Disclaimer: I do not own Tennis no Ohjisama. Iwase Kumiko-san and the Reverie Café are my own creations. Any similarities with real people and/or place are unintentional and coincidental.
Author's Notes: This is a sequel to my third story entitled Agony. I recommend that you read it first so as you'll know where this story takes off. Judith McNaught's novel, Angel, is somehow mentioned in the last part of the story. I am not promoting it whatsoever.
The Sadist of Seigaku
Chapter 1: Mediation
Today is an interesting day.
Actually, today is a more interesting day compared to yesterday. Not that it really matters. Each day becomes interesting when some one is as observant as him. Even a walking stray dog will become interesting if one looks at it in several different angles. Then again, this day is not any ordinary day with several interesting events. It's one of those standout days he can count with his left hand.
So what is making this day more interesting?
There is one word for an answer:
It is practice hour today. The regulars are jogging in place, jumping rope in hand. For once, Inui has thought of a less sadistic exercise for them to improve their agility and flexibility. No one knows if this warm-up is more than just a warm-up exercise. Besides, no one in the team has ever predicted or read what is inside Inui's mind. Well, maybe he can, but it will be less exciting if he does so. A lot of the regulars are goofy in their own way but Inui provides the interesting punch in the group.
Then again, things tend to go the usual way: The whole team suffers the wrath of Inui's training menu while he, Fuji Syuusuke, watches on with waning interest. Thankfully however, the youngest member in the regulars' team is providing entertainment for him today. Well, actually, it is not just Echizen. There goes Sakuno-chan too.
The regulars form a semi-circle near the tennis courts. Echizen is at the left edge of the semi-circle, which makes him visible to Fuji. The tennis prodigy observes the first year as the latter jogs on mechanically with an unreadable expression written all over his face. Fuji bets that it has something to do with Sakuno-chan who is busy talking with her grandmother.
If they think Inui is the only one who takes notes of all the happenings in and out of the club, they couldn't be any more wrong.
He may not be literally taking down all the happenings in a notebook but his bright head has more than enough space for all of them.
Ever since the incident in the Reverie Café, Fuji has taken note of the first year's reactions whenever Sakuno-chan is or is not around. Well, today, Sakuno-chan is taking her time out to watch the regulars practice for the preliminaries. Echizen, on the other hand, is trying hard to ignore the fact that she is there and not cheering or worrying her eyes out for him. Behind the nonchalant mask of the tennis prince is a face of undeniable distress.
"Okay, let's stop," Inui interrupts all of the regulars. "Ten laps around the three courts."
The regulars, save Tezuka, Fuji and Kaidoh, shout in surprise. They have been jogging in place for who knows how long – perhaps for thirty minutes – only to find out they are not finished warming up yet.
"But I thought…" Kikumaru trails. "…that was our warm up."
Inui raises an eyebrow at Kikumaru. "I did not say anything Eiji."
While adjusting his eyeglasses, Inui smiles sadistically.
"Let's not waste our time whining over this. We'll run the ten laps," Tezuka commands as he starts running. Nobody knows what Inui has in store as punishment for the last person to finish the course. Besides, Tezuka has no plans of drinking whatever sort of juice Inui has prepared for them.
As Tezuka-buchou has spoken, the other regulars proceed in running the ten-lap course Inui has instructed them to do so. It may take all of them less than ten minutes to finish the whole course as they are required to finish each lap by 50 seconds. By required, they all mean that in order not to die drinking Inui's juices, they have to follow instructions and do them fast. Actually, he is the least affected by those mixes. They are pretty good and taste interestingly different. However, it is plain better for him to see some one else drink it. It is better because of the 'different' reactions the juices can draw out from each tennis club members.
They are fun to look at.
Running the whole course is not just an exhibition of endurance for the regulars' part. It is also a way of showing who the fastest runner in the bunch is. Being the competitive athletes that they are, each regular tries to outdo the other until he is leading. Too bad for Echizen though. When he finds himself leading the whole group, he discovers Fuji-senpai catching up with him with the oh-so sadistic smile Echizen is learning to hate.
Fuji inevitably catches up and runs alongside Echizen.
"Is something bothering you, Echizen?"
A part of Echizen tells him to ignore the question. His cocky side wins though.
"I don't know what you're talking about, Fuji-senpai."
"Really? I'll give you a hint," Fuji replies, and then, he gives a meaningful glance at Sakuno-chan as they pass by the coach and her granddaughter. He makes sure Echizen sees him doing it. Fuji could have sworn his smile is reaching up to his ears upon seeing the first year's scowling face. "It has something to do with a cute and pretty auburn-haired girl by the name of Sakuno-chan."
Echizen's scowl becomes bigger.
Fuji takes it as his cue to run faster and leave the first year behind.
With all thoughts rumbling inside his good head, Echizen stumbles a little, but it is enough for him to lose his lead. He finds himself at the back end of the line.
Fuji-senpai is going to pay for this…
As he gathers his momentum, Echizen turns to his right in time to see Sakuno staring back at him with a worried expression written on her face. He blushes in front of the whole club without any reservation whatsoever. It's a good thing, though, that almost every member is watching the race…
With a new surge of energy, Echizen runs as fast as he can until he runs past Oishi-senpai and then Inui-senpai himself. Sakuno's worried expression is stuck inside his mind and whether he is conscious about it or not, the image is the one pushing him to run faster.
In the end, however, the regulars finish the course all at the same time.
Cooling down after a good hour of practice matches against each other, the regulars go in separate ways. Echizen prepares to go home, hopefully alone and away from the prying shadows of Momo-senpai and Kikumaru-senpai. Kaidoh jogs his way home, while Oishi heads to the pet store in town to buy food for his pet fishes. Kawamura accompanies Oishi while Tezuka disappears somewhere in school.
Only Inui and Fuji are left inside the tennis club room. Fuji is packing his belongings inside his duffel bag while Inui goes out to wash his arms at the faucet area.
"I'm really surprised that you are still here. Normally, you'll be one of those who will go home early," Inui interrupts an approaching Fuji while he wipes his wet face with a towel. After wearing his glasses, he faces the tennis prodigy who is wearing a very troubled face. Inui's eyebrows furrow. "What's the matter?"
Fuji smiles innocently at Inui, his worried expression still plastered on his face. He proceeds to wash his arms and his face, slowly, as if he were teasing the data guy who is quietly waiting for him. Inui crosses his arms over his chest. Fuji's favorite past time is to irk other people without those people knowing it. Of course, Fuji is aware that he cannot be irked by a simple act. The prodigy is here for a special reason and his movements are calculated enough to give time for Inui to prepare some answers for his questions.
"Have you noticed Echizen a while ago, Inui?" Fuji begins as he wipes his arms dry.
Inui turns his head sharply at Fuji.
"Well…" Inui trails.
Fuji is planning something, that's for sure. Whatever it is, he does not know, but someone is bound to get into trouble in the disaster the prodigy is brewing up. "He was a bit distracted a while ago. He looked like a machine jogging in place, but that was before his practice match against Kaidoh. What about Echizen, Fuji?"
"Oh, nothing, ehehehe…" Fuji scratches an invisible itch at the back of his head. "I noticed his lackluster performance while warming up. I thought it had something to do with what had happened at the café last week…"
Whether Fuji purposefully ends the sentence abruptly or not, Inui does not know. However, he catches on with Fuji's trail of thoughts. The regulars' visit to the Reverie Café is pretty eventful, especially whenever they see Echizen pale and flush whenever Ryuzaki Sakuno appears to attend to them. Regardless of how socially dense the first year is, he is still an adolescent who is having difficulty dealing with a secret crush.
"Echizen is so much like Tezuka; his entrance to the team, his excellent performance and his aloof attitude towards others, especially to girls. Of course, he is not the exact replica of the captain, but you know what I mean," Inui looks at Fuji as he adjusts his eyeglasses while wishing that he has his trusty notebook with him at this very moment.
Fuji gives him an eerie smile, encouraging the data guy to continue.
"One thing, amongst the others, which makes Echizen different from Tezuka is the person of Ryuzaki Sakuno. She must be a very special girl to have caught the attention of Echizen and distract and encourage him all at the same time. But his attraction is giving him some trouble. To say he is confused is an understatement. I'd say his mind is divided between the girl and tennis. I think…"
Inui is interrupted by a beeping sound. He takes a glance at his wrist watch to check the time. "I'm sorry, Fuji. I have to go home."
Fuji smiles back at Inui, as he stays rooted to the ground. He sees Inui walk towards the club room, perhaps to pack his bags. Fuji stares at the faucet area a long while, his thoughts rambling here and there.
So, Echizen needs some help, huh?
A sadistic smile
Saa…he'll get some help then.
With that thought, he saunters back to the club room to catch Inui for some last minute advice. He is surprised, however, to see Tezuka in the club room, too.
"Eh? You're still here, Tezuka?" Fuji asks the captain as he stands by Inui who is sitting on a bench, packing his belongings.
Tezuka turns to Fuji and nods his head to greet the prodigy.
Fuji and Inui are not expecting any explanation on where he came from or why he is still in school, so silent Tezuka decides not to open his mouth to talk. Somehow though, he feels as if he is a shadow in the room as Inui and Fuji start a very strange conversation.
"Inui, do you think Echizen needs help with his heart problem?"
Inui raises an eyebrow, surprised at Fuji's question. Heart problem? When he catches on with Fuji, he settles his bag on the floor and shifts to a more comfortable position on the bench. "Well, he'll need some help from people closest to him in clearing his head, but the rest is up to him."
Fuji's face is etched with a slight frown small enough to be missed by an observant Inui and Tezuka. The prodigy leans on the wall in deep thought.
Tezuka, on the other hand, is lost in thought, too. Echizen has a heart problem? He looks at an aloof Inui and an eerie-looking Fuji. They do not look so distressed so Echizen must not be in some big trouble or dying with some disease. Besides, if that were the case, he and Ryuzaki-sensei will know that immediately so they can do something about it. He breathes out as he clears his mind off all thoughts. Still, he does not get why the two are talking about Echizen having a heart problem.
One thing is for sure though.
He still feels edgy.
It's just that Fuji looks scheming right now, but that is not a new thing, really.
So, what is with the heart problem?
"I'll go ahead," Tezuka announces. Clueless and lost, he decides to leave for home. Whatever the two are talking about, hopefully, it will not evolve into a plan and ruin the team's performance for the whole season.
Fuji decides to wander in town before heading home. It's not every day he gets some time for himself. Either Eiji is tagging him along for a Math or English tutorial after classes or his sister immediately fetches him from some random point in town. He does not mind his sister giving him a ride home. He also does not mind Eiji dragging him because they end up having fun at the expense of other people. Remember, one of his favorite past times is exercising his sadistic nature.
He continues his casual stroll when he realizes he is in front of the Reverie Café. He gives it a long glance, considering whether entering it is worthwhile or such a waste of time. Besides, as he walks, he thinks of all the 'good' things he can do to help Echizen. Being in a crowded place is his last option. Of course, being smart and all does not mean he can think of things just any where. But after a good minute or so, he crosses the street using a pedestrian lane and heads his way to the café. Before entering it, however, he pauses to look at the poster Inui has told them about. He gives it a good look and smiles satisfactorily afterwards. Inui never misses a detail especially when the tennis club regulars are concerned. With that, he opens the door and scans the whole café as he searches for an empty table where he can relax. He spots one that is near the entrance, but he makes a beeline towards the end of the room where he sees Sakuno sitting at a corner table.
Sakuno bits her lip in annoyance. She is having a problem with an essay they must submit tomorrow, and of all things, she has to write it in English. The content of the essay is not a problem to her. The language to be used is, and this makes things more disastrous because how can she reorganize her thoughts and write it down in English?
She scratches her head and pouts, not knowing that some one has already taken a sit beside her without her permission.
"Having problems, Sakuno-chan?"
Sakuno jumps in her seat, obviously surprised. She turns and blushes when she finds out that Fuji-senpai is sitting beside her. She quickly grabs a strand of her long auburn her and unconsciously twirls it in nervousness.
Fuji smiles at her adoringly. "Na, Sakuno-chan, you haven't answered my question," he continues, adding a small frown on his face. He makes sure Sakuno sees it.
Little Sakuno sees Fuji-senpai's frown and quickly remembers his question after sputtering a series of apologies. She blinks twice before shyly glancing at her notes. She, then, looks up at her senpai, embarrassedly. "I'm writing an essay, senpai, but somehow, I cannot do it because…"
Fuji cocks his head to the right as Sakuno pauses. He knows the answer already, but getting her flustered like this is so precious, he is actually enjoying her company. "Because?"
"Ah…err…I'm not good in English, senpai. That's why I cannot even start my essay."
"I see. Are you having a break, Sakuno-chan?"
Sakuno shyly nods at him. "Iwase-san is giving me a break. She's nice enough to want to help me with this but she has to run the café so…" Sakuno sighs dejectedly. "…I'm here."
"I'll help you then," Fuji readily volunteers as he gives his kohai a very hearty smile. If he wants to help Echizen, he has to make a connection with the person that has started it all – the very one sitting beside him.
Sakuno digests Fuji-senpai's suggestion and flushes hard afterwards. "Ah…eh…I don't want to disturb you senpai," she stammers frantically. "You're here to relax. Oh! I'm a bad host. I'll get you something to drink. Is there anything you want, senpai?"
Somehow, realizing Fuji-senpai has not yet been served straightens her tongue. A million things are running in her head that she stands abruptly to attend to her seatmate. Unfortunately, Sakuno stumbles upon the foot of the table which makes her lurch forward to meet the cold tiled floor.
Fortunately for her, Fuji grabs her waist from behind, straightens her and props her on her chair. "Na, Sakuno-chan, there's no need to get flustered. You're having your break. Besides, I'm not really hungry or thirsty at all. Just relax."
He smiles at her and pats her auburn head.
His smile is actually bigger inside. Not that he minds showing it to every one, but it may look exaggerated Sakuno may just get upset.
Now, why is he thinking of that?
Fuji shakes his head, partly to silence Sakuno who looks as if she is still going to protest, and partly to erase his previous thought. "Do you want to finish your essay, Sakuno-chan?"
Sakuno nods mechanically. She is really having trouble with English. She does not want to bother Ryoma-san, though, especially now that she is giving some space between herself and her former crush. Actually, she still likes him but the distance she has put between the two of them slowly ebbs her childish infatuation with the tennis prince. She still cheers for him and prepares snacks from time to time for him, but those are for friendship's sake only. After accepting Iwase-san's offer for an apprenticeship slot in her café, she has stopped her tennis training with Ryoma-san. More time is spent doing what she likes to do that is why she feels happy and light almost every day.
Then again, the reality that she is not good in English always haunts her. It is a subject in school after all, and she is required to take it, whether she likes it or not.
Still, she does not understand why Fuji-senpai is getting out of his way to help her.
Reluctantly, Sakuno accepts her senpai's offer to help her with her English essay. The next hour is spent with Fuji helping Sakuno formulate a thesis statement and an outline for her essay. After that, Sakuno, then, writes her first draft while Fuji relaxes with a cup of tea and a plate of apple pie. Then, he checks Sakuno's first draft and after discussing the corrections he has made, she rewrites the whole thing in another sheet of paper.
After an hour, Sakuno breathes out loud as she leans on her chair and gives a blank look at the essay she has just finished. Fuji-senpai is a good teacher. He is not only a prodigy in tennis, but he is also a prodigy in academics. She gives her senpai an admiring look but quickly bows her head when he turns to her. Little does she know that Fuji has caught her staring at him, but he quickly dismisses it as he takes her finished essay.
It takes a whole minute for Fuji to read and correct her work. "Your second draft is much better than your first one. Just follow the instructions I have written down, Sakuno-chan, and your final paper will be really, really good."
Sakuno flushes in joy that she takes her senpai's hands and bows appreciatively at him. "Thank you very much, senpai. I…I…could not have done it without your help."
Fuji smiles back upon receiving a warm smile from the girl. He is about to assure her another time when all of a sudden, she stands up. "Sakuno-chan?"
"Is there anything else you need, Fuji-senpai?" Sakuno asks as she assumes her waitress mode. She wants to be a good host to her senpai. Besides, this is the only way she can repay him for his kindness.
"Another serving of tea will do, Sakuno-chan."
Sakuno bows at him before going to the kitchen to prepare his tea. Left alone at the corner table, Fuji leans back on his chair as he scans the whole café for any special event. He finds none. His eternally smiling face, which hides the disappointment he feels, suddenly lights up when he spots a cover of a paper-back book.
He cranes his neck to see the title and he is pleasantly surprised when he read it.
He has never read that book. He is more into the classics rather than the romance novels. However, he remembers Yumiko-neesan talking about that book one day after he had come home from school. It is about a meddler and a cowboy.
A meddler and a cowboy…
Fuji is having a light bulb moment. That's it! Inui says Echizen needs help and he, Fuji Syuusuke, has decided that he will help his kohai with his heart problem. All the while, his thoughts are running on how he will help Echizen, and now, he knows. He will play the role of the mediator. The title 'the meddler' does not sound appropriate. A meddler sticks his nose on something that is not his business. Echizen is a part of the tennis club – as Fuji is, too – and his performance contributes greatly to their standing this season. The last thing they will want is a lackluster performance from him. That is why he will play the mediator and help the kid clear his stand regarding Sakuno-chan.
But of course, his real intention is not to literally help Echizen. He does not care if the first year will admit his feelings to the coach's granddaughter before Christmas break.
He is going to help to see more of a suffering first year tennis prince.
Besides, it is not everyday that one sees the cool and quiet kid get upset. Now is his chance and he has decided on what he will do between the two.
He will be the mediator between Sakuno-chan and Echizen.
He needs help from Sakuno-chan though. She has to participate, and he will make sure that she will, whether she likes it or not.
"Senpai," Sakuno's soft voice interrupts Fuji's musings.
Sakuno replenishes Fuji's cup with tea before placing the pot down on the table. She resumes her seat at the table to pack her things. Fuji quietly watches her every move. He does not blame Echizen for getting attracted to Sakuno-chan. She is pretty, cute, unbelievably innocent and sweet to boot. He smiles to himself. Now, he has more reasons to set things straight between Echizen and Sakuno-chan.
"Ano…senpai…thank you very much for helping me with my essay," Sakuno bows for the umpteenth time that day in unspeakable gratitude.
"Saa…no need to thank me that much Sakuno-chan."
Sakuno puffs her cheeks shyly at Fuji-senpai's statement. "See you tomorrow, senpai. Please take care."
Realizing that she is going to leave, Fuji calls on to Sakuno.
The girl stops and blinks at her senpai questioningly.
Sakuno cocks her head to her right, a habit that she is unconsciously forming. She is thinking on the lines that Fuji-senpai will ask for a last serving of tea or even his bill when he calls her. She is about to go to the counter to ask for his bill when his words cut her off.
"Ne, Sakuno-chan, are you free this Saturday?"
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