Prince of Tennis:

"Fearless: The Samurai Maiden"


Betting on the Heart of an Echizen

Meino Nanako sighed.

She was really nervous as of the moment. She was currently in Narita Airport waiting for her younger cousins to come. Ryuuzaki Sumire, his uncle-in-law's ex-coach, is also accompanying her. Apparently, she was the only legal guardian for the two children aside from her aunt who refused to have anything to do with them for personal reasons that even Nanako is holding a grudge for.

In truth, Nanako just discovered the existence of her two cousins a month ago and that her aunt abandoned them in America. When she confronted her aunt, she just dismissed her. Thankfully, she is already 19-years-old and is legal to live alone while taking the guardianship over her cousins. Her uncle-in-law also left his house in Japan under her two cousin's names so they were not homeless and had no need to pay rent.

"You don't need to be so nervous, you know."

Nanako was startled out of her musing and she looked up to see Sumire staring at her in amusement. It would seem the teenaged girl has been fiddling with the banner that had her cousins' names in anxiety for a while. Nanako gave a shaky but genuine smile in response.

Sumire chuckled, "I would support the family in any way I can, but I heard the both of them are pretty stubborn when it comes to accepting help from anyone else aside from each other. You have to understand them since they still have trust issues, especially to adults and even family." Sumire's expression darkened at the last sentence and so did Nanako's.

Sumire took a deep breath before continuing, "This is the least I could do for Nanjirou, Setsuna, and their legacies. Setsuna's stashed account would also get your worries out of the expenses for a while and you said that you even have a part-time job. As I said before, I'm also willing to lend a helping hand so don't think you're alone in this."

Comforted by her words, Nanako nodded enthusiastically.

Just as they finished their conversation with exchanged smiles, both women heard footsteps towards their direction. They turned to the sound to see a young boy carrying a sleeping toddler in his arms and a pack bag on his back, while dragging the rest of their luggage. When he looked up, Sumire instantly recognized the eyes.

The boy looked about 13-years-old, and he was a tall 5'2 considering his age. He wore a black leather jacket over a white shirt that had a flaming heart pierced by a cross covered in thorns. He wore khaki cargo pants held by a dangling chain belt with black sneakers. The boy's dark green hair was kept in his white cap but two chest-length side bangs were left show themselves. He had fair skin and almost feminine—but still somewhat boyish—features that show an emotionless expression. The boy's piercing golden eyes seemed to be staring right through them just as how Sumire remembered them from a certain Samurai.

Sumire looked towards the sleeping toddler in the boy's arms. It was a boy from what Sumire observed that's like a mini replica of the elder one. The young one wore a white hooded jacket which was let down that covered his whole body. Nanako was tempted to coo at them both, more so at the sleeping toddler. However, she had to keep in mind her cousin's wariness.

Both young women were once again brought out of their thoughts once the boy spoke in fluent Japanese.

"Are you Ryuuzaki Sumire-san and Meino Nanako-san?" he asked.

They both nodded. The boy seemed to think for a moment before his expression slightly softened in respect and gratitude but still guarded. He bowed a bit while still holding on to his brother's resting form.

"It is very nice to finally meet you. Please take care of us. I promise to work hard as well."

At that moment, a light bulb lit up on Sumire and Nanako's heads as if they had discovered a secret…in which they did.

Sumire smiled sincerely, "For someone who grew up in America for most of his life, you sure are courteous unlike your father…not that it's always a bad thing in his case."

The boy gave no reaction aside from un-bowing his head and adjusting his grip on his stirring but still sleeping brother.

Sumire continued, "I already know your names since your father usually mentioned you both in his letters. I was his former coach, you see. You can count on me if you have any problems."

Again, the boy nodded silently.

"Well then," Nanako chirped as she clapped her hands, "let's get you home!"

After settling the younger brother in his room to rest, the elder one joined Sumire and Nanako for tea on the porch at the back yard.

"Being an Echizen, may I assume that both you and your little brother play tennis?"

The boy nodded slowly in hesitation.

Sumire smirked, "If I am correct, you plan to go to Seigaku, right?"

At that point, Nanako spoke as well, "You should join the Tennis Club there! Ryuuzaki-san is the coach."

The boy closed his eyes calmly, "I'm sorry, I cannot do that."

Nanako's eyes widened and Sumire raised an eyebrow in disbelief. The boy spoke again, "I will not be able to spare time for a club. I have to keep up with my studies and find a part-time job. I'm sorry to say this, but I do not like relying completely on people whether family or friends. You have to understand, I have lived my life only with my brother whom I had to raise alone after our father died and when…she abandoned us."

Sumire had to hold back a scowl at the thought of the wretched woman. However, she had an idea.

She smirked, "Why don't we have a bet then?"

The boy turned to her with a blank look, "Why?"

Sumire's expression softened considerably, "You two are only ones left of your father's legacy. Surely, you don't feel satisfied with just playing randomly and when you have time to spare. In your blood, the Echizen pride must surely be calling out to you to play strong opponents on official courts."

The boy looked down, "I want to fulfill my father's dream more than anything, but I have my little brother to take care of. Even if you say I could count on you for expenses and all, I don't like letting people bear burdens for our sakes. I love tennis, but my priorities must be clear."

Sumire grinned, "That's why I want you to make a bet with me! There's a tournament coming up that is actually for 16-year-olds but the rules still allow younger ones to enter. If you think you can leave the court behind with no hesitation after winning the tournament, I won't trouble you any further. However, if you lose even one game, you have to join my club."

The boy pondered the conditions but Sumire spoke again in a softer tone, "You don't have to be a regular in my team either. I just really want to see the growth of Nanjirou's children."

After having a moment, the boy looked up and Sumire saw Nanjirou in those golden eyes of determination.

"Where is the application form?"

Ryuuzaki Sumire knew that young child in front of her could win the tournament in straight sets, but what she was really aiming for was to revive the passion that is waiting to be awakened within. If this child is anything like Nanjirou, he will not be able to resist the drive of his heart.

After collecting the form, Sumire excused herself. Just before she was coming out of the room, she turned to the child again with a sly smirk, "Oh, your secret's safe with me."

The child's eyes widened and after a while, Sumire saw the first real emotion and the proof of the Echizen blood within the child.

The child smirked.

A/N: Umm…I know I still have other stories to worry about, but I'm having a severe writer's block with them. Therefore, I opted to write another story for the time being until I could get my inspiration back with FF7 in particular. PLEASE R&R! I WANNA KNOW WHAT YOU THINK! Though I guess the secret is not really much of a secret…

DISCLAIMER: I do not own Prince of Tennis.