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Into the Thin Air

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A Prince of Tennis Fanfiction— Into the Thin Air

Disclaimer: usual disclaimer applies.

Character(s): Echizen Ryoma / Seigaku

Genre(s): Angst/Hurt/Comfort

A/N: I know I said that I wouldn't be writing for Tenipuri again, but ah… idk. Suddenly I feel this urge in all of sudden to write again… and I've betaed my WAHFOA and… thinking that maybe I really shall update and finish it… who knows! Maybe I shall surprise you all in this mean time! now enjoy this another angst fic from me.

 


 

He choked for air desperately.

His breathing was ragged. Slowly he averted his eyes around the court, tightening his grip on the familiar small, round cylinder on his hand. He didn't bother to listen to his surroundings to acknowledge the current situation he was in; he concentrated his mind only to his body. He shut his eyes closed with a painful groan when he felt a sharp, cutting jolt ran through his whole body. He could hear a dull thump from across the court; he knew that instant that he had made it through. He could hear a faint euphoria exploded around him, but he couldn't understand anymore. Trying to ease the panic that slowly growing inside him, he opened his eyes and narrowed them to gain him clearer surroundings, which came to no avail.

What's going on?

He could feel couples of arms landed on his shoulders; on his back. And then he could feel bodies surrounded him, giving him no space for air he was badly needed. He was hyperventilating.

No, he pleaded in his mind, please, help me. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. No, please, don't… don't…

Suddenly he could hear a terrifying scream right on his ears as if someone had turned on a radio in full volume. He didn't understand until he finally realised that it was his own voice, What…? Why…?

"Hey!"

"W-what's wrong?! Ochibi!"

"What happened? Why is he screaming? Hey…!"

"Echizen?! What's wrong?!"

He still could hear the scream, but he couldn't comprehend anymore. A strong, calm voice broke through the agonising scene, "Everyone, stand back, now! Give him some air! Kaidoh, go call an ambulance right now! Inui, fetch Coach Ryuuzaki, and then you give a call to Echizen's parents. Fuji, Momoshiro, help me to get him out of here. He needs to be taken away from the crowds. Quick!"

The scream still continued; he had lost his strength completely and dropped whatever he was holding on to the ground. He felt his legs gave in and embraced himself for the impact of falling to the ground, but he never did. Firm hands seemed to have supported his body; and he coughed harshly, and the scream stopped abruptly. A melodious, soft, calming voice came to his ear, clearly, "Now, calm down. Take a deep breath, and exhale. Inhale, exhale. Slowly. Calm down, calm down, everything is okay, you're okay; you can breathe now. Come, slowly, breath, deeply. Steady. Nothing's wrong. Everything's okay. Steady. Come on, again, breath in, deeply, you're okay. Nothing's wrong, nothing's wrong."

He had never felt so relieved in his whole life like now, and slowly he could feel the air again rushing into his lungs. His trembling hand looking for comfort he needed, and when he got it he squeezed them, tightly. It gave him a comfortable feeling that he was not alone, that someone was watching over him to make sure everything was fine. I'm fine, he chanted to himself, I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine…

His eyes drooped heavily and he didn't struggle for it, for he needed to vanish into the nothingness… into the thin air so he could banish all of his pain into a grain of dust.

And then he remembered no more.

 


 

"Now we will begin the next match, the singles one. Yukimura Seiichi will represent Rikkai Daigaku Fuzoku and Seishun Gakuen will be represented by Echizen Ryoma. Both players, please step on to the court."

Echizen smirked as he walked to the court confidently, staring at his opponent. Yukimura Seiichi eyed the younger boy across him carefully, trying to grab as much information as he observed the young boy's confident figure. He took it as an average to defeat this freshman, but then Yukimura knew almost nothing about the so-called prodigy.

He has good eyes, Yukimura noted on his mind as he bounced the familiar green ball. Maybe he can come up with something interesting. I haven't been able to fully feel my adrenaline and my senses pushed to my limit...

Yukimura served a quick one and scored. Soon Yukimura found that the freshman would give him some difficulties. He admitted that Echizen was a very good and talented player, but something was off about him. Echizen had somehow sent him a very uncomfortable aura that made him scared. Echizen's every movement was flawless, natural, as if he was tennis itself; he was indeed a very well trained athlete and had everything that a professional player would require. The small body hid a great amount of power very well. Soon Yukimura found himself in a struggle as Echizen started gaining points from him. No one had ever been able to get even only one point from him, The Child of God, but this boy had managed. And he didn't stop. Yukimura had taken all Echizen's senses, movement, everything; but Echizen didn't stop. He couldn't be stopped.

But then Echizen's play started to change. His movements were faster, powerful, and carefully thought; but something was wrong. Echizen's eyes were now almost dull, and his breathing became heavy despite his quick movement and powerful shots. It was strange. Even so, Echizen concentrated on his game so hard that it was almost hilarious, and the loud cheering from the audience had now gone dead.

Yukimura noticed that the Seigaku players were now quiet, stopped cheering on their freshman and had a terrified expression on their face, except for Tezuka and Fuji, which were merely concerned and observing.

Wait. This isn't right. What's with this boy? Is he actually sick? Did I push him too far? No. His playing unbelievably became more intense, but his body... his body is giving up. What? What is it that I miss?

Yukimura was startled as Echizen took point after point from him, until the last game. When Echizen hit his last ounce of energy into the last ball, Yukimura gasped in sheer fear, shouted at Tezuka as the crowd suddenly exploded into life again confirming Seigaku's victory, "Tezuka-san! Hurry, come over here! Echizen-kun is - "

But he was too late as he saw Echizen slowly went into a panic and the tiring game had taken its toll on Echizen's body - and mind. Yukimura rushed to the freshman, but he stopped when he saw Echizen was in so much pain and fear. His teammates also jumped to the court to take a closer look at what was happening, but Yukimura gestured them to go back.

"Don't go near Echizen-kun. He will need some space," Yukimura could hear that his voice was trembling. Sanada put a hand on Yukimura's shoulder, "Yukimura, do you happen to know what has happened to that freshman - "

Yukimura shook his head and whispered, "Echizen-kun is sick... he's very sick."

When finally the ambulance came and the paramedics brought Echizen Ryoma onto the stretcher, Yukimura placed his hand on Tezuka's shoulder, the shock was evident on his face, "Tezuka-san, Echizen-kun was sick and he was suffering. Why would you let him take such dangerous actions? Why do you - "

Tezuka's face remained stoic, but his wavering voice was betraying him when he answered vaguely, "Yukimura... I don't know anything. We didn't know anything, if he was sick or something. Why do you...?"

Yukimura suppressed a stiff smile, "I'll come along with all of you. I think I know what happened to Echizen Ryoma and he needed to be helped before it is too late."

 


 

Fuji was shocked when Echizen screamed, and didn't seem to even know what was happening. Fuji was shocked even more when Echizen grabbed his hands so tight as if his life was depending on the single touch, but he was more than glad if it would help Echizen to ease. Echizen's face was so pale that it almost turned into a hue blue, and his body was so weak, like all of his life being sucked out from him. Seeing the way Echizen played before, Fuji wasn't surprised that Echizen's body finally collapsed. He had seen before that something was wrong with Echizen, but he was scared when Echizen's play became uncontrolled - and at the moment Fuji knew that Echizen should have been stopped. But he didn't bother to tell Tezuka or Coach Ryuuzaki, he didn't even see Echizen's fear until now...

When they arrived in the hospital, Echizen was, surprisingly, taken to ICU shortly. This made everyone even scared. What was happening? What was wrong with their youngest member?

The doctors refused to tell the Seigaku regulars any piece of information, which were 'confidential and could be only relayed to a family'. He left them in shock and confusion, with only their coach following the doctors vanished to the other room. Kikumaru was sobbing and Momoshiro was completely dumbstruck. Tezuka stood beside Yukimura who was watching them all silently.

"Do you finally will mind to tell us what is exactly wrong with Echizen?" Fuji questioned, his eyes were opened and he was casting a burning glare to Yukimura for an explanation.

"Do any of you know if Echizen-kun is taking medicine regularly?" asked Yukimura, staring straight at Fuji's eyes. "Tezuka-san, Fuji-kun, Echizen-kun is having emotional problems and the effect of taking medicine has taken its toll on Echizen-kun's strained body."

"What are you talking about? Echizen isn't sick! He was alright before! He was a healthy brat! And what emotional problems? He was just fine, alright!" Momoshiro burst out, clenching his fist.

"He played tennis because he didn't like it," Fuji said slowly, a sudden, unrealistic realisation hit him. "It's tennis that drove himself away... is that you want to say?"

"What? What are you guys talking about? Fujiko, I don't understand, really, what's wrong with Ochibi? What is his sickness? Is it dangerous?" Kikumaru shot his questions abruptly; he was in genuine fear and was worried about his underclassman.

"From what I saw during my game with him, Echizen-kun seems to be… taking opioids."

Tezuka and Fuji gasped in surprise, while Inui dropped his notebook with a loud thud which sent the Seigaku regulars a foot off the ground. Kawamura and Kaidoh exchanged their glances, while Momoshiro was clearly didn't understand a thing, "Opioids? What, what does that mean?"

"Why should he take opioids? And surely it won't bring any condition to this extreme, Yukimura?" Fuji inquired, and he remembered that the last few months, in some occasion where Echizen's behaviour was strange and he hadn't been himself lately. It was like Echizen was slowly fading away from them, but he had brushed it off as Echizen's usual attitude - he had never been good in socialising, and he would not bother to annoy the freshman further. If he chose not to tell, then it was his decision and Fuji respected him.

"I don't know what reason Echizen-kun is taking medicines, and I don't know what drove him to his current mental condition to this extreme. He sure is good in hiding it, if even you don't recognize it, Tezuka-san…" Yukimura's voice trailed off into the air, he shifted uncomfortably on his feet. He was agitated, to say the least.

"Yes, and as of now Echizen's parents were nowhere to be seen…" Oishi stammered, finally regained his senses again after falling into a shock. "Something is wrong, Tezuka. Something's not right…"

Tezuka sighed and rubbed his temple in annoyance. He had tried to call Echizen's home, but no one answered. Coach Ryuuzaki, who personally knew Echizen's father, had also tried to contact him only to get no response, and was practically murderous at this time. Tezuka looked around, and his eyes fell on Kaidoh.

"Kaidoh, do you know where Echizen's house is?"

"Y-yes, Buchou." Kaidoh was slightly taken aback at the sudden question the captain directed to him. "I have gone there once… uh…"

"Very good. You go to Echizen's house with Inui, now, and try to get information, anything, from the neighbours if needed. Try to get into the house, no trespassing if possible, take the neighbours with you. Tell them what had happened to Echizen and that we are waiting for his parents in the hospital. I shall get a call from you in an hour, Inui."

"Sure." Inui adjusted his glasses and nodded to Kaidoh to follow him. Kaidoh hissed and he and Inui soon disappeared from their sight.

"Wait, I still don't get anything right! Opioids? Isn't that something you occasionally take to relieve pain and such?" Momoshiro was flustered. He looked at his upperclassmen alternately.

"That's right, Momoshiro-kun," Yukimura finally said after a brief moment of tense silence. "I don't know what kind of sickness that your friend has, but I know the symptoms. I have seen some people who had the same symptoms as Echizen-kun had before during my stay in the hospital. What Echizen-kun suffered was the side effects of… overdoses."

"What…?" the regulars of Seigaku exchanged their glances. Oishi was meddling with his fingers frantically, Kikumaru's body trembled, Kawamura looked dumbfounded, and Momoshiro looked like he had just been punched by his face. Tezuka sighed heavily; this was too much to take for himself, especially being in the position of full responsibility. Fuji's eyes which were glinting with anger before had turned into fear and shock. He slowly took a glance to the ICU, and whispered, "Why we have never bothered to ask him, Tezuka...?"

"Fuji, we all know perfectly well that Echizen is very concerned about privacy and he will find it annoying if we go around asking him. We were always one to ask but he never opened up, and the best we can do is tell him to make sure that he tells us when he's ready. Whenever we push him, we get nothing and he will always slip away even further." Tezuka said calmly, but his heart was beating madly inside his chest. Just where were Echizen's parents?!

"There are lines that you know very well we can't come across to," Tezuka added. Fuji shook his head, gaze fell on to the floor.

"Guys... do you think is it just an accident that Echizen was overdosed or maybe he...?" Kawamura stopped in the middle of his sentence, unable to wonder aloud his thoughts. The others looked at him, their expressions were a mix of complex feelings – but mainly distraught.

"No way, Taka-san! I'm sure it's a just a mistake, Ochibi wouldn't do something like that! Ochibi is so strong and cool, so we have to be by Ochibi's side. He will need us to cheer him, nya! We will help him go through whatever he is having now, just like he has been our pillar on the team! Right?" Kikumaru managed to crack a grin, and the Seigaku regulars (except their stoic captain) smiled at his antics. The heavy and tense air before had vanished by Kikumaru's cheerful voice.

"You're right, Eiji!" Oishi nodded in agreement and smiled. "We will support Echizen and help him as best as we could. We will be his best friends, especially at these hard times Echizen has been through!"

"I suppose so, Eiji." Fuji's eyes were closed now and his trademark smile had returned back. "We will be his pillar, and make sure that he knows that he's not alone."

Momoshiro grinned nervously, but otherwise, he said, "I agree!"

"Don't let your guard down," was all Tezuka said in response, but he had a good feeling that this wouldn't be easy as Kikumaru said. There were too many things that they didn't know and Tezuka could see that there was something big missing in the pieces. Really... he was too young to be faced with this kind of complication...

But Tezuka knew Kikumaru was right and for now, he would just go along with his friends before having a talk to Coach Ryuuzaki and Fuji for the complicated details.

 


 

Inui had pressed the bell on Echizen's front gate for the nth times God only knows, but no answer had come and he was practically annoyed. Kaidoh had tried to peek inside the gate, but the house seemed so empty like before. No lights were seen from inside the house, it looked like it hadn't been occupied for some times. Kaidoh hissed impatiently and looked at Inui.

"Senpai, I think this won't do. We should go try asking the neighbour…"

"I agree, Kaidoh," Inui turned on his heel, followed by Kaidoh. They went to the house by the left side from Echizen's, and tried their luck. A few minutes later, a woman around her forty came out. She frowned in confusion, "Yes?"

"I'm sorry, Ma'am," Inui bowed and adjusted his glasses. "We are Echizen's friends from school, and it seems that no one is inside the house. Echizen is in the hospital right now and we weren't able to get contact with any of his family. Do you happen to know where his parents are?"

"Ah, Echizen-kun's tennis teammates from Seigaku, right? Yes, yes, in a hospital, you said?" she asked in surprise, and she opened the gate quickly. She gestured them to come in. "His cousin is inside – come on, quick, you should talk with her!"

Inui and Kaidoh blinked at this unexpected piece of information. Echizen's cousin was inside the neighbour's house?

They walked in cautiously, and saw Echizen's cousin, indeed, was sitting on the sofa. Her eyes were red and swollen, and her sobs still remained. She looked up and sobbed even more when she saw Inui and Kaidoh. She abruptly stood up; her voice was quivering when she called out, "Kaidoh-san!"

"Fssshh..." Kaidoh hissed. "Er... uh, Nanako-san..."

Inui walked forward and took over the matter. "Nanako-san, we were trying to reach you and your uncle or aunt, but we couldn't get through. Please come along to the hospital with us. Echizen is in the ICU as we speak."

"What? Ryoma-san is in the ICU?!" Nanako cried out in fear. "What - why - what happened?!"

"We will explain on the way. But for now, you're the only relative of Echizen we can get in touch to, so please come with us now." Inui said rather impatiently. Kaidoh hissed again when Nanako sobbed to his shoulder, but otherwise, he patted Nanako's back – awkwardly – as they made their way to the genkan, before bowed their goodbye to their host who covered her mouth in shock and nodded to them.

I knew someday this would happen... poor Echizen-kun... I hope he's okay...

 


 

Tezuka straightened himself when his mobile was ringing from inside his pocket, and quickly answered when he saw the name flashing on the screen, "Yes, Inui?"

"Tezuka. We are on our way there with Echizen's cousin. Any news from Echizen's condition?"

Tezuka nodded to his teams and Yukimura who approached him and Tezuka turned on the speaker so everyone could hear. "Not yet, Inui. Coach Ryuuzaki hasn't come out yet to tell anything. You are with Echizen's cousin, you said?"

"Yes. Tezuka, Echizen's parents are not in Japan. However, his mother has been informed by Echizen's cousin just a few moments ago and will be going here with the first flight available. Tezuka… there are some serious matters. We… will need to discuss this with Coach Ryuuzaki. Echizen's cousin will tell everything she knows when we arrive there."

"I understand." Tezuka responded and hung up. He looked at his team and sighed again. Yukimura smiled softly, and patted Fuji's shoulder. There was nothing they could do before they knew what had happened with Echizen and his family, so for now, they would be just waiting.

Really, Echizen… what's wrong with you?

 


 

Alright, so this just popped out in my mind. Another side of angst from me... is it good? Please tell me! This would be a short multi-chapter, maybe... ha. Please let me know what you think. Cheerio!

~zennelia