Chapter 22

It was the day of the fateful match between Seigaku and Rikkaidi and Fuji was more than ready to take on Kirihara. After the man had injured Tachibana and openly challenged Fuji…yeah, Fuji was more than ready. To top it off, he had inside information that would pretty much guarantee that he won the match. Whether he succeeded in breaking Kirihara through tennis or not didn’t matter – it was what he had planned for after the match ended that mattered the most.

Anticipation thrummed through him, and, when it was finally time for Fuji to face Kirihara on the court, he wasn’t surprised when the Rikkaidai player turned to taunts.

“Hey, what was the shortest match of this tournament?” Kirihara called out, never taking his eyes off the Seigaku player.

“Thirteen minutes.” That had come from one of Kirihara’s teammates.

Kirihara turned to Fuji with a smirk. “Then I’ll finish this match in less than that,” he said, voice smug.

Fuji fought the urge to roll his eyes. It was only the knowledge of what awaited Kirihara after the match ended that kept Fuji’s annoyance at bay.

When Kirihara slammed the tennis ball down into Fuji’s knee, however, it was much more difficult to maintain his composure. Every nerve in his leg cried out in pain, but Fuji refused to give in. He had endured far worse torture than this, and far worse torture awaited him if he failed the Sora family. So, Fuji clenched his teeth around the pain and forced himself to his feet.

The second time it happened, standing up was more difficult. Being injured purposely by a man he was going to crush infuriated him. Fuji let his anger pull him to his feet.

The third time it happened, Fuji wasn’t sure he could stand up. But then Tachibana’s voice came from the stands, urging him to his feet. That alone may not have been enough. But when Kirihara served a ball straight at Tachibana, Fuji snapped. No one got away with trying to hurt his friends. No one.

It was rare for Fuji to play at full strength – he rarely ever felt the need. But with this, with Tachibana’s cruelty, the need existed. So Fuji let his true strength, his true genius, shine through his tennis, and he crushed Kirihara. When he served a ball that scared Kirihara into injuring himself and Kirihara became convinced that Fuji was returning to him what Kirihara had done to others, Fuji saw no need to disabuse him of the notion. At the end of the game, when it was obvious Kirihara thought that Fuji was going to serve a ball that would end up hitting him in the face, Fuji used one of his counters and grabbed the ball out of the air as it bounced back into his court. “Tennis must not be used as a tool to breed hatred,” he said, though few would realize it was more to himself than to Kirihara. His anger at Kirihara was so strong that he was struggling to control himself, and he knew that no one except his lovers would recognize that.

Once off the court, his teammates asked him if he needed to go to the hospital, but he refused. Fuji wanted to see Echizen beat Sanada. His knee would heal. And Echizen, true to form, beat Sanada, which meant Seigaku could celebrate their victory over Rikkaidai when they got back home.

Fuji had something more important to take care of. He spotted Sanada near the edge of the court and burst into a run. He knew the Rikkaidai vice captain was on his way to see how the captain’s surgery was going, and Fuji had no time to waste. “Sanada,” he yelled, right when he was in the man’s hearing range.

Sanada whipped his head around at the sound of his name and started to glare, then stopped dead in his tracks and waited for Fuji to catch up, his eyes seeking the ground. “Hai, Fuji-san?”

Fuji smiled grimly. “You’re going to the hospital, ne?”

Sanada hesitated, but the dark look Fuji gave him quickly loosened his tongue. “Hai, Fuji-san. I was going to see about the captain’s surgery, if that’s okay?”

“I’m coming with you,” Fuji said. “I owe Kirihara.” He allowed his eyes to flash darkly, relishing in the way Sanada shuddered. “Mm, by the way, Sanada, how are your parents doing?”

Sanada swallowed hard. “They are well, Fuji-san. Thank you for pulling strings.”

Fuji nodded. “Get me to the hospital and alone with Kirihara, and I’ll consider your debt to me repaid.” Sanada’s parents were notorious thieves who Fuji had convinced his father to break out of an American prison and relocate to Tokyo a few years back. That was the debt in question.

 

“Just that and we’re even, Fuji-san?” Sanada asked.

“Yes,” Fuji said. “Just that.”

Sanada’s eyes widened. “Consider it done,” he said. Then he glanced at Fuji’s knee. He frowned. “Are you sure you shouldn’t have that looked at?”

Fuji scowled. “I’ll have it seen to after my business with Kirihara is finished,” he said. “Now lead the way.”

Sanada, wisely, fell silent, and did as told.

When they reached the hospital, Fuji found a private alcove and instructed Sanada to bring Kirihara to him. Sanada disappeared, leaving Fuji with just enough time to gather his wits before confronting Kirihara. While he typically left the down-and-dirty aspect of the underground world to others, he couldn’t afford to do that with Kirihara. Not when it meant keeping Ryoma safe.

Ten minutes later, Sanada appeared with Kirihara in tow.

Kirihara frowned as he say Fuji. “What are you doing here?” he asked, tone wary.

Fuji fought his urge to smile and frowned instead. “I’m here to make sure you never lay your hands on another person again.”

Kirihara stared at him. “Yeah, and how are you planning on doing that?”

Fuji let a slow smile curl onto his lips. “Oh, that part is easy. Sanada, hold him still for me.”

Sanada’s eyes widened, and he looked like he wanted to protest, but what Fuji was offering – freedom from the debt he owed – was way too good to pass up. So, with misgivings, he wrapped his arms around Kirihara’s torso to keep him from moving.

Fuji nodded approval. “Now, keep his screams from being heard.” At Sanada’s flinch, his eyes narrowed. “Do not fail me in this, or you will know hell.”

Sanada swallowed hard, dropping his eyes in acknowledgment.

Fuji withdrew a surgical knife from his back pocket and held it in front of Kirihara’s eyes. “Since you like to break people so much,” he said. “And since you seem to pride yourself on your manhood.” He reached down and cut the material of Kirihara’s pants, watching with cold eyes as the fabric pooled around the man’s feet. “I will divest you of what matters most.” As he lay the knife alongside Kirihara’s scrotum, the man began to struggle in earnest.

Sanada held him still, his face ashen, as Fuji sliced through the first of Kirihara’s balls. The pain was so intense that Kirihara couldn’t even choke out a scream before he passed out. Fuji grimly set to work on the other one, then stepped back and snapped a picture of the grisly sight in front of him. Sanada let Kirihara go, shaking with both the disgust at what he’d done and the terror that Fuji invoked in him. “You…why?” Sanada choked out.

Fuji met Sanada’s eyes and there was no warmth in him as he answered, “Because it means keeping my lovers safe from people worse than me.”

With that, he turned and walked away from the carnage he’d created. The chain of violence he’d tied around his neck was tight, but at least it was one he’d created for himself. And he knew, for the first time with absolutely certainty, that there was nothing he wouldn’t do, no monstrosity he wouldn’t commit, if it meant keeping Ryoma and Saeki safe.

The End.

Chapter 21     Index

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