A/N:Ah...this thing has been on hiatus forever, huh? XD
Had to rewatch the epsiodes of Ryoma versus Akutsu. Got distracted by all the sexy grunts Akutsu makes. Goddamnit.
Warnings: Harem-building commences...
Pairings: MizukixEverything That Breathes and Maybe Some That Don't (XD), AkutsuxViolence
Disclaimer: I do not own.
"It is by no means self-evident that
human beings are most real when most violently excited;
violent physical passions do not in themselves differentiate men from each other,
but rather tend to reduce them to the same state."
"I really can't help but notice that your new friend seems a bit traumatized," Souji noted casually, walking alongside the freshman ace with the sort of unaffected air that seemed at odds with his statement. Ryoma, for his part, didn't look the least bit concerned with Souji's bland appraisal of his newly-established sadism or the pale-faced Yamabuki boy left in his wake.
"He'll get over it," Ryoma scoffed.
Which was all that was said on the matter, really. Apparently neither could be bothered with concern for long. Ryoma left Souji to set up his camera at the side of Saint Rudolph's assigned court, Yosuke chattering at light speed to his unconcerned cameraman while Ryoma, Mira, and the remaining freshmen followed Yuuta to where the other tennis club members were gathered.
"Ryo-chan, where's your jersey?" Mizuki demanded, already dressed in the standard attire for a match.
"I don't need to wear it at all times, do I?" Ryoma scoffed.
"Oh, I accidentally left it on the bus," Mira admitted shyly. "I was cold on the way over, so Ryoma-kun lent me his jersey. It's my fault he isn't wearing it! I'm sorry!"
"It's no problem - don't cry, Mira-kun, really, it's okay!" Atsushi and Kaneda were quick to comfort. Ryoma just rolled his eyes, taking a seat on the bleachers next to an aloof Akazawa. The captain was staring over at the other side of the courts, where the mesh of green and white that made up their opponents were congregating.
Ryoma noticed that, in terms of membership, it looked as if Saint Rudolph and Yamabuki were equal; there were never more than 20 on a team. Ryoma wondered if that was normal for Japanese tennis clubs - Ginka had nearly twice their number and he'd researched enough on the top tier of tennis clubs to know that they had an average of at least 50 members. (Hyoutei was currently leading with over 200 members.) He supposed it made sense; the lower the ranking of strength, the less club members the school would have. Saint Rudolph was still fairly new, so it wouldn't rake in all the good players so soon.
"They're good, right?" Ryoma asked. It was important they were.
Akazawa's eyes remained on their opponents across the court. Yamabuki was a good school, he knew; both in grades and in sports. They had a reputation and were highly-seeded. Saint Rudolph had taken a blow last year in terms of their seeded rank; it was one of many reasons the school had been revamped and why the tennis club had been practically wiped out then built from the ground up.
"You're in Singles Two, Ryoma-chan," Akazawa finally said, stifling his smirk at the younger boy's irritated twitch at the mention of his nickname. "Kaneda will lose in Singles Three - Mizuki has told us that. You'll be able play."
"Good," Ryoma snorted. "You guys never let me play during practice."
Akazawa went silent at the accusative tone of the younger boy's observation, knowing he could not properly explain to the boy the reason for the discrimination. 'You're frightening the others,' wasn't an adequate explanation, as far as Akazawa was concerned, but it was the least harmful reason as to why Ryoma had been restricted. Akazawa could not risk having one of the other Regulars quitting because they had faced the younger boy - as was the expected result after the freshman's match with Ginka's captain.
"The match is starting," Atsushi announced unnecessarily, earning the attention of the captain. The referee for the match called the Regulars of both teams on to the courts for the proper greetings only a moment later.
"The match between Saint Rudolph Academy and Yamabuki Middle School is about to begin!" the referee started, keeping a vigilant eye on both groups of Regulars. Both sides looked perfectly amiable, Sengoku Kiyosumi of Yamabuki going so far as to grin and wave at the freshman Regular of Saint Rudolph. (The boy's droll expression never wavered, but the referee didn't miss the narrow-eyed look the scarred junior to the freshman's side gave Yamabuki's star Singles player.) The only exception lay with the tall, lurching monster of a teen known as Akutsu Jin - who was glaring at everyone and looking seconds away from launching over the net and starting a fistfight with the duck-lipped teen across from him.
"Bow!" They all did, except for Akutsu.
As the Regulars left the courts so that the first game could begin, Sengoku glanced over his shoulder at the opposing team. "So that kid is the Miracle Freshman? He sure wasn't too friendly!"
Dan Taichi - who had returned to his teammates looking oddly flustered and more jittery than usual - was still gaping at the court. Coach Banda stared at the boy with a complacent expression, "Is something wrong, Dan-kun?"
Akutsu scowled and slouched away.
Kita Ichiuma and Nitobe Inakichi were not the strongest Doubles pair in Kantou, or even the strongest in Yamabuki - but they were still a force to be reckoned with. Mizuki had predicted a close call with the rival pair for him and Yuuta - winning seven to five. It was clear the other two were hellbent on fulfilling such a prophecy, currently in the lead with 4 to 3, but at the very least they were forcing Yuuta to his limits. The younger boy had set a mental boundary on himself shortly after entering Seigaku and subsequently falling short of everyone's expectations. Mizuki had noticed the mental block as soon as he'd seen the younger boy play a game - there was no doubt about it, Fuji Yuuta was suffering an inferiority complex that would cripple him.
Fortunately for Yuuta, he had Mizuki. As a Doubles pair, they were quite gifted; Mizuki knew the younger boy's style and quirks so well that he could predict how Yuuta could react, while Yuuta could rely on Mizuki to do whatever was necessary to attain their goal. Not the perfect doubles combination, by any stretch of the imagination - but they could work together and they could work together damn well.
Unfortunately for their opponents, they were also privy to one of the most disturbing on-court banters ever heard.
Such as, "Yuuta-kun, hit as deep as you can!"
Or, "Mizuki-san, th-this formation is...and the angle is a bit, uh, awkward..."
And, "Nfufu, they're pretty good at foreplay, but they don't have enough stamina for the real fun, ne, Yuuta-kun?"
"I don't feel comfortable answering that, Mizuki-san."
When the score tied itself at 5-5, Nitobe scowled. For some reason, he was also feeling slightly violated, but attributed that to the fact that the manager of the team and current opponent easily had one of the creepiest smirks he'd ever seen. Kita wasn't much better off, even though he was concentrating more on Yuuta.
"Do you think it's a skill unique to Mizuki?" Atsushi mused aloud.
"What, the ability to feel sexually harassed even when he's not talking or touching you?" Ryoma clarified, disgruntled. Clearly his time on the other end of Mizuki's attention had been a bitter one.
"We'll call it the 'Mizuki Effect', da ne," Yanagisawa labelled.
Ryoma snorted, "I think we should just call it mindrape."
"The 'Mizuki Effect' sounds a lot more elegant, though," Kaneda pointed out demurely. "And a lot less illegal..."
Akazawa smiled predatorily, "Maybe they'll feel so victimized they'll lose concentration?"
Which proved true: apparently the Kita-Nitobe pair was unaccustomed to such double-entendre and abuse of sexual innuendos that they were distracted by every nuanced suggestion Mizuki made. It also seemed to help that during the short break time, Mizuki thought towelling down Yuuta was entirely appropriate and not at all homoerotic - which most of the viewers could readily disagree with. The referee was conveniently looking elsewhere whilst everyone else was treated to the show.
"I can't play Doubles," Ryoma commented casually, as if he wasn't just providing an excuse to escape what was surely counted as sexual harassment - even among Doubles pairs.
"That's convenient for you, isn't it?" Atsushi replied dryly, inching closer to Yanagisawa as if to show they were clearly the best Doubles combination Saint Rudolph had to offer and should never, under any circumstances, be broken up. Kaneda, on the other hand, just looked reluctantly resigned to being a Doubles player.
"At least the Mizuki Effect is working, da ne!" Yanagisawa pointed out.
"The Mizuki Mindrape Effect. I won't be satisfied with the label until the 'mindrape' portion is acknowledged," Ryoma cut in.
Atsushi rolled his eyes. "We'll call it the 'MM Effect', then. Are you happy now?"
And now I can never eat M&Ms again, Ryoma thought derisively. His teammates took his silence as acceptance.
"Nfufufu! Are you done warming up, Yuuta-kun?" Mizuki asked his partner, giving the younger boy a leer as they switched courts. Nitobe and Kita noticeably averted their eyes as they stumbled to their side, much to the manager's amusement.
"I suppose it's time we show our new moves, ne?" Mizuki suggested, somehow still managing to make a tactical threat sound like a new form of sexual deviancy. His teammates almost felt they should applaud him.
Yuuta ignored the tone with the ease of long practice, "I think we should stop talking while on the courts, Mizuki-san. I can practically hear the sexual harassment charges being filed from here."
"You're so cute when you think a few pieces of paper will keep us apart~!" Mizuki chortled.
"I think I'm going to need a long, hot shower after this match," Nitobe muttered.
Regardless of his Doubles partner's questionable choice of phrasing, Yuuta knew an order when he heard one. The training menu designed for him had been rather rigorous, but it all paled in comparison to the new move Mizuki had been teaching him alongside it. Yuuta had only ever practiced the technique against a wall, and now it seemed Mizuki wanted to see how his mastery fared in an actual match.
Yuuta wasn't very comfortable with the position of his arm while performing this move, but it was a discomfort he could ignore in favor of getting stronger. To be able to face Syuusuke on equal footing, to win a match over his older brother - Yuuta would put up with anything to achieve his goal.
Yamabuki's service game, and Nitobe served; the ball soared across the net, going low - past Mizuki and into Yuuta's range. Racket held high, Yuuta swung it low, catching it center on the racket at a height equal to his waist, feet off the ground in a mid-jump. The ball was sent careening back, hitting the court and propelling upwards with such a force of violent topspin that Kita was unable to catch it.
Twist Spin Shot.
"15-love!" the referee called out.
Nitobe and Kita shared an agonized look.
"Is that his new technique?" Atsushi mused, leaning over the railing as if trying to afford a better view. "That thing has quite the spin."
"It looks like a drive half-volley," Kaneda noted.
Ryoma's eyes narrowed.
Akutsu didn't even bother to turn around, instead glaring straight ahead as light but quick footsteps came closer and closer. Dan reached his side soon enough, overlarge green headband half-slipping to cover an eye and clutching a clipboard to his chest. "Akutsu-senpai! You aren't going to watch the match (desu)?"
Akutsu didn't bother replying, just continued walking into a more deserted area of the park. He needed a smoke, and according to that stupid old man Banji, he still had quite a bit of time. Akutsu had wanted to ditch the match altogether, really, but he'd been challenged and Akutsu Jin wasn't the type to shirk away from any challenge.
Dan followed at his heels, chattering incessantly. Akutsu didn't know what possessed him the day he had tossed that old headband at the boy - which led the little idiot into hero-worshipping him. The kid was annoying, but ignorable most of the time; he was kind of like a yipping puppy that Akutsu only occasionally had to pet to keep in line.
"Ne, Akutsu-senpai," Dan began nervously, once Akutsu had reached a favorable enough place to stop and light up a cig. "If someone, um, approaches you and offers to, uh, show you 'entertaining moves', how would you respond (desu)?"
Akutsu abruptly choked on his next inhale of smoke.
"Are you okay (desu)?" Dan cried, alarmed as the older boy seemed to be trying to cough up what was left of his lungs unharmed by cigarette tar.
"Wh-Who the fuck said that to you?" Akutsu demanded, rounding on the smaller boy.
Dan blinked wide eyes at him. "Wh-Why? Is something wrong?"
"You- Do you even know what that means?" Akutsu growled.
Dan pouted. "Of course I do! He said it in a manner that wasn't hard to understand (desu)!"
"He? Who the hell would say that to you, you moron?" Akutsu couldn't believe this; who would dare to flirt with this naive little idiot who had no self-preservation instinct! Akutsu would find the bastard and kill him!
Dan crossed his arms over his chest, clearly starting to sulk. "Akutsu-senpai! Are you trying to say I'm not cute enough to be hit on?"
Akutsu couldn't understand why the conversation had derailed. Moreso, he didn't know how to reply to that - this was one topic of many that he did not wish to breach with the 12-year-old. There was just something wildly inappropriate about talking about coercion with a freshman; Akutsu was not prepared to deal with this. He wasn't sure he'd ever be.
"And just so you know, he was a cute Regular from Saint Rudolph!" Dan stated defensively.
Oh dear god, the brat was seducing people from rival teams?
"Which one?" Akutsu asked gruffly, needing to know who would he would be smearing across the pavement.
Mizuki and Yuuta had scraped by with a 7-5 win, thanks mostly to the unveiling of Yuuta's new move. Nitobe and Kita had never looked happier to escape the court, and after their cordial handshake, Kita had been quick to run to the bathroom to wash the Mizuki germs off.
When the match between the Jimmies and the Yanagisawa-Atsushi pair came up, Ryoma didn't know what was more annoying; Yanagisawa's jibes or the Jimmies' screaming protests about being bland. The freshman actually felt sorry for Atsushi, although the headband-wearing youth seemed to be tuning out the entire exchange between his partner and their opponents.
Deciding that was all he could take in terms of annoying banter, Ryoma wandered away to get some much-needed respite. After telling his fellow freshman club member Sawa to get him once his turn came up - assuming it did come up, as long as the Saint Rudolph pair won the match - Ryoma headed in the direction of the vending machines. Maybe while Mizuki was busy watching the match, Ryoma could get away with downing a second can of fruit soda.
"I had no idea tennis matches were so interesting!" Yosuke cheered, coming up to Ryoma's side and throwing a friendly arm around the other boy's shoulders. Ryoma irritably shook the appendage off, snorting as the other freshman only grinned at him cheekily in response.
"Are mind games always so heavily featured in these matches?" the boy asked.
Ryoma shrugged, "I guess. Mizuki-senpai and Yanagisawa-senpai are the only ones who really focus on them, though."
"And what, you're too good to play mind games?" Yosuke teased. "Or is getting their ass handed to them by a freshman all they need?"
Ryoma gave him a level look, "Shouldn't you be recording or something?"
"What do you think I brought Souji for, his dashing good looks?"
Ryoma would have made a snide remark about Yosuke pushing his responsibilities on to others, but was interrupted by a cheerful "Echizen-kuuuun!"
The pair of freshmen turned to look behind them, where Dan Taichi was running to catch up. Shadowing the boy's footsteps was the tall, lanky form of a furious-looking Akutsu Jin; Yosuke audibly gulped, moving closer to Ryoma's side as the two Yamabuki club members drew to a stop before them.
"You're Echizen Ryoma, right?" Dan asked excitedly, pencil writing something on the clipboard he held. "I knew you were a freshman - but I had no idea you'd be as small as me!"
"I'm not that small," Ryoma interjected sulkily.
Akutsu was looking down on him with a sneer. "This is the brat that..."
"Yeah!" Dan said brightly. "I told you a cute guy hit on me! And you thought I was ugly, Akutsu-senpai!"
Akutsu glared down at his schoolmate. "I didn't say anything like that, you idiot!"
Yosuke was openly gaping at Ryoma. "You hit on him?"
Ryoma looked away, tugging the brim of his hat down and cheeks flushing. "When Mizuki-senpai does it, they usually don't come back for more..." he complained.
Yosuke didn't appear to have heard. "You hit on him...you, Echizen Ryoma, hit on him..." A chesire-like grin was beginning to spread across his face, much to Ryoma's apprehension.
Akutsu seemed to have remembered why he wanted to see him - but he really had no idea what to do now. Normally, if they had ordered him to do something, he'd beat them down; he only wanted to see what kind of sick pervert would try to hit on a 12-year-old boy and teach them lesson. Finding the culprit to be another 12-year-old boy made him rethink his initial plan. Not that Akutsu had any qualms about beating up anyone younger than him - as long as they were infuriating enough and big enough to take a beat-down - but he couldn't really beat up the Saint Rudolph kid for flirting with someone his age.
"And you," Yosuke started, looking straight at Akutsu with that damning grin and knowing gleam in his eyes. "You came to claim this guy as your own?"
Akutsu blinked, taken aback. "Wha-"
"You did?" Dan squeaked, blushing a vibrant red.
"I didn't!" Akutsu countered immediately.
Yosuke was in his element now, though, and thus disregarded everything said to the contrary of his budding scheme. "Then this can be settled through a tennis match! Ryoma-kun, he's your opponent today, right? That's perfect then!"
"Perfect for what?" Dan asked, curious. (Ryoma had remained silent, not wanting to egg Yosuke on and having not counted on Dan for foiling his plan.)
"For the duel over your heart!" Yosuke announced dramatically.
"Are you an idiot?" Akutsu and Ryoma hissed together.
It was too late, however; Dan was now intrigued by this development for 'his heart'. (It didn't seem to occur to him that he was being 'fought over' by two boys.) Yosuke - damn him again - was smirking in satisfaction at the groundwork he'd laid and was muttering under his breath, "My club project is going to be awesome!"
Ryoma really regretted heading off for that soda now.
They'd returned just in time to watch the final game between Sengoku and Kaneda; the latter losing at a terrible rate. The boy was just no match for Sengoku Kiyosumi's skill, let alone his luck. The score was currently at 5-2, and no one looked too surprised.
Yuuta glanced back as they approached, turning fully at the sour look on Ryoma's face. "What's wrong? Did something happen?" he asked, concern coloring his voice.
Yosuke chortled good-naturedly, "Just making Ryoma-kun more friends! He sure gets popular quick!"
"I hate you so much right now," Ryoma growled to the other boy.
Yosuke waved him off, swaggering back over to Souji who was still recording Kaneda's match. Taking a seat between Yuuta and Mizuki - noticeably closer to Yuuta, to Mizuki's obvious amusement - Ryoma turned his attention back to the match just as Sengoku won his service game. "Has Ichirou-senpai made any progress?"
"Ichirou-kun is getting better," Mizuki answered. "But Sengoku is still out of his league."
"Six games to two, Yamabuki's Sengoku is the winner!" the referee called out.
There was a spatter of cheers from Yamabuki's side, although Mira - and the other freshmen - were yelling out consolations to a downtrodden Kaneda. "Your turn is up, Ryoma-kun," Yuuta said.
Akutsu Jin stepped on to the court. "Get out here, brat - I'm going to trash you!"
Ryoma snorted disdainfully, entering the court after brutally ignoring his teammate's cries to be careful.
Yosuke, now stationed by the video camera, pumped a fist into the air. "Alright, it's time! The Duel for Dan Taichi's Heart!"
The Regulars of both teams froze, staring at the two in the court, utterly gobsmacked. Dan blushed as he was immediately surrounded by the Saint Rudolph freshmen, lead by a babbling Mira.
"It's not like that!" Akutsu and Ryoma shouted.
Akutsu Jin was a monster.
Even though the first game started favorable for Ryoma, the freshman's ace serve was easily returned by his opponent. Akutsu was strong and quick, unlike anyone else he's faced before; his lurching height should have detracted but instead only gave him better reach. He was flexible so that no matter what hit Ryoma made, no matter how fast and quick, it was always returned. Even worse, the older boy had this infuriating smirk on his features that made Ryoma's blood boil.
"One game to love! Switch courts!"
Ryoma, scowl on his features, strode to the other side of the court. He didn't acknowledge the dozen or so hands of his teammates as they all offered him a water bottle or towel, trying the strings of his racket as he turned his attention back to the monster across the net.
Was this what his mother meant by finding strong opponents? This kind of person? There was no question about it; Akutsu was gifted. 'Once every ten years' kind of talent, he'd heard; Akutsu was hardly holding back, too. He was aggressive to a point where he lacked defensive shots - not that Akutsu saw any need for them. He seemed perfectly capable of unstoppably attacking his opponent.
His eyes were positively burning. The hand holding the racket was held tight at times, as if Akutsu were forcibly restraining himself from some primal urge - to leap over the net and dismember Ryoma? To throw the racket straight into the younger boys' face? There was just something about Akutsu that Ryoma had never seen in anyone else.
Ah, that's right - violence. Akutsu Jin was violence personified.
There wasn't hate; Akutsu didn't know Ryoma well enough for that. There's wasn't something smug about his moves - an arrogance, yes, but that's just something those with a high-level of skill seemed to carry around - nor was there any outright malice. Contemptuous, maybe, but that wasn't for Ryoma; that was for the game they were playing. Akutsu did not like tennis-?
You don't have to like tennis to play it, Ryoma mused.
That's right - tennis wasn't fun. This match wasn't fun at all, nor were any of the previous ones. Ryoma couldn't really recall the last time he had enjoyed a match. It didn't matter if the opponent had been strong or weak, quick or slow, arrogant or demure; Ryoma had crushed them, one after the other, and the only thing he felt after the match was disappointment at the sight of her unimpressed face.
Still not good enough, she would repeat over and over again, like a mantra. No matter how much older his opponent had been, or how much stronger, or how much more experienced - Ryoma would still never measure up, in her eyes.
You're still not good enough - get back up, Ryoma, goddamnit - you still have lots more to work on -
"Mada mada dane," Ryoma repeated hollowly.
Across the court, Akutsu's eyes narrowed dangerously. "What the hell did you say, you little brat?"
The referee looked ready to admonish Akutsu's manners, but was interrupted as Ryoma made the return and the ball shot to Akutsu's side, spinning in one spot before launching towards Akutsu's face and barely missing the giant of a teen. Akutsu hadn't moved one centimeter, but he spared a moment as the referee called out Ryoma's point to glare at the unaffected youth across the court.
Akutsu couldn't read the boy. It was the first thing he had noticed once the match had started; his opponent had absolutely nothing to give away. The kid moved quickly - able to keep up with the shots that should have been out of his reach - and he easily kept pace with any change in the ball's return.
But Akutsu couldn't fucking read him.
Opponents, no matter what the sport, leant something personal to the style they chose to incorporate. Whether it be in judou, or karate, or tennis - there was something about the individual that Akutsu could see, analyze, and overpower. It might be the way their eyes looked as he took them on, the way they twitched in a barely-controlled reflex to one move or another, what they said or what they didn't respond to - a thousand little cues Akutsu could read and use to his advantage.
Echizen was giving nothing away. His eyes were hollow, as if he were fading in and out of the match. There was something about his shots that was difrent than others Akutsu had opposed. The hits - while powerful, while fast, while brilliant - felt inherently wrong somehow. Akutsu couldn't place how or why, but then again, he didn't really care to.
What really distracted Akutsu, if he were to be honest with himself, was how Echizen looked absolutely agonized while he played.
It wasn't obvious - Akutsu would have missed it, really, if he hadn't been trying to smash a ball into the little smartass's face. It was in the blandness of the boy's expression, the way his eyes occasionally narrowed in something resembling annoyance, the way the golden irises flared as if every return he made disgusted him.
Before, Akutsu would have laughed at the idea of anyone playing something they so obviously hated.
Now, standing across the court from a child who was doing just that, Akutsu couldn't decide if he was annoyed by the entire situation, or if he should pity the younger boy for it.
Akutsu has never been very good at sympathy.
Ryoma would have been amazed at his opponent's reflexes and speed, if he hadn't been so busy being distracted by the haunting of his mother's expectations. As it was, he couldn't even appreciate the sheer amount of talent Akutsu had - he was too busy trying to crush the older boy for any of that.
It doesn't matter, as long as I win, Ryoma thought, striking back another one of Akutsu's return. The damn teen had managed to hit back another Twist Serve - which served to annoy Ryoma further. She'll only see the scores - that's all she'll care about.
Ryoma's eyes narrowed, golden irises alight. I just need to win!
Akutsu wasn't quick enough to dodge; the ball speared him right in the forehead, knocking the monster of a teen back to land with a resounding thud, sprawled across the court. Ryoma remained still, golden eyes shaded from view by the bill of his hat, but from Akutsu's fallen position, the eyes were clearly visible. They glowed with defiance and - Akutsu finally noticed - complete and utter hatred.
"Drive A," Ryoma called aloud.
A/N: Akutsu is special enough that his match gets split into two chapters. Huzzah!
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