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Part Eight

Masao and Kazuo collapsed on the grass, breathing heavily. The two brothers appeared to be on the verge of hyperventilation. “ did Takeshi get so big...?” Kazuo gasped, his face red from overexertion.

His brother wiped his face on the bottom of his shirt. “I don’t know, Niisan,” he said. “We used to be so much bigger and stronger than him. I was so scared!”

They sat in silence for a few minutes, just enjoying the break from all that running. Finally, Masao stood up, dusting off his shorts. They were a bit grasstained, but considering their original color, it was kind of hard to notice. “Come on, Kazuo,” he said, his face suddenly lighting up. “We’ve had a hard day. Let’s go shopping and charge everything onto Steven’s credit card!”

“Yeah!” his obnoxious sibling agreed. “Let’s do it! We can take a taxi to the mall and have lots of fun!”

The two of them giggled childishly, linking arms. Skipping merrily, they left the grounds of Toho Gakuen and headed toward the street.

A loud knock on the door broke the long silence. Startled, the infirmary’s occupants all rushed to open it, with the except of Hyuga, who was just sitting on the cot near the window, looking mildly alarmed. Takeshi was the first one to reach the door, but just as he was about to open it, the person on the other side swung it open with such force that the poor boy caught it full in the face.

He slowly got to his feet, rubbing his bruised forehead. “Who is it?” he asked. When he caught sight of the terror that stood before them, he let out a scream of terror.

A small figure had made its way into their midst; a barefoot troll of a man whose tattered garments and disheveled hair gave the impression that he had spent a wild night in either a cardboard box or a clothes dryer. He held a wooden kendo stick poised in his hand, and he sneered when he noticed his hosts staring at it.

“...You!!” Hyuga gasped, a sudden sharp pain shooting up his spine. He could already hear the wind whipping through the air as that bamboo stick rose, and the pain...

“Hyuga saaaan!” Takeshi exclaimed, rushing to his captain’s side, alarmed by his sudden pallor. “What’s wrong?!”

“” Hyuga managed to force out before slumping over in weakness.

The man’s lumpy face broke into a smirk, his mouth a twisted line. “Yes, I’ve heard of your plight, Kojiro Hyuga. I’ve come to restore you to your position on the team.”

“But Coach Kira, he is on the team,” Takeshi protested, supporting his idol with one arm. “He’s injured, and he’s sitting out of the next game to recover, that’s all.”

“Injured?” Kira’s unshaven face was doubtful. “Is this true?”

Hyuga raised his head just enough so that he could meet his former coach’s lopsided gaze. A flicker of shame shone in his eyes. “Yes...” he said slowly. “It’s true.”

Kira’s horrible face darkened. Like a flash of cruel lightning, the hand clutching the stick lashed out. “I didn’t waste my time on you so you could be so fragile!!!!” he screeched, preparing to administer his own special kind of training. “I’ll get through to you yet!!”

Panic flashed on the faces of the others, and a scream rose in Takeshi’s throat. However, a swift hand halted the weapon before it had a chance to hit its target.

“I don’t know who you think you are, old man,” Wakashimazu began in a dangerously low voice, pushing the stick aside, “but you just crossed a very thin line. Get out!! Don’t spread your filthy ugliness around here!!”

Kira replied by making a strange sound, but didn’t move.

“Is there a problem in here?” a familiar voice asked, dissolving the fight before it started. Behind them stood none other than Kitazume himself, adjusting his orange-lensed spectacles.

“Sire!!” Kira exclaimed in an odd display of subservience, throwing himself to his knees at the other man’s feet. “Please, I beg of you! Let Kojiro Hyuga play in the next game! It’s necessary for your team’s victory! Please!”

Kitazume mumbled something unintelligible under his breath and glanced at Hyuga, who could barely sit without Takeshi’s help. The morning’s events had taken their toll on him.

“Are you telling me how to do my job?” the older man finally asked, a warning note entering his voice.

Kira shrugged.

Kitazume smiled a thin, deadly smile and began to roll up his shirt sleeves. “Let’s take this outside.”

Amazingly, the other man obeyed. The door closed behind the two after they exited. From inside the infirmary, only the chilling sounds of crunching punctuated by an occasional scream were heard. A wooden snap confirmed the victor.

“Get out of my hall, you ugly little man!!” Kitazume’s voice bellowed. “And don’t ever cross me again!!!” This was followed by a thud and a yelp, and then breaking glass.

“We’re here! We’re here!” Masao chattered happily. He pressed his face against the taxi window, overflowing with impish glee. “Let’s go, Kazuo!”

On that cue, the two joined hands, then pushed open the door and jumped out, not even bothering to wait for the taxi to stop. The driver sped away, obviously so relieved to get rid of those two genetic mistakes that he didn’t even care that they didn’t pay. The two brothers skipped to their destination, still holding hands, humming a silly, childish tune. They were having such a good time that the stares they were getting from the other mallgoers didn’t even reach them. They were going to have a nice trip. Nobody could stop them!

“Look!” Kazuo screeched to a halt, nearly losing his grip on his brother in the process. He pointed to the sign on a store near them, a big smile on his face. His eyes widened as he took in the racks of merchandise at the front of the store. “It’s so big!” he said excitedly, pointing at the rack nearest to them.

“Clothes for fat people!” Masao squealed, his own eyes sparkling with joy. “Let’s go in!”

“No, no, no!” Kazuo tugged at his hand, trying to get him to go the other way. “I want to go inside that store that sells women’s underwear! You promised, Masao!”

“Okay! Let’s go!” Masao grinned devilishly, and the two skipped off in the opposite direction. They weaved around the crowds of shoppers, laughing like leprechauns buzzed on acid-laced Lucky Charms. Unfortunately, their presence was not unnoticed.

“Hey, look at the two geeks in the soccer uniforms!” a guy yelled. He was wearing a chartreuse shirt and a white headband, and was accompanied by three similarly-dressed people. “They’re gay!” The four of them burst into hysterical laughter.

Masao turned around and stuck out his tongue at them. “Beehhh.” However, his brother had a more interesting way of expressing his displeasure.

“That one just flipped us off!” one of the chartreuse shirts said loudly.

“That’s it.” The leader eyes bugged out as the twins laughed at them obnoxiously, ready to flee. “Get them!” he ordered. The band of chartreuse shirts took off then, waving their arms and shouting obscenities.

“You two little freaks won’t get away with this!” one of them yelled, picking up a trash can and hurling it at the cackling imps.

“That’s right!” his buddy agreed. “No one flips off a member of Toho’s awesome cheering section! Kill the buggers!”

Masao and Kazuo cackled, dodging the weapon easily. Their opponents were so helpless. After all, they were double the fun!

“They’ll never catch up with us, Masao!” Kazuo screeched, weaving his way in and out of the crowd of shoppers. “We’re too smart for ‘em!”

Masao giggled as he made his way over to a ramen stand, a greater mischief in mind. “This is more fun than pushing old ladies into traffic, Kazuo!” he called, gesturing wildly for his brother to follow.

To further emphasize his point, Masao seized a bowl from the nearest eater and emptied it, contents and all, onto the poor sap’s head. “Gotcha, gotcha!!” he squealed.

Hikaru Matsuyama, the orange-garbed captain of the Furano team, let out a hideous yelp of pain as hot broth and noodles dripped down his face onto his shirt. The evil Tachibana twins bounced away and he screamed to the advancing chartreuse warriors like a tortured soul. “Kill them! Make them pay!!!!”

Laughing like crazed little demons, the twins dashed away from the oncoming mob, in search of more wicked fun. “Let’s go to the pet store!” Kazuo wheezed, starting to lose speed. He was now so far behind that Masao was dragging him along. “I want to see the animals!”

“In a minute, Niisan!” Masao slowed to a stop as he noticed a familiar looking couple standing in front of a flower shop. The two were obvious quite taken with each other at the moment, leaning over a carnation arrangement with such absorption that one might believe it to be the ultimate source of their love. The boy was wearing a shirt with a bright orange collar that matched his girlfriend’s hair almost exactly.

“Jun....” Yayoi whispered, gazing up at her man in vacuous rapture. Their hands were touching...almost. Just a few more inches...she could almost feel his ha--

Unfortunately, their moment was interrupted before it started once the gremlins reached them.

Jun removed his hand and turned around, much to the girl’s dismay. He sensed something...somebody nearby. But where?

Masao giggled, pulling Kazuo behind a potted plant with him. “This is going to be fun,” he mouthed.

Yayoi, of course, suspected nothing. “Jun...” she started to say. She was answered by the all-seeing voice of fate.

“You’re ugly!” an obnoxious voice rang out from behind a rosebush.

“Yeah!” another piped up. “And you don’t have a girl’s body, too!”

Poor Yayoi turned bright red, her mouth dropping open as the unseen Tachibanas began to make barking noises. With an anguished cry she turned and fled, Jun in hot pursuit.

Satisfied, Masao and Kazuo stepped out of their hiding place and started toward the before-mentioned pet store. The place was abuzz with assorted howls and had a strong, unpleasant smell, but they both felt like they belonged there.

“Ooh!” Masao squealed. “Look at all the cute little doggies!”

Kazuo looked briefly at the back of the store, evil sparking into his eyes. “They have cats here too! Do you--”

His brother nodded, smiling nastily. “Nobody’d suspect two cute kids like us!”

With a final cackle, they began to open all the cages lining the store. No one had noticed. Not yet.

After the last cage was opened, Kazuo reached into a bin set up near the closest cash register, his hand shaking with anticipation. Pulling out a rubber ball, he threw it as hard as he could. It was no mystery what would happen next.

Like a devastating ocean wave, animals of every shape, size and creed poured out of the shop into the neon darkness of the mall. Customers shrieked, onlookers gasped, and employees attempted to conceal their massive coronaries as they tried to round up the fleeing pets.

“Cool!” Masao cheered.

However, the thunderous barking and yowling silenced one sound, a sound that predicted where the Tachibanas would be spending their time for the next ten to twenty years. It was the sound of one brave stock boy activating the store alarm so cleverly hidden from view.

“Beat it! It’s the Man!” Kazuo yammered as the boys in blue proceeded to raid the vicinity. He tucked his brother under one arm and tore out of the shop, ducking between the nearest officer’s legs.

The twins broke out in disgusting peals of laughter as the cops gave chase, nightsticks brandished. “Breakin’ the law, breakin’ the law!”

All right, Kozo is his first name. I was deceived! I should've gone with my instinct! I was deceived!

Part Nine
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