A/N: This story has been mostly inspired by the manga 'Aphorism'. I say 'inspired' instead of 'fusion' or 'crossover' because while the skeleton of the idea is roughly the same, the plot, powers, history, and so forth will be vastly different for those of you familiar with Aphorism. :)

Warnings: AU, BL (Boys Love) - of varying degrees, graphic violence, gore, het (heterosexual romance), dark themes, character deaths.


-Teetering between Pillar and Thrill, or may just relent and make it an OT3. Depends on how the story flows.

-Guaranteed: Golden, AkuDan, InuKai, Platinum, Silver, Dirty, Sweet

-More to come...

Disclaimer: I do not own Prince of Tennis or Aphorism.

Chapter One

"Choose your words carefully."

Tightening his hold on his bookbag, Tezuka Kunimitsu followed his peers along the sidewalk, all headed for the same place. The crowded, busy walkways had been left behind over ten minutes ago with a turn onto the wide path leading towards their destination. Already the murmur of urban traffic was hard to make out, drowned by the silence of the forest and the chatter of the students.

"I'm already nervous," Oishi chuckled, walking alongside his friend. Like the rest, he was dressed in the uniform of Tengoku Gakuen - an elite boarding school that churned out successful men and women every year.

Tengoku Gakuen was Japan's most elite school, but a unique existence unto itself. While its curriculum could run for the three full years like other senior high schools, Tengoku students only attended for one year - then graduated and went on to a school of their choosing, and then into their desired career field. Most - if not all - Tengoku graduates boasted highly-successful careers and influential positions in the government. It was for this reason many applied for Tengoku, going through rigorous exams - both academically-based and physically-based - in hopes of being accepted. However, Tengoku only accepted a very small number of applicants, the number never greater than 700 students. It was a school of equal opportunity: gender and the financial situation of a student were never considered. Financial aid was offered to those who could not afford the school fees, and no matter how rich, attendance could not be bought.

Tezuka had taken the exam at the urging of his family; like any good parent, his mother and father wanted him to get into the best high school. Although no one in his family had ever attended Tengoku Gakuen, Tezuka scored high enough in national exams that they felt he had a good chance of getting in.

Oishi was a similar case, although he likely wouldn't have taken the exam if Tezuka hadn't. He had been surprised at his acceptance, but then again - they had been part of a highly-seeded tennis team back in junior high school. Both had been attending the attached senior high school, but found their tennis club lacking - in both talent and manners. It only figured their bullies from junior high would continue harassing them even after Tezuka and Oishi had proven themselves talented on a tennis court.

"We're lucky to be in the same class, ne, Tezuka?" Oishi smiled, looking relieved.

Tezuka glanced down at their matching badges. Each student had been given a badge once their acceptance letter had been sent, with a pamphlet explaining exactly how dormitories, grades, and classes were divided.

Tengoku Gakuen had 12 Sections, each with its own dormitory. Sections were divided by grade, so each grade had their own Wing of the school. Tezuka and Oishi had been assigned to Section Three, known as Seigaku; their badges were metallic, shaped almost like a six-pointed star with a blue outline. In bold white, their badges were labelled 'S-3', designating them as Seigaku third years. From what Tezuka remembered from the informational pamphlet, the eleven other Sections were, starting from Section One: Rikkaidai (R-), Hyoutei (HY-), Shitenhouji (SH-), Higa (H-), Yamabuki (Y-), Midoriyama (M-), Jyosei Shounan (JS-), Rokkaku (RK-), Fudoumine (F-), Saint Rudolph (SR-), and Ginka (G-).

"They said our belongings were already brought to our dorms, right?" Oishi mused, double-checking his schedule like he hadn't just done it five minutes ago. Tezuka only nodded, letting his best friend fret; Oishi would only calm down once they reached their classroom, he knew from experience. They'd been told to head to class first for the first day - no assembly, no getting settled in their dormitories. It was clear Tengoku Gakuen took education seriously.

Oishi paused, gazing up with wide eyes at their new school. Tezuka stopped next to him, also letting his gaze rest upon the place he would spend the next year. Tengoku Gakuen had obviously not just been named pompously; the grounds were idyllic, made as close as possible to symbolize paradise.

Rich, green grass stretched for kilometers around the school, as thick forests and high walls maintained the barrier between the school and the city. The school itself was some kind of combination between white marble and pale plaster; the main building was three stories high, circular and colossal in appearance. Pathways wound around it, leading towards three different one-story buildings that jutted from the sides of the main building like wings. All were white in color, a startling contrast to the dark green of the grass and the multicolored hues of the flowers that surrounded each structure. Tall trees offered shade along the pathways, occasionally interspersed with stone benches.

"This way, Oishi," Tezuka said, starting ahead and breaking Oishi out of his reverent trance. They could admire the school's beauty later, as far as Tezuka was concerned; right now, they needed to focus on finding their classroom. Each wing of the school was for a designated grade, and each held twelve classrooms. Tezuka didn't want to get caught in human traffic in the hallways if he could help it.

Tezuka was relieved to note that at least the inside of the school building looked normal. Just plain tile flooring that ran straight from one end to the other. There were six classrooms on each side of the hallway, labelled with overhanging signs that proclaimed the Section name and grade level.

Seigaku was third from the entrance. Tezuka stepped through the door, quietly followed by Oishi; those near the door glanced their way in curiosity, but overall their entrance was ignored. There were about 15 people already in the classroom, some already sitting in desks, the rest sort of milling about and meeting each other. It was a comfortable atmosphere, to Oishi's relief. He cheerfully followed Tezuka down the rows, looking for the desks that held their names. Tezuka's desk was a window seat, while Oishi's was two rows in front of him. Tezuka sat in his seat, checking over his desk while his friend set about unpacking his own school supplies.

The smiling brunette next to Tezuka turned to him in interest. "You're lucky to have such a nice view," the boy greeted good-naturedly.

Tezuka nodded in agreement. "I didn't expect the school to look like this," he admitted.

"I suppose they wanted to live up to the name," the boy chuckled. "I'm Fuji Syuusuke, by the way. This will actually be my first time in a boarding school..."

"Tezuka Kunimitsu. It's my first time as well," Tezuka returned in kind.

Fuji's smile grew. "I'm glad I get to share a First Time with you, then, Tezuka. I hope we can share many Firsts together."

Tezuka stared back at him, face blank. Something about that last statement sounded off, but he couldn't place what. As Fuji only began to laugh softly, Tezuka resolved that it'd likely be better he not find out.

"Hoi hoi! Nice to meet you, Oishi~!"

At the loud exclamation, Tezuka glanced over to the redhead who had practically draped himself around his best friend's shoulders. Oishi was blushing vividly but smiling, so Tezuka felt no need to step in; it only figured Oishi would make a friend right away.

"Saa... Eiji," Fuji perked up, catching the redhead's attention. "You have a new friend already?"

"Of course, nya!" the redhead grinned, throwing up a peace sign. "Oishi, that's my best friend Fujiko-chan! Fujiko-chan, this is Oishi, nya! He's super-nice and he gave me candy!"

Tezuka's eyes narrowed. "Candy?"

Oishi avoided looking anywhere near Tezuka, guilty smile on his lips.

"This is my new friend Tezuka," Fuji introduced cheerfully. "Tezuka, that's Kikumaru Eiji. And you already know Oishi, don't you? I saw you come in together," Fuji explained at Oishi's curious look.

"We've been friends since junior high," Oishi said. "We decided to try and apply here after our school enviornment became unfavorable."

"Same here, nya," Kikumaru groused. "Fujiko-chan moved away, so I just couldn't stand school anymore!"

Fuji nodded, amused. "He forced me to take the exam to Tengoku Gakuen, hoping we'd both get in."

"The probability of being able to get in with a friend," a new voice interrupted drolly, "Is only seven percent."

Tezuka wondered what was making them so popular. A tall youth with spiky black hair and square-framed glasses towered nearby but wasn't really looking at them; his attention was reserved for the green notebook he was writing in. At his side was a brunette with gentle eyes and a timid disposition, although he gave them a friendly smile.

"Inui, you shouldn't just jump into conversations," the brunette chided amiably. He turned to the others with a weak grin. "Sorry about him - he's kind of a strange guy..."

"I do not think Taka-san has any right to call me strange," Inui muttered audibly.

The brunette rubbed the back of his neck in an embarrassed gesture, "I'm really sorry about bumping into you earlier, you know."

"There's no need for apologies after you already explained the situation," Inui allowed matter-of-factly. The bespectacled youth turned his attention back to the others. "I'm Inui Sadaharu."

"Kawamura Takashi, but everyone usually just calls me Taka," Kawamura added brightly.

After another round of introductions - Inui writing all the names down with a low murmur of "Ii data..." - they chatted a bit more. An unusual bunch, to be sure, but Tezuka knew he was hardly normal by any standard. His usual emotionless face had earned him more than a few odd looks, but the other boys didn't seem very bothered by it.

The class had filled up at this point, numbering 30 students in total. Most were sitting in their desks, engaging their neighbors in conversation or busying themselves with their school materials.

The door slammed open, silence immediately descending as a woman in a pink jumpsuit stalked in. Her graying, chestnut brown hair was tied back in a ponytail, and she stood at the front of the class with a scowl as she surveyed them. Those who had been walking around rushed back to their seats, every eye on the woman in wary anticipation.

"So this is everyone?" she mused, mostly to herself. "I am Ryuuzaki, your homeroom teacher. Everyone needs to take out either a pencil or pen; I'm going to be handing out a strip of paper to each of you," she instructed briskly.

Showcased in her hands was once such paper; it was stark white, only about 10 centimeters long and 5 centimeters wide. "On this paper, you are to write only one word. This word will be your strength, your power, your weapon; it is the only thing that will decide whether you survive this year," Ryuuzaki continued, passing out the papers. "Decide for yourself, and choose your word carefully. Words can be powerful things."

Silence elapsed in the classroom as each student concentrated on the task at hand. Tezuka stared down at his own paper in consideration. One word to represent his strength? What would be the best weapon in a school? He could not be careless about this question - especially with the way Ryuuzaki-sensei was acting. Obviously his answer would be important, on some level or another.

'Concentration', Tezuka decided. He would not let his guard down.

Fuji smiled at him, having already finished. 'Change', his own paper read.

Oishi would be visibly fretting, if he wasn't thinking so hard about his own answer. A strength? Oishi didn't know if he had any strengths. He had wishes and desires, goals and dreams - but strengths? He remembered how weak and powerless he had felt at school, unable to protect himself or Tezuka from the bullies' attention. He remembered how useless he was when an upperclassman had hurt Tezuka's arm. Oishi hadn't wanted revenge for his friend - he was innately gentle, after all. He'd only wanted to help Tezuka. Oishi even made the decision to become a doctor just so he could help the injured and the helpless.

So Oishi would answer with what he wanted to do, for both himself and others: 'Heal'.

Inui's answer had been quick and easy: 'Data'. His only weapon.

Kikumaru, meanwhile, thought this entire exercise was stupid. A one-word answer for his strengths? He had plenty of strengths, thank you very much! He was athletic, flexible, and cute to top it all off! He began to doodle instead, a ridiculous little image of a hissing cat. He wrote down 'Cat', too, just so he could point it out later as an excuse that he did the assignment when he would inevitably be chided about it.

Kawamura frowned. Did making sushi count as a strength? Even if it did, he doubted he could get away with simply saying 'sushi' as an answer. With a mental shrug, he decided to go with the word he always yelled when he was riled: 'Burning'.

Ryuuzaki looked out the wide windows, the scowl on her face deepening. She knew that there wasn't much time left. She could already see the symbol for the Door drawing its lines along the empty Courtyard. She turned back to the class, most looking around at each other boredly, waiting for her next instruction.

"Is everyone done?" she barked out. "Now, say that word out loud!"

They all did, a low murmur of different words being spoken aloud resounding for a brief moment. Tezuka flinched back in surprise when, after saying his own word, the paper exploded in front of him. He controlled his wince as a brief sensation of pain sliced at his wrist, looking at the underside of his arm with narrowed eyes.

Fuji's eyes had opened at the small explosions, the residual smoke disappearing almost immediately. Transfixed, he stared at his wrist; there, staining his skin as if it had been there all along, was the word 'CHANGE'.

"What the-!"

"What is this?"

"Sensei, what was that?"

As the students exclaimed, many standing in terror, Ryuuzaki looked on boredly. "I hope you've chosen your words carefully. They will be the only things that stand between you and death."

Ryuuzaki stared at them all, eyes dark and mouth frowning. "This school stands on the precipice between the holy and the sinful. You were chosen - the best of the ambitious - and now you will have to prove yourself to the gods."

She pointed out the windows without looking. The entire Courtyard had been flooded full with strange symbols, and from those symbols arose monsters: hulking beasts the size of lions, grayish-white in the sunlight with mouths wide enough to bite a person into halves, where rows of vicious, razor-sharp teeth lined in an indefinite amount. They had no discernible eyes or noses - faceless, save for their mouths - and they moved quickly as they began to descend upon the school.

"You will now prove yourself in battle!" Ryuuzaki shouted, amongst the growing terror shown across most of the students' faces. "Fight with all your power, or you will die here and now!"

"This is insane!" one boy cried out.

"I never heard anything about this!"

"What are those things?"

"Go outside and fight," Ryuuzaki intoned coldly. "Even if you stay here, you won't be safe."

The same symbols scarring the Courtyard began to draw themselves along the floors and walls of the classroom. The students - those who had remained, in any case; some had already fled after Ryuuzaki's first command - began to rush towards the door. Oishi followed Tezuka out, pulling along a crying Kikumaru; Fuji, Inui, and Kawamura trailed after them. All ran down the hallway and into the Courtyard.

What met them outside was a bloody battlefield.

It seemed most of the students had been given the same instructions they had. Many tried for the walls, attempting to climb over; others dodged and ran away from the monsters as the beasts hunted; some had even begun to fight the monsters in earnest, with weapons that shouldn't have been available. Bodies torn apart littered the grass; some bitten right in half, others missing limbs or chunks of flesh.

"I don't understand what's going on!" Oishi cried out, stricken. Kikumaru was clutched to the youth's side, blue eyes wide as they took in the carnage.

Suddenly Fuji pivoted, rushing towards another wing.

"Fuji?" Kawamura shouted after the slender youth.

"My brother!" Fuji yelled back without stopping. "Yuuta is a second year!"

The brunette disappeared around a corner before the others could even react. Tezuka glanced over his peers; Oishi and Kikumaru were shocked still, Kawamura was staring down the path Fuji had gone, and Inui was keeping an eye on the monsters.

"We must keep moving," Inui said. "We're easy targets if we stay still."

Aside from Tezuka, the others didn't appear to have heard him. Tezuka nodded once, grabbing a hold of Oishi's arm and pulling his friend along. The others were quick to follow, susceptible to trailing any lead. Tezuka knew he'd have to lead them for now - the others weren't in any fit mental state to do so themselves.

"The entrance?" Inui mused aloud, recognizing the path Tezuka was treading.

"Escape is our only option right now," Tezuka answered. He could spot the path that would lead them through the forest and to the entrance of the school. If they could just make it through the forest, then surely they'd be safe once they'd left school grounds. He'd have tried to climb the walls like the other students, except the symbols began to appear there as well, monsters sprouting and devouring any climbers.

"The forest is going to be tricky," Inui pointed out.

Kawamura grimaced, "I don't think we have a choice, though."

"It won't work."

Kikumaru shrieked as one of the beasts collapsed nearby, a snake that had formerly been coiled around its neck - fangs having been sunk into the flesh - slithering off and towards a boy standing two meters away from them. His face and eyes were narrow, and a green bandana covered his black hair. Snakes were coiled at his feet - about seven in total - while one was coiled on his right arm. The badge on his uniform was that of a Seigaku second year.

"If you go through the entrance, you only end up back in the courtyard," the boy explained with a hiss. He glanced them over critically. "You haven't unlocked your Words?"

"How do you do that?" Kawamura asked worriedly.

"Just think about how you want to use your Word," the boy explained quickly, eyes locking on to another approaching monster. Two snakes started towards it with loud hisses, but the beast was intercepted by a spiky-haired boy with a loud cry of "Don!" The monster abruptly exploded into a crimson smear across the lawn.

"Think about how you want it to manifest," the boy continued. "If you don't have an image in mind, it could backlash."

Inui looked ready to question the boy on what a backlash could entail, but then a symbol appeared on a patch of grass only a meter from their position. Kikumaru practically shrieked - then, in the blink of an eye, a red-haired cat was in Oishi's arms. It trembled pitifully in the teen's embrace, wide blue eyes peering up at Oishi in fear.

"Kikumaru isn't going to be much help in that form," Inui said calmly.

Oishi frowned, holding the shaking cat closer to his chest. The male's fear had made him calmer, it seemed; he now had something to keep safe, after all. "I'll protect you, Kikumaru. Don't worry."

Tezuka was having his own problems. How do I make 'concentration' a weapon?

Inui frowned; he knew how to use data, but how would he manifest it? And exactly how would it help him to fight?

Another monster exploded in a mess of body parts. The snake boy whipped around to glare at the grinning teen who had pretty much been running a perimeter around them. "Dammit, you peach-idiot! The point of a safe perimeter is to keep the area inside safe!"

"Shut the hell up, Viper! It's not my fault the signs are opening inside your precious little perimeter!" the other boy yelled back indignantly. His badge also showed he was a Seigaku second year, and Inui was able to catch sight of the word printed on his wrist: 'BOMB'.

That explains the explosions, Inui recounted. No wonder the younger boy had been making throwing motions. What it didn't explain was why the boy had put down 'bomb' for his chosen Word. Someone who had no idea what was going to occur shouldn't know to choose an actual weapon.

I need to focus, Inui mused to himself. As long as they were in the perimeter, they were as safe as they could get. He needed to use his chosen Word somehow. Right now, what he needed was data on the monsters - so that's what he would focus on. All he needed was a medium...

Go with what you know, Inui decided. He imagined the green notebook he usually kept on his person - he had left the original in the classroom in his haste to escape. He imagined the weight of it in his hands, the jade-green color of the cover, the smell of paper and ink. Soon enough, it appeared in his hands; an exact replica of the original.

Inui opened it. "They're called the 'Hunt'. Carnivorous creatures that can tear off limbs with one bite. They're as fast as a human being, but three times more powerful. Not very bright and most attacks will work against them," he read aloud. "They are especially susceptible to fire."

"How do you know that?" Oishi asked, splattered with the guts of a monster that had gotten too close.

Inui smiled at the notebook in his hands, "DATA."

"How useful!" the bomb-boy exclaimed. "Is that why these things catch fire so easily? Why didn't you know that, Kaidoh?"

Kaidoh glared over at him. "Because I chose 'SNAKES' as my Word, not 'DATA'!" the boy hissed.

Kawamura frowned at the word on his arm. "How do I manifest this...?"

Tezuka could completely sympathize. At least Kawamura could have a tangible action; 'burning' was much easier to see happen than 'concentration'. Oishi was considering his own word. He knew he couldn't use it as an attack, but at least he knew a use for it - he just hoped the others were never in a position where he needed to use it.

"Figure it out quickly, senpai!" the spiky haired youth cheered. "Or you'll die~!"

"That is a horrible thing to say!" Oishi snapped.

"We're going, Momoshirou!" Kaidoh said decisively, giving his upperclassmen a polite nod. "There are others who need help. Try to fight."

With that, the two juniors left - hissing snakes and minor explosions trailing them. "This lowers are offensive capabilities by 95 percent," Inui said, adjusting his glasses. Kikumaru mewled sadly, looking at his weak little claws - those weren't going to hurt anything.

"It's coming!" Oishi cried out, jumping back from the symbol that began to appear beneath their feet. Two more appeared around them in a semicircle, then a fourth prowled forth from the forest path.

Oishi cradled Kikumaru carefully, the cat digging his claws painfully into the teen's chest and arms. Inui closed his notebook, scanning the area carefully in case an escape route popped up. Tezuka traded a look with Kawamura; the teen marked with 'BURNING' ground his teeth together.

It's now or never! Kawamura decided, rushing forward and grabbing a fallen branch. Something in the gentle teen's eyes changed; he waved around the branch haphazardly, a wide, maniacal grin splitting his lips.

"BURNING GREAT-O!" Kawamura shouted, charging forward and slamming a hand against one of the monsters' skin. "LET'S FIGHT!"

The beast caught fire instantly. Tezuka moved forward at that point, kicking the scorching beast towards another and watching that one be set aflame. Kawamura had already moved on to the one from the forest, punching it through the mouth and sending a column of fire down its throat. Inui pulled Tezuka back just as the last monster lurched forward for a bite. Kawamura pivoted, charging towards the creature with a battle cry and smacking a fist in its featureless face, causing fire to race down its spine.

"Kawamura displays a more aggressive personality when holding something," Inui explained. "I suppose this trait helped him to break down his mental barriers and unlock the power of his Word."

"How impressive," Oishi murmured weakly.

Kawamura dropped the stick, his more modest personality resurfacing. "Is everyone okay?"

Then his arm caught fire.

Kawamura collapsed with a scream of pain. The others moved forward, holding the other male down as he thrashed about. The fire was strange - the flame was pure white - and it burned for only a few seconds before disappearing. Kawamura's arm was burnt and bloody, his fingers twitching from the damage. Most of his arm was blistering, the heavy stench of burned flesh filling the air.

"Those are second-degree burns," Oishi recognized, nearly recoiling. "We have to call an ambulance!"

"I doubt such services are provided," Inui told him dryly. "Since we're in the middle of being massacred."

At least now they knew what Kaidoh meant by backlash - using the power with no clear manifestation in mind obviously had terrible results. Tezuka examined the injury carefully. "Oishi - can you use your Word to help him?"

Oishi frowned, but slowly gave a nod. "I just need to think of a medium for it, right?" the boy mused. From what he knew of burns, the only way to help with a burn of such a degree and over such a large area was to wrap it in moist gauze - he needed a bandage.

"Imagine what you need," Inui instructed. "Taste, texture, smell, color - recall every sense and let your desire for the power of your Word take root."

Oishi did as instructed: the soft, moist fabric of the bandage, the sterile smell of it, the pale sheen of its material. He held a hand over Kawamura's wounded appendage; slowly, gauze emerged from the space between, twining around the injured area and settling masterfully over it. Kawamura's previously pained expression settled into relieved curiosity as the pain left, pleasant numbness settling in its stead.

Oishi released his power with a sigh. "Does it feel better, Taka-san?"

"Y-Yeah!" Kawamura said, blinking in astonishment. So this was the power of 'HEAL'!

"We should start running," Tezuka said, standing and peering around. Screams could still be heard echoing from all over the school grounds, but the nearest monster was over seven kilometers away and appeared to be struggling to bite a magenta-haired boy floating above its head. "At least if we're on the move, we'll be harder to catch."

The others nodded, helping Kawamura to his feet - though he assured them he didn't need it. Just as the quintet began to head in the direction of the freshmen's wing, the symbols in the ground began to disappear. Every monster - or monster part - dissolved away into the air without a trace. Previously shattered windows or broken objects - desks and doors alike - returned to their former states, unscarred.

All the blood and corpses remained.

They'd gathered around the fountain in the Courtyard. The water itself was a dark pink; that was no surprise, considering a Ginka second year's limbless torso had been floating in it before the Cleaners had taken it away. As it was, the uniformed employees were methodically retrieving the bodies and other assorted limbs from the grounds. The occasional student would clamor around them, beseeching them for help, but were soon chased off by either the employees themselves - who were armed - or a teacher.

"Shouldn't you go to the Nurse's Office, Taka-san?" Kikumaru asked, huddled at Oishi's side. He was once again in human form, although he had yet to stop trembling or release his vice-grip on Oishi's arm. For his part, Oishi didn't seem to mind; he apparently craved as much comfort as Kikumaru did right now. The two were seated next to Kawamura on the rim of the fountain as Tezuka and Inui remained standing on either side; all five were watching the corpse retrieval solemnly.

"There's not much more they can do for me that Oishi hasn't already done," Kawamura deferred. "Besides, I'm rather scared of what a Nurse's Office would be like in this place..." he added to himself in a mutter.

The Courtyard - mostly cleared of corpses at this point - had students milling about here and there, undeterred by the wet grass. (The lawn had been watered down in order to get rid of the stains of red, but it still smelled like death to all present.) It was a mixed crowd walking about now; all grades and Sections mingled, clumping together in groups either from past relations or forged in battle.

Tezuka felt uneasy. Even now, he could see that freshmen were in the precious few; there were only two or three visible in the Courtyard, talking to their upperclassmen but eyes nervously darting around as if waiting for another attack. Tezuka felt just as paranoid himself, to be honest.

"Fuji!" Kikumaru yelped, shooting to his feet and rushing forward to the slender brunette who had exited the Seniors' Wing. The youth looked to be unharmed, but his smile was gone - yet that was only natural. Tezuka might have smacked him if he'd dared to look undisturbed by what had just happened. The boy's eyes were closed, though, but that was probably normal for the teen.

"Eiji," Fuji greeted in honest relief. He shared a hug with the redhead, who sniffled into his shoulder. "I'm glad you're alright."

"Don't ever leave me again!" Kikumaru sobbed.

"I'm sorry, Eiji," Fuji soothed.

Kikumaru pulled back, hands gripping his friend's arms. "Is Yuuta okay?"

"Yes," Fuji said. "I managed to find him ten minutes before It stopped; he was with a few others, fighting like a team."

"Excellent teamwork makes it 35 percent more likely to survive a battle," Inui added monotonously.

Kawamura held his injured arm gingerly, "Sounds like a good plan to me."

Ryuuzaki entered the Courtyard, eyes sweeping over the area and taking into account the survivors. All of the students stopped to give her their full attention, regardless of grade or Section:

A group of nine Hyoutei students - one the magenta-haired boy who could fly - made of three juniors and six seniors paused in the middle of their chat.

Seven Rikkaidai seniors and one junior stopped in their trek towards their dorm, all wearing indifferent or amused expressions.

Two juniors from Yamabuki, who had been harassing one of the Cleaners, glared over at the teacher in open distrust.

A trio of Midoriyama seniors were experimenting with their new powers, phasing their weapons in and out for practice.

The most startling group to Tezuka, however, were the mixed-Section freshmen huddled under the shade of a tree. Six in total: two boys and two girls from Seigaku, one boy from Yamabuki, and another boy from Rokkaku. What looked to be the leader of the little group - with the way the others crowded around him - was a lithe teen with dark green hair and golden eyes. They were close enough to the fountain that Tezuka was surprised he hadn't noticed their arrival sooner.

"Congratulations on surviving," Ryuuzaki started, and it was hard to tell if she was being mocking or not - she was still frowning. "Today was just the First Trial. From now on, the Trials will happen often and test everyone! Until graduation next year, you will have to participate - I only hope everyone survives until then."

Ryuuzaki gave the silent students an all-encompassing stare, "That is all. Welcome to Tengoku Gakuen."

The woman turned and strode away. A few of the students began to protest and follow her out, but Tezuka had already returned his attention to the freshmen group. Against logic, the youngest of the three grades present seemed completely unsurprised - and unusually high-spirited, if one girl's flirtatious smile was anything to go by.

"Welcome to Paradise."

If it hadn't been for the two groups' close proximity, Tezuka would have missed it. As it was, Tezuka and his friends could make out every word that came from the golden-eyed freshman's mouth. The boy glanced over at them, considering each silently before giving them a small smirk. There was something predatory in the younger boy's eyes, a sort of innate power that made the hairs along the back of Tezuka's neck stand on end.

"Well," the freshman added candidly. "A paradise on hearsay, a hell on sight."

Then, without another word, he turned and left in the direction of the Seigaku dorm - the other freshmen eagerly shadowing his steps.

"The freshmen seem a little odd," Kawamura murmured.

Tezuka tried to convince himself that the monsters were gone, not that they'd merely changed form.

Day 1

Enrolled Students: 525

Deceased Students: 117

Students Remaining: 408


"A paradise on hearsay, a hell on sight."

A/N: Unfortunately, you don't get to see how Tezuka will use his power this chapter. (And yes, he will use 'Concentration' offensively - because Tezuka is awesome like that.) Even Fuji got left out of the party! Eventually, you'll get to see every character's power - I spent two days coming up with Words for each Prince of Tennis character, goddammit! Everyone gets a turn to be awesome! Keep an open mind on how Words can be utilized, too. (evil laugh)

Any questions? Review! Criticisms? REVIEW. Opinions? Pairing preferences? Predictions? REVIEW~! I love to hear from readers! :)


Kindly drop a review.