That was her first impression of him. They were only first years, yet already he had commanded most of the school's attention without even meaning to. Or perhaps he did. One never really knew what he was thinking.
Tezuka Kunimitsu was only a freshman, but his prowess in tennis spread like wildfire in the school, and soon the district, and almost every person had heard about the boy who made it to one of the top spots. He didn't stop, nor did he look anywhere but straight ahead, just like he played the sport. She, of course, was the first to know because she played tennis too.
Back then the girl's tennis team was at its peak. The season was a record high and they were going to nationals. But nobody really paid attention because their eyes were on the boy who rose to the top, even when an angry upperclassman hurt his arm for daring to think he was better. And when the girl's team lost in the semi-finals and nobody was watching, she decided to blame him.
She had been watching him as well.
That was second year. She was never in any of his classes, but she saw him oft in between classes, at lunch, and, of course, on the tennis courts. And during those times, there was almost always a girl (or five) hanging around, watching him in either open love or shy admiration. He was a tennis star, and a good-looking one to boot.
But, no matter how many times a girl trailed him outside, or followed him during lunch, or spied on him during class, or crowded the benches outside the tennis courts… either he was not paying attention or he was ignoring them, because he never showed the least bit of interest.
She thought he just hadn't hit that stage in puberty yet, but after he rejected an admirer for the fifth time in a row, she decided he was utterly devoid of hormones. A normal boy would never refuse so many pretty girls, even if he were picky. She concluded that if he was that unemotional towards the opposite sex, then there was no reason for her to pursue him like the other girls. She was perfectly happy with this, since it gave her more time to study and play tennis, not to mention a heart that was intact. The last bit alone was enough to keep her from becoming another face in the crowd of Tezuka-fans.
Despite this, she still found her eyes on him.
It had been raining that day.
She was playing tennis. Or rather, she was hitting the ball against the wall since nobody else wanted to practice in the rain. It was an unspoken Golden Rule for the girls: no playing tennis in the rain.
She had scoffed, knowing the reason was not just because it would ruin the balls. Not for the first time she wished the girls had as much or more enthusiasm as the boys. They had no problem playing in the sleet, and look at them now, all training hard to win nationals.
At second year she was already the vice-captain, and nobody but the captain and herself seemed to take tennis seriously. Most of the girls were new, having no idea what the experience of the team was like the last year. She knew what it was like. She remembered the feeling of victory in her grasp, ready to become a trophy in the display hall of the school. The knowledge that all their sweat and toil would finally be recognized.
The realization that it would not come true.
Tezuka Kunimitsu. She didn't know whether to hate or admire him.
She had gritted her teeth and hit the ball hard. But her grip was wrong and the shock of the impact made her drop her tennis racquet. Suddenly she felt her energy leave her, as if the sound of the racquet hitting the ground completely drained her. As she kneeled on the ground, the rain hitting her relentlessly, she didn't hear the footsteps behind her.
"You should grip it higher."
It was Tezuka Kunimitsu. She turned and saw him standing under an umbrella wearing the school uniform and his stoic expression in place. For a moment she couldn't register that he was standing there, looking at her wet and soggy state.
Finally she nodded, "Thank you," standing and retrieving her racquet. She didn't say that it was an honor to merit such advice from THE Tezuka Kunimitsu, nor did he wait around to hear it. She had watched his tall form walk away, solid and alone in the pouring rain, and realized she was going to get pneumonia if she continued gaping after him.
It wasn't until later that she wondered how long he had been watching her.
From that day on she continued watching him, whether it was during lunch, after school, during resting periods, or on the court. Just, this time with a totally new awareness, and without the other girls. This made her feel slightly closer to him than any of his fans.
A feeling made stronger when she found out he knew her name...
"What?" She blinked in surprise, wondering if she heard right or if she was imagining things. "Me?" He stared back at her, completely serious.
"You're my partner for this project." The teacher had assigned the class a project on the first day of school. Now a third year, she was in the same history class as him. She had been daydreaming and hadn't heard the teacher announce the partners. Shocked at this stroke of luck, she nodded and they began the project.
She was well aware of the jealous glares she received from the girls whenever she and Tezuka were working together, but she was too preoccupied to care. As the captain of the girl's tennis team she had assumed new responsibilities that before she thought were mundane. On top of that she had regular studies and high school to think about.
It wasn't exactly a comfort to know that he was a fellow captain as well. Even though he was busy with the task of leading his team to the very top, he still managed to balance his studies and scholarships efficiently. He had top grades in all his classes, and it didn't help that her only class with him was the one class he truly excelled in.
And he still showed no interest in the girls who practically threw themselves at his feet. This gave her little reassurance since that meant she could very well be one of them. Still, he knew her name, and that gave her hope.
Maybe he would recognize her in the crowd of groveling girls.
She had been sweating that day he came to see her during tennis practice. It was hot, hot, as if the sun itself was sweating. The girls were just as hot and sweaty, and were ready to call quits. But when they saw Tezuka Kunimitsu striding towards the courts, they suddenly all scrambled to do the drills that only a few seconds before they would've given anything not to do. She would've given him credit for accomplishing what she'd been trying to do all season, but at that moment she was horrified. The coach had given them permission to practice in the minimum amount of clothes possible.
"Ah, er, can I help you…?" He stopped in front of her.
"The project. It's due tomorrow."
She nodded. "Yes." In the corner of her eye she could see the girls watching them. "We just need to print it, right?"
"The computer lab and the library will be closed tomorrow."
She blinked. He added, "I can't meet tonight."
A girl's whisper. "Can you hear what they're saying?"
"We need to finish it now," he stated.
"Did he just ask her on a date…?"
"No! Didn't you hear him?"
"Their tryst is off tonight."
"But are they, you know..."
Before she left with him, she ordered the girls to run fifty laps.
It was half an hour later when they finished. She helped gather the scrap papers while he put together the project. When they were ready to go, she smiled.
"Good work. I guess I'll see you tomorrow?"
He nodded. As he walked past her, she suddenly noticed something, and called to him.
"How tall are you?"
He paused. "179 cm."
It was funny, she thought as he left. Back when they were freshmen she remembered being taller than him. Now she had to tilt her head to look him in the eye. When had he grown so tall?
Was it possible that she wasn't always watching him?
She struggled to find a word to describe him. He was not cold. Not when he was concerned of other's well being over himself (to a certain extent). He was not impassive, especially when he was clearly passionate about tennis and history. She knew there was a word, but she couldn't quite place her finger on it.
What is he…?
It is graduation and the ceremony has come to an end. She feels happy and tired, but when the Seigaku boy's tennis team comes to gather around their captain, she doesn't want to leave yet.
"Congratulations. Your graduating is both a happy and sad event."
She moves closer as one of the second years laugh.
"Yeah! Did you see all those girls crying in the stands? I thought they were going to drown out the stadium."
"What does that have to do with Buchou?"
"Idiot, they were crying because of him!"
"Heh, Tezuka, don't you feel guilty? You broke so many girls' hearts."
For the first time she sees a flash of surprise cross his face.
And finally, at the end of the three years she's known him, she found the word.
A/N: …Let me explain. This isn't a couple pairing or anything, just something I thought might exist. Might. After all, there IS a girl's tennis team, and Tezuka actually goes to school to study as well as play tennis. Maybe I'm stretching it… but I wanted to write something from an outsider's point of view… a window into the Tezuka Zone... just like that. Ha ha.
For those who do not know what "the word" is... It is the title. XD
And I do not own Prince of Tennis. Disclaimer disclaimer and disclaimer.
Thank you so much for reading!