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Torched Past; Rekindled Feelings

November 2nd, 2025;

Eight-year-old Keiko Aizawa had accompanied her father on a trip to Venice, Italy with the Japan Men's National Soccer Team after convincing her parents to let her go. However, on the third night of the trip, while her father was out for the night, the hotel had suddenly caught fire and Keiko was trapped in the room.

"SOMEONE! HELP ME!" Keiko shouted while cowering in a corner the flames had not yet touched "I'M SCARED! PLEASE HELP ME!"

All of the sudden, the hotel room door burst open, and a young boy, no older than Keiko ran to her side.

"Stai bene? Puoi camminare? [Are you okay? Can you walk?]" the boy asked in Italian

Keiko didn't understand what the boy was saying, but nodded in answer. Her eyes were so blurry from the heat that she couldn't make out the boy's face.

The boy helped Keiko walk across the room to the door, but before they could exit, a beam with a metal pipe across the length fell, and the boy threw Keiko out of harm's way, and ended up underneath the beam himself.

"GO! PRESTO! [GO! QUICKLY!]" the boy shouted to Keiko as the hot pipe burned his back "VATTENE DA QUI! [GET OUT OF HERE!]"

Keiko, supporting herself with the doorframe, wanted to help instead, but she was too scared to move, and watched in horror as the boy's back was burned by the hot pipe. Then, all of a sudden, a Venetian firefighter grabbed Keiko around the waist, picked her up, and carried her from the building, while two more firefighters went to help the boy. Keiko never saw the boy coming out of the building.

In the present, July 1st 2032;

Keiko woke up from her memory, in a bed at Kamakura Central Hospital.

Through blurry eyes, she could make out a person, down on their hands and knees, in front of two older looking people

"Gomen'nasai! Gomen'nasai! Gomen'nasai!" said the person on their knees, who's voice Keiko recongnized as Suzuka's

"It's quite all right, Suzuka-chan." said one of the two people standing, who's voice Keiko recognized as Kakeru's "It was an accident."

"What's going on here?" Keiko asked weakly, which aroused a round of squeals

"Keiko/Kei-nee/Nee-chan/Onee-chan/Kei-chan/Keikon!" all the people in the room squealed when they realized Keiko was awake. Which included, Kakeru, Nana, Hiroki, Ryo, Koichi, Yuki, Chloe, Midori and Suzuka.

"Keiko!" Nana squealed, throwing her arms around Keiko's neck

"Mama, I can't breathe." said Keiko "My head hurts too."

"Oh, sorry." and Nana released her

"We're so glad you're okay!" Hiroki and Ryo said in unison

"We were worried you'd never open your eyes again." said Midori

"Don't be ridiculous, I'm not that frail. Where am I? How long was I out?" Keiko asked

"Kamakura Central Hospital." said Yuki "You hit your head on that railing and you've been out for about four hours. It's now 3:00 in the morning on July 1st."

"So you're awake now?" said Ayaka Mine, who just walked into the room

"What did the X-rays show?" Kakeru asked

"An obvious concussion, but there's no damage to the skull or brain. Keiko will be fine, but she'll need to stay here for a couple of days. I swear, the Aizawa family is one of this hospital's best customers." Ayaka left the room at that

"Keiko, I'm so sorry!" said Suzuka

"What are you talking about?" Keiko asked

"That car that nearly ran you and Saito-kun over... I was the driver. The police said I'd receive a fine for this, but things should be all right."

Just then, Keiko remembered seeing Saito lying on the road behind the car "Wait a minute, where's Saito?"

"He's in the next room." said Yuki "Unlike you, Suzuka-senpai's car actually hit him, and he flew over the roof. He received a couple of cracked ribs, but nothing worse than... Hey! What're you doing?"

Keiko was trying to get out of her bed

"I have to see Saito." said Keiko as Yuki and Chloe tried to force her lie down again

"Are you crazy? You have a concussion. You're in no shape to move." said Chloe

"Please, let me see him!" Keiko said stubbornly, and was now held back by Nana

"Don't be stubborn!" said Kakeru

"He got hurt because of me! I won't rest easy until I can see he's all right."

Upon hearing this, Yuki, Chloe and Nana, gave up and helped Keiko to her feet. Keiko had a little trouble walking since her concussion left her a bit out of balance.

"Yuki-chan, Chloe-chan and I will take her." said Nana as they led her to the door "The rest of you, please go to the lobby. Keiko will need to rest when she gets back."

"I'm coming too." said Suzuka "I need to apologize to Saito-kun as well."

When the door opened for the five of them, on the other side was a person. For a split second, Keiko thought she was looking at Saito, but further inspection showed that it was a woman. A tall buxom woman with long back hair and clearly resembled Saito. She was wearing a white doctor's coat and the name tag attached to it said "Ushio Shirayuki [ 汐 白雪 ]: Obstetrics and Gynecology" and Keiko assumed that this was Saito's mother.

"Shirayuki?" said Yuki when she saw the name tag

"Are you... Saito's mother?" Keiko asked

"Hai. And... may I ask who you are?"

"I-I'm Keiko Aizawa. I'm Saito's girlfrie... er, ex-girlfriend."

"I see. So you're the Keiko-chan I've heard so much about." said Ushio,

"Awkward." Yuki mumbled

Ushio then turned her attention to Nana "Can I assume that you're Keiko-chan's mom, Nana-san?"

"Y-yes, Shirayuki-sensei." Nana replied

"I see. I'm sorry if my boy's caused your daughter a bunch of trouble."

"Oh, no, he wasn't any trouble at all." said Nana "In fact, I always approved of him."

"Same here in your daughter's case. Now, if you're going to see Saito as well, let's not keep him waiting."

"Shirayuki-san," said Suzuka as they set off down the hall to Saito's room "It was my car that hit your son, and I was the driver. I'm so sorry! I tried to stop, but my car was already going so fast."

"It's quite all right." Ushio assured her "I'm sure Saito won't hold any hard feelings."

"I never thought I'd meet Saito's mom like this." Keiko said to Yuki

"By the way, Shirayuki-sensei," said Nana

"You can call me 'Ushio'." said Ushio "And forget 'sensei', use any honoriffic you want."

"Okay, Ushio-chan,"

"Same one everyone else here uses." Ushio whispered to herself

"Why are you only seeing your son now?" Nana asked

"I'm an Obstetrician and Gynecologist here, and I was in the middle of performing a C-section. This one was for a 32-year-old woman, and the baby is a perfectly healthy boy and weighs nine pounds."

They reached Saito's room;

"Saito!"

"Mom!" Saito replied as Ushio came to his side. Saito was sitting up with his back to the door. His doctor had clearly been doing a physical examination of Saito's torso "Don't look so worried, I'm fine."

"Saito-kun, I'm so sorry." said Suzuka "I was the driver of the car you pushed Keiko away from."

"I thought I recognized the person in the driver seat."

"See, Kei-chan." said Yuki "Saito-kun's just fine."

But Keiko wasn't listening. Her attention was focused on Saito's lower back, where a oblique burn-like scar was seared accross the width of Saito's back.

"That... that scar." said Keiko

"Oh, this?" said Saito when he realized what Keiko was talking about "I've had that for years. Though most boys would say 'scars are a badge of honor', it's kinda embarrassing for me."

"So that's why you always wore a shirt during beach soccer practice, and when we went to that water park last May." said Yuki "You didn't want us to see it."

"That's right." Saito confirmed

"But how did you get it?" Suzuka asked "It looks like a burn."

"In a fire." Keiko spoke up, surprising everyone "November 2nd, 2025, Venice, Italy. Six and a half years ago, you saved a young girl, around your age at the time, from a hotel fire, and got that burn when a beam with a metal pipe fell on you." everyone was surprised that Keiko knew this "Am I wrong?"

"We... no." said Saito "You're right on the mark but... how do you know that?" Keiko and Saito looked each other in the eyes, Keiko's eyes filling with tears, and Saito then understood "No way. That little girl... it was you?"

"Until now... I didn't know that boy was you either." said Keiko, her eyes filled with tears. She then broke free of those supporting her and ran back to her room, which was now empty

"Keiko!" Nana called as she, Yuki and Chloe chased after her

"Saito-kun, what was that all about?" Suzuka asked

"Why don't you go ask her." Saito replied

Suzuka went back to Keiko's room, where Keiko was huddled in a corner with her face in her knees, and Nana, Yuki and Chloe trying to console her.

"I'm such a horrible person." Keiko sobbed into her knees

"No you're not." said Yuki "This is just... it was...."

"All this time, it was him, and I never realized." Keiko sobbed "We've slept together before, but I never noticed that scar on his back. No, he made sure I didn't see it."

"Would someone please explain what that was all about!" said Suzuka

"Six and a half years ago, Kakeru let Keiko accompany him on a trip to Venice with the national team." Nana explained "On the third night, the hotel they were staying in caught fire while Kakeru was out and Keiko ended up trapped in the room. A boy then broke into the room, got Keiko out, but ended up under that beam. And that boy...."

"Was Saito-kun." Suzuka concluded

"It was the Venetian Grand Hotel Fire of 2025, I heard about it on the International News at the time." said Chloe "They said that a relative of one of the Japanese National team players was caught up in it, but I didn't think Keiko and Saito were in it."

"I never saw him come out of the building." said Keiko "We met again in middle school, but I didn't know that he and I had met once before."

"Neither of you got a good look at each other's face that night, of course you wouldn't have realized." said Yuki

"But what hurts me the most right now... is realizing how horrible I've been to him. He saved me once before, and then again earlier tonight. Both times he ended up getting hurt as a result! And then the night I broke up with him, I said all those horrible things!"

Keiko was now sobbing harder than ever.

"Maybe now you're ready to be honest." said Suzuka "You kept insisting you didn't have any feelings for Saito-kun, even though it's obvious that you do. Mind giving us an honest answer this time?"

"Senpai?!" said Yuki

"It was because I was scared." Keiko answered "I know Kaname's alive now but, contrary to what I said at the festival, I did like Kaname, a lot. I was deeply heartbroken when I heard Kaname had been killed in the plane crash. I was devastated, I thought my heart was going to stop. After that, I never wanted to feel that pain again. I became afraid to fall in love again."

"That explains it." Yuki thought

Sunday, July 4th;

Keiko and Saito were discharged from the hospital early Saturday and spent the the day finishing their recovery at their homes. On Sunday, Keiko felt the need to stretch her legs and left the house.

"I'll be back later, or tonight, if I don't decide to spend the night at someone else's place." said Keiko as she put on her heels

"If that's the case, please call." said Kakeru

"And please, for the love of God, please be careful!" said Nana

"I'll be fine." said Keiko as she left the house

"You want me to follow her to make sure she stays out of trouble?" Chloe asked once Keiko was out of the house

"That won't be necessary." said Kakeru "We let her off the leash years ago."

"We let her off too soon in my opinion." said Nana

"Seconded." said Mito

Meawhile, Keiko was pretty much doing what she had Wednesday night: wandering around Kamakura. She eventually ended up at a different park then the one she usually went to, and sat down on a bench watching some kids play soccer.

"How old was I when I kicked a soccer ball for the first time?" Keiko asked herself in thought as she watched the kids play "Papa said I was three months old, but my earliest memory of playing soccer is from when I was four. Most of those kids don't look older than six or seven. The first time I played soccer with someone other then my family was when I met Yuki. I was six at the time as I recall. And then the first time I played soccer with Saito was... shortly after I entered Middle School. So, even now, I'm still thinking about Saito. (sigh) I can't do it. The past is dead, I can't lie to myself anymore."

All of the sudden, the kids' ball ended up at Keiko's feet.

"Hey, Onee-chan, kick the ball back please." said one of the kids

Feeling a sudden urge to show off, Keiko balanced the ball on her foot, bounced up with her knee and headed it over to where the kids were, leaving them awestruck.

"Onee-chan, that was amazing!" said another of the kids,

"Hey, will you play with us?" said a girl who caught the ball

"Yeah, play with us!" said several of the kids, a few of them being girls, and the girl who caught the ball kicked it back to Keiko

Instead of showing off this time, Keiko, in no mood to play, returned the ball to them by hand.

"Sorry, kids."  Keiko said sadly, returning their ball to them "I don't really feel like playing."

Keiko returned top the bench and continued watching the kids play. After a while, one of the girls tried to bounce the ball on her forehead, but failed. A boy then tried, but failed as well. Most of the kids tried it, but none of them could get it. Unable to watch anymore, Keiko decided to help.

"Not like that." Keiko spoke up after another kid failed "It's like this." Keiko took the ball, threw it up, and bounced it on her forehead for a few seconds before it fell. The ball was a bit smaller than the High School standard ones "Sorry. I'm not used to a ball this size. Haven't used one since I was your age."

"You sound like an Oba-san." said one of the boys

"He he he, I guess I did." said Keiko as she tried again, this time she was successful "See? Use the center of your forehead, and keep your eyes open. Don't be afraid of it hitting you."

Keiko handed the ball back to the kids and the immediately tried it. The first one, one of the girls, failed at first, but got it on her second try.

"I got it!" the girl exclaimed as she bounced the ball on her forehead with ease, Keiko and the kids clapped.

"Very good." said Keiko

"How 'bout this?" said one of the boys, taking the ball after the girl finished and trying to balance it on his knee. He failed immediately

"That one's simple with practice." said Keiko balancing the ball on her own knee with ease

Keiko taught them a few more tricks, and even played a four on four game with them, over the next few hours, until the kids' mothers told them it was time to go.

"Will you be here tomorrow?" one of the kids asked

"I've got school tomorrow, but if it's in the afternoon, actually I have soccer practice then." Keiko told them "Anyway, I'll try and come again. Until then, keep practicing."

"Okay!" the kids chorused

"Even I can see those kids have some potential." Keiko thought "That comment about having practice was bit of a lie though. Those last few hours brought back some fun memories. I forgot soccer could be so much fun." Keiko then looked at the clock on her phone "It's not even 4:00. (sigh) Maybe I'll go visit Uncle Suguru. It's been a while since I paid my respects."

Keiko then made her way to the cemetery where the Aizawa Family Grave was located.

"Hi, Uncle Suguru. Sorry I haven't been here in some time." Keiko said aloud as she knelt down and prayed in front of the grave "Uncle Suguru, I've been troubled by a lot of things concerning you and me." Keiko told Suguru in her mind "Twice now, I've played in a game using moves you used too. I can't remember the last time quite clearly, but what disturbs me most is that I was never taught those moves. Your old 'friend', Leonardo Silva, seems do think that I'm your reincarnation. Is it possible that he was right?"

"Absolutely not. You are your own person." said a voice in Keiko's head, catching Keiko off guard, Keiko looked up and saw, Keiko saw it but she didn't believe it, Suguru's spirit floating over the grave

"How...?"

"I'll say again, you are not my reincarnation." said Suguru's spirit "You're just a bit more sensitive to spirits, unlike your old man. I was just lending my beloved niece a helping hand every once in a while. Sorry if I spooked you. And one last thing: live with an open heart, and you will have no doubts." with that, Suguru's spirit vanished

"Well what does that mean!?" Keiko exclaimed in frustration "Geez, I'm not sure if that was a hallucination or not, but at least he put my mind to rest about the whole 'reincarnation thing'." Keiko looked up at the grave again "I actually saw Uncle Suguru's spirit. Maybe I'll get into religion."

Keiko continued walking around town, eventually ending up near the station, where there was a big buzz to get seats out of Kamakura, two of which were the first year managers of the boys soccer team.

"Hey, Mashiro, Asuna!" Keiko called out, catching their attention

"Keiko-chan!" Mashiro answered "Are going in too?"

"Going where?" Keiko inquired

"The U.S. military bases in Yokohama are opening up to the public today." said Asuna "The personnel are gonna hold a big fireworks display, serve the latest delicacies from America, and give the public tours of the bases."

"Call it an American-style festival for this special occasion." said Mashiro

"Is that so? Anyway, I'm not going, I'm just walking around Kamakura. You two have fun." said Keiko

"Oh, we will." said Asuna as she and Mashiro took off for the train

"That's right, today's Independence Day in America." Keiko said aloud to herself "Although, mainland America might not be letting off fireworks for another few hours."

Keiko continued walking, and by 8:00 at night, and after having dinner in a small diner, Keiko ended up at a short pier and leaned on the wooden railing to feel the ocean breeze.

"So this is where you were." said a voice behind Keiko after a while. It was Saito.

"Saito?"

"I went to your house earlier, but they said you went out hours ago." said Saito as he leaned on the wooden railing with her "This is a nice breeze."

"Yeah, it is." Keiko replied dully

"The U.S. bases in Yokohama are gonna hold a small festival, wanna go and..."

"What were you doing in Italy all those years ago?" Keiko interrupted

"(sigh) Always to the point with you, isn't it?" Saito replied "Alright, here it is. (sigh) Mom was studying to be an Obstetrician and Gynecologist at an Italian university at the time, and by then we didn't have a father anymore, as he had run off and abandoned us. To this day, I don't know why. But Mom took us with her, and refused to leave us with her relatives."

"That explains the Italian you were speaking that night. Studying abroad while raising kids? Somehow, that fits her character." said Keiko

"You have no idea. The main reason she wouldn't leave us with her family is because she wanted to cut all ties with them. She resented them for marrying her off when she was only sixteen. Talk about an overly traditional family."

"I'll say. Wait! I thought you told me she was a 3rd generation nudist."

"She is. By her mother's side. Her father's family is the overly traditional one." Saito explained

"I see."

"Anyway, me being in that hotel at the time was purely a coincidence. Mom finally had her degree and was preparing to take us back to Japan. What about you?"

"I tagged along with Papa while he went abroad with the national team." Keiko explained simply, as she took off her shoes, got up on the railing and balanced herself out

"Keiko-chan, be careful!"

"You sound like my Mother this morning. Just who do you think I am?" All of a sudden, Keiko slipped and fell into the water below, and Saito dived after her.

"Are you an idiot!?" said Saito as he held Keiko above the water "You know you can't swim!"

Soaking wet, and with their houses too far away to walk back to this late, the pair of them spent the night in a cheap "hotel" nearby.

"Sorry I took you someplace like this even though we're no longer dating." said Saito as they settled themselves in the room for the night "Is your phone okay?"

"It's one of the newer waterproof models." said Keiko as she looked around the room "A Love Hotel of all places. You perv."

"I won't do anything, I swear!"

"Forget it. Let's just get out of these wet clothes. You take a bath first, I gotta call my parents."

When Saito went into the bath, Keiko stripped off all her clothes, put on a robe, and called home.

"Hello? Mama? You told me to call if I wasn't coming home tonight." Keiko told Nana over the phone "I'm staying with Saito tonight."

"Saito-kun?" Nana inquired on other side of the line "What happened? Did you two make up?"

"(sigh) I don't know yet." Keiko replied "Anyway, I'll be home tomorrow morning. I won't be late for school either."

"Okay then, Honey. Have fun." said Nana as the hung up

"'Have fun'? What does she mean my that?" Keiko whispered to herself as Saito came out of the bath

"All yours." said Saito

"No peeking." Keiko said as she went into the bath

"Yeah, yeah."

In the bath;

"What's wrong with me!?" Keiko thought as she warmed herself up with he shower "Why is my body so hot? My heart is beating so fast, and my lower body feels tight. Am I getting turned on? I haven't felt like this since... no, I've never felt like this. Not even when Saito and I made love for the first time. I didn't really love him back then. But does Saito love me?" Keiko glanced at the door "Where are you, Saito?"

Out in the room;

"This is really unsettling." Saito thought as he waited for Keiko "I'm in a Love Hotel with the girl I'm not dating anymore. I wanna look at her, but she said not to."

All of a sudden, the lights went out.

"What the...." Saito, stood up, looked at the bath door and saw Keiko standing there, wearing only a towel, and frowning "Uh, Keiko-chan?"

"Idiot." said Keiko.

All of a sudden, to Saito's bewilderment, Keiko threw her towel aside, stripped off Saito's robe, pushed him down on the bed and stood over him on all fours, her necklace dangling from her neck.

"Uh, Keiko-chan, you're being surprisingly bold." said Saito

"Shut up!" Keiko snapped, silencing Saito "Why... why didn't you come peek at me?!"

"(gah!) I was supposed to? But you told me not to."

"Idiot! That was my little test."

"Test?"

"I might not seem like the kinda girl to do that, but if you had peeked at me I would've known... oh, who am I kidding. I was just getting my hopes up."

"What do you mean?" Saito asked as Keiko started shedding tears

"I should just face facts. You don't like me anymore!" this caught Saito off guard

"But... Keiko-chan, aren't you the one who said I was only..."

"No don't say that!" Keiko pleaded "Please, don't repeat that!"

"But you said it in the first place."

"I lied! I lied to you. And worst of all... I was lying to myself. I was afraid to fall in love. I didn't want to face my own heart. I don't hate you, I never have. I love you! I love you, with all my heart. So, please... let me be yours again. Please, give me another chance."

In answer, Saito gently grabbed the pendant of Keiko's necklace, and gently dragged her down until their lips met. Saito then sat up, while still kissing Keiko, and didn't speak again for over two minutes.

♫ You've waited for so long ♫
♫ To be where you are and where you're coming from ♫
♫ And you gave it all so much ♫
♫ In return for human love ♫

"How can I give you a 'second chance', when you're still on your first?" Saito asked when he broke the kiss, surprising Keiko "I never gave up on you. I... love you too."

Overcome with joy at knowing that she never lost Saito, Keiko kissed him again while hugging him tightly, and Saito kissed and hugged her back.

♫ You've waited all this time ♫
♫ But the sweetest thrill is the one you've yet to find ♫
♫ Then you're starting to believe ♫
♫ So long as it may seem ♫

"I love Saito." Keiko thought as Saito laid her down on the bed and kissed her neck "I think I always have. Was it 'love at first sight'? Probably not." Saito began groping one of Keiko's breasts and sucking on the other "His touch is so soft and gentle, and I can't get enough of it." Keiko felt Saito feel her between her legs, with something other than his hand, for a few seconds, and then felt Saito enter her. "Saito's inside me. He's making love to me again for the first time in so long. But this time, there's no pain. This time, I'm enjoying it." Saito then reached for Keiko's hand and held it tight, Keiko did the same "I love Saito. His kindness, his gentleness, I love everything about him. And... I never want to part from him."

♫ When you've waited for so long ♫
♫ To be where you are and where you're coming from ♫
♫ And you gave it all so much ♫
♫ In return for human love, in return for human love ♫
♫ In return for human love ♫

Keiko and Saito made love several times that night, in many different positions. They stopped when it was near 1:00 in the morning. By then, Keiko, having reached "the peak" several times, was too exhausted to continue and had fallen asleep.

"One of my senpais once told me: 'women become more beautiful each time they get laid'. Looks like it's true." Saito thought as he watched Keiko sleep "It's not just my eyes. I've never seen her look so beautiful."

Struck by a thought, Saito reached inside his jeans pocket and pulled out the case with the ring Kakeru had given him to hold on to. Feeling the time was right, Saito took the ring and placed it on Keiko's left ring finger.

"What're you doing?" Keiko asked wearily when Saito applied the ring

"Oh, sorry, did I wake you?" Saito asked

"Not really." Keiko replied, sitting up while keeping the sheets over her breasts "What time is it?"

"About 2:14 in the morning." said Saito while Keiko yawned

"What a night. That's the first time we did it so many times in so many positions." Keiko then noticed the ring Saito put on her finger "A ring? Where did you get this?"

"Your dad wanted to give you that for your next birthday, but then decided it would be a better gift from me." Saito told her, deciding it was best to be honest "I decided the time was right to give it to you."

"It's beautiful. I love it."

"By the way...."

"Yes?"

"We're dating again, right?" Saito inquired

"That's right."

"So I was was wondering, I actually wanted to ask you before we broke up, but... would you... like to... live with me?"

"'Live with you'?! Under the same roof?!" Keiko asked, coming within an inch of Saito's face

"Yes but... please listen."  Keiko backed off a bit and let Saito talk "After what happened the other day, Mom's decided to move back into the house, but I want to get a place of my own, so I was thinking of renting a small apartment for two people."

"An apartment?"

"I haven't found a place yet, but when I do, will you... move with me?" Keiko kissed Saito in response "Is that a 'yes'?"

"Living together alone with you? How could I say 'no'?" Keiko replied, and both of them let out a few giggles "But before we do that, there's one thing we need to do."

Monday July 5th;

Morning practice that day, at the Enoshima Beach Soccer usual practice area;

"I didn't think you'd show up again, Yuki." said Suzuka as they prepared to start practice

"Kei-chan told me to come to practice today." said Yuki, who was warming up with a few squats "She said she had a surprise for us."

"She did look a bit excited when I saw her earlier." said Chloe, who was adjusting her bikini top

"What do you think it is?" Yukari asked

"Knowing her, something unexpected." said Mai, causing most of the team to stare at her "What?"

"Maybe she's finally ready to listen to our apologies." said Miki

"You might say that." said Keiko just now showing up with Saito, both of them in their swimwear. Keiko was holding hands with Saito with one hand, and his arm with the other. Everyone was surprised at this scene.

"It finally happened." said Yuzuki

"You two made up!?" Yuki asked, and Keiko and Saito made peace signs in response, arousing howls of joy from the entire team

"YES! They made up!" Nagisa squealed

"Ahem! Girls, forgetting something?" said Mai

"Oh, right." said Suzuka

"We're sorry of over-relying on you!" the entire team, minus Yuki, chorused

"It's all right!" said Keiko, holding up a hand "But there's even more good news as well."

"Wait, is that a ring on your finger?" Suzuka asked, noticing the ring Saito gave Keiko

"It is! Oh, they're so in love!" said Sachiko

"It's not an engagement ring!" said Saito

"Anyway," Keiko continued "What I wanted to say was... I wanna rejoin the team, and take on the Nationals."

Everyone cheered at this announcement. Aoi and Asuka lifted Keiko onto their shoulders.

"Shout it out loud, girl." said Aoi, and Keiko obliged

Keiko took a deep breath and shouted "KEIKO AIZAWA IS BACK, BABY!" and Aoi and Asuka let her down

"It's good to have you back." said Suzuka

"Good to be back." Keiko replied

"There's more good news." said a voice behind them. It was Hinako Tsukahara. She stepped barefoot onto the sand with them with her shoes in hand.

"What's the Student Council Pres. doing here?" Moka asked

"As I was saying," said Hinako "I've got more good news. Aizawa's little sister finally got justice."

"Huh?" Keiko inquired

"The same night Akitsuki nearly ran you down," Suzuka blushed embarrassed "Hamura got picked up for a liquor store robbery."

"A liquor store?!" said Haruhi

"Yep, and he's not getting off this time." Hinako explained "The police also got wind of him raping Ryo Aizawa. So in addition of getting to spend some time in the slammer, he's also getting expelled from Enoshima."

There were a lot of whoops and hurrays from most of the team following this news.

"Even more good news." said Taeko, who showed up with the starting squad of Nadeshiko Japan. All of them wearing beach soccer uniforms.

"Nadeshiko Japan?" said Momoko

"What are they doing here?" Amuro asked

"Ishiki-san?" said Keiko "What are you and the others doing here?"

"Did it get through?" Mai asked, making most of the team curious

"It did." said Taeko "Director Nakae approved it."

"Approved what?" Suzuka inquired

"Suzuka Akitsuki, we're inviting you to join our ranks."

"What?! For real?!" Suzuka exclaimed

"Welcome to the reps, Captain." said Keiko, putting an arm around Suzuka's neck

"You knew?"

"Congratulations, Suzuka!" the rest of the team cheered and clapped

"And as an added bonus," said Meiko "To get you girls ready for Nationals, you're gonna be training with us every day."

This was greeted with even more applause as morning practice suddenly began. While watching practice unfold, Hinako noticed Kaname watching from the street above and went to greet him.

"Hey there, new student." Hinako greeted, getting Kaname's attention

"You're the President, unless I'm mistaken." Kaname replied

"Nope, that's me. Looks like Aizawa and Shirayuki got back together."

"I noticed." said Kaname "Looks like Akitsuki-senpai is joining to the reps with Keiko too."

"You don't sound disappointed." said Hinako "I assumed you still have feelings for Aizawa?"

"I do. But it's time to stop eating stale cookies and find someone else."

"You're giving up on her?" Hinako inquired

"I finally realized that she wasn't 'the one' after all." Kaname replied as he saw Keiko reach for a water bottle in the cooler. But Saito got it first, took a swig of it, then kissed Keiko "And we've all gotta find something real."

Keiko's Heart :Previous Chapter«Home»Next Chapter: Nationals

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