For the previous chapter, thanks to: SpiffyCookie, Kisa Yamashita, cancercute, joeshen, AkiraXTK, Bla8, Takari lady aka D-3, Paradocks, initialjs, Kaydreams, Shikyo Yaiba, ilovefood, Light's Blue Blossom, Xanpluto, Baka'sAngel, The Illustionest, Storyteller of dimensions, take the blame, TogetherAgain, Daiguren, livingINmyDAYDREAMS, Malcolm Yuy, Crazy With Happiness, silverknight426, operationmeteor0, blondhairedidiot101, digitalmonster911 and BelovedSaiai- YOU ROCK!
Okay, to get things clear - The sappiness was bound to happen. Even if I prefer writing angst/problems more...I don't want to drown the characters. If they were to drown, might as well have the sugar-formed cavities. This is the last chapter, I won't speak any more. Enjoy and see you at the end (of this chapter...world).
Chapter Nineteen: Retirement Party
The atmosphere was quite peculiar. He didn't want something too formal or too extravagant, so he requested for the party to be low-key. Takeru didn't mean to be difficult, but he didn't really want to make a big fuss of everything. Considering it wasn't exactly his choice, Japan's Basketball Council organized the party the next night right after Takeru's declaration. The 'low-key' thing quite of got out of hand. They Council had rented out two of the adjoining function room at one of the clubs. One of the rooms was filled with dancing bodies while the other was mellow – consisting of a bar and a calming lounge where the guests could chill out and listen to some man play soothing acoustics.
So there he was…at his own retirement party. He really had never expected him to have one. He always had associated 'retirement' with old age, but apparently this wasn't the case – he hoped. His eyes darted around the place. There were quite a bunch of unfamiliar faces. He frowned. All he really had wanted was to hang out with a bunch of his basketball mates and a couple of his friends. The Council had invited quite a few executives, other members from different basketball teams (mainly captains) and not to forget…the distasteful media. They seemed to be roaming and lurking at every corner he would go. He felt so strangled. And bored.
His coach had been dragging him around his own party to welcome, meet and greet the high people in the Bball Council. He was fine with this at first…until he became aware that there were a lot of members in the Council. Just when Takeru thought his coach would introduce him to another person, he came to a halt. "Want a drink, Takaishi?"
"Sure coach," Takeru said uncertainly. He never had been shouted a drink from his coach besides a good yelling to get a grip and move on during games. His coach's whole giving nature at the moment was strange.
They wormed themselves through the crowd and sat onto a pair of free stools besides the bar. The coach passed him his drink after ordering, taking a swig from his own. "Coach?" Takeru questioned.
The OSG Phoenix coach gave a gruff sigh, swiping the froth from his lips and puckering up the courage to what he wanted to say to the Ex-Captain. "Is it my fault that you wanted to quit, Takeru?"
It was another surprise of the night – his coach had resorted to calling him by his first name. "Why would you think that?"
"Son, if it's from me…I understand. I've been pushing you around a whole lot because you've got so much responsibility. You were the captain…and you had a sure darn lot of potential, Takaishi. Just come back. You're the best the Phoenix's had had for some while now."
"God coach…it's not you. It's not your fault why I decided to quit. I just sort of lost the feeling for it, that's all," Takeru laughed. "I've had so much experience on the team. If you hadn't pushed me all these years…I wouldn't have become captain. I should be thanking you."
"Oh," his companion said. A frown becoming distinct on his lips. "So you're really going to stop playing basketball?"
"I guess…for now," Takeru sighed. "I'm just sick and tired of putting aside the things that truly matter to me…to play basketball. Kari made me see that."
"Alright," the coach said. "I can't do much persuading against the forces of love."
Takeru laughed at his coach's attempt of a joke. Again, another surprise of the night. His ever so serious, tough and strict coach telling a joke? No, he really had never seen that coming.
"Good luck with where you're doing, boy. But I have one more order before I let you loose."
"You need to announce the captain we've decided on. You also need to at least make a darn thank-you speech to your colleagues. You're their captain…they'd want a proper farewell."
"Okay," Takeru murmured, finishing his glass.
"Go!" his coach barked.
He knew some things never did change. Takeru hopped down from the stool. As he strode by, he snuck a glance at Kari. She was pretty much by herself. She never did really like clubbing or bars. She was probably bored…considering he had seen Yolei ditch her to go dancing. The same could be said about both of their brothers who he had also seen drinking up at the lounge. At times like this, he'd usually be there by her side. But tonight was different. He couldn't wait for it to be all over.
The DJ handed him the microphone as if knowing why he was there. The music from both function rooms came to a still and he felt everybody's eyes upon him. He hated speeches. He thought he had enough from yesterday's…but yesterday's was certainly worth it. He shrugged the thought aside and started to speak.
"Hey guys," Takeru smiled, looking upon the crowd and spotting recognisable faces here and there.
"OUR HOLY STAR PLAYER!"
"HEY MR. SAVAGE BEAST!"
"YO CAPTAIN JOCKS!"
"You're not going to let that go, Mamoru?" Takeru questioned.
"NO!" Mamoru yelled back with a bit too much enthusiasm.
Takeru buried one of his hands into his face as quite a few of the guests looked up at him in bemusement. Only his basketball team had been there to witness the story behind the acquired nickname. No, he should say his old basketball team.
"I fricken' feel nostalgic standing here and looking at you. I've had so many memories with you boys," Takeru scratched his head awkwardly. It was so easy to be a girl when it came to speeches…if a guy stepped over the line and delved into sappiness, he'd be humiliated. "I'll miss you bunch of idiots."
The rooms were chorused with a mountain of 'awwwws.' "No, really. You guys have been so much support to me over the years. Even you, coach. And no…don't go shaking your head like that."
"Enough of the sap story, Takaishi!" Curtis snickered.
"Fine…fine…I'll get to the point," Takeru smirked. "Actually…now that I think of it, Curtis, there is also one more thing I've got to say."
"Well, get a move on then…" Daisuke couldn't help but add.
Takeru rolled his eyes and proceeded, "Ever since joining on the team…I always wondered why this person wasn't captain while I was. So I've decided to give him the title. He's one of my best friends, talented and skilled. His my vice captain, my man…CURTIS!"
Curtis looked as if he were about to faint. His skin colour had paled dramatically and his eyes appeared as if they were about to bulge out of his own eye sockets. He was spluttering incoherent words of disbelief as Daisuke guided him onto the stage. Takeru stepped off, handing him the microphone as his eardrums were filled with large amounts of cheering and the applauding of hands.
The blond haired ex-captain headed for the bar again. This time, his coach wasn't there. He assumed that he'd be still listening to Curtis' speech of gratitude. He should really get around and search for Hikari, but at that certain moment it didn't feel like he had the energy. It wasn't regret that he retired…it just felt unusual. Basketball would no longer be part of his life. Somewhat he couldn't even get around to listening to Curtis' talk on the microphone. To himself, he admitted he felt a tiny bit jealous for giving his position away. But considering it was to Curtis taking over it…he knew that it would be worth it. As he gulped down a sip, he felt two hands slap each of his shoulders.
He jolted up, back straight that scowled when he saw that it was only his brother. Yamato wasn't disguised and had converted from brunette back to blond. There wasn't any point of him being disguised when there was a lot of security that night and a minimal media entry. Plus, it wasn't a big deal anymore that everyone knew they were both brothers. The media were already on the hot gossip of the relationship between Hikari and himself.
Takeru leered at him, "Where have you been?"
"I've been watching the guitarist play for a bit. He's really good. I'd kill for a guitar like his."
"I thought you've given up with music," Takeru said. "We've both retired now I think about it. Don't you feel old?"
"I can never give up music, TK," Yamato responded quite astounded. "I wouldn't trade loving music for the world. It's like with you and basketball. Now that you've retired…you still won't be able to give the sport up altogether. You can't really abandon a passion of yours."
"What I mean is that it'll always be a part of you. Even if you're finished with it as a career. Basketball will be there as a great recreational sport for you. Like music is for me…disregarding the fact that it isn't a sport."
Somehow with Yamato's explanation, everything seemed to make more sense. "Anyway, just wanted to congratulate you. You're probably going to go off entertaining more people now…and I don't want to disturb you. One more thing…good one with yesterday. Did you forget that your basketball game was being shown live throughout Japan."
"Don't remind me."
"Let's just say Tai's approved of you being your brother-in-law."
"You know…ever since we were younger, you've never given it a rest."
"And we don't intend to," Taichi had come behind them. "C'mon Matt…what happened to our competition."
"Competition?" Takeru repeated curiously.
"Betting who'll vomit first," Yamato shrugged as he gestured at all the bottles Taichi managed to hold within his arms.
"Aren't you a bit old for that?"
"Well, we are a bit young to retire," his brother contorted before they left him at the bar. Takeru chuckled to himself. He was about to look for Hikari when he was interrupted. Was it him…or was everyone overusing the tab that night? The smell of alcohol tickled his senses as he was face to face to the captain of the Hitachi Sunrockers.
Typically, his rival's face was depicted with his infamous sneer. "Takaishi."
"Yamada," Takeru casually greeted, hissing his name. "I didn't think you'd come."
"You're a bastard, you know?" in one sudden movement, Yamada was holding him by the collar and glaring into his azure eyes with a confused sort of rage. He was shaking. Takeru had no clue how to react. Sure, he wanted to punch the living daylights out of him…but usually Yamada was aggressive on court. He had control in public.
"So why am I bastard?"
"You didn't tell me you'd quit, you bastard," Yamada growled, letting go of his collar and folding his arms. His lips pouted as he stared the opposite direction. "Who the fuck am I supposed to compete against now?"
Surprise four of the night. Yamada was enraged at him because he had no one to fight against?
"Er…sorry?" Takeru said, not knowing what else to say. "You've still got Curtis to kick the ass out of."
"You were my best challenge out on the court, Takaishi," Yamada said. He had gained his composure and appeared somewhat older. He held his hand out. Takeru grinned, shaking it. "And don't stop playing. I want a rematch in the future. Thanks."
He couldn't stop grinning. That Yamada sure had character. Amongst the heads of people, he caught her again. As he wandered to her direction he was intervened yet again.
"…thank Teeks. Thanks for anointing me as the new capt.," Curtis' voice flowed over to him in gratitude. "It's a make-up for you destroyed plasma screen," Takeru lifted his glass, toasting it to him. He couldn't wipe the grin off his face. "What are you smiling at?"
"Nothing," Takeru shrugged. It wasn't everyday that your rival admitted to him being a good competitor. "Anyway…I really need to find someone."
"Kari?" Daisuke had popped to his side now, smiling.
"You don't say," Curtis joined in the jeering.
"C'mon guys, you know I really need to find her."
"You were just with her the whole day…you forgotten about your boys already?" Curtis continued to mock.
"Well…just wanted to remind you," Daisuke said, pulling something out of his pocket. "You can't forget this." It was the bracelet. The long-awaited Valentine's gift he was meant to give her such a long time ago. He took it from his friend's hand and watched it dangle in his own. Against the flashing lights, the diamonds sparkled.
He remembered how he had spent all his childhood years' allowance on it. He didn't know what to say. He was lucky Daisuke had kept it. "Thanks Dai."
"No problems. Just give to her…and this whole thing between her and you can be settled already. It's the late Valentine's Day gift. I should have given it to you yesterday…but I think that thing that you pulled off was good enough. I was scared she'll collapse in stage if you talked about it."
"Thanks," Takeru repeated. "I owe you big time."
"Just shut-up and go find her," Curtis urged, giving him a push on the back.
He marched off to the last place he had seen her, but she wasn't there. Perhaps he was with Yolei? He slid through the clashing bodies on the dance floor and laughed when he immediately saw her sour face. She hated dancing too. This whole scene…just wasn't her. Takeru advanced towards them. Yolei was radiating with excitement as she danced with Crystal. There was also a man there that he didn't quite recognise until he put the pieces together and figured out that it was Yolei's boyfriend, Ken. It seemed he didn't look comfortable being with all three women on the dance floor. His face gave him away considering his eyes kept looking at the sign called the 'Exit.'
Hikari's eyes connected with his for a moment and her whole face lit up. It gave the impression that she was willing to use any excuse to stop dancing or get off the dance floor.
"Hi Takeru," Yolei beamed. "That was a great confession of love yesterday. I wish Ken did that for me."
Ken looked at him as if he had seen the dead. Takeru gave a side-glance at Hikari who just laughed, knowing her friend's boyfriend's reaction. "You've met Yolei and Crystal…so this is Ken. Ken's Yolei's boyfriend and he's quite a fan of yours, actually."
The two greeted each other and immediately got along. They were talking about previous basketball games above the deafening music. Somehow, they still managed to converse. It was then that Takeru realised that this was the person who would be accompanying him in the time to come with carrying the girls' shopping bags. And he wasn't even confident if he'd be with Hikari that long, but somehow he knew that they would.
"Is it alright if I steal Ms. Kamiya for a bit?" Takeru said, finally getting to the reason why he was there.
"That's great. Fine by us," Crystal winked. "Have fun."
When they were earshot away from the trio, he turned to Kari. "Have fun?"
She blushed. "She's always like that. Don't worry about it."
"I wasn't. You were."
She gave him a slight hit, but he just laughed. "You know…I was really wondering when you'd come and save me. I hate this place."
"I know you do…let's get out of here. Or we could go back and dirty dance?" Takeru wiggled his eyebrows. Hikari gave him a grossed out expression, before cracking up into laughter and stomping on his foot.
"It's like a déjà vu, you know? Like when we were at Tai's party. But it's more like you want to leave your own party. Why's that now?"
"You know…you're just like me when it comes to this stuff. I hate these sort of things. And…I guess you're probably hoping that we'll kiss from this aftermath, just like we did at your brother's birthday."
"You're sure confident tonight. Drink much?" She leaned towards him and took a whiff of his scent. "Perhaps you did."
"Just a bit," Takeru admitted. "Anyway, we can't exactly ditch this place…so how bout the balcony or something?"
"Okay," she agreed, hiding a smile. He put a arm around her shoulder as he led her to the correct direction. He was so relaxed being by her side. As they were about to talk out, there were whistles behind them.
"Don't turn back," she said.
"It's just our brothers. They're teasing us."
He let his hand drop from around her and take her hand into his as they peaked and absorbed the magnificent view of glittering lights in Tokyo. "It's beautiful," Hikari sighed.
There were flashes of lights and then she had the sour face on display again. So Takeru automatically closed the door, which was luckily opaque.
"I hate them. I don't know how Matt and you get used to all this publicity and paparazzi. I'm still trying to get a grip on how we were on the front page of today's newspaper. It's so embarrassing when it shows both of us making out in front of the whole of Japan. And I'm fricken' wearing that jersey too!"
"It's like that, I guess you adjust. I didn't really mind it…it was actually hilarious. Maybe it's a taste of your own medicine?" Takeru suggested. "Aren't you still one of them?"
"Really now?" he said skeptically.
"You know I still took photos in my spare time…and just before the whole out-break thing…this photography company accepted me."
"Becoming a scenic photographer for one of the travel agencies here. I'm going to travel around the world and take photos at the same time."
"You don't look quite happy about it though," Takeru observed.
"Well…" she said quietly. "How can I leave you behind? We just got together."
"Not if I can help it. Maybe I'll help you with the captions are apply at the same travel agency to launch a vibrant description of each country you go to." He then teased, "Who said that we were together?"
Her face made it evident that she didn't find the joke amusing. "Really, TK. What are we? I'm still not sure if we're together or not. You haven't told me anything with how you feel."
"Didn't I just declare it to the world?" Takeru remarked.
"Wait." He said. He pulled the bracelet out of his pocket. As he buckled it onto her wrist he explained. "It's a promise bracelet. Once it's on it means that you'll go out with me."
"Don't I get to have a decision on that?" her lips quirked upwards.
Once it was buckled, she stared up at him. "This was expensive, TK. There are diamonds on this. You really didn't have to get it just to ask me out."
"Darn right it was expensive," he avoided her latter comment. "Truthfully…I was meant to give this to you a long time ago. I bought it before I even became a basketball star."
She scrutinized him in awe. "Really?"
"I've always wanted to be with you, Kari, since as long as I can remember. You were my best friend. You understood and supported me with everything I did. I loved you then…and I still love you now." She was about to open her mouth to speak, but he kept going.
"It all came down to me being a coward. I guess we were both cowards if what yu write on that journal entry was true…was it true?"
"TK, you idiot. Off course it was true," her eyes were becoming teary now. "I was a coward too…don't blame this all on yourself."
"I saved every cent on this bracelet. I was meant to give it to you on your 16th birthday…and I was going to ask you out then too. It just…never happened. I'm sorry," he said. "But it's rightfully yours now. Will you take a chance with me, Hikari Kamiya?"
Tears were rolling down now. "Why do you even need to ask-"
His lips were already crushing on hers before she had the chance to finish her reply. They were both shaking uncontroallably. His fingers ran through her hair…until there was another flash from one of the windows a couple of metres besides the opaque door.
She stopped kissing him and grumbled, "Bloody paparazzi."
"Screw the paparazzi."
He gave a sly smile, arm rocking on her back to support her boy on him. He wasn't letting go. He couldn't' care less. He had her…and that's all that mattered. His face dove down for another kiss.
old disclaimers: I don't own (obviously) any of the digimon characters in this story. I also don't own the Japanese basketball teams and basketball players.
My GOD. It's finished. It's actually finished. My last TAKARI story!
Okay, so the ending bonus chapter wasn't exactly sappy (I mean before the end bit). But I didn't want violins playing the background…I just had to include all these conversations with Takeru with those various people. I loved the Yamada x Takeru moment the most. Even though Yamada's sort of a minor villain to this story, I admit that I enjoyed writing any scene that had him in it.
I'm not going to list of the names because you know who you are who've read this story. This has been quite an enjoyable writing PPZ. I never expected so many people to like it…and it's been my most reviewed which really surprised me because I never really put enough effort (as I probably should have) into it. Some of you guys have supported me right from the beginning, other have just recently. Either way…all your support makes my day. It's great to know that a delightful bunch, ike yourselves, have gotten to like this story. Again. THANKS. I can't stress that enough.
Thank-you for giving it a go and enjoying the ride. More self-flagelation and how this story came about on my latest LJ entry if you want to check it out.
It's stringless–kite . livejournal . com / 2642.html#cutid1 without the www and spaces. If that doesn't work…just put stringless-kite . livejournal. com . It should be the first post up)
Comment if you wish to ;D
LOTS OF LOVE
On another note, I've updated my profile as well since it's been needing a change since 2005. I did a little blooper though – I forgot to erase the end bit to the history thing since I've pretty much finished Do You Still Think of Me, LimitZ II and PPZ now. Guess I'll have to change it on my next library visit.
Ps. As for my TAKARI one-shot…just leave me your email/penname if you're interested so that I'll inform you when I put it up.
Next up to bat? MFV! One more story to go!