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Title: The World Begins With Tennis


Summary: TezRyo Prince of Tennis/The World Ends With You crossover.

Rating: M for violence and yaoi.

Author’s Note: So that's the last chapter. It is a doozy. It should really be two (or maybe even three) chapters in terms of length, but I wanted to keep the whole 'a day per chapter' thing going.

Thanks for reading - especially all those who weren't familiar with TWEWY and patiently slogged through it anyway. I think the crossover bug has been satiated for the time being.

All previous chapters can be found under this tag.

Now I shall go hide.


The Last Day 
A bus rumbled to a slow stop in front of them, offloading passengers. The sun was high in the sky.
Ryoma threw his Player Pin to the ground, annoyed. Tezuka picked it up before he could stomp on it, dusted it off, and handed it back to him. He grudgingly accepted it, a little embarrassed to have lost his temper in front of his implacable partner. But they’d waited and waited for Sanada to show so that they could track him to the Composer, and then never got the chance because the day switched over! And now they were out of time!
“What do we do now?” he grumbled.
Tezuka took a long time to answer. It soon became apparent that he didn’t have an answer. Since it was the last day, they wouldn’t be able to track Sanada – there was a good chance he was already somewhere in Seishun. Some place where he’d magically escaped their notice for the past three weeks.
It was ridiculous. They’d checked everywhere, but still hadn’t found any sight of Sanada, Yanagi, or the Composer.
Ryoma was on the verge of finding some Noise to go blow up just to let off some frustration when a thought occurred.
…It wasn’t quite true – they hadn’t checked everywhere. There was one place within the Game’s boundaries they hadn’t checked yet.
Even though his house was within the boundaries of the Game, he’d given it a wide berth. Home was going to be place he went after the Game – he had no desire to see his family’s reactions to his death. None of their missions brought them near it either.
“Buchou… I have an idea,” Ryoma said hesitantly.
He didn’t even ask. “Lead the way,” he offered, holding out his hand. Ryoma was a little embarrassed, but took it gratefully. It looked as though Tezuka had guessed that it helped with resisting ascension.
It was weird, walking that familiar path. His skin prickled when they passed the convenience store where they’d been killed, but he ignored it and resolutely kept walking. On one hand, he needed to be right because they were in trouble if he wasn’t, but he still desperately wanted to be wrong.
All too soon, they were standing in front of his house. It was only two stories high, but somehow, it loomed
“You think they’re here?” Tezuka asked, perplexed.
“Just a hunch,” he murmured. 
Definitely, there was something off about the house. It wasn’t just his own unease of seeing it again, or that anything was particularly out of place… it just didn’t give off the same vibe as the other buildings in the UG. It felt bigger than it should have.
Ryoma’s attention was diverted when his phone suddenly beeped. It had been so long since he'd last received mail that it startled him.  Who would be calling?
He opened the message.  'Rikkai’s data master hides in the shadows.  Don't be fooled by the illusion.'
Weird.  He handed the phone over to Tezuka, who read it and frowned.  "A hint?"
The question was, who from?  Mail only ever came from the Game Master, but why would Yanagi be giving them hints?
No point in dwelling on it. Taking a deep breath, he headed up the front path and entered his home.
Nothing. The house was empty – no one was home, which was normal for that time of day, and nothing was out of place.
Except for the black frame with his picture in it and flowers, but Ryoma deliberately avoided looking at that.
“I was sure…” he muttered, frustrated. 
“Perhaps you should try scanning,” Tezuka suggested.
He didn’t see what good it would do, but gripped his Player Pin all the same.
Right in the centre of the living room there was a door.
Startled, he let go of the pin. The door disappeared. He grabbed it again. The door rematerialised. Ryoma swore.
Curious, Tezuka clutched his own Player Pin, and his eyes widened. After a moment, he said, “I’ll go first.”
“We’ll go together,” Ryoma retorted stubbornly, grabbing his hand again. 
They stepped up to the door. Ryoma took a deep breath, held it, and as one they walked through.
The house disappeared. They were surrounded by mirrors in the middle of the vast room they’d entered at the end of the previous two games. Nobody was there, but there was a door on the far side of the room.
Just as they were stepping towards that, a familiar voice interrupted. “I’m afraid that I can’t let you go any further.”
Ryoma whirled. Yanagi! But where… the room was still empty!
“You still haven’t figured it out? I’m disappointed.”
What did the phone say? Rikkai’s data master hides in the shadows… but there weren’t any shadows in this place!
Ryoma glanced down at his feet in horror. His shadow!
The darkness around his feet elongated, stretching into a familiar silhouette. It snapped, and in a flash of light, Yanagi was standing in front of them again. “This is quite irritating – I didn’t expect to be forced to reveal myself like this. By my estimates, you should have been erased yesterday.”
“You’ve been hiding in my shadow this entire time,” Ryoma stated numbly.
“Correct. I must say that it has been quite… illuminating.”
“Then… when we were…” Tezuka looked mortified. Ryoma thought about it for a moment, then felt his own face heat up.
“Pervert!” He’d been there the entire time! Probably feeling smug while they frantically combed the entirety of Seishun’s UG for him, too!
Yanagi appeared unfazed by the accusation. “The entire time, yes.”
Ryoma grabbed his pins. “And you show yourself now? I guess this must mean we’re pretty close to the Composer.”
“If you can guess that much, then I definitely cannot allow you to go any further.”
“You are welcome to try and stop us,” Tezuka said.
The Game Master appeared unworried by the threat. “You cannot defeat me. The probability of your erasure… 100 percent.” Yanagi snapped his fingers, and the air shimmered briefly. Tezuka vanished – gone to fight in the other zone again.
Ryoma didn’t wait even a moment – he’d been bottling up a lot of resentment for his former partner, and a lot of frustration in general that needed an outlet. He slashed wildly at Yanagi, but the data master sidestepped each of his strikes neatly. He sent out a spray of energy rounds. Yanagi was several safe steps away from the nearest miss.
Annoyed, he sent pillars of fire twisting from the ground, then spread whirlwinds across the room to drag the flames, turning the entire area into a firestorm. See the Game Master try to dodge that.
Yanagi vanished. At the very instant Ryoma was finally forced to release the psych from the mental strain, the Game Master reappeared behind his shoulder. The freshman threw himself to the ground and rolled, barely avoiding the psych strike.
“All week I’ve been watching your movements. Your fighting styles are completely catalogued. None of your pesky little tricks will work.” Yanagi disappeared again, just before Ryoma cleaved through the air where he’d been standing not moments before.
He was teleporting! “Che, you’re one to talk about cheap tricks.” He caught a flash of yellow out the corner of his eyes and whirled, sending out a wide spray lightning bolts. Yanagi vanished again, and Ryoma stumbled forward, clutching his shoulder where the Data Master struck it from it behind.  Fire erupted across the room again, buying him some time to recover.
“Probability of following a fire psych with a lightning psych… 76 percent,” Yanagi quipped. Ryoma growled low in his throat, lightning striking a silhouette out the corner of his eyes. It dissipated into shadowy smoke before reforming. Yanagi had switched with a fake. He quickly rolled out of the way, but still felt the faint burn of an energy bolt across his back. From the left? No, he was already gone.
Damn!  It wasn't that Yanagi was fast - Kirihara moved around a lot more, and Yagyuu was quicker on the draw - it was that his stupid psych let him instantly get into blind spots and positions that were hard to react to.  Those extra few seconds between reactions gave him plenty of time to make a clean shot and teleport to the next spot.
Also, unlike the previous Reapers, it seemed like he was avoiding their retaliation by teleporting between the two zones as well.  It was less obvious, as he left a shadowy doppelganger behind that could fool you at a quick glance.  It was a sneaky, underhanded way to fight.  It was also irritatingly effective.  In terms of raw power, Ryoma sensed that Yanagi wasn't a great deal stronger than any of the Harriers they'd fought, but he was still getting battered by the guerrilla attacks.
“It would be wise for you to admit defeat now. You could still become Reapers. It would be a waste of your potential to be erased like this.”

Ryoma started bouncing lightly on the balls of his feet, eyes darting from side to side, ears strained for the slightest hint of Yanagi's presence.
There!  He pushed off from the ground; the air shimmered around his fingers, and the Reaper's eyes actually opened for one brief instant, giving him a clear flash of panic in those dark depths.

Yanagi grimaced as he threw himself backwards, but didn't manage to dodge the blade in time.  It left a long, shallow gash in his arm.  Ryoma smirked.  "Didn't see that one coming, did you?"

Yanagi frowned; apparently content to ignore his injury.  "Your reaction time exceeded my projections.  I did not anticipate you would use one-footed split step in a battle context."

"Che.  You keep hopping from side to side.  It's just like tennis."  He darted forward again.  The data master's image fuzzed briefly before he vanished, replaced with a shadow doppelganger again.  The ball was back in Tezuka's court.
Ryoma kept bouncing lightly on the balls of his feet. He ignored the shadow – it wouldn’t attack. It was just an idea… would Tezuka get it?
"Ryoma!  Don't be careless!"  Tezuka's voice called out.

There it was. "Mada mada dane!" There was a flash of yellow out of the corner of his eyes and Ryoma darted to the side again, narrowly avoiding another attack. He started counting down in his head. All he had to do was use a psych that would make sure that Yanagi would definitely flee to the other zone. 
“There’s nothing you can do to escape your fate. I know all of your psychs, all of your tricks, all of your techniques, and all of their weaknesses.” Yanagi peppered the room with force rounds, but Ryoma just sidestepped them lightly. The data master hadn’t adjusted to his increased speed just yet.
He withdrew a large light blue pin from his pocket and twirled it between his fingers. “Heh, you think so? I found this pin at the end of the first week. I was saving it for the fight against the Composer, but…”
Finally, he’d managed to stop the Game Master in his tracks. Yanagi eyed the pin curiously. “Oh, you still had something hidden up your sleeve? I suppose you didn’t trust me so much after all.”
Ryoma grit his teeth and concentrated. Sluggishly, water bubbled from the ground in front of him, curling up into the shape of a tidal wave. 
“Useless. Even if it’s a new psych, I can simply escape into the next zone.” Yanagi vanished as an enormous cascade of water rushed through the room. 
Ryoma smirked. “Heh, escape to where?”
“Synchronised attack? Imposs-”
Yanagi didn’t even finish his sentence.
The shadow doppelganger vanished, and Tezuka reappeared next to him. There was no hiding from a tidal wave and a meteor barrage.
“Well done,” Tezuka said.
“Well done yourself,” he replied, sticking his hands in his pockets. “…Does this mean you’ve got your tennis back?”
“I don’t know,” Tezuka said. “I’m not sure if I ever actually lost it.”
“Before. When you said that it was like tennis…”
If Tezuka had really lost tennis, would he have known how to react? Ryoma frowned as he thought that over. “That bastard. He lied the entire time so that we’d still look for him.”
“As you said at the beginning, I would not be an illegal Player if he actually took an entry fee.”
Ryoma was slightly miffed. They might have succeeded in erasing him, but Yanagi had played them right until the end. “Hmph. Then let’s see why he was so eager to stop us going through that door.” He stormed over to the plain door set amongst the mirrors and yanked it open.
It led to a dark, dank rocky tunnel, lined with ragged grey spider webs. Ryoma glanced back. Tezuka was still standing in the centre of the room. “Hurry up, Buchou.”
It was eerily silent inside the tunnel – even that ever-present music that kept calling him to the higher plane felt muted. Ryoma blindly grabbed a handful of Tezuka’s shirt as they walked side-by-side, footsteps echoing loudly in the darkness. There was just enough light to make out the outline of the walls and floor. 
They walked in the silence for some time before he became aware of another irregular sound. At first he just thought it was their own footsteps echoing strangely, but when they stopped walking, the sound persisted. Straining his ears, he tried to place it. It was definitely footsteps, but they were too small and soft to be human. A rat? 
A small meow echoed off the walls.
Ryoma dropped Tezuka’s shirt and ran forward. “Karupin? Karupin?!”
Out of the shadows a form emerged. It was Karupin!  Sort of.
It was Karupin in Noise form.
Uncaring, he pulled the cat to his chest and hugged him fiercely. “Karupin!”
Karupin mewled and rubbed his head against Ryoma’s cheek. “I thought you were gone! Karupin, I’m so sorry.”
“If he was your entry fee…” Tezuka said.
The Conductor must be near. “Yeah.” Taking a shuddering breath, Ryoma placed the cat… Noise… back on the ground. “Karupin, stay here, okay? I’ll come back for you, I promise.” 
Karupin’s meow sounded rather discontent, and the Noise rubbed against his ankles.
“No, stay. It’s dangerous.”
Somewhat sulkily, Karupin pattered off into the darkness again. Ryoma watched him go with mixed feelings.
“Even though he was a Noise, he still remembered you,” Tezuka observed.
Ryoma smiled slightly. “Yeah.”
Just ahead lay a single, non-descript black door. Ryoma shared a glance with Tezuka, who nodded slightly and went to open it.
The previous room was bright and stark, with marble floors, walls of mirrors, and no other features to speak of.  This room was its polar opposite - dark and cavernous, with an enormous decorative sigil on the floor and a twisted, black throne right in front of it.  It looked like rather appropriate accommodations for a Composer.
Sitting on the throne was one familiar, pale, wavy blue-haired individual.
“Welcome Players.” The voice echoed eerily off the walls. "But then, you're not Players anymore, are you?" Yukimura said sweetly.  "Now you are simply dead."
“Composer,” Tezuka greeted levelly.

"You already knew? You don't seem very surprised," Yukimura observed.

Ryoma folded his arms behind his head.  "It was pretty obvious.  Half of your team was here; it wouldn't make any sense if you weren't."

"The only ones we haven't seen so far are Marui and Jackal.  Why is that?" Tezuka asked.

Yukimura smiled.  "Oh, they'll be coming soon.  But I wanted to make sure things were a little more stable before bringing them in." He frowned. “If you’re here, though, I suppose that means Renji didn’t make it. That’s quite a shame.”
Sanada emerged from the shadows and stepped up next to the throne. “I’m sorry, Yukimura. I thought he was up to the task.”
The Composer waved him off. “If he wasn’t strong enough, then that was his fate.”
“You brought them into the game.” Ryoma recognised that slight clipping of Tezuka’s words.  He was angry.
“Certainly. Renji was quite eager to participate, but the others required some… convincing.”
“And then you left Rikkai and invaded Seishun’s UG. Why?”
“Oh, don’t misunderstand. There’s nothing special about Seishun – it was merely so confining, running only that one game. I wanted to broaden our horizons.” Yukimura shifted in his throne briefly. “Things were going quite wonderfully until you came along.”
“It’s not like we planned to die,” Ryoma pointed out.
"You say that, but your deaths weren't a coincidence," Yukimura stated.  "Seishun isn’t the first district we've taken over.  It was only a matter of time until those annoying beings on the Higher Plane started to take notice.  I guess one of them finally took action."
Ryoma considered that carefully. Was this what Fuji intended all along? For this moment, when he and Tezuka would challenge Yukimura and Sanada? But then if the Composer knew that, why on earth would he let him play the Game enough times to the point where he’d be a threat? If he’d just returned them both to the RG at the end of the first week it would never have come to this. 
“And you and Sanada? How did you die?” Tezuka asked.
Sanada stepped up then, face cast in shadow. “It’s not your concern-”
“Tell them, Sanada,” Yukimura interrupted, sounding eerily pleased. “I think that they deserve to know.”
Sanada paused. It was plainly obvious he didn’t want to disclose it, but it was also obvious that he considered Yukimura’s word law. “Very well.” He turned back to them. “That day, when we played Seigaku… Yukimura didn’t survive his operation. That’s how he found out about the game.”
"Then even in the Nationals..." Realisation dawned on Ryoma.  "Your techniques!  You were using psychs in the RG!"

Yukimura smiled.  "Rules for Composers are a little different.  Even if I'm on a lower frequency, I still maintain a fraction of my power."

"That's cheating," Tezuka pointed out coldly.

"Is it?  I was just using everything I had available.  And anyway, Echizen still won."
Ryoma turned his gaze back to the Conductor. Sanada was staring at him, and he was faintly alarmed to see genuine hate in his eyes. “And you?”
His throat was dry, but he forced out the next word anyway. “Why?”
The glare intensified. “Yukimura didn't survive because I didn't make it there in time.  I was stuck playing a game against Seigaku. I couldn't live with the guilt, so I killed myself.  And that was when I discovered the game.  Yukimura and I made a pact, and took out Rikkai's Composer and Conductor."
It made sense, then.  Why Sanada, if not Yukimura, was so keen to get him erased in the game. 
It was just a simple expansion of territory at first maybe, but then the perceived source of Sanada's misery and the impudent mortal who dared defeat Yukimura as a Composer suddenly fell into their laps - thrown there by Fuji, but they probably didn’t know that at the time. 
Even if they were proxies sent in by Fuji, it would have been a simple matter to decide to grant them both life at the end of the first game, instead of only Tezuka, and the threat would be gone.  But they'd risked putting him through the game a second time.  Sure, it was to smooth the way for Yanagi and get rid of Arai, probably one of the few remaining Reapers who actually belonged in Seishun's boundaries, but he didn't think they'd anticipated that Arai would get his hands on Taboo Noise and prove to be that much of a threat.  Or that Ryoma would actually erase an old team mate and complete the game again.  He'd been getting strong at that point.  Strong enough that if they tried to erase him forcibly, there was a risk of losing a lot of Reapers while doing so.

The only way to erase him was by using the game.  But then Tezuka had crashed back in illegally, and considerably more powerful himself.
It was all for revenge. Sanada blamed him for Yukimura’s death and was willing to take any risk to have him erased. He’d even gone so far as to hide in UG subspace underneath his house.
Unlucky for Sanada that Ryoma just didn’t know how to lose.
“Whatever your reasons, you’ve gone too far,” Tezuka stated levelly. “I’m sorry that it has come to this, but we will not go quietly.”
“You’re a fool to challenge us,” Sanada said coldly. “We’re far stronger than you.”
“We won’t sit idly by and face erasure,” Tezuka replied steadily.
Yukimura stood and placed a gentle hand on his Conductor’s arm. “You’ve made it this far. I’d think it a terrible shame to lose so much potential. You can still ask to become a Reaper, you know.”
Ryoma’s hands shook as he clutched a pin. “And have you find some way to get rid of us, like you did to Arai?”
Yukimura’s eyes turned cold. “He was useless, and a holdout from past times. I gave him a chance to redeem himself, and he flaunted the rules by creating Taboo Noise.”
“He was just a Wall Reaper. He should never have been made Game Master in the first place,” Tezuka interjected.
There was a long silence as the two sides faced off.
Yukimura sighed and tucked a stray lock of blue hair behind his ear. “There’s no helping it, then.”
Space warped around them.
Unlike the previous battles, Ryoma could feel the energy suffused in the air. It made the flesh on his arms prickle and his ears buzz faintly.
Sanada stood across from him, holding a katana. It was faintly transparent, and the sharp curves of grey and black on the hilt reminded him of the Taboo Noise. “I’ve been looking forward to this moment,” he said, taking stance.
Ryoma adjusted his cap, slipping a pin between his fingers. “Che. All this because you lost a tennis match?”
Sanada’s eyes burned with anger. “It wasn’t just a tennis match!” He dashed forward, swinging the sword down violently. Ryoma dodged easily and parried the follow-up slash. Trying to follow the path of the transparent blade made his eyes hurt, but he matched the Conductor blow for blow. 
“It would have happened either way,” he remarked, parrying another strike and leaping away, taking a minute to rub at his eyes. Sanada darted in again, and he hurriedly fired off a series of force rounds, buying a few seconds to prepare as the Conductor had to change his approach.
“It was because I didn’t make it! I broke our promise!” A thin cut opened on Ryoma’s cheek as he barely avoided the sweep of the blade. 
“Don’t blame me for it. It’s your own fault if you weren’t strong enough to win.” That barb clearly struck, and Sanada charged forward with a new burst of speed. Ryoma hastily spun to the side, grateful for the extra speed that split-step gave him. He hadn’t thought he would be much good against someone trained in swordsmanship, but he seemed to be doing okay so far. Pillars of fire surrounded him, forcing Sanada to back off. 
A pulse of energy throbbed in the air. Ryoma paused. "Buchou?" he called out, worried by the wavering he sensed in the pact.  Sanada was tough, but he was only Conductor - Tezuka was facing off against Composer level power.

After a moment, the bond grew steady again.  "Don't worry about me, pay attention!" Tezuka ordered.
Reflexively, Ryoma started moving again, attacking Sanada relentlessly. He spun and slashed and parried and blocked and battered his opponent with psych after psych after psych. The Conductor was visibly starting to lose his cool as he was pushed back. Taking advantage of his opponent’s hesitation Ryoma summoned a series of tornadoes, then grabbed his lightning pin and sent forth a twisting dragon of electricity. A black cap went flying in the roaring wind.
Ryoma waited as long as he could, then reluctantly released the psychs. When the wind died down Sanada wasn’t standing there any longer. Instead it was Yukimura, eyes closed and wearing a gentle smile.

"Sanada, I think I'd better take over here.”

Ryoma could hear Sanada's voice, even though he'd vanished - presumably into the same frequency zone as Tezuka.  "But Yukimura-"

"I know you're upset, but I also have business to settle with Echizen.  A certain defeat at the Nationals that I feel the need to rectify," he said sweetly. When he opened his eyes they glowed faintly with power. Ryoma took an unconscious step backwards.
He barely dodged the blast of pure white energy – split step was all that saved him. For the first time in a battle, he felt genuine fear. If he didn’t dodge – he wouldn’t have even known what happened. That attack would erase him in one hit. 
“You’re quick on your feet.” Yukimura glowed faintly, surrounded by a barely visibly aura that brightened by the minute. Ryoma cycled through his pins for a moment, trying to gauge which one would be the best bet. Moments later he was scrambling to avoid another blast of energy; this time coming so close it burnt the brim of his cap. He threw it to the side.
Yanagi had been tough.  This was terrifying.  Yukimura was just raw power – it was oppressive and suffocating. It stifled his senses and made it so hard to focus and call his psychs and the music warbled strangely…
He needed to fight back, quickly! He dismissed any psych that took too much concentration – it would make him a sitting duck for that attack. But then…
Yukimura was just standing there. The aura grew brighter slowly.
He had to charge the attack!
That meant there was a chance.
Ryoma switched to his fire pin – it hadn’t let him down yet. A moment of later an enormous pillar of fire surrounded Yukimura, twisting towards the ceiling in an explosion of light and heat.
When smoke cleared, Yukimura was unscathed. Ryoma was so dumbfounded that he almost forgot to dodge the next attack. At the last instant, he threw himself to the side.
The blast only clipped him, but the pain was unbearable. He hit the floor and rolled, eyes screwed shut in agony. It took a moment to force himself up and take a nervous look at his right side. It wasn’t burnt as he expected, but what he saw was so much more frightening – his arm and leg were fuzzed and distorted, wavering between solidity and transparency, twinging with every static flicker.
He couldn’t risk getting hit by that again. Not even another close call.
“Echizen?” Tezuka called, worry clouding his voice.
“Worry about yourself,” he muttered through gritted teeth, pushing himself back into a standing position. After the initial burst of pain his side was slowly turning curiously numb, but he was hardly incapacitated. Just because he couldn’t feel his arm and leg properly didn’t mean that he couldn’t use them. He gathered his wits in time to dodge the next attack.
He grabbed his lightning pin next and sent forth another snapping beam of lightning. It stopped short an arm’s width away from Yukimura, dissipating into harmless static sparks as the air shimmered. Again! How…?
It was a shield! A dome of energy glimmered around Yukimura as he floated some twenty centimetres off the ground.
“Come now, Echizen,” Yukimura coaxed, “I expect better from someone who defeated Renji.”
Desperate, he cycled through pin after pin after pin. Psychokinesis. Force rounds. Energy rounds. Tornadoes. He even risked going in close to try and cut through it. The shield did not falter.
It was like the Nationals all over again. No matter what attack he used, nothing had an effect. Eventually one of Yukimura’s blasts would hit him again, and it would all be over.
Ryoma paused, then sent another strong barrage of force rounds at the shield. It shimmered irregularly, then brightened back to full strength once the barrage ended.
Again he sent another round, eyes focused intensely on the shield.
It shimmered then…
He was right. For just an instant at the end of the barrage, the shield disappeared!
It was like a psych! Even Yukimura couldn’t keep it up for so long without restarting it. He was fast on activation – so fast that it only looked like a flicker. But an instant was enough.
Ryoma twirled a pin in-between his fingers. His eyes were trained on his opponent, noting every twitch, every movement. When Yukimura fired his next impossibly powerful attack, he was well ahead, already moving. It would only work once. He could not miss.
Three tornadoes surrounded the shield, battering it with powerful wind. It held steady. 
“Just because you defeated me at the Nationals does not mean you will do so here. This is different from tennis. I’m much stronger in the UG,” Yukimura stated calmly, completely unaffected.
Ryoma didn’t respond. He clutched his fire pin next. Flames curled from the ground, sucked towards the Composer by the wind into one massive firestorm. He was obscured from sight by an all-encompassing wall of flame.
“Two psychs at once. I’ll acknowledge that you have some promise, but it’s nowhere near enough to defeat me!” Yukimura sounded outwardly sure of himself, but Ryoma could swear he heard hesitation in the words.
Straining to keep the other two psychs active, Ryoma activated his lightning pin next, running towards his target. A dragon of lightning leapt forth, twisting and darting towards the firestorm, a giant monster of electricity crackling hungrily through the air. It blasted into the shield at full speed.
“Even then, it’s not enough!” Yukimura called. “Was that your best shot?” The flames and lightning cleared before him.
For just an instant, the shield was down. In that instant, Ryoma struck.
Yukimura’s eyes widened as he looked down. He shakily took a step back. 
The psych blade Ryoma held sputtered and died.
Yukimura staggered away, clutching at his chest. “Impossible… All that power… just to hide such a simple attack…”
Ryoma struggled to catch his breath. It was only for a moment, but if his opponent wasn’t expecting it, a moment was long enough for him to get past the shield.
“No…” Yukimura coughed weakly. “No, I was the strongest… the strongest…” His image distorted and fuzzed erratically. 
Then, without any fanfare whatsoever, he was simply gone. Erased.
“Yukimu-!” Sanada’s strangled cry was cut short.
A second later, Tezuka reappeared by his side. The giant room was suddenly eerily silent.
"Heh."  Ryoma smirked, but it felt a bit wobbly.  "Game, set and match." He sank to his knees.
“Echizen! Your-”
“It’ll be okay, I can’t feel it at all,” he insisted, and focused blearily on his partner. Tezuka was sporting a couple of nasty-looking cuts that were oozing blood. “You should take care of that first.”
Naturally Tezuka ignored him, fumbling for his healing pin and laying him down. It took a while to restore his right arm and leg properly, and Ryoma had a feeling that he’d have pins and needles for a while, but soon enough he was able to bully the senior into taking care of his own injuries. In a reasonable amount of time they were both more or less patched up. Ryoma didn’t really feel like moving from his position in Tezuka’s arms just yet, though. Tezuka didn’t seem in a real rush to go anywhere, either.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” the senior asked.
“M’fine,” he mumbled. “You’re really good with that pin.”
“That wasn’t what I meant, exactly.”
Ah, that. "It's funny," Ryoma said, stretching a hand in front of him. It remained reassuringly solid.  "I don't... it's not calling, anymore.  The music is still there, but it's like there something else..."
There was one part of their plan - to take out the Composer before the Game could take them out - that they had forgotten about.
"You took his place," Tezuka breathed.  Ryoma defeated Yukimura. And whoever defeated the Composer...
Ryoma sat up abruptly, suddenly excited. “We did it. Buchou, we did it.”
Tezuka nodded slowly. “We did…”
The sound of clapping echoed through the cavernous chamber. A familiar figure walked towards them.
"Fuji, what are you doing here?" Tezuka asked. Ryoma reached for a pin.

The enigmatic prodigy was unfazed, sticking his hands in his pockets and greeting them with a smile. "I'm here to say hello the new Composer, of course."
Ryoma glared. “This is all your fault. You used us! You’re one of those people from the higher plane,” he accused.
Fuji held up his hands disarmingly. “You caught me. I’ve been the Producer of Seishun for quite a while.”
“Producer?” Tezuka asked.
“That’s right. I spend most of my time in the RG, of course. We're not really allowed to interfere directly.  Our job is technically just to make sure that the Composers don't go breaking any rules."

Ryoma scowled.  "And nobody stopped Yukimura?"
Fuji’s smile grew a little strained. “Ah, well, that was a bit of a messy affair, you see. We don’t get too many people trying to take over other UGs – one is usually enough work as it is. The pair of them took over quite a few before they reached here, but I couldn’t just let them waltz on through.”
“So you killed us,” Ryoma stated coldly.
“No need to put it so harshly. And Tezuka wasn't planned.  I just thought that since Echizen defeated Yukimura in tennis even when he had the advantage of Composer powers, then he'd definitely be able to manage on a level playing field."  Fuji's smile faltered a little there.  "However I didn't take Sanada's grudge into account."
“So you gave me the gun, so that I could re-enter the game and Echizen could survive the last week,” Tezuka surmised.
“Actually,” Fuji said, “I thought you’d use the gun to take out Sanada or Yukimura in the RG. But that way worked too.” 
Ryoma actually had to hide a grin at the look of utter incredulity on his partner’s face. 
Fuji sighed dramatically. “And even my back up plan with Arai failed spectacularly.”
The grin disappeared and was replaced by a scowl. “You were the one who taught him how to make Taboo Noise?”
Fuji rubbed the back of his head. “Saa… I’ll probably get into a bit of a trouble for that. But hopefully with the circumstances…”
Ryoma didn’t believe for an instant that Fuji had done anything he couldn’t wriggle out of. Before he could remark as such, Tezuka haltingly enquired, “Fuji, one more thing. My Player Pin…”
The Producer smiled cheerily. “Oh, that? I actually make the Player Pins for the game. You just happened to get a special batch…”
Ryoma rolled his eyes. “Hedge your bets much?” he mumbled. 
Fuji diplomatically ignored that comment. “It all worked out in the end. Although things are going to be a bit hectic for a while.  Thanks to Yukimura's little escapade, all of the wards between Seishun and Rikkai are without a Composer."
Ryoma felt his skin crawl at the thought. “I don’t have to take over all those UGs too, do I?” He’d be running Games every other week!
“Oh, you don’t need to worry about anything other than Seishun. The Producers for those wards will step in temporarily until replacement Composers can be found.”
A small relief. “So what now?” he asked. He wanted to hear the so-called ‘Producer’ out before he introduced him to a few friendly psychs, and maybe a good old-fashioned punch to the face while he was at it.
“You’re Composer now, so it’s mostly up to you. Although…” Fuji shuffled his feet briefly, smile growing a little strained again. “I’m sorry to say that Echizen can’t return to the RG anymore. It would be difficult even if you weren’t Composer… As it is, it’s sort of amazing that you haven’t ascended already, but I suppose we have Tezuka to thank for that.”
At that instant Ryoma felt cold, but he knew what he had to do. Knew it would be the hardest thing he’d ever done, but it was the right thing to do.
Dark brown eyes turned to him. Tezuka seemed to have already guessed what he was thinking. “Not without you.”
“You already gave up so much.” Tezuka had earned his chance to return to life. It wasn’t fair that he threw it away just to save him. It was in his power to give it back.
“It doesn’t mean anything if-”
He smiled faintly and pulled the senior down, gently pressing their lips together for the briefest of moments. “Thanks, Buchou. I couldn’t have made it without you,” he murmured into the kiss. Ryoma closed his eyes and instinctively sought out the power, tendrils of music whispering instructions in his ears. He couldn’t hesitate for even a moment, or he’d lose his resolve.
“No, Ryoma-!”
Tezuka disappeared in a flash of light.
Ryoma took a deep breath, and shakily felt his way to the throne. The loss of the pact always hit hard. His legs felt weak after expending that much energy, and he gratefully sat down.
“Not bad for your first go. You didn’t even need instructions,” Fuji commented approvingly. “I made a good choice.”
“Shut up,” Ryoma mumbled tiredly.  He was dead for good now, Composer or not. He’d grown used to the idea over the past three weeks, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t a depressing notion.
It looked like he wouldn’t be able to keep his promise after all. But Tezuka was safe. That was all that counted.
A small mewl echoed off the walls of the cavern. A moment later, Karupin ran up to his former master, apparently having sensed that the course was clear. The newly christened Composer bent down and picked the Noise up, hugging him to his chest. It was very quiet all of a sudden, and the already large cavern felt oppressively enormous.
“Are you sure it was the right thing to do?” Fuji eventually asked, breaking the heavy silence.
“You’re still here?” Ryoma replied dully. “Don’t think I’m going to forgive you for everything you’ve done so easily.”
The senior, Angel, Producer – whatever he was – seemed to sense he’d pushed his luck enough for one day. “I’ll come around again tomorrow and tell you about the rest of the rules and workings of the Game, then.”
“Whatever.” He stroked his cat’s fur – it was a mixture of chocolate brown and swirls of coffee now, and his tail was sort of spiky, but the motion was still familiar and soothing. Ryoma didn’t look up until he sensed Fuji was gone.
Now the room was truly silent – or as silent as it could ever be. Music still filtered through to him – snatches of melodies that flowed past his ears, and a gentle beat that he suspected was the heartbeat of the UG. It appeared that the term Composer was more than just a name.
With a sigh, he rolled his head back and stared up at the black ceiling. It was so terribly overdramatic. He’d need to redecorate.
At least he had Karupin. It could have been a lot worse.
Game Over.
The alarm trilled. Tezuka opened his eyes. It was Sunday.
He got dressed slowly. There was movement downstairs, and when he headed down his mother was in the middle of putting breakfast out on the table. “Good morning Kunimitsu,” she greeted cheerfully. “Did you sleep well?”
He sat down. “Yes, thank you.”
“You have practice this morning?” she asked.
It was hard to remember. Eventually, he nodded. There was usually practice on Sunday mornings – no reason that one should be any different. She smiled and served out his food. “Just a moment, I’ll go drag your father out of bed.” Clucking her tongue, she left the room. 
His grandfather came in a moment later. They exchanged customary greetings and waited for the rest of the family to arrive before starting breakfast. His father was the last one into the dining room; yawning hugely and blinking the sleep back from his eyes. His grandfather made several disapproving remarks, and his father made several excuses about work as they started breakfast.
It was so normal. 
“Kunimitsu… is something the matter?” His mother sounded concerned.
Belatedly, he realised that he’d stopped eating. “No… I don’t think so.” His chest felt strangely tight. He clutched his chopsticks harder. 
His father shooed her away. “It’s only been a couple of weeks since that freshman in your club died, hasn’t it? It’s alright to grieve.”
Grieving? That was right. Echizen. It was such a loss for the club, such a tragedy. So much potential that would never be realised. But it had almost been a month – he shouldn’t keep dwelling on it. He needed to hold it together for the team – especially since some of the juniors had been absent, and Inui was grieving over Yanagi as well.
“Better that the dead be honoured by moving on,” his grandfather said gravely. “When my times comes, I don’t want anyone moping about.”
“You’ll probably outlive us all,” his father mumbled.
Tezuka felt numb. There was something important. Something he’d forgotten…
“It’s fine,” he replied, and resumed eating. His parents exchanged a glance, but nothing more was said.
An hour later he was riding the bus to Seigaku. The scenery scrolled past in a blur of colour. A college student nearby was listening to her music so loud that it could be heard even through the headphones. A businessman was leafing through a magazine. A freshman student who regularly caught the same bus was asleep in the back, but woke up just as they arrived at their stop. The routine never changed.
Tezuka paused after disembarking. Something felt different about the bus stop. He glanced at the display, but the clock affirmed that the bus had arrived right on time as usual. Nothing was out of place – students with clubs that had Sunday practices were shuffling past, chattering amongst themselves. Traffic rumbled on the street nearby, drowning out the twitter of birdsong and rustling of the wind.
The feeling of forgetfulness grew more intense. Bothered, he checked his racquet bag, searching for whatever it was he might have left behind. His racquet, wristbands and grip tape were all there, though. He checked his pockets next. Phone and wallet were there too.
His fingers brushed against an unfamiliar object. Curious, he pulled it from his pocket.
It was a small round black pin with an odd skull design on it. A hairline crack zigzagged across the centre. How unusual. It didn’t look like something of his – Tezuka was never one to accessorise, and certainly not with something in that sort of style - but there was something odd about the pin that he found strangely compelling. 
“Tezuka!” Oishi waved from the school gates and ran up to greet him. He paused a couple of steps away. “Tezuka… are you… crying?”
Tezuka tentatively raised a hand to his face, confused when he felt the tracks of water there. “I… I don’t-”
“Is something the matter? Did something happen? Are you hurt? Do you need to see a doctor?” Oishi fretted. Tezuka had never cried in front of him before – not even when his arm had been injured or their senpai would pick on him.
“No, no, I’m… just…” He blinked rapidly and wiped away the tears. Why was he crying? He wasn’t sad, or in pain. He gripped the pin tighter in his hands.
He didn’t understand. What was he crying for?
“I’m fine,” he eventually said. “Practice is about to begin.” 
Oishi looked as though he was about to say something else, but thought better of it. “I’ll… I’ll go on ahead and get things started then. You take your time.”
“Thank you.”
The vice-captain hurried off, sending one last worried glance back at him. 
Out of the corner of his eye, Tezuka thought he caught a glimpse of a white cap across the road. As he turned to look, a truck drove by. By the time it passed, the footpath was empty.
Tezuka stared at the cracked black pin in his hand for a long time, fingers carefully tracing the edges. He carefully slid it back into his pocket, and set off towards the courts at a light jog. He was going to be late for practice.



( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 6th, 2008 04:41 am (UTC)
Sep. 6th, 2008 03:15 pm (UTC)

Is it okay to say I kind of like this ending? (oh, i have been wondering exactly how to say this for a while, ahaha.) I mean, the game finally works right, and Tezuka loses his memories of it. <3

Also, you make me want to hate Rikkai, but I can't because they're so human and vulnerable and I'm just really sad that they were erased. ;____;

also, mmm, Karupin is pretty. *______________*
Sep. 6th, 2008 06:08 am (UTC)
Oh my gosh, it gives me the feeling of one of those 'Choose Your Own Adventure' Goosebump endings. ;___; Ryoma's casual acceptance of his death, Noise!Karupin, Tezuka not remembering...

*bawls* The tears at the end really got me. Poor boys. How could you?!

Haha, actually...this non-happy ending is kinda refreshing. ONCE IN A WHILE. Yes, once in a while.

I'm looking forward to happier TezuRyo from you soon!
Sep. 6th, 2008 06:13 am (UTC)

Sep. 6th, 2008 06:34 am (UTC)
Sep. 6th, 2008 07:14 am (UTC)


Sep. 6th, 2008 10:12 am (UTC)
~sigh~ that was bittersweet...but it's good XD...
Sep. 6th, 2008 01:40 pm (UTC)

He doesn't remember! *cries* But I think I feel more sorry for Ryoma because he only has Fuji and Karupin to talk to. T_T

Sep. 6th, 2008 05:37 pm (UTC)
*a river of tears*...Oh poor Ryoma and Tezuka...how could you seperate them? and Tezuka doesn't remember anything of the game...it's such a bittersweet ending...I enjoy it very much...thank you very much for writting *dozen of red roses and a box of chocolate* ^__^
Sep. 6th, 2008 05:47 pm (UTC)
Wah. It's so sad; but strangely fitting. It's sad to think that Ryoma will also eventually be erased. Fuji--we all knew he was involved somehow. XDD Tezuka forgetting, that's pretty sad too....

It was a nice ending though. It feels like everything's complete, though not perfect. Voyeur!Yanagi makes me want to laugh.
Sep. 6th, 2008 07:45 pm (UTC)
You certainly chose the ending that made me happy... sad as it was in the end. :\ These kinds of endings are my favourites, and it fit so well, too.

Beautifully written, bittersweet ending = the ultimate win.
Sep. 6th, 2008 11:37 pm (UTC)




Although I have to say this is ending is quite epic because it's so bittersweet. And beautiful. I'd always suspected Yukimura was Composer if Sanada was Conductor, but Fuji asdfghjkl; Well anyway, spectacularly written!
Sep. 7th, 2008 10:46 am (UTC)

As bittersweet as it is that Ryoma and Tezuka aren't together and Ryoma becomes the Game Master, it sorta works out. The way he was becoming, it would feel like a bit of a letdown if he just went back to the RG. For some reason, I had a sneaky feeling Nanjiroh was behind it (come on, the house? Karupin? Your tendency to make him evil? XP) but in the end it felt right that Yukimura and Sanada were the ultimate culprits.

“Yukimu-!” *laughs* You didn't even let him finish it~

;______________; Ryoma is still watching over him. And it sucked that Buchou didn't even realise why he was crying. I almost wish that Tezuka would die again... *shakes head* But that would spawn off way too much. XP And as you said, it's just me spurring you to write til infinity!

*hugs* Thank you Sin! Such lovely fic ending to read while I'm stuck at home!
Sep. 10th, 2008 08:44 am (UTC)
I THOUGHT ECHIZEN HAD ERASED TEZUKA. OR MADE HIM ASCEND. NOT RETURNED HIM TO THE REAL WORLD. BUT. BUT. I love this ending, you know. It feels right. I really like it far more than I'd have enjoyed a happy ending or a really sad ending - and no, I don't actually view this as 'sad'.

Can I kill Fuji. Like, for real? Or erase him somehow? Please?

ILU, Sin ♥

(You'll have to forgive that I love amnesia!Tezuka more, though.)
Sep. 10th, 2008 09:57 am (UTC)
You're back from your adventures! ♥

Hee, you can thank Kaori for convincing me to go with this ending. I was being indecisive over it. Glad you liked it.

OH GOD, WHY WOULD RYOMA ERASE TEZUKA?! :O Ascension maybe, but...

(Amnesia!Tezuka would always win every contest. No hard feelings. :D)
Sep. 10th, 2008 11:55 am (UTC)
I am. Somehow. =D

OH I'LL MAKE SURE TO THANK HER. I really, really like this ending. I actually feared you'd go with something more drastic, like, I don't know, have them both be erased and Rikkai win or something.

I DON'T KNOW. I GUESS. BECAUSE THAT WAY HE WOULDN'T HAVE THE URGE TO KEEP ON CHECKING ON TEZUKA EVERY SINGLE MOMENT. WHICH HE TOTALLY CAN NOW, IN THAT WEIRD MODE. LIKE, INVISIBLE TO TEZUKA. OR SOMETHING. AND. AND. EHEHEHEH. Tezuka will keep on feeling someone's watching him. He'll get all paranoid and stuff, because, really, he always makes sure he's alone when he takes a bath. >DD

Sep. 24th, 2008 07:48 am (UTC)
Oh. Oh gosh. This ending broke my heart. I am holding firmly to the idea that Tezuka will die again and become a Reaper and slowly ascend to being Ryoma's Conductor.
Sep. 24th, 2008 09:11 am (UTC)
That is the future I like to nurture inside my head, I admit. ;)

I'm so amazed you read through the whole thing in one sitting, though! And commented on every chapter, too! ♥ I want to reply to them all, but I'm a bit short of time at the moment. Thanks for reading!
Nov. 4th, 2008 03:36 pm (UTC)
this series was amazing, i was a pleasure to read all the chapter this morning. It makes me sad about the ending but i found beautiful that Tezuka is crying without knowing why. i can picture him, he looks beautiful.
Nov. 14th, 2008 12:09 am (UTC)
This whole series is just so fantastic. I love AUs, because I sorta was dissatisfied with how the series ended, but this one just seems to imbibe the essence of the characters in a new setting so well.

And Ryoma, whyyyyy, be selfishhhh!
Nov. 14th, 2008 09:37 am (UTC)
Hee, thank you, glad you liked it. Can't say I was super pleased with the ending of the series either! Although with Prince of Afterschool and the new manga coming out next year, we shall see how things go. I think I'm becoming more of a fan of the fandom than the original work itself.

Feb. 22nd, 2009 09:50 am (UTC)
*cries* This was a BRILLIANT story, but the end is so bittersweet and heartbreaking. (;_;)

Stunning and sad. Yep.
Feb. 22nd, 2009 10:09 am (UTC)
Oh dear. You seem to reading all of my tragedies. I do write happy endings too! XD
Jan. 25th, 2010 08:04 pm (UTC)
I read this few days ago and I'm just blown away by this. I don't know the game but it wasn't a problem at all. This fic is haunting, that's the best word I can come up and the ending is... it's the perfect ending, even if it is sad. Poor Tezuka and poor Ryoma.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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