Princess Nine: Aftermath

Princess Nine is owned by Kensei Date and ADV Films. I'm not profiting in way from this story

The game was over and the Princesses had lost. Ryo had put everything into that last lightning ball, yet it wasn't enough. Her father was right, she hadn't mastered his trump card. As Izumi held her, she cried at the lost chance of going to Koshien. They had been so close, and now all they could do was watch and wait for next year. After a few minutes, Ryo regained her composure enough to allow her teammates to hug her. Yes they had lost, but they had played their best against a team that was as good as Rinkai.

As they headed to the locker room, Ryo felt inexplicably light-headed. She stopped to catch her breath, but couldn't clear her head. Then everything went black as she fell forward. Ryo didn't feel the impact or hear everyone's screams, players, officials, and the audience. She remained unconscious as the ambulance arrived and took her to the hospital. Ryo's friends and family were reliving that awful night when she almost died. At the hospital, they waited anxiously for word of Ryo's condition. Several hours later, the doctor had good news. Ryo was in stable condition and expected to make a full recovery. She had pushed her body beyond all its limits and the exhaustion had caught up to her. Unlike the last time, Ryo wasn't fighting hypothermia, so it had been much easier to stabilize her. She was still unconscious, but in no danger. Shino wanted to stay at the hospital until Ryo awoke, but was persuaded to wait at home. Kido would stay and let them know when she awoke. With the season over and his team in need of a well-deserved rest, there wasn't really much for him to do.

Two days later, Ryo awoke. She looked around at the hospital room and wondered what had happened. The television was showing the game at Koshien. It was Kisaragi vs Rinkai, score tied, top of the third, with Rinkai at bat.

"Well, well, it looks like our sleeping princess finally has awoken.", Coach Kido said.

Ryo looked over to him. He was slouched in the chair next to her bed, unshaved and unkempt as usual. The major difference was the fact he wasn't hung over. She guessed he probably wasn't allowed alcohol while at the hospital. It made a nice change to be able to talk to him and not smell stale beer every time he answered. Ryo moved to get up, but Kido immediately pushed her back down.

"Uh uh, Princess. You're not moving from that bed until the doctor says you can. We've all had enough excitement, thank you very much.", Shinsaku sternly admonished her.

"But Coach, I feel fine!!", Ryo replied. She tried to get up again, and stopped as a wave of dizziness hit her. Ryo was breathing hard as she collapsed back onto the pillows.

"You may think you're fine, but right now you're weak as a newborn kitten. It's partially my fault that you're here. I should have recognized sooner that you hadn't recovered fully from that brush with death.", Kido said.

"But the doctors told me I'd fully recovered. I was pitching at full strength all during practice with no problems.", Ryo protested.

"You were at full physical strength, yes. What I'm talking about is your stamina and recuperative ability. All during the tournament, I was worried about you. As the only pitcher on the team, you bore a very heavy burden. Even your father had a relief pitcher when he played. I knew all those lightning balls you were throwing were taking a toll on you, and I was seriously considering withdrawing in order to prevent you from suffering a potentially crippling injury. Don't look at me like that, Ryo", as Ryo looked at him horrified, " As Coach, I have to consider my player's welfare as well as winning games. That's why I told Keiko that we would do things my way. I knew I might have to make hard decisions and I didn't want any second guessing.", Kido replied.

"So why did you let us play?", Ryo asked.

"I knew that you and Hiroki had wanted to face each other in a real game ever since that first night. When I told you to get some real rest, I saw your eyes. You weren't just fatiqued, you were already completely worn out. I knew then that this would be the last game of the season, win or lose. I honestly hoped you would lose, so I wouldn't have to pull out of the tournament.", the coach sighed.

"So it is my fault that we didn't get to Koshien.", Ryo said, looking away.

"Don't think that for one second!! You girls went farther than I ever dreamed this year.", Kido said as he made her look directly at him, "Keiko knew what she doing by giving you three years to take the championship. This first year was mainly for building the team and proving that you could play. I would have been happy with a couple of victories. Instead, you went all the way to the semi-finals. Do you honestly have any idea what kind of accomplishment that is for a rookie team with the bare minimum number of players? Actually, I'm glad you didn't go farther."

"And why is that, Coach?", Ryo snapped.

"Because you were beginning to think you couldn't be beaten, and that is never good for a team. Now that you've lost, you'll play much better now because you'll be aware that you can lose. I'm not saying you don't play well now, but you had to lose sometime in order to truly progress.", Kido replied.

Ryo had no answer to the coach's statement. She turned her attention back to the game. It was now the bottom of third, with Hiroki at bat. He hit a double, but Ryo immediately saw that he could have easily gotten a triple or even a home run with that pitch. Ishimaru was good, no question about that, but Hiroki's batting skill was in a different league. The announcer's words confirmed this.

"Takasugi's batting today, while flawless, hasn't been up to his usual standard, and it isn't hard to understand why. You need only to look over the Kisaragi Girls baseball team seated in the stands to see that one member is missing. Ace pitcher Ryo Hayakawa hasn't regained consciousness since her collapse after that incredible game. While she is listed as in stable condition, it is unknown when she will awaken.", he said.

Ryo couldn't believe her ears. What was that big jerk thinking? If she had been in critical condition, then she could understand him not playing well. Since she was in no danger, Hiroki should have been able to concentrate on the game.

"You should have seen him at the hospital after they got you stabilized. Even though you was just unconscious, he kept acting like Yuki did when she lost Fifi. Izumi and the rest of the team straightened him out real fast.", Shinsaku snickered. He remembered how Mao marched Hiroki into an empty room, while Izumi told Nene to insure they weren't disturbed while the team had a "little" talk with him. What amused Kido the most was the expression on all of the Princesses faces. All of them had Izumi's famous "cold as ice" look, even Mao, Kanako, and Yuki.. The others he could understand, but those three he didn't believe capable of doing it, it wasn't in their natures. He couldn't hear what they said, but he did catch several telltale slaps. "Unfortunately, Takasugi hasn't hit a home run since. The best he's done is a couple of triples. His fielding is about the same, solid but not what he's capable of.", Kido added.

Ryo's temper started to simmer. How dare he!!?? He had hit her lightning ball and ended the race for Koshien this year. Hiroki should have continued to dominate the game as he had earlier in the tournament. Instead, his playing was so wimpy it made her sick just hearing about it. The more she thought about it, the madder she got. If she was at the game, Ryo would've given him a piece of her mind he'd never forget.

"You know, Keiko did tell me to notify her when you awoke. She's at the game right now and I just happen to have her cell phone number.", Shinsaku said innocently. He'd seen Ryo's face and easily guessed what was going through her mind.

"Give me that phone. There's a certain idiot that's going to get exactly what's coming to him.", Ryo spit out. She wasn't just mad, she was absolutely furious now.

Kido smiled as he handed Ryo his own phone. He then left, saying he had to call Shino, but once he closed the door he stopped and and tried to listen to Ryo. As it turned out, he needn't have bothered trying.

At Koshien, Keiko was surprised to hear her phone. There were only a few people who had this number, so it must be important. Hoping it was Kido with good news, she was even more pleased to hear Ryo's voice.

"Hello, Miss Himuro. Look, could let me speak to Takasugi? I've really got something to say him and it can't wait.", Ryo said in a tightly controlled voice.

"Of course, Ryo. I take it you've seen part of the game already?", Keiko replied. She had a good idea what Ryo had to say and didn't want to miss the show. Ryo confirmed she had seen the beginning of the third. Keiko then headed to the dugout. Kisaragi had two outs now, but she judged they could hold out long enough for Ryo to speak to Hiroki.

Kisaragi had just scored on a superb triple from next batter. As Hiroki crossed home, Keiko signaled to him. She handed the phone to him, saying there was someone who needed to speak to him. Thinking it was a member of his family, he walked toward the restrooms, out of the line of sight of the rest of the team and the audience. It proved to be to a wise decision. Putting the handset to his ear, Hiroki answered the call.

"Hello?", he tentatively asked.

"JUST WHAT THE HELL IS THIS WIMPY PLAYING, YOU DUMB JERK!!??", Ryo's voice thundered from the phone.

Hiroki's arm snapped out as far as it could away from his ear. The phone had sparks flying out of the earpiece and it was vibrating madly. Conversely, his hand was glued around it, causing his whole arm to shake. Even at arm's length, Ryo voice could be heard distinctly. Hiroki looked at the phone in disbelief.

"Tofu?", he managed to say.


"But, but Ryo I was worried about you.", Hiroki pleaded.

"WELL YOU CAN *S*T*O*P* WORRYING AND START *P*L*A*Y*I*N*G* !!!! THE NEXT TIME YOU COME UP TO BAT, I WANT THE BALL OUT OF THE PARK ON THE FIRST PITCH!! DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?? OUT. OF. THE. PARK. ON. THE. FIRST. PITCH!!", Ryo shouted back at him. "If you want to keep calling yourself my boyfriend, then you'd better get your act together. Izumi slapped me because my head wasn't on straight, and I deserved it. Maybe I ought to have the team slap you right now and knock some sense into you. Now, put Miss Himuro back on and get out there and PLAY!!", she said in a more normal tone.

Shaken but happy, Hiroki handed the phone back to Keiko. Kisaragi had just struck out and was changing positions. He headed to first base, wanting to jump with joy. His Tofu was awake!! True, she wasn't in the stands to cheer him on, but she was able to see him. Keiko was struggling to keep a straight face. She had heard every word and the look on Hiroki's face was priceless. It wouldn't do to spoil the surprise Rinkai was about to get. As she headed back to her seat, she promised Ryo to let everyone know at the appropriate time. For now, Hiroki had to start making up for his earlier performance.

Izumi saw her mother go to the dugouts, but didn't see what happened during the call. Her eyes narrowed as she considered Keiko's face both before and after speaking with Hiroki. It was like Keiko knew some private joke, one that she didn't want to share. She then looked at Takasugi. His attitude seemed different. Izumi could have sworn his step had a spring to it that hadn't been there all day. As the game started again, his playing was far better than earlier. A suspicion dawned on her, one that was more and more likely as she considered it.

Back at the hospital, Ryo shut off the phone and thought for a moment. That idiot could be so damn dense!! He'd better do what she told him or else there'd be hell to pay. She heard a knock at the door and then Kido came in. He was grinning ear to ear as he entered. In the hall, Ryo could hear clapping and cheering. Her face flushed in embarrassment as she realized that maybe she had been a little too loud. Kido's next words proved that beyond any doubt.

"Well Princess, the only people that didn't hear you on the other side of the building were the ones unconscious. Of course, everyone's watching the game already, so now they know what's going to happen. Now please give me my phone back so I can call your mother.", he chuckled.

Ryo wanted nothing more than to crawl under the covers and hide. She had never been so embarrassed!! Before she could do anything, a doctor entered. He was laughing as he read her chart. If his patient could already shout like that, then she was well on her way to recovery. Still, Hayakawa was very weak and needed time to recover. After a cursory examination, Ryo was given permission to get up and move around. She was shaking as she walked, but moved without any assistance. A meal was waiting for her when she returned from the bathroom. As much as she hated hospital food, Ryo wolfed everthing down. She grimaced as she remembered her last time in the hospital. Her remarkable recovery had been fueled in part by a need to get some real food before she went crazy. BLECCH!!

It wasn't until the fifth inning that Hiroki finally was up at bat. Rinkai had barely managed to take the lead. Hiroki was fielding with a vengeance, and it was inspiring his teammates. The announcer was wondering if Hiroki could start hitting as well as he was fielding now.

Ishimaru was thinking along the same lines. Something was different with Hiroki, compared to the beginning of the game. The best explanation he could come up with was that Hiroki had managed to put aside his worry about his girlfriend and concentrate on the game. Ishimaru took a moment to think about the Princesses. Without a doubt, that game had been the toughest he had ever played. Even after they figured out the Princesses' sneaky strategy, Rinkai had only been able to tie the score. The girls had fought back with a tenacity that was amazing. What still embarassed him though was Hikaru's tagout. That had to be one of the oldest tricks in the book and he fell for it like a rookie. He wasn't angry at her for doing it, he was angry at himself for falling for it.

It was the end of the game that awed him. Ryo was exhausted, bases were loaded with no outs. Then, out of nowhere, she struck out the next three batters with pitches that could only be described as magic. The batters she struck out all said the same thing, those pitches were impossible, yet she had thrown them like nothing. Not until it appeared in the news did they know they had faced the lightning ball. Like Hiroki, Ishimaru had studied Hidehiko's pitching but never made the connection with Ryo. Rinkai had heard the rumors that their game been fixed. These had been met with scorn and derision by the entire team. As a fellow pitcher, Ishimaru respected Ryo's pitching talent. He didn't want to think about the hell she must have suffered during that scandal. When the story of her heroism and the kind of person her father really was appeared, the team was glad for her. The girls had earned Rinkai's respect, and that was an accomplishment by itself.

Rinkai had watched all of the Princesses's games, studying their playing. The game against Hori Private was memorable for several things. First, they had won against a team that was far meaner and rougher than Rinkai. Second, they did it by solid technique and strategy. There were a few moments that stood out. They cheered at Izumi's leaping tagout. Mao's handing the ball to the umpire while Yano lay on the ground stunned brought tears of laughter to everyone's eyes. They were stunned at Izumi's final line drive by using a tennis technique. The subsequent squeeze play was a textbook example.

The rest of tournament had amazed Rinkai. Kisaragi Girls and Kisaragi Boys so dominated everyone else, that when they ended up facing each other, no one wanted to say who would win. While the majority of the game seemed like the Princesses had burnt themselve out, Rinkai didn't count them out. The last minute scoring drive proved that. Takasugi's brilliant catch of Azuma's line drive had everyone on the edge of their seats. When Ryo fell down on her third pitch, Rinkai felt that she had truly reached her limit..

Takasugi's declaration of love for Ryo and challenge to her and Ryo's subsequent answer literally floored everyone. NEVER had they seen or heard anything like this. Their shock was compounded when Takasugi hit the third lightning ball for the game winning home run. It was unreal, but they all agreed that he was the only one who could've done it. Ryo's collapse afterwards was a heart-stopping moment. Their coach guessed the same as Kido, that Ryo wasn't at full strength when the tournament started and being the only pitcher had taken a heavy toll.

Ishimaru then grinned at himself. Here he was doing the same thing as Takasugi, thinking about a girl instead of concentrating on the game. He looked at his catcher, waiting for a signal. There was a man on first, so even if Hiroki got a triple, they'd only tie the score. Ishimaru felt confident that his team could take the lead again afterward. He didn't kid himself that Kisaragi would be beaten easily. The catcher then signaled to go for the strike. Ishimaru wound up, and threw his best fastball.

The instant the ball left his hand, Ishimaru knew they were in trouble. Hiroki suddenly focused on the ball and swung the bat with his old form. The ball was sent screaming up over the board and out of the stadium. The crowd roared their approval as the announcer shouted into the microphone.

"It looks like the ball is going into orbit, people!! Kisaragi takes the lead as it looks like Takasugi is indeed back on form. The game has gotten much tougher for Rinkai. Can they take back the lead now or has the tide turned in Kisaragi's favor?", he said.

Keiko decided now was the time to make the announcement. Hiroki was playing like he should have been and the girls deserved to know the good news. She headed to the announcer's booth and asked to speak with him. The announcer was delighted at the news since he had covered the semi-final game and Ryo's collapse afterward.

"Your attention please. I have just received word that Ryo Hayakawa has awoken. It won't be long before this Princess of the baseball field will be back chasing her dream of Koshien.", he pronounced.

The rest of the Princesses jumped out of their seats, shouting with joy. At the same time, Kisaragi and Rinkai both gave a rousing cheer. On the field, either team would play to win against her. Off the field, it didn't matter she was a girl, first and foremost, Ryo was a fellow member of the National High School Baseball League. The Kisaragi Girls captain was a worthy competitor and a shining example of the spirit of baseball's principles. Rinkai was looking forward to their next meeting.

Once the cheering was finished, the teams returned to the game. Hiroki was back on form, but Rinkai wasn't going to roll over that easy. In short order, they reminded Kisaragi why they were a veteran Koshien team by stopping Kisaragi cold for the rest of the inning. Soon the teams were changing positions. Ishimaru grabbed a cup of peppermint iced tea, a gift from the Princesses. They had given both teams a large jug each, to show their support for their brother school and by way of apology to Rinkai for the psychological warfare that had wreaked so much havoc. As Nene had told them, the team's entire future had rode on that game, so the Princesses had pulled out all the stops. Kisaragi Girls didn't want any hard feelings the next time they met. Ishimaru had assured them that any anger towards them was long gone by the end of the game. They simply didn't have the energy left to be angry. The team gratefully accepted the tea, knowing it was going to be a long, hot day.

The rest of the game was a hard fought battle. Rinkai tied the score in the seventh, and both teams remained scoreless until the bottom of the ninth. It was two outs with no one on base, when Hiroki came up to bat. Ishimaru was faced with a tough decision now. Hiroki was sure to get a hit, the question was how to keep him in check. Ishimaru didn't get any signals from either the coach or the catcher and understood there was no clear choice. He decided on a screwball, figuring to keep Hiroki from getting a home run at least.

Hiroki saw the screwball and hit with everything he had. It went high and long along the baseline toward left field. He was running flat out towards first base a fraction of a second after he hit it. The announcer was frantically calling the play.

"Takasugi rounds first as the ball continues toward the outfield. He passes second and is headed for third as it bounces off the wall. Rinkai throws to third, but Takasugi makes it safely, WAIT A MINUTE!! TAKASUGI'S NOT STOPPING!! HE'S GOING FOR HOME PLATE. RINKAI THROWS TO HOME AND NOW IT'S A RACE BETWEEN TAKASUGI AND THE BALL. IT'S GOING TO BE CLOSE PEOPLE. HE LEAPS AND IS .... *SAFE*!!!!! KISARAGI WINS ON AN UNBELIEVEABLE IN-THE-FIELD HOME RUN!!", the announcer screamed into the microphone, barely audible over the roar of the crowd.

Later, as Hiroki was presented the MVP award, he found himself thinking that quite possibly next year it would be himself in the stands watching Tofu receive the award. Right now, he knew that Ryo was watching him, cheering him on and already plotting how she would strike him out next time. She would not be happy until she took him down, which made him love her even more. She was the only pitcher who had ever beaten him, and he couldn't wait for the chance to test his batting against her lightning ball again. He certainly wasn't going to tell her just how hard it been to get that home run. Hitting that ball had been like hitting a boulder. The pitching machine set at full power didn't even come close to the force that been in that pitch. Hiroki had understood then why the lightning ball was so effective. When he watched the video of Hidehiko pitching the lightning ball, he quickly saw the difference between the master and the student. Hiroki marvelled at the thought of Ryo throwing as well as her father in time. True, she had missed playing in junior high, but her talent was such that she quickly made up for it. For now though, it was his moment to shine.

Meanwhile, Ryo was indeed watching her love. Hiroki had beaten her THIS year, but NEXT year he was going down. Ryo promised herself that she wouldn't hold anything back. Hiroki had always managed to get a hit on her pitches, and she was determined to strike him out with only three balls. NO ONE hits my lightning ball and gets away with it, she swore to herself. For now, she was proud of him. He had beaten her fair and square, and they still had two more years to win at Koshien.

This story, while differing slightly from the ending in episode 26, is based on known facts. Ryo got out of the hospital shortly after June 6, which is Kanako's birthday. The regional prelims mentioned take place during June-July and determine who will compete in the tournament itself. The Summer Nationals are a 16 day tournament taking place in August, with the final game played at Koshien Don't forget that the Rinkai game was merely to gain recognition as a legitimate team and the RIGHT to compete at the Summer Nationals, NOT to be in the tournament itself. The series mixes up the terminology, which is why things are a little confusing. To clarify, if you do some googling, you'll find out that there are 55 slots in the tournament, and 4102 schools competing for the chance. Therefore, even if you allow for Princesses getting in directly, Ryo has only two months to get back into top shape. Even before the quarterfinals, you can see Ryo is already fatigued. During the last episode, the animation shows Ryo's eyes on fire, whereas before they were merely focused when she pitched the lightning ball. The sound effect of the pitch also has a much higher amplitude than previously, almost like a jet engine. Ryo clearly has tapped into every last bit of her willpower in order to throw her trump card. And since she was already using that willpower to just keep going, something has to give.

A better name for the lightning ball is a ki ball. Martial arts use the same principle, uniting body, mind and spirit into one. Ryo's spirit powers the lightning ball beyond what her muscles can provide. Once she understands this basic concept, then it becomes merely a matter of practice. Hidehiko most likely realized this, and told Shinsaku the secret since he was his catcher. The lightning ball really is a very simple pitch, ONCE you understand the concept. It's UNDERSTANDING the concept that is problem.