Truth and Lies

Chapter 3

Jirou blinked himself awake, finding himself in his warm bed, his head resting on the softest pillow money could buy. Atobe always demanded the best for himself and his friends, and Jirou had always been Atobe's best friend.

Yawning, Jirou sat up and stretched lazily. It seemed like a normal day in the magical world, and judging by the brightness that had filtered in through his curtains, it was just about time for Jirou to get going to work.

Jirou got up and rubbed his eyes. Work was fun, most of the time, but today it was absolutely necessary. He refused to go back to the tennis world, at least not for a long while. That annoying doctor his family put trust in would just try to tell him that this, this magical world, was fake.

Jirou pulled on clothes haphazardly, shaking his head and pinching himself to keep himself awake. He could sense, vaguely, that the doctor had arrived in the other world, and that both he and Atobe were trying to wake him for an examination. Determined to stay in the magical world, Jirou marched out of the room and pulled on his well-worn black cloak, grinning as he grabbed his breakfast sandwich– Haruko, the woman who served as his housekeeper, had obviously come in and made the sandwich. She was really sweet, what with the way she was always fussing over Jirou. She reminded Jirou of his mother, really, and it was a shame he didn't see her as much as he'd like to.

Jirou willed himself intangible and stepped through the door easily, biting into his sandwich cheerfully. The usual defensive spells on his apartment automatically activated as Jirou's presence left. No one was stupid enough to try to get into a magician's apartment, and anyone who tried, thinking that Jirou was harmless because he was always asleep, would be completely humiliated. The traps Jirou had set aimed to embarrass the intruder instead of killing them. Much less messy, and much more legal.

Starting down the stairs, Jirou felt a mixed sort of feeling in his stomach. Either something good was going to happen today... or something very, very bad.

Instead of going straight to work, Jirou stopped by at Fuji's shop. The always-smiling boy had psychic blood running through his veins, enhanced by the fact that he was a magician who'd majored in foresight (and aced it). He had, post-graduation, opened a fortune-telling shop that was, to Jirou's knowledge, doing quite well. Fuji had admitted to telling some sizzling yet mostly fabricated stories to some of his clients. "Keeps things interesting," he had said, grinning mischievously. "The whole truth, all the time? That's boring."

Jirou had to agree.

"Hello, Jirou-kun," said Fuji cheerily as he opened the door (before Jirou even reached to knock). "You're almost late. Odd how you're the only one my vision doesn't seem to be able to be accurate about."

"Very odd," agreed Jirou as if they didn't have this conversation every time they met up. Fuji was an odd one, really; but so was Jirou.

Fuji stepped aside, and Jirou stepped past him into the shop. Little trinkets of every sort lined the shelves on the walls. Some hung from the ceiling, twirling gently in an ever-present wind. Jirou admired them every time he set foot in the shop, but today he wouldn't comment on the new addition to Fuji's collection. Today he was in a bit of a hurry; while work didn't leave him any room to fall asleep, small talk most certainly did.

When Jirou sat himself down in the chair Fuji used to receive customers, Fuji tilted his head curiously. "Aren't you going to ask about my new trinket?" he asked, sitting in his large, comfy-looking armchair. "You'll like the story, and it's fine if you're late for work. There are other Healers out there, you know."

"I know," said Jirou, sighing. "I just... don't want to go to the other world right now." Fuji was one of the few people in this world who actually knew about his situation.

Fuji chuckled. "Then I suppose I'll tell you the story later. Right, let's get started, shall we?"

"I have a feeling that something was going to happen today, Fuji," said Jirou seriously. "Is it a premonition?"

Fuji's smile slipped off his face. "Well," he said lowly. "Today will be one of the happiest days of your life... and also one of the worst."

Jirou frowned. "What? How is that possible?"

Fuji's eyes opened, and as usual Jirou was struck by their beauty. "Many things will happen today, Jirou. If I tell you more... the future might change for the worse."

"But Fuji–"

"You must rely on your own knowledge to discover the truth. And... Jirou, please remember that you are not the one in the most pain."

"Fuji, I have no idea what you're talking about!" Jirou exclaimed in frustration.

A smile suddenly plastered itself over Fuji's face. "People generally don't. I suggest you get going, Jirou-kun. Your supervisor is about to call you into work because of a crisis. Might be a plague, I'm not sure."

Jirou was about to protest when a voice rang in his mind, 'Jirou! We need you, now! There's been a huge collision between three jumbo magic carpets!'

Jirou sighed. Fuji was right. Fuji was always right, though Jirou's mere presence probably caused him to think it was a plague. Jirou always clouded Fuji's Sight. 'On my way, chief.'

"You were wrong," Jirou told Fuji. "It was a three-way jumbo magic carpet collision."

"Ouch," said Fuji, his smile never faltering. "I was only guessing about the plague."

"I know," said Jirou. "I'll see you around, Fuji." He closed his eyes and willed himself over to the hospital.

"Don't forget my advice, Jirou," Fuji added, just as Jirou's form was fading. "Have a nice trip."

Jirou wanted to reply, but Fuji's shop disappeared in a swirl of colour.

"I'll just heal this up for you, sweetheart," said Oishi, the hospital's best healer, as he bent to give a little girl a brightly colored lollipop. "I'm sorry, this might hurt a little bit. Can you be brave and sit through it a little while? Thank you."

Jirou smiled at this sight; watching Oishi at work was like magic. He could make even the most sullen of patients open up to him. He was especially good with children; one stern word from him and the most stubborn children would open their mouths and say 'ah' obligingly.

Jirou walked briskly past Oishi, who was concentrating so hard on his work that he didn't even look up to say hi like he usually did. Jirou shook his head in awe; that was one dedicated Healer.

"A Healer! Oh, thank the gods," sobbed a hysterical woman. "Please, please, save my son! Please..." she broke down in sobs. Jirou walked past her and took the patient's wrist. He heard himself saying things to comfort her ("Ma'am, don't worry, your son will be fine..."), but it was automatically coming out of his mouth. Jirou's attention was on the teenager lying unconscious on the bed. Jirou sent a little power into the body to sense how badly he was hurt.

He didn't seem too badly hurt; just a hard blow to the head that had conked him out and gotten him bleeding pretty badly. Head injuries were so dramatic; just a little graze and they'd bleed like crazy. His mother must have gotten hysterical at the sight of so much blood.

Jirou sent out healing magic in a slow and steady stream. Healing was simple, but taxing enough that Jirou actually had to pay attention to what he was doing, leaving himself no room to fall asleep and, thus, be woken up by that quack of a family doctor.

The process was simple, and within only a few minutes the boy was coming to and Jirou was being thanked profusely by his mother. Jirou bowed, and turned to leave to attend to another patient when a bright red blur burst through the doors. "Jirou!" it bellowed, and Jirou recognized it as Gakuto. "Jirou, you gotta get out here now! There's this big thing tryin' to destroy this place!"

What? There was no way Jirou was going to allow that to happen!

"Go," said Oishi, Jirou's superior. "The Healers will create a shield around the hospital, so don't worry about us."

"Thanks," said Jirou, bowing respectfully. Then there was a loud boom and the ground beneath them shook. Jirou sprinted out of the hospital, swearing like a sailor. Gakuto ran with him through the winding hallways, saying, "Choutarou found it first and hit it hard, but it just kept getting back up. He called the rest of us, and we've been trying to keep it from destroying anyone or anything in town. Right now we're trying to lure it away into the forest or some place where no one will get hurt, and then we'll take it down there. It's huge, so if it fell over..."

"Instant pancakes," Jirou finished. "Thanks."

The two burst through the main hospital doors and Jirou's eyes widened as he saw the huge monster trudging towards them, occasionally letting out a cry of pain when one of Jirou's team damaged it. It looked like it was made of earth, which meant that it was weak to air and water, but had an advantage over fire.

"Jirou," Gakuto yelled, jumping up high and landing on an invisible wind current. "Jump!"

Jirou did, and a different wind current materialized under his feet.

"It'll take you to Atobe!" Gakuto shouted as they started forwards at high speed. "Good luck!"

Jirou saluted him because the wind in his ears made it difficult to hear himself think, and unlike Gakuto, he had no power over wind to make his voice heard. The two air currents swerved in completely different directions, and in no time Jirou spotted Atobe's silver hair next to Oshitari's dark blue head.

The air current swooped low and Jirou jumped off as soon as he was able. "Need help?" he asked, and the monster suddenly turned towards him and roared.

Oshitari, his hair blown back by the force of the roar, was unfazed. "Yes, you're big scary earth creature, we're all scared of you," he drawled in his Southern accent that somehow made the words even more insulting and sarcastic. "Jirou's shaking in his boots. Now look here!"

The monster's head snapped towards him at the mention of Jirou, and was shot right in the face with a jet of water. The cry it let out was garbled because of the water.

"Jirou," said Atobe, watching the monster, and the monster's head snapped towards him.

"Yes?" Jirou replied, his eyes never leaving the monster's form. The monster turned to him and roared, then threw a barrage of rocks at Jirou. It started trudging towards him, seeming a lot angrier.

Jirou put up a shield, upon which the rocks bounced harmlessly, and Oshitari said, "I think it's targeting you."

"Who'd want to target me? I'm just a Healer," said Jirou, frowning. The monster roared again and picked up the pace. Atobe shot him an exasperated look. "Stop speaking! It just gets more incensed when it hears you speak. Honestly, I thought you were smarter than that," Atobe sniffed haughtily.

Yeah, well... you suck, said Jirou through mindspeak, sulking because he'd been unable to come up with a witty retort. The monster roared anyway, as if it had heard his mindvoice, and threw another barrage of rocks. This time they were magically enhanced: a red glow emanated from every rock.

"I'll take the middle. Oshitari, you take right," said Atobe purposely avoiding the mention of Jirou's name, and Jirou and Oshitari nodded. Jirou focused his power and sent out strikes of bright yellow to destroy some of the rocks. Similar strikes of violet and blue shot towards the incoming projectiles. The tricolored attack hit at the same time and, between them, destroyed every rock. Little explosions formed in the air as the red glow was disintegrated by the strikes, coupled with bits of rock flying in every direction.

"Nice," said Atobe curtly. Jirou could see Gakuto on his air current trying to distract the monster, and caught glimpses of Shishido's blue cap as he disappeared and reappeared on various parts of the monster's body, striking hard every time he did. He couldn't see Hiyoshi, Kabaji or Choutarou, but he knew that they were on the other side of the monster, attacking, because the monster suddenly turned in annoyance and roared, as if to say, "Cut that out!"

Lure it into the woods, said Atobe's mindvoice. Past the hospital. It responds to any mention of Jirou.

As if on cue, the monster's head snapped to Atobe.

Hey, said Shishido's awed mindvoice. Whose shield is that around the hospital? I've never seen anything like it before!

At once, every head turned to look. Jirou's eyes widened at the sight. The shield around the hospital was a huge, rainbow-coloured dome, the colours rippling like there was too much power to keep solid. It was beautiful. Jirou had never seen a shield that wasn't a single solid colour, and his senses, though still dulled, told him that the shield didn't end at the ground, but continued through the earth, forming a perfect sphere of defense.

We don't have time for this! snapped Atobe impatiently. Lead it to the woods!

Bossy, bossy, grumbled Shishido, but he teleported away anyway and shouted, HEY UGLY, JIROU'S OVER HERE!

The monster apparently didn't like being insulted, because it ambled over to Shishido faster than anyone had seen him move. Kabaji and Hiyoshi, behind the monster, helped it along, shooting a thick stream of fire at it to make it move faster. It didn't damage the monster, but the sheer force of the fire pushed it forward. Choutarou, with them, had his eyes closed, and Jirou could almost hear the "Ikyuu...nyuu...kon!" when he suddenly opened his eyes and hurled a huge orb of glittering silver energy at the monster's back.

All the while, Shishido and Gakuto attracted its attention with insults and Jirou's name to make sure it didn't turn and try to take the three younger men out. Oshitari and Atobe joined Kabaji, Hiyoshi and Choutarou, but Jirou went to help Shishido and Gakuto.

ARE YOU ALWAYS THIS UGLY, OR IS TODAY A SPECIAL OCCASION? Jirou shouted with his mind as loudly as he could the moment he teleported into the forest. Come and get me, you hunk of moving dirt!

The monster roared to the heavens and positively ran towards Jirou.

Ne, Keigo, I hope you have a plan to destroy it real quick because if you don't I'm going to die in like twenty seconds, said Jirou casually.

Shishido suddenly appeared and latched onto Jirou, then teleported away.

"Keep shouting," he told Jirou. Jirou obliged (You call that running? My grandmother could run faster than that– and she's dead!), and Shishido just kept teleporting away as he did so, all around the monster to confuse it. The other Hyouteians added to the chaos, chanting Jirou's name and hurling insults over and over.

Soon enough, the monster clutched its head in agony.

Give your power to Oshitari, Atobe commanded them. Shishido teleported himself and Jirou to Oshitari and they let their power flow into Oshitari's body.

Oshitari frowned in discomfort. You know, maybe you guys should learn some water spells, he said, trying to make light of the pain of seven different magical energies flowing into him. It would make my life a lot easier.

It's getting up again, said Hiyoshi warningly.

Goddamn, replied Oshitari passionately, and he released a steady stream of water at the monster.

Jirou realized, as he watched the multicoloured aura in Oshitari's body, that Oshitari was drawing on their power one by one as his body adjusted to it instead of releasing a single shot of water packed with all the energy. It was smart, really, Jirou decided as he watched the dirt monster start to melt into mud.

Where is its source of power? Gakuto asked, scanning the monster's body. We have to take it away or the big thing will just reform itself.

An image flashed in their minds, and suddenly Jirou could clearly see the previously well-camouflaged sphere in the middle of the monster's forehead. A magical rune, one used in tracking spells, was carved in its surface.

Good job, Kabaji, said Atobe.

Usu, Kabaji replied, and Shishido relenquished his hold on Jirou. Be right back, he said, winking at Choutarou. Jirou smiled as a blush blossomed on Choutarou's face. They were too cute, those two. The Silver Pair.

Then Shishido and his blue cap disappeared, only popping back into existence along the monster's side. He was going straight for the sphere, he was going to yank it out. 'Come on, Shishido,' thought Jirou. 'You can do it.' It was odd, really, how nervous Jirou was about this. Shishido had done things of this sort a thousand times. Why would this time be any different?

Then Jirou saw it.

Shishido's aura was dim. He had barely enough magic to get the sphere and then get out of the way. If the monster had a back-up rune controlling him, Shishido wouldn't even have enough magic to shield.

As Jirou watched, the light blue glow around Shishido dimmed even further, and Jirou knew that there was no way he would have enough magic to get out of the way after destroying the monster.

There was no way Shishido could save himself from a twenty-storey drop once the monster, without magic to hold its form, fell back to the ground as regular dirt.

"No!" Jirou screamed, willing his consciousness to Shishido's side, but his magic wasn't working. Something was blocking him, some sort of power was stopping him from accessing his magic. "Fuck," swore Jirou. "No, no, no, no, no, Ryou! Somebody save him!"

"What?" asked Choutarou, eyes wide with alarm. "Jirou-san, what do you mean?"

"His magic, it isn't enough! Go! Save him!" Jirou screeched, gesturing wildly. "Quickly, before he–"

Shishido pulled out the sphere, and the monster disintegrated. Jirou watched in horror as Shishido's face turned panicked. He'd realized that he had no more magic, there was no way he could teleport himself out of there.

There were grunts of frustration all around. "I- can't- teleport!" growled Atobe.

"Something's stopping me! Fuck!" cursed Gakuto, staring at Shishido's falling figure helplessly. "Come on, come on, find a last spark or something, Ryou, come on! You can't die, there's just no way you can die!"

Choutarou was crying, and his face was turning red from the effort of trying to teleport. "It's no use!" he wailed miserably. "I can't even move, damn it!"

Jirou tried to run, tried to go over and cushion Shishido's fall with magic, but his legs wouldn't move. They were stuck to the ground, as if by magic.


A spell?

Jirou couldn't even look around to check for the caster of the spell. All he could do was watch Shishido as he fell to the ground. His face was peaceful, and he turned to face his friends with a sad smile.

I love you, Choutarou, his voice spoke in their minds. Goodbye.

Then his body disintegrated in a blast of bright, sky blue energy.


Shishido couldn't be dead, he couldn't, he couldn't he couldn't he couldn't. He couldn't be dead!

"He's gone," said Choutarou softly, as if he couldn't believe it. Sobs wreaked through his body and he fell to his knees. "He's... gone. He's gone."

Jirou felt something in his heart die. Shishido had been one of Jirou's closest friends, and now...

Now he was gone... forever.

"Many things will happen today," Jirou suddenly remembered Fuji's words. "...Jirou, please remember that you are not the one in the most pain."

Jirou's gaze fell on Choutarou, sobbing heart-breakingly, and then on Gakuto, tears running down his cheeks and pain obvious on his face.

Choutarou, who had been Shishido's lover.

Gakuto, who had known Shishido so long they were practically brothers.

They... they had lost Shishido forever.

'But I haven't,' Jirou realized suddenly. 'I have a second world, a second chance, a second Shishido Ryou!' Jirou closed his eyes and willed himself to sleep. He hadn't lost Shishido forever, he hadn't. Jirou added a little magic to his attempts. He had to see Shishido alive. He had to.

Then Jirou felt his consciousness slipping away, and for once, he didn't want to come back ever again.

DISCLAIMER: This isn't a spin-off in Japan, so I'm guessing I don't own Prince of Tennis...?

I... I killed him. I'm sorry. I killed him. I didn't mean to kill him, really, I didn't.

I... don't even know. I actually like Shishido. I like writing his and Gakuto's fights.

Why... did I kill him?

Leave ideas in a review (hint hint ;D).

~Stars of Gold