Tennis no Hime – Sama

17-year-old Ryuzaki Sakuno rubbed her eyes as she squinted on the light from her bedroom window then to her alarm clock on her nightstand. To her shock, it read 7:56.

"Oh my God, I'm late!" she shrieked as she jumped out of bed and head to the bathroom.

Few minutes later, she was putting her things inside her bag when her grandmother entered the kitchen.

"Sakuno, ohayou. It seems that you're late for school."

"I know, obachan. I had to hurry, morning practice is about to begin!" Sakuno hurriedly replied as she went out of the door.

Sumire smiled at the opened door. "Hm, I think it's not the practice she is after…"

Sakuno ran fast as she could. She couldn't be late.

Today, the Seishun Gakuen Tennis Club for Boys is going to help train the Girl's division for the Kantou tournament. Excitement hung into the air like a spooky fog as the members began to talk about who'll manage them for the entire tournament.

The Seigaku's Girls' Tennis Club was a little lively than before. The members were giggling, some were fixing their hair and some began practicing with their rackets.

Sakuno entered the tennis court, sighing heavily. She watched her teammates as they hustle and bustle near the entrance of the court. The screams and shrieks died out when the Captain of the Seigaku male Tennis Club entered the court.

'Oh well,' she smugly thought.

She gave a low groan as she saw the captain of the male tennis club being fawned by girls. She took out her racket from her bag and started her warm – up.

Practice resumed for the next 15 minutes and the whole court went back to its lively state. She continued hitting the ball with her racket when…

"Ryuzaki."

She stopped. "E-Echizen bucho. Ohayou Gozaimasu."

Echizen Ryoma nodded in return. He observed Sakuno's form for a while and he was impressed at her sudden improvement. When they were young, Sakuno was just a beginner then at tennis. At first, he always thought of her as a weak, annoying girl who did nothing but follow him around. He smiled.

"Ryuzaki."

"Hai?"

"Come with me," Ryoma ordered, gesturing for her to follow him. Sakuno didn't argue, so she followed him into the corner as he sat down and rummaged in his bag for a while. Afterwards, he retrieved his racket and motioned for her to follow him to the court. She obeyed.

"Wait, Echizen-bucho, what's going on?" Sakuno asked suddenly.

"Don't you understand? It's a game," Ryoma answered.

"G-game? With you?" she blurted aloud as she watched the other girls stopped momentarily from their tasks and was now listening to her ongoing conversation with Echizen Ryoma.

Ryoma tapped the racket on his shoulder. "Yeah. I just want to see how much you've improved." He then went to the opposite court and began to play with the strings of his racket. He glanced again at Ryuzaki. "I won't give you any handicap."

Sakuno let out a small grin. "Better." She went to her own side of court and watched as Ryoma held out his racket.

"Which?"

"Smooth."

Ryoma spun the racket and Sakuno watched in anticipation. The racket eventually stopped spinning and fell down. The letter R was inverted upward.

"Hm, rough," he mused, picking up his racket. Turning to Ryuzaki, he replied, "I'll give you the serve. I want to see how much you've gone far."

Sakuno gripped the racket hard. "He's testing my skill by looking on how I serve," she ruefully said to herself as she watched Ryoma waiting for her serve.

She sighed as she started off with an underhand serve.

Cheers and screams echoed throughout the court as the game between the Pillar of Seigaku and a member of the Girl's Tennis club engaged in a heated duel. The audience watched with restrained breaths and murmurs while fanclubs began to cheer for their beloved 'bucho' as he went head – on with Ryuzaki Sakuno.

Sakuno however, seemed pleased with her efforts as she swiftly returned Ryoma's shots, and shocked everyone including him when she performed a dunk smash. It gave her 40 – 40, deuce, and it was to her advantage.

Ryoma, however, did not still give way to his emotions. As cool and calculating as ever, he managed to observe Sakuno's style and stance. Now, it was his turn to serve.

"6 – 6 games all, I can still do this," Sakuno said to herself over and over again as she saw Ryoma getting ready to serve. A smile crossed over her face when she saw Ryoma holding his racket in his right hand. "Right – hand serve; It's the twist serve," she thought eagerly. Ryoma is challenging her by letting her attempt to return his favorite serve!

"This game has gone far too long, it seems I had no choice isn't that right, Ryuzaki?" Ryoma stated as he stopped bouncing the ball. He threw the ball high in the air and then jumped in an upward spinning motion, hitting it with the racket in a sideward angle. Sakuno gripped her racket hard as she watched the ball bounced in her direction. Before she could lay her racket on the ball, the ball bounced in a peculiar sideward manner hitting the spot under her legs. She watched as the ball escaped into the court and got stuck in the metal rails. The referee announced another deuce.

"Geez, he shouldn't be so rough against me," Sakuno commented as she sweat dropped. She glanced at Ryoma who was tapping his racket in his shoulder, a smirk on his lips.

"Are you ready to lose?" he asked smugly.

Damn him. "I'm not giving up yet."

Ryoma gave that all – knowing smirk again as he said his customary quote, "Mada mada dane."

'How egotistical,' Sakuno seethed. She crouched lower in anticipation as Ryoma did another twist serve. She managed to catch up to it, but as she was about to hit the ball into her racket's sweet spot, the ball curved sidewards again. Another no – touch ace.

The fan club girls cheered wildly as their favorite bucho started making a comeback. He swiftly continued making aces leaving it 40 – 0. Sakuno was already breathing heavily; her running around the court to retrieve his serves caused her energy to drain out, leaving her open to Ryoma's attack. She tried to regain lost air in her lungs as she began to formulate a strategy.

'If he performs another of his twist serves, I'll dash towards the net and do a drive volley. That way, I can stop him by using my net play,' she thought.

Sure enough, Ryoma used again his right hand and did the twist serve. Sakuno anticipated this so she dashed across the court and with a squeal, successfully returned it. But before she could finally be relieved, Ryoma angled his racket 30 degrees lower in a slow motion.

'No!' she screamed in her mind. 'A drop shot!'

She tried to run despite the aching soreness in her legs as she stretched her arm to return the shot. But to her distress the ball bounced and recoiled slightly as if returning back to its owner.

The zero – shiki drop shot.

Weariness washed over her as she sat back tiredly on her heels as she heard the referee announced the victor. Hurt and disappointment grew in her chest as she fought back the tears of being 'utterly defeated'.

She turned to glance at Ryoma who was adjusting his racket strings and was obviously not looking at her direction. Sighing dejectedly, she stood up from her spot then went to the center of the court to shake hands with the winner.

"I guess you won again," she whispered in a quiet tone.

"As always," he replied in a bored expression. Sakuno glared angrily at him as though she was an amateur when it comes to tennis. After shaking his hand, she stomped back to where her things are and jammed her racket inside. She slung her bag over her shoulder and proceeded to go out of the court.

She was a hundred feet away from the court when he called her.

"Ryuzaki."

She didn't bother to look at him. "What is it now, bucho?"

Ryoma stepped in front of her and now she felt dwarfed. They were a good feet away from the horde of screaming girls and taunting spectators but still, it felt awkward being with him here out in the open.

"Ryoma – kun, I…" A sleek finger stopped her on top of her lips.

He bent down, pressing his forehead against hers. "Ssh…I already told you before didn't I?"

Sakuno clamped her mouth shut. Of course he did. Being him with her here was a problem. Actually, 'him' being the manager of the Tennis club's girl's division was an even greater risk, especially in accounts to the howling horde of women who're dying to get his attention.

"I haven't congratulated you properly yet," he whispered huskily against her ear. Sakuno shivered. She grasped one sleeved arm as she spoke, "Ryoma, you better go back now."

He still kept his arms around her. She understood as she wrapped her arms around his waist and gave an affectionate squeeze. "Don't worry I'll be alright. I'll meet you after school at 'our' place."

A sound of frustration reached her ears as Ryoma abruptly pulled away from her. He adjusted his cap and looked at her with his golden eyes.

"I'll see you later," he muttered as he walked back to the tennis court. Screams and shrieks were later heard and Sakuno let out an exasperating sigh. She continued to walk away from the court and into the school.

"It looks like the road to Kantou would be a lot harder than I thought it would be."