Small Ripple in Still Waters

Author's Notes (1): For disclaimer, see my description

Author's Notes (2): All knowledge about Japanese culture and language comes from all the anime that I watch and the stuff I can find on the Internet. This all means that other than the usual words and phrases, I know squat about it, so please forgive the mistakes. I'll try to not make too many cultural references so not to offend anyone.

Author's Note (3): This is a series of one-shots mainly involving Sakuno in some way, whether she shows up in person or not.

Chapter 1: Secret under the Sakura

Seishun Academy Middle School.

A school known for its distinguished academic records but was more known for its prowess at sports, especially that of its young male tennis team, the Seigaku Tennis Club and in particular, its youngest member, first year, Ryoma Echizen.

As the sun glared down on the scenic campus on the unusually warm April afternoon, a small figure made its way towards the copse of cherry blossom trees surrounding the small pond.

'This looks like a good spot' Ryoma thought as he looked up at the trees that provided ample shading then at the sparkling pond. He gave in a moment to appreciate the picturesque view then shrugged. Throwing his book bag down to use as a pillow, he stretched his arms as he gave out a mighty yawn.

As he started to lay himself down on the soft grass, he mentally reviewed the tiring day. To be quite honest, if it had nothing to do with tennis, food or his beloved cat, Karupin, he really wasn't interested. Most of the time he could maintain a façade of interest in his classes, but today it seemed was something that was just too hard to do. Thank heavens that his last class was cancelled because his teacher had an emergency, he didn't think that he would have lasted if it wasn't. 'Think I'll just sleep here until practice starts.'

And with that, the young tennis player promptly fell asleep.

'Mou, where could he be?' Sakuno Ryuzaki thought as she ran around the school campus looking for Ryoma. She slowed as she neared the back of the campus. 'I swear he's like cat- he only shows up when he wants to'

Sakuno sighed in frustration again as she crossed her arms and thought about where the young prince of tennis could be. He wasn't with Momo-sempai or with Horio-kun, Katsuo-kun or Kachihiro-kun. He wasn't in the cafeteria, the library, the roof and the tennis courts. Nor was he practicing against the back wall of the school or by the soda machine- Ryoma had simply disappeared and escaped from school without a trace. Whimsically, she smiled as she thought, 'Maybe we should just call him Houdini instead of the other names'

Shaking her head at the thought, Sakuno sighed, "I could always tell Oishi-sempai that I couldn't find him at all." Then she snorted lightly at the thought. "Right. And by tomorrow I'll be a full-fledged tennis pro. Now where could he be? If I was Ryoma-kun and not in my usual spots and I had a free period and it was a sunny day, where would I go?'

She blinked as she thought of an answer to that question. "The pond!"

Filled with a new determination and her braids flying behind her, Sakuno started towards the little slice of heaven located at the back of the campus.

"Oi, Inui, have you seen Echizen?" called out a voice in the middle of a crowded hallway. Sadaharu Inui turned around to look at his fellow classmate and team co-captain, Syuichiroh Oishi. "I have a message from Ryuzaki-sensei for him. I sent her granddaughter and Osakada to find him- but so far neither girl has found him yet."

"I haven't seen him yet," Inui said as he shook his head, his glasses gleaming. "But since his teacher left early and it's a sunny day, there's a ninety-five percent chance that he's outside and an sixty-eight percent chance that he's sleeping under a shaded area and a twenty-six percent chance of him practicing by himself against the wall."

"Then I suppose that I should go outside and start looking for him under the trees," Oishi sighed as he scratched his head.

"I have a better idea, Oishi," Inui said as he whipped out a pair of binoculars from under his jacket. His glasses gleamed in anticipation. "Let's go to the roof and scan the campus grounds to look for him."

"Uh, right," Oishi smiled as he felt a huge drop of sweat drop from his head.

Sakuno sighed as she felt the cooling breeze from the pond gently caress her face. Instinctively she lifted her face up to the sun and smiled as she savored the warmth of the sun. The sun sparkled merrily on the clear water of the small pond and she could see a couple of squirrels scampering to and fro, bringing a small sigh of satisfaction out from Sakuno's lips as she enjoyed the view. 'It really is a beautiful day. The sun is shining, the wind is blowing, the squirrels are playing, the birds are singing, someone is snoring…'

Blinking at that thought, Sakuno frowned. "Wait a minute…sun shining, wind blowing, squirrels playing, birds singing and…"

Sakuno turned slightly to her right and saw- "Ryoma-kun snoring."

Smiling as she shook her head in slight exasperation, Sakuno quietly approached the sleeping young tennis genius under the sakura trees and knelt beside him. She hesitated as she watched him sleep soundly. "Ryoma-kun? Ryoma-kun?"

As a small snore escaped from his lips, she let out a small giggle. She never imagined that Ryoma was a snorer. Her eyes softened as she marveled at how innocent and sweet he looked as he slept. 'He looks so cute! Like a sleeping prince! He has such long eyelashes!'

When he let out another snore, one louder than the last, Sakuno shook herself to attention. She tentatively reached for his shoulder. "Ryoma-kun? Ryoma-kun? It's time to wake up now."

Sakuno gently touched his face with her fingers and marveled how different his skin felt from hers. She watched as her fingers traced his cheekbone to his soft lips. Her finger gently, slowly traced his lips. 'They feel so soft…I wonder…'

'What would it be like to kiss him?'

Sakuno blinked at her wayward thought then flushed red to the roots of her hair. Snatching her hand back and squeezing her eyes shut, she shook her head. 'Stop that Sakuno! Stop! You can't think that!'

'Why not? It's not like anyone's around or that he's awake. Don't you want to kiss those soft lips with yours?' whispered a tiny, hopeful voice in her head. Sakuno scowled. She could practically see the small devil version of herself sitting on her shoulder. It was the same little devil in her that said it was okay to eat the last chocolate frosted custard doughnut or to go and play in the summer rain.

'I don't want him to be asleep if I kiss him' Sakuno thought fiercely as she gripped the hem of her skirt. 'I want him to be awake when I have my first kiss!'

'But there's nothing wrong with practice, is there? Look at him- he wouldn't know. He's sound asleep! And he's still snoring!'

Sakuno opened her eyes to see that Ryoma was still sleeping… and snoring. Loudly. She looked at him hard. 'It wouldn't be fair, would it? I mean what if he wants to have his first kiss when he's awake too? Isn't one's first kiss very important?'

'Have you ever heard of a guy talking about his first kiss?' her little devil argued. 'Did Oyaji or the cousins ever say that a man's first kiss was important?'

'No, but that still doesn't mean that it wouldn't be important to Ryoma-kun!'

'Would you rather have your first kiss with Horio-kun?'

Sakuno felt herself visibly recoil at the thought of kissing Horio-kun.

'So is this chance to kiss Ryoma-kun' her little devilish self said as she shrugged. 'It's just like Papa and Obaachan and Obaasan both say, you have to do your best with the opportunities that you're given. If you think it's still bad, think of it just as practice.'

"Practice? Kissing?"

'Yeah, practice kissing for when the two of you start dating and he declares his love for you.'

'Now I know that I'm going delusional' Sakuno thought as she rolled her eyes. 'Even my inner devil can't stop teasing me'

Sighing, Sakuno looked at the sleeping tennis prince. His face was totally relaxed and unguarded as he snored among the fallen sakura blossoms. He really did look cute sleeping. Suddenly she wished she had a camera to take a picture of him- a picture of just him looking like this.

'A picture of Ryoma-kun just for me. One that I wouldn't have to share with Tomo-chan,' Sakuno suddenly thought. Then she promptly felt ashamed of herself. Especially since the other bubbly and energetic girl was her best friend. She loved her friend dearly, but there were times, in her darkest moments, when she resented Tomo-chan because though she was the one that had met Ryoma-kun first it was Tomo-chan that always grabbed his attention before she could. How she wished that she would be the first to say something, do something that would make Ryoma-kun notice her first.

"But how do you change a violet into a rose?" Sakuno asked aloud as she looked at Ryoma's sleeping face. She sighed as she pulled a hair away from Ryoma-kun's face. She bit a lip and debated with herself then nodded. She closed her eyes as she spoke softly to him. "Ryoma-kun… I really don't know how to tell you this and I really am thankful that you are asleep. I want you to know that I really do like you a lot, Ryoma-kun. And it's not just because you're a prince of tennis. Ever since I met you that day, when you stopped Sasabe-san from swinging that racket in my face- I wanted know everything about you. I want to know what you like, dislike; what makes you happy or sad or angry. I want to know everything about you, Ryoma-kun because I really do like you."

Sakuno opened her eyes and smiled sadly. "And I wish I were brave enough, daring enough to tell you this while you are awake but I can't. Like you would say- 'Mada mada dane'. But until I am ready, I hope that you will let me stay by your side and let me cheer you on. What do you say to that, Ryoma-kun?"

Sakuno smiled when he merely snored even louder, his face getting redder as he snored. "Domo arigato, Ryoma-kun. You are very kind… and I just have another small confession to make- I just want to say ano, I'm very sorry that I even thought to try and steal your first kiss from you under the sakura while you were sleeping. I won't take it just in case it is important to you but-"

Sakuno bent down and kissed him on the cheek. When she lifted her lips, she felt her cheeks feel very hot. She immediately bowed down "That was just a thank you, Ryoma-kun. But I do hope that someday, you would be my first real kiss."

She giggled softly when he shifted to his side, facing away from her and let out a really big snore. "Ano you seem to be very tired, Ryoma-kun. Well, you just keep sleeping- I'll go tell Oishi-sempai that you are here. Please don't go anywhere- I don't want to start looking for you all over again."

With that, Sakuno got up to her feet- delighted that she was able to confess to him that she liked him, even though he was asleep. She looked up at the sakura tree and smiled. Her shoulders felt lighter, the sun seemed brighter and the sweet sent of sakura floated on the breeze. She giggled as she leaned on the trunk of the tree- Sanada Jiji-san always said that there were wonderful nature spirits all around and they could always keep secrets when asked and tell when not. Shaking her head at her whimsy, she smiled as she looked down on Ryoma-kun's sleeping face then at the tree. "I think that someday soon I'll tell him when he's awake. For now, it'll be just my secret under the sakura."

Oishi sighed as he stood behind Inui who was slowly scanning the campus grounds with his binoculars. "Well, did you find anything?"

"Tanaka from class 3-1 is having a bento with Yamada, Midori from class 2-1 under the pine trees near the back of the tennis courts; Sano, Ichiro and Aoi from class 2-6 are practicing their kendo moves in front Minami from class 2-5 and Shino from class 2-1 near the sakura copse," Inui reported as he moved slowly, scanning everything in a methodical way. "And-"

Covering his eyes, Oishi shook his head. "That's not what I'm talking about- wait a minute, Tanaka is eating lunch with Yamada, Midori from class 2-1? I thought he was seeing Honda from class 3-5?"

"I guess you didn't hear. They had a huge fight at the Heisei Tea House when he caught her seeing someone from Meio Academy and she caught him with Yamada yesterday," Inui reported. A movement caught his eye- hmm, the female stood over a male body. Hmm, both looked familiar. Inui sharpened the focus on his binoculars. Ah, yes. It was the coach's granddaughter, Ryuzaki Sakuno, and she had a huge smile on her face. And the boy on the ground was- "Ah, I have found Echizen and Ryuzaki. She's starting to towards the school but it seems that she is allowing Echizen to continue his nap-"

"Arigato, Inui," Oishi said as he walked towards the roof door. He opened it to let them both off the roof, but Inui simply stayed where he was. "Ah- aren't you coming down?"

"In a moment, I wish to gather more data now that I am up here," Inui said smoothly. His brow knitted as he saw Echizen touch his cheek as soon as Ryuzaki was no where near by. "I'll be down in ten minutes."

Oishi felt a sweat drop on his head at Inui's spying. "Well then, I'll see you on the courts. Don't be late for practice or else Tezuka will make you do laps."

"I won't be late," Inui said absently as he kept his focus on Echizen who was now sitting up and looking quite disturbed. He magnified his binoculars a bit more. 'Now why was the boy pretending to be asleep?'

As soon as her footsteps faded away, a pair of golden eyes popped open and a hand lifted and touched the cheek that had been kissed. The boy slowly sat up as he continued to caress his cheek. He didn't know what made him wake up nor did he know what it was that told him to stay very still as soon as he was vaguely aware that someone was next to him.

And when he realized that it was the coach's granddaughter, Ryuzaki, he made more of an effort to stay still in hopes of her going away and leaving him alone. Because he knew, he just knew that the moment he would wake up, Ryuzaki's loud friend, Osakada, would come barreling at him and loudly embarrass the crap out of him again. And he really didn't want that.

Then he heard her soft voice say her confession and he wanted to die of embarrassment on the spot. And then she kissed him. On the cheek. He nearly bolted up and would have run from the spot had he not been so surprised at Ryuzaki's boldness. Instead he forced himself to pretend to still be sleeping and snoring. Mada mada dane, what the hell was he going to do now? He winced because he could still hear her. "This did not just happen."

"Ryoma-kun… I really don't know how to tell you this and I really am thankful that you are asleep. I want you to know that I really do like you a lot, Ryoma-kun. And it's not just because you're a prince of tennis. Ever since I met you that day, when you stopped Sasabe-san from swinging that racket in my face- I wanted know everything about you. I want to know what you like, dislike; what makes you happy or sad or angry. I want to know everything about you, Ryoma-kun because I really do like you."

"Oh, man," Ryoma moaned as he buried his face in his hands as his cheeks felt hot. He rubbed the spot where he felt Ryuzaki's warm lips.

"And I wish I were brave enough, daring enough to tell you this while you are awake but I can't. Like you would say- 'Mada mada dane'. But until I am ready, I hope that you will let me stay by your side and let me cheer you on."

"Maybe I should have woken up then," Ryoma muttered as he felt his ears start to burn.

"I just have another small confession to make- I just want to say ano, I'm very sorry that I even thought to try and steal your first kiss from you under the sakura while you were sleeping. I won't take it just in case it is important to you but-"

"I seriously did not need that confession," Ryoma muttered as he closed his eyes and shook his head. "Or that kiss."

He simply did not need that kiss because it shook him more than anything else. What the heck was she thinking of, kissing him? And on the cheek no less! All because she didn't want to steal his first kiss from him while sleeping. So why even bother kissing him at all? If you were going to steal a kiss from someone, you might as well go all out.

Ryoma's eyes widened at that thought and violently shook his head. "I am not thinking that! I am not baka Oyaji! Focus, Echizen- what the hell are you supposed to do now?"

He scowled as he turned his mind to the present problem- mainly, Ryuzaki's confession. He violently shoved all thoughts of her warm kiss away from his mind. Her confession was a major problem; mainly because there was no way that he could ignore her presence without the sempai-tachi getting on his case and without possibly offending his coach and violently hurting her female feelings, something he was loathe to do. There was absolutely no way that he could do what he had done in the past.

Normally, when a girl confessed that she liked him, he would just blink and ask why and then say he was too young to like any girl and ignore her most of the time. Or if she were overly aggressive, he'd be brattier than usual. Then said girl would spend her time avoiding him after that and then leave him to the things he really was interested in: his tennis, cat and food.

But this was Ryuzaki who confessed her liking of him. He couldn't do what he normally would. If he ignored her more than usual or was bratty towards her; there would be trouble in the form of sempai-tachi, namely Momo, Kikumaru and Fuji. If he paid attention to her, trouble would come in the form of the girl herself as well as the sempai-tachi.

"Yare, yare. Is there a solution?" Ryoma scowled. No matter how you served the ball, he was screwed in one way or the other. "How the hell am I supposed to deal with her now?"

It wasn't that he didn't find her cute in a sort of clumsy, shy, caring, sweet sort of way. He didn't mind her sweetness towards him; it got him more than a few cakes and free meals from her. And to be honest, he really didn't want to be mean to her. After all, she was only guilty of liking him and wanting to know more about him. She wasn't a nuisance for him like most of the other fan girls who were sometimes positively nuts in trying to grab his attention.

But he just didn't have patience for her acute shyness or clumsiness and sometimes her caring caused him more embarrassment than anything else- especially when it was in front of the team, though it wasn't as embarrassing as Osakada's outright cheers and signs in the hallways.

He winced at the thought of Osakada. There was another reason he definitely couldn't ignore Ryuzaki more than usual or hurt her feelings. If he did then Ryuzaki would avoid him and then no one would rein Osakada in from her more outrageous antics. He swore that the even the British in Wimbledon could hear her hollering- "Ryoma-sama! Ryoma-sama!" It really was bad of Ryuzaki to do this to him.

"Why the hell did she have to confess? And why the hell did she have to kiss me?" Ryoma scowled as he ran his fingers through his hair. That really was bad of her. He was fine in not knowing that she liked him, he was fine being oblivious. And for some reason, he was not fine being aware that she liked him. "I have no time for this- I have to perfect my tennis to beat Oyaji! Why the hell did she have to confess while I was sleep- That's it!"

"What the hell am I thinking?" Ryoma said as he hit himself on the side of the head because of his stupidity. That confession must have really thrown him for a loop. He didn't have to act as if he knew about the confession- after all it didn't happen. She thought he was asleep- and therefore, he was safe. He didn't have to act as if he knew that she liked him and he didn't have to act as if she kissed him either. He just had to act normally around her- like he usually did. After all, no one knew that she had confessed. He looked up at the tree he was sleeping under. "So no one but you and me knows that she confessed her love for me, neh? And no one but you and me knows that she kissed me on the cheek, hai? So like Ryuzaki said, it'll be our secret under the sakura."

With that Ryoma Echizen settled his back against the tree comfortably and waited for Ryuzaki to come back with Oishi-sempai in tow.

"Secrets under the sakura, neh? Now what does that mean, Echizen?" Inui wondered aloud as he lowered his binoculars. He blinked as he tried to process the information in his head- his lip reading was second to none, but there were times when he wished his subjects would just stop with the mumbling or covering their mouths. It made it all the harder for the lips to be read.

Sighing, he thought about Echizen and the fact that he was actually taking to himself was proof enough to know that the young tennis prince was disturbed. But the only words he made out of Echizen's mouth were: confession, why, like, and kiss. Pushing up his glasses, he thought about the words and Echizen's actions under the sakura.

Proof 1: Ryuzaki came across a supposedly sleeping Echizen.

Proof 2: Ryuzaki was smiling happily when she left his side to get Oishi.

Hypothesis A: Ryuzaki accomplished something that made her very happy.

'So the question is: what did she do that made her very happy?' thought Inui as his hand came to his chin. 'But what about Echizen's reaction to Ryuzaki?'

Proof 1: Echizen touched his cheek and sat up as soon as Ryuzaki was away.

Proof 2: Echizen was disturbed to the point of speaking aloud to himself.

Proof 3: Echizen solved his disturbance and was right now pleased with his solution.

Hypothesis B: Ryuzaki did something to deeply disturb Echizen and it happened while he was sleeping.

Inui mulled it over for a second and chuckled as the answer hit him. "Mada mada dane, Echizen. You may be a great tennis player but you have truly yet to mature. How could you pretend to be asleep while a girl kissed and confessed her love to you?"

Shaking his head, he watched as Oishi and Ryuzaki walked over to Echizen. "It wouldn't be the first time the sakura was known to keep a secret, Echizen. Just make sure you give me more interesting data later."

Inui's glasses glinted in the sun as he walked towards the roof door and smiled.

Author's note (4): There's more to come as soon as I can get to it…