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Part Thirteen

It was going to be a very special day, a day filled with joy and love, wishes and magic. Today was a day two certain people would never forget. It was nearly dark outside, but what power did time have over the affairs of the heart? Every clock’s hands could be moving backwards, Yayoi and Jun, the two lovebirds of the soccer world, would never notice; they were spellbound by the beauty of each others’ eyes. No earthly force could hold a candle to the flame of their passion, no fire burned brighter. The intensity of their love was second to only one undying power: soccer.

However, today their infatuation ruled over the great sport as well. Today was Jun’s birthday.

It’s such a shame that nobody else could make it, Yayoi chan thought wistfully as she taped another crepe paper streamer to the ceiling. Everybody must be so busy with the tournament and all...but I won’t feel bad. I’m sure I can handle this surprise party all by myself. After all, what better to surprise my love-bunny with than myself?

Her gaze wandered to the pile of presents crowding up the table, and she smiled ruefully. So what if all those gifts are from me? Jun will be so much happier knowing that I love him alone.

And the cake, the beautiful cake she had dedicated all night to prepare. Three layers of pink-frosted monstrosity, dotted with chocolate sprinkles and topped with a likeness of Jun’s face drawn with decorating gel. The magic...her soul swelled with it!

The unmistakable sound of footsteps snapped Yayoi chan out of her reverie. Jun! she thought wildly, her throat tightening with anxiety. I have to hide!!! She quickly flipped off the lights and ducked behind the television set. Here it comes....

The door opened with a creak. Yayoi chan could barely contain her excitement as the brown-haired, orange clad god’s hand moved toward the light switch.

“SURPRISE!!!!” she shrieked, jumping out from behind the TV with amazing agility and landing face to face with her one true love. “Happy birthday, Jun!!!”

Jun screamed. He screamed and screamed and screamed. When he was finished screaming, he stared at his little darling with an odd sort of rapture. Then his heart popped.

He collapsed in a heap on the floor. Yayoi chan ran to her man’s side, crying hysterically. “Jun! Oh, Jun!!” she screamed, moving to utilize her first aid skills to revive him.

After a few minutes, Yayoi chan gave up; Jun still lay prone before her, his eyes staring blankly ahead. Shakily, his devastated girlfriend got to her feet. “Don’t worry, Jun,” she whispered. “Our love will give you strength!”

The shiny steel doors to the corridor flew open and two doctors wheeled a sheet-covered gurney into the emergency room, so absorbed in their duty that they didn’t notice the red-haired girl hop on and make like a little kid riding a shopping cart. They had a life to save.

This hospital, like all others, was a place of healing and nurturing. Within its white and mint green walls people prayed, laughed and cried, lived and died. Human beings breathed their first breaths under the care of talented doctors and nurses. This day, however, a different kind of life waiting to be born, the antithesis of the pure, innocent life the hospital sheltered. It was not death--it had surpassed death enough times to laugh at its threat. Humanity was clay to be warped and twisted into a phenomemon barely recognizable. Superior.

It lived, but it had grown weak in its dormancy. So much time had passed since it last possessed a mortal life; only that gave it purpose. The time had come.

The monitors went flat.

The doctor to the left of Jun let out a gasp of alarm. This couldn’t be! He was stable just a minute ago! Ripping off his surgical mask, he looked helplessly at the patient. Throughout his years as a surgeon he had learned to accept--A shiver ran through him. There was something strange about this boy, something terribly strange.

Was he...smiling?

“Doctor....” Yayoi whimpered from beneath the surgical cart. “Is he...”

Jun sat up, surveying the room with frighteningly wide eyes. He twisted his neck to read the clock on the wall. A scowl darkened his face, and he turned to the doctor attending him with an imperious gaze. “Are you done?” he asked coldly. “I could’ve done this myself. What do you think I’m paying you for?”

The man paled, shrinking back slightly. “ were just...”

Jun didn’t bother to wait for a full answer, leaping from the table and knocking over trays of equipment in his descent. Shoving past the rest of the surgical team, he ran out of the room at top speed.

“Juuuuuun!” Yayoi called, tears spurting into her eyes. “How could you leave without me?”

Halfway down the hall, Jun listened and smiled. So naive...He shook his head patronizingly. I never thought such people could exist. No matter. This will be a welcome challenge.

Everything was going to be fine.

The doctors dismissed Jun’s “odd behavior” as a temporary psychotic episode brought by trauma. After decking several security guards sent to detain him (an unfortunate reflex, he later confessed) he walked into the emergency, perfectly calm, and asked to be discharged. The medical staff refused, but were amazed by his startling recovery. Strangely enough, he complied to their wishes without any further argument. This is fine for now, he had told them pleasantly. Thank you for your concern. He now lay in bed reading the card off a gift given to him by his ever-loving girlfriend.

“Jun!” came a high-pitched voice in greeting.

He raised his eyes from the card. “Hello,” he said vaguely. “You’re back already?”

Yayoi nodded, biting her lip. “Jun, is there anything I can do for you? Anything at all?” She sat down on the hard orange plastic chair by his bedside, her hand instinctively reaching out to stroke his hair. As soon as she caught him staring at her with a half-amused expression she drew back, blushing.

“It’s my fault you’re like this,” she said, lowering her eyes to her feet. “I put you here, and you’re angry at me, aren’t you, Jun? I never meant to hurt you! I...just wanted to love you, and never leave your side. I’d go to hell and back for darling...”

Jun watched silently as Yayoi slid out of her chair and knelt before him, not daring to look him in the face. Quite the little suppliant, isn’t she? I wonder just who broke her spirit. Maybe I made a good choice after all.

He smiled to himself, patting the girl’s red hair like a master would pet his dog. “How nice it is to hear you speak in full sentences,” he said. “Take me home.”

It was now dark. The members of Toho were long since settled inside their school; the Nazi Boys were gone. All was well...basically. Tomorrow would be a new day with its own challenges, but they were prepared to face anything with renewed courage.

“Hyuga san, would you like some popcorn?” Takeshi asked, his mouth full. It was a silly question to ask after inhaling the bowl’s contents.

Hyuga shook his head. “No thank you. I’m not very hungry.”

The boy shrugged and turned back to the screen, where a white-suited guy had just jumped into pool with his sword drawn.

“Hey,” Sorimachi said after a few minutes of engrossed silence. “Who’s that person outside?”

“What...?” Wakashimazu, mildly alarmed, got to his feet. “Who could be around here at this hour?” Not expecting an answer, he walked over to the window and peered out. “The last thing we need is another--” He broke off abruptly, his eyes gaping. He stood shaking for a long moment, then made a horrified sound, falling backwards. The last thing he remembered before his senses were obscured by the blackness of unconsciousness was the crack of his head against the hard floor...

Takeshi didn’t look up. “That’s probably the pizza delivery man. Let him in, will you?” No response. Sighing, he turned away from the screen for what he intended to be a split second. That was all he needed.

“Sempai!!!!” he screamed at the sight of his fallen elder. “Oh no!”

“He’s fainted!” Hyuga grabbed a soccer magazine off the table next to him and fanned the martial artist/goalkeeper with it. “Wakashimazu, snap out of it!!”

“Please!” Takeshi begged, taking one of the goalie’s hands in both of his.

The limp hand moved. Wakashimazu winced, struggling for words. “The...the...”

“The what?” Hyuga asked, concern softening his voice. “What is it, my friend?”

Wakashimazu forced his eyes open halfway, fighting to focus them. “The...w-window...”

“The window? What about the window?” Hyuga ceased fanning long enough to remove his jacket and ease it under his friend’s head.

Takeshi released Wakashimazu’s hand and stood up, staring out the window. Under the dirty yellow glow of the outside lights he could make out a lumpy white figure perched in a wheelchair just outside the front doors. A lumpy white figure wearing glasses over his body cast.

“AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!” Takeshi shrieked. “It’s Coach Kitazume!!!!”

The entire team simultaneously flew into a panic. “He’s back!!” somebody cried. “Coach Kitazume came back from hell to reclaim his Urusei Yatsura tape! Quick, take it out of the VCR before he finds out!”

“No!” Sorimachi threw himself in front of the TV, his eyes crazed. “Rewind it! We have to rewind it!!” Shaking, he pressed a button on the VCR. Nothing happened. The room was in a state of total chaos.

Takeshi was in tears. “Hyuga san, what should we do?”

In a normal situation, Hyuga would’ve been able to pull his team together easily, but this was far from normal. He remained where he was, kneeling at his special friend’s side with a stricken expression on his face. When he heard Takeshi’s plea, he raised his head a bit and smiled. “I’ve had it!” he said in a faraway voice.

Takeshi choked back a sob. My captain is losing his mind! he thought. If just seeing Coach Kitazume has Sempai down for the count and puts our fearless boy genius in a mindless daze, how can I handle this by myself? Me, a lowly midfielder! There’s only one thing I can do...

Wiping his eyes, Takeshi turned to the others. “Let’s go outside and get the coach, team,” he said quietly.

They stared at him strangely.

“Come on! He can’t really hurt us like that, can he?! He’s practically a mummy! If he bothers us, we can just stick him in a closet!”

The rest of the team discussed the matter briefly amongst themselves. After a minute or so, they came to a decision. “Forget it!” they chorused.

“Well, fine!” Takeshi retorted, his child-like eyes snapping. “I’ll do it myself.” As he turned to leave, he glanced back at his two closest friends, longing for their help. They had been together for so long! Hyuga, his captain, the person he admired more than anyone in the entire world, and Wakashimazu, who had always been ready and willing to hold his hand or kick his butt, depending on the occasion...”Bye...” he whispered, his eyes filling with tears again.

Wakashimazu waved, but Hyuga just knelt on the floor with an empty, drugged-out expression on his face.

A half an hour later, when Takeshi returned with the bandage-bound coach, he still hadn’t moved.

“We’re back, Hyuga san,” the younger boy called, wheeling in Coach Kitazume with a sheepish smile. “I would’ve made it earlier, but we had to take the stairs...and I dropped him a couple times...Hyuga san?” Takeshi let go of the wheelchair for a closer look at his captain, his eyes wide and fearful.

“Don’t worry about him, Takeshi,” Wakashimazu told him, propping himself up on one elbow. “He’ll snap out of it sooner or later, you’ll see.”

“Coach Kitazume’s harmless now, Hyuga san,” Takeshi informed his silent captain. “He can’t even move, see?” He grabbed one of Kitazume’s arms and bent it back. The man made a horrendous sound, but his body cast refused him the freedom for retaliation.

Hyuga nodded, and the small response gave Takeshi a small measure of comfort. He still wouldn’t speak...What’s wrong with him? the boy thought, panicked.

“I...I’m putting him in the closet now, Hyuga san,” Takeshi said, his voice shaking slightly. He began to push Kitazume’s wheelchair away, ignoring the strange sounds of protest coming from the man. “See...he’ll be gone in a minute...”

The remaining members of Toho looked on, concerned, as their captain remained frozen in place, kneeling by Wakashimazu’s side. His concussion....could he be having a relapse? Were they going to lose him....?

“Wait, Takeshi,” Hyuga said suddenly, rising to his feet in a swift motion. He reached into his pocket, retrieving something small and white. “Don’t lock him in yet.”

“H...Hyuga san...?” Takeshi watched, bewildered, as his captain approached his coach’s wheelchair, his dark eyes gleaming strangely. He didn’t understand... No, Hyuga can’t be thinking of... The young boy swallowed thickly, feeling his chest start to hurt. He wouldn’t...

Hyuga leaned toward Kitazume, pulling something off the top of the object he had been holding. A black Magic Marker...? “I can’t let you shut him in until I sign his cast,” he explained. With that, he wrote his name in huge characters across the old man’s bandaged forehead. Drawing a smiley face as a finishing touch, he tossed the marker to Takeshi, not even bothering to put the cap back on. “Write something meaningful.”

Takeshi smiled. Hyuga san... He tried to wipe the black stains off his hands, to no avail. Not perturbed in the least, he knelt down in front of his coach and wrote “Kitazume’s gay” in bold print across the old man’s chest. When he glanced back at his idol’s face, he was smiling strangely. “ want to try too, Sempai?” he asked.

Wakashimazu nodded, smiling, as the boy ran to his side to help him up. He wasn’t sure what to think of what Takeshi had written... Well, he is a kid, after all. He couldn’t get annoyed at him...not when he was looking at him with those wide, expectant eyes. He took the marker from Takeshi and knelt on the floor at the foot of Kitazume’s wheelchair. I hope I have enough room for this... he mused.

Takeshi laughed happily, watching his favorite goalie start to draw a picture right under the message he had written. He moved back after a few minutes, surveying his handiwork critically. It was then that they could see exactly what he had drawn--an SD picture of himself.

“That’s cute,” Sorimachi commented. “I didn’t know you could draw!”

Wakashimazu smiled. “I can’t,” was all he said.

“Guess I’ll go next.” Sorimachi took the marker, not willing to be outdone. He remained still for a few minutes, deep in thought. Then he leaned forward and began to draw Kitazume a face. Yes, a face. Once he was done, he tossed the marker to one of his teammates, muttering, “Go for it.” Well...Kitazume sure looked happy now...and what did he need a nose for, anyway?

When the team retreated, Kitazume looked more like the back of a convenience store than a soccer coach. (Of course, they were careful enough not to cover up the lovely picture) least he’d be good for laughs for a month or so....

Part Fourteen
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