Four or Five
Chapter I- "Call Us What We Are!"
The first forty-five people to sign up would get to go on an all expense paid trip to the finest tennis camp in all the land. It was impossible to pass up the opportunity, so naturally there was a mad rush for the sheet only seconds after it was announced. And, merely seconds after that, the sheet was filled with the names of only the forty-five most fortunate tennis players ever to have lived.
Well, that's what they thought anyway. None of them knew the true horror that would befall them.
Ryuuzaki, Sakaki, Banji and Ojii (several of the coaches of various teams, in case you didn't know) were all sitting around drinking tea (since they're best friends, in case you didn't know that either) and wondering what they were going to do with their horrible situation.
"I feel horrible for mishearing the guidelines," sighed Ojii. "If I had known that he said 'four or five' and not 'forty-five' then I most certainly would not have allowed forty-five people to sign up!"
"But now we have a serious problem," Ryuuzaki pointed out. "We have forty-five tennis players who believe they are going to an all expense paid tennis camp."
"Can't we just tell them we made a mistake?" Banji pondered.
"No!" Sakaki said immediately. "If we admit to making a mistake then we'll never live it down! Just think of the consequences! Besides, how are we supposed to choose five people who get to go out of the entire list of forty-five?"
"I suppose we could just have them all vote for who most deserves it," Ryuuzaki shrugged.
"No, that won't work," Sakaki said. "Because then they'd all know that we messed up."
"Sakaki has a point," Ojii said. "We're the coaches. We shouldn't mess up."
"So what do we do?" Banji asked.
"Well…" Ryuuzaki started. "I was GOING to suggest it before, but I thought you would all think I was crazy. To tell the truth, I've been wanting to do this anyway just for kicks but I didn't think you guys would go for it."
"What?" the males asked.
"Making a competition," Ryuuzaki said.
"A tennis competition?" they chimed.
"No, not a tennis competition!" Ryuuzaki snapped. "That would give an unfair advantage to those who are better at tennis!"
"Obviously," said Sakaki.
"But the point of a tennis camp is for the weaker players to get better while the better players are perfecting their skills," Ryuuzaki pointed out. "It would be pointless to just send the five best players when there are others who would benefit from it more."
"All right, all right, what's your idea then?" Banji said.
"Listen up, everyone, I only want to have to say this once…" Ryuuzaki said as she leaned in and started whispering.
The males nodded their heads and said, "Uh-huh…"
Occasionally they drew back and looked shocked, but the idea was so addictive like Jenga that they had just keep listening. It continued like this for quite a while until Sakaki suddenly jumped up on a chair and exclaimed, "BRILLIANT!"
"So it's good then?" Ryuuzaki inferred.
"Of course!" said Sakaki. "Not only will we eventually decide who deserves to go to the tennis camp through utterly pointless means, but we will also be entertained for a few days at our players' expense!"
"Could it get any better?" Ojii said.
"Probably not," Banji admitted.
A few days later, all the players who had been put on the infamous list of forty-five were summoned to meet at the tennis courts. They had all assumed they would be playing tennis so they brought their gear, but were surprised to discover that tennis was actually not on the agenda.
"So about that tennis camp…" Ryuuzaki started, and everyone immediately groaned because they had known it was too good to be true. "Now, now! There's no need for that!"
"What's the problem?" Atobe demanded. His name happened to be the first on the list because he had connections.
"We weren't being entirely truthful when we said all forty-five of you would be attending the tennis camp," Ryuuzaki lied. "The truth is… only five of you will be able to go."
"Then why did you have all of us sign up?" demanded an angry mob of adolescence.
"Now, now," said Sakaki. "We're trying to find the five people who are most worthy of going on this trip, so you will have to prove yourself."
There was more annoyed groaning.
"We haven't even told you what you had to do," Ojii remarked. "At least wait for us to tell you what you have to do."
They decided to give their coaches the benefit of the doubt and allow them to at least explain the horribleness that would occur in their near future. The coaches looked at each other and elected Sakaki as the best one to explain what was going to happen.
"We have split you into eight groups of five…" began Sakaki.
But he was unable to continue because everyone had dropped to their knees, shaking their fists at the heavens while exclaiming, "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
"AT LEAST LISTEN TO US!" Sakaki shouted over their wails.
After everyone settled down and stood back up, Sakaki adjusted his collar and continued.
"Be sure to get accustomed to sharing time with the people in your group because if your group wins then those are the people you will be going to the tennis camp with," Sakaki said. "And you will also be competing alongside those people."
"Essentially, the better you guys get along, the more likely you are to win," Banji said helpfully.
The group half-heartedly agreed as Banji gestured for Sakaki to go on.
"Each team, after establishing team leader, will receive a task for the day," Sakaki said. "The task will test your abilities both within and outside of tennis so it's important you all take it seriously and combine your strengths."
"How many of these tasks are we going to have to do?" came Momo's voice from the large mob.
"All the smaller tasks lead up to one giant task at the end," Sakaki said. "You will receive a penalty that will inhibit you from completing the final task depending on how well you perform in the small task. The more small tasks you win, the better you're likely to do in the large task, so take every moment seriously."
There was uncomfortable shifting from the group. No one wanted to be apart of this adventure.
"Also, we have already assigned the groups," Ryuuzaki said. "So if someone drops out, then everyone else in the group will be forced to drop out as well."
"Basically, unless you want to make four enemies, we recommend you stay and compete," Ojii said.
The group became even more uncomfortable after that.
"Each team will have a team color," said Sakaki as he whipped out a clipboard and stepped aside to reveal a large box of colored shirts. "We got a t-shirt for everyone that you must wear when attending the tasks and challenges. However, if you have another shirt or outfit that is the same color, feel free to wear that one as well."
"Care to inform them what their groups are?" Banji suggested.
"I was getting to that," Sakaki said with a smile. "We put a lot of thought into these group assignments so take them to heart."
Ryuuzaki fished five blue shirts out of the box.
"Team One: The Captains," Sakaki read from the clipboard, and everyone gasped as they looked around for the captains that were present. He opened his mouth to speak, but then he stopped and looked like he was about to start chuckling.
"What?" said Ryuuzaki, looking over his shoulder to see what was so very amusing.
"It's nothing," said Sakaki. "I just noticed that four out of five of the captain's names start with K, and it was just initially funny to me."
All the captains whose names start with K slapped their foreheads.
"So anyway," Sakaki went on. "Team One: The Captains! Aoi from Rokkaku, Atobe from Hyoutei, Tachibana from Fudomine, Tezuka from Seigaku and Yukimura from Rikkai Dai."
"Hey…he's right," said Eiji, looking amused.
"Selecting a team captain for THIS team will be quite arduous," Tachibana commented under his breath as he took a blue shirt.
"Can I be team captain, guys?" Kentarou asked. "It'll be great. Cause… I'm a 1st year and you guys are the complete opposite of that."
The other four just stared at him. Then they glared at anyone who was on Rokkaku for daring to elect him as their captain and indirectly forcing them to spend time with him.
"This is ALREADY going so well!" said Ojii even though it obviously wasn't true.
"Next up…" Sakaki said as Ryuuzaki took out five yellow shirts. "Team Two: Doubles. This team is composed of people who generally play doubles."
"WE FIGURED," said all the impatient people who just wanted to get all this craziness over with.
"Itsuki from Rokkau, Kikumaru from Seigaku, Kisarazu from St. Rudolph, and Mukahi and Ootori from Hyoutei," said Sakaki.
After the initial shock of not being placed on the same team as their regular double's partner, everyone in the named group came up to get their yellow shirts.
"I don't understand…" said Eiji. "Oishi plays doubles just as much as me! Why isn't he on the doubles team with me?"
"Well, obviously they only took one of each pair…" Gakuto said as he reached out for Oshitari as if he was a million miles away. Which he was…in Gakuto's heart. If only he were closer…in Gakuto's heart. But I don't mean metaphorical distance but literal distance because Oshitari seems a lot more far away from Gakuto than he actually is because Gakuto wants Oshitari to be CLOSER!!
Whoa…that made no sense.
ANYWAY, then Itsuki said, "Why am I in this group?"
"Because you play doubles?" Atsushi suggested. "Just a wild guess."
"So yeah…" Sakaki cleared his throat as he caught Choutarou trying to fight back his tears as he took and yellow shirt when Shishido wasn't. "The next group. They will be in orange. Team Three: The Hard Workers. Obviously, these are the people who are not necessarily the best, but definitely work the hardest."
"OH MY GOD WE DON'T NEED AN EXPLANATION!" screamed everyone.
"SO," Sakaki raised his voice in response. "We have Inui and Kaidou from Seigaku, Shishido from Hyoutei, and Yuuta and Mizuki from St. Rudolph."
"MIZUKI?" Fuji exclaimed. "HARD WORKING?"
Yuuta looked a little distressed with not only being stuck with Mizuki, but also at the thought of his elder brother's future actions regarding this fact.
"Yes, of course," said Mizuki as he slipped Sakaki some cash when no one was looking.
"I don't remember deciding on Mizuki," Ryuuzaki admitted.
"Well, that's what we decided on!" Sakaki announced.
"Whatever, let's just do this so we can get on with our lives!" Shishido announced as he took an orange shirt and winced at its brightness.
"I expect our team to win, don't you?" Inui said to Kaidou simply because neither of them had said anything.
"Yeah," said Kaidou for the very same reason.
"Next up!" said Sakaki. "We have the team that will be in RED! Team Four: The Tall Team!"
Sakaki was about to follow up with an explanation as to who would compose that particular team, but he realized that would just be a waste of air.
"This team consists of," Sakaki looked back to his clipboard. "Kabaji from Hyoutei, Kawamura from Seigaku, Yanagi and Sanada from Rikkai Dai, and Kurobane from Rokkaku."
"The premise of this team is dumb," said Bane because no one else said it first. But then he looked at his team and realized that none of them would have probably said it. Then it made him even sadder because he didn't want to be stuck with a dumb team founded on a dumb premise.
"At least I like the color red," said Taka optimistically.
"Excuse me, but Inui is actually taller than I am," said Renji to the coaches.
"But Inui is already on a team," Ojii pointed out.
Renji just stood there. "And so is Ootori," he said.
"Again, he is already on a team as well," Ojii said.
"Why am I always with people who are so much shorter than I am?" Choutarou looked around at his teammates. No one wanted to tell him that it comes with being freakishly tall at the age of thirteen because they didn't want him to start crying since he was pretty much on the verge of tears already.
"I feel bad for whatever team ends up wearing pink…" Sanada observed the pink shirts in the box.
"Ironically enough, Team Five will always wear pink," Sakaki said. "They are… The Freshmen."
Everyone could see Ryoma's expression slightly change from that of "stoic smugness" to that of "slightly less stoic but still entirely smug."
"This team will consist of Echizen, Horio, Katou and Mizuno from Seigaku, and Dan from Yamabuki," Sakaki read.
"Why are those guys even here?" came whispers among the crowd. "How did they even get on the list?"
"All right, this is going to be the best team ever!" exclaimed Katsuo.
"Yes, we will show our freshman pride!" exclaimed Horio.
It's a good thing Ryoma wanted to go to this tennis camp so badly or else he probably would have shot himself right then and there.
Everyone enjoyed a good chuckle at the newly dubbed Worst Team Forevermore. Which of course is too much to have to write every time so they will now be referred to as… the WTF team! YAY!
The people that were remaining kept scanning the group, trying to figure out what attributes they shared with which people. The people already in groups started to take bets.
"What about people with outrageous colored hair?" Shishido suggested to Yuuta since they happened to be standing next to each other.
"Exactly who draws the line between something outrageous and something not outrageous?" said Mizuki since he believes he is entitled to every conversation that Yuuta is apart of.
"TEAM SIX!" Sakaki raised his voice. "Even though there are many second years among you, we have decided on five who will just represent the entire '2nd Year' group. This team will always wear purple! And they are… Ibu and Kamio from Fudomine, Amane from Rokkaku, and Momoshiro from Seigaku."
The five had mixed feelings about their assignments, but more or less took their feminine purple shirts without complaints. David didn't even have a ridiculous pun! But don't worry. They will come. Someday.
Because the 2nd Years were so well behaved, Sakaki was able to move on right away to the next group: "Team Seven: 3rd Years! Like the group before you, except you're in you're third year instead of your second."
Some people felt like strangling him, but they refrained. The only question was which people would be in the group out of the third years that remained.
"Akutagawa from Hyoutei, Kisarazu and Saeki from Rokkaku, Yanagisawa from St. Rudolph, and Oishi from Seigaku will all be wearing green and representing the third years!" said Sakaki.
As they stepped forward to receive their shirts, everyone looked back to see who remained; Fuji, Oshitari, Marui, Kirihara and Sengoku. Everything quickly became apparent to them what the requirements for this particular group were.
"And finally…er… Team Eight: The Leftover People!" announced Sakaki.
"WHAT?" demanded the so called 'leftovers'. "Call us what we are!"
"Fine, fine…" said Sakaki. "We were hoping no one would notice."
"I know you were trying to throw everyone off by including Kirihara here…" Fuji said.
"How dare you!" said Kirihara. "I belong more in this group than you do!"
Everyone gave him a look that said, "You are stupid."
"Okay fine, I deserved that look," Kirihara punished himself. "Well, I belong more in this group than Sengoku!"
"I do TOO belong in this group!" argued Sengoku. "If anyone doesn't belong, it's Marui! YOU'RE self proclaimed!"
"That's not true!" said Marui. "I belong! If one person should be kicked out, it should be…"
Then he paused and looked at Oshitari and Fuji who were both standing there in all their glory. He turned his attention back to Sengoku. "YOU!"
"Enough, enough!" said Sakaki. "This team will wear black."
"You still haven't referred to us by our PROPER names," said Oshitari. He knew that everyone was already fully aware with what their actual name was, but he just wanted to hear Sakaki say it.
Sakaki sighed. "Fine…" he said. "Team Eight: The Geniuses."
Almost as if they had rehearsed it, all five of them struck a pose that suggested they were either saying or thinking: OH YEAH.
There were some tears among the other people who wished they were apart of such a prestigious group, but they could do nothing about it as they watched the Geniuses take their black shirts.
"All right!" said Ryuuzaki. "Now that's over and done with! The first thing on our agenda is picking out the team captain for each group! This team captain will remain consistent throughout all the competitions so we're going to ensure that the proper person is elected!"
"And how is said person going to be elected?" said Tezuka since his group was by far the most concerned with this little part of the games.
"We're glad you asked," said Banji. "It will take some time, so you should all get comfortable. When your group is not being tested, please wait outside the courts. The first group we need is Team One: The Captains. So don your blue jerseys and join us on the tennis courts."
All the other teams retreated to the other side of the fence and watched in silent wonder as their much admired captains bravely took what was coming to them.