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Never Say Die

April was at its end for the year. The new first years on Keiko's team were adjusting by the day, and practice was getting better and better. Yet, despite an early success on the team, Keiko still couldn't drive away from her mind the thought that; in less than two months, a promising, yet never-before-done, surgery for Kakeru would either succeed or fail. Failure would mean that Keiko and her siblings would have to say goodbye to their father sooner than they would like, and Yusha would never know him. Keiko knew there was a chance of success, but she just couldn't bring herself to be optimistic about it.

Saturday April 30;

Keiko and Saito were on their way to the Aizawa house for dinner after a successful practice game earlier that day.

"You're late!" Chloe said when she answered the door to Keiko and Saito

"I thought you told me at New Year's that you would move out within a few months." Keiko replied as they stepped over the threshold and removed their shoes

"I've been looking for a place, but I've had no luck!" Chloe replied closing the door behind them "Are you really so eager to get rid of me?" Chloe asked as they moved into the dining room

"I just don't want you to trouble my parents anymore." Keiko replied as they sat at the table

"Give it a rest, sweetheart." said Nana as she set down plates for dinner "We've told you before it's no problem."

"Chloe-san told us that today's practice game was spectacular!" said Ryo

"She was right, you should've seen it." said Saito

"The first years are really getting the hang of things. Yukari and Mai are starting to have an image of the girls they're gonna put on the starting lineup, which will no doubt include your's truly." said Keiko

"Keiko, ne vante pas. [don't brag.]" said Chloe

"Kakeru-san not eating with us again?" Saito asked

"Papa's been tired lately." said Ryo

"I hope that surgery succeeds." said Hiroki

"That's right." said Koichi

"What is it, Koichi?" Keiko asked

"I saw Daddy sneak out shortly before you and Saito-onii-chan got here."

"He did WHAT!?" Keiko exclaimed, jumping up from the table. Keiko ran to the door, put her shoes on and bolted out to look for Kakeru. The first place that came to mind was that special park of theirs. Sure enough, when Keiko arrived, she found Kakeru practicing with the ball "WHAT ARE YOU DOING, PAPA!?" Keiko shouted, running in and grabbing the ball before Kakeru could do any more "You shouldn't be out here! Especially doing something like this! You can't overexert yourself!"

"Says the girl who broke out of the house to play in the finals while she still had a fever." Kakeru replied slyly, which Keiko didn't flinch to

"It's not the same! You have cancer! Do you wanna die before you have a chance to have that surgery?!"

"You knew about that?" Kakeru asked, and this time Keiko did flinch

"M-mom told us." Keiko replied, her voice back to normal. before talking more, the two of them sat down on the swings "Papa, I'm serious, don't worry me like that."

"I'm sorry. But an active player like myself isn't meant to just sit at home and do nothing." said Kakeru

"I know that, but...."

"So Nana told you about the surgery. The actual chances of success is only 40%. I was a bit reluctant to accept such a risky operation, but some chance is better than none."

"If you know that, why push yourself before it even happens?"

"Because I've become a bit a of a risk taker."

"Don't joke about that!"

"Keiko, haven't you known me long enough to know what kind of a man I am? Even injured, you already saw me battling excruciating pain to score the winning goal that would make my team and my country win in the past. I never told it, but I was really proud of you when I saw that same fighting spirit in you in June last year, although I was angry you disobeyed us in the first place."

"I know that! It's... It's just that I don't wanna lose you that way! I'm actually against the surgery entirely!" Keiko exclaimed

"Against it? Why?" Kakeru inquired "That surgery is my best bet at surviving this thing."

"You weren't expected to live to this August, having it in June is cutting it awfully close! The thought of you dying on an operating table hurts my heart even more than watching you die from the cancer itself!" Keiko was starting to let out the tears she was holding back "I don't wanna lose you! I don't want Yusha to grow up not knowing you! I don't want you to die!"

As Keiko's feelings of grief started to overcome her, Kakeru got up from his swing, kneeled in front of Keiko, kissed her forehead, and hugged her

♫ If you leap awake in the mirror of a bad dream. ♫
♫ And for a fraction of a second you can't remember where you are ♫
♫ Just open your window, ♫
♫ And follow your memory upstream ♫
♫ To the meadow in the mountain where we counted every falling star ♫

"I'm not gonna die." Kakeru told her as he embraced his daughter "Never say die."


"Keiko, listen to me. I'm not going to die. I thought I was a goner more than 20 years ago, but a guardian angel watched over me since. I know I can pull myself through this. And I've never lied to you in your entire life. Just have faith and never lose hope."

♫ I believe a light that shines on you will shine on you forever (forever) ♫
♫ And though I can't guarantee that there's nothing scary hiding under your bed. ♫
♫ I'm gonna stand guard like a post guard of the Golden Retriever. ♫
♫ And never leave you till I leave you with a sweet dream in you head. ♫

"I will come out of that operating room, alive and well. And when I recover, I'll retire from soccer, enjoy the time I have left as a full-time parent before it's Koichi's turn to start his own life, and watch you from afar as you finish your school life. And when you and Saito get married, I'll walk you before the priest and give you away to the man of your life, as any father should do for his daughter."

"You promise me?" Keiko asked, holding our her left pinky

"I will survive and do all of that. I promise in front of heaven's eyes that I shall do it." Kakeru replied, sealing the pinky swear

"I love you, Papa."

"I love you too."

♫ I'm gonna watch you shine, gonna watch you grow! ♫
♫ Gonna paint a sign, so you'll always know! ♫
♫ As long as one and one is two (woo) ♫
♫ There could never be a father who loved his daughter as I love you. ♫

With both father and daughter having come to an understanding, and an important promise between them made, they returned to the house. Keiko was still uneasy about it, but resolved to trust her father, who has never lied to her once in her entire life.

♫ I'm gonna watch you shine, gonna watch you grow! ♫
♫ Gonna paint a sign, so you'll always know! ♫
♫ As long as one and one is two (woo) ♫
♫ There could never be a father who loved his daughter as I love you. ♫

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