Our Greatest Comeback: Thanks to your beautiful light
Now, Takashi couldn't be blamed for the reaction he had, abruptly freezing with the phone pressed to his ear. After all, it's the most common response anyone would have if told that the bus they're on is about to crash. Even more so in such a joyous and festive atmosphere, and especially coming from someone as sweet as Nao.
"Takashi!" he heard another shout through the call.
"Wait!" Takashi finally snapped out of it, while Jun and Hiroshi were talking to each other. "Nao, you're scaring me."
And rightfully so. First, the warning, and then hearing Nao hyperventilating, at least as much as the poor signal allowed, sent shivers down his spine.
"Listen to me, please, Takashi! You said you'd trust me."
"Huh? Nao, what's happening to you? Stop—"
The bus tipping over.
Gravity threw him back into his seat, not because of some external force but because he lost his own. With a sinking feeling in his gut, he started to feel deeply terrified, not comprehending what his mind was processing. “Inari's dreams…”
He saw the whole trip flash before his eyes, specifically the strange sensations he experienced. “The white animal was Inari. The girl in the blue yukata was Nao. And...” One was missing. The one that had terrified him the most during the dream. The one that had woken him up suddenly and bumped into his friend Jun, who had to calm him down on the same bus during the trip there, and the same one that had woken him up that same morning.
The bus crashing, tipping over, and falling.
"It can’t be."
Immediately, Takashi stood up from his seat and rushed down the aisle, alarming some of the players.
"Takashi?" Jun wondered.
Like a striker fighting for a ball near the end, he quickly reached the front.
"Stop the bus!"
The now driver, Shiraito, stared at him wide-eyed. "...Huh?" was all he managed to say.
"You have to do it! Please!"
By this point, all the players noticed Takashi's frightened behavior, unable to believe what was happening as he took extreme measures, like holding onto Shiraito's shoulder.
"Are you going insane? Let go!"
Grabbing the shoulder of the driver isn't a good idea in most cases. Ironically, this time it was, as the slight swerve of the vehicle made Shiraito react instinctively, and he got an unpleasant surprise.
"Huh?" He looked down and pressed a pedal twice more with his foot, before speaking with surprising calmness. "We have no brakes."
Shiraito shouted as he violently turned the steering wheel to avoid a car in front of him. Passengers started bumping into each other, and panic began to seize everyone. The bus started its constant and steep descent down the winding hill, amid a heavy storm that obscured visibility. The situation had become critical.
While he heard Nao's cries through the phone, he noticed flashing lights and sirens approaching from behind. He saw many police cars chasing after the out-of-control bus, along with a compact white car. A pursuit had begun for that runaway vehicle.
Shiraito swerved as best he could, trying to avoid other vehicles, curves, and drops. Perhaps amidst all that, he didn't notice an object flying with the wind from the side of the road, puncturing the front left tire. The bus started sliding sideways, as if it were in a scene from a racing anime, with a sharp curve to the left ahead of them.
"Hold on to something!"
Shiraito was pessimistic, and so was Takashi. That's why he ran to his seat as best he could. He stumbled before reaching it, hitting his forehead hard against the floor, then getting up and managing to reach his seat. Terrified friendly faces amid the jolts and panic were the last things he saw before he curled up, bowed his head, and prepared for the worst.
The bus skidded, crashing its right side against the road's guardrail, breaking through the barrier. Takashi felt everything shaking, surrounded by the sounds of shattered glass, bent metal, and frightened screams. It wasn't until several seconds later, which lasted forever, that everything seemed to come to a halt, and Takashi opened his eyes.
His question was cut short with a loud scream, and Takashi could only hold onto his seat as he saw the bus teetering. Looking towards the side that had given way, he was terrified. They were hanging off a cliff, no less than thirty meters high, with a view of Takachiho below them.
"Get out! Quickly!"
After Shiraito's shout, panic took over everyone, and each person crowding against the emergency windows added instability to the vehicle. Fortunately, they were quick to use the hammers and rushed out in a desperate attempt to save themselves.
"Go!" Takashi shouted, but something interrupted him.
Takashi turned in desperation and opened his eyes in terror. On his right, Jun still sat, leaning against the broken window frame. His brown hair was stained by the blood flowing from his head, where it had hit right where the glass had shattered.
"Jun!" Seeing his dear friend like that filled him with despair.
Together with Hiroshi, they immediately abandoned their escape and went to assist their friend, their cries filled with pain and desperation.
"Guys..." as Jun spoke almost faintly, the bus continued to sway, now more unstable. Before their eyes, it began a constant back-and-forth motion, threatening to fall with the three boys still inside.
"Hiroshi, take him!"
Takashi, in a brave act, leaned against the shattered frame and pulled Jun upwards. His left foot nearly slipped as he nearly fell, and in doing so, it scraped against the broken glass, which shattered completely, its shards falling into an endless abyss until they disappeared along with the raindrops in the torrential downpour. Panic overcame him for the few seconds that his leg hung over the void. Meanwhile, Hiroshi took hold of Jun under his arms, and together they began to lift him.
"Help!" he cried out repeatedly, unable to do it alone. He was too far from the left window to climb out.
"Guys!" Kenjiro ran to their aid, along with Sasaki and Yoshida. The three performed an act of bravery, heading into the smoke billowing from the engine.
"Push him!" Sasaki climbed onto the window frame, reaching out his hand.
Hiroshi pushed with all his might, managing to send Jun into the arms of the goalkeeper, who then carried him closer to the rest of the boys outside.
During that movement, Hiroshi slipped backward, and the bus began to shake again, even more unstable. In response to Sasaki's cries, he tried to grab his hand, but it was too far away.
Takashi pushed him by both legs, and Hiroshi used the momentum to climb and grasp Sasaki's hand. He managed to get out, but on top of the bus, he turned around to wait for Takashi, just as many policemen tried to climb the vehicle.
"Come on!" they shouted.
All of them extended their hands, but something in the wind and rain grew stronger, and the bus began to slide backward. Takashi climbed with all his might, but it was in vain. The ground gave way, and Takashi felt himself starting to fall.
"Help!" he cried out in terror. To his despair, he saw the violent movement of the bus pushing his saviours backward, causing them to fall on their backs onto the ground.
When only Takashi remained inside, the bus succumbed to gravity, starting to fall. And to the astonishment of everyone present, someone leaped in that direction, reaching out their hand desperately to save him.
The shouts were of little use against the determination of the person who had jumped onto the bus. Not only did they not reach Takashi, but that person also started falling with him. Despite the void and terror, Takashi recognized them.
She had jumped after him. As she fell between the broken window frame, she tried to grab his hand, but she couldn't.
Many screams echoed from the cliff, which seemed to swallow the two young souls mercilessly. However, he couldn't pay them any attention. He was stunned by fear, uncertainty, surprise, and terror. And also by Nao, her face clearly illuminated by the moonlight while almost crying. Her eyes showed the same fear, but something else too. As if she wanted to reach him. As if Nao wanted...
“Why... is this happening?”
Before Takashi could think clearly, they had fallen more than twenty meters. He noticed Nao looking terrified at what was behind her, and she closed her eyes. He understood what was about to happen, inevitably. And so, he closed his eyes too. Everything around him turned chaotic, and a loud crash preceded the impenetrable darkness.
Takashi opened his eyes.