There was only a moment, as the crowd filtered out of the stands and the teams faced each other after a match hard played, sweating and eyeballing each other from behind their water bottles, where no one said anything.

Tachibana, of course, made the first move. The second was Hiiragi's to play out, and they met in the middle.

"You idiot, who have you been letting onto this team while I was gone!"

Like spectators at a tennis match, the teams eyed Hitonari to see what the reaction would be.

It reminded Harumoto of a day quite long ago when Hiiragi Hitonari had owed Tachibana a gyoudon. But here, there were no debts to be repayed and no trust to regain. Neither of them had ever made a decision without the other after that experience, after all.

"We missed you, stupid."

And those on the Kouzu team who had never seen their captain laugh ior/i cry saw him do both, not to mention hug this strange rival they had heard so much about.

"God, I missed you, you bastard."

That one wasn't heard by anyone as Hitonari clenched the back of Akane's sweaty jersey in his fists and pressed his face against his neck. Akane turned bright red, but his hands relaxed and rested comfortably on his ex-partner's shoulders.

"Yeah."

Deeming that enough lovey-dovey time, Harumoto whooped and jumped onto the two of them, leading the pack from his side as the two of them were surrounded by their respective teams.

It would have made anyone who hadn't known the Hiiragi and Tachibana who had come to put their complete faith in each other a little nervious, especially with all their forerunners (legendary in their own way) sitting at a table with the two captains. A Hitonari who wasn't slightly tensed as if for flight at a moment's notice like a skittish horse was a rarity, even not counting the aura of calm he was eminating as he sat back and listened to Akane talk, sipping his tea. As for Tachibana's side, they were slightly in awe of the captain of the other team, not to mention slightly resentful, for the easy way that he made their captain blush like a schoolgirl just by resting his thigh against his under the table.

Their teams didn't get along. No one would have expected them to. When it came down to it, they would be separating again in the end, to follow their own paths to the top - at least for this season.