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Part Seven

It was two in the morning. Despite their worries about their captain, all of Toho was fast asleep. Including Takeshi, who was huddled against the wall, oblivious to the world around him. All seemed well, but--

A silent figure made its way through the sea of sleeping players. It was Coach Kitazume, on his way to the infirmary with an unreadable expression on his face. He was having trouble sleeping, unlike the rest of the team...for an old prune has many more daily troubles than a young flower. He had something that he needed to do.

He carefully stepped over Wakashimazu and pushed open the door. Amazing how this silent night had transformed his warriors into children once more, even...

Even Hyuga. Kitazume gazed at the peacefully slumbering captain leaning against the cot--he would never take defeat lying down--with an odd expression on his sharply lined face. Hyuga looked so innocent when he slept, just like a little boy. He was still a child, after all. It’s amazing to think that any one child would ever cause so much trouble...contradicting my orders, putting his team in jeopardy for his own stubborn pride--he’ll always take his glory with the same sarcastic smile--he knows he’s the best, the star, and all those who fight beside him are nothing more than pawns!!!

"You were always like that!!" Kitazume’s voice broke the silence of the night. He clenched his hands into fists. "You don’t deserve to be the captain of this team! You’re reckless and irresponsible, and I’ll be damned if you turn my boys into your nameless lackeys!"

He paused, taking a few good, deep breaths. The focus of his verbal assault sighed in his sleep but did not awaken.

Kitazume didn’t care. "HYUGA!!!!" he shouted. "You’re nothing but a disgrace to your teammates! They counted on you--they loved and trusted you--but you chose your selfish loner path with only yourself in mind! You failed them...YOU FAILED THEM!!!"

He broke off, coughing. Before he had a chance to let loose another barrage, he felt a hand come down hard on his shoulder.

"Forgive me, Coach," Wakashimazu said. "I’m going to have to ask you to leave."

The old man shook him off angrily. "Don’t be a fool!" he snapped. "I am your superior!"

The goalkeeper’s expression darkened in the ghostly moonlight. "Well, then..."

He sent a chopping blow to Kitazume’s back. The old man hit the ground like a sack of potatoes.

Wakashimazu peered into the room, planting a foot on the coach’s spine for good measure. Hyuga showed no sign of awakening even after the guy with the orange Afro brought down the roof with his outburst.

I could really use Takeshi’s help out here, he thought, feeling an odd sort of loneliness knowing that he was the only conscious person in the entire building. Frowning, he took hold of Kitazume’s shirt and attempted to drag him to the door. He gave up once he reached it, simply shoving the old guy into the hall with his foot. Maybe I should tie him up. But with what? I’m sure nobody’ll mind if they find him sprawled on the floor in the morning. He won’t remember a thing...


Hysterical laughter split the air, punctated by a horrible scream, then a thud. Why can’t anybody just be quiet?! Wakashimazu scowled with exhausted irritation. Disgusted, he began to make his way out of the infirmary, but curiosity got the best of him, and he pushed open the window and took a look outside.

Steven was lying on the pavement next to a dumpster, thrashing wildly as he struggled to get up. A smaller person wearing a hat and pants that looked like they had been lifted from an old band uniform was standing nearby, laughing his head off.

"D...damn you..." Steven arched his back in an attempt to slither over to Wakabayashi, but his efforts were in vain. "The king shall hear of this!" he screamed.

" look like a Picasso..." Wakabayashi managed to choke out, tears running down his face. He sank to his knees, clutching his stomach. "Instead of the Tank, you’re the Titanic!" He was laughing so hard that he appeared to be in a great deal of pain. "At least now you can park in the handicapped parking spaces!"

Steven responded by making a growling sound impressive enough to land him a job recording voice tracks for X-Men cartoons.

That was far enough. It was the middle of the night! "Would you two clowns knock it off?!" a voice screamed from above. "Making such a racket at this hour--just who the hell do you think you are?!!!"

Steven yelled a very bad word when he got a glimpse of something that sealed his fate. Somebody in the school building was pushing a large, dark object out a window. Then there was a crash, followed by a sour note. He knew no more.

Wakashimazu dusted off his hands, observing his handiwork with an odd sort of satisfaction. He smiled to himself. Every infirmary should have a piano in it.

Back on the ground, Wakabayashi was surveying the remains of Steven with more than a little amusement. He asked for it. I’m glad I was sober enough to truly appreciate this... He didn’t even mind the fact that he had been splashed with the Tank’s had been worth it, just to see the expression on his face when he was about to be hit by the piano... He started to walk away, whistling a little tune. Life was good.

Finally convinced that the fun was over for the rest of the night, Wakashimazu decided to close the window. He couldn’t help smiling just a little bit...but as he turned around, he realized that his actions had not been without consequence. Hyuga was awake.

Damn...I should’ve been more careful. I’m not making things any better... He held his breath, staring at his captain like he was about to explode before his very eyes. Hadn’t he been the one to tell him to rest? He should’ve never thrown that piano... "Hello," he said hesitantly.

Hyuga just blinked a few times. Dazed. Good. That was his cue to leave. Wakashimazu quietly slipped out the door, hoping his friend would just go back to sleep and forget anything had happened. He hoped the school had insurance...otherwise, he was really going to get it!

It was so dark...

Drifting into semi-consciousness, Steven felt himself being rolled onto his back, a great weight suddenly lifted from him. I’m alive... He opened his eyes then, seeing nothing but the faint glow of dawn and two blurry green creatures standing over him, watching him. Who are they...? Angels...his saviours...he was being saved...

One of the glorious creatures knelt by his side, pulling something out of his back pocket.

"I don’t think it’s him," the other spoke.

The first one shook his head. "I’m sure it’s him, brother. It says so on his passport."

His brother laughed. "Look, he has an organ donor card, Masao!" He reached for the wallet. "Let’s just take his money and go home."

"I get the gold credit card!" the younger twin squeaked.

Now he was fully awake. Those.... "You little bastards!!!" he roared, struggling to sit up. His body wouldn’t move! "I’ll have your guts for garters, you little toads!" He flailed wildly, regaining feeling in his remaining limbs but nary a bit of control. "Just come ‘ere..."

The lovable Masao and Kazuo Tachibana exchanged a brief co-conspiratorial sneer. With an outburst of obnoxious laughter, they both grabbed fragments of the ruined piano and beat Steven with them until he began to lose consciousness again.

The last thing he remembered was the sensation of four grubby little hands removing his shirt...


Hyuga’s eyes slowly opened to a slight pain in his head. As soon as he saw the two fuzzy figures standing before him, he reclosed them.

"Don’t you think you can fool us," an ear-grating voice told him.

"Yeah," chimed in an equally irritating voice. "We know you’re awake!"

Damn...! Hyuga silently cursed, reaching out blindly for support. He sat up with difficulty and forced himself to gaze upon his visitors, giving them his very best scowl. "You two better have a good reason for being here," he snapped.

The diabolical Tachibana twins leered at him in all their impish glory, making their way over from the closed door. Masao was, strangely enough, wearing an enormous shirt that hung over his soccer uniform like a caftan; Kazuo sported a gigantic pair of shorts that were belted together with what resembled a huge sock.

"Let me in!!!!" pleaded Takeshi from behind the door. "I can take them both!"

"Shut up!!" both of them screeched at the same time.

Masao smiled maliciously as his brother held onto the doorknob, obviously preventing any intruders from entering. "We heard what happened to you at practice, Kojiro chan," he said, not sounding very sorry at all. "You won’t be playing in the next game, will you?"

Hyuga stared at him, feeling very much in a daze. Just what is that little twerp getting at?

"Poor thing. He doesn’t look good at all," Kazuo chimed in, his voice like screeching chalk on a blackboard. Noticing his victim’s shudder, he gave Masao an all-knowing look. His brother giggled.

"So you’ve come to pay your respects?" Hyuga asked warily. "You’re worried about my condition that much?"

They shook their heads, still grinning like idiots. "We’re glad you’re not playing," the horrible twins sang. "You’d just be a waste of space cuz you suck!"

Hyuga seethed with fury directed not only the little creeps but his own weakness as well. How could he let this..."’re ugly!" he spat out. "Both of you! Get out of here!"

"You suck! You suck!" Masao and Kazuo chanted, greatly enjoying themselves.

The doorknob rattled viciously in Kazuo’s hand. "Let me in!!" Takeshi screamed from outside. "Nobody talks to Hyuga san like that and lives! Just you wait!"

Masao snickered. "What’re you gonna do about it?"

A second passed in silence. Then the door flew open with tremendous force, sending Kazuo headfirst into a wall. The boy slid to the floor, scrambling to his knees to get a better look at the culprit. Takeshi was standing in the doorway, his eyes blazing, clutching an ax he had gotten out of “In Case of Fire” box in the hall. Masao let out a scream and ran to his brother. The two clung to each other, terrified, cowering from the figure standing in front of them.

Takeshi raised his weapon, his once-innocent face twisted with rage. “Now I’ll send you both to hell in one blow!” he yelled at the quivering lumps below him. “Prepare yourselves!”

“Calm down!” Wakashimazu tried to slide into the room to stop the boy, but his way was blocked.

Takeshi turned to him then, his eyes regaining their former serenity. “You don’t understand,” he said, his voice strangely calm. “You don’t get it, do you... They have to die. It’s the only way.” He smiled then, turning back to his victims. This is it.

“Please! Save us!” Masao and Kazuo both pleaded, even though not even they knew who that was directed at. They were still embracing each other, holding on for dear life, and crying so hard that their tears looked like glue spurting out of their eyes.

Takeshi continued to leer at them in an evil manner. Fools.

“Maybe you should calm down,” Hyuga suggested, a big smile on his face. It was obvious that he was enjoying the whole scene very much.

“Yes!” Wakashimazu pleaded, trying to duck under Takeshi’s arm. “You don’t want to commit murder, do you?”

Takeshi paused, thinking. That’s tough... He was underage, but he could still be looking at a pretty stiff sentence...after all, there were two of them!

Relenting, he sighed and let the ax fall to the floor. It landed with a useless clatter. “Go,” he said.

“Very good, Takeshi!” Wakashimazu praised a bit too enthusiastically.

“Very good! Very good!” Masao and Kazuo chorused, proceeding to kiss Takeshi’s feet. “Thank you for this mercy, kind sir!”

“GET OUT!!!!!” Takeshi screaming, seizing his weapon once again and swiping at the whimpering brothers.

They took the hint. They both opened the window and they both jumped out. As soon as they hit the pavement about sixty feet below, they broke into a mad run and were gone in two seconds flat.

Takeshi stood still for a long moment, silent except for the staccato gasping of breath that could only follow such an outburst. The horrible little people were gone, but not for long. His team would soon have to risk it all on the field against the twins’ hell-spawned Hanawa, and without their beloved captain...

As if sensing these troubled thoughts, Hyuga began to rise. “I am not going to sit around sucking my thumb while you deal with this by yourselves,” he said forcefully. “You heard the twins. I won’t let them get the best of me!”

Takeshi shook his head slowly, remarkably subdued. “No. You shouldn’t listen to them, Hyuga san. They’re just losers with nothing better to do than bother you. They...they probably can’t even spell their own names!”

Hyuga didn’t answer, staring at the floor with somber eyes. But I was the one who picked a fight with Steven, he thought. My team is going to suffer because of my carelessness. When will I stop twisting things into a personal battle for my stupid pride? Tsubasa would never be so selfish. Then again, Tsubasa also knows that drinking isn't allowed during soccer season, but he still...

His teammates studied him carefully during this uneasy moment of silence. Finally Wakashimazu spoke up, his expression serious. “You don’t actually think that Coach Kitazume will let you play after what happened yesterday, do you?”

“I don’t like to think,” Hyuga said dully.

“ have to think of your health, Hyuga san,” Takeshi told him timidly. “We all know that you’re just about the strongest soccer player in the whole world, and that nothing ever stops you, but--”

“Thank you,” Hyuga said, flushing slightly. He wasn’t above compliments from everybody!

“But...we need you to get better,” the boy finished quickly, lowering his gaze shamefully. He was never one to reject his idol’s services, but in such a situation...

“Is that how you all feel?” Hyuga asked. Strangely enough, his voice had taken on a definite wounded sound. “You all...really don’t want me to play, do you? Are you afraid I’ll slow you down?”

“No! It’s not like that at all!!” Takeshi protested. Oh no!!! he thought, horrified. What have I just said?! What have I done?! Poor Hyuga san, he must feel so hurt!

“We just don’t want you to hurt yourself any more,” Sorimachi supplied for Takeshi, who was too mired in his self-bashing to elaborate. “You’re our captain, but you’re also our friend. We’ve got to take care of you.”

“I’m your friend?” Hyuga asked, his face alight with joy despite the fact that he was already aware of that. Even a lone wolf like him couldn’t resist such an affectionate display.

Wakashimazu nodded, smiling. His dignity, and not to mention his status as the tallest player on the team, kept him from doing much else.

“Minna...” their captain began, his eyes misting over from emotion. “I...I don’t know what to say...”

“So you’ll sit out the next game and rest?” Takeshi asked hopefully.

His face fell. “Well...I don’t want to, but...” Hyuga managed a small smile. “I’ll do it. Because you’re all my friends, and friends listen to each other.”

His teammates let out a communal sigh of relief.

However, Hyuga’s smile disappeared as quickly as it appeared. “I bet Kitazume’ll be happy that I’m finally following his orders,” he said, a hint of bitterness in his voice.

His friends gazed at him with a mixture of sympathy and confusion.

Wakashimazu gulped. He didn’t think Kitazume would be doing anything for a long time!

Part Eight
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