“Weren't there six of you?” The eternally bad-tempered Akio Fudou asked with a low voice.
A day had passed since, with the help of Yuuto Kidou and Koutei, Shinichi Handa had managed to learn how to summon penguins like a real professional. However, at the present time, only three of the six boys who had been training at Teikoku the previous day were there again.
“Exactly, Fudou. There were,” the young Yuuto Kidou answered curtly, accompanied by Kakeru Megane and Ryou Miyasaka. “The rest are already done with what they had to do here.”
“…Are you telling me I'm in charge of taking care of the dead losses? You'll pay for this, Kidou. You know I can't stand hopeless people, and you bring them to me in twos. So, what about Wishy-Washy?”
“Don't call him that—poor Handa isn't to be blamed for not standing out. He's done here and has stayed at Raimon with Endou; it seems like he had prepared one of his 'special trainings' for him.”
All those present bar one shuddered: that one was the young and innocent Reiichi Miyabino, who, for the better or the worse, knew nothing about the inhumanly brutal training sessions Raimon's energetic captain subjected his friends and teammates to.
“…Serves him right for whining for someone else's help. What an idiot,” Inazuma Japan's joker midfielder grumbled.
“Leave him alone; he's doing his very best, at least. That's very commendable.”
“Yeah, whatever. And what are you doing here, Kidou-kun?”
“I came to lend you a hand with Miyasaka and Megane's training. At the end of the day, they're learning our hissatsu.”
“Oh, this is just PERFECT. One more dead loss to take care of.”
“Hey, Handa! It's been so long since we last trained together!”
Ryuugo Someoka, both Raimon's and Inazuma Japan's forward, grabbed Handa round the neck very affectionately as he ruffled his hair.
“Y-you're hurting me…! Help me, capt'n!”
“Ha ha ha! You guys look so happy!”
The founding trio were in the middle of the incredible soccer field that the Raimon high school owned. When he knew of what Handa was trying to achieve, Someoka couldn't refuse to help him. After all, both he and the rest of those present were experts on the subject of summoning.
“Why did you bring me here, capt'n…?”
“To help you, of course! After all, we know how to summon too at Raimon!”
“I don't know if this is exactly what Handa needs, Endou.”
“Don't be silly, Shu-shu; help is always welcome! Right, Shin-shin?”
“Err… Well, sure, but… I-I'm not sure. I don't know if I'll be able to…”
“Don't worry, Handa-san! You'll see how, if we all club together, we'll pull it off!”
He knew he shouldn't, but Handa felt slightly frustrated. Soccer has nothing to do with age, but, even so, being helped by the young Toramaru Utsunomiya left a slight taste of jealousy and even depression on the already injured self-esteem of the only founder of the Raimon team that didn't make it to the FFI. It's not that he was ashamed of it; he would recognize that, despite his young age, Utsunomiya was much better than him, but he was upset to think that those who were once the best players of Japan had barely had any representation at all at the world championship.
“Let's go, Handa—I'll show you how it's done!” Someoka said, ready and willing.
“But how did you learn, Someoka-kun?”
“Heh, you know Dragon Crash isn't mine, but his evolved forms are. I only used what I learnt from others to make up my own soccer, just like you will have to do.”
“What 'bout you, capt'n…?”
“I learnt thanks to grandpa's notebooks, you know that. And Gouenji learnt from me! But, of course, each of us adapted it to his own style.”
“Well, yes; I based my Bakunetsu Storm on Endou's technique, but only because it seemed like a nice way to power my shot up. It's pretty simple, really.”
“Err… To be honest, what I do is more about powering the kick up. I'm not even sure why captain has brought me here, ha ha…”
“We all can help in some way, Tora-tora! What do you think, Shin-shin? Shall we give it a try?”
“Uh… Yeah. Let's go.”
From an objective point of view , Handa was the one who seemed to be in the lowest spirits out of everyone.
“That was actually pretty pitif-” Kidou cut himself short as soon as he saw his teammates' deeply disappointed faces after trying to perform, once again, the technique they were supposed to be practising. “…I mean, improvable. Do you want to go over the theory again?”
“We already have it at our fingertips, Kidou-kun!” Megane piped up. “Jump, spin and kick. What else would one have to know?”
“Well, that and the previous work.”
“Previous work?” Miyasaka repeated, disconcerted.
“Wait, what? Fudou, didn't you tell them what they have to do with the penguins before they can shoot?”
“Tch, of course not. I won't waste my breath on obvious remarks.”
“Gosh, what even…” Kidou looked down and sighed deeply at Fudou's attitude, shaking his head from side to side in pure exhaustion. He slowly rose his head again and gazed at Megane and Miyasaka through his goggles; the same goggles that, once, had allowed him to learn and master the same soccer he was now trying to teach those newcomers. Terrible and yet fond memories from the past struck him for a second, but his eyes were so perfectly hidden under those lenses that no one could have ever known. That was, after all, Teikoku's style. “Tell me, how do you expect penguins to help you if they don't trust you?”
“They don't… trust?” Miyasaka inquired again, tilting his head slightly. “Wasn't that what Handa had to do?”
“There's no point in him summoning penguins if you won't be able to help him shoot, guys.”
“And how does one make penguins trust them?”
“That's easy. Showing them your strength as soccer players will be enough.”
There was an uncomfortable silence at Teikoku's field until Fudou burst out laughing sardonically.
“…I don't get it.”
“There is nothing to understand, Shin-shin; everything comes from the inside!”
“And how am I supposed to bring it out…?”
“Um… I bring it out from my heart!”
“What I do is gather energy on my foot.”
“Just like my Dragon Crash.”
However much Raimon's captain was set on it, the players' meeting wasn't making the midfielder's ideas any clearer. In fact, the little he had learnt next to Kidou and Koutei seemed to be vanishing from his head with every word his teammates spoke. The silence that had been formed was broken by the person who talked last.
“Handa, what about my Wyvern Crash? Is it something like that that you want to pull off?” Someoka asked cheerfully, still resolute in helping his old friend.
“Hmm, yeah, I think so…”
“Hah hah, you should've started from there! I'll lend you a hand! C'mon!”
Ryuugo gripped Shinichi from the wrist and lugged him off to the closest penalty point, though not before picking a ball up. Mamoru, of course, didn't need a single word to realize that he had to go with them; he stood in front of the goal and got ready.
“Come on, Some-some!”
“Get ready, Endou!”
Someoka jumped and fell on the ball, bouncing on it and performing a somersault backwards. An almighty roar at his back was the only sign that anticipated the arrival of the powerful winged dragon that, as soon as it got next to the person who had called it, began to gather an enigmatic bright blue energy inside of its mouth. In perfect sync with the player, the dragon shot its powerful cerulean beam as soon as Someoka shot, imbuing it with all of the heraldic power the beast possessed.
“Wyvern Crash V3!!”
A broadside of explosive punches rained over the ball as soon as it got close enough for the Cerberus to reach it with his hands.
“Bakuretsu Punch Kai!!”
Although each blow would weaken the shot more and more, and despite the fact that Endou's hissatsu's speed had risen considerably since the last time he used it in a match, Someoka's shot ended up beating the goalkeeper's defence and pierced the net strongly. The author of the fierce shot laughed cheerfully and gave the keeper a knowing thumbs-up.
“It's amazing, Some-some! You keep getting stronger and stronger!”
“I'd better, Endou! I won't let anyone surpass me once I've gotten this far.” After proclaiming these words, he turned around and looked at Shinichi. “Did you watch carefully, Handa?”
The aforementioned nodded, sceptical. After witnessing the kind of power that, silly him, he had tried to achieve, he couldn't help becoming depressed. How was he supposed to ever do something like that?
Someoka didn't take long to wrap his arm around his friend's shoulders. The rest of the boys got closer too and smiled at him.
“You'll manage to do it.”
Their smiles didn't last for long, though; a powerful glare lighted up the already sunny soccer field, blinding all those present momentarily.
And they whistled.
Two full penguin squads, each made up of five birds, emerged from the ground as usual.
They stood watching the two boys.
A general laugh, similar to the echo of the quack of a duck, greatly discouraged Raimon's least recognized players.
“Are we really good for anything, Megane?”
“O-of course, Miyasaka-kun! That's what captain says, at least…”
“Come on, come on, don't be like that. You can do it. After spending so much time with Endou, you should already know that anything can be achieved with enough effort.”
“B-but…! We aren't like you, Kidou-kun! We don't have any talent whatsoever, and-”
“JUST QUIT BLUBBERING ALREADY, GODDAMMIT!”
Fudou exploded. He couldn't stand all those moaning idiots any more, and at that point, the situation had escalated into a parade where the real 'crème de la crème' of the world of stupidity had been exhibited. He clenched his fists and jaw, repressing the need to slap them both in the face.
“CAN'T YOU DO ANYTHING OTHER THAN WHINE? For fuck's sake, the other day you made a good impression on me, but I see that it was nothing but an isolated moment of lucidity! I'm through with helping these clots!”
“F-Fudou, wait! Give them another chance!” Sakuma yelled as Fudou left, more worried about Kidou's efforts ending up being useless rather than about Miyasaka and Megane themselves.
Fudou turned his head a bit and gazed at the newcomers.
“…So another chance, huh?”
Fudou hesitated, but he soon made up his mind. He pointed at a basket full of balls that was at the Raimon players' back as a curt 'help yourselves' came out of his lips. The aforementioned, although scared, followed the orders of the former captain of Shin Teikoku and each of them picked a ball up. With a simple gesture with his finger, Fudou indicated Miyasaka and Megane to leave the balls on the floor and, as soon as they touched the ground, he frowned, smiled a malevolent grin and pointed at the Raimon players.
Instantly, the five violet penguins Fudou had called plummeted viciously against Miyasaka and Megane, who, surprised and terrified, stood motionless in the place.
“What are you doing standing around, you morons? Show the penguins that you can face them! Come on!!”
Miyasaka, although insecure, took the initiative; he hurtled forward with a serious expression on his face, looking at the penguins intently and trying, somehow, to intimidate them. Following the newcomer's example, Megane, who was shaking like a leaf, hastened in his same direction.
“And… and what now, Megane?” Miyasaka asked while running.
“WHAT? Don't you know what to do!?”
“Not at all~! It's just that Fudou scares me!”
“…T-those penguins are going to eat us alive…!” Megane whined, on the very brink of crying while running.
An angry voice that came from behind the penguins told them in a yell to stop messing around and to worry about keeping the ball at all costs.
Miyasaka decelerated slightly and frowned a bit for a second.
“Maybe…! Yes! Let's dodge them, Megane!”
“That is the only thing we can do…! Let's show them we aren't just a bunch of good-for-nothings!”
“…Yes!,” Megane replied, suddenly pumped up. “Let's go, Miyasaka-kun!”
Kakeru Megane stopped dead and, with a quick glance, he analysed the three penguins that were coming straight at him. A series of panels full of data appeared before him, allowing him to interpret in a matter of seconds the birds' movement patterns.
Split seconds before the Arctic animals could charge at him, he managed to dribble the ball between them and go through the only chink they left; nevertheless, Megane's dreadful control made him lose the ball in the last second and it was sent out to the right, with no one to take over it.
Ryou Miyasaka accelerated as much as possible and began to zigzag quickly from side to side at such speed that one could hardly see him, just the way his senpai had taught him to do.
When the penguins caught up with him, he disappeared for an instant and appeared again behind them, but the ball wasn't at his feet anymore; his habit of running alone at the athletics tracks had made him forget about the sphere at the worst time possible, from focusing too much on the simple act of dodging the animals.
Miyasaka and Megane looked at each other as the expression on their faces changed. One could feel how sorrow was seizing them little by little and without fail. Finally, the youngest and yet the tallest of them both hustled to hug Raimon's 'ace striker' as he burst into tears. Nonetheless, a friendly hand placed over Miyasaka's shoulder brought them back to the real world.
Both players turned to the penguins, which they saw gracefully on their knees, offering them a subtle bow. Surprised and astonished, they stopped crying.
“What… what are they doing?” The everlastingly curious Miyasaka asked.
“Tch. Somehow, they've recognized your talent,” Fudou muttered as he moved closer to them along with Sakuma. “Even though I would have qualified that talent as non-existent.”
“B-but we lost! We didn't manage to keep the ball!” Megane whined, eyes still brimming with tears.
“It has nothing to do with beating them or not,” Sakuma hurried to say, through with keeping himself aside from the conversation. “The main thing is to show what you've got. And it looks like you managed to do it. They accepted you.”
“Really? W-we did it, Miyasaka-kun! We did it for real!”
That time it was Megane who hugged Miyasaka, but the excitement was violently rooted out by the insensitive Fudou.
“Of course you didn't do anything yet, you bunch of idiots.”
They had to cover their eyes so light wouldn't hurt them. In spite of the dazzling flash, Mamoru tried to catch a glimpse of what or who had caused such a shining explosion.
“Kanon? That's you, right?”
After a few seconds, when the light disappeared, the group of friends could see how, in fact, Kanon Endou, Mamoru's great-grandson come from the future, was standing before them.
“Guess what, Hii-jiichan~!”
“What? Will you explain me what's going on, Kanon? Quit all this secrecy!”
“Ah… Y-yes, sure. I know you don't like that.”
Mamoru, quite ashamed of hurting the feelings of his only known descendant, held him between his arms dearly before carrying on talking, to which the young one could only respond with a loving squeeze and a happy sigh, much similar to those that Mamoru would let out whenever he would meet his grandfather, Daisuke Endou. Mamoru's mates stood watching the scene with a smile on their lips; they all cherished that cheerful and scatterbrained boy that so greatly resembled their captain, both in looks and personality, even if some cherished him that bit more than others.
“Come on, spit it out. What brought you here?”
“You see…~ I wanted to propose something to you, I hope it won't sound too weird! Umm, do you remember that you told me about the Inazuma Eleven?”
“Of course I do! I have told you about them a lot of times. It was an awesome team, the best this high school has ever known!” Mamoru turned around and smiled nervously at his teammates as he felt all of their gazes nailing onto him. “…No offence meant, guys.”
“Well, I don't think that's true!” Kanon said, sullen. “I think you are the strongest of them all, Hii-jiichan!”
“Ha ha…! I think you're asking for too much, Kan-!” Mamoru stopped dead both talking and scratching his head as soon as he felt again the penetrating glances of his friends on the nape of his neck. The only one who wasn't looking at the captain any more was Handa, who thought that, at least when it came to him, Mamoru was right. He would never be a player worthy of Raimon. A player everyone could be proud of, a valuable member of the team. Thus, immersed in his own sorrow, he let out a soft sigh, imperceptible for the rest.
“Not at all!” The great-grandson answered back. “And you'll see it for yourselves!”
“And how are you going to do that, Kanon?” Gouenji said, coming closer to the boy and barging in on the conversation.
“I'm going to bring the Inazuma Eleven here in a week so you can play against them and see for yourselves that you can beat them!”
A rather loud 'what' came out of the mouths of all those present.
“Miyasaka, Megane. Are you ready?”
“Yes!” The aforementioned answered in unison.
“Wait a second, Kidou-kun,” Fudou interrupted, showing a mischievous smile. “These two are mine.”
After thinking about it for a few seconds, Raimon's strategist nodded, thus giving his informed consent to Fudou to deal with the matter himself.
“All right, idiots. Let's see what you can do. Oi, Miyabino! You'd better do your job properly!”
Miyabino, who hadn't moved from the goal at all, not even to watch Miyasaka and Megane facing the penguins, nodded nervously and got ready to face whatever could come. If anything at all came.
To Fudou's signal, Megane, Miyasaka, the penguins and Fudou himself hurtled towards the goal, him being the one dribbling the ball.
The icy animals followed and surrounded the trio as they rose in the air. They created a dimensional space that held the ball inside of it and injected potency to it; a clear influence of Teikoku’s game and its Death Zone. They all spun around the soccer ball to, eventually, hit it at the same time by a heel kick at the cry of ‘Koutei Penguin San Gou, G3’. The penguins took care of correcting the trajectory of the shot, sending it, finally, towards the goalpost.
Miyabino jumped and gathered energy around his hands, pounding immediately on the ball with a violent plummet as if he were a needle, while shouting 'Power Spike.' As hard as he tried, the young goalkeeper could do nothing against the impressive power of the shot that, clearly, had finally been completed.
Cheers and shouts of joy did not stop at Teikoku's field, while the most intense were, undoubtedly, Kakeru's and Ryou's. Yuuto, Akio and Jirou shared smiles of complicity between each other, while Reiichi, although sore, couldn't repress the need to join the lively celebration.
A rather cheerful melody about power in palms and putting in everything to protect it blasted out of nowhere all of a sudden.
Kidou, who recognized the ring tone of his phone, hurried to answer, asking his mates at the same time to keep their voices down.
“Tell me, Endou.”
“Yuuti! Quick, you guys have to come back to Raimon!”
“What the-? What happened?”
“I'll tell you in person! Hurry up!”
“If you say so… We'll be right there, Endou. See you in a bit.”
Kidou hung up and looked at his teammates, frowning slightly.
“Megane, Miyasaka. We're off.”
Not before duly taking their leave of their instructors, and especially Fudou, the three boys left Teikoku as quickly as possible. As Fudou smiled malevolently, Miyabino, from a distance, was flailing his arms and asking them at the top of his voice to come back soon. It wasn't everyday that he made new friends, after all.
“You are going to do WHAT?” The great-grandfather asked sceptically after hanging up, still unable to believe what he had just heard. Calling his old friend Kidou had been practically a reflex action.
“Is… Isn't it all right by you? They've already agreed, though!”
Mamoru didn't answer. He could not. He simply fixed his gaze on the floor and clenched his fists.
“Endou? Hey, Endou, you okay?”
“…Okay? Okay? I'VE NEVER BEEN BETTER, SHU-SHU! EVER!”
Mamoru cried out at the sky out of joy, hence surprising all of his friends. Nevertheless, what he saw next surprised him. Thus, he pointed at the place Kanon had appeared from, shrouded in a luminous explosion. He hadn't noticed it before, but there was a figure standing there. A silhouette that precisely he would never be able to erase from his mind.
“Kanon, what is he doing here?”
“Heh heh~! Well, I thought that, seeing which your opponent is, having Hibiki-san, Kudou-san or even great-great-great-grandpa would have given you an unfair advantage, since they know the team, so I've looked for someone who knows you all very well and who is also a great coach~!”
That man came closer slowly, and what at first was a silhouette kept becoming sharp until it finally gave way to a perfectly visible body, even though most of those present couldn't believe what their eyes were showing them.
“C-capt'n, that… That's…”
“Yes, Shin-shin. That man over there is me.”