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Of Street Races and Spider Legs

Chapter Text

“I know Akina is pretty ominous at night, but for some reason it's particularly terrifying tonight.” Iketani huffed, sniffing the air around him, comforted by the familiar scent of the mountain. Something was different tonight, he couldn't tell what though.

“Ugh,” his companion groaned, he was obviously uncomfortable being out here so early in the morning. It was, what, around four? “Why'd you drag me out here so early, Iketani?” he whined. “It's freezing.”

“I told you when you got in the car, Kenji,” Iketani responded patiently, eyeballing his friend who was leaning against the hood of his S13. “I want to see if the rumors of a ghost on this mountain are true!”

“It's past four in the morning, though!” Kenji huffed. “You didn't have to drag me along!” Iketani felt his hackles rise and forced them back down. Now wasn't the proper time for that.

“I simply felt it was in my best interest to bring someone along, so if I saw something people couldn't say I was lying!” Kenji groaned loudly, unable to argue with that.

“You owe me dinner, you got that!?” Iketani gave him an incredulous look, he didn't have much money to spare, but before he could retort, something caught his ears. He perked, his gaze snapping down the road, where the distinct sound of screeching tires drifted towards them.

“Someone's coming.” he said, watching the road excitedly.

“What? I don't hear anything-”

“Shh!”

“I seriously don't-” Kenji cut himself off when he finally did hear the screeching tires, and it was only moments later when a black and white AE86 flew around the corner. It was like time slowed to a crawl as they watched the car gracefully drift mere inches from the guardrails and vanish down the road, everything falling silent like it had never been there. Iketani could feel the wolf in him howl in excitement and delight, the urge to shift and run building in him until he quashed it down. Later, he promised himself, later. Now was not the time.

“D-DID YOU SEE THAT!?” Kenji exclaimed, eyes wide. “THAT WAS THE MOST WELL PERFORMED DRIFT I HAVE EVER SEEN, AND FROM A TRUENO, OF ALL CARS!”

“I'm not blind nor deaf, Kenji.” Iketani responded agitatedly, god his friend could be deafening sometimes. He could understand his friend's excitement, though, he was just as excited about what they had seen.

The rumors were true, it seemed. Akina had its own ghost.

 

 ~0~

 

“Master, it's cold up here.” Takumi sighed as he looked down at the little spider on his arm. It was a young golden orb weaver, it's thorax barely bigger than his thumb. She was only going get bigger, so soon she would be too big for him to carry around in secret.

“If it's that cold, Nejibana, then why don't you climb into my pocket or something?”

“Your pockets feel small.” she huffed.

“And my shirt pocket?” Nejibana remained silent and he rose a brow.

“You win this round, master.” she grumbled as she scuttled her way towards his shirt pocket. “But you won't win the next one!”

“We'll see about that.” he responded, and let out a sigh of exhaustion as he leaned against the railing and closed his eyes.

Takumi was a simple person who only wanted a few things; quiet, routine, a safe nest, and sleep. That was it. Currently, he wanted to find a nice, secluded corner and take a small nap. The wind brushed against his face, moving his bangs. The roof was usually quiet and empty around this time, the perfect place to find somewhere to nap as he pleased.

“Hey, Takumi!”

Oh, if only that was possible.

“Good morning, Itsuki.” he yawned. He really wanted to go back home and sleep. He was quickly forced to recoil backwards when his friend shoved a magazine in his face and nearly smacked him with it. “Ah, I see this month’s edition of your magazine came in.”

“Of course!” Itsuki looked ridiculously eager to open the magazine. “And you'll never guess my master plan!” Takumi side eyed his hyper friend. How he ever ended up with Itsuki attached to his side, he'll never know. He didn't even remember how they met, just that they clicked near instantly and Itsuki had never left his side since. If he was being honest, if anything ever happened to the human who managed to worm into his heart, he'd snap, and it wouldn't be pretty.

“TAKUMI!” Itsuki's voice snapped him out of his musings. “Are you even listening to me!?”

“Yeah, I'm listening. Mind repeating that with more passion, though?”

“Ugh, you're hopeless!” Itsuki rummaged through the pages and shoved the magazine back in his face. “You see this?”

“Yeah.” No, actually, the magazine was too close to his eyes. “I'm not blind.”

“Damn it, Takumi, I'm serious here! Look, if there are any cars worth getting these days, then an 86 is my best luck! It's no S13 like Iketani's, but it's something!”

“Do you have enough saved up to buy it, though?" Itsuki visibly deflated beside him, prompting Takumi to raise a brow slightly. “I'm taking that as a no.”

"You know, if you really wanted to prove that you were my friend, you'd help me pay for the car," Itsuki nudged him impishly in the ribs, much to Takumi's annoyance. He felt his pedipalps shift in the back of his throat in response to his agitation. "Then Iketani would ask us to join his team!"

"Oh no, don't get me involved with that." Takumi groaned, leaning away from the persistent nudging. "Besides, I thought Iketani said he was looking for more experienced racers to join up." There wasn't a day that went by when his superior and best friend chatted together at work about racing and Iketani's team, the Akina SpeedStars. Itsuki eagerly listened on while Takumi made sure to steer clear of those conversations as much as possible. He already had his hands full with his own driving. Anything about cars that was not about delivering tofu just flew over his head.

“He said he would teach just about anyone with a car, though!” Itsuki looked triumphant at that, Takumi rolled his eyes. “Come on, Takumi! I need the car, you could help me out by giving me some money!”

“You do realize most of the money I earn my dad takes to help pay the bills, right?” And also buy him sake, cigarettes, and tea, and help keep the shop stocked, but he doesn't say that. “You should make it if you keep saving up for it. How much do you have now?”

“About fifty thousand yen.” Takumi hissed. The magazine said the car costed around three hundred thousand yen. He placed a hand on his friend's shoulder.

“You hang in there, you'll get there eventually.” he said, reviving a whine of complaint from Itsuki.

“It'll take years to get that amount of money working part time jobs.” he bemoaned.

“I didn't know you guys had part time jobs!” A voice called, and the two turned to look at who called.

“Oh, Natsuki?” Takumi questioned. Natsuki Mogi was a sweet, fairly hyper girl with a smile that could charm most creatures. He was certain she had forest nymph in her blood that allowed her to pull that off. “What are you doing up here?”

“You left a notebook in our last class!” she handed him a red notebook and he had the decency to blush.

“Oh, thanks.” he responded.

“That was really all I needed to do up here.” She smiled again. “We all should get together and hang out, you can tell me about this job of yours. I'd stay to talk about it, but I really do have to go, class starts soon.” She turned and began to head back in. “Bye, Takumi!”

“Ah, bye Natsuki!” he let out a sigh, and turned to see Itsuki looking thunderous, suddenly feeling a headache coming on.

“Why didn't you tell me you knew such a cutie!?” He demanded, and Takumi groaned.

“Because one, you would have freaked out like you are now and I don't appreciate it, thanks, and two, I hardly know her.” it was the truth, something about her made his fight or flight instincts kick in. Natsuki was a good friend, though, even if they were closer to acquaintances.

“You have to introduce her to me!”

“What? No, you're an independent guy, Itsuki, you don't need me to get you a girl when you can do it yourself.” He pushed away from the railing and began moving towards the doors back into the school.

“What!?” Itsuki yelled after him. “Takumi, come on! You gotta! Takumi!”

Chapter Text

“You know, Takumi, I'm surprised you don't know what an 86 is!”

“I'm not, the 92 came out when you two were in like, third grade.”

“THE 92 ISN'T THE SAME AS THE 86!”

Takumi let out a sigh. Of course he couldn't avoid the daily car discussion today, not after Itsuki dragged him into it. He really couldn't wait until he had a break, there was a little spider, a male hammock spider this one, in the store that he liked chatting with. It was a plus that Nejibana liked talking to him as well.

“Come on, Iketani, when we buy an 86 you've gotta let us join your team! I've always wanted to join up!”

“Sure, I guess. Oh, also, seeing as it's Saturday, everyone's heading up to Akina tonight. You two wanna tag along? I'll even give you a ride up!” Takumi watched Itsuki's eyes light up brightly and groaned internally. He knew what that look meant.

“WE CAN!? IN YOUR S13!? YES, YES PLEASE! WE'LL BOTH GO! RIGHT, TAKUMI? THIS IS SUCH A RARE OPPORTUNITY!” as Itsuki grabbed his arm in excitement, it seemed there was no getting out of this one, he felt his pedipalps shift.

“... I never said I wanted to go, Itsuki.” He said, but was certain he wasn't heard as his hyper friend yelled excitedly about meeting the SpeedStars and watching them race and practice.

“Hehehe, Master's being strong armed again.” he heard Nejibana tease from his pocket. He sighed and turned, walking towards the store.

“You forget that you'll be coming with me up to the mountain. It'll be late at night, when it's cold, without the warmth of dad's Trueno.” he responded slyly, feeling the small spider shift in his pocket.

“I didn't forget!” she retorted. “I was just hoping you'd forget me at home, or here.”

“Not happening.” he chuckled at her despondency before disappearing through the door frame, completely missing the narrowed eyes of Iketani watching him as he did so.

“There’s something off with that kid.” he muttered to himself. “Reeks of spider.”

“Hey, Iketani,” Itsuki spoke. “You had better keep your word about tonight!”

“I will, Itsuki.” he responded distractedly. “Say, does the place Takumi lives in have a spider problem?”

“Huh? No, Takumi's dad keeps on top of the house's cleanliness, anything that could get in and cause a problem is never able to. Why?” Iketani scratched his chin, confused.

“No real reason, just thought I saw something that looked like spider silk on him is all.”

 

 ~0~

 

It was about fifteen minutes until eight when Takumi finally got up to leave, Nejibana scuttling from her small web by the ceiling and dropping onto his shoulder. She landed with a decent thump, slightly strained with a weakened stick, he guessed she was nearing a molt. He wasn't far away from one himself, his limbs felt fairly stiff.

“Going somewhere, Takumi?” he turned to see his dad, Bunta, leaning against the storefront, a newspaper in his hands and a cigarette in his mouth. His own companion, a much bigger orb weaver and Nejibana's own father, was settled on his shoulder, staring directly at the paper. Takumi assumed he was reading it. “And with Nejibana no less.” that made the elder spider turn towards him.

“Yes, where are you going with the hatchling this late?”

“Itsuki wants me to head out to the mountain with him, dad. And even if you had said she shouldn't go, Tama, she likely would have stowed away in my pocket.”

“Yes, you're right, she would.” Tama sighed, before turning back to the paper. “Keep her out of trouble.”

“While I don't care how long you stay out tonight,” Bunta began. “You should know that I'm still going to drag you out of bed in the morning.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know, no need to remind me.” Takumi responded in a slightly despondent tone, before turning back away and stumbling slightly. That caused Bunta to look at him more closely.

“You're usually more graceful than that.”

“I'm getting close to a molt, dad.” Takumi responded. “I think it'll hit me sometime tomorrow afternoon.” Bunta nodded.

“This'll be your forth one. The fourth is the sharpening molt, and your venom will start to develop and become more potent. I hope you've been caring for your fangs like I taught you.” Takumi didn't say a word, his frame suddenly much more tense. Bunta's face warped in exasperation. “You haven't even started caring for them, have you.” Takumi laughed nervously.

“I… kinda forgot to.” he replied, and Bunta sighed.

“Kid, this molt is really important, if you don't take care of your fangs beforehand, they're liable to snap off during the molt.” Takumi jumped at that, his eyes widening, and rapid clicking started emanating from him. “Oh, calm down, I said liable, not that they actually will. They're more likely to chip a little than completely snap off.”

“Then tell me that before laying the whole snapping off thing on me!” he snapped, and Nejibana raised two of her front legs in a threat posture.

“I'm liable to bite you for making master panic like he did!” she yelled, and Tama chuckled.

“You haven't even hit your first molt, hatchling, you couldn't bite anyone if you tried.”

“I'M CLOSE TO MY MOLT, YA OLD COOT!”

“Bana!” Takumi watched the two squabble with wide eyes.

“Old coot? I'll show you old coot-”

“Tama, no.” Bunta interrupted, and Tama immediately stood down. Nejibana swayed side to side, her legs still extended, before Takumi picked her up and pushed her gently into his pocket.

“On that note, I'm heading off, dad.” Bunta nodded and both he and Tama turned their attention back to the newspaper.

 

 ~0~

 

“Urgh, never again.” Takumi groaned, laying on his side on the ground, his back towards Itsuki and Iketani. Nejibana was in the ground in front of him, a leg touching his arm.

“It's alright, master. You'll be okay.”

“God, who knew you were such a baby!” Itsuki groaned. “Screaming the whole time, you could have ruined Iketani's focus!”

“It really wouldn't have.” Iketani interjected. “And anyway, that was his first time in the car with a street racer, I would have been surprised if he HADN'T screamed. Though, the motion sickness is a little odd.” Yeah, odd, totally, his insides felt like liquid, he wouldn't be surprised if he couldn't produce silk for the next few days.

“You're a total wimp, Takumi!” Itsuki ignored Iketani's statement and pushed on. “I bet you're the type who screams on roller coasters!”

“Everyone screams on roller coasters.” Takumi responded agitatedly, Najibana scuttling back into his pocket as he rolled over to face them. “And besides, I don't find roller coasters scary!” he resisted the urge to groan again at the new position upsetting his insides. “And anyway, this isn't anything like that! You'd never understand, even if I explained it to you!” Jorōgumo were not meant to go that fast unless they were the direct cause.

“What?” Itsuki looked confused, and was about to question what he meant when the sound of engines drew his attention.

“We have company.” Iketani stated, watching as a train of five cars pulled up, lead by an FD3S and an FC3S. Takumi, intrigued, stood up and eyed the cars as they came to a halt. The line-up of cars was impressive, each and every one of them looked very well maintained. He could see "Akagi Red Suns" painted on one of the cars but only saw that much before the whole team crowded about. Was this something really to get excited about?

The Red Suns?” He heard Iketani question nervously. “As in Akagi's fastest drivers?” Takumi raised a brow, and watched as the door on the yellow FD opened and a tall blonde stepped out, the door on the white FC following suit and a taller brunet emerging, his head turning to look at the blonde, who nodded.

"Alright, listen up!" the blonde began. "We're the Akagi Red Suns! There's a large chance that you've heard of us. I don't wanna go off sounding like a prick, but I wanna know who the fastest team is on this side of the mountain! Anyone wanna claim that?"

"If it's the fastest team you're looking for, we're right here. The Akina SpeedStars," Iketani crossed his arms over his chest as he narrowed his eyes at the two. The blonde looked slightly surprised, turning his head to look at the brunet again, before turning back with a smirk.

“Then we've found what we've been looking for!” he exclaimed. “How about we hold a practice session to see what you're made of?”

“What?” even though Takumi couldn't see his face, he could tell it was morphed by shock.

“Are they serious?” he heard Kenji say off to the side. Itsuki made a sound of pure excitement beside him.

“What a turn of events! This is so exciting!”

“This is a good opportunity to learn.” a voice spoke up. “We've only ever raced each other and others we know, it would be wonderful to race someone completely new! We could make new friends, and in exchange, learn some new tricks that we could possibly use ourselves, if we can pull them off that is. So how about it?” Iketani looked decently impressed.

“Fumihiro makes some pretty good points...” someone else in the crowd commented quietly.

“Well, wf you put it that way, how could we possibly refuse?” he looked at Kenji, who nodded eagerly.

“Wonderful! How about next Saturday, say, around ten?”

“Sounds fine.”

“We'll just take it easy today, then.” the blonde took back over. Itsuki was practically vibrating out of his skin beside Takumi, muttering about how amazing what they were witnessing was. Takumi really didn't understand the hype. He watched as the Red Suns got back into their cars, the yellow FD making a sharp u-turn and rushing off in the direction it came, the rest following after. Iketani was bouncing, his inner wolf was howling in delight and desperation, it wanted free, it wanted to run, it wanted to CHASE! He rushed towards his S13, grinning madly.

“Come on, we have to follow after them!” he exclaimed, and his team immediately jumped into action, each running to their own cars.

“IKETANI!” Itsuki yelled, confused. “WHAT'S THE RUSH!?

“Those were the Takahashi brothers!” Iketani yelled in response, as if that answered everything, and Itsuki recoiled in surprise.

THE TAKAHASHI BROTHERS!?” he yelled in shock as Iketani raced by. “WAIT, WHAT ABOUT US!?” he stared dumbly after the S13, before growling in agitation. “THIS SUCKS! Why are we the only ones without a car!?”

“... hey, Itsuki.” Takumi started, prompting his friend to look at him. “Is street racing really that fun? I don't get it… why's everyone so excited?”

“I DON'T GET HOW YOU DON'T GET IT!” Itsuki responded. “The sound of squealing tires, watching cars chase one another, watching them race by, how could you not get excited about that!?” Takumi merely blinked owlishly at his friend. That really didn't help him.

 

 ~0~

 

It was early in the morning when Keisuke found himself on Akina once again, getting a feel for the layout. Agitation ran strong in him, the Akina SpeedStars were not even worth the effort of a race, and he knew Ryousuke agreed with him, having heard his brother say so, but agreed with him that if they were to become number one in Japan, they had to dominate here too. He gripped the wheel harder, his agitation rising, and chanced a glance in his rear view then back at the road, before doing a double take.

He was being followed.

His tail was gaining on him, and fast, and he narrowed his eyes, letting out a scoff as he continued on. It was when the car tried to pass him that he got agitated.

“No one passes me!” he growled, speeding up. “After these corners, you won't even be in my mirrors!” leaning slightly, he shifted gears wildly and slammed his brakes, jerking the wheel and drifting around the first corner, and that was when he finally saw the kind of car chasing him. “AN 86!?” he yelled incredulously. “YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING!” when he finished the corner, he slammed the gas, leaving the 86 in the dust, only for it to catch back up at the next corner. Keisuke was positively livid. “WHY CAN'T MY FD OUTSPEED AN OLD 86!? THIS IS LIKE A NIGHTMARE!” he quickly registered his location and slowed down, this corner was ridiculously dangerous and if he went too fast he'd fly down the mountain side.

The 86 had other ideas, and pulled past him at full speed.

“HE'S GOING TOO FAST!” he exclaimed, eyes widening in horror. “HE'LL NEVER STOP IN TIME!” it was then that time seemed to suddenly slow down as the 86 came out of a gentle right drift and forced itself into a left one almost unnaturally. Keisuke's eyes widened and his arms jerked, forcing him into an early drift and prompting him to stop mere centimeters from the guardrail. He watched as the 86 vanished down the road, leaving not even a skid to prove that it had been there in the first place. His arms shook at he stepped from his car, his blood singing with the urge to chase after the car and never let it out of his sights.

He was just out drifted by an 86.

“What did I just see?” he muttered, shaken. “It was like I had encountered a ghost.”

Chapter Text

Takumi awoke to the sound of the door opening, and he proceeded to toss one of his pillows towards it, missing his father’s head by inches.

“You missed.” he chuckled, eliciting a groan from his son.

“Don’t care, go away.”

“Well, you can’t go back to sleep until you chase off that human friend of yours. He’s snooping and it’s making Tama and the rest of the nest nervous.”

“Human friend?” Takumi echoed, moving his body into an upright position and groaning, stretching out his numerous limbs. He felt his fangs click once in confusion. “Who, Itsuki?”

“No, it’s not Itsuki. It’s the wolf.” that made Takumi wake up completely, a slightly agitated look crossing his face as he shifted back into a human form and stood, swaying slightly as he attempted to gain stability on his stiffened legs.

“You’re really close to your molt, aren’t you?” Tama asked from his position on Bunta’s thorax.

“Yeah, I was hoping to just stay in bed today but it seems like I have to chase off Iketani instead.” he grumbled, and Bunta merely chuckled at his son’s agitation. Takumi chose to ignore his father and headed down, chancing a glance up towards Nejibana’s web and seeing her asleep, the split in her thorax telling him she was mid molt. He turned his attention back to the storefront and opened the door, seeing Iketani looking over his father’s Trueno with wide and curious eyes.

“Iketani?” he called, causing his friend to jump in surprise with a small yelp. “What are you doing?”

“Takumi!?” Iketani responded, a shaken look on his face.

“That’s my name.” he responded blandly.

“What, do you live here or something?”

“Yeah, what of it?” he exited the store completely and shut the door behind him. “Why are you even out here in the first place?”

“I, uh, was in the area and thought I’d check out somewhere I’d never been before.” he chuckled, and Takumi narrowed his eyes slightly. That was a lie, he could tell.

“Alright,” he responded, giving no sign that he noticed the bluff. “I guess I can’t fault you for that.”

“Anyway, Takumi, you said you didn’t have an 86, so why is there one sitting right there?” he pointed at Bunta’s Trueno and confusion streaked across Takumi’s face.

“What? No, I’m pretty sure the car says Trueno on the back, so it can’t be an 86.” a look of exasperation and disbelief settled on Iketani’s face.

“A Trueno is an 86, Takumi. It’s an AE86 chassis Levin and Trueno.”

“What?”

“Here, just hop in, we have work today, we’ll go talk to Itsuki about it, he’ll agree with me.” Work? Of course the molt made him forget he had work. As Iketani opened the car door and looked at Takumi expectantly, he realized that he wouldn’t be going back to bed for his molt any time soon.

He only hoped it wouldn’t hit him while he was out.

 

~0~

 

“TAKUMI HAS AN 86 AT HIS HOUSE!?” Takumi covered his ears, not appreciating Itsuki’s level of volume. “TAKUMI, YOU ASS! HOW COULD YOU KEEP THIS A SECRET FROM ME!?”

“Keep it a secret? I didn’t even know it was an 86.” Takumi responded, wholly wishing he could just go home and curl up in his room. Why was it such a big deal, anyway? It’s just a car! “If it’s a Trueno, just say Trueno. You called it an 86 and normal people just don’t do that.” Takumi found that statement ridiculously funny. Normal people, right.

“Rrrgh, why you…!” Itsuki’s tone was enraged, which prompted Takumi’s fight or flight instincts to kick in and he squared up, his fangs clicking in both fright and agitation. The brawl that he expected didn’t come, though, as Itsuki wrapped an arm around his shoulder and grinned slyly. “I could get over this transgression, if you let me borrow the 86 for a bit on Saturday.”

“... Why?” Itsuki removed his arm in surprise, agitation crossing his features.

“IT SHOULD BE OBVIOUS! I want to go watch the SpeedStars and the Red Suns meet of course!” Takumi stared at him blankly, not answering, and Itsuki quickly hopped to another route of persuasion. “Ever since yesterday, I’ve been more into street racing than I ever have before! Don’t you want to see the Takahashi brothers race too!?”

“... Not really.” he responded, looking off to the side. Oh, there was a little spider over there, it had really big eyes. He wanted to go and have a chat.

“WHAT!?” Itsuki roared, grabbing a hold of Takumi and shaking him slightly. Oh boy, not this again. “HOW COULD YOU SAY THAT TO YOUR OWN FRIEND!?” he quickly let Takumi go and fell to his knees. “Please, I’m begging you, Takumi, give me a ride in the 86 on Saturday!” Takumi looked cornered.

“Hey!” a voice called, and Takumi was ridiculously grateful to see it belonged to his boss, Yuichi Tachibana. “What are you two doing? A customer just pulled in, whatever you two were up to can wait!”

 

~0~

 

Iketani let out a sigh as he sat back, looking at his work so far with a tired feel in his muscles. There was a lot on his mind, but the real issue he was pondering was Takumi. The boy was an enigma to both him and his wolf. He smelled of spiders and spider silk but he never saw a shred of evidence towards him ever having been in close contact with either. Not to mention the kid’s house reeked of both smells as well. He narrowed his eyes, just what was up with Takumi?

“You upgrading your car, Iketani?” he heard Kenji begin behind him. “Those tires look new too, must have been pretty pricey.”

“It’s only the tires.” he responded. “But I need to raise the grip to reduce my times. I’m also replacing the brake pads, braking is ridiculously important on a downhill.”

“So you’re running the downhill?”

“Yeah.” he leaned forward and got back to work on the car. “I’m going to attack the downhill like I’ve got a death wish.”

“Don’t overdo it.” he heard a second voice say.

“Right,” Kenji interjected. “One mistake on the downhill, and you’re finished.”

“I understand that, but to have to overdo it just a little.” his inner wolf growled in disagreement, he ignored it. “I have to, for the pride of our hometown, and myself.” Kenji and his companion were silent, and Iketani continued to work regardless.

 

~0~

 

Keisuke was agitated, gripped the wheel hard as he ran the road again. It’s been a few days since he had last seen that 86, and he was starting to become desperate to see it again.

“Ugh, it hasn’t appeared tonight either!” he growled. “I have to face it again. If I don’t get my revenge, I’ll never be able to relax!” his grip tightened and he could hear the wheel groan slightly in complaint. He didn’t care about the SpeedStars at this point, he just wanted to race the 86 who dared make a mockery of him! “COME OUT AND FACE ME, GHOST OF AKINA!”

 

~0~

 

Takumi sighed as reclined on one of the chairs in back, his fingers weaving through the air as the hammock spider, Iki he had come to name him, ran and jumped around the digits, laughing the entire time. He sleepily watched Itsuki and Iketani moon over the television, which was depicting a car doing drifts and general racing stuff. He seriously didn’t get the appeal.

“Woooah! He’s so cool!” he heard Itsuki exclaim.

“It looks like he can control the car with just the gas pedal!” Iketani added.

“Takumi!” Itsuki suddenly called out his name and he jerked slightly. Iki bailed immediately, not wanting to get Takumi or himself caught. “Don’t you just wish you could go and pull of drifts like that!?” why was he asking that? Didn’t Takumi make it abundantly clear that he really didn’t care?

“Ugh, sure.” he responded, agitated. God he was sore and tired. His molt on Sunday had been a messy one, as he had been forced to put it off. He was happy that his fangs had come out pristine, he actually had expected them to break off. He’s lucky that all he had received in response to the held off molt was a line of scarring on the top of his thorax that would disappear when he next went through a molt.

“Look at THAT drift! Wooooahh, so cool!”

“Right.” Itsuki suddenly turned to look at Takumi, his face morphed in agitation.

“Takumi, are you even paying attention!? DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT A DRIFT IS!?” that caused Iketani to turn his attention towards him too. Agitation ran up Takumi’s spine and his fangs clicked a few times in response.

“Yes, I know what drifting is.” he responded blandly.

“Well the, how about you tell us then?” Itsuki demanded, crossing his arms and looking imperious. Takumi felt his eye twitch.

“Alright.” he grit out. “In a curve-”

“Don’t say curve! It’s not cool!” Itsuki interrupted, and Takumi felt the urge to growl as his fangs began clicking rapidly. Iketani gained a confused look and started looking around, prompting Takumi to force his fangs to stop. “Street racers say corner.”

“Alright!” Takumi snapped, causing Itsuki to recoil. “In a corner, you make the front tires slide so that the car won’t face the inside.” he heard Yuichi’s breathing hitch and registered a sound of wonderment coming from him, just as Itsuki and Iketani began laughing uproariously.

“That’s a good one Takumi!” Itsuki wheezed. “You should become a stand-up comedian with that one! Front tires sliding is understeer, which is totally uncool and for people with no skill!”

“True drifts are all in the back tires!” Iketani howled “You’re hilarious!” Takumi felt his face heat up, his fangs starting up their clicking with a vengeance, only to stop when Yuichi sat a hand on his shoulder and nodded approvingly, letting Takumi know that he was approving of the answer. He gave his boss a small, thankful smile and proceeded to lean back into his chair, Iki scuttling back over to settle on his hand. Yuichi walked away, likely to check on the front for anyone.

“The human and the wolf aren’t very nice, are they.” Iki stated more than asked, and Takumi nodded, letting out a sigh.

“They’re usually better than this.” he responded. “I dunno, don’t care either, they’ll have forgotten about it later.”

“Not caring doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.” Iki responded wisely.

Takumi didn’t grace that with a response.

“There are customers!” Yuichi yelled, and Iki jumped off of Takumi once more as he got up and rushed out to the front. He froze, Iketani coming out beside him and freezing as well, and both watched as a very familiar yellow FD pulled in. Hadn’t he seen that car once more since last Saturday? He felt like he had. As the window rolled down, Takumi ran up and caught sight of the blonde he had seen before. He felt his pedipalps shift in intrigue and ignored it.

“High octane. Fill her up.” the blonde spoke.

“Yes, sir!” Takumi hopped to it immediately, Iketani setting forth to clean the windows. The blonde moved his gaze to Iketani’s S13, then back to Iketani, and a smirk graced his features.

“I thought I recognized that car.” he muttered. “Hey, can I ask you something?” Iketani paused for a moment, his gaze turning towards him, agitation settled on his face. Takumi watched the interaction curiously. “You would likely be the one to know, and I’m genuinely curious.”

“Fine, ask away.”

“This will sound incredibly stupid, but is there a ghost on Akina? One that drives an 86?” Iketani stared him down, as Takumi looked over Keisuke’s car, his eyes catching on the back.

“It looks like he’s trying to fly with this thing…” he muttered.

“I don’t appreciate being joked around with like this, sir.” Iketani finally spoke, catching Takumi’s attention once again. The blonde chuckled.

“While the ghost part was a joke, the rest wasn’t. I think you definitely know what I’m talking about.” Iketani’s fists clenched and Takumi could smell the familiar tang of blood as his nails broke the skin on his palms. “If you could, please pass along a message to the driver of the 86 for me. Our last meeting was a fluke, and they caught me by surprise. I challenge them to a make-up race. No one beats Keisuke Takahashi once and gets away without me learning who they are!” surprise shot past Iketani’s face and he merely nodded, before opening his mouth.

“A-Alright, I’ll pass on your message.” Iketani finally responded, receiving a nod of gratitude from Keisuke, before he finally pulled out. It was when he was gone that it finally hit Takumi.

He HAD seen that yellow FD after Saturday. It had been on the road, he had been in a rush to get home after a four in the morning delivery run and had spotted it practicing. Not really giving a shit and wanting to get home to sleep, he had sped past and drifted away.

That had been Keisuke Takahashi he had passed? Itsuki said he was one of the fastest racers in Japan as of right now, only second best to his brother, and was second in command of the Red Suns. He considered it a loss, like they had been racing?

He blinked, confused and lost.

He just got challenged to a street race.

He had to tell his dad.

Chapter Text

Takumi yawned as his alarm woke up him, prompting him to reach over and smack it with his hand to shut it up. He stared at it for a second, before getting up, popping his back, and starting his routine.

Bunta and Tama met him down in the living room, Nejibana watching them bearily from her web. Takumi looked up at her and smiled.

“Would you like to come along this time, Bana?”

“No.” she responded, moving herself further into her web. “I’ll go the next time you use the car. AND DON’T CALL ME BANA!”

“The next time Takumi uses the car,” Bunta spoke up. “Will be at that race this Saturday.”

“Do I have to do it?” Takumi whined as he got into the car.

“I would like it if you did.” Bunta responded truthfully, handing him a cup of water. Takumi took a glance inside it as he started the car, quiet music beginning to play over the radio.

“This is a lot more water than usual, dad.” he commented, gently setting the water into the cup holder.

“You can handle it.” Bunta responded. “Don’t spill any of it.”

“I know, I won’t.” Takumi rolled the window up with a small wave and began to pull out of the alley, turning his music up as he made his way down the road and to Akina. Some of his mornings had been like this ever since he was thirteen, when his father had hit a surprise molt on a delivery night and Takumi took it upon himself to deliver the tofu, with Tama riding with him and giving him pointers. It had been six in the morning when Takumi managed to get back, and when Tama told Bunta what he had did when he came out of his molt, the boy’s father took it upon himself to teach his kid how to drive his car fast and efficiently

As Takumi drifted a corner, his mind wandered a little. Nejibana’s latest molt had been just had bad as his own, one of her fangs had chipped and she was ridiculously moody about it. Bunta and Tama were amused by her scathing remarks, but Takumi was a little hurt. Nejibana had never been abrasive towards him before now and it was deeply unsettling to him. He was brought back by the sloshing of water and glanced down to see it lap at the rim of the cup but never spill. He looked back at the road and began to hum. He’d worry about Nejibana later, he had deliveries to make.

 

~0~

 

"Your face looks as tired as always, Takumi!” Itsuki poked him in the cheek, prompting him to swat at his hand.

“I was born with this face, Itsuki.” he responded, annoyed. “I can’t help that.”

“Enough about that, you have to remember the 86 on Saturday!”

“I never agreed to that.” it was true, he never even got the chance to say no either. Itsuki was a persistent guy.

“I have to make sure you don’t bail on me!” Itsuki plowed through the statement like he never heard it. “Oh! I can’t wait for Saturday!” Takumi let out a sigh of defeat and began to walk off, when Itsuki grabbed his shoulder. “Hey, if we both plan to become street racers-”

“I told you not to get me dragged into that!” it was already bad enough that his dad was doing it, he didn’t need Itsuki to do it too. “And anyway, I honestly don’t care about all that.” Itsuki puffed up in agitation.

“Well then, I bet that even if you tried, it wouldn’t go well for you!” he huffed. “Seeing as you screamed like a little girl in the back of Iketani’s car, you likely don’t have an ounce of talent!” as Itsuki continued to ramble on about that, Takumi took the opportunity to escape and begin his treck to class, waving gently at the little jumping spider in one of the hallway windows. If he wanted to ramble on like he was, he could do it himself.

And he would ignore how his chest hurt as he did so.

 

~0~

 

Iketani sighed at he stared up at the Fujiwara Tofu Shop. He really couldn’t believe he was here, about to do what he thought he was.

He had come to this decision very early this morning, while he was running Akina in practice. He was nervous, jumpy, and his wolf had been agitated and uncomfortable the entire time. It had been getting worse and worse the closer Saturday came. He feared that if it came to it, he wouldn’t be able to race because he was so jacked up on nerves. Groaning, he exited his vehicle and approached the front, opening the door and walking in. The store was clean and simple, there were a few storage shelves for ingredients and a counter with a bell and register on it.

That didn’t explain the pungent odor of spiders and spider silk.

“Hello! Excuse me?” he called, and picked up on soft groaning and footsteps as someone approached. A blanket covering the doorway in back lifted and a middle aged man leaned into the room.

“Hello, I’ll be with you in a moment.” he responded.

“Alright.”

When the man finally stepped out, Iketani noticed something. The man had many similarities in stature and facial features to Takumi.

“How can I help you?” he asked, and Iketani’s stomach did a small rumble.

“Could I have some fried tofu?” he asked, sweating slightly. Might as well, while he was here.

“Sure.” as the man rang up his order, Iketani finally gathered his guts.

“I heard a rumor going around recently about someone who drives an 86, who rules the roads of Akina really late at night. That no one can beat him.” the man stopped for a moment before continuing on. The moment of hesitation was enough for Iketani. “Yours is the only 86 in the entire city, and I’ve checked!” the man turned to him, a bag in his hands.

“I don’t know where you learned that, but it isn’t me.” Iketani’s wolf bristled at that.

“Don’t play dumb-”

“I’m not.” the man said firmly. “You misunderstand me, I’m not the one who drives that car on Akina unless it’s to go to town for business, and that’s during the day.” he straightens. “The one who drives my car is my son.”

“WHAT!?” Iketani was floored. That meant… “YOU MEAN TAKUMI!?” the man nodded.

“If this is about that challenge he was given, you can lay off. I’ve already gotten him to do it.”

“B-But this is TAKUMI we’re talking about! He’s helpless when it comes to cars!”

“If I didn’t think my son could handle doing what he does that early, I wouldn’t have ever let him set a hand on my car.” he handed Iketani the bag of fried tofu. “He may not know any terminology, but one doesn’t have to in order to be a good racer. That should have been one of the first things you learned. The tofu is one hundred and forty yen.” Iketani grabbed the bag and began pulling out his wallet, paying the expected amount but not yet leaving. “Is there something else on your mind?”

“... I was wondering if you could teach me how to tackle Akina like your son does.” the man looked surprised at that.

“I can’t, and before you get all up in arms about that, I’ll inform you that what you’re asking for can’t be taught. You have to practice over and over to get to where you desire. I’m sorry.” Iketani deflated, his inner wolf giving a small howl of despair. He nodded his thanks and left the store, entering the car with his tofu and sitting for a moment. He let out a deep sigh of despair and started his car.

Takumi? The Ghost of Akina? Bullshit.

 

~0~

 

“IKETANI GOT INTO AN ACCIDENT!?” that simple line caught Takumi’s attention immediately and he walked over, curious

“What happened to Iketani?” he asked, looking at Kenji.

“He hit a guardrail coming down Akina last night.” Kenji explained, his face morphed with worry. “He wasn’t hurt too badly, mostly just has whiplash, but he’s really agitated about it all. I heard his car is all messed up. Come on, I asked Yuichi if I could take you two to see him and he said that you two have the rest of the day off." Before Itsuki could run to the car, Takumi grabbed his collar and pulled him back to change into their casual clothes. After that, Itsuki was the first to Kenji’s car, eyes wide, and Takumi was a close second, his mind wandering as he climbed in back.

“What about the meet on Saturday!?” Itsuki exclaimed as Keji started the car.

“It’s hopeless.” he responded. “We’d have to find a replacement for Iketani, and we’re hard pressed to do so.”

“Kenji, where is Iketani? The hospital?” Takumi questioned. He didn’t like hospitals.

“No, he’s likely at the garage visiting his car. That’s where we’re going.” Kenji responded.

They found him knelt before his car, Itsuki and Kenji inhaled sharply at the sight of it. The front was dented and torn, the windshield was cracked by the driver side, and it was leaking oil like blood.

“Let’s leave him to apologize to her.” Takumi whispered to them, receiving shocked glances. “He loved that car, right? So having this happen to her is like your mother or significant other being viciously harmed and they’re in critical condition in the hospital. Let’s just leave him be.”

 

~0~

 

“Ah, hello again. Takumi told me what happened. Terrible to hear about your S13.” the man greeted when Iketani walked in next. He merely nodded and was surprised when he was handed a bag of fried tofu.

“What-”

“On the house.” the man said. “If you’ve come in about the race, don’t worry, I’ll be there with Takumi.” Iketani looked a little surprised, but nodded his thanks once again and left. When he did, Bunta closed the shop and shifted back into his true form, stretching.

“He’s persistent, isn’t he master?” Tama asked, descending slowly from the ceiling to land on Bunta’s thorax. Bunta hummed his agreement, moving into the living room and settling onto the large mat, his eyes locking on his form in the reflection of a nearby mirror. His light brown body was starting to look tense, and the violin pattern on his thorax was beginning to crack. He was going to hit a molt soon, likely tonight. “Are you sure the hatchling will succeed?”

“If I wasn’t, I never would have told him to accept the challenge.” he thought back to his conversation with Yuichi, earlier yesterday night. They bickered like they had in their younger years, he was happy to report that the old grim never lost his spark. They chattered on about many things, including Iketani and Takumi, and the race on Saturday.

Bunta was happy in knowing that he had the support of his oldest friend in his decision.

 

~0~

 

“So, what’s all this about a race today?”

“Ah, the Red Suns are going against the SpeedStars.” there was laughter.

“They’re going to get creamed!”

“With whispers about them being the fastest team, how could they ever win?”

“Takeshi, it’s almost time to go observe the race.”

“Right. Let’s go.”

“The Red Suns aren’t the fastest team in Gunma.” there was a deep chuckle.

“No, that titles goes to us, the Myogi Night Kids!”

 

~0~

 

Akina had never before seen the amount of people on it than it has now. It seems everyone wants to watch the Red Suns battle the SpeedStars.

It was terrible on Kenji’s nerves, Iketani could tell.

“There’s so many people here.” Kenji said anxiously.

“The Red Suns brought them here to show off their speed.” Iketani responded. His inner wolf was making him nervous. “If we lose tonight, we’ll be humiliated.”

“By the way, is that 86 you were telling us about even real, Iketani?” someone asked.

“Yes, and they told me they were coming.”

“What!? You got them to join in!?”

“I wasn’t the one to convince them. Keisuke Takahashi issued him a challenge.”

“Why? His FD is a million times better than some janky 86.”

“That janky 86 out-drifted him a few nights back and he’s livid.” before they could continue, there was a loud gasp.

“THE RED SUNS ARE COMING!” a girl from the crowd cried, and she was right as the rival team pulled in and stopped, the driver of the white FC stepped out. There was a loud upheaval of sound from the girls in the crowd, marking the true arrival of Ryousuke Takahashi, the eldest of the Takahashi brothers. Keisuke was the next out, standing by his FD and looking shocked when he took in Iketani’s appearance. He turned to look at Ryousuke, who looked just as shocked, and both approached him.

“What happened?” Keisuke asked.

“The obvious.” Kenji snarked, prompting one of his teammates to shove him lightly.

“I got distracted running Akina. Didn’t notice an oncoming van, swerved, crashed.”

“Who will race in your stead?” Ryousuke spoke.

“I spoke with the 86 Keisuke wished to race and he told me had had already been planning to appear tonight. I’m just hoping he appears soon.” Keisuke’s eyes shot wide and he seemed to begin bouncing eagerly. Ryousuke let out a sigh of exasperation.

“I’m telling you, Keisuke, you have it bad, and you haven’t even met the guy.” and with that he walked back to his car. Keisuke took a moment, but processed what his brother said.

“HEY!” he yelled running after Ryousuke. “I DO NOT!”

It was nearly ten when the sound of an engine caught everyone’s attention. Itsuki perked, having come in half an hour ago on a motorbike looking ridiculously put out. Keisuke’s eyes locked on the road, and moments later the 86 that had been keeping him restless came into view.

“He’s here.” he said giddily, bouncing on his heels, much to Ryousuke’s amusement. The 86 pulled to a stop near Kenji’s car, and the passenger side door opened to reveal Bunta, who stepped out. The back door opened and Yuichi stepped out, following Bunta over to the sidelines where the SpeedStars were, just as Takumi stepped from the driver side.

“TAKUMI!” Itsuki yelled. “What were you doing driving the 86!?”

“He’s the driver, of course.” Yuichi stated.

“B-But-”

“I don’t do races.” Bunta stated. “Not anymore. Takumi’s the driver.”

“HE’S NOT RACING MATERIAL, THOUGH!” Itsuki exclaimed. “HE’S GOING TO GO AGAINST ONE OF THE FASTEST RACERS IN GUNMA!”

“... I’ve beaten him once before…” Takumi defended quietly. Nejibana shifted in his pocket.

“He has little faith in you, master. I should bite him.” she commented.

“What do you mean, you’ve beaten him once before?” Kenji asked, catching everyone’s attention.

“I mean just that.” Takumi responded. “It hadn’t actually been a race, but he seemed to have taken it as a loss.” there was a moment of pause, when Itsuki made his way through and slugged Takumi in the shoulder. He heard Nejibana shriek in rage from his pocket, outraged that her master had been hit and that she couldn't do anything unless she wanted to get them caught.

“YOU IDIOT! DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING!? I’M SO EMBARRASSED THAT I CAN’T THINK STRAIGHT!”

“Itsuki-” Iketani started, only for Itsuki to cut him off.

“I am so sorry about all of this, Iketani. He never should have come, I can't believe he thinks he has what it takes-”

“Itsuki, shut up for a minute.” that forced the boy into silence. “Takumi, do you deliver tofu alongside your father?”

“No, I’ve done all the deliveries for the past five years.” he responded.

“The past five years?” Iketani echoed. Itsuki looked between them, bewildered, as Iketani clapped a hand on Takumi’s shoulder. “Alright, I’m putting all of my faith in you for this race.”

“WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT IKETANI!? IF TAKUMI DOES THE DOWNHILL, HE’LL DIE! HE’S JUST A NOVICE!”

“You need to have faith in your friend, Itsuki,” Yuichi stated. “He’s more than meets the eye.”

“BUT HE HAS NO KNOWLEDGE ON RACING! IT SHOULD BE HIS DAD WHO DRIVES, HE’LL DO A BETTER JOB! HE’S PROBABLY HERE TO MAKE SURE TAKUMI DOESN'T DIE! HE’LL-” with every word, Takumi’s chest hurt more and more. It was when what he was feeling began to show on his face that Bunta grew enraged.

“Alright, listen up!” he interjected himself into the conversation, outrage clear in his tone. “I'm only here because I want to see just how good he's gotten with that car. I don't want to hear any more of this nonsense about Takumi getting himself killed. Do you really think I would let my idiot son near my car if I didn't think he was ready for it?” that threw everyone for a loop.

“Bunta was one of the best back in his time.” Yuichi added. “If he thinks Takumi can do it, then he can damn well do it.” Itsuki didn’t know how to refute that, so he merely backed down with an upset look on his face. Iketani turned to Keisuke when he processed that the conversation was done.

“Sorry to keep you waiting!” he called, and Keisuke straightened.

“Finally.” he turned his gaze to Takumi. “He’s pretty young. What’s your name?”

“Takumi Fujiwara.”

“I’ll remember that name. I’m Keisuke Takahashi. You won’t beat me again.”

Both quickly entered their cars and got to the starting line. Takumi breathed in deeply as Nejibana took her place on his dash.

“FINALLY MASTER, I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR THE DAY YOU PROVED YOUR WORTH TO THE ROAD!”

“The road already found me worthy, Bana.” Takumi smiled broadly at her enthusiasm. He was happy she was back by his side. He watched intently as the countdown initiated, and when they were finally released, he floored it, watching as the FD pulled ahead of him instantly.

“GO GO GO!” Nejibana cheered, raising her two front legs in her excitement. She had never felt the 86 go this fast. “WRAP HIM IN WEBBING, MASTER!” Takumi chuckled at her eagerness as he drifted the first turn, keeping close to the FD. He could tell that was annoying Keisuke, and felt vindictive pleasure shoot through him, causing his fangs to rub together in the back of his throat.

This, was going to be fun.

 

~0~

 

Keisuke smirked as he came out of the drift, seeing no 86 in his rear view. The smirk dropped, though, when he saw a pair of lights appearing behind him, the black and white 86 was still chasing close behind him.

"What the hell?!" he muttered under his breath, trying to ignore what he just saw. "He's closing the gap! How can he be getting closer?" he dared another look into the mirror. Sure enough, Takumi was still following him, but there was still a good enough distance between them. "My head's gotta be screwing with me. There's no way he could catch up with this much distance between us." Gritting his teeth, he shifted gears along the incoming hairpins, sliding side to side with the road as it began to become curvier. At the corner of his eye, he could almost see a white and black paint job.

Takumi was closing in right at his side, the 86 following the FD's movements as if they were in sync. At every new corner, it looked like he was just one step away from catching up with him. Keisuke had no idea what to think. His mind was going blank, just like it did when they first raced. And sure enough, he was starting to think that he was going to lose just like before.

 

~0~

 

“He’s scared of the turns, master!” Nejibana called over the music, prompting him to turn it down. “He knows the road, but he’s too chicken to pull through! He won’t prove himself to the road like this!”

“Well then, I should show him that the turns aren’t so scary then.” while Keisuke slowed himself at these turns, Takumi did no such thing, and hit them at full speed.

“WE’RE GAINING, MASTER, WE’RE GAINING!” Takumi laughed along with her, feeling his blood sing with excitement. His fangs and pedipalps surged forward in response, and he drifted another corner. He barely registered the awed spectators as one of his favorite songs came on the radio.

This was the most excitement that he’s had in ages!

 

~0~

 

Keisuke was incredulous.

“He’s caught up to me!?” Keisuke wouldn’t have believed it if he wasn’t witnessing it first hand. He tensed, braking and preparing to drift this next corner, both angered and so very impressed that he was keeping up with him. How was he keeping up!? “HE’S IN AN 86, WHY CAN’T I LOSE HIM!?” he knew why, the 86 was faster in the corners, that was why he couldn’t shake him off. “TO BE CAUGHT LIKE THIS BY A LESS POWERFUL CAR IS SO SHAMEFUL!”

It could be a cold day in hell when he admitted that he lost to an 86!

 

~0~

 

Takumi knew only one thing.

“TAKUMI, TAKUMI, RA RA RA!” Having Nejibana in the car with him like this was like having a cheerleader in the car with him. He found it endlessly amusing.

“He’s making it difficult to pull ahead of him.” Takumi said aloud. “Maybe I should use one of my little tricks.”

“YES!” Nejibana was immediately in agreement, as always. “USE THE FLASHY ONE!”

“I can’t let that bird out of the web yet, Bana.” Takumi chided. “I’ll just use the other one.”

 

~0~

 

“Why does the FD feel so slow today!?” Keisuke was not having a good time. “Did one of the turbines quit or something!?” The 86 was so close to his bumper that he wasn’t sure if they were even touching or not. He was tense, it was unthinkable to him that a mere 86 could keep up with his superior FD. He chanced a glance in his rear view as he drifted a corner and watched as the 86 drifted gracefully near the guardrail and recover almost flawlessly. He realized where he was, up next were five consecutive hairpins, and slowed.

Takumi had no such plans.

He pulled ahead, and Keisuke got the feeling of déjà vu as terror streaked through him.

“HE’S NOT SLOWING DOWN AT THE HAIRPINS!? IS HE INSANE!?” it was almost like time slowed to a crawl once more as Keisuke heard a dull thunking sound, and watched the 86 drift unnaturally through the first corner. “W-WHAT!?” the 86 used the turn to drift into the next, pulling ahead and nearly vanishing from his sight.

Surprisingly, he didn't feel angry like he thought he would be when Takumi crossed the finish line before he did. In fact, he felt oddly pleased. As he pulled his car to a stop near his brother’s, he watched Takumi exit his car and get pulled into a very short hug by his father, who was keeping that loud Itsuki fellow away from him. Dredging up his courage, he walked over. The father noticed him first, and nudged his son, pointing at him. Takumi turned and hurried over.

“Nice job. That was one of the most exciting, if not tense races I’ve had in a long time.” he said, greeted by the sight of a lightly blushing Takumi.

“O-Oh, thanks, I guess.” he settled a hand on the back of his head. It was kind of cute.

Wait, cute? Where’d that thought come from?

“If you’re up for it, maybe we could race again one day?” he asked, holding out a hand. Takumi stared at it for a bit, a bewildered look on his face, and Keisuke thought he was going to refuse when the brunet smiled softly at him.

“Yeah,” he said, raising his hand. “I’d like that.”

The moment their hands met, it was like electricity shot through their arms, forcing their muscles to tense up. They both pulled their hands away quickly.

“I-It was nice finally meeting you.” Takumi said hurriedly. “I’ll catch you later or something.” and he quickly hurried away.

What just happened?

Chapter Text

Bunta was immediately on guard the moment he watched his son scurry back over to him, eyes wide with shock and vague terror and his hand cradled closely to him. Yuichi took notice as well and the old spider could tell his friend was concerned for him.

“Taku-”

“I want to go home.” Takumi interrupted him hurriedly. “I don’t want to stay here anymore.” Bunta’s gaze moved to the blonde his son had raced, Keisuke he remembers, who looked extremely lost and confused as he stared after Takumi. Obviously, whatever happened was not on purpose.

“Takumi, what happened? You’re legs are shaking like a newborn fawn.” Yuichi asked.

“I-I just want to go home.” Takumi said, more firmly this time, and gave his father a look he recognized.

What had happened was not meant to be overheard by human ears.

“Alright.” Bunta responded. “Get in back, you’re in no condition to drive.” Takumi breathed a sigh of relief and immediately entered the car, leaving the door open behind him and prompting Yuichi to get in after him and close it for him. Bunta, inhaling deeply, he walked towards the driver side.

“SIR!” he heard someone yell, and watched as Keisuke ran up to him, brandishing a card. “This is my brother’s card, tell Takumi to call it if he ever wants to race again someday.” Bunta took it and nodded at him, watching as the kid ran back over to his brother, who was staring at him with fond and amused eyes. He seemed like a good kid, if not a little loud.

So just what was it about him that had spooked his son so much?

 

~0~

 

He found out what it was when they got back home and Takumi shifted completely, scuttling over towards the living room where Bunta caught him staring at his abdomen in the mirror.

On his side, in the midst of the red and black patterning, was a new mark, much different from the rest. A bright yellow swirl, an unnatural color on Takumi’s thorax.

Oh dear.

Takumi’s legs collapsed beneath him and he landed on the floor with a heavy thump, his breathing quickening, and Bunta jumped into action as Nejibana and Tama watched in worry.

“Takumi, calm down, it’ll be alright.”

“B-But-”

“The mark just means you two are compatible.” that made Takumi stop breathing altogether for a moment.

“What?”

“It fades. I gained one just like that when I met your mother, except mine was black and hers was a light tan. It merely symbolizes that your creature blood sees him as a possible mate, that’s all.”

“... so I don’t have to-”

“No.” Takumi calmed immensely at this, his eyes drooping, and Bunta lifted him up. “Stupid kid, panicked himself silly.” he muttered as he took him upstairs and sat him down on his bed. Takumi was out cold, Bunta sighed and headed back down.

“Is he alright?” Nejibana asked, sounding shaken.

“He’ll be fine, he’s pretty young, and never had a compatability mark appear before. He probably mistook it for those archaic bond marks and flew into a panic.” Bunta settled down in the living room and grabbed the nearest sake bottle, popping it open and drinking from it straight. “He should be back to normal in the morning, no need to worry Nejibana.”

 

~0~

 

“You will not believe just how many people came up to me asking about the race on Saturday!” Takumi perked at the mention, beginning to pay more attention to their conversation as he finished up with a customer. Iketani let out a chuckle. “All of them asked about the 86 and who drove it!”

“Same happened with me.” Kenji’s voice chimed in. He was here during business hours again?

“I always responded that it was the SpeedStar’s secret weapon.” Takumi bristled internally at that, and he heard Nejibana hiss out expletives. Smiling sunnily at the customer, he bowed as they pulled out and left. “We have to convince him to join up.”

“Leave it to me!” Itsuki cut in, and Takumi turned towards them, slowly stalking forward. “As his best friend, I’ll-”

“Keep your nose out of it and do no such thing.” Takumi interjected, causing everyone to jump, and a small yelp fell from Iketani’s mouth.

“T-Takumi!” he exclaimed. “Don’t do that!”

“I won’t speak suddenly when you three aren’t staying vigilant, if you won’t try to force a future I’m not interested in upon me.” with that, he walked into the store. Peering out, he watched the three lean towards each other and strained to hear them.

“We HAVE to change his mind.” Iketani said.

“As I said, leave it to me!” Itsuki added. “I can convince him to join, if I’m allowed to join up with him.” Takumi felt his fangs nearly click. After the first few waves of hurt from Itsuki’s lack of faith, he was now just annoyed, and was currently irritated that he thought he could act like it never happened. It would take him a bit to forgive him for everything, which meant he definitely wouldn’t convince him to do anything.

“Deal, just get him on board.”

“But, how are you going to get a car?” Kenji raised a good point, Takumi wondered that too.

“I have a plan.” the two leaned closer. “I’m going to ask my dad to help me set up a loan for it!” that seemed to knock the two off balance due to their leaning, because they staggered slightly and flailed.

“That doesn’t seem like a very sound idea.” Kenji said nervously, and Itsuki waved him off. Whatever else they could possibly say would just irritate Takumi at this point, so he tuned them out and turned away.

He’d deal with whatever they wanted him for later, he supposed.

It was midday, and quiet, when Iketani first decided to ask questions.

“Hey, Takumi, you said you’ve been driving Akina for five years, yeah?” Takumi turned to look at him, confused for a moment, before nodding.

“Yeah.” he answered, causing Itsuki and Yuichi to turn and look as well. “What of it?”

“How did you manage to get as good at drifting as you are? You screamed like a little girl when in my car.” Takumi’s brow twitched.

“First of all, I don’t like going that fast unless it’s of my own violation and I’m the one behind the wheel, okay? It makes my insides liquify.” Iketani raised his hands in surrender, freaked out slightly.

“Alright, alright.”

“To answer your question, it took a lot of time to get used to the corners.”

“So you aren’t afraid of them at all?”

“I used to be. Took me six months to beat that fear down.” he leaned against a nearby pillar. “When I accelerate, the tires slip around naturally, so that added on another half year until I could control that slip how I wanted.”

“So you mastered Akina downhill in a year?” Yuichi asked, eyes wide. Takumi nodded.

“If you do it everyday, any shortcomings you had about slipping vanish quickly.” he shrugged. “After a while I got bored with it, and started trying to see how close I could get to the guardrails.”

“I still say that was stupid, master.” he heard Nejibana mumble, and he ignored her as Itsuki flipped out.

“NO NORMAL PERSON WOULD DO SOMETHING SO DANGEROUS!”

“I didn’t think it was all that dangerous.” he scratched his cheek lightly. If he was being honest, he didn’t really find much to be dangerous. “When I’m at my best, the closest I can get is about one centimeter.”

“O-One centimeter?” Iketani and Yuichi locked eyes for a moment.

“Yeah, but unless I find something to do that’s fun, like that, it’s all terribly boring, helping out with the business I mean.” he stood up from his slouch on the pillar and stretched. “It’s why I never wanted to improve as a driver. Never felt the need. My actions mostly just came from me wanting to get home quicker so I could sleep more.”

“Takumi, may I ask you a question?” Yuichi asked, and Takumi nodded. “How do you drive when there’s tofu in the car?”

“It’s a good question.” Nejibana commented. “If I wasn’t in the car with you when you did your runs-”

“I can’t go too fast on the uphill.” Takumi plowed through her commentary, she let out a sound of agitation. “Damages the tofu otherwise. Dad just puts a little cup of water in the car with me. If the water spills out of it, the tofu has experienced some damage, no matter how minor. It was terribly difficult at first, every little movement and action in the car would spill the water.” Yuichi nodded along.

“It would be.” he commented.

“Dad often told me to roll the water around the rim of the cup at the corners.” seeing Iketani’s confused face, he elaborated. “It’s got something to do with surface tension, I guess. The water moves around the rim but doesn’t break or splash. If the water doesn’t splash from the cup, that means it didn’t splash in back with the tofu, and thus it would remain undamaged.” he’s been talking a lot, this is the most he’s spoken all week. “It took me a long time to run Akina as I do without spilling the water.” the two in front of him made sounds of shock, and Takumi reacted instantly as Itsuki tried to grab ahold of him, holding his hands out to prevent just that.

“DON’T JUST LIE LIKE THAT!” Itsuki yelled, and Takumi felt the barest of hurt pangs shoot through him. Nejibana snarled in his pocket.

“It’s only a matter of time before I sink my fangs in that human’s flesh!”

“I don’t just lie about things like this, Itsuki.” Takumi responded, pushing him away. “And it hurts that you seem to lack every ounce of faith you once had in me.” shock shot through Itsuki’s face.

“I don’t-”

“Now you’re the one lying to me.” Takumi’s fangs began to click rapidly, the tone much lower in response to his current emotions. A look of confusion crossed Iketani’s face, and Yuichi merely looked on with slightly softer eyes. Before Itsuki could retort, a car pulled in and Takumi jumped to attention, immediately focusing on the new customer, and throughout the encounter he avoided standing too close to Itsuki. When the car pulled out, Iketani set his hands on his shoulders.

“Takumi, I want to ride with you next time you run Akina!”

 

~0~

 

“He wants to ride with you?” Bunta looked surprised.

“Yeah, shocked me too.” Takumi looked hesitant as he sat before his father. “Him riding with me means Nejibana can’t ride with me, though.”

“I don’t mind.” Nejibana said. “I need to fix up my web anyway.”

“Are you sure?” she hummed her ascent and Takumi sighed. “Alright.”

“Are you going to do it?” Bunta asked, and Takumi was silent for a moment.

“At this point? I have to.”

 

~0~

 

Iketani was fairly hypocritical. Takumi doubted he had known it at the time, but the moment he began his usual drift routine, he began screaming, and fainted at the third turn.

Itsuki had freaked out over it.

Takumi sighed as he leaned against a nearby pillar, Nejibana humming a gentle tune as he looked up. Itsuki was chatting animatedly with Yuichi, who looked more like he was indulging him instead of actively participating in the conversation. Takumi chanced a glance at the road and watched as a sleek black car pulled in, it’s engine letting out a sort of whuff as it pulled to a stop. Yuichi was dragging Itsuki inside for some reason, so Takumi approached.

“Welcome sir!” he exclaimed sunnily, and jumped slightly when the driver side door opened and a fairly tall man with slicked back black hair stepped out. He turned towards him and that’s when the smell hit him. He reeked of blood and rot to his sensitive nose, and assumed that a normal human wouldn’t be able to detect such odors. He saw the man’s eyes flash, Takumi felt his fangs click a few times. The car let out another, much softer whuff and Takumi tensed slightly as a few things occurred to him. One, cars don’t whuff. Two, humans don’t reek of blood and rot. Three, this man, was not human.

Nejibana, concerned as to why Takumi was tense, began to make her way out of his pocket.

“Master?” she asked, situating herself on his shoulder and turning to look at the man, who’s eyes were locked on herself, sparking with recognition.

“You should have stayed in your pocket.” Takumi said to her, his fangs clicking once more. They stared one another down, Takumi bristling at this unknown creature encroaching on his territory.

“I guess I should introduce myself.” he finally spoke, setting a hand on his car. Takumi didn’t say a word. “My name is Takeshi Nakazato. I was told that I could find members of the SpeedStars here.”

“... You usually can.” Takumi responded after a moment, Nejibana taking the opportunity to abscond back into her pocket, thoroughly unnerved. “But all members are currently out right now.”

“And you aren’t a member?”

“No. I just work here.” they were silent. “Would you like me to pass along a message?” Nakazato looked surprised at the offer, and seemed to not know how to respond.

“Yes, actually.” he finally responded. “I would like you to tell them that Nakazato of the Myogi Night Kids would like to challenge that 86 driver of theirs to a race on Saturday at ten o’clock, on Akina.” Takumi’s eyes widened. Another challenge? Great.

“I’ll pass that along.” he responded, receiving a nod of thanks. With that, Nakazato stepped back into his car and almost drove off, when he stopped.

“You, I would like to meet later tonight on Akina.” he said suddenly, and Takumi quirked a brow. He looked around, before motioning him closer. “You’re the only creature I’ve met here so far, and I don’t know the territory lines. You’re likely a spider demon, seeing as you have that orb weaver of yours. You spider demons are highly territorial, you would know the lines.” Takumi didn’t know how to respond, but he did relax. So he wasn't trying to encroach on his territory?

“Alright. I’ll bring a map as well and mark the lines.” Nakazato let out a sigh of relief, shooting him a very small but thankful smile before he revved his engine, the tail end of the loud sound puttering off into what sounded like the neigh of a horse, and drove off.

Once again, he had to tell dad.

 

~0~

 

“Master, it’s cold!” Nejibana complained, settled on Takumi’s head this time.

“Then go back in the pocket.” he responded, and she huffed at him, using a leg to smack the top of his head a few times.

“It isn’t that simple!”

“It really is, though.” Nejibana let out a sound akin to a shrill groan and just let the topic drop. It was really late at night, Bunta had driven him up and told him he would be back to get him in a few hours.

The new yet familiar whuff of Nakazato’s car announced his arrival. He watched as Nakazato came to a stop and exited his car, and before he could speak, Takumi motioned him to follow, before walking into the nearby woods. His tail hesitated for a moment, before following after. They continued in for a while until Takumi came to a stop.

“I must remain in this form, but that doesn’t mean you have to.” Takumi told him, and Nakazato’s face morphed in confusion.

“What do you mean?”

“I’m not old enough to be able to speak human in my full form, and I am not certain that you can understand spider.” he nodded in understanding.

“You haven’t encountered many creatures, have you?”

“Just a werewolf and a grim.” Nakazato quirked a brow.

“Grim, huh?” he let that sink in before he spoke once more. “Some creatures can understand most creatures universally. As long as you are trying to speak to me and not towards me, I’ll be able to understand you just fine.” Takumi shrugged and shifted fully, stretching out his stiff legs. His guest eyed his red and black patterning, his eyes focusing on the faded compatibility mark, before looking him in the eyes. “Red widow, right?”

“Yep.” Takumi eyed Nakazato. “And you?”

“Have any guesses?”

“I can smell blood and rot on you.” Takumi said, and watched as his companion’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “Your car also whuffs, and I swear I heard it neigh. I can’t think of any creature that has that combination of elements.” Nakazato chuckled, before reaching up and removing his own head, dispelling an illusion and revealing that his head was slightly rotted around the throat and was sluggishly dripping blood, a wide grin splitting his features. Takumi looked intrigued.

“Never met a dullahan before, have you?” when Takumi shook his head, he chuckled. “Not surprising, they don’t usually stray too far from Ireland. My family decided they wanted to move somewhere new, so we were one of the few to break tradition.” Nejibana bounced on Takumi’s shoulder, before quickly leaping over to land on Nakazato’s.

“You’re so cool! I’ve never met someone who could take of their head before!” she exclaimed. Takumi chuckled.

“Did it say something?”

"IT!?"

“She’s mooning, don’t worry about it. She is offended that you called her an it though.”

“Right, sorry, I didn't know her gender. So you have the map?”

“Yeah.”

“Then how about we get on with the territory lines?”

“I was wondering when you’d ask.”

Chapter Text

“I want to tell Iketani about us.”

That one sentence from Takumi caused Bunta to look at him in surprise, eyes wide open for once. It was nearly four in the morning, why would he broach such a subject now?

“Are you sure, kid?” was his father’s response, and Takumi nodded.

“I’ve been thinking about this since my last molt.” he responded. “It isn’t all that fair that we know about him but he doesn’t know about us.”

“There’s a reason for that being so, hatchling.” Tama interjected, descending from his web to land on top of the television. “He’s surrounded by humans day in and day out, is he not? If he knew about us, it would only be a matter of time before they found out.”

“You act as though they know he’s a werewolf.” Takumi deadpanned.

“And they do, don’t they?”

“Not at all!” Nejibana exclaimed from her web. “They think he’s human, they always have.” Tama was silent.

“So-”

“You can tell him,” Bunta began. “But make sure that it’s only the wolf who finds out. It’s enough that someone from out of town knows about us, we don’t need the whole town finding out too.” the grin that split Takumi’s face in response to his reply was the widest Bunta had seen in a long time. He stood, stretching his many limbs. “Come on kid, you have some tofu to deliver tonight. We can’t dawdle much longer.”

Bunta noticed something when his son got in the car. He was tense, almost uncomfortable from anticipation.

“Are you thinking about that challenge again?” he asked as he handed Takumi a cup of water. It took him a moment, but he nodded.

“I never told him that I myself will be the one racing him. What if he holds it against me? What if he doesn’t want to be friends anymore?” normally, Bunta would have told him to try and get past it and get on with it, but he recognized the tone his son used, and could hear the unsaid questions. He likely already saw the dullahan as a nest-mate, despite not having known him for very long. Would he want to stay around? Would he be hurt when he found out? Would he leave?

Takumi’s inner creature was probably rolling in agony over all of this.

“Takumi, listen.” Bunta sighed, catching his silly little hatchling’s attention fully. “Just tell him before you race. And don’t give me the spiel about how it won’t be that easy, because trust me, it will be. If you truly view that dullahan as nest like I think you do, then he won’t be as hurt by the revelation as you think he will be.” Takumi was stunned silent for a moment.

“How do you know that.” he finally got out. Bunta chuckled.

“All Jorōgumo experience this sort of thing, and you’ll only experience it more as time goes on. We live much longer than humans, kid, and we’ll eventually lose nest-mates anyway because of that. If the dullahan does leave because you didn’t tell him you drove my Trueno right off the bat, then he didn’t deserve the association.” Takumi’s eyes were locked on his father’s face, searching for something. He seemed to find what he was looking for, as he visibly relaxed and let out a weary smile.

“Thanks, dad.” he finally said, and started the car, rolling up the window. Nejibana climbed across Bunta’s arm and lept into the car just as the window shut, visibly huffing and puffing from her position on the dash. She must have floored it to get into the car before Takumi left. He chuckled, watching as the car pulled out and left.

Both of them were idiot hatchlings.

 

~0~

 

“Master, there’s someone on the road.” Nejibana was not one for unwelcome surprises, someone in the middle of the road with their car blocking both lanes was an unwelcome surprise. Takumi blinked, looking surprised.

“I must have been zoned out if you noticed them before I did.” he responded, slowing down. His breath stopped when he was who it was at the edges of his headlights.

It was Keisuke.

“Master…” Nejibana was understandably worried, Takumi was still leery of being around the blonde after his compatibility mark appeared. Gulping, Takumi unbuckled and exited his vehicle, Nejibana staying to watch from her perch on the dash. Keisuke began walking towards him, and Takumi felt his pedipalps shift in intrigue.

“I thought I could catch you out here at this time.” Keisuke started, stopping a few feet away from him. “It was about this time when I met you the first time around.”

“Could you skip to the point?” Takumi said, catching the blonde off guard. “I have a few deliveries in the back that I need to run.” Keisuke let out a small scoff.

“Alright. So I heard you’re going against Takeshi Nakazato, of the Night Kids. Everyone is talking about it.” Takumi felt his brow twitch. Nakazato he said he wasn’t going to tell anyone about the race when they met to discuss territory lines, said that he had experience with skittish drivers and decided that not telling anyone would be better just in case. What happened to that promise?

His fangs clicked.

“Nakazato said he wouldn’t tell anybody about the race.” Takumi growled lowly, an unnerving tone to come from the usually calm, if not fairly monotonous, male.

“So you’re actually going to race him?”

“Of course, he challenged me directly, even if he didn’t know he was challenging me in specific.” Takumi’s eyes locked on Keisuke’s own. “Why does this even matter to you? This is between me and him.”

“Because you beat me in a race!” Keisuke’s face turned a light pink when he realized how loud he had shouted that. “No one can beat you unless it’s the Takahashi brothers!”

“Isn’t that greedy?” Takumi pointed out blandly, and Keisuke sputtered. “And anyway, I only race if I’m challenged by someone. Any other time I drive to help out at home. It’s unlikely that I’ll even accept any other races after this one.” he leaned against his car. “I don’t really like racing.”

“What!!?” Keisuke’s face suddenly morphed with rage as he clenched his teeth. “But you’re so good at it! No one who doesn’t like racing get as good as you are for no reason!”

“I had my reasons for it!” Takumi snapped, and Keisuke fell silent in surprise. “You act like you understand my reasoning behind why I drive as I do when you really don’t.” Keisuke finally got over his shock and scoffed.

“Only someone who enjoys racing could ever get that good at drifting.” he insisted, and Takumi felt his fangs and pedipalps shift in agitation. “Whether you like it or not, you’ve become a racer, and you can’t just treat it like you do! If someone challenges you, you accept! Accepting challenges is a racers pride, and for you to say you won’t accept any other after this one makes me sick.” Takumi felt a small pang of hurt run through his chest as Keisuke got back into his car with a huff and sped off, leaving him all alone on the road.

“Master, are you okay?” Nejibana asked softly, watching him from the dash.

“... I’m fine, Bana.” Takumi responded as he got back into the car.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I’m sure.”

 

~0~

 

“Hey, Iketani.”

“Oh, hello Takumi!”

“Could you come with me for a second? There’s something I need to talk to you about.” the nerves in Takumi’s voice was the only thing preventing him from saying no.

“I’m on shift, Takumi, I don’t think-”

“Go with him.” Yuichi walked over, an odd look in his eyes. “I’ll cover for you out here. Use the back for your conversation.” apprehension crossed Iketani’s face, and after a moment's hesitation he walked towards Takumi and followed him to the back of the lot, where the garage was. Takumi lowered the garage door and turned on the light.

“What was it you wanted to talk about?”

“I… don’t hold this against me,” Takumi gripped his arms. “Dad told me to keep it a secret.”

“Keep what a secret?” Nejibana took that moment to emerge from Takumi’s pocket and settle on his shoulder. Iketani’s eyes were locked on her. “T-Takumi-”

“I know about your furry little friend.” Iketani froze, and paled.

“H-How-”

“I could smell it. Dad could smell it.” Takumi allowed his fangs and pedipalps to emerge slowly, an odd sight as the limbs sprouted from the sides of his mouth and his canines sharpened. Iketani’s eyes widened.

“Y-You’re a… spider demon?” at Takumi’s nod, Iketani leaned back. “That explains so much! The smell of spider and spider silk that clings to you constantly, how you mutter to yourself sometimes, how you’ve never once had a single reaction to the sight of a spider in all the years I’ve known you!” he laughed lightly and put a hand on his face. “How didn’t I see it?”

“We are really good at hiding in plain sight.” Takumi said softly, and Iketani smiled at him.

“I’ll say. Does Itsuki know?” Takumi shook his head.

“Only you.”

“Why did it take so long for you to tell me?”

“I was scared that you’d be angry with me.” ‘That you’d leave.’ was left unsaid. Iketani softened and walked over, pulling him into a hug.

“I’d never be angry with you, Takumi. Well, not too angry I mean. Even if you aren’t a SpeedStar, you’re pack. You’ll always be pack.” Takumi was frozen in surprise and shock at this, before he teared up slightly and hugged him back, then yelped as Iketani pulled him into a headlock. “And besides, you’re stuck with me! I’d never ditch you! I’d be left alone with all the humans if I did that!” Takumi laughed happily, a wide smile settled on his face.

He still had his nest, no one would leave him. For now.

 

~0~

 

He was early.

Takumi decided he would wait for Nakazato where they first met, a few days prior. He had sent ahead a message to meet him here, then arrived at seven, and was now waiting for the dullahan in full shift.

“Master, you’re starting to panic again.” Nejibana’s voice brought him back to focus and he forced his breathing into line.

“Thanks, Bana.”

“Don’t call me Bana.”

A branch snapping caused Takumi to turn his head towards the sound and he saw Nakazato, who was gazing at him in slight concern.

“Is something up?” he asked, walking over as he cut to the chase. Takumi inhaled deeply, calming his nerves.

“Yeah. Come over here and sit, you probably won’t want to be standing.” Nakazato did so, looking confused. “I spoke about this with my father, the reason I didn’t tell you from the start was that at first I was too shocked to do so, then I hadn’t felt that I should, but keeping you in the dark is eating at me and I didn’t want you to find out when it was much too late.”

“Fujiwara, what are you on about?”

“I’m the driver of the 86, Nakazato.” the dullahan’s eyes widened significantly, a red line appearing around his neck and darkening as his head detached itself and rolled, causing him to scramble and catch his own gourd before it hit the ground. When he caught it and managed to turn himself to look at Takumi, he didn’t say a word when he took in the Jorōgumo’s highly panicked visage.

“Fujiwara.” Takumi flinched. “Fujiwara, look at me.” the spider’s eyes, a deep brown with three pupils each, locked on his form. “I’m not angry, I was just a little surprised. I need you to calm down for me, alright?” Takumi nodded jerkily and visibly began to focus on his breathing, trying to force it into line. Nejibana climbed up him and settled on his head, using a leg to gently tap his forehead in a rhythmic pattern, which Takumi quickly followed as he brought his breathing under control.

“Sorry.” he choked, and Nakazato shook his head.

“You have nothing to be sorry about. It’s nice to know that you’re in the racing scene, in all honesty.”

“I’m not, actually. Keisuke Takahashi basically dragged me into it because I, apparently, beat him at a downhill while I was heading home after delivering tofu.” Nakazato rose a brow at that, somehow not changing his face or straining his grin at all. Takumi was a little impressed.

“Oh really?” at Takumi’s nod, Nakazato sat back. “Why not tell me all about that? We have time to kill before the race after all.”

It was nearly ten when they finally stopped speaking, and both got up. Nodding, they returned to their human forms and went back to their respective cars, the R32 letting out a whuff as they arrived at the starting line together. Takumi looked ahead, and took notice of a very familiar white car. One of the Takahashi brothers was here?

He almost missed the moment to step on the gas, and would have if Nejibana hadn’t screeched at him to drive. As always, the radio had impeccable timing as one of his favorite tracks came on and he turned it up, keeping speed with Nakazato as the dark car pulled ahead. He kept some of his attention on the white FC as he slowly gained speed, and widened his eyes as he watched it pull out and follow them.

“JUST WHAT ARE THEY DOING, MASTER!?” Nejibana raged. “THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A ONE ON ONE!”

“I don’t know, Nejibana, but they had better not ruin this, we promised Nakazato we’d treat this seriously and I’ll be damned if I let them screw me over!” he kept his focus on the road, and took notice immediately that Nakazato wasn’t going as fast as he thought he could. “Is he waiting for me?”

“He told you to take this seriously, so why isn’t he!?” Nejibana was livid, and Takumi could faintly hear her own fangs clicking together. Takumi narrowed his eyes, agitation shooting through him.

“I’m in an 86, that’s why. He’s taking this race lightly and thinks that even if I’m serious I won’t win.” the mere thought made Takumi grit his teeth, and he could feel his sides ache with the urge to release his legs.

“HE’LL PAY FOR THIS SLIGHT!” Nejibana yelled, and a small plume of flame left her tiny mouth. Takumi was too agitated to congratulate her for her first plume, and made note to do so after the race.

She probably wouldn’t appreciate the sentiment right now anyway.

He didn’t slow at all at the first corner, catching up to the R32 immediately, and Takumi could practically feel the irritation emanating from Nakazato as they straightened out and he pulled ahead. Takumi suddenly took notice that he could see everything easier, and guessed his eyes shifted out.

“He seems angry.” Nejibana commented, and Takumi chuckled, gripping the wheel tightly.

“If he isn’t now, he will be.”

 

~0~

 

“Seeing it with my own eyes,” Ryousuke began, staring at the 86. “I can see now what you meant. That drift was like a work of art! He’s going full speed at the turns and hardly applies countersteer, that’s incredible! He’s really pushing that 86 to its outer limits, it’s almost like the car is one of his own limbs!” Keisuke rolled his eyes at his brother’s technical mooning, he already understood the last bit. Ryousuke didn’t have to repeat it. “Even I can’t afford to do any of that in the FC.”

“All that is good and all, but Nakazato is gaining ground, little by little!” worry and disgust climbed up his spine. “Does the 86 even have a chance!?”

“Have more faith in him.” Ryousuke said suddenly. “I have a feeling that Nakazato won’t win this one.”

 

~0~

 

“Can you feel it, girl? My blood is singing!” Nakazato grinned wildly, noticing a small red line begin to split around his throat. He suppressed it, and the line vanished. He couldn’t afford to lose his head right now. “Come on, girl, this is the part where we step it up a notch. LET’S SEE HOW FAR HE CAN KEEP UP!” the R32 whuffed loudly in excitement.

She may appear to be a car, but beneath that metal facade is a true dark horse. And she wanted to leave that spider in the dust.

 

~0~

 

“Master, the car feels off today!” Takumi nodded in agreement with her statement.

“Indeed it does.” he responded. “It feels… easier to control.”

“Papa said that Bunta said something about leaving you a gift with the car, but when we got in there wasn’t any gift!” Takumi widened his eyes.

“Dad messed with the car.” he breathed, and his eyes sparked in realization. “Dad knew who we were up against. If he did what I think he did, I can accelerate earlier when coming out of a turn.” a feral smile split Takumi’s face. “I really like what that implies.”

“NO MORE LETTING OFF THE GAS WHEN DRIFTING!” Nejibana cheered, and Takumi let out a wild laugh.

No more letting up indeed.

 

~0~

 

“ANIKI, STOP MOONING OVER THE GT-R! WHAT IF TAKUMI LOSES!?”

“Takumi?”

“JUST ANSWER MY QUESTION!” wisely, Ryousuke chose not to comment on Keisuke’s heavy blush.

“The first part of the race is over, Keisuke. The second part is where Fujiwara truly excels. With its sharp turns and sudden slopes, it’s the perfect place for someone with his skills.” Keisuke stared at his brother in surprise, then looked at the 86.

“That’s right, we still have the downhill.”

“Fujiwara can strut his stuff at this part. Nakazato has no chance.”

 

~0~

 

Nakazato grit his teeth, these corners were sharp, very sharp. The R32 whuffed at him.

“You can handle these turns, girl. Don’t whuff at me.” the car whuffed again and this time he registered that it was in jest. “You’re really pushing it.” he joked. “I can only wonder where you’ve gotten this behavior from.” That was, of course, complete bullshit, the cause of her sudden behavior rode shotgun quiet often, and he was the only one allowed to do so. No one else. He stared ahead, drifting into another turn. There was no way that the 86 could catch up to him, his R32 was just too much better than it could ever be.

He wouldn’t be thinking that for much longer.

 

~0~

 

‘I can hardly keep my eyes on him.’ Keisuke thought, trying to keep Takumi in his sight. ‘He must be kicking it up to max.’ He watched Takumi use the same trick he lost to and held in his chuckle as he looked at Ryousuke, who was stony faced and focused. ‘Aniki’s gone silent, that must mean he’s serious. I’ve never seen him drive like this before. If I’m honest,’ A bead of sweat rolled down his face. ‘It’s exhilarating.’

 

~0~

 

Nakazato was silent in his shock. Takumi was gaining on him, and fast.

“That’s impossible.” he finally uttered. “There’s no way…!” as he continued to drift, he watched Takumi gain on him quickly before losing a little ground coming out of the corner. “He’s good, to have caught up to me in that little 86 of his!” the R32 whuffed in agreement. “Alright, girl, kid gloves are off, let’s show the spider just what we’re made of!” the R32 let out a sound akin to a neigh as he drifted another corner. They wouldn’t lose! “THIS IS THE BIGGEST RUSH I’VE HAD IN AGES!”

Despite becoming completely serious, he couldn’t lose Takumi, no matter how hard he tried. And when he turned the corner, their gap was almost completely gone.

The R32 whuffed loudly in alarm.

“I CAN’T SHAKE HIM!” he yelled as he drifted another corner, the 86 keeping right on his heels. “HE’S KEEPING UP FOR LONGER AND LONGER AFTER EACH DRIFT!” the R32 whuffed suddenly in surprise and the entire vehicle jerked, causing Nakazato to quickly drag the car back into line. “Shit, the load on the front is higher than I thought, I’m so sorry girl. This race is getting much more challenging!” it was then he suddenly remembered what was up next. The five hairpins. Fuck. He watched Keisuke Takahashi lose on these hairpins, with the 86 using the gutters.

Well, he wouldn’t let Takumi get access to those gutters, not on his watch.

The R32 let out a screech as they drifted the corner, she was exerting so much to keep her position puppy guarding the gutter.

And the 86 began to pass from the outside.

“WHAT!?” he roared. “FROM THE OUTSIDE!? DON’T INSULT ME LIKE THIS!” he floored it, the R32 whuffing once in protest before following along and speeding up, pulling ahead and taking back in front of Takumi, on the outside. He was livid, how dare the 86 even- all thought cut out at the next drift as he guarded the inside, and Takumi began trying to pass on the outside again. “YOU IRRITATING ARACHNID! STOP TAUNTING ME FROM THE OUTSIDE!” he was seeing red, this was so humiliating, he felt like frothing from the mouth-

Everything flew to a stop, his eyes shooting wide. The 86 was gone.

“WHAT!? WHERE DID HE GO!? I JUST SAW HIM!” panic set in, and his eyes slowly drifted to the side to see the 86 keeping speed beside him, half of the road, before it pulled ahead and took the lead. Nakazato’s jaw dropped, the world began to tilt to the right…

He quickly brought a hand up to stop his head from falling off, failing completely as it fell into his hand and the car jerked, swerving wildly as he straightened out his head and brought the car back under his control.

“He feinted me! He tricked going to the outside so he could pull inwards while I was distracted, that sly bastard!” he shifted into second gear, trying to pull ahead, only for his bumper to ram into the guardrail. He lost control as the R32 let out a loud screech, sending him into a spin as he slammed the brake and came to a stop. He was at a loss. He lost. To an 86. He sat there for a while, before replacing his head and getting out, going around to check on the R32. The back bumper was bent and scratched, and he could practically feel how it stung. “I’m sorry girl.” he muttered, placing a hand on her bumper, and she whuffed quietly. He let out a sigh and leaned against her, pulling out a cigarette and lighting it. After a while, the soft roar of an engine pulled his attention down the road and he watched the 86 slowly come back around, pulling up and stopping as he got out of the car, soft music streaming from the open door.

“Are you alright?” he asked, hurrying over, Nejibana on his shoulder. He glanced at the rails and saw the crowd had vanished, likely bored now that the race was over.

“I’m fine, but she might not be.” he gestured to the bumper and Takumi hissed. “It’ll take at least seventy thousand yen to fix.” Takumi nodded, and set a gentle hand on the R32.

“She did wonderfully, you know.” he said, prompting the car to whuff in appreciation. “If you both hadn’t lost your nerve, you would have beaten me fair and square.” Nejibana bobbed, then hopped into Nakazato’s shoulder, taking a moment to rub herself against his cheek like a cat, before she smacked him harshly with her front legs, her fangs clicking loudly.

“Uhh…”

“She’s pissed off at how you treated us at the start of the race.” Takumi said, crossing his arms. “And if I’m honest, I am too. But I got over it pretty fast. She, on the other, hand holds grudges.”

“I… see…” both stood in silence for a while. “It was a good race. We should do it again sometime.” and with that he held out his hand. Takumi stared at it with apprehension, and gulped, before taking it and shaking, his form relaxing when nothing happened.

“Yeah, this was pretty fun.”

And with that, Takumi defeated Nakazato, and gained a new friend.

Chapter Text

“So?” Bunta asked as Takumi entered the living room, an exhausted but pleased look on his face. “How did it go?”

“You were right, Nakazato didn’t care at all that I was the driver he wanted to race. He was a little surprised, but he was more pleased I might have the same hobby as him.” Bunta smiled.

“And the race?”

“I won, of course.”

“It was exhilarating.” Nejibana sighed sleepily as she ascended to her web. “We had never gone that fast before.”

“Thanks for that, by the way.” Takumi amended, sitting beside his father. Neither reached for an embrace, the close proximity was enough for them both.

“Don’t mention it, kid.” Bunta responded. Both continued to sit in comfortable silence, before Takumi yawned after a while and got back up, ascending the stairs with a quiet good night. Bunta remained in the same spot for another hour at least, questioning this odd feeling rising in his chest. It was when he was going back to bed that it hit him.

That feeling was pride.

 

~0~

 

Takumi couldn’t really take his eyes off the vehicle in front of him as Itsuki leaned against it, looking oh so pleased and smug. It looked like his dad’s Trueno, but something was terribly wrong with this picture. He really couldn’t tell what, though.

“You actually did it…” Iketani breathed in awe, and Itsuki chuckled.

“I told you I would buy an 86, and I did!” he laughed heartily. “I kept it a secret until now, but it came in today!”

“It looks so new!” Kenji exclaimed.

“Did you finally get your dad to agree to a loan for it?”

“Yeah, and the guys at the shop were super friendly, and I think I got a great deal on it!” Takumi frowned, casting a glance at Yuichi, who looked deep in thought. Great deal? He knew from his dad that a great deal on a car like the Trueno was still more than Itsuki had saved up, but wouldn’t be worth taking out a loan over. Still…

“I can’t believe you actually go it, Itsuki!” Takumi spoke up, catching everyone’s attention. “Your first car! You’d been going off about it for months, but I didn’t think you’d get it so soon!”

“Oh, but I had to, Takumi!” Itsuki responded imperiously. He hated it when he did that. “I have to catch up to you somehow, right? I gotta train hard if I want to be your downhill partner!” oh. He was still on about that?

“I see getting the car didn’t make your mouth any smaller.” Iketani teased, and Itsuki blushed.

“Oh, I can’t help it! I didn’t get any sleep at all last night because I was so excited.” Iketani nodded in understanding.

“I know what you mean. I couldn’t sleep at all the night before I got my S13.”

“It’s his first car.” Takumi interjected. “I think he reserves the right to go on and on about it. I do wish he wouldn’t drag me into it, though.” the last part was muttered. Iketani chuckled, having heard it anyway.

“True, true.”

“Wooooah, it has seventies tires, and even the original hubcaps! So cool!” Kenji was mooning at this point, and his eyes locked on Itsuki. “You gotta start her up, Itsuki!” the boy was practically vibrating at that and quickly hopped in, putting the key in the ignition and starting her up.

It was wrong, Takumi registered. Nothing sounded right to him.

“That doesn’t sound like Bunta’s Trueno, master.” Nejibana commented from her pocket. He hummed his agreement, then glanced at Yuichi. From the look on his face, he seemed to have the same opinion.

“That doesn’t sound too sharp.” Iketani commented, tilting his head. Takumi could practically see the wolf ears flopping around in curiosity and repressed the urge to laugh uproariously.

“It’s likely because of the original muffler.” Kenji said.

“Then I’ll get a new one!” Itsuki responded, like that solved everything. “I want mine to sound just as cool as Takumi’s!”

“It’s not mine.” Takumi retorted immediately, but the others tuned him out, much to his dismay.

“It’s not just a muffler problem.” Yuichi said, taking a few steps forward towards the car’s front. “Pop the hood.” Itsuki looked confused, but did so anyway and got out, watching as the older man lifted the hood and looked around at the engine, eyes darting to and fro. As more time passed, Itsuki became more and more nervous. After a few minutes, Yuichi sighed and shut the hood, leaning back a little.

“The whole thing sounded wrong, Yuichi.” Takumi finally spoke, catching attention. “That’s not an 86, is it?”

“Nope.” that caused Itsuki’s eyes to bug out as Iketani and Kenji became unbalanced. “This car is an 85, not an 86. They look completely identical on the outside, but couldn’t be any more different on the inside.” there was silence, before Iketani and Kenji suddenly burst out laughing, hanging off one another so as to not fall over. The sudden laughter caused Takumi to jolt a little, his eyes quickly locking on Itsuki, who looked fairly hurt by the sudden laughter. He knew what being laughed at like that was like, and he wouldn’t wish it on Itsuki.

“I can’t believe you mistook an 85 for an 86!” Kenji wheezed.

“They’re as different as chalk and cheese!” Iketani let out a sort of howling laughter, nearly doubled over. Itsuki’s face was quickly morphing more and more in hurt and indigance, but the two didn’t seem to notice. Takumi felt rage build up in his chest, Itsuki may be guilty of a few things towards him but he was STILL nest, and nest wasn’t supposed to hurt nest this way. He turned his gaze towards Yuichi, who only looked vaguely amused, likely over the car mixup, but he was staring at the interaction with a mixture of shock and agitation. Takumi heard a hiccup and turned his gaze back towards Itsuki, his gaze nearly bleeding red when he saw the tears running down his face, and his fangs began clicking wildly as Itsuki quickly ran off, wiping his face as he fled the lot.

“BOTH OF YOU SETTLE THE FUCK DOWN!” Takumi roared, causing the two to immediately shut up in shock. Takumi couldn’t be arsed to stop his fangs when confusion crossed Kenji’s face, but Iketani’s look of realization at just what he did felt as sweet as honey. “I thought you two would have known better than to laugh at someone for an honest fucking mistake, but I guess I was wrong. I never should have thought that when you both do that to me on a constant basis.” he turned tail and ran after Itsuki, missing the twin looks of regret and guilt on the duo’s faces.

“Itsuki!” he yelled after his human friend, speeding up when he realized that he was slowing down. He came to a halt near him, wanting to reach out and put a hand on his shoulder.

“Leave me alone, Takumi.” Itsuki sniffed, rubbing his eyes.

“I can’t do that.” Takumi responded. There was a few moments of silence, then Itsuki turned to him, slight guilt in his eyes.

“Is this how it feels when we laugh at you? Painful? Like being stabbed in the chest?” Takumi sighed.

“It used to.” he admitted. “But I got used to it. Honestly, it’s fine.”

“That’s a lie.” Nejibana commented, and Takumi ignored her.

“It shouldn’t be, though!” Itsuki exclaimed. “Their laughter made me feel like a complete idiot, and it hurts! How could you be okay with that happening to you!?” Takumi sighed, he really couldn’t answer that.

“Honestly? I’m not.” Itsuki looked taken aback. “But I would prefer it to what just happened. I would prefer being the one laughed at over you.” Takumi walked closer and sat a hand on Itsuki’s shoulder. “And besides, I’m extremely envious of you right now.”

“What? How could you be envious?”

“You’re a high school student who already owns his own car. So what if it’s an 85? It has an engine and four wheels. It may not have much power behind it, but it’s still fast on a downhill. You can easily practice with it.” Takumi smiled. “Lay claim to the fact that you have a car you can use whenever, while I can only use dad’s Trueno if he tells me I can.” Itsuki looked surprised, then a small smile crossed his face.

“You’re right, Takumi.” he said, wiping his eyes one last time. “You’re completely right.”

“You ready to head back? I have plans to sock Iketani in the nose if that’ll help draw you back.”

“See you throw a punch!?” Itsuki was eager, eyes wide and smile huge. That was the human Takumi was used to. He silently welcomed him back. “I wouldn’t miss that for the world!” he grabbed Takumi’s hand and pulled him along, prompting a laugh from the sleepy creature as they made their way back. “You know, I feel like I can be proud of my 85, maybe this is just a sign that I’m not ready for an 86.”

“You’re probably right.” Itsuki wilted.

“You didn’t have to agree with me!” Takumi laughed. “Anyway, I want to go up to Akina tonight and try it out. You want to come along?”

“Sure, in your 85.” Itsuki looked back at Takumi his eyes big and watery.

“Takumi, you’re the best friend I could have ever asked for.” he said happily, before a wide grin split his face. “Come on, come on, I wanna see you bean Iketani in the nose!”

 

~0~

 

“That was so fun, Takumi!” Itsuki cried as he exited the car, Takumi giving him a fond look. It was nice to see him to happy after the events from earlier. He did manage to sock Iketani in the nose, much to Itsuki’s utter delight. He’ll admit, the action did help him channel out a lot of the pent up rage he had accumulated since his last molt. Speaking of his last molt, he was due one anytime now, as his limbs were rather stiff. Itsuki ran ahead a little, turning around to look at his 85 and giggle happily.

“What are you doing?” Takumi asked, amused.

“If you look at her from a distance, she looks very beautiful.” Itsuki said softly, before jumping up. “Ah! My 85 is so cool! I’m so glad I bought her!”

“I’m happy for you.” Takumi responded truthfully, before some new smells suddenly invaded his senses and he whipped his head to the side. “Itsuki, we have company.”

“They’re just kids.” one of the figures said, looking down on them. Takumi felt an eye twitch and moved closer to Itsuki. He did not like the looks of this, three adults cornering two high schoolers.

“Ugh, it can’t be them.” the second figure scoffed.

“The racer who beat the R32 couldn’t possibly be one of these little kids.” he third groused.

“How old are you kids anyway? I hope you have a licence.” the second one said, leaning towards them. “Otherwise, I’d have to tell the police.” the way he said it seemed like an intimidation tactic, and Takumi would not be taking that sitting down.

“We are of the age to have licences and yes we do have them, sir.” Takumi growled, baring his teeth. The three men recoiled in surprise at his response. “And for you to ask the age of two high schoolers, and corner them like this with two other people, is a really big red flag, and I’d HATE to have to report YOU to the police.” the three men seemed enraged at that accusation, and the way the second’s own words were used against them. “Oh, don’t look so cross. You brought this upon yourselves.”

“Let’s just leave them alone.” the first said, obviously wanting to be elsewhere.

“I don’t like it, two kids like these traipsing around in an 86.”

“It’s not an 86.” Itsuki spoke immediately.

“What?”

“It’s an 85, I’m not surprised you couldn’t tell, the two models look identical on the outside.” the three men looked surprised, before suddenly bursting out into laughter.

“An 85!?” the second yelled, walking up to the car while chuckling. “I see now that we REALLY wasted our time! An 85, what a joke!” and with that, he kicked the tire. Takumi’s gaze bled a very light red at that. This human dared present himself as higher on the food chain! This… this INSECT dared!

“I’m shocked to see that anyone drives an 85 these days!” the third wheezed.

“Come on, we should go.” the first sighed, walking towards the two cars they had apparently arrived in. “Thanks for the laugh, kid!” the to cars pulled a U-turn, the first speeding off while the second slowed to a crawl.

“Don’t let any scooters tailgate you!” the second man sneered, and sped off laughing.

“Disgusting insects.” Nejibana hissed from his pocket. “Hardly worth a hunt.” Takumi couldn’t help but disagree.

“That’s it.” he growled ferally, startling Itsuki as he walked to the driver side door. “Get in. I’m not going to stand for the way they have behaved.”

“What?” Itsuki quickly hurried in as Takumi asked, intimidated by the rage displayed on his friend’s features. “Y-You really shouldn’t-”

“I’m not going to be stopped, Itsuki.” Takumi interrupted as his friend buckled in. “I’ll get rough, but trust me. No harm will come to your car.” the passion in his voice was enough to cause Itsuki to nod. He would trust Takumi. He would have faith in him. Takumi pulled up and turned sharply, flooring it as Itsuki screamed in terror at the sudden speed. He fell silent eventually, watching his friend with wide eyes. When did he gain this side to him? He was jolted out of his thoughts as Takumi drifted a corner full speed, tearing another scream from his throat. When he stopped, he spotted the cars ahead and braced. Takumi was in for the entire ride, it would do him no good to scream like a little baby. Every corner and drift was terrifying in its own right, was this really his 85? He glanced at Takumi and saw that the rage on his face had ebated to exasperation. He still looked angry, but his eyes were more relaxed and shined with agitation as he stared at the dash, and became more pronounced as they began to go down the hill.

“This car won’t accelerate down hill.” he heard Takumi mutter. “The wheels don’t grip the road at all.” as they drifted another corner, Takumi’s face turned disappointed. “Waaah, so slow. I guess those are probably things dad fixed with his Trueno to make it better in his racing days.” Itsuki took note of Takumi’s complaints, if the Ghost of Akina found a fault in his 85, he would fix it. He had to, if he wanted to catch up to Takumi himself! He felt the car jolt as Takumi dipped the tires into a gutter and sped past the first car, quickly gaining on the second, then passing it as well. He saw the shock and terror in the driver’s eyes, and as they sped off, he could have sworn that he heard three sets of terrified screams echo down the mountain.

They stopped at a rest with vending machines, Takumi buying them both coffees and sitting down on the curb.

“Iketani told me that your downhill skills were abnormal, I didn’t think he was right, though.”

“Abnormal?” Takumi eyed him. “I think they’re just fine.”

“That’s because you can’t see it. You watching yourself is like recalling a memory, you don’t see anything wrong, but a different set of eyes can.” he looked up at Takumi with wide eyes. “And it was absolutely terrifying.”

“Sorry.” Takumi was genuinely apologetic, he didn’t think his usual style of driving on Akina was that terrifying.

“Nono, don’t apologize, Takumi! I’ve never been this happy before!” that caused a look of shock to run though Takumi’s features.

“Huh?”

“You’ve opened my eyes to the fact that it isn’t all about what the car can do, it’s also about what the driver can do as well!” he looked at his 85 with glossy eyes. “I adore my car, Takumi. I’m gonna take good care of her. Starting tomorrow, we’re gonna train hard, screw the people who laugh at me!” Takumi grinned widely.

“Well said.”

 

~0~

 

“SHE’S HOOOOOME!” Iketani yelled, startling Takumi. “My S13! She’s back! And as beautiful as ever!” Iketani teared up. “I’m gonna cry.”

“I’m glad she’s back with you, Iketani.” Takumi said, smiling. His eyes drifted to the bandage on Iketani’s nose then back away.

He still deserved getting beaned like he did.

“We’re going to train our hardest today.” Iketani said, placing a hand on the S13’s hood. “I feel I’ve gotten rusty in all the time she’s been away.”

“COUNT ME IN!” Itsuki exclaimed, hurrying over. Iketani looked like he was about to say something, but thought better of it when Takumi leveled him with a feral look. "I want to try out some things today, I picked up so much from Takumi by watching him drive!”

“WHAT!?” Iketani ran over, eyes wide, and Yuichi perked, walking over. “HE LET YOU IN HIS 86!?”

“Oh, he sure did.” Itsuki’s face turned smug. “Except it wasn’t an 86.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Iketani demanded, and Itsuki merely smiled. “You had better tell me or you’ll be drinking gasoline!” Itsuki’s face suddenly turned terrified.

“ALRIGHT ALRIGHT, I’LL TELL YOU!” he took a few steps away from Iketani, just in case. “Takumi drove my 85 last night on Akina! It was so cool!” he began to gush about everything that he had witnessed when he wasn’t screaming like a little girl, and Takumi merely watched the scene softly.

“That doesn’t even sound real.” Iketani said with wide eyes.

“If what Itsuki says is true,” Yuichi began. “That means Takumi’s adaptability is much, much more amazing than I assumed.”

“Well, since they have a similar body, they have similar maneuverability?”

“I doubt it. Bunta’s 86 was built from the ground up and has been modified constantly over the years, Itsuki’s 85 is a complete and utter joke compared to it.” Itsuki let out a wail of hurt at that statement.

“So, Takumi can drive pretty much any car?”

“As long as it has an FR layout, yes.” Takumi listened intently, Yuichi usually always knew what he was saying. “Not everyone can drive an 86, you have to master the basic skills before you could even begin. As Bunta used to say, ‘An 86 trains the driver.’”

 

~0~

 

Iketani and Kenji stopped at the bottom of a set of stairs, watching a red EG6 with a “Night Kids” sticker drive by. Kenji whistled.

“You can tell that one was definitely modified for racing.” he commented, and Iketani nodded mutedly. Something about all this felt wrong. His wolf was subdued, and anxiety crept up his spine.

“Those Night Kids cars have been coming in a lot.” he said as they stepped to his S13, opening the doors and entering. “I wonder what they want.”

“Well, since Nakazato lost, they’re probably scouting for Takumi to challenge him to a revenge race.” Iketani started the car. “But, I wouldn’t count on it.” as they pulled out, they caught a glimpse of a man in a red shirt walking towards the stairs, looking slightly agitated.

The man in red, on the other hand, took notice of the S13 driving by and memorized it, he would find it later, he knew it. He walked up the stairs and entered the little diner, picking a table and setting his keys down.

“I almost feel bad for him.” he commented to the person accompanying him. “Losing to an 86 like he did.” he chuckled. “Now he can’t act all invincible like he had been able to.”

“I heard the 86 driver is just a kid.” his companion said.

“Well, I don’t know how good this kid is,” he pulled out a box of cigarettes and fidgeted with it slightly. “I’ll be better than Takeshi. I’ll be the fastest one.”

“I dunno, Shingo.” his companion spoke. “I know you’re fast on a downhill, but the kid is abnormal.” Shingo eyeballed his companion, feeling his tail itch to be free.

“I know I can beat him fairly, but I have a much better idea.” his companion made a choking sound as he pulled out a cigarette. “I’ll show the kid an impressively dangerous downhill. There can only be one downhill specialist, and the 86 is outdated.” he flipped open a lighter, the flame sparking to life as he lit his cigarette. “I’m going to send it to the scrap yard.” his companion was stunned silent. “You’ll see. Shingo Shouji of the Night Kids is the fastest in Gunma. The kid won’t ever know what hit him.”

Chapter Text

Iketani was the most focused he’s been in a long time as he began his first run of Akina that night, his wolf paying attention to everything else for him as he went along. Something felt very wrong, his wolf was tense and agitated, subdued like it had been at the diner the night before.

Something about Akina was more intimidating tonight.

“I wonder what Takumi would say if he were here.” Iketani mumbled. “Him and I share this mountain as territory, seeing as we’re pack. He’d probably know what was wrong with Akina tonight.” as he drifted a corner, his wolf suddenly began to scratch at the control barrier in alarm, surprising him as it didn’t do that unless it was truly afraid. Chancing a glance in the rearview, he noticed that he was being tailed, and his anxiety suddenly climbed. “When…?” he tensed and sped up, drifting around another corner.

His tail stayed along, inching closer and closer, before Iketani felt a jerk as their cars touched.

“HE’S HITTING MY BUMPER!?” his wolf was quickly over it’s terror and surged forth, causing Iketani’s teeth to sharpen and his eyes to flash gold. “NOW I REALLY CAN’T LET YOU GO!” he sped on, racing as quickly as he could, but when he slowed just slightly for one of the sharper corners, the car bumped him hard. He flew into a spin, absolute terror arcing through him as he slammed on the brakes as the car, a red EG6, sped past him and he came to a halt. His vision bled red and he exited the S13, watching the car rush off before shifting completely and howling his outrage to the moon. When he found the driver of that EG6, he would tear them limb from limb, he would destroy them and everything they stood for. They would SUFFER!

With the source of his outrage, Shingo was laughing wildly, his disc-like ears twitching along with his whiskered nose. His tail, whiplike and long, lay draped on the seat, the tip wagging.

“Just a little tap on the bumper at a turn and a pathetic little FR is completely destabilized!” a feral smirk crossed his features. “And that FR was a SpeedStar, what happened tonight will most certainly catch the attention of that 86 driver! Oh, everything is going according to plan!”

 

~0~

 

“I was so angry, I wanted to rip the driver apart!” Takumi’s attention turned to Iketani as the customer pulled out, and he walked over, curious.

“So, he stepped on the brakes, at a corner, while going full speed?” Yuichi asked.

“Yeah! I’d never seen anything like it!”

“But everyone brakes at a corner!” Itsuki cut in. “I do that.”

“Not like how I saw it, you don’t. And anyway, that EG6 was clearing corners faster than I’ve ever seen.”

“An EG6?” Takumi echoed, confused.

“It’s a Honda Civic.” Itsuki filled in for him softly. Ever since Itsuki and Takumi’s heart to heart about being laughed at and how it felt, Itsuki had been more mindful on how he told Takumi things, and how he reacted to the things his friend said. Takumi was grateful for it.

“Why don’t you all just call it a Civic then?”

“Civics are very popular between street racers even though it’s an FF. It’s a non-turbo 1.6 liter like your 86, but it’s VTEC engine has a lot of power. It’s been the 86’s rival for years. I actually would have expected you to know about Civics, seeing as you’re an 86 driver yourself.”

“That didn’t answer my question at all.”

“You still seem agitated.” Yuichi said, eyeballing Iketani.

“Well, you would be too, if the bastard had rammed your bumper and sent you into a spin.” Takumi’s gaze suddenly began to fill with red and he walked over.

“They WHAT?” he said lowly, frightening Itsuki. Iketani blinked, before a feral gleam entered his eyes.

“Say, Takumi, you wouldn’t mind helping me tear that bastard limb from limb when we next see him, would you?” Takumi blinked in surprise a little, his anger abating, before a wide grin formed on his face, his very sharp canines on display.

“Of course.”

“Takumi, you’re scaring me.” Itsuki whimpered, and Takumi immediately forced his rage to bleed from his frame.

“Sorry, Itsuki.” he apologized. “I lost myself for a second.”

“I-It’s okay, just try not to do that again.” as he hurried off, everyone went their separate ways and began work again.

“Takumi.” Iketani called out a few hours later, catching the spider’s attention.

“Hmm?”

“How would you like to drive my S13?” that made Takumi look at him with wide eyes. “It’s refreshing to drive a different car sometimes!”

“Oh, oh no, I think I’ll pass. Besides, you love that car-”

“Please Takumi!” Iketani plowed through his response. “I could learn so much watching you drive it!”

“Oh, I really couldn’t-”

“PLEASE!”

 

~0~

 

“Are you serious about racing that 86 on Akina?” Shingo chuckled.

“Of course, why wouldn’t I be?” he smirked. “You’ll see.” he took a final drag of his cigarette and tossed it to the ground, putting it out with his foot. “Alright, let’s head out.” as he entered his car and sped off, his face was split by a grin, showing off his slightly elongated incisors. “I’m so eager to race that 86, I can hardly wait.”

 

~0~

 

“I’m home!”

“Ah, Takumi, someone called for you earlier. I think it was that Nakazato boy.”

“Oh? Did he say what he was calling about?”

“No, he didn’t sound too worried or anything. I think he just wanted to talk for a while.”

“Ah, alright. I’ll call him tomorrow.”

“Alright.” Takumi headed up to his room, flopping down on his bed as he fell into deep thought. He was suppressing a lot of rage, no one messed with his nest. That red Honda Civic crossed a line. When he found who it was that drove the car, they would be having words. He groaned and got back up, changing into a different shirt before heading back down. “Leaving so soon?”

“Yeah, Iketani wants me to do something for him.”

“Be safe.”

 

~0~

 

“Are you sure about this, Iketani?” Takumi asked as he watched his nest buckle in beside him.

“Of course! If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have ever let you touch the driver side door.” Iketani responded.

“Alright.” he said, and began forward. “Please don’t scream again, or freak out at the first drift. I always go fast into those and I will stop if you scream.” Nejibana crawled out of his pocket when they were out of view and scuttled onto the dash.

“Waaaah, so slippery!” she exclaimed as she slid around. “Is this what it’s like to be a water glider?”

“Is she saying something?” Iketani asked. “I can lightly hear what sounds like little clicks.”

“She says your dash is slippery and wonders if her sliding is what it’s like to be a water glider.” Takumi translated. Iketani chuckled.

“Sorry about the dash being slippery, girl.”

“You’d better be!”

“Nejibana, I thought Tama knocked that bratty attitude out of you!”

“THE OLD COOT CAN’T DO SHIT TO ME!”

“BANA!”

“Hey, Takumi, you’re coming on that corner pretty fast!” Iketani interjected, and nearly screamed when Takumi drifted flawlessly around the corner.

“WHAT!? I’M RIGHT!”

“I’M DEFINITELY TELLING YOUR FATHER WHAT YOU’VE SAID WHEN WE GET HOME!”

“YOU WOULDN’T!”

“WATCH ME!” as Iketani watched Takumi bicker with Nejibana, his brain finally registered just what happened. Takumi drifted that corner while distracted by whatever the little spider had said to him.

“How did he manage to do what?” Iketani muttered to himself, brightly intrigued.

“This car is much different than dad’s Trueno,” Takumi said, having obviously heard him. “But I think I'm getting the hang of it!”

“But, we only have gone through three turns so far!”

“I’m ready for an actual drift.”

“An… actual drift?” had what had happened back there not been a drift? He had little time to react as Takumi sped up and shifted gears, pulling the S13 into a full sideways drift at the fourth corner.

Iketani let out a tiny little squeal of terror as he pulled it off flawlessly and straightened out.

“I think I got it right that turn.” Takumi muttered, and Iketani put a hand to his chest.

“That was almost too much for me to handle.” he groused, melting in his seat. But, he had made it through the first! The ones that come after should be a cake walk.

By the end, though, Iketani was very, very motion sick, and fell out of the car in a dizzy heap so he could recover. Takumi was nearly amused by it all, Nejibana safely tucked away in his pocket.

Worst part, he didn’t learn a thing besides the fact that Takumi was insane.

The sound of engines caught his attention and he rolled, his eyes catching sight of the car that made his blood boil, and he lept up.

“IT’S THAT EG6 FROM THE OTHER NIGHT!” he snarled, and Takumi immediately hopped to attention, watching as the red Civic and the two accompanying care came to a stop and three people got out.

The smell was so strong that both Iketani and Takumi had to repress their urge to stagger.

“I smell rat.” Takumi muttered angrily. “Lower than even the insects that kicked Itsuki’s 85. Definitely not worth a hunt.” Iketani had to agree. “God, he even looks like a rodent too.”

“I’m going to fucking throttle him.” Iketani growled, his eyes turning amber, and the rodent seemed to hear him for he turned towards them, and recoiled slightly at the sight of an angry werewolf staring him down. The rodent’s eyes then locked on Iketani’s S13 and realization flew through his eyes.

“You’re that slow S13 I… accidentally bumped a few nights ago.” the rat said, lighting a cigarette. “I didn’t even know someone could tackle a corner that slow. Couldn’t even anticipate it. I tried to slow down but… bump.” Iketani let out a feral growl and began to stalk forward, when Takumi grabbed his shoulder.

“He’s getting you worked up on purpose, Iketani.” he said. “Don’t play into his hands, no matter how much you want to tear his filthy head from his body.”

“Filthy?” the rat groused. “How rude.”

“Oh,” Takumi smiled sweetly, grin wide and showing off his sharp canines. “I’m sorry, would you have preferred it if I called you rat-like?” the rat tensed, then scoffed angrily.

“Tch, I only came here for one reason.” he growled angrily. “And that is to issue a downhill deathmatch challenge to the driver of that 86 people are saying belongs to the SpeedStars. A simple little gig where you duct tape your right hand to the wheel.”

“That inhibits your ability to drive!” Kenji interjected. “It’s stupid and deadly!”

“For you, maybe.” the rat sneered. “A driver needs to have skill in order to compete in such a deathmatch, and you OBVIOUSLY don't have that skill.” Iketani wouldn't be prodded into such a cage as that, and his eyes flashed amber once again.

“We’ll tell the driver that you issued such a challenge.” Takumi said before they could respond. “But it’s up to him whether or not he accepts such a deadly task.” the rat looked imperious.

“He can’t deny-”

“Oh, he can.” Takumi said firmly, cutting the rat off. “Unlike what you think, he has no interest in accepting every challenge he’s issued. Don’t be so full of yourself.” the rat was stunned silent, before he snarled in outrage and turned back to his car.

“No one says no to Shingo Shouji!” the rat yelled. “YOU’LL SEE, HE’LL ACCEPT MY CHALLENGE!” and with that, he got back in his car and sped off, the other cars following suit.

 

~0~

 

“SHINGO!” the familiar deep voice caused all of the present members of the Night Kids to turn and look towards the entrance, flinching backwards at the pure rage reflected on his face.

“Ah, Takeshi!” Shingo waved lazily, seemingly unphased by the angry dullahan stalking towards him.

“I didn’t think I would have to come all the way out here to find your stupid ass, but I got a call from that 86 driver, who told me that you issued him a fucking DUCT TAPE DOWNHILL DEATHMATCH!” outrage shot through Shingo’s features.

“YOU’RE IN CONTACT WITH THE KID!?” he yelled, standing abruptly.

“Of course I am! He and I promised to race again sometime, and as such I have his number!” Shingo grit his teeth. “You do whatever, he said he’s contemplating your challenge, and the only reason you even get contemplating is because of what you did to his friend in the SpeedStars. The kid is unaffiliated, for god sake! Imagine you did that to someone he had no fucking clue existed! It would make you seem more desperate than you’ve already made out to be!”

“Takeshi-” Shingo began with a growl, but Nakazato cut him off.

“You had better not do anything to tarnish the Night Kids name.” Nakazato growled, hovering over a slightly intimidated Shingo as a red line began to form around his throat, blood oozing out like molasses. “Or else you’ll see what I’m like when I’m really angry.” with that said, Nakazato stormed out, leaving behind the stunned members of the Night Kids. It was silent, before Shingo began to laugh.

“Who’s he to tell me not to tarnish the Night Kids name when he’s already done it by losing to that 86. Who knew he was such a pussy.”

“You’re right, Shingo.” one of the racers said. “We can’t have someone like that lead us.”

“So that means you’re our leader now.” called another. Shingo smirked.

“As it should have been from the beginning!” he announced. “I’m going to destroy that fucking 86, but first, I have to draw the driver out. And I know just how to do it.”

 

~0~

 

“TAKUMI, TAKUMI!” Yuichi’s voice was panicked as he ran into the store in full shift, smoke trailing behind him.

“Huh, Yuichi? What’s up?”

“You look like you just witnessed an abduction, old friend.” Bunta was worried, his friend was usually unshakable.

“IT- IT’S ITSUKI! HE’S IN THE HOSPITAL!” terror ran down Takumi’s spine, and everything began to slow to a screeching halt.

“He’s WHAT!?”

Chapter Text

“Itsuki!”

“Are you alright!?” Takumi’s eyes widened as he took in Itsuki’s form, ranking it worse than when Iketani had whiplash. He was covered in bandages, from his face to his legs, with his left leg being in a cast, making it the worst of all the injuries.

“Ah! Takumi, Iketani!”

“Itsuki, what happened?” Iketani questioned as they approached his bedside, leaving the nurse enough room to continue applying bandages.

“I-It’s not as bad as it looks!” Lie. “Honestly, it doesn’t really hurt either.” he winced minutely at that, also a lie. “They’re keeping me overnight to make sure I don’t have anything internal going on. In fact, I think my 85 is in worse shape than even I am, what with its trunk caved in.”

“You aren’t really answering the question, Itsuki.” Takumi cut in as softly as he could manage, his instincts were screaming at him to full shift and wrap all of his limbs around him, like he vaguely could remember his mother doing when he got hurt as a freshly hatched spiderling. He had to suppress it, Itsuki couldn’t know, not yet. Itsuki chuckled nervously.

“You’re right, I really shouldn’t beat around the bush.” he fell silent as the nurse finished her work and smiled at them before she walked out. Takumi remained still as Iketani moved closer and sat on the edge of the bed. It wouldn’t do any good to get closer, not when his instincts were screaming like they were.

“Master, you’re beginning to feel cold, are you alright?” Nejibana asked, concerned, and Takumi didn’t respond. A sniffle caused Takumi to refocus on Itsuki and noticed tears welling up in his eyes.

“I was heading down the pass when an EG6 started tailgating me.” he said shakily.

“An EG6?!” Iketani said, stunned. “Was it the one who…!”

“Maybe. It was a red one.” Takumi was connecting dots now, ones he did not want to connect, as he felt his eyes begin to bleed red once more. “He pushed me from behind at a corner and I couldn’t pull myself out of the spin in time.”

“That bastard!” Iketani snarled. “When I see him next, I really will-” he was interrupted by loud, rapid clicking, and quickly turned his gaze towards the cause, quickly recoiling at the genuine anger reflected on Takumi’s face. Itsuki was startled by the clicking and began looking around for the cause, unable to pinpoint it as his best friend.

“I’m going to do it.” Takumi growled. “I’m going to accept the deathmatch.”

“WHAT!?” Iketani yelled, scrambling to move after Takumi when the spider hurried from the room. “TAKUMI! NO! DON’T LET HIM BACK YOU INTO A CAGE LIKE THIS!”

“TO BACK A SPIDER INTO A CAGE IS TO BEG TO BE BITTEN!” Takumi snarled, and Iketani felt his wolf fall submissive. “Everything in this world is tied together, and this incident is tied to me beating that rat senseless!”

 

~0~

 

“It itches, doesn’t it.”

“Does what itch, dad?”

“Your rage. It itches at the back of your mind like a parasite, doesn’t it.” Takumi’s eyes settled on his father’s own.

“Yeah… how-”

“We are such a spiteful race, Takumi.” Bunta moved closer, settling close to his son, setting a hand on his shoulder. “We always remember, like a murder of crows. Despite the near centuries of societal domestication our kind has endured, there is little distinction between you and a forest-borne. It’s in our nature to remember.” Takumi was taken aback when his father pulled him close and wrapped his limbs around him. “I fear for you, kid. Grudges are unhealthy for our kind, and because we remember we never forgive. I hope the itch is sated soon, I wouldn’t be able to bare it if you wound up like…” he trailed off and squeezed Takumi a little, before letting him go.

“Dad?” Takumi was confused and a little frightened.

“The itch is the beginnings of a festering grudge, Takumi. If it isn’t sated soon, it will grow out of control and take over your entire being. You completely lose your sense of self and that’s as good as being killed.”

“You be careful, kid.” Tama called from his web. “Grudges are dangerous things. Don’t let yours rule your very being.”

 

~0~

 

“ANIKI!” Keisuke’s voice was rough and shaky, and immediately caught Ryousuke’s attention as his brother came into his room. “Fujiwara took that duct tape deathmatch from the Night Kid’s second in command!” that definitely threw Ryousuke for a loop.

“What?”

“His opponent drives an EG6. What the hell is he thinking!? Deathmatches like this are FR killers! It heavily favors the EG6, as it’s an FF!”

“Common sense, yes.” Ryousuke trailed off, looking thoughtful. “But this is a race we speak of, Fujiwara doesn’t have any common sense when he races. You forget that.” he looked up at his brother, who looked agitated and concerned, and came to a decision. “We’ll go watch, and hope he doesn’t crash.” Keisuke’s eyes widened.

“We’re going to what?”

“Isn’t that was you want?” Ryousuke asked as he stood, heading towards the door. “You have never looked this concerned over the wellbeing of anyone before, and you’ve recently become obsessed with Fujiwara. Face it, Keisuke, you have it bad for him. You can’t keep lying to yourself like this.” and before Keisuke could respond, Ryousuke was gone. He stood there looking dumb for a few moments, before leaving his brother’s room and walking into his own. Was he actually crushing on the 86 driver? Is that what this was?

“Why am I so concerned over him?” he asked himself as he sat down. He shouldn’t have asked, he knew why. He wanted to race him again. He wanted to hold his hand, and run his fingers through his hair. He wanted to make him laugh, and smile, and be around him. He wanted to stargaze and take him out to eat and just be around him. He… he wanted…!

Ryousuke was right. He had it bad. He usually hated it when his aniki was right.

But this time, he couldn’t bring himself to mind.

 

~0~

 

“Here he comes, master.” Nejibana said, prompting Takumi to look down the road. The corners of his vision were tinted red, and the itching had grown worse the closer the race came. The only people around were creatures, but despite this Nejibana had stayed hidden. If Shingo thought he was human, he would chance making mistakes with him. This was something Nejibana wanted, her master needed him to make these mistakes, or else he would never muster the courage to sate his grudge.

He knew what he was getting into, and in preparation he adjusted his body beneath his disguise. It was nothing too major, just the loosening of his joints in his right arm. Nakazato had told him that he did these sorts of things all the time, so his actions was him evening the playing field. Speaking of the dullahan, he walked up and leaned against the 86 as Shingo and his crew pulled up.

It wasn’t just a small action, Takumi knew. It was a display of faith, the display of a pack leader siding with an outsider.

It was an insult to Shingo. Plain and simple.

“What are you planning to do to him?” Nakazato asked softly.

“Right now? Rough him up. Sate the grudge before it makes me kill him.”

“By the end, he’ll have worsened it, I know he will.” Nakazato sighed. “You won’t have an opportunity to sate your grudge, because when he loses he will try to flee. I’ll bring him to our meeting spot and offer him to you.” Takumi looked at his friend, wide eyed.

“You’d do that for me?”

“Of course, but promise me one thing.”

“What?” Nakazato gulped.

“Don’t kill him, and don’t maim him too badly.” Takumi’s gaze softened.

“I promise, I wouldn’t rip your mate from you, dad told me how much losing your mate can hurt and I don’t want to put you through that.”

“TAKESHI!” Shingo yelled, and the two looked towards him. Hurt was vaguely reflected on his face. “What the fuck are you doing!?”

“Supporting my friend, and not the dumbass who got all up in arms over the outcome of a race that hadn’t been at all serious.” Nakazato responded sternly, and Shingo recoiled. Nakazato looked back at Takumi and clapped a hand on his shoulder. “Good luck, and don’t forget your promise.” and with that, he hurried off. Shingo looked enraged, and merely turned back to his car as one of his teammates walked up to Takumi.

When they were ready, they pulled up together, Takumi flexing his hand under the duct tape and feeling vaguely impressed by how tight it was.

Being released was like a trigger in Takumi as he floored it more than he ever had before, pulling ahead of Shingo as Nejibana emerged from his pocket and took her place on his dash, first eyeballing the duct tape with distaste before looking at the EG6 tailgating him.

“He’s keeping even behind you, master.” she commented, and Takumi grunted, keeping his eyes on the road.

“He’s got no excuse, but I’ll take it.”

 

~0~

 

“This is almost humiliating.” Shingo muttered, his tail surging forth and draping in it’s usual spot over the seat. “Keeping behind an 86 with my B-16A engine. It’s superior in every way to a 4A-G and if I had chosen it, I wouldn’t be behind this upstart.” agitation rose in his chest as the image of Takeshi and the kid both leaning against the 86 filled his mind. That was HIS mate, he was supposed to side with HIM, not some kid!

He was going to squash this little human like a bug.

“The only reason I’m staying back is because I wanna see just how many corners you can take before I get impatient.” a feral smirk shot across Shingo’s face. “But sadly, I’m not a very patient rat.”

 

~0~

 

Nejibana stared at her master, almost mesmerized by how focused and alert he was. She had never seen him act like this before, and found that it interesting. She turned back to the windshield, noticing the first corner coming up.

“Here we go!” she exclaimed, and Takumi hummed his agreement as he prepared.

“This might hurt.” he said bracingly as he grabbed his elbow and began to pull into a drift, starting to sweat as he had to twist his body to clear the corner, if barely, and straighten back out. “I was right, but only a little.” he panted a little. “How am I going to handle the hairpins if the first drift of Akina was that difficult?”

“You can do it master!” Nejibana cheered, causing him to relax if slightly. “You’ve wanted a challenge for years, and here we are! You’ve always adapted easily.”

“You’re right!” Takumi said, drifting the next corner much more easily, not having to risk breaking his wrist this time. “I always love a good challenge!”

 

~0~

 

Shingo scoffed, he hadn't expected the human to clear the corner like he had. And now he seemed to be clearing the others with ease. That was some crazy adaptability he had, he would admit that.

Not aloud, of course.

“He won’t last.” Shingo growled. “I don’t let him.”

 

~0~

 

Takumi described his feelings as almost serene as he drifted each corner easier than the last. The itch in the back of his head had dulled to a point of barely being noticable. He hardly even registered Nejibana, who had grown silent and was watching the road and their surroundings fly by with hardly a twitch of her legs.

It was peaceful, the roar of the engine dulling as a rhythmic, slow ticking played in his head.

It was almost becoming too much.

He reached down and turned on his radio, the music startling Nejibana out of whatever trance she had been in as she began looking around wildly.

He couldn’t risk becoming distracted by just how peaceful it was.

“I’m getting the hang of this.” he said as he straightened out from a drift.

“But that means it isn’t a challenge anymore!” Nejibana whined, and Takumi shared her sentiment, before twitching. The itch was back at the forefront, now, and it felt just barely worse.

That didn’t bode well.

 

~0~

 

Shingo’s mood wasn’t improving as he watched the 86 drift more and more flawlessly with each corner tackled. He was adapting too fast for his tastes.

“My deathmatches can’t be mastered this quickly, but here we are!” he grit his teeth. “Well, you’re just sinking deeper into the quicksand, little human, and I’ll have fun watching you suffocate when the time comes!”

 

~0~

 

Takumi watched with agitation as the EG6 pulled up beside him fairly quickly, the driver shooting him a nasty smirk before pulling back. Takumi’s fangs began clicking wildly, Nejibana’s joining in to create a mixture of two tones.

“He’s taunting me.” Takumi growled, feeling the itching grow in intensity.

“He’s reminding you that he can pass you any time he wants, as if that’ll intimidate you.” Najibana snarled. “Puny rodent, not even worth the time!”

“Something about all this makes me nervous, Nejibana.” Takumi confided, causing her to look at him. “He’s plotting something dangerous, I can feel it.” she didn’t say a word as he drifted the next few corners, watching as the road flew by. When they turned a particularly sharp corner, something caught her eye.

More like two somethings.

“Look master, it’s the Takahashi humans!” she exclaimed, Takumi risked a glance and true to her word, there they were, flashy cars and all. “They came to watch?”

“Most likely, they probably heard about the deathmatch and that I accepted.” he responded, before his eyes locked on a set of oncoming headlights. “Shit.”

“Are you going to pull out one of our tricks at the corner?”

“I have to.” tensing, he pulled the car into a single lane and forced into a drift, never crossing into the next lane so at to allow the car to pass as he cleared through.

“The human’s faces all turned into holes!” Nejibana cheered. “They looked so shocked! I’m so happy!”

“You would be happy about such a thing.” Takumi chuckled as he prepared to drift again, turning the car and relaxing when it jerked as Shingo rammed his car into his bumper. Terror shot through him as the car began to spin, he vaguely heard Nejibana begin to scream as she gripped the dash with all her might, the world around Takumi began to ring as he made to bring the car back under control.

The moment he could see the road again instead of guardrails, he straightened out the car and floored it, his vision bleeding red. The itch at the back of his head grew to a fever pitch and began to take over, shoving all else out of his mind.

Kill.

Kill.

Kill.

KILL!

“Why that low, no good, filthy RAT!” he snarled, and Nejibana, finally able to see straight, watched as legs ripped through her master's shirt and gripped onto the first surface they touched. His pupils warped and split, going from one to three, the irises turning a deep red, and his pedipalps and fangs surged forth, the pointed tips shiny with his venom. “I'M GOING TO RIP HIS FUCKING GUTS OUT!” Nejibana bounced on the dashboard excitedly, oh how she adored it when Takumi was this angry!

“YES, MASTER!” she cried out, her eyes hazing for a moment in delight. “WE'LL WRAP HIM UP AND DRAIN HIM DRY! WE'LL SET FIRE TO ALL IN OUR WAY!” it would be absolute carnage, and Nejibana delighted in carnage.

 

~0~

 

Shingo scoffed.

“The kid got lucky!” he growled, glancing in his rear view. His eyes widened and suddenly he couldn’t look away. A dark aura, like smoke, covered the 86 and it suddenly morphed into a gigantic spider with glowing red eyes. It let out a screech of rage and hatred before dissipating, and Shingo quickly looked back at the road, terror arcing through him. What the fuck was that?

What did he just do?

What the fuck did he just release?

“I-It’s no matter!” he stuttered, shunting what he saw to the back of his mind. “I’m ahead now, I won’t lose!

 

~0~

 

Nejibana was starting to vaguely regret wanting her master to be this enraged. He was practically unresponsive, letting out clicks and hisses as he chased after the EG6. He wouldn’t talk to her or even let on that he heard her.

Frankly, it was terrifying.

“He’s not going to stop.” she whispered, turning her eyes towards the road, watching as he gained on the EG6 and drove erratically. “He’s going to go on and on until he gets what he wants.” she felt the car jerk as her master nearly rammed into the guardrail, the high pitched sound of grinding telling her that he scraped it, and he was thrown into another skid. He wasn’t even caring for the state of Bunta’s Trueno!

Oh god. What has she done?

 

~0~

 

Shingo was decently terrified, casting constant glances in his rear view at the erratic 86, watching as the vehicle moved in a way completely unnatural and quickly gained on him.

“How the fuck is it catching up!?” he winced at the high pitched tone his voice had taken on, god he sounded like a girl. As he drifted a corner, his eyes caught sight of Nakazato, who was staring at him with a mixture of apathy and pity.

It was then he realized that he was truly alone in this race, and panic finally began to set in.

No matter what he did, he remained unable to lose his tail. The kid was keeping on him like glue to a paper.

“My EG6 is the best of it’s class! How is a measly little 86 able to keep up with it!?” he glanced in his rear view, flinching at the obscured windshield, seeing only two glowing dots staring straight at him, echoing such hate and rage. “T-The hairpins are up next! I’ll lose him there!”

He didn’t even get to the turns when the 86 forced its way inside, causing him to panic, was he going to get bumped back!? His question was answered when the 86 ignored him and passed him instead.

“I-I thought he was going to bump me…” sweat ran down his face. “He passed me…” his fear was suddenly replaced by outrage, running through him as hot as fire. “HE FUCKING PASSED ME! THAT’S INCOMPREHENSIBLE!”

 

~0~

 

Nejibana had made herself as small as possible on the dash, her instincts screaming at her to flee from the much larger and much stronger spider in her presence.

She didn’t like it when Takumi was angry, oh god she didn’t like it. She whimpered.

“Master, come back to me soon.” she whispered. “This isn’t you, this isn’t you. I’m so scared.”

 

~0~

 

Shingo was growing desperate, if he was considering what he was.

A double crash. He would rather CRASH than lose. He laughed hysterically.

“LET’S SEE YOU REACT TO THIS!” he yelled as he pulled up beside the 86 and moved to ram it in the side, only for it to speed up and swerve away, leaving Shingo alone to crash into the rail.

Time slowed, the EG6 rammed into the rail, losing a mirror and gaining major scrapes, before one of the tires left the ground and he flew into a spin. He slammed on his breaks, drifting backwards to a stop as he bumped against the rail at the corner and the 86 sped off. He sat there, stunned, his outrage draining out and being replaced by horror at what occurred, before he got out and looked at his car.

“... I lost.” he muttered, hardly registering the sound of a car pulling up behind him. “I lost to an 86, in a duct tape deathmatch.”

“Shingo.” Takeshi’s voice started up behind him, and he turned, wide eyed, to see him watching with a blank expression. “I told you, but you didn’t listen.”

“... I know.”

“Now, we have to make it right.” that made Shingo come up short.

“... what?”

“I’ve called the mechanic back home to pick your EG6 up and work on her. Come on, get in.” he opened the passenger door and Shingo was struck by just how odd all of this is. Hesitantly, he entered Takeshi’s car and went to buckle. “Don’t.” he froze and moved his hand back down and Takeshi got in, his face still blank, and that was when Shingo realized something. The R32 wasn’t making any noise. Not even a whuff of greeting.

“Is something wrong with the R32?” he asked. Takeshi didn’t answer as he pulled ahead. “Takeshi, what the fuck is going on!?”

“You have to make it right.” Takeshi responded. “You’ve left me no choice.”

“NO CHOICE WITH WHAT!?”

“If I don’t give you to him now, he will hunt you down and kill you.” Takeshi’s voice wavered and his grip on the wheel tightened. “I have no choice. I don’t want you to die.” Shingo was confused and terrified, why was Takeshi doing this.

They pulled to the top of the mountain and parked, Takeshi getting out and heading towards the treeline, turning to stare at Shingo.

“Come on.” he said. Shingo shook and got out, walking close. Takeshi grabbed his hand, a shock to the rat, and headed in with him in tow.

“Takeshi, what do you mean he’ll kill me?”

“His kind holds grudges.” he whispered. “If I don’t have you over, it will fester and fester until it takes him over and he obsesses, he’ll kill you if we don’t nip it now.”

“W-What will he do? Who is he anyway?”

“The worst he’ll do is the best he can do; beat you bloody for messing with his nest like you did.” Shingo tensed, he wanted to shift and flee. “Shift, I grab your tail and break it. Run, I break your leg.” Takeshi’s voice was firm and gruff, and made Shingo freeze. “I don’t want this just as much as you, but if we let it fester he’ll do worse than break bones.” they stepped into a clearing, where the trees bent their tops to touch overhead like the roof of a cave. “I’ve brought him!” Takeshi yelled, letting go of his hand and shoving him forward. “You had better keep your promise to me!”

“Oh, Nakazato, you think so little of me.” a smooth, creamy voice sighed.

“That’s because YOU aren’t the person who made that promise with me right now, spider!” Spider!? Oh god, he crossed a Jorōgumo!?

“Ah, I can’t argue with that, now can I?” the voice called, laughing. It was a fake, harsh laugh. “Don’t worry, little dullahan, I’ll keep the promise my domestic little soul made you. You may go without worry.” Takeshi hesitated a little, shooting Shingo a look of pain, before he re-entered the treeline. “And with that, the little rat was all alone.” Shingo’s eyes darted around, unable to see anything, then he looked up, and paled.

Slowly descending was the biggest spider he had ever seen, dwarfing him easily.

“The look of terror on your face is mesmerizing.” the spider said, and when it touched down, Shingo finally got a good look at the body attached to it.

It was the kid he just raced. Terror arced through him and he began to scramble back. The spider laughed again, shrill, high pitched, cruel.

“‘Step into my parlor,’ said the spider to the fly. ‘Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy.’” the spider strode forward, reaching down and grabbing Shingo’s chin, forcing him to look him in the eyes. “We are going to have a lot of fun getting to know one another, rat.”

The following screams were heard by those who roamed Akina that night, and sent shivers down the spines of all who listened.

Chapter Text

Takumi awoke with a splitting headache, confused and dazed. Where…? Looking around, he realized that he was home, curled up in his bed. When had he gotten home? The last thing he remembered was being in the middle of a race. Groaning, he got up, only to cringe as pain shot through his arms. Bringing them up, he registered that his hands and knuckles were split and irritated, burning a harsh red as small pinpricks of blood welled to the surface. Eyes trailing up his arms, he took in the small scratches and bruises, confusion and slight panic beginning to run through him.

“What happened to me last night?” he asked himself, slightly shaken. Deciding not to dwell on it as his stomach gurgled, he forced himself upright and slowly made his way down into the living room.

“Good morning, Takumi.” Bunta greeted evenly, not looking up from his paper, and when Takumi didn’t respond he looked up at him. He must have seen Takumi’s current emotional state echoed on his face, because he sat his paper down. “Takumi?”

“When… when did I get back home?” Takumi asked, holding one of his arms to his chest.

“Some time around one in the morning.” Bunta responded. “Why?”

“I don’t remember ever coming home.” that made Bunta’s eyes widen.

“What do you remember about last night?” he asked,

“I… I was in the middle of that race.” Takumi said, walking forward and sitting down as his head grew light. “Then… then something happened. I remember panicking, then I got very, very angry, and then… I woke up in my bed.” Bunta was silent as he processed what he had been told.

“Do you truly not remember, master?” Nejibana called softly from her web, huddled close to the corner. At Takumi’s nod, she slowly descended, stopping before his shoulder and visibly hesitating, before completing her descent and settling stiffly on him.

“That does not bode well.” Bunta said distantly, and Takumi’s gaze snapped to him.

“Dad? What does that mean?”

“It means that you aren’t as domesticated as I was led to believe.” Bunta responded, and a small part of Takumi bristled in agitation at the word. “We’re city spiders, Takumi. We had to adapt in order to hide amongst the humans. We had to become domesticated. The process shoves our more wild roots to the side until they become too weak to influence us. You just proved to me that you are not that domesticated.”

“... Dad?”

“This way you act, how you are, might have originally started off as a cover for your true nature.” Takumi’s eyes widened at that. “But like any mask, any facade, the spider inside you had it on for too long. You are you, Takumi, you’re your own person. But so is your spider.”

“...” Takumi didn’t know how to process this, it was a terrifying thing to think about.

“Don’t dwell on it.” Bunta warned. “It’s nothing to be bothered or worried about. It just means you’re… a little more protective than most.” Bunta smiled wryly. “You probably get that from your mother.” Takumi perked a little, his dad never really talked about his mother.

“Since master doesn’t remember last night, shouldn’t we tell him?” Nejibana spoke up, and Takumi’s panic returned slightly as Bunta nodded.

“Yes, you’re right, we should tell him.” Bunta sighed.

“You grew angry.” Nejibana began. “Very angry. Your legs ripped through your shirt and everything.” she gestured down and Takumi followed the indicator. Low and behold, his shirt was ripped to high hell on the sides. “At first it was exhilarating, you were so angry and I had never witnessed it before. But then it got terrifying, and pretty quickly too. You were completely unresponsive, you were erratic, you didn’t even care about the Trueno.”

“What!?”

“The car is scraped to high hell in the back, kid.” Bunta said. “I had been planning to confront you about it when you woke up, but seeing as you genuinely can’t remember what happened, I really can’t say that it was you who did it.” Takumi felt pain lance through his heart, he loved that car, how could he let it get hurt like that? “Takumi, I don’t blame you, I blame the spider.”

“But I am the spider!” Takumi finally snapped, looking teary eyed, and Bunta was taken aback. It was silent for a moment.

“Yes, you are the spider.” Bunta finally relented. “But you also aren’t. You’re just… two beings in one body right now.”

“That still doesn’t make sense.” Takumi sniffed, rubbing his eyes.

“I suppose you’re right, it doesn’t.” Bunta looked at Nejibana. “You should continue.”

“Where was I? Oh right, we won the race, of course. Afterwards, though, the spider seemed to show SOME compassion towards the car because he parked it out of the way in a fairly inconspicuous place, then headed towards your meeting spot.” Takumi’s heart sank into his stomach. “Nakazato did show up with Shingo. I bailed to go with him, but I know that Shingo fought back. You came out of it all missing a good chunk from some of your limbs.” Takumi felt his sides throb and flinched.

“And… Shingo?”

“Surprisingly, the worst injury he had was that his right arm was broken in five places. It terms of damage, you probably came out worse. It terms of pain, Shingo came out worse. You hadn’t even let on that you felt any pain. Then again, it wasn’t really you piloting the meat suit at the time.” Takumi winced, but at least he wasn’t feeling the itch anymore. “After that you came straight home and just, went to bed. You didn’t change, didn’t do your nightly routine, you just went up and fell asleep.”

“I had heard you come in and decided to check on you and the car. I’m glad I did because you were bleeding on your sheets and bed, and the car, of course, had its own wounds.” Bunta sighed at the caged look on Takumi’s face. “You aren’t in trouble, kid. I’m just worried. I thought your troubles ended with that grudge, but it seems I was wrong. It’s completely natural, what happened, and in that way, you’re more like your mother than I’d care to admit.”

 

~0~

 

“IKETANI YOU LUCKY BASTARD!” Takumi groaned as Itsuki started up. What was it with people and wanting to be in a relationship?

‘They want to love, to mate.’ Takumi jumped at the sudden voice, smooth and silky, echoing in his ears. He looked around, trying to pinpoint where the voice was coming from and only received a dark, amused chuckle.

“How am I supposed to believe that some chick you just met gave you her number? What’s the catch, huh?”

“HOW COULD YOU GET A GIRL BEFORE ME!?” Itsuki continued yelling, before he suddenly wilted and sat his head on Takumi’s chest, much to his surprise. “I’m lonely.”

“Besides, if there isn’t a catch, it really isn’t something you’d do.” Iketani’s face suddenly warped with rage.

“And just what is that supposed to mean!?” he growled, causing Kenji to take a step back. “Do you really think that little of me!?”

“N-No!” Kenji was quick to defend himself. “It just sounds way too good to be true, that’s all!” Iketani scoffed.

“You’re just jealous that I’m this happy for once!” he exclaimed in agitation, before turning away. “I have to get back to work so I can get off earlier, like Yuichi promised. Unlike you, I have a date after work today!” he walked off with a hop in his step, looking genuinely happy and excited at the thought of his date. Takumi smiled, he was happy that Iketani might have found his mate.

‘Dates and falling in love are for insects.’ the voice spoke again, and Takumi was still unable to pinpoint where it was coming from.

“Hey,” Kenji said as he leaned in close to Takumi and Itsuki, throwing an arm around the spider’s shoulder. “We should totally spy on Iketani and catch a glimpse of this girl of his.” Itsuki nodded eagerly while Takumi felt agitation rise within him, and his fangs clicked.

‘Filthy mortals.’ this time he ignored the voice.

“If Iketani finds out, he will kill the both of you.” Takumi growls, causing the two humans to flinch and recoil. “Just because he’s your friend doesn’t mean either of you get the right to set your eyes on his private life.” he eyed them. “You two can go on ahead and risk your friendship with him by being general creeps, but I refuse to take part.” he turned heel and immediately walked away, turning back to see them whispering at one another conspiratorially. Changing his direction, he headed towards Iketani, who was manning the store. “Hey.”

“Ah, Takumi, do you need something?” Iketani asked.

“No, I just decided to come work with you.” he said nonchalantly. “And warn you that Itsuki and Kenji seem to be planning on spying on your date with your lady.” Iketani’s face warped in agitation.

“Of course they would. Kenji probably thinks I’m exaggerating.”

“Is she really that pretty?” Takumi asked as he move to arrange a few things inside the store.

“Oh, she is! She’s the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.” Iketani mooned, and Takumi could practically see his tail wagging. “And she’s a werewolf, just like me!”

“Oh?” Takumi gave him a surprised look. “Another werewolf this close by?”

“Yeah, I’m just as surprised as you! She was too!” he waved Takumi closer and showed him his wrist, where a chocolate brown swirl was situated. “We’re compatible, she wants to give us a try!” Takumi took in his friend’s happy face and smiled.

“I’m happy for you, Iketani. Congrats.” Takumi moved back away as Iketani hummed to himself, suddenly lost in thought. His own compatability mark had nearly faded away by now, barely visibly but still yellow against his dark colorations. Maybe he should think about asking Keisuke out. It shouldn’t end too badly. Yeah, that sounded like a good plan. He'll give the compatibility mark a chance.

‘Mate.’ the voice echoed, and Takumi finally registered that it was coming from inside his head. Takumi forcefully ignored it. ‘You will listen to us. We will take.’ no the fuck he wouldn’t, not if he had any say in the matter. He growled to himself and began to think of other things, shoving the voice down violently. He’d deal with that problem later.

"Hey," Iketani called suddenly, watching as Takumi turned towards him. "Did you hear about that earthquake up in Canada? They're saying it was an Outsider..."

Chapter Text

“Do we have to be out here this late?” Takumi asked as he stood beside Iketani. It was nearly midnight and here they were, out on a hillside miles from home overlooking Usui Pass. He didn’t mind being out at this time, quite the opposite actually, it was the fact that they were inside the territory of a creature he didn’t know that was setting him off.

“I want to catch a glimpse of this female racer, Takumi.” Iketani responded, not as agitated with Takumi as one would expect. He was nervous about being in territory that wasn’t his own as well. “When I see her, we’ll go, alright? Just a little longer.”

“Alright.” Takumi relented pretty quickly. He was curious about the female racer too, from what he remembered them all talking about, female racers were practically unheard of. He sat back and relaxed a little, allowing his pedipalps and fangs to come forth. He didn’t dare go any further, he had been having problems with blacking out in his true form recently. Iketani sat beside him, exhaling as his tail waved against the ground gently.

“The full moon is coming up.” Iketani said, and Takumi turned to look at him. “You weren’t able to accompany me the last few times, you able to this time around?”

“I’m not sure.” he responded. “I’ve been having trouble with my true form ever since that deathmatch. I black out if I shift further than this.”

“Black out?” Iketani sounded concerned. “Do you know why?”

“I think it’s because of what happened during the race. I snapped and just, blacked out. I don’t remember winning, and I definitely don’t remember… beating the tar out of the rat.” Iketani frowned at this.

“That sounds familiar.” he muttered as Nejibana squeezed her way out of Takumi’s pocket. She was very big now, about an inch smaller than his hand. He remembered when she had been barely bigger than his thumb like it was yesterday, and not months ago. “I got it!” Iketani shot him a grin. “You’re having the same problem I did when I was first turned!” Takumi winced at the term. Turning humans had been banned years before Iketani had been born. Despite this, he had still been attacked and bitten as a kid and forced into an existence borne of lycanthropy, instead of being naturally born into it. “Your instincts are angry, very angry. They’ve likely taken a specific form, mine took the form of a wolf. When your inner creature isn’t in sync with yourself, bad things happen. For lycans, we lose our minds when we’re forced to shift during the full moon. It’s likely that your blacking out was you being forced into a shift, which in turn allowed your inner creature to pull itself together and gain it’s own sentience.”

“So, how do I fix it?”

“You can’t fix it, Takumi.” Iketani gave him a wolfish grin, his eyes flashing amber. “You can only accept that part of yourself and form a bond. Only then will you be able to take your true form like you once could.”

“And just how do I do that?”

“I’ll teach you, but only if you agree to accompany me this full moon.” Takumi shot Iketani a glare.

“That’s a low and sick thing you just did, Iketani. I’ll accompany you, I had planned on it, but if you had actually did that to me when I was about to hit a molt I would have slit your throat, my issues be damned.” Iketani recoiled and held his hands up, terrified. Before they could say anymore, the roar of an engine caught the attention of both of them and they looked down the road, catching sight of a blue sileighty racing down the pass.

“Here she comes!” Iketani said excitedly, hunkering down as his tail wagged excitedly. Both watched as the car drifted closer and closer, then something caught Iketani’s attention and he suddenly froze, growing tense as his tail fell. When the car drifted by, Takumi caught sight of a woman with long brown hair at the wheel, a blonde beside her, and then the car was gone.

“Iketani?” he asked, looking at his friend with concern. Iketani didn’t respond. “Ike-” the wolf was fully shifted and gone in seconds, prompting Takumi to jump up and attempt to run after him. He was definitely much slower in his human form. “Ugh, fuck it! Please don’t do anything untoward.” and with that, he fully shifted and everything went dark.

“Silly mortal.” the soft and silky voice of his Spider fell from his mouth as he chased after Iketani at full speed. “The wolf is nest, who are we to do something untoward to nest?” Takumi at full shift was definitely fast enough to catch up to Iketani, even when they were swerving through the trees, and it only took the spider a moment to tackle the wolf and hold him down.

“LET ME GO!” the wolf snarled, and the spider chuckled, prompting Iketani to stop struggling.

“We think not, little wolf.” he responded. “You may run off again. As much as we adore a good hunt, we do not want to chase you again.” he righted himself with Iketani latched firmly within his arms, beginning to walk back out to their clearing.

“You aren’t Takumi.” Iketani said, his shift quickly receding.

“We are yet we are not.” the spider replied. Iketani immediately realized who he was dealing with.

“I see.” he responded, turning his attention towards spotting differences in Takumi’s full shift. The one thing he could notice is that Takumi’s eyes were a full black instead of the red he was used to, like his pupils were dilated to take up the entirety of his eyes. The rest of the journey back to the clearing was quiet and tense, and ended when the spider nearly dropped Iketani back on the ground before settling in front of him.

“Now, why did you run from us? Our mortal soul felt so hurt and desperate to catch up to you that he gave us free reign.” Iketani was silent for a moment.

“What I tell you, you’ll tell Takumi, right?” the spider looked taken aback by that. “He can’t remember that deathmatch because you forced your way out. You kept those memories from him. I don’t-”

“We understand.” the spider interrupted. Yes, we will tell the mortal.”

“... the woman driving the car was Mako. She’s the lady I’m dating. She told me that she wasn’t too interested in racing on our first date. She lied to me, it hurt.”

“You creatures with human natures are foolish things.” the spider said. “All this nonsense about feelings and dating and wooing.” the spider let out an agitated sound. “Mates only keep secrets if they fear the reaction of their other half. All this lip flapping about racing and such, she likely expected that you’d react negatively to her being a racer.”

“... That’s actually well thought out.”

“Of course it is! We understand the nature of mates, unlike some creatures. Mates are the most important thing to us, they are to be implicitly trusted! If our foolish husk of a mortal soul saw that then he would understand what I am saying!”

“I think I get what you mean.” Iketani said, distracting the spider. “I shouldn’t care if she races or not, or if she hid it from me or not. I should care that she was scared enough of me to hide it.” the spider clapped happily, nodding. You know, the thing wasn’t as terrifying as he first thought.

“I will now give the mortal back to you.” the spider said. “You likely want him back.”

“I’ll send him back your way soon, to work things out. He’s scared of the black outs and I know for a fact that you don’t mean for them to happen.” the spider nodded thankfully, before he faded away with the shift and all that was left behind was Takumi, passed out and fully human. Iketani sighed as he got up and lifted Takumi up, slightly surprised by how light the younger creature was, and began heading back down to his car.

He and Takumi would be in for a lot within the next few days. He had a promise to keep, after all.

 

~0~

 

“Mako.” Iketani greeted nicely, smiling at his tentative mate brightly. Mako seemed taken aback by his mood. “I saw the most interesting thing last night. A blue sileighty drifting down the mountain pass more gracefully than I could comprehend!” Mako began to sweat. “And you’ll never guess what I saw next. You behind the wheel! I was so surprised, then a little hurt, then a lot hurt that you kept it from me!” Mako winced.

“Iketani, I-”

“But then I realized,” he plowed through her statement. “I must have done something to make you afraid to tell me that you raced!” her eyes widened. “After I realized that, I dwelled, and processed that I was so happy that you were a racer! Someone like me, who shared my interests, willing to date me! A mere turned!” Mako winced at the term. “I don’t know what I did to make you keep such a thing to yourself, but I’ll work to fix it!”

“Iketani…” Mako looked genuinely taken aback by his admission, before she winced once more. Something about it made Iketani’s heart sink. “I won’t be racing after this summer. Half of the reason I decided to give us a try is greedy and terrible, and I’m sorry. But to make this summer memorable, I wanted to race Akina’s 86 at Usui Pass. When I saw your car, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to arrange it. But then we came to be compatible and I…” she wilted, her eyes falling. Iketani’s eyes were wide, and hurt echoed from his wolf as he heard it howl miserably, but he ignored it.

Trust your mate implicitly.

“But you decided to give us a chance and see where it goes.” Iketani answered for her. Her eyes locked on him. “You should have been this honest with me from the start, I would have happily asked the 86 if he could race you.” her eyes widened. “I’ll still ask him to race you. I want you to really have fun if this will be your last race.” he smiled widely and Mako was frozen for a second, before she yanked him into a hug, thanking him softly as his front began to grow wet. He wrapped his arms around her and let her cry it out.

He would trust her, and hope that it didn’t come back to bite him.

The spider hasn’t led him wrong yet.

Chapter Text

“I dunno, Iketani.” Takumi said, looking out the window of the diner they were seated in. “I know that she actually did give you two a chance, but she initially went into it with ulterior motives. That pisses me off.”

“Takumi.” Iketani couldn’t retort at all. Takumi was a protective creature, he had played witness to it with the whole Shingo debacle. “Please don’t be angry with Mako.” Takumi sighed.

“I don’t get why you defend her. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a mate.” he locked his gaze on Iketani, his gaze hazing a little. “How much do you trust her.”

“With every fiber of my being.” Iketani responded without hesitation, and Takumi sat back, looking slightly cross. “Takumi, please, do this one thing for me. I have a chance at having a mate, Turned don’t get these opportunities.” that made Takumi’s eyes soften drastically. Right, he had almost forgotten. “Takumi, please-”

“Don’t beg.” Takumi cut him off. “It makes me uncomfortable.”

‘Damn, we liked the grovelling.’ Spider commented as Iketani’s face brightened considerably. Takumi shoved the voice down harshly. They were silent for a while as Takumi thought. All of the races on Akina were the same at heart. He knew the mountain too well for any challenges. Usui Pass was untouched territory. Something new.

“I’ll do it. It sounds pretty fun.”

“Really!?” Iketani exclaimed, grinning widely. “You will!?” at Takumi’s nod, Iketani let out an almost howl of pure elation. “Takumi you don’t know how happy this makes me!”

“I can hazard a guess.” Takumi responded, watching his friend with soft eyes. He’d put his faith in his nest, for now at least. If she hurt him, she wouldn’t survive it.

Inside his head, the spider chuckled darkly.

 

~0~

 

The sun was setting when they closed in on Usui Pass. Takumi had wanted to come out earlier than now in order to get a general feel of the pass before the race, but literally everyone had kept him from accomplishing that task.

Everyone wanted him to go into this blind, he guessed. That doesn’t sound all to safe.

‘We have no room to utter such thoughts.’

“Hahahaha! Your dad must be having a conniption right now, seeing my 85 instead of his 86!”

“No, actually. I told him what we’d be doing today and he agreed, he knows that we left him your 85 for any use he might have for it.” Itsuki deflated at that. He chuckled as Itsuki let out a whine, then felt… off. Itsuki was his best friend. Has been for years.

Wasn’t it time he knew?

‘We must not tell the insect-’

‘SHUT UP!’ Takumi snarled internally at his spider, feeling the arachnid suddenly cower away from the volume. ‘Itsuki is nest, not an insect!’ he has about had enough with his instincts thinking it can control his every move! ‘So you listen here, I don’t want to hear one more demand out of you until we get this all figured out, you got that!?’

‘... got it.’ the spider sounded subdued and submissive, and Takumi let out a quiet sigh of relief. He chanced a glance towards Iketani’s car and nearly winced at the murderous expression on Kenji’s face, before taking in the hurt and shaken look on Iketani’s. ‘... are they not close?’ Takumi sighed once more.

‘I thought they were. I don’t like how this looks.’ when Iketani’s car suddenly turned off, he knew something was very wrong. He followed quickly and both parked in the lot of a store.

“Takumi!” Kenji called, motioning him and Itsuki over to him, and they approached. “Someone,” he pushed Iketani forward slightly. “Has something to say to you.”

“...” Iketani gulped, looking terribly guilty. “I-I’m sorry I pressured you into racing Mako. If you don’t want to do it then we can just go home.” oh. So that was what this was about.

‘We were not pressured into this, were we?’

‘No.’

“I was not pressured into doing anything, Kenji.” Takumi said, turning on Iketani’s friend, who jumped in surprise and slight terror. “I agreed to the race because I thought it would be fun. I thought it would be a nice change of pace from running Akina over, and over, and over again. I’m doing the race because I want to, not because Iketani forced me to!”

“B-But, this is unfamiliar territory! You’ll lose-”

“IT DOESN’T MATTER WHETHER I WIN OR LOSE!” Takumi snapped, and Kenji’s jaw snapped shut. Takumi could hear the spider rumbling eagerly at his agitation. “I know your heart is in the right place, but I saw Iketani’s face in the car. You didn’t even ask me if I was doing this of my own violation, and instead came to your own conclusion. Don’t do that.” Kenji was taken aback by this, silent.

“There will be a lot of people disappointed to hear that you lost.” Itsuki said gently.

“So? Those rumors going around of my abilities are highly exaggerated, I want them to go away. If I lose, they vanish. At this point, I just want to run the pass as well as I can. Winning or losing, either can happen, and I wouldn’t care.” everyone absorbed that as Takumi walked back to the car. “Come on! I want to get there already!”

 

~0~

 

“YOU are the driver of the 86!?” Takumi rose a brow at the blonde girl speaking at him. Why would it be surprising? She looked towards the brunette, Mako, then looked back at him. “I can’t believe it, you look way too young! How old are you anyway!?”

“I’m eighteen.” Takumi replied evenly, and felt a brow twitch when the blonde turned back to Mako with an incredulous look on her face.

“He’s a high schooler! Ugh, you’ve got to be kidding me.”

“You know, it’s rude to basically insult someone who’s right in front of you.” he called out, causing her to blush. “Had I known you were against people under twenty racing, I never would have come.”

“They’re cocky, master.”

‘Mate wouldn’t like her if she thinks that.’ Takumi agreed with both of them.

“I should just go home, if this is how it’ll be.” he muttered, and Iketani, surprisingly, agreed.

“I wouldn’t have thought that something so shallow would have come from them, Takumi.” he said, prompting Mako to flinch. “And anyway, they’re twenty, that isn’t that big of a jump from eighteen.”

“Sayuki didn’t mean that!” Mako said quickly, covering her friend’s mouth. “We would love to race you!” Takumi looked unimpressed at the sudden jump in attitude.

“Alright.” he said, nodding pleasantly at her, and Mako let Sayuki go.

“She smells like wolf too, master.” Nejibana pointed out the obvious. “Oh, wait, right, Iketani already told us she’s a wolf. Oops.”

“Out here, it isn’t a good idea to start side by side.” Sayuki began. “The pass is much too narrow. As such, this will have to be a cat and mouse.”

‘Spider and insect.’

“A chase?” Iketani said blankly. Takumi could feel the spider practically vibrate with excitement.

“We’ll have to decide who runs and who chases-”

“I’ll chase.” Takumi interrupted, causing Sayuki to turn and attempt to give him a dirty look. His eyes flashed, turning red as his fangs clicked, and Sayuki seemed to suddenly understand just what she was staring down.

“W-Well, that was a very fast decision.” she said, shooting a glance at Mako, who nodded.

“It’s decided then.” she added. “We will do two runs. The first run will be a technical practice round. If the cat overtakes the mouse this run, the second one will not be started. Understand?” at Takumi’s nod, she relaxed minutely. “Alright then, let’s get ready.”

When Takumi was finally in the 86, Nejibana situated on his lap so as to remain hidden but still be out, he finally allowed himself to relax.

“This will be out most dangerous one yet, master.” Nejibana said as the countdown began. “I’m not certain we’ll come out of this one intact.”

“We will, Bana. I’m certain.” he cast a glance at Iketani, who looked torn on who to cheer for, and shot him a smile, catching his attention. “Cheer on your lady.” he said, certain that the wolf didn’t hear him, but despite this his eyes widened in surprise and he nodded, looking relieved. He jolted when the blue vehicle in front of him began to pull out and he followed.

“Here we go!” she exclaimed as they both began to speed up, and when they turned the first corner, they floored it.

The race has finally begun.

‘Hunt. Hunt. Hunt. HUNT. HUNT. HUNT!’ the spider began to chant in the back of his mind, enthralled by this little game. Usui Pass was very curvy, full of turns and hairpins that could all lead to a steep drop from just one little mistake.

“This is so scary!” Nejibana squeaked as she pulled herself onto the dash. “Aweh, do be careful!”

“We’ve got this, Bana!” he exclaimed. “Remember, this isn’t about winning.”

‘I would like us to be victorious in this hunt.’ the spider added it’s input. Takumi ignored it.

“I know! I’m just so uncomfortable here, the road is so narrow!” Takumi couldn’t fault her there. He watched every movement Mako made. If she slowed, he would slow. She knew the pass better than he did, not to mention she had someone in the car with her.

It gave her way too big of an advantage over him, but since when did he race on an even playing field?

‘The harder the hunt, the sweeter the victory!’

 

~0~

 

“It’s no wonder people are talking about this one.” Sayuki said. “We can’t shake him off.”

“Had he been anyone else, I would say he was about to experience why we are unbeatable on our own turf.” Mako responded. “But he isn’t just any creature or human. Spider demons are terrifying in their own right. I should have known that the one Iketani spoke of often was the Ghost of Akina!”

“Right!” Sayuki agreed. “Narrow turn up ahead!”

“Right!”

 

~0~

 

‘What speedy prey!’ Takumi was going to admit, he was starting to grow accustomed to the spider’s commentary.

“She’s so fast!” it didn’t help that it and Nejibana had the same thought process. He guessed that said something about him. “She is going into those turns like you do at home, she probably thinks she can lose you like this!”

“I can’t be lost that easily.” Takumi said, his eyes never leaving the road. “I adapt, as I should.” sweat began to drip down his brow, his heart was pounding with his nerves. His eyes caught sight of a particularly tight corner and he followed Mako into it, realizing that it kept curving. He stuck to the inside, his eyes catching sight of Sayuki smirking in victory at him, and he narrowed his eyes, his fangs and pedipalps surging forth in agitation. He felt the spider tense and approach, and he shoved it down. It got the hint and retreated. He wasn’t going to shift now. No good would come of it. He followed Mako out of the corner at full speed, nearly hitting her bumper, and grinned ferally when he caught sight of Sayuki’s horrified face in the side mirror.

Good, be shaken, don’t think you’ve won on familiar grounds.

 

~0~

 

“H-How…”

“It’s not possible…”

“He drifted that corner flawlessly… he’s never been out here before, and he passed that corner better than Mako!” Sayuki was flabbergasted as she began muttering to herself anxiously. “He’s a monster, we’ll never win.”

“Sayuki!” Mako yelled. “Directions!” the blonde widened her eyes, vague terror shooting through her.

“Don’t swing too much at this corner!” she exclaimed, and Mako followed through.

“What is wrong with you!?” the werewolf yelled, her eyes flashing amber. “Where’s your focus!? This is so unlike you!”

“Can’t you tell?” Sayuki said shakily. “We aren’t going to win.” Mako glanced at her friend, shocked.

“Where did your usual stubbornness go!? You’re just giving up, just like that!?”

“It would seem so.” Mako growled at that, her inner wolf snarling in anger.

“I never knew you were such a quitter!” she snapped. “Useless! Nothing but dead weight!”

“WHAT!?” Sayuki shrieked. “DEAD WEIGHT!?

“You’re freight, messing up the power to weight ratio!” Sayuki puffed up angrily at that.

“”I’M NOT FREIGHT! I’M NOT FAT! I HAVE A NICE BODY!”

“Forty nine kilograms of extra weight!”

“I WEIGH FORTY SEVEN!” Sayuki never felt more angry. “FINE! I HAVE MY OWN PRIDE TOO! WE’RE GOING TO PUT OUR LIVES ON THE LINE!”

“Welcome back.” Mako smirked.

“WHATEVER! When you enter the next turn, get close enough to the way so that you almost scrape it!”

“Right!”

 

~0~

 

Takumi narrowed his eyes. Something about his opponent changed. He was unable to tell what. It didn’t matter now anyway, he was used to the turns. He had finally synched up.

“GO, GO, GO, GO, GO!” Nejibana yelled, obviously used to the turns as well. He smiled.

As they drifted each corner, he finally realized what was different. She was making more bold turns.

Becoming bolder did not mean becoming better. He knew that one.

‘She will make an error. She will stumble. We will catch her. Our hunt will be victorious. WE WLL BE VICTORIOUS!’ the spider crowed, forcing elation to run through Takumi and almost nearly distract him. He let it slide, he couldn’t afford to lose focus.

He would let the spider have it’s moment in peace, just so long as it didn’t cost him his concentration.

He was slowing down, though, now that Mako was emboldened. He hoped neither of them crashed.

 

~0~

 

“He’s slowing!” Sayuki said breathlessly. “You can lose him at this turn!”

“I know!”

“There are no cars ahead! Go for it!” Mako floored it, going faster and faster, when Sayuki noticed it. Takumi had fallen back. “He’s not following? Why!?” that was answered when Mako flew into the turn much too sharply. “MAKO! TOO SHARP! TOO SHARP!” it was too late as they drifted too far and began to spin. “WE CAN’T RECOVER! YOU HAVE TO SPIN AWAY FROM HIM!”

“Oh god, oh god, please don’t hit us!” Mako chanted as she tried to bring the car back under control. He was still moving towards them, not changing trajectory, but when they entered a single lane in their spin, Takumi took that opportunity to rush by, and overtake them as both of them squealed to a stop.

The cat caught the mouse.

 

~0~

 

‘We are splintered.’ It was not how it should be. He knew more than one would let on, more than Takumi knew. He wanted to give him this information. Jorōgumo are not born fresh and new, they're born with the knowledge of their species, a genetic memory that makes them older than they really are. 'We are young, much too young.' Spider thought to himself as he watched his vessel interact with the mortals and insects as they congratulated him on winning the race. He was modest, of course, admitted that if the wolf hadn’t made such an error, he would have lost. He bristled when that blonde mortal began that insect-based flirting action with his vessel, pleased that he didn’t respond in any way. He could feel Takumi grow attached to these insects, and sighed. 'How we can see such insects as nest, we can not comprehend.' His vessel was clueless on how they were truly supposed to act, having repressed centuries of knowledge.

Jorōgumo are, in all ways but physical, always old. Spider knows so much compared to his mortal husk and wants to fix it. But how does one fix it when no one wants you around? How do you fix it when you're just ignored?

'I will fix it.' he said. 'I will fix it.'

But how?

Chapter Text

It was cold on the ground. He hated it.

“Comfortable?” Iketani asked.

“No.” Takumi responded bitterly. Nejibana laughed at him from her perch on Bunta’s head. Right, his dad had decided to tag along. “I’m freezing.”

“Well, that’s what we get for Akina at sundown, what did you expect?”

“I expected it to be warmer than this.” he groused, and Iketani chuckled as he sat in front of him.

“Well, you’re gonna have to deal with it.” he shot the annoyed spider a cocky grin. “Come on then, sit up straight and relax.” Takumi groaned, but did as Iketani asked. “Ready?” he nodded. “Good. I need you to shut your eyes for me. Have you meditated before?”

“Once.”

“Good, then you should already know how to clear your mind. Do so for me. Nod when you’re ready.” he breathed in deeply, then let it out, his mind slowly but surely falling blank. He could feel the spider perk up curiously as everything fell silent. He nodded. “I need you to relax more for me, let go of your barriers and let your stress flow from your body.” he did as Iketani said, feeling the spider scrambled up and forward, forcing his pedipalps and fangs out. “Push.” Takumi forced the spider down. “I want you to imagine a dark staircase. Can you see it?” nod. “Go down it. Further and further, deeper and deeper. It does not grow darker, in fact it grows lighter. Deeper and deeper.”

Takumi fell limp, still sitting up, and Iketani smirked.

“He’s in. Now we just wait.”

“Do you know how long this will take?”

“Not a single clue.”

 

~0~

 

He was surrounded by trees, each of them connected by thick patches of silk. He took a step forward, registering that he was in his true shift, and began to make his way through. Where was he? Was this in his head?

“Ah,” the spider’s voice echoed around him. “And so the vessel comes to visit us. You should have rang, we would have cleaned up.” something massive landed on the ground behind him, and he turned to see the biggest red widow he ever set his eyes on, the creature easily dwarfing him with its size. “To what do we owe this pleasure?”

“... I said we needed to figure stuff out. So here I am, let’s figure stuff out.”

“Oh? Is that all? We were expecting more.”

“And just what was it that you would have expected?”

“Bargaining.” Spider began to circle Takumi. “You dislike us, that much is clear. You shove us down and yell at us, you repress us and refuse to listen to us!”

“Us?”

“WE! YOU AND I! US! WE ARE ONE, BUT YOU DO NOT ACCEPT US! WE ARE ONE AND THE SAME!”

“You are not me.” Takumi snapped, causing the spider to recoil. “You are you, and you are also a part of me! Accepting you won’t make you vanish, so don’t act like it will.” Takumi strode forward. The spider moved back. “We are not the same, not by a longshot!”

“And you are foolish to think that.” Spider hissed. “We ARE the same, and you must accept that-” the spider was cut off by Takumi grabbing one of his limbs and yanking, knocking him off balance.

“You talk far too much.” Takumi said to him, making the spider feel small.

In response, he shrunk a little. Takumi quickly realized what he had to do.

“We’re the same as apples and oranges. As dad said, I’m just the mask you made to help you hide amongst the domestic. We’ll never be anywhere near the same, the only traits I share with you is our species, and our protective nature. You are a wild, untamed creature with no humanity while I am brimming with it. I don’t know where you got this misguided belief of us being one and the same, but it ends here!” with each word uttered, the spider grew smaller and smaller, until it was the size of Takumi’s palm.

“B-But… we exist together!” the spider cried, sounding lost and upset.

“Of course we do, you stupid bug.” Takumi responded, bringing the small spider close. “Where would a Jorōgumo be without their instincts?” the spider looked up at Takumi, eyes misty. “I accepted that during the race. Why do you think I let you babble on instead of shut you up?”

“... You’re serious.”

“Of course!” they were silent for a little as Takumi returned to a human form and sat down with the red widow in his hands. “And, I’m listening now. Whatever you wanted to tell me, we have all the time in the world.”

 

~0~

 

It had been a couple hours since Takumi went in. Iketani was getting twitchy. He looked down at his watch, and then flinched violently.

It was almost eight.

Fuck.

He quickly stood, looking torn between staying and going.

“Go.” Bunta said, catching Iketani’s attention. “I’ll watch my kid. You obviously have to be somewhere.” Iketani looked lost for a moment, before he grinned.

“Thank you mister Fugiwara!” he exclaimed, hurrying towards his car.

“Oh!” he looked back. “And if your destination just happens to be near Usui Pass, I recommend you run. There’s always a traffic jam out that way at this time.” Iketani’s eyes widened, before he nodded, fully shifted, and took off running into the forest.

He had a date to make it to.

 

~0~

 

Takumi awoke hours later, his form shifting fully as he stood and popped each joint. The spider was humming contently in the back of his mind, and for the first time since the deathmatch with Shingo, he felt at peace. Looking around, Iketani was nowhere to be seen, but what caught his eyes made him pause.

The passenger side door of the Trueno was open and his father was laying in the back, passed out, with Nejibana and Tama curled up together on his stomach. How long had he been in there with the spider?

‘It is around one in the morning, if I was to hazard a guess.’ the spider told him as he shut the passenger door as quietly as possible.

‘Truly?’ he asked, and the spider hummed his ascent. He opened the driver door, shifted back to human form, and slid in, turning the car on as he shut the door quietly. His father and Nejibana barely even twitched, but Tama awoke as he shifted gears and slowly drive off.

“Kid?” Tama asked quietly, pulling himself to the front and hopping onto the dash.

“Hmm?” he asked, glancing at the older spider.

“How’d it go?”

“Wonderfully.”

 

~0~

 

“It takes more than technique to be able to do what Takumi can!” Yuichi exclaimed as the customer Takumi had been working with finally pulled out. “It takes natural talent as well! To be able to race so well on new ground is something only kids born to race can achieve!”

“He beat all of those new cars with an old 86, people are calling him a genius.” Kenji said, looking in awe. “It’s amazing!”

“Hey now,” Iketani cut in. “Weren’t you the one who said that Takumi would be useless anywhere but Akina?” Kenji sputtered.

“W-Well, I mean, yeah…”

“We all thought it.” Yuichi said. “When I heard about the race, I was convinced that he’d lose against Mako. He’s terrifyingly abnormal when it comes to racing.” Takumi deadpanned at them, prompting Iketani to notice and turn their attention to him.

“Next time you all talk about me, do it when I’m not in earshot, yeah?” the three chuckled nervously, just as a flower truck pulled in.

“Ah,” the driver said, his attention on Yuichi. “I have a delivery for someone here.”

“A delivery?” he asked, and was taken aback when the driver nodded and got out, opening the back to pull out a large bundle of roses. Iketani whistled.

“I wonder who was lucky enough to have someone dish out the money on these roses for them.” he said.

“Ah,” the driver looked at his list. “This is for a Takumi Fujiwara.” Takumi looked thoroughly surprised.

‘Aren’t flowers one of those mortal tokens of affection or something?’ Takumi sent a confirmatory hum through to the spider as he walked up and received the gift, taking notice of the note wedged between the blooms.

“Oh, uh, thank you, sir.” Takumi said, bewildered, and the flower van pulled out.

“Come on, let’s get these inside.” Yuichi said, ushering everyone in. Takumi set the flowers on the table and pulled the note out from its place in the blooms. He opened it, then flushed pink as he shut it again and held it close.

“What’d the note say?” Iketani asked, filing the pink face away for later.

“Basically, it was a challenge.” Takumi responded. “‘On the fifthteenth of September, meet me on top of Akina at ten. Ryousuke Takahashi.’ That’s what it said.” everyone looked floored.

“And to tell you this, he sent you roses?” Kenji asked incredulously. “He’s laying it on thick, huh?” Takumi absently nodded as he rubbed the note with his right thumb, taking a glance at it once more.

‘On the fifthteenth of September, meet me on top of Akina for a race at ten. Ryousuke Takahashi. PostScript: The flowers are a gift from my brother, but don’t tell him I sent them to you. Not even he knows about them. He wants to do things his way, too bad his way is too slow for my tastes.’

Chapter Text

"Hey, Keisuke?" the blonde looked over at the speaker, a dark haired boy. They had been running Akagi in practice together, and were currently taking a break before they both headed home.

"Kenta?"

"If I may," Keisuke nodded. "Why aren't we challenging that 86? We could race him here and everything!"

"... Here huh?"

"Yeah!" Kenta looked absolutely imperious. "There is no way he could win here at Akagi, it's our home turf! If you won't, I just might!" Keisuke's gaze turned hard.

"Forget about it, Kenta."

"What!? Why!? Do you think he'll beat me or something!? He won't here at Akagi!"

"That's beside the point!" Keisuke said sternly, turning to face Kenta completely. "You are now a Red Sun! We race our opponent's courses! Don't forget that fact!" Kenta visibly wilted.

"I… I know that. I just can't take it!" Keisuke's frown deepened.

"You won't be racing him." Keisuke said once again, setting a hand on Kenta's shoulder. "Don't you worry yourself. When the time comes, the one who needs to end it, will." Kenta's eyes blew wide as he quickly processed the implications of that statement.

"You… you mean…!?"

"Be patient. First, we race the Night Kids. Then, Ryousuke's time to shine will come." he chortled as he walked to his car. "And anyway, I wouldn't let you race the 86, not with your skill level. You just started, he would cream you on any course. I heard what he did on Usui, and I know you did too." Opening the driver side door, he turned to look at Kenta. "I haven't taught you enough yet. Maybe one day I'll ask him to race you, but until then, only one of the Takahashi Brothers will defeat him." with a cocky smile, Keisuke got in and drove off, leaning Kenta to his thoughts.

'If Ryousuke is getting involved, he must want the 86 out of the way.' he thought as he walked over to his S14 and leaned against it. 'That's a good thing.' he looked up towards the sky blankly, observing the stars. 'But, the race tomorrow will attract a very, very large crowd. If that 86 driver just so happens to make an appearance, who would blame me for wanting to test the waters?' A large grin split his face, revealing two rows of sharpened teeth. 'Either way, that 86 won't be around for much longer, and Keisuke will no longer focus on and moon over him so much.' Bright orange scales began to form on his arms and across his nose, his eyes becoming serpentine. He righted himself and opened his car door, entering and driving off. 'That human shouldn’t be on his radar for much longer.'

 

~0~

 

“Hey… dad…” Bunta looked at Takumi, watching Nejibana climb up onto the dash.

“Hmm?”

“I’ve been thinking, ever since I raced Mako at Usui Pass. Initially, I assumed it would be different than Akina Pass.” Bunta knew where his son was going with this. He had come to the same conclusion, years back, after all. “But, it didn’t feel at all different as I drove it.”

“Very good.” he praised, and Takumi turned to look at him. “Usui and Akina are very different courses, but you ran your usual race on them both. You took your home course with you to Usui, not many racers can manage that.” there was a comfortable silence between the two, before Bunta reached in the car and ruffled his hair, then turned and moved inside, his limbs balancing him as he stepped over objects in the garage. “Good luck with the deliveries, kid.”

‘Sire knows what he speaks of.’ Spider said.

‘Of course.’ Takumi responded. ‘He was one of the best in his day.’

“Bunta seems proud of you, master.” Nejibana echoed as Takumi pulled out and drove down the road.

“You think so?”

“Mmm-hmm!”

‘What did Sire mean by taking our home course with us?’ Spider asked, Nejibana echoing his sentiments after a lul in her commentary.

“I… I think I get it.” Takumi said after a while, drifting a corner, his gaze shooting towards the water cup momentarily. Nejibana questioned him, but he remained silent as he continued onward.

 

~0~

 

“Have you heard about tonight’s race!?” Itsuki was bouncing on his heels, looking at Takumi with wide, excited eyes.

“Race?”

“The Red Suns and the Night Kids are battling it out!” Itsuki responded, hyper, and grinned widely when Takumi’s eyes widened slightly in interest.

“Are they?” he asked, feeling his pedipalps shift. “It would be fun to watch them battle, if it is who I think it is. Is it?”

“Keisuke Takahashi is battling Takeshi Nakazato.”

“Then I’m definitely interested.” he felt Spider shift forward, likely paying attention to the mention of their nest. Itsuki made this strangled sort of squeal, likely trying to repress a screech of pure exhilaration.

“It’s settled then!” he cried. “Let’s take the 86, it’s a waste of gas for both of us to go in our own cars, and yours gets better mileage.” Takumi blinked, that was well thought out. Itsuki loud out another eager sound, this one Takumi easily recognized. “I’m so excited! Aren’t you excited too!?”

“Yeah.” Takumi responded, smiling at his friend.

“This is going to be so fun! I’ll meet you at your place around seven, alright?”

“How about six? I’d rather get there early and get a good spot. It’ll also give us extra time in case I get lost.” Itsuki’s eyes widened, he obviously hadn’t thought about that.

“SMART!”

 

~0~

 

“You knew we were going to get lost, didn’t you!?” Itsuki exclaimed, watching as Takumi handled the map in confusion. “You knew about that toll road!”

“Of course I did.” Takumi said as he turned the map a little, glancing up to look for a street name before glancing back down. The sky was dark with barely a peak of light on the horizon.

'You mortals have confusing pathways for your metal contraptions.’ Spider commented, sounding intrigued.

“It’s near the end of the month, neither dad nor I can afford a toll road. Neither can you if you’re riding with me to save gas.” Itsuki gave him a slightly offended look, before it melted away.

“Yeah, you’re right.” he sighed, just as Takumi leaned back and grinned.

“I got it! I know where to go!” he exclaimed as he put the map away and shifted into drive, turning immediately as he started towards the pass.

“It’s about time!” Itsuki exclaimed teasingly. “I was starting to fear that we’d never get to Myogi pass.” Takumi scoffed.

“Rude.” Itsuki laughed.

“So, do you know where we’re going to park?” Itsuki asked, and Takumi nodded.

“The map shows that there’s a hairpin curve with a bit of a hill down by the end of the pass, by where I assume the finish line is. We’re going to park there. Mostly because I want to say hello to the racers.”

“That’s right,” Itsuki said as they turned onto the pass. “You’re friends with the pair, aren’t you?”

“Yep.” Takumi responded, catching notice of a few people standing on the side of the road. They took in his 86 with wide eyes and pointed, some yelling, some running down the road, likely to tell anyone up there that he had arrived. “Oh boy.”

“You’re more popular than I thought.” Itsuki said, watching the onlookers pass by with wide eyes.

“So it would seem.” Takumi responded, his eyes locking on the shocked faces of Nakazato and Keisuke. Smiling, he waved good naturedly at them. Nakazato took a moment, but he waved back with a small smile of his own, while Keisuke rose a hand in greeting, looking not at all there with them. Takumi snickered as he continued on.

‘They looked taken aback.’ Spider commented. Takumi agreed with that. ‘Good, we should keep the nest and Mate on guard.’

“It seems like a good idea, bringing the 86.” Itsuki said brightly. “It taught us something.”

“Yeah, taught us that no matter what happens I’ll still get talked about.” he grumbled in response, and Itsuki laughed at his expense. The rest of the journey to their parking spot in relative silence, only breaking when Takumi parked and Itsuki noticed they were still being stared at. Takumi groaned in agitation at the prospect of going into the crowd.

“We can sit in the car until the race starts.” Itsuki offered, looking at his watch. “We have around thirty minutes.” Takumi was silent at that prospect, a million thoughts going through his head. They all came down to one central point.

“That sounds like a good idea.” he said slowly. “But only if you let me tell you something, and you have to promise not to freak out, or panic.”

‘We really shouldn’t…’ Spider sounded scared.

“Master…” Nejibana finally spoke up from her spot in the floorboards. “This might not end well…” Itsuki looked concerned, and confused.

“You can tell me anything, Takumi.” he said, his gaze searching. “I promise I won’t freak out.” Takumi let out a sigh, sitting up straighter as he felt Nejibana climb up his leg.

“You should know that dad told me to keep this quiet, because it’s important that it stays a secret, so you have to promise me that you won’t tell anybody!” Itsuki looked taken aback, and he nodded rapidly.

“I promise!” he swore, crossing his heart, and Takumi relaxed as Nejibana made her way onto his knee. Itsuki’s eyes locked on her immediately and he let out a small squeak of terror. “T-Takumi-”

“This is Nejibana.” Takumi said, gently picking her up as she arranged herself in his hand. He displayed her to Itsuki, smiling tiredly as his fangs and pedipalps slowly came forth. Itsuki was fixated on them, his eyes never looking away, never blinking. Takumi has actually feared that he had killed his friend with shock when he blinked and relaxed minutely.

“So you’re… like, a spider, or something?” he asked, and Takumi nodded. “Does anyone else know?”

“Iketani and Nakazato.”

“What? Why them?”

“Iketani is a werewolf and could smell it on me, and Nakazato found out on accident. Both are keeping it a secret for me.”

“But why keep it from me?” Itsuki looked slightly hurt. “We’ve known each other for years.”

“You’re human, Itsuki.” Takumi said softly. “Humans aren’t supposed to know about us.” Itsuki stared hard at his friend.

“And that, this whole society of, what, creatures? Demons?”

“All of the above.”

“Why don’t you all just come forward?”

“... The hunts.”

“The what?”

“Long ago, humans and creatures coexisted. Then a group of xenophobic people rose up and began what we call the hunts. They tracked us down and slaughtered us like game, and soon all of humanity was against creature kind. So we went into hiding, and talk of us turned to myth and legend. We can’t come out to the humans. I only told you because you’re nest, Itsuki. Nest is the most important thing to a Jorōgumo like me.” Nejibana took that moment to leap from Takumi’s hand onto Itsuki’s head, her fangs clicking a little as she settled there. “I think she likes you?”

“This human has very soft hair.” Nejibana announced. “I like it.”

“Yeah, she likes you.” Takumi laughed lightly, and Itsuki relaxed more. They spent the next half hour chatting animatedly, with the spider filling Itsuki in on everything he had always wanted to tell him and the human soaking it up like a sponge. It was Nejibana who had reminded them to exit the car by hopping off Itsuki’s head and onto the dash, settling there.

“Oh! The race started a few minutes ago!” Itsuki exclaimed, opening the car door and getting out as Takumi repressed his spider features and followed him out. He ran after his friend, coming to the side of the road. The both of them could hear the roar of engines in the distance.

“Is this what it’s like waiting to see the racers? Listening to engines in the distance?”

“Mostly. The exciting part is standing by someone with a walkie and listening to the race with a play by play from the checkmarks.” Takumi looked down the road, seeing it curve up.

“This is a downhill corner.” he stated, hearing Itsuki chuckle.

“That’s stating the obvious.” he responded. “But yes. This is Myogi’s only downhill corner.” there was a loud screeching of tires and someone from up the road began to bounce.

“THEY’RE COMING THIS WAY!” they shouted, and Itsuki leaned forward in excitement. Takumi watched as the two familiar cars drifted around the corner, his attention locked on the two as they sped closer. Keisuke’s FD and Nakazato’s R32 were nearly side by side as they came up to the next corner, but while Nakazato slowed at the turn just slightly, Keisuke kept his speed and flew into a nearly sideways drift.

Just like Takumi would have done on Akina.

That struck something inside him as the two sped by, his pulse quickening. He could feel the spider in him stumble forward, completely silent, likely enthralled by the speed of which they were going.

“WOAH!” someone from the crowd yelled. “THE FD WON!”

‘OF COURSE MATE WON!’ Spider crowed in his head, and Takumi gently hushed him as he hurried over with Itsuki by his side.

“Woooah! Keisuke is so cool!” Itsuki squealed softly, and Takumi couldn’t help but agree.

“You’re a lucky bastard, Keisuke.” he heard Nakazato announce without bite.

“No, it was actually skill.” Keisuke retorted, leaning against his FD.

“What?”

“The last corner was a downhill.” Keisuke began to explain. “Everything would come down to the front tires. You couldn’t quite control your front tires, as they’re too compressed. I kept up my speed while maintaining tire pressure. It was all skill, not luck.” Nakazato tensed slightly, and Takumi approached.

“It helps to add that you also implemented a nearly off track drift, nearly going sideways as you went into it.” he drawled, causing them both to whip their heads in his direction. “Dad always told me that those are pretty difficult to get correct.” he grinned lazily as their eyes lit up. “Nakazato, Keisuke, wonderful racing. I’ve never seen one before. Watching was exhilarating.” he turned to look at Itsuki who was frozen in awe. “Thank you again for bringing this race to my attention and practically dragging me out here, Itsuki.”

“Ahaha, it was n-no problem.” Itsuki stuttered in response.

“If I’m being honest, I never expected you to come watch.” Nakazato said, eyeing the spider.

“I wouldn’t have, if Itsuki hadn’t told me there was even going to be a race today.” he responded honestly. “I’m only here because I wanted to touch base and say hello.”

“Touch base?” Keisuke echoed, and Takumi smiled at him brightly as he walked closer. Nakazato was stunned by the wide grin, having never see it on the spider before, but then it clicked.

“It’s about time.” he sighed, shaking his head, and Keisuke’s face warped in confusion.

“I’m not surprised you know.” Takumi said.

“Wasn’t hard to guess.” Nakazato retorted. He remembered the bright yellow compatability mark on the spider’s thorax. It’s not hard to connect the color to Keisuke. Takumi chuckled.

“What’s going on?” Keisuke asked, genuinely confused, and Takumi stopped beside the blonde.

“I wanted to ask you if you wanted to grab something to eat together, sometime. If you want…” Keisuke was stunned.

“W-What, like, a date?” at Takumi’s nod, Keisuke’s eyes brightened. “You, Takumi Fujiwara, are asking me out?” Takumi looked slightly agitated by the tease, but nodded, and Keisuke grinned widely. “Alright, you have yourself a date.”

“And if it goes well, we will have more dates.” Takumi amended firmly, feeling Spider agree with the statement, and Keisuke laughed.

“Of course.” Takumi grinned again, but before he could say anything, the roar of an engine signaled the arrival of another car as an orange S14 pulled up. Takumi walked over to Nakazato as a black haired male got out and began to head over to Keisuke. As he got closer, the smell hit him.

Sulphur.

“Do you smell that?” he asked Nakazato lowly, and the dullahan looked confused.

“Smell what?”

“The sulphur.” his eyes widened.

“No, I don’t.”

“That rules out fire demon then.” Takumi’s eyes locked on the male. “He’s likely a draken.”

“Keisuke! You did it!” the male said, hurrying up to the blonde. “I knew you could do it!”

“I see you’re excited, Kenta.” Keisuke chuckled, crossing his arms.

“I am! Everyone is talking about how that 86 driver came to watch, I wanna see how good he is!” Keisuke groaned.

“You’re making your intent sound innocent.” he said, causing Kenta to pause. “Just last night you were up in arms about wanting to race the 86 yourself. Going on and on about getting revenge for the Red Suns and for embarrassing me.” Takumi rose a brow.

“Really now?” he asked, approaching, and Kenta turned to look at him. “I embarrassed you?”

“No.” Keisuke said. “You impressed both Ryousuke and myself, everyone just assumes I was embarrassed.”

“You’re the driver of the 86?” Kenta asked tensely, and as Takumi nodded, someone came up and grabbed him from behind, making him let out a yelp in terror.

“Iketani!” Itsuki exclaimed, and Takumi relaxed.

“Takumi, what’s happening over here?”

“This guy wanted to challenge Takumi to a race here on Myogi.” Itsuki filled in, pointing at Kenta.

“And you really shouldn’t accept it.” Nakazato said. “It’s starting to rain, the course will be extremely dangerous.”

“The people would like to see me and the 86 battle in the rain.” Kenta said slyly, and the onlookers all crowed in agreement. Takumi sighed.

“No, don’t!” Kenji said, placing a hand on Takumi’s shoulder. “You have to race Ryousuke next week! If you race in the rain, something could happen!” Takumi was silent, his eyes drifting towards Keisuke, who tensed at his sudden attention, before he wilted and motioned to get on with it.

“I’m being pressured into it.” Takumi finally said, causing everyone to fall silent. “I hadn’t been planning on racing when I came out here. I merely wanted to see my friends race, but now everyone is vying to see me run Myogi.” the onlookers recoiled, some looking slightly ashamed. “I’ll race you, Kenta.” he reached into his pocket, pulling out a pen and paper, and began to write something on it before handing it to Keisuke. “My number. Nakazato already has it.” he turned heading to his car. “Come on, Itsuki. You’re riding with me. This way, I don’t have to loop around and pick you back up.” Itsuki ran after Takumi, eyes wide.

“A-Are you sure!?” he squeaked, and Takumi didn’t respond, merely motioning for him to get in back.

“Master? What’s going on?”

“We’ve been challenged to a race.” he answered.

“What?”

“I was talking to Nejibana.” he buckled. “Buckle.” as he pulled forward, he caught sight of Shingo staring at him from near Nakazato, his eyes wild, and he flinched, mouthing that he was sorry towards them. Nakazato picked up on it and widened his eyes, glancing at Shingo. Takumi nodded, and the dullahan relaxed, before turning to whisper to his mate. Takumi turned his attention back to the road and noticed Keisuke was the one who would release them.

Being released was Itsuki’s queue to latch onto the hand grip and tense as Takumi started forward, Kenta quickly gaining the lead and driving ahead. The first corner was a little hard to drift.

“Come on, master! We’ve ran in the rain before!”

“I know, don’t worry. I’m getting it.” he was right, easy corner was becoming easier and easier to drift as the visibility went down.

‘The prey, isn’t even a good hunt.’

 

~0~

 

“I’m in top form tonight!” Kenta chuckled, his clawed hands gripping the wheel tightly. “Tonight, I put an end to the 86’s undefeated streak!” he grinned widely, his sharpened teeth glinting in the dim lights in his car. “Neither of the Takahashi brothers will be the one to defeat him, no, that will be ME!” he glimpsed in his rear view as lights began to shine in his eyes, and froze.

The 86 was on his tail.

“WHAT!?” he shouted, eyes shaking. “HOW!? WE HAVEN’T GONE THROUGH MANY CORNERS! HE SHOULDN’T HAVE CAUGHT UP TO ME YET!” his vision hazed slightly, before he shook his head and grew serious once more. “NO! THIS RACE ISN’T OVER!”

 

~0~

 

“This is the most boring race I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.” Itsuki yawned. “I’ve witnessed you do impressive things on Akina and Usui, why did I have to get stuck in the car on the boring one?”

“I didn’t want to drive back around to get you.” Takumi responded impassively, feeling his spider huff in agitation.

“Slow.” Nejibana whined, wanting to go faster. Takumi didn’t have to accelerate that much to keep up with Kenta. As they passed over a grate in the road and approached a curve, Takumi spotted a mistake, and took advantage, accelerating past Kenta and down the road. He was gone within moments.

Chapter Text

“I never would have guessed that Takumi could race in the rain as well.” Iketani said, grinning widely as he watched the spider help out a customer.

“He becomes more like his father with each race.” Yuichi spoke up.

“Like a true racer! He accepted that S14’s challenge last night, albeit hesitantly.” Kenji cut in. “He never would have done that before summer had started.”

“He didn’t really WANT to race, though.” Itsuki said. “He was forced into it.”

“But he still raced.” Kenji said. “He could have easily said no, and no one could have told him otherwise.”

“You’re lucky, Itsuki.” Iketani cut in. “You got to ride with him during that race. I’m jealous.”

“You shouldn’t be.” Itsuki sighed. “It was ridiculously boring. Nothing really happened, even Takumi was bored.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, and even if something interesting had happened, I missed it because I sat in the back.”

“What?” Yuichi widened his eyes, glancing at Takumi as he waved off the customer and began his way over.

“The back?” Ikentai echoed. “Why?”

“Helped even out the weight to what I’m used to.” Takumi said, catching their attention. “He weighs about the same as a delivery of tofu. Putting him in back put me at peak.”

“I would have thought it was because Itsuki’s annoying.” Kenji said thoughtfully, causing Itsuki to stumble and fall over. “It must be hard to focus when Itsuki’s screaming in your ear.”

“It does make sense.” Itsuki chuckled from the ground.

“You also had him in back because Itsuki’s weight added to the tire traction, right Takumi?” Yuichi asked, and he received a nod. “Smart kid.” he set a hand on Takumi’s head and ruffled his hair, chuckling when the spider swatted at his arm with a groan of agitation. “You’re only going to get better. Bunta is probably proud of you.”

 

~0~

 

He couldn’t take his eyes off the Trueno. Neither could Nejibana. It was just…

‘It’s filthy.’ Spider commented, and Takumi agreed wholeheartedly.

“The race really must have caked it up with grime.” Nejibana said, hopping off of his shoulder as he walked into the garage.

“Yeah.” he commented, waving at his dad who rose a brow before waving back. He leaned down and picked up the hose, dragging it over to a bucket and turning it on. “It won’t be for much longer.”

“What are you doing out here, kid?” Tama’s voice called as he dropped onto Takumi’s shoulder.

“I’m gonna wash the Trueno.” Takumi responded as he turned off the hose and began to look around for the scrub brush.

“Oh?” Tama looked intrigued. “I might just sit out here and watch you do that.”

“If you want to watch, you should go find Nejibana.” Takumi said as he pulled the scrub brush from a pile of objects, setting it next to the bucket. “If you fall in the water it’ll be game over.”

“I know that.” Tama said, hopping from Takumi’s shoulder and hurrying out as he lifted up the bucket and brush and walked towards the car with it.

Bunta watched as his kid washed the car, a small smile on his face. His kid was really attached to the old thing, it seemed. Before he could continue that chain of thought, the phone rang, causing Bunta to groan as he maneuvered over to it and picked it up.

“Hello? Who’s this?”

“Bunta, you old arachnid, it’s been ages yet you don’t sound any different!”

“Oh, it’s you.” Bunta grunted, casting a glance at Takumi to see him talking animatedly with Tama. “What are you calling about, you old snake? Did you crash and have to get hospitalized?”

“You wish.” the voice scoffed, and Bunta smiled. “I called because there are rumors going around about that spiderling of yours. How is he?”

“He’s as alright as he can be. He’s currently washing the car. Why? You worried about my progeny?”

“With YOU as his father? Of course I’d be worried. You’re chaos given a physical form.”

“That’s rich, coming from the naga who’s still terrorizing the road.”

“Oh, ha ha, you’re still a charmer I see.” Bunta repressed a snicker. “Anyway, the rumors about your kid say he’s a pretty good racer. Undefeated so far. He’s going up against Ryousuke Takahashi, right?”

“Yep. This Saturday on Akina.” Bunta responded. “Why? You have something you wanna say about it?”

“You sound pretty nonchalant about all this. He’s the best street racer in Gunma!”

“Takumi doesn’t really care about all that at this point. I think he just likes racing because it gives him something to do with his spare time that isn’t hiding away in his room or running tofu for the shop.” Bunta chuckled. “And besides, my kid and the younger Takahashi are currently in the starting stages of a courtship. It’s likely that Ryousuke just wants to see how good Takumi is in the 86.”

“Courtship?” there was silence. “I see you really haven’t changed at all. You probably don’t even care about who wins or not.” Bunta didn’t respond to that, it was true at any rate. “I am pretty curious about how your kid drifts. He is driving YOUR car, it’s likely that you taught him. That drift of yours is terrifying, and if you passed it on to your kid-”

“Let it go, you crazy reptile, that was years ago!”

“And it’s still fresh in my mind!” Bunta sighed as a woman’s voice echoed from the other line.

“You had better go, Keiichi, before you get in trouble.”

“Oh, be quiet. I’ll talk to you later, Bunta.”

“Right.” and the line went dead. Banta sat there for a moment, silent as he lit a cigarette, before he hung the phone back up and made his way out to the garage and leaned against the doorframe, watching as Takumi threw the remaining water on the car and popped his back. His kid really was getting good at racing, wasn’t he?

 

~0~

 

“That race with Ryousuke Takahashi is growing closer and closer.” Itsuki said dreamily as he sat on Takumi’s desk, much to the spider’s dismay. “Ohhh I’m so excited I can hardly stand it!”

“Itsuki, get off my desk.” Takumi said softly. Itsuki let out a small chortle and did so.

“Do you have any sort of strategy for facing him?”

“No. I’m not that versatile. I can’t just change how I race based on my opponents.” Itsuki leaned forward, looking bewildered. “I’m going to do what I always do; try my hardest while Nejibana chatters my ear off.”

“I resent that comment.” Nejibana grumbled from his pocket. It had taken her a good minute to squeeze her way into Takumi’s pocket this morning, which meant that she couldn’t continue accompanying him wherever he went. She was practically all grown up now. How time flies.

“And anyway, it shouldn’t matter. I’ll be racing the fastest way I know how. If he’s faster, then he’s faster.” Itsuki groaned as he leaned back, looking thoughtful.

“Yeah, that makes sense.” he relented. “I AM counting on you to win though.” Takumi smiled at his friend.

“I know. You should go sit down, the teacher is giving you the stink eye.”

 

~0~

 

“Kenji, you’re always here, don’t you have a job or something?!” Iketani put his hands on his hips, looking stern.

“Yeah, I have a job, but I work the graveyard shift. I have my rights!” Kenji retorted. “And anyway, I found something you guys need to see!” he held up a tape and waved it gently as he hurried into the store, Itsuki and Iketani hurrying in behind him like two curious puppies. He stopped in the back and placed it in the VCR, all of them watching as the screen flickered to life and two cars rushed by the camera.

“This isn’t Akina.” Iketani pointed out, before his eyes caught something, causing his wolf to perk in interest. “Hey, Kenji! Rewind a little and slow it down!” Kenji cackled as he did so, and they all watched as the door of a white car opened, and a young Ryousuke Takahashi stepped out. Kenji paused it on his face.

“THAT’S…!” Itsuki couldn’t even finish his sentence as he stared at the screen in awe.

“He looks so young!”

“This footage was taken three years ago.” Kenji supplied.

“How did you even get a hold of this?” Iketani looked at his friend in surprise.

“A diehard fan of his tapes all of his races.” Kenji answered, and resumed the footage.

“Woah!”

“How can anyone angle a drift like that?”

“Ohhh, so cool.” Iketani was silent for a moment, before his eyes sparked in recognition.

“Wait! I was actually there for that race!” he exclaimed, his wolf fidgeting in excitement as he remembered the race. “I can still remember it well. Back then, he was a lone wolf, and didn’t belong to any team. He was called ‘Akagi’s White Comet’.”

“Akagi’s White Comet…” Itsuki echoed reverently. “Wow, that sounds so cool!”

“So how did the Red Suns come about?” Kenji asked.

“Ryousuke himself handpicked some premium racers to form the Red Suns. That’s why they’re of much higher quality than we SpeedStars.” Itsuki and Kenji both looked intrigued. “Now he and Keisuke are known as ‘The Rotary Brothers’, but to me, Ryousuke will always be ‘Akagi’s White Comet’.”

“Are you guys watching some races?” Yuichi’s sudden voice made the three jump in surprise as they turned to look at him, watching as he came over and sat in a chair. “Don’t mind me, keep watching, I just want to watch too.” they continued watching for a while, observing Ryousuke drift corner after corner as Keisuke slowly began to leak into the footage. “That’s some good racing.” Yuichi commented after a while. “So Takumi’s going against the elder of the two?”

“Yeah!” Itsuki exclaimed.

“It’ll draw in the largest crowd in the history of Akina.” Kenji noted absently.

“Ryousuke is a superstar.” Iketani said. “But now Takumi’s famous too, ‘Akina’s Ghostly 86’.”

“Akina’s mysterious downhill specialist!” Itsuki added.

“Honestly…” Iketani gulped. “I don’t think Takumi has a chance.”

“I agree.” Kenji interjected. “Ryousuke is ridiculously fast.”

“He was the fastest then,” Iketani said softly. “But he’s only gotten faster since then. He’s never lost a single race, an unbroken undefeated streak that’s lasted for years now.”

“He’s never had to give in during a single race, either.”

“No one has ever seen him go all out. They’ve only ever seen him put in half the effort. If Takumi can keep up with him, it’s enough in my books.”

“You both are so negative.” Yuichi spoke up, leaning back in his chair as everyone turned to look at him. “You really should be more optimistic.”

“Oh? And just who do you think will win, huh boss?” Itsuki let out a strangled sound of agitation. Was this really what he had sounded like when he doubted his best friend’s ability? He hated it.

“TAKUMI HAS BEATEN EVERY CHALLENGE THAT HAS SO FAR COME HIS WAY!” he shouted, startling everyone around him. He stared at Iketani, twitching.

“Ryousuke is far above the abilities of everyone who has challenged Takumi. They don’t even hold a candle to him.” Iketani began, looking Itsuki dead in the eyes. “You’re getting your hopes up for nothing, Itsuki.”

“I think he’ll do just fine. Miracles always come when he races. I believe in him. I thought you guys would too.” Itsuki wilted as he turned and walked closer to Yuichi. “I was told that pack was supposed to believe in pack.” he muttered, easily picked up by the grim and the werewolf. Iketani froze as his eyes shot wide, obviously he didn’t know that Itsuki knew what he was.

“Itsuki has grown as a person, and as a friend.” Yuichi said as the other two stared after him. “He places his faith in his best friend, win or lose. You two could stand to learn from his example.”

Chapter Text

“So, I heard that you got invited to yet another professional team, aniki.” Keisuke said as he draped himself over a booth seat.

“Yes, the Hoshiya team.” Ryousuke responded, stirring his drink with a spoon.

“Another one? Wow, cool.” Kenta said, looking interested.

“Well, I turned them down. I made it clear to their community that I had no interest or desire in going pro.” he removed the spoon and set it to the side, lifting his drink and taking a sip. “Street racing is where I began, and street racing is where I’ll end.” Keisuke was wide eyed and shocked, with how good his brother was at racing, he would have adored to see him go pro.

“You’re serious?” Kenta asked. “You aren’t joking?”

“What I speak, all people desire, but rarely get easily as it’s hidden and bent.” Keisuke groaned.

“Not with the riddles again, aniki.” he whined, and Ryousuke sighed.

“The truth, I speak the truth.” he corrected himself. No one liked his riddles, it was no fun. “And besides, I can’t afford to have that sort of thing on my mind right now, not when the race is so close at hand.” Keisuke perked at that, before suddenly looking conflicted.

“I’m torn on this one.” he spoke. “I don’t know who to cheer on.”

“What do you mean?” Kenta asked, confused. “You obviously cheer on Ryousuke.”

“It isn’t that simple for Keisuke, Kenta.” the brunet cut in as the youngest at the table began to take a drink from his glass. “He wants to cheer for me, that’s obvious, but he also wants to cheer for his boyfriend.” Kenta choked on his drink, quickly setting it down as Keisuke turned red.

“Aniki! We haven’t even had our first date yet! You weren’t supposed to tell anybody!” he hissed. Kenta coughed a little.

“You and the 86 driver are dating!?” he exclaimed in shock, prompting Keisuke’s flush to deepen in color as he covered the younger boy’s mouth and pulled his head down a little, prompting him to flail slightly.

“Be quiet!” he said lowly. “We haven’t even begun yet, we’re waiting until after they race to go on our first date. We aren’t together unless the first date goes well! You keep this to yourself until we go steady, got that!?” Kenta nodded as well as he could with Keisuke holding his head, and the blonde let them go. Ryousuke watched with a small smile, his eyes glinting in amusement. “And you, aniki! You did that on purpose!”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Don’t act coy with me! You like getting a rise out of me!”

“Now why would you go and say something like that?” Ryousuke plastered an innocent look on his face. “You’re my precious ototo, why would I EVER do something like that?”

“RAAGH! Don’t use my love life for your amusement!”

“Hey, Keisuke,” Kenta cut in, wincing when the blonde’s angry gaze turned to him. “You asked him out, right?”

“Well, more like he asked me out-”

“And you agreed, right?”

“Yeah-”

“Then that means you two are dating!” Keisuke began to sputter, and Ryousuke hid his grin behind his cup.

“NO, IT DOESN’T!” Keisuke flushed deeper when he realized he shouted that. He was such a deep scarlet that Ryousuke was surprised it hadn’t morphed into the blues. “We have yet to actually go on our first date! That means we aren’t technically dating yet! We’re, like, in a sort of limbo until we decide when we’ll have that date!”

“The fact that you two are planning to even HAVE a date means you’re dating.”

“No! It doesn’t!” Ryousuke chuckled at his brother, who turned and glared daggers at him.

“This isn’t funny, aniki!”

“You’re right, it isn’t.” Keisuke perked. “It’s absolutely hilarious.” Keisuke’s face morphed in outrage.

“ANIKI!”

 

~0~

 

Yuichi looked exasperated as the all too familiar 86 slowly pulled into the darkened lot of the gas station. He had just closed up, and he could only wonder just what the hell his friend wanted now. As the car pulled to a stop, the driver side window rolled down and Bunta waved an arm at him, Tama repeating the motion from the dash.

“You done working?” he asked, and Yuichi sighed.

“Yeah, I just closed up.” he responded.

“Ah. Good. You wanna go for a drive?”

“What, with you?”

“Yeah. I readjusted the car so I thought I’d go for an easy drive.” Yuichi gave his friend an agitated look.

“When you say easy drive, you never mean easy drive.” he responded. “You always mean something that would give me a heart attack and shorten my lifespan!”

“You grims don’t have a lifespan to shorten.” Bunta waved him off. “How would someone shorten what amounts to immortality?”

“I don’t know, I thought you were trying to find that out with your chaotic and terrifying driving.” Bunta chuckled.

“Just get in the car.” he said, and Yuichi rolled his eyes as he turned back to the store.

“Let me change out of my uniform first, Bunta, I see age and having a kid haven’t fixed your patience any.” he heard gentle chittering and Bunta’s response of ‘shut up, Tama.’ and knew that his familiar agreed with him. It took him a little to change into his casuals, but Bunta didn’t complain as he got in the passenger side and buckled in, allowing Tama to hop onto his lap and slowly make his way up to his head. “You close to a molt, Tama?” he asked. “I know for a fact that you aren’t usually this slow.” there was a single click of the fangs, a high pitched sound that Yuichi recognized as a yes. “Well, don’t strain yourself.” he responded, lifting Tama into his head with a hand. Tama let out a chain of clicks and chirps, and Bunta grinned.

“Tama said that he thanks you, that he won’t strain himself, to not treat him like a hatchling because he’s nearly thirty five, and that he missed having you in the car.” he translated, and Yuichi let out a sigh.

“I missed Tama, but not being in the car.” he said, and Bunta laughed. They sat in comfortable silence for a while, the only sounds being the dull roar of the engine and Tama’s content clicking. “Hey, Bunta, did you readjust the car for Takumi’s race in two days?”

“Yeah.” Bunta said, before he shifted a little, Yuichi was immediately on guard. “I think I’m gonna speed up a little.”

“I KNEW THIS WASN’T AN EASY DRIVE!” Yuichi snapped as he immediately gripped the grab handle and the door. “IT’S NEVER JUST AN EASY DRIVE WITH YOU!” Bunta laughed at him lightly as the corner approached faster and faster. Yuichi let out a small squeak of terror, nearly choking when Bunta drifted into the corner without losing any speed at all, looking impassive and a fair bit bored. “Urgh, I forgot what it was like to be in the car with you.”

“Oh, you’re fine, you big puppy.” Bunta retorted, as he let go of the wheel and reached into his pocket for his cigarettes. Yuichi felt his heart stop.

“BUNTA YOU IDIOT!” he screeched, smoke beginning to emanate from him. Bunta cracked oven the window on his side to allow the smoke out and not obstruct his vision. “STOP THAT! KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD!”

“We’ll be fine, stop complaining.” Bunta groused as he lit his cigarette, pulling open the ashtray with one of his limbs and pocketing the rest of the pack with another. Yuichi watched, numb, as the 86 drifted so close to the guardrail that they almost touched, before the road straightened out and Bunta returned his attention to the road. “See? Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?”

“YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE SEEN IT AS BAD, BUT THAT’S BECAUSE YOU’RE CRAZY! I SEE WHERE TAKUMI GETS IT FROM!” Yuichi heard some rapid clicking coming from Tama, and assumed the spider was amused.

“Oh shut up, Tama.” Bunta groused, and wilted slightly in exasperation when the spider continued on with his clicking. “I’m going to ignore you, now.” Yuichi snickered, only to tense when Bunta glanced at him. “And for that, I’m going to get more serious.” Yuichi choked.

“YOU REALLY ARE TRYING TO KILL ME, AREN’T YOU!?” he screamed, and Bunta didn’t respond. “YOU CRAZY ARACHNID, LET ME OUT OF THIS CAR!”

 

~0~

 

“I’ve adjusted everything I need to for the race.” Ryousuke said, crossing his arms as Keisuke looked at his FC.

“What all did you work on?”

“The engine and the tires.”

“Did you change the horsepower?”

“Yeah. To get the vehicle to where I wanted it, I downgraded the horsepower to two sixty.”

“Two sixty!?” Keisuke gave Ryousuke a wide eyed look. “That’s a loss of ninety! Why’d you make it slower!?”

“It may not be as much as the original three fifty, but it serves a purpose. Sometimes, you need less horsepower to go faster.” he eyeballed Keisuke. “You yourself should know that, having witnessed it before.” Keisuke was silent, he knew he was right. “The key to a downhill isn’t power, it’s balance. I had thought my FC was adjusted to make it as fast as possible on both uphill and downhill races, but I stood just slightly incorrect. I knew I could handle even more power downhill, so I upgraded the turbine and raised the firing speed. But as a result, I lost all of that horsepower.” Ryousuke’s face morphed in agitation. “This whole affair is practically embarrassing to me. I had to throw away my pride for this race.”

“Do you really think Takumi warrants such measures?” Keisuke asked. Takumi was just a beginner after all.

“Takumi is an extraordinary racer, and we’re lucky we met him. The mere thought of racing him makes my blood boil.” he let out a sigh before walking to the driver side door of the FC. “Come on, let’s go.” Keisuke nodded and got into his own FD, and both sped off. Keisuke was taken aback but just how fast his brother’s car was now.

“He’s serious about this one.” Keisuke muttered to himself. “He actually intends on making this a serious race. He intends on winning instead of gauging Takumi’s skill like he had originally told me he was.” he gripped the wheel, hearing it groan. “He’s not the leader of the Red Suns right now.” Keisuke’s mind began to flash back to before the Red Suns, when he was just the leader of a motorcycle gang in Tokyo, back when his brother first approached him about street racing. “He’s Akagi’s White Comet. He doesn’t plan on losing.” he swallowed. “I have to tell Takumi.”

 

Chapter Text

“TAKUMI!” Itsuki’s voice rang out as he hurried to his friend’s side. Takumi turned to look at him, curious. “The race is today, right?”

“Yeah.” Takumi responded as they headed on, walking into the bridge overlooking the highway. “Why?”

“I’m kinda worried.” Itsuki genuinely did sound worried. “Iketani and Kenji were going off about Ryousuke and how amazing of a racer he is and how you don’t have a chance.” Itsuki sighed angrily as he leaned against the railing. “It makes me angry, Takumi. They’re all so convinced that Ryousuke will win, like a novice fighting a heavyweight.”

“He just might, but I don’t plan on losing.” Takumi said, and Itsuki looked at him with wide eyes.

“What? That’s a far cry from Thursday’s stance!”

“Keisuke called last night, sounding slightly panicked about the race and his brother, because Ryousuke adjusted his FC to the extent of throwing away his pride. Keisuke thinks his brother isn’t letting this be a test of skill like he originally thought.” Itsuki blinked, his face pale.

“He’s going into this serious? Is this why you’ve changed your tune?”

“If he is going into this with the intent to win, then I should too.” Takumi sighed. “It wouldn’t be right to go into this like I had originally intended while Ryousuke speeds in at full strength.”

“Takumi…” Itsuki was staring at his friend in surprise.

“Let them doubt me.” Takumi continued. “They’re worried, in their own way, but it’ll still be satisfying to prove them wrong. I’m going to win this race, no matter what anyone thinks.” there was a bit of silence.

“You’ve really changed, Takumi.” Itsuki finally spoke up. “A few months ago, you wouldn’t have cared about the race, or who it was who challenged you. You wouldn’t have spared it a second thought. You seem to really enjoy racing now.” Takumi looked thoughtful. Did he enjoy racing?

“... Maybe.”

 

~0~

 

Yuichi watched as cars rushed by the station towards Akina. The race was tonight, and it seemed like everyone wanted to see the outcome. Akagi’s White Comet, versus Akina’s Ghostly 86, both undefeated and famous in their own right.

Even Yuichi himself was curious of the outcome.

He sighed as he thought about the spiderling. He was really getting into some situations, just like his dad had. Maybe he should have expected it, the kid WAS Bunta’s, after all. Speaking of Bunta, maybe he should go to the race in his stead. The old spider was on the edge of a molt, which was a pain as he had wanted to see his son race against the elder Takahashi sibling.

Yeah, he’d go watch.

“Boss!” Iketani’s voice called, and Yuichi turned to look at him. “I’ve cleaned up outside. See you tomorrow?”

“Good job, but stay a little. I want to talk about some things with you.” Iketani looked confused, but didn’t move.

“What about?”

“Are you heading to the race?” at Iketani’s nod, Yuichi hummed. “The first think about that is that I ask you take me with you. Bunta asked me to go watch his kid for him as he is indisposed.” Iketani widened his eyes slightly and nodded.

“Of course, though I don’t think there’ll be much to watch.” he responded passively.

“You still don’t think Takumi can win, then?”

“That kid is exceptional, but he’s still in high school. He doesn’t even have that much experience. I wonder how long he’ll even stay in the race.” Yuichi closed his eyes and felt a smile cross his features.

“I think he’ll win.” he responded, causing Iketani to look at him incredulously. “He’s got more of his dad in him than I ever would have thought.” Iketani was taken aback, but before he could respond, Kenji drove up.

“Hey, what’s going on?” he asked, and Iketani came up to the passenger side.

“Yuichi wants to go watch the race with us, you mind giving the both of us a lift?”

“Not at all!” Kenji replied, and Yuichi turned around to lock the shop. “Hop in.”

 

~0~

 

The crowd was huge. Itsuki watched, intimidated, as each face passed by.

“There’s a lot of people here, Takumi.” he said shakily, hearing his friend’s fangs click quietly.

“Yeah. This is probably the largest amount of people Akina has seen since my dad was a racer.” Takumi responded, his clicks changing in tone as Nejibana’s own joined the fray. “It seems that Mako came to watch.” he commented, watching as the blue sleighty turned onto an outcropping. He continued on, knowing that Itsuki was silent out of nervousness, and came to a stop at the top, where he pulled up near Iketani and parked.

‘Faithless.’ Spider muttered, and Takumi agreed as Iketani and Kenji eyed him with pity.

“Yuichi.” he greeted, directly brushing off Iketani and Kenji in favor of talking to his boss. “What are you doing here?”

“Bunta asked me to come in his stead, he’s really close to a molt.”

“Dad was planning to come?”

“Yeah. I think he wanted to see how his kid would do against one of Gunma’s best.” he ruffled Takumi’s hair. “You’re gonna do pretty good, kid.” Takumi smiled at Yuichi, then turned back towards Itsuki, who was nearly rocking back and forth.

“Ohhhhh this is so exciting!” he exclaimed, and Takumi grinned.

“Takumi!” a voice called, and the spider turned to see Keisuke running over.

‘Mate!’ Spider exclaimed excitedly, and Takumi felt sudden adoration pouring from the arachnid in his head.

“Keisuke!” he called back, hurrying to meet him halfway.

“You’re early.” Keisuke said, looking at his watch. “We have ten minutes until the race, I expected you to arrive at the last second!”

“I know.” Takumi winced. “That is a bad habit I need to break.”

“Well, I’m glad you at least got here on time! Ryousuke’s been acting… different. I don’t want to know how he’d react if you arrived late.” Takumi sighed.

“Well, I’m lucky, then, that dad didn’t need the car for anything and forgot to tell me about it.” Keisuke looked torn. “What?”

“I’m… not sure I want this race to happen.” he confided. “Aniki told me that if he lost today, he’d retire.” that made Takumi’s eyes widen. Spider fell dead silent, no emotions coming from him. “He’s never spoken like this before and.. I’m kinda scared.”

“Why would he make such a promise?” Takumi asked, confused. “He’s an amazing driver.”

“I don’t know why he’d say such things. Maybe it’s because of his studies, maybe it’s because of something else. Whatever it is, I don’t like it.” it was then that Takumi came to a realization.

“Keisuke, you told me he’s treating this like a serious race, right?”

“Yeah, why?”

“What if he’s taking this as a LITERAL race, and not just a serious one?” Keisuke’s eyes widened. “Itsuki explained these things to me. What if by retire he just means he’ll step down if he loses?” Keisuke was taken aback by the suggestion, and he thought about it.

“It would make a lot of sense, but to jeopardize our plan like that?”

“Plan?”

“We planned to be the fastest racers in Kanto.” Keisuke said, and Takumi looked intrigued. “We can’t carry out that plan without him, so for him to go as far as to step down because he lost…” Takumi’s eyes softened.

“I don’t know what has gotten into your brother,” he began, catching Keisuke’s gaze. “But the moment you said yes to a date, you had me by the collar. Win or lose, I would have followed you anywhere at any cost, even if we didn’t work out.”

‘Don’t insinuate that we will lose Mate!’ Spider cried, sounding offended.

“Takumi…” Keisuke sounded flabbergasted.

“That includes bowing to Ryousuke. Your brother should have realized that, but I guess I don’t make it very obvious, huh?” Takumi grinned wryly. “I would never want to do anything that would jeopardize your plans of dominating the region. Maybe I should have been clear about that. He shouldn’t have to back down for any reason. I’m not a threat, after all, not when I’ve been neutralized.”

“Takumi...” Keisuke said again, this time with much more affection and adoration in his voice, and he scooped the smaller male into a hug. Spider began to let out a purr of contentment, and Takumi realized that he never wanted Keisuke to let go. Before anything else could occur, Keisuke’s watch went off, signifying that it was now ten. He let Takumi go, hesitantly, and turned to see Ryousuke making his way over. The surrounding chatter died down, the area falling dead quiet as everyone anticipated the conversation that would ensue.

“Are you two done?” he asked, looking vaguely amused, and Keisuke flushed red.

“What do you think?” Takumi asked monotonously, and the elder Takahashi chuckled.

“I’d say you two are done.” it didn’t need to be said, but he said it anyway, before taking a moment to look at him. “You only started racing mere months ago and it’s amazing just how much you’ve improved since then.”

“I don’t think I’ve improved.” Takumi said, and Ryousuke shook his head.

“You have, you just don’t see it.”

“No, really, I’ve just driven Akina much more than other people. I’m used to every twist and turn and bump this road has to offer. I just drive as I was taught. No special technique.”

“Really?” Ryousuke asked, looking humored. “I see you don’t understand your own potential.”

“I know it well enough, knowing my old man.” Takumi muttered. Ryousuke heard it, but pretended he didn’t and merely filed away that information for later. Knowing his dad, huh?

“It would be nice to just sit down and talk with you one day.” he said as he began to take off his coat. “For now, we have a race to focus on.” he threw it at Keisuke, who caught it with little agitation. Takumi was taken aback by that, he would have expected Keisuke to at least say something scathing about not being a coat rack, but he had hardly even blinked.

“Keisuke?” he asked as Ryousuke walked to his car. The blonde looked at him. “You hardly said a word in response.” Keisuke looked confused, until Takumi motioned to his brother’s coat.

“He does it all the time.” Keisuke responded with a dull smile. “I’ve just grown used to it.”

‘Egg-mates aren’t supposed to treat each other as such.’ Spider said, sounding angry. Takumi agreed.

“You shouldn’t just let him do that.” Takumi said, and Keisuke chuckled.

“I don’t. I always get back at him.” he grinned. “This time I’ll delete one of my simulations. He doesn’t seem to get the hint, so maybe this time I’ll get through his skull. If it doesn’t, I’m gonna punch him.” Takumi smiled back at his mate, looping one of his fingers around Keisuke’s, before he hurried to the 86 and got in.

“Are we ready, master?” Nejibana asked as she settled into her spot on the dash, watching as they pulled up to the line.

“As ready as we can be, Bana.” Takumi responded, watching as Keisuke hurried to the front of the cars and spoke quickly to the man who was already there, getting a nod before he ran off, leaving the blonde to release them. He felt a bead of sweat run down his face and gulped as Keisuke began to count down. He could do this. He could do this.

Takumi floored it when they were released, keeping even with Ryousuke as they sped towards the first corner, then slowly beginning to pull ahead.

Everything about the situation felt wrong.

“Something isn’t right about this, master.” Nejibana commented, her many eyes locked on Ryousuke’s car from her position in the dash. “He purposely slowed to get behind us.”

“This is starting to feel like that race with Shingo.” Takumi said nervously, feeling Spider rumble in agitation.

‘If Mate’s egg-mate does anything untoward-’

‘We won’t do anything except tell Keisuke.’ Takumi cut Spider off, and surprisingly he agreed. As they drifted into the first turn, Ryousuke kept up with him, neither gaining nor losing any ground, and that told Takumi that he was being led into some sort of trap. He could feel his nerves begin to rise and clenched his teeth.

He would pull out all of his tricks in this race if he had to.

 

~0~

 

Ryousuke chuckled as he watched the 86 in front of him. “I’ve never seen him drive like this before.” as they drifted more corners, he saw it more and scoffed. “As I thought, he did improve. He uses very little counter-steering as he stabilizes in the final moments of a drift, that much hasn’t changed, but he also counter-steers less right after a turn-in maneuver.” he frowned. “I don’t get it. It hasn’t been that long since the last race, and his weakness is already gone. He improves with every race.”

He didn’t know how he felt about that, he felt his face darken at the prospect. He did not like that his initial plans had been invalidated like this, but this is why he had backup plans.

“I need to change the scenario a bit… but that’s all. No matter what, the results will always be the same. My ‘fastest racer’ theory is invincible!”

 

~0~

 

“This spot is very empty.” Shingo commented, looking around. “You think it’s safe enough to-” he looked at Nakazato, watching him take off his head and relax against the gate. “Nevermind.” he allowed his ears and tail out, feeling his incisors lengthen as he did so, and stretched.

“It’s empty because everyone else went to the obvious spots. No one would ever think to watch from here.” Nakazato responded.

“This is the most obvious spot for us, it’s the only place either of them could go for the win.” Shingo added as he slid closer to his mate. Nakazato chuffed and closed his eyes.

“You’re smart for a rodent.” he jested, and Shingo let out a sound of faux hurt.

“You imply that rodents are stupid!”

“Of course.” Shingo huffed, glancing at Nakazato to see him glancing at him as well. Both looked away and blushed lightly.

“We’re lucky it’s so deserted,” Shingo began, slowly moving even closer. “If it wasn’t, we couldn’t stand so close together.”

“Remind me again why we pretend to hate each other?”

“Someone would take advantage of our relationship and call favoritism at me being second to you in the team and get both of us knocked to the bottom of the pack?” Shingo responded questioningly, and Nakazato nodded.

“That does make sense.” the two were silent. Shingo moved closer and, when he was in the right distance, set his head on Nakazato’s shoulder, his tail wrapping around his leg. “What will we do if someone comes across us?” that made Nakazato pause.

“... we scurry to opposite ends of the lot.”

 

~0~

 

Takumi gulped as he finally processed what was happening. Ryousuke was pressuring him. One little mistake and he’d take the lead, that’s what this was. He couldn’t shake the FC, it only stayed in time with him, it was making him sweat. His mental state was a mess, he could tell, Spider was scurrying around in a slight panic as he continuously glanced between the road and the FC. Nejibana was twitching, silent. The pressure was starting to get to all of them.

Spiders didn’t do well under pressure.

His fangs and pedipalps surged forward, his legs breaking through his skin in order to latch into something and stabilize him as he began to teeter. He forced his pedipalps and fangs back down, he couldn’t risk being caught, he knew of Ryousuke’s eagle eyes!

“I’m going full speed!” he squeaked out. “But he’s keeping with me, like Bana said.” his vision hazed slightly in his panic and a shudder ran down his spine. “I’m going to lose!”

 

~0~

 

“His driving is starting to become shaky.” Ryousuke commented to himself, feeling slightly bad about using this tactic against Takumi. “Soon, he’ll make a mistake, and due to the pressure he won’t recover enough.” he shuttered. “I’m getting goosebumps!” he continued to watch Takumi drive. “But still, despite this, he’s still following a perfect line! If I wasn’t tailing him and copying his every move, I wouldn’t be able to do this. Beginners drive fast on straights, Intermediates can master the corners, but truly advanced drivers find their own course, and that’s how they get ahead. To find that course is the main objective of my ‘fastest driver’ theory. I can’t believe I’ve found the best example of my theory on such an occasion, after searching for it for so long.”

He was pleased, yes, and winning would make it all the sweeter.

“What amazing talent.” as they came up to the corner before the hairpins, he caught sight of Takumi’s face in one of the 86’s side mirrors and nearly flinched. It was unnatural, seeing the face of someone he had come to view as nearly emotionless twisted with panic. He would make it up to Takumi after the race, poor kid didn’t really deserve such treatment.

But for now, he did what he had to in order to win.

They came to the hairpins and he noticed the 86 stutter it’s brake lights, and he knew he had it.

“He’s gone too fast and can’t slow for the turn!” Ryousuke exclaimed, and quickly took advantage, speeding past and taking the lead as Takumi tried to recover. By the time the first hairpin was passed, Takumi was a decent ways behind him. “He could have powered through it and brought it back if he was in a more powerful car, but he had to be reckless and try it in an 86!” he chuckled. “What an unexpected weakness for such a strange kid. I had been planning on hiding my strengths, but now that I’m in front, I can’t afford to let him get right behind me. I have to guarantee myself this win!”

 

~0~

 

Takumi was hyperventilating, he guessed that was what was happening. It was hard to breath and his vision was starting to spot. He could hear Spider screaming in his head but was unable to make out what he was saying.

“Master! You have to breath! You can’t let Ryousuke get you like this!” Nejibana cried, just as panicked as Takumi but trying to appear strong. She didn’t like seeing her master like this. “WE HAVE TO CATCH UP TO HIM!” His panic suddenly abated slightly and he inhaled sharply. She was right.

‘... A HUNTER IS NOT TO BE PANICKING WHEN HIS PREY OVERTAKES THEM-’

‘Shut up.’ Takumi said evenly, prompting Spider to immediately go silent as Takumi righted himself and pulled himself together, his eyes focusing on the FC in front of him.

“I expected him to be further ahead.” Takumi said aloud, and Nejibana let out a sigh of relief.

“Thank god, he’s back.”

“Since he’s still so close, I have a chance!” his fangs and pedipalps surged forwards once again and he allowed them to stay like that, his hunter’s instinct would not be repressed!

 

~0~

 

“Damn it, he’s recovered! My tires aren’t sticking to the road!” he growled, before his eyes widened at the implications. “HEAT WEAR!” he snapped, grimacing. “Copying the 86’s every move is putting too much strain on the front tires! No wonder he’s catching up!”

He couldn’t believe he had overlooked this! He thought he had accounted for every variable!

“How is the 86 not having any problems with his own tires!?” his fists clenched around the wheel. “No matter, a little wear on the tires won’t affect me!”

 

~0~

 

“He’s too fast.” Takumi growled. His panic had finally abated completely and now he was filled with agitation. “I can’t catch him like this, I need to get closer all at once!” as he drifted the next corner, he grew more agitated that he couldn’t catch up.

“GOD DAMN IT!” Nejibana roared, obviously just as agitated as her master.

“Is this my limit!?” he rumbled.

‘LIMITS ARE MEANT TO BE BROKEN!’ Spider roared, and that’s when an idea suddenly snapped into Takumi's head.

“Should I try that thing dad told me about?” he muttered to himself. “That ‘other gutter driving’?” his mind flashed back to when he was younger, deep in the winter. He had approached his dad and told him about the trick he had learned, disappointed that his dad already knew it.

“I’m surprised you figured that one out, good kid, but there is another, one that emphasizes recovery after a corner. The timing for getting in and out of the gutter is different. It’s pretty difficult. You try and figure it out yourself, huh?”

“I haven’t tried it yet.” he said, the words of his dad still echoing in his mind. “It’s a big gamble.” he looked at Nejibana and gave her a smile. “Should I try it?”

“YES!” Nejibana exclaimed, eager to see how her master would do with this new trick.

“Alright! Here we go!” as he came into the corner, he dipped his tires into the gutter and flew around it, widening his eyes as he caught up to Ryousuke a little and pulled his tires out, using the momentum to get right on the FC’s bumper. He grinned wildly. He was back in the game.

 

~0~

 

“What did he just do!?” Ryousuke was flabbergasted. He widened the gap but Takumi merely recovered at the corner. “WHAT IS HAPPENING!? THIS ISN’T HOW IT’S SUPPOSED TO GO!” he grit his teeth, how could he have accounted for this variable!?

IT WAS SOMETHING TAKUMI HAD HIDDEN FROM EVERYBODY!

 

~0~

 


“It sounds like they’re coming.” Nakazato mumbled as he sat on the ground with Shingo, both leaning against one another.

“Yeah, that means we have to stand.” they were silent, but Shingo was up first, prompting Nakazato to groan but stand as well. “Judging from the skidding, they must be very close.”

“Just as anticipated!”

“This really is the last spot one of them can go for the win. It’s got enough of a straight to allow them to speed up for the breaking at the curve, and the corner has three lanes, so you can pick one and go.”

“The one who leads after this will win the race!” loud screeching signaled the two racer turning the corner, and the two immediately focused on them. “THE FC IS IN THE FRONT!”

“BUT THE 86 IS RIGHT BEHIND HIM!”

“WHAT WILL THEY DO!?”

“THERE’S NO WAY TO PASS FROM THE OUTSIDE! GO INSIDE!”

“INSIDE!? OR OUTSIDE!?” both were enthralled, not caring if their shouting could be heard or not, and both watched as the 86 swerved a little, before sliding to the outside and pulling up beside the FC.

“THE OUTSIDE!?” both yelled.

“There was no room on the inside!” Nakazato exclaimed. As the cars drew closer and closer, they watched as the two flew into drifts as the same time, flying around the corner, as the FC pulled ahead.

“IT’S THE FC!?” Nakazato exclaimed. “THE INSIDE HAS THE COMPLETE ADVANTAGE-” Nakazato cut himself off as they watched the FC swerve.

“THE FC IS SKIDDING OUTSIDE OF IT’S CURVE!” Shingo’s tail twitched harshly, nearly smacking Nakazato in the leg.

“HE’S GOING TOO FAST TO EXIT THE CURVE!” they watched in awe as the 86 pulled into the inside, right into the FC’s line, and took the front. Nakazto’s body suddenly fumbled his head in surprise, having relaxed it’s grip in surprise, and Shingo caught him and held him up as everything around them fell dead quiet.

The 86 passed.

Takumi won.

 

~0~

 

A figure chuffed in amusement, watching as the 86 and the FC pulled to a stop and the two racers sat, catching their breaths and their nerve.

"As I had assumed, the 86 won the race." they said, pushing their round glasses up their nose as the lenses flashed. "It's unwise to doubt that boy's ability. Maybe we were right to place our faith in him." they turned around, each of their limbs wrapping around them as the cold night air cut through their jacket. "We expect great races from that kid, he'll go far." the figure let out another chuff. "Now, to go check in on my elusive friend, we have much to discuss." and with that, they were gone.

 

~0~

 

“You did amazingly, Takumi.” Ryousuke commended as the two leaned against their cars and breathed in the cool night air, trying to calm their racing hearts. “I’m sorry I put so much pressure on you during the race. I caught a glimpse of your face at one of the corners and hadn’t expected you to look so terrified.”

“... It’s alright.” Takumi responded quietly. They stood in silence. “I shouldn’t have won.”

“What?”

“You raced a million times better than me. Something must have happened that allowed me to slip by you.” Ryousuke sighed.

“You won fair and square, don’t doubt your abilities!” he reprimanded, and Takumi flinched. “What happened was what will always happen, I put too much pressure on my tires and lost traction. It happened because I copied your every move. It was tactless and the only one to blame for my loss is me. I tried my hardest to keep my speed up, but the tires threw me off. And so did… whatever the hell you did to recover so much ground.” Takumi didn’t look completely convinced. “You are the weirdest person I’ve ever met, Takumi. We had the same rules and restrictions, and you won fair and square with them. You’re a fast driver, don’t doubt yourself.” Ryousuke opened his car door and got in, shutting it behind him.

“You should talk to Keisuke.” Takumi suddenly said, causing Ryousuke to look at him in confusion. “Your promise to step down if you lost terrified him. You should fix that.” Ryousuke looked a little guilty about that and turned to drive off. “AND! Don’t throw your coat at him anymore. You’ve done it so often that he doesn;t react, and THAT’S unnatural for him in my opinion. He told me that since you couldn’t get it through your skull that he’s not a coat rack, he’s deleting some of your simulations.” Ryousuke’s eyes widened in horror.

“Got it!” he exclaimed, and rushed off, much to Takumi’s amusement.

 

~0~

 

“You know, Keisuke.” Takumi said as he lay on the hood of the blonde’s FD with him, looking up at the stars.

“Hmm?” Keisuke asked.

“I think I really like racing.” Takumi responded.

Keisuke's grin was bright enough to dull even the brightest stars.