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The Ultimate Challenge
Part Nine: The Turning Point

Tsubasa is taking a deep nap, diving within the references of his brain's Master System. He dreamt of his teen years when he blazed like a flaring star in the skies of soccer fame. It was a very beautiful night sleep. Though the next morning, his room phone began to ring out of the blue.

Tsubasa<half asleep>:"Hello?!"

Saleem:"Listen to me you eye less freak!! Don't play games with me! Tell me where have you taken my sister?!"

Tsubasa:"What?! What games? What sister?? Better yet, how in the hell did you get my room number??"

Saleem:"None of your business! Don't lie to me Ozora! You know what I'm talking about..."

Tsubasa:"To tell you the truth, I'm completely lost! Please elaborate!"

Saleem:"I called my residence back in my country just to check upon my sister. No one was picking up the phone. I really had a wrong feeling about this. I knew it was a trap for me set up by one of those soccer clubs that want my head so badly, and I figured out that it might be AJAX. We don't want to bring the authorities into this now, do we?"

Tsubasa:"Saleem, listen. I had no idea about this till now! You have to believe me man! Why would I abduct your sister for crying out loud? I don't have time for this! Heck, I can't even find a proper place to spend the night in these days! Think hard...Who did you REALLY REALLY piss off in order to push him to this extent?"

Saleem:"The thing is that I have hurt so many people, it's difficult to focus on one individual. That's why I figured out it might be the whole club."

Tsubasa:"Hey man, be sensible. What kind of a SPIRITED Soccer Club would commit such a felony? They're involved in soccer events, not hijacking conspiracies!"

Saleem:"<sigh>, I guess you're right...Oh my dear sister! How can I rest when I know that you're living in Hell??"

Tsubasa can hear Saleem's faint sob over the phone. He'd never expected that such a ruthless beast was capable of crying. He just couldn't believe it!

Tsubasa:"No man! Don't do this to me, please. I can't handle emotional moments, really. Listen, I know that she's fine. Just trust me on this one. Have faith!"

Saleem:"Yes...Besides, her name means "Remarkable Faith", how ironic! Hehehehehe!"

Tsubasa:"Yeah! That's my man! See? There's no reason for you to torture yourself!"

Saleem:"Thank you Tsubasa! You really have brightened my day! Sorry for waking you up so early in the morning. I guess I better leave you in peace..."

Tsubasa:"All right Saleem! You take care of yourself."

Saleem:"I will..."

Tsubasa:"Oh, I forgot. I just want to say that you should begin practicing your soccer, because three weeks from now, I'll kick your butt so hard you'll forget that you had one from the first place!"

Saleem:"Oooooh! I'm scared! Can't wait to see who'll kick the other's butt Ozora! Hahahahaha!! Bye!"

Tsubasa couldn't sleep anymore, so he got out of bed and prepared himself for the special visit at the hospital. He took a TAXI and went straight away to see poor Nitta. Besides, he was really curious about the whole thing. While he was pondering at the back of his "veggie", the TAXI comes to a screeching halt. Tsubasa pays the driver a lump of doe and gets through the asylum's main entrance. He found his way to the specified ward wing that Nitta is residing in. He got in the room, and began to scan the patients' faces. Viola! Target Found!

Nitta is dead quiet. Tsubasa is shocked to the bones! He never expected to find his former teammate so messed up!

Tsubasa<confused>:"Why is he wearing lipstick??"

Then he hears someone calling him from behind.



They ran towards each other and hugged tightly. Seconds later, Tsubasa began to see a marching army coming right in his direction.

Tsubasa:"Wow!! This is unbelievable! Izawa, Hajime, Kisugi and the rest are all here?! I must be dreaming! ISHIZAKI! Pinch me man!!"

Ishizaki:"No, Tsubasa kun...You're not dreaming. We're all here to visit our unfortunate friend over there!"

Tsubasa:"Yeah, what happened to our unfortunate friend over there??"

Izawa:"Well, Tsubasa, it's a very long story..."

Hajime:"Yeah. Besides, we don't want to re-experience the whole trauma again! It's just too painful to think of the past..."

Tsubasa<confused>:"I'm really lost now!"

Ishizaki bursts out in tears all of a sudden, runs towards Kisugi, and cries over his chest!


Kisugi:"Ryo here is the one responsible for Syun's severe condition."

Takasugi:"He used to bug Nitta around, saying that the Tsubasa Cool List thinks of him as a transsexual. He took it lightly at first, but Ishizaki kept pushing it on how he finds it quite convincing. Poor Syun! He's a terribly sensitive guy! It's been three years now, and as you can see, he still wears Christian Dior cosmetics."

Ishizaki<trembling>:"It's his favorite makeup..<sniff>..."

Tsubasa:"This is bad...REAL BAD!"

Ishizaki breaks into flowing tears!

Izawa:"Stop it Tsubasa! You're making poor Ryo over here feel more guilty!"

Tsubasa:"Oh, right! Sorry Ishizaki kun..."

Ishizaki:"Let's just stop feeling sorry and think about a solution people! <SNIFF>!"

Kisugi:"What kind of a solution would that be?"

Takasugi:"Yeah! Besides, the doctors said that there isn't any hope of him getting better. It's a permanent state!"

Tsubasa:"I'm really fresh out of ideas myself..."

Then suddenly, they hear another voice at the door.

Soda:"Maybe I can straighten things out."

All<except Nitta>:"SODA!!!"

Soda<arrogantly>:"That's Dr. Soda, if you don't mind."

Tsubasa:"Over confident I see...Never changed huh?"

Soda:"Well, NO, other than I got my Ph.D.. in a shattering world wide time record."

Izawa<ironicly>:"Now we're sure that you never changed!"

Soda:"I've just received Nitta's case today. I worked on it for quite a while, and I think that I have reached a solution."

Ishizaki:"Oh, doctor! Please do tell us about it! Will it really make Nitta feel well again?"

Tsubasa<to Ryo>:"Oh, stop acting as if you're starring in a corny "General Hospital" episode, will you?! Sheesh! So enough talk, let's walk the walk!"

Soda:"Exactly my thought. All right, before we begin anything, I just want to warn those with a weak heart that the following procedure might cause a disruptive impact upon their mental functionality."

Hajime<hinting on Ryo>:"Yeah, some of us might blow up in a never-ending crying frenzy!"

Ishizaki:"Hey! Why is everyone staring at me like that?!"

They all broke into a whole heartedly laughter.

Soda:"Here we go!"

Soda steps up to Nitta, holds his head and gives him a prolonged french smooch! Everyone puked in a moment's notice!


Kisugi<to Takasugi>:"NO! Not on my brand new Polo shirt! You puked on it, you bought it pal!"

Izawa<disgusted>:"Man! You're GAY!"

Tsubasa:"And it didn't work too..."

Soda<staggered>:"I...I..don't understand! It was supposed to work! This is impossible!"

Ishizaki:"Hadn't it occurred to you that Nitta MIGHT be gay?! Knock Knock! Is there anyone up there?!"

Soda:"Quit making fun of me you hairless monkey! How should I've known that he's actually gay?? They didn't mention that in his report!"

Tsubasa:"Ok, I have an idea! This time, it will work!"

Tsubasa walks towards Nitta and sits on the side of his bed. He then shouts at him to the top of his lungs.


Soda:"Keep it down Ozora! You startled the whole ward!"


Izawa:"I think that Tsubasa is the one who needs a critical treatment!"

Hajime:"Boy, did he go KoOKo or what?!"

To their sheer astonishment, however, Nitta's facial muscles began to tense in front of everyone. His eyes glared like fire, he clenched his fists tightly and began to show a faint smile. Syun was in the game at last!

Soda:"I can't believe this! He really thinks he's in the soccer field! This is a breakthrough in psychological therapy!"

Tsubasa:"He's runnin', ladies and gentlemen, at 9.8 meters per second! He reached the goal and Ozora passes him a long one! SHOOT SYUN! Get it in the goal and lead your team to the World Cup! DO YOU REALLY WANT IT?!"


Syun gets on his feet and jumps off his bed twisting in mid-air, throwing a killer round-house at Ishizaki's face, mistaking it for a soccer ball!


Ishizaki falls helpless on the floor with a thunderous thud.

Nitta:"WOW! I really needed that! What is this place?? Hey guys! Long time no see! How have you been?"

Soda<astonished>:"A miracle!"

Izawa<surprised>:"You're telling me?!"

Tsubasa:"Hey! What do you know? It worked!"

Nitta:"Who are we playing against next week?"

Kisugi:"Don't bother Syun kun, the league ended three years ago."

Nitta:"What?! How come?! What YEAR IS IT??"

Ishizaki<hurt>:"UFF! We're in the year 2002. Thanks to me!"

Nitta:"What are you talking about? What did you do to shift the calendar dates like that??"

Tsubasa:"Let us not worry about that right now. Nitta kun, here's your chance to play against one of the most toughest teams in the world. Take this number to call Gamou san and tell him that you're ready to join the Japanese National Team once more. This an opportunity that you can prove yourself to be an ace player!"

Nitta:"Hey! COOL! Sure I'll join the team! My guess is, we're gonna kick some butt!"

Tsubasa:"That's the spirit! Oh! You too Soda kun! Take the number."

Soda:"Thank you Tsubasa! Playing a match or two won't hurt the schedule down here. Man it's great to get another chance to play ball again!"

Takasugi:"Uh, what about us?"

Tsubasa:"What about you??"

Kisugi:"We want to play too!"

Tsubasa:"Katagiri san says that you people aren't that important."

Ishizaki:"What?? How dare he say that? After all these years...TRAITOR!"

Izawa:"Now, Now! Let's all be calm about this. I'm sure that if we give them a short visit they'd change their minds. What do you say people?"

Hajime:"I second that. They can't say NO to our faces after all of the things we've done to our country! Besides, refusing a group is not an advisable thing to do."

Tsubasa:"Well, do whatever you guys want to do, but keep me out of it. I still have three more to go; Jito, Sano and Wakabayashi. Any ideas where I can find them folks?"

Soda:"Jito and Sano kun are working in this hospital!"

Tsubasa:"Wow! When did they become doctors? What's their specialty?"



Soda:"They're janitors."

Tsubasa:"I see. Oh well, I guess I would be asking much of you if you give them the number of Gamou san, wouldn't I?"

Soda:"That's fine with me, Captain."

Tsubasa:"Great! Now all I need is our No. 1 GK!"

Izawa:"He's in Germany. We don't know his address, nor the city he lives in."

Tsubasa:"Oh! That's a problem! I can't go to Germany! I guess we can play without him, since I've met with Wakashimazu kun earlier. We can use old Morisaki as a sub!"

Takasugi:"Sure! I'll give him a call!"

Tsubasa:"Well, that settles everything. My mission has ended! I'll see you all the day after tomorrow, in the soccer camp back in Tokyo. Sayounara!"

All:"Sayounara Tsubasa kun!"

Meanwhile, somewhere on the hillsides of Germany, Saleem is waiting for someone in the main hall of the palace he is in. It's been an hour and a half, but the Top Butler shows up at last.


Butler:"The Master will see you in a minute. Please be patient."

Saleem:"Patience is a Virtue..."

After a couple of minutes(so much for precision!), a huge door at the end of the hall opens up. Saleem can't make anything out of what's at  the other side. It's pitch dark! He steps towards the doorway and then stops due to a commanding voice.

Voice:"Stop where you are. Yes, that's perfect! Well, start speaking, you know that I'm a very busy man!"

Saleem:"Greetings. I come forth to propose you a lucrative offer."

Voice:"Oh? A businessman I see. When did you pursue this profession Saleem? All this time I've known you as a causer of problems for me!'

Saleem:"I apologize and am grateful for all the things you have done for me."

Voice:"Don't bother. Now, the proposal..."

Saleem:"Yes. Word says the former Japan National Team members are joining force against my private team. They will host a match against us a week from now."

A moment of utter silence breaks loose, even death can be heard.

Voice:"Is that so? What does it have to do with me?"

Saleem:"I was wondering if you could join our team. That way we'll assure our success over them.We'll also transfer an amount of DM.3,490,607 to your bank account as a payment in advance. the rest will be transferred to you when we win the match."

Voice:"Why do you think that I'm any value to your team?"

Saleem kept silent for a moment, and then he said...

Saleem:"Because you are the only one who stopped all of my shots without shedding a single drop of sweat. What do you say? Will you accept my offer?"
Voice:"Not bad. All right, you've got yourself a spectacular deal. In fact, it's so spectacular you don't have to pay me anything to play with you."

Saleem<staggered>:"What?? Are you serious?!"

Voice:"You've heard me right. I don't need your money. You will see how I will make your opponents so miserable that they would prefer to live in Hell than to stay on the soccer field."

Saleem felt a cold shiver passing through his body. The guy really scared him when he said that.
Voice:"Now, if you excuse me, there are some businesses that I have to 'shut down'. It's a good hobby of mine. Thank you for the pleasant visit! HOAHOAHOAHOAHOAHOAHOAHOA!"

The doors closed violently in Saleem's face, causing an avalanching sound in the whole wing. Saleem puts a sly smile on his lips and follows the Top Butler to the gate.


 Part Ten