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Le Tour de la Confusion

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Toudou Jinpachi was the last virgin of the cycling world.

This fact was not only a sad one, but also completely incomprehensible, given that he possessed undeniable charm, eye-caressing looks, an impeccable sense of fashion and a fan base ready to follow him to the end of the world. Actually, it was downright unbearable that he had to carry the stigma of a virgin as the only person of his class and chosen type of sport.

Okay, if spoken truthfully, Toudou was pretty sure that the four-eyed otaku, Onoda Sakamichi of Sohoku team, was also a virgin. But that was hardly worth mentioning. Toudou was in a totally different league to Onoda who represented that small and unlucky group of people that had poor chances to engage themselves in sexual interaction with a member of their own species. Or a member of any species, that is.

But that was not the point here. You wouldn’t even mention Toudou Jinpachi and Onoda the Otaku in the same sentence. Besides, Toudou was a third-year, soon to turn 18, and after that he could never admit that he hadn’t been with anyone yet. Not that he had admitted it before, either. He wouldn’t have. If somebody had asked. Which they hadn’t. Which was pretty strange. Boys tended to brag of their experiences; exaggerate, naturally, but talk about it all the same. Why had not one of his teammates ever wanted to know how many girls had Toudou been with? Were they just not interested? Or did they think that Toudou didn’t have the nerve to bed his fans? Since Shinkai had started going out with a girl, guys had bombarded him with questions. Shinkai had refused to answer and stayed mysterious. That clown, pretending to be soooo mature.

Toudou had stolen glances at his teammates, trying to figure out their level of experience. Fuku had definitely had girls, he was the ace after all and all-around popular. Arakita? He’d been a delinquent and part of a gang before joining the bicycle club, and was always responsible for the wildest stories. Probably experienced. Izumida? Was it possible to have sex with your own pecs? Unsure. Manami? Virgin, definitely. So Toudou had at least two inexperienced acquintances.

A refreshing wave of relief washed over him.

Except that… no. Manami had a childhood friend, that geeky girl who dressed like a pre-scholar. The girl seemed to like her friend a bit more than platonically. Besides, Manami was only a first-year, like Onoda, and didn’t have the same kind of pressure on his shoulders.

Aargh, damn it.

Toudou smashed his head against the headboard of his bed out of sheer frustration. Oh the golden days when he could concentrate on cycling alone!

He couldn’t really point his finger at the moment when the issue had started to matter. At what point had something else beside the ecstasy of races, winning, beating your opponents, beating yourself, begun to snatch his attention? At first he had ignored those sensations – sports had a nice side-effect of keeping your mind occupied – but somehow days just passed and the small gnawing at the back of his mind (and in his pants) became more persistent.

And then there’s a morning when you wake up, realize that you’re soon turning 18, and that you’re still a virgin. And to make it worse, you have never even dated anyone.

Not that Toudou had actually wanted to; most of the high school girls were annoying, giggling airheads, and to put up with them one had to be on good medication, but he could have slept with some of them if he wouldn’t have needed to look at their useless faces the morning after. Stupid hormones, he blamed them wholly!

So, he couldn’t pinpoint when the virgin issue had started to matter, but it was clear that it would never ever mark as unimportant again (only perhaps when he’d sit in a nursing home, crapping his diapers and his dick wouldn’t move of its own accord). Toudou couldn’t continue ignoring this slightly disturbing and yet so interesting thing called sex if he wanted to keep his position amongst his friends. The other guys were used to him having his say in whatever they were talking about, be it the autumn fashion or the width of bike tyres. If he suddenly lost his words, everyone would immediately realize that he had no clue.

During the first year conversations between his classmates had mostly been harmless joking. Such as:

“Ohhoho, boobies!”

“Hey look, you can totally see her panties!”

“Let me see that porn magazine!” (Bikini commercials.)

During the second year talks had taken a slightly more serious tone.

“Shinkai, who was that girl you were with at the New Year’s party?”

“Are you going out with her?”

“Which condom brand is the best?”

Then the spring break came, the third school year began, and suddenly everyone seemed to be a year older, even though only a few weeks had passed. Conversations didn’t beat around the bush anymore; it was assumed that everyone had a sex life. After all, who could be such a loser as to not have been intimate with the opposite sex at the age of 17?

Each day passing, it became harder and harder for Toudou to evade the subject. For example, today at the lunch break when Arakita had abruptly changed the conversation from the upcoming math test to Shinkai and his girlfriend and then to the home run (count an ex-baseball player to use baseball metaphors). This was what had occurred:

“Shinkai,” Arakita had said. “Does your chick blow you?” Okay, so maybe he was talking about the third base and not the home run, but that wasn’t the point here. The point was that only a minute ago he had been complaining about the calculator ban in math tests.

Shinkai had casually placed a piece of salad in his mouth and chewed it with all the peace in the world. “Don’t call Ayane a chick.”

“Oh boo hoo! Just answer the question, prude.”

“I don’t see a reason why I should answer that.”

“So she doesn’t,” Arakita had summed up. “That’s a shame. You’re missing out a lot.” It wasn’t specified if he was referring to his own experiences or the information acquired from online videos with XXX ratings.

“Some girls find it not so appealing,” Izumida had said.

“And some people think sex should only be had in the dark, under the blankets, and in the missionary position”, Arakita had noted. “You shouldn’t generalize. Many chicks like it when they get over the initial surprise.”

“Well, it’s a two-way street in this matter, too,” Shinkai had admitted, hinting between the lines. That had made Fuku nod in approval.

Toudou had listened silently. And every passing minute the load hanging onto his back had increased by a few extra pounds. This was the longest time he had kept silent in the company of his friends. He had to say something. Had to say something! Anything would go!

“Some people say that anal sex is better than the regular stuff.”

Eh? He was pretty sure that was not what he had intended to say.

Guys had stared at him for a few seconds, somewhat stunned. Then Arakita had patted his shoulder and said that it was easier to get a girl to blow you than to get her to allow the back door. That was when the conversation had dried out, because Fuku had grunted he didn’t want to listen to back door stories while eating his lunch.

But nobody had asked Toudou about his experiences. Nobody ever asked!

Something just wasn’t right here.

And that was why he was now lying awake on his bed, sweating over the subject.

It was not like he could talk about it directly. Any kind of boasting or comparing your achievements was fine, but if you wanted to seriously discuss about starting your sex life and problems surrounding it, you would get laughed at and possibly left out of the group. Because that was not how guys talked about stuff.

Toudou didn’t have the nerve to bring it up… unless it was with one certain person.

He rolled onto his side and grabbed his cell from the nightstand, his fingers automatically pushing the buttons to type a message.

‘Hey, Maki-chan, are you a virgin?’

Send, before he could think about it twice. Why would he, though? It was just Maki-chan. Toudou could ask him whatever he wanted to. Maki-chan sometimes pretended to get annoyed but Toudou knew that his messages actually cheered the green-haired climber up.

Only then he realized it was past midnight.

Oh well, Maki-chan was hardly asleep yet. And even if he were, he should have muted his phone. Nothing Toudou could do about it now.

He placed his cell back on the nightstand and rolled on his back, staring at the ceiling.

He had to get a grip. He had to get rid of this burden. It was clear that the issue wouldn’t leave him alone before he’d taken care of it. Starting tomorrow, he would begin looking for a girl to fit his purposes. Shouldn’t be too hard. After all, he had a school full of admirers, and he knew how to articulate eloquently. There was often a herd of girls hanging around outside the club room – and they were definitely not interested in cycling. It would take him a week, maximum two. After that he wouldn’t have to feel so out of place amongst the guys, like that 40-year-old virgin, the protagonist of an awkward American film he’d seen some time ago.

How on Earth had he let it get this far? He had always been aware of his fans, but not really thought about sleeping with them. Surely there were athletes who used their fame to get laid. The girls hanging around celebrities were positively begging to ‘have their clam pounded’, like Arakita had said. Toudou had no idea where he came up with his awful metaphors.

His eyes wandered in the dark, ending up on a poster on the wall where Arashiro Yukiya posed in colours of Team Europcar. Arashiro would totally have used his fame to his advantage. Toudou was sure that the guy had had his share of ladies even if his face wasn’t taken out of a fashion magazine.

But now he needed to sleep, otherwise he would spend the next day nodding off in his seat, and that was not something Toudou Jinpachi was famous for. He reached for his phone to set up the alarm and noticed an envelope blinking on the screen. Maki-chan had answered him.

Toudou opened the message. Maki-chan was usually quite pithy, and that was the case this time, too. The message consisted of three words only.

‘You damned freak.’

* * *

The next day Fuku dropped a bomb. A bomb that had Toudou momentarily forget his plan to get rid of his virginity.

Fuku had summoned Hakogaku’s Inter High team to the club room before lessons started. He’d informed them that he had an important matter to discuss. Everyone was present, except for Manami. It wasn’t really a surprise.

”Dear members of Hakogaku cycling club,” Captain began. Those words coming out of anyone else’s mouth would have made an audience burst into laughter, but Fuku sounded honourable, whatever he said. “What would you say if I told you that we’re going for a little excursion?”

”Where? To Chiba?”

”A bit further than that.”

“Hokkaido?”

”Hiroshima?”

“The Sohoku team is coming with us. That was the condition for us to get a group discount of the flight tickets, and we need a supervisor to come along, so Sohoku’s Mr. Pierre has promised to take on the job. The thing is just that everyone must invest a bit of their own money for the trip. The accommodation is arranged but we must pay for our meals and moving around in the destination ourselves. I was thinking we could rent a car and…”

“Captain,” Izumida interrupted. “Where exactly are we going?”

Fuku cleared his throat. “I’m going to tell you but you must promise to try to keep it together. Especially you, Toudou.”

Toudou snorted. “Pfft, I’m always calm and composed.” But the air was already crackling with excitement. Everyone was alert. Even Arakita who’d been nodding off against the lockers had straightened his back and turned his sharp gaze on their ace.

”I have to ask you not to talk about the subject unnecessarily so that the other clubs won’t start complaining about the school favouring us. And this is quite exceptional, I must say. We just got an opportunity that couldn’t be turned down. I need everyone’s confirmation by tomorrow, if you are coming or not, because the flight tickets must be booked soon. We’ll be leaving in two weeks.”

“Yeah, but to where?” The captain sure was mysterious today. Even Shinkai and Izumida were starting to lose their patience.

“To see the greatest event of the cycling world.”

The club room witnessed four simultaneous sharp breaths. “You mean..?”

No. No, it couldn’t be. Because there were still some laws of nature in this world and one of them was huge distances. Another one was the fact that no one so early in their cycling career could possibly get to witness the biggest, most famous cycling tournament on the planet.

”Yes.” Fuku rarely emitted any feelings but now his whole posture was beaming. His eyes were glowing and lips were spread into a wide grin. “We’re going to see…”

Four young men started to jump up and down and squeal like little girls. However, after a few seconds they noticed that the squealing was coming from the direction of Toudou.

”Are you shitting us, Juichi?” Shinkai asked.

“Are you sure that the school will support us?” Izumida asked.

“Is the whole Sohoku team coming too?” Toudou asked.

“If this is supposed to be a joke, I’ll have you know that we will kick your ass, captain or not,” Arakita said.

”It’s not a joke. In two weeks we’ll be sitting on a plane, heading towards Europe and…”

“Tour de France!”