Worth

Tezuka sets up ranking blocks. Angst, I-4

Character(s): Raphael, Tezuka Kunimitsu

"Headache, Tezuka-kun?" Raphael asked, leaning against one of the empty
desks.

Kunimitsu took his hand from his forehead. "I’m fine," he said, and
that was true, but not likely to deter Raphael’s bored curiosity.

"And here I thought there wasn’t the homework assignment invented that you
couldn’t master," the angel said.

"It’s not homework," Kunimitsu said, and because today was not a good
day, he simply slid the stack of papers towards Raphael, who picked them up after
a moment.

"Lovely penmanship," Raphael noted, which was a reminder Kunimitsu didn’t
particularly need to write out a clean copy for Ryuuzaki-sensei. He handed the
papers back. "What is it?"

Heartbreak, he wanted to say. Disappointment. Exclusion. The last time I have
to decide who stays and who goes—until the next time I have to decide. "The
assignments for the ranking matches."

Kunimitsu took out a fresh sheet of paper and began transcribing the names again,
this time without the cross-outs and scribbling. "Hardly seems worth a headache,"
Raphael said, examining his nails.

Kunimitsu put his pen down. "Raphael-san." When the angel was looking
at him, Kunimitsu spoke carefully. "There are only eight slots for Regulars."

"And a slot for the captain, of course," Raphael said.

"No. Including the captain." Kunimitsu began writing again, filling
in the names for the A Block. His name. Fuji’s. Arai’s. Yoshimura’s. Kuwahara’s.

"I see. Perhaps worth the headache after all." Raphael at least had
the decency to sound respectful of a difficult decision. "Still. It seems
odd to eliminate one of your best players purely for the sake of numbers."

"Are you suggesting I make an exception?" B Block: Oishi. Kawamura.
Ikeda. Nishi. Mikami. Fushimi.

"Of course not," Raphael said. "It’s not like you would listen."

"It would be easy," Kunimitsu said. "Seigaku gives its captains
the power to make these decisions. I could do it." C Block: Kikumaru. Inui.
Nagayama. Saeki. Hiratsuka. Nakahama.

"But you won’t." He could feel Raphael eyeing him. "Why not?"

"Seigaku’s strength lies in the monthly ranking matches." D Block: Echizen.
Momoshiro. Kaidoh. Ninose. Kashiwa. Ogawa. "While I am captain, no one who
wears that jersey will ever need to wonder whether he earned the right to wear
the jersey."

"I’ve heard," Raphael murmured, "that before this year, freshmen
weren’t allowed to compete for a position on the Regulars."

"That’s true," Kunimitsu said, evenly. "Before this year, they
were not." Raphael’s eyebrows drifted up. "Before this year, there wasn’t
a freshman skilled enough to be worth ranking against his sempai."

"There wasn’t?" Raphael smirked. "Sumire-chan tells me stories,
you know."

"Ryuuzaki-sensei has been a coach for years. I’m sure she knows many stories,"
he said.

"Indeed she does." Raphael stood. "A good leader, Tezuka-kun, knows
when to break his rules, and when to follow them." He paused, probably waiting
to be asked whether he thought Kunimitsu was a good leader. When Kunimitsu didn’t
ask, Raphael sighed, expression wry. "You’re one of the good ones,"
he said. "For what it’s worth."

Kunimitsu inclined his head. "For what it’s worth," he said, "thank
you." He stood as well, and went to deliver the paperwork for the ranking
matches to Ryuuzaki-sensei.