I’ll write a proper pre-word in the morning. Wrote this thing for a contest thingy on another site earlier today. Mad dash to get it all up before midnight. Posting here after proofing. Episode 2 will come eventually, only intend for two parts however. Oh yeah, this is the start of Wednesday: Free Writes
Fabio Fiordilatte was always chasing.
“One more chance, that’s all I’m asking for.”
There was no moon nor stars out tonight to illuminate the long road.
“That’s what you said last time Park.”
Still the crowd was deafening. These late night events always attracted a rowdy sort. An underbelly filled with adrenaline junkies, loan sharks and half-naked women.
“I know, I know. But I’ve got a good feeling about this one.”
Yet it was the smell of dust that overpowered everything else.
“You always have a good feeling Park. That’s your problem.”
The engines were roaring, drowning out even the crowd’s cheers; the drivers behind the wheels wouldn’t have it any other way.
“You’ve never won Park. Not once. There’s not even money to be had in you throwing the race.”
Through the roaring engines, screaming crowds and heart pounding music, a trained ear could pick up the static of CB radios. Over their two way systems the organizers were hard at work making sure the roads were clear for tonight’s events.
“Sell that worthless car of yours and then I’ll get you some real work Park. You’re never going to pay me back racing.”
It was almost time to begin as the first car pulled up to starting line. It was a heavily customized first gen, blood red mid-size sporting the kind of spoiler most only saw at the cinema. From the sound of his engine alone it was obvious the driver had put quite a bit of time and effort into his ride. The overall wedge shape culminating in a sloped bumper with the gentle framing of a low roof crafted a fearsome yet beautiful beast.
“I can’t do that.”
If the stickers of the defeated teams on the red monster’s spoiler scared the other driver, it did not show. Pulling up in his green sports coupe was comparatively underwhelming. The long flat body struck a remarkable contrast to his opponent, and the driver had barely been able to afford a few engine upgrades. There was no massive spoiler to be found here. By and large, his car kept the look of its stock model.
“Fine. Then you’ll race for pinks next time. You lose and you’re out. We’ll talk about how much you owe me after the race. Who knows, if you put on a good show you might even cover some of your debt.”
“Hey Park, is that you?”
The voice from the red car took Fabio by surprise, he didn’t expect the other driver to speak let alone recognize him.
“I take it by the look on your face I hit the jackpot.” The grinning black haired man continued. The rest of the details were rather hard for Fabio to make out in the darkness.
“Uh yeah. It’s me.”
“You’re Eve’s little bro right? I’d recognize that bright blonde hair anywhere.”
Before Fabio could respond another voice boomed over a megaphone.
“GOOD EVENING RACERS! We’ve got a great show for tonight. The legend of this pass, driving his brilliant red comet: Ryoma ‘Aka’ KOBAYASHI!”
“I miss the old days y’know?” As the crowd cheered with the announcer, the driver in question took advantage of the announcer’s pause to speak more with young Fabio. “Back then it was just a couple of us kids driving down these passes to kill time after classes. None of this noisy nonsense.”
“After years at the Atlesian Pro-circuit Aka’s comet has returned home! His FR has only ever lost to one driver on Jōmō Pass. The question on everyone’s minds: can the golden boy maintain his near perfect record tonight!”
“It ain’t anything close to perfect if you ask me.”
“The answer lies with his challenger, an underdog still trying to make his mark on the scene despite loss after loss. Will this be the day for young Fabio Park? Can his unconventional ride’s Four Wheel Drive overcome Jōmō’s champ? LET’S FIND OUT!”
“Here we go kid, see you at the bottom.”
As the announcer continued to hype the crowd, a new face walked up to the two vehicles standing by. The transceiver at his belt signified his role as one of the organizers of tonight’s festivities.
“Alright listen up. We’re going over the rules one last time. Standard downhill pass race and since neither of you are lacking in power, you’re gonna take off at the same time. Whoever gets in front is the leader. If he pulls away by the time you’re down at the bridge it’s his win. Other guy catches up and passes then he wins. Standard stuff. Go when the flag drops.”
“LET THIS BATTLE OF ANCIENTS BEGIN! Racers to your marks, get set, GO!”
The flag dropped and the race was on.
Both cars came alive instantly, the sounds of turbo and the fumes of their exhausts filling the air. Their RPM gauges lurched up as both drivers began to shift into gear. Squealing tires and burning rubber were mere side effects of the intensity of these two men. The opening stretch was one of only a few places wide enough to accommodate both cars; whoever seized the line here would be the leader.
Rear wheels propelling it forward, Aka’s red comet displayed it’s superior acceleration to snatch the lead in the first straight. Leaving Fabio’s 4WD to chase its bumper, but the younger driver refused to lose hope because of a shaky start. He already expected to lose the initial straight; his ride just didn’t quite have the same power in it.
Taking the moment to flip his fog lights up, the Mistralian boy prepared himself for the race ahead. He had studied the course intently for tonight: he knew the pass liked to trick new racers with the three easy turns up ahead that were immediately followed by two tight hair pins. Then there was the straight away, followed by six more harrowing hair pins and then the final sprint to the end. If he was to stand any chance at all he’d have to make to move before that final sprint; there was no way he was beating Aka’s acceleration.
Deep down Fabio was well aware that no amount of studying was going to catch up to sheer experience his opponent had on this mountain. He knew his odds were slim: he didn’t possess a faster ride, he didn’t possess more skill, hell he probably wasn’t even smarter than Jōmō’s comet. A clutch victory seemed impossible; he was at a breaking point.
Even so, he refused to lose his car.
Shifting gears once more, foot nailed down to the accelerator and only moving when the clutch called his attention, Fabio Fiordilatte chased. His green coupe remained tight on the red FR’s bumpers as they approached the first turn. Both drivers shifted down around the same time, with the FR going into a controlled oversteer cutting off Fabio’s attempt to use his superior traction to steal the inside line.
The spectators at the bend couldn’t help but cheer as the rear bumpers came dangerously close to the guardrail between them. Yet to the drivers the outside world had long since faded away, all that remained were the cars, the road, and the beatings of their hearts.
Screeching tires could once more be heard as the red comet snapped back in front maintaining its lead out of the first bend. Still, Fabio’s old ride was not going to be outdone this early and it continued its pursuit into the second bend of the race to similar results. So close was the 4WD that Aka could barely recognize anything in his rear view as the 4WD’s fog lights cast a bright glare.
In the third turn the FR made its move as it went into this turn far faster than it had approached the rest. Pulling away from the 4WD for the moment, the spectators watched in awe as the FR squealed into a high speed drift once more to widen the distance between the two. The race had only just begun but already Aka was pulling out all the stops to keep his lead. In a blur he disappeared behind the turn rapidly entering the two hairpins.
“Aka’s at it again,” one of the spectators on the third turn remarked, “the newbie is dead meat.”
“Shame too. I thought we might seem something special when he showed up in a 4 Wheel Drive. That’s what the beat the FR last time too.”
“Really? Well, I guess this brat was too cocky if he took on this race.”
“I wouldn’t be too sure,” came a new voice into the conversation between the two spectators. It belonged to a young woman whose features were obscured by the large shades she wore. The fact that the sun had descended long ago did not seem to bother the blonde.
“How do you figure?”
“Aka always tests his opponents here. Now we’ll see if he can pass.”
“Was that supposed to be a pun?”
Despite his initial fear, or the fact that he had lost sight of the FR at the third bend, Fabio did his past to remain calm. His body had screamed at him to go even faster but he remembered the danger of Jōmō Pass; the two hairpins ahead would not forgive a fast entrance. He just had to have faith that his 4WD could take the corners faster than the FR.
With the first hairpin on him mere seconds out of the bend, Fabio took advantage of his newfound room to seize the optimal line on the inside. It was amazing what the traction of all four of his wheels could do when he didn’t have to worry about hitting the bumper of his opponent. In a flash he was out of the second hairpin and once more had eyes on his target as he chased him down the straight away.
“Hey is it just me, or did the coupe come out of that turn way faster than the FR.”
“No way. Aka’s FR is untouchable. Hell I amazed the other kid didn’t smash into a guardrail.”
“That happen often?”
“Have you see the state of the guardrail on that turn?”
“Still, doesn’t it look he’s cut down the distance between them?”
“Well I’ll be damned.”
Despite the advantage the FR normally had in acceleration, the high speed of the 4WD out of the turn produced a noticeable difference in speed between the two vehicles. By the time Aka was entering the Jōmō’s deadly six the foglights were nearly upon him once more. All Aka could do was downshift and go into yet another one of his practiced drifts. Both drivers were well aware that these hairpins would decide the outcome of this race.
No slouch in the corners, the 4WD displayed it’s superior grip as it tried to hold the inside line. By the end of the first hairpin the two cars were bumper to bumper again. It was going into the second hairpin that Fabio remembered the danger from before. As predicted, Aka went into another drift but this time, like he did in the earlier turns, his FR cut off Fabio’s line.
“Holy crap, they’re gonna hit each other.”
“Babe if you keep freaking out, I’m not bringing you to another race.”
“But they’re right next to the guardrail and the front of the red one is nearly touching that green car. How can they not hit each other?”
“No, no, you don’t get it. That’s Aka’s game, he’s blocking off the other driver’s line-”
“What’s a line? Do you mean the white stripes on the road?”
“No a line is like the optimal route a driver can take through corners.”
“Isn’t racing just about whose car is faster anyway?”
“Of course not. Look at these two. Compared to the FR-”
“Front Engine, Rear Wheel Drive. Anyway, like I was saying. The FR is slower in the corners, but it doesn’t matter if Four Wheel Drive can’t maintain his line.”
“You’re such a nerd, this is a horrible spot for a date.”
“Whatever. Now we can please go back to the race.”
“What race? Those guys went out of sight ages ago.”
“GOD DAMN IT.”
“Anger management honey.”
Entering the fourth hairpin, Fabio was starting to get worried. The previous three hairpins had all been the same; it didn’t matter how much he had cut down on the distance if he couldn’t pass the FR. Aka’s knowledge of the course was incredible. He knew all the optimal lines for Fabio’s 4WD and thus every single one them had been blocked off.
As much as he couldn’t afford to lose, Fabio’s hopes for a victory were being dashed away.
Going into the fifth hairpin he knew he had to do something. He had been hoping the grip of his car would carry him through but that was no longer an option. He had to do something crazy to take the lead and only had one shot coming up. The narrow road opened up just enough after the sixth hairpin for the two cars to race side by side. That meant he couldn’t just afford to take the lead in the hairpins; he needed a substantial distance. As the FR’s tires squealed once more, and his opponent’s front cut off the 4WD’s line, Fabio realized his way out.
The next hairpin would decide the race.
Meanwhile the spectators continued to be amazed at the state of the race. No one had expected this race to be so close. Most pursuers of Aka down these hairpins got sent flying off the mountain. That this loser had made it so far baffled many of the onlookers with money on this race. Some were even beginning to sweat nervously as the blurs made their way down the mountain. Yet the veterans, who had been coming to Jōmō Pass long before the adrenaline junkies, loan sharks, and half-naked women, were all smiling. It had been many years since they had last seen a race this close on the pass.
That was an era that was long since past. When the Lady still ruled.
Inside his car Aka was smiling. The kid had done extremely well to make it this far, even now, speeding out of the fifth hairpin, he could make out the fog lights of the 4WD in his mirror. The boy was sticking on his bumper but unfortunately it was too late. They were about to enter the final hairpin and after that it would all be over.
“You put on one hell of a show kid.” Aka remarked inside his relatively silent car as they entered the last of Jōmō’s deadly six. Just like before he shifted down, began to oversteer once more, and checked his rear view for one last sighting of the kid that had put on a spectacular fight.
The fog lights were gone.
The 4WD, which had been trailing the FR for the entire race, was suddenly nowhere to be seen. Rather it had given up the optimal line being blocked by Aka’s red comet. Ripping his head to the right side, Aka was finally able to make out the front bumper of the green coupe steadily creeping forward. The maniac was taking advantage of Aka’s driving to grab the outside.
Fabio Fiordilatte had realized something important during the last hairpin. He had been so focused on trying to seize his line that he failed to notice his opponent’s crucial error. In cutting him off on every turn Aka also wasn’t following his line. And just like that, the lines both of them needed to take had changed.
The FR always lacked the speed in the corners compared to Fabio’s 4WD. However while his opponent was in such an extreme drift his speed was going to be cut down tremendously. He was no longer just a bit slower in the corners; he was a bonafide snail compared to the grip of his 4WD. While racing along the outside, Fabio was gaining speed while his opponent was losing.
Now it was time for Aka to do the chasing.
Out of the last hairpin the 4WD zoomed past the cheering spectators to finally take the lead. In contrast the FR lost even more speed as it straightened itself out. The red comet’s tires were crying out as Aka kept himself from fishtailing. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem as his temporary slowdown would also affect his opponent. But normally his opponent wasn’t in the lead.
In an outcome none of the spectators, save perhaps one, could have expected, the 4WD was widening the distance between the two cars as it approached the final bridge.
However Jōmō’s famed red comet was not out of the race just quite yet. Its famous acceleration kicking into gear, it chased down the 4WD. With only this last straight away left, the red comet pulled itself alongside the 4WD. The FR’s front bumper was so close that Fabio wouldn’t have been able to open his right hand door if he so desired.
At this point, as both car’s jostled for the front, the only thing the drivers could do was hold down the accelerator.
The bridge was rapidly closing in for the two neck and neck competitors.
In that last second, Aka did something that only the two racers could notice. For a brief instant he let his foot off the accelerator just as he would’ve taken the lead.
“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! OUR CHAMPION! THE GREEN DEVIL! FABIO PARK!”
As his heart settled Fabio wasn’t sure what was stranger: the cheering of the crowds, his impromptu nom de guerre, or hearing his father’s surname again. He may have entered with the name but it still felt odd to hear.
Well, he knew what felt stranger.
This victory, while it may have been his first, did not feel earned. Grateful as he may have been to keep his car, he hardly felt accomplished right now.
“Well I gotta say I’m amazed Park. Looks like you were actually right for a change,” Fabio nearly recoiled away as the rotund loan shark leaned his greasy arm on Fabio’s window. The smell of cigarettes and booze was unmistakeable. “Don’t worry, I’ve already made sure that your winnings will find their way to me. That should cover about fifty percent of your debt. Most everyone was expecting you to lose. I always love an underdog story.”
As the other man walked away Fabio did his best to keep the disgust off his face. There were more important things to worry about right now. He needed to speak with Aka immediately; he still had so many questions. Luckily for him, the crowd of spectators were beginning to dissipate, already distracted by the night’s next event. As they began to move away from his car he caught sight of the brilliant red FR parked in the nearby lot.
At the quietest his engine had been all night, Fabio wheeled his way in alongside the FR. Aka, still with a large grin on his face, was leaning against his pride and joy smoking a fresh cigarette. Now that Fabio got a closer look at him he was a bit surprised by his appearance. The hair he had mistaken for black was actually a dark shade of red and explained the man’s nickname. He was also shorter than Fabio expected, barely taller than Fabio himself. Yet most surprising was how much older he seemed. The man had to be in his late forties but he seemed so worn out; especially around those hazel eyes.
Getting out of his car, Fabio turned to face the man he had defeated tonight.
“There’s the champ. Just like your big sis. Here for the slips?”
“Why’d you slow down?”
“Would you believe me if I told you my foot slipped?”
Fabio’s silence was all the answer the other man needed.
“Alright fine. Take a walk with me kid. Don’t worry, I don’t bite.”
Nodding his head, and possibly against his better judgement, Fabio followed the other man as he took them down the trail.
“That lot was made back when the trail got a lot of visitors but nowadays no one cares about the backwoods in Mistral. Watch your head.”
Ducking beneath the forewarned branch, the young teen paid closer attention to the trail they were now walking along. Nothing about it stood out to him; it was your standard dirt path through the woods. The most important part was trying not to lose his footing on the rather steep downhill. He failed to imagine how this trail might have ever garnered traffic.
“Well, here we are.”
On cue Fabio emerged from the last hedge to have his query answered. Across him stood a beautiful lake. The still waters felt so tranquil compared to all the heart pumping action that had occurred earlier today. The trees on the opposite side were so obscured by darkness that, had he not known better, Fabio would’ve sworn that the lake continued on forever.
“It’s lot more beautiful when the moon and stars are out at full force.”
Seeing Fabio so wide eyed and in awe the older man couldn’t help but grin. He remembered the days when his face had born that stupid look. Still, even after all these years, the beauty of the place always amazed him.
“So, you wanted to know why I let up. Eh kid?”
“Huh,” for a moment Fabio remained too entranced to register any words, “Oh right. Yeah, why’d you give up Aka.”
“Just call me Ryoma kid, leave Aka for the fanboys and stupid announcers. Still can’t believe those sleeze bags snuck into our turf.”
“Right uh, then Ryoma. Why’d you do it?”
“Cause I’m old.”
“I’m olllddd.” Ryoma reiterated, taking special care to stress the second word. “I thought it was elders that are supposed to be losing our hearing.”
“I still don’t get it.”
“Look, I was old when your sister burst on the scene and I’m even older now. Why do you think I was racing for pinks.”
“I’m not sure.” Fabio confessed, “I hadn’t really thought about your reasons.”
“Course you didn’t, kids never do. Look, a teenaged brat like you has plenty of years of racing left in him. Hell, you might even hit the circuit one day. Me? My days are at an end, I was hoping some gutsy bastard would beat me and earn my car. That was the plan at least.”
“So what happened?”
“Obviously this race did. Seeing you race I realized that anyone who did beat shouldn’t drive my car. They needed to make a name for themselves with their own four wheels.”
“Still, that doesn’t explain why you gave up.”
“I didn’t really give up, truth be told if we raced again you’d beat me. You saw through my trick kid, had you caught it one turn earlier I wouldn’t have stood a chance. You upgrade your ride a bit and I also would’ve been completely smoked. Far as I’m concerned you won fair and square.”
“But what about all the other races I lost? I just got lucky today.”
“Luck is just a part of racing kids, and you won today fair and square. Those other races? Bad match ups, nerves, lack of experience, hell any number of things could’ve been responsible. It doesn’t matter and I don’t care, you won. End of story.”
There was a brief pause as Fabio reflected on the older man’s words.
“You don’t have to give me your car y’know.”
“Ah, the youth and their misguided charity,” Ryoma’s laugh took Fabio by surprise and younger boy could only eye the elder with confusion. “Look, I knew I made the right choice when I saw that damn shark leaning on your window. If I talk to him, sell him my car, I’m sure it’ll cover your debts.”
“Shh,” silenced Ryoma as he put on a head on Fabio’s head, “I want you to keep racing debt free. And not in this damn, infested environment filled with shit. Look head up north to Nagano, that’s where you’ll find the real racers. Away from all this riff raff that just tunes in to see a crash and make some money. No annoying announcers or troublesome sharks either. Just a bunch of guys and girls who want to drive. Think you can do that?”
Fabio found himself nodding again.
“Great, then I guess I’ll head back and see who I need to hand my car off too. Impressive stuff out there kid. You Fiordilattes are something else, the puns could use work though.”
“Wait! How’d you know-” but even as Fabio turned his head, Ryoma had long disappeared back into the shrubbery signaling the trail. Thus Fabio was left alone alongside the spacious lake. In the morning, he’d head back to his car, fuel up and head for Nagano. He intended to take up Ryoma’s proposition; a new environment would be nice. But for now?
For now he’d enjoy the peaceful night by the lake. He had finally won his first race.
Time to take it slow.