Tezuka Kunimitsu was, frankly speaking, very surprised.
Really, he was.
Well, wouldn’t you be if Atobe Keigo, yes the Atobe Keigo of Hyoutei Gakuen, had abruptly called you up and asked whether you’d like to come over to his place and have a cup of tea the coming Sunday.
Or, to put it more accurately, it was a demand that made absolutely no room for backing out even if one tried. Just that it was cleverly masked to sound like a request. But Tezuka had had enough experience to see through a cover up when it slapped him in the face – figuratively of course.
Thus knowing that the Hyoutei Tennis Club Captain could be one to be reckoned with when absolutely irate (he sounded quite unlike his usual pompous self to a trained ear), Tezuka had agreed to the request. Privately, Tezuka was a little bewildered by everything that had transpired in the mere minutes the phone call took. But he did have an inkling to what it could be about.
So on that particular Sunday afternoon at around teatime, Tezuka found himself being ushered into an elaborately decorated lounge in Atobe’s huge mansion by a butler. And that was only after weaving through a good number of corridors and entering a few more doorways. Tezuka had always known he had a very good memory, but he had lost count after the seventh turn down the corridors he and the butler had taken. He wondered absently how Atobe managed to find his way around without getting hopelessly lost. Then again, the young man had spent all his life in said mansion.
Sitting on one of the plush armchairs in that lounge was Atobe himself, who, by all standards, did not look very pleased. When Tezuka walked in and the butler announced his presence, however, a smile immediately slipped onto Atobe’s face and he welcomed the bespectacled young man and thanked him (as far as thanking went in Atobe’s context) for coming. Tezuka could see quite clearly that the other young man was clearly trying hard to put up his usual attitude just to make everything seem normal.
But he made no move to comment about it yet, simply sitting down on another armchair and sipping at tea from a cup that was already on the coffee table. Atobe would get to the point sooner or later. Therefore, he listened to Atobe’s attempt at small talk by asking about the Seigaku tennis team and he replied with as much as was needed.
But after ten minutes of such idle and increasingly dry conversation, Tezuka decided that he had to prompt Atobe to talk about what he really wanted to. There was just no possible way that Atobe would have invited him over just to talk about how his tennis team was faring. If it was about such a simple matter, the other could’ve, and would’ve, just called.
“Atobe,” he said quietly, cutting the other halfway through speaking. He noted for once that Atobe didn’t seem to be annoyed when he was interrupted.
“I’d appreciate it if you got to the point already,” Tezuka said, calmly keeping eye contact with the young man seated on the armchair diagonally next to him. “It’s obvious that you did not call me over just to find out how my team is faring over the past few months.”
A look of surprise passed momentarily over Atobe’s face, but it disappeared the next second. Instead, a half-smirk graced Atobe’s features and he replied, “So you figured it out, eh Tezuka?” He did not wait for a response before continuing, “Yes, Ore-sama does have other matters to… discuss with you. They concern two other people we’re acquainted with. I believe you’re very well acquainted with one of them.”
“I see.” It was the equivalent of telling the other to continue speaking.
“One of them is Fuji Syuusuke, and the other is Jirou.”
There was a long pause, Atobe obviously waiting for Tezuka to make some sort of a comment. But it did not happen. Tezuka merely sat there with his usual expressionless face on; the only indication that he was listening was his hazel-brown eyes that were looking straight at Atobe. The silence lasted a while longer before Atobe finally decided to continue.
“I’ve come to notice that for the past few months that Jirou has been more active than usual.”
“That’s good for you, isn’t it?”
Atobe continued to speak, as if Tezuka had not interrupted him, “However, he has also been spending a lot more time with Fuji. That, I’m sure you would’ve noticed too, Tezuka. They have been meeting each other, alone more often than not, many times over the past weekends, sometimes even during the school week, and it… unsettles me.”
Tezuka knew that what was left unsaid was, “Ore-sama does not get unsettled easily”, for he knew that Atobe prided himself as being ‘above all mortals to be worried and unsettled about trivial matters’. That was in Atobe’s own words. He vaguely remembered hearing it once.
Which meant that the matter of Akutagawa and Fuji hanging out was of a major concern to Atobe.
Major enough for Atobe to invite him over to discuss it.
Something that would never usually happen because the other was not one who asks for help.
“What is it about their meetings that unsettles you? Are you worried that Fuji will use the opportunity to gather information?”
“If it were that data collector of yours, Inui, then I’d be more worried about that, Tezuka,” Atobe replied wryly. “It is not about the tennis aspect of their meetings that unsettles Ore-sama.”
There was a long silence as Atobe waited for Tezuka to clue in. The silence was stretched a little longer for Tezuka could hardly believe what Atobe was insinuating and had to go over it in his head a few more times before he finally spoke.
“Do you not trust Akutagawa, Atobe?”
Atobe cast Tezuka a disbelieving, almost insulted look at his suggestion. Then he replied tersely, “Ore-sama trusts Jirou. However, Ore-sama does not trust-”
“I trust Fuji.” And it was true.
“Of course you do,” the other replied dismissively, with something that sounded like a bitter chuckle. “But you don’t know what happens when they meet each other, do you?” It sounded more like a statement than a question.
Tezuka’s silence sufficed as confirmation to Atobe that the bespectacled young man did not have a clear idea of what happened. “Well then, Ore-sama shall enlighten you.”
Following which, he snapped his fingers. Promptly, a butler – Tezuka noted it was a different one – appeared with a relatively large envelope and handed it to Atobe.
As Atobe opened the flap, he explained to Tezuka, “This envelope contains photographs of Jirou and Fuji’s meetings for about the past two months.”
It occurred then to Tezuka that Atobe had hired a private investigator to spy on Fuji and Akutagawa.
While he knew that Atobe was extremely flashy, adored attention and often did things with exaggerated effect, this… this definitely topped the whole list of things the rich young man had done before. Atobe was unsettled enough (well, thoroughly unnerved would be better to describe) to do something so drastic. It was as if Atobe was suspecting that Akutagawa and Fuji were having an illicit affair. In fact, that was what Atobe had been implying all along, though more specifically; it was that Fuji was trying to seduce the other.
At this very moment, Tezuka really thought that the title of Hyoutei’s ‘Drama Queen’ should belong to Atobe instead of Shishido Ryou.
Nevertheless, he still took the thick wad of photos handed to him wordlessly and started looking through them. The first fifty shots were pretty normal photos of the duo playing tennis against and with each other as well as some showing them having a meal together afterwards. Tezuka found nothing wrong with the photos. It merely looked like they were good friends hanging out.
However, as he continued scanning through the rest of the photos, he saw things that he decided would probably leave Atobe very unsettled. Especially since Atobe did not know Fuji very well.
In Tezuka’s opinion, Fuji was just being friendly to Akutagawa, though maybe a little overly so. He had a nagging suspicion about the reason, and it grew with each photo he looked at. Despite this, if an unbiased person were to look at it, he would find nothing seriously wrong with duo’s interaction. Note the word ‘unbiased’. Which meant Atobe definitely didn’t fall under that category.
Atobe was already quite wary of Fuji due to his unpredictability, even more so when it was off the tennis courts. Couple that with Akutagawa’s great interest in Fuji, you’ll get an equation for disaster if one of the variables – i.e. Fuji (who was a lot of variables simplified into one) – was placed incorrectly. The equation was already in ‘Disaster Zone’ from what Tezuka could see. He also knew that Atobe was waiting for him to say something about the photos.
“They’re both doing things that friends would when out together,” Tezuka answered honestly. He really could not see what was wrong with the whole picture.
He saw Atobe trying his hardest not to bristle in anger at his statement, and for some reason felt even more amused. Really, Tezuka decided, Fuji is rubbing off me. He watched the other seethe silently for a few more moments, mentally bracing himself for the explosion that he was sure would follow.
True enough, it did happen, though much more controlled than what Tezuka had expected. But this was Atobe, and with just that said, he was different from the majority. Tezuka listened silently as Atobe went into a long, rather heated explanation of what was wrong with each photo right down to the very last detail. His tone became increasingly more irritated by the photo. Finally, Atobe had finished going through the whole wad of photos and settled himself back down into his armchair with a huff.
“Does that convince you, Tezuka?”
Tezuka gave a non-committal ‘hn’ in response. It sounded like Atobe had more to show him.
“If not, there’s still a video tape Ore-sama just received this morning. We can watch it together.”
“Video tape?” Tezuka repeated, his voice sounding mildly surprised. Now this was getting really out of hand. Was the situation really that dire that Atobe had to resort to video taping Fuji and Akutagawa?
“Yes.” Then the young man snapped his fingers once more.
The butler reappeared, took the tape from the envelope and proceeded to insert it into the VCR. A few moments later, the large TV screen was lit up, showing a fast food restaurant. Fuji was shown sitting at a table, apparently waiting for Jirou to show up. The tape rolled on and soon Jirou arrived and the duo ordered some food. The next few scenes were very much typical occurrences during outings. Except for maybe when Fuji suddenly leaned in extremely close to Jirou’s ear to possibly whisper something.
Tezuka spotted Atobe glaring at the on-screen Fuji and hid a smile by drinking from his cup. He had seen blue eyes looking straight back at him for a split second just before the action that made Atobe glare was committed. The conclusion of that sign was extremely simple to Tezuka:
Fuji had spotted the video camera.
Atobe was in for it. Tezuka knew when Fuji’s sadistic side kicked in. This was definitely one of those times. Throughout the course of the video, Fuji was going to make Atobe seethe with anger and then spring something surprising out of his proverbial hat to knock the pompous young man off balance.
So the tape rolled on and more of the outing was shown. With each passing minute, the interaction between the two became more intimate, though it was more on Fuji’s part. However, Tezuka noted that Akutagawa was doing nothing to reduce that intimacy. Despite all the talk that Akutagawa was relatively naïve and innocent, Tezuka did not believe that the sandy-haired boy did not know what was happening. Atobe, already clouded by his preconceptions, was plainly taking everything he saw at face value.
Soon enough, the two boys were at the street tennis courts. Initially Fuji and Jirou were playing against each other. However, when a few more people appeared, they had teamed up to form a doubles pair that had, surprisingly, rather good partnership. This obviously did not sit well with Atobe, but the young man kept his silence.
At one point, after a considerably more difficult doubles match, Jirou had jumped onto Fuji’s back and gave the brown-haired boy a huge bear hug. Tezuka was almost sure Atobe would hit the stop button on the player at that moment or throw something at the TV screen. And while Tezuka knew it was just a friendly and elated gesture on Akutagawa’s part, he himself couldn’t help but feel a twang of jealously at that moment.
Before long, the duo had switched back to playing singles against each other once more. All seemed normal from that point onwards until Tezuka once again saw blue eyes glinting straight back at him just as Fuji was about to serve. The tennis ball flew and its aim was severely off, if it was meant for Akutagawa to return. The tennis ball, however, flew straight towards the direction of the camera and there was the sound of it impacting the private investigator hard on the head. The image on the screen turned blur as the video camera slid out of the private investigator’s hands and landed onto the ground.
Sounds of footsteps were heard approaching and then Fuji’s voice was heard through the speakers, “Saa… I must have hit too hard.” However, there wasn’t any real remorse Tezuka could pick out from the statement.
“Yeah, I think he’s out cold. But that was an awesome move Fuji-kun! Your aim was great!” This time, it was Jirou’s voice that came over the speakers.
Then the fallen video camera was picked and two boys’ faces appeared on the screen. Tezuka noticed a slight difference in Fuji’s smile and knew that whatever Fuji had planned since he had noticed they were being followed would spring out right now…
“Ne, Atobe. You really need to choose a better private investigator.”
This time, a choked, “What the!?” escaped from Atobe’s lips. Tezuka found himself half-amused at the situation.
“You probably noticed that the photos of the first five meetings are like normal interaction between friends, right? It’s around that time when I, and consequently Jirou, noticed that we were being followed and photographed.”
“And that’s when we decided to act!” Jirou piped in cheerfully, a wide grin threatening to split his face into two.
Tezuka knew this would be the only time he’d have the pleasure to witness Atobe gawking at the television screen. He sorely wished he had a camera to capture the moment. He’d just have to settle for imprinting the scene into memory.
Apparently, Tezuka realized, it had never occurred to Atobe that Akutagawa would be involved in a scheme to trick Atobe himself. The sleepy boy seemed far too innocent (and sleepy) to do that. But if there was one thing he had learnt about the Hyoutei Gakuen tennis team through their previous meetings, it was that all its members had the potential to accomplish unexpected things. Atobe should have known that better than anyone else, being the captain of said tennis club. But Tezuka supposed that it was human nature to let your guard down. Hence, he always told his team not to do so during a match.
“You see, Atobe, Jirou has been feeling a little… neglected recently. So he decided to try and get your attention by spending more time with me in hopes that you’d get jealous and do something about it,” Fuji said, his smile still present except that it seemed to be morphing slowly but surely into a smirk. “While you obviously became jealous, your reaction wasn’t quite what Jirou was hoping for… If you catch my drift, Atobe.”
“Yes! I was hoping you’d spend more time with me, Keigo… Not ask someone to stalk Fuji-kun and I!” Jirou echoed with a little whine to his voice. Then he added thoughtfully, “But then again, maybe it was a good sign since I know you do care.”
“To spice things up a bit more, we decided to act a little out of the ‘friends’ boundary. Though it was more on my part, as you would’ve noticed. Clearly, it worked to get your attention, but really, Atobe, a private investigator isn’t what Jirou wanted.” At the side, Jirou was nodding fervently in agreement, the smallest of pouts on his face.
“Now that you know the truth, I think we’ll end this conversation here,” Fuji added after a pause as if to let the words sink in. “Oh yes! Before I forget, Kunimitsu, please tell me about Atobe’s reaction when he viewed the tape, ne? Now then, ja ne,” he bid goodbye with a partly sadistic, partly cheerful grin.
“Ja!” Jirou chirped in with a small wave.
Then the television screen went blank.
There was silence for a quite a long time as Atobe had many things to process and Tezuka was quite surprised at how perceptive Fuji was. He seemed to have predicted Atobe calling Tezuka over to talk about the ‘problem’.
Finally, it was Tezuka who broke the silence around them with a small cough and then speaking. “I think that explains everything.”
He quietly observed the other young man in the lounge. Atobe was still staring at the now blank TV screen and whilst it was not obviously shown now, the shock of hearing what Fuji and Akutagawa had said to them via the video had not totally worn away. Tezuka decided that Atobe needed time alone to settle his thoughts as well as to do something about the neglect Akutagawa had been feeling. It was time Tezuka took his leave.
He stood up and bid goodbye to a still motionless Atobe. Almost automatically, the butler was beside him, waiting to show him out of the lounge. Atobe had no reaction to this action either. Still mildly amused, Tezuka smiled a little as he walked to the doorway of the lounge. Then he stopped and turned to look at Atobe with his amused smile still present.
“You know, Atobe. For all your famous Insight, you can be quite dense when it comes to Akutagawa.”
Then Tezuka strode out of the lounge behind the butler, with the sight of Atobe gaping and sputtering for words firmly etched into his mind.
Oh, he certainly had a lot of things to tell Fuji.