Toho had won.
It was tragically true. Since one of their captains had been destroyed, Hanawa was forced to forfeit the game, leaving their opponents the only victors. As the crowd wailed and cheered the two teams faced each other at the center of the field.
“Thank you for this game,” they all chorused, bowing respectfully. However, Masao refused to comply. He stood motionlessly with a strange expression on his face while the other players congratulated the winners.
“Oh, no,” Takeshi whispered, taking note of this. “He’s going to. . . “
“AAAAAAUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!” Masao screamed at the top of his voice.The other players stood there, blinking, wondering just what the boy was going to do next. He was frozen for a few seconds, then let out a cry like an enraged animal and began to run around the field wildly.
“Stop him!” one of the referees yelled as the screaming boy tore across the field. He was also a Clone. “Use the dart, man!”
His “brother” nodded, reaching into the pocket of his shorts and pulling out a nasty looking gun. As Masao rounded the corner, he grabbed the insane one’s arm and held him steady, pressing the gun against his neck. A strange hissing sound followed, and Masao toppled over. The onlookers were silent as the possessed one was lifted onto a stretcher by the Clones and taken off the field with no dignity.
After several minutes of shocked silence, the victors walked back to their captain, their heads hung low. They were not rejoicing. Perhaps they should have been...after all, they had won. They had kept their promise to their captain. But was the victory really worth it...?
Hyuga noticed this, and understood...but he couldn’t let this go on. It was his duty to set things right. As soon as his team had reached him, he stood up. “Minna...” he began, “you all played a very good game. I’m proud of you. I knew you would carry on the fight without me.” He smiled then, glancing from player to player. This isn’t good... “All right,” he finally said. “Tell me what’s wrong, team. Why aren’t you happy with your victory?”
No answer. They all stared at the ground, not allowing their eyes to meet his.
Hyuga’s smile faded. Not that it matter, anyway...he had been faking it. He felt it too...they were so shaken by what had happened to Kazuo that they couldn’t feel any satisfaction from their victory. So honorable...I don’t deserve a team like this... He lowered his head for a moment, contemplating this...this wasn’t the first time he had come across this. They didn’t deserve to feel this pain... After a few moments, he raised his head and began to speak.
“Team...please don’t dwell on what happened today. It was a tragedy...but we owe it to Kazuo to carry on and live our lives. We’re still young...we can’t spend the rest of our lives contemplating the fates of the dead. We have to carry on...and be strong. Do you all understand?”
Slowly, his teammates nodded. One by one, they lifted their gazes from the ground to meet their captain. In his encouraging smile, they found strength...they would live. They would carry on.
“Let’s go, team,” Hyuga told them. “I think we get the rest of the day off.” He laughed, sounding a little embarrassed. “Is that okay with you all?”
They returned his smile, beginning to walk off the field. They understood. Tomorrow was a new day. They would be victorious again!
As Hyuga followed his teammates off the field, he passed a mummified body that regarded him with pleading eyes. “Let’s go, Coach,” he said. “I see no need to hurt you any more today.”
The members of Toho walked toward the entrance of their school, strangely silent. Even after Hyuga’s pep talk, not one of them had said a word after leaving the stadium. Their captain had eased their pain a bit...but the shock would take a while to completely wear off. It had been such a shock...
“So...” Hyuga said, breaking the silence, “The day is still young, team. Any requests? I did say we have the rest of the day off, remember?”
Takeshi glanced at his captain, then at the rest of his teammates. What...? “Uh...shouldn’t we be practicing...?” he managed to say.
Hyuga shrugged. “Wouldn’t you like a break, just this once?”
A break? Their captain was actually going to give them a break? And there was a game the next day...was he serious? This was an opportunity they couldn’t miss!
Takeshi nodded, smiling. He turned to Sorimachi with a strange glint in his eyes. “Well...actually, I have a few things in mind...”
Sorimachi smiled back. “So do I.”
“Fine, “Hyuga interjected before they had a chance to get any more detailed. “Let’s discuss this inside. I don’t want this all over the city.”
As if on command, his entire team turned to him and stared.
“...it was a joke! A joke!” Their captain scowled briefly in mock anger. “Let’s go.”
Dutifully, the members of Toho followed Hyuga into the school. Suddenly, the sun seemed to shine a little brighter...it was if all the pain and ugliness of the day was being washed away. However, as the rest of his teammates disappeared inside the school building, Takeshi stopped. It can’t be... Something wasn’t right.
The boy stared off into the distance, his eyes wide. It can’t be... Wakashimazu san is gone...!
He was the only person left on the field...all the spectators had left long ago. It was a good thing. Even if they could forget what happened, he never would be able to. Never.
“This...wasn’t the kind of victory I wanted...” Wakashimazu knelt on the grass outside the goal, feeling suddenly cold. What had he done...? All I wanted to do was win...for Hyuga san. Because he was counting on me! The team was counting on me! He could still see the faintest red stain on the bright green field...as if the grass itself was trying to hide what happened, but in vain... How could I have done such an ugly, terrible thing? How?!
He could still hear Masao’s plaintive cry...it echoed in his ears...Please...please don’t let them take my brother away... Why couldn’t it leave him alone....?!
“I didn’t mean to hurt him! I didn’t! I...” He broke off, feeling tears running down his face. He wasn’t Toho’s goalkeeper. He was nothing. Nothing!
I killed a man today... He lowered his head, not even trying to hide the fact that he was crying. There was nobody there to see him, but even if there were, he doubted that he could stop. I’m a murderer! What can I do...?
It was no use...Takeshi had checked everywhere. Wakashimazu had vanished...but to where? He couldn’t have gone home... Where’s Hyuga san...? I need to--
“Wakashimazu’s gone,” a familiar voice spoke up.
Takeshi raised his head, startled. “Hyuga san...” he faltered, seeing the grim expression on his captain’s face. So, he had noticed too... He shouldn’t have been surprised...he and Wakashimazu were really close. The three of them were, actually...ever since they had been in Meiwa... “I’m so worried, Hyuga san...” he said, his voice beginning to tremble. “I don’t know where to start looking...and...”
Hyuga’s frown deepened. “This doesn’t sound like him at all.” But even as he said that, he knew he was wrong...as responsible and calm as Wakashimazu seemed on the surface...he could be unpredictable when upset. Very unpredictable. He’s in shock over what happened...how could I be so stupid? I didn’t even notice... “Takeshi,” he said suddenly.
The boy blinked. “W...what is it...?”
“Help me get the rest of the team together. We’re going back to the stadium.”
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