Authors Note: Yay! Part three! Thanks for all the reviews! Enjoy!
Disclaimer: We no own Prince of Tennis
LORD OF THE BALLS
Chapter Three: Strider, The Data Collector
"Excuse me, that man in the corner, who is he?" Ryoma asked not liking being watched by the mysterious fellow.
"He's one of them data collectors. Dangerous folk they are-- all wandering the wilds. What his right name is I've never heard but around here, he's known as Strider. I asked him to join Yamabuki but he refused," Banji explained.
"Strider. . ." Ryoma shrugged and sipped his Ponta. But in his pants he could feel the ball, he reached to grab the ball and started playing with it. The he heard it whisper.
"Echizen-kun. Echizen-kun. Echizen-kun! Echizen-kun!" A silky smooth voice came from the ball.
Ryoma snapped out of his trance looking over to Eiji who was at the bar conversing with some men.
"Sure I know an Echizen he is over there, Ryoma Echizen. He's my second cousin once removed on his mother's side and my third cousin twice removed on his father's side, if you follow me." Eiji said.
"Kikumaru-sempai!" Ryoma grabbed Eiji's arm pulling him.
Ryoma's grip on Eiji was released as he tripped over a loose racquet. The ball flew from his hands as he slipped to the floor. Surprised Ryoma opened his mouth as the ball fell into it.
The Jyousei head for Yamabuki, alerted by the ball.
Ryoma was in a different place, he saw it, an eye, a twinkling eye. The eye was surrounded by sparkles and a good scent seemed to be coming from it. Ryoma realized the eye was staring at him
"You cannot hide! I see you! Be awed by my prowess, for there is no other life in this void only me!" Atobe said smoothly.
"Don't want to," Ryoma replied taking the ball from his mouth.
Ryoma started to lift himself from the floor when he felt a hand grab his collar lifting him up.
"You draw 92 percent of unnecessary attention to yourself, Echizen-kun." Strider said throwing Ryoma up some stairs. He grabbed Ryoma again and this time shoved him into a room slamming the door shut behind him. Ryoma regained his stance giving Strider a dirty look.
"What do you want?" Ryoma demanded.
"73 percent more caution from you, that is no trinket you carry."
"I carry nothing."
Strider smiled, "There is a 100 percent chance you are lying." He walked over to the window putting out the candles with his fingers. He removed the hood he wore and looked at Ryoma, smiling sadistically. "There is a 93 chance percent I can avoid being seen if I wish. But to disappear entirely, there is a 100 percent chance that is a rare gift.
"Who are you," Ryoma asked heading for the door.
"Are you frightened?"
"There is a 94 percent chance you are not frightened enough. I know what hunts you."
Ryoma walked towards the door, but suddenly it was burst open and there stood Momo, Eiji and Oishi. Momo was holding up his tennis racquet threateningly. "Stand off! Or I'll have you Longshanks!" Momo commanded.
"You have a stout heart little hobbit, but there is a 100 percent chance that will not save you. You can no longer wait for the wizard Ryoma. There is a 100 percent chance they're coming." Strider said.
The Jyousei barged through the gates of Yamabuki, crushing Dan. "We-welcome to Ya-yamabuki, desu." The Jyousei made their way to the Prancing Pony. The entered the pub.
"Hello young lads. You might be interested in joining our tennis club-" The Jyousei pounced Banji knocking him flat. They went up the stairs to where the hobbits' room was. The Jyousei started attacking the beds using Deep Impulse. To their surprise they could not hear screams coming from the sheets. The Jyousei removed the sheets to find that the beds were empty.
"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" They all screamed.
Strider was watching from a window, satisfied that his plan had worked. All of the hobbits awoke from the screams of the Jyousei, except for Ryoma. Momo quickly shook Ryoma causing him to wake.
"What are they?" Momo asked, as Ryoma drifted back to sleep.
"They were once players. Great players. Then Atobe the Deceiver gave to them nine Balls of Power. But 99 percent of their hearts were blinded by greed, they took them without question. One by one falling into darkness. Now they are slaves to his will. They are the Jyousei, Masterpieces, neither living nor dead. At all times they feel the presence of the Ball. Drawn to the power of the One. They will never stop hunting Ryoma."
It was morning Strider had led the hobbits from Yamabuki with a new Pony. They were going far away from any Ponta machines so Ryoma was growing worried.
"Where are you taking us?" Ryoma asked annoyed.
"Into the wild." Strider replied smiling sadistically.
"How do we know this Strider is a friend of Tezuka's?" Oishi asked worriedly.
Ryoma shrugged, "I don't want to be kicked off the regulars."
"But where is he leading us?" Momo asked.
"To Rokkaku Master Momoshiro, The House of Aoi." Strider replied.
Eiji's face lit up, "Did you hear that? Rokkaku! We'll play in their playground."
"And we're going to see the elves," Momo added.
The hobbits stopped and started unpacking their cooking materials. Strider stopped and turned around, "Gentlemen, we do not stop till nightfall."
"What about breakfast?" Eiji asked.
"We've already had it." Strider replied.
"We've had one yes. What about second breakfast?" Eiji asked.
Strider dug through his bag.
"Don't think he knows about second breakfast Eiji," Oishi said clapping a hand on Eiji's shoulders.
Eiji looked alarmed,"What about elevenses? Luncheon? Afternoon tea? Dinner? Supper? He knows about them doesn't he?"
"I wouldn't count on it," Oishi replied sadly to his partner.
Strider had pulled a pitcher from his pack, his glasses gleamed and he smiled. "I have some Penal Tea, if you want."
"Hoi? Penal Tea? What is that?" Eiji asked taking a sip from the pitcher. "Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!" Eiji grabbed his throat and fell to the ground in agony. Oishi lifted Eiji onto the pony and looked worried.
"What is in that Penal Tea Strider?" Oishi asked.
"Se-c-ret," Strider chanted, as he and the hobbits continued walking.
Yuushi was sitting in his chamber examining the mirror that Tezuka had warned him about. The mirror was twinkling as the eye of Atobe appeared.
"The power of Hyotei is at your command, Atobe, Lord of the Earth" Yuushi told the eye.
"Build me an army worthy of my prowess!" Atobe's eye responded, before it vanished.
Yuushi sat on his bed, when the door to his chamber opened.
"What orders from Atobe my Lord? What does His Eye command?" Gakuto asked, licking his lips from seeing Yuushi sprawled out on the bed.
"We have work to do." Yuushi said, as a disappointment spread across Gakuto's face.
Yuushi and Gakuto were now walking through the place where all the members of the Hyotei tennis club worked. Yuushi peered down and then turned back to Gakuto.
"Fudomine is strong my Lord, but they were unseeded. Their roots grow deep."
"Rip them all down." Yuushi demanded.
"This was the great watchtower of Amon Sul. We shall rest here tonight." Strider said as the hobbits dropped their loads and rested. "These are for you," Strider added handing the Hobbit's new tennis racquets. "Keep them close. I am going to collect some data."
Ryoma woke suddenly to the smell of something burning, to find Momo, Eiji and Oishi gathered around a fire.
"Can I have some meat?" Eiji asked.
"Ok. Want some tomatoes Momo?" Oishi asked handing the meat to Eiji. "Nice tomatoes"
"What are you doing!" Ryoma asked annoyed again.
"Tomatoes, sausages, nice crispy bacon." Oishi replied smiling at Ryoma
"We saved some for you Mr. Ryoma." Momo added.
"Put it out you oafs! Put it out!" Ryoma yelled stepping on the fire.
"Oh that's nice! Ash on my tomatoes!" Eiji complained.
Suddenly the hobbit all stood from hearing a piercing scream that must have come from the Jyousei.
"Go!" Ryoma yelled running up steps higher. The Jyousei however had already caught up. They were surrounded.
"Back you devils!" Momo yelled using his dunk smash on two of the Jyousei. His move however was countered and he was sent to the ground.
The Golden Par stepped up using their synchronization to fight, but they too were quickly countered by the Jyousei who had used the special move thunderbolt. With the hobbits out of the way Ryoma held his racquet firmly, he felt the ball calling him and pulled it from his pants. Immediately the Best Masterpiece sensed the Ball.
He approached Ryoma, and he didn't know why but for some reason he put the ball into his mouth.
Ryoma was in that world again; the eye of Atobe was calling. Ryoma saw the Best Masterpiece outstretch his hand. Ryoma's head was rising to the hand. He quickly regained control of himself and ripped the ball from his mouth. Just then the Best Masterpiece had used Deep Impulse to stab Ryoma in the shoulder. Ryoma winced from the pain.
Immediately Strider appeared brandishing a racquet and torch, he easily chased the Jyousei away because of the data he had collected on them. He was able to counter every attack.
"Ryoma!" Momo rushed to his friend's side.
"Oh Momo, " Ryoma said breathing heavily.
"Strider! Help him!" Momo commanded.
Strider picked up the ball that had injured Ryoma. "He's been stabbed by a Jyousei ball. This is 100 percent beyond my skill to heal. He needs elvish medicine."
Strider runs with the hobbits carrying Ryoma over his shoulder, "Hurry!"
"We're six days from Rokkaku! He'll never make it!" Momo complained.
"Tezuka," Ryoma whispered.
"Hold on Ryoma," Strider said.
"TEZUKA!" Ryoma screamed.
Tezuka sat up suddenly in his bed. He put on his glasses and captured a moth that had swooped through his window.
"Gwaihir. Go, Gwaihir."
"Mr. Ryoma?" Momo looked over to Strider. "He's going cold!" Momo said as he felt Ryoma's forehead.
"Is he going to die?" Eiji asked.
"He's passing into the shadow world. There is a 89 percent chance he will soon become a masterpiece like them." Strider replied.
Ryoma let out a gasp, and a scream could be heard in the distance.
"They're close," Oishi stated.
"Momo, do you know the pontanious plant?" Strider asked.
"Pontanious?" Momo questioned
"Ponta," Strider explained.
"Ponta- uh, that's a soft drink." Momo replied.
"There is a 65 percent chance it may help to slow the poison. Hurry!" Strider demanded.
Momo set off in the woods in one direction and Strider in the other. Strider found some Ponta and kneeled to pick it up. All of a sudden a racquet is at his throat.
"What's this? A data collector caught off his guard?"
TO BE CONTINUED!
Cliffie, we know . . .
Well, who do you think is Arwen? Huh? And hopefully you do indeed know who Aragorn is by now . . . REVIEW AND TELL US YOUR GUESSES!