Summary: TezRyo Prince of Tennis/The World Ends With You crossover.
Rating: M for violence and yaoi.
Author’s Note: Sort of an awkward place to end the chapter, but... The font is still being screwy, sorry - even though LJ is sort of working now I still can't clean my word documents before pasting. :/
Seven Days Left
“Now… there’s the matter of what we’re going to do with you.”
“Karupin,” Ryoma insisted stubbornly.
“I’m sorry, but as the Game was not completed, your entry fee cannot be returned.”
He shouldn’t have been surprised after everything that had already happened. Ryoma tugged his cap down over his face. He wasn’t going to give Sanada the satisfaction of seeing him beg or plead or cry. But Karupin…
“Though the Game was invalid, due to your assistance in eradicating the source of the Taboo Noise, the Composer has made a generous offer. You may play the Game once more under one condition… this is the last time you are allowed to play. There will be no future chances.”
Ryoma stuck his hands in his pockets so that the Conductor wouldn’t see him clenching his fists. “And my entry fee?”
The phone beeped insistently. Woodenly, Ryoma opened the mission mail.
“Go to Seigaku. Time limit: 3 hours. Fail, and face erasure.”
He clamped down on the swelling bitterness and set out towards Seigaku at a run. He needed a partner. He’d show them. Sanada, Yanagi… all of them. He’d play their stupid Game so well they’d have no choice but to give him back his life.
It was too late for Karupin, but he was damned if they were going to get him too.
There didn’t seem to be anybody with a Player Pin around. Golden eyes scanned the crowds of students and people on their way to work frantically, searching for anyone that seemed out of place. “Hey!” he called out. “Hey, are there any Players around here?”
Nobody answered, but out of the corner of his eye he saw the air shift slightly. Noise.
Frog Noise again. Ryoma grit his teeth and ran away.
He needed a partner. He was a sitting duck without one. What was he supposed to do – just run away all week? But if even one mission required him to defeat a Noise, he was done for.
Where were all the Players? They should have been moving towards Seigaku – it was just common sense! But he hadn’t seen a single one yet!
That was when he realised.
His entry fee had been all of the other Players.
Tezuka hurried to school for morning practice. The game had finished yesterday, and he still had no idea what had happened.
He’d spoken to Inui that morning, and the data-gatherer had still been mourning Yanagi’s death, hit extra-hard by the loss of two friends. The fact that Echizen’s phone was still disconnected left him unsettled as well. His fingers tightened around the Player Pin in his pocket.
“Tezuka!” Fuji called, jogging up to walk alongside him.
“Fuji,” Tezuka greeted coldly.
“Hey now, don’t be like that. What did I do?”
He wanted to answer, but it would just make him sound crazy. Tezuka frowned and stared at the ground while he walked.
“Actually, Tezuka, I was hoping to run into you here.”
“And why is that?” Tezuka quickened his pace.
“I seem to have made a teeny tiny little mistake.”
Ominous words, given the sort of fire Fuji liked to play with. “Then you should fix it.”
Fuji smiled cheerily. “Well, that’s the idea.”
Tezuka stopped walking and started to turn. “What do you-”
Bright blue eyes stared up at him as a cool metal object was pressed into his hand. “You can right the wrongs that have been made. I’ll be relying on you.”
Tezuka started to respond, but Fuji skipped ahead. “I’ll tell Oishi you said to start practice straight away!”
Confused, the senior didn’t move until his friend was a couple of blocks away. Slowly, he looked down at the object held in his hand.
Tezuka nearly dropped it in shock, but managed to collect himself in time. Where on earth did Fuji get a gun? His thoughts sped ahead at neck-breaking speed, the puzzle pieces fitting together, filling hole after hole after hole. A horrible suspicion began to occur to him.
With shaking fingers, Tezuka reached into his pocket and withdrew the Player Pin. He took a deep breath, and clutched it. The world shimmered briefly in front of his eyes.
Noise. Everywhere he looked, all he could see was Noise. Tezuka started walking, heading towards the school again.
In the distance, there was one bright form. His breath caught when he spied a white cap, and then Tezuka was running to catch up.
It was definitely Echizen. He was trying to shake off a small herd of Noise.
Tezuka hadn’t seen Echizen for a couple of days, but even through the hazy, interference-filled images provided with the Player Pin, he didn't look well. There were deep bags under his eyes, little jagged tears on the edges of his clothes, and his expression was decidedly harried.
Obviously there had been developments. Bad ones. Yanagi hadn't come back to life, and by the looks of it, Ryoma was playing again.
Except... something was off. Tezuka couldn't quite put his finger on it.
He clutched the Player Pin harder, ignoring the painful buzz behind his eyes from staring at a frequency locked to him for too long. It was the first day of the week, wasn't it?
If so... why couldn't he see any other Players?
On the first day there were always lots of players. When he'd been in the UG it hadn't been very obvious, since the only real way to determine player status was either by their pins or scanning. Back in the RG, however, they were incredibly obvious, as they literally looked like glowing, transparent ghosts walking amongst the rest of the crowd.
Today, Echizen was the only ghost.
If Echizen was the only ghost...
If there were no other players with whom to make a pact...
Tezuka looked down at the gun in his hand.
The game was set up to doom Ryoma. He didn’t know how he’d done it, but somehow, Sanada had arranged the game so that Echizen was the only Player. It was completely rigged. It was a set-up designed so that there was no way for Echizen to avoid erasure.
Tezuka raised the gun to his head, clicked off the safety, and took a deep breath.
He couldn’t let that happen.
A single gunshot echoed through the streets.
Ryoma winced, bracing himself for the impact. There was nowhere else to run.
At that moment, warmth flowed into him like a river of light. It felt like being hugged by feathery wings. For a second, he thought that maybe this was what being erased felt like, and didn’t feel so bad about erasing Kirihara or Arai anymore.
“Echizen! Echizen, are you alright?!”
He opened his eyes again. It still looked like the UG. “…Buchou?”
Suddenly remembering himself, Ryoma grabbed his pins, and blinked when a firestorm taller than he was erupted after using his fire pin.
The Noise didn’t last long, and the others nearby were suddenly not so interested in him anymore.
Somewhat dazed, he turned. Brown hair, brown eyes, glasses, and a face that could be carved out of stone. He certainly looked like the captain. “…Buchou… how…?” His gaze swivelled to the Player Pin Tezuka was holding. “You’re…?”
“Never mind that, are you alright?” he asked, grabbing him by the shoulders.
“A pact…” Ryoma mumbled, still in shock. “Buchou… but all the others Players were… how…”
Tezuka’s face was slightly red. “I… When I saw what was happening I couldn’t just sit by and let it happen. You needed a partner. So I…”
Ryoma eyes widened. “Buchou, you killed yourself?”
Tezuka looked away. “…Yes.”
Unbelievable. Why on earth would Tezuka do that for him? Why would he kill himself just to rescue him? Why would he put himself willingly through the game again?
Ryoma shook his head. "Buchou, you shouldn't have done it."
"You were about to be erased!" he protested.
His shoulders slumped. "Buchou... I think I'm going to be erased anyway. This is my last try."
Tezuka grabbed him by the arm. “Echizen! Don’t talk like that!”
He shook his head again. “That was the condition. If I don’t make it this time, that’s it. I don’t get to play again.”
“Then you’ll simply win. That’s your only choice.”
"They're just going to get me on some sort of technicality," he mumbled. "Probably for partnering with you. You’ve entered the game illegally, without an entry fee. They'll be trying to erase you."
Tezuka was quiet, then suggested, “Perhaps you’d better fill me in on what’s been happening.”
Ryoma checked the red numbers on his palm. Seigaku was only a block or so away. They had the time. “Yeah, okay.”
They found a bench half a block away and sat down. It took him a good minute to collect his thoughts, and then slowly Ryoma started recapping the relevant parts of the previous week in a wooden voice. Arai’s threat. The Taboo Noise showing up. The mission to erase Arai. Yanagi’s defection, and Sanada’s final offer.
Tezuka remained silent, listening intently, until he finished. After a moment, he offered, “Inui said that the police thought that Yanagi’s body was moved after his death. I assume he was killed in Seishun, then his body moved to his house. Which meant…”
Ryoma nodded grimly. “Yeah.”
“Sorry. I tried to warn you in time, but I couldn’t find you anywhere.”
“No, it’s okay. We had to move around a lot to avoid the Taboo Noise.” Ryoma pulled his knees to his chest. “What about you, Buchou?”
Tezuka explained everything he’d learnt about the game from Sanada and Arai, as well as everything he’d learnt from Inui about Yanagi’s death. Ryoma absorbed it all quietly. When the senior was finished, he glanced at his hand. “We should finish the mission.”
As they stepped through Seigaku’s gates the timer on Ryoma’s hand disappeared. He stared at his palm for a long moment, then turned to Tezuka again.
He was grateful to Tezuka, he really was. He was maybe a little mad that the senior had thrown away all their hard work from the first week by killing himself to help him out in the game again, but he was also sort of glad of the presence of that warm pact that thrummed in his veins even now.
There was one thing that had him genuinely irritated, though.
“Buchou… I have one more question to ask you.”
“Did you see who killed me?”
Tezuka didn’t answer.
…Six Days Left.