One Step
Written by: Kiasidira Ixari

Okay. So let's start again. This will be my second attempt at my first story in the Prince of Tennis genre. I sure do hope you guys will enjoy this. I don't know if there are other stories there with similar plots as this one, but I haven't come across any one, so I'll go ahead and try this plot whirling in my head… and it's been doing so for about a month or two now. Serious story here, I really thought this out. I never thought I'd really write it down and publish it on but here it is.

Right. So! Safety first.

Standard Disclaimer: Prince of Tennis and all of the characters, including the original anime plot, belongs to Konomi Takeshi. I own nothing of it. I only own the original plot used in this particular story, nothing more. This disclaimer stands firm for the whole of the story. Furthermore, if I use any material that needs to be disclaimed, there will be individual disclaimers for them in each chapter where they are used. I rightfully disclaim and declare that I own nothing but my own plot and my own original characters.

Warning(s): Occasional Language, References to Mature Themes, YAOI (we're positive on that)

Summary: Seigaku won the Nationals championship. Shortly afterwards, the seniors graduated. Echizen Ryoma left for the U.S., setting his eyes on further heights and greener pastures. The perfect tennis team was no more. At least, that was 2 years ago. Enter Seishun Gakuen Koto Gakkou (High School), one of the most proficient schools in Tokyo, sister school of Seishun Gakuen Chuu Gakkou (Middle School). Enter our old teammates… and re-enter our favorite brat prince.

Story Timeline: 2 years after the manga/anime setting. It's two years because they finished one year altogether, and then there's the two-year gap before Ryoma enters high school. Technically, the others would all be in high school too by then.

Character Setting: High school students. The seniors are seniors, the juniors are juniors, and the freshmen are freshmen. Just re-adjusting into high school.

Chapter Details: None in particular.

Step One: The Second Return
(Revised Version)

"So hot…" a short, lithe form muttered, removing a white Fila sports cap from a black-haired head and brandishing it as a fan over a scrunched up face. Echizen Ryoma let go of a sharp sigh, plopping unceremoniously on one of those cold, hard, backache-inducing metal benches at the Narita International Airport(1).

Letting go of his heavy backpack and luggage, he rested his tennis bag gently on the chair next to him, making sure that the rackets inside were unharmed. For a tennis addict like him, his rackets were far more valuable than his clothes and his other things. His pet cage, though, he kept on his lap. His cat was probably the only thing that would equal the value of his rackets and the rest of his sports stuff. Karupin was sick right now, and Ryoma knew that it was because of the (stupid) turbulence in that (stupid) airplane during that (stupid) flight with his (STUPID) dad.

The turbulence was stupid because it made Karupin vomit and become sick. The airplane was stupid because it was having stupid turbulences which made Karupin vomit and become sick. The flight was stupid because he had to take it on that stupid airplane that was having stupid turbulences which made Karupin vomit and become sick. And his dad was STUPID because that's what he was. STUPID. Period.

"…geez, where the HELL did that old man go" he hissed darkly in English, the reflexive use of the language emerging with his annoyance. His dad had separated with him earlier, spontaneously disappearing on the spot when they passed a magazine shop inside the airport's café and one-stop shopping area. He could bet his life that the old man was spending all the money buying a whole bundle of perverted magazines again.

His sharpened eyes scanned the area for a telltale rowdy black head in the crowd. Even in the middle of a million people, he could easily recognize his dad. Having spent more than half of his entire life with the older man, he knew Nanjiroh inside out, and vice versa. Nanjiroh knew his son better than anybody else, even better than Rinko did. Rinko was a businesswoman; she had no time for her motherly duties when Ryoma was a child. As such, Nanjiroh would often be left behind to take care of the young boy and teach him tennis from dusk 'til dawn. No matter how much both of them denied it, they had a connection, and that connection was tangible and unbreakable, a connection between father and son and between rivals.

As Nanjiroh slouched his way towards Ryoma with a wide grin etched on his face, Ryoma sighed in exasperation, eyeing the bundle of magazines tucked underneath Nanjiroh's arm.

"What are those?" Ryoma asked. Nanjiroh was about to answer when Ryoma cut him off. "Never mind I asked; I don't want to know."

"Hora, seishounen, a little recreation won't hurt you!" Nanjiroh prodded, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. "Your daddy can teach you more things than you can ever imagine."

"No thanks," Ryoma hissed in disgust. "And don't offer again," he grumbled, picking up his backpack and his tennis bag and carefully handling Karupin with his other hand as he stood up. "Now come on, we haven't got all day…"

"Ou!" Nanjiroh yelled, punching a fist up in the air animatedly, effectively catching the attention of everyone in the vicinity. Ryoma desperately wanted to hit his head.

"Oyaji, please stop embarrassing yourself," sighed Ryoma. "And pick your bags up. I am most certainly not carrying those for you."

Nanjiroh huffed and glowered childishly at his son, mumbling to himself as he picked his own tennis bag and luggage up with definite ease. "'Taku, he needs to learn how to relax more… he always has some kind of invisible stick up his ass…" He continued mumbling all the way to the airport exit, where they stood and waited for a taxi.

"Oi, I heard that you know," Ryoma grumbled. "I do NOT have a stick up my ass."

"Yeah, right, you should hear yourself speak, boy," snorted Nanjiroh.

"Remind me why I didn't bring mom along with us today," came the dead reply.

"Because you love your oyaji so much, you wanted to spend time with him!"


Ryoma deposited his bag haphazardly on the floor, sighing deeply and setting Karupin's pet cage on the bed. He placed his tennis racket down before starting to fiddle with the lock on the pet cage to set the whining cat free.

"Shush Karupin, we're home. I'm letting you out now," muttered the boy to his beloved pet cat. He unlocked the cage after his second attempt, and the cat gratefully leapt out of the cage and into his arms. Ryoma stood up and kicked the cage to one corner of the room, carrying his cat to the bed and slumping both of them down, stroking his cat's soft fur.

He stared up at the tennis posters on the ceiling, an extreme nostalgic bout of emotion threatening to overwhelm him as he closed his eyes. Being in the room that held so much memories of what were, in his opinion, the best years of his life, was overwhelming, especially after having been separated and detached from those memories for two whole tiring years.

These past two years, he had been doing nothing but tennis in the professional circuit, and now he understood why his father quit the pro circuit scene. There was nothing more boring than the professional circuit after beating everyone out there. On top of that, there was dirty politics involved, and he discovered that some tennis players existed not because of their skills, but because of fan service. Of course, his dad was managing his career alongside Kevin's, but still, politics behind the scenes was hard to avoid.

Six months after he left Japan to pursue professional tennis, he won the U.S. Open fair and square, beating several well-known players along the way. A few months after that, Kevin won the Roland Garros, otherwise known as the French Open. Another few months after that, Kevin bagged another victory in the Australian Open, and then finally, just a little more than six months ago, he made a world-record to be the youngest ever player to win the Wimbledon fair and square. Considering the fact that both he and Kevin were only wild card players in those tournaments, what they did was a great feat.

Ryoma had decided that he'd take one year of high school in Japan after winning the Wimbledon, basically because he was bored past hell, and wanted more inspiration and challenges. Of course, Nanjiroh had no qualms about that whatsoever. Boredom in the top pro was one thing he understood completely. He knew that there were lots of good players out there who were not given the opportunity to rise to the top pro, so the only thing he could to do meet them was to go back down and be a normal, ordinary player again. It would be interesting, Kevin remarked. The blonde boy had promised that he would follow shortly after finishing up some things with his dad's case.

Ever since Ryoma came back to the U.S. with his family, Kevin had been living with them and out of his dad's custody. His dad was arrested for drug trafficking and illegal possession of fire arms. Kevin had also filed a proof-heavy case of child abuse against him, and Rinko had backed the blonde boy's case firmly, taking full custody of the minor until he was old enough to launch on his own. Apparently, Rinko still held a bit of a grudge at Kevin's dad, but Kevin was thankful for the help. Ever since then, Nanjiroh had been managing his and Kevin's pro tennis career, advertising the two of them as partners, both eligible in playing doubles and singles. (Now he no longer sucked at doubles. Hah, eat that, Momo-senpai!)

There was also another reason for his return to Japan.

He reached over and dragged his bag with his foot to the edge of the bed, leaning over and pulling out his wallet from the backpack. He didn't like keeping his wallet in his back pocket; it always falls off during a game. Karupin scrambled off the pillow Ryoma had placed him on and crawled over Ryoma's chest, mewling and purring as Ryoma opened the wallet to see the photos in it.

On one side was a photo of him and Kevin. The blond was, as usual, hanging all over him, grinning eagerly like a cat from ear to ear as he draped his arm over Ryoma's shoulder and torso, the other hand making a V-sign at the camera. He had been drinking his Ponta back then, and he couldn't help but smile at the camera even he didn't want to; Kevin's cheerfulness was as contagious as a disease. He's been thinking about it ever since, but he couldn't fathom how Kevin had changed from that ever-scowling brat to a bouncing bright ball of joy. Most people say it's only around him that Kevin's ever like that, though. Now that would make sense, since there was an unspoken yet mutual understanding between them that connects them closely like best friends would be.

On the other side was an even older photo. It was a smaller version of his old team photo that was gift from Fuji before he left two years ago, that same photo they had taken on the mountaintop when they had waited for the sunrise.

These two pictures reminded him of his reasons for playing tennis: the beat the world and for his old teammates. These two photos were the two photos he always kept with him no matter what.

He was startled out of his reverie when his cell phone rang inside his bag, the tone a muffled sound. His cell phone model was one of those models where you could record a voice recording and set it as the ring tone. Kevin was being childishly stupid one day and recorded the two of them laughing and bickering over the ice cream his mom had bought and set it as the ring tone. He never really deleted it either; it reminded him of his best friend after all.

He pulled the cell phone from the bag by its strap, flipped it open and pressed the "loudspeaker" button.

"RYOMAAAA!" a giggling voice came from the other side of the line. He chuckled.

"Kevin, why am I not surprised?"

"Of course you're not, you know me! I'm your best bud!" More laughing.

"So, why'd you call?"

"Do I need a reason?"

"No, just asking."

Chuckling. "Ne, Ryoma, the case here is almost finished, I think I'll be able to follow you there in a couple of weeks," Kevin's happy voice came. They were really polar opposites no matter how alike they might seem: Kevin was bubbly, Ryoma was mellow. "Auntie's asking how the flight was."

"Tell her that she should castrate dad," Ryoma grumbled.

Kevin laughed. "Same old, same old, huh?"

"He never changes, and that's why you should hurry up and get your ass back here so he'll have someone else to annoy!"

"You know I can throw him back, Ryoma," snorted Kevin.

"That's exactly why I'm asking you to get here."

"So, Ryo… did you go to Seigaku Koto Gakkou (1) yet?"

"Nah, not yet, just arrived from the airport. And Karupin's sick."

"Awwww, poor kitty," Kevin cooed. Karupin mewled at the familiar voice. "Anyways, when do you plan on checking it out?"

"Nanako-san's preparing lunch for us. I think I can go right after we eat."

"I see. Well, good luck in finding your teammates. It's quite a big school, right?"

"All I have to do is go to the tennis club, Kevin."

"Oh, yeah! I swear I knew that!" He could practically see a light bulb going off over Kevin's head a thousand miles away.

He snorted again. "Kevin, sometimes, you can really be stupid, you know that?"

"I take it from you, only from you, Ryo," chuckled Kevin.


"I hear uncle's dulcet tones, man," Kevin remarked. "You'd better go if you don't want your ass skinned."

"Mada mada da ne."

Ryoma sighed, picking up his cell phone and heading downstairs while listening to Kevin prattling about random things.

Just as he reached the bottom of the stairs, a hauntingly familiar voice shouted from outside.

"Nanako-san, good afternoon, goodbye!"

Ryoma swore he saw a figure on a bicycle speed down the street. His head whipped towards Nanako.

"Nanako-san, was that…?"

Nanako nodded, chuckling. "Momoshiro-kun drops by at times to say hello. He says it's not good for a lady like me to live alone here. Sometimes, your other seniors drop by as well."

A slow nostalgic smile formed on Ryoma's face.

"Momo-senpai, honto ni baka da na…" (2)

(Revised Version)

(1) Seishun Gakuen Koto Gakkou – Seishun Gakuen High School.
(2) "Momo-senpai, honto ni baka da na…" – "Momo-senpai, you're really an idiot, huh…"

Hunyaa!! There we have our first step. Saa! Review and tell me what you think, people!

Kiasidira Ixari
First Publication Version: 11.11.06
First Revision Version: 07.25.07