Vindicate (Chp. 3)

A/N: Yo, I'm back! Sorry for the later update, life got to me. Went to JAPAN (*smiles gleefully*), got my terrible SAT scores, and am still studying for AP exams. TT_TT

Here's a longer chapter to make it up to you. Hope you like!


The whole summer passed like a breeze in Furihata's perspective. The temperature became hotter and hotter as the weeks went by, but Furihata worked his best so he could maintain his physique for basketball. Eventually, he managed to become quite adept at gardening, though he had trouble adjusting to the harsh work the job required. The gardening job helped improve his and Ishida-san's relations, and they were so friendly to the point where Furihata attempted to teach him basketball at the mansion's basketball court. Of course, Ishida-san wasn't very good at it, much to the seasoned basketball player's prediction. Throughout the break, Furihata also memorized the layout of the mansion and knew it from front to back, given his secret hobby of collecting rocks that looked appealing to him. He also ended up having good relations with some of the other employees that worked in the Akashi mansion and a slight affection of one of the maids that looked a bit like Eri-chan. Akashi constantly poked fun at him on that topic.

Speaking of Akashi, he kept to his word and continued to visit to talk to Furihata. The two became surprisingly fast friends due to their similar positions that they played in basketball and the fact that either of them didn't really have much to do outside of their normal work during the holidays. Furihata realized that while Akashi maintained a terrifying composure to the Japanese high school basketball circle, he was considerably milder in personality when faced with his family. However, Furihata noticed that when Akashi interacted with his parents (quite comfortably, he should add), his parents visibly encouraged the redhead to keep a cool and professional façade to others so that the Akashi Corporation would not be tainted of their reputation. He wasn't an exception of Akashi's two sided personality, given the various times Akashi had bossed him around with random tasks.

Over the summer, he ended up playing a lot of one-on-one matches against him and learned how terrifyingly skilled Akashi could be even when not with the Rakuzan basketball team. Most matches ended up with Furihata cowering under Akashi's intimidating yet mischievous gaze with and the score difference of 80, much to the Seirin player's dismay. By the forceful urging of Akashi, Furihata also ended up being on the opposite end of the captain's shogi board with no clue how to play against him. At least he grasped the basics of the board game after multiple matches against Akashi over the summer break.

Furihata watered the orchids within the main greenhouse as the sun peeked out from the lightening horizon. He smiled contently, making sure that the leaves were not wet. This task was the best part out of his gardening job because of two main reasons. First, watering plants in silence with the warmth of the sun slowly spreading in his body delved Furihata into a philosophical mood, thinking about life and society and such. The place was also where the Seirin player discovered the most about himself. Also, orchids were his favorite flower. His mother brought him to a local flower market where he enlightened himself to the orchid flower for the first time. Refusing to budge for twenty minutes, he stood there staring at the ethereal form of the plants and the contrastingly fitting mix of colors. He had begged his mother to buy one of those flowers, but she replied exasperated that it was too expensive and high maintenance for her to entrust him with the complicated task of keeping an orchid. Depressed at the refusal, Furihata hoped to one day obtain the chance of owning an orchid. Maybe he should ask Akashi to let him have one from the greenhouse…

"Hey," a voice behind him said stoically, and Furihata almost drowned the Phalaenopsis he was currently watering.

"Don't scare me like that! I'll ruin the orchids," the person yelped. Akashi gave a little chuckle and patted Furihata's shoulder as a sign of greeting.

"They will be fine. After all, I can always replace them."

The Seirin point guard rolled his eyes. It was a habit that he adopted after getting to know Akashi. The redhead tended to say things that only a snob from a highly prestigious heritage would. Furihata wanted to retort back, but unfortunately for him, everything Akashi said, Akashi could do.

"This is not the reason that I am here though," the Rakuzan captain smoothly continued, "I have a request for you."

"Eh?!" Furihata dropped his watering can. Did Akashi just request him? He rubbed his eyes; Akashi would never request him of anything, only command. Furihata calmed down enough to listen clearly to what he wanted to request.

"Go to the upcoming festival today with me. You are not allowed to decline in any way."

The Seirin player's mood lifted with each word of the first sentence, and had his hopes dashed when Akashi mentioned that Furihata was not permitted to decline. Maybe one day Akashi would not order him around, but the event seemed much too far away in his eyes.

"Oh…" Furihata opened his mouth to speak, "I didn't know that there was a festival today, "he finished lamely.

"It doesn't matter, you're coming with me," the redhead concluded. So there was never a choice for Furihata in the first place. Akashi and his stupid superiority complex.

"What did you just say?" Akashi turned around with his Emperor's Eye flaming brightly. Did he just say that out loud?

"Ah…Nothing, nothing at all! Just let me finish my work for today first."

"…Very well. Meet me by the main gate at 8 o'clock sharp."

Furihata dashed past the voluminous gardens of the Akashi mansion while hastily putting on his outerwear. Why were the gardens so damn long?! He prayed to all the gods that he was not late for Akashi's appointment because he was absolutely certain that the Rakuzan captain would kill him if he was. He had experienced it before, and it was not a pleasant feeling at all. Furihata agreed to a one-on-one with Akashi on a Saturday morning, but he had overslept. Really overslept. Once he got down to the court, Akashi was tapping his foot with a blank expression and a pair of scissors stuck within a deflated basketball. The redhead then proceeded to knock him out and cut up his shoes and socks while he was unconscious. He shuddered; that was something he didn't want to experience ever again. Seeing the silhouette of the lavishly designed gates, Furihata rushed forward faster than ever, hoping to not see a figure with carmine hair waiting for him.

But unfortunately for Furihata, Akashi was already there waiting.

"You're two minutes late," he sternly spoke.

"I'm sorry!" he huffed out, "I got delayed because-"

"I don't want or need to hear your dismal excuses. Get in the car or we'll waste even more time." Instantly, a polished and expensive car rode up to greet the two boys, and Akashi entered the vehicle as the driver silently opened the door for him. Gulping, Furihata followed the other person.

"By the way, your fly is completely unzipped. I can even see the color of your boxers."

Furihata didn't know whether his face now resembled a tomato or a cherry. Neither said another word during the ride to the festival.

After half an hour, the car halted in front of a bustling fair. Akashi promptly descended the vehicle while Furihata stared at the flourish of life, getting off the car in a mystified daze. It was the first time he had ever been to such a large festival, having only gone to small local ones before. Numerous stalls lined the area in neat little rows, each bustling with people of all ages. The Seirin player timidly trailed after the captain, eyes greedily absorbing in the attractions. To his left, salespeople standing in front of their respective stall handed out miniscule food samples for people to taste, while at his right, people lined up to play the mini-games the different booths offered. Incessant chatter filled his ears, and a small girl holding a balloon brushed past his legs to get to the booth she wanted to go to, followed by her worrying parent. Akashi merely breezed past the crowd and salesmen as if he had a target place in mind. Sure enough, the redhead suddenly paused, accidentally knocking against Furihata.

"What are you stopping for?" Furihata asked, and glanced down to see several young children gathered around a large shallow tank of goldfish. Each child was deep in thought as they strategized to catch a goldfish without breaking their paper net.

"When I was just a child, my parents would take us to a festival each year. They'd always bring me to the goldfish stall first. I gained a lot of experience catching goldfish because of that," Akashi grinned. Furihata simply raised an eyebrow in response.

"Well, I am the self proclaimed master in catching goldfish, if you would like to know. It was a childhood pastime when I was younger."

Akashi's grin curled up deviously, "Then let's see who would catch the most goldfish using five nets." He rolled up the sleeves in his shirt.

"Bring it on."

Furihata tentatively waited as Akashi paid for the nets. He scuttled over to the tank, already observing prospective fish he could catch. The captain returned with ten paper nets, of which he handed over half to Furihata.

"Ready? 3, 2, 1, go!" the Seirin player cried. Both turned silent, holding a net in their hand and following the movements of the fish.

After a long while, both players stared distrustfully at the other as each held their respective bowls of goldfish they caught. Carefully switching the baskets, Furihata took hold of Akashi's blue container and began counting the fish that were swimming without a care in the world. He muttered to himself; he should recount them to make sure that the amount was correct.

Once finishing the fifth count, Furihata tentatively spoke out, "It's 16 goldfish." The Seirin player looked closely at Akashi's reaction to his words. Instead, the redhead became silent after the other boy's words. His gaze shifted from looking directly at Furihata to the tree behind his shoulder.

"…17 fish," he muttered quietly. Furihata's mood lifted; he had never believed that he would win at something against the 'unconquerable' Emperor. He let out an energized whoop of joy, almost spilling the container of fish he held in his arms.

"I won! I won, I won, I won, I won, I won! I won against the Akashi Seijurouu!"

"Hmph. But you'll never beat me at basketball." Akashi promptly snatched the bowl from Furihata and gave it to the owner of the goldfish stall, who quickly dropped the fish into an air bloated plastic bag filled with water. Holding his hard-earned victory up in the air, the brunette prepared to leave, but not before noticing Akashi was handing his bag of fish to a crying young boy. The little boy instantly stopped his expression of grief and shyly returned a thank you to the captain, after the gentle urging of his mother. Furihata smiled at the kind gesture. This was the first time he saw a side of Akashi that he had never knew existed before after getting acquainted with him this summer.

"Hey," he called out as he calmly walked over to the three figures, "take my bag of fish too. It contains one more fish than what this person just gave you." He smiled, which turned into a full blown smirk as he turned to watch Akashi's annoyed expression. The two basketball players waved a goodbye to the duo and followed the main road of the festival.

"I've never thought of you as a nice person," Furihata noted.

"That's just because you're really dense, and you don't deserve the same amount of kindness that I gave the boy," he leered jokingly.

"Oi!"

The two played a few more mini-games and ate more famous snacks of Kyoto. Furihata discovered that apart from the goldfish activity, Akashi excelled much more at the rest when compared to him. He was an expert at shooting moving targets which he claimed his excellence was due to his lessons in archery, but Furihata suspected that it also had something to do with his Emperor's eye. Akashi won a set of top-to-bottom squirrel pajamas in the game and gave Furihata them as a joke. As for the Seirin player, he found his little paradise as the two went over to the food section of the festival. Furihata managed to taste authentic famous Kyoto snacks, such as matcha and its flavored treats (he particularly liked the matcha ice cream), baked and raw Yatsuhashi, and his favorite sweet, wagashi. He'll never be able to eat Kyoto snacks back at Tokyo now, after sampling and comparing the quality of the food between the two cities. Furihata trailed behind the captain, munching on his second kinton.

Up front ahead, there was a great crowd clustered around a little area in the central square of the event. Curious, Akashi and Furihata headed closer to see what all the commotion was. A middle-aged man was standing in an arena and wailing piteously to a sad song while the audience plastered smiles and applauded gratefully when he stepped off the stage after finishing his song. The emcee, a bubbly young adult, stepped onto the wooden platform.

"Who would like to sing next for our karaoke contest?!" she yelled out to the cheering horde. Countless hands were raised and in the peak of the moment, Furihata grabbed Akashi's arm and raised it high into the air.

"The boy with the red hair, please come up to the stage!"

With a gleeful yet horror filled grin, Furihata felt a dangerous aura directed at him creeping behind Akashi until it was extinguished as other people surrounding the carmine haired excitedly ushered him up onto the platform.

The crowd waited patiently as Akashi hesitantly scrolled to choose a song from the karaoke machine, and after deciding on one he confidently took the microphone the emcee delightfully handed to him. Furihata anticipated hearing what Akashi had chosen to sing to his audience.

The hollow drums of the taiko blasted against Furihata's eardrums and to his horror, he realized that Akashi had chosen a traditional song. An old song. The elder audience would most likely have a field day commenting on his performance.

However, all the negative remarks about Akashi faded once he began to sing. Furihata's eyes widened. The redhead's voice could be compared to pure heaven. Every note flowed smoothly along with the song not dissimilar to a gentle stream, Furihata compared. The longer he sang entranced the audience even more, taking note of their sudden silence. Disregard the odd beat of the peculiar musical piece Akashi chose; he could truly be a professional singer if he contained a passion for the subject equal to that of basketball.

As the diminuendo of Akashi's tenor voice faded into silence, the Seirin player watched contently when a bustle of middle aged women clustered around the captain as he stepped off the wooden stage asking for his autograph and singing history. He laughed while Akashi fended off their enlivened questions with a courteous smile; Akashi was truly a natural in so many aspects. Finally, the redhead approached him with his usual demeanor, yet a gleam in his eyes softened his features. Gesturing for Furihata to follow, Akashi strolled over to the exit where the same polished black car awaited him.

"It's getting pretty late. Why not stay over at my place just for tonight?" the captain suddenly asked, breaking the silence in the car.

"Tonight?! I don't think it would be a good idea. Wouldn't I be disturbing your parents or something?"

Akashi spun his head so that his view changed from the outside surroundings to Furihata's astounded face.

"You get a once in a lifetime chance to stay in the Akashi mansion and its private rooms, you know."

Not missing a beat, Furihata readily agreed.

Furihata's yawn felt like it had split his head into two. For half an hour, he stood inside Akashi's bedroom (which was practically indistinguishable from the other guest rooms apart from the red bed sheets and the shogi board and basketball sitting in the corner) while two of the maids prepared a smaller bed next to the captain's. The car did not stop by Furihata's place as it headed to the main mansion, so he was forced to wear the embarrassing squirrel pajamas Akashi won for him as a present. The redhead had chuckled when the Seirin point guard presented himself, but his unsurprised expression made Furihata suspect that it was intended that the car did not stop by his lodgings.

Finally resting after the tumultuous events of the festival, Furihata laid awkwardly on the comfy guest bed right of Akashi's. Even though he desired to have a good night's sleep, there was something about slumbering in the same room as the redhead prevented Furihata from doing so. He shifted to the side so that the large lump of blankets that was Akashi loomed into view. The captain's breath sounded far too rapid compared to the even snooze of a dozed off person. He must be as restless as Furihata felt right now.

"…Akashi-kun?"

"Mhm," the redhead replied after a short period of silence.

"Are you awake?"

"If I was, I wouldn't be talking to you right now."

"Oh. That was a stupid question to ask," Furihata laughed softly and cast his gaze to the ceiling, "You know, I expected this summer to be the worst summer ever, but it wasn't.

"This was the first time I spent summer without my team after getting into Seirin, so when my mom forced me to get this job, I was really pissed off about it. After all, I could've improved a lot more in basketball if I went to camp with them. I guess it still holds true, but after meeting you, you helped make this summer much more enjoyable. My analysis of you changed as a result of that, and I also learned a lot more about you. …So, I just wanted to say, thanks. For being my best friend."

There was no reply from the next bed. The captain must've been asleep already. Just as unconsciousness began to creep over him, Furihata heard a muffled reply.

"…Me too."


A/N: Hehehe...They're getting closer! Woot! Stay tuned for the next; it'll rock your boots! (WTF?!)

Dess