was able to close the gap on the exit and down the straight, Ryosuke squinting and focusing on the rear of the 86 calmly.
Entering a long looping left hairpin, Ryosuke and Shinji were forced to stop throttling for a moment, brake lightly and begin to curve the FC and 86 around it.
For the first half of the hairpin, it was so long that for a moment both the FC and 86 could accelerate once more before stopping, reaching the other end of the curve and throttling once more at full power.
Approaching a sharp ninety degree right Ryosuke was gaining ground down the straightaway, but at the last moment when shooting into the corner, the gap widened instantly on the corner entry and the FC closed the gap to the 86 once more on the exit.
The tires screeched, the headlights flashed and the engines could be heard ripping loudly on the downhill through the turn.
As his rev tachometer began to climb upward, Ryosuke's eyes widened, realizing the pace. 'This has been my best race of my whole life. Not in sentimental terms, these are my fastest turns. I'm pushing the car so hard even my custom Mazdaspeed gearbox is telling me the heat is growing.'
Ryosuke stood up straighter and powered through the hard left corner, ignoring the mental shock that would've come from following an 86 so quickly into a turn so sharp.
'It's not failing in terms of performance, but each shift is different. FC, we're making it to the end, and you're powering through it so well.'
Into a wide C shaped turn, Ryosuke used as little braking as he could, keeping his line tight around the turn.
The crowd cheered, rows and rows of fans raised their fists and roared as the FC continued to follow Kanagawa's ace millimeters off the guardrail.
His tires screeching, Ryosuke predicted the return of traction to all four tires so well on the exit he was outmatching the 86 utterly on the exit. And down the short and typically curvy straights, the FC held so much advantage in speed Ryosuke was given a moment's rest to breathe.
On the entry however, it was taking Ryosuke's complete ability to keep up. The White Comet was preparing himself mentally, the battle was going to change pace.
The corners stayed the same however, with sharp rights and lefts, but reaching a hairpin requiring hard and precise braking, Ryosuke finally turned the battle around.
Down the straight with both the 86 and FC at full acceleration, Ryosuke's method of moving from the complete edge of one side of the road to the other by using as much of the pass as possible paid off.
Nearing the entry to the 45 degree right, the FC caught up to the 86 almost completely and instantaneously.
The gap closed significantly on the entry, and Ryosuke was able to get on the gas earlier, paying off massively on the exit.
Flying down the next straight, Shinji gulped, realizing the FC's headlights were glowing very strongly in his sideviews.
'Thought so.' Ryosuke muttered mentally, upshifting instantly and watching the 86 quietly from behind. 'He just knows the course so well he can drive it blindfolded from the looks of it. However, there's no changing the fact that I'm more experienced when it comes to lines. The one advantage that can carry this race to victory for me.'
The gap only widened slightly on the entry of the sharp ninety degree left corner, but the time Ryosuke had gained on the previous turn was too much to lose so quickly.
The FC continued to remain within a single half car length of the 86 now and the crowd were besides themselves with how quickly Ryosuke had been able to catch up.
Through a long and curvy straight shaped like a C, Ryosuke was driving dangerously close to the guardrail, trying to retain every millisecond possible around the whole hybrid corner and straightaway.
At the end of it when the road straightened, Shinji was able to widen the gap a bit more when entering a sharp left, but the resulting straight was so long the FC caught up with ease.
The slight left bend barely bothered Ryosuke, keeping his eyes attached to the rear of the 86. He was visualizing the road ahead of the car, not the car itself.
The stare he was giving the downhill was completely cold as the 13B-T roared down the straightaway, Akagi's White Comet giving it his all to race Shinji. He was ignoring all pretense of safety, merely driving as fast as he could at all times.
The slight curves between each straight didn't seem to affect either driver. They barely dropped speed, instead changing their speeds on the entry with some steering to account for it.
At the end of the long straight entering a sharp left corner, Ryosuke had gotten so good at reading the way the 86 tried running away on the entry of the corners through a lack of braking and final steering and throttle release at the last fraction of a second, that instead of copying Shinji's line, Ryosuke built a better one.
Ryosuke was pushing the FC very hard on the entry and exit, however he wasn't making a different line, just modifying his usual cornering to adapt to the sharpness of the ninety degree left.
The difference in speeds on the entry were now very small, but massive in the FC's favor on the exit.
On the exit, Ryosuke saw how long the straightaway was, knowing he could keep up with ease.
Now Ryosuke held down the gas and began pressuring the 86' line on the straight.
The FC's headlights were dancing left and right in Shinji's rearview.
Fighting through his nerves, Shinji kept the gas down completely and stayed focused, knowing the sharp right corner at the end of the straight would provide a moment's rest when entering it.
Almost not tapping the brakes for a split second, Shinji used neither pedal while approaching the apex of the right curve before holding the gas down hard.
Ryosuke however was using a lot more of the brakes and moving in from the outside of the road instead of the middle, losing a bit of time through the corner but regaining it when placing his foto on the gas once more.
Through the nearly identical ninety degree right, Ryosuke's line stayed strong, but Shinji's did again, and the 86 maintained its pace.
Flying past them, the crowd behind the guardrail roared as the 86 zipped past loudly, followed by the FC instantly. "There's less than a tenth of a second worth of a gap between them. Shinji's 86 is now fourteen seconds ahead of his best on the hill here at the second checkpoint!" the Sidewinder spotter said into his walkie.
Through the windy chicane, both cars barely changed direction, instead reacting with slight inputs of steering and changes in throttle.
A few observant crew members and fans knew what Ryosuke was planning. Kyoichi Sudo above all, muttered to his subordinate, Seiji.
"The FC is faster on the entry of very slow hairpins. That's the best chance to overtake."
Kyoichi chuckled quietly watching the FC fly past in pursuit of the 86. "It's not surprising to know only Ryosuke Takahashi can pull a strong strategy out of a race he's been off pace in on every corner. One last good simulation to say goodbye."
Their line execution was so strong that neither driver or car wavered, and the 86 remained in the lead, the FC following tightly.
After the quick straight to clear the sharp left, Ryosuke braked, downshifted, and just barely avoided the FC from sliding on the entry of the turn.
The 86' tires screeched while cornering at full speed, followed by the FC quickly as both cars exited just as smoothly as they entered, accelerating once more.
Tsubaki Pass was passing by almost in a blur around them down the next straight, and into the sharp right, Ryosuke tapped the brakes, going from the outside inward, clearing the guardrail by millimeters and shooting off after the 86 before the apex hard on the throttle.
Requiring less braking than Ryosuke's line, the 86 was slightly faster in the entry, but Ryosuke had anticipated the speed change and the grip the road offered so well he compensated perfectly on the exit. His understanding of the best lines was different than Shinji's, but Ryosuke's braking outclassed Shinji's utterly.
Both drivers only took their feet off the throttle for a split second, needing to slow down and steer to clear a very long left curve.
The moment they were about to pass the apex of the turn, Ryosuke and Shinji put their feet back down on the throttle hard.
With their feet flat on the accelerator, the FC and 86 resumed their duel downhill.
Ryosuke's speed advantage in the straights paid off, and now the FC was no longer about half a meter off Shinji's bumper. The 86's rear had the FC's front bumper nearly touching it.
Approaching the right hairpin turn, Shinji was steering right and left in an attempt to shake Ryosuke off his tail. However, the turn was fast approaching, and what Ryosuke did next set the crowd on fire.
First, Ryosuke timed his entry into Shinji's blind spot at the exact moment both cars needed to brake for the hairpin. Knowing his brakes and braking technique far outclassed Shinji's, the FC got speed and stability leagues better than Shinji's 86 through the hairpin.
Already nearly on the exit, Shinji barked aloud with fear. "That's impossible! How did he get there so quickly!?"
Shinji was so surprised by Ryosuke's use of the vanishing line that he nearly banged the left side of the 86 on the guardrail on the exit, quickly recovering.
He had both timed the exact blind spot Shinji would have and when he would start to brake with an almost instant overtake. The FC had finally gone much faster than the 86 on the entry of a turn.
Crewmembers rushed to alert the mountain.
"The FC just took the inside from the 86 and overtook! It was like some sort of suicide run on the guardrail, he was basically hitting the mountain wall the whole way through! At this pace, they're going to beat the course record by fifteen seconds!"
Down the long straight after the hairpin, Ryosuke held the lead easily with how much faster the FC was than the 86 through the straightaway.
'He's so fast in the stretch. How did he take that position so quickly!? By the time he had taken the lead the turn had barely finished!' thought Shinji.
Shinji upshifted and gripped the steering wheel. 'I don't want to lose. I can't. I can catch up to the RX-7 ahead of me, no matter how fast it is!'
Entering the light left bend, the tires on both cars started screeching for a split second as they changed directions instantly and continued flying downhill at full speed.
Around a long left corner shaped perfectly like a C, both cars again had to use throttle twice to clear it.
However, Ryosuke retained the advantage with the FC's superior tuning and better horsepower and grip.
The second the C shaped corner ended, a sharp ninety degree left appeared, nearly sending Ryosuke soaring clean through the guardrail from his speed.
Braking at just the right second, Ryosuke went to the inside, slowed down, and almost instantly put his foot back down on the throttle through the quick corner.
The 86 was able to follow easily through the turn, but then another one appeared. And the constant pace and speed of the corners seemed to increase, with barely a moments rest in the form of a straightaway in between.
Ryosuke still kept good grip in all four tires, flying through the right corner at full speed, staying hard on the throttle and light on the brakes and steering. However, the FC was maintaining great stability, the 86 following it tightly on the entry.
The 86' cornering speed now reached its maximum, and Ryosuke was barely ahead on the entry of each turn.
Through superior positioning, the FC was able to take the fastest line around the sharp left corner while simultaneously blocking the 86 from entering.
From their speed through the turns and the intensity of the race, there was so much adrenaline flowing through both drivers all thoughts had ceased. The constant drone of the ripping engines, screeching tires, it was all drowned out. In the zone, the battle completely consumed their focus.
Ryosuke and Shinji only felt the FC and 86 respectively, and the road.
Ryosuke kept the gas pinned to the floor as did Shinji, through the right ninety degree turn, they only needed to barely brake, steer at the last second, and shoot out of the turn like a bullet.
Ryosuke began to take his foot off the gas steadily while Shinji kept it down tightly, however, this gave Ryosuke the advantage on the entry because he could brake lighter than Shinji did when the braking point appeared.
The FC led the 86 through the windy turns, screeching loudly, flying through corners faster than they had for the whole race.
Entering a sharp left turn at full speed, Ryosuke tapped the brakes for the faintest second before steering lightly into the turn and clearing the guardrail by millimeters, and the FC was flying through the turn like a rocket followed instantly by the 86.
On the exit, the gap widened for nearly a second before cars needed to slow down just a bit to soar around the looping right curve.
"Checkpoint three! They're sixteen seconds ahead of the course record! Ryosuke's still got the lead but the 86 is chewing his bumper!"
Hard as he tried, there was no space at all for Shinji to pass the FC through a left hairpin.
Ryosuke's line was just as fast as his, and he was pushing the FC to block the 86 completely, and there was nothing Shinji could do about it.
On the exit, Ryosuke continued to push his main advantage by being faster on the straights, holding the gas pedal down so hard Ryosuke might as well have put it through the floor on the exit, the FC continued to fly down the straight, its rotaries roaring.
The FC's true fastest speed ever on the downhill was reached, through the corners, through the hairpins, and straights. The crowd could barely believe their eyes that the oddly superhumanly fast 86 was able to keep up at all and keep the battle up.
As both cars slowed down slightly for the ninety degree left, Ryosuke again didn't have a better line, it was equally fast and smooth as the 86', however because he entered the turn first, he blocked every attempt the 86 made to pass.
For the left curve that followed, Shinji had gotten so desperate to pass he was now on the outside. Finding room, Shinji would've taken a line to overtake had Ryosuke not had the superior position on the entry and a much faster car on the exit.
Around the looping left curve, Ryosuke was able to hold the lead with extremely precise timing and control of the throttle.
Ryosuke took his foot off the throttle earlier than Shinji, but with equal speed on the entry of the left corner, Shinji again remained attached to the FC's rear bumper, the gap widening on the exit once more.
Through the last straights, Ryosuke was able to start to retain his focus and the lead, meanwhile Shinji was practically jumping over the guardrail in an attempt to find any line, anything to pass the white FC.
Going wide from the outside, Ryosuke tapped the brakes, being able to use more throttle on the exit in exchange for less on the exit. The FC had a much smoother line through the entry, but the 86' was slightly faster with Shinji's last second hint of braking method of cornering.
Down the long straight, the gap widened enough to give Ryosuke the breathing room he needed to corner without worrying about the 86 taking a line through the inside.
Instead, Ryosuke kept his pace up well. The FC's rotaries continued to thunder, Ryosuke braked lighter and later, steering in to dive close to the guardrail and throttle hard before the apex appeared.
With the 86 hot on his heels through the entry, the FC widened the gap through the exit, but it closed once more as both cars smoothly cornered through the tight left hairpin.
Ignoring the mental strain that came with so many constant high speed corners with Gamer's mind, Ryosuke continued to push until the finish line, decreasing his speed for just a moment before using his perfected cornering skills to send the flying around the right corner just off the guardrail.
Shinji remained on his tail on the corner entry despite how high the FC's cornering speed was.
Through the straightaway, Shinji lost ground once more, and knew the upcoming left hairpin was tight enough that it would lose him time.
With a hard requirement for braking, Ryosuke extended his lead strongly on the entry, having a huge advantage.
As the FC was roaring down the straightaway at full speed, Shinji was unable to recover the gap he had lost during the braking point of the previous hairpin.
The 86 was well behind the FC as it was at full throttle down the straight.
Reaching the left corner, Ryosuke tapped the brakes again, steering close to the inside before nearly reaching the apex of the turn and flooring the gas to maximize his exit speed.
As the 86 completed the turn, having entered it faster but exiting slower was not enough, the FC was already on the straightaway, throttling hard.
Ryosuke braked hard, and on the last corner, a sharp right, and Shinji's entry outclassed Ryosuke's so much it closed the gap much more than the previous turn.
However, as the FC exited the turn and its engine roared toward the finish line, Shinji's 86 exited less than a second later. The race was over.
Down the last straight with both drivers flat out on the gas until the finish line, the crowd stayed dead quiet.
The FC was accelerating, Ryosuke holding the gas down with the finish line in sight and then the FC passed it first.
All was quiet at the finish line as the FC came to rest and Ryosuke had flown past the finish line, followed by the 86 less than a third of a second later.
Everyone seemed to be quiet, and then rows and rows of people exploded into cheers.
As hordes of people crowded the FC, one crewmember was left staring at the stopwatch.
"Seventeen seconds…" he mumbled.
I was looking around at the cheering crowd from the driver's seat of the FC.
It was like I was coming crashing back down to earth from the surreality of the race.
I blinked rapidly. Was that real? Was this real? Was this all real?
I didn't have a chance to think when someone ripped the door open to the FC. I was glad I had left it unlocked for this very occasion because with the strength Keisuke had used he could've torn it clean off.
Keisuke was holding back tears as he hugged me tightly around the fans that had hoarded the FC.
I could hardly believe it as Kenta laughed and ran to my side with a stopwatch in hand.
Jubilation erupted in all directions. I felt like I was floating out of my own body with happiness.
The next few moments, I recollected myself and watched as the entire Akagi Red Suns and several fans from Gunma picked me up and hoisted me into the air, tossing me up and down before I had the chance to refuse.
That moment, at the bottom of Tsubaki pass as the men I had put together from Gunma to complete my fastest racer theory and the legacy of the Takahashi family, of the FC and FD, I could feel the entire world sit still around me.
No one could see because I was tossed so high in the air and there were so many people, but I had let loose a tear.
I would never experience something like this again.
For now, I was no longer Akagi's White Comet. I was Ryosuke Takahashi, enjoying the happiest moments of my life.
Shinji slammed the door shut to his 86 and walked to Eiji. "Mr. Kubo, that was disgraceful of me." he said instantly. "If you want Rin to replace me I'll-"
"Nonsense my boy." Eiji chuckled. "You keep up with and race strongly with the best active downhiller of our time and you expect me to get mad?"
Rin smiled. "That was a line I don't think I could've gotten in my 32. A few millimeters off the braking point in some corners, and the FC would've lost to you. You had him Shinji."
His brother, Go Hojo smiled and crossed his arms. "I know you barely practice so the previous course record might be a bit inaccurate but you kept up with the FC Shinji. You defended our prefecture, you nearly won."
"Now that." Rin Hojo pointed towards his brother. "I couldn't have put it better myself."
Before Shinji could react, long time rivals between them and very standoffish men, from all over Kanagawa gathered around Shinji to give him their humble but happy congratulations and respect.
Having his hand shaken by people like Satoshi Omiya and the best drivers Kanto's racing circuits had known, Shinji felt like he was dreaming.
Out of the corner of his eye, Shinji could see girls looking towards him muttering and whispering to each other behind the men who were speaking to him happily and cheerfully.
His eyes wide, Shinji turned towards Ryosuke, seeing him placed back on the ground only to be crowded with questions, congratulations, and praise.
'I get it now. Thank you.'
The last bits of data were typed into Ryosuke's computer, as more of a formality, the FD and FC were outfitted with new tires and gas for the ride back home to Gunma one last time, and the Red Suns began to say their goodbyes to several people who had come out to watch.
Ibaraki's God Duo, the Emperors, the Todo School, and even street racers who had long since retired came to pay their respects and shake Ryosuke and Keisuke's hands.
Kanto knew it that night. The Takahashi brothers had been on top of the racing world for a long time, but that night, they were forever immortalized as legends.
Daito and Takihiro were speaking cheerfully about the race as the support vans were filled with the last boxes of equipment and set off.
As if he couldn't believe his eyes, every single simulation Ryosuke had run was correct nearly to the decimal points on final times. It almost felt like a very strange dream.
Fumihiro shook hands and took the congratulations of the last few people, and spoke with a smile before making it clear he had to go, and hopping in one of the HiAce vans.
Some were sad, but others were glad the Red Suns were victorious.
But it was very clear, it was the last time anyone would see the official blazing red sticker of the 'Red Suns' anywhere ever again.
Shinji Inui went home in his 86 only thinking of the race he had. The downhill felt like it was his, but the FC was burnt into his memory.
That night I basked in the epic legend that had now formed the very bedrock of street racing in Japan for all time.
I rested my hands on the balcony of my bedroom. Even though the Takahashi Mansion wasn't high above Gunma, or even my own neighborhood for that matter, it felt like I was looking down over the entire racing world.
The ancestors of the Takahashi family would be proud.
I had drawn the keys of the FC and went to war.
My rivals are scattered. They were not as fast as us. All who opposed us are crushed. Their mountains are silent.
No longer will local teams have their engines buzzing on their own hills as fruitfully as they would prior to our course records. We are champions, legends.
We Red Suns are triumphant. From the slopes of Akina, to the tracks of Hakone. We rule. I rule.
The true masters of the Kanto region's racing scene have been revealed. All racers respect us completely now. The best racers on public roads of all time.
The true masters of the FR layout. Of the downhill and uphill.
Our team's greatness will be remembered. Its glory. Its power.
A legacy to last until the end of time.
I gripped the balcony of my bedroom. Summer was ending.
Legend had been established. Now was the time for family.
I closed my eyes. I was disbanding the team tomorrow and planned to enjoy the last days of summer.
The last official team meeting of the Red Suns wouldn't be on a mountain. It would be on a beach.
I parked the FC and got out, locking it with a beep.
I approached Nana Takahashi's grave, likely in the same place Kaori would've been buried, in a traditional cemetery in downtown Takasaki.
The winds blew lightly, the sun was bright, and the sky was clear. This would be the last day the Red Suns would officially exist.
I picked up a pair of incense sticks and lightly opened them by cracking off the edges. After I lit them, I put them into an incense bowl in front of Nana's grave.
I gathered some powder between my fingers and waited a moment for the incense to continue to burn properly.
Then, I picked up a small clapper and struck the bell placed next to her grave.
I closed my eyes and put my hands together. I was allowed to pray by Buddhist tradition until the bell stopped ringing to honor my ancestors with grateful prayer.
Ancestors of the Takahashi family. I brought fame and glory to the Takahashi name throughout the Kanto region.
Our family's friends will grow prosperous with new business opportunities from what I have done. But most importantly of all.
I will add a new member to our family soon. A very honorable, kind, and brave young woman. She may not be of noble birth, I'm sure not the best of qualities to you all, but I promise you she is worthy of the Takahashi name.
Keisuke as well will likely add a similar woman to our family. She as well is not a noblewoman, but of noble character.
Thank you all for sending wisdom and guidance. I promise to honor our name in the family tradition of medicine.
The bell stopped ringing and I opened my eyes.
The breeze didn't change, the sun didn't seem to grow brighter.
It was a sign to be sure. That if my ancestors had heard my prayers, they had approved.
I never expected the weather or day to change because of what I had prayed for. If anything, nothing happening meant what I wished for in prayer was likelier to happen.
For some reason, having grown up as a wealthy Argentine in Orange County had let me appreciate other cultures more. I also had years to grow accustomed to Shinto Buddhist tradition. After all, I planned to marry a woman in the same tradition.
I remembered the night of my race against Akina's 86. That summer was something out of my childhood memories, and the way hundreds were reminded of who Akagi's White Comet was.
My FC would never have races like that again. The crowds, the glory, the victory. The Red Suns were done.
Only Sayuki, Kyoko, and Mako were permitted to attend what Keisuke had christened the "disbanding ceremony".
It was going to be a team only affair, but we were largely putting street racing behind us for good after all.
One by one with a special bit of paste and knife, I had removed the Red Suns sticker from Daito's FD, Aisuke's 180, Kenta's S14, Takihiro's S13, Yakuma's Supra, and finally Keisuke's FD and my FC.
I placed the stickers of each driver in their hand, and we bowed to each other, followed by a hug.
The mechanics had insisted they didn't deserve to be part of it but everyone refused to exclude them.
I removed the Red Suns stickers from all four HiAce support vans and handed it to them.
Many were tearful yet happy, especially Fumihiro and Matsumoto who knew for a long time at least, they would never lead the work on another project like this.
Tomiguchi and the others promised me they would be helping Keisuke and others move on to new projects, but it just wouldn't be the same.
Finally, I stared at my own Red Suns sticker.
I decided to frame it, and Mako was kind enough to keep it in a small envelope she had brought with her and stowed it in a beach bag.
Kenta sun bathed for a bit, and then spent most of the afternoon surfing and playing in the water.
I simply enjoyed a small smoothie and other drinks sitting on a stone bannister while Daito and Yakuma shared their career prospects with me watching Takihiro and Aisuke face Keisuke and Kyoko in beach volleyball.
Daito had been offered a position managing the track at the new K2 arenas, and was even allowed to be pit manager or team chief for whichever driver Mazdaspeed chose to represent them in the new super GT sports league sponsoring racers across the world should the opportunity likely arise.
Aisuke was given prime time slots on WRC courses to join Takihiro in Nismo, and was offered to coach Kenta until he got enough times on record to be allowed to join Nismo Rally with them both.
Daito wanted to hear Yakuma's plans to become a lawyer, but Sayuki dragged him away by the wrist to join her in beach volleyball against Kyoko and Keisuke.
They kept losing, but it didn't stop Sayuki from barking at Daito to "Try harder!"
It was a colorful, beautiful, relaxing day.
For a few moments, I was surprised who showed up as was the rest of the crew.
Kenta was catching some serious waves, and the thirty people from our teams all cheered as Kenta exited the tube of the curling wave streaming across the water smoothly on a surfboard, as if he was still driving his S14 downhill through the rain while surfing.
He had such great control over his surfboard that he turned away from us all on the beach and bowed to the wave, shocking all of us.
That kid and water really had a special relationship. It was something else. Possibly superhuman.
The rest of the day, Kenta was ripping through the ocean water like some sort of professional surfer, splashing around and enjoying the water as well, Kyoko and Sayuki were forced to stop playing each other in beach volleyball to sit down and refresh themselves. And it was hilarious to watch Keisuke fuss over the small bits of ice cream that would fall over Kyoko's chin and cheek before she waved him away very flustered although grateful.
Takihiro was seen stealing several beer and soda cans from Sayuki's ice cooler, doing much to anger her, I didn't know what for, but I found out a few moments later.
The entire team, including Kenta who had stopped surfing grabbed me and doused me in all sorts of refreshments. Reminding me very much of the Gatorade shower being customary with all successful team coaches after a Super Bowl.
I smiled and turned towards them as the newly disbanded Red Suns were besides themselves in laughter. Surprising them, I began to laugh with them, and the entire team remained in high spirits as we drank to the future.
I cracked open a beer and spoke. "To the Red Suns!"
"The Suns!" they all cheered.
We drank and Kenta began to bang on the ice cooler Sayuki had reluctantly allowed him to sit on after Daito insisted. "Speech! Speech! Speech!"
The rest of the team shared this sentiment. "A speech huh. Well."
I put my beer down and crossed my arms over my bare torso covered slightly by the short sleeved button up shirt I was wearing.
"I remember the very day I founded the Red Suns. Unlike when most of you are thinking, no, it wasn't publicly on Akagi that one night. It was the night I met, of all people, Takihiro Itsu."
No comments or jokes were made.
"I met a man who had no confidence in himself. Who genuinely believed he could not represent Mount Akagi in street racing. Years later, look at him."
"Still got the same haircut though. Or well, he changed it." Kenta joked as Aisuke elbowed him hard in the shoulder. "Ow!"
"Yes. We all had things to work on. We all had to grow into the men we are today. To me, that is the greatest accomplishment the Red Suns made. The connections we formed, the drivers and people we became. The mountain passes, and Akagi in a way, changed how I viewed everything."
I smiled as everyone stayed quiet. "As of tonight, my thirty-fourth draft of the fastest racer's theory will be finalized. All data and materials used in our expeditions will be stored. For good. The only trace left of us will be the time records we set, and word of mouth that we even raced."
I sighed. "See all of you are probably wondering what my favorite part of all this was. Which race I enjoyed the most. And without a doubt, it had to be against Akina's 86."
Kenta and Aisuke nodded quietly as I went on. "It defined exactly why I started street racing in the first place. To remind everyone that there was more to street racing than met the eye. That inside Mount Akagi lied the truth to well, a lot of things."
"I will miss all of you very dearly. I will see you all as time goes on I suppose, but never as your team leader. Never as Akagi's famed White Comet." Daito and Keisuke were doing their best to not cry to fail slightly, but the rest of the team was not so strong. "For what it's worth. If you ask me. There has never been a group of men more loyal or dedicated to racing on public roads, or anything related to racing, than any of you. I owe all of you a significant debt for the rest of my life. You will always have a spot at my table and a place in my home."
"I am not a legend anymore, the White Comet was a myth. From now on, always, I will be your friend."
I smiled again. "Thank you." I choked up, allowing Keisuke and Daito to cry with me. "Thank you all for making my dream come true. The name of the Akagi Red Suns are immortal."
No one said anything for a moment before I delivered my final order. "We won, gentlemen. We can go home. Street racing will need us no more. It's all over, for good."
Kenta broke the silence and hugged me very tightly. And soon the rest of the team followed.
After the seven of us finished hugging, we posed for pictures around the beach which Mako and Sayuki happily obliged to take for us, many of us wearing sunglasses and smiling a few minutes afterward.
It was clear however, that deep down this pained us.
I know it pained me. This would be the last time the seven of us would be a team at all.
We had formed bonds I think would follow us to our deathbeds, but for today, this was it. The last we would see of each other as Red Suns.
This was more valuable than anything in the world. These men, that I had seen grown from a loose group of street racers from around Gunma, were going to be the most important men Gunma would know for years.
Rally racers, lawyers, doctors in my case.
The mountain passes, Akagi most of all, had imparted its wisdom. And it was time for us to say goodbye.
Even if we returned to street racing in Gunma again, it would not be the same for me. And it made these last few hours bittersweet, I could not fill that hole in my heart with the gratitude that the Red Suns could not have been more successful.
Mako found me sitting with my hands in the pockets of my bathing trunks, and she approached me.
"Ryosuke. I've never seen you like this. You look worse than the team."
"It's not a team anymore Mako." I said. "They're all just memories now."
She placed a hand on my shoulder. "Hey. Forget the fact that you won, think of how much better their lives are with you. How much better my life is."
"I agree." I said turning towards her. "There's been something that's bothering me, I know I look sad, but I wanted to talk to you about this over dinner, now's as good a time as any. There's been something that's been bothering me a lot. Something I don't think I could ever predict."
"Well. I'm all ears." said Mako.
"I expect father and Keisuke to move out of our home quite soon. Father will retire to Hokkaido in a few years, Mother will go with him, and Keisuke will likely find his own place. This will leave the home with me alone in it. I need someone to help me take care of the household, become a partner for me. And at some point, raise a family."
Mako's eyes widened. "What are you saying?"
"I just want to have a civilized conversation with you about the next step in our lives. See I've been in love with you after dating so long, so have you. I'm willing to be with you for next year, and the year after that and so on. Until well, I die."
"That's a very Ryosuke way of offering to marry me." she smiled and began to cry.
"I'm curious though. About what your thoughts on this are."
"You know." Mako sniffled, rubbing tears off her cheeks with the palm of her hand. "As smart as you are, you should be able to know I was going to feel the same way."
"I did think that yes." I smiled as Mako leaned forward and hugged me.
We embraced each other, kissed briefly and soon Mako was joined by Sayuki when her best friend noticed she was crying.
About four seconds later my own brother was hoisting me up into the air, with enough strength to practically lift me onto his shoulder.
"My big brother's getting married!" Keisuke said as loud as he could. "Ya hear that ya bastards!" he laughed catching the remaining five drivers and the mechanics by surprise. "I'm going to be an uncle someday, fucking finally!"
The sun began to set, and the future seemed more inevitable than ever now.
On the drive home in the FC, with Mako in the passenger seat, she had strangely chosen to pull her knees up and look at me with a smile.
This world was odd like that sometimes, reminding me a lot of the time Takumi had taken a date to the beach in the first season of the anime.
That's all Initial D was, and was now in my life. Strange 90s summer memories about street racing, and legacy. Dreams.
It was time to rage our dreams, one last time.
Many months later after the disbandment party on one of Oarai's small beaches, cherry blossoms flowed in the wind one early autumn morning.
In front of a Shinto priest wearing a formal yukata, Ryosuke was waiting patiently for Mako to walk down the aisle in her wedding kimono.
Kenta was loudly sobbing his eyes out without end, earning very annoyed and angry looks from the fellow street racers sitting on either side of him, Keisuke and Sayuki.
After the traditional ceremony was over, Ryosuke turned and lifted Mako's hand, the newlyweds smiling and bowing to the crowd.
One side of the ceremony were all street racers from across the Kanto region, cheering, setting off champagne, making noise, and wolf whistling so loudly the wooden platform the wedding took place on nearly seemed to shake.
The other side of the ceremony, all very well dressed members of the entire Takahashi and Sato families, were so stiff they merely gave the other side of the wedding looks before applauding very quietly and respectfully.
Despite a family of mostly doctors being seated with a family of mostly flower vendors and other small shopkeepers, being forced to celebrate with mostly street racers and their friends after the ceremony, the rest of the wedding went smoothly.
As did the careers of each of the Akagi Red Suns.
Wearing a yellow track jumpsuit, Keisuke was listening quietly as Daito was giving him racing strategies and advice on his lines around the track using a projector and a marker.
The FD was being outfitted with several new upgrades, including a new steering wheel that included a gear shifter paddle on the back of it as well as several other changes to it.
Nearby, Mako was on the very same track, her new husband and best friend cheering on from above as she took some very light laps around the track in her Sileighty as Ryosuke and Sayuki roared in support with the crowd.
Tomiguchi and nothing but former Red Suns mechanics in the entire garage were working very hard inspecting and tuning every inch of the FD down to the last detail.
A list of league points and dates before qualifying for the Kanto 2000 was listed on a very big white board, the entire team was working around the clock to ensure the FD would become the new fastest sports car in the entire world.
Cameras flashing constantly, sports headlines were made as the youngest group of Rally drivers in Nismo's history were standing in front of a line of Nismo racing representatives and other officials.
Takihiro and Aisuke were forced to uncomfortably stand there in racing uniforms holding helmets, trying not to feel bored or awkward. Before Kenta appeared before them also in a Nismo Rally jump suit throwing his hands over both of them breaking the ice.
The journalists there loved this, flashing their cameras more and starting to bounce up and down more as Kenta grinned widely at the camera grabbing Takihiro and Aisuke together by the heads and pulling them closer to him showing peace signs on either hand.
Yakuma Mito was seen night after night on both Usui and Akagi pass. Few spoke to the man from how respected and revered he was as a fully fledged lawyer and mere ghost of a Supra driver.
It was clear the only remnant of the Red Suns that had remained outside of the course records in Gunma's street racing scene was an urban legend that seemed to make the entire mountain shake with the power of its 2JZ-GTE and its earth shattering 500 horses.
Fully licensed to practice medicine, Ryosuke was in the middle of a procedure in the operating room.
Attendants and nurses handed him tools as he went to work, his hands smooth and light.
The hours were long for him, but the entire hospital and their chains knew he would one day inherit the entire operation, as well as the merger with Doctor Joshima's clinics.
In fact, doctors from Ibaraki appeared more and more often, tying medical communities across prefectures under the Takahashi name.
However, during the nighttime, the young Gunma doctor was hidden amongst Akina's mountain pass as well as a few others.
On the rare occasion someone came within ten seconds of Yakuma's times on the pass he would encourage and organize races, and young men would battle their hearts out on the downhill much to the appreciation of the local Akina Speed Stars, and Ryosuke quietly observed what he could.
Street racers of all kinds would especially come out when they came within five seconds of Yakuma's times, and true battles would occur, making Ryosuke even happier to witness hidden anonymously.
Nearly a year after disbandment, a Mazdaspeed representative stormed through an office, and slapped multiple tabloids down on Daito Ryoma's desk, yelling very loudly at the quiet young man.
The headlines and front pages were all the same, Keisuke was caught in a photo kissing Kyoko Iwase very publicly and the gossip columns had gone to town.
Daito leaned back in his desk chair and sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose, Daito seemed to look very uncomfortable.
The Akina Speed Stars soon had to say goodbye to Takumi as a coworker, who moved on from working at the gas station to deliver tofu for his father and drive trucks for shipping companies full time.
Every night, well after the mountain was empty, Akina's 86 was in pursuit of the same line the FC took over a year and a half prior. Takumi Fujiwara seemed to regret not joining the Red Suns more than ever now as word had spread of their complete success.
Itsuki, Iketani, and Kenji as well as the other Speed Stars were happy the best local driver they knew had bothered to stay around, but from his skills it was clear at some point he'd move on to bigger things.
The Emperors were organizing all sorts of training on Irohazaka's downhill, some muttering of ideas to challenge Gunma's teams with the disbandment of the Red Suns.
The Todo School as well appeared to be involved in whatever they were planning, and Kyoichi Sudo and his old teacher Todo were all speaking together.
Another Tochigi local, Kai Kogashiwa, was seen being more active on the mountain passes, and something was brewing between them.
However by the end of 1997, most of Gunma's street racing legends shrouded more in myths and ridiculously infallible time records, Akina's 86, Akagi's FC, Usui's Sileighty, and others had all but disappeared from the mountain passes' occasional races.
To some they were little more than memories or rumors. Photographs of the car meets and even Takumi's 86 the night he raced Ryosuke looked to be from a different era even if they were about a year prior.
The golden age of Gunma's street racing had long since passed into its competitive years, and now those had gone as well.
It almost didn't even feel real to me.
All that was left of the team was my original and frayed Red Suns sticker framed in a glass picture frame on my desk in my office at the hospital.
Every morning I went downstairs and drove the FC to work, but the carbon fiber upgrades on the hood and rear wing remained. It didn't feel right, not at all.
I hadn't so much as taken a single corner in the FC since racing Shinji Inui, it was time for a change.
I picked up the phone and called my head nurse.
It rang for a bit and then she picked up. "Doctor Takahashi?"
"Yeah hi. I'm gonna be a bit late in today, I'll make up the hours and clock out later all right?"
"I'm sure your father wouldn't mind sir. I'll let him know."
"Thanks." I said before hanging up.
I rolled up my sleeves, seeing the part of the key rack where the keys to Mako's Sileighty hung were gone. I think Sayuki had invited her somewhere, didn't remember where.
Before I went to restore the FC to its factory exterior settings, I wanted to play something on the piano. A song I wouldn't even allow Mako to hear.
I rested at the seat of dusty old piano. I hadn't played this thing in so long, but the Gamer ability was about to help me.
I was going to play a tune very near and dear to my heart.
"Admiration." I whispered to myself.
I smoothed the dust off the keys and quickly checked if everything sounded fine.
It was a bit off tune but it would be fine.
As I began to play Admiration, I remembered those first few days.
Being Akagi's White Comet. Realizing who I was reborn into. Years prior, before I honored the spirit of my favorite anime from years ago.
Those odd obscure days halfway through the decade. Keisuke wasn't a big shot track racer, I was leading him by the ear to join me in street racing.
Takihiro was still the dork no one respected who worked in an office cubicle all day. Aisuke tested cars for Nismo and saw street racing as a hobby. Yakuma ironically started exactly where he is now, completely mired in work in law but an urban myth too fast driving a Supra too powerful to be considered real.
Kenta was well, a brat waiting to be discovered and turned into a rallyist. And who was I? A twenty year old med school student wanting to transform street racing forever.
The Akina Speed Stars didn't exist yet. Neither did the Night Kids. Or the Red Suns yet for that matter.
But as I reached halfway through the song, I remembered what really touched my heart.
My days as a young teen in my previous life. And watching that strange white FC be hailed as a street racing icon, no a racing icon.
Those small moments had appeared, sometimes before my very eyes, sometimes when I hadn't seen them as Ryosuke in the anime.
Mako clearing Corner 121, Keisuke and Kyoko now being officially dating. And my FC being the victor.
Those small moments, those moments where the entire prefecture's population of street racers and street racing fans came out to watch me, the longest running racing champ of Gunma take on an 18 year old kid in his 86 in a downhill battle. Testing my theory against a very irate Kyoichi Sudo in his black Evo III.
I would never get these moments again. I could have others in my life sure, but these felt like they were something out of well, fiction, even though I had lived through them from how ethereally they had passed.
I wondered if Takumi still thought about the night we raced. I wondered if Gunma would, even two years later. The obvious answer was yes, but with the name of the Red Suns technically being something that existed through rumor and legend now, the only evidence there was that I raced him was a piece of data I made sure both myself and Fumihiro collected, Akina's downhill course record.
What would the version of myself who lost Kaori and began the search for ultimate racing for different reasons think? Shiuichi Shigeno's Ryosuke Takahashi, me, but not only in some ways.
I think, that I had made him proud. Both myself, and the canonical version of myself.
That FC wasn't just my FC, I had made the Red Suns, Akagi's White Comet, and even Keisuke's FD into so much more than it was in Shigeno's work.
The only person who might've suffered instead of benefitting from my victory was Takumi, but inadvertently, I had prevented the destruction of his greatest friend. The 86, Akina's 86 was very much alive.
I had to say goodbye to someone I knew I would at some point, and had drawn out for too long.
The true White Comet of Akagi. My blessing, my most loyal companion, who had been with me since the day I learned Akagi's downhill.
My beautiful FC. Playing admiration on the piano in the living room of the Takahashi Manor, was, musically at least, my last goodbye.
My last words to the FC. I finished the last few notes to Admiration and stood up, walking outside to roll up the door to the FC in the garage.
She was sitting there.
During my race with Shinji Inui I hadn't damaged anything at all, except my pride in a way. My last official street race included an overtake on the only one of two hairpins where I could do it at all.
I wasn't satisfied, but at this point, there was little more I could chase more than memories.
I brushed my hand across the carbon fiber hood of the FC and got to work. I still had the parts in storage.
Restoring the FC only took less than an hour, mostly in part to the Gamer. I removed the carbon fiber rear wing and replaced it with the stock spoiler that came with the FC, as well as the hood.
From the exterior there was very little to be replaced but I made sure to restore every inch of her to the day I first saw her.
When I was finished, the FC was looking as beautiful as the day I first touched her. The day I first drove her to Akagi. The day I realized Gunma's street racing needed me for more than being a doctor.
One last ride. One last true ride. Unofficially. Just like the first time.
First I had to check with her.
I opened the driver's side and got into the FC.
The bucket seats still felt comfortable, but the original seats were still in storage at Fumihiro's autobody. Maybe it was worth passing by, but I didn't know if I wanted to bother him.
I held the steering wheel. The clutch. Why did it feel like the FC was telling me it was fine that it was all over?
Although the entire car was anything but stock, although it must've appeared so from the outside, I could swear I felt I was right. My instincts told me there was one last good race in her.
I instantly took out my phone, waiting for him to pick up.
"Ryosuke?" I heard Takihiro say over the line. "Damn man it's been weeks! How have you been?"
"I've been fine. Just wanted to ask, have you heard about Yakuma trying to relive our days on the team since Tsubaki?"
"Of course I have. He lives either in the courtroom or on the hill nowadays. Why?"
"Well he still keeps me posted on everything going on around Gunma's street racing scene. He told me there was some young kid claiming he was faster than you down Akagi's hill."
I could hear Takihiro chuckle over the phone. "I take the hill as a rallyist now. I don't have time for that nonsense."
"Well he called you out Takihiro. I don't know what to tell you."
"Then he's wasting his time. There ain't a man alive who can bring what I got on Akagi's hill, or anywhere else. Hm, except you I guess."
I smiled. "Well I just wanted to pass that along. We should catch up sometime."
"Hey. Sure you still could find some flaws in my driving, even with four other guys with that exact job you could probably do a better job than all four of them put together."
"So your S13, they let you keep it as your personal car right?"
Takihiro snorted. "Yeah. Still make me drive that god awful S15 though when I race."
"And you kept the outside completely stock like I asked right?"
"You were the only one who didn't downgrade their car like they said they would Ryosuke. No offense."
"Hm." I nodded. This could work. "How are Kenta and Aisuke?"
"Oh they're great. We aren't allowed to race outside of our schedule, sucks massively, but I get why they do it. Hey listen, I'm needed in about twenty minutes to test a new setting for the Silvia. Had some stuff to take care of."
"Sure. Go right ahead."
"I'll talk to you later Ryosuke. Bye."
At this point in time, not even Keisuke would've been fooled by something like this with how much pride he had. Yakuma and I could've enjoyed a proper run on Usui, but it wasn't what I wanted.
Takihiro would be there.
I clocked out at the hospital at 9 o'clock. I better start my shift soon before Father blows his top.
I got out of the FC and closed the door, walking around it to stand in front of her.
"We won, girl." I said, my voice breaking. "That's it."
I knelt, running my hand across the metal of the FC's stock white hood.
How could I have lead this car to victories I never had? The only one I really had in Shigeno's work was against Sudo, but that was on Akagi, not Irohazaka.
Akina's 86, Sudo's Evo III, Tachi's EK9, Joshima's S2000, and finally, Inui's 86.
I led this FC to become more famous than I was in a way. This would be what people remembered of the Red Suns I believed. Because this car was the one that never let me down, not once, not even for a second.
Not her front tires, not the twin rotary system spat on by the racing world for years. Nothing. The FC hadn't blown so much as a spark plug in the years I've been racing her.
I maintained her with such passion, such dedication, I think, oddly, in a way, because I loved the FC so much. Not just cleaning her and tuning her, but making sure anything the FC needed was there.
And now I had to retire it. This beautiful, perfect, legendary car was done.
At best, it could be a toy for me to reminisce about downhill battles with former Red Suns or a regular day car to go to work.
I would miss those races. Those golden tinted, nostalgic, dream-like nights.
I wanted this FC to be kept in storage after I died. Even if Mako and I probably had kids someday, and probably a son, even if he begged and begged, I wouldn't let him own it. I don't think I would even let him drive it.
No one would ever own or drive this car. She had done too much for me. When I was done with this world, I want my FC to finish being driven as well.
I raised the hood of the FC and I didn't even need the Gamer to tell me the internals were fine. Just by looking at it, I could tell she was fine. But I wanted to hear it, to know it.
It was a nice day out, I didn't plan on taking it a drive around town, but it still warranted something. Listening and speaking to cars was absurd, but from how much passion and dedication I had put into maintaining and racing it, if I didn't hear anything I was truly deaf.
I keyed the ignition and heard the 13B-T roar to life.
In neutral, I began to tap the gas, revving the engine quietly. Like the day I first drove her all those years ago, the revs sounded perfect. The engine was fine.
I almost didn't believe it, and kept revving it, just to listen to it more.
Every peak of the RPMs, the engine idling. It was all fine, it was fine. As if the FC was saying:
It's alright Ryosuke. It's alright. You can rest now.
Years after I first discovered it, I was reborn into this life, I wasn't where I started. This FC had become victorious over all of Gunma, and when that wasn't enough, I sought enough victories until there weren't any left.
Medicine might be the biggest part of my life now but I still had Mako. I wasn't clueless anymore, nor had I been for a long time.
"Thank you. You've done plenty." I said to her as I shut off her engine, wiping away tears.
With how well tuned both rotors had been tuned, I think it was possible the engine could keep running until my death. As far as I was concerned, this was all I ever wanted now.
Crickets sang up and down the forest right next to Akagi pass.
All was silent, no cars on the road.
The buildings at the top and bottom of the mountain were empty. No one could hear much of anything.
Tapping his cigarette, a street racing fan was leaning on his S13 behind the guardrail speaking to his buddies. "You hear what happen to Hamada on the downhill last weekend?"
"He actually caught a glimpse of Usui's Supra of Doom the other night. Said he got passed so fast he nearly blacked out." he said taking a drag from his cigarette.
"Pah! Bullshit. None of those Red Suns guys bother actually driving around here anymore, heard they're all way too big for the mountain now. Besides, they've been gone for ages."
They were interrupted by the familiar hum of an engine, and headlights appeared at the top of the straight.
"I know that sound. That's a CA18, single turbo. Must be an S13, wonder who's driving it."
Entering the sharp left corner, Takihiro pulled the nose out of the turn at the last second, catching a very strong line that sent wind past the guardrail, blowing the hair of all three young men towards the silver S13's direction on the downhill.
"Ho. Ly. Shit. Was that who I think it was?"
"No way dude. That S13 didn't have any rally decals on it, it can't be him. Didn't even have a spoiler or any carbon fiber."
"But he was so fast! Think he-"
"Wait. Do you hear that?"
In the distance, the roar of a pair of naturally aspirated rotaries could be heard. Even lacking a turbo, it was clear the engine's power outmatched the S13's.
Even as fast as it was, the S13's corner paled in comparison to Ryosuke's. And even then, he wasn't even straining himself.
At the sight of Ryosuke's stock FC, they were shocked speechless, knowing only one person could take a line that much smoother and cleaner than Takihiro's through the sharp left.
After he passed downhill, making leaves fly about and grass shake in his direction, the FC continued to roar downhill.
The three friends were jumping up and down, hooting and cheering after Ryosuke.
"Fucking hell man! We actually saw him! We saw them both!"
Takihiro exited another corner with perfect steering and acceleration.
Throttling down the straight, Takihiro noticed there was someone on the hill with him, Ryosuke's headlights appearing in his rearview.
"Punk thinks he's the shit. This is my hill buddy, you ain't no rallyist."
Takihiro changed gears and the S13 increased its speed so suddenly the S13 nearly jerked forward downhill.
Entering the first corner, both the FC and S13 braked, and Ryosuke closed the distance between them so much that the FC was already well within Takihiro's sights.
"Oh man." Takihiro went pale and wide eyed at who he noticed was in his mirrors. "I'm in for it now."
'Only one car has enough speed to catch up with me on Akagi's hill, even when I'm barely pushing myself on the downhill.'
Takihiro was about to lose his nerve when he saw Ryosuke's headlights flash repeatedly in his rearview signaling an old Red Suns code.
"The green flag. I'm good to race." Takihiro muttered, continuing to throttle as the S13 accelerated downhill. "I'm good to race. I'm good to race, right! Let's do this!"
'You're a rallyist. Keep the throttle pinned down, don't lose your traction, stick to the basics, and Ryosuke won't know what hit him.'
The CA18DET's pistons ripped the air hard, at full power on the exit as the CA18's single turbo whistled, and Ryosuke's 13B-T soon joined and they began their downhill battle as friends.
To remember their first race. To remember the first days of the Red Suns, from the battles and nights from years past. All of them, Akina's 86, Irohazaka's Evo, even their first race when they didn't know who each other were on the very hill with the same cars looking like the day they first started racing with them.
Braking lightly, the S13 entered the right turn first steering tightly to the inside with incredible entry speed and control over its grip and line.
The FC did the same and in that moment through the right corner the world seemed to freeze.
It was just them. The FC and S13 dueling downhill in a relaxed match, just trying to figure out who was faster where.
To Ryosuke and Takihiro the night seemed to never end, and their battle down Akagi sent echoes loudly into the night of screeching tires and the roar of their engines.
For the last true race they'd ever have.
So that concludes My Turn. With the longest chapter for anything I've ever written.
That was, a thing. A thing I will not be continuing. Might be an epilogue but it will be very short if I do post it. Just a cute aftermath thing very small.
Finals are coming up soon, I got exams. Plan on coming back to fanfiction more when school's all settled. I will update some fics from here until then. Even if the reviews have not been the kindest lately on the new stuff I've tried.
This fic has taught me a lot about fanfiction, more than I thought I ever would. I'd like to thank everyone from the Discord, Fennec, Chaos, Krytac, Lucifer and DKZ.
I'd also like to thank everyone who reviewed here. Including Kyonsmith especially as well as Bob, Ginny, King Kroniiclez, Yifto, Slender1870, Dalvepinn and others.
I wasn't expecting this to turn into a 450k word behemoth. This might be the longest thing I might ever write?
Reviews and I have an odd relationship. Emperor Lemon made a great video called "Frying Comments: The Origin of the Downward Spiral" where he described the vitriol, impatience, close mindedness, and general disinterest in the ideas he had outside of the genre that got him popular, Youtube Poop.
I have had a similar relationship with fanfiction for a while.
A sort of back and forth, where I try something and it gets chewed up and spit out, ignored, or just straight up hated for no reason.
Above all, what I've pursued in fanfiction is writing high quality stories with plots that I like. As time went on, I started to realize my reviewers generally didn't help me in that regard, if I got any response at all.
So the main reason I am forced to use to measure my writing in terms of quality is just to read it myself over and over or judge it based on the reception it gets through followers and what they deem quality as well to a degree.
Rinse and repeat for years and here we are. At the end of My Turn, supposedly what was supposed to be my last fanfiction ever. Ended up being a small reminder as to what happens when the hype dies down hard. It happened to me with other fics, but I'm happy that I've been able to stick through to the end.
I don't know if those that started reading have stopped, but right now it doesn't matter, thank you all so so much for sticking around.
Life is just odd like that. But it's over now. And I don't think I will attach myself to another fic in the same way I do to this one. Because I fell out of love with writing most others.
Because unfortunately with how impossible it is to get substantive reviews on this site for me, it's a problem that's followed me everywhere. It has sucked my passion dry from several projects, but I kept this one strong because I had actually been able to find my niche, my audience. My engaged audience.
You've all helped make this tough process better.
To make matters worse, when I find reviews for my stuff that really sing true and have engaged people, I've messed up hard on the story in either one or several aspects. Like what happened with several fics.
...Except here. That's why I finished it in large part. The fic gave and took away fairly with the response I believe.
My journey to write better and better stories and grow on this website has been well. A journey. Hope I've shared it properly with you guys with this fic. Because for a decent time this will be all you'll see of me.
I do plan on writing more of my other fic, but yeah with the response it's getting. Hm. Not very high hopes for engaging people better. Because right now it's not sticking. My only plan is to do what I've done in the past.
I can keep writing it, but like this fic has said about people moving on from the Red Suns and now My Turn, it won't be the same.
If you do like well written (or at least competently and passionately written), introspective but engaging Harry Potter fics like the awesome In Pursuit of Magic: A Self Insert by Zero Rewind, I am writing A Flight Into Games, which is supposed to be inspired by it but taking place in the 70s during the Marauders' 7 years.
I have others, but I'm not proud of them or the way I've acted on those accounts.
About these other fics though I have a plan. Write until I've reached some very interesting plot points and see if it changes people's interest in it, if not, I'll possibly have to bail.
I really want to write more and more and improve as such, but when I have my hands tied in almost never genuinely relevant and helpful critique or outlooks it becomes impossible. That's what made this fic so special to me, people followed this like a person's honest attempt to pay homage to a series as classic as Initial D.
Why does stuff like this happen? Well, the most sensible and vocal reviewers have tended to dip out or stick in very niche subgenres on this site. Kyonsmith, wonderful lad, is the best example of this.
Maybe someone'll make a TV Tropes for this fic somewhere in the future. Having more than one person edit and/or create a page more than once is the golden badge of being "the guy" in fanfiction but I don't see it happening really or care that much.
You have the makings of a varsity athlete when someone makes a TV Tropes page for your fanfic.
I guess my main problem is being hit with fanfiction's version of Emperor Lemon's quote from his Frying Comments video:
"Why the fuck are we stuck with you?"
I guess I'll never know. Because I tend to either get that, or static silence.
Maybe it's for the best. Only a few of the fic writers who get that much hype nowadays are actually worthy of all the praise, like Coeur, Zero Rewind, and a few others that sadly have left the site. Sorry to sound so melancholy, but it's all I've felt whenever I think about me and fanfiction. And ironically, my only therapy for this is to write more until I've reached an answer.
For now, I'm actually surprised by myself. I was able to finish this in about a year with nearly half a million words, and I didn't fuck the pacing or characterizations up, which are the most important parts in developing a story. With all that, I'm done, satisfied with how this turned out for what it was.
See you all around. Stay safe out there. Sincerely, Captain JN.