Disclaimers: Refer to the first page.
A/N: Thanks for your reviews. Sorry, RiaxXxaiR, I'm not telling when Ryoya will find out about Fuji. You will have to follow the story. I'm evil, right. Hahaha... Ok. Let's go on with the story. Happy reading!
Only half the sun could be seen hanging on the horizon. The orange hue cast over the entire city signified that it was dusk.
In one of the schools in the city, many students were still busy with their club activities, particularly the tennis club. Each of the members was fired up for their matches or coming matches. Those whose losses were already set in stone couldn't help but feel the bitter aftertaste amplified with the news they had just received.
"As the manager of tennis club, Ms. Taylor will of course join us for the training camp," the coach answered when asked by one of the members. It was all she could do not to show any of her mirth at the shouts of joy coupled with the groans of dismay that her answer garnered. Sure enough, her words brought their fighting spirit to a new level. Teenage boys would do anything just to have a chance to spend some time together with a pretty girl.
Her amused eyes strayed to the group of regulars practicing a short distance away under the watchful eyes of the captain of the tennis club. Her face turned thoughtful Perhaps not all teenage boys, she mused to herself as she saw the way the youngest regular was scowling all the time at the teasing from his senpai-tachi at the special attention he received from the new club manager. Unbidden, her eyes fell upon the unsmiling face of the tensai. His open eyes were sharply trained on the unsuspecting sulking boy.
As if feeling her stares, the tensai's attention shifted to her. The chilling image was gone the second she blinked her eyes to be replaced by the familiar smiling Fuji. If she didn't know better, she would have thought it was all in her mind.
A wary sigh escaped the slightly wizened mouth of the coach. Trouble was brewing in the air and she did not know whether she should interfere or not. After all, all matters of the heart were complex. She did not want to further complicate it by interfering.
Another sigh escaped her lips. She wondered if she was getting too old for the job. It did not sit well with her that she had only just noticed Fuji's feelings towards Ryoma.
…….Perhaps it was Fuji who was too adept at hiding his emotions behind his mask.
Purposely, Ryuzaki Sumire forced her attention back towards the intense matches on the courts. Let the young ones take care of their own problems. Though I do wonder what Nanjiroh and Rinko's reactions would be.
After parting with the group of senior regulars, three figures walked side by side in the direction of the residence of the Echizens – two males and one foreign female.
It was truly an adorable sight that would have drawn anyone's attention. One of the boys was chatting animatedly about everything while the other had a fierce scowl on his face. The girl, who was walking in between the two twins, was quite with the occasional indulging smiles thrown the more cheerful boy.
"Are you listening to me, Onii-sama?" Ryoya suddenly asked with a pout when he realized that he was the only one talking. Lizzie at least gave indications that she was listening but his precious twin did not even nod at him. Instead, he had been silent all the way.
"Hn." Ryoma tugged his cap. He did not mean to offend his younger twin but he was really anxious to go and meet Fuji-senpai for their usual practice matches. Unfortunately for him, Ryoya was not scheduled for a match today, thus the energetic him was given a chance to drag him and the girl on this slow walk home. He knew that if he had told them about the meeting, they would have allowed him to go and probably even come with him. The reluctance to share was still strong. In fact, it was growing stronger. Which was why he was now here.
Satisfied with the acknowledgement, Ryoya continued on with his incessant chatters until the three of them finally arrived at the gate of their residence.
Ryoma was the one to push open the gate. Only a step in, he stopped. His eyes were wide with disbelief.
"Onii-sama?" Puzzled at Ryoma's reaction, Ryoya getly pushed his twin further in. The sight before him would have garnered the same reaction of shock had he not anticipated this. He turned to his friend. "So this is the trouble you get into with the Immigration," he stated in a neutral voice.
Lizzie just shrugged her shoulders. "I can't leave my precious ingredients behind, can I? I do not know whether I can find them here or not."
"Ingredients?" Finally Ryoma reacted. He had a bad feeling about this. Unbidden, his twin's words came back to him, "I have a friend who likes to invent ways to cook insects or any type of unusual foods…" Chill that had nothing to do with nature ran through his blood as he stared at the dozens of cages containing different types of insects along the path to the main door.
"For my special food. I'm always trying new menus…." Lizzie trailed off as she saw the warning from Ryoya. She was tempted to pout herself. How was she going to cope with seducing a boy who couldn't stomach her unique interest? Her lips thinned in displeasure. Truth be told, she had not yet found another that adored her cooking except Ryoya, which was one of the reason he was so ….dear to her. She glanced at her friend out of the corner of her eyes. A smile tinged with bitterness and self-derision hung on her mouth when she saw his whole attention was focused on his precious twin.
Ryoma promptly turned and headed back out of the gate.
"Onii-sama? Where are you going?" Ryoya asked anxiously.
"Walk," Ryoma answered shortly without looking back. However, he did stop his progress.
Ryoya's face brightened mischievously. "Why don't you bring Lizzie with you and show her around?" When he saw the reluctance in his twin's posture, he quickly cajoled, "She is new here and someone should show her around. I have a test to study for. Please…?"
Ryoma wanted so much to deny his twin but a glance at the pleading puppy-eyed look and he had lost the battle. "Hn." He walked out of the gate without waiting for the girl. Even though he knew it was futile, he had still hoped that the girl would feel that she was unwelcome and refrained from following. Once again, luck was not on his side.
Half an hour and several streets later found the American girl still clinging to Ryoma's uncooperative right arm. Uncomfortable silence had descended upon them; each busy with their own thoughts.
Although Ryoma did not shake the girl off, it did not mean he was happy about it. However, this wasn't on his mind at the moment. He was busy wondering whether he would be able to ditch the annoying girl and meet up with Fuji-senpai. His mind came up sith various scenarios and ideas which appealed to his sadistic side. However, in the end, he abandoned them. He knew he wouldn't do that to his twin's friend. He shouldn't have gotten out of the bed at all this morning.
Ryoma's thoughts switched to the smiling tensai, who was probably waiting for him to make an appearance. He wondered if he should give Fuji-senpai a call to cancel. It was not as if he promised him he would go.
"Hey, Isn't that one of the senpai in tennis club?"
Lizzie's voice drew Ryoma out of his reverie. He glanced curiously to where the girl pointed. Sure enough it was….Fuji-senpai…..together with a beautiful sophisticated older woman. A pang of something hit his heart. He tugged the cap lower over his eyes.
"So he likes older woman. I have never suspected this." Perhaps Ryoya's right. He is no threat though not for the reason he gave. She was too focused on the pair and her thoughts that she did not notice the slight tensing of the boy beside her.
"Let's go." Ryoma walked in the direction they had come from, away from the happy couple.
"Huh?" Lzzie stared at the back of Ryoma.
"I don't want Fuji-senpai to see us together or there will be no stopping the teasing," Ryoma said tersely.
It was sound reasoning but Lizzie couldn't help feeling that she had missed something here. She gave Ryoma's back a calculating stare but quickly discarded the suspicion. She did not know him well enough to come to any conclusion.
"Lizzie is a really good girl. She is smart. There was once when she…."
Ryoma mentally shut out Ryoya's voice. Any other day, he would be able to tolerate them but not today. He was too tired. Yet as he lay on the bed, he couldn't fall asleep. He turned onto his side, his back towards Ryoya, facing the wall.
The scene flashed through his mind again and again. It was a wonder how vivid they were – he could see clearly the smiles on their faces, the happiness shining in their eyes. Ryoma closed his eyes tightly, forcing himself to forget, to sleep. A tear rolled down his face but he made no move to wipe them off.
His mind was in turmoil yet he couldn't find a reason. His heart ache but he could not come up with an answer. All he knew was that the scene he saw today was something he did not want to see….EVER.
Even after Ryoya had turned off the light and gone to sleep, Ryoma was still wide awake trying to figure out an answer. Finally, he came to one conclusion: it must be because seeing Fuji-senpai dating instead of waiting for their match meant that he had lost a training partner. One that could match him in skills and talent.
Besides this reason, he couldn't find another plausible one. Besides Ryoya and Karupi, and perhaps to a lesser degree, his parents, tennis was the only thing in his life that is able to bring up such a strong emotion in him. Satisfied that he finally had an answer, Ryoma closed his eyes.
Just as he was drifting into the much-needed sleep, a thought slipped in unnoticed to his conscious mind. He had never shed a tear over tennis.
Several days of matches later, it was down to the last one to decide who would be going. The first two candidates had already won their matches. They were standing at the side being congratulated by their team mates.
It was certainly a fine evening for the match. The blue sky was tinged with a hue of orange indicating that it was evening. It was not a very windy day and right now, the air was still, as if holding its breath at the anticipation just like all the tennis club members surrounding the court to watch the final match.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the referees had given the signal and the matches began.
About an hour later, the third and also the last candidate was decided. The tennis club members crowded around the winner. Some patted him on his back enthusiastically while others offered words of congratulations. Only a handful went over to the unfortunate member to give words of encouragement.
Ryoya was standing in the middle of the court, in a daze. He did not notice when his team mates talked to him or even patted his shoulders. Only a sentence repeated in his mind – 6 to 4 Arai's win.
Finally, the boy gave an indication that he was still in the world of the living. A whisper passed through his shaking lips, "I lost?" As his own whisper registered in his mind as reality, panic started to rise. "What am I going to do now?"
To be continued...
A/N: How was it? Like it? Please tell me. And by the way, can anyone guess who the woman with Fuji is? Review!