Heiya!! Am back – finally. Sorry for the long delay. Missed ff.net a lot. Here's another chapter for Kiyota. I'll get to work on the other fics later. ^_^ Enjoy!
Jeslene: He he, sorry. Promise I won't try to die again. My exams are over anyway, so now I have found a good reason to keep on living: Enjoy my hols! Whereas you can enjoy this chapter. ^_^
Akane1: Well you see, I attempt to die every now and then. It's actually a habit. ^_^ He he… now you think I'm crazy and are looking for asylum forms to sign me into. Thanks for reviewing!
LiL*funky: Thanks! I aim to make Slam Dunk guys look good – though, of course, doesn't work all the time. ^-^ Next chap up! Have fun reading!
Sey Lee: He he… relax. I'm just happy you bothered to give your comment. What's going to happen? My suggestion: read and find out!
Tiran-2366: What's with the numbers in your nickname?? You
didn't, like, get thrown into jail and was assigned this number? ^_^ J/k.
Thanks, Tiran! Hope you enjoy reading this!
Unquestionable: Sob.. sob… it's nice to know my stories are worth more than my life to you. You've divorced Legolas already? Tsk-tsk-tsk. ^_^
Crazy4u: Hey! I've got O-blood! And I'm not weird (at least, not at this very minute…) Now, if your husband is Kiyota, it won't do to name your daughter after his ex-girlfriend, ne? Have fun!
Kka: Nah, you can't kill me cuz I decided I wanted to live after all! Hahahahaha!
SLL: Heh heh, sorry about the hazy bits. That's probably because my brain's just as fuzzy! ^_^ Still, I do hope you enjoy the story!
Hana-lai: Am updating! Still excited?
Kugatsu-no-akisame: Are you inflating my ego? I have an ego? Ha ha! Joking! Thanks! That was really nice thing to say. ^_^ Enjoy this chapter!
Unchained: No, actually. I got the name from this comic book somewhere. But I do like Gatekeepers!
Patty g.: You can put your resurrecting potions back, patty-san.(someone actually acres about me!!!) (you do care about me, don't you? It's not just a trick to get me to update faster, right?) I'm alive and well. ^_^ have fun reading this chap!
Fiery-Ice: Hey!! Exams ever, and life looks more or less good if not boring, so I'm not stressed! Yay! Omigod! I was born in May too!!!! You and I, Geminis, we're fun loving people, right? And we both hate exams. Ha ha!
Maemi: Yep! Am alive and breathing *checks again just to be sure*. Hey, learned a new word. 'kilig'. It does sound warm and fuzzy. ^_^ I've only watched a few episodes of Meteor Garden, so I don't know much. Let me tell you about my superstar crush: This character called Archie in CSI Las Vegas. Kawaii!
Icy: Why didn't you tell me sooner?? We could've committed suicide together! But now it's too late because I want to live after all. Am updating! Do me a favour and read!
Sakura: He he… am working on completing my fics! The least you could do is shorten my punishment to 5 years… please? I don't want to suffer in purgatory.
Daiya: The power of friends…. Can make you hate the person you were once crazy over… ^_^ Never mind! I'm not going to push Fujima in your face (how on earth do I do that anyway?) so relax!
Jeano: Woo hoo! It's here!! Have fun!
Stefified: Updated! And all because of your sweet smile. Ha ha!
Seonaid Mist: Murder threats bounce off me. I'm immune to them! Muahahahahaha! It's called Titleless because I was idea-less. ^_^
Raisa: Sorry! I know it's been such a long time, and I apologise. But it's here now!
Mtsujir: Wow, thanks. I don't believe it. NINE hours of reading?? And you didn't faint from screen-blindness?? I'm not just going to congratulate you, I'm sending you to an asylum! Ha ha! (one thing: if you're planning on another read-a-thon and don't want to be disturbed by nature's calls to the toilet, here's my tip – where pampers) He he….
"Hello?" Shouri spoke into the receiver. "Hello?"
Silence. Then a small voice spoke up. "Hellooooo…"
Shouri grinned at the sound of Fujima's sister, wondered briefly how big she was now since the last time they saw each other. "Hi Ji-ji. It's me, Shouri. Remember me?"
Silence again. "You were the one who stole candy-floss from my pram every time we go for funfairs."
Shouri's grin faltered. "Um, well, that was years ago. Is your brother around?"
For several minutes, Ji-ji's breathing traveled over the phone.
"Um, Ji-ji, I'd like to talk to your brother, please."
"Oh. Okay." The phone jingled. Then - "Hey, idiot! Phone!"
Shouri smiled wryly and waited again. Seconds later, a deeper voice laced with frustration answered. "Hi. This is the idiot speaking."
"Don't I know it."
"Shouri? Didn't expect you to call." The annoyed tone turned grew excited. "What? New news? About the Kainan team?? New strategies? Members injured, hopefully? The main ones? Maki had an accident with a lamppost and broke his nose? Maki tripped into a worker's hole and got trapped? Maki mistaken for an orang utan and held captive in an African Zoo?"
"Maki kidnapped by NASA and sent to the moon." Shouri twirled the phone cord around her fingers just to keep her occupied. "I phoned to talk about a different but connected matter."
"Okay." She took a deep breath. "Idecidednottospyonthemanymore."
"What? You want some Chipsmore? That chocolate chip biscuit?"
Shouri slapped her forehead. "No, you deaf lizard. I said I … well, I don't want to do it anymore."
"Do 'it'? Do what?" Fujima gasped. "Don't tell me you're- Shouri! You could've gotten HIV!"
Shouri prayed for strength from some divine intervention. "No! How on earth did you get that conclusion?? What I meant was …" She tried a different tack. "Okay, Fujima, you know I care a lot about you."
Fujima was silent. Then, uneasily, he muttered: "Um, Jura, I never knew you felt that way about me. But I don't think it's wise to have a romantic relationship because our connections are so obscure –"
Shouri stared at the wall in front of her. "AS A COUSIN, geek. A romantic relationship with you? Eeyurgh! Why would I want that when I've already seen you naked and was very much unimpressed?"
She could imagine Fujima colouring at the other end of the line. "Hey! I was only six years old then. And I'd just gotten out of the sea! No guy would look good after being swept ashore by the waves."
Shouri snorted. "Yeah, especially when his swimming trunks was swept away too." Then she hissed. "Stop distracting me. I wanted to tell you I am very much on your side and that I really do want you to win because then it means I get to share your glory as a relative. I'd pray day and night to make you win, I'd offer fruits and goat meat to whatever superpower there are out there to make you win."
"Why do I feel a big 'BUT' coming?"
"But," Shouri ignored him and barreled on. "But I don't think spying on the Kainan team is right."
She heard Fujima release a breath.
"I didn't really care before," Shouri continued nervously. "I mean, it didn't really matter much to me that I was sneaking out information to their enemy. Kainan had been winning for years now. They're probably already jaded by the glory of winning. Losing now and then wouldn't hurt."
"But, well, I've been watching them more closely. And I've been talking to one of them. And I realized that they very much still crave for victory, you know? They're not at all like egoistic, top players who think they're the best. Well, most of then aren't." She doodled Kiyota's name on a piece of paper. "They keep on practicing day after day after day, and they practice just as hard. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I've formed some respect for them, and that I feel a team working that hard shouldn't be betrayed, especially by one of their schoolmates."
Fujima didn't say anything. He didn't even breathe.
Shouri waited anxiously. "Well?"
"That's not it, is it?"
The question surprised her, so much so that she dropped the pen she held. "Huh?"
"It's not just respect and loyalty, is it? It's not just about oh-I-really-should-be-supporting-my-school and oh-what-a-bad-thing-to-do-spying-on-people-this-way-bad-bad-girl-Shouri."
Shouri held up the piece of paper she'd doodled on, stared hard at Kiyota's name. "No," she sighed pensively. "It's not just that."
"Let me guess." Fujima volunteered. "This is a case of oh-dear-I'm-in-love-with-this-guy-in-that-team-and-I'm-toast-if-he-finds-out-and-stomps-out-of-my-life-so-I-better-tell-Fujima-I'm-quitting-before-things-get-worse."
"I didn't say that."
"No, but I heard you anyway."
Shouri let out a breath, ran her hand through her hair form the crown right to the very ends. "I really do respect them," she murmured. "I know it's sounds stupid, but I do. When I was a gymnast, I worked so hard too and …" Shouri stopped herself. "No, never mind."
Fujima sighed audibly. "You've made me feel awfully guilty," he complained. "Now I have to call Ryota and tell him to stop spying on Kainan too."
Shouri nodded. "Yeah, that's probably the right thing to do – wait, what? Ryota? You have ANOTHER spy other than me?"
There was a guilty gulp. "Well, you see, I couldn't really understand the things you reported to me and I had a difficult time trying to decipher it… so you see… I mean, you're a terrible spy so I had no choice…"
Shouri grunted. "Well, excuse me for not going through intensive FBI training."
"No biggie. That's it, really. I'm glad you're not mad. Later."
"Yeah. Wait, Shouri, wait!"
"Can I have my card collection back?"
Shouri grinned. "Yeah, sure. In the same condition it was given to me too."
"Great." The relief was evident in his tone. Then somebody shouted in the background: "Make her return the eleven candy-floss she stole from me too!"
Shouri quickly put down the phone.
The next day: (same time, same place, same thing)
Fujima: (dead voice) Hey.
Shouri: Fujima? What on earth are you calling me for??
Fujima: We lost to Shohoku today.
Shouri: I'm sorry.
Fujima: We won't be meeting Kainan after all. (sigh)
Shouri: (earnestly) I'm sure the Kainan team will miss you too. Eheheheh…
Fujima: I'm going for this Overcome Your Depression Camp. If I don't call you again, it
means I have jumped over a cliff and have erased my existence from this planet.
Shouri: … (stupidly) Want me to buy you more cards for your collection?
Shouri saw nothing but plain black. Her face itched and she grunted loudly. "Where are you taking me??" she demanded furiously as Kiyota herded her blindfolded around the school compound, tugging at her hand as he would tug at a cow's nose ring. "Why do I have a bad feeling about this? Are you up to something stupid again?"
Kiyota scowled. "I don't do stupid things." He reminded her with aplomb. "And what we're going to do now is celebrate Kainan's success in getting into the Top 4, among other things." He stopped suddenly, making Shouri bump head-on into him. "Here we are."
"Guy puts smelly, black cloth over my eyes, drags me for miles, makes me crush my nose against his iron back and doesn't apologize," Shouri grumbled. "Some celebration."
Kiyota just laughed like a loon and dragged her again. "Okay, prepare yourself."
Shouri took a deep breath, nervous and anxious. For all that she knew, he'd brought her to the edge of the school pond and was about to push her in headfirst to join a bewildered school of carp fishes.
The blindfold was taken off and Shouri glanced about quickly. Then, incredulously, and pretty much unimpressed, she looked at Kiyota, who was strolling to the other side to switch on the ceiling lights, with a visible frown. "The school gym? This is the mysterious location? Just how exactly do you plan to celebrate? By swinging down the bars?"
"You're so cheerful today," he grinned. "What made you so happy?"
Shouri glared. "Ha ha ha."
He came back, stood in front of her. "Go on."
Shouri's face crunched up. "Go on what? Strangle you?"
"Go on," he pointed at the gym carpet. "Do some cartwheels."
She stared at him. "What on earth –" She took a step back, her face turning red, fists clenched. "Kiyota, you –"
"I've seen you watch Ruriko," he shrugged. "I know you're dying to do something here. So go on." He glanced at Shouri's pale face. "Just give it a try. And make sure your underwear doesn't show."
She stood rigidly. "You know I can't."
"No," he shook his head. "how would I know? I've never actually seen you at it. Oh, come on, Shouri, the worst thing that can happen is you falling flat on your bum with your shoes flying in opposite directions. Everyone's done embarrassing stuff, except for me."
Shouri glared, shook her head. "Oh, God, it's more than that." She said heatedly, all but stomping over the floor. "I don't want to fall! I don't want to have my shoes flying in opposite directions! Don't you get it? From the moment I was told I couldn't continue gymnastics, I never tried it again. Not once. Because I don't think I could stand having it confirmed." The tears burned in her hot eyes, all but turned into steam. "I was a gold-medalist, for heaven's sake! I don't want to see myself fall."
He rubbed his cheek. "Come back to now," he suggested. "You were a gold-medalist, no arguments there. But not anymore." He stopped scratching, looked at her. "Not anymore." He took off his watch and pushed it down his pockets. "Come on," he said again. "You won't fall. I'll hold you up."
Shouri stared at him for a full three minutes. "You've got to be kidding."
"Be a sport like me, Shouri. I like seeing gymnasts doing cartwheels."
"Because their underwear's guaranteed to show?"
He nodded without shame. "That, and other factors as well."
Despite herself, Shouri started to laugh. "I'm wearing shorts today. Too bad." She positioned herself near him. Gauged the distance. And wondered what would happen.
Taking a deep breath, she looked at him. "Catch me. If you don't, I'll murder you."
"I hear that a lot from Maki, so I'm used to it. Try another threat."
She rolled her eyes and then turned her attention back to the carpet. Willed her mind to recall the techniques, the ones that were once mere reflex actions to her. Felt her muscles tense in anticipation, her heart coil in fear. "Okay," she muttered to herself. "Here I go."
She leaned down, pressed her open palms on the carpet, faintly felt her legs go up. And then gravity pulled, and she was falling.
She was falling.
No, no, no, no, no –
It took her a moment to realize that her legs were still suspended in the air. That Kiyota had got a good, firm grip on both her ankles and was peering down at her. He flashed a grin, grunted when he struggled against her weight, and then released her to finish the cartwheel.
Shouri straightened herself and raised her arms, very much like she always did during competition after a series of back flips and cartwheels. A grin was plastered on her face, subconsciously. She turned to look at Kiyota, who had his nose crunched up.
"Your feet smell."
A second passed before Shouri's brain registered the insult. Then, her mouth twitched and peals of laughter escaped. "Who asked you to sniff at them, stupid?"
"I had to breathe, didn't I?"
A huge shadow fell over the entrance. Shouri and Kiyota looked up at their big-sized gym teacher. They watched her chest swell as she took a deep breath. "WHAT ARE YOU NASTY STUDENTS DOING IN MY GYM WITHOUT PERMISSION???? OUT!! GET OUT!!!"
"Whooops." Kiyota managed. He grabbed at Shouri's shirt. "Run! Run!"
They zoomed out with Kiyota yelling 'Sorry!' every five paces.
"You didn't ask for permission?" Shouri yelled as they sped over fields of grass. "You just brought me in?? Just like that? What are you, the owner of the school??"
He shrugged. "Didn't even think of it." Then he started his crazy laugh.
Shouri snorted. "Figures." Then, abruptly, she reached for his hand. "By the way," she squeezed it. "Thanks."
"… and that was Ruriko from Kainan High School, the very last participant in this year's annual National Gymnastics!"
Loud applause erupted as Ruriko smugly walked off the platform into the arms of her coach and fellow gymnasts. They hugged and kissed for ages before settling down along with the rest of the crowd to wait for the judges' score.
"And the score is… a close 9.9!!! Well done!"
Again, applause erupted, louder now, more enthusiastic. Ruriko stood proudly atop the No. 1 step, with the first and second runners-up equally proud next to her. She accepted the gold medal hung around her neck by the VIP with a dazzling smile and turned to wave to the crowd. "…and that's it, folks! The Annual National Gymnastics ends here! We would like to say thank you to the sponsors…"
Shouri stood up from her seat as throngs of people pushed past her to get to the exit. Smiling, she raised a salute to Ruriko and joined the leaving crowd. The entire event reminded her of things she didn't really want to remember, made her imagine things she shouldn't have and wouldn't have the chance to realise.
If I can't do gymnastics, I sure as hell will still support it, Shouri shrugged, blinking as the sunlight poured into her eyes, and it doesn't hurt so much now. After the injury, out of 1000 things she could do beforehand, 100 of them were impossible now. But why focus on that 100 that she couldn't do when there were still 900 that she could do?
She glanced at her watch. She had a train to catch.
She was going to Hiroshima. Another National tournament was going on there. Another person wanted her support. Needed her support.
"You HAVE to come, Shouri. I'm going to be doing lots of cool stuff! You don't want to miss them! I'm going to clinch that medal for the team. I'm going to be the MVP! I'm going to be forever imprinted in high school basketball history! Everybody's going to see why I'm called the Super Rookie! Tehehehehehehe!"
Shouri placed a cap on her head, grinned at the memory of Kiyota.
As you can see, it's the last chapter. ^_^ Hope you enjoyed it! And no, I was not being lazy and looking to end it as soon as possible. *tries to look convincing*