Disclaimer: I do not own any characters except for Yukimura Miyu.
Author's Words: Due to the upcoming Easter Holidays, I will be travelling soon. This means that there will be long periods of time between my updates. Please do not look out for my updates in the next month or so because it will be highly unlikely that they will be posted. I will continue to write though and hopefully do my best to make them available as soon as I have an internet connection where I will be going. I hope that you will all understand and thank you for putting up with me.
Just one more thing, I would like to ask for requests so I can think about them during the holidays. They can be from any anime and if I know them, I would like to have the chance to think about them. Moreover, I don't do yuri or yaoi, so if you do have anything, make sure they are not of the same sex. Thank you.
Chapter Forty-Four: At the Beach (Part Fourteen)
In the first set of the second round of Atobe's Special Beach Volley Tournament, there were eight teams out there who were familiar to Sakuno. She watched anxiously as her friends got ready to play on their respective courts.
On one court, there were Niou and Yagyuu who had finished stretching and were talking in low voices.
On another court, she could see Sanada-Akaya and Jackal-Bunta.
Sanada was standing stoically, very much concentrating as if this was an important tennis match instead of one of Atobe's whimsical ideas.
Akaya was still stretching because he had a lot of energy to spare and wanted to be in his best form against his senpai-tachi.
Jackal was thinking that he would not mind going up against Sanada and Akaya if it was his beloved tennis but why did it have to be beach volley?
He liked the game well enough but Sanada and Akaya looked ready to kill!
Still, he knew that it was just not in him to give up like that, nor would Bunta allow him to slack off.
They had been partners and Rikkai regulars too long for them to forgo that intensely competitive spirit they had cultivated.
Bunta was loosing his joints and chewing on his bubblegum, intent on doing his best.
He knew that Sanada and Akaya would be a formidable pair but it did not mean he would give up just like that.
Sport games, he had learnt over the years, could be most unpredictable and he knew that he still had the chance to beat the two monsters across the net.
He had every confidence in himself and his partner, Jackal.
On a third court, Oshitari-Gakuto stood on the other side of the court from Yukimura-Yanagi.
Oshitari looked as he usually did, confident and yet at ease with himself and everything around him.
Gakuto was jumping on the sand, testing this patch of sand that would be his territory for the up-coming game. He was careful to watch out for hidden shells or rubbish.
Yukimura was no longer the gentle-looking onii-san that most people were familiar with.
He was every inch the captain of Rikkai Dai and possibly the best tennis player of his generation.
He was never one to allow himself any slack, much like Sanada, when it came to competitive sports. He had the ability to back up his pride too.
Yanagi was reviewing in his head all the data he could remember about Oshitari and Gakuto.
To him, it was all the same, he relied on being clear-headed and strategic and it had worked more often than not.
There was another Hyotei team out on the sand.
Shishido and Ohtori were also getting ready in their own way.
Ohtori was standing tall and straight under the sun, waiting for the game to start before he bent his knees and tensed his muscles.
The most respectable boy on the Hyotei team, he would never treat any competition with anything less than serious.
Shishido was glaring at his opponents, unintentionally intimidating them a bit.
However, unlike Kamio and Ibu's earlier opponents, Shishido was luckier in his opponents who were made of firmer stuff. It also helped because while Shishido looked fierce, he did not look eerie.
The last two teams who were out on the sand were one of the most surprising combinations in the tournament.
It was Teams Miyu-An and Tachibana-Sengoku.
The two girls were chatting to themselves as they did stretches.
They were fully prepared to thrash their hapless opponents. It did not really matter who they were, they were both very competitive when they felt like it and now, they did.
It was mostly because An was extremely excited about going up against her own brother and Miyu could very well understand that.
They were both well-toned from years of playing tennis, not to mention being light on their feet with excellent reflexes.
On the other hand, they knew quite well that their weakness would be the difference in basic strength and were determined to overcome that by speed and strategy.
Unlike their lighthearted seriousness, Tachibana was feeling his full eighteen years of age and some months today.
He hated unfairness of any kind and he did not like playing against girls.
He was torn between wanting to let off a bit on his strength in case he hurt his sister and her friend but his principles were given him a hard time.
He knew that if he played it easy, the girls would kill him slowly.
Still, he grew up protecting his sister and therefore he really had a dilemma on his hands.
He glanced at Sengoku who was whistling cheerily and grinning as he leaned and stretched, very much relaxed and in the mood to play a good game.
He looked so happy that Tachibana wanted to smack that grin off his face.
Tachibana had the suspicion that his friend was just happy because he was a cheerful lecher and the girls were wearing bikinis.
If only he knew what Sengoku was thinking, he would definitely put out his eyes and get Yukimura and Kamio to help him.
While Sengoku knew very well that the girls were off limits, it did not stop him from looking his fill of smooth skin, long legs and beautiful bodies.
He always did have a healthy appreciation of the opposite sex, unlike some of his weird (according to his standards) friends.
He knew that tennis was very important to them all. It was important to him too, but did he let it stop him from being a normal hormonal young man?
No! The answer was no!
He was just like any other young man under all that brilliance…
Wait, no, he was just like most other young men under all that brilliance except for Atobe.
No one was exactly like Atobe, even he had to admit.
As Sengoku looked at Miyu's tall slim form and An's sporty enthusiasm, he wanted to weep with the joy of being alive.
In fact, he almost had tears running down his cheeks when Tachibana interrupted him with a tap on the shoulder.
Sengoku looked back at his friend crossly, "What?"
Tachibana was taken aback by his annoyance and he flared, "What do you mean 'what'? I've been trying to get your attention so we can at least talk about how we are going to play!"
Sengoku had the grace to look sheepish; he had nearly forgotten why there were two bikini-girls standing opposite him.
He said, "We'll play the way we always do. Trash them… ah… maybe that's not such a good idea…"
Tachibana sighed. This was going to be just great…
He could not bring himself to be hard on his sister and Sengoku was never one to be nasty to girls.
How would they play against the two girls?
If they were serious, they would feel bad.
If they were not serious, they would feel bad.
Not to mention they would be killed afterwards by the girls. It looked like hell either way.
Sengoku now understood why his usually confident friend looked so glum.
He, too, could see the dilemma.
Suddenly, a voice caught their attention. It was Miyu and she said, "Tachibana-san, Sengoku-san? Are you guys alright?"
Sengoku replied with a weak smile, "We're fine."
Quickly, he leaned towards Tachibana, "Can't we say we don't feel well or something?"
Tachibana looked at Sengoku sourly, "I live with An. She'll kill me if I pull something like this on her."
Sengoku nodded, "Oh, right, sorry. So I guess we'll just have to do our best not to hit too hard."
Tachibana said, just as sourly, "Do you think she won't be able to tell when we slack off? Then she won't just kill me, she'll strangle you as well."
Sengoku grimaced, "Oh, right. Does that mean we'll just have to think they're guys and play like normal?"
Tachibana paused and said, "Yeah, I guess that's what we'll have to do."
An saw them talking and called out, "Hey, it's about to start! Hurry up, you two!"
Tachibana got in place at the back with Sengoku in front.
Sengoku was trying very hard to imagine that the girls were guys that he knew but was not having much luck.
Tachibana was not either but since both of them had been playing in tournaments and matches for years, they had the serious attitude ingrained in them.
An and Miyu saw that they were prepared to be serious with them and grinned. Both girls would have hated it if either of them slacked off just because they were girls.
They were confident that they still had the chance to win.
After all, they had their pride as well. It would be a good game.
Miyu got ready to serve. She tensed and relaxed and then threw the ball into the air.
Slam! The ball went over the net like a bullet.
Tachibana was surprised at the speed and the strength.
She seemed to be stronger than his sister but he still caught the ball with a quick dive.
Sengoku sent it over the net to a corner, not wanting the girls to catch it because of his strength.
An was quick though and she sent it up into the air for Miyu to hit.
Miyu prepared to do another fast hit and both Tachibana and Sengoku tensed.
At the last minute, Miyu relaxed just a fraction and ball went over lightly.
They did not expect it to be a light hit and it landed softly on the court.
Tachibana and Sengoku looked at each other with something that looked like shock on their faces.
They really did not expect that and then they smiled with relief.
It was no longer a question of them holding back.
It was a question of which would be the smarter and faster team.
They were now fully prepared to give it all they had.
Miyu and An grinned and gave each other high-fives.
They knew that people would unintentionally hold back just because they were two pretty girls but now, they doubted Tachibana and Sengoku would do that.
If they were not careful, the game would be over before it started!
Just when the Miyu-An against Tachibana-Sengoku game was starting to heat up in earnest, Shishido-Ohtori were already way ahead of their opponents and it would not be long before they won.
Their opponents were also two sporty young men but they were no match against the Hyotei doubles pair.
Shishido and Ohtori had been friends since junior high and were as in tune with each other as the famous Golden Pair in Seigaku – Oishi Shuichirou and Kikumaru Eiji.
With Ohtori's beach volley's version of his now perfected Scud Serve and Shishido's swift counters, the other team had no chance at all.
This was an easy game for Shishido and Ohtori and they were not even breathing hard when they walked back to the pavilion.
Sakuno really did not know which game to watch.
She was watching the game between Miyu-An and Tachibana-Sengoku when another game caught her attention.
It was the game between Yukimura-Yanagi and Oshitari-Gakuto.
It was now Yukimura's turn to serve and he was showing a side of himself that Sakuno never really saw before.
He was almost like another person out there on the court. He was not stern like Sanada or intimidating like Shishido.
On the other hand, he was like a pool of water; calm and deep. In a way, he was like Tezuka.
Everyone knew that he was the best but when one watched him play, it was hard to say what it was about him that was so great.
He did not have just one skill that was remarkable. All his skills were remarkable; in fact, one could say that he was remarkably perfect.
Due to Rikkai's superior skills, very few people had actually watched Yukimura Seiichi play tennis that much.
Just as Tezuka rarely got to go out onto the court, Yukimura mostly stayed on the bench and looked impressively bored.
Oshitari Yuushi, the Game-maker of Hyotei, was having a bad feeling about this game.
He knew that Yanagi was like Seigaku's Inui; annoyingly astute with their data but he was confident that he could handle him together with Gakuto's agility.
He was right too, if it was Yanagi with another Rikkai regular, he might have been able to get the advantage over him because after all, he had been playing doubles with Gakuto for years.
Yanagi was used to playing singles and it was very different.
Oshitari knew that Yukimura also played singles but now that they were together, it really did not seem like it.
Yanagi and Yukimura were not only fast and skilled; they were also very compatible as a team.
As this point of the game, the score was still pretty even but because Yukimura's attacks were sharper, harder and faster than they expected, Gakuto was having a harder time than usual and he was getting tired quickly.
All that jumping and diving around was taking a toll on Gakuto.
While Oshitari was doing an excellent job of attacking and landing the ball on Yukimura-Yanagi's court, it was not enough.
This was because Yanagi and Yukimura were also doing an excellent job of saving the ball and returning it even before Oshitari had landed on the sand properly.
He might be fast but the speed had always been with Gakuto and they were losing more points than scoring them.
In a sudden flash of thought, he wondered if that was the difference that having Sanada Genichirou and his Spartan style of training made.
At that, he landed on the sand as the ball shot into the sand at the same time behind him. They lost.
Auel who was standing with Sting near Sakuno was paying particular attention to the court where Niou and Yagyuu were playing.
Even before, he had sensed that Niou was his type of a person.
They both enjoyed their bit of fun and now he was sure he was right. Their game did not appear to be remarkable in the beginning.
In fact, it seemed to be fairly even with both teams not scoring any points. Auel had had the feeling that it was odd.
He might not be a sportsman but he had been around people who used to be in the military or who made movement a part of their lives.
Therefore he was very sensitive to people's bodies and the rhythm with which they moved.
While he might not be able to articulate with words, he was very sure that Niou and Yagyuu could move better than they were doing now.
Their movements at the moment felt stilted and slower than it should have been. He wondered what they were up to.
Yagyuu glanced at his partner as he half-heartedly blocked an attack at the net.
He did not approve of the way they were playing today but since Niou had made a special request for them to hold back a bit, he would oblige.
He wondered if it had anything to do with Atobe's earlier little bit of cheek.
He knew that his friend had been most displeased, to put it lightly and he had been half worried that he would do something stupid.
However, Niou had more restraint than that and he did not do anything though, as Yagyuu had thought, he was tempted to.
Niou had decided that he needed to cool off some steam or he would do silly and stupid.
He was at his best when he was cool and calm, unlike Akaya who was the fired-up type and played best when he was in a temper.
Therefore when he saw their opponents, he decided that he could afford to hold back in the game and regain his cool that Atobe had kissed away so easily.
It was a petty trick that he rarely did but playing nasty tricks on people had always made him feel better.
As the other team thought they had a chance of winning, they would give it all they had and thrash them.
Since he had no chance to take his temper out on other people before the game, then this would have to do.
He was feeling a bit better now and was prepared to put an end to this little game he was playing. He figured that they could get this game over and done with.
He made a sign at Yagyuu when he was looking his way and Yagyuu nodded.
They were prepared to show their true colors and win.
Mizuki smiled with some amusement as he watched Niou and Yagyuu.
They were obviously holding back in the beginning and had decided to let go now.
He did not know why they would do that but it was a good show.
It was almost like one of his scripts when they dictated how much slack they should give and how much to take back.
He chuckled, rather evilly, in Yuta's opinion as he stood next to his respected mentor.
Yuta wondered for the umpteenth time how he could have such strange role models in his life.
There was his brother, Fuji Syusuke, and then, there was Mizuki Hajime.
He was just glad that he was not like them because much as he respected them, they were scary sometimes.
As he looked back at the game he was watching, which was the game between the two Rikkai teams, Niou-Yagyuu had already won theirs and were making their way back to the pavilion and in Niou's case, Sakuno who was clapping her hands excitedly when she saw them win.