MACHINATION
01...Hello Mr. Demon.

It was a star-filled summer night as children squealed with tiny, spark-ended sticks in their pudgy hands and the adults laughed amongst themselves.

But unlike those two categories, roaming teenagers went from booth to booth with the same intent of spending cash and buying solid memories.

"Oi, Sena! Look at this!"

"What is it—Wah! Eyeshield 21 merchandise?! Here too?!"

Here happened to be near a temple in Tokyo where a summer festival was occurring. Children and adults dressed in light yukatas roamed the streets with smiles on their faces and souvenirs in their hands.

The Deimon Devilbats American Football team huddled in front of a sturdy booth and marveled at the tiny plush-dolls of their star ace.

"AH HA HA!" Taki exclaimed while twirling and thrusting his chest out in a great flourish. "If they have Sena, then surely they must have me as well!"

"Mm... No." Monta shook his head.

Taki paused mid-pirouette and frowned. "You sure? Check again."

"Mm... No."

But before Taki could reply to this horrifying statement, Hiruma released a series of bullets into the air all-the-while cackling in amusement, "YA-HA!! This is promoting the team!" then he pointed a sharp-nailed finger at the small running back and sneered. "Fucking shorty, we'll make good use of the crowd! Oi! Old man! Make a booth, pronto!"

"B-but—! Hiruma-san! We need permission to do something like that!" Sena feebly tried to argue but his jaw shut with an audible click when Hiruma fished out his Devil's Handbook. After flipping through the pages, he came to a halt half-way through the book. "Permission?" he repeated lowly, "We don't need something like that. Hurry up and get to work on that booth!!"

Sena made unidentifiable movements and expressions with his hands. "B-but—! The supplies! The wood! The paint! The—"

"Stop worrying fucking Shorty! I got it all taken care of!" Then he burst out into high-pitched cackles and Sena decided he didn't want to know... ever.

As the gang reluctantly made way down the street for an open area (or one they could easily take over), a smaller teen paused in his step and eyed the strange, black notebook that lied innocently on the street.

He picked it up and observed the cover in faint interest, opening the flap and checking for a name of who it belonged to.

"Hiruma... ichi?"

------

Pop.

Sena and Monta flinched at the sudden noise and peeked over their shoulders cautiously then immediately looked away again when Hiruma glared menacingly at the two and gently fingered his weapon.

The atmosphere of the club house that afternoon was suffocating and heavy, and the only actively moving body was Mamori as she frantically wiped up and down the counters with a clean rag.

"So..." Kurita started reluctantly, giving the calm Musashi a side-ways look. "Shouldn't we be practicing?" he offered and looked to the other members for a bit of back-up.

Sena nodded, flipping his entire body around so he could face Hiruma with a shaky smile and wide eyes. "T-that's right! We should be prac... ti... cing?" he trailed off as Hiruma pulled his legs off the table and abruptly stood, startling the running back and the rest of the team.

Hiruma cocked his gun with a feral noise and pointed it right between Sena's eyes. "Then go fucking practice!!"

The gun-fire and screams that followed were heard by a small visitor who paused at the gate of the school and raised a dark eyebrow before dismissing the entire thing.


"Hiruma-kun... how long do you intend to sulk in here?" Mamori demanded, armed with a broom at her side and a light scowl. Her steely resolve didn't falter even when Hiruma turned to face her with a heavy and murderous intent in his eyes. "Ah? Sulk? I'll sulk as long as I fucking want to," he drawled, drawing his gun closer to his body as if daring her to talk back.

Mamori knew when she was edging over the limit, so with a small sigh and a tired glance at the blond captain, she pointed at the door with the end of her broom and said, "There's someone here, looking for you. I've never seen him before, and the uniform doesn't look familiar..."

Hiruma sat in his chair silently for a few seconds, contemplating on how he could get this unwanted stranger to leave quickest, and he soon stretched out his long legs and made way out the door, lazily smacking the wad of gum in his mouth.

Standing off to the sidelines of the field was a slender figure, undoubtedly male, with a messy cut and obvious hat-hair. A large bag was slung over his shoulder and Hiruma vaguely recognized it as a tennis bag.

This kid was in a tennis team? Then he had no reason to be here.

Hiruma wanted him to leave.

So he reached out, tapping a single finger on the thin, yet strong shoulder and pulled a grin from one ear to the other. "Can I help you?" he drawled, then cackled.

Golden eyes, almost cat-like in their shape and light, turned to him, taking a moment to scan his figure. A lazy smirk spread over the pale, epicene face and the stranger cocked his head to the side thoughtfully. "Hmm... you must be Hiruma Yoichi. 'Yo' as in elf right?" he glanced at Hiruma's elongated ears before returning to look him in the face. "It was a difficult kanji to read. I had to ask some of one of my senpai on it."

Hiruma long lost his grin, opting to simply glare down the smaller and, no doubt, younger boy. "What the fuck do you want."

Not even twitching at the swear, the stranger stuck his hands into the pocket of his tennis bag, shuffling around a few items with a pensive look. "I think I have something that belongs to you. It had your name and school on it, so I felt unreasonably nice for some reason... and decided to return it to you."

The stranger pulled out his Devil's Handbook.

There was a squeak that sounded from the field, but Hiruma could not take his wide eyes off the gentle smirk on the boy's face.

It was as if cold, cold water had been dumped over his entire frame.

He had to regain control. Regain control that he never had in the first place with this boy. "Hmm..." he hummed, sneer widening when his voice didn't waver. "Unreasonably nice, huh?"

Bullshit.

Hiruma placed his hands on his hips and licked his dry lips testily. "And? What do you want for your good deed? Money? Fame? A girl perhaps?"

The smirk on the boy's face waned and in its stead a slender, dark eyebrow raised in question and the hand that held the worn, black book outstretched further. "What are you talking about? Don't you want this back?"

Hiruma paused, eyeing the dark-haired teen warily and he quickly snatched the book back from the loose grip. He flipped through it, mentally counting the pages and the pictures all stored within the black, leather covering.

Surprisingly, nothing was missing.

Too surprising... Hiruma looked up, twitching at the steady grin on the other's sharp face. "Do you... know what this is?"

"Hm? Yeah, it's a blackmail book. I flipped through it."

Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable. Hiruma felt something akin to cold sweat on the back of his neck. "And yet... you don't want it." He must not understand... "You can scare idiots into submission with this... and you're just returning it? Are you stupid?"

Adopting an annoyed expression, the stranger turned and made a motion to leave. "I'm not interested in scaring people. I only defeat them."

"... is that so?"

And the boy left, leaving Hiruma with the image of a smirk and the stitching on his uniform jacket.

Hiruma grinned and propped open the book to make a note on a fresh page: First year, Seigaku High School. Tennis Team.


The day was unusually hot, Echizen Ryoma decided as he wiped the sweat from his forehead with a towel. His mouth felt dry and his stomach was churning uncomfortably... he just wasn't happy right now.

"Echizen, I'm gonna stop by the usual place, y'wanna come?"

And Momo-senpai seemed to know just what to do to cure his bad day.

And with a small smile, Ryoma turned around to face his spiky-haired upperclassmate and answered smoothly, "Only if you're paying, Momo-senpai."

A scrunched up look immediately appeared on Momo's face, before he relaxed and simply raised an eyebrow. "I'm going to quote something for you, Echizen, 'We should all be responsible for our own hamburgers and fries, and should not rely on others to pay for you.'"

"... ... Tezuka-buchou didn't say that."

Momo smirked, "Yeah, but that's basically what he meant."

Echizen resisted the urge to return the expression. He hitched his tennis bag up over his shoulder and grabbed his book bag. "Good senpai support their kouhai."

"I do support you, Echizen!"

"I don't need your support in the court."

And Momo laughed, thumping his younger friend on his back, "As cold as always aren't you? Well, whatever. You gonna come or not?"

"You leave me little choice, Momo-senpai," Echizen sighed with a limp shrug and followed the second year out of the locker rooms.

The tennis courts were still full and bustling with life even though practice was over. Bright, yellow balls were scattered all over the courts and the lesser freshmen hurriedly picking them up and dumping them into their rightful crates as ordered by Captain Tezuka. (Thankfully the Regulars were let out early due to the intolerable weather.)

"I'm in the mood for a jumbo supreme."

"... what's that?"

"It's two supreme burgers... stacked on top of each other!"

"... ... you're just lucky tennis burns that right off."

And the walk around the huge campus of Seishun High was almost as exhausting, but Ryoma's gotten used to walking from the gate, to the courts (which were located at the very back of the school grounds), then to his class (at the very front of school for 10th graders), and again to the courts. Then after practice it was back to the gates.

Ryoma sighed and shifted his tennis bags; he always has confidence in his stamina... but his patience was short and he didn't have enough patience for long walks.

"Ah, hey Echizen, look at that guy. Guaah... is that a foreigner?"

He had even less patience for stupid comments.

"I don't care Momo-senpai—"

"Eh... he's walking over here."

And Ryoma turned his head over to where Momo was pointing a finger and squinted at the spiky spines of blond hair approaching them. And he realized—

"Ah," Ryoma breathed. "That's the guy from yesterday."

"Echizen?"

And Hiruma Yoichi stepped up beside Ryoma, looking down at the boy with a menacing grin. "Hey, remember me?"

Ryoma paused for a moment, running his eyes over the pointed teeth, pointed nose, and pointed ears, making sure he had the right person in his mouth before he casually stated, "The notebook guy."

Hiruma's grin faltered for a second before it regained its confidence and snark. "And you're that princely bastard."

"Hm."

Momoshiro silently stood off to the side and watched the quiet interaction between the two before adding in his own commentary, "Um, I'm guessing you won't be coming to the usual place with me then?"

Ryoma turned to his upperclassmate with a frown. "That's—"

"—correct," the blond stepped in before Ryoma could answer, earning a rather large-eyed surprised glare from the dark haired tennis-player. "The Kuso Prince and I need to talk."

Whether it was his assertive attitude or his plain rude behavior, but Momo had difficultly closing his mouth, and Ryoma only frowned whilst thinking, 'Kuso Prince?'

"Come on." And Hiruma grabbed the tie of Ryoma's uniform and tugged at it, knocking the teen off balance and hopping on one foot to keep from falling face-first. "We're going."

Without even a chance to say "Bye" to Momoshiro, or even wail a "WHERE TO?!" Ryoma found himself being dragged through the school gates like a dog on a leash. Of course he struggled; he struggled quite fiercely and snapped his teeth at the other's long fingers. "Let me go! Let me go, dammit! What are you doing!?"

And Hiruma paused in his steps and turned around to face Ryoma. "... Are you hungry?"

"... huh?"

"Just answer the fucking question. Are you hungry?"

"... yeah."

And Hiruma continued on his way, still pulling on Ryoma behind him, only this time there was less resistance. (Only because Ryoma was too confused to fully process his current position.)

It was only after they reached a rather well-to-do restaurant that only people like Atobe could call "mediocre" that Ryoma realized what the earlier question meant and continued his struggle full force.

Of course, Ryoma wasn't very weak, but he wasn't the physically strongest person in the world either (nor was he the tallest, or the smartest, or the most creative...), so his fight against Hiruma was all in vain as he found himself being dragged through the beautifully crafted doors and being led to a duo-table by a rather skeptical waitress.

Hiruma, in a not-so-gentle manner, tossed Ryoma into the seat across from his own and glared down at the boy until he settled and quietly glared at the silverware on the table. "I hope you're going to behave now—"

"Mada mada dane."

"—because if you don't, I can lay out a series of cruel and unusual punishments for us to test out with you being the testee."

"..."

Hiruma sneered and took his seat.

Ryoma awkwardly played with a loose string of the table cloth, sneaking glances between the door and his kidnapper and trying to make a calculation of how fast he had to run to get away from Hiruma.

"Don't even think about it, Fuckin' Prince," Hiruma growled from behind the open menu. Ryoma frowned and whirled around to pin his blazing gaze on the blond. "Look here, you stupid elf-ear. I don't know who you are or what you want with me, and I don't have the time nor the patience to just wait here while you don't answer any of my questions and expect me to be happy. So listen closely, you either tell me what the hell you want, or I'm leaving." And he stood up, grabbing all his bags and waiting silently, with his toe tapping impatiently on the ground.

Hiruma peered over the top of the menu and seemed to be contemplating something, and he opened his mouth, "..."

"... what? Why don't you say anything."

"... because I don't know how else to ask, 'Will you go out with me?' to a complete stranger."

And the room dropped a couple dozen degrees in Ryoma's mind.

Taking a few seconds to gather what remained of his wit, Ryoma licked his lips and cleared his throat before asking, "What?"

Hiruma's face was solemnly grim. "Will you go out with me?"

Ryoma's response was immediate:

"You're a freak."

And he stood up and ran out of the restaurant.

It didn't surprise him that Hiruma caught up to him with no trouble at all, but at least they were in a fairly empty place where Ryoma could yell and rant all he wanted, but not so empty that he couldn't yell for help when Hiruma decided to attack him.

"Shit," Ryoma cursed, yanking his arm to no avail. "I didn't think helping a complete stranger with his misplaced belongings would land me with a stalker!"

"Yeah?" Hiruma breathed, his lips stretched into a cruel grin. "Well it just did. And congratulations, Fucking Prince you just landed yourself a boyfriend. I'm Hiruma Yoichi, and you?"

"You're not serious are you? There's so many things wrong with forcing people to be your lover, Hiruma Yoichi."

"Yeah! It's great," the cackle that followed these words proved just how much Hiruma was enjoying this. And it served to prove to Ryoma that he had absolutely no idea what he was getting himself into.

"So, Fucking Prince? A name?"

"..." Ryoma sighed, good-bye my privacy. And... "... Echizen Ryoma."

Hello Mr. Demon.

-be continued-

Hiruma's a freak.