Chapter II: The Challenge.

Kyoichi Sudo had never liked Saitama. He had thought the racers from the region were average at best. When Project D steamrolled through the competition in the region last year, that only confirmed his thoughts. The soft hem of the engines of the six Lancer Evo cars driving through Saitama broke the silence in the night. Team Emperor always drove in an arrow formation with Seji Iwaki's car taking the point position.

Sudo had always liked flanking behind his number two racer, in this formation. It made opponents underestimate him and masked certain subtleties of his technique from other drivers. Besides that, Seji enjoyed being the center of attention, he enjoyed being in the front and that suited Kyoichi Sudo, just fine.

The Lancer Evo squad decended upon the restaurant at the base of the Saitama pass. In front of them was a pack of people with all eyes fixed on them. Out of the dozen people gathered there, Sudo figured only a handful would be okay drivers. He knew of Wataru, a skilled driver of the famous 86 model. Even though the car was considered a relic amongst the street racers, the two drivers he knew that operated the 86 were some of the toughest opponents anyone would encounter this side of central Japan. Outside of Wataru, Sudo had little knowledge of the other Saitama Alliance drivers.

His black Lancer IV pulled into a large parking lot that sat at the base of a mountain pass. He would let Seji do the initial talking. His brash, arrogant, and cocky attitude was a treat to watch on certain nights and preyed upon the psyche of weaker and more emotional racers.

Seji Iwaki loved his EVO III. Other then Kyoichi's Evo IV, he thought that no other car could compare. He removed himself from the car, after parking it directly in the center of the parking lot, not bothering to find a parking space. Four other members of Team Emperor followed suit, only Kyoichi found a regular parking spot.

Seji looked around the parking lot and found a group of seven other races who appeared to be the official members of the Northern Saitama Alliance. They were congregating near the tea shop, which sat next to a visitor's center and a desert stand.

Like Sudo, the only race Seji recognized was the long-haired Wataru. Amongst the crowd there was a blond-haired boy with jean shorts and a grey sweat shirt, a man wearing glasses adorned in dress clothing, and a girl.

The girl. A girl with a clear complexion, fine skin, and brown shoulder length hair. She was cute. She was a tom-boy. Seji could tell that right away because of the way she seemed to hang out with the guys naturally.

Sudo was the last one to get out of his car. The white bandana wearing leader of the Emperors began to walk to where the Saitama Alliance stood. As soon as he walked past Seji the rest of the Emperor's followed suit. The man wearing the glasses took the lead for the Alliance.

Nobuhiko: "Hello. Nobuhiko. Leader of the Northern Saitama Alliance."

Sudo: "Kyoichi Sudo."

Nobuhiko: "Welcome to Saitama. We heard about your challenge through Sakamoto."

Keji stepped forward. He had his hair tied back into a pony tail and was wearing a blue denim shirt with slacks. "We heard about your loss to Project D. Pathetic if you ask me, getting swept on your home turf!"

Wataru: "Hey, I heard you guys didn't fair much better on the slopes. When Takumi challenged all of you!"

Seji: "At least we went to Guma and gave that punk his first loss."

Wataru: "Something Sudo accomplished, not you." Wataru stated bluntly.

Seji: "If you want a piece of me, then let's do it right here, right now!"

Wataru: "Fine with me."

That is when Kyoichi Sudo stepped in. "That's enough!" Sudo interrupted. The mercurial nature of Sudo was manifesting itself. Part of Sudo was laughing on the inside, finding the tension amusing. The other half was partially embarrassed by Seji's brashness.

Sudo: "We didn't come here to pick fights. We came here to race. Bragging rights can be made after the competition."

Kyoko: "Could have fooled me." Kyoko interjected, speaking for the first time. The female racer was wearing a pair of overalls over a red T-shirt. "Your friend here is being a jerk."

Seji: "What's wrong honey? You upset over the little spat?"

Kyoko: "No. It's just that I don't like people who have to throw their weight around and discourage other people. It just goes to show that they aren't confident enough in themselves, hence the need to put others down to make themselves feel better."

Seji: "Why you stupid…." Seji gritted his teeth and stepped forward.

The man with the blonde hair, the same man who told Kyoko she wasn't good enough for Keisuke Takhashi stepped in between Kyoko and the brash number two driver of Team Emperor.

"Seji, I said enough!" Sudo said again. This time he was 100% fully upset. He did not like men putting down girls in any fashion.

Seji took a step back and then things began to calm down after a few tense moments. During that period of time, Seji's eyes continued to burn a hole through Kyoko and Wataru.

"Okay," Nobuhiko broke the tension by getting back to the race, and to cease the arguing "What exactly are you proposing for the race?"

Sudo nodded before speaking.

"A series of three races, three of us versus three of you. The first race will be an uphill, the second a downhill." Sudo started, not surprising the alliance with the traditional races. "The last one will be a combination of both."

"Sounds good," Nobuhiko responded without batting an eyelash. "We accept. When and where?"

Sudo: "Here. Two weeks from now."

Nobuhiko: "Okay. You guys can practice on the course Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sunday nights, those are the times we're not on the course."

"Fine. That works for us. Two weeks from now," Sudo stated as he lit a cigarette.

Wataru: "Alright. Two weeks from now, you are all going down."

Seji: "You wish Saitama trash."

Wataru did not take kindly to that as he stepped forward, only to be held back by Nobuhiko and Kyoko.

"Not worth it," Kyoko said, calming down the Levin driver.

"Time for us to leave." Sudo took a drag and blew it to his left, making sure to avoid the Alliance with the second hand smoke. "C'mon Emperors."

Team Emperor followed their leader back to their cars. Seji was the last to leave, smirking at Kyoko and Wataru before he left. A blast of techno music, followed by the sound of multiple car doors slamming, like a chain link or a stack of dominos falling over resonated through the parking lot.

"Man. What a bunch of jerks." Wataru interjected just before they drove away.

"Yeah. They are worse than the jerks who race in southern Saitama," Nobuhiko said, making reference to the posers who tried to beat Project D a few months ago using underhanded tactics, "They are worse because they can back up their trash talking. We have to beat those guys."

"Hai!" The Saitama Alliance cheered in unison.

"Not only for ourselves, but for the street races and people of Saitama."

With the emotional boiling because of this initial meeting between the Alliance the Team Emperor, these series of races were going to be important, much more then the matches against Project D.

(the next chapter is entitled "A Conversation with the Brother." While at work, Kyoko manages to run into from Project D. Someone who is very important to a Mr. Keisuke Takahashi.)