Receiving a rare call from his ex-Captain Kanzaki Touji is shocking enough, but what comes next is even more shocking to hear. “Listen Kinjou, I’ve received news from a regular customer that Onoda is participating in an MTB race in Ibaraki Prefecture at Mount Tsukuba. Are you free now?” The caller asked. “Is this true Kanzaki -san? But Onoda has never rode on a MTB before. Not that I know of.” “Let’s head over in case. Oh, there’s news reports on this race, according to Cycle Times; he’s in the beginner race. What do you think?” Kanzaki commented while reading the news on his smart phone.
To a shocked Kinjou Shingo, this was definitely unexpected. In his heart, he was glad Onoda is onto something new but yet there’s uneasiness surrounding the atmosphere at the moment. As Sohoku’s former Captain, knowing Onoda Sakamichi for two years, somehow he is quite confident of his knowledge of his precious kouhai. Never did he expect him to be in a race on his own and a MTB race which is totally different from what’s been doing. ‘Really Onoda, You’re the most unpredictable man I’ve met.’ “Kanzaki-san, would you come over to Yonan to pick me up then? I would like to witness this even if I am no longer the Captain of Sohoku.”
“Heh, it doesn’t matter, afterall we’re both former Captains of Sohoku. I will leave you to inform the rest. I’m pretty sure everyone would be excited at this. I’ll talk to Coach Pierre. Jaa-na.” With that the call ended abruptly. With a rare smile, He decidedly to postpone going home to meet with his parents and instead head to Ibaraki to witness Sohoku’s gem racing in an MTB for the first time. ‘That’s right, I should gather some supporters to cheer for him. Win or lose don’t matter Onoda, enjoy the race just like how Makishima would tell you, Jitensha wa jiyuu da.’
Within minutes, Arakita Yasutomo came to the Bicycle Club room; “Yo Kinjou, lets go out for a drink and snacks at the new canteen at the science block.” Receiving a text from Kanzaki Touji indicated he should start packing up and quickly head back to the dorm to pack up for his trip. “Sorry Arakita, I’m heading to Ibaraki to support Onoda for his race. Catch up again in two days time.” “Hai? What race? Wait, wait I don’t get it.” “If you want to know then join me. Fukutomi is bringing along Shinkai, Ishigaki, Toudou and Manami along as well. My ex-Captain Kanzaki is picking me & Tadakoro together with Teshima, Aoyagi along the way.” “Gek... Fuku-chan too? Why?” in which Kinjou just shrugged.
With a quick thought, Arakita decided to go as well. “I’ll text Machimiya that I’m leaving with yer. Luckily locker has extra clothes.” Kinjou beamed, “Let’s go.” Inside the Kanzaki Van, everyone was animatedly discussing about Onoda. Arakita gasped. “Eeeeh? Onoda-chan modified his Mamachari to be like an MTB? Seriously???” To which Kanzaki Touji nodded. “That kid’s busted his Mamachari that his mother contacted me to pick up for repair. The Lady was all excited on how her son has done it. For it to act like an MTB, its amazing. Look its at the back seat.” Everybody went wide eyed. “Majii-ka???”
Meanwhile at Fukutomi Juichi’s group; inside the Meisou University Bicycle Club’s van, “Hey Juichi, is it true that Yasutomo’s joining us?” came the light-hearted question from Shinkai Hayato who happens to be the driver. “Aa. Kinjou just replied along with a link to a news article on the said event.” “Ahahahahaha, Maki-chan was shocked about Megane-kun when Kinjou told him. I’ll be sure to have a video of him.” Came the ever loud and noisy Toudou Jinpachi. “Sugoii ne, Sakamichi-kun. Anorher race so soon.” Manami Sangaku smiled. Ishigaki Koutarou was listening intently to the group chatter about frail-looking 42nd Inter High winner.
Upon reaching the venue, The Kanzaki Van group met up with both Aoyagi Hajime, Kaburagi Issa & Teshima Junta. Teshima waved, “Over here everyone.” After gathering together, they all exchanged greetings, handshakes cum introduction for Kaburagi Issa. “Kaburagi, meet Kinjou Shingo, our former Captain and Tadakoro Jin our former Vice Captain, beside them is Arakita Yasutomo-san formerly Ace-assistant for Hakogaku. “ Teshima introduced Kaburagi to the three strangers before the new 1st year. “Hajimete. I’m Kaburagi Issa.1st Year from Sohoku. Its an honour to finally meet my famous senpais.” The orange head bowed respectfully. Kinjou smiled before returning the introductions while Tadakoro gave him a pet on the back before praising him for his job well done at the Inter-High hust over recently. Arakita just simply nodded to the kid.
Aoyagi: “Koga has messaged to ask us to send our regards to Onoda and also to remind him not to hurt himself during the race.” “Hahahaha... Onoda is a genius. Hahahahaha.” “Un. Makishima apparently video called me expressing how shocked he was of Onoda. He fell off his chair when I told him that the Mamachari was modified by himself as well.” Kinjou smirked. Teshima, Aoyagi and Kaburagi sweat dropped; “Eehh? Sugoii-ne.” 15 mins later, came to view was the black Meisou University Bike Club Van, the people disembarked and joined up with them.
“Kinjou.” greeted Fukutomi while exchanging a friendly pet within one another. “Fukutomi. So glad you could join us.” Shinkai with a wave: “Today's a free day afterall. Yo. Jin-kin, minna.” They all exchanged pleasantries with Kaburagi being overwhelmed by all the senpai’s presence, went stoned on the spot only for Aoyagi to comfort him and Teshima giggling at the scene. “Its a shame, Imaizumi and Naruko are not around to see this. It’ll be a good experience for them both.” commented by Kanzaki Touji. Fukutomi nodded in agreement while Shinkai brought out an energy bar to offer to Kaburagi as sort of ice-breaker greeting. Kaburagi shivered while accepting the gift making everybody present laughed. “Its almost time. Let’s go surprise our Climber.” Kinjou boomed. Looming the possibility of Onoda Sakamichi winning the race, excitement and tension rang high in the air.
As the race started, everybody is shocked at Onoda’s reactions with the MTB he ‘s using. “Its a Trek, Kinjou.” yelled Tadokoro. Everybody just told him to shhhh. “You don’t want to ruin the surprise for Sakamichi-kun right? Jin-kun.” Shinkai said with a familiar grin. Kanzaki Touji proceeds to explain on the difference between a road racer and the MTB. “Road Racers handling, mechanisms are totally different from the MTB’s. If you all look at the wheels, its designed for rough terrain. MTBs are designed to conquer off-road terrain like dirt, mud, snow and gravel. These bikes are built especially tough, with thick tires and strong wheels that resist damage from impact. They are heavier as well. Suitable for terrain like this.” Kanzaki pointed at the course, the rest nodded while listening intently to him.
“MTB’s are a nightmare to handle for amateurs like Onoda. Though its suppose build is to give stability, but on a rough course like the mountain hazardous terrain. Its very tough to those who hasn’t have any training on it. You have to better the road conditions, nature, slopes, uphill’s and downhill’s etc. Its slippery ground surface piled with soil, pebbles etc. thus making Onoda’s special skill (High Cadence Pedaling) ineffective in climbing especially. MTB races are brutal with physical injuries more so ever than road racing. You'll all witness the harshness as the race goes through. Keep yer eyes open. Experience the wide new world unfolding.” The shop owner ended on a serious note.
It was an eye opening experience for Onoda Sakamichi as well the Road Racing group. Like a worried Dad, Kinjou watched as the race progresses with much nerve-wrecking feelings and tingly sensations seeping throughout his whole body, the vibrations mixed with excitement that's mild with tension as well as worry, its a scene etch deeply into his mind and heart. The hardwork that Onoda eludes during the race moves the road racing group vigorously while watching him. Kinjou, Tadakoro, Teshima, Aoyagi, Kaburagi & even Manami are really fighting against themselves while taking all of their will-power as to keep still and not run to the boy whenever he fell or hit himself against the slopes. They followed through the course as he moved, with Toudou being like a mother hen he always was since Hakogaku years, protested at certain points of the race, especially during the highly curved slopes.
“You all see that? This is so scary. He literally flied through the slopes.” Toudou cried. Arakita was definitely speechless and it was this day that made him look at Onoda Sakamichi differently ever. Shinkai was smiling in an uneasy manner; “Juichi, this is crazy. I’ve never expected the race to take onto this turn. He form is amateurish but his riding as the race progresses, is improving at an accelerating rate.” Fukutomi agreed totally while adding, “Unlike road racing, this is a one to one man race. No friends nor anything else to support you. Its a cruel reality. You all on your own. Judgements, pace, riding is all on yourself with one to help you. This race will make Onoda Sakamichi stronger drastically. No just physically, Mental and in the heart, this will change the kid more than we can ever expect.” Both Kanzaki, Ishigaki & Tadakoro nodded.
Teshima then explained that Onoda’s growth takes shape in a dire situation. Aoyagi and Kaburagi had arms against each other and watched on the race with grit, worries for Onoda clearly written through the expressions on their faces. Kinjou would watch and prayed. Hopefully his kohai will finish the race safely, not without adding, “Onoda is somebody who takes ideas seriously. He will struggle and turn it into strength. Just look. He’s overtaken everybody except the #7 bib fella. But this is the scary part of him, when Onoda is forced to chase, he will turn it around to his advantage. The struggles he faced will become a driving force, because like I’ve mentioned, he races for his friends.” The former Sohoku Ace added in a bitter sweet tone.
Soon, the race has progressed to left 100 meters to the finishing line, Onoda is head to head with the #7 bib racer called Nikata, he’s in obvious pain and struggling, observers, onlookers and passer-bys are emotionally moved by scene before them. Its was then there are people who commented while finally recognizing that Onoda being in the Inter High Road Race that was taken place 2 weeks before while also him winning the said 41st and 42nd versions of it. They started cheering loudly for both Nikata and Onoda. “Mountain King, you can do it.! “ “Fight on Sohoku!” "Win it Sohoku!" Kiji Kyuui, Yoshimaru Raine and his sister Suzune heard the cheers for Onoda Sakamichi, that made them realise that he is no ordinary person.
At this moment, it was decided by all in the Road Racing group, Onoda needed his final push as it seems, so they decided to make their presence known to the Ace Clinber of Sohoku High Bicycle Club. Judging from the cheers at the sudden presence of the stars of the High School Road Racing world; A reporter from famous Cycling Magazine, Monthly Cycle then expose the group through yelling and introducing eho they wete; Kinjou Shingo, former Captain cum Ace of the winning 41st Inter High Sohoku Racing Team, Tadakoro Jin, former Vice Captain cum Ace Sprinter of the same team, Teshima Junta, the current Captain of the same team who won the recent Inter High, beside him is Aoyagi Hajime, Vice-Captain and sprinter of the same team. Kaburagi Issa, the orange head is the new star first-year of the current team they were all wearing the Sohoku Inter High official Jersey. Then the reporter proceed to let everybody know of Onoda’s prestigious identity.
Fukutomi Juichi, Former Captain and Ace of the Almighty Hakone Gakuen Bicycle Club Team. Beside to his left was Shinkai Hayato, Former Ace Sprinter from the same team, Fukutomi’s left is Arakita Yasutomo, Former Ace Assistant of the same team, besides Shinkai is Toudou Jinpachi, Former Vice-Captain and Ace Climber of the same team and last but not least, Manami Sangaku, the current Ace Climber of Hakogaku who lost to Onoda at the recent Inter High whom turns out to be all wearing Hakone Gakuen version of the Inter High Jersey.
Hearing the introductions, the Road Racing team began to cheer loudly for Onoda, particular those affiliated to Sohoku was practically shouting at the top of their lungs. Onoda Sakamichi thought he heard wrongly, still facing and struggling to overtake Nikata besides him. When Sakamichi heard the familiar voices once again, He turned to the crowd and saw his friends. The energy that was running out filled the petite boy once again. Tears forming in his eyes, time seems to be at a standstill once again. Seeing the group cheering enthusiastically for him, recharges him and his faith to win the race.
Yoshimaru Raine, His sister & Kiji Kyuui looked at Onoda with shocked. Realising he was a Bike celebrity in his own right is a surprise afterall. Sakamichi then made eye contact with his former Captain Kinjou, who told him; “Onoda its the last 100m, don’t lose hope, Mawase and Noboru. My order to you is finish the race! Rise up Onoda Sakamichi!” while raising an encouragement fist bump towards his kouhai. A large “HAI!” could be heard. Last glances at Toudou who is with Manami, seals the strong resolution for him to sprint up the climb of the last slope to the finishing line. The race ended to Onoda Sakamichi’s first MTB race win. Louds cheers were given, on the whole, the scene was turned out to be quite chaotic.