Stars of Aoba
Like a traditional duel with warriors of old, the race between Hayato and Shiraku is held one week after the initial challenge. Actually, no, screw that, the race is nothing like the duels of old. For one, the former basically begged for having it immediately the day after but was straight up refused for the very simple reason of giving both sides time to prepare and warm up.
And unlike the duels of old, where there would only be two men with their swords and honor on the line, the news of this race soon spread through the entire school like a wildfire. One week is enough for any news to be widely known, let alone the match of the century between Japan’s two most prospecting speedsters.
So, there’s nothing strange about the scene where I’m standing right now, at the running track of Aoba’s stadium – the place no one would normally come unless it’s P.E class. Well, normally that would be the case. But this time all the stands are packed with students of all kinds, from the curious freshmen to the senior fans of the two boys. It’s a good thing I don’t have to squeeze myself in that sea of people, at least.
“But why am I here again?”
Yup, I’m commentating on this race for some reason. Mic in hand. Table in front. A red eel to my right and a black dragon to my left.
“Shut up. You’re the main cause of all of this.” Tsunagi grumbles.
“And why are you here again?”
“It’s part of our deal,” Ryuuro answers. “Don’t worry, your new camera should be within a few days.”
What did he say? Camera? The guy bought Tsunagi with an entire camera? That’s not high schooler-level money! Since when is he the rich kid as well? How am I competing with that?
Meanwhile, the main recipient of the trade still seems worried about something. “Are you sure about it? One appearance for the latest model camera is a little…”
“And our survey afterwards. Don’t forget it.”
“Well, yeah, but…”
“Information is golden, don’t you agree? To be honest, I thought that price was still a bit low for your cooperation. If anything, I was willing to offer more.”
“N-no, that’s plenty. Well, shall we get started?”
“Your cue, Average-kun,” letting out a snicker, glasses boy jabs his right elbow towards me.
I take a deep breath. Here goes nothing.
“Welcome, fellow students of Aoba! To the race of the century! The undefeated Monster, the famed White Zephyr, against his long-time rival, always stuck in second place, the rumored Leaf Storm! For reasons undisclosed, who will take home the win today, and will this eternal rivalry be settled once and for all?”
“Hey! I thought you had my back, man!” From the race tracks, Hayato angrily shakes his fist towards me.
“It’s in the script, man!”
“How the hell did you manage to write a script within a week?”
“How should I know? Ask the top scorer next to me!”
“Ahem!” Feigning a cough to prematurely end the conversation, I continue. “Joining me on the desk today is a fellow classmate and representative, Eel… I mean, Tsunagi Jouko-san, along with the one and only genius of the generation, Kuroshi Ryuuro-san! Everyone, please give a big applause to the commentators!”
A thundering cheer bursts through the entire stadium, loud and clear as an exploding bomb. Heck, the cheering is even louder than when I introduced the competitors. Just to show how well-known this opponent of mine really is.
“Anyway, Faker… I mean, Ryuuro-san, as Shiraku’s older brother, what are your thoughts about this match?”
“I mean, the results are obvious,” says the young man with a proud smile on his face. “This is Shiraku we’re talking about. I’m willing to bet my entire fortune on him.”
“What’s that? 100 yen?”
“A billion, but close enough.”
“Haha, very funny.”
“Yeah, let’s keep it that way. Well, what about our co-caster? Tsunagi-san, would you like to add anything?”
As if prepared for the situation, the red-haired girl quickly flips over the pages in her notebook.
“Well, on the surface level, the prediction is easy like you said, Ryuuro-san. But if you look at their statistics… actually, things are pretty much the same. Even though Shiraku-kun’s last appearance in any official competition was two years ago, his record of 9.97 seconds in the 100-meter dash is legendary, even among professional youth athletes. It is, in fact, still our national junior record to this day, and I don’t think he has shown any decline just yet.”
“While it’s true that he hasn’t been competing, I can confirm that he’s just as fit, if not even better, than when he broke that record,” Ryuuro nods in agreement, following with a light chuckle. “And who knows, maybe we’ll even see a new one being made today.”
“Well, we’ll have to see about that, as our contestants ready themselves at the starting line!”
True to Tsunagi’s words, Hayato and Shiraku have already gotten into their starting poses. The former shows a dead serious attitude like never before, complete with a pro’s starting technique – kneeling down on one, hands to the ground and all. Shiraku, meanwhile, has a much more relaxing, and primitive, method. Taking a step forward and slightly leaning his body, the white speedster stares at the track with a smile on his face.
“Runners, on your mark…” standing to the side are acting referees Shizuka and Umeno, with the former raising her arm up for a signal.
Along with the blonde girl’s shout is the familiar whistle of a running competition, and also my cue to start this ridiculous string of commentary.
“Look at them go, folks! Contestant Shiraku has already taken a huge lead despite the poor form and technique! It’s just been a second or so, but he’s three, no, five leg’s stretches ahead! Contestant Hayato can’t keep up at this point! Dang it, man, why are you losing so fast already? I thought you’re more capable than this!”
“The gap keeps getting bigger and bigger! There is no competition anymore! Go get ‘em Shiraku!”
At least there’s not much room for the weird three-person manzai act to go on, since this is still a 100-meter race. Only after a few lines, the ending whistle has already been blown. But the result is not what we expected.
Okay, all of us expected it. Because it’s obvious that Shiraku has won. But the margin by which he wins is certainly very unexpected. Shocking, even.
Shizuka, who also times the race, utters in disbelief. “N… 9.36 seconds! Forget youth record, this is a brand new world record!”
Shock. Joy. Excitement. All the positive emotions you can think of. Everything is mixed together perfectly into an even louder thunderous cheer across the entire stadium. And who can blame them, really? Sadly, this is not an official event with cameras and a professional media crew; if not, Japan will be legendary on the track-and-field map.
However, that doesn’t change the fact that Hayato, and in turn, we, have lost the bet.
Or at least, that’s what I think, because it seems like the loser of the match has other plans.
“Redo! I demand a redo!” Hayato, though dead tired, wobbly raises his hand.
“Are you sure? You don’t look too good,” his opponent, however, doesn’t show a lick of weariness despite stomping him with that new world record.
“Give me five minutes! I’ll be in top shape in no time! But I want a redo!”
That last shout of his has gone into the ears of some fans in the lower end of the stands, and soon enough, the stadium has caught wind of it.
“Redo! Redo! Redo!” The crowd chant in unison. Not because they didn’t find the race fair or anything; the miracle world record and the undying spirit of the challenger have genuinely sparked a fire in their hearts. For the crowd right now, any race between these two would be a sight to behold.
Shiraku nervously glances over to the casting desk. And to my left, Ryuuro gives out a quiet nod.
As if waiting for that sign of approval, the boy’s crimson eyes shine with excitement. “Well, if the fans have asked for it, then I don’t see any reason to refuse! Let’s race again, Hayato-kun!”
As the sun begins to settle down beyond the horizon and the crows start their nightly scavenge, Hayato has finally run out of stamina.
“Hah… hah… you won… this round… Shiraku…”
“I had a great time! We should sometimes do it again!” His opponent on the other hand still shows no signs of fatigue.
What a monster. Not only did he beat Hayato with an overwhelming score of twenty to zero, but the athletic genius also broke his own record three more times within those twenty races – now the unofficial world record sits at 9.04 seconds.
Hah… It pains me to admit it, but a bet is a bet.
“I guess that means we’ve lost, huh?”
“Lost? What are you talking about?” Ryuuro sounds next to me, finally recovering his voice after losing it two laps in. It was rough doing a duo cast with Tsunagi afterwards.
But that’s not important right now.
“You don’t know the reason these two raced?”
“I thought Hayato here only wanted to settle the score? … Shiraku, what did you hide from me?”
“E… hehe…” in front of his brother’s pressure, the boy in question can only answer with an awkward laugh. “So, uh, Nii-chan, can you maybe consider not running for Student Council President?”
The act of sudden pity is nowhere close to what I, Umeno, or Hayato could have imagined. As the three of us gasp in shock, Ryuuro pauses for a moment as well. But only for a moment, as a smile soon forms on his face.
“Ah, I get it. No.”
“Oh, okay then!” Shiraku breathes a sigh of relief before showing off a gleeful smile, turning to us with a thumbs-up. “Well, guys, I tried! Good luck with your campaign!”
And to add insult to injury, the black-haired genius pats me on the shoulder and continues with a smug grin.
“Next time, dude, state your conditions more clearly. If you only ask Shiraku to ‘convince me to drop out’, he’s gonna do just that. Whether I accept or not, well, it’s up to me, isn’t it?”
I didn’t even suggest that! Why are you giving me the trash talk segment?
Before I can retaliate, however, Ryuuro’s group has already left the premise, along with a wave of goodbye from the ringleader.
A mix of different emotions arises from our group. Anxiety for Umeno. Embarrassment for me. Tiredness for Tsunagi. But the most prevalent one is undoubtedly Hayato’s anger.
“Ugh! I can’t take this!” The young athlete punches the air in frustration. “Not only did I get absolutely humiliated in the race, he even took pity on us and did what we asked for anyway! And it still amounted to nothing!”
“There’s nothing we can do about it,” I let out a tired sigh. “They won, so they had all the rights to do what they did.”
“Well, I’m not one to accept it! You guys are running for President, right? Count me in on your campaign! I wanna wipe the smile off of those two’s faces!”
Those words are like music to my ears. At least we don’t walk out with a total loss, it seems.
“Welcome aboard, Hayato.”
Please log in to leave a comment.