Chapter 25 : The Much-Awaited Race Am I going to use Kairi's FD RX-7 again, this time for real? We arrived at Italy, back to where me and Kyosuke had our first race for Team MUGEN. This place brings back memories... After a day's rest, we wasted no time and immediately headed to the scene of the races. Luckily, events are still being held. We saw Marcus and Guiseppe. "Hey guys! Glad to see you!" -"Same here, we've been expecting you." "Uh, expecting us??" Kairi interrupted, "I told you, I would make the necessary arrangements, right?" Guiseppe said in a somewhat angry tone, "Who do you think you are?! Coming here asking for a special race, just because you beat the best around here?!" -"??" "Nah, I'm just kidding, haha!" We all laughed along. Marcus added, -"Hahaha...so, the place is all set. After these races, yours will be coming up. Are you guys ready?" "Ready as always." -"Great. We'll see you again in a short while, we have to take care of some business that's in accordance for your race." "Arigato." -"Based on my understanding and a little bit of reading manga, I presume 'arigato' means 'thank you'." "Yes. If you'll excuse us, we also have our own business to take care of." -"Sure." Marcus and Guiseppe left. "Uh, Kairi-san..." -"What is it, Tori?" "Where's Yamato-san?" Just then a car stopped in front of us. Yamato got out of the car. "Hey Kairi, here's that 'other package' you sent me to pick up." -"Oh good, it already arrived." "I have to tell you, this Evo VIII runs pretty quick. Was it Hitomi who tuned this car?" -"Yeah, he's also the one who took car of my FD." "Is that so? It's a good thing you hired him, he's a pretty good mechanic for his young age." Kairi called Kyosuke, "Kyosuke, come over here." -"So, is this the secret project you've been working on, Kairi-san?" "Yes. Today, you'll be driving it." -"Sweet!! I get to play with a new toy!!" "Tori, you'll be using my RX-7 again, this time for the race." -"Hai." So, I will be driving Kairi's RX-7. Kyosuke's going to race with the new Lancer Kairi had asked to be brought over. "Oh Tori, and before I forgot, I also asked someone to come along here." -"Who??" That made me think. It could be either of the two: my parents or.... " 'They' should be here right about..." Kairi looks at his watch. "....now." We saw a taxi stop over. When I saw who got out, I couldn't believe my eyes. It's......Zinaida!! "Tori!!" -"...Zinaida!" "Surprised?? Mr. Kagiyama asked my dad If I could go see your race. Since the two of them are good friends and my dad wanted some warm weather for a change, he approved. Of course, he's with me." "Thank goodness you called, Kairi. I will surely get frostbite if I would just be sitting around the house every day." -"Haha, well it's summer now, so it's a good time to enjoy some warm sunlight." While we were chatting, Yamato and the mechanics got to work on the two cars. I can sense a very serious atmosphere around them, and an imaginary signpost that reads "Do Not Disturb" . "So Zinaida, uh.....how have you....been doing...??" -"I'm okay. How about...you.....Tori......?" "I'm....fine....." -"That's great. Um......I kind of.......missed you....." "....M-Me too...." Kyosuke had to ruin the mood again, "What do we have here? A lovely couple having a reunion?? Aww, how nice indeed." Me and Zinaida couldn't help but blush. Man, it sure is great getting to see her again! "I've heard the two of you will be racing against each other." -"Yeah." -"Yeah." "Well...good luck to the both of you." -"Arigato." -"Arigato." "Hehe, you two sound cute when you say that at the same time." -"Really? Tori, should we say it again?" "!! Wha....uhhh....." "Hahaha!" Zinaida laughed. I was a bit embarassed, but then again I don't mind, because I get to hear that voice of an angel again! "Well, it seems that we all got acquainted once more, Tori? Kyosuke? Shall we get going? Don't forget we still have a race to finish." -"Hai." -"Hai." "Tori, Kyosuke will be the first one to practice for the race. He needs to get a feel for the car, since it's new to him. Is that OK?" -"Sure, I don't mind." "All right. Kyosuke, get ready." Kyosuke got in the Lancer. Just by looking at his face, he's excited about the race and getting to drive the new car. He rolled out and began the practice run. "Wow, very sharp response. Downhill? Not bad." "I'm pulling off some massive G's under heavy braking. This car has incredible stopping power." "I gotta admit it's pretty fast down the straight. Whoops, I mean 'up' the straight." "Let's see how you do on my specialty: uphill." "Incredible. Just plain stunning, no understeer problems on this sweeper. The suspension and tires go well with each other." "The torque surging from all wheels pounds the tarmac, providing very reliable grip going up this section." "I certainly would like to have this car, but it belongs to the racing school. With this car and me behind its steering wheel, Tori's sure to have a hard time." "Okay, one more lap." *Kyosuke zooms past the starting line* "Kairi, I didn't know that Evo of ours could go that fast. How much power is it producing?" -"From 300ps, I asked Hitomi to upgrade to around 350ps, the same as the FD." "So this race will really come down to driving skills. This should be really interesting." -"I assure you it will be." After a few laps, Kyosuke got back. "It's your turn now, Tori." -"I know." I am once again getting inside Kairi's FD. I'm excited, and at the same time nervous. Yamato informed me of some changes in the setup. "We changed a few settings in the FD, particularly the suspension and transmission, so it's good to go around your specialty: touge roads." I began my practice run with a deep breath. "Here I go." "This car accelerates like there's no tomorrow on downhill roads. I have to be ready on the brakes." "I know it runs well on circuit tracks, but here on touge it's much more better than I expected." "Exceptional... so fast...." "Whoa! Nearly missed that edge!" "Impressive cornering performance as always. I can drive my way!" "A bit slow on uphills, but.....nah." "All right, one more." After a few laps, I went back. "So Tori, are you ready for this?" -"I'm ready. You?" "I'm always good to go. May the best man win." We shook hands. -"May the best man win, Kyosuke-san" Final checks and last-minute decisions were made. "Who's going to be up front?" Kairi brought out something from his pocket. "We're deciding this on a toin coss? Fine with me." -"Your call, Kyosuke." "Tails." He flipped the coin, and as it hit his palm, it showed tails. "I get to be front." As we rolled out, tensions start to build up. From me and Kyosuke to everyone who's going to be a witness in this race. This is it, the race that will decide the future of Team MUGEN. Race 14, begin!! [POV Shift] "C'mon Tori, show me what you've got." *someone from the crowds* "Amazing! They both hit the brakes at the same time!" "So far, so good. I can stay on his tail." "He's pretty quick on this straight. I have to take a better line on that chicane to match his speed." "It's hard just keeping up with him. His skills are a cut above the rest for sure." "Impressive, even in the new car I can't shake him off. Maybe these two cars are tuned at the same level." "This is it, the feeling I've been looking for. A neck-and-neck race between a worthy opponent." "I can feel the adrenaline pumping inside my body. This has already turned into a great race." "I'm waiting, Tori. When are you gonna make your first move?" "I'll overtake him on the next corner." "Nice try!" "He blocked it?! I know for sure I took the better racing line." "Don't compare me to those other people you've raced against. I studied your driving style, I know when you are going to overtake." "Kyosuke-san's one tough customer." "My skills will definitely be put to the test in this race." "I'm getting pumped up just racing with you, Tori. Keep it up." "This feeling I can't describe, it makes me want to go full out on this race!" "I will enjoy every moment of this. This excitement......let's go, Tori!" next on Red-Line - *The Final Chapter* Chapter 26 : The Future of Team MUGEN don't miss it!!