Disclaimer: I don't own Initial D, Shigeno-sensei and the Kodansha Publishing Company do.
A/N: As per Dragon Reverb's request, I've decided to write this now, hoping that in next week's chapter, Shigeno-sensei will finish the arc about Ryosuke's past and thus allow me to start writing about it with all the information I need. If that's not the case, fear not, I think I can come up with at least one or two chapters while we wait. And if you guys feel like re-reading my other Initial D stories, you should know that I have finished correcting most typos/continuity cock ups/errors et. al. in all of them. In fact, I would advise you to re-read Programmed Lives - First Stage since I have changed a few things here and there. It's nothing major but if you guys are really, really bored...
Now, about this story, I've chosen the year based on the fact that, in theory, Initial D's year one is 1996 or 1997. I've decided to do an average there and I've come up with 1992. You'll see the reason why if you read this prologue. Now, without further ado, I hope you guys like this because I had as much fun writing about a younger Ryosuke as I knew I would. ^_^
As always, thanks a bunch for reading!
Maebashi – March 1992
Every graduation day was the same: the main hall was packed with row after row of perfectly groomed third year students, the girls wore a navy blue sailor uniform with white edges and a pair of shiny black moccasins, the boys had black trousers, freshly pressed white shirts and the navy blue blazer with the Meiwa Private High School emblem embroidered on the pocket. Joining the students at the two grandstands by each side of the main hall, one found a group of more or less proud relatives dressed up for the occasion.
Up at the stage, the fourteen members of the faculty and the school's Principal were more eager than usual to start the ceremony because this year something peculiar had happened: for the first time in the long history of one of Japan's most strict and exclusive schools one of their students was graduating with honours and not just any student, he was the Student Council President too.
'Takahashi Ryosuke-kun,' the Principal called out.
The eighteen year old got up from his chair with his usual dignified air that made all of his teachers respect him and which caused the deepest admiration among his peers. In reality, he thought while he walked up to the stage, he was utterly bored by the proceedings and keeping his head up and his shoulders squared was just a way for him to stay awake.
As he stepped behind the podium, ready to give his valedictorian speech, he noticed the adoring looks he got from the girls and the awed expressions on the boys' faces. Ryosuke had grown used to them but it still irked him whenever he saw them. If they spent as much time studying as they did worshipping him, he was certain that the school's average would easily top the national charts. Instead, here he was, with everybody looking up at him, ready to get mesmerised with his words making him wonder if any of them actually listened to anything he said or if, maybe, they just got enthralled with the sound of his voice.
'Fellow students,' he started reciting, 'we're gathered here today in this joyful occasion to celebrate that, thanks to our honourable faculty and our beloved families, we will collect our high school diplomas and in so doing, we will officially enter our society,' he stopped speaking for added effect then, he said, 'my wish is that I will become a dependable person so that, one day, someone else will be able to rely on me the way I've insofar relied on others. I am aware that day is still very far so, today, I'll renew my humble request to my parents and to our honourable faculty to continue giving me their guidance so that I can become such person. To you, my fellow students, I would like to say thank you for the wonderful years we've shared together in this beautiful school and I would like to wish you the very best for your future. Thank you and good luck.'
He then stepped away from the podium and, offering a bow to the faculty first, he then bowed again towards the rest of the people at the main hall and, just then, a thundering applause broke the silence. Ryosuke felt lucky he was bowing because he could roll his eyes feeling a mix of frustration and disbelief.
He really wanted to get the hell out of there.
Alas, his wish would not be granted quite so easily: right after his speech, the Principal made a huge fuss about giving him his diploma, reminding the entire school that he was the example they all needed to follow. That the key to his success was constant effort and the will to excel in everything he did. So naïve, Ryosuke thought forcing himself to smile at the old man; the reality was very different, the only reason why he did what he did was simply because he was used to it. Ever since he'd been a small boy, his father had always demanded a one hundred and twenty percent effort in everything he did and, with time, that had become his default.
While he walked back onto his seat, among yet another round of applause, he dared to look at his father's expression and he wasn't surprised to see that, in spite of what his son had achieved, he wasn't looking particularly impressed. Sousuke Takahashi expected this from his son, no more and absolutely no less. Glancing at his mother Kinue, Ryosuke had the meagre satisfaction to see that the kimono clad woman did look a little proud, yet again, Ryosuke suspected the woman was just happy she would have something to brag about with the other matrons from the Gunma Women Social Club. That thought made him smile a bit.
'Nice speech,' his classmate Takayuki Uehara whispered while Ryosuke sat back down.
'Thanks,' he replied.
Takayuki was one of the very few people in the school Ryosuke considered his friend. The two had met in their first year and the guy's outgoing personality together with their common interest in engineering had provided a base firm enough onto which build their friendship. He was sad that Takayuki had decided to move to Italy and study architecture at the Università degli Studi di Milano.
Lost in his own thoughts, Ryosuke barely noticed that the handing of the diplomas had just finished and only when he got summoned by the Principal, who probably wanted to have a chat with him and his parents, he forced himself to get up.
'I'll see you in class,' he told Takayuki.
'Sure,' the guy said, 'if you don't come within ten minutes, I'll come and rescue you, okay?'
'Thanks a lot,' Ryosuke replied with a smirk.
'That's what friends are for,' he said returning the smirk.
Ryosuke nodded and then, he walked to where his parents and the Principal were.
'Takahashi-kun,' the old man said, his voice overcome with emotion, 'I was jus telling your parents what a great pleasure it's been having you at Meiwa. I would like to take this chance to wish you the very best for the future but, as I was telling them, we all certain that you'll reach whichever target you set yourself.'
'I'll do my best,' he promised.
'Doctor Takahashi,' the Principal continued, 'you and your lovely wife must be so proud of him.'
'Of course,' Sousuke replied sounding entirely convincing. Ryosuke knew better.
'You're a busy man,' the Principal told the Doctor, 'I don't want to keep you from your commitments but I just wanted to let you know that, with his score, your son has established a new record. We needed to award him five more points than the maximum permitted after he found an error in one of the questions in the geometry test. Of course,' the Principal added, 'that sort of attention to detail is to be expected from a future doctor, isn't that right, Doctor Takahashi?'
'It is,' Sousuke said, 'now, I hope you'll excuse me but, like you said, I'm a busy man and I need to go.'
'Of course,' the Principal said, 'thank you for making time to come to the ceremony.'
'You're welcome,' Doctor Takahashi said then, entirely dismissing the old man, he looked at his son and said, 'your mother and I will take our leave now. The family will be having dinner at Chez Pierre at seven.'
'Yes, Father,' Ryosuke forced himself to say.
With this, Doctor Takahashi and his wife Kinue left the school with the woman not having uttered a single word in the whole time. Yet again, she had been brought up to be the perfect corporate wife and she always took the utmost care that her behaviour in public was always as impeccable as her husband expected of her.
'Takahashi-kun,' the Principal's voice took him out of his reverie.
'Yes?' Ryosuke asked.
'I didn't want to comment this in front of your parents because I didn't want to ruin your day,' the man said, 'but it's been brought to my attention that your brother Keisuke failed to attend school today. I am most concerned about how he'll fare in his second year now that you won't be here to keep an eye on him.'
Ryosuke wanted to tell him that now he'd be gone the faculty would finally be forced to do what they were paid to do and try to educate his unruly sixteen-year-old brother instead of relying on him to keep him in check all the time. Forcing a fake smile, he said instead:
'Please don't award me merits that aren't mine, the teachers here are very capable of doing their job.'
'Inoue-sensei,' Ryosuke interrupted him as gently as he could manage, 'I'm sure that other parents need your attention today, I wouldn't want to keep you from your duties while we talk about my brother's latest misbehaviour.'
'Of course,' the Principal said.
'Then,' Ryosuke added, 'with your permission, I'll go and start my round of farewells.'
'Yes, yes,' Inoue-sensei said, 'of course, you should go and say goodbye to your friends.'
'Thank you,' Ryosuke replied.
A few moments later, he had almost made it to his classroom when he found an alarmingly high number of girls gathered outside the big white sliding doors. They were obviously waiting for him and for the briefest instant, Ryosuke considered turning around so that he could run away from them. Only his own pride and the fact that one of the girls had already spotted him prevented him from actuating any escape plans.
'RYOSUKE-SAMA!' the girl shouted unnecessarily loudly, 'RYOSUKE-SAMA IS HERE!'
Immediately, a horde of fangirls started shouting his name and, predictably, the classroom's door opened to reveal a few of Ryosuke's classmates, including a very amused looking Takayuki. Ryosuke knew better than to ask him for help and, instead, he surrendered to the inevitable while he waited for the girls to calm down a bit.
'Ryosuke-sama,' one of them finally said. The poor girl looked like she was about to faint.
'Yes?' he replied doing his best to ignore Takayuki's intent staring.
'We…' she started then, she bit her lower lip and with a trembling hand, she pointed at the second button of his navy blue jacket, 'we were wondering…' she tried again, '…is it taken?' she finally spat out.
'Oh,' Ryosuke said with a fake grin, he placed his hand onto the button and replied, 'it is, I'm afraid.'
He had to repress the urge to roll his eyes seeing the devastated expressions on the girls' faces.
'Who's the lucky girl?' another one of his fangirls dared to ask.
'My cousin Tsugumi,' Ryosuke replied firmly for he'd had the answer prepared for months, 'she's only ten years old and has made me promise that I would give the button to her. I couldn't possibly refuse such request.'
Now, their faces all showed a dreamy expression, one he found oddly amusing.
'Ryosuke-sama,' the first girl said, 'you're such a great person.'
'He's got such a big heart,' another of the girls said.
'You're going to be such a great father,' yet another said.
Ryosuke nearly chocked himself hearing that. Barely controlling his tone of voice, he laughed softly and said:
'It's still too soon for that.'
'Of course,' the girl said looking mortified, 'I meant, one day, in the future, when…'
'I understand,' Ryosuke interrupted her, 'now, if you please excuse me, I need to go in there.'
'Of course, of course,' the girls chanted at the same time, 'please, go ahead.'
'Thank you,' Ryosuke replied.
He finally stepped into the classroom and, once they were sitting at their desks, probably for the last time ever, Takayuki leant closer to him and, giving him one of his famous inquisitive glances, he asked him:
'Your cousin? Couldn't you come up with a better excuse?'
'It's not an excuse,' Ryosuke replied firmly, 'Tsugumi will get the button,' he then lowered his tone even more and confessed, 'in reality, it's me who has promised it to her, not the other way around.'
'I knew that,' Takayuki replied with a triumphant smile, 'listen,' he then said, 'are you busy this afternoon?'
'Not really,' Ryosuke said, 'I need to drop by the Student Council's room to hand over the president badge to the newly elected one and then I'll have to do a quick round around the clubs and societies I've belonged to…'
'…alright,' Takayuki interrupted him, 'that will only take you till the next century.'
'No,' Ryosuke said, 'I'll be done in an hour tops.'
'Yeah, right,' his friend said sounding highly sceptical.
'Time me if you want,' Ryosuke countered.
'Alright,' Takayuki said grasping his Swiss-made watch, 'time starts…now.'
Accepting the challenge, Ryosuke got up from his chair, left the classroom and started his seemingly impossible quest by the Public Moral Committee he had been the president of for the past two years. He then moved to the Kendo Club and then went to the Society of Science and Engineering where its treasurer announced he'd been made Honorary President for Life. He then did a few more stops in other clubrooms, ending his tour with the Student Council where a group of teary second years thanked him for all the hard work he'd done in the past three years. Fifty four minutes later, as promised, he was back in his classroom.
'Alright,' Takayuki admitted, 'I'm impressed.'
'So,' Ryosuke said, 'what's the big plan for this afternoon?'
'Right,' his friend asked, 'you know my older sister works for DENSO, right?'
'Yes, I do,' Ryosuke replied.
'Well,' Takayuki said, 'her department is sponsoring this small race in the Gunma Cycle Sport Club…'
'Race?' Ryosuke asked, 'what type of race?'
'Cars,' Takayuki said then, before Ryosuke could protest, he added, 'I know you're not into that kind of stuff but I've promised to my sister that we'd be there to support her and, come on, you like machines as much as I do, right?'
'Cars are machines, aren't they?'
'Alright,' Ryosuke accepted, 'we'll just show for a bit, but I need to be back in Takasaki by half six, okay?'
'Cool,' Takayuki said, 'I knew you wouldn't let me down!'
'When have I ever?' Ryosuke challenged him.
Takayuki just laughed at that and then, at long last, the two friends got up from their desk, gathered all their belongings and after greeting everybody they knew along the way, they exited the school for the last time ever. They also walked to the Shin-Maebashi train station together and got on their usual train to Takasaki, the city where both teenagers lived.
'It's the last time we do this,' Takayuki commented.
'Are you going to get sentimental now?' Ryosuke asked him.
'No way,' Takayuki denied, 'I was just saying it.'
'Of course,' Ryosuke teased him.
Some time later he arrived to an apparently empty home knowing that he only had an hour to change out of his school uniform, grab something to eat for lunch and then rush back to the station where Takayuki said he had a surprise for him. Ryosuke was just putting his slippers on so that he could enter the house when he saw his sixteen year old brother walking out of the kitchen with a glass half full of orange juice in his right hand and a muffin in his left one. Judging by the state of his dark brown bangs, he had just got up.
'Good afternoon, Keisuke,' Ryosuke said with a hint of sarcasm.
'Too loud,' the boy complained.
'Are you hangover, again?' Ryosuke asked him.
'Yeah,' Keisuke replied shamelessly.
Ryosuke repressed the urge to smack the back of his head. Instead, he said:
'You could have come to school today.'
'Why?' Keisuke asked.
'It was the last day,' Ryosuke replied.
'Precisely,' Keisuke said, 'what's the point of going to school if it's the last day?'
'I graduated today,' Ryosuke explained, 'I would have liked you to be there.'
'Why?' Keisuke repeated, 'are you running low on fan club members?'
The boy just yawned widely and with a grumpy tone, he said:
'See? You've made me sleepy again. Good night.'
With this and without waiting for an answer, Keisuke walked past him while he stuffed the muffin in his mouth so that he could scratch his head making his long hair look even messier. Ryosuke watched him as he dragged his lanky body up the stairs feeling so frustrated by his insolence that he even forgot to ask him if he wanted to come with him to watch the race. Instead, he just went into the kitchen so that he could fix himself something quick to eat for lunch.
Ryosuke arrived at the meeting place five minutes before the agreed time but, for the first and probably last time ever, Takayuki had arrived there first. The reason: he was driving a brand new, bottle green Honda Concerto Sedan.
'Do you like it?' Takayuki asked him talking from behind the wheel.
'Aren't you leaving for Italy soon?' Ryosuke asked him back.
'Yes, I am, but...'
'Then,' Ryosuke interrupted him, 'why did you buy yourself a car?'
'This is not mine,' Takayuki said, 'it's my sister's new company car, she's lending it to me today.'
'As a thank you for showing up at the race,' Ryosuke guessed.
'Correct,' Takayuki said, 'now, get in or we'll be late.'
'Come on, don't you trust me?' Takayuki asked him.
'Do you want an honest answer to that question?' Ryosuke said.
'Not really,' Takayuki said, 'but since you don't have your driving license yet, I guess you'll have to trust me.'
Without confirming nor denying that, Ryosuke just got in the car trying not to think about the consequences.
'Speaking of which,' Takayuki said turning the one point six litre engine on, 'when are you going to get it?'
'Get what?' Ryosuke asked playing himself dumb.
'You know what I mean,' Takayuki protested.
'I don't know,' Ryosuke replied, 'I've never really needed it before but I guess I should get it soon.'
'Yeah,' Takayuki said, 'it'd be very uncool if you turn nineteen before you get your license, besides, what kind of a doctor are you going to be if you can't drive to your patients?'
'Idiot,' Ryosuke said, 'my father runs a hospital, usually, the patients come to us, not the other way round.'
'Ah, yeah, I forgot,' Takayuki said.
'Now,' Ryosuke asked, 'are you going to start driving or should I go and get my driving license while I wait?'
'Funny,' the guy said, 'Ryosuke-kun, you almost made a joke there!'
'Shut up and drive or I'll change my mind about coming.'
'Alright, alright,' Takayuki hurried to say, 'I'm driving!'
One hour and fifteen terrifying minutes later, Ryosuke swore he would rather walk back to Takasaki before he would get back in the car with his nutter of a friend. He couldn't remember feeling more scared in his whole life and it was nothing short of a miracle he somehow managed to make it to the edge of the six kilometre long paved path which conformed the Gunma Cycle Sport Club circuit.
Taking a seat at a nearby grandstand which was beginning to fill with people, Ryosuke was trying to gather enough energy to insult Takayuki when they heard the sound of a finely tuned engine driving towards the main straight. What happened next was something he would remember for the rest of his life: the car, instead of driving around the corner, started sliding onto its four tyres with a grace that Ryosuke had never experienced before then, without losing any momentum, it just darted past right in front of him.
'Takayuki,' Ryosuke asked, 'what's that car called?'
'That,' his friend replied, 'is a Mazda Savanna RX-7 FC3S, I'm not sure but I think it's an Infini III.'
'I like it,' Ryosuke said, 'I like it a lot.'
To be continued…