He whistled and, at once, a squad made up of five violet penguins emerged from the ground, which followed and surrounded the trio as they rose in the air. They created an energy circle that held the ball inside and injected potency into it—a clear influence of Teikoku’s game and its Death Zone. They spun around the soccer ball to, eventually, hit it at the same time with a heel kick to the cry of ‘Koutei Penguin San Gou—G3.’ The penguins took care of correcting the erratic trajectory of the shot, sending it straight towards the goal.
The goalkeeper gathered energy in his fist the same way he had gathered it around his heart so many times in the past. He propelled himself upwards and the hair-rising figure of a demon appeared behind him, ready to help him hammer down the ball wrathfully as he exclaimed, ‘Ikari no Tetsui—V2.’
It was a fierce battle, but, eventually, the ultimate penguins broke through the improved version of Daisuke Endou’s master technique. The keeper, although beaten, was panting happily.
“Guys, that was amazing! You keep becoming stronger and stronger every single day!”
Jirou Sakuma, forward for Inazuma Japan, celebrated the goal with enthusiasm.
Yuuto Kidou, midfielder and game-maker, smirked faintly.
Akio Fudou, the team’s trump card, simply folded his arms and clicked his tongue, implying that what his captain had just said was not news at all.
It didn’t matter how many times he had already seen it: the strength of that shot would always impress the young Shinichi Handa, midfielder for Raimon, who, unfortunately, hadn’t been chosen to represent his country in the world tournament.
“So, what, Shin-shin? Does the environment inspire you?” Mamoru Endou asked the newcomer.
“You guys’re obviously in a whole other league, capt’n…” Handa answered, still amazed.
“The world was a tough rival,” Kidou added. “By the way, what did you needed from me, Handa?”
“Ah, yeah, right. I almost forgot…!”
Handa had gone to Inazuma Japan’s training session for a very clear reason. At the suggestion of Endou, which verged on an order, he had unwillingly decided to go and ask Kidou for help to develop his new hissatsu.
“You think we could talk about it in private, Kidou-kun…? It ain’t like I don’t want you to find out, capt’n, but I wanna talk about it calmly and…”
“Don’t worry—I understand!” The goalkeeper answered cheerfully. “See you later, guys!”
Kidou and Handa headed to the changing rooms.
“Summon, huh…” Kidou asked, confused and curious at the same time. “Is that where your new hissatsu is headed, Handa?”
The boy just nodded, somehow ashamed of having to ask for help. Kidou patted his shoulder lightly a few times.
“It’s only natural not to know—don’t worry. I wouldn’t know either if it weren’t thanks to—”
Kidou went quiet all of a sudden, making a tense silence appear between the two of them, which Handa tried to break.
“Ah, yeah… S-so, will you help me, Kidou-kun…?”
“Yeah… I mean, yes, of course,” he answered, still disconcerted and feeling the dark shadow of Kageyama over his shoulders once again. Even then, he could hardly take the memory of such dark times out of his head.
“What… what are we doing here…?” Handa queried.
Around him, some Raimon players had gathered. Kidou, Megane and Miyasaka stood to his left: the latter had joined the team at the request of Kazemaru and Endou when Shishido got injured and the team was in need of a replacement. Endou and Shadow lined up to his right. The former seemed very excited to be there and the latter was as cold and expressionless as always.
“Teikoku Academy is the best place where to develop the skills you need right now, Handa,” Kidou answered.
“But what’s this all about, Kidou-kun…?”
Handa was, as usual, disconcerted. The only people who knew anything about what was going on were Kidou, Endou and Shadow, but none of them was really up for spilling the beans just yet. Suddenly, he noticed that Endou’s face had lit up while Kidou looked away a little. He looked straight ahead and found a proper explanation for both reactions.
“Yu-san!” Mamoru greeted. The adult version of Yuuto Kidou stood in front of Handa, whom no one but Endou had met yet. The young Kidou, ashamed and somehow confused, looked away apprehensively when he found out that person he had in front was himself.
Certainly, they all were surprised. Even Kageto seemed to have shown signs of humanity when he saw the Kidou from ten years in the future. Their captain had talked at great length about that whole issue to them, but it was strange to see it with their very own eyes.
“Hello, boys. …Hello, Yuuto,” Teikoku’s current coach greeted.
“He-hello, Kidou… san,” Raimon’s game-maker replied, clearly nervous and even uncomfortable. He continued to avoid his young self’s eyes. “Is… everything ready?”
“Yes, everything is set for you. Handa, Megane, Miyasaka.”
“Y-yeah!” The aforementioned teens retorted in unison, equally surprised. They all had reflexively grown very tense and bolted upright; it almost looked like a military scene.
“You will come with me and Miyabino, Teikoku’s new goalkeeper. Handa,” the coach said, looking straight at him, “I hope this training will help you develop that new hissatsu you were talking about. This is all I can do for you, however.”
“D-don’t worry, Kidou-san…! I should be the one thanking you for helping me without asking for anything in return…!”
“This is a training for Miyabino as well,” the adult answered while patting Miyabino’s head softly, who was kind of hiding behind his coach’s back. “Raimon is a strength to be reckoned with. It will come in handy for him to face you boys, even if he will verily be fighting against one of our techniques.”
Handa’s group looked at Kidou before looking at each other. They still couldn’t understand exactly what was going on.
“…What? Have you not told them anything?” The coach asked, frowning at Endou and his younger self.
“Ah, I forgot all about it!” Raimon’s captain stated, playing the subject down. “Guys, we’ve brought you here so you can learn how to use the Koutei Penguin!”
“Koutei Penguin Ni Gou? Pardon me for saying so, but isn’t it sort of useless for us to learn that hissatsu? Kidou-kun, Someoka-kun and Gouenji-kun have mastered it already!” Megane inquired, adjusting his glasses.
At that point, Handa reflected on how he had ended up bringing with himself such a motley duo as Megane and Miyasaka. When Kidou and Endou told him that they would get a custom training plan ready to help him, they asked him to look for two mates who would want to train with him. However, no one answered his request: everyone was perfectly aware of how dangerous could one of their captain’s ‘special trainings’ be. Everyone except a newcomer. Miyasaka, paying no mind to any reasons nor his mates’ advice to avoid it, rushed headlong to help his new teammate, thrilled by the simple idea of being able to perform more of those unbelievable techniques they all used. As for Megane, he was eventually unable to resist the idea of hogging the limelight if, thanks to him, they could one day score ‘the winning goal’ in a match. So, plucking up all of his courage, he overcame his fears and decided to give Handa a helping hand.
“You’re right, Megane. The team can already use Koutei Penguin Ni Gou,” the young Kidou stated. “Although there is another Koutei Penguin that Raimon can’t use… yet.”
Jirou Sakuma and Akio Fudou appeared at that moment.
“Tch, what a drag. I dunno why we have to help ‘em losers master a hissatsu they’ll be able to use against us later on. What are we, idiots?”
“Don’t be so nasty, Fudou. It’s a mere favor for Handa.”
“As if that changed crap, Sakuma. Can’t you see the Football Frontier’s about to start and the Koutei Penguin that we created is way too much for Genda to deal with?”
“It’s a matter of civism and friendship. Don’t you want to help an old friend, you unpleasant thing?”
The rest decided to let the two stars of Teikoku continue with their stupid discussion and they dove into more important subjects.
“Are you telling me that I… w-we… will have to…?” Handa stuttered.
“Indeed. We want you to master the Koutei Penguin San Gou.”
“B-but wouldn’t it be better if you led us, Kidou-kun…? After all, it’s yours, and it’d probably be stronger that way…”
The younger Kidou shook his head.
“It’s not a matter of strength, Handa. We want you to master the hissatsu so that you can learn how to summon—that’s all. And if the team can grow stronger as well thanks to it, all the better.”
Miyasaka was very excited even if he only understood half of it all. Megane was both frightened and impatient to start scoring goals. As for Handa, he was shaking way more than your average leaf.
The Teikoku Academy split in three groups. The first one, led by coach Kidou, would take care of Handa. The second one, with Sakuma’s older self at the front, would train as usual with both of Teikoku’s teams, present and future. But, what about the last group?
“Start warming up, Genda! We’ll soon give you a challenge worthy of you!” Endou exclaimed, firing with enthusiasm.
“You’d better. If I get bored, you’ll pay the consequences,” Genda said with a defiant smile on his face.
“Are you ready, Shadow? It’s time for us to get in sync!”
“Yes, captain. But we must wait until she arrives.”
“Don’t worry! Look: there she is!”
Endou pointed at the entrance of the stadium. The silhouette of Hitomiko Kira, who became Raimon’s coach during the war against the Aliea Academy, could be easily glimpsed.
“Coach Hitomiko!” Endou greeted effusively.
“Hello, boys. Long time no see. Hello, Genda.”
“Good morning, Coach Hitomiko!” Genda said with a reverence. The coarseness with which Kira always earned everyone’s respect showed clearly—she had tamed even Neo Japan. Kidou and Shadow greeted her as well in the same way, but in a much more demurred way.
“So, what you want is to practice your Death Zone 2, right?”
They all nodded. Endou and Kidou already knew how to use it together, and even if Shadow knew the theory and had performed the technique before, he had never done so with Raimon. After all, he was still a pretty new member of the team.
“Okay, boys. Get ready,” Hitomiko ordered.
To say that Handa didn’t know where to start from would be to underestimate it a lot. He was just standing there, literally.
It had been long since the younger Kidou had gone with Hitomiko’s group, but Handa was so lost in his own thoughts that he hadn’t even realised that much.
“Pay more attention, you halfwit,” Fudou sprang on him drily.
“Just shut up, you mama’s boy,” Sakuma retorted at him, clearly irritated because of Fudou’s bad attitude towards Handa.
“You say what?!”
Sakuma and Fudou came to blows. Coach Kidou simply let them do as they pleased—he knew better than anyone that arguments between them were constant and unavoidable.
“All right, boys. Koutei Penguin San Gou is a technique born from another two: Death Zone and Koutei Penguin Ni Gou. But seeing as we do not have time to work on the basics, we will aim straight for the final result. I know first-hand that you have the ability that is needed to master it, so do not worry.”
Handa, Miyasaka and Megane nodded. Kidou clicked his fingers and, at once, Sakuma and Fudou stopped fighting in order to get together with him. A ball lying opportunely nearby did it for the trio to perform a perfect ultimate Koutei Penguin, much stronger than any Handa and the rest had ever seen before due to Coach Kidou taking part in it, whose strength was outright stirring.
Handa, Miyasaka and Megane were mesmerized. How power! Such control! How… horribly difficult to perform!
“Will we really be able to do that ourselves…?” Handa asked, distrustful. Fudou and Sakuma didn’t take long to start walloping each other again.
“I am certain. If you work hard enough, at least.”
The three of them nodded, albeit some of them more enthusiastically than others.
“All right, Handa. Try calling the penguins with a whistle. That’s the lure we always use.”
Handa put two fingers in his mouth. He placed his tongue over them. He blew.
The only sound he produced was a middle point between a raspberry and a snort.
Kidou frowned as he massaged the space between his eyebrows lightly.
… It is going to be a really long day.
“Death Zone… 2!” Shadow, Kidou and Endou shouted in unison as they kicked. The shot seemed correct, but Genda could easily clear it with his Full Power Shield.
“Hmm. I’m sorry, captain.”
“That was close!”
What might have failed?
“What kind of disastrous coordination was that?” Coach Hitomiko shouted. What in anyone else’s eyes would have seemed like a perfect shot was not perfect at all for her and her heavily trained eyes. Her adeptness to dissect in a flash a rival team’s plays, along with her on-point analysis of the movements of each and every one of the players, made an extraordinary coach out of her. “Shadow, you’ve spun at least one and a half times more than your teammates. You all didn’t even start moving at the same time! Dear God—you all sure are green.”
The three of them lowered their heads, disappointed.
“What are you doing standing there? Quick—one more time! Prepare yourself, Genda! And you all, if I see you making such a mess again, I’ll send you to clean the whole Ohisama-En, see If you buck up and get some team spirit!”
‘Death Zone 2…!’
“Let’s see… Place the index finger and thumb together, between the fore teeth. Press with your tongue. That is right. Wrinkle your lips, but—oh, come on, do not close your mouth completely, Handa!”
Shinichi was getting more and more nervous. His partners had made a circle around him, practically hampering him from breathing while Yu-san gave him indications about how to whistle. They had been there for more than one hour already.
“No, no, no. You must open your mouth more.”
“What’d you say? The secret’s in the tongue!”
“What if you try moving your fingers?”
They were all giving him their opinion, but none seemed to be the key to success despite the inhuman efforts Handa was making to produce a sound that wouldn’t sound like a flatulence.
“Tch. What a useless guy. He can’t even whistle and he intends to summon! I’ve enough good-for-nothings with this bunch of idiots I call ‘team.’ Oh, but, of course, even they already know how to do this. I think we’ve found in Handa a new level of ineptitude never seen before. Congrats.”
Fudou’s sarcastic and wounding comment keenly irritated the midfielder, who relaxed his mouth unconsciously and snorted. Miraculously, he produced a sound that, although wasn’t exactly a whistle, was certainly a very good start. The whole group got surprised, since most of them had begun to think he would never manage to do it.
“Wonderful, Handa-kun! You almost have it!” Megane cheered.
“Han-Da, Han-Da!” Miyasaka cheered.
Nevertheless, it was Miyabino, who still hadn’t said a single word, the first one who realised Handa’s biggest achievement.
“Hey, guys, check this out…”
“Full Power Shield—V2!”
Genda’s efforts were, finally, inefficient. The shot hissatsu that Endou, Shadow and Kidou were practicing finally broke through the defence the goalkeeper had built.
“Good job, guys!” Genda exclaimed. “That was way better already!”
“Good job? It’s not even half as strong as it should be!“ The coach complained. “Shadow, being a forward as he is, gives you a lot more power than the one Domon used to give you, and I won’t let you leave until you don’t reach the level you should have! Genda, go and call two teammates—we won’t go anywhere until they break through Mugen no Kabe!”
The four players began to fear the stiffness that would be waiting for them the next day.