At the second day of the Inter High in Hiroshima under grueling heat, Fukutomi, a second-year, raced on Hakone Academy's team and was in the lead with Kinjou persistently chasing behind him at 35km to the goal. Fukutomi began talking to Kinjou, stating that he was bored and disappointed in the race after practicing under extreme conditions with his family, who started the Hakone Academy Bicycling Club. Since the start of the Inter-High he had not found a single worthy opponent. He went on to ask Kinjou if he believed in his own strength, since teammates had to be sacrificed in order to win - that if there was one member strong enough, victory was certain. Fukutomi declared himself the strongest and rode ahead, but Kinjou disagreed with his philosophy and kept chasing, declaring that he was carrying the wills of those who had fallen behind in the race, that he wasn't alone, and that he was the Snake of the Stone Path - the man who never gives up.
Fukutomi continued to ride fast with Kinjou in tow, trying to make him believe that he was an opponent Kinjou could not overcome. Despite this, Kinjou continued to insist that he was riding for the sake of bringing victory to his team and couldn't give up until he was past the finish line; the two constantly debated on individual strength versus the strength of a team's faith with neither refusing to back down. By that point they were at 5km to the goal, heading up a slope, and Kinjou hadn't faltered a second. Unnerved by the pressure of Kinjou's unwavering will, despite the other cyclist's skills being inferior to his, Fukutomi began to make gear shift mistakes and lose his composure. He began thinking back on winning so many races by his own strength. He had seen the light beyond the goal more than anyone else, and the idea of crossing the finish line in someone else's shadow was impossible.
Fukutomi, however, was shocked when Kinjou began to pull ahead of him, and made yet another gear shift mistake. To see Kinjou ahead was something Fukutomi, heavy with the desire to be the first to grasp the light of victory, couldn't fathom, so he inadvertently reached out and grabbed the back of Kinjou's jersey. This sent them both flying off their bicycles, Kinjou hitting the road several times, landing against the guard rail, and left badly injured with broken ribs. Fukutomi was left sprawled on the road and calling out to an initially unresponsive Kinjou. However, to Fukutomi's disbelief, Kinjou forced himself up to get back on his bike and painfully road to the goal. Because they were already so far in the front, 2km to the goal, and because he was not injured as much, Fukutomi managed to finish the race as well, ahead of Kinjou. Hakone Academy took first, second, and third place.
Once the Sohoku members found Kinjou at the goal, Fukutomi appeared and apologized to all of them, explaining what happened was not quite an accident. Fukutomi blamed his actions on his weakness. Tadokoro punched him hard enough to knock him off his feet. Fukutomi merely apologized again and stated that he made the decision to withdraw from the third day's race, even though he knew it wouldn't amount to anything. Tadokoro continued to shout at him, accusing Hakone Academy of using dirty tricks to win and stating other teams aren't blessed with several aces like them. Both end up in tears. Surprising Fukutomi yet again, Kinjou told Tadokoro to calm himself because nothing could change the results, and they needed to perform maintenance on his bike and get proper rest, heavily implying that he would still race the next day despite his injuries. Fukutomi questioned why, to which Kinjou replied that as cyclists, they settle things only on the road, and no one knows who will win until the very end. That's why Kinjou continues to move forward without giving up. To not move forward is to immediately lose. To him, even small steps count, even without a win, as they will mean something in the future. Fukutomi was left with newly-opened eyes, seeing Kinjou as a truly strong ace, stronger than himself.
A month afterwards, Fukutomi still deeply regretted his actions and visited Sohoku High to formally apologize, bringing manjuu ("Hakone Specialty steamed buns") along as a gift. This was despite Toudou's best efforts to warn Makishima through a phone call, thinking Fukutomi had left to pick a fight. He had apparently left a note saying he was skipping practice to go to Chiba. As soon as Kinjou entered the club room, Fukutomi was directly behind him. The ensuing attempts to hide Fukutomi from Kinjou ended up with a stack of wheels ("accidentally", as Tadokoro put it) falling on the newly-appointed Hakone captain.
As Fukutomi apologized, he acknowledged that his actions ruined the efforts of Sohoku's entire team, revealing that he'd undergone a change in his philosophy. He also had something else to say, that he needed a favor, but decided against it and decided to leave. However, Kinjou tossed him a bottle of water and asked for a leisurely ride together. During this, Fukutomi asked for his favor: that Kinjou would race against him again, that they would go all-out if they were neck-and-neck at the next Inter-High. He admitted that his battle with Kinjou revealed just how weak he was, and that he couldn't become stronger until he fought with Kinjou fairly and won.
He went on to say that his request was selfish and he has no right to refuse if Kinjou asked to let Sohoku win at the next Inter-High, as it's something they both deserved. Kinjou replied that if he were to ask that, then he couldn't truly win the Inter-High, as he, too, was someone who wanted to become faster and stronger. Kinjou declared he would gather the strongest team while his wounds healed to challenge Hakone Academy and race in the Inter-High, so if they ended up in the same situation next year, Fukutomi had nothing to worry about: Kinjou was not going to lose.
Building Hakone Academy's Cycling Team
F-Group Selection Race
Fukutomi and Kinjou have an intense race on the second day of the Inter High. As they approach the goal, Fukutomi thinks about how he is grateful that he has Kinjou as his opponent. The two engage in a fist bump of sorts as Fukutomi thinks this. After Fukutomi beats Kinjou, he tells Kinjou that he can finally laugh from the heart. Kinjou calls Fukutomi "awkward" and corrects him, saying that Fukutomi is crying, not laughing. Kinjou also says that Fukutomi is strong, affirming Fukutomi's usual statement. However, he promises not to lose to Fukutomi on the third day.
After the Inter High
Sometime during the colder months, Toudou suggests to Shinkai and Arakita that the Hakone Academy third-years should attend a special trip before they graduate. Arakita initially isn't interested, but Toudou convinces him when he says the trip will be to show their gratitude to Fukutomi as their captain. The three of them eventually decide on a theme park they find in a magazine, because one of its mascots, a lion, resembles Fukutomi.
When they arrive at the park, it appears more deserted and lackluster than the magazine portrayed; Arakita complains, and Toudou is worried that Fukutomi is disappointed, but Shinkai assures him that it's simply Fukutomi's default face.
Per Toudou's direction on the "guide rules" of enjoying a theme park, the third-years buy mascot hats from the gift shop, with Fukutomi immediately taking a liking to the lion's hat and Arakita grudgingly wearing animal ears of another mascot. They take several photographs together before hopping aboard a roller-coaster. Arakita acts like it's no big deal, but starts screaming as the ride takes off downhill, while Toudou laughs. While Shinkai and Toudou are unaffected by the roller-coaster, Arakita is shakily impressed, and Fukutomi is frozen stone-faced with fear.
Shinkai grills a meal for everyone afterward and strikes his "Bang!" pose; they take this as a challenge to eat everything he serves. They accept the challenge and begin eating, but Shinkai serves faster than Toudou can chew, so he yells at him, which startles Shinkai so bad that he knocks over a drink onto the grill. The resulting steam burns Fukutomi's face.
In the swan boats at the theme park, Fukutomi and Arakita, in one boat together numbered "12", race Toudou and Shinkai, paired in another boat numbered "43", as if it were a race on the road. Toudou is able to use his "Sleeping Climb" technique to pass Fukutomi. Fukutomi orders Arakita to start pedaling, as like a road race, catching a glimpse of the enemy ahead drives Arakita to chase them down. However, Shinkai switches pedaling with Toudou and unleashes his "demon form" to battle it out with Arakita. In actuality, the boats barely move across the water, and seeing other park-goers watching them embarrasses them.
At the end of the day, the third-years ride the Ferris Wheel to see the illuminations (a light show). Fukutomi's fellow third-years are worried the trip was a disaster that he didn't enjoy. Fukutomi suddenly states he has something to tell them. Arakita immediately blames Toudou for the whole thing, which sparks an argument with Toudou that Shinkai can't quell. However, Fukutomi thanks them. To Shinkai, he tells him he did well overcoming his trauma to return as their ace sprinter, the fastest and strongest in history. To Toudou, Fukutomi says there is no better climber who climbs so beautifully and fast, and that the name "Mountain God" suits him perfectly. To Arakita, Fukutomi says his beast-like desire for the goal is admirable, and that he's done well carrying Fukutomi and the team with it. Fukutomi claims he's fulfilled his role as captain thanks to them. The other third-years are embarrassed, but as the fireworks and light show start, a message relayed to them from Fukutomi displays across one of the buildings, which they happily read aloud: "We are strong."
Afterward, they look over the photos taken earlier and are startled to see Onoda and Imaizumi racing on children's bikes in the background of one. Behind them, team Sohoku (minus Makishima) rides on a multi-person bike, with Kinjou running behind them, shouting about how Sohoku never gives up.