Ryousuke and Kyouichi

Chapter 1

Kyouichi answered his cellphone. "This is Sudou Kyouichi."

"This is Ryousuke." Ok, that stopped Kyouichi. He turned off the TV. The last time they'd spoken was after Project D's win against the pro driver, Tachi Tomoyuki.

"What is it?" Kyouichi said.

"I'm in Tochigi. I just got out of a conference. Do you want to meet up for dinner?" Ryousuke asked. Dinner with Ryousuke? Perhaps Ryousuke wanted to talk about Project D. He wasn't the type to boast though. Perhaps this was Ryousuke's indirect way of thanking him for the warning that Toudou school was bringing in a pro for a rematch. That was most likely.

"I had a long day. I don't feel like going out," Kyouichi said.

"That's fine," Ryousuke said. "I'll pick up some food and drop by your place in about half an hour."

Kyouichi agreed before realizing what he'd done. Dinner with Ryousuke? They didn't even like each other. And how did Ryousuke know his new address? Kyouichi had moved and hadn't given Ryousuke his new address.

Kyouichi picked up around the apartment before Ryousuke's arrival. For the most part, Kyouichi lived very neatly for a bachelor. He certainly didn't have empty food wrappers around the living room. Ryousuke was also a neat freak though, and Kyouichi's competitive streak drove him to reshelve the few magazines that had been on the table and to relocate the clean dishes from the dishwasher to the cabinets.

Before long, Ryousuke arrived. Okay, so Ryousuke did somehow have his new address. Kyouichi answered the door with little expression. Ryousuke was dressed in full suit and tie.

"Come in."

"I brought sushi," Ryousuke said. He set it down on the living room table. "I assumed you'd have drinks."

"Sure."

Kyouichi mixed two strawberry daiquiris before realizing that he probably should've asked what Ryousuke wanted to drink. Ryousuke accepted the strawberry daiquiri without comment though. He probably still liked the things, and Kyouichi was damn good at mixing them. Just as disturbing was the fact that Ryousuke had known exactly what sushi to get. Okay, so it shouldn't have been a surprise. They'd eaten together before.

Over dinner, there seemed to be an unsaid agreement to not talk about cars. That still left them with a lot to talk about. Kyouichi worked in the Koganezawa lab, and, although Ryousuke did not work in research, he was ever interested in hearing about the developments in biological research and biotech. Not that there was much that Kyouichi could say about it. Ryousuke was every bit as well-read in the matter as Kyouichi, but Ryousuke made for an interesting debate partner. There were all the normal projects: human genome project, new mice strains, attempts in cloning. Both of them agreed that it was only a matter of time before scientists found a way to clone a cat or a dog, but, once that happened, the ethics debates that would arise would forestall any further cloning for years to come. Certainly the cloning of humans was still a matter of science fiction.

It was odd to be having this conversation with Ryousuke. They'd parted ways over a year ago, when Ryousuke had beaten Kyuoichi on Mt. Iroha. Thereafter, they hadn't spoken to each other until the day that Kyouichi came to Takasaki to challenge Ryousuke to a rematch. Still, it was refreshing to be able to converse like this. In the lab, it was all work, and Kyouichi wasn't close to any of his coworkers. Off work, Kyouichi hung around the Emperor team, and they certainly weren't the brightest people in the world. Kyouichi was rarely able to talk shop, to switch from talk about genetic engineering to an article in the paper about software companies without losing the other person, and he knew that, if he wanted to, they could just as easily switch to talking about cars.

"So is the MI conference all week?" Kyouichi asked when it started getting late. He still had work the next day.

Ryousuke nodded. "I'll be in the area until Friday."

"Where's the MI conference again?"

"At Utsunomiya University actually. I'm staying at the Royal Hotel Utsunomiya," Ryousuke said.

"All right. If you're not doing anything with your colleagues, give me a call tomorrow when you're done."

---

Work passed in a blur. Kyouichi mostly diluted samples and ran assays. He'd done these things hundreds of times. Instead, Kyouichi's mind was on Ryousuke. Ryousuke's call out of the blue to hang out together was still a mystery. But it made no sense. Ryousuke and Kyouichi had never been close. In fact, he'd met Fumihiro before he'd met Ryousuke.



On his way up Mt. Akagi, Kyouichi passed a white FC and felt a flash of lightning. That driver was good. At a vantage point on Mt. Akagi, Kyouichi found an MR2 parked to the side. Its driver was watching the white FC drive down the Akagi course. Kyouichi parked next to the MR2. The rotary engine caught the MR2 driver's attention.

"Was that the White Comet?" Kyouichi asked.

"Yeah." The MR2 driver glanced at Kyouichi's car. "And you must be the Black Comet, driver of the legendary black FC of Akagi."

Kyouichi nodded. "Sudou Kyouichi. I didn't choose that title for myself."

"I'm Hiroshi Fumihiro." They shook hands. "It's odd that we haven't met before this, but I hear you run this course earlier in the evening."

"At slightly more normal hours, yes," Kyouichi said. The White Comet, when it did show up, was known to show up on Akagi after 1 A.M. "I couldn't sleep tonight so came out for a drive."

Fumihiro laughed. "Well met." He turned his attention back to the course. "Rumor is that you and Ryousuke are on a team together. Twin Comets of Akagi. Or was it the Twin Stars?" Fumihiro shrugged and said, "If you wait for Ryousuke to come back up here after he's finished the course, I'll introduce the two of you. It's probably time the two best drivers of Akagi met."



Kyouichi was home before he knew it. It was pathetic, waiting at home for Ryousuke to call. Screw it. Kyouichi grabbed his wallet and keys. Ryousuke could arrive and find no one at home. Yes, Kyouichi liked that idea.

Unfortunately, he opened the door to find Ryousuke with hand raised to knock.

"Hi," Kyouichi said (somewhat lamely, he had to admit to himself).

"You're psychic," Ryousuke said. It was better than having him think that Kyouichi had been waiting at the door for Ryousuke to show up.

"What, didn't bring anything this time?" Kyouichi said.

"Did you want me to?"

"No. I made reservations at Miraku," Kyouichi said.

"Excellent. I'm in the mood for French cuisine," Ryousuke said. Great, now Kyouichi would have to make reservations. "I'll meet you there."

"We could just take my car, you know," Kyouichi said.

Ryousuke laughed. "Good one. Shall we race to see who gets there first?"

"No, thanks."

"Good. I don't approve of racing on city streets."

Ryousuke got back in his FC and headed off to Miraku. Kyouichi called as he drove and made reservations for two. Needless to say, dinner was wonderful. For $120, it'd better be. They had oyster, roasted chicken salad, goose liver, beef filet pastry, tiramisu, cheesecake, and some other things that Kyouichi couldn't remember because he'd eaten too much. Dinner might've been worth its price if they hadn't added a bottle of Aloxe-Corton '99 to the order. Okay, so Kyouichi had blown his budget (on dinner with Ryousuke no less). At the moment, he didn't really care. He'd had just a bit too much of the Aloxe-Corton '99.

"Merci beaucoup, Monsieurs," said the waiter. He put down a tray with a leather case for the bill and two mint chocolate truffles.

"I got it," Kyouichi said as he reached for the bill.

"What are you talking about? It's already billed to my card," Ryousuke said. Kyouichi looked at the bill. Shit, sure enough, it wasn't a bill but a receipt for a credit card charge.

"I can't let you pay for dinner," Kyouichi said.

"It's my treat. It's the least I could do for your call about Toudou school's plan to use Tachi Tomoyuki in a revenge match," Ryousuke said.

"You paid for dinner last night."

"Last night's dinner was just take-home sushi, hardly a proper thanks," Ryousuke said. "Look, don't worry about it. I'll put it on Project D's bill."

"Isn't it the same as yours?" Kyouichi asked. He reluctantly handed over the receipt to Ryousuke.

"Not quite." Ryousuke signed the receipt and ate his truffle. "Let's get back to your place."

Great, so now Kyouichi owed Ryousuke for dinner. Kyouichi was annoyed but not as annoyed as he knew he should've been. Dinner had been good, really good. He'd picked the place on the fly because of Ryousuke's sudden appearance at his doorstep. Otherwise, he'd never go to Miraku. Hell, he didn't even take his girlfriends there. Wonderful, Kyouichi thought. Now I really am a bitch. Ryousuke just paid for my dinner.

Ryousuke was already at the apartment when Kyouichi arrived. "Ah, there you are," Ryousuke said. "I was beginning to worry."

"Worry?" Kyouichi snorted.

"You had a bit more to drink than you should've," Ryousuke said. "I'll give you a call tomorrow if I'm free."

"You're leaving?" Kyouichi said.

"You should rest," Ryousuke said. "And I should get back. My presentation is tomorrow."

"But-"

"On Thursday."

"Judging by the extraordinarily long amount of time it took you to get from your Evo to your apartment door, I'd say you've imbibed far too much wine to be good company," Ryousuke said.

"Fine."

"Good night." Ryousuke left after making sure Kyouichi was able to open the door to his apartment.

Kyouichi zoned in front of the TV for some of the evening before sleeping off the rest of the night.

---

Most people would've described Ryousuke's expression as Kyouichi drove up in his new black Lan-Evo III as being quite straight-faced. However, Kyouichi was more observant than that. Ryousuke wasn't pissed, per se. He wasn't surprised even though this was his first time seeing the Evo III. He wasn't even disappointed. For any who knew him well enough, Ryousuke's look was one of disapproval.

Ryousuke skipped the customary "hi" for greeting and said, "You got a Lancer Evolution III." It wasn't really a question. Ryousuke could ID cars.

"Yeah. I've wanted a Lan-Evo for a while. Been following the Evo series since the 1993 Monte Carlo Rally," Kyouichi said. His tone was not apologetic. He simply stated the facts. "My parents got it for me as a graduation present."

"Hm." Ryousuke took a circle around the Evo III. "The 4WD should be markedly different from the FR setup of the FC."

"Yeah, but I'm getting used to it," Kyouichi said.

"I haven't seen you around Akagi much," Ryousuke noted. "Where've you been practicing?"

"Mt. Iroha. I got a job in Tochigi in the Koganezawa lab at Utsunomiya University," Kyouichi said.

That was one of the fundamentally weird parts of their relationship. Despite both being obsessive about organization, Ryousuke and Kyouichi rarely planned their meetings. After all, they weren't on a team together or anything. But after their first meeting, Kyouichi had started driving Akagi later at night, and Ryousuke had started driving somewhat earlier. They'd met at about 11 P.M. every few days. Then they'd hung out, driven, and analyzed each other's technique. Other than that, they had hung out together only rarely and spoken little about their lives outside of their cars. They hadn't really been friends, more like close acquaintances. This meeting was one of the few exceptions to their normal chance encounters. Ryousuke had called Kyouichi and asked him to meet him on Akagi at 10 P.M.

"Let's see how you do on your old home course," Ryousuke said.

"Sure."

Kyouichi was eager to show Ryousuke what he could do with his Lan-Evo anyway. He was thinking about starting a Lan-Evo team. Perhaps if he could convince Ryousuke to get an Evo too (money was not the difficult part of the convincing), they could start a serious racing team. Being an independent racer was all well and good, but there were some perks to being on a team. A team could build a bigger reputation than an individual. He suspected that Ryousuke would be game for such a goal. But would he be willing to create a legend with an Evo instead of his old FC? There'd be some logistical issues to work out if they started a team. For one thing, Ryousuke lived in Takasaki, and Kyouichi now lived in Tochigi, but Kyouichi was confident that such details could be worked out.

Kyouichi was surprised at how much easier Akagi's course was now. Instead of drifting through the corners, Kyouichi simply accelerated in corners and let the 4WD kick in. His timer clocked him as beating his best time in his FC by seconds, not just milliseconds! He'd a closer approximation of his course time from Ryousuke. He drove back up Akagi, and even the uphill was easy.

"What did you think?" Kyouichi couldn't help but to be excited. He finally had a car that he could put his all into.

"Your driving lacks grace," Ryousuke said.

"I'm still new to my Evo. Did you see the time? I think it's a new course record!"

"You beat your best time by 3.4 seconds and can probably shave more time off that with practice." Ryousuke's eyes narrowed. "But Kyouichi, are you sure you want to go this route?"

"Switch from FR to 4WD?" So Ryousuke was going to be obstinate after all. "Of course," Kyouichi said. "I want to drive rally someday."

"Okay."

That was all they said about the matter. Kyouichi didn't mention starting a new team because he knew that Ryousuke wouldn't be willing to give up his FC for a Lan-Evo. Kyouichi ran Akagi's downhill one last time and then headed back to Tochigi. His home course was Iroha now. There was no point in dwelling on the past.

---

When Kyouichi awoke, he was still too groggy to be defensive. He just felt a sense of nostalgia.

So that's the only reason we stopped being friends.

It was obvious, but Kyouichi had never thought of it before. Perhaps he hadn't wanted to think about it. After practicing on Iroha with his Evo III for weeks, he'd challenged Ryousuke and lost. They hadn't seen each other again until Kyouichi had issued the rematch challenge.

He still drives his FC, and I still drive my Evo, Kyouichi thought. Nothing's changed.

---

To be continued

---

Endnotes: Dolly the cloned sheep was not born until 1996, and articles about Dolly won't be published until February 22-23, 1997. MI in MI conference stands for myocardial infarction (in other words, heart attack). Restaurant Miraku: http://www.miraku.jp. The Evo III was released in 1995: http://www.lancerregister.com/pdf/Evo1to3guide.pdf. Alas, it meant I could not get them to go to the last TMN concert together after all.