Chapter 12

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The heavy drops fell on his head and dripped down his face. But the boy didn't clean them. He didn't even care. All he cared was the girl running away from him. Don't let her go, don't let her go, Taiyou told himself.

He clenched both fists so hard his knuckles lost its color. Go after her... call her... Go after her! The boy opened his mouth, but no sound came out. He didn't even move. All he did was stay where he was, watching the back of the girl he liked going further and further from him in complete silence.

I'm an idiot, he cursed himself. Even though he knew he was wrong, Taiyou didn't move his legs after Tsukiko. Why did she have to say that... about the upperclassmen... and about... about him... The rain poured down his face without a break, but despite the cold water, the boy felt warm as the tears came down his cheeks. Why... why...

The heavy and hard silence filled the locker room. There were more than thirty people in the Teikou's soccer club, but nobody spoke anything. No one dared to break the silence and make reality come crushing down over their heads.

That wasn't the only reason. Even if there was no way to change the reality of their elimination, Taiyou knew everyone felt the same. No one in there had any idea what to say. Even their coach and supervisor was the same. He had a dejected expression as he stared at nothing, without even sighing.

Taiyou was the same. With his mind blank, all the boy did was stare at the floor, his chest going up and down as the emptiness and numbness grew inside him. He had no idea how much time had passed. Could be ten minutes, could be an hour, he didn't know nor care. Because the moment anyone spoke or left the locker room, that team that worked so hard for so long would never play together again.

As if breaking the collective trance, the coach took a deep breath that echoed in the locker room. He kept his head down as everyone turned to him. He leaned forward but before he stood up or said anything, the captain looked at him. They exchanged a long and full of meaning glance. Then the teacher nodded and sat back on the chair.

The captain looked around the room, meeting the eyes of those who didn't avert their gazes, before taking a deep breath. "We lost," he almost shouted in one breath, as if to get it out.

Taiyou winced and almost cried as the harsh reality of those two simple words hit him. But he didn't look away. The captain wasn't crying, though everyone could tell he was holding back the tears.

"We lost," he said again, "but we shouldn't lower our heads. Not even for a second. They were, no, they're better than us, and might even go to the national again. We knew that from the beginning, but we fought until the very end."

Taiyou kept quiet like everyone else. Because he knew what the captain would say next. Please, don't... The boy couldn't stop the tears this time.

"Even though we lost... we should be proud of ourselves..." The captain could no longer hold the tears now, but he never closed his eyes. Even the coach lowered his head and hid his face with a hand. "Never forget this!"

"Captain..." the students' voices echoed in the locker room.

The other third years looked between themselves, cleaned their tears and walked to the captain. They stood side by side with their hands behind their backs. "We're couldn't be prouder for leaving the future of Teikou in your hands!" No one in the locker room could hold the tears now. Even the coach couldn't keep his composure. "Thank you for everything so far!"

"Captain... guys... " Taiyou's voice joined the others through the tears.

Even though they still had games on the second semester, the third years wouldn't play anymore. They would stop their club activities to focus on the studies for high school exams as of tomorrow. Teikou soccer club would lose almost half the starting players. But that loss wasn't the reason for the tears.

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