A minute after Teshima ended his call, Arakita and Tadokoro appeared in the corridor, and Sakamichi watched in growing admiration as they picked up and carried away their injured juniors.
“Now it’s up to you and me, Onoda-kun,” Naruko folded his arms. “For Perm-senpai and Quiet-senpai’s sake, we gotta make sure we complete the menu!”
He whapped Sakamichi on the back, then broke into a stride. “Do your best!”
Sakamichi nodded and hummed. Sugimoto clenched his fists.
“I will do my best, too!” he told himself as he hurried after Naruko.
Sakamichi followed soon after, his heart brimming with resolve.
At dawn, Sakamichi slipped out of the first-years’ room on tiptoe, determined to make an early start and overcome his glaring deficits. The idea of having to complete almost three hundred kilometers on the last day of camp loomed over him like an oppressive shadow, but for his noble seniors, Sakamichi was ready to defy heaven and earth.
Those thoughts carried him to the bicycle racks, where he was astonished to find Teshima Junta kneeling by Sakamichi’s assigned road racer, spare parts and tools scattered around him.
“Teshima-san!” Sakamichi stumbled over. “W-Why are you here?!”
Teshima scratched his head. “Well…”
At the medical office, Junta, Aoyagi, and Arakita lowered their bottles of Bepsi, staring into space.
“Onoda-chan’s really something, huh,” said Arakita. They hummed.
“I can’t believe he beat us without cleats,” sighed Junta. Arakita choked.
“He doesn’t have cleats?!” he cried out in horror, furiously scratching at his head. “I knew something was up! Goddammit, Kinjou! I gotta find him a spare, I’m gonna go—”
“It’s alright, Arakita-san,” waved Junta. “Leave it to me. After all.. Onoda’s about my size.”
“Junta…” whispered Aoyagi. Arakita squeezed Junta’s shoulder.
“You’re a good senpai, Teshima-chan. I’m proud.”
Despite himself, Junta felt better.
“Teshima-san..” mumbled Sakamichi. Teshima cracked a smile as he removed the regular pedals and set them aside.
“That’s Arakita-san for you. Kinjou-san wanted you to figure things out on your own, but Arakita-san taught us that anyone can use a push every now and again.”
“Thank you, Teshima-san..!” cried Sakamichi. Teshima paused.
“These cleats do come with a price, though,” he shot a sly glance at Sakamichi, who squeaked in surprise. Teshima laughed.
“Don’t look so scared! I just want to hear your amusing story about Arakita-san.”
“Oh… alright!” Sakamichi rubbed the back of his head with a nervous giggle.
Yes, Kinjou hasn't changed all that much in this AU, and still likes to play mind games with new recruits as a means of testing them. Arakita is not about that bullshit, but he honestly had so much to do, and was so used to everyone having well-fitted road racers that the idea that Onoda might not have cleats didn't even occur to him. Teshima and Aoyagi noticed, but said nothing, for several reasons. They just really, really wanted to go to the Inter-high.
Sakamichi met Arakita on the first day of the spring term, at the peak of an unexpectedly turbulent morning. Like Himeno Kotori-chan, Sakamichi too had set out on an uncharted path: his own metamorphosis from painful isolation in middle school to the promise of fun and camaraderie in high school, and to this end, he first had to master a new route from his house to Sohoku High School, and from there to Akihabara. He couldn’t stop thinking about the latter as he passed clusters of fellow students on his way, whose chatter of live events and merchandise reminded Sakamichi that the first limited edition Torakon blu-ray would go on sale that very afternoon..! He had to have it, and check out the Manyu Manyu gachapon, and…
With a thundering “Fight! FIGHT!” he was mowed down by a horde of keikogi-wearing maniacs, who never stopped to assist the victim of their brutal rampage. Sakamichi pulled up his mamachari and dusted himself off with a sigh. Athletic clubs are so violent…
He vowed then and there to give all such clubs a wide berth for the next three years. He had his sights set on something far better, after all: the anime and manga club listed in Sohoku’s club activities guide..!
Having successfully banished sports from his mind, all Sakamichi needed to cheer up was an upbeat song. He took a turn towards the rear entrance, hoping it would be deserted, mounted his music player on the handlebar, then clicked Play and began his ascent, singing along at the top of his lungs.
Lovely chance, it’s Pettanko-chan..
“Lovely chance, it’s Pettanko-chan!”
“OI!” someone bellowed in his ear, startling Sakamichi out of his wits. His foot slipped and the mamachari tilted, but before he could hit the concrete, his jacket snagged and he was yanked upright with unprecedented force. As the mamachari rolled to a halt, Sakamichi turned his head, to find himself face to face with the scariest-looking person he had ever seen. This, of course, was Arakita Yasutomo.
“Are you alright? You almost wrecked yourself, dummy!” he gave Sakamichi a reprimanding shake by the scruff of his jacket. “And what’s this Lovely chance nonsense? Turn that thing off, it’s annoying!”
“S-So sorry!” Sakamichi grabbed and silenced his music player. “I-It’s the opening theme of an anime called—”
“Haaah? Anime? What are you, an otaku?” Arakita stared at him like he had grown an extra head. Sakamichi bloomed crimson.
“N-No! I mean YES!”
“Stop screaming, I can hear you!” Arakita snapped back. “Sheesh.. What were you doing here on a mamachari, giving a solo tour? It’s hard enough climbing this slope on a goddamn road racer! Just use the front gate slope like everyone else..!” He then released Sakamichi and blasted off, disappearing around the bend.
Alone again, Sakamichi pressed a hand to his heart and heaved a shaky sigh.
He must be in an athletic club… No wonder he was so scary! Does he go here?!
Sohoku is terrifying…!
Thankfully, the rest of the morning passed without incidents, and once classes ended, Sakamichi hurried off to track down the club of his dreams.
What he found instead left him thunderstruck.
“Due to lack of members, the anime and manga club’s activities had been suspended..” he read the announcement taped to the door in a stunned stutter. “If you would like to reopen the club, please gather at least five members and contact the advisor…”
In a fit of despair, Sakamichi banged his fists on the door and fell to his knees with an agitated scream. In the distance, he heard the sound of approaching footsteps.
“What’s that?” came a girl’s voice from behind him - Tachibana Aya’s.
“The anime club’s room?” replied another girl, who turned out to be Kanzaki Miki.
“Oh.” Tachibana paused to check her booklet. “It’s in the guide, but I heard it closed down.”
Sakamichi careened his head. Could it be that he had found some allies for his cause..?
“Do you want to join, too?!” he rushed over to them, fists balled in excitement. “It’s such a shame, right?! So let’s gather more members together and reopen the club!”
They shrank away in abject horror. Sakamichi blanched.
“Y-You’re not here to join..?”
“No..?” Kanzaki quirked a brow. “Aya-chan’s joining the tennis club, and I want to join the road racing club.”
Sakamichi stared back dejected.
“What?!” Tachibana scowled at him. Sakamichi swallowed and turned away.
“Sorry.. I think I’ll go to Akiba now… Excuse me…”
He almost reached the end of the corridor when Kanzaki cried out,
“You’d better hurry or you’ll miss the bus!”
“I-It’s okay! I have a bike!” Sakamichi hollered back as he broke into a jog, a smile tugging at his lips. Her kindness had given him hope. It was only the first day, after all, and Akihabara was only a bike ride away!
He ran all the way to the bicycle racks, grabbed his mamachari, and guided it to the top of the rear gate slope that lay closest to his goal… then froze as Arakita pulled up right next to him with his own bicycle.
“What the—! You’re the first-year from this morning!” blurted Arakita, but when Sakamichi flinched away from him, he paused and lowered his voice. “Eh, sorry for yelling at you earlier, but you really gotta stop coming through here with that thing or you’re gonna get hurt..!”
“I-I’m sorry, but this way is closer, to Akiba..”
“Haaah? The bus stop’s the other way!”
“I’m not going by bus! I’m going by bike, because.. it can take me to Akiba for free!”
Arakita’s gaze could have leveled the entire rear gate slope.
“You know what? Fine. You wanna pedal for hours, you’re on your own! Better check your wallet, then, before you screw yourself over some more!”
Sakamichi patted down his pockets. His eyes widened.
“I left it in my desk..!”
Arakita sneered at him, then mounted his bicycle and vanished down the slope.
The next morning, Sakamichi found himself pedaling up that same slope again. This time, it really did seem deserted, and Sakamichi had gotten as far as the chorus of Koi no Hime Hime Pettanko when he finally caught the rumble of another set of wheels, and turned to see Arakita staring at him slack-jawed and wide-eyed.
The next line of lyrics morphed into a scream. Sakamichi’s mamachari wobbled at his sudden jolt, but he somehow managed to keep his balance.
“I’m s-so sorry!” he screamed his apologies. Arakita still looked stupefied.
“Who the hell are you..?” he whispered. Sakamichi blinked.
Arakita’s eyes narrowed. “Oonoda, huh… Oonoda, I uh.. I got a favor to ask…”
It’s Onoda… and favor? What favor..? Sakamichi broke into a sweat. Is this about yesterday?!
“D-Do you.. do you want my limited edition Torakon blu-ray?!” he cried without thinking. That seemed to shake Arakita back to his senses.
“Haaah?! Who cares about a blu-ray! I want you to join my club!”
“Club?! Wh-What club?!”
“The road racing club, of course!” snapped Arakita. “This is the third time you’re climbing a super slope on a goddamn mamachari! You must be a natural! We need you!”
“N-Natural? N-No, no, I need to reopen the anime club!”
“What the hell?! Why would you wanna do that?!”
“Because.. I don’t have any friends!” Sakamichi shrieked in exasperation, then broke away for good, if only because Arakita had been stunned to a crawl and hit the ground like timber.
Sakamichi arrived at his classroom safely, and by his final morning class, he had calmed down enough to eat. However, just as he had unpacked his bento, a loud bang on the corridor window made him drop his chopsticks. He bent down to retrieve them and glanced up… to see Arakita glaring at him from behind the glass.
He beckoned with a finger. Sakamichi hesitantly pointed to himself.
Arakita nodded. Sakamichi slowly shook his head.
Arakita’s nods intensified. Sakamichi’s headshake picked up speed.
“JUST COME OUTSIDE, YOU BRAT!” Arakita howled, at which point a group of frightened classmates shoved Sakamichi out of his seat and into the hall, slamming the door shut behind him.
He inched over to Arakita, head hung and quivering like a leaf. Arakita sighed.
“I thought about what you said, first-year.. You wanna reopen that club ‘cause you want friends, right? Then just join my club! I’ll be your friend!”
Sakamichi whipped up his head bewildered.
“You heard me! If you join, I’ll talk to you about manga! I’ll even go with you to Akihabara!”
Sakamichi froze. Did he just… no, no, that’s impossible!
“You don’t believe me?!” snapped Arakita. “Fine! When are you going next? This afternoon?”
“I-I’m.. actually.. something seems wrong, so I have to take my bicycle to the shop…”
Arakita scoffed. “Alright. Then meet me on top of the rear gate slope on Saturday morning at nine sharp. …Don’t be late.”
And with that, he turned around, leaving a shivering Sakamichi behind.
And that was the story of how on Saturday morning, just before nine o’clock, Sakamichi pulled up to the designated meeting spot on his freshly tuned mamachari… and within a minute, Arakita arrived in casual cycling gear, his expression unreadable.
“Just so you know, I passed up a date for this,” he bared his gritted teeth.
Sakamichi swallowed hard. He has a girlfriend, or maybe he was trying to get one… I’m dead. If he gets any angrier, I’m dead..!
“Stop staring at me like I’m about to kill you! Sheesh! Here, put this on and let’s go!” Arakita passed him a spare bicycle helmet. Sakamichi obediently strapped it on. Arakita pulled closer and mounted his Bianche.
“Hang onto me, and don’t do anything until I tell you,” were his orders. Sakamichi’s every nerve protested it, but he swung an arm over Arakita’s back and clamped onto his side.
“You might be a natural, but I ain’t taking any chances. Now here, we, GO!” cried Arakita as he broke into a downward sprint, with Sakamichi clinging onto him for dear life.
That ride was a blur in every sense of the word. Sakamichi couldn’t think or speak. The velocity with which Arakita carried him downhill seemed to rival that of a speeding car, and yet he conquered every corner with surgical precision, and when they burst onto the open road, no vehicle could pass them until their initial launch wore off, and Arakita told Sakamichi to start pedaling and shift to his outer gear.
Sakamichi didn’t even know he had one of those, but he did as instructed, and for the rest of the trip, he pedaled furiously to keep up with Arakita’s powerful pull.
Amazing… he remembered thinking when he finally got used to their pace. To think a bicycle can go so fast… and I, I’m keeping up with him! It’s a miracle..!
And just like that, Sakamichi soon found himself in Akihabara, where Arakita agreed to accompany him to Gamer Zone and AkiBOX. While Sakamichi browsed Royal Force manga, Arakita purchased the latest volume of KuJo’s Bizarre Adventure. When Sakamichi had to take an emergency toilet break, Arakita stayed in line and held onto his purchases… and when Sakamichi finally landed the gacha he wanted, Arakita even cracked a smile.
“Well? Wasn’t that nice?” he asked as Sakamichi unlocked his bicycle in the backstreet, only to be interrupted by a red-headed boy, who would later introduce himself as Naruko Shoukichi.
“Is that your mamachari?” he pointed at Sakamichi’s bicycle. “It’s so plain! That’s no good! You don’t stand out enough!”
“Oi,” Arakita took a step forward, but he couldn’t faze Naruko, whose looks softened as he added,
“But man… I can tell how much you’ve loved and treasured this thing. It’s really awesome.”
“O-Oh, but I've never washed it, and it's cheap..!” protested Sakamichi.
“It’s not about that. It’s, well... it's a feeling of partnership,” explained Naruko. “You’ve never thought about letting this thing go, have you..?”
A feeling of partnership…
Somehow, those words filled Sakamichi’s chest with warmth, and he was about to thank Naruko when a slick, yellow car blasted through the silence with a series of angry honks.
“Move! Get out of the way!” its cigarette-smoking driver yelled at fleeing passersby. Naruko’s eyes grew wide.
"Woah! That car! It’s so cool!"
Sakamichi froze. Even Arakita stared dumbstruck as Naruko walked over with an eager grin.
“Hey, Nii-chan!” he hailed the driver. “You have a real flashy car! That big spoiler is awesome!”
Why is he talking to him?! Sakamichi trembled behind him. He’s clearly a scary guy!
The man seemed pleased by Naruko’s praise. He removed his cigarette to say,
“You’ve got a good eye, kid! You know what else is great about this car?”
“Oh, yeah! It’s yellow!” Naruko balled his fists. The guy nodded.
“The whole thing's painted. It cost me like a million yen, haha!”
He flicked his cigarette stub away, and the three of them watched speechlessly as it hit and bounced off Sakamichi’s mamachari, leaving a charred stain on the frame.
“Hey, man,” the temperature around Naruko dropped below zero. “That hit the bike.”
“So?” the guy shrugged. “It’s just an abandoned mamachari.”
“This guy really cares for it!” Naruko screeched and jabbed a finger in Sakamichi’s direction. “Now apologize, you moron!”
“Are you stupid?!” the man burst in laughter. “Who cares? Compared to cars, bicycles are lame!”
“Oh yeah..?” Arakita stepped forward with a jagged grin, and before Sakamichi could react, he lifted a foot and dragged his cleats down the pristine front door of the car. “Oooh, that’s gonna leave a mark!”
Sakamichi shut down completely as his soul ejected out of his body. The man gaped like a fish, but his eyes promised murder.
“You son of a—” he reached for the handle, then jerked backwards as Arakita’s foot smashed into his face. As the man reeled, Arakita tore open the front door, then resumed kicking at lightning speed, and when his victim grew limp, he reached in, grabbed the back of the man’s neck, and slammed his head against the wheel. The airbag deployed and smothered him against the front seat. Arakita yanked his hand free.
“That’s what you get for messing with kids, DUMBASS!” he slammed the door shut with a huff.
He looked around for witnesses (there were none), then peered over his shoulder. Sakamichi was still catatonic, but Naruko stared at him starry-eyed.
“Hey,” Arakita said to him, “grab that cigarette butt for me, wouldja?”
Naruko pinched it up and handed it over. Arakita flicked it into the car.
“Nii-chan,” he cooed to his prostrate victim, “I hereby put a curse on you. May misfortune and misery eat you alive, starting with your shitty car.”
He then straightened again and turned to Sakamichi. “Alright. Grab your bike. We’re leaving.”
“Where are you going?” asked Naruko.
“Chiba?! That’s where I’m going!”
“That’s nice,” Arakita grabbed Sakamichi and his mamachari, dragging them away.
Since this telling is from Onoda's perspective, and this was still before the Inter-high, he had no idea how much he had been anticipated by Arakita (and Makishima), or by Kanzaki Miki, so you will get their side of the story here in the notes.
As their second year came to a close, Makishima became more and more anxious about next year. He was now the only true climber in the club, and he worried that he would have to pull his team alone at the Inter-high. The idea that this might prevent his racing Toudou also depressed him, to the point where he asked Arakita if he could make a wish upon the Youkai. Arakita said yes, so Makishima wished for "another climber, sho. I don’t care what style he uses, I don’t care what he’s like.. but I suppose, I wouldn’t mind if he were someone nice, sho.” Arakita promised that the Youkai would do everything in his power to grant that wish, and to this end, he took up extra climbing practice just in case they wouldn't find a suitable recruit, which is how he met Onoda on the super slope.
Just like in canon, Miki tracked Onoda down because she was intrigued by the idea of his going to Akiba by bike. Miki and Arakita are also good friends in this AU, so as early as the first day, Arakita met up with Miki to tell her about this first-year climbing the super slope on a mamachari.
The next afternoon, Onoda took his mamachari to Cycle Shop Kanzaki, and Miki called Arakita to tell him that it was probably the first-year he had seen climbing the super slope. They had a discussion about him, and Miki decided to install some extras on the mamachari at Arakita's expense.
Arakita told Makishima he had some embarrassing Youkai business to attend to on Saturday. He wasn't even lying, but it still sucked, because the club planned to hold his birthday that afternoon, so he could have had a long morning date until then...
“So Arakita-san killed a man for disrespecting your bicycle…” whispered Teshima. “I don’t know if I should be impressed or horrified..”
“N-No, no, he didn’t die!” Sakamichi waved his hands. “T-The newspapers said he was discovered and taken to hospital, but he couldn’t remember what had happened to him, so he didn’t press any charges…”
He caught Teshima’s eyes. A spark of understanding flashed between them.
“Youkai’s curse…” they murmured in sync. Teshima shook his head.
“Naruko wasn’t exaggerating then, when he said he thought Arakita-san was crazy. I knew he was short-tempered, but I didn’t expect all this violence…”
“It must have been quite a shock to you. After witnessing something like that, how on earth did Arakita-san manage to convince you to trust him and join the club..?” mused Teshima. His own implications turned him pale. “…Don’t tell me he bullied you into it..!”
His concern warmed Sakamichi’s heart.
“Oh no, please don’t worry about me, Teshima-san..!” he shook his head with a smile. “What Arakita-san did to that man was really unexpected and scary, but afterwards, he started acting friendlier.. He was really nice to me, and even to Naruko-kun, even though we were all still strangers…”
“Oh, that’s right, that was your first meeting with Naruko, and his first meeting with Arakita-san… And what a ride it was,” Teshima clicked his tongue. “No wonder you were hesitant to share it last night, but I’m glad I got to hear it this time. Thank you for the story, Onoda.”
“Thank you, for the cleats…” Sakamichi scratched his cheek.
“However,” Teshima squinted at him, “this story still feels.. incomplete. What happened afterwards? And what about the first-year welcome race? I feel like something extraordinary must have happened while I was riding in the back with the other first-years…”
“I, um, I don’t know if it was extraordinary…” Sakamichi rubbed the back of his head, his cheeks tinged. Teshima’s grin widened.
“Now don’t be modest,” he pressed on with forced enthusiasm, “what you had done that day earned you a lot of Kouhai Points with Arakita-san. Aoyagi and I worked very hard to be called -chan more often, but you became Onoda-chan straight away after that race!”
“Kou-hai.. points..?” mumbled Sakamichi. “What’s that..?”
“Never mind, never mind!” Teshima waved a hand. “Now please get on with your story, we don’t have all morning, you know..!”
“A-Ah, right! S-So sorry!”
"Kouhai Points" is a reference to an end note in the original story (or Part 1 of this AU series), where Teshima and Aoyagi started competing with each other to see who could impress Arakita enough to be called -chan more often. Arakita caught onto them eventually, and started messing with them for fun, but when he saw how fiercely they had fought against Onoda, Naruko, and Sugimoto on the third night of this training camp, Arakita switched to -chan permanently for both.
“Are you really going home now?” Naruko hurried along as Arakita continued to drag Sakamichi and his mamachari back to where he had parked his road racer. “Wait! I just moved to Chiba from Osaka. I thought I’d go sightseeing here, but I have no idea where I’m going, so you could help me look around!” he nudged Sakamichi with his elbow. “What’s your name, anyway?”
As Sakamichi didn’t react immediately, Arakita replied,
“Nice to meet you, Oonoda-kun, and Oonoda-san!” grinned Naruko. “I’m looking forward to exploring Akiba together!” he added with a wink.
“Huh..?” Arakita and Sakamichi turned to him confused.
“It’s so nice to see brothers supporting each other!” Naruko went on, oblivious of his faux pas. “Normally you’d never see athletes and otakus hanging out, but what’s family for, am I right?”
But we look nothing alike… Arakita and Sakamichi grimaced at each other.
“Ka-ka-ka!” Naruko squeezed between them, flinging an arm around each. “Alright! In the spirit of brotherhood, let’s get my little brothers some souvenirs!”
Arakita and Sakamichi sighed.
At any other time, Sakamichi would have been more than happy to prolong his stay in Akihabara. Naruko, however, soon proved to be rather troublesome…
“Woah! There are so many!” he romped around the figure displays. “It’s huge! This model’s box is huge!”
“Oi, lower your voice..” Arakita hissed at him, but Naruko paid no attention.
“Which one should I get? Which one’s real popular?” he careened his head. Sakamichi smiled.
“Well, different models come in different scales, so—”
“This one, right?!” Naruko shoved a red MS-06S-ZAKU-II in Sakamichi’s face. “It’s flashy and cool, right?!”
“W-Well, if details are important to you, then the one to one hundred scale—”
“Two of these, please!” Naruko waved the box at the cashier, then gurgled as Arakita jerked him backwards.
“You asked for advice but you weren’t even listening!” he shook Naruko by the scruff of his jersey. “At least hear him out, dammit!”
“Oh..” Naruko’s eyes fell on the price tag. “I’m gonna be a thousand yen short. Lend me some money.”
“What the hell?!” cried Arakita. Sakamichi pulled out his wallet with a troubled expression, but Arakita waved him off. “Put that thing away! You’re just gonna get ripped off!”
He then turned back to Naruko.
“I’ll lend you the money,” he smirked sweetly. “Where do you live..?”
Naruko blinked, but cracked a grin at the prospect of his loan. “I can’t remember, but I go to Sohoku High School!”
“That’s right! I’m Naruko Shoukichi, the Speedster of Naniwa, and I’m gonna join the road racing club!”
The road racing club..! Sakamichi’s eyes widened in realization. Arakita broke into a menacing grin.
“Well then, I’m gonna be your senpai soon…” he leaned closer, “…and if you don’t pay me back, I’ll find you and I’ll kill you,” he snarled mere millimeters from Naruko’s face. Naruko gulped.
“Oonoda-kun.. your brother’s real scary…” he mumbled under his breath.
“It’s Onoda…” sighed Sakamichi. Arakita groaned in exasperation.
“Thanks for the money!” Naruko exited the store, his purchases flung over his shoulder. “My little brothers will be thrilled! Since I bought them the same thing, they won’t fight. This trip has been a total success! So where are we going next?” he carried on, ignoring their baffled reactions. “Oh, I know! You can't visit Akiba without going to a maid café!”
“With what money, you little twerp?!” snapped Arakita. “I’m not paying for you to ogle girls! Go home, you’re annoying!”
“Awww, but all I wanted was a drink and a snack…” Naruko pursed his lips. Arakita’s brow twitched. He reached behind his back, and Sakamichi half expected him to draw a weapon from the ether, but instead Arakita whipped out a water bottle and a power bar and shoved them into Naruko’s hand.
“There’s your drink and snack, now get off my back! Argh! I can’t believe I’m still here! At this rate, I’m gonna miss my birthday party, dammit!”
Sakamichi stared at him speechless.
It’s his birthday, and he could have gone out on a date.. but he said he’d go to Akiba with me, so he did… Arakita-san’s scary, but he’s actually nice..!
“Happy birthday, Onoda-san!” Naruko beamed at him. Arakita smacked a hand over his face.
Not to try Arakita’s patience any further, the three of them soon left for Chiba, with Arakita and Naruko drafting in rotation. Naruko eventually said goodbye, and not long after, Sakamichi and Arakita stopped at the base of the rear entrance. Sakamichi cleared his throat.
“A-Arakita-san.. um.. I want to thank you, for coming with me to Akiba. Ever since I was little, I always wanted to go with a friend… and today my wish came true..!”
Arakita looked worn, but he smiled regardless. “Heh. That’s good.. No, it’s great! That means you’ll join the club, right?!”
Sakamichi tensed and shrank back. Arakita gritted his teeth, but soon sighed in resignation.
“Alright.. I’ll give you two weeks, so.. think about it, okay? It’s a good club, and you wouldn’t be a stranger anymore. You’d have me and the red menace from Osaka. Well?”
Sakamichi lowered his eyes.
“And… your senpai would be my best friend,” Arakita turned his Bianche around. “He’s the nicest guy on earth, and he really needs you. So.. think about it.”
With that, Arakita broke into a climb uphill, and from that day forward, he avoided Sakamichi as much as possible. Whenever they passed each other on the slope, he kept his eyes straight ahead. If he walked by Sakamichi’s classroom, he only allowed himself an anxious glance and pressed on, and strangely enough, the more he distanced himself, the lonelier Sakamichi felt. He made posters for the anime club and tacked them onto every bulletin board in the building, but nobody answered them; and though Naruko supposedly attended Sohoku, Sakamichi didn’t see him once… until a day before Arakita’s proposed deadline, Naruko suddenly showed up in Sakamichi’s classroom, waving a club application form.
“Naruko-kun! ” Sakamichi jumped from his seat. “It’s so good to see you!”
“Ka-ka-ka! Good to see you too, Onoda-kun!” Naruko plopped down on his desk. “I just came to tell you I’m joining the road racing club tomorrow! There’s gonna be a race, and I’m gonna win it!”
“A race?” blinked Sakamichi.
“Yup! A welcome race for first-years! You should totally check it out, Onoda-kun! Maybe even race me! Arakita-san’s been talking about you, you know..!”
“A-Arakita-san?” blurted Sakamichi. Naruko barked a laugh.
“Turns out you’re not brothers at all! My bad!” he stuck out his tongue and bonked his fist to his temple. “But… the way he talks about you is really nice,” he carried on with a smile. “Whenever we bumped into each other, he’d tell me how much he wants you to join!”
“Y-Yeah.. Arakita-san seems to think I’m a natural, but I’ve always been bad at sports…” Sakamichi hung his head. Naruko tapped his shoulder.
“You don’t need to be athletic to ride, Onoda-kun. Your bike supports you. All you have to do is turn your pedals! And besides…” he paused with a smirk. “If the vice captain has this much faith in you, don’t you wanna see how far you can go..?”
Despite himself, Sakamichi’s heart skipped a beat. And so the next morning, he found himself inching into the road racing club’s room, right behind Naruko.
His jaw dropped. Opposite him, Arakita-san was talking to three other first-years over the head of another senior… while rhythmically brushing his long green hair.
“..looks like a victory flag. I’m telling you, this hair is the true pride of Sohoku— YOU CAME!”
His sudden outburst at Sakamichi’s appearance almost jolted Makishima off his stool, and to add insult to injury, Arakita shoved the brush into his hands as he rushed over and grabbed Sakamichi’s shoulders.
“You finally came! YES! Yuusuke, look what I got you!” he whirled Sakamichi around with an ecstatic grin.
His enthusiasm wasn’t shared by anyone except Kanzaki Miki. Arakita huffed.
“Just wait till you see him ride! And you, you gotta warm up, so come on!” he grabbed Sakamichi and pulled him outside, where Arakita even hoisted his mamachari onto a free roller.
“Climb on and start pedaling! This is gonna be great!” he rubbed his hands in earnest eagerness that, overwhelming though it was, proved highly contagious. Sakamichi mounted his mamachari with a racing heart, then broke into a grin himself when he found he could keep his balance easily.
“Yes! You’re doing great!” Arakita balled his fists. “Yuusuke, come look at this!” he hollered at the door. A moment later, Makishima emerged with a wary squint, the brush still in his hands.
“Oh, right,” Arakita snatched it from him, then pushed Makishima in front of him and combed away again. “Look, look, he can do it on his first try! Ain’t he great?!”
Sakamichi tried for a tentative smile, but the grimace Makishima gave him looked more uncomfortable than appreciative…
After a long description of the course, and some cryptic comments from the captain, Sakamichi pulled up to the starting line with the other first-years, and…
“Arakita-san..? Are you racing, too?” he blurted when Arakita walked over to them with his Bianche.
“That’s right,” Arakita flashed a grin, then arched his head. “First-years! I’m joining you for two reasons. First, I’m gonna guide you through the city and keep order.. and then I’m gonna show you just how good you can get with hard work and determination. When I joined this club in my first year, I was a complete beginner… and now you’re gonna see what I’ve become.”
The air crackled around Arakita. If this were an anime, his aura would be flaring up, Sakamichi thought to himself.
On Kinjou’s signal, the six of them rolled out into traffic, and within a few minutes, Arakita lifted his head again.
“Bullshit hour is over, so listen up!” he barked. “Right now we’re still warming up, so don’t bother going any faster until I tell you, and the recovery van won’t pick you up unless you can’t move or you quit, so stop worrying about it. Especially you,” he turned to Onoda. “The recovery van’s gonna be your friend today.”
“I-Is that so..” mumbled Sakamichi.
“Trust me,” replied Arakita. “And whatever happens, don’t give up! If you keep going and give it your all, we’ll show you a sight you’ve never seen before!”
A sight.. I’ve never seen before, Sakamichi’s eyes gleamed… and from that moment, he found himself in a flux of perpetual twists and turns.
The instant they entered the countryside, Arakita burst into a sprint and left them in the dust, yet within seconds, Naruko accelerated with a roar and caught up to him. As Sugimoto, Kawada, and Sakurai pulled ahead too, and Sakamichi’s chest was growing unbearably tight, the recovery van hailed him… but instead of panicking, he found himself shouting,
“Captain! Arakita-san said.. that the recovery van would be my friend today!”
“That’s right,” smiled Kinjou. “Stop, Onoda. We have a spare road racer for you.”
Within minutes, Sakamichi rejoined the race, his heart hammering with unbridled joy. He hardly dared admit it, but his first taste of true speed intoxicated him.
Your stamina is low, so choose, Onoda, the captain’s words echoed in his mind. Finish the race at this pace, or raise your cadence by thirty, and chase down Arakita and Naruko!
How could it be anything but the latter! Sakamichi now pedaled even harder, passed Sakurai, then Sugimoto and Kawada… and just before the mountains, he finally glimpsed Naruko’s back.
“Naruko-kun! I caught up!” Sakamichi cried out, then blanched when he saw Naruko drenched in sweat and struggling to keep his pace.
“What are you waiting for, go ahead!” he snarled through gritted teeth. “Leave me!”
“JUST GO! If you don’t, you’ll never catch Arakita-san!”
“But, why do I have to leave you behind?!”
“Because that’s what racing is, idiot!” snapped Naruko.
Sakamichi left Naruko behind with a broken heart. His friend’s insistence still propelled him forward, but inside he trembled in growing distress, and by the time Arakita swam into view, Sakamichi pulled up in tears.
“Naruko-kun fell behind!” he cried. Arakita smirked.
“I know that! I shook him off! Now it’s just you and me, Onoda!”
“But I don’t want this!” Sakamichi screamed at him. “What’s the point of going on without my friend?! Why do you want me to do this?!”
“Because I used to be just like you,” replied Arakita, stunning Sakamichi silent. “When I came to Sohoku, I didn’t have friends either! But then I joined this club, and made the best friends I ever had! So give us a chance, dammit! You need us as much as we need you!”
“Wh-What do I have to do?!” Sakamichi cried out in panic.
“JUST RACE ME WITH EVERYTHING YOU’VE GOT!” Arakita howled back, and as if on cue, the recovery van emerged from behind them. “SHOW THEM WHAT YOU’RE MADE OF!”
He shifted gears twice, then lifted away from his saddle, and Sakamichi instinctively copied him. Something raw surged through his veins; he became a wish, a desire, a ferocious battle cry. On that last stretch, their fervent race mesmerized him.
He couldn’t tell who reached the peak first; he only registered that they had passed it. Everything froze for a second… and then, Arakita threw his head back.
“HAAAH!” he thrust his fists in the air. “HA-HA! HAAAH! ONODA-CHAAAN!”
Sakamichi heard his name, but his grasp on reality started slipping. He could feel his road racer go down with him, but before he could plummet, Arakita caught him and pulled him off, then grabbed Sakamichi under his arms and yanked him into the air, giving him a playful quake like he was weightless.
“YUUSUKE! We did it! Look at it!” Arakita cried as Makishima scrambled out of the stopping van. “IT’S A BEAUTIFUL BABY CLIMBER!”
He quaked Sakamichi one more time, then lowered him and twirled him around until he could cradle Sakamichi into his arms like a human pool noodle. Arakita then lugged his faint junior over to a flabbergasted Makishima, nudging Sakamichi towards him.
“Congratulations, Yuusuke, ” he murmured, his grin obscenely wide. “You’re gonna be a great senpai. Let’s train this one together,” he dotted his words with a wink, and as his meaning sank in, Makishima went from eggshell white to scarlet with the intensity of a horror film.
“OH MY GOD, YASUTOMO! I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU JUST SAID THAT!” he screeched in embarrassment. “WIPE THAT LOOK OFF YOUR FACE! DROP DEAD! I HATE YOU, SHO! ”
“Haha, yeah… Don’t you worry, Onoda-chan,” Arakita hugged Sakamichi close. “Yuusuke’s the sweetest guy alive. You’re gonna love your senpai. You’ll see..”
He then squinted at Makishima. “Well? Didn’t I tell you I’d get you another climber..?”
“You did, sho… Thank you..!” Makishima flung out his arms to embrace Arakita, crushing their exhausted but content kouhai between them.
In case anyone worried: Arakita made his birthday party in time, and Makishima took him out to eat dinner right after. All in all, he was very much compensated for his patience. (Naruko paid him back next Monday.)
In the very first chapter of the original story, Sugimoto mentioned Arakita brushing Makishima's hair during their briefing. I didn't think about it at the time, but honestly, it was perfect for the welcome race briefing, so I put that detail in. If you remembered it from back then, I love you.
The peak battle was so important that I had to put in Arakita, but I found it made a lot of sense either way. In canon, the other first-years ignored Imaizumi and left the pack against his better judgment, so in this AU, I gave them someone they didn't dare mess with... and I always intended Arakita to race Onoda to the peak, because that's how he wanted to prove to Makishima that he had found a good climber. If a newbie could beat him, they had to be exceptional, and yes, Onoda did beat him to the peak fair and square with his high cadence climb.
When Naruko finally arrived, Arakita lifted Onoda again and quaked him, as if to say, "He did it!" Naruko flashed a thumbs up and rode on, finishing first because Arakita dropped out to savor his victory as the Youkai who granted Makishima his wish. Also, please imagine Tadokoro standing to the side as Arakita and Makishima were fawning over Onoda, muttering "Gross parents..." under his breath.
Aaah. So that’s what it was.. Teshima gazed into space, his expression flatter than the ground beneath him. The idea of raising their first child together… It’s a good thing Onoda is so unassuming, they’re practically spoiling him rotten and he didn’t even realize it… and now he’s even going to the Inter-high with them!
This is bad.. I’m so envious I could die.
“Um, are you okay, Teshima-san..?” mumbled Sakamichi. “Your expression’s kind of scary…”
“It’s nothing, nothing,” Teshima started gathering his tools. “Well, I’m done changing your pedals. Now hurry and complete the menu! Everyone’s waiting for you!”
“Go on!” urged Teshima as he packed Sakamichi’s old pedals away. “They’re counting on you for this year’s Inter-high!”
Sakamichi hesitated. “Um, about that… Teshima-san, could you tell me more about last year’s Inter-high..?”
Teshima winced, but quickly composed himself and took a deep breath.
“The clubroom used to have a display on it,” he said at last. “I haven’t looked recently, but some of it might still be in storage.”
He dropped a heavy hand on Sakamichi’s shoulder, eyes flaring. “This information is classified, by the way. If you get caught, I will deny everything.”
Sakamichi swallowed, but nodded.
Armed with Teshima’s cleats, Sakamichi finished the rest of his thousand kilometers by evening. As if the club had anticipated him, they stayed there for another night, which allowed Sakamichi to tell his friends what he had gleaned from Teshima.
Naruko and Sugimoto proved as eager as Sakamichi to investigate, and so right after their Saturday make-up classes, the first-years started their search of the premises, with dubious results… until Naruko bumped into a bench and stumbled against the wall, and they discovered to their astonishment that his elbow left an impossibly concave hole in the poster on the wall…
“D-Did you just break the wall, Naruko-kun?!”
“Are you an idiot, Onoda-kun?! There wasn’t a BAM! or CRASH! or anything!”
“Could it be that.. this part is hollow..?” mumbled Sugimoto.
They exchanged inspired glances and slowly reached for the corners of the mangled poster…
“What the hell are you doing, sho?!” came a screech from behind, startling them into terrified screams. Makishima shoved them aside, huffed at the damage, then turned around to shield the poster with his body.
“You’ll learn everything in due time, sho! Now stop prying or you’ll be EXECUTED! ”
And so their search ended… for now.
In this AU, Sugimoto had been adopted by Kinjou at Arakita's insistence, so they paid more attention to him, and spurred him on or advised him as needed. Because of this added support, despite his lack of courage to ride recklessly in the dark, Sugimoto ended up completing the menu, finishing an hour before Onoda. He still didn't get to compete at the Inter-high, but was praised for his hard work, and encouraged to keep improving so he would make the roster next year.
As promised, Arakita did start talking to Onoda about his obsession, or rather he let Onoda ramble about his favorite anime, and sometimes contributed his opinion about the mangas he had read. Since he lives at the dorm and there was no way he was gonna be able to watch blu-rays there, Onoda ended up inviting him to his house to watch Love Hime. His mom first thought Onoda had brought home a delinquent, but Arakita was very polite to her. And yes, he learned the full theme song within a few hours.
I realize that I keep teasing you all with the second-year Inter-high, but I swear it's going to be worth the wait. Makishima can be terrifying if he wants to be, so please don't blame the first-years for placing their safety first. To be fair though, that poster was way outdated, so it was about time they put up something else to cover up the hole and the secrets it holds...
The next companion piece will be about Makishima's birthday, and his relationship with Arakita, so expect a lot of gross couple stuff! Stay tuned, and thank you for reading!