❯ Mystic Visions – Winner ( Chapter 10 )
Chapter Nine: Winner
The night after the first day of the tournament, Wizard came to Oujiro again in his dreams, shimmering at the edge of his vision as he faded into sight. The Angel wrapped his arms around Oujiro’s waist and laid his head on his chest, and Oujiro let him because his usual playful spark was painfully absent.
“I love you,” Wizard murmured. “I mean it.”
Oujiro buried his face in blue hair, noting how Wizard’s body was exactly the right height for this, and breathed in fresh rain and ocean spray. “I know.”
Wizard pulled back, and smiled. “I really mean it. It was selfish and childish of me, to not talk to you. I almost let you lose the match! Even if you can’t love me back, I still can’t hate you, so I’ll do my best from now on.”
Oujiro couldn’t help it; if he hadn’t done something, his heart would’ve broken on the spot. He kissed Wizard fiercely, and then pulled him close; the shorter boy was limp and heavy in his arms. “I still love Misaki,” he told him. “But I wish…”
But he never said what he wished, and so they simply stayed as they were until Oujiro woke up at dawn.
That Sunday the tournament building, though still occupied by plenty of spectators, was noticeably less overcrowded as the Deuses had been considerably thinned out. Yesterday the only other particularly impressive Deus Oujiro had fought aside from Sai had been Madoka, but he hoped idly that he would see more of the old hands today since the ratio had surely been lowered.
I don’t know – don’t you think it’d be easier to fight a noob?
Though he knew he probably really deserved to be mocked for his panic attack for the rest of his life, Oujiro rolled his eyes dramatically – because the Deuses had been breaking out in random fits of seemingly meaningless shouting and the like all over the building during the whole tournament, even the spectators didn’t bother to stare. `Why, so you can sleep while I beat them?’
He was saved from any potential scathing reply, however, as a familiar voice called his name. He glanced over his shoulder, and smiled serenely.
“Still in the running?” he teased gently.
Misaki beamed at him as she caught up. “Yes! I just won against Hatoko a few minutes ago, were you there?”
“Of course. Congratulations, it was amazing.”
She blushed prettily. “Thank you. Ano, if you don’t have another fight coming up, that is – could I talk to you in private for a few minutes?”
He arched an eyebrow. “Okay…” Wizard made no comment.
They found an empty waiting room on their second try, and Oujiro found himself feeling rather awkward as Misaki locked the door behind them. She turned to him before he had time to give it much thought, however, and smiled cheerily. “I saw your first fight yesterday, against Jounouchi-san. You and Wizard made up, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” he said, and then, because it was Misaki, added guiltily: “well, mostly. We’re speaking again.” Even if it was all such a joke…
She nodded. “I know. I mean, Hikaru told me that much.” She grinned awkwardly. “Hikaru and Wizard talked for a long time last night, actually.”
Something icy came to rest at the bottom of Oujiro’s stomach as he stared at her. “Oh, really?”
“Um…” Misaki broke eye contact, becoming preoccupied with her fingers fidgeting with the hem of her shirt. “Um…” She suddenly heaved a huge sigh, and smiled at him again. “Well, I wanted to talk to you about – that is – he’s in love with you, isn’t he?”
Oujiro choked on air. “H-He told her that?” he managed. “He told – He told her-” Misaki waved her hands frantically, blushing.
“No, it’s okay! S-She also said that he told her… that you said you’d stay with me…”
He grinned in weak-kneed relief. “Of course I did. I will. Wizard is very important to me, but not that important-”
Misaki shook her head earnestly. “No, don’t say that!” she exclaimed. “I know how much Angelic Layer means to you – it means just as much to me – I don’t want to ever come between you and playing-”
Oujiro laughed. “But it’s okay! He understands that it just wouldn’t work out; we’re alright now. We beat Sai-san, didn’t we?”
She frowned at him. “Don’t… don’t you think he’s sad, though? He must be… so disappointed… I don’t think anyone could do their best when they feel that way, do you?” Oujiro grimaced, hating with a passion her ability, bordering on psychic powers, to see to the heart of the matter. Misaki just smiled. “You might be playing all right now, but I think you could do so much better! If you’d like to try – getting closer to him, then I’ll definitely support you! I’m going to be doing my best to win this tournament, after all.”
Oujiro could only gawk; she gave him no time to formulate a reply, but opened the door again and gave him a little wave as she walked out. “Well, I’ve got to go. I’m fighting Blanche again, wish me luck!”
“I-!” But she was gone, a blur of red hair a shoulder height disappearing into the crowd. He slumped against the wall, feeling drained.
`You told Hikaru,’ he stated.
Yes, Wizard agreed. I didn’t really mean to, but she… she’s very kind.
Like her Deus, Oujiro thought bitterly, and dragged a hand harshly through his hair. `You shouldn’t have told her,’ he bit out. `Not her. Misaki – she would do this – and she can be so stubborn – damn it…’
Wizard gave only a subdued apology, but Oujiro could read his feelings clearly: shaken, guilty, and oh-so-miserable… Oujiro pinched the bridge of his nose as the announcer called him to Stadium 1 to battle Arisu Fujisaki, and found it very hard to feel any sympathy for him.
The match against Arisu was quick, clean, and easy, and afterward she gave Oujiro a glare that put him in mind of nothing so much as a furious kitten. “I suppose you’re going to tell me that I need to get closer to my Angel?” she asked resentfully. “Don’t bother, Misaki already has.”
She was obviously quite riled up and ready to fight, so it must have surprised her greatly when Oujiro only gave her a vague smile. “Got to you too, did she?” He sighed, shrugged. “Yes… I suppose it probably would be a good idea…” Arisu seemed fit to explode as he meandered off, but fortunately she could find no words strong enough to express her ire.
He had now defeated Sai and both the Fujisaki sisters; Misaki had defeated Hatoko and Kaede, and Ringo had been knocked out of the tournament the pervious day by Hatoko. He fought one promising-looking newcomer who controlled an Angel with three wings, but he did not find any of the others particularly note-worthy, and he was rather preoccupied with thoughts of the final match in any case. At this point, he knew it would be himself verses Misaki; the tournament sponsors probably wouldn’t allow them to be paired up before then, for effect. Time slipped irrevocably into the past in a headlong reckless rush towards that point; before he knew it, it was lunchtime – he ate, but what he couldn’t remember afterwards, and he could only hope he hadn’t embarrassed himself -; before he knew it, he had just won his last battle before the final match… It had been against some girl he’d heard of before but never yet fought, who looked rather faint as he politely shook her hand afterwards, and then he turned around and Misaki was there.
“That was great!” she congratulated. “This tournament has been a lot of fun, hasn’t it?”
He smiled wanly at her. “I’ll never forget it.”
“Do you need a break?” she asked as a matter of decorum, and he shook his head; there was no way he would be able to relax now… She beamed at him, and they took their seats on opposite sides of the layer to feverish applause.
“This is it!” the commentator howled. “The grand finale, the Prince and Princess of the layer, the royal couple-” Oujiro shot him a dirty look as the chairs rose up.
“Have you taken my advice yet?” Misaki called out as the layer revealed itself; the crowd `ooh’ed and `ahh’ed over the onsen made up of small but treacherously deep-looking, steaming pools, but Oujiro was in no mood to admire it.
“I’m not going to do that,” he said firmly, entering Wizard into the layer as the commentator announced the start of the fight. Misaki shook her head, and sent Hikaru lunging at him immediately.
I’m so sorry, Oujiro-
Oujiro gritted his teeth. `Just concentrate on the fight.’
Hikaru landed an especially costly blow, and Misaki flashed an unusual, grim smile. “You have to! Don’t you see? You can’t win as long as he’s miserable – and you’re miserable-”
“I’m not miserable!” he said, startled.
“You mean you’re happy even though you’re hurting him?” Misaki challenged.
Oujiro flushed. “Well, better that than – hurt you,” he insisted, even though it made him feel sick to his stomach – and Hikaru kicked Wizard half-way across the layer.
“You don’t really feel that way,” Misaki said gently, so softly that he almost couldn’t hear her over the noise of the crowd. “And if you really did, I wouldn’t want you anyway. I really like you, Oujiro-kun – but Wizard needs you, and you need him.”
He stared at her. She wasn’t crying, he noted, but in his mind Wizard was; how strange… He smiled faintly. `What do you think?’ he whispered. `We’ve only got a few points left…’
He felt Wizard grin at him. But Angelic Layer is all about making miracles happen, isn’t it?
The game lasted perhaps thirty more seconds, but the Angels moved so fast that only the two Deuses could really tell what was happening. Oujiro hung on tenterhooks, glancing at the point counters whenever he could; he was doing considerable damage for the first time in the game, and she was barely touching him – even so, that hit that had sent him across the layer had been horrible, and he wasn’t sure how much longer they could keep this pace up…
Hikaru had managed to back them right up to the edge of one of the pools. Wizard feinted to the right and then tried to dodge around her left, but the earth next to the pool was slippery and muddy, and his foot stuck – Hikaru grabbed his arm and slammed him into the pool so hard that he sank to the very bottom and didn’t come up again.
The roar of the crowd was so loud that Oujiro felt it as much as heard it; he would probably be partially deaf for days. The layer reverted to normal as the chairs brought them back down to earth, and Oujiro leapt to his feet as soon as they touched the ground and went to retrieve his Angel. He was please to see that there was no serious damage, and he cradled the doll fondly in his arms as he made his way over to Misaki.
“You were wonderful,” he said sincerely. “Congratulations-”
She giggled. “Oh, don’t be silly. You’re the one that won.”
When Oujiro made it home that evening, he did remember to take off his shoes and put on slippers at the door, but he didn’t even think about making dinner, and he couldn’t be bothered to so much as remove the aforementioned slippers before falling into bed. He lay on his back and stared up at the ceiling for a long time, until gradually it faded to black.
“I’m sorry I lost the match,” Wizard murmured.
Oujiro smiled. “We lost the match,” he corrected. “And you did your best. It was my fault.”
“Yes it was-”
“It was my-”
Oujiro shut him up then with a kiss. He dragged Wizard down to the ground with him by the shoulders, and somehow now the boy was laying on his back with Oujiro kneeling over him. Wizard turned his head to the side in curiosity, hair fanning out adorably around his face, and his lips parted slightly.
“Misaki dumped me because of you,” Oujiro informed him. “In front of an audience of thousands of Angelic Layer fans. I can only hope that none of them guessed exactly what she was talking about…” Wizard’s face broke into a smile as he concluded: “So I guess this means I’m stuck with you.”
He then kissed the Angel so passionately that he moaned and hung on to his neck for dear life, and Oujiro pondered that time-honored question of just how much two people could accomplish together before sunrise.