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> [FANFIC] Hauntings, Box of tissues for the emotional!
Shale
  Posted: Jul 26 2008, 10:19 PM


/IDW/ Zero Fighter Pilot
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Joined: Oct 10th 2006
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Thought I'd finally post it here XD Feel free to call me out on plot errors et al.

Yes Sanae and Cricketchick, this is a slightly edited version :3 And yes, there is moooooooar coming than what I have on FF.net so far biggrin.gif

Summary: This is an Initial D fanfiction, set post 4th Stage. The rest will fall into place as the story continues onward, you’ll find out for yourself; all you need to know at this point is that 4th stage is complete.

***

Chapter 1: Fallen Angel

Another quiet night by Lake Akina. A typical summer evening, with humid heat mingling with the cool breeze washing in from the water opposite a sleepy little village. It had been so long since the peace had been disturbed on a regular basis that Akina residents had grown used to this quiet existence.

In fact, disturbances down here were rather rare altogether, given any time of day.

Tonight looked to be yet another sticky, sleepy Saturday night, with the youths of the area heading into the nearest towns to release their rampant noise and energy. Gone were the days where these mountains were plagued with the roars of highly tuned engines and screams of tyres breaking traction. Gone were the days where the weekend smelled like acrid tyre smoke and high octane petrol.

Something had happened that had shaken the lives of a large majority of the youth community on the entire island. What used to be a strong racing breed had all but completely dissipated into the more widely known drinking and partying culture, cars becoming nothing more than methods of transport for many young people.

Still, some continued on undeterred. Locals to mountain passes that still found the smell of burning rubber familiar would say, oddly enough, that the continued racing activities were out of…respect.

One of the few that still continued to race was a slightly heavy-looking young man, standing beside an old white Levin in a parking gallery at the top of one of Akina’s passes. A taller, more slender man beside a green S13 was casually chatting to the limited company.

“I don’t get why we still do this,” the slimmer of the pair sighed, “It’s been over two years since there was even any decent racing to speak of.”

“Pfft.” The shorter youth snorted, leaning heavily against the aging body of his Toyota. “It’s not like we have any reason not to, don’t you think Iketani-sempai? I mean, considering…”

Iketani sighed, slightly flustered. “I know, I know. Out of respect, they say. Itsuki…” He paused a moment, deep in thought. “Itsuki, I think this tradition is just going to have to die a natural death.”

Itsuki winced at the word choice there. “Everyone else may have given up…but I never will!” Over-dramatic as usual, Itsuki stiffened up, straightened his posture and sniffed deeply. “He’d want us to race. He’d want me to race!” The emotion in his eyes was palpable. “Are you with me or against me?”

Iketani simply rolled his eyes and sighed again. “Itsuki…you need to sleep more often. It works wonders for your sanity.” Still, he moved aside to open his driver’s door, then slipped down into the seat.

After Itsuki had done the same, the two cars roared to life with great furor. The Levin led the way out of the gallery with the Silvia in tow; the pair meandered their way to the left side of the road, lining up one behind the other, and began moving slowly down the mountain.

Pale moonlight basked down upon the two vehicles as they suddenly picked up speed, the cry of the two engines piercing the warm summer night air. The Levin in the lead let out the distinctive whine of a small turbo as it climbed higher and higher towards the redline and emitted a noisy squeak as it changed into second gear. The blow-off valve’s shrill squeak echoed off the rocks and bushes of the mountainside as the two vehicles screamed on.

As the first of the corners began, the Silvia swiftly drew closer to the Toyota. The two moved in perfect harmony in passing the first corner; the Silvia was on the Levin’s tail as the first hairpin came roaring up towards the pair. The flash of two sets of tail lights, separated only by split seconds, illuminated the road and Armco barriers just before the corner – a second later, both vehicles nosed in tightly towards the corner, purposefully over-steering and kicking the rear of the cars out with a squealing, smoking cacophony of traction loss. There were mere feet between the two cars as they drifted, in perfect synchronous, around the hairpin.

Graceful yet ferocious were two words anyone watching could draw to describe this battle. It was so well orchestrated, so elegant, yet the movements of the two vehicles as they took corner after corner of the mountain pass was as violent as any race. It seemed as if no one had the upper hand – the Levin led the whole way, yet the Silvia stuck to its back bumper with no apparent desire to attempt a pass.

Corners, straightaways and hairpins passed as the pair descended the mountain as if in free-fall. The silence of the night was penetrated by the incessant noises from the race – squeals, screeches, rev-syncing and heavy accelaration echoed about the haunted peaks under the heavy white moonlight.

As the slopes became steeper and the corners grew tighter, the climax of the course arrived with its usual splendour. A series of tight hairpins hit the two racers one after another, the pair taking to them with their usual grace and harmony, side by side. A wider hairpin followed before a short straight, then a final hairpin before a much longer, faster straightaway along the side of the mountain. The speeding vehicles seemed to pull right back in passing this final corner, though the immediately regained their pace once past.

With the Levin still leading, the two sped on. Itsuki, perched firmly in the driver’s seat of the Toyota, had long since broken into a cold sweat during the race. Beads of salty perspiration had begun to trickle from his forehead down the sides of his face; one drop had beaded at the tip of his nose. He kept his eyes set on the straightaway, deep in concentration. After all, it was just the most brief lapse of it that meant the difference between life and death around here.

Eyes fixed forward, one would be forgiven for missing something on the side of the road. However, even though the racing scene had died almost completely, Itsuki had taken it upon himself to improve – in both skill and vigilence. His keen eyes would not miss the figure standing by the side of the road, watching the two vehicles flying past with inherent boredom.

“Gyaah!” He cried out loudly, grasping the steering wheel in a deathgrip between both hands and jerking his foot off the accelarator. The turbo stopped spooling as the blow-off valve let out a loud hiss – a sound that provoked the chasing driver to stamp on the brakes firmly to avoid a fender-bender.

Itsuki whipped his head around to where he saw the figure standing.

Nothing.

Realising his eyes were off the road for way too long, he snapped his attention back to the task at hand and veered back onto the left side of the road, his breathing taking on a far more rapid pace. The sound of the turbocharged Levin’s engine faded into nothingness, giving way to the steady, heavy thump of his own heartbeat and laboured, shaky gasps for air. What the hell was that?

He took the next corners at a far more relaxed pace before he pulled into the nearest parking gallery. Blood pounded through his jaw and up his neck - he couldn't help but try and force down the dinner that threatened to make its way back the way it came.

The Silvia pulled in behind him, its owner leaping out almost too quickly for his own good – he had to compensate for the sudden lack of balance lest he fall flat on his face. Stumbling, he ran to Itsuki’s door and bashed his hand repeatedly against the driver’s window.

“Itsuki…what the hell happened back there? Are you alright?” Iketani’s voice was shrill with panic and concern.

Itsuki continued staring forward, breathing hard yet white as a ghost.

“Itsuki!” He hit the window hard enough to make the car shake, yet not hard enough to break the glass.

Finally Itsuki looked up at his fellow racer…the panic in his eyes subdued, and he took it upon himself to reach for the window handle to wind it down.

“Iketani-sempai…” He drew a breath. “You know how you were saying I should get some more sleep?”

He nodded.

“You were right…I should go to bed. It’s nearly 2am and I think I’m seeing things…”

He lowered his eyelids incredulously. “Such as?”

“I…I…I…” Itsuki stammered, trying to find his vocabulary. “I think I saw a ghost.”

That last word sent chills down Iketani’s spine. Things like that were not to be joked about! He grunted in response. “Yep, you’re right…go to bed, Itsuki. And lay off the coffee tomorrow…”

“H-hai…I need sleep.”

“Oh, and uh…” Iketani paused before moving from the window of the Toyota. “Let’s not do this anymore. I think our days of racing here are pretty much over.”

Itsuki couldn’t disagree, and nodded solemnly. After seeing that figure just after the final hairpin…that was enough of a sign to him to let it go.

Iketani patted the roof of the Levin a couple of times before retreating to his own vehicle, starting the engine and heading calmly out of the parking gallery. He’d had enough for one night – more than one night – and wanted nothing more than a cosy pillow and blanket to crash on.

Itsuki watched the green Silvia leave. His white-knuckled grasp on the steering wheel visibly shook, the beads of sweat against his skin suddenly cold. What he had seen had frightened him, but with good reason.

Everyone in Akina would have reacted in the same way, had they seen what he had seen.

Any keen racer is able to soak in details of their environment, should they have any skills at all. Itsuki had improved in the last year or so to the point that he too could pay attention to more than one thing.

He had soaked in almost every detail of the figure by the side of the road.

Perhaps it was just the bright moonlight that gave the figure an otherworldly glow, but Itsuki was convinced otherwise. It was that very moonlight that had allowed him to see everything he needed to; the figure was that of a young man, possibly around twenty years old. Messy brunette locks of hair partially covered the figure's face and ears, though striking brown eyes still gazed out with a bored, almost blank expression as they had passed by him earlier. A loose shirt and jeans were also clearly visible in the evening light, as was the figure’s lithe, almost skinny appearance.

There was no doubt in Itsuki’s mind that he’d just seen the ghost of one of Japan’s most respected late and great street racers. That was a fact that frightened him beyond belief…but more importantly, brought more pain than he wished to ever endure again.

Still, curiosity was strong enough to overwhelm even the greatest pain he could have felt at this very moment. The question ‘why’ kept on performing donuts in his mind, carouselling around that immense curiosity and begging it to go forth and search for an answer.

The night’s clear air had taken a turn as the wind kicked up gradually, its cool breeze floating gently through the cabin of the old Toyota. Itsuki shivered dramatically and grasped his biceps with opposing hands; he couldn’t decide what the cause of it was, but liked to think it was simply the cool wind. With time dragging on, the ticking of his cooling motor was growing slower and slower – reality kicked in at this point, reminding the chubby young man that he could sit here forever, staring out at the view back to the city until the sun rose, or he could move on.

A large yawn overcame him, threatening to choke him. Ah, it was moments like these that always left him known as the local comic relief. And oh how he hated it – yes he was awkward and frequently a clumsy oaf, but it didn’t mean he didn’t want some respect. And respect was hard to get nowadays – he had to stick up for himself, after all, and not rely on someone else to step in all the time. Life moves on – people get older, people leave…

…and people die.

That thought sent his mood crashing back down again. Momentarily letting his mind lapse into the most morbid of memories, Itsuki’s eyes began to sting with tears. Horrible memories they were, too.

Those thoughts themselves led him on to another – seeing this ghost, perhaps it had a deeper meaning. It had, after all, been a while since he had paid his respects. It had been two years since Akina had changed forever…it was inevitable that people would begin to leave it behind, possibly begin to forget.

But not Itsuki. He made a promise that he would never forget and never let anyone else forget. After all, why the hell else would he be up at this god-awful hour of the morning, ruining his tyres?

It was decided. With a decisive grunt, he reached to turn the white Levin’s ignition on; the engine roared to life once more and settled down to a happy purr. No time was wasted sitting in idle; Itsuki immediately dipped the clutch, popped the shifter into first gear and pulled out of the gallery, heading back the way he came.

A slow, steady climb back up the menacing curves of Akina’s most well-raced road led the young man back towards the hairpins. Upon reaching the end of the straight he pulled the Toyota over to the side of the road, bashed the hazard lights on, switched the engine off again and climbed out. Outside, it was obvious the night air had cooled as the humidity dropped…he shivered again, shaking his head about noisily in doing so. Why was he doing this again?

Clouds had begun to graze across the path of the moon, occasionally blocking most of the light it cast down on the sleeping Earth below. Letting out a slow breath into the cold night air, Itsuki squinted through the dark and strolled towards the hairpin at the very end of the straight. The Armco barrier at its sharpest point had been replaced a while ago; short tyre trails led to the very centre of the repaired section.

Itsuki’s hands rested against the top of the shiny new Armco as he gazed into the area beyond it; a few tall trees, shrubbery, and behind all of the foliage, a brick retaining wall holding the road above in place. The shrubbery where he stood was young, perhaps only two years old or so. The surrounding trees had obviously been damaged at some point, and one had since died, its grey old branches hanging lifelessly beside its fellow bushes.

He knew that there had been several cars parked on the wrong side of this barrier. The thought gave him that horrible nauseous sensation again…such a terrible accident had been. Drunken, violent drivers should never be allowed on the road.

A single tear fell from his cheeks. It was true, Akina would never be the same without him. The loss of a young life is always tragic, but of such a kind soul?

“Ano…Itsuki…you still sad about this?” A soft, gentle male voice broke the silence.

Itsuki cried out as he whipped around, beside himself with shock at the sudden interruption. Two birds nesting in the trees above took off in fright at the panicked scream that erupted from the podgy young man; he flailed as his voice echoed about the rocks surrounding him and his car.

“Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta…” He stammered, trying to find the words he so desperately sought after in his state of complete and utter terror.

Staring back at him calmly, almost forlornly, was the ghostly figure he had seen earlier when he raced Iketani down the straight behind them.

“…ta-ta-Takumi!” He finally fell over backwards with a squeak, shaking uncontrollably against the asphalt.

The ghost simply closed his eyes and shook his head. “I’m not going to eat you or anything Itsuki-san, calm down.”

He whined softly as he forced himself to do as he was asked. Though his bottom lip was still quaking, he stood up despite himself and faced the apparition before him. “Takumi…is it really you?”

The ghost nodded solemnly and sighed. “I didn’t think you’d have to ask. I don’t look that different, do I?” To be sure, he glanced down at his clothes and his hands, outspread and facing towards his face.

Itsuki shook his head ‘no’ violently. “N-no, not at all…” He could still feel his body vibrating with nervous energy…was it still fear, or something entirely different? “I just…I just…I wasn’t expecting you!”

Takumi simply stared blankly at him, then sighed. “Well, I’ve been here every single time you raced down this way…why didn’t you see me before?”

“You…you were here before?” Pale-faced and stammering, Itsuki continued to attempt forcing himself to calm down. “I mean…I’ve never seen you…I thought…I thought…”

He knew exactly what he was trying to say. “Itsuki, I am dead.” Funnily enough, it seemed like he was simply stating the colour of the Levin behind him…as if it were a meaningless detail.

It struck a nerve with Itsuki however, who was visibly biting back tears the moment the comment was made. “I thought so…I mean, I know…but does that mean you’re a…a ghost?”

“I think so.” Takumi shrugged, then sat down on the Armco. Despite the moonlight being masked by the thickening clouds, he seemed to have an eerie glow about him. It was almost as if he was being lit by an alternate source of light; from within, perhaps. Itsuki couldn’t help but notice there was a translucency about him; he could see through him to a small degree.

Itsuki made an attempt to break the nervous tension. After all, ghost or not, this was his best friend he was with. “I preferred you as a petrol station attendant.”

Takumi smiled faintly. Oh yes, he remembered those days. How long ago was that? Years, wasn’t it? “Me too.” He sighed softly, staring at his toes as he shuffled them against the tarmac. “No one stops here anymore…”

“I do. I mean…I did…this time, I mean…” Itsuki forced a smile too.

The expression on the ghostly face wasn’t a smile of happiness, that was for sure. If a sad smile were possible, he was wearing it. “Sankyuu. Ano…it’s kind of lonely up here.”

“Really? I guess you’re right. Isn’t there anyone else to talk to?”

Takumi gave Itsuki an incredulous look. “I’m the only one that’s ever died on this pass, Itsuki.” A soft sigh, and he returned to staring at his feet. “No one ever stops.”

The heavier-set of the pair sat himself down on the Armco too. “Well, if you like, I can stop here more often.” He smiled at his friend warmly.

Takumi’s hazel eyes lit up for a moment, but fell once more after some thought. “I don’t want to inconvenience you Itsuki. I mean…you have a life to live. I’ll bet you have a good job now, and a nice girlfriend…”

He blushed and shook his head. “Nah, not me Takumi! I’m still as single as ever…and my job is a crappy day job anyway, no one cares…”

“Ano…” Takumi paused mid-thought and sighed, resigning to a simple soft smile. “I’ve really missed you.” For just a moment, one could almost assume he felt a twinkle of happiness. Could ghosts even feel happiness? “How’s everyone else? Does Project D still race?”

Itsuki shook his head. “Hm…no. Ryosuke is at Medical school now, and Keisuke is studying at a mechanics college. They both gave up racing, from what I heard. Iketani-sempai and Kenji-sempai both have office jobs now, only Iketani-sempai races…and I think tonight was his last race too. All the other teams…they’re gone, too. Everyone’s grown up.”

“So that’s why I don’t see anyone coming down here properly anymore.” With a sigh, Takumi leaned back to stare at the passing clouds. They were growing thicker by the minute, the only thing illuminating the area being the intermittent flashes of the Levin’s hazard lights. “If only that Gaijin hadn’t hit me…I would have made sure the racing scene stayed alive…”

Itsuki swallowed a growing lump in his throat. He’d kept on trying to convince himself that no, Takumi hadn’t died. He’d simply gone away for a while. “Takumi, what happened there anyway? No one knows the real story…except you of course.”

He shrugged. “I don’t really remember. I’ve sort of forced it out of my mind. All I know is it kinda hurt.”

“Kinda hurt? Kinda hurt…?” Itsuki blinked a couple of times, then whipped around to face him. “Are you sure? Like, it didn’t just tickle? Because I saw you when they pulled you out…I barely even recognised you!”

The ghost winced and rounded his shoulders in sulkishly with a sigh. “I remember getting lots of glass in my face. There were a few things sticking into me, I think it was bits of door card and tree. I think there was an angry man yelling at me too…but I don’t really remember. Think it was that Gaijin that ploughed into me.”

“The government had that guy deported two years ago…went back home and got vehicular manslaughter, I think.”

The latter of the information seemed to have little to no impact on Takumi. “Wait…two years? Two years! I’ve been dead two whole years?” He stared at Itsuki unblinkingly. “Has it really been that long?”

He nodded. “Yep, two years and three months now.”

“That’d be why you look all grown up now…” Takumi smirked. “Unlike me, I still look like a highschool kid I bet.”

“Nah. You look a bit older than that. Same as you did when you were racing those old geezers all that time ago.”

“I remember those days.” That sad smile crossed his translucent features once again. “You have no idea how much I wish I could have just…grown. There were so many people I had to out-run…so many more techniques I wish I could have learned…”

A clap of thunder rolling in from the distance interrupted him. The wind was still steadily picking up and the temperature dropping just as swiftly. “Uh, Takumi…”

“Hn?” He raised both eyebrows as he glanced over to his shorter, rounder friend.

“I should be going now.” He stood, heading towards his car.

Takumi’s features had the hint of a smirk upon them. “You’re not scared of thunder are you, Itsuki?”

“Whaa?” He spun around, surprised and almost offended. “No! I just…” Spluttering, he once again hunted for the words he needed. “Well to be honest with you, I’ve had enough freaky shit for one day. Ghosts and all…you probably took a good few years off my life earlier!”

“Well, okay.” Takumi stood too, that forlorn look of his threatening to break Itsuki’s heart. “But you’ll come back sometime, right?”

“Of course…” Itsuki saluted his friend enthusiastically, then made his way towards the Levin. “You’re my best friend after all. Can’t have you being all lonely up here and all…” As he slid into his seat, he looked up at the ghost who was no standing by his door. “Besides…I guess it’s kinda cool having a ghost as a friend.”

Takumi smiled softly. “Thanks. And Itsuki…”

“Hn?”

“Ano…” He paused in mid-thought once again. What to say…tell his friends he said hi? Tell the Takahashi brothers that Takumi said to keep racing? Tell the other teams to get their lazy arses back to Akina? Tell his father he misses him? No. Inappropriate. “Never mind. Just don’t forget me.”

“Of course I won’t forget you…” Itsuki smiled widely as he started his engine, then pulled away from the side of the road. After killing the hazard lights, he waved his arm out the window at his ghostly friend.

Takumi watched the white Toyota leave. Thunder took the place of the turbo whine from the Levin, which had completely disappeared into the depths of the mountains within a minute or so.

He was alone again. Oh, how familiar…night after endless night left wandering the mountains in search of…

What was he searching for anyway? His car was ruined, his friends had all moved on with their lives, and no doubt his father had done the same.

With a sulkish sigh, he sat down by the dead tree in a mess of long, slender limbs. Looks like it was going to be another spectacular summer storm…the only form of entertainment around here it would seem. What a pity that accident had been; after spending a short while with Itsuki, Takumi had plenty to reflect on.

Even Itsuki himself looked like he’d moved on, all but forgotten. He was older-looking, and Takumi certainly couldn’t see why he was still single. Hell, that brought a painful thought…Takumi had died without experiencing anything more than holding hands and a good snog. How pathetic, he thought to himself. How cliché.

The storm finally arrived, though the young ghost was not at all affected. The landscape around him very quickly flooded from the sudden and voracious deluge, but he didn’t feel a single drop. He was, after all, dead. It was probably nearly three in the morning by now – with this sort of rain, there would be no more traffic. No more people to stop and talk to him…not that anyone would, anyway.

With nothing else left to do, Takumi dragged himself to his feet and proceeded to do the usual.

Walk up and down the mountain pass in search of…something. Anything. There had to be more to existence than just this – even for the dead. Wasn’t there supposed to be something beyond Earth?

Perhaps one of these days, he might find his answer.
Meteor
Posted: Jul 26 2008, 10:53 PM


Were you expecting something else?
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I was expecting an update of the ff.net version here. But a slighted edited version isn't bad.

Keep up the good work biggrin.gif
Shale
  Posted: Jul 26 2008, 11:11 PM


/IDW/ Zero Fighter Pilot
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Group: Advanced Members
Posts: 3,248
Member No.: 20,861
Joined: Oct 10th 2006
Location: Auckland, NZ





I'm making it less stagnated and more interesting, for the most part biggrin.gif Currently editing chapter 2...so far not much to do to it. Lol.

Hopefully by the end of the night a NEW chapter will be ready too tongue.gif
Rudy
Posted: Jul 27 2008, 03:59 PM


Unregistered












(THIS POST WAS REMOVED BY REQUEST)
Shale
  Posted: Jul 28 2008, 12:05 AM


/IDW/ Zero Fighter Pilot
**********

Group: Advanced Members
Posts: 3,248
Member No.: 20,861
Joined: Oct 10th 2006
Location: Auckland, NZ





Why thank you dear sir biggrin.gif Here, have some more heartstring-yankage.

MOAR HAUNTINGS YO.

Summary: No marks for guessing where the inspiration for the majority of this chapter came from cool.gif

***

Chapter 2: Musings

Rustling in the kitchen of Akina’s local tofu shop was the only movement apparent in the wee hours of the morning. A middle-aged man was hard at work organising trays of fresh tofu ready to be delivered; a daily ritual that had gone on for as long as anyone could remember.

Things had changed, however. It used to be a scruffy teenaged boy doing the deliveries every morning at four, but the highly recognisable panda Trueno was long gone. As of course was its most regular driver.

In its place was a sleek two-door Impreza, Blue Steel in colour and burbling softly outside the shop door. It had since been signwritten in silver, the shop’s identification tattooed beneath each tinted rear window. A strange sight to anyone that knew Takumi Fujiwara.

Bunta carefully began laying the trays in the capacious Subaru boot. Five minutes till four in the morning…action time. He hated having to do this full time again, but it couldn’t be helped.

The asynchronous chug of the Subaru’s engine was thick in the cool morning air as it idled happily to itself; Bunta set about changing that as he finished loading the trays of tofu in the boot and sat himself down in the driver’s seat, closing the particularly long driver’s door and belting up.

Engine warm…good. The gearbox wouldn’t be yet, but it didn’t bother him. The car was in good shape; the synchros could handle a bit of a thrash each day without snapping teeth.

He dipped the firm, somewhat resistant clutch to the floor and pushed the gearstick into first gear. One thing he had to admit; he did appreciate the notchy feel of the Impreza’s gearbox. A deft flick of the wrist saw to a small scrollwheel sitting by the handbrake; the Type R’s DCCD switch, allowing the AWD’s torque to be distributed by the driver. Bunta, of course, always preferred the centre diff fully open – this would throw seventy percent of the Subaru’s 300 horsepower to the rear wheels and essentially give him a rear-wheel drive with a little grunt at the front.

Blipping the throttle lightly, Bunta pulled the car away from the side of the road and began heading out for the delivery run. The heavy burble of the engine quickened as the car sprung to life – a heartening sound to any enthusiast.

Any enthusiast except Bunta that is. The STi did nothing but remind him of the son he lost, ironically enough – Takumi hated the car and hated being forced to drive it. Perhaps that was why it reminded him of the boy…there was very little Takumi was passionate about, and the WRX was one of the many things he wasn’t so.

The Type R’s turbo began to spool as the engine’s revs climbed over three thousand. A familiar sound to many of the young racers about…not that there were very many left at this point. A heavy foot hit the clutch and the extra pressure from the turbo’s spool was released straight back through it – a flittering, whispering whoosh erupted from the engine bay as the middle-aged man selected third gear. Apparently he’d been having a little fun lately; the sound was that of compressor surge, the blatant lack of a blow-off valve. He felt the sound to be far more satisfying than a loud squeak or belch of noisy air.

Third gear’s torque hit with a bang, but in such a refined, controlled manner that the tofu rearward hardly seemed to mind. Typical of Bunta Fujiwara – able to make the most feisty of vehicles drive as if it were floating on air.

The morning’s calm was hardly disturbed by the Subaru’s deep, husky burble echoing about the narrow streets. Besides, it was a sound any local silly enough to be awake at the time had come to expect at the same time every day. The sleek grey vehicle slipped through the sleepy, deserted streets seemingly unnoticed as Bunta went about his business, bright white streetlights reflecting against its lovingly polished clearcoat and bouncing back a distinct blue.

Time passed on, and the tofu was delivered safely to everywhere it belonged. Anyone that knew Bunta would know by now that another thing that had changed was a habit; not once along the journey had Bunta struck a match. The smell of tobacco was almost completely gone from the Impreza’s STi interior; the vehicle had not seen a cigarette in nearly two years, and neither had Bunta. Something deep inside had realised that life was too short and too precious to die of lung cancer…that, and he knew that it was something Takumi silently hated.

Deliveries made and a distinct lack of delicate tofu left the STi plenty of room to roar. Instead of holding back on his way back home again, Bunta’s foot met the floor. First gear disappeared in a matter of barely a second, accompanied by the whoosh of a spooling turbo and the infamous fluttering of compressor surge as second kicked in. Eight thousand revs came all too soon, but so did Akina’s first corner. The STi’s brakes bit hard against the rotors, thrusting the vehicle’s nose downward and leaving three streaks of red behind the Impreza’s rear.

Bunta flung the Subaru’s nose into the corner hard, planting his foot gradually on the accelerator again. The Type R’s torque threw itself almost fully rearward under the hard acceleration; the rear Bridgestones screamed in protest at being forced to lose traction, but even their immense stickiness failed to restrain the three hundred horsepower of brute strength. Despite the Impreza’s reputation as a master of traction, this particular STi blatantly oversteered through the bend to slide wide on the exit – perfect.

Corner after corner appeared before the shiny grey rocket, each one earning itself a distinct set of Potenza streaks as the Impreza flew by. The race from a few days ago may have been swift and controlled, but it was nothing compared to the sheer grace and perfection of Fujiwara’s movements. Curves in the road came and went with the distinctive deep screech of the Potenza Adrenalins the Subaru’s alloys were wearing and the thrumming howl of a Boxer engine.

Before long, Akina’s hairpins were in sight. Bunta’s pace inadvertently slipped back somewhat, the Impreza’s excited roars dropping back to somewhat more thoughtful purrs. The lowermost hairpin…a place Bunta refused to look. He may have been known for his cold, almost heartless demeanour, but hell…anyone could understand his silent suffering in this instance.

The Impreza disappeared around the corner with a howl and a screech, and was on its way. A pair of soft hazel eyes, unbeknownst to the STi’s driver, remained locked on the vehicle until it was well out of view. Anyone would be hard-pressed to spot the figure standing by the old dead tree, particularly anyone avoiding looking in that very direction.

Silence enveloped the mountain once more, and the eyes drifted back to the view down the side of the mountain. Well…like he’d said a few days ago…no one ever stops. Especially not that Impreza…not at this time of day. The ghostly presence watched on nevertheless, standing a silent vigil by the roadside. Waiting for more cars, perhaps? Or perhaps…awaiting redemption.

---

“…breaking news on the Seven O’Clock morning show is a tragic accident in the mountain passes surrounding Akina; a local vehicle was struck at nearly double the speed limit by a Hilux Surf earlier this morning. The second vehicle, an older Trueno, was believed to be making a delivery run at the time.

“The driver of the four-by-four is believed to be an American citizen going by the name of Curtis O’Nielle. The police are still searching for the driver and are inspecting the Surf’s wreckage for clues.

“The second car’s driver was dead when police arrived on the scene. It is believed at this stage that he died instantly from his injuries; the vehicle is almost unrecognisable as police experts estimate at least one of the vehicles was moving at nearly a hundred kilometres an hour.

“The accident was discovered just over half an hour ago by an Akina resident.

“We go now to the scene of the accident where our field reporters are interviewing locals and police.”

“Thanks Mihoshi. You can see behind me the wreckage left in the wake of the incident; there is very little left of the Trueno as the Surf is essentially embedded in its front end. The driver of the four-by-four is nowhere to be seen, but police have discovered several open bottles of liquor in the passenger’s footwell amidst a significant collection of travelling items.

“Behind us you can see the body of the Trueno’s young driver being freed of the car’s destroyed cabin. He was pronounced dead when emergency services arrived, most likely by the horrific injuries he has suffered. Police have identified the man but are not releasing his name to the public just yet; they will be informing his family first.”

Bunta was torn away from the television screen only by a knock at the door…


---

“No! Takumi!”

Bunta sat bolt upright in his bed, one flailing arm managing to knock over a glass of water.

“Shit…” He snarled under his breath, choosing to ignore the mess as he tried to slow his heartrate.

Why must he have this nightmare every single night? Every single damn night?

Or rather, could bad memories such as these even be considered nightmares?

He remembered watching the article half-heartedly at first, too focussed on wondering what the hell his son was doing out so early in the morning rather than returning from his tofu delivery run and going straight back to bed as he always did, every single day. It was only once he saw the signwritten wreck of his hachi-roku that reality had begun to sink in.

It was that moment of horrifying realisation that haunted him every single damn morning after the delivery run, without fail.

“Shit…” He repeated as he scraped himself out of bed. Yellow sunlight was filtering in through the curtains at this point; must be around eight-thirty by now. Time for a shower and breakfast.

Not that he ever felt like either.

Then again…he never felt like anything any more aside from hollow. Oh how he’d taken everything for granted – as long as he had his cars and his business he was happy. It wasn’t until he’d lost the most important thing in his life that he’d realised he’d never, ever appreciated it. So many truths had hit him in the last two years he might as well have broken bones from the impact…

---

“Thank you! See you again!”

Itsuki waved enthusiastically alongside an acne-smeared teenager as another customer left GS station’s forecourt. It was a good day for business, being so bright and sunny. Everyone was out for a little extra seat time to soak up the blissful summer afternoon – and so they should be!

“Hey – don’t just leave the pump off the hook, go sort it!” Itsuki grunted at the youth, pointing in the direction of a low octane hose sitting just off its holder.

“Aiee…gomen nasai!” The teenager scrabbled frantically to correct the problem, then proceeded to whip out a cleaning cloth and gave the whole pump yet another once-over.

Itsuki, as the new floor manager, was as proud of his work and his forecourt as they came; something that pleased the boss to no end. His excitable nature had matured into a thorough, enthusiastic demeanour that did wonders for public rapport and business in general. Thank the heavens he hadn’t moved onto a typical salary job like everyone else…

“Itsuki, you’ve been off colour for days now. What’s the problem?”

The podgy young man yelped and whirled around to face his boss when he felt a hand land itself on his shoulder. “Sir! Nothing’s wrong, I’m fine!”

He chuckled warmly…ah Itsuki, as overdramatic as normal. “You think so? Then why have you been staring off into the abyss at every spare moment and moping about when you’re normally happy to be barking orders and shining pumps like a cleaning machine?”

Itsuki sighed softly after a moment, and groaned as he glanced down at the ground. “If I tell you, you’ll think I’m crazy.”

“I already think you’re crazy.” He grinned.

Itsuki seemed somewhat hurt by that remark, but brushed it off as usual. “Well…I…” He chewed on his lower lip for a moment. “Well there’s only one way to say this. I was racing again over the weekend, and I…I saw a ghost…”

“A ghost, eh?” Yuuichi's tone was somewhat patronising yet benevolent enough.

“Not just any ghost, sir. This one was the ghost of…” He swallowed the rising lump in his throat. “Of…Takumi.”

Yuuichi's eyebrows shot up about as high as they could go. “What? You can’t make jokes about such things, Itsuki!”

“I’m not!” He yelped defensively, tears brimming in his eyes. “I saw him! He was in a green shirt and jeans like he was wearing on that…that…that day…I pulled over when I saw him, and when I waited around long enough, I saw him again!”

This was almost too much for the older man to listen to. “Look, just don’t let it get in the way of your work. Takumi is gone…gone for good…don’t let your imagination run away with you.”

As the boss headed back inside, Itsuki simply stood where he was, holding back an emotional outburst with all his might. “He’s still here…” He muttered under his breath, before engrossing himself in polishing one of the petrol pumps.

Unbeknownst to him, the conversation had not gone unheard. A bright yellow FD, freshly topped up with a quarter tank of high octane, slinked off the forecourt…
Sanae
Posted: Jul 28 2008, 12:54 AM


IDW Okamisan
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Shale,

I like this new-and-improved version and I like even more that you might have another chapter on the making so we'll continue reading this. I've already armed myself with a fresh batch of kleenex so, fear not... tongue.gif

PS: What I would give to have your knowledge when it comes to cars, but again, you probably know your own baby down to the last screw, am I right or am I right?
Proud Contributor of IDW Forums and the Music Section Revival Project
Meteor
Posted: Jul 28 2008, 12:56 AM


Were you expecting something else?
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True, I haven't read the originals in quite a long while, but the remade version of Chapter 2 seems better than the original. Bunta's run up and down Akina was well written too.

MOAR HAUNTINGS PLZ!
Shale
  Posted: Jul 28 2008, 01:00 AM


/IDW/ Zero Fighter Pilot
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Sally - Haha. I know my Impreza well but it's my Legacy I know inside and out...Fused and I tore that fugger down to the bare shell and reassembled it. As literally as it gets. Even tore a few strips of paint and bog off it biggrin.gif There is only ONE way to get to know a car well and it involves straining your biceps til they feel like they're going to bleed, and you have no fingernails left :/

Currently looking at the next chapter now...needing kleenex myself XD I know you and Crickey had a few issues with it being a bit OOC, so we're looking at some remastering cool.gif

Meteor - thanks very muchly biggrin.gif I'd churn out the whole lot in a day straight if I had the time off work trust me >>;;;;;;;
Sanae
Posted: Jul 28 2008, 01:20 AM


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No fingernails left? blink.gif *stares at her french manicure* crying2.gif

And, for the record, I didn't say anything about it being OOC, I think you're confusing me with Nieshka...for some strange reason (shock/horror) I didn't actually get around with posting a review on ff.net. I'll do it as soon as I get back home, ok?
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Shale
  Posted: Jul 28 2008, 01:46 AM


/IDW/ Zero Fighter Pilot
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OH LOL. It's been a while since FF.net bore any significance whatsoever...I know someone was having a go at me for it... whistling.gif

At any rate...lots of work being done here biggrin.gif

And yeah...my nails have only just recovered from putting Frankenleggy back together over a month ago or so...the skin on the hands takes a beating too. As does your back. Cars are crazy hard to work on for us ladies x___X And there's headgaskets, cambelt, waterpump and seals to be done yet. And an oil change. And new wheels. And a new turbo. AIEEEEE...
Drew
Posted: Jul 29 2008, 05:06 AM


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Wow, this is great stuff, Shale.

Keep it up, and I never remeber any of the fanfics on FF.net being nothing more than fangirls writing some Yaoi storylines, but then again, that was about four years ago when I started out writing. tongue.gif
Shale
  Posted: Aug 3 2008, 01:06 AM


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MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAR.

Btw - I like me some yaoi, but it MUST be as in-character as possible and devoid of fangirls that have no idea what a peen looks like tongue.gif


***

Chapter 3: Redemption

"You can bloody believe me or not, but I'm telling you…I've heard the rumours, Aniki!" The hotheaded blonde slammed both hands down on the table separating himself from his older brother, nearly knocking over the two half-finished cups of coffee with the violent motion.

The darker-haired of the pair jumped somewhat despite himself, but only spared a split second for a frustrated glare before embedding himself within his study again. "I have no idea what you're smoking Keisuke, but do you mind? I have an exam soon and I need to cram as much of this into my head as I can before the end of the week."

Keisuke sighed exasperatedly and ran his slender fingers through his ragged hair. "Yeah well once you're done being a nerd, we have some researching to do."

Ryosuke pulled a face. "What? You, research? You wouldn't know research if it kicked you in the head." He didn't lift his head from his textbook.

"The hell is that meant to mean?" Keisuke's mood was deterioring by the second. "You're one to talk anyway…since when do you turn down research? What's your damn job, after all?"

"I think the question is," he started with a glare, "Why the hell are you suddenly so interested in chasing after so-called ghosts off in the abyss? We have better things to do with our lives Keisuke. In case you hadn't noticed, no one cares any more. Street racing…it's over, gone, done for."

Keisuke grunted bitterly. "No, your street racing career is over, gone and done for, Aniki. It has been for a year now." He paused a moment to lean into the raven-haired student's personal space. "Some of us still race though." He growled huskily, his anger control a testament to his maturing over the last few years.

"Get out of my face." Ryosuke placed a large hand in the middle of Keisuke's face and pushed him away. It was late, they were both tired and frustrated, and frankly, ghosts and racing were two of the last things on the older Takahashi's mind at that moment in time.

A vague hint of hurt crossing his angered features, Keisuke grunted in frustration, turned on his heels, and marched out of his brother's room, sure to slam the door heavily on the way out. He threw the door of his own room open then shut again aggressively as he passed threw, collapsing backward onto his bed with a deep sigh.

He had to admit…life currently sucked…all areas considered. For one, his true love was dead. Racing; it was a pastime almost no one indulged in any more. It was a year since he had his last proper race against someone else…nowadays it was simply screaming through all the back roads of Akagi until he was dizzy from going around in circles. Free time…what was that? His time was spent either studying, attending lectures, fixing cars or speeding from one end of the mountain to the other.

And then there was his Aniki. Ever since Fujiwara was killed there had been something blatantly different about the older Takahashi; what was normally a quiet, calculating demeanour had deteriorated into a cold but easily frustrated façade. Keisuke knew that Ryosuke was far more severely affected by the loss of Project D's downhill demon than he cared to ever admit – the fact that it was so blatantly obvious despite the firm denial was more frustrating than the blonde could describe.

Of course, Keisuke had to admit that he missed Takumi terribly as well. Hey, the kid was a decent guy. A good friend, one might say. A brilliant rival and even more brilliant ally. He had respect for him while he was alive…some of it had dissolved when he, as Keisuke partially believed, let himself be hit and killed.

After all…how could the world's most promising racer die from being hit by a speeding car?

Still, the rational side of his mind – something he had never really capitalised on – knew that the Gaijin that had been racing drunk on Japanese roads was solely responsible for the loss of one of Japan's most respected racers outside the professional arena.

Keisuke rolled over with a heavy sigh to stare at his alarm clock. Midnight…how typical. He groaned; there were lectures to attend tomorrow and he needed sleep.

He pulled his t-shirt and jeans off in a rather disgruntled manner, discarding them amongst several other piles of previously worn clothes on the floor. The only thoughts running through his mind – why did every day have to be such a damn mission?

Left in nothing but a pair of dark grey satin boxers, the blonde slipped beneath the covers and killed the room's lighting with a deft flick of a switch at the head of the bed. He always came back to the same thought…why did he bother? Why did he bother at all? He hated studying. He hated not racing. He hated his brother being the way he was, so different to the calm and collected Ryosuke he was used to while he was growing up.

He couldn't be happier with the thought that one day soon, he might just go to sleep and not bother ever waking up.

---

"I won't be back for dinner. Say hi to Mum for me." Ryosuke didn't bother looking Keisuke in the eyes as he slipped into the driver's seat of his glistening white FC. Keisuke, likewise, didn't lift his head from the engine bay of his car. A mere grunt was sufficient reply, in his opinion. After all, he had half the engine bay lying on the ground at his feet in an effort to find something to modify. What else could one do with a lazy Saturday afternoon?

Ryosuke reversed down the long driveway with expert ease and pulled out onto the main street. A less-than-enthusiastic blip of the throttle pulled the FC up to speed with passing traffic, and he was on his way.

Oh how his driving style had changed over the last few years. He had moved on to another period in his life – and he wasn't sure he liked it. Now a med student, this former racer's days of wasting petrol and tyres were over; it was all study these days.

Funnily enough, study wasn't something he particularly enjoyed. Creativity was his domain…running simulations in the days of old, modifying the FC and the rest of Project D's cars to be the toughest competition out there, even dreaming up new surprise techniques when the usual secret weapons had become common knowledge.

All his creative energy came out in cars, it was true. The distinct lack of their presence in his life aside from mere transport wasn't the source of this glum, almost depressed feeling though – Ryosuke was bright, he was smarter than to assume the obvious.

The logical side of his mind knew what the problem was, but the little of him left that was simply raw emotions and humanity constantly argued with the bare facts. The daily battle always wore him thin, even after all this time…he knew he was guilty of taking it out on his younger brother, but when the boy was just so irritating…there was little he could do.

That problem…he found himself dwelling on it once more as he puttered down the road, ignoring bashful smiles and giggles from girls walking down the footpath next to him. He had not been to Akina since the accident. The excuse…it was a long way out of his way, and there was no reason to be there aside to race.

Something he didn't partake in any longer.

Fool. You know you're avoiding Akina because of what happened.

The logical side of his mind demanded attention once more. His body tensed visibly, emotions begging to spring forth.

Hell no. That part of life is history…it's time to be an adult, time to be successful…time to grow up…

He wrinkled his nose, willing the battle in his head to stop.

You're so disrespectful. He was the best racer you knew, yet you won't even see him. You haven't seen him since the funeral! Hell, you won't even go and visit his father!

Takumi's father…Bunta…now there's a thought that hadn't occurred to him before. Logic finally won some ground; Ryosuke took the next right and headed away from his original destination, and back towards the looming mountain range in the distance.

There's no choice. You must face your pain head-on or it will stay with you for the rest of your life and destroy you!

Logic always had a habit of rubbing salt into the wounds, didn't it?

---

It was growing dark by the time Ryosuke found the quiet little town of Akina. Then again, he hadn't left much earlier than dinner time.

Outside one of the stores on the roadside was a grey Subaru, left idling on the turbo timer as the owner lugged shopping bags out of the back seat and onto the sidewalk. Without a second thought Ryosuke pulled over to the side of the road in front of the Impreza, parked up, and stepped out to help the aging gentleman with his shopping.

"Here, let me give you a hand." He began lifting the remainder of the bags out of the Impreza's suede back seat.

Bunta made no effort to continue, but simply stared lackadaisically at the younger man instead. "You're one of the Takahashi boys…Ryosuke, correct?"

He paused, bag handles filling both hands. "Indeed I am."

The older of the pair leaned down to pick up the bags on the footpath and bumped the Impreza's door closed with a knee. In true Subaru fashion it simply refused to close under the light impact, and was only set right by a much harsher thump from said knee. "It's been a while since I've had any guests. Come in." It was more of an order than an offer, but little more could be expected from the elder Fujiwara.

Ryosuke took the rest of the bags and followed Bunta into the kitchen, where he aided in unpacking them and putting the spoils of the shopping trip away in their respective places. It was a quaint little house Fujiwara lived in, and strangely enough, he felt somewhat comfortable in it despite his wealthy upbringing.

Groceries sorted, the older man sat himself down on a seat by the bench, gesturing for Ryosuke to join him in a spare perch.

"So. Care to tell me why you showed up all of a sudden?"

Well…there was no denying he could be straight to the point at times.

"I was curious, I suppose." What a pathetic excuse, he scolded himself. "That and…I always felt like I had unfinished business here."

"Oh?" Bunta's eyebrows rose somewhat.

"Yeah." He sighed, resting his elbows on the benchtop. "Everything seemed to stop after that fateful day…the whole world seemed to change, and I didn't do anything to stop it."

"You miss my son, don't you?" His face remained perfectly straight…no hint of emotion on either expression nor tone of voice.

This habit Bunta had of cutting straight to the chase was making Ryosuke incredibly uneasy. No wonder Takumi often didn't get along with him…this old geezer was onto it.

"Well, yes. I think everyone does." He nodded. "He was a good racer…a nice kid. Very few people could find it in themselves to not get along with him."

"Hm." Bunta glanced away as he reached for a pot of tea and a fresh cup. "I'll tell you what, I can see why he always complained about having to do the deliveries every morning on his own. I'd forgotten what a bastard cold mornings are…"

Ryosuke smiled somewhat. This is the Bunta he'd heard about…emotionless, cold, somewhat scathing…yet despite all this, there was still something loveable about the old man. No wonder people respected him for more than just his racing genius.

Silence ensued awkwardly as Ryosuke was given a cup of tea and a moment to enjoy a few sips. Hell, what do you say to a man who's lost his son at the very sport you'd taught him to be brilliant at? He sighed softly to himself, deep in thought.

"A penny for your thoughts." Bunta interrupted him softly, releasing himself from his own train of thought.

"Hm?" Ryosuke put his cup down gently, leaning back to stare idly at it. "Mind's racing at the moment to be honest. Deep down inside, I still can't really believe it happened. Cursed Gaijin…what are they doing on our roads creating a mess anyway?"

"Drunk and disorderly…they should give drinking licenses to those that can handle a good drop without losing it." Bunta sighed into his cup.

"So true." Well, this is awkward. "I'm glad the bastard was deported and tried back in the US."

Bunta simply nodded in response. If he didn't know better, Ryosuke would guess he was almost trying to hold back an outburst of emotion there.

More silence ensued. Two clever minds, two individuals that had lost something great…and one thing that was just too painful to talk about.

"I know there's something you're simply not saying." Once again…straight to the point was Bunta's arsenal here.

The remark caught Ryosuke by surprise…he glanced toward the older man, somewhat stunned, before hunching himself over his teacup again. "What makes you say that?" Idiot…what sort of response was that?

"The blatant silence gives it away. You didn't come all this way just to enjoy my tea."

Ryosuke found himself tied up in knots…was he being outsmarted by an old man? Hell, he was the one supposed to be tying people up in knots. Then again…he'd all but lost his brilliance completely with the hachi-roku. Hell…time to play back.

"Seems you're doing the same. Takes two to tango." Wait, that was a bit rude. "Fujiwara-sempai…you seem to have taken this whole situation with ample grace."

This time it was Bunta's turn to be caught off-guard. "Well…" Really off-guard. "I…haven't been, actually." Oh god, here come the waterworks. "You know, there's a time in everyone's life where they must realise that the statement 'you never know what you've got until it's gone' is as true as they come. I always thought my business and my cars were all I wanted or needed. There was a time where my wife and my racing days took the same place in my heart. Turns out I was wrong on both counts." He paused to take a sip of tea.

Ryosuke listened with interest. "Of course, it's always the most irreplaceable things that leave the biggest holes behind."

"Without a doubt." Bunta's demeanour was slowly deteriorating. He'd never needed to hold a mask over his true feelings so intensely for so long in his life. "Takumi…he and I never really got along as well as we should have, but make no mistake…I was proud of him."

Was that the slightest of falters Ryosuke detected in the older man's voice?

"Sure, he nearly failed school. He was awkward with girls to the point it embarrassed even me. He was an absolute muppet when it came to anything mechanical. But…" He placed his cup down with a sigh – his hands were shaking too much for his liking and didn't trust them to hold the hot item steady. "He was still my son. I've never said this to anyone before, but…I have to admit…I miss that blank expression and his incessant moping about."

Nice save, Ryosuke had to admit. The man was a master of letting things on but covering up as much pride as he could.

Still, this was a battle not too dissimilar to those that use to take place on Akina's slopes. Bunta took his turn to switch it back in his favour. "Takahashi…you were closer to him than you let on, weren't you?"

For once, Ryosuke was lost for words. "Wha…in what way?"

One of Bunta's eyebrows perked. "I don't know, you tell me."

Feeling somewhat fish-like for opening and shutting his mouth in quick succession, Ryosuke scrabbled desperately for words. "Hell…I don't know what to say. He was my student in a way, as well as…I have to confess, a damn good friend. He was hard to dislike, and a surprisingly fast learner. You raised a good one, Fujiwara-sempai."

Bunta couldn't hold back a smirk at that. "Nice save, boy. I know Takumi looked up to you in the greatest of respect…more than he had for me, that's for sure. And I have seen the way you looked at him…that was fondness that superseded respect on any level."

Ryosuke scowled slightly. "If you're implying that…"

"I'm not implying anything." He replied flatly, staring at the cup on the table in front of him.

A shaky sigh escaped Ryosuke's lips. "Takumi was a good kid. A brilliant friend. I was very fond of him yes, for whatever reason…I've never worked it out. I…" He felt his breath hitch as his mind flashed back over those images he saw on the news of the dead boy's mangled body…the moments where tears threatened at the memorial service…the good times they'd had when he was still alive, when he'd completely whitewashed his opponents through sheer luck and simply being who he was. "I miss him."

Ryosuke fell silent for a moment to regain his composure. He was so close to exploding it wasn't funny. Two years…two years of anguish, loneliness and self-hatred was on the brink of splurging forth in one hell of an embarrassing mess, and he didn't want to look half his years in front of a man he just had to respect with all his might.

Bunta drew a ragged breath, clearly biting back any embarrassing splurges of emotion. "I miss him too." His voice was thick, bordering on breaking. "He was a good son."

Ryosuke was sure they were both seeing the same images in their minds. Takumi's mangled body…the wreckage on Akina…the news footage when they were tearing the little Toyota apart to pare the lifeless body out of it…even Ryosuke, master of the cold and calm demeanour, was struggling helplessly with the immense flood threatening to burst forth.

Their morbid thoughts were interrupted by an impatient grown from Ryosuke's stomach. He scowled down at it, wrapping an arm around his middle with a frown. "I should go…I haven't eaten in hours."

Bunta simply nodded as the younger man headed for the front door. Ryosuke managed to get almost all the way out of the house before he accidentally brushed by a stack of papers on the coffee table, spilling it and its contents onto the floor.

"Kuso…gomen nasai…" He crouched down to pick everything back up, when he realised what the folder contained.

Every single item that had spilled out of the folder was a photo of Takumi. Baby photos (snuggling his mother in nothing but a nappy), childhood photos (scowling heavily at being photographed in the bath), school photos (complete with awkward, uncoordinated grin), photos with the Trueno (blushing and trying to hide, yet failing miserably of course)...

"S-sorry...let me tidy that..." Hands trembling, Ryosuke quickly but carefully packed the snaps back into their folder; before he could finish, Bunta took the folder and remaining photos and tidied them himself.
"No harm done, Takahashi. Thank you for coming by."

Ryosuke once again bit back as much emotion as he could, and caught Bunta's gaze. To anyone watching, the pain evident in both pairs of eyes was palpable and almost too much to bear. Desperately trying to regain control, Ryosuke let out a shaky sigh and ran his hands through his hair.

"You'll never forget him." Ryosuke forced a smile. "And neither will I."

For once spontaneity took over from sheer emotion…Bunta grabbed Ryosuke in a sloppy bear-hug. Surprised, Ryosuke returned the gesture. The older of the two patted the other lightly on the back before pulling back to simply resting his hand on a strong shoulder.

Funny. This was exactly what Ryosuke used to do to Takumi when he'd done well in a race.

"Thank you Takahashi."

He smiled right back at him through pained eyes. "Thank you, Fujiwara-sempai."

With that he turned on his heels and hunted for the FC's keys in his pocket. A moment of indecision saw him sitting in the driver's seat for a short period, once he found his keys, deep in thought. Those terrible images refused to leave his mind's eye at peace; Takumi's mangled, bloody body...Bunta hiding his anguish behind a teacup...those baby photos...
No gates could hold back a flood so great. Tears finally burst forth, pouring down the elder Takahashi's cheeks relentlessly as he closed his eyes, letting his head rest against the seat behind him; silent, burning hot sadness overcame him for the first time since the Fujiwara boy had been killed, yet for some reason it felt more than just appropriate.
Thankfully all the lights in the Tofu shop had turned off by the time Ryosuke had succumbed to two years of anguish...no one saw the streaks of sadness down his cheeks, the shaky hand, long fingers raking at a handful of hair in an effort to quell the outburst. To Ryosuke's credit, he found composure quickly as logic took over...he was not the kind to sob of spilled milk, no matter the value of it.
He started the FC's engine, heading straight on towards that fateful passage through Akina's mountain pass...there was only one thing to do now, and he would waste no more time procrastinating. The rotary engine purred happily along, minding its own business much as it had for the last two years…it was a rare moment when it was pushed like it was born to be.

As the slopes came rushing up toward him, his foot grew closer and closer to the floor beneath the accelerator pedal; the heady feeling of the turbo's suction-like pull was something he'd all but forgotten the sensation of. It was as exotic and addictive as he remembered – how had he ever given up?

The corners came on faster and faster as his driving became more and more aggressive; before long, the Mazda's rear end was kicking out around the corners like it was designed to, filling the night air with the intense screams of controlled loss of traction and the smell of toasted rubber.

Ryosuke's driving hadn't grown rusty in the slightest. Despite being out of the racing scene for months upon months at this point, he still had it. Flawless control, flawless execution. His driving was as perfect as it had always been.

Still, like everyone before, it tapered off as the hairpins approached – and not because of the tight nature of the corners.

A lump welled up in his throat as he approached that one deadly turn, a shiny new section of Armco marking the exact point he was looking for. The FC rumbled over to the side of the road by the top end of the straight, purring into a soft idle before cutting out completely with just the hazard lights on.

Ryosuke stepped out into the warm summer evening air, drenched in a cold sweat despite the heat. The hand holding his keys was visibly shaking – it was almost as if he were scared of what he might find here.

On the one hand, he might see a ghost…and shatter his scientific groundings into pieces.

On the other hand, he might not see a ghost…and come to, once again, that horrible, shocking realisation that Takumi Fujiwara was gone for good.

Leather shoes crunched softly against the rough, gravely tarmac at the edge of the road by the Armco barrier; Ryosuke found himself staring at the torn and battered foliage by the spot where the Trueno had been parked in pieces…this was the first time he'd been here since their last race. He hadn't ever visited after Takumi's death.

He glanced around, then drew a deep breath. There was something about this particular night that was insanely haunting…he could feel he wasn't alone, yet the world seemed completely empty. Was this what it was to see a ghost? Simply have these uneasy, unsettled feelings that you weren't alone, that you were being watched?

"Fujiwara…"

Silence.

"Fujiwara…if you're here…" What to say, what to say? "…I'm sorry I never came before. I just…well hell. You were our best racer."

He couldn't help but smile to himself. "I know you won't tell Keisuke I said that…it would break his heart."

Oh boy did he feel stupid standing there talking to himself.

"I miss you, Takumi. I wish you were still here. And this is the first time I've said this. If you're here…I'm glad you heard it from me."

He remained there for another minute or so, gazing at that ruined patch of nature. There were still bits of debris, he noticed, from the hachi-roku…two years after, and still pieces remained. What a mess.

Just as he was about to turn to leave, he felt a tingling in his shoulder. It felt almost like…a hand…reaching out to grab him gently. He gasped softly, whipping around to see if anyone was there. Blood pulsed through the veins in his neck with almost painful force as his heart raced.

No one.

A shaky sigh of relief, and he put it down to a lingering sense of Bunta's earlier shoulder-squeeze.

Or was it?

He couldn't be sure…all he knew is he was getting too worked up, too tired, and needed sleep. Without any further hesitation he retreated to the FC, started the engine up once again and turned back to head towards the city.

---

Sad eyes watched as the white rotary headed away. Why hadn't he seen him? He'd been standing there the whole time!

"Ryo…Ryosuke-san, don't leave…"

The softly-spoken, half-hearted words fell on deaf ears…he couldn't see him. It was something Takumi couldn't understand…Itsuki had seen him, yet Ryosuke hadn't. He hadn't heard him either. He stayed where he was, one hand outstretched limply, reaching for the path of the FC.

"f**k…why does being dead have to suck so much!" Takumi kicked at a small rock in frustration, only to have his foot go straight through it.

"Nyah...just like that…"

Seems he was his own best company as well as his own worst enemy.

What had confused him about that encounter was the fact that Ryosuke couldn't hear him, couldn't see him, yet…yet he'd reacted to Takumi firmly grabbing his shoulder in a desperate attempt to get him to stay. Unfortunately for Takumi, Ryosuke whipping around in a panic had let the ghostly figure crash down to the ground, off-balance, to land on his rear-end.

The world of the dead was something Takumi had not yet truly grasped…sitting and contemplating was not his forte, yet this was what he was sentenced to spending the rest of eternity doing. Sure, he learned quickly…sure, he eventually figured things out…but nothing but endless thought and searching was something that felt like hell to Takumi.

That thought, however…provoked another more frightening prospect. His friends couldn't see him. His father couldn't find him. He could no longer drive, yet was apparently to spend eternity on the mountain he called home…

…was this Hell?
DK_2
Posted: Aug 3 2008, 02:21 AM


I wear purple pants. +1
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OMG.
the last one.
was a bit.
creepy.
nice chapter Shale.
my fave so far. happy.gif
pnoytecknix
Posted: Aug 3 2008, 08:41 AM


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man, im loving this story... sad as hell but its a good one. nice job, shale.
Shale
  Posted: Aug 3 2008, 03:18 PM


/IDW/ Zero Fighter Pilot
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Trust me...it gets sadder + creepier very quickly biggrin.gif
DK_2
Posted: Aug 3 2008, 03:22 PM


I wear purple pants. +1
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yes yes.
i love this!!!
it's BOMBEEZY. xD

new chapter?
Shale
  Posted: Aug 3 2008, 03:31 PM


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New chapter tonight :3 Then I need to start writing mooooar >>;;;
Meteor
Posted: Aug 5 2008, 09:22 AM


Were you expecting something else?
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How convenient. I get my net back and find MOAR CHAPTERS!

Chapter 3 was also quite good. I'm impressed at how well you managed to portray the characters in this one, Bunta and Ryousuke in particular (it takes skill to keep those people in character with a plot of this sort).

Poor Takumi. He's stuck there on the mountain, all alone. .

ME WANTS MOAR CHAPTERS!

However:
QUOTE
A vague hint of hurt crossing his angered features, Keisuke grunted in frustration, turned on his heels, and marched out of his brother's room, sure to slam the door heavily on the way out. He threw the door of his own room open then shut again aggressively as he passed threw, collapsing backward onto his bed with a deep sigh.

I believe that's supposed to be "through".

This post has been edited by Meteor on Aug 5 2008, 10:26 PM
DK_2
Posted: Aug 5 2008, 09:59 PM


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what happened to the chapter "tonight"?!
jk


MOAR PLEASE.
this is too good.
Shale
  Posted: Aug 5 2008, 11:26 PM


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Re: typo... I don't have MS Word on this machine (refuse to put Microsloth crap on my comp) and I think that got ran through a pretty shocking spellchecker :/ That's not a mistake I would normally make (however, because of my nails the initial typo would have been 'though'...)

And I couldn't post as soon as I wanted to because I've been busy and I can't double post....remember? tongue.gif Hurrhurr...

I'll edit this post with more story if I get through it tonight...or if someone responds, even better. Lol.
DK_2
Posted: Aug 5 2008, 11:58 PM


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RESPOND...


ahaha.
im guessing you use an Apple Shale?
Shale
  Posted: Aug 6 2008, 02:17 AM


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Hurrhurr PC laptop at home, Mac G5 at work. The PC is a piece of shite...the Mac has just been upgraded :3 2.0ghz dual-core and is about to get 4GB of RAM...it's yummy biggrin.gif

Now. This is the final chapter I've got pre-written...so updates will be slower from now on while I find the time and motivation to continue writing MOAR...

***

Chapter 4: Bruises from the Past



So much for the summer sun! It had been raining all day today, and now was no exception. Heavy drops of icy summer rain belted against the windows of the train as it breezed through the countryside, its bright front lights slicing through the dusk darkness like scalpel blades.

A youthful face rested against one of the cool windows, dark brown eyes gazing out across the landscape as the locomotive roared along. A familiar sight, but not one that would bring a smile to a certain young woman's face.

Sighing softly, she reached to place a small hand against her swollen belly. A tiny foot reached up to return the touch from within; she felt it as a little bump against her palm…that, however, was enough to bring a feeble smile to her pale features.

Oh how times had changed. She hadn't expected things to go like this…at least, not so soon in her life.

The mountain range grew closer, as did a particular, very familiar peak. The train's path curved inward toward the rising peak; not long now.

"Miss Mogi?" Her head snapped around as she was pulled from her dream world, and she found herself gazing up sleepily at the carriage conductor.

He smiled warmly. "The next stop is Lake Akina…I've got your suitcase, I'll get it down onto the platform for you. Have you got everything else sorted?"

"Hn…yes, I'm ready to go." She returned his smile with a polite nod as he turned to deal with the other passengers. It took a quiet grunt and both hands holding her belly to shift into a more upright, comfortable position; the swollen mound on her front gave her away as well into her third trimester of pregnancy…seven months or so.

Oh how lonely it was, raising a baby alone. The troubled days of her youth had led her into such difficult situations later in life – later being a mere two years or so on – she often wished she'd had more pride, been more sensible.

Her mind remained in the city she'd just left. So much for her education…she'd focussed instead on relationship after relationship trying to find that Mr Right…and on keeping said Mr Right happy.

That had resulted in…well, her current situation. The last alleged Mr Right had left her in the lurch after discovering he was gonna be a father – after all, what a horrible thought, having to raise a baby with 'the other woman'!

And to think…all Natsuki wanted was someone to love her, protect her.

The train pulled to a gentle stop; with much concerted effort, Natsuki managed to pull her small frame up and started for the train's door.

As she got down onto the platform, the conductor handed her the pull-strap for her suitcase and bowed his head politely before hopping back on board. Thank goodness the rain had briefly stopped…Natsuki didn't want to trudge through the rain in the dark since just walking could be a challenge at this late stage in the game.

Still, it wasn't too far to the motel room she'd booked. She set about making her way across the short distance through town from the station to the motel, passing briefly by her old highschool on the way.

That certainly brought back memories.

Once again, her pregnancy threw her emotions for a six…she snuffled as tears flowed down her cheeks, but she soldiered on as if nothing was wrong. Hell, she cried over a cute little skirt she saw in the shop yesterday, over a pretty pair of shoes on the TV, over a pair of baby booties she saw at the store earlier in the week…even over a meal she happened to enjoy while out.

The sun had completely disappeared by the time she reached her motel…as had her pain tolerance. Her poor, swollen feet were screaming blue murder at her for the torture of walking so far. As soon as she'd received her key and opened the door of her room, she fell down onto the bed with a deep, exasperated sigh. Everything hurt, and she was exhausted…

After rummaging around in her suitcase for a nightgown, she pulled it on in place of her day clothes and simply passed out on the soft, comforting mattress.

---

"Want coffee?"

The darker-haired Takahashi wafted a jug of the steaming brown liquid at his younger brother, a full mug grasped firmly in his other hand.

"Hn? Sure, thanks." The blonde glanced up sleepily from his porridge and morning newspaper.

A moment later, a steaming cup of warm coffee was placed beside his bowl of porridge by the older Takahashi, complete with a subtle smile.

"Mm…arigatou." Keisuke grabbed the mug clumsily and took a few heavy slugs of the brewed wake-up call.

The rest of breakfast continued in relative silence, though Keisuke noticed the sullen tension that accompanied most mornings was completely gone this Sunday. As the caffeine began to kick in, so did his level of consciousness…once he was bored with the paper he threw it aside, then folded his arms as he stared, grinning mischievously, at Ryosuke.

Ryosuke finally glanced up quizzically. "Can I help you?"

"You've been different the last couple of days."

He raised one dark brow. "In what way?"

Keisuke's smirk grew. "Let's just say…looks like I have my big brother back."

Ryosuke had a feeling he knew what his younger brother meant. Then again, stringing him along and making his brain work was always a good bit of fun. "I don't recall leaving, actually…"

Keisuke rolled his eyes but retained the smirk. "You know what I mean. You've been a miserable, grumpy bastard ever since the accident but suddenly you're back to your old self. You're not a 70-year-old grumpy old shit that hasn't had any for 50 years any more."

Ryosuke actually flushed red at the last comment…hell, that was unexpected. "I know you're going somewhere with this. Why not just cut to the chase?"

"Sure." He leaned across the table, resting on his elbows. "You went to Akina, didn't you?"

Strangely enough Ryosuke simply mirrored Keisuke's smirk, only to a lesser degree. "At least one of us has changed, eh? You're finally being strongly observant."

Keisuke felt a twinge of pride with the compliment. Wasn't that the first he'd received since Project D's final win? "Yeah well…you've been fairly predictable lately." He rested his chin against his folded arms on the table. "I had a feeling it was over Takumi…I'm guessing you went to the crash site after I bugged your nuts off the other day."

Ryosuke glanced up at his younger brother. "Yes, you're definitely more onto it these days." He smiled softly. "I did go to Akina. And surprise surprise, I didn't see any ghosts. I even stayed by the crash site for a little while. Funnily enough...I was the only one there at the time."

The triumphant expression on the raven-haired Takahashi's face gave rise to a feeling of resentment in Keisuke. Cocky little shit...but at the very least, Ryosuke was a lot more like his old self. "Well at least you're not such an asshole any more. Keep it up, okay?"

With that, Keisuke reached toward the bench to grab an apple from the bowl, and marched out of the kitchen to go about his daily business, leaving his older brother to finish his breakfast in peace.

***

What a day it had been - out shopping and visiting old friends within the small town of Akina. Natsuki had retired to a quiet cafe for her evening meal, her poor feet once again screaming in agony from a day out walking. How did other women manage it? She could barely cope from day to day with the battles she fought both in her mind and physically.

Natsuki squished a scallop between her chopsticks absent-mindedly as she stared out the window at the imposing mountain range beyond. Her mind was a mess - events of past and present had clashed together catastrophically to leave a bloodied battlefield in her head, stacking the sorrow up within her to an unbearable level.

Despite all of the emotions running hot within, Natsuki was still hungry enough to continue eating. She swallowed the somewhat mutilated scallop along with a string or two of udon, still gazing into the distance.

Perhaps this was all part of a higher force punishing her for her sins. She knew now that she'd done some pretty spectacular things in her life that she probably shouldn't have...one of them being that spate of dates back on highschool. Still, hadn't she been punished enough for that already? She was nearly raped! Thank the heavens Takumi had come to her rescue back then.

Takumi...the one reason she was so hesitant in coming back to Akina. The poor boy had been dealt nothing but bad luck right up til his final hour...such a good person leading such a hard life...what was it about him that she loved so much?
A lone tear fell into Natsuki's bowl of udon, but that wasn't enough to spoil it.

Forcing her troubles from her mind for a moment, Natsuki set about polishing off her entire meal before it went completely cold. Ah, good old home-style cooking from one of her favourite restaurants back in the day.

As the night drew on the wind began to pick up. The sun had long since gone down, but the clouds gathering on the horizon were still evident, and still spelled rain later on in the evening. As other patrons in the restaurant began to grow sparse, Natsuki noted it best to pay and leave...get home before the storm.

She stepped outside into the wind and the cold after paying for her meal; within a few seconds her hat was snatched from her head by a paticularly heavy gust and thrown against the driver's side window of a car in the parking lot. Frantically battling the wind, she scrambled after the misplaced article and snatched it off the side of the car.

Back on her head it went...stupid wind. Nice car though...all white and shiny, sleek and low.

As she absent-mindedly admired it, she couldn't help but feel a pang of deja-vu. Hadn't she seen this before?

Celica GT-Four, it seemed. Quite a monster. But where had she seen it before? Where, where, where?

Though the thought nagged her, she decided to let it lie. She turned around with a sigh, prepared to make her journey back to the motel...

...only to find herself bumping into a man's chest face-first.

"Ah! Gomen!" She scrambled backward. "So sorry, I didn-..."

All she saw was a smirk on a very familiar face.

"Well hello sweetness, long time no see!"

Before Natsuki could react, the long-haired man reached out and grabbed her upper arm in one hand, raising the other one to affectionately yet firmly grasp her chin. "Look at you...looks like you've finally grown up eh?"

"Ah..." She tried to pull free, but the day's stresses and strains had tired her out too much to struggle.

"Oh hold still already, I'm not going to hurt you! You know me!" He leaned in closer, tracing the hand on her face down her body, then looped it around her waist.

"Miki...no..." She continued to resist.

"Take it easy, sweetheart. I'm just going to take you home. Can't have you walking around in this weather with the little one to look after." He bumped his stomach gently against hers.

Through his grasp, Natsuki managed to glance down the hill towards the little town of Akina. It was certainly a long walk for a tired mother. Glancing the other way, she saw storm clouds advancing as the wind continued to howl. That car was starting to look tempting...

"Promise me you'll just take me home." She stared into his eyes pleadingly. "Promise me."

Miki just smiled back calmly. "Don't worry, I'll take you home..."

Though she didn't trust him in the least bit, Natsuki's weary body and burning feet demanded a seat in the Celica. As he released his grasp, she obediently limped to the passenger's door and pulled it open, sitting down. Familiar-smelling car...it simply added to her distrust. What was she doing?

Miki sat down next her, smiled cheekily, then started the engine. As they pulled away from the restaurant, Natsuki sighed softly and closed her eyes. What a day...a day like any other day, simply a strain. Why was it such a struggle all of a sudden? Life was so good before. Money came easily and she was well-liked and well-respected. What had she done to deserve all this?

When she opened her eyes, she saw nothing but trees. Wait...Akina's not this way!
"Miki...where are you going?"

He grinned. "Relax Natsuki, I'm just taking a shortcut."

"But..." Shortcut? Akina was directly down the hill! "This isn't the way to the motel!" Looks like she was right to distrust him as much as she did. "Miki, take me to Akina! I want to go home!"

With a deft flick of a wrist, he hit the door locks. No way for her to get out now.
Still, she tried. Whimpering, she yanked and pulled at the door handle on her side, desperately trying to get it open.

"Hey, stop trying to wreck my interior!"

"Let me out!"

With a growl, he yanked the wheel to the left and parked up at the side of the road. Was this it? Was this her freedom?

Apparently not. Miki reached behind his seat and pulled out a roll of duct tape, pulling a length free and ripping it off with his teeth. Before she could react, he had one of her wrists in his free hand.

"Ah! Miki, what are you doing! Let me go!" Her feeble attempts at pulling free did absolutely nothing in his fearsome grasp.

"Oh shut up for once, will you?" He tried to swipe for her other wrist, but her flailing was, for the time being, denying him his prize.

"b*tch, hold still!" He shoved himself against her violently, half-crushing her small frame against the door. While he had her there, he taped her slender little wrists together with the tape.

"No! Let me go!" By now tears were streaming down her pallid cheeks. "I'm pregnant, can't you see? There's nothing interesting about a girl that's pregnant!"
"Oh really?" He grinned, then pulled the hem of her skirt down enough to push his hand through into her underwear. Natsuki cried out, trying to squirm free of this violation...how dare he do this!

"Funny, you still feel like a woman." He pulled his hand out and licked his middle finger. "Smell and taste like one too. I dunno, you're still a b*tch, and I'm going to treat you like you deserve to be treated."

"No...please don't..." This was turning into a nightmare. What was he going to do with her, and what was to become of her after he was done?

"Oh for f**k's sake, stop talking the whole time!" He grabbed the tape again, tearing off enough of a strip to cover her mouth...and did so, with a rather vicious slap.

"That's better." He sighed softly as he reached down to squeeze the rapidly growing hardness masked by his jeans. "I didn't want to have to be so forceful with you Natsuki, but you left me no choice. You should have just stayed quiet like you were when we started out..."

Naturally she gave no reply - she was essentially gagged - as he pulled back onto the road up into the mountains. Perhaps this was her fate...maybe she was meant to die with Takumi up in the mountains.

Doing what they both loved, she mused. Takumi loved driving and racing...that's what he died doing, at the hands of some muppet that hadn't a clue what he was doing. Natsuki...she loved men. She loved doing things that other people turned their noses up at. And now...she and her baby were most likely going to die because of her reputation, and because of yet another muppet that hadn't a clue.

In this case, hadn't a clue how to be a decent human being.

"What the...!" For seemingly no good reason, Miki slammed on the brakes. He didn't come to a complete stop, but the sudden deceleration was enough to make Natsuki cry out despite the tape.

White as a sheet, Miki glanced around the interior of the car and then out at the road before him. His white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel seemed more to steady himself than to steer the car.

Natsuki's eyes were locked on his, trails of tears down her cheeks glistening in the limited light offered by the night sky. He spotted the stare and scowled, regaining his composure.

He was back on his way within a moment, albeit with an air of caution about it. What had startled him, Natsuki wondered. Why did he panic?

The corners came one after another as they climbed through the mountains; the clouds were still thickening around them, and the wind was picking up speed. She didn't want to be here...she shouldn't be here...

A tiny foot gave Natsuki's bladder a nudge from within. No...she couldn't endanger her baby like this...she had a responsibility as a mother! As a particularly dark patch in the road, the light from the cloud-strangled moon blocked by a thick tree canopy, she raised her bound hands to the door lock. Slowly...carefully...Miki must not notice...

"Don't you f**king dare." Miki reached across and wrenched her hands away from the door.

Natsuki cried out, a fresh round of tears streaking down her cheeks.
A moment passed, then Miki's skin ran cold.

"You get off on being a creep, don't you?" A softly-spoken male voice hissed in his ear.

"What...!" Miki swerved violently as he looked over his shoulder to see cold, dark eyes boring into his soul.

Natsuki screamed against the tape, trying her hardest not to be thrown against the door or out of her seat. What was he doing? Was he completely insane?

"Let her go, jerk."

Miki could feel cold breath against his neck as a man's face lingered mere inches from his own. A figure, a disturbingly familiar figure, was poised with an arm on each seat and his shoulders between them. Yet, when Miki looked, he found he could see straight through the whispy, translucent figure.

"This can't be real..." He gulped, white-knuckled fists chattering uncontrollably against the wheel. "Get out!"

After a moment, Miki whipped his head around to glance rearward.

Nothing.

Nothing but darkness.

Ahead, nothing but forest bathed in the blue-hued glare of the headlights.

Natsuki's tear-streaked cheeks glimmered softly in the bluish glow. By now her ragged breaths were clearly audible above the roar of the Celica's exhaust, but had fallen on deaf ears. Miki was blatantly almost as terrified as she was, but to her, it was completely inexplicable. What was he seeing?

His features lit up after a moment - the old Miki returned with a callous smirk. "Time to leave Akina. Hold tight sweet-cheeks, this is going to be a wild ride."

Before she could think of reacting the scream of second gear filled the cabin, along with the ear-shattering squeal of the rear tyres breaking traction. The Toyota had broken out into an aggressive drift as Miki pushed the vehicle harder than he'd ever dared to in the past.

"Where do you think you're going?"

His eyes darted up to the rear view mirror - no, it couldn't be!

But yes it was. A second, a third glance...they all told the same story. There was Takumi Fujiwara, sitting in his back seat. And he did not look happy.

"Get out of my f**king car!" Miki screamed, seemingly into thin air. "Get out!"

Takumi pulled himself forward again, each hand on a chair. He leaned in close...close enough for Miki to feel his breath. "You know you can't get rid of me until you let the girl go. Now do it...or I'll be following you for the rest of eternity."

Miki's quivering figure gave him away. The thought of being haunted by the ghost of one of his sworn enemies...less than ideal.

Without an inkling of warning he slammed on the brakes, engaging the ABS and forcing the Toyota to come to a halt. He wasted no time - after yanking the handbrake up he released his seatbelt, then released Natsuki's seatbelt. Reaching a little further he unlocked the door, pulled the handle then with all his might, shoved Natsuki completely out of the car.

As the door swung fully open, Natsuki hit the ground with a sickening thud. The door rebounded against its hinge then swung shut again - Miki reached for it, pulled it shut, then took off with a deafening screech, launching gravel with all four tyres at horrendous speed.

It took only a moment for him to be gone. Within a heartbeat, Natsuki found herself lying on the icy ground, hurt and alone.

As the silence of the evening hammered against her ears, Natsuki shuffled gently against the ground in an effort to pull herself up. She could feel the flesh on her left arm and left leg burning - raw and exposed.

Whimpering and sniffling, she gave up the battle to pull herself upright. It was cold, dark and late at night. She was in the middle of the forest alone. Heavily pregnant and exhausted, the odds were against her.

That intense feeling of loneliness was enough to bring forth a fresh round of tears. She knew hardly anyone frequented the mountain roads at this time of night...she would die out here with her baby, there was no doubt about it in her mind.

Silence continued to echo in her ears as time drew on. By now she was shivering, and her tears had dried up to leave cold, clammy flesh in their wake. She'd begun to lose the feeling in the arm and leg pressed against the ground - thank goodness, because the searing pain had hence eased to a dull, warm throb.

Definitely injured, definitely bleeding...somehow she just wished it would pass and she too could do the same. No point in a drawn-out death, right?

Oddly enough, she suddenly wasn't feeling so lonely. Despite her shivering, there was no movement from deep within her. Her baby would still be with her, though it was clearly sleeping - but why did she no longer feel so alone?

With a sigh she closed her eyes, willing herself to sleep. It would be easier that way, surely. Her hands and feet were going numb with cold. So too was her nose, her ears as well.

Still, if she didn't fight it, two lives would be wasted. She was after all responsible for another, tiny beating heart within. She couldn't give up quite this easily...

Grudgingly, she let her eyes drift open again. Perhaps help would come...

Instead of help, she found herself staring into a pair of soft brown eyes, riddled with concern.

She gasped loudly, reeling back painfully against the gravel. Her eyes locked onto the face before her, tears once again spilling forth.

The ghostly figure's expression changed quickly to surprise. "You can see me?"

Despite herself, Natsuki nodded.

A translucent hand reached out to touch her cold, shivering face - it drifted straight through her flesh as if she wasn't even there.

"Natsuki...take that tape off your mouth, you can't breathe properly with that on there..."

Gravel crunched softly as she shifted her bound hands upward and began tugging on a corner of the tape. It was so thick, so sticky...she knew this would hurt.

Slowly, carefully, she pulled the grey tape from her flesh; unfortunately it took with it victory spoils in the form of a fair share of the skin on her lips.

"Oh God...Takumi...I want to go home..." Blood trickled down one cheek as she dropped the tape on the ground. It had left her with a split lip in several places...great, more blood lost.

"I wish I could take you." He muttered sadly. "But I can't..."

"Takumi, I miss you..." She pulled herself a little closer to his body, lying opposite her on the cold, sharp gravel.

His forlorned expression almost killed her inside. "Natsuki, you're alive...and I'm not..." His eyes traced her injured figure. "It looks like you've moved on...please, don't harbour feelings for me."

"But..." She fought the tears as she licked her lips - the wetness was turning to coldness and making her whole face feel numb. "But I can't live without you..."

His smile was hardly one of amusement. "You have until now. Natsuki..." He shifted against the gravel. Despite the ghost's movement, there was no sound...not a thing moved against his translucent skin. "...it looks like you have a baby to look after. You're going to be a mother...you can't be worried about people from the past. Especially freaks like that jerk that dragged you out here and dumped you. You have to look to the future..."

Shuddering violently as the cold enveloped her very being, Natsuki closed her eyes. "I don't really have much of a future, do I?" Her voice wavered, as shaky as the rest of her body. "No job, no family, no partner, no friends, no home..."

"Well you can't just die here." Takumi's matter-of-fact tone wrung a sniffle from the poor girl.

"What options do I have?" Her frightened eyes locked on his. "I'm exhausted...I can't walk back to my hotel! And what if Miki comes back?"

"I doubt he will." Takumi smirked. "He saw a ghost."

Despite the situation, Natsuki smiled. "So that's what he was panicking about..."

"Yeah. I saw him put that tape on your mouth and on your hands, and I knew I couldn't just sit and watch. I hitched a ride in his back seat and forced him to let you go." He sighed. "I didn't really think it through though; I wanted him to turn around and take you home but he just shoved you out of the car instead."

"I noticed that." She squirmed against the rocks that were slowly eating into her icy flesh.

Tense silence filled the air once again. So, this was it. Looks like she'd finally gone mad. After all, she was lying on the ground with her hands bound, in the middle of nowhere, chatting with a ghost.

Oh well, she might as well enjoy it.

With a soft grunt, Natsuki pulled herself over to lie on her back. It was quite a task, but she soon found herself staring up at the sky. Thankfully the road was somewhat cambered where she lay so the full weight of her baby wasn't resting on her spine.

After a solid length of silence, Natsuki spoke up. "Hey Takumi, remember when we went to the beach together?"

"Yeah..." By now he had done the same - and was lying, staring up at the thick, looming clouds above. The air was heavy with moisture...it would probably rain soon.

"I miss those days. That's what I want the future to be...just lots of fun, like when we were at school."

Takumi simply smiled in response. Yeah...that would be nice.

"I wish you smiled for that photo."

He grunted. "I hate photos."

"Yeah, I know...but still. Would have given me something to remember you by."

"Why not just remember me from the times we had together?"

A soft smile graced Natsuki's features. "Like the time we kissed in your car?"

The ghostly face took on a shade of pink. "I remember that..."

A hushed giggle broke through the quiet night air. "You were so shy...so cute...unlike any man I've ever met before."

As rain began to sprinkle down, splashing gently against the rough road surface, Natsuki rolled back over to face the ghostly figure beside her. "Takumi...I have to be honest...I wish I'd never moved to the city. After everything that's happened...I should have stayed right here with you. I..."

Takumi hushed her. "What's done is done...I'm not here any more, you have to soldier on alone."

The pain in her eyes was palpable. "I know...but..."

"Then there's no point in wishing for something that can't happen. Sorry Natsuki..."

"Takumi." She shuffled closer. "Do you love me?"

His eyes glanced away for a moment. "I did..."

That was enough...that would do. "I loved you too."

She moved forward just a little more...to her surprise, her forehead met his. Warm and dry, his skin was a welcome contrast to her own icy, damp flesh. But it was still quite a shock. "Ta..."

The same emotions were evident on his face. "Natsuki..." Could it be? Could it be he was alive again?

No such luck. Natsuki's face was ashen, almost blue. She was quaking with cold, her jaw chattering even above the pitter-patter of raindrops.

"This isn't good..." He reached across to place a hand on her upper arm. "Natsuki...you need to fight to stay alive. You're dying..." He knew nearly nothing about this afterlife he was trapped within, but he did instinctively know that if she couldn't see him to start with, the fact that she could see and hear him at all was a bad sign. The fact that she could now touch him was worse - she was slipping away.

"What do you mean? This is wonderful..." She laughed weakly. "Takumi, you look like you're alive...I can feel you!"

"No Natsuki, this is bad...the more alive I seem to you, the closer to death you are..." He traced his fingers up her body, from her arm to her cheek. "Promise me Natsuki...promise me you will fight this. You can't die here, you have a baby to look after..."

She whimpered softly, too satisfied by his touch for her own good. If she died here and now, so be it. They could be a family at least...together in the mountains forever.

"Don't you let go on me..."

"Ssssh." She hissed softly, before gently brushing her lips against his.

The sensation of the briefest of touches rang through both of them from head to toe. For a moment, the idea of company for the rest of eternity seemed like a good idea to Takumi. The idea of having someone...anyone...to keep the loneliness and silence at bay.

But that would mean robbing a little one of its mother and its life. There was no way it should even be considered an option.

Their eyes remained locked together for what seemed like almost an eternity in itself. Though Natsuki could feel herself fading, it was something she no longer wanted to resist. She would be with a man who could appreciate her even if it killed her. And it seemed it would.

With what little energy she had left, she leaned in once more, intent on capturing the soft, warm lips before her. She could feel his breath, so hot in comparison to her cold, ragged breaths. Just one kiss...just one last kiss...

Mere millimetres separated them when Takumi inexplicably decided to sit up, staring into the distance behind Natsuki. Dismayed and disappointed, she made a feeble attempt to look up at him, trying to determine what he was looking at.

"Car..." he uttered.

"Hn? Taku..."

"A car...a car is coming..." He got to his feet. "Natsuki...hang in there, okay? There's a car coming..."

"Where?" Her voice was weak.

"Over the next hill...there are headlights ahead."

Sure enough, two yellow-hued headlights were approaching at a modest pace. The rain was by now growing heavier, and visibility was undoubtedly diminishing.

Would they see her?

The shape of an old white van appeared in the halo of the headlamps as the yellowed light reflected off the figure of a young girl lying on the roadside. As it was nearly upon her, the front of the vehicle pitched down sharply. The driver had spotted her and hit the brakes...

The passenger's door swung open and the figure of a middle-aged local woman hit the ground running. Within moments she was bent over the young girl, feeling for a pulse and shaking her shoulder.

"Honey! Oh good grief, Akira! She's not conscious! Come quick!"

The driver leapt from his perch in the van and ran over to join his wife. "Wow, she's young...and look, she's expecting! We have to take her to the hospital!"
Bathed in the light from the van, the night sprung into chaotic action. Takumi watched on unseen as the middle-aged, balding little man scooped Natsuki up in his arms and carried her towards the van, his wife running alongside. Within no time she was bundled into the van, swaddled in blankets, and they were on their hasty way.

It wasn't long before it had disappeared from view and earshot, replacing the commotion of the rescue with more cold, dark and silent night. For a time, it almost seemed that the whole scenario hadn't actually happened.
But it had, and Takumi had seen almost too much for his liking. The world had changed since he'd been alive...and he wasn't sure he liked it. Not only had everyone moved on, but everything seemed so much more sinister than it had before.

The rolling thunder clouds above caught Takumi's gaze once again. Perhaps it was a good thing he was here rather than out there in that violent, hateful existence...Akina gave him peace. Loneliness yes, but plenty of peace.
DK_2
Posted: Aug 6 2008, 02:42 AM


I wear purple pants. +1
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Posts: 1,993
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that was f**king intense. pinch2.gif
idk what else to expect.
very good Shale.
this is f**king awesome.

i can't wait for more?
Meteor
Posted: Aug 6 2008, 05:42 AM


Were you expecting something else?
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Hang in there Natsuki! Don't die yet!

MOHTO PUREEZE!
garrethking
Posted: Aug 6 2008, 06:54 AM


DJ G²
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This is owning. Can't wait for the next.

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