Chapter 21: When Determination Took Over
Disclaimer: I do not own Gakuen Alice. It is owned by Tachibana Higuchi. I also do not own Prince of Tennis. It is owned by Takeshi Konomi.
Summary: The Alice Academy sends six students (Mikan, Ruka, Natsume, Yuu, Koko and Hotaru) to Seigaku High for six months to pursue a Student Visit Program, where the appointed students can improve their social skills in the outside world, but must limit the use of their Alices and make it a secret. There, they meet Ryoma Echizen and the gang… will hell break loose? Prince of Tennix and Gakuen Alice crossover!
Note: So, dear friends, do you have any ideas what you want to see in future chapters? Let me know! Who knows, maybe I'll write about your suggestions if I find it fitting in my canon storyline
Chapter 21: When Determination Took Over
The world was red.
Since he took that scary call, the ONE call he had hoped and prayed to the gods – if there ever were one – would never, ever happen, he has been seeing red. He could feel it in his bones and in every fiber of his being all the anger, all the rage, and all the fear in the world, consuming him little by little until his mind thought of one thing and one thing only:
He had been chilling at that time, lying on his bed while listening to music, thinking the day would float by as always with nothing amiss, when his host brother, Mizuno Katsuo, a young student around his age with a semi-bald head, rushed into his room with a panic-stricken face. His face was flushed, and he was gasping heavily as he tried to catch his breath, obviously scared of something as he looked at Natsume. He stammered, and kept on flinching, obviously not knowing how to break the news.
Katsuo was usually afraid of Natsume and his fiery red eyes and dark glares. He couldn't blame him, as that is what he wanted everybody around him to feel. Be afraid of me. Fear me - to the point where you don't want anything to do with me. But at that moment, Natsume just knew that it wasn't him his host brother was afraid of.
Mikan's missing, Katsuo had said. The second the Seigaku student said those two words, he immediately hopped out of bed, his body preparing for war and his mind thinking where Mikan could have gone. He thought of her chocolate brown eyes that mesmerized him every time he looked at them, her smile that captured his heart, his voice that soothed the demon within; and he thought about the Anti-Alice group and the possibility of them having her and torturing her somewhere taking away her eyes her smile her heart his Mikan-
At that moment, the thought of her hurt and alone somewhere made his insides hurt and clench. And as he walked into the Echizen property with Ruka and the rest of the Alice Academy students at his heels, the house full of police and trained K9 dogs ready to search for Mikan at a moment's notice, the fire in his heart didn't rage any less.
When he saw Ryoma leaning on the house walls beside his mother who was talking to a police officer, scowling and obviously crest-fallen, the fire inside grew even hotter.
"You!" Natsume growls darkly, walking up to the tennis prodigy and grabbing a handful of his t-shirt. With so much strength, he pushes Ryoma up the wall, his anger so raw and intense he could almost burn Ryoma to a crisp if he wanted to. And oh, did he want to. "You fucking asshole –"
Ryoma's mother turns around and gapes in shock. "What in the world…?!"
"Natsume, stop!" Yuu cries as he pulls Natsume back. He struggles to keep Natsume off Ryoma to no avail; he was simply too strong for the Illusion-Alice-User's small frame. Yuu glances at Hotaru, Mikan's best friend for help, hoping for an intervention, but sees only a quiet anger in her features - a rare sight for the soft-spoken dark-haired girl. She's mad, too. Yuu thinks, pained. Her best friend is gone, and she blames Ryoma, too. But… He grips Natsume's sleeves even harder and eventually, Yume joins him as Hotaru and Ruke did not move a single inch. "Natsume, you have to stop it this instant. Ryoma's not the bad guy here."
"What is the meaning of this?!" Ryoma's mother says angrily. Everyone could see the stress and worry etched on her face, and the pale stains on her cheeks where tears have obviously fallen down. "Are you ganging up on my son?!"
Ryoma shrugs off Natsume's grips on him and faces his mother. "They're my… friends, Mom. Mikan's too," he says quietly. "They're just confused at the moment. Everyone's worried."
Rinko stares at Ryoma and then at the group of sullen Alice users. For a few seconds, nobody says anything. "Alright," Rinko replies, putting a hand on her son's shoulder, as if reassuring him, or, perhaps, reassuring herself. "Just… play nice, okay?" she continues, looking now at Natsume gravely. The dark circle around her red eyes make it clear that she had been crying and was exhausted of the night's events. Without another thought, Rinko walks away as a police officer calls her once again to get her statement.
"Ryoma-kun," Yuu starts, giving Natsume a quick glance as he does so. Better to start the conversation before he gets all fired up again. Yuu can't find it within himself to blame him, though. He is well-aware of Natsume's strong feelings for Mikan, and anyone in his shoes would feel angry and confused.
I am, too, Yuu thinks to himself sorrowfully. I'm so sad and I want to search for Mikan as soon as I can, but I have to keep this group together. Remembering Hotaru's words that morning about an Anti-Alice group currently on the run, he becomes even more resolved. They are at their weakest right now, and if there's anyone here who have to put on a strong front so their wall wouldn't collapse, it would have to be him, the Class Representative.
"Ryoma-kun, how did this happen?" Yuu asks, trying his best to make his voice strong and resilient. "You… you told us that Mikan was safe!"
Ryoma clicks his tongue and looks away, anger and guilt clouding his face, his face that used to be so calm and collected all the time. "She was," Ryoma croaks, pain obvious in his voice. "I called the house. She was there. Apparently, she left soon after to go to the park."
"By herself?" Ruka asks, incredulous. "What for?"
"Yeah… to buy souvenirs, my mom said." Now that he thinks of it, Mikan asked him that morning if he wanted to go to the park with her. She was so enthusiastic and so friendly and he saw that she was looking forward to it and what did he do? He shrugged her off. He, Ryoma, was supposed to go with her, but he didn't. He brushed her away and ignored her throughout the day. He had thought she'd stay put after that.
Apparently, she didn't and went anyways. To buy a souvenir, probably for him. Because she was simply that kind of girl.
A new kind of pain sweeps over him, a pain filled with guilt and regret. If he had just been honest with her, with himself, from the very start, would this have been avoided? If he had gone with her, would she still be here? Why did he have to treat her like he would treat others, with cold and indifference? He could have just gone with her to go with the flow, treat her with kindness for once for all the bullshit things he has done, and he wouldn't be in this situation at all.
No, she wouldn't be in this situation at all, Ryoma corrects, scolding himself mentally. Even after all that has happened, I am still thinking so selfishly. Why was he even thinking of himself when Mikan was out there somewhere, maybe with people who mean her harm? She's probably alone and cold and hurt in an unfamiliar place, and it would be his fault. The Hyuuga guy was right to be angry at him. All of them had the right to punch him if they only knew what made her go there in the first place.
"We can't waste time on this guy," Natsume mutters darkly, turning around and walking towards from where they entered. He grabs Ruka's sleeves, pulls him closer to him, and whispers into his ear, urgency and determination etched on his face. He eyes Yuu, Yume, and Hotaru and nods at them to follow him out, obviously having a plan to track Mikan down and rescue her. "Let's get out of here. He's useless."
And oh, did Ryoma know that.
"Echizen," a voice calls out to him, deadpan and flat, but somehow laced with a soft and quiet anger. Ryoma turns around and stares at Hotaru's violet eyes. The "money-grubber" girl, as Horio calls her.
Ryoma has never really talked to her, but he knew from Mikan's endless dinner stories that she was her best friend and she had followed her to Alice Academy all the way from the countryside. To Mikan, she was the world and the kindest person she has ever known. To the Seigaku students, she was devil incarnate with her crafty money schemes, and right now, with the cold way she stares at him, she definitely looks like the part.
"If something happens to her," Hotaru says softly, "I'll hold you responsible for it." Without saying another word, Hotaru turns around and walks briskly towards the other Alice students disappearing in the distance.
Ryoma then goes back inside the house and sits on the first chair he sees. He lets out a sigh, and as the adrenaline brought about by Natsume's arrival finally leaves him, he realizes how tired he was. His head is throbbing, his hands are slightly trembling, and his knees are wobbling. He has never felt this anxious, confused, and exhausted before. When was the last time he felt this way? He has always been serious and an epitome of calmness, that he doubted there ever was a time he has been otherwise.
Sure, he has seen all kinds of emergencies and crises in his life, even since that time he was still studying and playing tennis in America. He was enrolled in a school and experienced a mayhem brought about by a suspicious bomb threat, he was once ganged up on by bullies because of his ethnic Asian features (they were thankfully chased away by a nearby whistling police officer), and there were those nights when his father was drunk and kept bothering him endlessly with invitations to visit a rather inappropriate place known as the red-light district. During those times, he kept his cool and willed himself to be level-headed, because only when you are at the right mind could you get out of them in one piece. Why panic? Why be anxious? What good will those do? Why let your emotions decide your actions when your mind can process and guide them better?
But this time… he just couldn't help himself. He couldn't understand it, either. Mikan was out there and he was here, sitting down because his nerves have taken the best of him. What can he do? What was he supposed to do? It was his fault this happened. Oh, how the great, mighty Echizen Ryoma has fallen… so aloof and cold and knowing what to do, except during the situations when it matters.
"Ryoma!" a familiar voice calls out to him behind him. He hears surprised exclaims from the police officers still lingering in his home, and the numerous footsteps that followed. Ryoma turns around to see Momoshiro, Tezuka, Eiji, Inui, and Oishi standing behind him, gasping for breath. So they have already heard the news. Katsuo and the others probably told them. "Is it true? About what happened to Mikan?"
Ryoma narrows his eyes and looks down, not saying a single word but confirming his question all the same. The atmosphere turns grim and the rest of the Tennis Club members look down or at each other, worry on their faces. They've never faced a problem of this magnitude before.
Tezuka looks at his watch and says, "It's already thirty minutes past midnight. How long has she been missing?"
Ryoma shrugs as if defeated. "I'm not sure… since five o'clock? Maybe even before that?"
"That long…" Fuji mutters to himself, rubbing his chin as if deep in thought. You could see sweat forming on his forehead as his eyebrows furrow. "And you haven't been contacted at all, by Mikan or anybody else?"
Ryoma shakes his head. If only that happened, things would be a bit easier and he could breathe easier as well because at least they would have an idea of her condition. To be in the dark like this only kept all of them at the edge.
"Noooo, Mikan! How could this happen!" Eiji shrieks as he pulls his hair in panic and desperation. He grips Inui's sleeve which the older tennis player shrugs away, obviously not in the mood for his antics. Eiji then turns to Momoshiro, his eyes wide and pleading. "We have to do something!"
"I agree," Oishi nods. "We can't just stand here doing nothing as a younger member of our club is missing, and possibly in danger. She's not from around here at all. She could be lost."
Or kidnapped, Momoshiro thinks to himself as he ponders over Oishi and Eiji's words. Now that he knows the secret of the new students, he has been thinking about them day and night. If they had superpowers, then that means they come from an institution that nurtures and teaches them about it. And if powers are involved, then there are enemies, as well – enemies who may want it for themselves, enemies who want to quench it, enemies who want to harm them for it. He knows he's probably overthinking it, but he can't help feeling that there's something sinister about this situation somehow, and that danger lies ahead.
"Ryoma, did any of the exchange students drop by?" Momoshiro asks, stepping forward and kneeling in front of the obviously shaken up boy. Poor guy, he thinks, his heart squeezing a little for what Ryoma must be going through right now. This is the first time I've seen him like this. He may act like he doesn't care about Mikan, but seeing him right now like this, he actually really does.
"Yeah," Ryoma mumbles, not looking at his eyes. "They… left a few minutes ago. It seemed like they were going to track her down. " He pauses, as if realizing something, then looks up, color coming back to his cheeks and fire kindling in his hazel eyes. "Oishi and Eiji's right. We should do something."
"Yes, we should," Momoshiro smiles gently, rubbing his hand on Ryoma's dark hair, as if encouraging and praising him for finally wanting to take action. He stands up, rummages through his pockets, and takes out his cellphone. "I have a few connections in this city. I know you guys have yours, too. Contact them and ask if they've seen a little girl of 13 years of age with brown hair in pigtails. We need all the help we can get."
It's... dark. I... can't really see. My head hurts and I feel pain all over...
I want to see Hotaru again... Natsume... Ruka... Yuu... Yume... Ryoma...
I want to see my friends again... but it hurts...
Am I dying, Grandpa? Is this what it feels like to die?
I... I'm going to sleep now. I'm so tired...
To be continued...
And with that, the 21st chapter is done! YAY! Let me know what you think :)