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Part Sixteen

Oblivious to the Germans’ most recent fate, Hyuga watched as the Black Shorts Brothers, back from their journey, picked up Kitazume and hauled him back to the bench. “Let’s go,” one “brother” told the other. “We’re needed back at the hospital!”

The coach made a strange noise as he turned his bloodshot eyes on his young captain. He hadn’t forgotten.

Not scared in the least, Hyuga smiled and placed the bag of fries a few inches in front of Kitazume. “Would you like some?” he asked politely.

A loud drum roll sounded before the man could attempt a response. Two small figures marched onto the vacant field, followed dutifully by a tall, lanky guy with very familiar-looking hair.

“What?!” Hyuga jumped to his feet and ran to the sidelines, disturbed. His eyes had to be deceiving couldn’t be!!

As soon as they were halfway across the field, the figures stopped marching, and Hyuga’s worst fears were confirmed. It was them. It was them!!!

Masao switched to a lively street beat as Kazuo began to put on a black executioner’s hood. Hefner stood behind with his head down, his hands tied behind his back. He wasn’t going anywhere.

“Ready, Niichan?” Masao asked over the din of his snare drum.

Kazuo nodded, his features obscured by the dark cloth fitted oddly over his funky hairstyle. “Ready!” came a muffled voice.

The younger Tachibana turned to Hefner, sneering. “Turn around,” he ordered.

“Yes, sir!” Defeated, the German did what he was told.

The unhooded twin handed Kazuo a heavy bamboo stick. “You know what to do.”

The cries of anguish. The sickening sounds of bamboo hitting flesh. Hundreds of people bore witness to the ruthless caning of Hefner, but only one person witnessed the pain.

Tsubasa cringed as the stick made contact for the sixth time. How much longer until the man’s backside falls off? he wondered cryptically. Poor Hefner, his eye looks so dazed and unfocused...he isn’t crying out anymore. All his nerves must be destroyed by now...

“Why won’t Schneider save him?” he said out loud. “Does Hefner really deserve to be treated like this?”

He was answered by an unforgiving hand splashing an icy drink in his face.

Wakabayashi tossed his empty cup aside, a rabid expression on his face. “Never say that name in front of me, Tsubasa! It’s an evil name for an evil man!”

Tsubasa’s eyes grew misty. “Wakabayashi kun...” he whispered, reaching for his friend’s hand. “Let’s not fight...”

Before the goalie had a chance to react, the field came to life with a crackling of stereo feedback.

“Attention, everyone!” came two screeching voices. “We have news of vital importance!”

Masao and Kazuo stood in the center of the field, surrounded by various speakers and sound equipment. Both wore microphone headsets in addition to the ones they held in their hands. After a moment of silence, Masao spoke. “Yesterday was our friend Jun Misugi’s birthday...”

“If you don’t know him, he’s that guy who dresses funny and has an ugly girlfriend,” Kazuo piped up. “Anyway, he’s in the hospital, and we’re going to do a special karaoke number in his honor. So you better listen!”

The audience was silent. What were those little morons up to? The Tachibanas ran behind a speaker and emerged a minute or so later, grinning. They now wore baggy farmer clothes over their soccer uniforms; Masao clad in faded blue overalls and a pink shirt, his brother in similiar getup, but with a yellow shirt and a blue bandana.

Masao turned to one of his “assistants”, who was also dressed up for the occasion. “HIT IT!!” he called in an overly loud voice. The music started, and the twins began to perform a strange, graceless dance. The audience simply sat silently and stared. What else could they do?

“Get ready!!” the two belted out. “Get a chance, lady!!!” Leaping in opposite directions, they moved in a way that could’ve easily broken their knees. It wasn’t the dancing that was scary. It was their voices.

They were dubbed!

The Tachibanas continued their show, their cutesy Japanese pop singer voices babbling on and on about love as they pantomimed roping cattle and performing other such chores. In a climax they ceased their crazed dancing, grabbed a wheelbarrow filled with hay, and pushed it around the field for a good three minutes. When the twins returned to midfield, five of their farmer friends joined the chorus, lip-synching the lyrics along with their co-captains and thrashing to the music in perfect precision. The number was brought to an unexpected end when Kazuo rammed a pitchfork through one of the speakers, sending smoke billowing into an explosion that left the lovable Tachibanas lying stunned on the ground. Mere moments later they jumped to their feet, laughing insanely.

Masao leaned over and whispered something to his Niichan, who nodded several times, a sneer lighting up his wicked face.

In a grand finale the two collided “Milli Vanilli-style” and hit the ground with a resounding thud.

Not far away, an evil being sat in a bare, wooden room, empty of all but a bench and a small, archaic TV set. The evil being was sitting on the bench and watching the TV set. He was watching the soccer game. He was liking what he saw.

“Who’s winning, Captain?” A tiny person with a mop of brown hair that was only out of his eyes on good days padded into the room with the gait of a sprite. “Is it as we hoped?”

Big, scary, striped shirt Hiroshi Jito looked up and smiled pleasantly. “Ah, Sano! Come in and sit with me. Half-time is almost over.”

Sano grinned through his hair and settled down on the bench next to his captain. “Do you think Toho will win, Jito san?” he asked.

“It’s very likely.” The enormous fellow reached over and picked up his friend with the enormous strength of one hand and placed him on his lap. “Now, isn’t that much more comfortable?”

Sano nodded, his hair falling away from his face.

“I’m very anxious to meet their captain on the field,” Jito began, bouncing his little buddy on a gigantic knee as he spoke. “I have a little surprise for him. Do you know what that means?”

Sano gazed up at his idol in rapture. “What is it, Captain?”

Jito smiled, his teeth a slash of white in his hideous face. “If you want,” he said, patting his friend on the head, “I’ll get one of our teammates and demonstrate it for you.”

The boy beamed. “Would you, Captain?”

“Of course.” His eyes twinkling deeply in his craggy face, Jito reached over and pressed a red button on the wall nearby. “Shall I send for two players, Sano? We may need a spare.”

They both threw back their heads and laughed loudly. Nobody could stop them!

The members of both teams made their way back to the field; the broken pieces of stereo equipment had been removed shortly after the creepy Tachibanas revived from their encounter with slam-dancing. All that remained was for Kazuo to blow the whistle to restart the game.

The Toho players glanced at each other nervously. Not one goal had been scored during the first half; a point for either side would mean sudden death. Then again, if the Tachibanas continued to goof off, the game could end with no score at all. It would not be easy to recover.

It was about to become more difficult. Seeing that the members of the opposite team had not yet made it to their respective positions, Masao nodded to Kazuo, who blew the whistle.

Frantically the other players scrambled to their areas. The Tachibanas were already in position of the ball--the advantage was theirs.

Or was it?

Kazuo stood frozen in front of the ball, a pained expression on his face.

“That IDIOT!!!” Hyuga grabbed his piece of wood and hurled it javelin-style at the white-wrapped figure beside him. It whizzed by Kitazume’s head and embedded itself in the wall inches away. Disappointed, he turned back to the game. “Quickly, Takeshi!!” he shouted. “Steal the ball!”

“I hear you, Hyuga san!” The younger boy ran toward the twins, eager to please his captain. He could make this all right--all he had to do was score!

Masao looked on in horror as Number Fifteen neared. “What is it, Niichan?” he asked, daring to turn away from the enemy.

Kazuo blinked rapidly and drew in a few quick breaths. “I....I...I think I blew my brains out!!”

Masao nodded, understanding. “Screw it, Niichan. I’ll go for the goal.” He turned on his heel and let out an indignant shriek. The ball was gone!

Takeshi raced towards Hanawa’s goal, laughing happily as he dribbled the ball past the enemy defenders. He was almost there!

“Hey!!!” Masao screeched, outraged. “That’s mine!”

Takeshi ignored him and continued his journey unaware that he was being tailed by the younger Tachibana. He was about to attempt at a shoot when a blow from the side sent him flying into the air. He fell on his back, and Masao swiped the ball away from him with a smirk.

“That was illegal!” Sorimachi protested from the bench. “How can he get away with that?!”

Hyuga didn’t answer, watching as Takeshi shakily rose to his feet and turned back to the chase. How brave...

“I got the ball back, Niichan!” Kazuo called, busily dodging opponents. “We’re gonna win!”

Kazuo grinned. Now that his brain was returning, he and Masao could show off the true power of aerial soccer! He ran alongside his brother, cackling. We’re too fast for ‘em! he thought. We’re gonna score!

Masao let out a shrill cry as Takeshi--now back in the fray--caught him in a slide tackle. The ball soared into the air directly above the goal, the force of the interception lifting it higher and higher. Takeshi watched this, helpless. Oops! Though he was hardly a seasoned veteran, he knew what the Tachibanas could do in a situation like this.

He was right. Masao called to his brother and flung himself on the ground. As he slid down the field on his back, Kazuo rushed alongside him and, at the proper moment, vaulted off his feet into the air.

“Wakashimazu!!” Sorimachi called from his seat. “Be careful!”

I’m not concerned about them, Wakashimazu told himself, smiling silently.

The ball descended. Seeing that it was directly between him and the enemy goalie, Masao chose that moment to launch his brother into the air. Kazuo cackled at the pairs of horrified eyes as he soared toward victory. “Your team sucks! I’m gonna score!”

That’s what you think, Wakashimazu countered mentally, confident. I may be the only person on this team who can play the ball with his hands, but that doesn’t matter. That’s just one of the ways I can stop you!!!

“I won’t let you win!” Gritting his teeth, Wakashimazu leaped forward to confront Kazuo. With a move impressive enough for any karate flick, he reached behind him and whipped his hidden weapon out of thin air.

“A frying pan?!” one the the green players managed to choke out.

Wakashimazu let out a battle cry and took a swipe at the ball. However, the handle was a lot longer than he thought. The frying pan cracked against Kazuo’s head. Masao screamed as his brother dropped from the sky like an empty can and hit the ground with a thud. There was blood everywhere.

“NIICHAN!!!!” Masao sobbed, sinking to his knees beside his fallen sibling. “You lousy bastard, you killed my only friend!!”

Wakashimazu stood a few yards away, his eyes wild from shock. What could he say to the boy? He just broke Kazuo’s head!

Two uniformed men loaded the smashed Tachibana onto a stretcher and covered him with a sheet. Masao let out a blood-curdling shriek and flung himself at his brother’s “murderer.” “Please,” he wept, flinging his arms around Wakashimazu and hugging him with all his might, “please don’t let them take my brother away!”

The goalkeeper stared vacantly ahead, managing a vague “. . . Sumimasen. . . “

From his seat on the bleachers high above the scene, Tsubasa surveyed this, mortified. “This is bad. . . “ he whispered. “This is all so very bad. . . “

Wakabayashi took a sip of soda. “Could you be more specific?” Peering over the head of the person in front of him, he knit his brow in contemplation. “Is it because Wakashimazu has apparently killed Kazuo Tachibana with a frying pan in front of hundreds of people? Never mind that all the twins’ teammates were witnesses?”

Tsubasa nodded.

“I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way, Tsubasa,” Wakabayashi sighed, straightening his hat. “He was wearing gloves.”

Part Seventeen
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