Changechildren (Prince of Tennis)
By Haruka (email@example.com)
It started with a broken doorknob.
Echizen Ryoma and Momoshiro Takeshi were heading out of the clubhouse with their tennis gear for practice.
"After I beat you, will you buy my burgers, Momo-senpai?"
"You'll have to actually BEAT me first, Echizen." Momoshiro winked.
"Yeah, and after that, you're buying, right?"
Momoshiro laughed at Ryoma's assumption that he'd win. It was so like him. "We'll talk about it afterwards," he promised and went to open the door. The knob broke off in his hand.
"What the --?" Momo said as he and Ryoma looked at the doorknob in his hand. "Did it fall out or something?"
Ryoma peered at the spot where the knob had been. "Momo-senpai," he said slowly, gazing up at him with wide gold eyes. "It didn't fall out – it snapped in half. You broke it."
Momoshiro stared at him, then back at the doorknob. "But … how?"
At that moment, Fuji Syuusuke was running late for practice himself. It wasn't his fault, really. At least, he didn't think it was.
People kept stopping him. Once they had done so, they didn't want to let him go on.
He had just managed to ditch two classmates when he rounded a corner and came face-to-face with one of his teachers. Their eyes met.
"Shido-sensei!" Fuji gasped, putting a hand over his heart. "Thank goodness it's you. You startled me."
"Fuji-kun," the teacher said, regarding him with an expression Fuji had never seen an adult direct at him before. "You're looking VERY beautiful today."
Considering Fuji didn't think he looked any different than he had three hours ago when this man had taught his class, the comment made him uneasy. Not to mention the obvious desire in the teacher's eyes. "I – I have to go, sensei," Fuji stammered and tried to move around him. Shido-sensei caught his arm.
"Don't go," he pleaded. "Stay with me, Fuji-kun."
The fourteen-year-old's aqua eyes bore angrily into the teacher's. "Let go and don't ever touch me again!"
Instantly, Shido-sensei released him. Fuji wasted no more time and ran down the hall, heading for the tennis courts.
Ryuzaki Sumire watched as her tennis team of Seigaku Regulars began practice. Some of them already seemed a little off their game, and Fuji had arrived late, which was almost as unusual as Kaidoh not having shown up at all. For some reason, a distracted Tezuka Kunimitsu hadn't ordered the petite Senior to run laps for his tardiness, but that was his perogative as Captain. She noticed that Inui Sadaharu was rubbing his eyes in a way that concerned her.
"Inui!" she called out. "Is something wrong with your eyes? Glasses need a new prescription?"
"No, Ryuzaki-sensei," the data expert assured her. "It's just a headache."
"All right," she said, and looked over at the far court where Kikumaru Eiji, Momoshiro, and Ryoma were watching Oishi Syuichirou trying to pry a tennis ball from between the wires of the mesh fence. She hadn't seen what happened, but she could guess. "Momoshiro! You did that?"
The Sophomore looked apologetic, helpless, and sheepish all at once. "Yes, Sensei, but I didn't mean –"
"I'm sure you didn't," she said. It wasn't unusual for her power players to do such a thing. Why it embarrassed Momo now, she had no idea.
Sumire saw that Kawamura Takashi was still drinking water and hadn't yet set foot on the court. "Kawamura, are you part camel? Get a move on and grab your racquet – Fuji is waiting to play with you!"
"Oh, uh, yes Sensei." Kawamura wiped his mouth and headed toward Fuji, who held out his racquet for him.
"Here you are, Taka-san." He smiled.
Kawamura grinned shyly at Fuji and accepted the racquet. His expression began to change, and with it, his personality. Sumire turned away, but could still hear him get fired up like he usually did.
"Awwwwright, baby, I'm BURNING!"
Fuji's sudden scream made Sumire spin back to witness a horrifying sight.
Kawamura had burst into flames.
Sumire was still shaking when the doctor released Kawamura and asked to speak to her privately.
"First, let me reassure you that Kawamura-kun is fine –"
"He spontaneously combusted, doctor. That is NOT fine."
"Nevertheless, he's unharmed, Ryuzaki-san." The doctor folded his hands and leaned forward on the desk. "Truthfully, this is happening with alarming frequency lately."
"Children catching on fire?" Sumire asked, expecting a chuckle in return. It worried her when she didn't receive one.
"Not specifically, but strange occurrences involving children around Kawamura's age. Authorities are still trying to determine the cause, but the fact is that whatever has caused it, these kids are evolving and taking on unusual abilities." He opened a notebook and began writing something down. "I'm giving you the contact number for a woman named Hanamura Aoi. She's the –"
Ryuzaki held up a hand. "I know who Hanamura-san is. Where does she fit into this?"
"She was the first in the area to bring in students showing signs of evolvement."
Although his expression was the same as always as he road the train home, Tezuka was worried about his teammates. After Kawamura was taken to the doctor, Momoshiro and Echizen had confessed to what happened in the clubhouse. Fuji said that people had been acting strangely around him all day, but didn't see how that could be his fault. Inui was suffering from a massive headache that he just couldn't shake and wasn't much help with ideas on what was going on. But then, how COULD he know what would cause one of his teammates to become a human pillar of fire?
Tezuka's cell phone rang, and as he went to pull it out of his pocket, he both saw and felt a blue spark of electric shock. It hadn't hurt him, but when he checked the phone, he found it had shorted out. Why on Earth had that happened?
The train started a curve and Tezuka took hold of the metal post in the middle of the car for balance. Static crackled around his palm and another man who had already been holding the same pole yanked his hand back with a cry of pain. Tezuka tried to pull his own hand back but couldn't, and the pole was suddenly crackling up and down its length with visible electric current. The lights in the car began flashing on and off and the other passengers screamed and pointed at Tezuka, who was now fighting to free his hand from the pole.
The power went out entirely and Tezuka fell back onto the floor, tiny sparks dancing around the metal rim of his glasses. The train doors opened and everyone hurried off, whether it was their stop or not, including Tezuka.
He needed to get to a phone and call Ryuzaki-sensei.
Sumire wrapped her hands around the cup of tea that Hanamura Aoi placed in front of her.
"I'm glad you came, Ryuzaki-san," the beautiful redhead confessed, sitting across from her. "I know we haven't always gotten along in the past, but for the sake of the children, I hope we can put that aside and move on."
"I'm all for that, Hanamura-san," Sumire replied and sipped the tea. "But exactly WHAT is going on with the kids? The doctor was rather vague."
Aoi sighed. "That's because the cause of all this is still a mystery. For some reason, only tennis players seem to have been affected, and only junior high level, at that. But not all of them – at least not yet. Only three of my Masterpieces have shown signs of being Changechildren."
"'Changechildren'?" Sumire repeated. "There's a name for this now?"
"It's not spoken of widely for obvious reasons, but yes, that's what they're calling them." Aoi pushed a hand through her hair and gave Sumire an earnest look. "Two days ago, the Tanaka twins collapsed onto the tennis court during a practice match. Both of them at the same time, covering their ears, their eyes clenched shut, wailing in pain. We were all at a loss as to what was wrong or how to help them. I managed to get them to the doctor, and by then they weren't screaming anymore, but kept begging me to 'make the voices go away.'" She looked down into her cup of tea. "It turned out that their already extra-acute sight and hearing had increased to levels that go off the charts. They were hearing conversations happening in the next BUILDING. Their eyesight was magnifying even specks of dust into large, exact detail – they could barely walk for fear of tripping over something that normal people wouldn't even notice."
"My God," Sumire murmured. "How are they now?"
"Better," Aoi assured her. "After a few hours, the intensity had settled back to normal, but the capability for amplified hearing and sight is still there. When they focus on it, they can use it, but right now they're wary of not being able to turn it off again, so they haven't tried much." She smiled ruefully. "And there's more. They can speak telepathically to each other now. That they HAVE been experimenting with, and I find it rather disconcerting."
"You said there were three of your players with this problem. Who is the other?"
"My Captain, Kajimoto Takahisa. Did you feel that earthquake yesterday morning?"
"It woke me up," Sumire admitted.
"Takahisa confessed to me that he thinks he caused it. He doesn't know how, but the first quake was an accident, he says, and occurred when he was having a nightmare. The three aftershocks were deliberate attempts to see if he could do it again."
"Are you sure he's not just pulling your leg?"
"I wish that were true," Aoi told her. "If it was Wakato, I might believe that to be the case, but Takahisa isn't the type to do so. After all, admitting to something like this could easily make him sound crazy, and why would he want that?"
Sumire snorted wryly. "It sounds crazy, anyway. All of it." She sighed. "But I can't pretend that I didn't see what happened to Kawamura today." Her cell phone rang. "Excuse me," she said, and spoke into it, "Yes? … Tezuka? … What's wrong? You sound strange."
Aoi watched the colour drain from Sumire's face. "What is it?" she asked worriedly.
Sumire looked at her. "Tezuka has had an incident. Something to do with electricity – he's charging or shorting out everything he touches." She turned back to the phone. "Tezuka, stay where you are. I'm going to pick you up." She hung up and gave Aoi an apologetic glance. "I have to go."
"By all means," Aoi replied. "But please, keep me posted." She jumped slightly as her own phone rang and she answered it. "Hello …? Sakaki-san?"
Sumire paused. Sakaki Tarou was the Coach of the Hyotei tennis team.
Aoi had closed her eyes as if trying to will away the news she was hearing. "Yes, as a matter of fact, there HAVE been some strange incidents here at Jyousei, and at Seigaku, as well. In fact, Ryuzaki-san is here with me – we were discussing it." She paused to listen, her eyes growing wide. She looked over at Sumire.
"Whatever it is, Ryuzaki-san, it's affected members of the Hyotei team, too."
"Well, damn," Sumire stated. "Tell Sakaki I'll be in touch. If this is spreading like it seems to be, we'll need as much information from each other as we can share." She headed for the door. "In the meantime, I've got to go pick up my team Captain and try to figure out why he's become his own power source."
Sakaki Tarou hung up his phone and shivered involuntarily. He turned to look toward Atobe Keigo, Captain of his Hyotei team, their very own Ice Emperor.
Only now, it wasn't just a nickname.
The entire office was coated in a fine layer of glittering ice, including his desk and all the items on its surface. Atobe had his palm held in front of him, and he was forming ice cubes in it, then blowing on them gently to make them melt into water, which he would once again form into ice cubes. He didn't seem to be affected by the sub-zero temperature of the room at all, but then, he was apparently the one generating it.
"So," Atobe said casually, "does anyone have a clue or not?"
"It's happening at other schools," Tarou replied, fighting to keep his teeth from chattering. "Jyousei and Seigaku."
Atobe closed his hand over the ice cubes. "Seigaku?" He frowned slightly. "I tried calling Tezuka earlier, but he didn't answer."
"Ryuzaki-san was going to pick him up. There was an incident on the train home."
Atobe's frown deepened.
End of Part 1
Prince of Tennis belongs to Konomi Takeshi.
This fic is not to be re-posted.