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Learning to be Free

Thursday May 1st;

It had been nearly a month since Keiko and Saito became engaged to marry. The fuss everyone was making had finally settled down and everyone as working their hardest. With the Olympic Trials fast approaching, Keiko was determined to get back to her top form in the coming month.

How's everyone doing?" Taeko asked coach Akinobu Nishihara (明信 西原). Taeko, who had Yuki with her by chance, had come to Nittaidai to check on Keiko, Suzuka, and the other prospective members of the possible Olympic Squad.

"Everyone's splendid." said Nishihara, just then noticing Yuki "Aren't you Aizawa's friend? The one who failed to get in this year and the year before?"

"Yeah, that's me." said Yuki, who decided to pretend she didn't hear that last part "I ran into Ishiki-san by chance on my way here."

"We came to check on everyone." said Taeko as the watched the team practice non-stop "Keiko and Suzuka are both prospective members of the Olympic Squad this summer, and Kishitani-san and Togashi-san have expressed their intentions to take the trials as well. Mai recommended them both for Nadeshiko Japan, but things have been a bit hectic for the last few months and the process is slow this time. On another note, I heard Keiko got engaged."

"It's the truth." said Yuki

"Ever since then, she's been a lot happier." said Nishihara "Her game's coming back too. In fact, she's been the life and soul of the team. She's no longer making selfish plays, but she's passing to her teammates and making assists more often. Anyone who called her trash over the last several months is likely to feel stupid right now." at that moment, they watched as Keiko lost the ball, lost her balance, fell forward and rolled three times before stopping in the goal "However, she's not back to her top form yet, and that seems to be frustrating her. After careful examination, I've concluded that she's gotten a little... how do I say it... stiff? It's like she forgetting about enjoying herself. And the fact that the trials are just a month away is only making it worse."

"She does do that." said Yuki, who knew Keiko best "Perhaps she needs a breather. Something to take her mind off her goals and she can enjoy herself. Something fun." Yuki thought hard, and an idea suddenly popped into her head. An even that was due to take place the following week.

Three days later, Sunday May 4th;

On the first Sunday of May, Yuki called over Michiru and they both went up to Keiko and Saito's room to propose the idea they had.

"Do you really think Keiko-nee will go for it?" Michiru asked as the ascended the stairs

"Knowing her, she'll need some persuading." Yuki replied "And since when do you call her 'Keiko-nee'?"

"Since Onii-chan proposed to her. On a related note, you should find a man yourself."

"Shut up." Yuki replied

The two girls came to just outside the couple's door. Yuki heard a strange moaning from inside and, noticing the door wasn't locked, opened it a crack. What she was mind-busting. Keiko, naked from the waist down was leaning her back against the sink and Saito, also nude from the waist down, had his face in Keiko's crotch.

"That's so good, Saito." Keiko moaned

"You two." Yuki interjected, startling them both, causing Saito to blow hard onto Keiko

"Yuki! Don't startle us like that!" said Keiko after she kneed Saito back from the uncomfortable gust

"Learn to lock the door when you do that!" Yuki replied as she closed the door

"Were they in the middle of it?" Michiru asked with a sly smile

"Shut up!" Yuki repeated

They only had to wait a few minutes before Keiko, fully clothed now, let them in.

"You should've knocked." Keiko told them when they sat down in the main room

"Serves you right for doing that sort of thing in the kitchen without locking the door." Yuki replied "And in broad daylight I might add."

"Enough you two." said Saito as he set four cups of tea on the table "It's Sunday, so we weren't expecting anyone. You could've called or texted first."

"We live in the same building."

"Anyway, what brings you here on a Sunday?" Keiko asked

"You been a little stiff and stressed lately, so we've come up with a way to help you let loose again." said Michiru

"Such as?" Yuki reached inside her bag and pulled out a flyer with the legend "WNBR 2036 横浜経由せ [WNBR 2036 going through Yokohama.]" across the top. On the bottom was "土曜日5月10日 [Saturday May 10]" and below that was "鶴見区での起動 [Starting in Tsurumi-ku]". And in the middle were pictures of people, totally or partially naked, riding bikes down a street "WNBR?"

"The World Naked Bike Ride is going through Yokohama this year." said Yuki "It'll be starting in Tsurumi-ku and going along the coast down to Kanazawa-ku."

"My answer is no." said Keiko, handing the flyer back to Yuki

"I haven't even given my proposal yet!"

"But you were going to suggest I participate as well? Absolutely not."

"C'mon, Keiko-nee. It'll be fun." said Michiru "I've gone every year since I was seven."

"I was wondering where you disappear to when you say you're going on a trip with friends every year." said Saito

"Riding bikes down streets stark naked does not sound like fun!" Keiko snapped "It's embarrassing!"

"Keiko-nee, you're too uptight about that." said Michiru "Nudity's nothing to be ashamed of. That's the whole purpose of the ride, and other clothing-optional events."

"I thought the point of the ride was to protest the use of fossil fuels by riding human powered transport naked."

"That's how it started, sure, but in recent years more and more people are going for fun." said Yuki

"Doesn't Japan have strict anti-public nudity laws dating back to the mid-1800's?" Saito asked

"Most people don't even know they exist anymore." said Yuki "These days, the law has been relaxed to the point it's obsolete."

"You're exaggerating." Saito replied

"Okay, maybe I am." Yuki admitted

"Nudist resorts and facilities have been popping up all over Japan in the last decade." said Michiru "I have a friend my age in Hokkaido who is the eldest daughter of a horse ranch. She and her family are nudists as well and they offer clothing-optional horseback riding to visitors during the spring and summer. And down in southern Kyushu and Okinawa, swimming and sunbathing nude is practically the norm now."

"The 'norm'?" Keiko replied skeptically

"Okay, so it's limited and restricted to certain out-of-the-way beaches. But it's been gaining public acceptance in the last 10-15 years."

"You've made your point." said Keiko "But I'm still not going. Why are you suggesting this anyway, Yuki? If you're so interested in going, why not go yourself?"

"I am going. I already filled out a leave of absence for Saturday, and let my boss know where I'll be. I'm asking you to come as well because I want to give you a chance to let loose and enjoy yourself, since you don't seem to be having any fun on the pitch."

"Maybe going nude in the open might be comfortable for the two of you, but it's embarrassing for me."

"This coming from the girl who took a job as a gradol." said Michiru, displaying a picture of a bikini-clad Keiko in a magazine Keiko appeared in some time ago

Keiko snatched the magazine away in anger and embarrassment "This and that are two different things! And I model more than swimsuits y'know!"

"Kei-chan, the dress code motto is 'bare as you dare', meaning the event is clothing optional." said Yuki "Being fully nude is encouraged but not mandatory. If you want to wear a swimsuit or something, that's fine."

"But...." Keiko struggled to find another argument, and finally caught one "I'm one of the ten most popular female players in Japan today, and a known model. If I go and I'm recognized, it may cause an uproar, and I may be wiped from the potential Olympic roster. The last thing I need now is a scandal."

"I already let everyone know. Ishiki-san, coach Nishihara, and your modeling bosses, Fujibayashi-san and Itaru-san was it? They won't let any such thing happen. And if you don't want to be recognized, paint your face."

"Body painting is popular at WNBR." said Michiru

"Further, at least two hundred people will be participating. No one's going to look twice at you." said Yuki "I don't know why you're so embarrassed about being seen naked. It's happened before, and I'm sure Saito-kun sees your bare body every day."

"That was always in the school locker rooms!" Keiko snapped "And what Saito and I do in our apartment is none of your business!"

"Uh... Keiko." said Saito

"What?!"

"They're just trying to help you. So it doesn't seem like such a bad idea." Keiko gawked at Saito, hardly able to believe what she just heard "How 'bout this; will it make you more comfortable if I go with you?"

Keiko looked from Saito to the girls, who were wearing superior faces, several times. Finally, after what looked like a painful minute of decision making, Keiko gave in.

"(sigh) Fine.... I'll go." Yuki and Michiru did a double high-five in victory "But I'm wearing my swimsuit!"

"Bare as you dare." said Michiru

After agreeing to meet up at Kamakura Station at 6:00am on Saturday, Yuki and Michiru took their leave.

"I can't believe I let them rope me into this." Keiko moaned as she stripped naked and posed on the bed for a drawing Saito was going to do "And why did you agree to it?"

"You really have been looking a bit stiff and stressed lately." Saito replied as he started drawing "It would help you if you could be in that atmosphere. All the freedom it inspires."

"Your grandmother is bringing some of your old nudist feelings back to the surface, isn't she?"

"There... uhmm... may be some truth in that." Saito admitted with embarrassment "However...."

"What?"

"For someone who complained about embarrassment being nude, you strip without question if I ask for a nude portrait. Maybe my family's naturism is rubbing off on you."

"Don't flatter yourself unnecessarily, Dan'na. One wrong word and I'll never pose nude for you again!"

"Sumimasen!" Saito cried on his hands and knees

"Th-that's not necessary either!" Keiko said hastily

Saturday, May 10th;

Throughout the week, during which Keiko trained almost non-stop, Keiko found herself wishing that Saturday wouldn't come. However, with no way to back out, Keiko and Saito woke up at 5:30 and met Yuki and Michiru at Kamakura Station.

"Why do we need to go so early when the event doesn't start till 11:00?" Keiko asked through a yawn

"We're not the only ones doing so. The idea is to arrive at the designated starting point in an almost thoroughly 'human-powered' way. The ride started out as a way to promote nudity equality and to protest the use of fossil fuels. It would set a bad example to arrive by car and the like." Michiru explained "So we're getting up early, taking the train as close as we can, then walking the rest of the way. Another way of looking at it is that we're going early to avoid the Saturday rush hour."

"Since we couldn't bring bikes on the train, I've rented a couple bikes for the three of us in Kanagawa-ku, while Michiru-chan's participating with roller-blades." said Yuki while Michiru displayed her inline skates

Once they arrived in Kanagawa-ku, they found the bike-rental shop Yuki had rented two bikes from, one for her and one for Saito and Keiko to ride together. The three college kids rode the rest of the way while Michiru used her skates. They arrived at the designated starting point in Tsurumi-ku at 7:17, by then only a few number or people had shown up already.

"Maybe we could've come a bit later." said Keiko

"No, we arrived at the perfect time." said Michiru

Keiko looked around at the fifty people who had already arrived. Most were still clothed, others were wearing only a robe. Keiko could only imagine what things would look like as more and more people showed up over the next few hours.

"How many people did you say were coming?" Saito asked Michiru

"These days, over two- maybe three hundred." Michiru replied "Remember my Hokkaido friend I told you about, she's going to be here too." Just then, Keiko spotted a couple cops and pointed them out "Don't worry about them."

"They're guiding the ride down our designated route." Yuki told her "No one's going to get arrested."

"That's true." said a cop that walked up to them "As usual, this event was prearranged with the full cooperation from local law enforcement, and the City of Yokohama. Don't worry about us and just enjoy yourselves." the cop walked off at that

"See?" said Yuki, but Keiko still looked apprehensive "Don't worry about it and just have some fun!"

"How 'bout we go have breakfast in a nearby diner?" Saito suggested "It's better not to ride on an empty stomach. Food might help you calm down too."

"Agreed." said Michiru

Glad of an excuse to get away from the area for a bit, Keiko agreed as well.

They went back to the starting point at 8:30 after having breakfast. By then a lot more people were arriving. At 9:00, Michiru's Hokkaido friend arrived as well, and Michiru introduced her as Hajime Okabayashi. By 10:00, many people were starting to get into the spirit and stripping, including Michiru and Hajime. Since Keiko didn't know where to look anymore, she took a look around. The majority were nude, but many were still wore some article of clothing. Keiko also discovered that Michiru was right about body painting; a lot of people had painted themselves partly or entirely. Some painted some sort of slogan on their body, other just a plain picture.

"It's getting closer and closer to time. We should get undressed too." said Yuki

"Right." Keiko said in an unenthusiastic voice, as Michiru and Hajime, already naked, rolled past them on their blades.

Keiko was already wearing her swimsuit under her clothes. As Keiko stripped, she glanced around nervously. Finally, she was down to just her swimsuit, while Yuki was nude.

"Mi-chan." said Hajime "Yer bro and sister-'n-law 'er like som'thin' outta a paintin'!"

"What's with that accent?" Keiko thought "Michiru said Hajime was from Hokkaido, but that's just ridiculous." Keiko glanced at Saito and realized that he was nude too "Saito, I thought we agreed that you'd wear a swimsuit too!"

"What's the big deal?" Saito replied

"But...." Keiko looked around nervously

"Kei-chan." said Yuki "This is what I was talking about. You're being too uptight. Good grief, I can hear your heartbeat from here, you need to relax."

"But...."

"Relax." Yuki repeated "There's nothing to be nervous or ashamed about. Take deep breaths, and relax."

Keiko did as Yuki said and breathed several times. Saito grabbed her hand on the fifth time, and it was this that finally managed to calm Keiko down. "Maybe Yuki's right. I've been too stressed an uptight lately." After finally managing to slow down her heart, Keiko calmly, yet still nervously, started to strip out of her swimsuit to be nude along with the others. But just as she undid her swimsuit bra, a familiar foreign voice rang out to them.

"Saito!" yelled a female voice with an Italian accent. The girl was a nude Juliet Abbatucci, one of Saito's childhood friends from Italy, who they had not seen since they graduated from Enoshima "Sapevo che saresti venuto qui! [I knew you'd come here!]" Juliet exclaimed, hugging Saito's arm

"Juliet?!" Saito replied, Keiko was frozen as she saw Juliet press Saito's arm between her naked breasts

"Oh, here we go." Yuki muttered

"Who's that?" Hajime asked Michiru

"Juliet Abbatucci, an old friend of ours."

"Yo, Saito!" said Juliet's brother Romeo "Nice to see ya."

"We're participating too!" said Juliet

Keiko registered that they had practiced their Japanese well, but didn't care. She snapped at the sight of Juliet not letting go of Saito "Get your hands," she threw her bra on the ground "off my," she stepped out of her bikini bottom "husband!" Keiko grabbed Saito's other arm and put it in her own breasts

"Husband?! Since when?" Juliet asked

"We're not married yet, but we will be in a few months!" Keiko exclaimed

"Should we say som'thin'?" Hajime asked Michiru

"Just leave them be." Michiru replied

"When did you propose?" Romeo asked

"Last month." Saito replied, who was getting embarrassed that two naked girls were fighting over him "I noticed you two perfected your Japanese."

"We did. Spent almost three years learning every- ow, ow, ow-" Yuki dragged Romeo away by the ear

"Kei-chan's been stressed and uptight lately, so I made Kei-chan come here to relax and you two aren't helping! Get a hold of of your sister!"

Romeo, under Yuki's mean stare, heeded her and dragged Juliet away by the elbow, to Juliet's protest.

"She hasn't changed, has she?" said Yuki

"I hate her." said Keiko

"But at least one good thing came out of it?"

"And what would that be?!" Keiko snapped

"You're perfectly calm now."

Keiko suddenly realized that she was right.

With the ride about to start, Keiko put her swimsuit in her bag, got on the bike behind Saito and held him around the middle, holding him close and pressing her breasts against his back. "I can't believe I'm completely calm now." Keiko thought just before the starting signal blew "I was so embarrassed to do this, but I'm not anymore. Much as I hate her, I guess Juliet's useful for something after all."

The starting signal was given, and the people up front began to move. In a few minutes the procession was far enough gone that Keiko's group started moving. Once they started speeding up a bit more, Keiko realized something incredible; As they moved down the designated roads, Keiko felt the warm late-Spring air flowing all around her naked body.

"What's this feeling?!" Keiko thought. They weren't going that fast, but all the sound around her seemed to have been silenced "The warm air is wrapping around my body." Keiko lifted herself from Saito's back to feel the air current better "It feels incredible! Like I'm flying though the air, free and unchained!" Keiko moved her hands from Saito's waist to his shoulders "It's unlike anything I've ever felt before! Is this what nudists feel when they do nude recreation?" Keiko closed her eyes and felt the wind around her, unable to get enough.

Keiko joyfully experienced the new feeling all the way down Yokohama's coast, although they were diverted around Naka-ku, as the ride wasn't permitted to go through the administrative center.

As they approached their finish line in Kanazawa-ku, two hours after the ride began, Keiko felt a sense of disappointment that the ride couldn't have lasted longer, and looking around she realized she wasn't the only one.

"Well?" Yuki and Michiru asked as they got dressed after the ride finished

"Well what?" Keiko replied

"How was it?" Yuki asked

"I've never felt anything like it. It's like I was... I don't know how to explain it... but I feel a whole lot better." Yuki patted Keiko's back, apparently satisfied.

Once they were dressed again, they decided to head to Hagashihama beach to enjoy the rest of their Saturday. They were joined by Romeo and Juliet, the latter of which seemed determined to shift Saito's attention to her.

"NO! Dimitte me ludere cum Saito! [NO! Let me play with Saito!]" Juliet exclaimed as Yuki and Michiru dragged her away, followed by Hajime, leaving Keiko, Saito and Romeo there beneath the bridge

"Sorry my sister's such a handful." said Romeo

"Don't be. That's who she is." said Saito

"And thanks for dragging her away before the ride started." said Keiko

"No problem. So... you two are getting married?"

"And my grandmother's footing the bill for our wedding." said Saito

"In any case, just my way of congratulating you two, but how 'bout a double-portrait of you two. I brought my sketch pad."

The couple looked at each other and smiled. Saito and Keiko then posed for a double-portrait of them done by Romeo.

Monday May 12th;

"How are things going?" Taeko asked coach Nishihara when she turned up to watch the club practice

"Everyone's working hard as usual." said Nishihara "But Keiko's almost unrecognizable."

"What do you mean?" Taeko looked out at the field; The team was doing evasion drills. One by one, a single person would dribble their way past a team of ten to test their evasion ability, and now it was Keiko's turn. Keiko dribbled the ball down the field, passing each and every one of them like they weren't even there, making remarkable turns and evading even the trickiest of feints. What was more, she was smiling. "Looks like Keiko's finally got her rhythm back completely." Taeko said as Keiko put the ball in the net with ease "She really looked like she was enjoying herself, I haven't seen that smile on her face since Kakeru-kun's retirement game."

"Looks like Nonomiya knew what she was doing. I guess WNBR had a positive effect on her." said Nishihara

"Although she still has to take the trials, even I can tell that she will easily earn her spot on the Olympic team now."

Now that Keiko had gotten her spirit back completely, she, and everyone else, were looking forward to the Olympic Trials.

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