Disclaimer: As usual, the characters in Slam Dunk do not belong to me and belong to their respective owner(s). Aside from the characters I create, I do not mean to infringe on any current copyrights on the series and this fan fiction is merely a means of promoting Slam Dunk and to serve as a creative outlet for my writing. Thank you.
Author's Note: I'd just like to thank all the readers and writers on Fanfiction. Also, thanks to Inoue Takehiko for creating the wonderful series and I hope he knows we are all still expecting that sequel someday.
Slam Dunk: Conquer the Nation
Prologue – A Breeze through Shohoku
The wind was blowing.
As students gathered to attend their respective after-school clubs, Shohoku High became a whirlwind of activity. Amidst the noise, a relatively short senior casually walked toward the gym, his sports duffel bag's strap laced around his forehead and earring twinkling under the sun.
It was another day of practice. But Shohoku High basketball captain Miyagi Ryota found himself unable to shake his uneasiness.
Being the team captain hadn't been easy. The retirement of both Kogure and Akagi had been severe blows to the team and Shohoku had found itself with a major problem—the lack of an experienced roleplayer and a true, dominating center. Last year's starting lineup had been reduced to three, with Rukawa Kaede, Mitsui Hisashi, and Miyagi having to carry the team. The new players were unimpressive in the winter season and Shohoku had not performed up to expectations in their quest for the Winter Cup, for a number of reasons.
In the face of this adversity and what many considered underachievement after Shohoku's miraculous run in the Nationals last year, Miyagi initially had little hopes for the summer season as well.
But things were looking up. After all, Miyagi had recently added what could be a possible bright spot in the roster…
That freshman will definitely be a big help, thought Miyagi as the wind, strangely heavy today, ruffled his hair in a rush and kicked up a gust of leaves behind him. With him now on the team, then maybe…
And it definitely wasn't a moment too soon. It was now mid-season of the Inter-Highs and Shohoku was once again fighting to secure a spot as a representative of Kanagawa to attend the Nationals.
Just like last year, Miyagi smiled to himself, unable to forget all the troubles the team had gone through, but also all they had achieved.
This year was not quite the same. The beginnings of the Inter-Highs had been far more difficult, for one. Anzai-sensei, realizing the team was not what it once was after the Winter Cup, had almost done a complete turnaround with the team's strategy—the team began to run and gun like Toyotama in last year's IH tournament. This was out of necessity; without a post presence, a strong player to rule the world under the basket, this was the best option available. Although the team's scoring output had increased dramatically, the poor defense had led to close games against teams that were outright better than Shohoku or when Shohoku's shots wouldn't fall. The team had managed to survive to the Round of Four to fight for one of two available spots to the Nationals… but just barely, in large part due to the ace of the team: Rukawa Kaede.
Rukawa, fresh off his All-Japan training, had become a nearly unstoppable offensive force. For a while, the other players had thought that it would have been enough. But a single player, no matter how good, couldn't carry a team deep into tournaments: the size advantage of other teams had often created matchup problems for Shohoku that were unsolvable. Miyagi, as well as the other former stars, had realized that Anzai's strategy could only work short-term and even if they made the Nationals, they would not survive long enough to conquer the nation. In fact, Miyagi had believed their success was often due to luck and Rukawa's dominating basketball skills. While Anzai realized this as well, the renowned coach but could do nothing else to make the team better—the lack of players to work with was a major impediment. If not for Mitsui almost purposefully getting himself held back a year…
A voice interrupted Miyagi's thoughts. With a glance over his shoulder, the captain saw a familiar tall figure with a small scar on his chin and unkempt hair.
What a coincidence.
Mitsui Hisashi easily fell into step with Miyagi, the two silent after the greetings. Although they still were not exactly friends off the court, Mitsui and Miyagi—now vice-captain and captain respectively—were brothers on it. But while many, even the two in question, had believed they would be a great duo to lead the team, the currently mediocre results for Shohoku spoke for itself.
"Yeah?" Miyagi tilted his head slightly in Mitsui's direction, showing that he was listening.
"I decided that… well, my parents…" Mitsui paused, somewhat uncomfortable talking so personally and without pretense. After he gathered his thoughts, he managed to continue his announcement haltingly.
"I mean… I haven't been scouted out by a university yet. Honestly, these days I don't know if I will be. But I can't stay like this forever. So no matter what, I'm going to finish it this year. I might even have to... I might have to sit down and study for the entrance exam."
"Ah." Miyagi wasn't surprised—it was Mitsui's time, just as it was his own. He would've been more surprised if Mitsui had tried to get himself held back another year. "Did you tell Anzai-sensei?"
"Yeah." Mitsui scratched the back of his head a bit nervously. "He said it was a wise decision but didn't say much more. Said I have to build a real future—it was something like what my parents have been going on about. But whether or not basketball will have a role in it… I can't stay here forever." Mitsui ended with a repeat of what he initially said, obviously struggling. The thought of basketball not being in his life was not one he could even put into words.
"So, why are you telling me?"
Mitsui managed a solemn smile.
"Just figured you should know, Captain," Mitsui added, with the same bite of sarcasm Miyagi had grown to accept. "We're in the situation Kogure and Akagi were in last year. So, we either keep winning, or-" Mitsui cleared his throat. "Or our high school basketball days will end prematurely."
The two slipped into silence again, the reality of those words weighing heavily on their minds. As soon as they reached the gym doors, Miyagi spoke up.
"We won't lose."
This time, he stopped in place completely. Turned so he could directly face Mitsui.
"After all, I don't want an early retirement either."
Mitsui was caught off-guard at Miyagi's candid, confident response, but he recovered quickly and flashed the point guard a genuine grin. "Yeah, I don't think either of us does."
Miyagi nodded, feeling the two had said all that was needed to be said. He pushed open the gym doors. The patter of a basketball meeting hardwood greeted them, which was a surprise—Miyagi was usually the first to practice.
"Rukawa? That you?" Miyagi called, stepping into the familiar Shohoku gym.
A flash of fiery red caught the afternoon sun, and it was all that Miyagi and Mitsui needed to see to find themselves at a loss for words.
Sakuragi Hanamichi duly faced the two, a scowl on his face.
"How could you not recognize this Tensai?"
The gym doors blew shut behind the three, the edge of a breeze still managing to whip past them. But it all seemed different, now.
It seemed to be blowing hope back into Shohoku.
"I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying."
If you're a first-time reader of this fic. and have made the decision to read onwards, I would like to extend a disclaimer. As you can tell this fic. is very long and has spanned across many years of my writing life. The early chapters, up to around the 40s, will have uneven writing, plot holes, and some heavy borrowing of Inoue's ideas. I was a young writer then, still struggling to figure out what I wanted from the story, and I've had a lot of time since then to make the work completely my own and to make it more readable. Nevertheless those chapters are still there, and though I am working to revise these early chapters to some degree and I've gotten up to Chapter 10, the revising will take quite some time and I'm not sure if I'll ever get through all of it. So everything up to Chapter 10 will have the sort of quality you can expect from the far later chapters, but everything afterwards and before the mid-40s will have chapters of varying quality, some mediocre and the rest bad. I don't want to discourage you from reading this fic., as it's a great joy of mine to write and an even greater joy to have read, but I would like to give you that warning if you decide to devote your time to reading more of this story.
And if you do, in fact, want to keep reading… thank you, and let's see how far Shohoku can get this summer.