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Part One

“I...I don’t know if I can go through with this.” Tsubasa’s childlike voice echoed throughout the cool, dark hall outside Karl Heinz Schneider’s secret office. He felt empty as a crypt, his heart pulsing painfully against the wall of his chest. In the back of his mind he tried many times to recount the various events that led up to this; vainly, for it was already out of his comprehension. Out of his hands. What was he going to do?

Shortly after he had arrived at his house, his mother had greeted him in his room, offering him a crisp white envelope she claimed had been given to her by “a great big dog.” Not having quite recovered from the Souda incident, Tsubasa felt his world crash around him. So he opened the letter, forgetting (or at least, trying to forget) the plans he had to ring up Wakabayashi kun and talk about their future. The swastika stamped on the envelope said it all.

Tsubasa took a deep breath and squeezed his eyes tightly shut. Splotches of every known color and shape swam beneath his lids. He was in control, he was in control. He opened his eyes and reached for the doorknob, grateful for the sudden burst of courage.

So this was what was in store for him. Schneider himself was standing in the doorway, smiling radiantly--in full uniform from his crimson armband to his black knee high boots. “Welcome, Aryan Tsubasa,” the German said. “Today you will take part in a beautiful ceremony. I conferred with the Fuhrer upon arriving home after our meeting, and he asked me to be your personal sponsor. Now, come. We have much to do.”

Tsubasa reluctantly linked arms with Schneider and allowed himself to be led down a long, red carpet to the far end of the room. Members of the Green Police lined the aisle like toy soldiers at attention. Triumphant music blared out of unseen speakers, and a huge Nazi flag stared him down from his destination. It was more than the poor boy could bear.

As soon as they reached the end of the carpet, Schneider gestured for Tsubasa to kneel. He walked up to the scarlet curtained wall and pulled a cord hanging from the bottom. The curtain fell away, revealing a gigantic black and white portrait of none other than Adolf Hitler. Tsubasa gasped in horror. Tasukete, Wakabayashi kun! he prayed silently. Onegai, tasukete!

“On this day, I bestow the full powers of deputy furor on Aryan Tsubasa Ozora with the Fuhrer’s consent and will,” Schneider intoned. “In my Lord Hitler’s position, I vow to, with his help, create a new world cleansed of evil and impurity, a world the righteous may, indeed, call home.” He took a large box from the nearest greenie and handed it to his recruit. “This uniform is yours, Aryan Tsubasa. Wear it well. You are welcome to come back here anytime to seek the Fuhrer’s advice. Perhaps, when you have completed your growth, he will give you unspeakable power.”

Tsubasa gazed at the package in his hands. It could’ve been from any department store, but the huge swastika emblazoned on the lid betrayed its contents to the world.

In a horrifying motion, Schneider leaned over and kissed poor Tsubasa once on each cheek. “We are brothers, Tsubasa Ozora,” he whispered in his ear, the faint scent of Heineken wafting into the air. He stepped back and watched him, smiling, his eyes shining brightly with tears of joy.

Tsubasa lowered his head, feeling as if he had been assaulted with a sledgehammer. What am I doing here?! he thought wildly. This is crazy! Schneider’s not my brother--not my friend! My friend

Schneider cut him off. “Now you must go, my dearest. Go and rest. Dream of our World.” Tsubasa slowly rose to his feet, dazed. He was numb, senseless, mindless. As he walked out the door, he caught a glimpse of Schneider’s face. The blond was positively glowing, and before Tsubasa was out of sight, he blew him a kiss.

Yayoi couldn’t be more happy. Barely a day after her Jun’s tragic hospitalization, the doctors had told her that he had recovered miraculously, enough to be discharged that very night. She tightened her grip on the back of his wheelchair, humming a little tune as she gazed into the distance. I’m sorry about your birthday party, Jun. I’ll make it up to you tonight. She leaned over the back of the chair, eager to catch a glimpse of her boyfriend, but got the shock of her life instead. Jun was not in the wheelchair!

Oh, no...where could he be? The taxi’s about to leave! “Jun!” she cried, heartbroken, as she shoved the wheelchair aside and raced back into the hospital. “Jun, where are you?”

Misugi studied his reflection in the dusty mirror, smiling to himself. Excellent. His little “attack” hadn’t had any effect on his body. He felt strong...stronger than he had ever been. And to think I thought I’d have to be more particular. This is absolutely perfect. He smiled to himself, the brown of his eyes brightening strangely, looking almost blood-red in the harsh light of the men’s room.

“Jun!” Yayoi cried, flinging open the bathroom door in a frantic motion. “Jun...where were you?” Not getting a response, she raced up to her Man and grabbed her arm, tugging on it. “I was so worried...the taxi’s about to leave, and...”

“Unhand me!” Misugi wrenched his arm away with such violent force that it sent Yayoi staggering backward a few steps. The girl regained her balance slowly, staring up at him with watery eyes. He smiled. Poor little girl. I’ll have to be more careful. “We’re in the men’s room, Yayoi,” he reminded gently. “Don’t overdo it.”

She nodded tearfully, and the two made their way out of the building. Yayoi let out a cry of dismay, noticing that their cab was, indeed, gone. “And we were only gone a few minutes, too...”

Misugi frowned. In the distance, he could see a small car stopping by the curb. Their taxi, no doubt, picking up somebody who had been a little quicker. “Let’s go,” he said, grabbing Yayoi’s arm and breaking into a run.

“That hurts!” she protested. “’re pulling too hard! Let go!”

Misugi paid her no heed. He skidded to a halt in front of the stopped taxi, eyes blazing. The driver gazed up at him warily. “That’s as far as you go, my friend,” the boy said in an uncanny voice. Letting out a harsh cry, he drew back a fist and smashed it through the cab’s windshield.

“Hyuga san, slow down!” Takeshi panted, his eyes pleading as he struggled to keep up with his favorite player. “You look like you’re about to drop dead! Please stop!”

“No,” Hyuga said simply, picking up his pace even more. “There’s no way I’m going in that THING again. Drag me all the way back, if it pleases you, just don’t humiliate me any further.”

“We still have a long way to go,” Wakashimazu commented. He ceased his movement for a moment, trying to catch his breath. The sun was already starting to set, and the telltale song of the crickets told him that was getting quite late. They had been walking for hours, it was all uphill, and he had to push the stupid wheelbarrow the entire way! He half-wished that he had listened to his teachers when they told him that his hair was “unsuitable for his gender”. It was just getting in the way.

“Just leave it,” Hyuga said suddenly.

“We can’t,” Takeshi informed him before Wakashimazu could reply. “We’ll get fined or something.”

“Then let me push it,” their captain offered.

Wakashimazu shook his head, starting to move again. “No, Captain. You need to rest.”

Hyuga restrained his goalkeeper with one hand. His voice was concerned. “Wakashimazu,” he began, “don’t. If you keep up like this, you’ll hurt your shoulder again. I don’t want you overworking yourself, especially if it’s not necessary.”

Wakashimazu managed a small, shy smile. “But I’m okay, really. You need a break more than I do.”

Hyuga nodded, more in understanding than agreement. Wakashimazu... he thought, his mind falling into a brief, serene repose. You are one of the finest people I know.

Hanging back, Takeshi watched his captain with wide, pensive eyes. I wonder what he’s thinking... He isn’t saying anything, but his eyes... Hyuga san’s eyes are so beautiful. I can tell that he’s got a lot on his mind just from his eyes. He really is magnificent.

Takeshi’s staring at Hyuga san again, Wakashimazu thought, raising an eyebrow ever-so-slightly. I’ve heard of role models, but isn’t he taking this a little too far?

Hyuga cleared his throat suddenly, breaking the silence. “Are we done with our monologues?” he asked, trying hard not to smile.

The others blushed, embarrassed. Had he read their minds?

Takeshi smiled, looking a little shy. “Hyuga san...” he started to say, “if you aren’t going to go in that thing, can I?”

Hyuga was shocked into near-speechlessness. “Well...”

“No, I want to,” Sorimachi interrupted. “I don’t feel like walking anymore. Besides, why should you get to have all the fun? I want to try it!”

“Well, it’s not going to hold both of us,” Takeshi pointed out. “I called it.”

“So what?”

This was getting out of hand. Time for some divine intervention. “All right, that’s enough,” Wakashimazu said. “We’ll take the bus.” Maybe if they were lucky, Kitazume would get a senior citizen’s discount.