A/N: I managed to get another chapter out before I go back to work on Monday. I hope I'll be able to get at least one new chapter every week. I know it's not much but with my chapters getting longer and longer it's the best I can do just now.

Also, it would definitely help if I got some feedback from you guys. So please be as awesome as RenMazda and baldolera and fill in that little window you find at the bottom of this page, ok? Even if you feel that you have nothing to say, your reviews help me think that what I'm doing is worthwhile.

In any case, thanks for reading!

Planetarium

Chapter Twenty

Watching the light blue AW11 darting ahead of his FC and heading into the penultimate corner, a tight left-hander, sent Ryosuke into such a state of sheer panic that for the briefest of moments, he even considered the possibility of letting go of the accelerator and offer the win to his opponent on a silver plate. After all, Teru had more than earned it.

His body though refused to give up and Ryosuke found his right foot flooring the pedal, increasing the FC's already suicidal pace. Oddly, the car's mechanics didn't complain, if anything, the Mazda seemed to want this victory even more so than Ryosuke himself. Seeing this, Ryosuke made a decision within a split second.

'Let's do it,' he muttered to the FC's steering wheel.

With only two corners to go, it was essential Ryosuke entered the left-hander literally stuck to the AW11's rear bumper. This would also offer the bonus of having the Toyota dealing with most of the wind resistance, creating an aerodynamic void for the FC. Thanks to this, Ryosuke's Mazda managed to keep up with Teru's Toyota until both cars reached the apex of the corner.

There, Ryosuke put his plan in motion: first he veered to the inside, driving so fast and so close to the wall that covered that entire section of the track that for a moment, it looked like he would just crash against it.

As he predicted, Teru also moved to the inside, effectively closing the gap.

It was then when Ryosuke let the FC's tyres slide to the right, heading to the outside of the corner without losing momentum, keeping his foot firmly onto the accelerator and nowhere near the brake pedal. Shifting gears, he levelled with the AW11 placing himself onto its right side, thus forcing both cars to exit the left-hander at the same time.

Everyone at the base could now see the two cars basically driving side-by-side as fast as they could go towards an all-too-solid wall in a deadly game of chicken. Hiroshi was amongst those who found themselves holding their breath when they saw that if the two cars tried to enter the final right-hander that way, their lines would definitely cross and both cars would end up crashing against each other or worse: against the wall.

Fear and tension filled the whole area and they all gasped when they watched the FC getting into a drift right in front of the AW11. Hiroshi wanted to close his eyes but forced them to stay wide open so that he could see the moment when the AW11 braked so hard that smoke came out of the car's tyres, stopping just a couple of centimetres away from the wall. The FC continued its drift all the way down the corner stopping right in front of a crowd who refused to believe what had just happened.

'He's won!' Hiroshi shouted happily while he ran towards the Mazda, 'he's done it!'

Inside his car, Ryosuke found himself shaking. It had been uncomfortably close but, somehow, he'd won.

'Ryosuke!' he heard someone shouting outside, looking up, he fought the daze in his brain and recognised his friend Hiroshi's face. The older man was asking him to get out of his car but Ryosuke didn't trust his legs just yet. Instead, he lowered his side's window and forced himself to smile while Hiroshi said, 'you've won!'

'I know,' was all that Ryosuke managed to say.

'You nearly gave me a heart attack!' Hiroshi complained but he was obviously too happy to care.

Ryosuke was still trying to come up with something to say when he saw Teru's AW11 stopping next to the FC. He knew that the manoeuvre he'd pulled off was not very fair and expected to get contempt from the guy, instead, Teru seemed to be quite unfazed by the whole episode and, walking towards the FC, he said:

'That was a very bold move you did back there.'

'I'm sorry, I…'

'Don't apologise,' Teru said, 'it's not like I was any less…'

He never finished the sentence because right then, Shoya arrived with his green S12.

'Get out of the car,' the man told Ryosuke, 'I want to shake hands with you.'

Ryosuke complied immediately while he wondered just how Shoya had managed to get down so fast.

'I'm glad I followed you two,' Shoya said giving Ryosuke a firm handshake and answering his unasked question, 'because I got a splendid view of the moment when you took revenge for all of us who've been fooled by this scoundrel.'

'Who are you calling scoundrel?' Teru asked lifting his fist as if he were going to punch Shoya.

'You, who else?' Shoya had the cheek to reply. He released Ryosuke's hand and went to lower Teru's arm, 'give it up, you knew that sooner or later you'd find someone who would not fall for one of your many tricks.'

'I did,' Ryosuke admitted, 'at first I did but I knew he had to be messing with me when I saw that he kept up with me without breaking a sweat.'

'You think it was easy for me?' Teru asked him looking incredulous.

'Judging by the way you overtook me, I'd say yes,' Ryosuke replied.

Shoya let out a soft chuckle while Teru shook his head and said:

'Up to now, I've never had to wait until the last bridge to overtake someone.'

'That's right,' Shoya said, 'with me, he did it half way through the course and even though I came close, I could not get back ahead. No one can, once Teru gets in front of you, that's pretty much, the end of it.'

'Until today,' a new voice said.

Turning round, they all saw Teru's cousin Ken joining up the group.

'I bet you're regretting that challenge you issued him earlier,' Shoya said with a smirk.

'No way,' the guy said, 'I want to race him now more than ever! He's as fast as…'

'…a shooting star?' Teru suggested clearly mocking his cousin.

'No,' Shoya said, 'more than a shooting star, I'd say he's like a comet.'

'A comet?' Ryosuke chocked.

'Yes,' Shoya said he then looked at the FC and said, 'you and that car of yours are as fast as a white comet.'

'Akagi's White Comet,' Hiroshi tried saying out loud.

'It definitely suits him,' Ken said.

'That'll be your nickname then,' Teru agreed, 'Akagi's White Comet.'

Ryosuke could not believe where the conversation had ended up but, in spite of how ridiculous it sounded, he stared at his beloved car for a moment before deciding that he didn't really mind his new nickname.

'I should get going now,' he announced then, he looked at Teru and said, 'I would like to race you again.'

'You're offering me a re-match?' Teru asked.

'Something like that,' Ryosuke replied, 'if you're up for it, of course.'

'I'll think about it,' Teru said.

'Please do so,' Ryosuke said then, he turned to Ken and told him, 'I'll see you at Momiji Line.'

'Count on it,' the guy said.

A couple of hours later, Ryosuke sat in front of his computer finishing the thorough analysis he had become used to writing after each of his street races. So far, in each of these races, he had discovered something in which he needed to work on and his battle against the AW11 was no different.

If had to be honest, he had been brutally shaken that Teru's strategy had worked so brilliantly. He, who had always been proud of his mental strength, had been so badly distracted by his opponent that he had failed to notice Shoya's car driving after them. This, Ryosuke vowed, was something he needed to fix.

He was about to save the file when he heard his room's phone ringing.

'Hello?' he picked it up as quickly as he could.

'Hi there,' he heard Takayuki's cheery tone greeting him, 'I hope I didn't wake you!'

'No, you didn't,' Ryosuke replied, 'it's only one o'clock in the morning.'

'Oh, I forgot,' Takayuki said, 'you're a vampire who never sleeps!'

'Are you calling me to insult me or…'

'I'm calling you to inform you that, lucky you, you'll have the pleasure of my company for two entire weeks.'

'Lucky me indeed,' Ryosuke said, his lips reluctantly curving up to form a smile.

'I know!' Takayuki said, 'unfortunately, I promised Piero and Giancarlo that I would go with them to Liguria.'

'Liguria?' Ryosuke asked.

'It's an Italian coastal region,' Takayuki supplied.

'I know that, idiot,' Ryosuke said, 'what are you guys doing there?'

'Giancarlo's got a place by the beach and I'll be spending a few days with them but I'll be heading to Japan in July,' Takayuki said, 'if you're free, I was thinking of doing that road trip we talked about.'

'That'd be a good idea,' Ryosuke said, 'we could go up north…'

'Nah,' Takayuki said, 'I was thinking of going to Fukuoka, I hear they have some great roads there.'

'That's true too,' Ryosuke said, 'Fukuoka it is then.'

'Awesome,' Takayuki said, 'speaking of road trips, how's the FC? Are you treating it well?'

'Of course I treat it well,' Ryosuke said feeling almost offended, 'I've won a few races with it.'

'I know,' Takayuki said, 'I'm doing my best to follow the Fuji Freshman Series here in Italy. That Kikuchi guy is good but, my friend, you're just better.'

'Thanks,' Ryosuke said.

'To think you didn't even like cars!' Takayuki laughed, 'if it wasn't for me…'

'I do owe you,' Ryosuke said honestly, 'listen: since you're the first one who ever drove the FC, what would you say if I asked you to drive it down to Fukuoka. You'll then see how different it is from when I got it.'

'That sounds great,' Takayuki replied, 'I've gotta go now, or I'll have to sell a kidney to pay the phone bill.'

'Please don't do that,' Ryosuke said sounding supremely serious.

'I won't,' he promised, 'and I'll see you soon.'

'You will,' Ryosuke said.

Hanging up the phone, Ryosuke felt happier than he'd been in a very long time. Not only he'd managed to achieve yet another win, but he now had a road trip with Takayuki to look forward too. He only hoped he could manage to take a few days off in his busy schedule but, somehow, Ryosuke knew he would manage.

This good mood of his carried forth during Sunday afternoon when he and Erika travelled to Tokyo so that they could go and watch a few horse races at the Tokyo Racecourse. The stadium, built in 1933, was the biggest of its kind in the world and Ryosuke enjoyed watching Erika behaving like a kid in Disneyland.

'I take you're having fun,' Ryosuke asked her while they waited for the next race to start.

'You bet,' Erika said, 'those horses are la crème de la crème in the racing industry.'

'You can tell they're being well looked after,' Ryosuke commented, 'yet again, with the money they make their owners, they should be.'

'That helps, of course,' Erika said, 'but it helps even more that the Racing Association is incredibly strict when it comes to the way they're treated. Horses weren't always so well looked after once upon a time.'

Ryosuke noticed a frown appearing on Erika's face and, trying to get her to smile again, he said:

'Why don't we try to visit the clinic?'

'The clinic?' Erika asked.

'Yes,' Ryosuke said firmly.

'It's off-limits to those who are not authorised,' Erika observed, 'and sadly, we're not.'

'Well…'

'Well?' Erika asked.

'Maybe I have a surprise for you,' Ryosuke said getting up. Something made him offer her his hand and was about to pull it back when, to his surprise, Erika took it with hers, accepting his help to get up. She then let it go and Ryosuke felt like his hand had gone cold all of a sudden. This made Ryosuke decide that it was useless to deny the attraction he felt for the girl.

'Let's go then,' an oblivious Erika said.

Ryosuke followed the girl down the grandstand and, following the signs, she led them both to the entrance of the area restricted to the horse owners and the stadium's own staff. The veterinarian clinic was there too.

'Can I see your passes?' a security guard asked them.

'I'm Takahashi Ryosuke, I have an appointment with Doctor Inohara.'

'Wait for a moment,' the guard said. He then stepped into a small office where he probably made a call to confirm what Ryosuke was saying. An instant later, he got out and said, 'okay, Doctor Inohara is coming.'

'Thank you,' Ryosuke said.

'What's all of this?' Erika whispered.

'Doctor Inohara is director of the clinic,' Ryosuke replied calmly.

'I know that,' Erika said, 'I just…'

'My father and Doctor Inohara recently played golf together and when I mentioned I was coming here with you, my father suggested I'd get in touch with him so that we could visit the installations together.'

'I…' she gasped, 'I…don't know what to…say…'

'You don't need to say anything,' Ryosuke said, 'I know how much this means to you.'

'No,' Erika said, 'you have no idea…I…'

The arrival of Doctor Inohara prevented her from completing her sentence and, very soon, she was too busy being shown around the clinic, observing the veterinarians at work with the horses that were involved in the day's races to even pay attention to anything else. Ryosuke found it very cute the way her eyes shone when Doctor Inohara showed her some of the newest equipment they had to check the health of the horses' muscles.

'I hope you found the tour instructive,' the good doctor said.

'With all due respect, more than you can imagine,' a flustered Erika replied.

'I'm told you'd like to work here one day,' Doctor Inohara said and that made Erika glance at Ryosuke.

'It'd be my biggest dream,' Erika admitted.

'Well,' the doctor said, 'you clearly have the vocation so, providing you graduate with honours, I'll look forward to receiving your application.'

Hearing this, Erika just lost her ability to speak.

She only recovered it when, on their way back to the grandstands, Erika stopped him in the middle of a semi-deserted corridor and, looking at him very gravely, she asked him:

'I don't mean to sound ungrateful but, why did you do this?'

'I just thought you'd like it,' Ryosuke replied.

'You knew that I would be speechless,' Erika almost protested, 'you've basically put me on Doctor Inohara's radar, that's something that not even my professor could guarantee with his recommendation letter.'

'It was a rather unexpected bonus,' Ryosuke admitted.

'A bonus?' Erika asked in disbelief. She looked like she was trying to find the words then she just gave up and said, 'this is not something you do for any random friend…'

'You're not a random friend,' Ryosuke said.

'Ryosuke…'

'You're not a random friend,' he repeated interrupting her.

'What am I then?' Erika asked.

'You're one of my closest friends,' Ryosuke replied.

'Nothing more, right?' the girl asked fearfully.

'Nothing more,' Ryosuke assured her than, he said, 'but there's something I'd like to tell you.' He stopped speaking until she nodded, he then continued, 'I know you're far from being ready for anything else, I know that my life is complicated enough as it is but, I've been doing some thinking and…'

'Ryosuke…'

'…and I don't want to limit things between us,' Ryosuke said, 'I don't want to force anything either. For once in my life, I want things to follow their natural course taking it one day at a time without constantly worrying about the future: if something is to happen between us, splendid, if not, we'll still enjoy a wonderful friendship.'

'But…'

'I don't want to pressure you into anything, just like I'm asking you not to pressure me.' Ryosuke said, 'one of the things I like the most about our relationship is that we can be comfortable around each other. I don't want to lose that just because we're trying to impose ourselves useless limitations.'

Erika seemed to ponder it all for a while then, she nodded again and said:

'Alright, let's do that.'

'Okay,' Ryosuke said, 'now, let's go, we still have to watch the last three races.'

The following day he was at the library, gathering a few books he needed for a paper when he saw Kaori signalling him to go to her. He followed her to one of the private reading rooms and, just as he was setting the books down on the table located right in the middle of the room, he heard her closing the door after her.

'Kaori-san?' he asked her keeping his voice just above a whisper.

'I have great news,' she said taking a seat on one of the armchairs.

'And they couldn't wait until lunchtime?' Ryosuke asked leaning against the table.

'Nope,' Kaori said, 'Hojo-san and I went out for dinner on Saturday evening,' she continued, 'for some reason he seemed to be in a good mood so I took the chance to try and talk to him about my career.'

'You did?' Ryosuke said perking up a little.

'Yes,' Kaori replied smiling at him.

'I take things went well,' he commented.

'They went better than well,' Kaori said, 'he said that he realised his request was a little unreasonable.'

'Try a lot,' Ryosuke muttered under his breath. Kaori still heard him though.

'Yeah,' she agreed with a light laugh, 'he said that if I don't complete my residency, my degree would not be complete and he said that even if I don't work as a doctor, I should still be a fully-qualified one, just in case.'

'It makes sense,' Ryosuke said, 'in a way.'

'Yes, that's what I thought too,' Kaori said, her smile faltering a little.

'But it's a good start,' he said, 'at least it would give you two more years to persuade him into…'

'I don't know if that would work,' Kaori interrupted him, 'but now he's given in with this, it might not be impossible.'

'I think so too,' Ryosuke said, 'after all, if there's someone who can make him change his mind, it's you. After this, I'm thinking that maybe we misjudged Hojo-senpai a bit. I think that he's not as bad as my father and that he is prepared to listen.'

'I wish you were right,' Kaori objected, 'but this is the first time he's changed his mind about something.'

'Well,' he said, 'to be honest, his idea about not letting you complete your residency was a terrible one. I'm sure he realised that on his own. Also, Kaori-san, you shouldn't underestimate yourself.'

'What do you mean?' Kaori asked.

'He loves you,' Ryosuke replied, 'I'm sure he hates seeing you cry as much as I do, probably even more so.'

'You're always so sweet,' Kaori said getting up from the armchair, 'your girlfriend is so lucky to have you.'

Ryosuke could not say anything to that. He was going to pick up his books instead when Kaori walked up to him and, without any previous warning, she first hugged him and then, releasing him just a little, she got on her tiptoes and kissed him on his cheek.

'Kaori-san…'

'That's just to thank you for your advice,' she said, 'don't worry, there's nothing more to it.'

'Okay,' he somehow managed to say.

'I've seen you're busy so, I'll let you get on with your work now,' she added, 'I'll see you at lunchtime!'

Nodding once, he watched letting herself out of the reading room leaving Ryosuke alone with his thoughts. He was grateful to be on his own because he suddenly found himself smiling at the fact that, at the present, his life seemed to be heading in a very good direction: not only Kaori and Rin seemed to be on their way to fixing their problems but, he had managed to clear things out with Erika in a more than satisfactory way.

Racing wise things also appeared rosy: with Ken Kitajima he had another rival lined up, his endeavour in the Fuji Freshman Series was also exceeding his most optimistic expectations, his car felt better than ever and he had found another aspect of his fastest racer theory that would, quite literally, keep his hyperactive mind busy.

Things could not be better.

There only was one thing he still worried about: his brother Keisuke.

He still needed to find a way to steer his younger brother's attention away from the all-too-dangerous bike he insisted on riding and, hopefully, get him interested in cars. This was especially important now because, in less than three months Keisuke would turn eighteen and thus, old enough to get his driving license.

The first opportunity to achieve this seemingly impossible mission presented itself in a warm Saturday evening of mid-June while he worked with Shuichi on the FC, preparing the car for its next Fuji Freshman Series race in the Tsukuba Circuit in the nearby prefecture of Ibaraki.

'You know who's racing in Tsukuba tomorrow morning?' Shuichi asked while they started cleaning up.

'No idea,' Ryosuke replied.

'Sudo,' Shuichi replied, 'he's taking part in the first event of the Mitsubishi Challenge Cup.'

'Is that right?' Ryosuke said.

'I was thinking we could go and watch him,' Shuichi suggested.

'Why?' Ryosuke asked him.

'Because it'd be interesting,' Shuichi replied, 'also, it'd be a good way for you to check the circuit.'

Ryosuke studied his chief mechanic for a little while then, he offered him a half-smirk and said:

'You know, you're getting to be almost as good a salesman as Fumihiro.'

'Well, thank you,' Shuichi said clearly taking it as a huge compliment, 'so, are you interested?'

'Yes, I am,' Ryosuke said.

After agreeing to meet up at half past ten the following morning just outside the circuit main entrance, Ryosuke hurried home hoping he'd still find Keisuke there. Luckily, it was still reasonably early and Ryosuke found the kid watching TV in the living room, probably enjoying the fact that their parents were both out and he had the house all to himself.

'Hey,' Keisuke greeted him.

'Hello Keisuke,' Ryosuke replied. He then sat down on one of the dark leather couches and said, 'do you have any plans for tomorrow morning?'

'Explain morning,' Keisuke said, pressing the mute button on the remote.

'Eight o'clock,' Ryosuke replied.

'Whoa,' Keisuke said looking positively horrified, 'that's way too early for a Sunday!'

'You're probably right but,' Ryosuke said, 'it would mean a lot to me if you could come somewhere with me.'

Keisuke looked at his brother with a frown appearing in his handsome features.

'Where do you want to go?' he dared to ask.

'There's an event in the Tsukuba Circuit and I'd want to attend it with you.'

'Tsukuba?' Keisuke asked, 'they race bikes there, don't they?'

'Yes, that's correct,' Ryosuke said. He then held his breath for a moment while Keisuke thought about it.

'Alright,' he finally said, 'but you'll have to wake me if you want me to go.'

'I will,' Ryosuke promised.

The morning after, after just twenty minutes of constant prodding and three strong black coffees, Ryosuke somehow managed to get his younger brother onboard the FC where he proceeded to fall asleep again.

At least he's here, Ryosuke mused while driving down the lane. It was a start.

Two hours later, with ten minutes to go to the agreed time, he parked the FC as close to the entrance as possible and, yet again, he woke Keisuke up to let him know that they had arrived. The kid mumbled some sort of protest but deciding to be a good boy, got out of the car and followed his older brother.

Hiroshi and Shuichi arrived together just a couple of minutes later and both men did not hide their surprise seeing the youngest of the Takahashi clan there. Ryosuke sent them a silent message not to say anything.

'Good morning,' he told them instead.

'Hi,' Hiroshi replied, 'it's good to see you again, Keisuke.'

'Yo!' the kid said.

'Let's go and get the tickets,' Ryosuke suggested.

A few moments later, with the four tickets having got the stamp from the organisation, the four men stepped into the circuit and made their way to one of the main grandstands to go and find their seats. From there, they saw a few of the cars which would take part at the Mitsubishi Challenge Cup already on the track.

'WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?'

Keisuke had finally woken up.

'It's a race,' Ryosuke explained as patiently as possible.

'I can see that!' Keisuke exclaimed, 'but it's a CAR race!'

'I know,' Ryosuke said. He could see that Shuichi and Hiroshi were doing their best not to burst out laughing.

'You told me it was a BIKE race!' Keisuke protested.

'I never said that,' Ryosuke said.

'You did!' Keisuke countered, 'you told me that they raced with bikes in Tsukuba.'

'And they do,' Ryosuke confirmed, 'just not today.'

Keisuke was so stunned hearing this that he remained speechless.

'Come on,' Hiroshi intervened, 'you'll have fun.'

'Yeah, right,' Keisuke rebuffed.

'Let's just sit down, okay?' Shuichi suggested.

'How long does this last?' Keisuke asked to no one in particular.

'Just two hours,' Ryosuke replied.

'TWO HOURS?' Keisuke asked now looking scandalised. Seeing the three older men nodding, he became almost mutinous and, dropping himself onto his seat, he said, 'I knew I should have brought my bike here.'

'Well,' Ryosuke commented, 'you haven't so: you might as well try and have some fun.'

'As if,' Keisuke muttered. He folded his arms onto his chest and went on to pretend he was asleep.

'Let him be,' Hiroshi told Ryosuke seeing his dismayed expression.

Deciding that his friend was right, Ryosuke sat down next to his brother while Hiroshi went to sit at the other side of Keisuke. Shuichi took the seat next to Ryosuke and produced a printed sheet of paper.

'What's that?' Ryosuke asked him.

'It's the participant's list,' Shuichi said handing it to him.

'Oh,' Ryosuke gasped, 'this…'

'I know, I was surprised too,' Shuichi said, 'I had no idea that Sudo had changed cars.'

Just as they said this, they saw the car in question came out. It was a pitch black Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Ryosuke had read about this specific model and he knew that the 4G63 engine produced up to two hundred and forty-four horsepower but, judging by the sound coming out of the one that was currently cruising down the main straight, Kyoichi's car had to be making about one hundred more than that.

'Wow,' Hiroshi said hearing it, 'it pains me to say it but…'

'…it sounds great,' Ryosuke finished for him.

'It does,' Shuichi confirmed.

'What happened to his ZR-4?' Hiroshi asked him.

'No idea,' Shuichi said, 'maybe he's sold it?'

'I doubt it,' Ryosuke said then, he pointed at the car which was now even closer and said, 'that car's been set up specifically for circuit use. His ZR-4 is also roadworthy so it can be used for everyday driving.'

'That's true,' Hiroshi said.

'In that case,' Shuichi said, 'where did he get all the money to buy that one?'

'Maybe he stole it,' they heard Keisuke say.

'I thought you were sleeping,' Ryosuke commented.

'I can't sleep if you keep talking so loud,' Keisuke complained.

'It's only going to get louder, you know?' Hiroshi commented.

Keisuke glared at him and then went back to pretend he was sleeping.

This time neither Hiroshi nor Shuichi repressed their laughter. Ryosuke decided to save their lives by asking them to stop teasing Keisuke and to start paying attention to the race they had come to watch in the first place and soon all three men were too busy with what was going on out at the track to worry about anything else and, when an hour later all eighteen cars finally lined up for a launched start, they failed to hear Keisuke's gasp of surprise when the engines were all revved to the max just before the semaphore turned green.

Ryosuke watched as Kyochi's new car darted past the first three cars as if they were a little more than a nuisance and, within the first three laps, his car went from ninth to fourth. He hated the way he drove but he had to admit it that it was as efficient as it was ruthless.

For the following seven laps, the black EVO got stuck behind a silver version of the same model. The two cars entered the eleventh lap and Ryosuke was sure that he'd see Kyoichi losing his cool when, to his surprise, the guy remained in his fourth place showing a level of mental maturity Ryosuke was not expecting of him.

'He's growing up too,' he commented.

'Yes, he is,' Shuichi confirmed.

Returning his attention to the black Mitsubishi, Ryosuke was almost happy to see the moment when, three laps later, with only eleven to go, Kyoichi finally managed to shake off the silver EVO so that he could claim third place. Of course, Ryosuke knew that Kyoichi would not settle for that and, was pleased to see that, this time, his prediction was correct. Soon enough, Kyoichi was launched in pursue of a highly modified Galant VR-4, painted in British Green.

'What was Sudo's last lap time?' he asked Shuichi.

'One minute and nine seconds,' the mechanic replied.

'And the Galant's?'

'One minute and three.'

The VR-4 was seven seconds ahead so it would take a miracle for Kyoichi's EVO to catch up with it. Kyoichi had to be at least one second faster than the Galant for at least the next seven laps and, even so, there would only be four laps left in which to try and overtake. Things looked quite bleak for Kyoichi and Ryosuke was surprised to feel a little sad for the guy.

'One minute and two for the Galant,' Shuichi said then, an instant later, he shouted, 'One and one for Sudo!'

'Seriously?' Ryosuke asked checking the two stopwatches himself.

'Yes,' Shuichi said.

'He can do it,' Hiroshi announced.

'I hope so,' Ryosuke said, 'what?' he then asked noticing the looks he was getting from his friends.

'Nothing,' Hiroshi said badly repressing a smirk.

Lap after lap, Kyoichi kept on cutting seconds down and, with just two laps to go, he finally caught up with the VR-4. The two cars could be seen taking the corner number four which would lead to the parabolic formed by five and six. There, the two Mitsubishis got even closer and in seven, a ninety-degree right-hander, Kyoichi staged his first attack, moving to the inside the moment they left corner seven behind.

Unfortunately for him the driver of the VR-4 had no intention of letting Kyoichi pass and, to everyone's horror, they saw how with the tiniest of nudges, the green Galant pushed the black EVO to the chicane formed by corners thirteen and fourteen. This chicane was only used by motorbikes and that meant that, at the moment, its entry was covered by a wall of tyres.

And that's where Kyoichi's race ended.

'What a bastard!' they all heard Keisuke complain.

'Oh, were you awake?' Ryosuke asked trying not to sound amused.

'Only for the last few laps,' Keisuke said.

'So, what do you think of what you did see?' Hiroshi asked him.

'I think,' Keisuke said looking murderous, 'that if I were the driver of that black whatever-is-called, I'd beat the crap out of the bastard driving the other car.'

Ryosuke looked at his younger brother then, he glanced at his two friends and, just then, they all started laughing. They even missed the moment the winner crossed the finish line but, to Ryosuke this small improvement in Keisuke's interest in cars made his day.

To be continued…