A/N: Second Prince of Tennis fanfic. This won't be as long as the last time but I hope it would be just as effective. ^^; Nope, no yaoi here.
Disclaimer: Characters depicted in the story aren't mine. They belong to Takeshi Konomi.
A Strange Weekend
Syuichiroh Oishi looked up at the massive woodwork edifice in front of him as he got out of their rented service bus that drove them to their current destination. The Seigaku Vice Captain squinted his eyes against the glinting sun reflected on one of the large windows and stood staring at a two story Convention Center located way up in the mountains, in a rural community called Matsunagi, found in a rather remote part of southwestern Japan called the Chugoku Region, present day Okayama Prefecture. The place was an eight hour drive from Tokyo and he was sure everyone who came along was as tired as he was.
Matsunagi, huh? He shook his head. Funny, he had never heard of the place before.
"Finally, we're here." Oishi turned and looked at the irritated speaker on his left. Hyotei Captain Keigo Atobe dropped his bag beside him and turned a critical eye on the building they were going to stay in for the weekend. "What a depressing place," he muttered. "Why they would even want us to have a seminar here is beyond me."
"Hey now, don't say such things. It's unlucky," another student said from behind. Yamabuki's Kyosumi Sengoku, a.k.a. Lucky Sengoku, grinned as he joined the two and looked up at the structure in front of them. He gave a low whistle, "Pretty big place, isn't it?"
"The building was used as an inn before the owner decided to move to another country some decades ago. It's been abandoned ever since," Hajime Mizuki of St. Rudolph Gakuen informed the others as he stood beside Lucky Sengoku. "Well, that is, until a month ago when a new owner came in and turned the place into a Convention Center," Mizuki added.
The data collector had already gathered information about the Convention Center they were going to stay in for the weekend when they were still in Tokyo. And there were quite a few interesting things he learned about it. No, 'intriguing' would be the better word, Mizuki thought. He too looked at the building's ingenious fusion of Japanese and European styles standing before him and raised an eyebrow. "It's rather well maintained for an old place."
"Yes, it is," Oishi nodded his agreement. A sudden movement on one of the windows on the right façade of the second floor caught his attention. There, he saw a young woman peering curiously at them behind the curtains. He found that a little surprising. He thought they had the place all to themselves.
The girl, he saw, was about their age. She had long black hair cascading over small shoulders, with an almost ethereal glow surrounding her. She had milky white skin, with a sad expression on her beautiful face. Oishi wondered about it. Suddenly, the girl turned her head and their eyes met. Oishi felt as if he had a hundred butterflies in his stomach. She really was beautiful, he thought, feeling a little light headed.
"Doshita, Oishi?" Noticing the look on the vice captain's face, Kunimitsu Tezuka, the Seigaku Captain, asked as he stepped beside Oishi, his traveling bag slung over his left shoulder.
"Ah, nande mo nai," Oishi answered as he turned toward Tezuka. He shook his head to regain his composure. "I just didn't expect that there were other guests besides us who are staying over at the center."
"Other guests?" Lucky Sengoku echoed. "Where?"
"I saw one on the third window from the right, second floor," Oishi replied then looked up. And so did the others. But the girl wasn't there anymore, only the slight movement of the curtains signaled her departure. "Oh, she's gone."
"She?" Sengoku stepped forward and peered at the said window. "Ah, so we have girls in the house?" He grinned. "Lucky! And here I thought I was going to spend my weekend with just you boring guys. What'd she look like? Is she pretty?"
"Beautiful," Oishi amended with a smile. "Totally different from city girls."
"Hmm…" Mizuki said, a thoughtful expression settled on his face, a hint of a teasing smile crossed his lips as he turned toward Oishi, "so that's your type, eh, Oishi-kun?"
"E-Eh?" Oishi stuttered. "N-No! I was only---"
"She's probably just one of the servants preparing our rooms," Atobe said in that condescending way of his as he shrugged, unwittingly saving Oishi's life from the hands of the scheming Mizuki. He, too, saw the girl Oishi was talking about but quickly dismissed the matter. Talking about the girl was not something worth his time. Instead, he took out a copy of their schedule. "Leadership Training, huh? As if I needed something like that," he scoffed. "Two days in this godforsaken place with nothing to do but listen to some old jerk drone for hours. Now I wish I didn't go."
"Oi, Atobe," a voice from behind the group called the Hyotei Captain. Atobe turned to look at Fudomine's Captain, Kippei Tachibana, standing on the bus steps. "You left Akutagawa inside. You better wake him up before the bus leaves for Tokyo."
"Wake him up, Kabaji," Atobe started to snap his fingers, a force of a habit whenever he ordered the junior, but stopped himself. He had almost forgotten that his shadow wasn't there with him. The purple haired buchou released a long sigh as he turned and stepped inside the bus. Here in this remote area, he had to do everything himself. Even the task of waking the sleepyhead Jirou up rested on his arrogant shoulders.
"Come on, everyone," Kentaroh Minami, Yamabuki Jr. High's Tennis Club Captain, said as he followed Yoshirou Akazawa, St. Rudolph's buchou, walk toward the Center with the rest of the group, "let's go in."
* * *
The orientation was scheduled at 2:00 that Saturday afternoon. The students, in their respective school uniforms, made their way to the conference room after they settled their bags in their assigned rooms and finished unpacking. Out of the hundred and eight junior high schools in Tokyo which should result in a rough estimate of 200 students present in the seminar, less than a hundred came to Matsunagi. The invited guests were each school's Tennis Club captain and vice captain. Some accepted the invitation, others decided on a no-show which irritated Atobe even more for he too didn't want to go.
The seminar, he was told, was about the rapid growth of popularity of tennis in Japan. The speaker, an old goat of a man in a dark gray suit who now stood before them on the stage, said that new and very talented players had shown up in the tennis world. A new chapter was unfolding and these selected students should guide their teams to greater heights. As a huge fan of the said sport himself, he was glad that… blah… blah… blah…
Atobe leaned back on the soft cushions of his chair as he scanned the air-conditioned room with a bored look. His gaze settled on the boy on his right and sighed. Jirou Akutagawa sat there, oblivious to the world as he snored his life away. At that moment, he wished he could be like the sleepy boy so that he didn't have to suffer the boring talk which could last for hours. Next to Jirou, Syuichiroh Oishi and Kunimitsu Tezuka, who he considered his rival among all the players he had faced, sat. His eyes narrowed at the silent, expressionless captain.
He was definitely going to challenge Tezuka to a match tomorrow to see who between them really was the better player. After the rehabilitation he received in Germany, Tezuka was going to fight him in his best form, Atobe was sure. He suddenly felt anticipation and adrenaline rush through his bloodstream. He was even starting to hear good sounds.
He couldn't wait…
Kippei Tachibana, who sat some two seats before him, caught his attention. The dark haired Fudomine buchou seemed uninterested in the topic and was looking around the room himself. A small smirk formed on Atobe's lips. How unexpected of the strict Tachibana. His companion, whatever his name was, was doing a better job than he was at listening to the speaker.
* * *
"That was a long orientation, ne, Tezuka?" Oishi commented as he, Tezuka, and Atobe walked toward their room after the three-hour talk. The room arrangements forced the representatives of the two rival schools to share a room for the duration of their stay in the convention center. Just like with St. Rudolph and Fudomine in another room, Yamabuki Jr. High and Gyokurin in another, and so on.
"I was barely listening," the Seigaku Vice Captain confessed with a sheepish smile.
"Neither was I," Atobe shrugged his arrogant shoulders. "We shouldn't feel bad though. Jirou was sleeping the whole time---" The Hyotei Captain stopped in his tracks when he finally realized that he left his teammate in the conference room. He almost sighed in resignation.
"We… forgot Akutagawa inside," Oishi's eyes widened when he, too, realized that one of them was missing. "I really think he should see a doctor," the vice captain continued, frowning in worry as he remembered Akutagawa's unusual behavior during their matches, "He could be suffering from narcolepsy, you know? Well, not that I've heard a cure for that particular dysfunction yet but. . ." Oishi continued on to his one-sided tirade, once again getting himself worried silly, even though the person concerned was not a member of his own team. He was always behaved like so. And it was no wonder that Syuichiroh Oishi was being called Seigaku's Mama. Tezuka, on the other hand, remained expressionless.
"He's fine. He's just usually unmotivated," Atobe cut in, waving the sub-captain's unfounded worries with a careless hand as he turned around to return to the A/V Room, "I'll get him."
Both watched until the Hyotei Captain disappeared inside the room. Oishi sighed as he leaned on the wall while they waited for their roommates to return. "I hope the others are doing all right back in Tokyo," he remarked thinking of the rest of the Seigaku Regulars, the worry he built up a moment ago simultaneously transferring to his team. "Inui called me this morning. He said he spotted Echizen and Ryuzaki-sensei's granddaughter going inside an ice cream parlor on Main Street," he shrugged, "I didn't get much detail since we're already climbing up the mountain and the signal was getting weaker."
Tezuka remained silent as he listened.
"But I did hear the word 'date' before the line was completely cut off," he continued, "It could be another misunderstanding but. . ."
"Inui was always too enthusiastic about his data gathering."
Oishi couldn't agree more. "The worst part of the call was Eiji and Momo were there. I could hear them in the background, yelling that if they didn't move now, they won't know what the two were talking about," he turned toward the captain, trying his best not to show he was panicking but was failing miserably. He just couldn't forget that time Inui informed him that Momo and Echizen were going to duel with a date in line. It wasn't true, of course, but the trouble it had caused made him sick with worry. "With those three stalking Echizen around the district, everything was bound to get messy! I wouldn't even be surprised if Fuji, Taka-san, and Kaidoh find themselves somehow involved in it!"
"You're getting worked up again, Oishi."
The vice captain sighed and was about to say more when Kiichi Kuki, Kakinoki Jr. High's Tennis Captain, suddenly appeared behind them. Tezuka and Oishi turned to face him as he approached them. The last time they saw him was during the district tournament. They thought Kakinoki would be the runner-up, same as the last year, until the unseeded Fudomine appeared and wiped them out.
"Yo, Oishi," Seigaku's fuku buchou almost swore he saw the scar under Kuki's left eye twitch when the brown haired captain stopped before them, a smirk on his lips. Oishi frowned when Kuki pointedly ignored Tezuka, not even acknowledging him even when he was standing right in front of him. Was the Kakinoki Captain still bitter about his lost against Tezuka? "We're planning to do a little card game tonight after dinner. And thought maybe you'd like to join us," Kuki continued and shrugged, "It gets a little boring around here, you know? No television, no radio."
Was he implying that hanging around with Tezuka and the Hyotei students would undoubtedly bore him? "I'll think about it, Kuki," Oishi nevertheless answered politely, "Domo."
"You do that," he answered and waved a dismissive hand as he walked away. "And extend the invitation to Hyotei if you want to."
"Ano yaro," Oishi said and shook his head when Kuki disappeared from his sight, "he never fails to annoy people somehow, doesn't he?"
Tezuka didn't bother to answer him as Atobe and Akutagawa walked back toward them, the exasperated captain telling his companion off not to just fall asleep anywhere. It was becoming troublesome. Akutagawa merely answered with a sleepy hai, scratched his head and yawned.
"I knew I should've asked Yuushi to accompany me instead of Jirou," Atobe muttered under his breath when they reached the Seigaku students.
"Hyotei's tensai? I didn't know he was your vice captain," Oishi remarked as the group continued to go back to their assigned room, "Why isn't he available anyway?"
"He's on a European tour with his family," Atobe answered, "And he's not the vice captain. Sakaki-sensei didn't even appoint one." The arrogant captain ran a hand through his purple hair. "After all, the only thing that matters is the strongest player in the team. And that would be me."
Insert loud applause and ear-piercing screams by fan girls here, Oishi thought dryly, a sweatdrop forming on his head.
* * *
Akira Kamio led Tachibana, Akazawa, and Mizuki as they toured around the Convention Center. The long orientation finally ended and Kamio could not help but feel annoyed that he accepted the invitation to the seminar. The place was a bore! The Recreation Rooms wouldn't be opened until 5 pm that afternoon. The swimming pool located at the rear of the building was undergoing cleaning. And the tennis courts, which were the only available facility during that time, were packed by other players.
Kamio almost got down to his knees and thanked Kami that he had the hindsight to bring his MD player along. It could save him from completely losing his mind!
"Your annoyance is rather obvious, Kamio-kun," Mizuki chuckled from behind him which irritated the 'speed demon' even more. "Well now, perhaps I can alleviate your boredom with some facts about this place I acquired back home," he took out his Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) from the back pocket of his trousers, unhooked the stylus, and began tapping at the small screen on his palm.
With the lack of anything better to do, Kamio shrugged and slowed his pace until he matched Mizuki's, which resulted to Tachibana walking ahead of them, Kamio and Mizuki behind him, and Akazawa bringing up the rear. Kamio peered over the data collector's shoulder, wanting to know what facts the little electronic gadget had about the Convention Center.
"Most of my info is in my Macintosh but I left it in the room. The data here will suffice," Mizuki said as he scrolled down the screen and clicked on the right file, "Ah, here it is. The Matsunagi Convention Center."
"Ah, gomen," it was said in a low voice but Akazawa, Mizuki, and Kamio heard it clearly. All three glanced up just in time to see Tachibana sidestep as he allowed someone to pass by him. It was a natural occurrence to apologize if you blocked someone's path and to move a little to let that person walk by. The three were prepared to forget about the subject and go back to what they were doing before Tachibana spoke up. Really, they were. But one problem kept nagging at them as they turned to look at one another in confusion.
The well lighted corridor was empty except for the four of them.
"Tachibana-san," Kamio called to his captain when he was about to walk away, "did you just say 'gomen'?"
Tachibana stopped and turned to look at his companions, "Hm?"
"Ah, so Tachibana-kun can see them, eh?" Mizuki cut in before Kamio could repeat his question, a knowing smile on his lips as his eyes surveyed the area. "How many are there?"
Even if Tachibana did not dignify the question with an answer, the way Mizuki said the word 'them' caused chills to run down Kamio's arms.
Mizuki couldn't have meant what he thought he meant, could he?
Akazawa scoffed, "What? Don't tell me there are ghosts around here?"
"Why, buchou," Mizuki raised his eyebrows as he turned to look at St. Rudolph's Captain, "don't you believe in ghosts?"
"T-Tachibana-san, Mizuki-san's just making it up, right?"
When Tachibana remained silent, Kamio paled. Masaka. . .
"Yes, my friends," Mizuki chuckled rather mischievously as he looked from Kamio to Akazawa and back, "this place is haunted."