Chapter 8: The Final Confrontation

 

Lunch hour at Ryokurin Academy is always hectic. Hundreds of students milled about the cafeteria, trying to get to the front of the line before the decent food ran out. Mitsuru and Shinobu always arranged their classes so they would have no trouble getting there in time, but they still had to push through the crowd to get to a table. Mitsuru raised his tray above his head to keep anyone from toppling it. Shinobu didn't bother, as a clear path always seemed to form in front of him. They sat at an empty table in the corner of the room, both keeping an eye out for Hiroku or his ill-fated friends.

"Huh," Mitsuru said, "I don't see any of them."

"Good. How was English class?"

"Uneventful. Hiroku did not grace us with his presence today."

"Hmm. He must be trying to form a new plan to cover for yesterday's failure. He'll be back soon."

"In the meantime, I plan to enjoy his absence. Feel like playing a game of basketball or something? We still have 40 minutes before class."

"You're certainly energetic today."

"Well, I had a good night's sleep. So do you want to?"

"Maybe after school. We might as well play while you wait to see if Hiroku shows up."

"Sounds good. There's a court next to the library, why don't we meet there after school?"

"Perfect. I want to be there when Hiroku shows up anyway."

The students in the surrounding area looked on in fear as the two most capable students at the Academy broke into wicked laughter. The few who had overheard the discussion decided to keep a safe distance from the library that afternoon.

 

Hiroku stared grimly at his computer screen. He had been hiding out in the school PC lab all day, not even leaving for lunch. He couldn't risk running into Shinobu unprepared. So far, he had only thought of one way to salvage his Master Plan. It was riskier than the original plan, but it was his only shot. He checked his watch. School was letting out in a few minutes, but he still had half an hour before meeting Mitsuru. He only hoped that Mitsuru would still come. He checked his backpack to make sure he had everything. Dyozo had managed to lose one set of pictures, but he still had others, and hoped there was enough to do the trick. Please let this work.

 

Hasukawa shuffled despondently down the hall towards his room. I'll never find out. I'll never know. Everyone here knows but me. What could it be? I just don't get it. He muttered inarticulately, passing people without looking up. Shun and Aoki looked on worriedly from the door of the arcade.

Shun sounded frantic, not an uncommon event. "He just won't give up on this Aoki-kun! I don't know what to do! He's been grumpy for days. I can't bear seeing him like this."

Aoki nodded, seeing Shun's predicament. "You had better call him over here. And see if you can find Furusawa."

"You mean... you're going to tell him?"

"We don't really have a choice. He'll go nuts if we don't. We had better not use the arcade though. There are too many people, and I don't want this going any farther than it has too.

Shun nodded apprehensively. "We can use our room. Do you think Furusawa's still here?"

"I hope so. I'll see if I can find him. You just deal with Suka."

 

Hasukawa came to a stop in his plod down the corridor, numbly realizing that he was standing in front of his room. He was about to enter when he heard the adjacent room's door open.

"Hey, Suka!"

"Wha-? Oh, hi Mitsuru. What's with the outfit?"

Mitsuru looked down at his clothes. He had changed into a pair of dark blue sweatpants and a white t-shirt, and held a basketball in one arm. He didn't see what Hasukawa thought was odd about that. He looked back at Hasukawa. "What do you mean? What do you expect me to wear to play basketball? My uniform?"

"Basketball? I thought you were tutoring today?"

Mitsuru's face fell. "If I were tutoring, why would I have a basketball?" Hasukawa simply stared at him. "Are you feeling okay Suka? You've been pretty weird lately."

"No, I'm fine."

Mitsuru would have probed further, but Shinobu emerged from their room, also clad in sweats and a t-shirt. "Hello, Suka." He immediately set off down the hall.

"Well, we'll see you later Suka." With a slightly concerned expression Mitsuru walked off after his friend.

For a moment, Hasukawa simply stared after them, then turned towards his room. Halfway through opening the door he felt Shun collide with his shoulder, pushing him into their room. He spun around angrily. "Shun! What did you do that for?"

"Sshhh!" Shun closed the door and turned to him. "Aoki and I decided that we couldn't keep the secret from you anymore. He'll be here any minute with Furusawa-sempai."

Hasukawa's eyes opened impossibly wide. "Really?! You're going to tell me!!" He hugged Shun excitedly, incredibly eager to finally hear the secret. Now all he had to do was wait for Aoki and Furusawa to appear.

 

Shinobu smiled smugly as the ball soared through the air, neatly passing through the hoop. He wiped a few beads of sweat from his forehead and turned to his friend. "I believe that puts me back in the lead." He paused to make sure Mitsuru didn't protest his count. "Good. It's time we stopped anyway."

Mitsuru glanced at his watch. Hiroku was due any minute. "I hate it when you do that." He took a sip from his water-bottle. "Are you planning on staying in sight?"

"And miss his explanation for yesterday? I wouldn't dream of it. I will be watching from the safety of the library." He pointed to a nearby window. "From there I can see the whole court, and if I open the window I can hear as well."

"I assume you'll be joining me once the entertainment factor has worn off."

"Of course. It would be rude of me not to attend." He smiled cruelly and ducked into the library. Mitsuru picked up the basketball and began shooting practice free-throws, waiting for his 'pupil' to arrive.

 

Hasukawa looked around the room, almost shaking with anticipation. The four boys sat around the table in the center of the room, with Furusawa across from Suka. He looked at the red- head sternly. "Suka, you know that we all vowed to keep this secret, but we have agreed to make an exception if it will allow you to keep your sanity. However, before we tell, you must agree never to speak of it again, ever."

"I swear! I'll never tell a soul, I promise, I just can't bear not kno-"

"Suka!" Aoki interrupted his ravings. "We're going to tell you. You don't have to convince us."

Hasukawa nodded mutely. All eyes turned to Furusawa, who Suka had identified as the primary speaker. The upperclassman cleared his throat. "Last year, during elections, the two leading contenders for Student Council President were Shinobu and Hiroku. Seeing that Shinobu had much higher grades and was much more popular than him, Hiroku decided the only way to win was to ruin Shinobu's reputation."

As Furusawa paused, Hasukawa resisted the urge to tell him to hurry up. He forced himself to be patient. Sure enough, Furusawa continued. "He distributed a flyer at school, which stated that Shinobu Tezuka was a... a sexual deviant."

Hasukawa blinked. "A what?"

"A sex fiend," supplied Aoki. "He said that Shinobu was doing... inappropriate things... with Mitsuru. Things which were not entirely voluntary on Mitsuru's part."

Shun looked down at his hands. "He said that was why Shinobu put the lock on his door."

Hasukawa looked stunned. "Well, I guess it could have been worse."

Furusawa laughed hollowly. "It was worse. The flier was just the beginning."

 

Hiroku stood nervously behind the library. He only hoped that Mitsuru would be there and would hear him out. It was vital to his plan. He had instructed his friends to stay just out of sight in case something went wrong, but with any luck he wouldn't need them. Biizen and Dyozo were hiding outside, where they could see the entrance, and Satto was inside.

With a deep breath, he rounded the corner. He began to get worried when he didn't see Mitsuru in front of the library. He frantically looked over at the tree where Biizen was supposed to be hiding. The other boy pointed towards the other side of the building. Hiroku hurried in that direction until, with great relief, he spotted his tutor in the basketball court. He gave a silent prayer, than ran up to the taller boy.

"Mitsuru! Thank God you're alright! I was so worried yesterday!"

Mitsuru looked at him with thinly veiled contempt. "So why did you skip school?"

"Considering the stunt Shinobu pulled yesterday, I didn't feel safe going. I probably shouldn't have come here either, but I wanted to make sure you were okay."

Mitsuru raised an eyebrow. "Exactly what stunt was that?

Hiroku tried to look incredulous. "You don't remember? Oh, that's right, you were asleep. I'm sure Shinobu had some excellent story to explain it, too." He paused for effect. "I swear to you, Mitsuru, no matter what he said, I didn't have anything to do with drugging you. I tried to stop Shinobu from dragging you off, but all I got for the effort was a kick in the stomach."

Mitsuru stared silently at Hiroku, amazed that he was trying to pull this off. He began absently dribbling the ball, still gazing at the other boy.

Disturbed by Mitsuru's silence, Hiroku began talking again. "I don't know what Shinobu told you, but I'm begging you not to believe him. All I want is to be your friend, and I don't know why he doesn't want to let me. I mean, I know I did some bad things, but I haven't done anything for over a year, and he's still treating me like an enemy." Still getting no response from Mitsuru, he got even more nervous. "How much of yesterday do you remember?"

"Only that I fell asleep at the ice cream parlor and didn't wake up until this morning. Shun tells me that Shinobu had to carry me home."

"I know it isn't my business, but I would distance myself from Shinobu if I were you. I mean, any guy that would drug you and carry you away just to keep you from someone he didn't like, is a lot closer to a stalker than a friend."

Mitsuru fought down a smile. "You're saying that Shinobu drugged me?"

Hiroku nodded vehemently. "He told me so himself. He said I should never talk to you again, but I couldn't just leave you with that guy. I mean, he hasn't hurt you yet, but he treats you like a possession, and I hate to see that."

"I appreciate your concern." He tossed the ball through the hoop and let it bound off aimlessly. He turned back to Hiroku. "So why are you so interested in me?"

"Well, partly just because I hate to see Shinobu use you the way he does. But... there's another reason."

"Oh?"

Hiroku nodded and lead Mitsuru to a nearby bench where he could set down his backpack. "I have something you might be interested in seeing."

 

Shinobu sat comfortably by the window, observing the antics below. He could hear perfectly, and was rather amused by Hiroku's excuses for the previous day. Suddenly he heard something. No one was in sight, but he sensed someone behind the shelves, at the next window. He silently walked over to investigate. Leaning out of the window, also watching the two boys below, was Hiroku's friend, who he remembered was named Satto.

"Enjoying the show?"

Satto spun around. "Shinobu!" He looked down angrily. "I should have known this would happen. I can't believe I let Hiroku talk me into this." He looked back at Shinobu. "Please don't do anything to me, man, I just helped Hiroku, I didn't really do any of it."

"I wouldn't dream of harming you. Of course, there are some things I would be interested to know."

 

"So, what else did he say? I mean, wasn't the sexual deviant thing bad enough?"

Furusawa shook his head. "Well, after people heard that, they started asking him for details. No one really believed it at first, but after a while they started to wonder."

Aoki took up the story. "In the flyer he just implied things about Mitsuru. People wanted to know exactly what that meant. Hiroku told them that Shinobu drugged him, and... did things. People reacted to that pretty well, in his mind, so the story got even bigger. Before long everyone in Greenwood thought that Shinobu was sneaking into their rooms at night and chloroforming them so he could molest them in their sleep."

Hasukawa gaped. "That's awful!"

Shun was blushing furiously. "He made up all sorts of perverted things that Shinobu-sempai was supposedly doing. He said that after a while, he got bored just doing things to people in their sleep, so he started locking Mitsuru in the room with him and making him do things."

Aoki again volunteered details. "He said that Shinobu punished Mitsuru by cutting up his face, since he knew it would heal before Mitsuru could show anyone and get him in trouble."

Shun continued. "Any time someone tried to check his room and see if it was true, the door was locked, so they just got more and more suspicious. Meanwhile, Mitsuru started leaving classes to go to the infirmary, saying he had a headache, and staying there for hours. Everyone thought he was too traumatized by Shinobu to make it through class."

"Of course," added Aoki, "he was really just using the headache as an excuse to go take a nap. Mitsuru admitted that, so Hiroku said he needed extra sleep because of Shinobu."

Furusawa raised his head, expression still rather frightening. "Shinobu and Mitsuru were already very good friends by then, so people didn't have a hard time believing there was more to their relationship. Many people were already saying things along those lines."

"After all," said Shun, "when the two most attractive students in the dorm room together, people are going to talk. It's just that everyone respected them too much to say anything until Hiroku brought it up."

Furusawa nodded. "Even after he distributed the flyer people were afraid to talk about it in front of Shinobu or Mitsuru. They hadn't been there when the flyer came out, so they didn't find out about the whole thing until it had been going on for almost two weeks. If Shinobu had found out earlier he probably could have suppressed it, but the way it turned out, it was all over the school before some of us got together and told him. We did it as a group to make sure we didn't get hurt. We knew Shinobu wouldn't do anything, but Mitsuru has a temper. Aoki and I were both there."

"So was Shun," added Aoki.

Hasukawa glanced over at Shun, who looked quite uncomfortable. "How did they take it?"

"Not too well," Shun answered. That seemed to be all he would say.

Hasukawa turned to Aoki for details. "Well, Shinobu took it pretty well. He just kind of narrowed his eyes, then crushed one of those steel coffee cans in one hand. It was pretty impressive actually."

"And Mitsuru?"

"Most of the furniture in their room had to be replaced."

 

 

Hiroku carefully pulled a folder from his backpack, willing his hands not to shake. The combination of fear that this would fail and joy that it was working so far left him even less mentally balanced than usual. "You see, I'm an only child, and my parents would never talk about my birth. I thought it was because my mother couldn't have any more children, and it made her feel bad to talk about it. There weren't any pictures of me from the first month of my life. I got worried that it might mean I was adopted, so I started looking into it. I discovered that," he paused dramatically, "I had a twin brother." He turned to Mitsuru, who looked baffled. "You see, he disappeared when he was only two weeks old, and my mother was so upset that she locked all the pictures of him away, and would never talk about him again. But I tracked him down. It's you." He looked up at Mitsuru, eager to see his response.

 

Shinobu sat across from Satto, both of them looking out of the window. Shinobu had already closed it so as not to interrupt the conversation going on below, but he was finding out enough as it was. Satto had been talking for several minutes, and had lapsed into silence. He turned towards the small boy. "So that was the whole plan? That's ridiculous."

"It was the best he could come up with. He figured that since you aren't very close to your family, the best way to get to you was through Mitsuru. That was the only way he could think to do it."

"And all you did was help at the ice cream parlor? Nothing else?"

Satto squirmed in his seat. "Well, I didn't help with the plan, but... it was my idea to put the stuff on Mitsuru's trombone."

Shinobu nodded. "I should have known he wasn't smart enough."

 

Hasukawa looked at Furusawa incredulously. He had been expounding on the rumor for about fifteen minutes, with help from Aoki. They finally seemed to have reached an end. "What did Shinobu do?"

Aoki chuckled a bit. "It was ridiculously easy to deal with, actually. Shinobu just went and threatened all of Hiroku's friends. They all gave up and admitted that it was all a lie. They didn't seem particularly loyal, really. After that Hiroku had no choice but admit it. Shinobu made him apologize at assembly, and he did, then swore that he would get Shinobu back for humiliating him like that."

"Poor Shinobu."

 

Mitsuru was extremely confused. Did I really hear him say that? He thinks I'll believe this tripe? How can anyone be that stupid? He shook his head in confusion. "So, you're saying that you are my long-lost brother?"

Hiroku nodded emphatically, then pulled a packet of photos from the folder, depicting the two children that had so confused Shinobu. He passed them to Mitsuru, who leafed through them incredulously. The child looked like a smaller version of him. However, Hiroku apparently didn't know that his hair was much blonder as a child, and so the child in the picture could not have been him. This is sick. He's trying to use the fact that I was abandoned, the most painful thing in my life, as a way to get back at Shinobu. This guy is truly demented. If he weren't such an idiot I'd be quite upset. As it is, I just want to laugh at him.

Mitsuru watched in amazement as Hiroku produced fake birth certificates which stated that Hiroku Tanaka had been born with a fraternal twin, Mitsuru Tanaka. At that point, he couldn't stand it anymore. The burst out laughing, eventually having to sit down to keep from toppling over.

Hiroku looked stunned, not to mention worried. "What's wrong, why are you laughing?"

Mitsuru calmed himself enough to answer. "Mitsuru Tanaka? Wouldn't it be a bit of a coincidence if my adoptive family gave me the same name I had originally, totally by chance?"

Hiroku's eyes widened. He hadn't thought of that. "Well, um..."

"Don't bother." Shinobu stood menacingly at the edge of the court, Satto standing beside him. He had headed down when he saw Mitsuru start laughing, and allowed the other boy to come along. Satto seemed quite pleased to be on Shinobu's side rather than Hiroku's. His chances seemed much better that way.

Shinobu slowly advanced on Hiroku, while Mitsuru blocked him from running. "Nice to see you again Hiroku. I had a feeling we'd meet again, although I was hoping you'd have a better plot for revenge than this."

Hiroku glared at him. "It could have worked if you hadn't come in and ruined everything!"

Mitsuru scoffed. "Are you kidding? I would never believe that you were my brother. Not only do you not look anything like me, your birthday is in May. I was adopted a month and a half before you were even born! How stupid do you think I am, anyway?"

Hiroku merely stuttered. This was not going as planned.

Mitsuru continued. "What on earth possessed you to try this? Couldn't you at least wait until you've thought about it a little more?"

Shinobu was able to answer for him. "He wasn't planning on doing this for another few months. He just decided to try after he had already failed the English test and been scheduled to have you as a tutor. At that point it was just too good an opportunity to pass up."

Mitsuru laughed some more. "So he wasn't faking that! He really is that stupid." He turned to Hiroku. "You know, when I found out this was all a scheme, I assumed that you were faking the whole English thing, but I guess not. You're just a moron."

Shinobu nodded. "That was my conclusion." Hiroku stood, trapped between them, and fumed.

Mitsuru's brows creased. "Wait a minute. If this was the plan, why did you drug me? How was abducting me supposed to convince me that I was your brother?"

Hiroku didn't respond, so Satto piped in. "He thought that was the only way to keep Shinobu from interfering. Also, he was going to try giving you hypnotic suggestions while you were asleep. He didn't know how, but he was sure he could do it."

Hiroku glared at his friend, who had apparently forsaken him. "Satto! What are you doing?"

Satto smirked. "I tried to help you, Hiroku, and all it got me was flung into a wall. Now I'm on the winning side. Biizen and Dyozo already went home when I came out with Shinobu. I guess they abandoned you too."

Hiroku looked fearfully at Mitsuru and Shinobu, who were each within three feet of him. "What are you going to do?"

Mitsuru and Shinobu looked at each other. After a moment, Shinobu turned to Hiroku. "Although I am tempted to pay you back for your actions,"

"With the beating you so richly deserve," interjected Mitsuru.

Shinobu continued, "I am not one to persecute those weaker than I. I won't take your own stupidity out on you. You're suffering enough from it already."

"We hope," said Mitsuru, "that our benevolence in this case will persuade you to never try another stunt like this. If you do, our mercy may run out." He cracked his knuckles menacingly, the way Hiroku had tried to before. Hiroku cringed.

Shinobu gave a condescending bow. "Have a nice day."

Mitsuru scooped up his basketball and joined his friend in walking away. Looking over his shoulder he smiled wickedly and shouted, "See you in English class."

Satto watched as Hiroku crumbled into a heap on the bench. He gave a small laugh, and walked away, leaving Hiroku alone with his misery.

 

Furusawa rose up from the floor, stretching his legs. "Well, Suka, that's all there is to tell you. I hope it gave you peace of mind. Just remember, you may never speak of the events last year, or of this conversation. If you do, I will punish you myself."

Hasukawa nodded mutely. He was far less satisfied than he had hoped, as the rumors were fairly disturbing, but at least he was no longer in the dark. Aoki and Furusawa said good-bye, and left Shun and Suka alone.

Shun looked eagerly at his roommate. "Do you feel better now, Suka-chan?"

Hasukawa smiled a bit and nodded. Shun grinned and hugged him. "Come on Suka-chan, we still have a test to study for."

 

Mitsuru and Shinobu walked cheerfully through the school campus, exchanging awe at how monumentally stupid Hiroku was.

Mitsuru shook his head sadly, smiling nonetheless. "How long do you think it'll be before he tries this again?"

"It should be months, at least. After all, it took him a year to come up with this plan, and it wasn't even finished."

"I hope you're right. I don't want to deal with him any time soon. After all, we still have your sister to worry about."

Shinobu smiled. "I don't know what it is that draws these people to me."

"It's by virtue of nature," replied Mitsuru. They had just reached the fountain in the center of campus. Still hot from playing basketball, Mitsuru leaned over and splashed his face with water, then sent a sheet of water towards his friend.

Shinobu looked down at the water splotches on his t-shirt. He looked back at Mitsuru, who was grinning madly. "For that, you will pay."

With an evil smile, Shinobu dove towards the fountain and sent a shower of water at his roommate, who returned in kind. Before long they were both soaking wet, and nowhere near as overheated. They continued to frolic for nearly an hour before heading back to Greenwood for dinner.