Love Has a Soul
Warnings: crossdressing Tennis boys, crack
Disclaimer: I don't own the Prince of Tennis. It's Konomi-sensei's. 'Cupid & Psyche' is a Roman mythological tale written by Apuleius. No profit is gained from this piece of work.
A/N: This was written for nana chibi at the Christmas Cacti. Thanks to amethyst water for beta-ing. I think this broke my brain and induced all the cracks that I've been writing recently. Sorry guys, I'm on a semi-hiatus right now because life happened and I need to find my center. Reviews will be loved. Enjoy!
"There was once a city with a King and a Queen who had three beautiful daughters. The two eldest were both very fair. The youngest, however, was so perfect that she was incapable of human speech – nya? Sorry, that was wrong. Ehem. She was so perfect that human speech was too poor to describe her beauty. She drew the attention of many men – both citizens and foreigners- who worshipped her as the goddess Venus, nya."
"Psyche," Atobe strolled casually across the stage, his silk tunic flapping as he strode. Then, he knelt before Tezuka, holding out a bouquet of white roses. "Your beauty puts these flowers to shame." When Tezuka stared coldly at Atobe, the latter adopted an undertone and murmured at the corner of his lips, "Tezuka, neither the audience nor ore-sama has the patience to wait."
Suppressing an infuriated sigh, Tezuka snatched the bouquet from Atobe, who smirked with satisfaction at the sheer disgruntlement in Tezuka's face. Atobe stepped back, bowing courteously, in order to give way to another worshipping foreigner.
"Psyche is too beautiful; perhaps she draws us into an invisible zone? That is quite possible because Psyche must be the Goddess Venus herself and she lingers in mortal form and she must be able to do many things like draw us into the Psyche zone. She probably does that to lure us into – "
Feeling the telltale throb of an oncoming headache, Tezuka shut out Ibu's droning monologue and tried to see proper reason as to why exactly he was sitting at a throne-like chair at the center of the stage, in front of the entire student body, wearing a woman's silk tunic.
"What are we going to do for the school's Christmas celebration, then?" asked Fuji, glancing around him in inquiry.
"What do you mean?" asked Tezuka suspiciously.
"Well, of course, we should participate, too," said Fuji as if everyone else in the world would have thought of the same thing. "After all, Tezuka, being the student council president, should lead by example."
Eiji jumped off the bench and his eyes widened. "What do we do, then? What do we do, nya?"
"Food booth!" said Momo, sounding utterly proud of his idea. "We'll definitely benefit."
"You will benefit," Ryoma mumbled as he stopped midway of sipping his orange-flavored Ponta.
"No," said Fuji, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "A lot of people would have thought of making food booths." He inclined his head and suggested, "How about a play?"
"What would be a fitting play?" Inui wondered, momentarily disregarding his green notebook.
"The Christmas Carol?" offered Oishi helpfully.
"Ah… Cupid and Psyche?" asked Fuji all too innocently.
"It's romance," said Tezuka matter-of-factly. "It isn't suitable for Christmas."
Fuji flashed one of his brilliant grins, causing Tezuka to eye him so sharply one would have thought that Fuji had just developed a perfect counter against the infamous Tezuka Zone.
"But, Tezuka, love is the spirit of Christmas, don't you know?"
"This made Venus, the goddess of love and beauty very, very angry."
"I am the origin of elements. Why do I have to share 47.6 percent of the honor with a being who has 74.8 percent chance of dying at the age of 70? 86. 7 percent of the people already worship her in this city. I must strip 100 percent of her fame. Perhaps, make it negative. And her undeserved beauty should be 100 percent removed as well."
"After gathering thorough data and computing the possibilities, the Goddess Venus called to her winged son, Cupid - the God of Love and Desire. But he really was so wicked he ruined marriages, broke hearts and countered a lot of techniques."
"My son," said Inui, who managed to keep his voice neutral and low as he settled on a settee beside Cupid. "You have to avenge your mother to whom you owe your life. Let this girl fall in love with the lowest of mankind, someone so wretched and degraded, that this girl will 100 percent be disgraced."
Cupid's eyes gained a glitter that spelled mischief as he answered, "Yes, Mother."
"What? Inui is Venus?" asked Eiji loudly. He fled to Inui's side and snatched the piece of paper at Inui's hand. Eiji's eyes widened as he confirmed the news. Then, he stuffed a knuckle into his mouth, shaking with fits of laughter that reverberated around the clubroom.
Unaffected, Inui merely pulled out his notebook and announced, "I'll take a list of the cast." He wrote down his own name and began asking around. "Kaidoh?"
"Psyche's…" Momo stared at the paper he drew from the fish bowl. "Sister?"
Still snorting, Eiji replied, "Narrator, nya."
"Tezuka?" When no answer came, Inui called again, "Tezuka?"
"Tezuka?" this time, Fuji was the one who asked. He began pacing toward the lockers that Tezuka was standing against. "What did you get?"
Tezuka, however, threw Fuji a deadly stare that would have sent anyone else running a thousand laps around the tennis court. But Fuji being Fuji proceeded and took a peek at Tezuka's paper.
"Ah!" Fuji said. A broader smile tugged at the corners of his lips. Unlike Eiji, he didn't burst out in mirth as he said, "Psyche."
No one dared laugh seeing the scowl that the team captain was wearing.
"Am I disturbing you?" asked Fuji, inviting himself into the student council office and casually plopping down on the chair before Tezuka's desk.
"No," replied Tezuka. He continued to read one of the many file folders that were neatly piled on top of his table.
Fuji grabbed one folder and scanned his eyes on the contents. "The registration forms for the Christmas celebration?"
Delicately replacing the file on top of the heap, Fuji said, "Are you up to playing your role?"
Tezuka raised his head only then. "You can invite women to play it," he answered curtly.
"But we are the men's tennis club. We don't have women in the club and I've heard that the women's tennis club is busy with other activities. Besides," he stopped and gave Tezuka a smile – one quirked at the corners then it might as well have been a smirk, "one would think you're afraid of playing the role."
Tezuka's emotionless countenance did not change whatsoever. "But it would seem odd when a man plays a woman's character."
"Ah," said Fuji, tossing his head slightly. He flashed an amused smile and said, "But, Tezuka, in Shakespeare's time, only men could perform in theater."
Eyes narrowed in calculation, Tezuka stared long and hard at Fuji. With half-raised brows, Fuji stared back, smiling as always.
"Fine," Tezuka said coolly, breaking the eye contact.
"Fine?" asked Fuji. A knowing smile graced his lips.
"I'll do it."
"That's good to hear," said Fuji. He turned away, taking a good look at the shelves that lined the walls. His smile was thin but wide, almost triumphant.
"Sorry, this starts off as a boring scene, nya… Psyche, despite her striking beauty, became very depressed. Everyone praised her but no one wanted to marry her. While her sisters lived with their husbands, Psyche stayed at home a sad, unmarried woman.
"In the end, her father suspected that his daughter might have offended the gods. He consulted the Oracle of Apollo at Miletus, praying that his daughter be given a husband. But Apollo replied that the girl would have to be left on a mountain peak where she would be taken and brought to a husband who was… inhuman, cruel, fierce and scaly! Ah, I meant serpentine. That sounds really scary, nya!
"When they heard the news, the family and the city lamented the sad plight. But while her parents hesitated to obey the god's orders, Psyche encouraged them."
"Do not waste you tears on trivial things," Tezuka started, his voice was as flat as ever. His face showed nothing save, perhaps, a minute trace of annoyance. "You have more strength than this. Obey the gods; they might punish you and make you run laps all over Olympus if you don't."
"After this, Psyche became silent again. The family left her at the mountain peak and the breeze, Zephyr, carried her to the mountain below. "
"Fushuu…" said Kaidoh, choosing to fold his arms instead of leading Tezuka by the hand as they strode across the stage.
"At the center of the garden was a palace so beautiful and splendid Psyche thought that it must have been made by a god. She walked through the halls and admired the sturdy pillars and the stone walls."
After passing through the painted backdrop - one with rows of tulips and a giant maze – Tezuka took a seat at a long sofa and waited.
"Mistress, all of it is yours. Enter your bedchamber, sleep off your fatigue and we shall diligently wait on you," echoed the voices.
Managing not to twitch his brows, Tezuka submitted silently and headed to the bed.
"Ahh… Hoi! Hoi! This is getting to be exciting, nya! As dusk crawled into the sky and as night rode his horses…"
Tezuka had to blink his eyes; the lights turned off, drawing an 'ahh' of surprise from the spectators.
"Her unknown husband entered, mounted the bed and made her his wife."
A frown formed in Tezuka's face not only because Eiji was giggling through the microphone; Tezuka felt the bed sag and he could hear its springs creak. "Who's that?" he asked in a low but threatening tone.
"Tezuka?" an equally low, yet much cheerful voice replied.
" Fuji," hissed Tezuka, half in suspicion and half in relief. "What are you doing here?"
"I thought that more sound effects would be better for this scene," said Fuji decidedly. Just then, Tezuka could feel the bed bounce up and down beneath him.
"You could do that in the control room."
"Yes… but, Tezuka, no honeymoon would be complete without the sound of bed springs, ruffled sheets and muffled voices."
"Meanwhile, her parents grieved. They're really sad, nya. Her sisters, learned about what happened and they were distressed, too… That night, Psyche's husband decided to talk to her as they held hands in the dark."
"Sweetest Psyche," came a coaxing voice that made Tezuka's hair rise on ends. "From now on, you should not let your guard down. You should try not to look at or listen to your sisters for it will bring grief to us both."
"Yes," said Tezuka curtly, failing to sound submissive at all.
"But Psyche didn't do as promised. She became an unhappy girl, crying– Pssst! Buchou, you're supposed to cry! – once her husband had vanished."
Tezuka didn't think crying was necessary, but he did bury his face in arms if only to pretend.
"Is this what you promised me?" whispered a disappointed voice. Tezuka stiffened as he felt fingers stroke the back of his head, displacing the himation he wore. Tezuka turned only to see blackness behind him. "Do then as you wish and regret only when it's too late."
"Indeed." Tezuka coughed, remembering his next lines. "I will run a million laps, die a hundred deaths to keep you as my husband." The lines formed on Tezuka's face. "I love and adore you, whoever you are." He pressed his lips, annoyed, when he thought he heard a chuckle. "Will you please order your servant Zephyr to bring my sisters here?"
"Psyche…" the voice stopped as if in hesitation. "As you desire."
"After giving his word, Psyche's husband left at dawn."
"Tezuka," called Fuji, sounding as though he didn't know whether to be amused or to be exasperated. "If you were the real Psyche, I don't think Cupid would have relented."
"That's right, nya," said Eiji. His feet dangled over the edge of the stage as they held a rehearsal.
Fuji adopted a more polite tone than Eiji's teasing one. "One would think you've never fallen in love…"
"I haven't," said Tezuka matter-of-factly. He straightened himself from the sofa that they used as a makeshift bed and pressed his slightly ruffled clothes.
"Really?" said Fuji interested but unsurprised.
"Tezuka Kunimitsu, fifteen, president of the student council, Seigaku tennis club team captain has a) had zero love interests and b) shown poor acting skill," said Inui, scrawling furiously on his notebook. "Ii data."
Smiling mildly, Fuji asked, "Would you like me to help you, then?"
"Help?" asked Tezuka, ignoring Inui's mumbles and Eiji's giggles.
A sharp glint flickered across Fuji's eyes, but Tezuka wasn't too sure. "Deliver your lines with… more emotion, of course."
"Upon Psyche's command, Zephyr obeyed right away and brought the wailing sisters to Psyche. Woosh!"
"Fushuu…" hissed Kaidoh. He and Momo glared at each other as they crossed the stage to the part where the golden pillars of Psyche's house were standing.
"Stop crying," said Tezuka in a snappy remark rather than as a sympathetic note. "Enter my house."
"With these words, Psyche led her sisters, served them delicious food and gave them luxurious trinkets. The two elder sisters, having seen Psyche's riches, grew envious. Suspicious, one of them asked:"
"What is your husband like?" asked Momo interestedly. Echizen on Momo's side was frowning in an apparent attempt to look curious.
"He is a handsome young man," Tezuka said flatly. His voice sounded so cold that Momo pressed his lips to stifle a laugh as well as to avoid running laps. Tezuka only jerked his head toward Kaidoh and said, "I think Zephyr can take you home now."
"But the elder sisters were still jealous of their youngest. They began to exchange evil, evil comments, nya!"
"She doesn't make proper use of all her blessings," said Momo as he and Echizen walked across the stage. "Maybe her husband is a god and she'll be a goddess! That's not fair! My husband is older than our own father and he doesn't even allow me to eat more than a cup of rice."
"Mada mada dane," grumbled Echizen. "My husband doesn't even want to see a can of Ponta in the household…" He looked up at Momo. "We should defeat her."
"Ahh! So evil, nya! That very night, Psyche's mysterious husband had to warn her again."
"Can't you see the danger your sisters might bring? I know you are guileless and tender-hearted." Tezuka was sure he heard a smile in the smooth, disembodied voice, "So at least refuse to listen to or to answer any questions about your husband. Be always on your guard for the sake of the child that is now in your womb."
Tezuka stared for a moment as invisible fingers tangled with her hair. "A child."
"Yes, Psyche." Tezuka froze. He could feel warm breath in his ears. "A child."
Fuji stretched his legs out on the bed for a comfortable position and marked, "I thought you'd be happy with news of a child." He inclined his head, smiling, unmindful of Tezuka's glare. "Repeat."
"A child," Tezuka said tonelessly.
Biting his lips, Fuji said, "Smile a little when you're saying that."
"Fuji-senpai," called Echizen as he took a sip of grape-flavored Ponta. He was sitting beside Momo, impatient, since Fuji-senpai and Tezuka-buchou were taking a long time in practicing the scene. He really wanted to get to the next scene so he could go early and grab burgers. "Isn't Psyche's husband invisible?"
"Yes," answered Fuji quickly.
"Then, what are you - ?"
"I'm the director," Fuji replied matter-of-factly. "I'm supposed to help the actors internalize their roles."
Echizen only nodded. Sipping his Ponta, he didn't say that Fuji didn't have to slouch on the bed beside Tezuka to do that.
"Psyche," called a gentle but firm voice. "Disaster is pressing upon us. Don't let your guard down against your sisters."
"I won't," Tezuka said in curt response.
"So then, after the mysterious husband had left, the two sisters went to the mountains to be embraced by Zephyr."
"So you are a mother now!" Said Momo lightheartedly, eyeing Tezuka's tummy. "Your child might be such a blessing."
"With false affection, they began to affect their youngest sister's heart. Oh, Momo and Ochibi are really baaaaaaaaaad here, nya! As they feasted and listened to music, the elder ones asked Psyche about her husband. But Psyche forgot her previous story and said:"
"He is a middle-aged merchant."
Momo's eyes shot to Echizen as they exchanged a stage whisper.
"Lies," said Echizen.
"Maybe," said Momo with convincing wide eyes, "he really is a god." He tipped his head and raised his voice so Tezuka could hear. "Psyche don't you remember the oracle? If you don't know what your husband really looks like, then, maybe… he is actually a serpent! Maybe he is fattening you up so he could eat you and your child."
Tezuka, on the other hand, didn't look at all terrified.
"You should take a blade and cut the serpent's head," said Echizen in a mutter.
"Soon after, the wicked, wicked, wicked sisters fled. Now, Psyche prepared the blade and slipped it under the bed. As night fell and her husband had fallen asleep, she lit the oil lamp she had hidden and moved toward the bed."
Steadying a lit oil lamp with his right hand, Tezuka climbed up the bed. Then, he stopped, stared, and fought the blood that rushed to his cheeks.
"But Psyche was awed by what she saw…"
The faint lights dimmed completely, allowing only Tezuka's oil lamp to illuminate the stage. The audience drew a gasp while Tezuka's eyes widened, partly due to the lack of light and partly due to the sight before him. Fuji laid in bed, curled up in an innocent fetal position, wings glittering on his back. His eyes were shut tight as he feigned deep sleep while strands of hair strayed across his face, his cheeks, his mouth slightly open. But what made Tezuka press his lips – in mere disapproval or in sheer surprise, one couldn't really tell – was the flimsy tunic that hardly covered Fuji's upper torso, thus allowing an ample amount of skin to show.
"The softest and sweetest of monsters – Cupid himself!"
Shaking off the scattered thoughts in his head, Tezuka turned to the quiver behind Fuji. He took an arrow and felt the point with his thumb. Unconsciously though, his eyes kept glancing toward Fuji's chest.
"Ah… Tiny drops of blood fell from Psyche's thumb. Without realizing it, Psyche had fallen in love with Love and had an even more furious desire for Desire."
"Tezuka," said Fuji, lifting Tezuka's hand and running it up his arm. "You should touch me that way."
Unable to hide a frown, Tezuka said, "It's unseemly."
"It's an act," Fuji pressed, smiling slightly in reminder.
"Yes," said Inui in a business-like tone. "This is a powerful scene in the play. It's important that you show emotions."
"I'll do my best for this scene," said Fuji. He arched a thin brow. "Can't you?"
Tezuka studied Fuji's face. Tennis was his area. Theater wasn't. But that wouldn't stop him from doing his best. "What do I have to do?"
Taking a deep breath, Tezuka shifted on the bed to a more comfortable position. Still holding the lamp, he lifted his left hand and let his fingers graze Fuji's skin, Fuji's neck, Fuji's hair. He lowered himself slightly, just as Fuji had often instructed so that he was almost kissing Fuji's hair.
As Tezuka expected (though Tezuka couldn't help but sigh in relief), Fuji's eyes fluttered open and then squeezed tightly as though in pain. Fuji bolted up, clutching his right shoulder, and faced Tezuka.
"What! The lamp, nya! The oil lamp must have wanted to touch Cupid's skin, too! Now it burned Cupid's shoulder."
When Fuji had gotten to his feet, Tezuka had made an attempt to take Fuji's hand, but Fuji snatched his hands away. Anger flashed in his eyes as he said, "I disobeyed my Mother Venus for you and you betrayed me." Fuji glared down at Tezuka. "Your sisters will pay dearly for what they have done while you will be punished by my leaving."
Tezuka watched, dumbfounded, as Fuji walked away. He did know that Fuji was a good actor, but he found himself stunned by Fuji's fierce words. More than that, though, he wondered whether the ailed expression in Fuji's face was just an act as well.
"We're going to have a ten-minute break as we prepare for the second act. Please wait patiently. Thank you very much, nya!"
Relieved, Tezuka moved out and headed to the backstage in search for Fuji. He found Fuji among their other teammates, giving out orders and highly unmindful of the discomfort of his costume.
"Honjo-kun," said Fuji to a burly third year member of the club, "please make sure that Oishi has an easy access to the box." Fuji turned to a lanky junior student, saying, "Please recheck the backdrops. It's sagging near the middle. Make sure that it's tied properly."
"Saito-kun – "
"Get the first aid kit," said Tezuka, cutting Fuji's sentence as he approached Fuji.
The junior that Fuji had called Saito glanced uncertainly at Fuji, then looked up nervously at Tezuka. Saito stood there, unable to decide whether he should wait for the ever smiling director to continue or to promptly follow the poker-faced team captain, who looked admittedly… odd… in an ensemble of ancient Roman women's clothes. After a few seconds though, fear of running laps prevailed and Saito-kun scurried off to get the first aid kit.
Saito came back, shakily handing the remedy box to Tezuka and was only too eager to leave after Fuji gave the errand.
"Tezuka," said Fuji cheerfully, "You scare a lot of people."
"Not after this," said Tezuka icily. He grabbed Fuji's hand – the one that kept on covering Fuji's right shoulder – and was not at all surprised to see a red spot near Fuji's clavicle. With nimble fingers, Tezuka reached for some burn cream and swabbed it on the swelling skin.
"Don't worry, Tezuka, you're doing very well," said Fuji reassuringly. When Tezuka glared, Fuji chuckled. "Well, you're better now at least."
After making sure that the gauze was in place, Tezuka said, "I got careless."
Fuji looked over his shoulder and shrugged. "It makes the scene more realistic, doesn't it?" He lifted his head and grinned at Tezuka.
A straight-faced Tezuka did not answer.
"Ah, Tezuka… we're about to resume," reminded Fuji. "You have to be on stage now. You still have a trip around and under the world."
Having set the remedy box on the side, Tezuka nodded and strode away.
Fuji watched Tezuka's back. He choked back a chuckle; Tezuka's proud and dignified steps were apparently unhindered by the costume. Fuji blinked, however, when Tezuka stopped, grabbed a jacket that was folded neatly on one of the backstage tables, and tossed it to Fuji.
"A morose Psyche had tried to throw herself off the bank of the stream, but the river was kind and he saved her upon her fall. Then, he led her down his current and placed her on his bank. There, Psyche met the herdsman-god, Pan, who told her not to jump off heights again – it really is very dangerous, nya – and, instead, she should pray to Cupid to earn his favor again.
"Thus, Psyche wandered day by day until she arrived to the city where one of his sisters lived. Psyche then announced her presence and exchanged greetings."
"Why did you come?" asked Echizen blankly, caring nothing about his role and wishing that he could get over with the play and grab the case of Ponta that Fuji-senpai promised.
"My husband is Cupid, not a serpent," said Tezuka in a brief manner. "I burnt his shoulder. Now, he is displeased and he wants you to be his wife."
"Ochi – the sister believed Psyche, nya! So she climbed up the mountain and presented herself to Zephyr."
Echizen did as was told. He hopped down from the mountain prop that they built, landed on his feet before he decided to fall over to feign his death.
"Psyche said the same thing when she came across her other sister. The sister believed her at once and likewise went up to the mountain, asking to be swept by Zephyr."
Momo, being naturally more enthusiastic than Echizen, fell backwards from the makeshift mountain and landed with a thud on the floor.
"Mamushi, you pushed me!" growled Momo, rubbing the elbow that painfully hit the stage floor.
"Fushuu… You tripped off, idiot," barked Kaidoh.
"You did it on purpose!" yelled Momo angrily. "And who are you calling idiot?"
"You!" hissed Kaidoh.
Momo's nose flared in fury. "You want to fight, huh?" He grabbed Kaidoh's caller, raised his arm and –
"Momoshiro, Kaidoh, fifty laps for disrupting the rehearsal," called Tezuka from the front row of seats.
At that point, Fuji tilted his head and turned to Tezuka. "Tezuka, you can't go giving out punishments here. I am the one in charge," he reminded with a smile.
Momo's and Kaidoh's faces lit up in relief.
Still smiling, of course, Fuji called patiently, "Momo, Kaidoh, no noise is allowed in the theater unless it is part of the presentation."
"Yes, Fuji-senpai," chorused Momo and Kaidoh rather meekly.
"For what you did, each of you will have to drink two cups of Inui's latest juice."
Tezuka's eyes widened a little as he read his copy of the script.
"As Psyche walked and walked on earth, the people began to spread rumors about Venus and Cupid, nya. They said that there was no more love in the world – ah, that's very sad! – because the gods were neglecting their duties."
"There is a 76.8 percent possibility that my son has a mistress," said Inui contemplatively. "The chances that the woman is one of the Graces: 34. 59 percent; one of the Hours: 12.24 percent; one of the Muses: 26.76 percent; one of the Nymphs: 20.97 percent; some other creature: 5.44 percent."
"As Venus analyzed the da – the problem, a bird chirped out Psyche's name."
"Psyche?" mumbled Inui tonelessly. "Is there a chance that my son may have used me as a bridge to get Psyche?" Inui rose from his settee and headed steadily to Fuji's bed. "I have only recently found out that you married Psyche. I admit that I neglected the 5.44 percent chance of you falling in love with a creature apart from the ones in Olympus. Now, because of your disobedience, I shall put her to the task of shaving 96.5 percent of your hair and of plucking 100 percent of your wing feathers."
Fuji remained nonchalant, looking at Inui with only a hint of interest.
"Tezuka, it's getting late," said Fuji calling from up the stage while Inui dutifully took notes of where he should settle himself for the particular scene that they were rehearsing.
"No," Tezuka said quickly. "Ryuzaki-sensei told me to watch the team."
"But we're almost done, you can go now," said Fuji, smiling reassuringly.
"I see," said Fuji, shrugging.
Tezuka nodded, focusing his attention back to his script. He was well aware that he wasn't as good an actor as Fuji. He knew he was far from it. The least he could do was memorize his lines by heart.
When Inui began to deliver his lines, Tezuka's head shot up. He decided that he liked to watch Fuji act. Never mind that Fuji didn't say anything. Never mind that Fuji wasn't even acting in the scene because he always looked uncaring. Oh, and never mind that Tezuka was just being defensive of why he was staring. Yes, Fuji was a good actor indeed.
"Psyche wandered for a loooooong time. First, she went to Ceres, but the goddess of Harvest reluctantly denied her because she didn't want Venus to get angry. Then, Psyche went to Juno, who sadly denied her as well. Psyche became very disheartened, nya. Because she had no choice, she prepared herself to face Venus."
"According to my prediction, you came here for your husband." Inui gave Tezuka a blank-but-should-have-been-castigating look. "And you also came here so I could let you be together and ask for permission to keep your child." Inui raised his hand and Arai came, bearing a heap of grains. Arai bowed to Inui, placed the grains in front of Tezuka, and left. "Now, for that favor to be granted, you have to work hard. There are 9786 grains of wheat, 4673 grains of barley, 7548 grains of lentil, and 2480 beans. You should have separated them by the time I come back in… 12, 600 seconds."
When Inui swept out of the stage, Tezuka gaped at the heap of grains. His brows arched in what must have been disbelief. Just then, Horio, garbed in an ant costume, approached Tezuka.
"Let me help. I have two years of ant experience."
"With the ants' help, Psyche was able to separate the grains on time. When Venus arrived, she ordered her priestesses to count the grains. But she got angry when the count was exact. Venus is also very moody, don't you think?"
"The likelihood that Cupid did this for you is 96.58 percent," Inui noted. He held out a goblet of liquid to Tezuka, saying, "This will be your only meal for the day."
"What's this?" asked Tezuka, suspicious of the clear fluid that Inui handed to him.
"You have to drink it, Tezuka," said Fuji. "Drinking it will make the scene more realistic."
"The play is a comedy," reminded Tezuka.
"But you still have to act like you are the role that you're playing," pressed Fuji. "Tezuka, just drink it."
Tezuka swirled the cup in his hand, inspected it closely, and took a sip. The liquid was tasteless and slippery. "Water," he pointed out.
Fuji chuckled. "Too bad… now you have to act like it isn't water and like it's something worse. Then, you have to pretend that you're fainting."
Unsuspicious, Tezuka gulped down the drink quickly. He stopped for a moment. His pupils dilated. He suddenly felt glad that he had to act like he was sleeping in this scene.
Once Tezuka was lying on the floor, Inui said, "Ahh… The Venus Golden Apple Deluxe is very potent. I should tell Somnus that this effectively puts anyone to sleep."
"In the woods," said Inui. He pointed at the backdrop – a picture of a riverbank lined with trees, "There are sheep with fleece that are 24 carats of gold. Get a tuft and bring it to me."
"Psyche went to the bank as quick as she could. But she didn't really want to finish the task; instead, she wanted to drown herself into the river. But the river called her, nya, and told her that there was a way to get past the dangerous sheep in order to get their wool. The river was very helpful, unnya. It said that she could get the golden fleece from the stems of the trees near where the sheep were grazing."
"The possibility that your husband helped you again is 98.45 percent," Inui said knowledgeably. "I am not convinced that you have a brave heart and a good endurance. That can only be proven if you are able to fill this jar with ice-cold water from the river Styx."
Tezuka took the urn and walked toward the dark river on the other side of the stage. Just then, Kato came, flapping his bird's wings and took the jar from Tezuka.
"You – uhm…" started Kato, stuttering as he looked up at his Captain. When Tezuka didn't say anything, Kato seemed to have gained a little more confidence and went, "Stealing a drop of water from this river is dangerous. I would like to help you."
When Tezuka jerked his head, nodding, Kato poised over the dark cardboard-and-cellophane river and pretended to scoop some water.
"Ah… Psyche seems to be very lucky! So then she brought the jar back to Venus."
"The likelihood that you are a witch has risen to 87.65 percent," muttered Inui. He gave Tezuka a casket and said, "Give this to Proserpine and say that I want her to give me 3.25 percent of her beauty because my own supply has been consumed."
"Did you know that Proserpine is the wife of Pluto, the god of underworld? Venus must really want her to die! And Psyche knew this so she climbed a really tall tower so she could jump off it and end all her misery and, well, it was the quickest route to underworld. But the tower spoke to her, nya!"
Mizuno stuck his head out of their cardboard tower and tried to avoid Tezuka's eyes at all cost. "You can travel to Taenarus. There, you will see the breathing-hole of Dis and the road will lead you to the Palace of Orcus. When you reach the river of death, give Charon, the harbourmaster, some copper. Then, if you see the three-headed dog Cerberus, make sure that you give it some cake to eat. When you finally meet Proserpine, do not eat anything that she offers you. But most of all: do not open the box that bears divine beauty." Trying to escape the presence of the daunting captain, Mizuno said this all too quickly that the audience couldn't follow.
Tezuka then started his journey through a series of props and backdrops, doing just as Mizuno had suggested.
"Would you like to take a seat and have some tea?" Oishi asked cordially, gesturing Tezuka to a tea-table.
"No, thank you," said Tezuka curtly.
"Are you sure?" asked Oishi fretfully twisting the lining of his gown. "You might be hungry after your trip."
"No," Tezuka repeated. "I was sent by Venus to ask for a supply of divine beauty."
"Oi- Proserpine gave the beauty after Psyche declined her offer for tea for the sixth time. Psyche had the box at hand and tried to walk out of underworld as quickly as possible."
Inspecting the casket in his hands, Tezuka pursed his lips. "This beauty might help regain Cupid's affection," Tezuka said wryly. He slowly opened the box, stared at its contents. Tezuka's brows twitched as Tezuka remembered what he was supposed to do. The lights dimmed and Tezuka fell down to the floor in the most uncomfortable fashion.
"Good job, Tezuka," said Fuji as Tezuka lifted himself from the stage floor.
Tezuka shot a glare at Fuji. Tezuka appreciated praises at the best of times. Tezuka most especially appreciated Fuji's praises lately because, Tezuka thought, Fuji was the director. But he didn't like flattery – especially not the one that was almost an embroidered lie.
"Really, Tezuka, good job," said Fuji, smiling. He patted Tezuka's back affably and said, "You're improving. And you're putting a lot of effort in… delivering your lines and acting your part."
"Hn," Tezuka grunted, reaching for his copy of the script. He flipped the pages, wrinkled his brows and waited for Fuji to finish giving instructions to Mizuno and Kato. Tezuka didn't say anything as Fuji told the two freshmen not to be intimidated by Tezuka during the scene with the promise that Tezuka wouldn't make them run laps if the play were successful.
"Is there something you need, Tezuka?" inquired Fuji, having noticed Tezuka's furrowed brows.
"You didn't give me a copy of the next scenes," said Tezuka staidly.
"I haven't written it yet," said Fuji as if nothing could have been more obvious. "I was going to consult you about how you'd want the play to end."
Tezuka discerned Fuji, mild confusion was evident in Tezuka's face. "Write it as you see fit."
"Are you sure?" Fuji asked, lifting a brow.
At that instant, Fuji's smile became broad. Tezuka began to wonder; he was sure he gave Fuji neither a box of wasabi nor a box of kimchi.
"But Cupid's wound has now healed, nya!!! Because he loves Psyche very much, he went down to her and poked her with the tip of one of his arrow."
Tezuka opened his eyes, feeling discomfited because he was supposed to wake up in Fuji's arms. Fuji was more at ease and was smiling cheerfully down at Tezuka, embracing Tezuka loosely around the waist.
"Your curiosity put you to danger again," said Fuji. He sounded amused rather than scolding. "Go to my mother and finish your task. I will take care of the rest."
"With that promise, Cupid flew away and went to none other than Jupiter, the King of Gods."
Fuji knelt on one knee before Kawamura and said, "Please allow my marriage with Psyche."
"Greato!" yelled Kawamura, waving his tennis racket above his head. "I know that you will cause less trouble to me and the other gods if you are with Psyche. You can now get married. Burning!"
"Yosh! They're going to get married now! Jupiter told Mercury, the messenger of gods, to alert everyone about the wedding. The preparations were made and everyone, even Venus joined the occasion."
"Psyche," said Kawamura, handing a cup to Tezuka. "Take this ambrosia and be immortal. Then, Cupid will never leave you again."
Tezuka blanched and turned to Fuji. He didn't look horrified, but he felt it. "This isn't a fairy tale," he said firmly.
"Hm?" Fuji said, smiling cheerfully. He didn't seem to care that Tezuka's face was covered in deep lines and that Tezuka was sure to make him run laps anytime. "Of course it isn't," Fuji said calmly. "It's a mythical tale of romance."
"It ends with –"
"You said I should write it as I see fit," said Fuji, shrugging. "It's a wedding, Tezuka… Or would you want me to change the ending?"
Fuji's eyes opened, but his smile was intact when Tezuka inched closer to him.
"But, you know, Tezuka… Traditionally, weddings end in –"
Fuji couldn't help but smile.
Tezuka stopped worrying about the ending and did just as the script said. He gave Fuji a kiss.
Fuji did not look abashed at all. He didn't care if the audience gasped, cheered or booed. Instead, he opened his mouth to respond to Tezuka's kiss. He felt very proud indeed that he was able to help Tezuka internalize the role.
Tezuka didn't even notice that the lights had shut and that the curtain had dropped. He found that he liked kissing Fuji… and wondered why they never got to practice this scene before. He broke off only when Eiji called their names for a roll-call of the cast.
"Tezuka," called Fuji from the corner of his mouth. They stood hand-in-hand at the center of the stage and took a bow with the rest of their teammates. "Actually, I changed the ending. Instead of the kiss, I had the narrator tell that the child they had was called 'Pleasure'."
Surprisingly, Tezuka didn't glower. He squeezed Fuji's hand and said, "I didn't get a copy."
Tunic – the ancient Romans' clothing garment
Himation – the Roman women's headdress
Telon – it's the Spanish of 'curtain'
Psyche – Soul
Cupid (Gk. Eros) – god of love and desire
Venus (Gk. Aphrodite) – goddess of love and beauty
Zephyr – west wind
Apollo (Gk. Phoebus Apollo) – god of sun, poetry and oracles
Somnus (Gk. Hypnos) – god of sleep
Pluto (Gk. Hades) – god of underworld
Proserpine (a.k.a Proserpina, Persepone) – queen of underworld, was kidnapped by Pluto in one tale of the Greeks, any food that she offers when eaten may cause permanent stay in underworld (read: death)
River Styx – river at the boundary of earth and underworld
Jupiter (Gk. Zeus) – king of gods
the version of Cupid
and Psyche that was used for the play:
Apuleius' Cupid and Psyche (as translated by E.J. Kenney, 1998, 2004). Penguin Epics, Penguin Group. England.