Chapter 25:

Nationals Part 1 (Takara)

Special Fighting Club

Today is the official first day of the nationals. Blocks A and B have their first and second rounds and we came to cheer Aoshira on. Even Midohebi came.
We find free seats and begin watching. Aoshira´s first fight is a bit later, it´s the sixth of seven first round fights, so we still have some time to watch the others.
“You´re here too?” I ask Hiro-kun.
He nods. “Of course, we´re friends after all.”
“Which team are you waiting for?” Someone suddenly asks behind me.
I turn around to see Haya-kun and Haji-kun, sitting calmly surrounded by all sorts of looks ranging from admiration to hatred.
“What are you doing here?” I decide to sit next to Haya-kun. Taiki and Kei look around and come after me.
“This is his idea of a date.” Haji-kun says.
“Watching, like you.” Haya-kun answers. “So who´re you watching?”
“Aoshira.” I say.
“Ah Miyagi representatives. You´re friends?”
I nod.

The first fight begins. Both fighters are fast.
“Are they going for a K.O.?” I ask.
Haya-kun chuckles. “Everyone in the nationals tries to get a K.O.” He turns to us. “Let me give you a few tips. Almost everyone you´ll meet will try to K.O., barley anyone tries for point wins. They want to show off, you know because of all the scouts.” He points at a few people with notepads. “Though most try not to show too much in the first few rounds. Not like we can do that anymore.” Haya-kun laughs. “I mean everyone already knows everything there is to know about us.”
“So technically we´re at a disadvantage, everyone knows us but we don´t know most other teams.” Haji-kun says.
Haya-kun nods. “That´s why we need to spy. We wouldn’t stand a chance otherwise.”
“You´re lying, you won the last two years consecutively without problem. Just because the other teams know a bit more about you doesn´t mean they´re stronger.” Kei says a bit aggressively.
Haya-kun shrugs. “Honestly we don’t really care about winning this year. Like you sad, we won twice already a third time would be nice but we don´t have to prove anyone anything anymore. The other teams do. Proving to themselves they can do it, proving to their families that all the hard work did pay off, proving their schools that the team was a good idea and so on. If we win again so be it, but if we lose so be it too.”
Kei and Taiki look irritated.
“Haya-kun, if winning doesn´t mean much than why are you even competing?” I ask.
“Oh I never said we don´t want to win, just that we don´t have anything to prove.” He smiles at me. “But I´m not just going to hand the win to someone else, they have to win it fair and square.”
“Then we´ll win it from you.” I say.
Haya-kun starts laughing. “That would be exciting! I do want to fight you; another finale against Moneko is just way too boring.”
Haji-kun pulls on Haya-kun´s shirt and point at the fight. It just ended.
Haya-kun turns back to me. “See most fight go by really fast.”
“Are the finales also like that?” Taiki asks.
“No, from the Block finale onwards the fights become… They seem like a fights to the death.” Haya-kun smiles.

We watch the other matches in relative silence.
Occasionally I ask Haya-kun and Haji-kun a question.
“What are the finals like?” I ask after a while.
“Boring. I´m kidding, it´s always the same, an interview, some appearances on TV and in magazines that don´t really care about the sport and then you get to fight. Well at least there´s a bigger audience than in the first few rounds.” Haya-kun answers.
Taiki looks around. “The gym´s almost half full.”
“The more important rounds have the hall at capacity, plus all the people who watch on TV or per live stream.” Haya-kun says.

“Oh Aoshira´s walking in!” Taiki says after a while.
The names of their fighter are announced, like it was for us at the summer high finale.
Ki-chan seems to have seen us, she waves into the crowd.
I jump up and wave back.
“I´m gonna say they´re going to win.” Haya-kun says.
“Duh that´s pretty obvious, isn´t it?” I say.
“The other team isn´t that strong, they´re only here because they made it into the summer high finale but lost, the other team was already qualified so they got to go here too.” Haji-kun says.
That´s almost like our story, thank god we did win.
The fights are over pretty fast; it´s a clean three K.O. win.

We stay sitting until the second round starts about two hours later. The A Block is the only one with only three second round fight, the other Blocks have four.
Aoshira is fighting in the third match, which they win smoothly too.

Taiki, Kei and I decide to look what´s happening in the B Block.
Most notably Moneko made it. No surprise there.
And with that fight the first day is over.
We meet with Aoshira’s team congratulating them; they wish us and Midohebi luck for tomorrow.

Back in the hotel no one can seem to calm down, from excitement from the matches and of course from nervousness for tomorrow.
Both the C Block and our D Block start at the same time, meaning we´ll fight one of the first fights that day.
Manami-san shows us another video of Kuroihakauchō and tells me that I won´t be fighting in this and the second round, to preserve energy and avoid my knee from getting more injured before the important big matches, at least that´s his explanation.
Honestly I thought I´d feel more left out, but I don´t. I´m going to sit on the bench with everyone else and I trust them.
I encourage the ones who´ll be fighting tomorrow. Manami-san wants to give everyone the chance to fight in the nationals so our roster will change every round, it´s supposedly also strategy.

After a nice long bath in the Onsen with the other girls I look at my phone.
“It´s been blinking for a while now.” Taiki says annoyed while handing it to me.
I see a message from Jin-kun. A photo of him making a heart with his fingers and the text Good luck Takara-chan!
Taiki and Kei look over my shoulder.
“What does he want now?” Kei asks.
“He´s on thin ice.” Taiki says.
I giggle. “You two are way to overprotective.”
“Why is he even sending you anything?” Taiki asks.
“I send him a text too.” I answer.
“Don´t…” Taiki begins.
Kei puts a hand on his shoulder and shakes his head. “You wanted to accept it.”
“Fine.” Taiki mumbles.

We go to bed early. I lay awake, way too nervous to fall asleep despite not fighting tomorrow.
I poke Taiki next to me. “Taiki you awake?” I whisper, to not wake the others.
“Yeah, why?” He whispers back.
“Can I hold your hand?” I ask.
Without saying anything I feel his hand grasping mine.
On my other side I feel another hand.
“I need one too.” Kei mumbles.
I smile. Sleep is slowly taking hold of me.
“Thanks.” I say. “You two are the best.”
We hear someone snoring really loud and have to snicker.
“Goodnight Takara and Kei.” Taiki says, holding back laughter.
“Goodnight Taiki, Kei.” I answer.
“Goodnight idiot twins.” Kei says, he sounds like he´s falling asleep.
I take a deep breath and fall asleep too.

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