Disclaimer: not mine. the end.

Note: This takes place about a month after the end of the film and about ten years after the first part of the story. Explanations are found at the end.

Comments are always welcome.

Mugen

By Nicole Silverwolf

"Time to take the wheel and the road from the masters

Take this car, drive it straight into the wall

Build it back up from the floor.

And stop our cryin'"

-excerpt from 'Crying' by TV on the Radio from the album Dear Science

It was cold and Speed found he was infinitely glad for having dumped an extra layer on underneath his usual jacket. The night sky was bright though and all the clearer for the cold air. He was grateful for the quiet.

Time spent at Thunderhead was his time and he was coming to value it more every single day. A month post Grand Prix victory and the novelty of celebrity had already worn very thin. Here there was at least an escape from the constant lenses turned on him and every aspect of his life. Though it was no secret that Thunderhead was his home track the media never bothered him within its confines. He probably had the track's dedicated technician staff to thank for that.

The last few lights of the track went off; he'd already waved his goodbyes to the techs who had left him undisturbed after practice. The Mach 6 was calm under him, the hood still slightly warm.

The fall air was crisp with the scent of leaves even here on the track of metal. It couldn't be much past six but if he didn't get going he'd miss dinner. Spaghetti with meatballs, since it was Wednesday. Mom would be pissed if he didn't make it.

Yet Speed didn't move. Habits die hard and this one had only become more ingrained over time not less. Some might have thought it crazy, and he was sure that if he explained himself to anyone else they wouldn't understand.

This was where he felt closest to Rex. And even now, he was reluctant to leave, worried that closeness would fade away.

Some reporter from the Times had asked him a question and he had barely held his temper in check when the man had insinuated why he hadn't visited his brother's grave after the Grand Prix victory.

"Don't you feel close to him since he's buried there? Do you avoid your brother's grave because it reminds you of his failure?" It had been a part of a larger, and more than a little uncomfortable probe about how he felt about surpassing his brother's accomplishments. The guy hadn't known what he was getting into. If Trixie and Sparky had not been there to hold him back there would have been a brawl and likely some very negative press as a result.

But the conversation had rattled him. Especially since nearly a week later he was still thinking about it.

He hadn't answered the reporter. No reporter was worthy of the truth.

Thunderhead had (and would always be) so important to both of them. Driving in the car, he could hear his brother's advice so clearly, remember things he was terrified of forgetting about Rex. His brother's voice, sternly telling him to close his eyes and listen nearly a decade before had helped him win the Grand Prix, more than anyone else would ever know. Even during routine runs around the track the plan he would set out in his head came in his brother's voice.

So much of what had made Rex--Rex--was here. Many of the best memories Speed kept, were on this mountain of track. And in those horrible moments when he forgot his brother's face, or the cadence of his voice some memory from this track was what Speed used to fill the blanks.

Because he couldn't remember for anything he'd ever give, what his brother's face looked like at Christmas. But it always seemed to look like it did after he'd won a race. At least in Speed's mind.

And finishing here, dead center on the checkers was a part of that. He'd only barely managed to do it at the Grand Prix and that had most definitely been by luck rather than design. There was something important in that he was sure.

If only Rex could have seen him.

If only...if only. Those words often dominated his thoughts out here, especially when settled on the hood. And they never ended with him feeling better for it. Besides, this place was like infinity he reminded himself firmly and there weren't any "if only's" there. A good smile shyly lit his face at that.

One more tiny way he tried not to forget his brother.

Just as he was considering taking the car back to the garage for maintenance, something he wouldn't associate with Thunderhead reached him.

The sound of approaching heels set him on edge.

If it was a reporter, he flat out didn't want to talk. This was the one place he could feel completely normal aside from being around Trixie. He was furious that anyone would try to take that away from him. Pulling together a witty one liner to scold this woman with, he spun.

And promptly stumbled over everything he had planned to say.

Of all the people he'd expected to see, Horuko Togokhan was probably on the bottom of that list. She wasn't dressed as elegantly as the night she'd snuck away from the opera to give him the opportunity of a lifetime but it didn't matter. The woman was still stunning and all she was wearing were jeans and a sweater with a scarf wrapped around her shoulders.

Her stride was confident; proof that even if she didn't race she'd spent a lot of time on a track. But even then she approached with respect. Somehow aware that this was clearly off limits to outsiders. She stopped a few feet from Speed and smiled, waiting for an unspoken invitation to come closer.

He slid to the ground and stood, awkwardly trying to smooth his coat and wildly sticking up hair into some order. "Um, Horuko!" the young man had become completely tongue tied (which according to Trixie wasn't actually that hard to do).

She hid a laugh behind firmly pressed lips as she watched. It was clear that while he was an incredible racer, he was also still only eighteen.

"What are you doing here?" and while it wasn't what he'd meant to say it was all that got out.

Horuko composed her words before she spoke. Whatever she said always seemed deliberate and assured. "I apologize for intruding Speed Racer, but I felt that I needed to thank you in person. It was unfortunately impossible to find you amid all the press and celebrations at the Grand Prix."

Suddenly sheepish, he scuffed worn shoes on the pavement. An hand crept up to scratch at the back of his neck. "Thank me for what? I should be thanking you. I mean, if you hadn't brought me that ticket well then none of this would have happened."

His words were genuine and she was touched by his sincerity. It only confirmed that she had made the right decision that afternoon. When she'd snuck into her brother's office and pocketed the Grand Prix invitation with no solid plan she had briefly considered giving it to Racer X before settling on Speed.

"Never the less, every single racer owes you a debt for what you did. You will help to change racing for the better; I know it. What you did that night was probably the single largest reason my brother finally decided to testify against Royalton."

She'd stepped a bit closer with that emphatic statement so they were standing arms width from each other. The resemblance to the last time they'd done so was striking. Their shared smiles were proof they had been reminiscing along similar lines.

Fishing into a pocket she dug around until she found what she was looking for. It seemed like a wholly un-Horuko thing to do Speed decided, though he'd admit that he barely knew her.

"This is for you," and she dropped a carved stone into Speed's outstretched palm. "It's a tradition in our family, but as I understand it, the symbol comes from deeper traditions than our own."

The young man turned it over to inspect, curious.

"It's a symbol of mugen," she explained.

As if that would help him understand.

It was a figure eight, heavier at the bottom than at the top so it resembled a banked track more than the strict numeric symbol. Immediately it reminded him of the dogbowls. It had weight, felt firm in his hand, and nothing like a piece of jewelry he might buy Trixie.

But what did "mugen" mean? Horuko had pronounced it effortlessly, so he had to wonder if it was Korean. He'd never been known for his poker face so Speed wasn't surprised when she smiled in understanding.

"Mugen, roughly translated from the original Japanese can mean many things. I have always liked the idea that mugen means without limitation...infinite."

His fist closed around the stone fiercely, and Speed was plainly startled when he looked up at her.

"I know this is nothing of great value, but please keep it as a symbol of our gratitude and of our friendship. Taejo and I both knew your older brother and he seemed to always like the sentiments behind that. He never explained why."

The shocked lump lodged in his throat kept Speed silent.

"I would be honored that if you ever need anything you consider us your friends."

The shock melted into a genuine grin and Speed nodded once.

Horuko didn't seem to mind his silence, since his expression clearly spoke volumes.

The jangle of a cell phone ringing broke the comfortable silence. Though both of them scrambled for their own in typical where-did-I-stick-it fashion, Horuko produced her sleek model first, and accepted the call with an apologetic sigh.

She spoke rapidly in Korean for only a few moments before hanging up. "I'm sorry," her apology sounded embarrassed. "My brother is wondering where I've gone. I did not let him know I was heading out. He tends to be a bit overprotective."

"That's alright. My family's probably waiting for me to start dinner. They're kind of expecting me. Can I offer you a ride?" At least some of his manners had kicked in (Mom would be proud).

"No, but I do thank you. I brought my own," she gestured behind her and he could see a beautiful cherry red vehicle parked right outside of victory lane. It was definitely a race car too, and Speed reconsidered whether Taejo's younger sister could drive like her brother. Nothing had stopped Trixie from keeping up with him at Cassa Cristo that was for sure.

"I look forward to seeing you race again Speed. Until then." Horuko waved once and turned to leave.

Speed nearly tripped when he tried to catch up.

"Horuko!"

She paused and turned. The young man had drawn up to her side obviously needing to say something.

"Thanks again, for this. My brother," he hesitated and Horuko wanted desperately to tell him that it was alright. That he didn't have to share whatever he was trying to divulge if he didn't want to.

Speed pressed on however before she could voice the protest.

"Rex loved this track because he told me once it was like infinity. This," and he held up the fist that hadn't slacked around the stone, "means a lot. Thank you."

Horuko almost wanted to press, ask some question she didn't even fully have in her mind but found she couldn't. His words were more generous than she had believed people were capable of.

"You're welcome," she intoned warmly and strode away to the car. Speed watched her pull away aware of how clearly a skilled driver Horuko was.

Speed uncurled his palm, now indented with figure eights.

"Infinite, huh Rex?" he murmured, eyes traveling down the track and tracing the familiar curves.

Well, his family could wait another couple minutes he decided as he sprinted back towards the car. One more lap would only take him about ten minutes anyways.

Owari

Postscripts:

-So it's hard to tell if Taejo and Horuko are meant to be of Korean or Japanese descent (though Rain is a Korean pop star, Nan Yu is from China). I'm gonna hedge my bets and treat this world a bit like the Wachowski brothers did and conflate a little. So much of the visual language they used borrows from multiple cultures it's hard to pin point which ethnicity they may or may not have been going for.

-Mugen does in fact translate (as a pun/homonym) to infinite in Japanese and depending on the context can mean dream, fantasy, infinity, and without limitation (fans of Samurai Champloo will note where this came from).

-The stone Speed receives is actually a Maori (native persons of New Zealand) traditional symbol for friendship. In the case of the Pikorua, or Twist, the design depicts two new shoots growing together and represents the joining of cultures and the bonding of friendship for life. Typically there are three twists in the stone but I happen to have one that looks like a figure eight that I got when visiting New Zealand last summer.

So...comments, criticisms, flames, praise...anything you'd like to throw at me? Please do so now.

Thanks for reading.