So this is the prelude to "A Worthy Cause," conveniently written after I finished the story. Enjoy.


By: Whisper

Marui Bunta was a living, walking, breathing, tennis-playing tribute to all that was sugoi in the world. Jirou wanted to be just like him, which was why he was currently watching Rikkai's practice. Hyoutei was practicing, too, but Hyoutei was boring, particularly when Jirou wasn't going to be able to play Atobe until next week. So, instead of sleeping, Jirou watched Marui practice his Pole-Strike, the coolest volley in the history of tennis.

"Who are you?"

The shoulder of Jirou's uniform was held in an unfamiliar fist. He turned and looked up into narrowed eyes. "Hi, I'm Akutagawa Jirou. Nice to meet you!" Extending his hand out was a little difficult, but he managed. The rude boy holding his shirt didn't shake hands, though.

"You do not belong here. Leave."

Jirou stared a little harder before letting out a squeak of joy. "You're Sanada Genichirou! Sugoi!" He ran in place, too overcome with excitement to stay still.

"Leave." Sanada pulled at Jirou's shoulder, shoving him toward the exit. "Do not return."

There really wasn't a reason for Sanada to be so rude about things. But wow, he was really strong. If Jirou's balance weren't ultra awesome, then he would've fallen. "Tell Marui-kun that Akutagawa-kun came to see him! Tell him we should have a match sometime!"

"You can play him at the Kantou tournament if Hyoutei has the skill to progress to the final round." Sanada's sneer said that he didn't think Hyoutei had the skill. Sanada-kun was rude. No wonder Atobe said mean things about him.


Wow, Hyoutei was big. Rikkai was big, too, but not the same way Hyoutei was big. Hyoutei's grounds were huge and, unlike Rikkai, where buildings were scrunched up next to eachother, the Hyoutei campus boasted large patches of nothing but grass and flower gardens. Ah, the luxury of the rich. Marui didn't think Sanada was telling the truth when he mentioned the gardens, but it looked like Fukubuchou really didn't lie. Ever. It was kinda annoying if you thought about it too much.

"Hey, where are the tennis courts?" Marui asked, pulling a freshmen out of a stream of walking students.

"O-over there, sir!" The freshmen's eyes were wide and staring at the Rikkai crest on Marui's jacket.

"Cool, thanks." Marui tapped the freshmen on the head and waved. Yukimura taught the team to be considerate, particularly to the enemy. It threw them off. That was, though not entirely, the reason Marui was at Hyoutei. Akutagawa Jirou visited the Rikkai campus looking for Marui five times now, and Sanada was making Marui run laps because of it. Marui did not enjoy punishment laps. Punishment laps included weights and Sanada shouting at you.

The tennis court was more a stadium than a practice area. It had huge, steep stands surrounding it. If the Rikkai courts had stands like these, Sanada would make everyone run up and down the stairs. Sanada was an ass like that. Luckily Yukimura was buchou, not Sanada, though sometimes Yukimura was an ass too; you just didn't realize it until your muscles were burning and your legs were falling out from under you.


Marui stopped at the top of the courts, the volume of the exclamation from down on the tennis courts causing a wind to ripple the air. That must be Akutagawa-kun. How cute.


"Do we not have security?" Atobe asked Oshitari, who had his head in his hands. The Seigaku match was coming up. The team needed to focus, not whore itself off to the Rikkai fanclub. "Jirou, sit down!"

Predictably, Jirou ran up and attached himself to Atobe's arm, tugging on the appendage. "Atobe look! It's Marui-kun! He came! He came!"

Atobe took a deep breathe. This day was inevitable. Jirou, being the excitable sort, was bound to be entranced by players of higher skill, though Atobe didn't consider a cheap net trick a skill. Insight was a skill. The Hametsu e no Rondo was a skill. The Pole-Strike was a circus trick. Jirou enjoyed the circus, though, particularly the clowns.

"Shall I call the campus guard?" Oshitari asked, nodding his head toward the Rikkai player, now descending the stands.

"We'll let it pass," Atobe decided. "It will be good practice for Jirou before the Seigaku game." Atobe's eyes narrowed, though. It was impossible to enjoy the sight of Jirou paying copious attention to anyone who wasn't Atobe, no matter what the circumstances. He would allow it this once, but if the pink haired bubble-popper thought he could just walk onto Hyoutei property anytime he pleased, Atobe would show him otherwise.


Jirou tried to compose himself, failed, and launched bodily at Marui Bunta. "Wow, you came! I didn't think you'd really ever come! Did Sanada give you my messages? Are we having a match?" With his neck buried in Marui's shirt as it was, hearing the Rikkai volleyist's reply was difficult. Jirou stepped back. "What?"

Marui laughed and popped a bubble. "I got your message, thought I'd come see what all the fuss was about." Pink hair slid against a yellow jacket as Marui tilted his head to the side, seeming to consider the courts below them. "Gotta say that I expected a lot more. For having two hundred people in your club, your court's really skimpy, and no one's at practice."

"This is the regular's arena. The standard courts are on the other side. Come meet Atobe!" Jirou dragged Marui down the stairs. He and Atobe would get along great, for sure. They were both tensai types.

"Jirou, this is practice, not a social club." Atobe said. He was standing with his hands on his hips, his racquet resting on his shoulder. "Twenty laps to help your concentration."

Jirou ignored Atobe because Atobe never really meant that Jirou should run laps, it was just Atobe's way of showing insecurity. "Hey Atobe, this is Marui Bunta. He's got the coolest net skill!"

Marui slipped out of Jirou's hold. "Yukimura-buchou wanted me to give you this." He handed over a letter, addressed to Atobe in calligraphy.

"How is his condition?" Atobe's tone was civil, which meant he respected Rikkai's coach more than most.

"He'll be ready for nationals. Until then, we will remain undefeated." Marui said it like it was an iron law, which, from Atobe's explanations, it was.

"That is good to hear. I will retire to the clubroom and read this. Remain until I have composed a reply." Atobe turned, snapping his fingers for Kabaji to follow.


What a jerk, ordering him around like he was a servant. Marui hoped Sanada crushed Atobe in the finals. The pompous purple haired Hyoutei captain needed to be taken down a story or two. Sanada-fukubuchou excelled at taking people down.

"So, wanna have a match?"

Akutagawa-kun was pushy. It was nice having fans, but pushy fans really weren't worth it. "Nah, we just finished practice. Besides, can't have you studying my skills too closely."

"Oh." Jirou's posture sunk and he began to fidget with his hands. "Want to go get something to eat? Atobe takes forever to read things, then he takes another forever to write letters. He uses this rose petal ink and a really nice fountain pen, but he's not very good at writing with them, so the ink gets everywhere and he has to rewrite it a few times."

"You know a lot about your buchou, eh?" Marui couldn't help but laugh at the blush rising on Jirou's cheeks. "Ah, it's like that, is it?" More blushing. This was really fun. "You wouldn't know to look at him."

"He- he's really discrete."

Marui frowned, not liking the desolate tone Akutagawa used. "Hold the angst, let's go get some food. Then, we can figure out how to fix your buchou problem."

"I don't have.."

"You have a buchou problem," Marui insisted. "A tensai never lies." He tapped Akutagawa on the nose and grabbed his arm. "We'll be back!" he called to the Hyoutei team members, who didn't much seem to care that Marui was abducting one of their number. Hyoutei needed to work on team unity or they'd never stand a chance against Rikkai. How sad.


Marui was more than sugoi, he was ultra-sugoi. He knew all sorts of things, like how to set up secret dates and how to cuddle in public without looking like you were cuddling. He said that Rikkai's Niou and Yagyuu used the technique a lot. Rikkai was so advanced, no wonder they were the top seeded school in regionals.

"If you don't listen, I can't help you," Marui said around a cookie. The cookie was as wide as his face, so it was a show of his tensai powers just to be able to talk around it. "So, what you've gotta do is make sure he knows he's the most sugoi thing in the world." He took a moment to chew, then set his cookie down in favor of a vanilla shake.

"How do I do that?" Jirou didn't have any note paper but, having a perfect auditory memory, he could easily remember their conversation.

"For one, stop freaking out every time you see me." Marui finished the last half of his shake in one long sip. "It's cool that you recognize how awesome I am, but it's not something your boyfriend wants to see. And, to be honest, it kind of creeps me out."

Marui really didn't have any tact, did he? If Jirou hadn't been used to Gakuto, he might have been insulted. As it was, he quietly drank his strawberry soda and waited for the agitation to calm. In the meantime, Marui ordered another shake, chocolate this time. Finally, Jirou asked, "Is there anything else I can do?"

Marui seemed to consider it for a moment. "Get some friends that aren't directly related to Hyoutei. It'll show Atobe that, while you have contacts outside of his direct control, you still choose to be with him."

That actually sounded like a smart idea. Jirou was even going to tell Marui how awesome and smart it was, but chose to just nod, not wanting to further alienate his idol. "Where am I going to find non-Hyoutei friends?"

Marui laughed. "Well, you've got me, but I don't think that'll help Atobe's insecurities much." Marui took his shake from the waitress and stirred it. He liked his shakes thinner, according to the information Jirou'd gathered. "I'd suggest hanging out in a pro shop or something. You're bound to run into someone you can talk to." Marui gulped his shake and stood. "I've got to get back and get Yukimura's letter from Atobe, then get home for dinner. See ya!" He dashed out, leaving Jirou to pick up the check.

"A pro shop?" Jirou yawned, taking money out of his pocket and tossing it on the table. "Sure, why not?"