Disclaimer: I don't own either HP or POT
Ryuzaku Sumire had never been one to startle easily—she was the coach of a rambunctious tennis team after all, and if their antics couldn't unsettle her than it was pretty obvious that not many things could. So it was that when she walked into her office one fine, Friday morning, with pale, golden sunlight streaming in through the windows, and found a large, fluffy, dark brown owl sitting on her desk, she didn't so much as blink twice.
Well, maybe twice, but certainly not much more than that.
Instead, she walked straight up to her desk and took a moment to examine the creature while it in turn cocked its head to one side and studied her with large, round eyes. Apparently satisfied with what it found, it held out its right leg, hooting softly, and bobbed its head to indicate the thick, yellowish envelope that someone had tied there. It stood still like that, with one foot sticking out, and waited.
Arching in eyebrow in surprise, Ryuzaku hesitated briefly before reaching out to untie said envelope, accompanied by a soft, pleasant trill from her guest. It blinked at her, looking rather pleased—it was glad that it had finally gotten the message off of its talons after having flew halfway around the world with it.
Now, Ryuzaku Sumire might have been a hard person to ruffle, but even she had to look twice at the letter that now lay unfolded in her hand. Indeed, It was a strange letter for many reasons.
First—and most obviously—of all, the letter had been delivered by an owl. She had heard of messenger pigeons being used in the sometime-long-ago, but never owls—after all, they weren't exactly the type of bird one expected to see domesticated, let alone taught to deliver letters.
The second reason was that the letter she now held in her hand was written in English. Of course, being a school teacher, she knew how to read said language quite well, so that wasn't really an issue. The real question was, of course, who in the world did she know that would write her a letter in English? It was certainly no one with a bolded name in her address book.
And of course, the last and most prominent mark of oddity was what the letter itself stated in emerald green ink letters that curled over the page in an elegant if almost illegible manner.
Dar Mrs. Sumire Ryuzaku,
It has come to our attention in the last few months that the team of youths under your care have been showing great potential in the mystical dimensions. We have also heard news that they have been the victors of many a fierce and competitive duel. Thus it is that we take great pleasure and inviting your team to join us in our upcoming Nation NGW competition as the honorary attendants—only one team of which is selected each century. If you accept this invitation, then we will arrange for your transportation to London. You will be quartered at Hogwarts.
Please send us your answer soon—you may borrow the delivery owl if you do not have a long distance messenger available.
Again, we wish most fervently that you will accept our invitation, and we look forward to your coming.
—Sincerely Lionel Raker
Mystical? Ryuzaku blinked, frowning slightly. In her memory, that word referred to things containing something of a magical or supernatural quality—not athletic skill… Of course, she could be wrong…
Still, an invitation to a national competition wasn't a chance to be passed up lightly. It was just strange that she had never heard of this tournament before…
It was an exceptionally hot day for a time of year that was supposed to be heading for the beautiful but generally freezing season of winter. Apparently, the sun didn't feel like retiring yet, and thus it was happily burning away—and the Seigaku tennis courts were soaking up every ray. It didn't improve matters any that there was no wind, not even a tentative whiff of air stirred the leaves of the nearby trees.
However, such discouraging conditions never hindered practices before, and Tezuka Kunimitsu, captain of the Seigaku tennis club was not inclined to allow this day to be an exception. Many a battle of all types had been lost because one side or the other had gotten careless and let their guard down in a lull that proved only to be momentary.
The rhythmic sound of balls connecting with racket strings was really a rather soothing sound, familiar and encouraging, seeing as it meant everyone was practicing. The atmosphere of a hard working club was hard to come by. But soon the sounds were dying away to be replaced by strangled screams.
"Iniu! No! I don't wanna—"
"Inui! What kind of color is this!"
"What did you put into this thing!"
"But that was an accident!"
Tezuka sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose in an attempt to stall the headache he could feel threatening to rise.
Practice was now officially over. People were sprawled out over the courts—unconscious, with Styrofoam cups rolling away from their hands and thin trickles of greenish, purplish black oozing from the corners of their mouths—or slumped onto the benches, panting heavily from exertion. In fact, there was only one exception aside from Tezuka himself and the cause, and that exception was now standing next to him with a serene, somewhat amused smile on his face as he watched his gargling and collapsing friends. What he found amusing about the sight the captain couldn't fathom, but Fuji was always an enigma to everyone anyway. As for the cause…he was busily scribbling away in a green notebook, thick, square glasses glinting in the sunlight as he grinned madly and muttered something about good data.
Tezuka really had to wonder sometimes at the kind of people in his club.
It was at that moment that the gate to the courts swung open and Ryuzaki Sumire came striding in, a neatly folded piece of paper in hand.
Ordering the freshmen to start picking up the balls ad putting away the nets, Tezuka turned and made his way over to the coach. Something in her expression hinted that she was feeling rather smug about something or other.
"Tezuka," she greeted him as he approached, holding up the folded piece of paper he had noticed earlier, "tell the regulars to remain after practice. There is something I need to discuss with all of you."
Fifteen minutes later the nine Seigaku regulars were the only ones left on the courts. They were gathered before their captain and their coach. Granted, some—mostly those with faces that were still green—didn't look much as though they were paying attention. Still, that was only to be expected, and there wasn't much that could be done for them so no one bothered to reprimand them.
"I received a letter this morning from an organization in London," Ryuzaku announced. "We are being in—"
The coach paused, frowning slightly, "What is it Echizen?"
The freshman regular pointed boredly to his right where a taller boy was standing doubled over, the only bit of his face visible being a strip of green beneath his spiky black hair.
"Ah…right. Momoshiro, if you're going to throw up don't do it on the court!"
The boy bobbed his head up and down before bolting off of the courts faster than he had ever run while on them. He returned a few minutes later, still looking sick but back to his usual color.
"Right," Ryuzaki cleared her throat, "as I was saying, we have been invited to a tournament to be held in London. Now, I know that this seems a bit sudden, but I believe that going would be a good idea. You should experience some new places and styles in order to sharpen your skills. I need to send my reply as quickly as possible, so is there anyone who can't go?"
"A—ah, Sensai?" a tentative voice rang out, drawing all eyes to the tall boy standing near the back of the group.
The youth rubbed the back of his head nervously, "Well, you see, my dad injured his hand last week so he'll be needing me to help him run the restaurant… So…"
"That's all right," the coach smiled sympathetically at the shy boy, "I understand. I assume that means the rest of you are all going?"
"Of course nyah!" an energetic redhead exclaimed, bouncing up and down where he was standing with an excited grin stretched across his face. "It's a tournament! How can we not go nyah?"
"Eiji's right," the black haired boy standing next to him nodded, smiling, "this is a great opportunity."
"For data," Inui added, pen already racing across the lines in his notebook. "Chances to collect more data should never go to waste."
"Saa," Fuji chuckled, "it does sound rather interesting, doesn't it?"
"So, everyone's going?" Ryuzaki glanced at Tezuka, who nodded. "Good, then I'll mail them back. They said they'll arrange for your transportation."
"Maa, our transportation?" Fuji tilted his head slightly to one side. "Does that mean you're not coming, Sensei?"
The coach crossed her arms and grinned at them, looking almost evil, "No, I have work to do here. It'll be a good chance for all of you to experience dealing with things on your own. I trust you've all learned something in your English classes."
Tezuka felt a sudden sense of foreboding wash over him. Something about the entire situation felt out of place, and with Ryuzaki-sensei not going…who knew what could happen?
"—leaving for London. Boarding will now begin."
The practiced, female voice echoed across the intercom and throughout the airport as a collection of teens made their way towards their appointed gate of departure.
"Uwah!" Eiji exclaimed, bouncing around the group and staring at anything and everything that moved with wide, sparkling blue eyes. "This is so exciting!"
"E—Eiji! Calm down," Oishi cast an anxious look around, "people are staring."
"Really?" the redhead grinned and performed a perfect back flip before settling to skip along beside his doubles partner. "Do you think they saw nyah? I bet none of them can do that!"
Oishi smiled at his friend, "I'm sure they did."
"Mada mada dane," Echizen Ryoma sniffed, tugging down on the bill of his cap. It was amazing how childish some of his sempais could be at times.
"Oh come on Echizen," Momoshiro prodded the smaller boy in the back of the shoulder, "aren't you the least bit excited? We're going to England!"
"Don't poke me, Momo-sempai!"
"Hmm? You mean like this?"
"Ow! Echi—ouch! Okay! I get it!"
"Fshuu, baka," the solemn looking youth with snake-like eyes hissed and rolled his eyes. And he had thought the buffoon couldn't get any stupider.
"Saa," Fuji chuckled, casting an amused glance back over his shoulder at his two bickering kohai who were now chasing each other back and forth. Well, it would probably be more precise to say that Echizen was chasing Momo around, looking murderous. "They wouldn't be the same if they weren't arguing, ne Tezuka?"
The team captain sighed inaudibly. As if he needed any reminders. If he was lucky, he'd sleep the entire way to London.
"According to my data," Inui announced suddenly, directing all of their attentions to the monitor hanging overhead with his pen, "the first flight number listed on that monitor is ours. And if that is so then our plane has been scheduled to leave ten minutes early. If we hurry, he may be able to make it before they leave without us."
There was a moment of utter silence, then the entire team was off, a frantic Eiji in the lead dragging his doubles partner helplessly along in his wake.
"These two rows are ours," Inui directed his friends down the aisle and gestured at a set of two window-side rows, "as well as the two seats opposite."
"I'm sitting here," Ryoma announced immediately, plopping himself down in one of the opposite seats. This ensured him at least an aisle to separate himself from his notably louder teammates. Kaidoh, apparently thinking the same thing, took the seat in front of the freshman and belted himself in firmly.
"I want a window!" Eiji cheered, bouncing into one of said seats and pulling Oishi down in the seat beside him. Grinning broadly, he proceeded to plaster hi face against the window and gaze rapturously out over the vast expanses of the airport. He didn't mind that they hadn't actually started flying yet.
Shaking his head at his team's behavior—it wasn't much a surprise that everyone around them was shooting them strange glances—Tezuka seated himself in the other window seat. He didn't particularly fancy having Kikumaru bubbling behind him throughout the duration of the plane ride, but at least he wouldn't have to deal with people who wanted to get out into the aisle for whatever reason.
"Ne, Eiji," Fuji chuckled, sliding into the seat beside Tezuka's and turning around so he could talk to the redhead, "just wait until we lift off. Then you can see all of Tokyo."
"That's gonna be cool!"
"Aw man," Momo complained, sitting down across from Echizen and next to Oishi, "I wanted to be by the window."
"To bad nyah!" Eiji laughed happily. "I got here first! Though you could always ask Buchou to move."
The second year pulled a face, "Are you kidding? No way! I don't feel like running laps up and down the plane."
"Momo," Oishi frowned, "don't be ridiculous."
"I'm not being ridiculous! I'm serious!"
"Mada mada dane."
"What? I can be serious! Seriously."
"There is a thirty eight percent chance of that happening."
Momo jumped, head snapping around to stare at a pair of practically opaque glasses, "Wah! Why am I sitting behind the data fiend!"
Echizen snorted, "Just live with it."
"I got a better idea. Wanna switch seats?"
"Aw, but Echizen—"
"I said no. And I'm not going to change my mind, so don't bother asking."
The second year wasn't about to give up so easily, but he was interrupted as the speakers came to life and a female voice came drifting over the intercom. It gave the usual speech welcoming the passengers and explaining the safety procedures. Then the plane was rolling onto the runway and all attention was diverted to the interesting feeling of being pressed back into the cushioned seats as the plane lifted smoothly into the air.
Eiji sat with his face practically plastered against the window, eyes wide in wonder as the ground below dropped away faster than he had thought possible. In a bare few minutes all he could see out of the window were tiny, multicolored dots and lines all lying sprawled beneath a veil of thin, swirling clouds. It was absolutely amazing!
Filled to bursting with excitement, he bounced up and down in his chair, grinning madly. Sitting next to him, Oishi smiled, amused by his friend's antics. It was endearing how easily Eiji got excited over even simple things like an airplane ride.
Letting his gaze wander over the rest of their team, Oishi felt his smile growing wider. To his right Momo had extracted a game boy from his bag and was now furiously hammering away at the buttons, muttering to himself. The bits of what he was saying that actually made it to the vice captain's ears sounded something along the lines of 'Die!', 'Ha!', 'Take that!', and 'Nooo!', so he assumed that the younger boy was having fun.
Speaking of fun, he had to suppress a laugh when looking into the row in front of his own. All three of its occupants were reading. Starting from the left there was Tezuka with a very thick novel in hand—presumably prepared to last as much of the ride as possible. Next there was Fuji who was browsing through a National Geographics magazine with at least three to four others piled up in his lap. And last of all there was Inui and his—surprise, surprise—green notebook. He was mumbling to himself as his pen raced across the page, probably calculating something or other. Between the three of them they must have had at least a thousand pages of paper!
And, of course, Echizen had long since fallen asleep in his seat across the aisle. And he had apparently infected Kaidoh with his constant lethargy as well seeing as the 'Seigaku snake' was also drowsing.
Come to think of it…a nap didn't sound like such a bad idea…he had stayed up…all last night…packing………
"We're landing! We're landing! We're landing! We're landing!"
The excited shouting rang out through the airplane, waking the masses of weary passengers with rude, unrelenting hands. The Seigaku tennis team, being the closest to its source, were yanked out of their various states of peaceful contentment like fish from the river on the ends of fishermen's hooks.
Momo yelped and his game boy went clattering across the ground, skidding haphazardly under Ryoma's chair. It hit said freshman on the ankle and startled to emit loud and boisterous music. Said freshman practically leapt out of his seat with a disgruntled cry of 'Momo-sempai!'. One of the hands he was waving around in his anger accidentally thwacked Kaidoh over the head, and…well…that was the end of peace in that quarter.
"Look! Look!" Eiji continued to shout excitedly, completely oblivious to the commotion he had caused. Reaching over to snag Oishi by the sleeve, he yanked his doubles partner—who had been attempting to calm their younger teammates—over to the window as well. Oishi let out a startled yelp as his seatbelt reminded him of its existence by digging sharply into his stomach, but there wasn't much he could do about it with Eiji still pulling on him.
"Isn't it amazing?" the redhead asked happily, awestruck eyes glued on the scene beyond the window. "Ne Oishi? Fujiko! Can you see it? Can you see it?"
Squirming around in his seat, Fuji peered over the back of his chair but it was impossible to really see anything with Eiji's head in the way. So he settled back down and leaned over Tezuka instead, placing one hand against the cool plastic window and peering down through the thinning layers of cloud.
There, spread out beneath them like some great tapestry, was England.
It was breathtaking.
Tezuka frowned, leaning back in his seat, "Fuji, I am trying to read."
"Saa, you've been reading since we got on board," the tensai pointed out, keeping his eyes glued to the expanse of green and blue below like someone hypnotized. "I want to see this."
Behind the honey haired youth, the Seigaku data player had pulled out a bottle of something labeled as 'water' on the outside but which all of them were one hundred percent sure was no such thing. Leaning over to brandish his bottle in the faces of the younger players with a wide grin on his face, he requested that they either sit down and get their seatbelts on or have a drink of his new creation. Seeing as the words 'creation' and 'my' coming out of Inui along with the word 'drink' was never a good sign, the three actually sat down and shut up. No one wanted to be the first to test their theories of what it was that was really inhabiting the data player's bottle.
By the time the plane had successfully landed there were quite a few teenagers who were extremely eager to get off.
"Hey, you guys," Momo said suddenly as he and his teammates stood in the arrivals' hall, their tennis bags slung over their shoulders and their various suitcases sitting around their feet, "does anyone actually know what we're supposed to do now?"
"Ryuzaki-sensei said that our hosts will send someone to direct us," Tezuka replied, scanning the surroundings for…well…he wasn't sure exactly what it was he was looking for…
"But how are we supposed to recognize whoever it is?" Oishi blinked, voicing the question now floating around in all their minds.
"Maybe they'll have a flag nyah," Eiji suggested, "you know, like with tours!"
"I don't see anyone with a flag," Ryoma pointed out, adjusting his bag on his shoulder and looking bored.
"According to my data—"
Everyone—excluding Fuji and Tezuka—jumped at the sudden exclamation. A split second later they found themselves staring at a man dressed in a bright orange formal jacket accompanied by jeans and a red and blue striped tie. Now, it was quite a shock to be suddenly faced with a total stranger who seemed to have the impression that he knew you, but it was actually the clothes that really made them stare. Seriously…did everyone in London dress this…strangely? But no, most of the people moving around them looked relatively normal.
Or maybe it was because they were mostly coming off of the plane too?
"I am Nick Tanglewood, ministry representative for the department of sports. Sorry if I started you. You are the team from Seishun Gakuen, correct?" the man asked in heavily accented Japanese. Receiving a chorus of nods, he smiled and bid them follow him before turning and heading out of the airport.
Still feeling distinctly strange and somewhat uncertain, the team trailed after the oddly dressed Mr. Tanglewood. The man led them to an emerald green car—'a' meaning single—and opened the door, gesturing cheerfully for them to get on. Wondering whether or not the man realized that a single car would most likely not fit them all, the team traded raised eyebrows before filing into the car. Yet, strangely enough, first four, then five, then six, and eventually all eight of them had boarded—all in the back row of the car. But no one felt any more squashed htan they would have had they been riding in a normal car with only two other people.
Hopping into the front seat, Nick Tanglewood traded some cheerful pleasantries with the driver and they were off.
"Okaay," Momo muttered under his breath as he looked up and down the row of Seigaku regulars, "it could just be me, but this is really, really strange."
"I actually have to agree, fshuu…"
"Most unusual indeed," Inui muttered, scribbling rapidly in his notebook. "The dimensions of the car! It is not logical…"
"Nyah, so? Whatever it is, it's cool!"
Their guide had them get off outside of a somewhat dingy looking tavern of all places, and beckoned them in as though it was perfectly normal. The name they glimpsed before the smoky darkness of the tavern engulfed them was the 'Leaky Cauldron'—not exactly the most inviting of names but…well…their guide seemed confident enough that they had found the right place.
But if they had thought the tavern's name was weird, the people inside…were by all means several times weirder. There were people dressed in thick, heavy cloaks, and hulking figures who nursed tankards of green liquid that turned many of the Seigaku team's faces a similar color as they were all reminded of a certain data collector's concoctions, many of which had had colors of just such an abnormal shade.
The bartender spotted them and bustled over with a broad, almost toothless grin as he shook hands with Mr. Tanglewood.
"So, they're here already I see!" he exclaimed in English.
"That they are," their guide replied in kind. "And what of Mr. Bagman?"
"Ey! Tom! More ale 'ere!"
"Pah, can't you see we're talkin'?" the bartender shouted back, but he pulled a long stick out of his sleeve and waved it in the direction of the calling customer. Then, before the astonished eyes of all eight Seigaku regulars, a tankard of ale lifted itself off of the counter, zoomed to where the customer was seated with its contents sloshing, and tipped itself over. A stream of liquid poured itself into the cup, then the tankard flew itself back to its original spot and settled back down.
No one else in the room so much as blinked twice.
Dazed and gaping, the team could only continue to cast stunned stares back at the tankard as their guide quided them to one of the tavern's inner, private rooms. Once inside and finally out of view of the flying tankard, the team found themselves faced with several unfamiliar faces. One of them, addressed as Mr. Bagman by their guide, hurried forward and held his hand out to Tezuka, seeing as the tall youth looked undeniably like the leader of the group.
"Hello, hello! So you're the ones here for the National NGW competition right?"
"Ah, that would be us."
The man beamed, "That's great! Then I'll take it upon myself to welcome you to the British wizarding community!"
There was a sudden silence.
A.N. Well, I originally told myself I wouldn't start another series until I finished my other ones, but first there was one, then there was two, and now there are three. Still, I'm going to try to work on them all equally. Anyways, I hope you guys liked this!