-chapter one-

I lost? I... Lost?

I stared in disbelief at my hands as I heard cheering from the other end of the court. That was supposed to be me. The person winning was supposed to be me! I couldn't believe it! That child, that brat, said that 'tennis was fun'? That was utter shit. Tennis was only about winning. Winning was why sports, any type of sports, were made. Why people work on it day, after day, after day, until their fingers bled and their hearts stopped beating.

I couldn't have lost. This was all a dream. I was the 'Child of God', 'Kami no Ko'. No one could beat me. Nobody could. It just- it just wasn't possible. I looked up to my team, to only see that they were all in shock... That's right. It was only a dream. After all, they would only disappear once I... Wake... Up...

I quickly hit myself in the knee with my racquet, and hissed when I saw a cut form.

Blood dripped from the wound.

I reached down to touch it with almost childish curiosity, and looked at the stream of blood that resided on my finger. I rubbed it, and saw that my skin slowly stained red. ... It wasn't a dream. It never was. I was awake. And I had lost.

Losing. That... It was a word I'd forgotten. A taste I never tasted for a long time. A toy I've thrown away. While my mind had embraced the word, and understood it, my heart, my soul did not.

They fought.

I didn't like it. No one could. But...

"B-buchou?"

I turned to see Kirihara, the only second-year on the team, looking at me with wide, disbelieving eyes.

"Yes, Akaya?"

"... Are you alright?"

I... No. I was not all right. But, I had to make sure the team did not fail. Did not fall into chaos. Kirihara was going to be the captain next year. He was not allowed to lose.

"Yes." I answered. His eyes slowly narrowed back into their normal sizes, and I could see Sanada frown slightly. I could tell he knew I was lying.

He knew I was not all right with losing. It was like I've betrayed myself. Betrayed Rikkai. Betrayed them all.

"… However…" I smiled a fake smile. Like I've always did, when I reassured everyone. "We will have to improve ourselves. Kirihara Akaya. Next year, you will be the captain. You know that. Learn from our mistakes, and defeat all, everyone, who stands in your way. Become stronger in the face of our adversary."

The second-year nodded determinedly. His Demon Mode was sealed away, so I knew he had to work hard to create a new image and a new arsenal for himself. He was strong. He could be stronger.

I put a hand on his head, before turning around to look at the rest of the team. "Everyone. … You did great- and well done to you all. I'm… Proud of you, proud of us."

They all smiled at me. I couldn't help but feel somewhat of a hypocrite. I gave it my all. I lost. I wasn't proud. However, not at them: I wasn't proud of myself.

Wasn't I supposed to be the strongest out of the Rikkai Three? Was the kid stronger?

I smiled tersely at them all, before I left the stadium. I did not want my team, the very thing that put reason into my dwindling will to live into, to notice my weakness.

-x-

Fuji Syuusuke knew he had a very high level of curiosity. It was given, because as a child, he was always found in the park, looking at all the things that could be found there. He then discovered a wilting cactus hidden in the shade by a large oak tree, and had taken it home, his school jacket curled around the plant.

He watched with his closed eyes that the captain of the Rikkai team had exited the stadium with a rather distressed look on his face. Well, distress that was barely etched onto the eyes of the enigmatic Yukimura.

He frowned slightly. Was the Kami no Ko that shaken by Ryoma's win, and skill?

"Tezuka, excuse me. I remembered I have something to do," Syuusuke told the captain softly. He received a nod, and left the stadium. He noticed that Eiji was looking at him in confusion, and nodded at him once. Eiji nodded as well and went back to chattering with Oishi, who looked ecstatic with Ryoma's win.

Syuusuke followed Yukimura out of the stadium ground, and noticed that Yukimura had a slouched, defeated posture. What's up with him…? He wondered, suspicious. Surely getting beaten by the little chibi isn't that bad.

Yukimura stopped at a tree, and rested his forehead against the bark, his eyes closed tightly.

The brunette stopped where he was, and continued to watch the blue-haired captain with unhidden curiosity. He watched with open blue eyes as Yukimura's fingers gripped the branches with his slender fingers.

He could barely heard what the other was saying, whispering, murmuring.

"I lost." Syuusuke heard. "I fucking lost. How? I… I'm the Kami no Ko. I'm undefeatable. And some runt came over and defeated me. It's unbelievable. I…" He heard Yukimura's voice quiver. "No, I'm not. I'm not weak- I just underestimated him. I'm not weak. I won't admit I am weak! I'm not!"

-x-

My breath came out raggedly as my fingers gripped the branches of the tree tighter and tighter and tighter. I, Yukimura Seiichi… Did not deserve to be called Child of God, the Kami no Ko. I was weak; I wasn't strong. I lost. Rikkai no longer needed a weak, sick little wannabe as their support, as their leader. I can never show my face to my team ever again. They were better off without me.

My eyesight began to waver as I could feel water gather from under the eyelids. I was going to cry. I didn't want to. But I was weak, wasn't I? Doesn't that mean I'm entitled to crying openly, to proclaim that I was weaker than some kid two years younger than me? I bowed my head, closing my eyes with startling fury. I hated my weakness. I betrayed myself because I was weak. Because I got sick, because of a small little sickness that entered my system.

A stick snapped behind me, and I spun around to see who saw my moment of weakness, of self-hatred.

My eyes met the blue eyes of Fuji Syuusuke, and my breath caught in my throat. Had he come, come to taunt me? Come to say I was weak?

"Yukimura-san…" I heard him whisper. His eyes slowly closed, and I turned my head back to glare at the bark. A single tear trailed down my cheek with an icy fire. It burned, and it froze at the same time. My blood coursed through my body with a sudden declaration of wanting to be felt, and to be noticed. My heart was abnormally loud, and I could hear it go thud, thud, thud loudly.

"I… Apologize for you defeat." He said.

So he did want to taunt me. Tensai of Seigaku has been entitled to boast about his victory to the weak little captain of the once-great Rikkaidai.

"May I join you?"

No, you may not. I hate you. And your band of talented freaks that managed to defeat my proud team. I hope that you have a good fucking life, and that you never forget how weak I was. So be it.

He ignored my silence and went up to me. His closed eyes seemed to pierce through me, and I couldn't help but shiver when his too-warm, too-cold hand touched my shoulder. Another tear joined the first. And another. Before I knew it, I began to heave with silent tears, filled with shame. I was feeble, imperfect, frail. He stood beside me, his eyes burning with pity. I hated that pity. Pity was for the weak, and I wasn't-

… I was weak, wasn't I?

I suddenly crumpled to my knees, and my hands trailed down the bark of the tree painfully. I could feel blood drizzle down my wrist, my forearm, as I began gasping for air. My eyes burned. My lungs ached. My heart throbbed. My soul screamed.

I screamed.

It was long, painful, and torturous. It was loud, hateful, and vengeful. It was hurt.

His hand stayed on my shoulder, and I could feel him kneel beside me, his head against mine. His hair tickled my neck. His fingers gripped hard.

"Let it out," He murmured. I turned my eyes towards him, half-mad with shame. I reached out with my bloodied fingers to touch his cheek. It was soft. It was warm. He smiled at me. "I won't tell."

I won't tell. What important words they were. How they filled me with a forbidden, thrilling feeling. How it reminded me of the secret touches I used to feel. I couldn't help but let out a sardonic chuckle. I wanted so bad to feel free. But I wouldn't allow myself- I- … If I did; I was scared I might lose myself again. To something forbidding in the distance, something I couldn't overcome by myself.

"I won't tell," I echoed with a cracking voice. My throat felt like it was getting stabbed again and again. "I won't tell. How will I know that you won't?"

"Trust me." Fuji answered; his eyes closed serenely, five bloody trails on his cheek. A peep of beautiful blue shimmered from under light brown lashes.

Trust.

Trust.

Trust!

"I hate myself."

He looked startled.

"I, fucking, hate myself." I forced out. My words were physically painful, and mentally painful. I always knew that. I never told, though. "I want to die. I should've. From my disease,"

His eyebrows met. He didn't say anything. For that, I was thankful.

"If I died, then maybe Rikkai would've won. They don't need a sick captain. The captain would only drag them down." I let out a bitter laugh as I clenched my fist. Blood leaked out faster. I bowed my head. "Kami no Ko… What a joke. I should've been called the 'weak bastard'. Or the 'sick asshole'."

Fuji stroked my hair with surprising tenderness. I wanted him to hit me, though. But it felt nice. Too nice. I wanted more, but I wasn't supposed to. I… I was confused. I put my hand on his head, and watched as his hair flutter from my grip. It was soft. Like how mine was. But…

"Fuji-san?"

He opened his eyes, and looked at me questioningly. My breath caught again at his eyes.

"… I am weak."

"You are not." He answered. He stood up, and for a moment, I thought he was going to run off. Leave me. He reached out a hand to touch mine, and pulled me up. Though I towered over him, I felt smaller then I'd ever felt before in my life. "You are strong. You just haven't grown enough yet. But you can."

Why was someone not an ally doing this for me? Did he want something from me?

"What do you want from me?" I asked harshly, my voice cracking again. It was filled with something- something I didn't know.

Fuji looked at me with dark eyes. They were beautiful, but I just wanted to claw them out, so that they couldn't, so that they wouldn't, pierce through me like a needle. "Nothing."

I couldn't believe that. Everyone wanted something. Everyone did not want 'nothing'.

"What do you want from me?" I repeated, albeit softer. I gazed at him with a strange and faint feeling of envy. How strong he was. That he could accept defeat like how someone would accept victory.

"Nothing. Just become stronger, Seiichi."

My name. It felt like velvet coming from the mouth of an angel. I've always found it fascinating how it would be awkward on someone's lips, but from Fuji… No, Syuusuke, it was… Natural.

"Ah, ecstasy… What do I spy with my little eyes?"

I did not turn to look at Shiraishi. Neither did Syuusuke.

"You startled Kin-chan with your yell, Yuki-san," Shiraishi said softly, walking towards us. His dark grey eyes glowed. "But I won't tell either, Yuki-san. After all, it's your business."

Syuusuke nodded tersely at me, and looked at Shiraishi. "Shiraishi-san."

"Hm?" The bandaged captain smiled slightly. "Yes, Fuji-san?"

"Join us."