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Japan vs. Greece, 2nd Half

"At half-time, the score is: Nadeshiko Japan 0-2 Greece. Shots on goal are..." said the public address announcer

In the stands;

"Kei-chan's looking really dejected." said Yuki as both teams made for their respective benches "Do you think the pressure of being a representative is too much for her?"

"Hard to say." said Mai as she got up from her seat

"Where you going?" Mako asked

"Bathroom."

"I'll go with you." said Nana, getting up as well "There's something I wanna talk to you about."

On the bench;

"Alright ladies, no need to look down." said Taeko "We can get those two points back if we just rework our strategy."

"I'm sorry." said Keiko

"What are you apologizing for?" Meiko asked

"We lost those two goals because of me."

"That's not true." said Nanami "The rest of us made plenty of mistakes too."

"Don't try and cover for me." said Keiko as she got up and left for the locker room

"Keiko!" said Kotoko

"Let her go." said Taeko "She needs a few minutes to herself."

Meanwhile, Nana and Mai had found a restroom. Before Mai could go into a stall, Nana began interrogating Mai about what she had heard earlier.

"Alright, Mai-chan, out with it!" Nana said sternly

"Out with what?" Mai asked

"Don't play dumb! I heard Mako-kun say something to you about telling the team something. It sounded important. I also just noticed that your face is looking flushed. Have you contracted some sort of illness or something?"

"It's really none of your concern."

"Mai, you're my best friend. If there's something wrong, I wanna help you."

"I'm not really sure you'd understand."

"Try me!"

Mai considered her for a second, sighed, and then said "Alright. But promise me that you won't tell anybody." Nana nodded "Alright. Nana-chan,... I'm pregnant." Mai told her, and Nana was left in a state of shock and surprise.

In the locker room;

"What was I thinking?" Keiko asked herself as she sat against a locker with her head in her knees, crying her eyes out "I don't have what it takes to play here. Nadeshiko Japan is losing because of me. I should be asked to be subbed out in the 2nd half, and then quit when the game is over."

"If you do that, you'll never know how you can improve." said a deep male voice. Keiko looked up and saw a man in a suit standing in the door.

"Who are you? And how did you get in here?" Keiko asked

"Never mind the last bit. I don't suppose your father mentioned me? I'm Teppei Iwaki."

"Papa's High School coach?"

Iwaki nodded "I don't suppose you know that your father knows how you're feeling right now?"

"He told me he wasn't always confident with his abilities, but how can he know how I'm feeling now?"

"Because, in his first High School game, back when Enoshima had two soccer teams, Kakeru felt down on himself when the FC began losing at 3-1. He felt that those two goals were his fault."

"He never told me that!"

"He must have thought it irrelevant. In any case, in the months following that match, he improved beyond recognition. He had a habit of pulling some astonishing plays at odd moments in the game, even if he was exhausted past his limits."

"That's impossible."

"You clearly don't know your father as well as I thought."

"That's not all." said Keiko as she got to her feet "I'm also frustrated because after my first attempt at a goal, they hardened their defense and I couldn't find a route past their defense."

"Like your father you have a natural gift for soccer. You have the abilities and to pull off something amazing and leave the opponents confused. If you can't find a pass route through their defense, then what is it that you need to do?" Iwaki asked as he left the room

On the bench;

"Where's Keiko?" Komi asked "The game's gonna restart in a few minutes."

"Should I go look for her, coach?" Meiko asked

"No need, I'm right here." said Keiko, appearing at the bench

"Good." said Meiko "Listen, in the second half, we're gonna need you to help find a pass route through the Greeks' defense. It won't be easy though."

"If we can't find one, then we'll make one." Keiko told them, surprising everyone "We'll get those two goals back, and then take the lead." everyone nodded in approval, and they made their way out onto the field for the second half. Keiko also noticed Nana and Mai resuming their seats.

"I know that's what I said but, I still don't know what I should do." Keiko thought to herself as the Greeks prepared to kick-off the second half "Papa used to tell me about making pass routes, but I only remembered that now because of Iwaki-san. What was I thinking!? I shouldn't have come back out here. I can't do this, I can't win! I don't have what it takes. I don't know what to do!"

"You don't know?" said a voice in Keiko's head. A voice she had never heard before. Her heart also gave a weird beat, and continued to beat in a weird way as the voice spoke "You don't know what to do?"

"What is this voice? And why is my heart beating like this?" Keiko asked herself as she heard the whistle blow, as if from far away.

"There are two moments when a match is decided: One is when the end-of-match whistle blows. The other is when the losing team gives up on scoring."

"Who are you?"

"Didn't my brother tell you about me?" the voice asked

"Uncle Suguru?"

"Yes. Now, do you really not know what to do?"

"Yes. Can you tell me? What should I do?" she felt one of the Greek forwards pass her as if on the wind

"Follow your instincts, and you will see the way to victory." said Suguru's voice

A little ways down the field on Japan's end, the Greek forward was about to pass to her teammate when Keiko came out of nowhere and intercepted.

"How did she do that?" Meiko thought as she and Keiko turned around to go the other way. As they passed the halfway line, Keiko passed three Greek players with apparent ease that was unlike her "She's playing like a different person!"

In the stands;

"Kakeru? Are you seeing what I'm seeing?" Nana asked with a note of worry in her voice

"I am." Kakeru replied, with the same note "Those moves..."

"We haven't seen moves like that in years." said Takajo

"It can't be." said Araki

"What are they talking about?" Suzuka asked Yuki

On the field;

Keiko, still playing like a different person, found herself blocked by Angeliki. Instead of going forward, Keiko just stopped and held the ball with her foot

"Αν όμως πρόκειται να σταθεί μόνο εκεί τότε...[An ómo̱s prókeitai na statheí móno ekeí tóte.../If she is going to just stand there then...]" Angeliki then felt a strange feeling as she watched Keiko standing there "Δεν μπορώ να μετακινήσω. Αν πάω σε, αυτή θα μου περάσει. Αλλά αν δεν προχωρήσουμε... [Den boró̱ na metakiní̱so̱. An páo̱ se, af̱tí̱ tha mou perásei. Allá an den procho̱rí̱soume.../I can't move. If I go in, she'll pass me. But if I don't move...]" making up her mind, Angeliki charged in and, true to her prediction, Keiko skipped past her easily.

"Aizawa is now past Angeliki... gets past 2, past 3 players. What a run by Aizawa! Can she?" said the commentator.

Everyone in the stands held their breaths as Keiko found herself one on one with Dimitra, the goalkeeper, and then curled the shot into the inside of the top corner. Suddenly the Japanese supporters jumped off their feet.

"OOHHHHH!!! BRILLIANT GOAL! BRILLIANT GOAL!! Remember the name: KEIKO AIZAWA! She now joins the likes of Homare Sawa and Nana Mishima-Aizawa as the very few players who scored a debut goal for Nadeshiko Japan at age 15. The home side's now back in this match!" the commentator screamed his lungs out in excitement while Keiko immediately picked up the ball and ran towards the center circle for a quick restart

A few minutes later;

"Angeliki's pass is square... intercepted once again by Aizawa. She's dashing down the field again, the Greeks are falling back." said the commentator

Keiko, using these same maneuvers, ran past Angeliki, then past the Greek right-back and another central defender. Keiko combined quick body feints and slight touches of the ball to run past the Greek players; everything almost happened in slow motion. Spotting Kotoko on her right, Keiko passed the ball across the face of goal and the result left no doubt.

"Wonderful for run by Aizawa! She passes across to Yamamoto! GOAL!! IT'S 2-2!!! From nowhere to parity, Kotoko Yamamoto scores the goal. But it all started again with another surging run by Aizawa, beating 4 players including the goalkeeper. Now on the hour mark, you can feel Nadeshiko Japan grabbing the momentum and more likely yo go on and win this match." said the commentator

"Did I really do all of this?" Keiko thought as she suddenly came back to her senses

"I have shown you the path. Now it's up to you to walk that path on your own, Keiko. Good luck." said Suguru's voice before it disappeared

"Keiko-chan, that was amazing!" said Kotoko as she and Keiko made their way back to the center of the field

"It's not over yet." said Keiko "We still have thirty minutes. Let's get a good lead during that time."

"Υπάρχει κάτι διαφορετικό γι 'αυτήν. [Ypárchei káti diaforetikó gi 'af̱tí̱n./There's something different about her.]" Angeliki told Sophia

"Ήταν αυτή κρύβει αυτές τις ικανότητες όλο αυτό το χρονικό διάστημα; [Í̱tan af̱tí̱ krývei af̱tés tis ikanóti̱tes ólo af̱tó to chronikó diásti̱ma?/Was she hiding those abilities this whole time?]" Sophia asked

"Δεν ξέρω. Αλλά αυτό παίρνει ενδιαφέρον τώρα. [Den xéro̱. Allá af̱tó paírnei endiaféron tó̱ra./I don't know. But this is getting interesting now.]"

In the stands;

"There's no denying it." said Araki

"Yes. Those are the moves that Suguru used." said Takajo

"Uncle Suguru?" Hiroki asked

"But where did she learn them?" Yusuke asked "You two didn't teach them to her did you?"

"No, we didn't." said Kakeru "I don't know where she learned those moves."

On the field, just 3 minutes later;

Following a throw deep in Nadeshiko Japan's half, Angeliki tried to cross the ball for a teammate inside the box. However, the cross was deflected away by Nanami and on Keiko's chest. The youngest Nadeshiko Japan player passed the ball a little ahead towards Kotoko, who returned the favor as Keiko started a dashing run on the counterattack.

"Nice layoff by Yamamoto... Aizawa is away again with plenty of space with only one defender in the way. Yamamoto to her left, Yamada arriving on her right... YAMAMOTO'S IN ALONE! 3-2! IT'S 3-2!!! It was a superb chip shot by Yamamoto and Nadeshiko Japan have the lead for the first time today in the 63rd minute!" the commentator screamed

In the stands;

"Great play! great play, Nee-chan!" Hiroki shouted in the midst of wild euphoria in the stadium

"The Greeks just can't live with her on that pitch. Great vision from her to make the pass instead of going for glory." said Suzuka

"They made a mistake by pushing more players forward and playing a high defensive line, so they got caught on a quick counterattack. Keiko and her partner up front used their speed to perfection." said Nana

"Our daughter is nowhere near done. Look at her eyes: she's looking for more." said Kakeru as he saw a shot of Keiko's face on the stadium's big screen

"I'm sure there's more with that much time left. However, she now looks like herself there." said Nana

"Indeed. How in the world did she pulled those moves in the first 2 goals, that's beyond me." Kakeru replied

In the 70th minute, Nadeshiko Japan earned a corner kick;

"Yamada plays a short corner for Aizawa." said the commentator

Keiko found herself in front of a Greek defender on the edge of the box. After making the defender take the bait, Keiko made an elastico feint and ran with the ball towards the goal line and then crossed the high ball into the box towards the intended target at the far post.

"Aizawa with the dangerous ball and Takama's coming in! GOAL! Aizawa just set up another goal! She beats the defender one on one and serve the ball on a plate for Komi Takama, who was surprisingly unmarked. Nadeshiko Japan will probably feel better now at 4-2 with 20 minutes to go." said the commentator.

"That was an amazing pass, Keiko-chan!" said Komi as she high-fived Keiko

"Thanks! That was a great header too."

"You think they will give up now?" asked Kotoko

"From the looks of it, they are on the verge. Their coach is shouting at them. He's furious because of you, Keiko-chan." Meiko replied while she took a quick look at the Greek coach, livid after watching his team getting torn apart within 25 minutes by a 15-year-old

"I guess I'm really doing something good then." said Keiko

Within the next 20 minutes, Keiko assisted on the goal that made it 5-2 in Japan's favor. Greece reduced the margin at 5-3, but it was too little and too late for the Hellenic side as there was only five minutes left.

"Five more minutes with a two goal lead." said Meiko "No need to force another one at this point."

"But that's boring." said Keiko "It's no fun if we don't try to score again."

"What did Keiko-chan say?" said Kotoko

"You two." Meiko said "Alright, were gonna try to get one more goal before the whistle blows."

But in the end, they didn't manage it. Keiko was just short of the goal when the whistle blew, but it was still Japan's victory.

PEEP PEEP PEEEEEEEEEEEEP

"Well, that's that." said Keiko as she stopped dribbling the ball, and the crowd cheered

"Ladies and gentlemen. Your final score: Nadeshiko Japan 5-3 Greece." said the public address announcer

In the stands;

"Nee-chan's first representative victory!" Hiroki yelled

"Even though we saw something weird earlier, I can't help but shed tears of joy!" said Nana, with tears in her eyes

"I told you my intuition wasn't wrong." said Mai

"Ditto." said Mako

"Now we have a full-fledged representative on the team." said Suzuka

On the field;

"Γεια σου, Keiko. [Geia sou, Keiko./Hey, Keiko.]" said Angeliki "Ωραίο παιχνίδι. [O̱raío paichnídi./Nice game.]" Keiko continued to look blank

"You can't understand a word she's saying, can you?" Sophia asked

"No I can't. And I.... Wait, you can speak Japanese?" Keiko asked bewildered

"Quite fluently, but Angeliki only speaks Greek. So please, allow me to translate."

With that, Angeliki continued to talk to Keiko while Sophia translated.

"Έχετε κάποιες ωραίες κινήσεις. Θα ήθελα πραγματικά να παίξουν μαζί σας και πάλι κάποια στιγμή. [Échete kápoies o̱raíes kiní̱seis. Tha í̱thela pragmatiká na paíxoun mazí sas kai páli kápoia stigmí̱./You have some nice moves. I would really like to play with you again sometime.]" said Angeliki

"Really? That's nice of you to say." Keiko replied "At first, I wasn't sure if I really should've joined the team. I was in serious doubt after the first half."

"Εμείς θα, είμαι ευτυχής που εντάχθηκαν και συνέχισε να παίζει. Περαιτέρω, ενιαία κοστούμια της Ιαπωνίας σας πολύ καλά. [Emeís tha, eímai ef̱tychí̱s pou entáchthi̱kan kai synéchise na paízei. Peraitéro̱, eniaía kostoúmia ti̱s Iapo̱nías sas polý kalá./We'll, I'm glad you joined and continued to play. Further, Japan's uniform suits you very well.]"

"Thanks."

"Είχα πολλή διασκέδαση σήμερα. Την επόμενη φορά που θα συναντηθούμε, θα μπορούσε να είναι το Παγκόσμιο Κύπελλο. [Eícha pollí̱ diaskédasi̱ sí̱mera. Ti̱n epómeni̱ forá pou tha synanti̱thoúme, tha boroúse na eínai to Pankósmio Kýpello./I had a lot of fun today. The next time we meet, it might be in the World Cup.]"

"T-the World Cup?" Keiko asked bewildered

"Έχετε ό, τι χρειάζεται. Έτσι, σας δούμε εκεί; [Échete ó, ti chreiázetai. Étsi, sas doúme ekeí?/You have what it takes. So, see you there?]" Angeliki asked holding out her hand for Keiko to shake

"You just might." Keiko replied shaking Angeliki's hand

At a restaurant later that evening, both the boys and girls teams, and Keiko's family, had gathered to celebrate her first representative victory.

"Here's to Keiko's first victory with Nadeshiko Japan!" said Suzuka holding up a glass of juice

"Cheers!" everyone chorused, and people still continued to pat Keiko on the back for the win.

"I can just see you representing Japan at the next world cup." said Yuki

"Angeliki seems to be expecting me to play. And I think I just might." Keiko replied.

While everyone was celebrating, Kakeru and Nana were still concerned about Keiko's sudden use of her uncle's moves during the match. And Nana alone as concerned about Mai's pregnancy, that she revealed to her earlier.

World Stage Debut :Previous Chapter«Home»Next Chapter: Suguru's Reincarnation?

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