Chapter 15:

Akashi POV

Anger was childish. Fury was putting it mildly. Wrath wasn't even close to how I felt.

As Tetsuya disappeared from my vision, I stopped thinking rationally. My vision was tinged with red, and I felt like I would burst if I didn't do something. This fury wasn't like anything I'd ever felt before; it boiled through my bloodstream and pumped more adrenaline into my system. The room was eerily silent—it was so still you could hear a pin drop. But the silence was cut by a gunshot—my gunshot.

In a span of three seconds I had killed five people, and their bodies lay limply in pools of blood on the cold ground. It wasn't enough. I could have killed the dark grey-haired guy too, but after I pulled the trigger I realized I was out of ammunition. I let the gun fall from my hands. However, before it hit the floor, I was already in front of that Haizaki. As soon as the gun clanked off the cement, I delivered a right cross to the guy's jaw.

I didn't give him time to breathe as I threw multiple punches all over his body. More. Not enough. I remembered the numerous sparring sessions of the various combat sports I tried, all the pressure points that would hurt but not make one unconscious. Upper cut to the chin, jab to the ribs, hit to the nose. More. I want more. Before I knew it, he was on his knees coughing up blood. I tilted my head in amazement. I managed not to kill him, which was great because that would have been too easy a death for him.

The one-on-one felt slow and long, but in reality it was no longer than thirty seconds, and these idiotic people still in the room did nothing but freeze and watch. I barked at my men to stop gawking and start killing them, and everyone snapped out of their trances. Bullets began to fly and I exited the room in irritation. I had no time to waste for these small fry. Stupid people.

"Tatsuya," I snapped. I could picture him flinching from the venom in my tone.

He already knew I wanted my helicopter, and I knew it was already on standby. Still, I heard his calm voice telling me where to go. I stormed out of the building; everyone who saw me was cringing and looking away for some reason. As I reached the chopper, I instructed the pilot to go to Kyoto and be quick about it.

Within two hours we had landed in the hangar of my now destroyed manor. But I couldn't get more pissed off than I already was, as the anger I was feeling was way stronger than anything I had ever felt, or knew I was capable of feeling. I felt like I could tear the earth apart continent by continent, and it still wouldn't be enough to satiate my fury. The only solution was Tetsuya, and I was going to fight tooth and nail for him, even if I had to walk through fire to win this war.

I climbed into the car waiting for me and within thirty minutes I was in the Rakuzan General Hospital where I was informed some of my injured staff were brought. People gave way as I trudged to Atsushi's room. Upon opening the door, I spotted Ryouta, slumped over and face buried in his hands. He was sitting at the chair beside the bed where Atsushi lay asleep.

"Akashi."

I turned around to see a sullen Taiga, who also flinched upon seeing my expression. I had not yet looked in a mirror but I suppose I must have looked really irate.

"Explain, Taiga."

He tried to look me in the eye but couldn't. He entered the room wordlessly, avoiding contact with me, and rubbed a crying Ryouta's back. Sighing deeply, he started. "Just like what you predicted, Kuroko really tried to escape. And he did."

I knew about the enemy contacting him. I placed a bug in his phone and had been monitoring who was calling or texting him, and even tracked the mobile's location. It was natural for me to do so, privacy be damned. It was a good thing that I had tapped his phone, so when the enemy had managed to tap Ryouta's phone to get Tetsuya's number, I was able to get information as to how they planned to act.

I forced myself to calm down and listen to Taiga. From the way these three looked, one on the hospital bed, one bawling his eyes out, and one somewhere between sorrowful and furious, I could not bring myself to punish them to unleash a part of my own rage. They were hurt too, because they couldn't stop their friend.

"At noon the first bomb went off at the receiving area. Five minutes after that, another exploded in the dining room. Thankfully, no one was hurt 'cos the guards told me you had everything organized. But I didn't know how Kuroko planned to escape and which way he'd exit, so I ran towards the north entrance 'cos it was closer to the receiving area.

"Murasakibara wasn't in his room when the third bomb went off as he was also looking for Kuroko. But he saved a maid from being crushed by a wall, so the wall collapsed on him instead. The doctor said he wasn't badly injured but his right arm and wrist were broken and needed to be put in a cast.

"It was Kise who found Kuroko on the way to the east entrance." He paused for a while, glancing at Ryouta who stopped sniffing as Taiga recounted the story. The blonde wiped his tears away and turned serious, continuing where Taiga had left off.

"I'm sorry Akashicchi. You counted on us to stop Kurokocchi but we failed. It was my fault he escaped -ssu." Tears welled up in his eyes but he sucked in a deep breath to control himself.

"He… He was so panicked and afraid when he saw me and I… I think I pressured him too much when I should've calmed down and explained to him there was no need to sacrifice himself because you were about to save Takaocchi. It all happened so fast -ssu! He was holding something behind his back which I later learned was a Taser… I saw how conflicted he was like he was trying to apologize yet asking me to save him, and I… I couldn't do anything! I'm so sorry Akashicchi!"

He started crying silently again, and I could picture how Tetsuya looked like in that scenario, shakily clutching the Taser, guilt present in his eyes. He must've tormented himself over electrocuting Ryouta for the sake of saving Kazunari. I couldn't even imagine how he could go through such lengths to save a friend, and yet I found myself believing Tetsuya would do it. He was Tetsuya after all, someone who would do anything for what he believes in. I knew he'd do anything to save Kazunari.

Once again, my expectations have been exceeded. I thought I could persuade him to stay by using his friends to stop him, but his sense of responsibility and justice was something that could never be overcome. He escaped the preventive measures I placed, and even stole a Taser—that was brilliant! All for saving a loved one… These people were so lucky to have a friend like Tetsuya who'd risk himself for them. Breaking his promise to be safe, defying my orders to stay in my house, even betraying me! Oh the things that you do, Tetsuya, it never fails to astonish me. You dared to defy my absolute orders, and yet I can't bring myself to get mad at you.

Even though I knew you'd find a way to run off, I was hoping you wouldn't—that you'd ask me for help instead of relying on yourself, that somehow you'd hesitate from running and think about how you couldn't do this to me. It hurt me that you underestimated my capabilities over the enemy; that you thought I couldn't do anything against them so you'd have to take it into your own hands. It pained me that in your determination to save one person, you forgot what your sacrifice would mean to everyone else—to me. You were so eager to throw your life away at the cost of another, that you forgot it wasn't just your life you were risking—it was mine, too.

All that and I still couldn't get mad at you. I was more furious at the circumstances that forced you to do this, at those bastards who took you away from me. But it wasn't over. As I had said before, I had stopped predicting your impossible actions and just focused on preparing myself for the consequences of those capricious events. I knew you'd be victorious in your escape. But it isn't checkmate yet.

The ball is still in my court.

"Here. A guard gave this to me before I brought Murasakibara to the hospital." Taiga handed me a piece of neatly folded paper. One glance and I knew it was from Tetsuya.

"Thank you." I tucked the stationary inside my coat. I placed a hand on Ryouta's shoulder, making him look up at me. "It wasn't your fault, Ryouta. You knew you couldn't stop him. Tetsuya was like that." He looked at me in confusion, and I knew what he was thinking. How could I say those words as if I knew this would happen, and as if I knew Tetsuya better than he thought I did?

Ryouta, I knew Tetsuya longer than you do.

"It was my fault." And it was. I did let him escape. But if I didn't, Tetsuya wouldn't learn to trust me. The events that would occur after this would lead a step further for him to remember. I must fulfill a role first, and that is to be Tetsuya's anchor.

I looked at Taiga first, then Ryouta, dead in the eye. "I promise to bring him back." They seemed to believe me; well, they should. I am absolute.

"Those bastards will know why an Akashi should not be angered."


The locator finally stopped and signaled that Tetsuya was in a warehouse in Osaka. How was the tracker placed on Tetsuya? I had to give the credit to Atsushi. I was monitoring the tracker's route when he woke up and narrated everything that had transpired that night when the enemy called Tetsuya. Not that I didn't already know all of it, of course; it more of an explanation for Taiga and Ryouta as to how I knew Tetsuya was going to sacrifice himself to the enemy, and how that led me to send them here in Kyoto to stop him.

"I swear Aka-chin, he should be called 'Invisible Man' or something! If you hadn't told me about his powers I would've crushed him when he crept up on me! Creepy~" This animated talk coming from a big guy with a cast on his arm and stuck on the hospital bed. Atsushi's childishness always amuses me, but not this time. I was still too indignant to feel anything. I was busy devising the infiltration plans and didn't fully mind their conversation.

Taiga and Ryouta smiled at him. Maybe they were thinking how it was so like Tetsuya to surprise people. Inwardly, I smirked as well. Even I wasn't immune to Tetsuya' phantom ability. "So the fried rice I was cooking flew everywhere 'cos I was startled, then we were both covered with rice grains. Kuro-chin looked so delicious I wanted to eat him right there…" A dangerous look from me elicited shivers from all of them. "Buuuut… I figured you'd get mad so I DIDN'T…" Atsushi quickly yielded. "And as I was brushing off the rice grains from his hair I placed the tracker on his scalp. Pretty sneaky, huh~?" He smiled proudly at Taiga and Ryouta.

"Good job, big guy." Taiga praised him.

"Well…" Atsushi pursed his lips sadly. "I should have stopped Kuro-chin from leaving."

A veil of gloom engulfed the whole room, and the conversation muted into soft sighs and wishful thinking. Though our thoughts were different, I knew they were all directed towards one man—none other than Tetsuya. We all wished he was here with us.

"Atsushi." I said, breaking the silence. He looked at me guiltily and nervously, as if waiting for a scolding. But it wasn't my intention to reprimand him. With all solemnity and determination, I told him.

"I will save Tetsuya. That is absolute."

Taiga looked confused, wanting to ask me how. Ryouta had a hopeful look and pleaded with his stare. Atsushi's purple eyes enlarged, and then softened.

"I know Aka-chin. You don't need to tell me."


"He's fine."

I have never felt so relieved in my whole life as I heard those two words from the scientist. Finally, after two weeks, there's good news from him.

You are probably confused as to why the scientist is contacting me, so a brief explanation: the scientist is my pawn now. Remember when he had been all over the country trying to make me get off his trail? And how I had always known where he was because of the tracker Mayuzumi-san threw at him? Well, I didn't say I left him alone completely, did I?

"Imayoshi Shoichi."

He turned to me, frightened slit eyes showing confusion and apprehension. He stood up from the desk and was about to pull out a gun when in a split second, I closed the distance between us and had my pistol aimed at his chest, point blank range.

"You're a smart person, and a good judge of personality. I think you know enough about me to realize that you don't stand a chance."

We were still for a moment, then he sighed in defeat. Raising his hands in surrender, he sat back in the chair and asked. "What do you want, Akashi Seijuurou?"

"Join me." I declared, after I sat on the edge of the bed and crossed my legs gracefully. He froze, trying to wrap his mind around my words.

Looking at me doubtfully, he questioned. "Why would I do that?"

Chin resting on my palm, I simply replied. "By now, I think you have figured out the way things are going. You are going down, and I shall trample every single one of you under my feet. I'm giving you a chance to live."

Eyebrows scrunching, he shook his head. "I think you're underestimating us."

I smirked. "I do think of myself as above everyone else, but that's a general belief. I don't think I can lower my perception of you bastards any more than it already is."

He growled and was about to retort but I cut him off. "We could talk all day about your group's capabilities and mine, but really, wouldn't it be better if you listen to my proposition?" I smiled evilly.

"I can grant you your dreams. You know I have the resources, facilities and wherewithal. Your dream of becoming a great scientist who made a difference in this world can be easily achieved with my help."

I used his silence to paint pictures in his mind. "You only made a deal with them because your ideas would face rejection by the public, not to mention they are completely illegal, unethical, and perhaps immoral. How many men have died before you could successfully implant a fetus in their masculine bodies? Therefore, it had to be an underground project.

"Male pregnancy. What a brilliant and dangerous creation! You're playing God here, Imayoshi-san.

"And finally, after years of trial and error, failed experiments, and countless male guinea pigs and money spent in vain, your genius conception became a reality through experimenting on a harmless, innocent boy named Kuroko Tetsuya. Your hard work pulled through, and you can finally show to the world that you did it, that you, Imayoshi Shoichi, had concocted the first ever male pregnancy in the present modern world.

"However, in the midst of your accomplishment, you just had to face one minor roadblock. By doing this to that teal-haired guy, you and your scrawny little organization of misfits had infuriated a greater, more powerful god—" I pointed to my chest, "—Me."

I continued my speech. "You started to realize that you had encountered a real god, and that you and your friends looked like cute little lizards attempting to be evil in front of the malevolent emperor dragon. The emperor dragon will squash your puny figures under his claws, and there won't be any carcasses left for the scavenger birds to pick on for you had all been devoured by the great reptile god's flames. End of the story. Unless…

"You, with your ingenuity and determination to do whatever it takes to achieve your dreams, should decide to swear allegiance to me. You shall be spared, and in addition, I will make your dreams come true. It is that simple. It's a good proposal, isn't it?" I tilted my head in accord.

He seemed to be contemplating my words. Making him come to my side was easy. I knew that though he was the type of person who was good at doing what people hated, he wasn't the type to resort to dirty tricks and violence. However, because he was utterly focused on achieving his dreams, he could turn a blind eye to whatever his organization was doing, even though he didn't like it. He didn't care about the personalities of those whom he worked with, as long as his ventures and projects could succeed.

"So… you think my loyalty can be bought?" He challenged.

"Oh, I'm not buying you. I'm a businessman, I do not buy something if there is no profit. What will I gain from you that I cannot provide for myself? Your mastery in all things related to male pregnancy? I have plenty of great doctors and scientists to hire to take care of Tetsuya. Being a spy to your group? Who said I didn't have spies inside already? Enlighten me."

His lack of response allowed me to further persuade him. "I am merely being generous. I see you have talent, and I deem it would be a waste to kill you. But that doesn't mean I am incapable of doing it. If you refuse, I won't be responsible for your death. This is your chance to live."

This time, his silence means deliberation, and I could already see the outcome. It was only a matter of seconds before he conceded and acknowledged me as his leader. I might have made it seem that he's replaceable, but to my plans he's actually imperative. He's not simply a pawn, but a bishop. Something that you wouldn't mind losing, yet is really useful and convenient to have.

And with Imayoshi Shoichi joining me, I would finally erase Tetsuya's trauma. I will be his anchor, securing him safe and sound within my arms, holding him steady through rough days, and providing him with the strength to hold on. I will be the stability that he needs when he's facing his tough storms.

"And who, remind me, has tortured him and how?"

He sighed deeply. "Haizaki Shogo. Probably with a bat, because I saw it on the floor." Anger boiled up from the deepest layers of my skin, searing with sharp sensation and the taste was fiercely metallic in my mouth. The tightening in my chest built up rapidly and I knew I had to do something to blow steam off. I had serious anger management issues, I realized.

"But like I told you, he's fine. I've healed most of his wounds." The scientist placated, probably feeling my quiet rage seething through the phone. "That's the good news."

I sensed the unfinished statement immediately. "And the bad news is?"

He sighed for the second time. "Boss is coming tomorrow. Of course I protested but he declared that two days are enough for the healing process. I heard he's going to bring a coffin and shove Kuroko in it. It's probably your fault for angering him too much."

"Heh…" I muttered mockingly. Of course he would be, after all that I've done. Serves him right, though. But he's not the only one infuriated around here. Let's see who's more dangerous when angry.

"Ah—I mean… Ugh forget it. If you're planning to rescue Kuroko you have to do it before he comes here. With the state Kuroko is in now, he can't take any more physical or mental torture. The stress is too much for him and the baby." Do I hear concern in his voice? Heh.

"First, don't tell me what to do. I know that already. What I want you to do is implant the microphone in Tetsuya's molar and the earphone in his ear. I will be arriving tomorrow."

"What? But—"

"Second, don't question me. My orders are absolute. You will stay with us after the rescue. That is all."

As he hung up, I realized my hand was bleeding. I unconsciously crushed the glass of wine I was holding, and the shards had sunken into my palm. In a way, it represented the situation I was in. I will do everything in my power to defeat them, even if I get hurt in the process. And by 'hurt', I mean that I will suffer as Tetsuya suffers, when he is suffocated by his claustrophobia and all I would do is wait.


"Good morning, Kaito-sensei, Ren-sensei."

The two doctors, surprised at their conversation being interrupted, turned to me as I walked into the male psychiatrist's office. The grey-eyed doctor was the first to recover and bow slightly at me. His wife, Tetsuya's ob-gynecologist, imitated his action.

"What matter brings you here Akashi-san?" The male doctor asked as he offered the seat which his wife had vacated.

"How is Kuroko-kun?" The female chimed in as she took her place beside her husband.

"To tell you the truth sensei, he is not well. Tetsuya has been…" I paused for dramatic effect. "Kidnapped."

Genuine shock and concern emerged from the doctors' faces, and I felt slightly guilty for the little lie. Last night, I had an unpleasant moment listening to the enemy's conversation with Tetsuya. He was going to run away from the Kyoto mansion today, at the same minute I am going to execute my ambush.

Oh, my enemies are really asking for their deaths by dragging Tetsuya into this. If they think that I will just let Tetsuya leave-

Wait. I temporarily halted my mind from devising plans to lock Tetsuya inside my manor as well as thinking of torture methods to use upon his former kidnappers.

I was forgetting the most important part of my plans. This was Tetsuya. I was sure that no matter what my plan was, there would not be a 100% success rate if it involves Tetsuya. Knowing him, he'd do anything and everything to run away from the mansion to save his friend. That's right. No matter what I do, Tetsuya will find a way around it. His determination and stubbornness are qualities never to underestimate. He'd save his friend no matter what.

If Tetsuya could actually escape, what would happen next? I engaged my mind into thinking various theories and simulations. Then I realized: they would torture him again. There was no doubt about that. I gritted my teeth at my prediction, and I knew I would never let that happen. Or wouldn't I?

Since Tetsuya had been officially diagnosed with claustrophobia, I immediately researched about it. I read in a book about the term "in vivo exposure", or direct confrontation of the fears by the patient. If Tetsuya would be tortured, this gives me a chance to integrate myself in the experience of all those fears. By talking to him during that moment, the state wherein his claustrophobia is dormant, Tetsuya would come to depend on me. He'll trust me to save him, and I'll make it so that this experience would make an impact in his mind that whenever he feels afraid, he would be reassured by the thought that I will always come and save him.

With this in mind I came to consult Kaito-sensei, Tetsuya's psychiatrist. I told him about my plan wherein I would talk to Tetsuya while he is detained, and asked the doctor if I could help him overcome his fears through that.

To my surprise, the doctor chuckled. "Forgive me for my ill manners, Akashi-san. It's just that you did your homework well. I don't think Tetsuya-san would need me if he has you." The couple shared a brief, meaningful look. It was too quick; I had no time to interpret it.

"Your theory could be a good idea, if it's not too late yet. Exposure theory is only executed if it holds absolutely no danger for the victim, Akashi-san. If you can indeed calm him down and help him fight his fears, the outcome is highly favorable. This could be the way to break the pattern that strengthens his fears. By affiliating you within that stimulus, we could change how he reacts to his fears." The charcoal-haired doctor explained. "What do you think, Ren?"

His wife turned to me politely. "Actually, I have claustrophobia too Akashi-kun, but not as grave as Tetsuya-kun's. I think it's a good idea. Akashi-kun will be Tetsuya-kun's pillar of strength to support him and keep him grounded. It's important for him to have someone who'll stay by his side throughout his trauma and phobia."

"Well then, Akashi-san, do what you must. We shall provide you with our assistance in this endeavor." The psychiatrist gave the green light for my proposition. I told them that I would need them after I rescue Tetsuya, and they gave me the assurance that they would be available. It's good to know that we have such reliable and trustworthy doctors. I expressed my gratitude and took my leave after. It's time to lay out the plans for Tetsuya's rescue mission.

After listening to their advice, I must admit I felt a little hesitant. Kaito-sensei was right, what if it was already too late? What if it had come to the point that Tetsuya was so broken he was beyond saving? What if I was a second too late and the claustrophobia had swallowed Tetsuya wholly, and I had no one to save anymore? This plan had too many risks, and if I'm not careful, I could end up destroying Tetsuya myself.

Stop right there, Seijuurou. There is no room for inhibitions. You will seize this victory with your own hands. You are absolute.

This is the reason you are going to let him go to the enemy. It will be beneficial in the long run. Tetsuya has to face this so he can be healed. He has to confront his fears. You will be the one whom Tetsuya will draw his strength from. Don't waver. Be strong. Strong enough to lift both Tetsuya and yourself up.

You will save Tetsuya. No matter what it takes.

As I predicted what would transpire in the future and what actions I must take to counter it, my chest started hurting tremendously. It was indescribable—the pain. But I had to shut off my emotions and let Tetsuya go. This was what was needed to be done, I convinced myself. But could I really do it? Watch as Tetsuya suffers?

Sometimes I hate myself for being too absolute.


I run my fingers lightly across the page, as if the words are fragile and would break if I didn't hold Tetsuya's letter gently enough. I can picture Tetsuya writing this—pale hands trembling, tears almost clouding his vision—and if I was there I would have gone to him and embraced him, no matter how out of character that is. I would hug him so tightly, all his broken pieces would be glued back together.

The thought of embracing Tetsuya serves as my incentive to keep myself from backing out from the mission I myself had ordered. As I reread the words I've already memorized, each stroke of the ink frustrates me so much that I've started regretting my decision to let Tetsuya go. That was unheard of—Akashi Seijuurou regretting something. Each line wounds me, as if the characters had sharp edges. Behind every line, and my own anger too perhaps, lurks a vast ocean of hurt; Tetsuya's pain hurts me deeper than my own.

While I am pondering this on our journey to rescue Tetsuya, the unmistakable voice of the scientist rings out in my earpiece. I shove the wrinkled paper into my coat pocket as I press a button to turn the device on.

"The microphone and earpiece are in place. What's next?"

It pains me to say this, but I manage to spit it out. "We wait."

Imayoshi sounds like he is about to protest but he knows better. He only hums in affirmation.

"Aka-chin tte ba~"

I turn to my right-hand man who was sitting in the front seat, using his uninjured hand to hold his boyfriend's hand. "What is it Atsushi?"

"We'll get Kuro-chin out. I'll crush anyone in our way."

I sigh softly. "Do I look like I need a reassurance, Atsushi?"

"Hmmm… No, but you look kinda down."

"Let him be Atsushi," Himuro chastise gently. "Akashi-san, everything's set and at your command."

My team is on standby, waiting for my signal to infiltrate the warehouse. I adjust my earpiece. Anytime now, I shall hear Tetsuya's sweet voice. Now I wait for it: Tetsuya's-no, my misery. It's almost time.

I inhale deeply to steel myself. Turn off the emotions.

"bzzzzzt…"

Focus.

"P-please…!"

Victory is mine.

"NOOO! LET ME GO!"

Don't break down, Seijuurou. Tetsuya needs you. Be strong for the both of you.

"HELP! D-don't…!"

Patience, Seijuurou. Don't let anger affect you. Don't let anything affect you. This is for Tetsuya's own good.

And in the midst of all the heart-wracking wails, I hear something akin to a wooden door being a shut. Tetsuya suddenly goes silent. I am afraid for a moment. Then it comes, more piercing than I expected.

Tetsuya's screams and cries are the most blood-curdling, bone-melting, heart-breaking sounds I have ever heard in my life.


After that, I order everyone to leave the van and yank the earpiece out of my ear. It is hard maintaining my composure. How could I have been so idiotic? How could I even think that I could endure this? I should save Tetsuya right now! I should stop them from hurting my Tetsuya! I should-

Stop it Seijuurou. Control yourself. Tetsuya doesn't need you to be weak. Now get that earpiece back in your ear and listen.

I can't! Not when I know I can save him right now! I can easily end his torment! All I need is to step out of this van-

You and I know what can really help Tetsuya in the long run. If we're with him throughout this, Tetsuya will let us help whenever he has panic attacks in the future. Do you want to see Tetsuya afraid again, and you can't do anything about it because he won't let you in? I have to endure this, so that I can be Tetsuya's anchor.

That's right. If I am this weak, I don't have the right to be Tetsuya's anchor. Endure. Don't feel. Hold it back. Don't break.

After I steady myself, I put the earpiece back in my ear and force myself to listen to Tetsuya's wails. It makes me flinch and goose bumps break out on my skin. I didn't know I was capable of having these kinds of reactions. Every scream, every shout throws daggers in my heart, and it hurts so much I want to gouge it out of my rib cage and crush it with my hands to end the pain.

"Please let me out! It's so dark-it's choking me…"

I decide it's high time I make him hear my voice. "Tetsuya? Do you hear me? It's Akashi-kun."

"I-I can't breathe… Help… Someone…"

"Tetsuya? I'm here! Listen to me Tetsuya!" I shout a little louder. I can't… I can't get to him! I can't reach him!

"Please…" I hear him sobbing and breathing frantically. I also hear scratches against wood and sounds of struggling. "Tetsuya, please calm down!" How hypocritical of me. Seijuurou, you are panicking. Get a hold of yourself.

"Tetsuya? It's me, Akashi-kun. Tetsuya, I love you…"

Silence answers me, and I don't know what to make of it. Did Tetsuya hear me? Or did he detach himself from the world? "Tetsuya! Please! Answer me! What happened? Are you still there? Tetsuya!" It was a long while before he answered, but it definitely caught me off guard.

"Seiiii! Seijuurou-kun! Where are youuuu?"

I was about to reply "I'm here", but I stopped myself as I realized it. Seijuurou-kun? Tetsuya only called me that when…

When we were children…

How can this be? Does this mean he is starting to remember me? But… how?

"T-Tetsuya… Tetsuya, I'm right here. Seijuurou-kun's beside you."

"Seijuurou-kun! There's so many… people… where… are you?"

People? I try to rummage through my mind on when we had some experience prior to this. This was getting odder by the moment. As far as I know, Tetsuya and I only saw each other at our secret base. There and there alone

Despite that, I try to reply. "Tetsuya? Tell me where you are. Why are there so many people?"

I hear him sniffing and nothing more. Patience, I tell myself. I have to get this information out of Tetsuya. It might be related to what ignited his claustrophobia.

"Tetsuya? Tell me. Where are we?" I ask as I go along with his words.

No response. He's still crying. Damn it, I can't reach him! This is so frustrating.

Then he starts huffing hysterically. An anxiety attack. He'll die of suffocation. No… Tetsuya, listen to me!

"Tetsuya!"

"Tetsuya!"

"Tetsuya! Summer! Sunsets! Watermelons! Books! Yukimaru! Flowers!" I try to sprout out things connected to our childhood in an effort to make him pay attention to me. "Ice cream! Hide-and-seek!"

I hear a sharp gasp. Finally. "Tetsuya?"

"S-Seijuurou…kun."

"Tetsuya."

"Please don't leave me. Don't go."

My heart is pierced and sliced into two, sorrow gushing out with the blood. He remembers, I'm sure of it. These were the last words he said, the last time we met. The day I said goodbye.

But it's also possible that he doesn't remember. He's still in his claustrophobic state.

"I'm here, Tetsuya. Do you recognize me?"

"I… hah.. c-can't… bre-athe…"

That wasn't an answer to my question, but I guess I have to help him regain his breathing first. "Tetsuya, I want you to breathe through your nose. Do it." I repeat the words "inhale" and "exhale" several times until he follows the pattern. Thankfully he responds to me now.

"Very good. Calm down, alright?" I think this is the right time to supply his mind with these words.

"I will always come and save you, Tetsuya. Believe in me. Seijuurou-kun will come. Seijuurou-kun will always save you. Seijuurou-kun will always protect you." I repeat these words to condition his mind. Trust me, Tetsuya. Repeat this as a mantra in your head whenever you're afraid.

After a few minutes, Tetsuya starts crying again. I take a deep breath and slide open the van's door, surprising everyone outside. I signal them to start the raid. Tetsuya can't take it anymore.

"Sei… Help me… Get me out of here…"

"I will, Tetsuya. I will. Believe in me, love. I am absolute, I told you that." I glare at the door in front of me and my men kick it open for me. I whisper words of comfort to Tetsuya as I walk down the hall, not bothering to look at the gruesome killing scenes around me. It's as if I am walking in a park, not on a battleground.

"I will, Tetsuya. I will come and save you. No matter what happens, I will always find you." I continue talking even though silence answers me, because this time I'm sure Tetsuya's listening.

"Tetsuya? Do you remember when you sang that song for my birthday? I wish you could sing it again." I throw a pair of scissors with dead accuracy at the heart of a random guy yelling as he runs to me. Really, shouldn't you be sneaky about it? Fool.

"Do you remember when we sneaked into the kitchen of my house and stole those cupcakes? That was fun, right?" Someone tried to throw a knife at me, which I deflected by throwing a pair of scissors at it, followed by another pair at the person who did it. Too slow. If I was your leader I would have increased your training tenfold.

"Remember when we played hide-and-seek? You still haven't won a game, by the way. I always found you." Tetsuya exhaled softly at that, and I briefly wonder if he is starting to recall things. I dodge a kick thrown at me and grab the wrist of the said man, pull him close, and knee him in the guts. Flinging him to the side is effortless. He doubles over on his knees in pain.

"M… Mada… da yo…" Tetsuya whispers weakly. My eyes widen in shock. He remembers! Thank heavens! I turn at a corner and continue walking.

"Tetsuya! You remember? What do you remember? Tell me, Tetsuya!" I ask a little too excitedly. However, my enthusiasm is met by silence again. I sigh internally. This might really take too long. I'll wait until he responds, and then say familiar words. Let him reminisce for a while.

"Akashi-san, to your right." Tatsuya instructs politely.

"You're almost there Aka-chin~" Atsushi cheers happily.

Someone runs swiftly towards me. However, before I can even throw my scissors, the guy falls down flat on his face.

"Just do what you must, Akashi. We have your back. And your front." Nijimura smirks far away from me, striking down enemies in the blink of an eye. I sneer at his words, though I am grateful for him and my whole team.

"Tetsuya? I'm coming. Stay put, alright? Seijuurou-kun is so close to you now."

"Seijuurou..." Tetsuya pronounces my name in a dreamlike state. Finally! He responded. I know the words I have to say next.

"Mou ii kai?"

A few heartbeats later, he replies. "Mou ii yo."

It felt like heaven's gates finally opened to me, and an angel named Tetsuya came flying down into my arms.

I kick open the door and there they were, Tetsuya's kidnappers, pointing their guns at me. I tilt my head in wonder. So this is the part where the prince slays Maleficent for the beautiful, sleeping princess. Pathetic. I am more evil than Maleficent or Cruella de Ville. Those in front of me, except the twins, the one called Haizaki, and the Cheshire-grin bastard, had their whole bodies shivering. Don't try too hard mortals, you might faint before I kill you.

I spot the coffin in the center of the room. You have got to be kidding me. They shoved my princess in that unruly piece of wood? Anger flashes through me, hot and wild. I feel the blood pulse through my neck, pounding in my ears in sharp, quick movements.

The leader and I assess each other, taking measured steps nearer to one another. I edge slowly towards the wooden casket, but he compensates by shifting into my path, effectively blocking my view of the coffin. I have an overwhelming urge to obliterate that smug look on his face.

Tension rolls off of us, so tangible a lesser man could choke on it. I can feel his desire to kill me, the intensity dancing crazily in his eyes. His muscles are tense—poised for an attack—his coiled body waiting for an opening to spring. I move again, a few inches towards him, and that's when it starts. I see how body shifts—only diminutively—but it foretells me how he is going to attack. My response is quicker than his movement; I swing a roundhouse kick up into his face.

He falls down on the floor, shocked, and I point my gun at him before he can do anything else. "Did you really think I would fall into your puny traps? That a mere, uncrowned king like you could dethrone an emperor like me?" I say calmly, but the mockery in my tone is evident.

"Akashi Seijuurou…" He growls my name viciously. One of his men, a tall guy with a mole on his forehead, quickly moves in behind me and trains his gun at my head, but I know Imayoshi will counter. He swiftly creeps to the back of the lean guy and points a knife at his throat.

The leader's eyes widens as he realizes what had just happened. "Imayoshi… You bastard…" His grey eyes narrow in anger at the scientist. "Tch… I don't care if you're a genius or a prodigy…" He whispers while clenching his fists. I can't see his eyes anymore as his bangs are in the way. "I'm going to break you all, and you will be just trash! Trash!"

He quickly moves his legs to kick me causing me to jump out of the way. That gives him the chance to stand up. In the blink of an eye, we are both pointing our guns at each other's chests, eyes trained on each other.

He smirks victoriously, completely relishing the fact of our height difference. I shake my head inwardly. Maybe I should give him a warning.

"The only ones allowed to look me in the eye as I speak are those who serve me. No one that opposes me…" I put my hand on his right shoulder. "…is allowed to look down on me."

Once again he falls down on the floor, but not without accidentally pulling the gun's trigger. The loud bang reverberates through the room, and everyone snaps out of their trance. I side-kick Haizaki's gun and hit one of the twins with a bullet of my own. As he falls down, the other realizes what has happened and aims for my chest, which I easily dodge. The bullet hits someone else, and I take down a couple more people on my right.

Because I can see everything, I have already spotted the leader making his way towards me. As I spin around, the earlier scene is repeated. In the midst of all the fighting, he and I stand still, training each other's guns at one another.

The look on his face is complete hate, but it morphs into something like… Fear?

"P-please don't kill me, Akashi…" He raises his hands in surrender, completely surprising me although my serious look didn't betray my inward emotion. "You can have Kuroko… Just let me live!"

What in the damn world is he doing? I did not expect this. However, I keep my muscles tensed. He is a genius; there is no telling what he'd do next.

"I'm sorry…" He says as he clutches his chest. Silence engulfs the whole room as the others came to realize what is happening between us leaders. Then, out of the blue, the raven-haired man's shoulders started moving up and down. Is he… chuckling?

"Like I'd ever say that, idiot!" He laughs manically, sticking out his tongue at me. "You're the first person who has ever ruined my plans this badly. The next time I see you, Akashi Seijuurou, you will be in that coffin with your beloved! Hahaha!"

He shoves his hands inside his pockets and casually walks out of the room, as if he didn't have all my men's guns pointing at him. "Retreat!" He snaps at his own men. I relax my stance and let him go, not minding the questioning stares my men give me. I wave my hand as a sign to let them retreat, and all the enemies scamper out of the room at once. It is hard restraining myself from finishing him off, but I tell myself that we will still meet. That man isn't my priority at the moment.

It is the man inside the coffin, who is waiting for me to save him.

I kneel down, raise the lid, and what I saw shattered my heart into pieces. Tetsuya's beautiful teal eyes are glazed over a serene look on his face, as if he is in another world at the moment. His cheeks are wet with tears, and there is an angry red line on either side of his face, which tells me it had been cut. His arms rest calmly at his sides, but they are spotted with mad purple bruises. He is breathing evenly, waiting peacefully as if there aren't any battles going on around him. Overall, he looks relaxed and dazed, despite how horrible his physical condition looks.

If I didn't have perfect control, I would have cried at seeing the state Tetsuya was in.

I know the perfect words to say to bring him out of his trance. I caress his cheeks tenderly as I say them. "Mitsuketa, Tetsuya."

His pupils dilate, and he gasps softly. He stares into my eyes, confusedly, contemplating. I pull him up gently and embrace him. "It's okay now, Tetsuya. I'm here with you. You're okay. Everybody's okay. Takao is safe." I whisper against his ear as I rub circles in his back. He didn't respond but I know he's listening. "I came to save you, and I want you to know that I'll always do that. I'll never let you go again. We'll always be together. I love you Tetsuya."

I pull back and wipe away the tears on his cheeks. Finally, he's here with me. He's not broken. He wasn't swallowed up by his fears. He's still with me. He's still my Tetsuya.

"I love you Tetsuya." I whisper as I embrace him again, vowing on my life to never ever let him go again.

The next thing that happened took me absolutely by surprise. Tetsuya wrapped his arms around me tightly and laid his head on my shoulder. He whispered back softly,

"I love you too, Akashi-kun."

Fin~


WTF DID JUST—Hahaha XD

Okay guys, before you start hating on Akashi, I just want to let you know… It was hard on him too. His POV made it seem like he just let Tetsuya go to the enemy when in fact, he had taken measures to actually prevent Tetsuya from leaving, even using Tetsuya's own friends against him. He was almost gonna lock Tetsuya inside his room but that would be too much. He kinda blames himself too hard but if you look at it in a normal view, Tetsuya was unstoppable.

Tetsuya had to face his fears eventually, and Akashi saw this as the perfect opportunity to make that happen. He had the environment controlled, the timing, the right words to say, even the right time to open the coffin. He wanted Tetsuya to depend on him whenever the bluenette feels claustrophobic, and this was the perfect chance to imprint this on Tetsuya's mind. Here, we found out that Tetsuya's flashbacks distracted him from the claustrophobia. This distraction actually saved him from losing himself.

Imayoshi is pretty much a sly, brilliant good guy. Hahaha XD

I apologize for the super long chapter (8k words, wtf) but I figured you'd hate me if I cut it. I know I always torture you guys in cliffhangers, so I didn't this time. Wahaha.

Lastly, please do check out Your Song. It's a songfic about AkaKuro (what else? XD) Gotta advertise my own stories 'cos no one would do that for me hahaha

Does anyone actually read these long author notes? You have got to tell me if I ramble too much lol.

#That May-Pac fight though. Fight of the century my ass. WHERE IS THE VIOLENCE LOL. XD KnB extra game 3 had me squealing more~