Disclaimer: All characters and concepts belong to iNiS and Nintendo.

The Colour of Passion

He was dripping. Onto the grass.


Ryuuta blinked hard, trying to clear his relentlessly watering eyes as he made another half-hearted attempt to inhale through his most probably broken nose.

There had been three of them. The tallest could kick like an over-powered windmill and the shortest had a baseball bat - it was a battle lost before it started, and in hindsight, Ryuuta wondered how he had been stupid enough even entertain the idea that he might have been able to beat them single-handedly, unarmed, out-numbered.

But fellow classmate, Shirou, with his parents newly divorced, living with his father and forced to eat clumsily-made lunches had endured enough unhappiness without those three arseholes hanging him upside down in a basketball hoop and stealing his wallet. When Ryuuta found them on the deserted court, humiliating the boy, it was far beyond the last straw.

The heat in his blood flared at the sight, and before he even registered the hierarchy of schoolyard politics or could let logic check his rage, he was running, fist raised, voice hoarse, and all he could see was -


A small splattering of it dotted the ground between his feet, picking up the dust beneath the bench on which he now sat, head in his hands because he was too tired to consider heading for the sickbay. He wondered when it'd stop bleeding, so he could straighten without getting any of it onto his uniform.

It wasn't as if he even knew the guy all that well.

If he weighed up all the possibilities of where this afternoon might lead, he would presume to guess in the direction of after-school detentions and the event finding its way onto his school record. A nice addition to the rest of his ever-growing list of misdemeanours.

He sighed, and almost jumped when his nose throbbed with sharp pain.

Why couldn't he be like the rest of the students and just walk past, ignoring what they saw, minding their own business? And when he thought about it like that, that was most probably the reason - Ippongi Ryuuta, toughest boy in class 10-B couldn't sit still when an argument broke out, couldn't hold his tongue when someone was wrongly accused and couldn't back down when challenged with something unfair - known as a juvenile delinquent and a problematic child simply because his heart lurched with fury when faced with injustice.

For injustice was everywhere and he knew no other way to seek a solution than through his own two fists.

He just wished he wasn't so good at losing all the time.

"You'd better wipe that, kid."

So the courts weren't deserted after all. Ryuuta turned and found himself suddenly fighting the urge to gawk as a very tall man in a sweeping black gakuran approached, sat down on the same set of benches and offered him a white handkerchief with a sharp, bold motion.

"Uugh. Um." Ryuuta blinked.

"Doumeki Kai!" The man barked, by way of introduction. His voice was deep, but breathlessly hoarse, as though he was in the habit of constantly straining it. Ryuuta could describe his face as nothing other than intense, possibly an impression formed by the tousled black hair and styled beard, and he couldn't help but recoil slightly as Doumeki leaned forward, insistent with the handkerchief.

With a tentative hand, Ryuuta finally reached for the piece of cloth and dumbfounded, inclined his head, before holding it to his nose.

"I-Ippongee Ruu-da," he added, as an afterthought.

"A good set of lungs you've got on you, Ippongee-kun."

"Ippongeeee," Ryuuta tried to correct, but realised it wasn't going to work with something obscuring his nasal passages.

Doumeki didn't seem to notice, however, gazing intently out at the empty stretch of ashfelt. "I saw you fight."

"Saw b'me lose, you b'mean?" Ryuuta couldn't help rolling his eyes at his own idiocy. What was this stranger trying to do, comfort him?

"You have a good spirit."

Oh. That silenced him. He'd heard his fair share of compliments in his lifetime, from "brave" to "cool" and even "good-looking" (from his mother), but no one had ever told him something nice about his... spirit.

"Eh. 'Fanks?"

"I'm looking for people like you," Doumeki turned back to face him, and once again, Ryuuta had the distinct impression that there was something blazing behind this man's neutral expression; an explosion, a tidal wave, something massive held in check by the stern countenance that was the only thing between stillness and all-out, utter, mind-blowing energy. "I am the captain of the Ouendan."

"Ouen'b... dan?"

"I would like to extend an invitation for you to join."

"... Ouen'bdan?"

"We train every afternoon at four. I hope you can make it."

He offered something else - a business card? Ouendan groups had business cards? - and it was all Ryuuta could manage, to drop the handkerchief and accept the card with both hands, blinking as the hulk of a man rose almost gracefully to his feet and looked down at him.

"Get that checked by the nurse."

And off he went, vanishing across the courts to wherever the hell he had materialised from. In his absence, the air felt static again, and Ryuuta looked down at the card in his hands. On the back was a red, stylised star.

"Ouen," he muttered.

Sounded an incredibly stupid waste of time.