Chapter 28:

Come Clean 27

Football Island


The fervor of the crowd was impeccable, just like she remembered. The songs and the atmosphere were magical, the tension in the air palpable.

With a satisfied, but subdued smile, the young woman leaned against the upper railing of the stands.

The scoreboard read 1-1, in the match Hinami played against Washizora.

“Risa-san?”

At the mention of her name, Risa Haneda, the blonde girl in question regarded her bubbly friend standing next to her.

Her face was slightly perplexed, probably due to noticing her weird smile. Her team was losing after all, so why was she smiling?

“That number 10…” Risa spoke softly, her voice commanding both a sense of tranquility, as well as a calm yet intense authority. The girl eyed Reo, running around the pitch, weaving past defenders, shooting and crossing. Especially during the goal he scored…

His energy was unmatched. She knew what a game-changer looked like. She was one herself after all.

She had heard the men’s team had found a new number 10, but she didn’t expect that kind of player.

“He’s interesting. Very interesting.”

“Ah, you mean the transfer student? Yuusaki… Reo?” The short girl, with the black hair tied in Chinese buns at equal sides of her head, craned her neck.

The blonde girl, with her long hair falling at her back, and her bangs withheld by a thick red rubber band trained her sharp red eyes back to the field.

The female team had just returned from their arduous training camp in Nagashima, and what the star of the team…

Risa Haneda, had found upon arriving, certainly caught her eye.

“Yuusaki Reo, huh?” The footballing genius smiled.

❖ ⚽ ❖

The day following the match, a certain trio of Hinami players sat on a bench on the inner yard of their school, relishing in the lack of training before morning classes.

“So what do you think?” Totori asked, a serious look etched onto his usually cheerful features.

“You know I can’t say, right?” Reo furrowed his brows, abstaining from the vote, while Toraichi chimed in, lowly. 

“I say quarter finals.”

Totori seemed to object however, “I think she could be a semi-final actually…”

What better way for the lazy trio to spend their morning, by scoring their female schoolmates’ looks using football tournament terms?

“Hey, is it just me…” Reo turned to the two of them briefly, “Or are there actually more girls here than usual?”

“Oh yeah, there are!” Totori perked up, “You see the female football team of Hinami just returned from their month-long training camp!”

“A training camp? Skipping a whole month of class to… train?”

What was this, a shonen training arc? Reo’s face seemed to reflect that question.

“They’re not skipping class, actually.” Toraichi interjected lazily, “A few of the teachers from Nagashima usually give them the necessary classes.”

“Nagashima? Isn’t that the super big island in the middle of the archipelago?”

“You’re actually learning… sniffle…” Totori wiped away a tear, probably a tad too dramatic.

“Nobody says sniffle out loud man.”

While Toraichi sighed at his friend, Reo leaned back on the bench.

“So there is a female Hinami Pirates team, huh?”

He muttered, thinking back to the multiple training facilities and equipment. It actually made sense why there was both a training field and a stadium now. Both male and female teams could use a pitch to train simultaneously if needed.

“Interested in GIRLS, are we?”

While Reo had craned his neck to look up, a very familiar face replaced the vast blue sky with two pools of similar color staring back at HIM instead. Those two jewels squinted, and a frown adorned the girl’s pretty face.

“Shuna.”

“Shu-na!”

Toraichi and Totori echoed each other.

“Hi?”

“Hi, but you’re not answering my question.”

Shuna, the jealous girlfriend that appeared out of thin air, didn’t flinch.

“Hey, I’m still learning about Hinami, here. No need to attack me all of a sudden.” Reo rose from his seat, and grabbed his schoolbag.

“Yeah, and it’s probably too early in the morning to be jealous, Shuna.” Totori found the gap to poach a snarky comment, unlike himself, in the meantime.

A comment which disarmed all of Shuna’s defenses and firepower, albeit for a second.

“Eh?! Jealous?! I wasn’t—“

“Nice, Toto!” Reo gave him a thumbs up, “Time to go to class!”

“Come back here, you!”

As his girlfriend chased after him with hurried steps, Reo walked towards class chuckling softly.

It has barely been more than a week since the two had started dating, and yet rumors had already spread all across the island. Of course, there was nothing solid, but a few eye witnesses here and there, and a few speculations seemed to have formed different kinds of stories.

But since the two talked it out, they had decided to inform their closest friends about it, at the least. Not that Toraichi and Totori hadn’t connected the dots. Well, at least Toraichi had.

When Reo found himself inside the classroom, and gave a few greetings back to his classmates, the door slid open to reveal a huffing Shuna.

That’s what he expected, at least. Instead, a tall, slim figure of a girl stood there at the threshold, straight blonde hair running down her back.

Had he seen her before? Reo thought otherwise. He would have remembered her if she were a part of his class, and the fact she looked older as well only added to the mystery…

The air inside the classroom felt still for a moment, while everybody turned to the doorway, staring silently at the captivating blonde beauty.

Undeterred by the numerous stares, the girl waltzed into the classroom, with confidence to spare. She walked and walked, her head held high.

At once, when she found who she was looking for, her steps brought her before a single desk. A single person.

“Yuusaki Reo.”

She spoke, her voice hinting authority, but also serenity. Despite being completely dumbfounded, the blonde young man managed to compose himself just enough to answer.

“Uh, do I know you?”

“No, but I know you.”

Reo remained frozen, as the girl laid her hand on his desk and leaned in, a hint of a grin on her face. Every pair of eyes in the classroom seemed to be glued to the two of them, classmates holding their breaths.

“You’re Hinami’s new 10, right?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“And you’re also…” Her grin stretched wider, “The one who stole Shuna-chan’s heart.”

“…Come again?”

A moment of silence ensued, before the imminent chaos that was about to follow.

“RISAAAAAA?!”

During the whole incident, Shuna seemed to have slipped into the classroom herself, her voice although could not be contained any longer.

Had the unknown girl that presumably went by the name of Risa spilled the beans in front of the whole class? And where did she even learn about the two of them anyway?

Reo’s head was a mess of questions as Shuna dragged the blonde girl out onto the hallway.

❖ ⚽ ❖

“You’re interesting.”

The girl, Risa, had said to Reo before she went back to her own classroom. She was apparently a senior, and the female Hinami team’s star. She was also the sister of their goalkeeper, Kyogo Haneda, and… Shuna’s friend?

Of the latter Reo still wasn’t sure. His girlfriend apparently didn’t want to talk about that.

“I want to see what you’re capable of.”

With those parting words that sounded awfully like a challenge the cool beauty had disappeared.

But, Reo had no time to think about what it all meant, even if it was all so painfully mind-boggling.

“So, kids.” Gonda folded his hands atop his desk, leaning forward. The blast from the fan was cool, but its volume seemed louder than usual. Or was it just Reo?

The silent Shuna, seemed to think so too, fidgeting in place.

Amidst an uproar of rumors about the two lovebirds around the school grounds, the coach of Hinami, and father to the school-famous Shuna, called the two to his office before Monday evening practice.

The reason however still eluded them both.

Was he about to scold them? Discuss with them the implications of their relationship? Make sure if there was truth in them or not?

Or was he gonna ask them to stop seeing each other altogether? Surely coach Gonda wasn’t that cruel, Reo thought.

Right?

“I’m sure you have an idea of why I called you here.”

Gonda’s face was unreadable as he began.

“Yessir.” Reo replied almost too eagerly. Shuna on the other hand merely opted for a nod.

“The rumors about you dating.” The coach and father threw the bombshell out in the open. Reo even cleared his throat a little too forcefully at that.

“So are they true?”

There was the question.

The young couple shared a brief glance, both of them swallowing hard. Well, at least, they seemed to have come to an understanding.

According to Shuna, her father could be strict when needed. And he took the team as seriously as he did his family. Any confrontation that could be avoided, would be for the best if they effectively tried to do just that.

So, the answer was obvious.

“Yes, we are, dad.”

Shuna resolutely responded.

Even if it meant putting their relationship at risk, hiding it forever was never their plan. And so they both had decided to come out with it.

Gonda briefly looked over to Reo, who tried hard not to show any hints of stress on his already strained face. Damn it, this was more nerve racking, than a one-on-one with a keeper in the last play of a match!

“It’s true, Gonda-san. I am… dating your daughter.”

“I see.” Gonda nodded, his hands unfolding, and his back leaning against his office chair.

Why does this feel like an interrogation?

The two exhaled, thinking.

There was a brief silence, before Gonda spoke again.

“You know, my top priority as a coach is ensuring the unity of the team.”

A round of nods from the two ensued.

“And my top priority as a father is to keep my daughter safe.”

Another round of nods.

“With that said…”

Reo tried hard not to wince. Was he about to deny them their right of—

“I understand.”

“Eh?” Shuna’s face seemed strained from the nervousness.

“You know, having you here as my assistant surrounded by all those teenage boys for over a year, did raise some sort of suspicion in my mind.” Gonda spoke in understanding. Without his loud voice and boisterous resounding tone, he seemed like a whole different person.

“At first I thought it would happen sooner, but the more time passed, the more I thought you just weren’t interested in anyone.”

“R-Really?” Shuna’s brows knitted together, a faint rosiness creeping up her face.

“Until a NEW face came along.”

I’d rather not hear this narration. Reo’s eye twitched with embarrassment. Having the circumstances of your love life analyzed like a football match wasn’t exactly the best kind of experience.

“Now it all makes sense, the NEW kid sweeps the assistant off her feet!”

“Dad! You’re embarrassing me!” Shuna’s blush blared like a traffic light in the middle of the room, her voice unusually squeaky.

“Nevertheless, if you kids are happy, then who I am to object?” Gonda chuckled and rose from his chair, rounding the office and walking up to them.

Reo released a breath he was holding almost since this morning, as the man smiled.

“With that being said, I won’t allow you to cause discord within the team. During practices you will put your best foot forward, no matter what is happening between you two. Got it?”

“Yessir!”

The young couple saluted back like a pair of hardened soldiers.

“Great. You may go.” The coach opened the door for the two of them, Shuna seemingly skipping out too merrily for her usual calm and collected demeanor.

As Reo was about to follow, mirroring her relief, a firm hand gripped his shoulder and squeezed. Looking up, he saw his coach’s face, smiling the same kind of smile.

Or was it different? It kind of did, for some odd reason…

“Uh…” Before Reo could speak, the smiling man leaned closer, and lowered his voice.

“If you do anything stupid to my daughter, forget about the team… I’ll throw you out of this island with my very hands.”

“Got. It. Sir.” Reo’s face was suddenly drained of color, his words escaping him like a malfunctioning robot

With another grin, he was released from the iron grip, and walked quickly back to his girlfriend. Almost too quickly.

“Hey, did my father tell you anything?”

“Nope, just a simple health hazard warning!”

Yeah, Reo was definitely not spilling the beans, lest he wanted to find himself prematurely dumped in the ocean.

❖ ⚽ ❖

When Monday evening training had concluded, Gonda joined his players in the dressing room, his calm sweeping over the visible fatigue in the room.

“Listen up, everyone.”

Commanding the attention of all players in the room, the bespectacled man turned to them one by one.

“As you know, in a week’s time we have a match against Tetsudo…”

A silent affirmation rippled across the players, as the man continued. Tetsudo was one of two teams based in Nagashima, the biggest island in the Shinrin archipelago.

“Thus the principal took the initiative for the whole school to travel alongside the team on Saturday morning, until Sunday night, like a school trip of sorts.”

Gonda’s words had undoubtedly excited the tired players, who seemed to have regained their peppiness. A school field trip wasn’t that uncommon in the islands around Shinrin but a trip to Nagashima was sound reason to be excited.

And thus, it was decided, the Hinami Pirates and all their schoolmates, would travel to Nagashima on Saturday morning for a one night stay.
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