oshogatsu omedeto minna-san! (Happy New Year everybody!) This is actually a gift from me to you....

Thanks for those people who reviewed... I really appreciate it. ans please remember that those suggestions. Every word of it will be put to heart....

Disclaimer: I don't own slam dunk


CHAPTER 2

Well it won't hurt trying. Zen thought to herself as she started to dribble the ball again.She tried to shoot it there, beyond the three-point arc.

It was like half away from the court… It won't get in. What's she's thinking? Haruko told herself.

She's crazy… Rukawa thought.

The ball flew from the air and it went smoothly in the ring. Everyone was overwhelmed with what she did. Mouths dropped open. Even Zen herself was surprised and then she thought: Oh my god! I'm supposed to get through him and shoot the ball!!! Not shoot the ball without getting through!

"Sumemasen!" Zen said as she bowed down. "I wasn't following the instructions! I was supposed to get through you first! I forgot!! Sumemasen!!" She bowed again.

"You're in.." Mitsui said.

"What?" She looked up at him and asked just to make sure she didn't hear him wrong.

"I said you're in. You haven't lost your touch Zen-zen."

"Huh?"

Zen had flashbacks of memory:

Zen was called Zen-zen when she was little. She liked playing basketball with her sister. Her sister's childhood friend Mit-chin (Mitsui's nickname) was always assisting her with three point shots. Yes, three-point shots. Those superb three-point shots that Mitsui liked to make. She was very short, an 8-year-old turning 9. She called Mitsui, Mit-chin even though his real name was Hisashi. Mitsui found Zen a fast learner 'cause she gets it right always after it was explained. But he knew there was something wrong about her. Not manners, not poise but there really is something. Something one can't figure out easily. Mitsui really can't, even though he had tried because she was nice to him, they're friends. And before he knew what it is they had left for California.

"You're still good."

"Arigato, Mit-chin." She chuckled.

"Welcome to the group Zen-chan!" Haruko said loudly as she ran towards them.

"I didn't know you and Mitsui-sempai knew each other." She asks Zen as she reached the both of them.

"I'm her sister's childhood friend. Oh? How's your sister?" Mitsui asked.

"She's been busy. She entered Shohoku high too…"

"Really? I haven't seen her."

In the middle of the conversation Coach Anzai went up to them. Zen looked at him carefully. He has a big and bulky body, his belly protrudes over his belt.

"Impressive… Very impressive.." Anzai clapped his both hands.

"HAHAHAHAHA…. I didn't think there would be another Tensai around here."

Zen turned to another redhead. She stood in awe. He's very tall and from what she heard, he's a first year too.

"Watashi wa (I am) Sakuragi Hanamichi. Uroshiku! (Nice to meet you)"

"Chiharu Zen. Nice to meet you too, Sakuragi-kun."

"As always practice will be mixed with the girl's basketball team. We'll start the practice tomorrow. You all had a hard day. Rest now and we'll resume practice tomorrow. NO practicing today. Okay?" Coach Anzai announced.

"Hai!" all of them said in unison as they left the gym.

They all returned to class. When it was dismissal, Zen decided to look around. All of the students had a tiring day so they all decided to go home. At the time of 4:30, there was no sign of a single body in the school grounds. She decided to stop by the gym. When she was about 3 meters away, she heard a ball dribbling inside. Rain started to sprinkle from above. She continued to the gym to shelter herself from the tiny droplets of rain.

"Thank God, I'm not wet!" She said loudly, forgetting there was also someone inside the gym.

She turned at the being. It was Rukawa. The gorgeous and famous Rukawa Kaede.

"Coach said no practices…" Zen said as she pinned her hands on her waist. She was still wearing her jogging pants and blue shirt she wore at the try out.

"Why do you care?" Rukawa said coldly.

"Why do I care? I'm a part of the team now! Hm… If I tell coach… Maybe he'll not be letting you practice for another day…"

"Just don't tell him. Okay?" Rukawa replied again coldly.

Zen looked outside. Why did it rain now? There's no way I'll get out of here. She thought to herself. Maybe I'll stay here until it stops raining.

"Ano ne… Rukawa-kun…"

Rukawa stopped dribbling and listened but he did not look her way.

"It's raining cats and dogs. Can I stay here and watch you practice until the rain stops?"

Rukawa just nodded.

She went to sit at one of the bleachers. She watched him do powerful and beautiful dunks, very sleek three-points and his good-to-see easy lay ups. That's why girls admire him so much. After many minutes, Rukawa was soaked in sweat. He finished practicing and went to his bag, a meter away from Zen's seat, to get water. He consumed his drink and looked outside. Zen pulled a drink out of her bag.

"Rukawa-kun…" She tossed the drink to Rukawa. He reflexively caught it.

"I don't want it…" He refused frigidly.

"Trust me, you do." She flashed a smile. He refuses everything!

Rukawa seated at the bleacher, opened the cap and drank it.

"Arigato." Rukawa said still being cold.

Zen just gave another smile. They just sat silently, not saying a word to each other. At last the rain stopped. Zen stood up and gathered her things.

"I think I'll go now." She said.

"I'll go with you." Rukawa said coldly.

Zen smiled. "Ii so shimasho. (Sounds good.)"

Rukawa immediately got changed. They went out the school together silently, like no-one's-with-you kind of silent.

"Where's your bicycle?" Zen asked just to make a conversation with him.

"It rained this morning."

Rukawa didn't make his sentence full but Zen clearly understood it. When they walked past the school, it suddenly rained again. Zen bellowed as she covered her head from the rain. She wasn't wet. She looked up. An umbrella. Of course! he had it with him you idiot! She told herself. It rained this morning! He didn't use his bicycle 'cause he walked to school this morning! Zen you fool! She thought.

It was Saturday. Zen rushed home hurriedly. Their grandfather's arrival and yet she was still troubled by those Rukawa Fans club. They're getting on my nerves! She went to the basketball practice at 10 a.m. and she only attended half of it. They are pain in my neck!!! Urgghh… how I hate them!! She went out of the practice at 11:30 but she wasted time running away from those people. It was already 1:45 and she hasn't eaten yet. god, I'm starving. It's good that I have lost track of them at last! She wasted a few hours running away from the members of the Rukawa Fans club.

She arrived home at last.

"Tadaima (I'm home) Utada ne-chan!!"

"Okairi (welcome home) Zen-chan.."

"I'm ready to do some shopping now!" she said pulling her sleeves up.

"Ok, here's the list… Here's the money. You go now. You will need to help me clean the house too and we'll be fixing Oji-san's room.

"Hai!" she said with much enthusiasm

Zen went to the market and Utada started cleaning the house. It was a day full of work for the both of them.

They finished cleaning and now they started cooking. Three and half-hours have passed and they were expecting their grandpa anytime now. It was arranged that Zen would picked him up but:

Oji-san! Nande? Why can't I pick you up?

Someone will be picking us up at the airport.. Their grandpa calmly said.

But… but.. but…

No buts… Zen-chan.. It can't be helped. Just stay there and wait for us.

(Line dead)

Zen was still in another world when the doorbell rang. Utada went to get it. She suddenly lost track of time. It was already 7:00. They got changed already and they're just waiting for their grandpa to arrive.

"Zen-chan!" Utada called.

"Zen-chan!" she called again.

"Zen-chan!" and again.

"Zen-chan!" but this time Utada and their grandpa called in unison.

She was brought back to her senses.

"Huh? Yes? Ane-chan? Oji san? Oji san!" she instantaneously went to hug his grandpa.

"Let's go now Zen. Let's have dinner." Her grandpa invited.

She turned to look who picked their grandpa up. She turned to see who the people he was with were. She saw another old man and no one else. Then who the hell picked them up? Her temper rose up quietly, ascending to an unrestrained feeling but she gained back control of herself.

Then she decided, she should ask. "Who picked you up oji-san?"

"No one came… He didn't come." Kishii replied.

"Who didn't come?"

"Gao's grandson."

Zen turned to another old man. Graying bushy hair, intelligent blue eyes, a fair complexion. Wait a minute. No way. It can't be…. Well it can but I hate the idea.

"You aren't a Rukawa. Are you?" She asked wishing she's wrong.

"I'm afraid I am, young lady." Gao smiled, his intelligent blue eyes sparkling.

Impossible. "So desu ne…."

After dinner Zen was asked to go and buy some sake for her grandpa and visitor. She was on her way, just a few meters from her house when she sensed someone was following her. She did not dare to turn back. She just hastily walked. She tried to get out from his sight but he was still following her. She quickly glanced at the man at her back. He's tall and daunting. She taught. She ran rapidly but the man was surprisingly fast. He caught up to her quickly. When she turned back she saw him standing right in front of her. He lays a hand on her shoulder.

"Oi." It was Rukawa.

"You scared me out of my wits! What are you doing here?"

"Oji san told me to come after you." He said blankly.

"Why didn't tell me?" she said with slight annoyance.

"You were running…." He answered coldly.

She stared at Rukawa's blue eyes. His eyes. He has such sad eyes.

"Oi…" Rukawa called her.

"Why didn't you show up to pick Oji san up?"

"I forgot." He said shortly.

Zen raised an eyebrow. "You forgot?"

He just nodded.

"I can't really believe you! You're just… You're just so insensitive!" She said looking at his cold and expressionless blue eyes. "And not only that. You came after our dinner!"

When Rukawa remembered he has someone to pick up, he was an hour in a half late. But he assumed his grandfather would be at his house, so he went home. Then he saw his grandfather in the Chiharu's lawn and found out that his grandfather is a friend of a Chiharu. Kishii.

"Gomen." He said. He never really wanted to pick them up but her mother obliged him.

"At least we found our way, neh?" Gao flashed another smile.

"Un. (Yes)"

"To make up, please follow Kishii's granddaughter. She just left to buy sake."

Kishii's a Chiharu so Rukawa guessed his granddaughter must be.. "Zen?"

"Yes.. Chiharu Zen."

Zen hated Rukawa's attitude towards other people. But his grandpa isn't an other-people. He's his grandfather! Father of his father.

She slowly shook her head. "You're hopeless.."

Rukawa didn't say anything and walked away leaving Zen alone just standing there. He then stopped for at least a second.

"You coming?" he said and started to walk again but he slowed down a bit for Zen to catch up.

"uhh… Hai. Ikemasho.(Yes. Let's go.)" She said as she walked on Rukawa's direction.

They entered and left the store with the best Sake in their hands. Rukawa's good in choosing these kinds of stuff. He chose this Sake we bought.

When Rukawa was younger, he stayed with grandfather. He liked Sake. When there're special events, his grandpa always asks him to buy one. He got used in buying it and know what's best or not.

Zen remembered how stupid she looked inside the store, causing annoyance and all.

"Kombanwa! Can I help you? What would you like to buy?" the salesman greeted nicely.

"Sake please." Zen answered.

"What Sake?"

"Sake… the Japanese alcoholic drink made from fermented rice…"

"I know what it is… and I know where it is made from. I'm asking what KIND of Sake you want to buy. You see sake is a rice wine." The salesman explained.

"We know that." Rukawa told him.

"Well, uhmmmm… I would like---" her voice trailed off because Rukawa barged in her sentence.

"We would like that one." Rukawa pointed the one on the third shelf.

"You're good, young man… that's the sake that was made by--"

"I don't need any details." Rukawa said coldly.

To lighten the annoyance Rukawa has made, Zen decided to butt in.

"We'll buy it!!! We'll buy it!!!" she said. They paid for it and immediately went out.

Zen gave a sigh of relief when they walked out of the store. I really get into trouble with this insensitive creature! Argghh… Rukawa doesn't care about anyone or anything.

"Oi…" Rukawa brought her back to her senses.

"Nani? (What?)" She asked.

Rukawa pointed the streetlights. The sidewalk streetlights were red.

"Arigato-gozaimas…"

"Your mind's dwelling elsewhere." He said coldly.

Zen didn't say anything.

They walked across the sidewalk to the other side.

It was already Monday. Time flies by surprisingly fast. Zen thought. Yesterday, joined them for dinner. Utada also invited him to come over anytime when his grandfather isn't around. She remembered how Utada liked Rukawa being around. Zen feels she has a plan of bringing the two of them together. But that's impossible.

"Arigato." Rukawa said after eating.

"Please feel free to come over when Gao oji san isn't around." Utada said giving him an amiable smile.

"Hai."

Rukawa's grandfather and their grandfather went for a trip repeatedly. They would go back to Tokyo or have a trip to Osaka and go back home after a few weeks. Rukawa was frequently alone in his house so his sister decided to let him come over and take dinner. However, Zen was slightly annoyed thinking Rukawa would cause more problems to her. She was always chased. She can't get enough privacy. Every time she went out of the classroom, she would always see her things strewn but she patiently fixed it up. That was also their reason in disquieting Zen. Her patience. They have never seen anyone handle things coolly.

She's a basketball team member, the leader of the class conference. She also played a part of their school council. Her grades weren't affected at all. She was always serene and calm. Either way, she only kept her anger and annoyance to herself. She'll be quiet for a few minutes, counting one-to-ten over and over, then she'll forget about it. That's how she do it. Her mom once said, "If you want to annoy other people more than they annoy you, don't mind them at all. Think as if they do not exist." She had tried it a lot of times in her childhood and it was very effective. Her classmates always pestered her when she was little and she pestered them the same way. Things always get worse at that manner. She was like that until she was nine and when her mother gave her that advice, things changed. She played things calmly and that made other people see her as a very clever girl. People gets annoyed but stopped at the end. "Zen-chan, if they see that you don't mind them and ignore them, they will soon get tired." She heard her mother say. "I don't want to see you pestering other people. But don't take me to literally dear. Put it in place. You can always fight back." When things gets worse, her mother always gives her a better advice. But her mother was in Tokyo now. When they got home from California she thought she would still have to be with her mother. "You're big now. You can handle things by yourself and if you need my hand you could call me.." that was the last words her mom gave her before they separate.

With her head flying into space, the class already ended. She went into basketball practice and she received screeches from Akagi.

"Chiharu!!!"

"Nani?"

"Defense!!!!" he screamed at her again.

Sendichi Jen was their captain but why is this Akagi screaming at her? She knows she is the brother of Haruko and is the captain of the boys' basketball team but if she would be receiving a screech, it must be from Jen. They are already friends and they spend time together. They are really close friends so she calls Jen with her first name.

"Chiharu!!!!!!!!!! Offense!!!!!!!!!" Akagi screamed again.

"Hai!"

She got the ball and did a lay up. Zen was good with maneuvers that can steal the ball, that can escape from their opponents but she was only averagely good at defense.

"Defense!!!!!!!!!!!!!" He screamed again.

When the practice ended, Akagi let everyone home except for Zen.

"Chiharu-kun…."

"Hai…"

"I can see that you're good at offense… you're really good."

"What's your point?"

"You did poorly with the other one…"

"So desu. (I see.)"

"Practice more on defense… You'll need it… Games will begin soon."

"Hai…"

"Basketball is about those two.. If you want, I can coach you myself. Every after practice."

"Thanks… but please don't bother…" I don't want to be a problem.

"Remember, Offense will do nothing, if you're poor with defense. Your opponent will easily score just as you did. But what if they have a tight defense? You cannot score easily then."

"Wakarimashita... (I understand..)"

Zen left the gym feeling slight discomfort… Practice more on defense. Practice more on defense. The words reverberated in her head. Then she saw a tall man leaning on the wall on their school gate. It was Rukawa. What's he doing there? She thought.

"Akagi?" Rukawa asked.

"He went home already. You didn't see him come?"

"Iie. Just got here."

"Ikemasho ka. (Lets go then.)"

"Doko?(Where?)"

"Practice defense." Rukawa started walking.

"Chotto Matte…(Just a minute...) I know a place."

Rukawa pushed the bike next to him.

"Rukawa-kun do you think I'm a loser?"

Why would I think that? "Yeah. You're just like that 'aho."

"What did you say??!!" Temper began an upsurge. She became a little depressed again. "You think so?"

Why are you asking such questions? "Iie.."

"I really can't understand you."

He followed her without asking any questions. They stopped at the house just opposite his.

"This is your house." Rukawa said confused.

"I know." Zen opened the door and went in. "Iku. (Come)."

Rukawa followed Zen inside.

"Leave your things here and get your ball. I'll get mine upstairs." She said as she rushed to her room.

She came down with the orange ball in her hand.

"Let's go now." She said.

They went into the kitchen. Zen looked over the key holder and got a key. They went out through the back door.

"Here.." She stopped in front of a large green gate. "You know the empty lot with a large wall covering it just after our house?" She inserted the key and turned it. "Here we are. I'll leave it open since we'll be practicing. You can come over if you want to practice basketball here. Ne-chan and I used this in our childhood. We build this. ane-chan, me and Kai. We left for California so we haven't used this for a long time."

"Let's start now." Rukawa said, following a thought in his head. Who's Kai?

"Why are you helping me?"

"You'll hate the idea."

Zen raised an eyebrow. "Is there really an idea?"

Rukawa shook his head.

"I knew it."

"Spread your arms like this…. And move your feet like this."

Zen listened and did everything Rukawa said. She's been practicing it for an hour and a half now.

"Rukawa-kun, Zen-chan. Dinner is ready."

"Hai." They both said in unison.

"I think we should take dinner first Chiharu-kun."

Zen smiled.

"Nani?" He said.

"It's the first time I heard you call me… Don't be so formal. Call me Zen… Rukawa-kun." He didn't invite me to call him Kaede! Hmm.. Just pretend he did. In my dreams.

"Hai." He answered coldly and they entered the house to eat dinner.