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It had been 6 months since the peaceful atmosphere had come back to Hiroshima. Except little fights with unknown gangs that wanted to test their strength nothing really happened.

 

Tsukasa was now so used to the living with Gokuraku Chou that he couldn't even imagine his life without his friends anymore. The team had been growing constantly and they were pretty strong by now.

 

Everything was just as it should be, how Tsukasa thought. Although he missed the afternoons where the four of them just sat together in the little cafe, since Youji was missing most of the times now, being busy with his job and his girlfriend. But still, Tsukasa really enjoyed the peaceful living, having enough of fights for the time.

 

“What are you thinking about?” Eiji laughed. “You look so serious.”

 

Tsukasa blinked, looking up from the glass he had been staring at for the last minutes. “Uh..nothing special. I just thought about how I somehow like it when it's peaceful like this.”

 

Nodding slightly, Eiji smirked. “But I wouldn't mind having the one or other fight sometimes. It gets boring don't you think so?” He stretched his arms and let himself fall into the back of the bench. Hisao smiled, nodding to Eiji. “Don't say that too loud, or we will have a big bunch of troubles in no time.”

 

Just in that moment, there was a ring of the bell at the entrance, Youji coming in. Tsukasa looked at him in surprise. “Yo-chan! I thought you wouldn't make it today? Didn't you have a date with your girlfriend?”

 

Youji just shook his head, replying. “No, she canceled because she's busy with the restaurant. But there are more important things now.” Eiji looked at him curiously, while he plopped down on the bench next to Hisao. “Do I smell a fight?” Eiji grinned, still waiting for Youji to speak up.

 

Youji didn't react, but caught Tsukasa's eyes. “There is said to be a new gang around here. They call themselves “Lions.” I think they are way more dangerous than the other ones we fought in the last months. Their leader Takehara Kinzo is said to be pretty strong although he doesn't really seem like he's going to get angry fast. And the rest of the gang seems to be quite strong too. They've already taken down some of the weaker teams, as if to test their strength. I think we should prepare ourselves because they will quickly aim for the Top 3.”

 

Tsukasa stared at him wordlessly, wondering whether he had understood him right. He sighed, murmuring to himself. “So the peaceful time in Hiroshima is over once again...”

“Yosh! Some newbies to fight” Eiji grinned broadly, looking at his balled fist. Just frowning at him, Youji rose his voice again. “I think we shouldn't underestimate them... They are anything but newbies, the way they defeated other gangs so far.”

 

“Oh come on”, the other boy just laughed,”we'll take them down in no time. After all we're part of the Top 3.” Youji just sighed and the frown didn't really disappear from his face this afternoon, even though the talk had long since moved on to other topics.

 

Tsukasa, as well, couldn't really concentrate on the chatting because he had to think of this new gang all the time. Who were they? And especially how dangerous were they? He hoped that they weren't as dangerous as Eden had been, didn't really feeling like going through all of this again... Especially because he really didn't want to see his friends be hurt again.

 

Later in the evening he lay in his bed, staring at the ceiling, trying to convince himself that nothing would happen to everyone. He balled his fist at the thought of his friends in hospital beds. No. That would definitely not happen. He would protect everyone, especially Kumi. No-one would hurt her or anyone. Not as long as Tsukasa was there.

 

 

The next morning when Tsukasa walked out of the lecture hall of his university he was so deep in thoughts that he almost bumped into another person, resulting that his bag fell on the ground, his books and papers scattered on the floor.

 

“Ah. Sorry” Tsukasa heard someone saying, just at the same time he voiced the words himself. Quickly he knelt down to collect his things, while the other boy laughed at their synchronicity, making Tsukasa look up at him.

 

He had dark honey-colored hair, building a slight side parting, the strands framing his face on the sides, hanging over his dark brown, almost black eyes a little. One strand lay on his nose, just like on coincidence but it was visible that he had styled them like this. Tsukasa's eyes rested on the boy's face, admitting to himself that it was quite beautiful, before he noticed that it was probably impolite to just stare at someone like that.

 

Quickly blinking, he got up again, smiling at him while introducing himself. “I'm Kiriki. Nice to meet you.”

 

“Takehara. Nice to meet you too. And sorry for this...” Tsukasa stared at him incredulous. That was Takehara Kinzo? He had to be though. Takehara wasn't a frequent name here. But he just didn't seem like someone who just took some teams down. He seemed just.. normal. And not really dangerous with the way he smiled at him, now slightly questioning.

 

Tsukasa blinked, not managing to bring out more than “Ah, no... Um...”  Takehara's smile turned slightly amused as he said “I created quite a mess, didn't I? Wait I'll help you collecting your things...”

 

“No it's okay” Tsukasa quickly replied and knelt down again to grab his things. What he hadn't noticed was the other boy, still wanting to offer his help, kneeling down too, so their heads hit each other quite hard. “Ouch!” he called before bursting into laughter when realizing they had said it synchronized again.

 

“Sorry” Takehara chuckled, starting to collect Tsukasa's belongings, who hurried to do the same.

 

When everything was packed away again, they stood up and looked at each other for a moment, before Tsukasa asked “You're pretty new in this area, aren't you?” Takehara looked at him curiously for a moment before answering with yes. “But how do you know?” he added after one moment of thinking.

 

The black-haired boy bit his lip, not knowing what to reply. “I- uhm.. I never saw you around here before” he finally said, inwardly letting out a sigh of relief. Takehara didn't need to know who he was. Not yet. But still... this guy had a special atmosphere, making Tsukasa wanting to trust him. However as he invited him to spend the lunch time with him, he just wanted to get to know this guy, who was supposed to be the leader of the new team, more.

 

Although as the minutes went by, Tsukasa found himself enjoying the conversation more and more. They just talked as students, not losing one word about any fights in Hiroshima, starting to spend more and more time together on the campus, since they found out they almost had the same courses. And Tsukasa began to wonder whether Kinzo really was the leader of Lions, since he just seemed so... normal. He just wanted to believe that it was the wrong Takehara Kinzo, he was hanging out with.

 

He kept pondering about what he should do, because if this guy really was his opponent he shouldn't be spending time with him. He already knew what Youji would say if this ever reached his ears.

 

Even after he had said goodbye to Kinzo he couldn't stop thinking about him and the dilemma he had created. When he met up with Kumi for their date this afternoon, he thought about whether he should tell Kinzo who he was or not.

 

It came to the point where he didn't even noticed that she had asked him something. “Tsukasa? Do you want to go?” “Huh? Yeah, sure.” he smiled and nodded, having no clue, what he had agreed to right now, just letting himself pull along while his thoughts drifted off again, wandering back to Takehara Kinzo.

 

He knew that he would be troubled if he'd build a friendship with him, but he just couldn't resist from wanting to know more and more about him, feeling somehow... drawn to him.

 

A few days later though they started hanging out in the afternoon, when their classes were over. They had become pretty good friends in no time, understanding each other and spending most of the time laughing.

 

Of course the others from Gokuraku Chou noticed that Tsukasa seemed to have less time than before, often skipping their regular meetings. At first they thought that Tsukasa just went out on dates with Kumi pretty often, but that option disappeared when Tsukasa missed another time, just having sent a quick message to Youji, that he couldn't make it, and Kumi was still in the cafe, serving the three just in that moment.

 

“I wonder what he's doing all the time” Youji frowned, staring at the display of his phone unhappily. “He still has his duty as a leader damn it!”

 

Hisao laid his hand on Youji's arm. “I'm sure he has his reasons” He said, but he didn't seem convinced either, the way he sounded.

 

Eiji snorted, staring at his glass angrily. “I thought he would've already accepted it that he has duties but here we are again, with the leader who has no idea of what's going on. These meetings are fucking important because this goddamn Takehara keeps turning teams down and we just need Tsukasa here one fucking time. I just can't believe that we are obviously the only team which has such an-” “EIJI!” Youji's loud voice made him flinch and stare at him offended. “There is no use in shouting at us or anyone else.” he growled, making Eiji cross his arms and shut up.

 

“Then what shall we do now?” Hisao asked. “It's useless to discuss everything again without Tsukasa. We can't make decisions anyway. And it's nearly sure that we will be one of the next teams Lions is aiming to take down.”

 

“I guess we should just call him and make him quit whatever he wanted to do to meet us. There's no use in waiting for him to have time.” Youji stated with a dark tone in his voice.

 

Eiji just clicked with his tongue. “As if he would run as soon as we tell him to. I bet he won't even take the call.” And he was right. When Youji tried to call him the only answer he got was Tsukasa's mailbox, informing them that he wasn't available and to just leave him a message. Youji groaned frustrated, while Eiji just shrugged “Told you” and Hisao stirred his drink wordlessly.

 

After a few silent moments Youji balled his fist, hitting the table with it. He stood up, declaring angrily “We will just search for him. We don't have anything else to do anyway, do we? And I can't just sit around, doing nothing.”

 

 

Kinzo frowned as Tsukasa bit his lip, declining the call and packing the phone away again. “Is it okay when you don't take the call? Maybe it was something important...”

 

Tsukasa smiled. “No it's okay. It wasn't.” They were walking around, not really doing anything except chatting and laughing. That was what Kinzo liked so much about their friendship. That it seemed to be so easy to be together with Kiriki Tsukasa, that he could forget about his team activities for a while and just be normal.

 

He had planned this from the beginning. He'd always wanted one or two friends who didn't have to do anything with this other side of Hiroshima. He just wanted to enjoy at least one normal friendship.

 

And Tsukasa was just the right person for that. It just felt good to be with him, Kinzo had to admit. He felt comfortable around him, what didn't happen him with a lot of people.

 

Quickly he forgot about the phone call and just enjoyed chatting with Tsukasa as they sat down on some steps.

 

“When do you have time to meet again in the next days?” Tsukasa finally asked and Kinzo felt happiness coming up in his chest. He really felt like he had found a good friend. He just wanted to answer when heard someone yelling “Tsukasa!” and quick footsteps coming into their direction.

 

He turned around to see who was coming down the stairs to them and spotted three boys in black clothing coming down, having an almost angry but at least sour expression on their faces. When Tsukasa spotted them, his gaze flickered to the ground and he bit his lip, as if knowing that he had done something wrong. Who the hell were these guys?! If they wanted to do something to him, he swore, he would blow the shit out of them.

 

When they had reached them, the one, who seemed to be the oldest, glared at Tsukasa, demanding “What the hell is this supposed to be?!” When Tsukasa still gave no answer he just continued yelling at him. “You can't just hang around with various people when there are other and more important things damn! In these times it's important for us that you are around! You can't just... go and skip whenever you feel like. Don't you understand that we need you?!” Kinzo just stared back and forth between the two, trying to understand what was happening here.

 

That was when one of the others spoke up. “And... who is he?” nodding to Kinzo. Tsukasa licked his lip nervously, his eyes still wandering around, not really focusing on anything. “This is... uhm...”

 

“Takehara Kinzo.” Kinzo added himself, frowning when Tsukasa closed his eyes in some kind of resignation and the eyes of the others narrowed slightly. Suddenly the oldest one grabbed Tsukasa's wrist and pulled him away a few meters. “Youji! It's not-” “I don't want to hear any excuses! Like, seriously do you have any idea what the hell you are DOING here?!” Youji yelled at Tsukasa.

 

Kinzo still didn't have a clue what he had done just now, looking at the two other boys in confusion, but they were just standing in front of him, hands balled to fists and with an expression anything but friendly.

 

He turned his head, looking at Tsukasa and Youji, who seemed to have an argue with the way Youji gestured. Kinzo couldn't understand what they were saying, though, because Youji spoke pretty quietly, keeping on at him.

 

After Tsukasa obviously voiced words of contradiction, Youji started speaking louder again so Kinzo could hear what he was saying. “You don't understand anything do you?! Rules, Tsukasa! It's all about rules! You can't just.. go and forget about your gang, starting to hang around with the leader of a gang that's practically our enemy!”#

 

“But I'm getting along pretty good with Hiro and Danno as well! Why can't I just be friends with him?!”

 

Kinzo's eyes widened and he looked at the other two boys disbelieving. Tsukasa was their leader?! Tsukasa, this kind-hearted, nice and innocent looking guy was a leader of some fucking gang?!

 

“What?! Don't look at me like you wouldn't have known it. You just used him, wanting to weak us, admit it.” One of them hissed, stepping a bit closer and grabbing Kinzo's jacket. “Eiji!” The other boy spoke up. “We don't want to start a fight here.” Eiji just snorted and let go, still, narrowing his eyes at Kinzo a bit.

 

Kinzo wanted to reply something but was distracted by Tsukasa, now yelling back. “I think I know pretty good what it means to be the top! But my life is not only about Gokuraku Chou damn it! I have a life without it as well. Remember I didn't even want to be your fucking top! And just fuck these damn rules! No Youji, I'm not going to go with you and ignore Kinzo just because you want it, because he's my friend!”

 

So, this was the top of Gokuraku Chou?! He had expected a more... dangerous looking guy. Although he seemed right now like he could turn some people down, with the way he was in obvious anger.

 

Youji just let out a short laugh, looking at Tsukasa in bewilderment. “Friend?! Why are you so blind?! This guy”, he pointed at Kinzo, “actually plans to attack Gokuraku Chou in the next few weeks and you still consider him as a friend?”

 

Tsukasa's head turned around quickly, staring at Kinzo in open disappointment, hurt and disbelieving. It almost hurt him physically, to see the black-haired boy looking at him like this.

 

Youji laid a hand on his shoulder, now talking softly. “See, Tsukasa. I see that you want to be friends with him but you can't in a situation like that. What if you're supposed to fight against him? And I can tell you already that you will be.” With his last words his voice had become slightly threatening, while he was piercing Kinzo with his eyes, probably judging him for the same thing, Eiji already did.

 

Tsukasa just continued staring at him, probably feeling betrayed and Kinzo just wanted to go to him and swear that he had never known about his true identity.

 

After a while Youji added a little bit reproachful. “If you had been at our meetings more often you would've known about our situation.” Tsukasa bit his lip, turning away again, talking with Youji quietly, not audible for Kinzo's ears.

 

After a few moments though, Tsukasa turned to Kinzo again, approaching him, or better, the bag that was still laying on the steps behind him, grabbing it and walking away wordlessly, throwing Kinzo another look full of disappointment.

 

Kinzo just looked after him, almost not noticing Youji, who stepped closer to him, pulling him close at his jacket, growling “Don't you dare, hurting Tsukasa like that anymore or even seeing him anymore.” His eyes narrowed. “I just want you bastards to know that we're ready for you and stronger than you, no matter how many dirty tricks you use. So be warned when you pick a fight with us. Gokuraku Chou is not to be taken easily.” With these words he pushed Kinzo away, turning away and leaving with the other ones.

 

When he was left alone, he sank on the cold stone steps, groaning and burying his head in his hands. That was not what he had planned. Sure, he couldn't deny that he actually planned to go for the Top 3 in the next time, what included Gokuraku Chou, but how had he been supposed to know that Tsukasa was actually a member of them, not to mention their top?!

 

He sighed, feeling as frustrated as he hadn't been for a long time. He had wanted to lose anything but this friendship. It confused himself though, that he was so attached to one person, wanting this friendship desperately to continue, feeling just so... unusually comfortable around Kiriki Tsukasa.

 

Normally, he thought, he would've noticed if he started a friendship with someone from a gang, but Tsukasa seriously didn't look like this type of guy at all.

 

Wondering how Tsukasa had come to live such a life, he tried to suppress the thought that he probably wouldn't be able to meet him anymore, with the way he had looked at him just now and he himself had been threatened just now. Not that he feared these arrogant guys, but he wasn't that stupid to start a fight just like that.

 

When Lions had to have a fight against Gokuraku Chou, he wanted to be the one starting it.

 

Although now, that was the last thing he wanted to do, knowing his opponent would be Tsukasa.

The next days and weeks he managed to keep his team from attacking Gokuraku Chou, claiming they needed to get stronger. So they just kept defeating the smaller and mostly more unknown teams, constantly growing.

 

Pretty soon they weren't just the newbies anymore, but had made themselves a name, Kinzo using his team activities to avoid thinking of Tsukasa and how much he missed him and the mornings and afternoons they had spent together in uni or elsewhere. And with that Lions was constantly growing and gaining more influence.       

 

But the light of the success has always been throwing its shadows. Such as jealousy.

 

 

Tsukasa knew that it had been probably the best for everyone to quit this friendship. And at first he had been hurt and maybe a bit pissed, too, because Kinzo had tricked him so badly, only using him.

 

But still after a few days and weeks of not seeing him daily he started to miss him nevertheless. Although everyone kept saying him, he had done the right thing, he started to doubt his decision of avoiding Kinzo more and more.

 

He started thinking about him more and more, spending a lot of time with pondering about what to do. Maybe he should just call him and talk to him. He could ask him to not continue with his attacks, he thought. Although if Youji would notice it, his friend would scold him again.

 

“Tsukasa?” He started up from his thoughts, noticing Kumi looking at him with big eyes, asking hesitantly. “I... wondered if something is on your mind. You seem troubled or worried.” She placed her hand gently on his, continuing with a soft voice. “I don't care about rules or stuff. You know you can always tell me what's bothering you.”

 

For a moment, Tsukasa considered confiding in her. Knowing that she could tell Youji or one of the boys, let him hesitate though. “Uh.. No I'm okay” He smiled at her, squeezing her hand with his other softly. “There's nothing bothering me. But thank you for the offer.”

 

Kumi bit her lip, looking down obviously disappointed and hurt at his distrust, but didn't say a thing. And strangely enough it didn't make him feel as bad as he thought it should. Maybe I haven't spend enough time with her recently, went through his mind as he took a sip of his drink, his thoughts drifting off to Kinzo once more.

 

He didn't even notice Kumi becoming bored more and more, starting smalltalk with some waiter, being too focused on his own problem and the fear of being attacked by Kinzo, not knowing how to face him in a fight.

 

The situation changed, though, when Hisao came in one Friday afternoon, plopping down opposite to Tsukasa and Eiji. “I have news regarding Lions.”

 

Tsukasa looked up from his glass, looking at Hisao with a mix of fear and hope. The other boy frowned, continuing. “I heard it from a friend who heard it from a guy who is in one of the defeated teams. He said they are planning an ambush on Takehara.”

 

“What?!” Eiji and Tsukasa blurted out. “Why would they do something like this?” Eiji frowned, crossing his arms. “It's coward.”

 

Hisao just shrugged, pointing out “I guess they're just pissed as hell, because of Lions sudden success. I guess Takehara Kinzo is a thorn in their sides.”

 

Unconsciously Tsukasa balled his hands to fists, everything inside him clenching at the thought of Kinzo being hurt. “When?” he managed to bring out in an almost normal voice.

 

Hisao looked at him suspiciously. “See Tsukasa. I don't really know about the exact time and it would be stupid to do something-”

 

“I asked you when they're going to do it” Tsukasa asked in an surprisingly sharp voice.

 

“Today. Right now to be honest.” he sighed, continuing with a slightly begging voice. “Tsukasa it won't be good if you do anything about this. I know this action is coward but you can't do anything about it.”

 

Tsukasa just stood up, looking at Hisao unbelieving. “I won't let them hurt my friend!”

 

“Tsukasa-”

 

But he just turned around, storming out of the cafe, knowing very well where to go.

“Tsukasa!” Kumi's voice couldn't stop him either. In this moment he didn't care about rules or different gangs. His mind was completely blank and he was only focused on one thing. Warning Kinzo.

 

He remembered Kinzo telling him about his habit all to well. On Friday afternoon he always went home pretty late.

 

First Kinzo would stop by at some takoyaki place to get something to eat and then he'd make his way through the more deserted streets of the city. Kinzo told him that he made this detour because these streets made him calm down. Though Tsukasa didn't really understand how empty and gloomy streets could calm someone down.

 

However, this habit could have bad consequences now, Tsukasa figured while running towards even these streets as fast as he could.

 

With a bit of luck, he would find Kinzo still alone.

 

As he got closer though, he could hear fighting noises. “Damn!” he hissed, running towards the noises.

 

He stopped, when he saw them. They were at least fifteen guys (the ones that were already taken down not counted), kicking one person that was lying on the ground, desperately trying to protect or defend himself.

 

“STOP IT YOU PUNKS!”

 

They turned around at his voice to look at who was disturbing them. Kinzo raised his head too, his eyes widening as he spotted Tsukasa, who caught his gaze for a moment. Balling his hands to fists he concentrated on the thugs again.

 

“HOW DO YOU DARE ATTACKING SOMEONE THIS COWARDLY AND HURTING HIM EVEN WHEN HE'S ALREADY DONE. I WON'T ALLOW YOU TO CONTINUE HURTING SOMEONE LIKE THIS!!!”

 

One of the guys started to laugh. “The legendary Kiriki Tsukasa. Don't you want to join us? He's a threat to your team too” His voice was cunning and he smiled deceitfully.

 

“Don't you dare kidding with me” Tsukasa's eyes narrowed, his voice being calmer, but sharp like a knife. “If you want to fight him, face him in a one-on-one”

 

Some of them laughed mockingly while one of them yelled “It doesn't matter if this is coward or mean. We just want him to disappear.”

 

With that words some of them turned to Kinzo again and continued kicking him, although he already groaned in pain, not being able to move a lot, not to speak of protecting himself.

 

“I TOLD YOU TO STOP!” Tsukasa felt the adrenaline in his blood, the fighting spirit coming up with the need to protect his loved ones. He didn't thought anything at all, as he ran towards them, almost not noticing them as he pushed, punched and kicked them, desperately trying to reach Kinzo.

 

Somewhere at the back of his mind he knew, that he had practically no chance against all of them, no matter how strong he was. But he didn't really care. And while he was fighting five or six of them, not being able to evade all of the punches and kicks, the rest was still hurting Kinzo.

 

Tsukasa had no idea how bad Kinzo's state already was, but he knew if they continued like this he would have more serious injuries than just bruises and contusions.

 

He had already fought his way to Kinzo except for two meters, when he was suddenly hit by a kick in his stomach. With his stomach hurting like hell and uncountable other little scratches, he found himself on the ground, gasping for air.

 

He had just a moment to recover, thinking he had heard Kinzo bringing out “Stop that and rescue yourself, idiot”, before he was circled by his attackers.

 

By this time he realized that he couldn't protect Kinzo by taking down everyone. He wouldn't make it, he thought while standing up and defending himself.

 

With a desperate scream he gave the one covering Kinzo from his sight a hook to the chin, kicking the surprised guy, who just wanted to give Kinzo another kick, himself so he landed on his ass, Tsukasa having the hint of a satisfied smile on his face.

 

“Thank you” he heard a quiet whisper from the ground. Just nodding, he tried to protect Kinzo from every foot that only dared to come to close.

 

Suddenly he was pushed from behind, falling. He would've crashed into Kinzo, if he wouldn't have caught himself with his hands, not really feeling them being bloody and teared open.

 

In a split second they were there, maltreating his sides with their feet. It made him bite his lip and close his eyes, trying to shut off the pain. Kinzo. All that matters now is Kinzo. With this thought in his mind he got up on his arms and managed to turn a bit, now practically laying on Kinzo, shielding his body.

 

Closing his eyes he endured the pain, knowing Kinzo wouldn't have to suffer that much anymore.

His sides and whole body began to hurt cruelly and physically he felt horrible, everything being a mix of pain and shouts and ferocious laughter and feet being pushed into his body time and again.

 

The thought of protecting Kinzo was now like a light in the dark for him, a lighthouse guiding him through the stormy sea, helping him to keep his consciousness, to not let the darkness win.

 

He lost every feeling of time, not knowing how long he had already lain here, when everything became blurry. It was like everything became distant, as if it was happening somewhere far away.

He blinked, trying desperately to stay there, not wanting to leave Kinzo's side.

 

That was when he actually realized how close Kinzo was, stopping breathing for a second. Kinzo had turned his head and was looking at him with worried eyes, saying something Tsukasa couldn't quite understand. He just looked at Kinzo's eyes and hair and mouth, everything being so close and perfect. It was like there was a magic in Kinzo's look, a magic that only the two of them were sharing.

 

I never really noticed how perfect his face is, he thought fuzzily, feeling a weird feeling in his stomach, which was not attributable to the pain that was still everywhere. He felt his heart beating faster and just continued looking at Kinzo's face, not really noticing anything else but the closeness of their bodies and faces.

 

After some time though, even the almost magic effect that Kinzo had had on Tsukasa, vanished piece by piece.

 

The pain took over everything in his mind and the world became blurred again, the pain pounding in every fiber of his body. 

 

Somewhere at the edge of his mind he heard Kinzo calling his name and  other voices that he knew shouting, but he couldn't really connect them to persons, and he could hear people running and fighting and then, everything became black and the darkness finally took him away.

 

 

Slowly blinking against the bright light he opened his eyes. Where was he? He blinked one more time, staring at the white ceiling, before wanting to sit up.

 

“No. You're not going to do this” he heard a firm voice, although he could hear a smile in it, while a hand was gently pushing him down on the bed again.

 

“Y-Yo-chan?” he asked quietly, his voice sounding strangely hoarse. He was somehow disappointed that not another person had been waiting for him to wake up. Quickly clearing his throat, he turned his head to look at Youji, trying to memorize what had happened. “Where- What-”

 

He pulled a face at the pain that was pounding beneath his forehead.

 

A shadow slid over Youji's face as he answered Tsukasa's unspoken questions. “You fainted shortly after we arrived. We brought you here as fast as we could.”

 

“Thank you.” Tsukasa said quietly, but Youji just shrugged him off. “Don't mention it.”

 

Tsukasa nodded silently, the most important question still burning on his tongue. After a moment of silence he spoke up. “What's with-”

 

But Youji cut him off, his voice getting louder with every word. “Him?! What were you even thinking?! They could have hurt you badly! You can speak of luck that you don't have serious internal bleeding or something like that shit!”

 

Biting his lip and staring at the ceiling he murmured. “I didn't want to worry you. I really didn't. But I just couldn't leave him alone.”

 

Youji snorted, shaking his head. “You're hopeless, do you know that?”

 

“I know” he replied, a weak but honest smile finding its way on his lips. Youji let out a short laughter. None of them said anything for a while. Then Youji's face got serious again and he rose his voice. “I see that you really consider him as a friend, although he betrayed you. And I know that I can do nothing to prevent you from meeting up or talking with him.”

 

“Exactly” Tsukasa smiled although he felt the pain and disappointment from when he got to knew about Kinzo's plans again. But he was ready to forgive that, because he liked him and really didn't want to lose him.

 

“I can't tell you to not like him.”, Youji stated with a sigh, “but I can tell you that being friends with him will only cause more problems than it already did. You know about the conflicts Lions have with the other teams and it probably won't become better in the next time. So let me tell you that what you're doing isn't good. Not for us or anyone else or even Takehara. This friendship will only cause troubles.”

 

Tsukasa bit his lip, feeling Youji's eyes on him. “I know that. But I can't just ignore him. I like him and he is a good friend.” He said with a quiet voice, suddenly feeling pretty uncertain about the last part.

 

Not that he didn't like him. It was just... He remembered the last moments in this street all to well. The closeness. And all the emotions. He dipped into his memories, seeing his beautiful face right in front of him. Feeling the pain that was somehow attached to it. The feeling of happiness because Kinzo had been there and the pain caused by the stupid guys who wanted to hurt him.

 

All of this made him want to reach out for Kinzo. To never let go of him again. To stay by his side forever when he knew deep in his heart that he would cause pain for his other friends.

 

And in this mix of emotions he realized one thing. He felt slightly confused and it scared him. He was not sure if he wanted it but he was sure that it probably wasn't good. But he couldn't deny it was there.

His love for Kinzo.

 

To be honest it had been there all the time, how he figured out. He had felt as comfortable around Kinzo as he hadn't felt with anyone else. He was someone who could understand him and who liked him as he was.

 

The realization that caught him next, was like a knife right in his chest.

Kinzo could not possibly return his feelings. He just wasn't someone to feel like this. He was just a friend after all.

 

And then there was Kumi... Tsukasa knew that the enthusiasm and love for his first crush had diminished a lot recently but still... Wasn't he in love with her? And she was in love with him, wasn't she?

Sure she was talking to other boys a lot lately but he couldn't reproach her for it since he hadn't been very attentive at their last dates. Because of Kinzo.

Still, he didn't want to hurt her.

 

Youji's voice broke in on his thoughts. “However... Ah. You got some get well cards.”

He smiled as he handed him a little pile of envelopes. As Tsukasa looked through them, he discovered  one from the boys, one from Kumi and lots of others from friends and people he knew or not knew.

 

He just skimmed through them, not paying much attention to the words that were almost similar on each card.

 

Looking at the last envelope, he frowned. There was no name on the outside. Automatically his heart started beating faster as he opened it. Inside was a neatly folded piece of paper.

 

As he unfolded it he could spot two scribbled words.

Thank you.

 

A warm feeling spread in his chest as a smile found its way on his lips.

It was such a good feeling to know that it hadn't been for nothing, that it had actually even meant something to him.

 

And he guessed Kinzo just wasn't the guy to write five pages about how grateful he was, instead he just kept it simple.

 

“What is this?” Youji asked curiously.

 

“This? Uhm.. actually that's...”

 

“From him?” Youji asked with a sigh, in a way that showed he didn't need an answer.

Tsukasa nodded nevertheless, his smile turning a bit embarrassed.

 

“Why aren't you smiling like this when you're reading my card?” The other boy crossed his arms, his expression being a little huffy but not in a way it could be considered as honest so Tsukasa just chuckled, quickly and almost tenderly packing the piece of paper away.

 

He would've been really happy if Kinzo had actually visited him while he had been in hospital but he never came. So he just took out the paper now and then, staring at the words and trying to feel the emotions in them.

 

As the days went by though and Kinzo didn't answer any of his messages or calls, Tsukasa started to worry about him. Retrospectively he wasn't sure if he was glad that Youji told him Kinzo was alright.

 

Because now other thoughts were pulling him down.

 

Thoughts about Kinzo not caring about him anymore. That he had just been polite when he had send him the piece of paper that he was staring at most of the time.

Sometimes he just wanted to crawl under his blanket like a little child and never come out again. Because just the thought of losing Kinzo was somehow frightening him.

 

 

When he got out of hospital a couple of weeks later he somehow thought it would all go more or less back to normal.

 

The day he had university again he stood up with a smile on his face, looking forward to finally see Kinzo again, having almost forgotten about the fact that he had been practically ignored.

 

So when he finally spotted Kinzo in the halls he felt a warm feeling run through his body making his heart beat slightly faster, suddenly feeling very uncertain.

 

He walked faster, wanting to approach Kinzo and finally speak to him. When Kinzo spotted him too though his face showed some emotions Tsukasa couldn't quite read before it became expressionless. Nevertheless Tsukasa smiled widely and waved with his hand, slightly fastening his steps. “Hey Kinzo!” His smile grew even wider as Kinzo started walking in his direction too.

 

He just opened his mouth to ask him how he was doing when he froze in his tracks. Kinzo was not even really looking at him. He just walked past him without showing some sign of even noticing Tsukasa.

 

“Kinzo!” he called but the other boy just continued walking until he had disappeared in the halls.

Tsukasa just stood there, staring at where Kinzo had just disappeared. He couldn't believe it.

What had happened?! Why was he like this?

Had he really been just polite with the get well card?

 

“Maybe he really doesn't want to have anything to do with me anymore and was just glad that I helped him now. Maybe he really never wanted to be my friend. And now I...” he thought as he walked to the nearest bench and let himself sink onto it, trying hard not to curl up and cry.

 

This was just unfair. Now that he had figured out he had thought that at least they could be friends. Why did he have to make everything so complicated?

 

Tsukasa skipped his lectures that day, not feeling like seeing anybody.

For a long time he just sat by the river and stared at the water, trying to forget the pain that was making his heart clench.

 

He was just about to go home when he remembered the date he had been supposed to have with Kumi this day.

Sure they had agreed to meet like 2 hours earlier but... he couldn't just go home without even trying to still catch her.

 

So he jumped up, erased every thought about Kinzo from his head and started to run.

Only minutes later he arrived at the cafe, where they had decided to meet, completely breathless.

He didn't really expect Kumi to be still there but when he entered he could see her.

 

But the thing he saw next kept him from calling her name.

 

At the table where she was sitting, right next to her, sat another boy, happily chatting with her. And she laughed.

 

 

First she had been sad, yeah almost offended because of Tsukasa's behavior. There were times where he had simply ignored her, even on their dates. Especially on their dates she had felt somehow alone, with the way he would just stare into nothing, not even noticing when she spoke to him.

 

She could see that something had been bothering him and it had really hurt, when he refused to talk to her about it. Like he had no trust in her.

 

She noticed herself searching for other social contact more and more, trying to get what she couldn't have with Tsukasa recently.

 

When he had been in hospital she somehow didn't really care. It was almost relieving to not have to watch him becoming distant more and more. Sure, had she sometimes visited him, but even then they had talked not much, Tsukasa being somehow... weird.

 

At some point she had just stopped trying wanting to get Tsukasa's attention. She just realized that her feelings had changed. She had always thought that she'd love him no matter what but now she discovered another feeling in herself. There wasn't much left of her love for him.

 

The only thing she felt towards him was the feeling of being left behind, the disappointment and her being mad at him for ruining their former perfect relationship. The date that was planned this day was somehow a last desperate try to save what couldn't be saved anymore, because deep in her heart she knew, that for her it was over.

 

So she had absolutely no bad conscience as she was fed up with waiting for Tsukasa and instead started to flirt with another guy she had met recently at work. He was pretty funny and good-looking and she found herself really enjoying the conversation every time.

 

At first she didn't notice Tsukasa had come in, but as she looked up next time she spotted him. She knew she should have felt guilty but instead she felt pleased, wanting him to be jealous, to shout at the other boy, to maybe even pick a fight because of her, or at least she wanted to hurt him somehow so he would realize how much he loved her.

 

But in his eyes she couldn't find any pain when he approached their table.

 

The other boy immediately fell silent as soon as he had spotted him. “Kumi?!” Her boyfriend's voice was slightly disbelieving. By now he had reached the table, looking at her.

 

“Hey” she responded quietly, looking down at the table. After some time though, when nobody said another word, she looked up, searching for the expressions she had hoped to see.

He bit his lip, asking quietly “What does this mean?”

 

The other boy, that still sat at the table, stood up, bowing slightly, murmuring something like that he thought it was best if he left now. Before he left though, he smiled at Kumi, murmuring a quick “See you then, Kumi-chan.”

 

Tsukasa followed him with his eyes until he disappeared through the door and again, for some time, none of them said a word.

 

Tsukasa put a hand at his nape, stating quietly. “ I think we somehow need to talk.” Kumi just nodded silently, already knowing where this would go.

 

Sitting down hesitantly, Tsukasa looked at her. “I'm sorry for making you wait. There happened some... stuff.”

She could see he was holding himself back from adding more but she could hear his voice in her mind anyway. Although you didn't really seemed to mind.

 

“It had to do with him right?” She whispered, a sudden wave of jealousy rushing through her. Still, she hadn't planned the words to sound that reproachful.

 

Her boyfriend kept quiet but it didn't matter because it gave her the answer she needed nevertheless.

He had always been easy to read.

 

“How long have we been together now?! And how long have you known him?” Her voice raised until she almost yelled the last words, making Tsukasa look around uncomfortably.

 

“That has nothing to do with him, I swear” He replied quietly, not really meeting her eyes.

“It has” She just hissed.

 

Again they fell silent. A pretty uncomfortable silence.

“Just say what you want to say” she murmured quietly, wanting it to be over already.

He looked at her apologizing, his eyes glistening as he blinked quickly. “I'm sorry” he whispered, barely audible.

 

Kumi just nodded, trying to hold back a tear from slipping out of her eye. A tear that wasn't there because of him but because of the times they had had together.

 

“I know”, she voiced quietly, “I know it.” Then she stood up and left him alone at that table, feeling weirdly relieved.

 

Somehow free.

 

Tsukasa looked after her and suddenly felt a lump in his throat.

A while ago, he had promised to protect her from everyone, who might wanted to hurt her and now he had hurt her himself.

 

But although he had just broken up with Kumi and still felt a little sad and guilty, Tsukasa couldn't stop thinking about Kinzo.

He sat there on the table, thinking about what he could have possibly done to make Kinzo ignore him. Maybe Eiji and the others had been right and Kinzo really had just used him. What made everything possibly even worse because now he had no idea, who Kinzo really was and still... he loved him.

 

It was still hard to admit it, but he couldn't deny it anymore.

 

As the weeks went by, Tsukasa slowly got used to Kinzo ignoring him. Although... getting used to it was maybe the wrong choice of words, it was more like he became better at suppressing his feelings and keeping his face emotionless. It still felt the same. A sharp pain in his heart, slowly spreading through his body, leaving him hopeless.

 

Tsukasa continued with everything he did before. He fulfilled his duties as the top, met with the other three in the cafe (ignoring Kumi whenever possible) and went to university.

 

“You seem as if something is troubling you” Hisao pointed out one afternoon after they had met in their cafe, now standing at the rail, looking down on the city.

 

“Huh?” Tsukasa asked, not knowing what else to say.

 

“You're so distracted lately and sometimes you have this... expression” The other boy said, frowning slightly worried.

 

“Uh.. no it's nothing. Don't worry I guess uni stuff is just making me feel exhausted. It's more than I expected.” Tsukasa tried to smile, not wanting his friend to worry.

Hisao just nodded and for a while neither of them said anything.

 

“You broke up with Kumi right?” The brown-haired boy asked after some time.

Tsukasa just nodded silently, still feeling clueless what to answer to the other boy's questions. He could hardly tell him what was really going on. Even Hisao wouldn't understand it. He kept looking straightforward, feeling the other's eyes on his face.

 

Hisao sighed. “I already wondered why you were so cold with each other. It didn't really go well recently right?” When Tsukasa said nothing, he continued after some time. “Sometimes... it's just the right time to move on, take a step forward, to change something and to let things behind, for one time not caring about someone else's feelings. Sometimes clinging to the old things just makes you unhappy.”

 

Tsukasa still said nothing, feeling a weirdly tight feeling in his chest.

 

 

The following days Hisao's words kept spinning around in Tsukasa's head, not letting go of him, causing sleepless nights.

Maybe it just meant that he had to move on. Let go of the things he loved. Let go of everything. But then... he couldn't. He was still being ignored and what was the point in it then? He would only be alone, like he had always been. Before he had met the others. They had somehow become his family and he just couldn't disappoint them.

 

So he just tried to continue, tried to forget about Hisao's words. But whenever they were catching up with him he felt this weird hopelessness, the sadness and all the things he tried so desperately to keep out.

 

He missed Kinzo. He really did and he had no idea what to do against the feeling that made his heart clench whenever he only dared to think of him.

 

 

Everyone was quiet when Youji rolled out the map on the table, painting some other regions of it golden. “They have taken over almost all the teams around our territory. It's an open secret that we're supposed to be next.” he stated with a sigh.

Tsukasa's eyes widened slightly and inwardly he was screaming. “No. NO! Not that!”

 

“Well... now we have a problem.” Hisao murmured quietly, his worried eyes flashing to Tsukasa's face and then meeting Youji's.

 

“Come on guys, we'll take them down in no time!” Eiji called motivated, immediately earning warning looks from Hisao and Eiji.

 

Tsukasa tried to gulp down the panic that was starting to flood through his veins. He couldn't do that! He just couldn't fight him.

“Yeah of course we will” Tsukasa said, trying to sound confident and encouragingly. His mind was strangely blank, his own voice sounding empty and fake in his ears as if it wasn't his own.

 

Eiji cleared his throat, shooting an uncomfortable look to him. “However... when will they attack us?”

 

“I can't say exactly.. It could be tomorrow or in two, three, four days. But it won't take long anymore.”

 

Kiriki couldn't say who had said that just now, everything seeming unrealistic and far away.

“I- I have to go.” He stood up, feeling all the three pairs of eyes on him. “I- I need to finish my homework for university for tomorrow.” Knowing that probably none of them would believe his lame excuse, he averted his eyes, almost not feeling how his feet carried him away.

Out of the hall and further, faster, carrying him away until he felt nothing but the wind on his face and the desperation all over him, that made it almost unable to breathe, making him want to cry.

 

Out of breath he finally stopped, looking around.

He had absolutely no clue where he was, so he just sat down on the sidewalk, hugging his knees close and burying his face.

 

He had no idea what he should do or how he should fight against Kinzo. How could you hurt someone you love? And he couldn't just give up. That was impossible since it was his duty to defend Gokuraku Chou. He couldn't disappoint them.

 

But then again he had to hurt Kinzo. He groaned, one thought chasing another and he felt like he was moving in circles. What should he do?

 

That was when he suddenly remembered Hisao's words again. Sometimes it's just the right time to move on. Was this the right time? To not care about the others and just do what he wanted to do? But was it really what he wanted most right now?

 

He shook his head, scolding himself. That would be the same as letting them down, hurting them, leaving them when they needed him most.

But then... it would mean he couldn't do either ways. He couldn't hurt someone who he loved nor he could allow others to hurt his friends. And chickening out and leaving was out of question since he didn't want to disappoint them, hurt them. He would ruin their world if he would be a coward, making Gokuraku Chou losing its pride.

He just couldn't do that.

 

He had to fight. Whether he wanted or not.

And maybe... maybe he would make it to avoid fighting against Kinzo directly. It would be bad enough to watch others, especially his friends hurting him.

 

He felt his phone vibrating, and after one quick look he denied the call, not really feeling like talking with Youji.

 

He let out a frustrated huff, knowing what to do now but still being uncertain about it, not wanting it, feeling himself resisting against the imagination.

Why did everyone always have to fight?!

 

A shoe came into his sight, and then another. Suddenly he realized there were a lot of steps around him, not having them heard before, having been too distracted by himself.

 

Slowly he looked up, his eyes spotting a black-haired boy, not that tall, surrounded from others, wearing somehow similar clothes, which made them seem to belong together.

 

“Great, in what trouble am I now?” he thought, sighing inwardly and cursing himself for not paying more attention in his surroundings.

 

“Who are you and what are you doing here?” the boy standing in front of him voiced sharply, nudging him with his foot not that gently.

 

Tsukasa got up slowly. “I was walking around and got lost.”

 

The other boy  was laughing and some others joined him. Suddenly he stopped, looking at him. “And I am supposed to believe that?” he asked, his eyebrows raised. “Stop kidding, I know who you are.”

 

“I'm not kidding.” Tsukasa insisted, still not really having a clue who they were. They were probably another team in which territory he accidentally ran into but... “I really got lost and I don't want to pick a fight or whatever. Just let me leave.”


That made them laugh again. “Listen to what he says.”, one laughed mockingly, “the little baby got lost and wants to leave. Is he afraid? Does he want back to his mommy?”

 

The one, that was probably the leader, shot him a look and he stopped laughing.

“And who”, the leader of them repeated with a dangerous voice, “is supposed to believe you? I'm not stupid you know?” He pierced his eyes into Tsukasa's, who blinked and tried to think of getting out of this without a fight.

The others had no idea where he was and these guys didn't seem to want to let him go just like this. Especially because they seemed to know who he was, for whatever reason.

 

“Listen” Tsukasa rose his voice. “I don't know who you are, but I think I have done nothing to you and you should just mind your own business and let me in peace because I don't think it's such a good idea for you to get involved with someone like me.”

He knew that it could be dangerous to threaten them that way, but hey, his position had to be good for at least something. And maybe... with a little luck they would let him go.

 

“Mind my own business?” his opponent suddenly started to laugh again. “Oh dear, you are my business right now. And don't you dare talking of us that derogatory. You sure are on your high horse, aren't you?”

 

He clicked with his tongue before getting even closer and speaking quietly. “It's a shame you don't know who we are. I don't know if I can let you go without even showing off a little bit of our skills to you, since you haven't experienced them yet. A little foretaste for the leader of Gokuraku Chou.” He stepped back a bit again.

 

Tsukasa already knew he had lost with trying to get out of that without a fight before the fist hit him right in the stomach, Tsukasa having been unable to protect himself fast enough.

The boy sure was strong, the pain slowly spreading out through his stomach, making him writhe in pain a little, gasping for air.

 

The boy looked down on him, raising his voice. “We are Lions.”

 

His words made Tsukasa's head snap up, looking at him in shock. “You-” It had probably been a bad idea, raising his head, Tsukasa realized as a fist hit him in his jaw, sending a sharp pain through his head, numbing his senses for a short time.

 

Great. Of all territories he could have run into and of all teams he could have met he just had to run into them. But at least Kinzo was nowhere to be seen.

 

“What do you say? Should we give Gokuraku Chou a proper warning and do a little bit of the work just here?” The boy called, turning around to the others, who were showing their approval.

 

Tsukasa desperately looked around. He couldn't fight them. It were just too many and also... he still didn't really know how, since most of the time he acted on instinct. He balled his hands, preparing for another attack of the boy and shielding himself, positioning his feet.

 

The boy just continued grinning at him smugly before he let out a shout, his fist flying almost to fast to spot, breaking through Tsukasa's defense all to easy.

Tsukasa tasted blood as he tried to ignore the dull pain, blinking to be able to see clear again. The only thing he saw though, was the black hair whirling around and next thing he found himself on the floor, gasping, all air being pressed out of his lungs. His chest was hurting and he could feel his arms and back burning.

 

He felt a feet kicking his side and focused on the boy, who was smiling derisively. “And that is all Gokuraku Chou has to offer?! That is going to be easier than expected.”

 

A few of the guys laughed and Tsukasa heard one of them announcing loudly. “Bon? I'm rising my bet by 5000 Yen.” “Understood” A boy, probably Bon, took the notes and let them disappear in his pockets. Bystanders were laughing at that and let approving comments hear.

 

Tsukasa felt white-hot rage welling up inside him at the thought of these guys hurting his friends. He knew, deep in his heart, he couldn't stop them but a part of him just wanted to punch them for wanting to hurt his friends. He ignored his hurting chest and the headache that was already announcing itself with a pounding, supporting himself with his hands as he got up, shooting the leader of the group a glare as he opened his mouth to a scream, attacking him.

 

When he met a pretty strong defensive and couldn't even land one hit, his eyes widened in surprise. This guy sure had skill. At the smug grin that was still embellishing the boys face, Tsukasa narrowed his eyes, striking out.

Before he could hit his aim though, he felt a foot in his back, pushing him toward the other boy, who was already awaiting him with a series of punches into his stomach, which were squeezing the air out of his lungs, leaving him coughing.

 

“You cowards.” He cursed under his breath, trying to get a hold of himself, but as soon as he was only halfway in the condition to deal out blows or even defend himself sufficient there was another kick, another punch, another slap. And all the time the boy was laughing, grinning down on him as if he was his next birthday present.

 

Yet, Tsukasa didn't give them the satisfaction and always got up on his feet, again and again, knowing that, if he stayed on the ground, they would just continue as long as they had fun with it and right now, they seemed to have pretty much.

 

It was almost like that one time, when, in middle school, there had been that little boy in the second year who had been bullied. Tsukasa, still in his first year, had seen them pushing that boy around, even still kicking him when he had already lain on the ground, sobbing.

At that time, he hadn't dared to step in, being afraid of being bullied himself by them. Besides they had been older and had seemed much stronger. Though he kind of had regretted not stepping in. He had no idea what had become of that boy.

But he had the feeling that it had to look pretty similar right now. With all the guys surrounding him, wanting to hurt him.

 

Just like they did it with Kinzo, a little voice whispered inside him. He almost let out a short and dry laugh. How ironical the situation was. Especially because it were Kinzo's guys.

 

“What are you doing there?” A sharp voice tore Tsukasa out of his thoughts, making his head snap up from where he was lying on the ground again, immediately regretting it as he managed to protect his face from a boot just in time.

His eyes widened as he recognized the voice only a moment later and he let out a groan. Seemed like his situation had become even worse.

 

“Shishimaru!”, Kinzo snapped, “What the hell does that mean?”, while ignoring Tsukasa's gaze on him, instead focusing on the boy, whose name seemed to be Shishimaru.

The latter still grinned smugly as he answered. “Hey Kinzo. You're just right. We're just showing some guy from Gokuraku Chou some of our skills.”

 

Kinzo's eyes narrowed at his words and he stared at Shishimaru, clicking his tongue. “And since when do our skills include cowardice? Don't you see that you're doing the same to him that was done to me? If you want to show that guy our skills, fight him in a one-on-one and not like this.”

 

His gaze passed Tsukasa, who was still staring at him, trying to catch his gaze. That guy. Being called by Kinzo like that hurt. It really did. And also... why did he act as if he didn't knew him? Didn't care about him? Maybe he doesn't.

 

Tsukasa bit his lip and finally directed his eyes to the ground, knowing that now, he either would have to fight (what was not probable because in his condition it would be pointless to do so) or they would leave and they wouldn't deign to look at him anymore. What wouldn't be anything new. At least not from their leader.

 

Who was suddenly standing in front of him, Tsukasa noticed, slowly looking up.

Then Kinzo rose his voice, the tone being dangerously calm, looking at him. Tsukasa couldn't even find one single emotion he had learned to love in the cold dark orbs. “What are you doing here?”

 

Tsukasa swallowed, deciding to try it once again with the truth.

For a moment he wanted to ask Kinzo if what they planned was true and how he could do that. He wanted to ask why he was being so cold and ignorant, but then he scolded himself.

That would just seem weak and desperate. “I didn't pay attention to my surroundings and got lost.”

 

He cursed himself at his voice sounding quiet and weak. Kinzo clicked his tongue. “You should know better than that. Walking around in other territories can be dangerous for someone like you.” He shot a glare at his guys. “He learned his lesson. Let him leave now.”

 

Kinzo turned around without even looking at Tsukasa once again, pocketing his hands and starting to walk away.

 

“Kinzo!” Tsukasa just couldn't keep himself from calling his name. The other boy stopped in his movements, but didn't turn around. Biting his lip, he quickly got to his feet. “Thank you.”

 

Finally Kinzo turned around and for a short moment, Tsukasa could see emotions in his eyes, the emotions that had made them so fascinating. Almost like the feeling he had had when, that night, he-

 

And then they were gone, before he could have even try to read them, try to get to know what Kinzo was thinking. Kinzo's eyes were cold again, so expressionless that he wondered whether he had just imagined it.

 

“I don't want to owe you anything. That's why. Don't think something into it that isn't there, Kiriki Tsukasa.”

 

And then he left. The others threw him a few glares and insulted him, before they were following Kinzo, but Tsukasa didn't really hear it.

 

He felt like there was a knife stabbing his heart. So they had been right. He had just wanted to use Tsukasa, not caring about him for real.

This knowledge hurt more than every fist or shoe that had hit him.

 

He had always wanted to believe that Kinzo had a good reason for avoiding him. That he maybe didn't want to cause trouble or anything. But this...

Kinzo had said it himself. He didn't care about Tsukasa and that made everything even worse.

 

This night Tsukasa couldn't find any sleep.

He rolled around, picking up his phone a thousand times, but always letting it drop again, not daring to call Kinzo. Also it would seem as if he was desperate just because of this little thing.

Okay maybe he was. He just wanted to hear Kinzo's voice, see his smile, and talk to him like they always used to in this short time they had been friends.

 

He stared into the darkness of his room, thinking once again about Hisao's words.

That was when he came to a decision. He wouldn't let his friends down. If it was necessary, he would fight. Even if that meant that he had to hurt Kinzo, who didn't seem to be bothered by that anyway. He didn't mind, he told himself.

 

Kinzo wasn't returning his feelings in any way, not even wanting friendship so Tsukasa would just draw a line and forget about him. Somehow.

 

 

The following days were filled with an uncomfortable strain, because they had no idea, when Lions were going to make a move.

Tsukasa was often met with worried eyes of his friends, knowing that he probably didn't really look like he was in a good shape, the way he still couldn't sleep well. Also Hisao seemed to know what it was, that kept Tsukasa deeply in his thoughts most of the time.

 

One day, when he was just entering their hall, he saw Youji and Hisao speaking quietly, silencing as soon as they spotted him. He knew that they were worried. Worried about him and what he would do as soon as he saw Kinzo.

Tsukasa hadn't told them that he had met Kinzo that night and he wasn't planning to. No need for them to know.

 

“They're driving me insane!” Eiji groaned, resting his feet on the table, crossing his arms. “Why can't we just attack them, seriously, I hate just waiting like that. I hate it that I don't know when. I bet they're not going to do anything today too. I could be on a date right now but...”

 

Hisao shrugged, his eyes darting to Tsukasa for a moment. “They didn't do anything for five days now, I don't think they will wait any longer.”

 

As if on affirmation, the boys could hear something outside rumbling. Youji narrowed his eyes and stood up, burying his hands in his pockets.

“Seems like it's time.” He murmured, looking at Tsukasa. “Are you ready?”

The addressed nodded, although he felt like shaking his head, everything inside him tightening in panic.

 

He took deep breath, calming himself down, standing up. “Let's take them down.” He voiced grimly, deciding for himself that he would do everything to protect these guys, that had somehow become his family.

Yeah, maybe he blocked out the fact that he still felt pretty uncertain about his decision, not knowing how he would manage it. But he wouldn't disappoint them. Not today.

 

His eyes wandered over the faces of his friends, noticing the hidden worry in Hisao's, but his encouraging smile. He saw Eiji's sparkling eyes and his obvious excitement, making Tsukasa smile unconsciously. And lastly, Youji's firm expression, his eyes, that expressed how much he trusted Tsukasa, and his mouth, the hint of a knowing smile on his lips.

 

He just wanted to say something, as he felt his phone vibrating in his pocket. With a frown he pulled it out, reading the message that he had just received, telling him that Takehara Kinzo himself was awaiting him in some other old fabric hall.

Frowning, he murmured more to himself than to the others. “Seems like he wants to fight me separated.”

 

“What?” Youji asked, a frown on his face too.

 

“Takehara Kinzo. He wants to meet me in some other place.” Tsukasa answered.

 

“If he wants to fight you, he should just come here and not-” Eiji shook his head disapprovingly.

 

“Are you sure this isn't an ambush?”

 

Tsukasa just sighed. “Does that matter? I don't have a choice anyway.”

 

Youji took a step forward, squeezing his shoulder lightly. “You'll do it. I believe in you.”

 

Hisao smiled, nodding. “Leave it to us. We'll tidy up a bit in here and you go and do whatever you have to do. Eiji grinned and made an approving sound.

 

His friends trusting and supporting him made Tsukasa feel a strength he had never really felt before. They knew how difficult and complicated that was and still... they trusted him that he would do the right thing.

He smiled at them, nodding once before taking the backdoor and disappearing, running toward his aim.

 

Behind him he could already hear the first fighting noises and smiled. As much as he loved a peaceful atmosphere, he also loved these moments where he felt somehow connected with them. As if they were a unit and couldn't be destroyed by anyone.

 

The closer Tsukasa got his purpose, the more nervous and restless he got. His thoughts circled around the question, what would await him there.

Would he be alone? Also, how should he talk to him, how should he even fight him?

Sure, he had made the decision that he would protect his friends but...

 

Angry at himself he shook his head. This wasn't the time to develop doubts. Youji and the others needed him to be strong now. But although he seemed to have made up his mind, he felt like he had a lump in his throat.

 

Finally, he reached the hall, discovering a door which stood ajar. He opened it, slipping through and entering the dimly lit interior.

 

“Hello?” His voice echoed and he looked around, searching for Kinzo.

When he couldn't spot him he started wandering through the hall, biting his lip.

 

“Kiriki Tsukasa.”

 

Tsukasa turned around quickly, searching for the origin of the voice. And there he was. Smiling at him, like he had so many times, but still with these somehow cold eyes. “I already thought you wouldn't come.”

 

Tsukasa let out a short and bitter laugh, balling his hands to keep them from shaking. “You tricked me pretty well, didn't you?”

 

He couldn't keep himself from voicing these words, suddenly all the anger and hurt rushing through him, caused by Kinzo. He had trusted this guy. He even fell in love with him. But he had just tricked him, wanting to weaken Gokuraku Chou.

 

Something flashed up in Kinzo's eyes for a moment before he laughed quietly. “Do you really think that? I didn't even know who this weak guy was, that I met that day.”

 

Tsukasa said nothing at that.

 

“But you knew it right? You knew who I am. And I bet you told your adorable friends. I have to admit, for a moment I almost believed your little play when they discovered you were hanging out with me. And that you helped me... I wonder why you knew that I was there.”

 

“What?! Do you want to say I build up a friendship with you on purpose!? For the sake of Gokuraku Chou?! This is the-”

 

“Just admit it, damn it!” Kinzo wasn't smiling anymore, his face a mask of anger, his eyes flashing dangerously.

 

“Kinzo, I-”

 

“No! Just shut up will you!? I don't want to hear any of your lies!” Kinzo yelled, narrowing his eyes before letting out a scream and attacking Tsukasa. He found himself on the ground, his head pounding painfully.

 

“I thought I had found a friend. There aren't many people I feel comfortable with and I thought you were becoming one of them. I thought I could trust you.” Kinzo's voice sounded bitter and Tsukasa looked up at him, standing up again.

He balled his fists even tighter. “I was! I never wanted to trick you, I swear! I just-”

 

“I said I don't want your lies! What else reason should you have to meet up with another top?” Kinzo attacked him another time, but this time Tsukasa was prepared, defending and stepping back a little.

 

“I didn't care you were another top! I thought if I just met up with you normally it would be okay. I just wanted to be friends with you and nothing more!”

 

Kinzo clenched his jaw, clearly not believing Tsukasa, who tried to think of a way to make him believe. Who had told him these lies anyway?!
“Why didn't you just tell me you're from Gokuraku Chou then?!”

 

“I didn't want to make it complicated.” Tsukasa murmured. “You're from Lions and everyone just knew that you planned to attack us. I just wanted to ignore that. I wanted you to be normal, not... like someone from Lions.”

 

Kinzo shot him an unbelieving look, before whirling around, trying to kick Tsukasa, who was just quick enough to avoid being hit. “I guess not telling me made it even worse now. I should have known that I can't trust anyone here, just like Shishimaru told me.”

 

“Shishimaru?!” Tsukasa looked at Kinzo slightly confused. “This guy knows as much as Youji or anyone else and that means he knows nothing! I never wanted to hurt you. Never.” His voice was firm and he wanted Kinzo to know that this stupid Shishimaru with his smug grin was inciting Kinzo against him.

 

“Really?” Kinzo replied with raised eyebrows, not being really convinced. “You know... I trust him. I have always been together with him and he has never lied to me. Never.”

 

“Well.. there's a first time for everything.” Tsukasa murmured, shielding himself against another attack of Kinzo.

“Listen Kinzo, we don't have to fight. What do you even want to achieve here in Hiroshima?!”

 

For a moment there were some unreadable emotions on Kinzo's face, before he admitted. “I just want to find a place where we belong, where it's safe, where I can protect them. And that means I have to be sure, that no one will try to attack us.”

 

Tsukasa shook his head, keeping Kinzo from punching him, by pushing his arms away. “This is the most ridiculous thing I've heard. Not the part with a place where you belong, but the way you're aiming for it. You will just harm others and make yourself enemies.”

 

For a second there were doubts flashing up in Kinzo's eyes, before he shook his head, suddenly kicking Tsukasa in his stomach. “How I am supposed to believe you? You just want Gokuraku Chou to have one opponent less.”

 

Tsukasa coughed, trying hard to keep standing upright. “You're completely wrong! I want to be your friend and not this! This is not how you will find your place in here. It will just cause other teams attacking you, being jealous. Believe me Kinzo, please.”

 

But Kinzo shook his head, although Tsukasa noticed that his conviction had become less. Still, Kinzo kept attacking Tsukasa and Tsukasa just defended most of Kinzo's attacks and stood up again and again.

He realized that he didn't have to fight Kinzo. Suddenly Kinzo realized that Tsukasa wasn't fighting back, lowering his fists and looking at him confused. “If you really tricked me, why aren't you trying to take me down now?”

 

Tsukasa looked at him, trying to tell him with his eyes how much he meant to him. “I didn't trick you Kinzo. I always saw you as a friend. Like I said I never planned to hurt you.”

 

“But Shishimaru-”

Suddenly Tsukasa understood.

 

“Shishimaru lied. I guess he didn't want to see you growing closer to someone else, since you two always used to be together.”

 

Kinzo tilted his head, looking at Tsukasa staggered, but then he bit his lip and Tsukasa could see in his eyes that he started to believe him.

“I guess it's my mistake then. I should have talked with you. I'm sorry.” Kinzo hesitantly said, not really knowing what to do now.

 

Tsukasa felt a slight stabbing pain in his heart at his words before he nodded. “Yeah that would have been better.” He was relieved Kinzo seemed to believe him.

 

“But.. what are we going to do about this now?” Kinzo made a vague gesture and Tsukasa knew what he meant.

Officially they were in a fight after Lions had made their move and they couldn't just go back home again. Giving up would mean for Kinzo that he and Lions were losing a lot of pride and respect. He sighed. “I don't know. All I know is that I can't hurt a friend.” Or someone that I love, he completed in his mind.

 

Or...

“Is anyone else here in this area?” Tsukasa asked.

 

“No, not that I would know” Kinzo replied. “Why?”

 

“Because... we could just tell them we were equal. That no-one of us was able to continue fighting. Everything would stay the way it was.”

 

“Well... that's possible and they would believe you because you have a few bruises” Kinzo bit his lip at these words. “But for me.. you'd need to punch me.”

 

“True...” Tsukasa voiced quietly, being hesitant about the whole thing again. “I don't  really think I'm able to, though.”

 

“I already thought so..” Kinzo stated. “Can't you just... I mean.. think of all your friends that are hurt right now because of me.”

 

“But... you are sorry for that aren't you? You realized now it was wrong right?”

 

Kinzo shrugged. “Not really.”

 

“What?”

 

“Look, your friends mean nothing to me. Seriously I just don't care about them. To be honest I didn't even spend one thought about them or what they are maybe doing now. I wouldn't mind if they got hurt bad. Or even if they die. I wouldn't-”

 

Tsukasa's fist hit Kinzo's jaw faster than he could even comprehend it.

Kinzo stumbled backwards, holding it. He smiled slightly.

“So you are able to hit me after all.”


“Please tell me you didn't mean that honest.” Tsukasa growled, balling his fists unconsciously.

 

“What if I did?” Kinzo smirked. “You know... they are strangers to me which means I don't give a shit about what happens to them. Why should I? Just because you like them?!”

 

Tsukasa knew it was wrong, but still, at Kinzo's words he felt the anger boiling inside him and he was so disappointed of him.

Faster than Kinzo could even blink Tsukasa had hit his face two times. He gasped in pain, stumbling, but catching himself.

 

Again he smiled. “I think now they will believe us.”

 

“What?” Tsukasa asked again, a little stunned.

 

Kinzo chuckled quietly. “Have you really thought I meant it? I just needed you to hit me, so it would look convincingly, Tsukasa.”

 

“Oh.” Tsukasa made.

 

He looked at Kinzo and spotted the bruises that were already starting to show up. “I- Uh- I'm sorry Kinzo.” He murmured guiltily but the other boy just stepped closer and patted his shoulder. “It's okay. Maybe I even deserved it. A little.”

 

Tsukasa had to smile too, as he saw  the corners of Kinzo's mouth twitching.

Everything was gonna be alright again.

 

 

A few days later Tsukasa and Kinzo sat next to each other near by the river, talking and laughing as if nothing as if both teams had just accepted the friendship of their tops and were kind of enjoying the peaceful atmosphere that was reigning in Hiroshima once again.

 

When the sun was about to set, Tsukasa turned to Kinzo. “I never thought that bumping into someone would lead to this.”

 

Kinzo smiled at this. “I think...” He thought again, and it seemed to be hard for him admitting it, the way he was avoiding Tsukasa's eyes, focusing on his hands instead. “I think you have become one of the persons that I trust and treasure most. I never knew someone like you before.”

 

Tsukasa's smile grew wide and his heart skipped a beat, while he wondered whether he should just try. “Kinzo?”

 

“Mh?” Kinzo looked up again, his eyes seeming locked with Tsukasa's as soon as they found each other.

 

And there was it.

The strange magic, that Tsukasa had missed all the time. These warm but reserved eyes and the slight smile that was decorating this pretty face.

It was as if there were no words needed anymore, Tsukasa being able to read everything he wanted to know in these eyes.

 

He forgot everything he had wanted to say, instead just closing his eyes and leaning in until his lips brushed against Kinzo's, Tsukasa's nose slightly bumping into his.

 

For a moment Kinzo seemed surprised or shocked, from the way he wasn't moving.

Tsukasa was just about to pull away, already cursing himself for seeing things that weren't there but then he felt it.

 

Kinzo's lips moving against his. His heart nearly jumped off his chest as the warmth was spreading through his body and he had to smile. The way Kinzo was kissing him was soft and he could feel the other boy smiling as well, shifting closer.

 

His mind was strangely clouded and he was filled with happiness.

When Kinzo felt for his hand and entwined their fingers Tsukasa was sure that, this was  probably one of the best moments, no, definitely the best moment in his life.

 

When they finally broke apart, Tsukasa's lips were tingling and he was slightly breathless. Leaning his forehead against Kinzo's he had to smile widely, whispering, as if it was a secret that only this person next to him was allowed to know. “I really like you.”

 

Kinzo just smiled at that and leaned in for another soft kiss.