Chapter 2:

Not Enough

Our Greatest Comeback: Thanks to your beautiful light


Summer nurtured lush grass on Takachiho High School's soccer field, where Tsuno's team trained. The blessings of Inari, mentioned by the mayor, seemed evident as a radiant sun framed by the beautiful blue sky adorned the festival's opening day.

"The other day..."

"Well, boys,” Coach Shiraito emerged from the school, interrupting Takashi's group and teammates. “We have an hour before the local team arrives, so let's start quickly. Run three laps around the field."

"Let's go!" shouted Kenjiro, the captain.

Football fields were scarce in Takachiho, and this one served both Nobeoka, title contenders, and Takachiho's own team. With limited practice slots, they had to hasten. They started jogging gently, some picking up the pace. They jogged in groups, sharing laughs and jokes, though these couldn't deter Takashi's growing fatigue in the third lap, as with many others. Jun was among the few who maintained their pace.

"How fascinating. I wish I had his endurance", Takashi thought, watching his friend.

"Alright! Form two lines," the coach shouted again.

The mister approached, carrying a stack of cones. Behind him, assistants held balls and other gear, like bibs and water bottles. The boys lined up without complaint. Takashi stood at the end, pondering which line to join for some seconds.

"Zigzag dribbling, two minutes. Begin when the whistle sounds. Ready..."

The sharp whistle echoed through the air, and the players began running between the cones, one by one. Most of the players maneuvered through the cones quickly, showcasing their agility. Takashi, on the other hand, was near the bottom of the speed chart. He wasn't the worst, but he was far from the best.

"That wasn't very good," Takashi thought. It wasn't enough for him.

He watched several of his teammates perform the exercise. Third-year Yoshida ran faster than him. Second-year Sakamoto as well. Jun too. And of course, there was Kenjiro.

"It must be nice to have his speed," he thought. "I could easily surpass defenders."

After a few runs, the exercise ended.

"We'll focus on goal shooting, our huge weak point. Sasaki, Ito, in goal," the coach directed, thumb raised.

Both team goalkeepers positioned themselves at their respective goals. They'd take turns for each shot, equal saves for each. The drill was simple: shooters formed a line, passing to the next. The receiver bounced the ball back, creating a one-on-one with the goalkeeper to outfox.

Coach Shiraito observed from the sideline, arms crossed, as the training unfolded. Despite his forties age, scattered wrinkles adorned his face, the badge of an experienced coach. His hair, a blend of brown and gray, contributed to his seasoned aura. This was what years of fussing over players' spins and defensive lines brought.

"Alright, begin."

Takashi closely watched as his friend Hiroshi, the first to shoot, placed the ball perfectly into the top right corner, leaving the goalkeeper with no chance. He knew Hiroshi was one of the most skillful players on the team, but he always managed to surprise him.

"Impressive." Takashi also wished he had more technique.

Hiroshi passed the ball to Yoshida, who shot weakly, easily saved by the new goalkeeper, Renji Ito, diving to the ground. Ito did the same with the muscular defender Junta Kato, who shot way wide of the goal and let out a curse.

He quickly bounced it back to Kenjiro, a tall, slim boy with short black hair on the sides and longer on top.

"Let's see, Kenjiro," the coach said with a smile, knowing he wouldn't disappoint.

The young man leaned his body and opened his foot to push the ball over the goalkeeper's right post, completely outwitting him. The ball rolled slowly and ended up in the back of the net.

"Well finished, very well," the coach nodded, patting himself on the back for his prediction. He put a lollipop in his mouth by the handle, as if he were smoking a cigarette.

Kenjiro Watanabe, the team's finest talent, stood tall, strong, and lean. His natural mastery of dribbling, passing, and shooting adapted effortlessly to any scenario. The game seemed effortless for him, mirrored by his pretentious demeanor, as if anticipating others to match his prowess. His dark eyes conveyed the same anticipation as they fixed on Takashi, expecting the ball. Now was his moment.

"I'm going to try to hit it with more power. That way, even if it's not angled, it'll be a goal. Maybe I can excel at that," he thought, looking determinedly at Kenjiro, suppressing the pressure that came with the gaze of the team's number 10.

He passed the ball decently, and Kenjiro neatly stopped it for him to shoot at Sasaki, with arms extended and palms showing.

Takashi's problem was precisely what motivated him to put more power into his shot. Jun excelled in dribbling. Hiroshi's strength lay in technique. Yoshida's asset was speed. Sasaki and Ito displayed remarkable reflexes. Kato mastered heading. Kenjiro didn't even need any introduction. They all had their "talent" or particular skill in something. But Takashi took his shot with a focused thought ingrained in his mind:

He had nothing.

He sensed the low contact of his foot with the ball, propelling it to an astonishing height. It swerved over the crossbar, acquiring an unexpected rightward spin. Laughter and teasing promptly resonated from the shooter group. Such occurrences were routine during training, causing Takashi to smile in mild embarrassment.

"No! I failed again." Even though he looked happy on the outside, Takashi was terribly frustrated on the inside. Those taunts made him both laugh and hurt.

"Silence! Nakamura, Ueda, continue!" shouted the coach, who could be very tough when he wanted to. He signaled to Jun, who was behind Takashi, to pass him the ball.

"Takashi, here it comes!"

Takashi received the ball from his friend, bouncing it back slightly to his right. Nakamura swiftly took his shot, eyes on the ball focused on practicing his first touch.

"Yes! That was... huh?"

Jun celebrated as the ball found the net perfectly, yet he realized there was no goalkeeper guarding it. Ito, the outgoing goalkeeper, appeared puzzled, while Sasaki stared toward the street, about ten meters from the goal. No one understood his attention until he turned around, gesturing urgently.

"You hit someone with your shot!" he said, concerned.



Takashi swiftly reached the impact area, behind the small fence separating the sidewalk and training field. Jun and Hiroshi followed, standing by their friend. Coach Shiraito and Kenjiro, the team captain, joined them.

"Did you get hurt a lot?" Sasaki knelt beside the person hit by the ball.

"I'm sorry, are you..."

Takashi preempted a possible response from the girl sprawled on the pavement. He noticed her distinct casual attire in soft pastels and recalled the earlier incident during the opening speech.

"It's the girl who fell in the crowd!"

Takashi couldn't avert his gaze from the girl with coppery brown hair and matching eyes. With a focus on her eyes, likely due to the shock, she stared intently at Takashi, disregarding his question. As if she had been watching him from a distance and through the crowd. However, contrary to the tale in Takashi's mind, her gaze held fascination rather than anger.

A girl in a blue yukata.

The girl is confused.

He mused on that once more, possibly recalling the incident. He continued observing her, noting her evident surprise. Perhaps it was that expression that prevented Takashi from diverting his gaze from her eyes for a while.