That was a long and suspenseful wait, just like Harry Potter™. I promise that this is the last chapter. I'll try to make it as long as the previous and just as awesome.
What's up everyone? I hope that all of you have enjoyed the story! Sorry for all the late updates. Summer is a lot busier than I intended. But whatever, I'll get it done sooner or later. I'll try to have it out in a week's time again but if not, oh well.
Okay, now it's the last time. I DO NOT own Prince of Tennis… oh, the things I'd make them do if I did.
Last Chapter. Enjoy!
"You still don't remember?" he gave a small chuckle. "I guess it doesn't matter anymore; his humiliation or your life."
Echizen's eyes widened as Taiga lunged at him. Seeing that he wasn't fully aware of what was happening, Taiga was able to tackle Echizen and pin him to the ground.
"How about now? Does having a close up jog your memory?" Taiga placed his face inches away from Echizen's. "You need to work on your long-term memory." Taiga took both of Echizen's hands and held them to the ground above his head. "Too bad. This was getting fun." He reached into his pocket and pulled out switchblade.
"Chibisuke!… Chibisuke!" Ryoga kept running through the woods, calling for Echizen every few steps. He got to the edge of the woods and reached the river. He stood for a few seconds and watched as it whooshed by, thinking about what could have happened if Echizen had tried to cross and failed.
"Chibisuke…" he dropped to his hands and knees, breathless and panting, and looked up at the sky. The rain was pouring down and landed atop his head. The sky was dark, the darkest it had been the whole time it had stormed. The clouds boomed and the sky lit up from lightning. Images flashed before Ryoga's eyes, images and things he would never want to see or wish anyone else had to see. Tears formed in his eyes and started running down his face. He hadn't noticed that he started crying since the rain was also running down his face.
"Ryoga-san!" he heard his name being called by several people. He turned his head to his right and saw all the Hyoutei regulars and Seigaku regulars running towards him.
"Minna." He cleared away the rain and tears from his face only for more to fall in their place.
"Ryoga-san, what happened?" Fuji asked.
"What did Gakuto mean when he said that you said that Echizen ran off?" Shishido added.
"And why did we come to the river?" questions were coming out of everyone's mouths.
Ryoga sat and looked at them, unable to comprehend what to do or say. His mind was full of what could happen to his brother if his attacker found him or if he found the attacker.
"Shizukani." Atobe snapped his fingers and everyone fell silent.
"Ryoga-san, where is Echizen?" Tezuka asked in a worried yet stern tone.
Ryoga looked at Tezuka with sorrowful eyes.
"Ryoga-san." Oishi came up and placed his hand on his shoulder.
Ryoga shifted his gaze to Oishi for a second then back to Tezuka. "He just woke up."
"What do you mean?" the rain had stopped Inui from taking out his notebook. "Can you explain?"
"There's nothing to explain Inui-kun. He just woke up. There's no simpler way to put it." Ryoga looked at the ground. "I was sitting at the side of the bed telling him to wake up and then he sat up and shouted 'I am wake damn it'."
Everyone looked at each other with troubled expressions.
"He hopped out of bed and ran for the door but I grabbed him and tried to make him get back in bed. He still had a really high fever but he managed to escape my hold and ran out the door."
"What makes you think he would come to the river Ryoga-san?" Choutaro asked.
"After we met up with everyone right after the rain started and we were heading back to camp, Chibisuke kept looking over his shoulder back towards the bank. He also addressed someone as 'that bastard' when he woke up."
Everyone's looks became more puzzled. Tezuka, Atobe and Fuji were scratching their heads.
"Where was the exact place that Echizen was before we met up with him?" Fuji asked.
Everyone in the group looked to Shishido.
"Uno, I found him a bit farther up the river." Shishido said as he pointed further upstream.
"We should look there before we come to any conclusions." Tezuka said.
Everyone agreed with him and followed Shishido further up the river to the spot where he found Echizen a few days before. He led them to a small clearing just from the tree line. It had a tree overlooking the ground and a small pile of rocks where Echizen had placed his pole to make it look like he was fishing when he was sleeping.
Unlike the water further downstream, the water here was much higher, rougher and seemed to be going downstream at a faster pace. Ryoga dreaded the thought of what could have happen if Echizen tried to cross and got carried downstream.
"This is where you found him?" Momo asked.
"Ah. He was sitting there," Shishido pointed to the trunk of the tree. "Acting like he was fishing but was probably trying to sleep."
"Nya, but why would he come back here?" Kikumaru asked.
"Maybe he saw his attacker from before and came back to confront him." Gakuto said.
"Fsshhh, he should've swallowed his pride and just asked for help." Kaidou hissed.
"Knowing Echizen, that is a highly unlikely outcome." Inui said trying to wipe the rain from his glasses.
"Also seeing that he isn't a very patient person, he wouldn't wait here for him to show up again." Oshitari added. "He probably crossed the river and is searching for him over there as we speak."
"But, what would have happened if he tried to cross and he was carried down the river?" Oishi was a panicky mother hen who was thinking the same exact thing as Ryoga.
"Don't think like that Oishi. Echizen is stronger than he looks." Taka said.
"That coming from the one with the most knowledge in that area." Hiyoshi said.
A few muffled snickers were heard from each group. Tezuka and Atobe gave them all disapproving death stares. Ryoga ventured away from the group and went to the edge of the water.
"Don't worry. We'll find him." Jirou placed his hand on Ryoga's shoulder.
"We'll find him and the person responsible for this whole thing." Choutaro said coming up to him.
"But… what if something's happened?" Ryoga voiced his panic. "What if he tried to cross the river and got carried downstream like Oishi-kun said?"
"You need to try to stay positive Ryoga-san. The storm is worse now than before. The water was probably calmer then and if Echizen did try to cross, he's probably on the other side right now.
"Jirou is correct. We should get to the other side." Atobe said. "Who knows what the brat got himself into. Kabaji."
"Usu." Atobe snapped his fingers and Kabaji slowly stepped into the river. Everyone watched as he stumbled a bit. The current of the river was stronger than it seemed. Nonetheless, he was able to withstand the current and stood about in the middle of the river.
"You go next." Atobe pointed to Taka.
"Ha? What good will I do?" he asked in defense.
"We're going to make a chain from one side to the other."
"Demo, what would happen if I-"
"Kore, Taka-san." Fuji picked up a stick and shoved it into Taka's hands.
"MOERUZE BURNING!" steam started coming from Taka's clothes. "I'LL GET ACROSS THAT RIVER IN NO TIME! LET'S GO BABY!"
Everyone sweat dropped as they watched Taka run into the river towards Kabaji. They all watched as he lost his balance and dropped the stick into the water. He quickly came out of his burning mode and grabbed onto Kabaji for balance. A few chuckles were heard then one by one everyone did the same thing. They went into the river then traveled to Taka and Kabaji then went over to the other side.
"See, that want so bad." Fuji said with a smile.
"Fuji-sempai, please don't help us next time." Momo said. (Use your imagination for what Fuji did to 'help')
Fuji's smile widened. Everyone was standing on the side of the bank, wringing out their shirts even though their efforts were useless because of the rain. Ryoga shock his head to get rid of the extra water then looked around for any sign that Echizen made it across the river safely. As he tried to walk, he discovered that his feet we stuck in the mud. He wiggled them free and saw some footprints a little farther up from the water. He went over to see that there were two sets of prints.
"What is it Ryoga-san?" Shishido walked to him and saw the footprints in the mud. "Minna!"
Everyone went running over to Shishido and Ryoga to see the two sets of footprints.
"Ah! Those must be Ochibi's footprints!" Kikumaru said as he squatted next to Ryoga and pointed to the smaller set of the prints.
"If those are Echizen's, then the others must belong to his attacker." Oshitari said.
"The larger prints were here first." Inui said.
"How do you know that?" Oishi asked.
"Echizen's prints aren't as far down in the mud meaning that it wasn't raining that hard as it is now. The ground was able to dry ever so slightly while the larger prints are down farther meaning that the ground was muddier before Echizen walked this way."
"Inui, try to speak a language we understand." Kikumaru complained.
"Inui-sempai, you lost me at the larger prints were first." Momo whined.
"Fsshhh, baka." Kaidou hissed.
"All he said was that Echizen's prints followed after the first set." Gakuto said.
Kikumaru and Momo gave them annoyed looks and pouted. "We can't all be as smart as him…" they said under their breath.
"Now we know that he's over here somewhere." Tezuka said.
"Saa, lets follow the prints and see if they lead us to Echizen." Fuji added.
"Ah!" everyone agreed and started following the footprints.
The two teams of regulars walked through the forest along with the footprints that they found. They soon stopped in the middle of the woods, trying to find more footprints but they had all gone.
"Where should we go now?" Atobe asked with an aggravated look. "The prints are gone."
"Why don't we keep going straight?" Taka asked.
"What good would that do? They could have gone anywhere." Hiyoshi pointed out.
"Nya, but that's better than nothing!" Kikumaru protested.
"But what's the point if we go in the completely wrong direction?" Oshitari said.
"We have to do something! Echizen is out there!" Momo shouted.
Everyone started arguing about what to do and which way to go. Atobe looked at them disapprovingly and Tezuka sighed and rubbed his temples. Fuji gave them a lite smile then went to Ryoga. He was still examining the last of the tracks on the ground.
"What is it Ryoga-san?" he asked.
"It doesn't make any sense. Why would they just stop?" Ryoga was puzzled. "Even though the rain is starting to stop now and the ground isn't as muddy, there should still be tracks."
"Saa, that is rather strange." Fuji scratched his chin. "What do you think we should do?"
"That's just it. I don't know what to do anymore. After all the things that have happened… I'm beginning to doubt my abilities as an older brother."
Fuji placed his hand on Ryoga's shoulder. "Being an older brother isn't easy. I have no idea how you feel right now but I do know this, we will find Echizen and the person responsible for all of this."
"Arigato Fuji-kun but… something just doesn't feel right."
"I don't know, it's just.-" there was a sudden scream.
"What was that?" Kikumaru asked.
Ryoga's eyes widened. "Chibisuke…"
"Ryoga-san…" Fuji tried to place his hand back on his shoulder.
"Chibisuke!" Ryoga ran off in the direction of the scream.
"Ryoga-san!" Fuji ran after him followed by everyone else.
"Ryoga-san, please slow down!"
Ryoga ignored the pleas and shouts of everyone behind him asking him to slow down. He wasn't thinking. All his power was directed to his feet and running in the direction of the scream. He thought of all the things that could have happened to make someone scream like that and his face was struck with horror when he thought that Echizen could have been the one that screamed.
He ran for what seemed like forever. Time seemed to be drawn out; seconds seemed like minutes, minutes seemed like eternities and it didn't seem like he was running anywhere. Everything felt like it was taking longer than it naturally should but that didn't stop him. Ryoga kept on running, hoping that when he found the source of the scream, if he found the source of the scream, it wouldn't be what he thought.
Ryoga ran thought the trees. His lungs felt like they were on fire but he didn't stop. He ran all the way to the edge of the trees. Only then did he stop to catch his breath. He placed his hand on the side of a tree and leaned over and tried to breathe. He heard all the muffled shouts of everyone shouting to him and ignored them.
"Ryoga-san! Please! Matteo!" The shouts became louder as the rest of the regulars caught up to him. Just as they caught up with him at the tree he was resting at, they all noticed his eyes were locked on something in the middle of the field.
"Minna… that's-" Choutaro made a gesture to everyone but before he could finish his sentence, Ryoga took off towards the center of the field.
"How did it feel? Being treated like a child for so long even though you are perfectly capable of handling yourself?" Taiga pressed the blade against Echizen's neck.
"Heh. It's not that different from how I'm normally treated by everyone." Echizen smirked.
"Do you realize the situation you're in right now?" he pressed the blade harder. "I don't think you're in a position to make me mad."
"Seeing that you still haven't done anything, it seems that I'm in the perfect position."
Taiga glared at Echizen and slowly removed the blade from his neck. "You're more cocky than most people say." He got off of Echizen. "You think that everything will be fine and you'll walk away unscathed, am I right?"
Echizen stood up and rubbed his neck.
"Well you're wrong. That's the problem with people like you; you always underestimate your opponents and if you keep doing that, one day, it could get you killed."
Echizen looked at him with discontent and took his hand from his neck. "What are you talking about?" Suddenly, there was a swift wind. Echizen looked to the trees for no particular reason then felt a shape sting on his arm. He looked down to see a rather deep horizontal gash with blood pouring out of it. He gave a rather loud yelp of pain as realization struck him.
"That day changed everything. I tried to follow in my brother's footsteps but tennis just didn't suit me." He took out another knife. "It seemed that my abilities were fine but there were some things that- didn't click."
"What kind of things?" Echizen clutched his arm.
"I couldn't handle losing as well as the other guy." He twirled the blade in his palm. "When I lose, like all, I feel disappointed. After a short time, disappointment turns into rage and if you can't tell, I'm not too good at controlling my temper. I was on my school's team for a mouth or two and during that time, I put six people in the hospital."
Fear started to loom over Echizen and his confidence and strength started to fade.
"I got kicked off the team for being overly violent. My parents thought that it would be a good idea to somehow channel that rage and enrolled me in lots of different sports like Kendo, Jujitsu and Ninjutsu. (Sorry if those are the wrong types of sports. I'm taking what I know from other anime and what Wiki has told me) As you can see, I've become quite talented with blades." He twirled the knife in his hand and it multiplied into a second one.
"What does any of that have to do with me?" Echizen had to fight the urge to sit. 'And what the hell did you do to me?'
"My brother continued his tennis career and was able to go to the American Junior Division and play to compete in nationals. Unfortunately, you were his first opponent in that and he never got another chance. You crushed him completely, not giving a second thought about what could happen."
"How is his defeat my fault? I beat him fair and square. It's his fault for not being at maximum level." Another blade flew past Echizen and made a second gash lower on his arm.
"He was at the peak of his game. He was the top player at his school and he was the oldest for the age level in that competition. You on the other hand, you just had to be there and be the youngest. Do you know how humiliating it is for the oldest competitor to be beat by the youngest?"
"Age had nothing to do with it. The only thing that matters is skill and experience." Echizen motioned his hand from the first gash to the second.
Taiga stared at Echizen. The rage was building. He couldn't stand that Echizen was belittling his family. Echizen stared right back at him though it was getting harder and harder to keep his eyes open let alone stand without falling. Taiga saw Echizen having trouble and took advantage of it.
"If it's getting hard to stand, you can sit if it makes it easier." Taiga teased. Echizen scowled at the comment. "Your vision is becoming blurry and your eyelids feel heavier than usual right? That should be the second effect of the substance from earlier. The weakness in your legs is coming from the poison that has just entered your body and soon, it will hurt to breathe or perhaps it already does considering that you had a double dose, not to mention the powder from earlier and the fever it caused."
Echizen squeezed his arm. As much as he didn't want it, Taiga was right. His vision was blurry, it was becoming more difficult to stand and keep his eyes open. The fever he had earlier wasn't gone and he ran outside in the rain which made it worse. His chest felt tight making it hard to breathe and the last thing he wanted was to pass out and be helpless in the hands of some deranged psycho. He automatically assumed that by 'double dose' Taiga meant that he laced his blades with some sort of poison.
He began to regret running out of the safety of his cabin and away from all his teammates. He wished that he could run away somewhere and sleep it off but he was so weak, he didn't know how far he would get before collapsing.
"You should have stayed in your cabin." Echizen was caught up in his thoughts that he didn't notice Taiga had approached him.
They both stared into each other's souls. Echizen saw his reflection in the bird-like byzantium eyes of Taiga and Taiga saw his reflection in the golden cat-like eyes of Echizen.
"I think it's time to put you out of your misery." Taiga pulled out a larger blade and slapped it in the center of his palm. Just as he was about to make his move, he heard shouting in the distance. He stopped what he was doing and turned his head. "Eh? It seems that your friends have found us."
Echizen didn't turn his head must looked in the direction Taiga had turned. He was telling the truth. There was a figure standing on the tree line and Echizen couldn't help but give a small smile.
"What took you so long?" he asked under his breath. The smile that was on his face quickly vanished. He felt a sharp sting on the right side of his torso. He looked down to see Taiga's hand grasping the hilt of the blade, pressing into him.
"They can't save you." Taiga pulled the blade out. "You'll die from the poison or blood loss."
Echizen stumbled back grasping his side, trying to stop the bleeding. He could hear Ryoga calling for him and struggled to stay upright.
"You can still stand? I'm impressed but why not just drop dead know so everyone else won't have to suffer like you?" Taiga wiped Echizen's blood from his blade.
"Y-You… bast-ard…" it hurt for Echizen to talk.
"Chibisuke!" Ryoga ran behind Echizen and stopped a few feet away. He noticed the blade in Taiga's hand and the blood trickling from Echizen's arm. "Chibisuke?"
Echizen turned to face him. "You're… late…" he couldn't take it anymore. All of Echizen's strength had left him and he began to fall to the ground.
"Chibisuke!" Ryoga made a mad dash to his falling brother and caught him before he hit the ground. His face went white. Echizen's arm was drenched in blood and his shirt… it was becoming a bright shade of crimson with the blood pouring out of his wound.
Ryoga started shaking. He never could imagine that he would be holding his brother's almost completely lifeless, blood drenched body. Echizen's breathing was hard and fast. The color was draining from his face. He tried to keep pressure on his stomach but he was so tired that his arm kept sliding from it.
"Ryoga…" Echizen tried to address his brother.
"Don't talk! We're going to get you out of here!" Ryoga's eyes were filling with tears.
"I doubt that he'll last that long." Ryoga looked up to see Taiga with his hands behind his head looking at the sky. "With all the poison in his system and his continuous loss of blood, he's likely to die within the hour."
"You—you did this?" Ryoga lowered his head to look back at Echizen. Taiga gave an amused and sinister snicker.
"Ryoga-san!" all the others came running and stopped just behind him. Their faces had looks of horror when they saw a body in his hands.
"What the hell is this?" Atobe looked at the lifeless body in Ryoga's arms.
"Echizen/Ochibi!" all the Seigaku regulars rushed to his side. Oishi dropped to his knees at Echizen's side, not fully grasping what had happened. Kikumaru started bawling into Taka's shoulder then they both fell to the ground in disbelief. Inui stared, speechless with notebook nowhere in sight. Fuji's eyes were wide open and Tezuka's stoic stare became on filled with skepticism and fear. Momo and Kaidou stood speechless, gazing down at Echizen.
The Hyoutei regulars didn't know what to do. Should they go to the Seigaku regulars or stay where they were? Seeing that even though Echizen was a member of the Seigaku regulars, they Hyoutei team all felt that they had some sort of bond with him. He felt like an annoying little brother that they never had. They all had some sort of affectionate feeling for him even if some of them would never admit it.
"Ryoga-san… is- he…" Momo didn't want to say it.
"Iya, he's still breathing." He wiped the tears from his face. "But he needs to be treated now."
"Ryoga-san is right." Oishi was pressing his hands on Echizen's side and trying to tend his wound. "If he keeps losing blood, at this rate-"
"Yadda! Ochibi is a fighter! There's no way he'll give in!" Kikumaru lifted his tear stained face from Taka's shoulder.
"I told you already. You have no hope of saving him." Taiga was getting board.
"What the hell are you talking about?" Kaidou gave him a death glare. "And what the hell do you know about if he'll make it or not?"
"He's the one that did this Kaidou-kun." Ryoga's eyes narrowed and scowled at Taiga.
"Nani?" Momo and Kaidou gave Ryoga a quick glance then clenched their fists and glared at Taiga.
"Why did you do this?" Tezuka took a step forward.
"Why Echizen?" Fuji looked as if he would pounce.
"And how did you get into Ore-sama's camp?" the Hyoutei regulars gathered around everyone else.
"Heh. He deserved it. He deserved to suffer and die like that day he defeated my brother." He turned to Atobe. "And you're not too good at covering your tracks." Atobe huffed in a disapproving tone.
"What do you mean? Did Echizen hurt your family?" Oshitari didn't believe what he had heard.
"That day, everything changed. When Echizen faced my brother in the American Junior Division, my brother was crushed completely. His dream of being a world famous tennis player died that day. When we returned to our home, he got teased and ridiculed at school for being weak and being the first one to lose in the competition. The mocking never stopped, not for a long time." He pointed to Echizen. "He needed to know what it felt like to suffer, to watch the dreams he had slowly drift away and die."
"Your brother's not dead!" Shishido shouted. "Why should he have to?" he gestured to Echizen.
"My brother did die that day! He was never the same person after that. He never hung out with his team anymore; he never wanted to see another ball or racquet again. His love for tennis was gone and his fighting spirit was broken."
"That's not the same thing." Hiyoshi said.
"I've had enough of this." Momo was furious.
"What kind of stupid excuse is that?" Kaidou was enraged.
"What kind of sick bastard would do something like that?" Gakuto shouted.
Everyone seemed to be thinking the same thing. Momo, Kaidou, Taka, Kikumaru, Gakuto, Jirou, Shishido, Oshitari and Choutaro all took a few steps towards Taiga.
"Oh? Isn't this a little unfair?" he placed his hands on his hips.
"Has this whole thing been fair?" Jirou shouted as he, Momo and Kaidou ran at him.
"Be careful! He has blades hidden on his body!" Ryoga shouted to them.
"Like I'd waste perfectly good knives on them!" Taiga retorted as the three boys came in striking range. "My arms and legs are more than enough for them to handle!"
Kaidou was the first to reach him and pulled his arm back for a punch. He swung it forward only to be stopped by Taiga grabbing it in mid swing. Taiga took his other arm and grabbed Kaidou's forearm and swung him over his shoulder. Momo was next. He proceeded to punch Taiga but he dodged then took Momo's hand and pressed it against his back making Momo let out a painful grunt. He kicked his back, making him fall onto Kaidou. Jirou was the only one with a little success. Instead of punching, he faked like he was going to but instead ducked down and swung his leg towards Taiga, making him fall to the ground and giving Jirou the chance to subdue him.
Taiga landed on his back and Jirou quickly got on top of him and held him down. "You think this will be enough?" Taiga asked with a smirk. He wrapped his legs around Jirou's waist then head-butted him. He then pressed his feet to his stomach and rolled back, kicking him to land on Momo and Kaidou.
"I was right, this isn't fair. You may have to bring in reinforcements." Taiga sneered with a glance to the three boys groaning on the ground.
"Teme!" The rest of the boys charged and tried to attack but the outcome was the same. They all ended up in the pile with Kaidou, Momo and Jirou.
"I should have told you before we started that I am highly ranked in several martial arts classes." He stretched out his arms. "But I have to say that this is the best workout I've gotten in a long time. Would the rest like a shot?" he cracked his knuckles.
Tezuka, Atobe, Inui and Fuji glared at the gesture. Oishi was panicking because he didn't know if he should rush to the others to see if they were alright or if he should stay with Echizen and try to mend his wound better. Kabaji took a step forward but was stopped by Atobe.
"Cut the bullshit you bastard." Ryoga placed Echizen into Oishi's arms. "You think that you're God? You think you have the power to decide who lives and who dies? You have no right. You're just a spoiled kid."
"Do you have the ability to back those words? Do you think you have the capability to decide who lives and who dies?" Taiga placed his hands at his sides.
"I have the capability of knowing right from wrong and that you haven't the common sense to tell which from which!" Ryoga rushed at him.
"Hmph. I'll make you regret saying that." He rushed at Ryoga.
All the others watched at the fight between Ryoga and Taiga and were amazed. Ryoga was able to hold his ground against Taiga fairly well. He was even able to take the upper hand at some points.
"I'm surprised." Taiga said as he blocked a kick. "You have skill."
"You're not the only one who grew up in the states." He answered as he swung around and kicked again.
"What's that supposed to mean?" he blocked the kick again.
"I've noticed that between my time spent in the states and here in Japan, you need to know how to defend yourself if you go to the states."
"You bastard." Taiga, who had been on the defensive, started attacking Ryoga. "Don't demean my homeland!"
"It's not demeaning if it's true!"
Taiga had enough. His movements got quicker and his attacks stronger. Ryoga had a hard time keeping up with him. Taiga managed to sock Ryoga in the jar causing him to stumble then he swung his legs underneath him, making him trip and fall on his back. Taiga then hopped on top of Ryoga and punched him again giving him a bloody nose.
"You know, I'm getting really tired of your blabbing." He pulled a knife out of his belt. "Maybe you should be with your dear brother."
"Oi! Stop it!" Oishi set Echizen's head down gently. "Enough of this! There has already been enough blood shed!" he looked at his hands that were stained with Echizen's blood. "I don't want this anymore!"
"It's not your decision is it now?" Taiga ignored Oishi's pleas for peace.
"What's the point of all of this?" Fuji was angry. "Revenge for your brother?"
"If he wanted revenge, wouldn't he come do it himself?" Tezuka had a good point.
"He's too soft to do it himself!"
"Did he ever show sighs that he wanted revenge?" Inui pointed out.
"Wha- stop asking questions!"
"Ore-sama guesses that means 'no'." Atobe said.
"Urasi! You have no control of the situation!" he placed the blade on Ryoga's skin. "I'll send him to meet his brother and then everything will be settled!" he scratched the blade on Ryoga's cheek.
"It's too late to stop! His fate is sealed!" Taiga raised the blade above his head and was going to plunge it down when he felt something hit the back of his head.
"L-Leave him… alone you- bastard."
Taiga turned to see Echizen standing on his feet, holding his side and gasping for air.
"Echizen/Gaki/Ochibi!" everyone shouted to him.
"C-Chibisuke!" Ryoga moved his head to see Echizen standing in front of him and tears stared forming in his eyes.
"Y-You!" Taiga's rage was at its peak. "Why the hell are you still alive?"
"I have… meaning to live… and people to- live for." Echizen's breathing was hard and he could barely stand.
"You 'have meaning to live'? Weak people have no meanings!" Taiga rose from Ryoga and faced Echizen.
"Apparently- I'm stronger than… you." He smirked.
"You cocky bastard!" Taiga threw his knife down, reached into the back of his pants and pulled out a pistol. "I would've really enjoyed the old fashioned way of your death but it seems that drastic measures will have to be taken."
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Ryoga sat up.
Taiga pointed the gun at Ryoga. "Shut. Up."
"Leave them… out of this. They- have nothing to… do with this." Echizen took a step forward.
"Echizen-" Fuji took a step towards him.
"No Fuji-sempai. This isn't- your fight."
"You know your place." Taiga pointed the gun back at Echizen.
"Leave them out- of this." He took another step forward.
"Echizen! What the hell are you talking about?" Momo shouted.
"You can't Ochibi!" Kikumaru screamed.
Everyone started shouting things at Echizen. He couldn't make out what they were all saying for one because everyone was shouting at the same time but mainly because his senses had started to fail him. His vision was even more blurry than before, his mouth was dry and he couldn't smell anything. He tried to make sense of all the talking when it all went quiet with a loud boom. He looked up to see that Taiga had pointed the gun in the air and fired.
"I don't care for loud environments." He cocked the gun and pointed it at Echizen. "He's dead anyways. Wouldn't you like to be put out of your misery? I'm sure the suffering is unbearable."
"Stop pointing that thing at him!" Ryoga leaped from the ground and tried to tackle him. Taiga, being trained in martial arts, dodged Ryoga's tackle then pistol whipped him in the jaw sending him flying back to Momo and the others.
"Ryoga-san!" everyone called to him.
"Ryoga! You bastard. Leave them- out of this!" Echizen shouted.
"I'm getting tired of all the interference!" Taiga screamed. "The next person who moves will get a bullet through their skull!"
Everyone was still, not knowing if he was bluffing or not. Taiga looked around at everyone then turned to Echizen. He took a step forward and opened his arms.
"I moved you bastard." Echizen gave him an unyielding glare.
"I knew it would be you." Taiga pointed the pistol at him and pulled the trigger.
Two and a half weeks later…
"Why did it turn out like this?" Momo complained.
"Why does anything happen anymore?" Taka said.
"Saa, maybe this is just what was planned out for us." Fuji said.
"Nya, but everything always happens to us." Kikumaru whined.
"Kikumaru is right. The chance of things happening to us is a 78% increase than most others." Inui said reading from his notebook.
"What types of things will happen to us now?" Oishi asked a bit panicky.
"Fsshhh, some things are better left unanswered Oishi-sempai." Kaidou hissed.
Tezuka merely sighed as he walked with the group of depressed boys down the street. He was left thinking about all the things that had happened a few weeks before: they had been invited to Hyoutei's private campgrounds and when they arrived, a member of their team had been attacked on numerous occasions. He had no idea how Echizen could have felt at those times, nor did he want too. Tezuka snapped out of his thoughts when he heard a voice calling to everyone from behind. The voice turned out to belong to Ryoga.
"Minna!" Ryoga ran down the street to them.
"Ryoga-san." The mood lifted slightly when Ryoga got to them.
"How have things been Ryoga-san?" Fuji asked.
"Uno…" he rubbed the back of his head.
"You don't need to answer if the question was too personal." Oishi said.
"Iya, its fine. Things have been quieter than usual. Otou-san keeps saying 'If I ever find the bastard that did this…' and never quite completes his thought of what he'll do. Okaa-san is still having a hard time believing that all of that happened and Nanako is trying to get in the habit of not making food for five."
"Nya, but it won't last for too much longer right?" Kikumaru asked.
"Only about another week or two right?" Taka added.
"Ah then everything should hopefully be back to normal."
They group of boys walked down the street and arrived in front of a hospital. They ventured inside and went to the fifth floor and entered the third room on the right. When they entered the room, they saw a boy lying on the bed.
Ryoga sighed when he saw him. "Don't you wish he made a cute face like that all the time?"
"Saa, it does sort of suit him." Fuji said.
"How can you say that Fuji-sempai?" Momo said. "That face weirds me out, especially on him."
The face everyone was referring to was the face that Echizen makes while he's sleeping. His face was full of bliss and comfort. It had been a long time since anyone had seen Echizen looking so serene.
"Whose face weirds out who Momo-sempai?" Echizen rolled over on the bed. "At least I don't have that face." He pointed to a mirror across from Momo. "It's terrifying."
Momo looked into the mirror only to realize after the fact that Echizen was making fun of him. "You bastard." Momo gave an annoyed playful chuckle.
"How do you feel Echizen?" Oishi asked.
"Bored. The people here don't let me do anything."
"Considering what you've been through Chibisuke, they probably just want to make sure that you're completely healed before they let you do anything." Ryoga said taking a seat next to him on the bed.
Echizen gave him a frustrated pout but knew that he was right. He began to think about what had happened those few weeks ago.
Flashback. Two and a half weeks ago…
"I moved you bastard." Echizen gave him an unyielding glare.
"I knew it would be you." Taiga pointed the pistol at Echizen and pulled the trigger.
Everyone was shouting at Taiga to stop and at Echizen to move out of the way. Neither of them did as they were told. Through all the shouting, the bang of Taiga's gun was heard and it sounded as if it echoed. Everyone was horrified to see Echizen stagger and fall to his knees but they were even more stunned to see Taiga's gun fly out of his hand and see him grasp his hand in pain.
"Chibisuke!" Ryoga ran to his brother as did everyone else.
"What the hell was that?" Taiga kept stretching and retracting his fingers.
Atobe stood in front of him and cleared his throat. "Kabaji."
"Usu." Kabaji took an air horn from one of the cabins out of his pocket and pressed it. It let out a loud, high-pitched squeal. After a few seconds, Atobe snapped his fingers and Kabaji took his finger off of it and waited.
"What was that supposed to do?" Taiga asked as he took his hands from his ears.
Atobe smirked and snapped his fingers again and this time, dozens of people in black emerged from the trees and surrounded everyone.
"N-Nani?" Taiga spun around to see everyone coming in closer.
"Did you honestly think that all that you've done would have gone down in secret?" Atobe gave him a 'that was a stupid assumption' look. "After what happened in the bath, Ore-sama contacted his squad of secret police and told them to remain hidden until the time was right." (This is so corny. If you've seen Host Club, think of episode 7 or 8 with Honey-sempai getting lost in the forest-pool place. Those secret police.) "You can thank Oteku-san for your hand." Atobe pointed to a tree. Taiga looked and saw the glint of a sniper scope through the leaves.
"S-Sona…" Taiga dropped to his knees inn defeat.
"Take him. We'll give our statements later." Atobe said.
"Hai!" two people in black approached Taiga, grabbed his arms and brought him to his feet when he started laughing.
"Heh heh. You caught me I'll give you that but was it in time?" he looked back at Echizen.
"Atobe-san!" Choutaro called to him.
"Chibisuke! Chibisuke!" Ryoga was relentlessly calling Echizen.
"Atobe-san, we need to get him out of here now!" Taka said.
"His pulse is getting weaker!" Oishi shouted as he placed his index and middle fingers on Echizen's wrist.
"Haha! What did I tell you? He'll die within the hour!" Taiga started laughing maniacally.
"You bastard!" Momo and Kaidou lunged themselves at him only to be stopped by other people in black. "We'll kill you!"
"Killing me won't bring him back!" Taiga was excited about the situation.
"Stop talking like he's dead! He's still here with us!" Kikumaru shouted.
"Atobe." Tezuka gave Atobe a stern yet pleading and concerned look.
"Get your chopper here now." Atobe seemed to be talking to the commander of the squad.
"Hai Atobe-sama!" The commander radioed the other part of his squad and told them their coordinates. The chopper was there in seconds. The men inside carefully loaded Echizen inside. Ryoga naturally went with.
"Take them to the nearest hospital. Speed is a factor. A boy's life is at stake. Get there quick and safe!" the commander closed the door to the chopper and everyone watched as it flew off.
"Do you have another?" Atobe asked the commander.
"Hai." He answered.
"Take him." He pointed to Taiga who was still laughing.
"What about you sir?"
"Today is the day we were meant to be picked up anyways. We'll just take the bus."
With that said the people in black, along with Taiga, called the second chopper and were on their way to a holding facility. The rest of the people in black disappeared into the forest once again. Atobe, Tezuka and the others started back to the camp when they were stopped by the captain.
"Atobe-sama, I have been informed that your friend has been taken to your city's general hospital and is being treated as we speak."
"Alright" Atobe nodded at him then at Tezuka.
"Minna." Tezuka's voice was stern. "Go get your things. We're leaving."
"Ah!" everyone complied and ran off to their cabins to get their things.
Back at the campgrounds, everyone was waiting for the bus to come and get them. Choutaro and Jirou had Echizen's things and Kikumaru and Shishido had Ryoga's. Everyone was silently waiting for the bus until Momo couldn't stand it anymore.
"Where the hell is the bus? We've been waiting forever."
"We've only been waiting for five minutes." Kaidou hissed. "Be patient."
"How can I be patient at a time like this?"
"Momo panicking won't make the bus come any faster." Kikumaru said in a sad tone.
"Maybe we should have just gone in the chopper." Hiyoshi said.
"That had to be used for a different issue." Inui said.
"Does that make it more important?"
"Don't try to win against him. It won't work." Gakuto said looking at the ground.
Everyone started arguing about the things they should and shouldn't have done while they were staying there. The quiet was long gone. Tezuka rubbed his temples and sighed.
"Saa, doing this will only make things worse." Fuji said.
"Doing this will solve nothing." Tezuka replied.
"They're just really worried."
"I hope the bus gets here soon."
Like a moth to fire, the bus arrived. Everyone quieted back down and piled in. Atobe instructed the driver that instead of going to the school to go straight to the hospital. The driver did as he was told and went straight to the hospital. _
After a while of driving, everyone finally arrived at the hospital. They all rushed inside to see Ryoga sitting on a bench with his hands folded under his chin and his elbows resting on his legs. Upon coming closer, everyone could see Ryoga's face was red and had a small trickle of tears coming down each side.
"Ryoga-san-" Oishi went and sat next to him. "Are you alright?"
"Oishi-kun." Ryoga wiped the tears from his face. "Minna."
"Ryoga-san, how's Ochibi?" Kikumaru asked in a scared, quiet voice.
He gave Kikumaru a sad glance. "He's in surgery. They said that the knife wound didn't hit anything vital but it was very deep. He's also lost a considerable amount of blood. Not to mention all the toxins that were in his system. They said it's a miracle that he's still breathing."
"What about the gun shot?" Kaidou asked.
"They didn't find any bullet wound. Apparently, he missed completely."
"How long has he been?" Momo was staring at the ground.
"Almost an hour. They said they don't know how long it will take."
Everyone was silent, scared to speak. Ryoga looked at the ground and wiped his tears away again. He felt useless. How could he let this happen? He said he wouldn't let anything happen while they were on that trip and this had to go happen.
Everyone waited in silence for a good hour and a half before the doctor came out.
"Echizen Ryoma." He called out. Ryoga jumped to his feet and went to him. Fuji, Tezuka and Atobe followed.
"Hai. I'm his brother." He wiped his face once more. "How is he?"
"Things were touch and go for a while but he's a fighter. The surgery was a success. It's a good thing you brought him in when you did. That toxin that was in his system was beginning to affect his nerves. He' out of the dark and resting in room 204. You can see him later."
"Ah. Arigato." Tezuka answered because Ryoga seemed to be in shock.
The doctor gave them a smile and walked away. Fuji turned to everyone who had been watching in anticipation.
"He's alright." He said with a big smile.
"Yatta!" everyone yelled with joy as they heard Fuji.
"Ryoga-san?" Fuji turned back to Ryoga.
Ryoga's heart skipped many beats. Tears of joy started pouring down his face. He dropped to his hands and knees and started laughing through his sobs.
Fuji knelt beside him and patted his back in comfort.
"That bastard. Making everyone worry like that." Atobe gave a relieved smile. "Looks like things will be back to normal." He gestured to the others.
"Ah." Tezuka agreed.
End of Flashback
Echizen sighed. Everyone was talking about things that they need to do to make up for lost time while he was in the hospital. He reached to the pedestal by the side of his bed and pulled a Ponta out from behind the flower vase. He popped the tab and silence filled the room. Everyone watched him and he sweat dropped.
"Chibisuke, didn't the doctors say that you can't have any Ponta until you leave?" Ryoga asked accusingly.
"I don't see what the big deal is. It's just one." He raised the can to his lips only for it to be taken by Momo.
"Don't worry Echizen. I'll drink it so it doesn't go to waste." Momo placed the can at his mouth when Echizen reached for it causing him to move it. He bumped into Kaidou in turn making some of the Ponta spill from the can and land on Kaidou's shorts.
Kaidou glared at him. "Baka! Look what you did." He hissed.
"Goman Mamoshi." Momo put his hands up in defense, spill more of the Ponta.
"Kisama. You did that on purpose!" a vein popped.
Momo could feel the intent to kill radiation off Kaidou and got up from where he was sitting and went behind Taka for protection.
"Save me Taka-san!" Momo crouched behind him.
"No violence Kaidou. We don't need to stay in the hospital longer than intended." Oishi said getting between him and Taka.
"Iie data…" Inui had his notebook out and had been scribbling in it ever since they walked in.
Echizen somehow got the Ponta back and was just about to drink only for it to be taken again but by Kikumaru this time.
"Drinking Ponta is a no-no Ochibi. I'll get rid of the temptation for you." Kikumaru raised the Ponta to his mouth and drank it.
Echizen watched in horror. He was so close. He hadn't had a Ponta in nearly three weeks. He looked at Kikumaru with hate reflected in his eyes.
"Saa, it looks like things are back to normal. Ne, Tezuka?" Fuji said with a smile.
Tezuka sighed. "Is that necessarily a good thing?" he was referring to the chaos before them. Fuji laughed.
Things were back to normal. Echizen was healing with no problems, Taiga had been dealt with and Atobe agreed to pay all the medical bills.
Echizen locked eyes with Ryoga. Ryoga smiled at him and Echizen sighed and smiled back. Life was finally back to normal and they were glad.
FINALLY. Retribution, it tastes sweet. I knew the air horn would come up somewhere! I had different plans for that but it turned out like this.
It's finally done. Thank God. This has been haunting me for so long. I UBER SORRY that I took so long to update. With the beginning of summer, I had to juggle school, practice and games. I've also been stressed out because my eldest sister is leaving for Japan in like a week so I've been trying to spend time with her. With all of those things, I had like no time whatsoever. But I got it done! I dropped my second semester of school so that gave me like half of my day and practice is basically over so now I have lots of time to spend writing more stories.
Thanks a bunch to every one of you for reading and reviewing. I loves you lots. And thanks for being so patient. It's been like over a month but now you have it so you should be happy.
Forgive stupid mistakes!
See ya next story!