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Monarch Butterfly

[Prince of Tennis] Et Cetera: Ripples - 05. Tezuka, Primi & Atobe

Posted on 2013.08.27 at 11:44
Current Mood: drunkdrunk
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A Prince of Tennis fanfiction. Fantasy AU, drama/romance. Rated R (M) overall. Multiple pairings. 50,000+ words total. Originally written 11/20/2004 - 7/18/2006, with ongoing revisions.

This part belongs to one of the backstory sub-arc, Ripples, and takes place 10 years before the events in the main story.

Et Cetera: Ripples by Shiraume

05. Tezuka, Primi & Atobe


Note: Ripples 2, 3, 4 and 5 all take place within few days of each other.

The lights flickered in the hallway, stretched into the darkness like an underground tunnel. The lights grew fainter as he continued walking, and by the time Tezuka reached the great double doors of the Primi's office, he could hardly see his own feet. He knocked twice, and waited until the doors opened, revealing at first nothing but the darkness. Tezuka walked slowly to let his eyes adjust, his steps steady and measured, until he stood before the great dais where the three eldest members of the Cetera's High Council waited. As he approached, the three rose from their high-backed thrones behind the long, ornately carved desk.

"Archmage Tezuka Kunimitsu of Heda, Youngest of the Council, reporting as requested," Tezuka said with a bow. The three elders returned the bow shallowly and straightened immediately afterward, resuming their seats. "What is it that you wished to speak to me about?"

"We thank you for coming, Archmage Tezuka of Heda, our Youngest," the Second said in her melodious voice.

"We wish to speak to you about the series of events that has occurred in the past few weeks," the Third's cool, crisp voice boomed.

"First of all, we wish to ask you this: is it true you sent Mage Fuji of Hessedi to Pyris?" the kindly voice of the Eldest asked.

"It is true," Tezuka answered.

"We are sure you only had the best interests of Cetera at heart." Melancholy colored the Second's words, but the faint smile on her lips was as cold as her eyes. "And we have received favorable reports from Pyris. Therefore, we are willing to let this matter go without a reprimand. This time."

"However," the Third said sternly, "we would like some assurance that in the future, our Youngest will not act so rashly and thoughtlessly, however much his youth may excuse such...indiscretion."

"You are silent," the Eldest observed mildly. Tezuka turned his eyes to the Eldest, meeting his eyes without flinching.

"I understand that I have displeased the Council," Tezuka said evenly, "but I do not accept that my action was an indiscretion."

"You dare to --" the Third started, but the First raised his hand, and the Third fell silent. The First gestured him to go on, and Tezuka continued.

"The death of Pyris's Mage endangered the residents of the city. Fuji, being neither directly affiliated with Heda nor in contract with another city, was in the ideal position to offer assistance to Pyris in the interim. As I stated in the report, he provided valuable aid to Pyris and conducted himself without fault. My decision was for the best interests of Pyris and its residents."

The Third looked as if he wanted to say something, but the First glanced at him sharply, and he pressed his lips into a tighter line.

"We hear Mage Fuji picked up a stray kitten," murmured the Second. Her tone was deceptively conversational, but Tezuka did not allow himself to relax, knowing this was far from over.

"Fuji brought back a half-Cetera child with him," Tezuka corrected.

"And you recommended that the child be mentored by Mage Fuji," Third pointed out scornfully.

"Fuji is a qualified Mage," Tezuka replied blandly, as if he had not noticed the Third's tone.

"Mage Fuji is himself a half-blood. He's had no formal training --" the Third began, imperious.

"He can hold his own with the best of our Mages," Tezuka pointed out, voice a shade colder.

"It is our time-honored law," the Second interrupted before the Third could continue, "that the sins of the parents do not pass on to the children. This child has the right to be accepted as one of us, and of course, to receive training as one of Cetera's own."

"But under Mage Fuji? Surely, there are more qualified Mages who can train the child," Third insisted.

Tezuka curbed his impatience and replied smoothly. "Most Mages are unlikely to accept a half-Cetera child as a pupil."

"And has Mage Fuji accepted the responsibility?" The Eldest asked in a gentle but grave voice.

"Yes," Tezuka replied promptly. In fact, Fuji had been the one who said he would mentor the child in the first place. That had been no small shock in itself. Although Fuji himself was a half-Cetera, his Mage certification exam at the Academy was something of a legend, and he had been asked to become a mentor at least a dozen times over the years. But Fuji had never accepted a pupil before.

"Perhaps it is for the best," the Second said softly, smiling. Tezuka said nothing. He had spent far too much time with Fuji to not know a fake smile when he saw one. Besides, the Second wasn't quite subtle enough to mask the cool gleam of contempt in her eyes.

The Third began to protest, but the Eldest held up a hand, silencing him. "Very well. The child is orphaned, as we understand." Tezuka nodded. "Then, perhaps it would be advisable for the child to have a guardian until he reaches majority. And who better than you, our esteemed Youngest, who has ever been the champion of his cause?" Only Tezuka's legendary self-control allowed him to hide his surprise. As if sensing his discomfort, the Eldest gave him a benign smile. "Do you accept?"

Tezuka knew far too well what accepting a half-blood child as his ward would do to the respected name of his family. Even though guardianship was technically not an adoption, being a guardian was not very different from being a parent in terms of legal responsibilities.

Without another word, Tezuka inclined his head briefly. "I do."

"Then, it is decided," the First announced with finality. "We thank you for coming, Archmage Tezuka, and wish you a pleasant day."

Tezuka gave them a slight bow, which the three elders returned, and strode out, closing the door behind him. Consciously, he unclenched his hands from the folds of his robe.

The Primi did not believe a half-blood child would amount to anything. But Fuji would never have volunteered to take someone in without good reasons, especially after refusing to take pupils for the last four centuries. Fuji certainly would not have accepted the child out of pity. And he already had an idea what Fuji's reasons might be.

**********


When he returned to his house, he found Atobe waiting for him in his study, impatiently flipping through a book. Atobe whirled to face him as soon as he entered the room.

"Did you accept?" Atobe asked without preamble. It didn't surprise Tezuka that Atobe already knew; Atobe had many eyes and ears within the Council. Tezuka did not reply immediately, instead taking a seat and gesturing for Atobe to do the same. Atobe sat in the recliner opposite from him, and looked sufficiently agitated that Tezuka decided to take pity on him.

"Yes."

"You're taking in a half-blood. With Fuji Syuusuke as his mentor," Atobe said flatly, but still managed to communicate his incredulity.

"Correct," Tezuka confirmed, expressionless.

Atobe's expression was a mixture of disgust and thinly veiled anger. "Why? Accepting punishment like a good boy is the last thing I expected from you."

"What makes you think I am?" Tezuka countered, meeting Atobe's eyes steadily. Atobe looked back at him blankly for a moment, then snorted with a short laugh.

"I see." Atobe studied the corner bookshelf for a few minutes. "Something special, is he?"

"I don't know yet," Tezuka answered honestly.

"Fuji thinks he's special," Atobe guessed. Seeing Tezuka's casual shrug, Atobe rolled his eyes. "I don't understand why you place so much confidence in Fuji's opinions."

"He sees things that others miss," Tezuka remarked, matter-of-fact, ignoring the disbelieving look Atobe gave him.

"If you want to delude yourself, I won't waste my time stopping you. But do try not to have a repetition of this little episode, will you?" Atobe drawled. "It's disgraceful to leave such a mess behind you."

"I wasn't aware you had to do much cleanup for this matter," Tezuka replied seriously, knowing Atobe would catch the amusement lurking underneath just the same.

"Hmph," Atobe sniffed haughtily. "You always were too selfish to notice other people going out of their way for you."

"And I'm sure it's caused you much grief," Tezuka answered, expression still perfectly serious. For a brief moment, Atobe's mouth twitched. "Do you have time for a match?" Tezuka asked, changing the subject. He had had enough of politics for the day, and wasn't in the mood to discuss the Council business any more. Judging from his expression, Tezuka thought Atobe could use some distraction himself.

"I suppose I can spare that much," Atobe said loftily, rising to his feet.

"Do you need a Ralt?" Tezuka asked, rising to join him. Atobe shrugged off his outer robe, revealing the Ralt strapped to his side. Noticing Tezuka's gaze, Atobe looked at him from the corners of his eyes, daring him to say something. Tezuka merely raised an eyebrow. "Let us go, then."

"After you," Atobe gestured archly.

"Thank you," Tezuka returned, and felt Atobe's surprised (and pleased) stare on his back all the way to the practice arena. It was one thing Fuji and Atobe shared, as much as the two of them would hate to share anything at all: trying to get a reaction from Tezuka. Tezuka responded less to Atobe's attempts because – well, Atobe reacted more to being ignored than Fuji did. Since Atobe was behind him and couldn't see his face, Tezuka allowed a half-smile at the thought.

Once inside the practice arena, Tezuka closed his eyes and took a quick breath, letting the rush of Magic overcome his usual reservation. Their occasional practice matches were important to both of them, because it was the only time they could let go and feel nothing but the exhilaration of power that only those with true gift could ever hope to understand. In this moment, just for this one brilliant, piercing instant, Tezuka could believe this was what he lived for, and will away the rest of the world.



Disclaimer: Some of the design elements in Cetera-verse, most notably the Ralt in this part, were adapted from MASCA by Kim Yeong-Hee. While my story elements do not bear much resemblance to MASCA's, it is only fair I should mention it.

Crossposted at http://shiraume-fic.dreamwidth.org/27822.html.

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