Chapter 05

Fuji watched his brother walk away from him and scowled silently up at the ball lodged in the fence where Yuuta had been practicing. He knew what kind of shot it had been and how damaging it was for his brother to be using it. Playing against St. Rudolph at the prefecture tournament was turning out to be a major irritation. Whoever had taught Yuuta that shot better have done so without knowing the risks beyond its usage. Anyone hurting his family was unforgivable.

Family was something Fuji knew he could count on. Even if he didn’t like everyone or if they didn’t like him, blood was important. It meant you stuck together, no matter what. At home, he didn’t have to worry about keeping his mask up all the time. Instead, his family left him to his own devices. It was their way of showing respect. Of course, it helped that he genuinely liked the people he was related to…he’d never once had any sort of sadistic urges towards them. Sometimes they annoyed him, but that was part and parcel of family life and it was something he easily accepted.

But if anyone hurt his family besides another family member and had intended to cause that pain…well, there was nothing that could set Fuji’s temper blazing quite so well as that. He felt his jaw clench and forced himself to relax. He was due back at the match. It wouldn’t do to show up looking pissed off-his teammates wouldn’t understand. No, worse than that…Yuuta wouldn’t understand. And he wasn’t going to ruin the match for his brother. He wanted him to have fun during the match with Echizen.

Putting the thought of what he was going to do to whoever had taught Yuuta that shot, he made his way back to the tennis courts and took a spot beside Tezuka. He watched what was now a familiar scene-Echizen provoking his opponent at the beginning of a match. It was almost as trademark as his “Made Made Dane”-but not quite.

The match progressed pretty evenly and Fuji found himself impressed at the difference in his brother’s abilities. The last time he’d played Yuuta, he’d won easily. Now, though, it was obvious Yuuta would present more of a challenge. He held in a gasp as his brother managed to return a twist serve with ease, wondering when he’d managed to perfect the technique. That surprise paled in comparison to the sheer terror that gripped him when Yuuta got into the stance to hit a twist spin shot. Fuji felt another wave of anger at the idiot who had taught it to him in the first place. Maintaining his usual expression was all but impossible and it took a few seconds to make his smile seem normal. Luckily, no one had noticed.

When the game score had reached 4-1 with Yuuta leading, Echizen stopped to talk. That was something else Fuji had noticed…the freshman was much more social on the court than off it and had no trouble engaging in conversation. He filed that note away for later. If he did decide to pursue a friendship with the guy, that would be an important thing to remember. As for whether or not he acted on the desire to be friends…well, that hung on this match. Fuji had seen the exact moment Echizen realized that the twist spin shot was dangerous to use and hoped desperately that the guy would do something to seal the move. Practically speaking, Echizen could continue to allow the twist spin shot to go through and cause Yuuta to become injured. Fuji wanted to believe Echizen wasn’t that type of person, but he hadn’t seen him play enough matches to be able to tell for sure.

“That twist shot is pretty hard to return. If I don’t hold the face down a bit more, the ball goes out,” Echizen was saying. “Still, I think I have it down now.” He paused, then added, “By the way, you shouldn’t use the twist shot so much.”

Fuji felt relief crash down upon him in waves. Rather than taunting Yuuta, he’d warned him. Which meant that he wasn’t the type of player who felt it necessary to cause his opponent physical harm in order to win. That strengthened Fuji’s resolve. When the match with St. Rudolph was over, he’d find a way to approach the freshman. It was very possible that the freshman would make an excellent friend.

He put that thought away and turned his attention back to the game, watching as Echizen managed to seal the twist spin shot with a unique drive volley that he termed “Drive B” by sliding underneath the ball and returning it so that it fell near the halfway point on the court and then bounced out. It did sort of look like a B. With that move, Echizen took the game and the match. Fuji had to strain to hear the last few words the players exchanged.

“I lost,” Yuuta said. “You’re strong.”

“Maybe you’re just weak.”

“Why-

“Joking, joking.” Echizen waved a hand dismissively.

Fuji had to hide a genuine laugh under his fake smile. The match had been incredibly fun to watch after Echizen took away Yuuta’s ability to use the twist spin shot. The rest of the tension melted off of his shoulders. There was no more reason to be concerned for his brother’s safety-at least not for today. But there was still the matter of who had taught him the shot…he narrowed his eyes. The next match was him against Mizuki, the manager for the St. Rudolph team. If Mizuki had taught his brother that move, and it was most likely he had…well, he’d get what was coming to him.

Rifling in his tennis bag, he brought out his racquet, aware of Tezuka standing quietly behind him. “Tezuka, do you feel like playing?” he asked, almost rhetorically.

“Hm?”

“I’m sorry, but it doesn’t look like we’ll get to you this time,” Fuji said, eyes narrowed and focused on Mizuki, who was getting his own racquet from his bag. If this guy had taught his brother…he felt his shoulders start to shake with rage and forced himself to calm down. He had no proof yet. And he couldn’t physically hurt the guy, even if he had been the one to hurt Yuuta. That was a line Fuji wouldn’t cross-tennis and violence often mixed, but that line wasn’t one he would blur for himself. No, there were better ways of dealing with people like Mizuki. If, he forcibly reminded himself, he is responsible.

Fuji found his way onto the court, standing across the net from Mizuki, who held out his hand for the traditional pre-match handshake. He extended his hand, intending to shake Mizuki’s, but drew back at the last moment. It was an insult-he knew that-but if Mizuki had been responsible…he closed his eyes firmly to get a handle on his emotions. Now was not the time. With as much effort as he could muster, he detached himself from his emotions. Right now, they would only be a hindrance.

He focused all of his attention on losing the first five games. Losing on purpose was a lot more difficult than winning with ease and it helped him settle his mind. It also helped him think of the perfect strategy to use if Mizuki had indeed been the one to teach his brother such a dangerous shot. During the court change over, he stopped and asked. It was useless to keep wondering. Better to just get the truth out in the open. That way he wouldn’t feel bad about what he was about to do. “Mizuki, I’m going to ask this just in case. Did you teach Yuuta the twist spin shot even though you knew the damage it would do to his shoulder?”

Mizuki smirked at him. That was a yes. “Winning’s all that matters. There are always casualties when you pursue victory”

Fuji jerked his head in a stiff acknowledgment. That certainly made things easier. He made his way over to his tennis bag and picked up his gold racquet. He was going to do this in style. He took his place on the court and waited for the serve, exploding into motion when Mizuki sent a ball over. He returned it easily, scoring a point.

“Wha-but that was your weak side,” Mizuki protested.

“That shot was aimed towards my stronger side,” Fuji said, tone gently chiding. If Inui couldn’t get proper data on him, then Mizuki sure as hell couldn’t. The guy wasn’t going to know what hit him and that suited Fuji just fine. He was going to have fun with this. Humiliating the person who had dared to put his brother in danger was sure to be almost as much fun as causing him psychical pain would be. The game continued that way until Fuji took the score from 5-0 with Mizuki leading to 7-5 with Fuji winning. Being beat by that sort of comeback would be humiliating for anyone.

And Mizuki fell into the category of anyone. When the game was over, he collapsed to his knees with a frustrated scream and Fuji looked down at him with narrowed eyes, hiding a shudder of revulsion at the tears streaming down Mizuki’s face. What a bad loser.

“You asshole! You lost 0-5 at the start on purpose! Playing me like that…” Mizuki fell silent, choked with the effort of trying to get enough air to breathe through the heavy sobs.

“Thank you for taking care of my brother,” Fuji said before turning around and walking off the court. He didn’t care if Mizuki fell apart. The man had knowingly put his brother at risk and he’d taken care of the problem. Mizuki wouldn’t mess with Yuuta again. Fuji had made sure of that.

After the ending ceremony, Fuji walked alongside the fence of the courts with Yuuta, trying to convince him to come home for the pie their mom had made. He noticed, when he got near the exit of the park, that Echizen was leaning against the fence, listening intently to the conversation between him and Yuuta.

Fuji didn’t alter his conversation or let on that he’d seen Echizen, but inside he was smiling to himself. Here, finally, was proof that Echizen found him interesting enough to be willing to engage in a more personal conversation. But, as he was forcibly reminded when Yuuta scowled at him, that would have to wait until tomorrow.

And then maybe he’d have the whole weekend to spend getting to know the freshman. If, of course, he didn’t manage to scare him off. Somehow, though, Fuji didn’t think that would happen. Not after what he’d seen of the guy’s personality.

Chapter 4     Chapter Index     Chapter 6

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