Rating: T

Gene: Romance

Starring: Atobe Keigo, and Ryuuzaki Sakuno

Pairing (s): AtoSaku

Summary: "Well, its not everyday ore-sama tries to ask Ryuuzaki-sensei for her granddaughters' hand." How they met, and how their love developed. A story of the beautiful melody Atobe and Sakuno make, with the many complications. Will there be a happily ever after for this couple?

Warning (s): Spoilers to the Hyoutei vs. Seishun match in the Kantou tournament.

Melody we Make

"Can you hear that sound, Sakuno-chan?"

"(1) H-Hai…it's so loud."

"It's the sound of ore-sama's heart beating…"

"…Ano, are you nervous, Keigo-kun?"

"No. Ore-sama never gets nervous."

"That's silly, Keigo-kun. Everyone gets nervous."

"Fine. Ore-sama will admit that he's a little nervous."

"A little?"

"Well, it's not everyday ore-sama tries to ask Ryuuzaki-sensei for her granddaughter's hand."

The fierce rays of December sunlight beat down on Sakuno's back as she blend in perfectly with the vast crowd of Seishun students. It was quite simple to get lost in the immense horde, to have your face forgotten among many others. Sakuno never cared about that, though. As long as she remained unnoticed, uncared for, she didn't care. She didn't want anyone bringing any extra, unneeded, attention towards her. That way, she could get through school easily, there would be no one to bother her. It was better that way. It always was.

Sakuno was never lonely. She never considered the thought of loneliness. She had Tomoka, she had Ryoma, and her seniors that would do just about anything for her; they took the greatest care of her. She had her (2) Obaa-chan, who was very protective. What more could she want? Were two best friends, her seniors, her Obaa-chan not enough for her? At least, Sakuno never considered herself as a 'lonely' individual before. At least, not before she met him. If, at the time, she thought herself as lonely, then he was abandoned. But he didn't act like it, not at all. Anyone who didn't know the 'real' him would envy him, but Sakuno just pitied him. Because she could see right through that arrogant façade he often wore.

"Sakuno." Hearing the familiar voice, Sakuno turned around to face her Obaa-chan. She looked tired, her eyes dull. She had a stack of papers, most likely tennis related, fluttering in every direction, her face reeked with fatigue. Sakuno walked up to her, asking if she was all right. Sumire just laughed it off, waving her hands as to dismiss the subject. "That wasn't why I called you, Sakuno." She said as-a-matter-of-factly. The young girl's widened, wondering what on Earth her Obaa-chan had called her for. Sensing Sakuno's distress, Sumire continued, "You see Sakuno, Seishun has a tennis match against Hyoutei in one week and I need an important letter delivered to Sasaki, their tennis coach."

Sakuno shifted her weight to one leg, then the other. The cold breeze blew violently, sending her braided pigtails in two opposite directions. Sakuno frowned deeply, "(3) Ano! Obaa-chan, don't tell me you want me to go give Sasaki-san the letter." A small whine was heard, the girl's bottom lip trembling. The idea of going to such a… prestigious school… scared her to no end. "Obaa-chan, Ryoma-kun tells me that everyone who goes there is so full of themselves and… (4) eto, Obaa-chan…" Even though Sumire hadn't suggested it yet, the younger Ryuuzaki knew it was coming.

And in the end, she knew she couldn't refuse her.

(5) Mou… Sakuno's train of thought wasn't very complicated; she could only wonder how her Obaa-chan got her to come. I don't really like this. A couple of girls passed by, laughing at a joke the other made. I feel so self-conscious, everyone here is so good-looking. Unfolding the crumpled piece of paper the Seishun coach wrote the directions on, Sakuno sighed heavily. Even though the weather was unpleasantly cold, Sakuno only felt a warm tinge of regret. As she neared the school, which she noticed was much larger than her own, her body began to numb. "Ano… now where was I supposed to go?" The soft-spoken words were drowned out in the noise of everyone around.

She couldn't understand how anyone could attend such a school. Or at least, anyone like her. Everyone here was loud, they believed in themselves above all else, they showed-off continually, she noticed. She couldn't come to this school. She just wouldn't fit in. She would be an outsider. At all these thoughts, Sakuno shivered uncontrollably and not because of the cold. Searching the vast fields, she decided to start at the tennis courts only to notice that there were much more, in number, than Seishun.

What seemed like hours passed, which really was merely half an hour, in which Sakuno spent circling the same area. She was far too frightened to ask someone for directions; afraid they'd do something or another to scare her. She wasn't a very social person when it came to strangers. Sakuno didn't see any teachers, either. It seemed pointless; to search for someone you knew wasn't there. (6) Baka Sakuno! Sakuno blushed at her own stupidity as she started to pick up speed, turning a corner and standing in front of the main entrance to Hyoutei Gakuen. Sasaki-san would be inside. Obaa-chan told me he was also a music teacher. "Mou, I really am a baka." Her pale hands outlined the door handle, mentally deciding whether to go home and tell the coach that Sasaki wasn't there, or to be brave an enter the impressive school.

The Seishun first-year's steps were light, walking with anything but confidence down the hallways, even though everyone at this point was gone. Sakuno kept her head hung low, unsure of herself, feeling more insecure than usual. The school was empty, but it wasn't just the self-assured students that intimidated Sakuno; the school itself seemed to be mocking her, the corridors meandered, as if made just to get the shy girl lost.

"How can I hold you back
As you hurried away without turning around once

Sakuno whispered to herself, staring blankly ahead of her. "(7) N-Nani?" It was a closed door, what or who was in it was unknown but Sakuno couldn't help but wonder, the fact that she was lost hadn't even crossed her mind once. But the music… it was such a beautiful sound, the sound of someone singing. Her feet started to automatically drag her in front of the large wooden door, the tiny white envelope in her hands long forgotten. The song had lost her in her own world, her delicate pale ears placed carefully against the door; she didn't want them to stop because they knew she was there.

"If only I could just snatch away your smile, which was for someone else
I can only suppress the urge to hold you close

From the small opened crack in the door, Sakuno could only dare herself to peek inside. Taking a deep breath, she popped a small portion of her head inside the entrance. And there he was, accompanied by a grand piano, his trim fingers running smoothly up and down the attractive instrument, a harmonious sound softly bleeding from. Sakuno blushed, feeling as if she was invading his privacy. She shouldn't even be here, she had a task to complete for her Obaa-chan. Although, that only seemed like the past now. "Wow… he's good." Sakuno breathed in awe, closing her eyes and allowing the melody to seep through her and bring her into a world of broken fantasies and forgotten dreams.

His slender hands dropped, his face slightly colored, but luckily Sakuno was too mortified to notice the heat spreading across his features. The piano no longer making the same supple hum it was a second ago. And suddenly, the music stopped. As simply as she had heard the melodious piece of music, it had come to a complete stop.

As well as Sakuno's heart, whether she was breathing or not was a mystery to her now. The boy with the intense cobalt eyes turned his cool gaze toward her, Sakuno instantly feeling small and insignificant. His face was perfect and beautiful; Sakuno saw, as he looked back at her, the silence between them awkward. None said a word before finally he spoke up, his voice uncomfortable but at the same time it contained a certain presence of royalty.

"And what, pray tell, were you doing spying on (8) ore-sama?" Sakuno opened her mouth to speak, humiliated. He ran a finger down his buttoned uniform, making himself more than simply presentable, as he stood up and walked towards her, his steps were just as graceful as his presence. But before she could get a word in, he spoke up again, a little annoyed. "Ore-sama knows that everyone would die to hear his elegant voice, but that gives you no right to spy on him, little girl." He wore a look of disgust, looking down at Sakuno as she was backed up against the hard timber-like wall, filled with all sorts of awards presented to Hyoutei Gakuen. "Now, just what is your business here? Ore-sama doesn't recognize you."

Sakuno tried to force her mouth work, praying for the right words to come out. She was used to being humiliated, but never like this. The fact that nothing would erupt from her tiny cherry-colored lips wasn't new, she was always at a loss of words for one thing or another, but this was different. He stood half-a-head taller than her, his head hung leveled to hers, his navy hair tickling her neck, but she felt more insecure than small. Why couldn't she feel minuscule instead of thinking of what he thought about her? The word Sakuno was looking for, she couldn't find; her eyes refused to stray away from that flawless face. Even on his head, there wasn't a single strand of hair out of place.

Sakuno felt unpleasant shivers down her back as he brought his cold hand to her face, carefully outlining her glass-like features with the tip of a finger. His face was mere inches away from hers and he brushed his lips softly against hers, only the traces of a kiss, but Sakuno's face still reddened. He was used to receiving endless squeals when he did this, but looking down at the chocolate-brown haired girl, he could only see traces of unhappiness.

Sakuno could feel tears brimming in the corner of her eyes. She shut her eyes tightly, taking a deep breath, "I'm so sorry but can you give this to Sasaki-san the coach of the boys' tennis team here at Hyoutei I was looking for him but I couldn't find him a-and…" Her words came out muddled, untidy and cluttered. He seemed a little taken aback when Sakuno held out the white envelope not in front of his face, but smacked up right against it. He tried to swat it away without much success.

"What? Are you demanding ore-sama of something? Ore-sama will have you know—" Atobe was just about to continue lecturing her, demanding a proper explanation, when he noticed her abnormally long pig-tails bouncing down the hallway, dragging her tiny body behind her, she was whimpering a long string of incoherent words, but Atobe was sure he heard the word 'sorry' quite a number of times. "(9) Oi, you think you can just run out on ore-sama like—" Before he knew it, she was out of sight. "—that…?" The only proof of her existence was the strong scent of strawberries she left behind.

The room was still, there was no music, no singing, not even the tiny breaths Atobe could hear when the girl breathed. There was no movement, and the silence was beginning to become deafening. Atobe normally enjoyed his scarce silence, but today it was just irritating. Why was it that it almost felt empty without that girl? It wasn't as if he knew her personally, Atobe didn't even know her name. He lingered behind for a while, still taking in what had just happened. Sighing, Atobe was glad that no one was around to witness such a sight. He would never live this down if any of the other Hyoutei regulars had seen, save Ohtori, Kabaji and Wakashi.

Sitting back down on the expensive piano chair, crossing his legs in an elegant, almost feminine manner, Atobe stared out the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of the girl before she left. Unsurprisingly, he had never gotten to see her again, the little spark of hope disappearing slowly. The imaginary flower he once saw was wilting away, like he knew he was only pretending to see it in the first place. The familiar silhouette never made its way out of the emerald green gardens of the school, and that almost… worried him.

"Why should I be worrying about her anyway?" The egoist snorted, tracing his fingers delicately along the piano. "I have much better things to do that stress over some girl. Some girl I'll never see again…" But, why did he want to see her again? Atobe had, never in the fourteen years of his life, been so mortified. He didn't like anyone listening to him sing; it actually made him feel slightly self-conscious.

Atobe didn't even know why. It was stupid. No one with the right mind was afraid to sing in front of others, or at least, in his opinion. He wasn't allowed to feel self-conscious. That was something commoners did. And he wasn't a commoner, he was Atobe Keigo. He was the 'King' of Hyoutei. King's didn't feel self-conscious. Ever. And for that, Atobe kept this well-known fact only to himself. Although he was sure Sasaki was beginning to suspect something.

Speaking of Sasaki-sensei… Atobe held out the now crumpled letter, neatly uncurling the ends. She told me to give this to him. The third-year permitted himself to let out a long sigh. No one was around anyway; he didn't have to pretend to be perfect. He walked slowly to the glass windowsill, not gracefully, as he normally would have in the company of others, but awkwardly, taking only the smallest of steps at a time. He rested his head on his elbows, the gentle but cold breeze wafting the tips of his hair. But if I do see her again, I want to know why her reaction wasn't like the other girls. That fact alone, the way she treated him so uncomfortably, annoyed Atobe to no end.

"A-Atobe- (10) buchou, what are you doing in here?" The worried voice that belonged to Ohtori Choutarou echoed into the room, snapping the self-centered captain out of his trance. The navy-haired boy turned his head slowly to see the young power-house standing tall, an indifferent violin case in his hands. Atobe was relieved that it was only their (11) kouhai and not someone as loud mouthed as that double partner of his, that way he could simply leave without being bombarded with questions. The narcissist waved his hand airily, dismissing the topic.

Ohtori flinched from the look, but continued, "Atobe-buchou… this is Sasaki-sensei's music room. I-I mean, buchou why are you here so late? Everyone's gone… and uh, I was just about to start practice." The ashen-haired angel pointed vigilantly to the violin case in his hands. Atobe raise an eyebrow, was Ohtori like him? Could he only practice in the loneliness, when everyone was long gone? Ohtori smiled immensely, taking a seat on one of the many chairs, leisurely taking out his instrument, his pastel fingers checking the tuning. "Would you like to listen buchou?" His voice was soft and barely above a whisper.

Their kouhai was not like him. No one was like him. Atobe was simply discomfited and confused to the point whereas no one was like him. Of course, he masked his insecurities with confidence, his worries with his self-worth. No one needed to know about the 'real' Atobe. And maybe that was why he wanted to meet her again. Because he knew that she would be able to see right through him. Atobe made sure that the act he put on fooled everyone. And it did. It worked perfectly, of course it did, Atobe was the one who thought it up. But it worked too well. Even Atobe himself believed that that was the truth.

The captain bristled, jolting up from the window. "No thank you, Ohtori. Ore-sama is late for a very important meeting." He lied cautiously, watching the reaction of the younger boy. It wasn't much of a reaction, his face was simply worried. It wasn't the type of worry he received at home, the kind where everyone was nice to you just because you were rich. It was the genuine kind, the kind only friends could provide. If only Atobe would allow himself to have friends. He was cautious of those sorts of things. He couldn't know for sure; were they friends he earned?

Or friends his money earned?

Without hearing Ohtori's 'bye', the older boy darted out of the room; waiting the moment he would be able to return to the solitude his own room offered. Because Atobe Keigo needed no one. If you needed someone it meant that you were weak. Atobe was not weak, and because of that, he desired the support of no one, not even of himself. In his haste, the conceited boy had forgotten his amethyst jacket. He hadn't even noticed until the tips of his arms started to feel numb, his cheeks turning a rosy shade of pink.

For his childhood, Atobe was alone. He was used to the isolation. His parents didn't think it was the best idea to bring him to a public school, fearing the chances of kidnappers. Private school wasn't too much of a choice either, and the two thought it best if they hired a tutor to home school the heir to the Atobe thrown. Home school meant there was no other children to play with, home school meant seclusion. Atobe didn't consider himself a 'lonely' individual. He was downright abandoned.

Atobe continued walking down the long, commoner infested streets, nothing but his coffee-colored blazer to keep him warm. He didn't need the warmth of others. As long as he had what he had, Atobe would be all right. Heading home, he watched as the streets became darker, the red sun setting at its highest peak over the many trees. The red setting sun calls out to me. Walking against the quiet time… Atobe frowned, his mind wandering back to the girl. "You can't get something from nothing. I know that… but why am I trying?"

He sneezed, only now beginning to realize how cold it really was outside. Of all days I forgot my jacket. Slowly, Atobe heard a tiny, petulant noise erupt from his small stomach. Maybe skipping lunch today wasn't the best idea. He growled as he entered the extensive gardens of his mansion, ringing the luxurious doorbell, a little light-headed. A maid opened the door; letting the young master come inside, informing him of the worry he had put his parents through. "Ore-sama is going to sleep." Atobe said, too defensively. "Ore-sama expects no interruptions. From either his parents or the maids." He sauntered sophisticatedly up the endless stairs, leaving the maid naïve and clueless.

She silently wondered what had happened to the young master.

Sprawled across his over-sized bed, Atobe threw off his school blazer, leaving only his perfect, unstained white shirt, which was beneath, visible. If only he could remember that girl's name. He was certain he had seen her before… somewhere. Atobe sat up abruptly, something finally clicking itself into place in his head. And so, I ache… He placed a hand on his forehead, feeling feverish. Atobe was thrown into a coughing fit, trying to muffle the sound with his pillow. He couldn't catch a cold. Not now. He was and Atobe. An Atobe never caught a cold. He didn't want his mother rushing him to the hospital, outstretching the negligible circumstances. He had better things to think about. Like the pieces finally clicking, and tomorrow he was going to go to Seishun to see if his hunches were correct.

"Until tomorrow, Ryuuzaki… Sakuno."

"…Ryuuzaki Sakuno?" Sumire asked as she heard the small footsteps that belonged to her granddaughter enter the small home. It was a dappled evening, the specks of the red-orange sunset seeped into the house from the windows. "Did you give Sasaki the letter? Or was he out? Did you find the school? No one hurt you, did they!? If they did, you just say so, okay?" Sakuno blushed, fidgeting with her fingers as she gradually unlaced her boots, placing them soundly on the floor before entering the house. Sometimes, her Obaa-chan really was too overprotective for her own good.

Shaking her head, Sakuno rubbed her bare hands together, trying to accumulate warmth. "I gave this boy the letter…" Sakuno's face suddenly clouded, despair lounging around her, Oh no! I forgot to ask for his name! "(12) G-Gomenasai, Obaa-chan! I forgot to get his name… oh no! Obaa-chan, what if he doesn't know Sasaki-san? What if he doesn't even know the tennis team!?" Panic began to arise as Sakuno panted. Why do I always have to screw up? It seemed like a rhetorical question, and Sakuno knew it. The young girl hung her head low, showing her shame. "Gomenasai, Obaa-chan."

Her grandmother shook her head and gently placed a hand on Sakuno's shoulder. Sakuno peeked out from the corner of her eye, feeling the heat rush to her face. "You don't have to beat yourself up over it, Sakuno. I'll call Sasaki first thing tomorrow morning and ask if he received the letter, okay?" Shamefully, Sakuno nodded her head. What use was she if she couldn't even complete one simple task? Sumire sensed her suffering and continued telling her that it wasn't her fault and that she need not beat herself up over a simple mistake. After all, there was still a chance that the coach would receive the letter.

School the next day, was the longest day in Sakuno's life. She had never so intently watched the clock, wishing the time to go faster. She wanted to know whether or not that boy had given Sasaki the letter, which Sumire had pointed out held the playing order for their tennis match. Sakuno would never forgive herself for loosing something so important. "What if Ryoma-kun hates me for this?" Sakuno whispered to herself, glancing at the tennis prodigy sitting beside her, fast asleep in the middle of class. She took a deep breath as the bell rang, signaling the end of last period.

Sakuno, no matter how much she like to deny it, still had a childish crush on the tennis prodigy. She wasn't the only one; of course, there were many other girls who were in love with the quiet boy. Her best friend, Tomoka, was the president of the Ryoma Fan-club. Sakuno frustrated herself; everyone else was able to act freely on his or her feelings. And she… she wasn't. She was humiliated enough to have a crush on someone who didn't even notice her existence. She found herself pathetic. She could at least speak up sometimes, or tell him how she felt, even though she knew he would never hold the same feelings. But Sakuno knew that Ryoma had a tendency to ignore everything that was not related to tennis every now and then.

The young girl frowned as she saw that no one else was walking beside her. Usually she was accompanied by the optimistic Tomoka, and even time-to-time, the anti-social Ryoma. But never had she had to walk down the long corridors alone. But today, Tomoka was absent and Ryoma was being his usual self, sleeping under a random tree, and perhaps leisurely sipping away at a can of his favorite Ponta drink. Sakuno's frowned deepened at the thought of loneliness.

Taking clumsy steps, Sakuno nearly tripped over her own feet as she turned the corner. Securely placing her tan-jacket hood over her head, Sakuno walked out into the blinding sunlight and cool conditions. "Sakuno-chan!" Upon hearing her name, the brunette turned around quickly, her over-sized hazel orbs landing on one of her classmates. Seeing that she had caught Sakuno's attention, the girl continued. "There's a boy here to see you!" A tremendous amount of loud squeals could be heard as more girls started to run in the direction opposite of Sakuno. "He's really hot. You're so lucky Sakuno-chan!"

Feeling faint, Sakuno's eyes widened to the size of saucers. "T-T-There's a boy here to see me?" The words wouldn't process through the naïve girl's head and finally one of her other classmates' had dragged her outside. Sakuno tripped over an untied shoelace, her tiny body sent flying into unfamiliar arms as the shrieks doubled in amount. "W-What's going on?" She whimpered as the other girls started up at the figure that Sakuno still could not see. His body was sturdy but lean, Sakuno noticed, as she unburied her face. "Ano, excuse me, but who are—" She cut herself off as she gazed up at the boy from yesterday. Realizations struck Sakuno and she felt like she had just received a huge slap across her face. This was the boy from yesterday.

"Ladies, ladies. If it is not too much trouble, ore-sama would like to speak privately with Sakuno-san." Sakuno was sure he had emphasized the word 'privately' on purpose. Although, his voice was velvety against her ears, and that just made Sakuno feel even more insecure. Before Sakuno could get a chance to speak, his beautiful, pastel hand covered her own, and she was being pulled away with him. She shot her classmates' an apologetic look, and in return they just gave her huge, knowing grins.

He had led her quite a way from school, not turning around once as they walked. After Atobe was sure they were a safe distance away from any unwanted ears, he unwillingly let go of Sakuno's hand. It was just so small and warm that Atobe wanted to hold it again, but his pride and reputation kept him from actually doing so. "Ore-sama will have you know that he had never in his life… oi!" Facing Sakuno, he noticed that she appeared to be… crying, which was preposterous because no girl ever cried in the presence of Atobe Keigo. Sniffling, Sakuno tried to dry the tears before Atobe saw, but without much success.

"Look, ore-sama has no idea what he did, but… don't cry." The third-year finished off sort of ineffectually, unsure of what to do for the first time in his life. Atobe was always sure. He was as sure as sure could get. He was built on certainty. But being around this girl, he felt a new surge of emotions he had never once felt. Emotions he wanted locked up, emotions he never wanted to show. But by being around this girl, he was breaking his promises to himself. What was worse was that he couldn't even stay away from her, no matter how hard he tried.

She pulled him in towards her, and Atobe could do nothing to fight it. That, or he didn't want to fight it. Actually, the captain no longer knew what it was he wanted. Asides Sakuno, of course. "I'm so sorry. F-For yesterday… I just ran away." Sakuno confessed sincerely, bowing deeply. "And for listening to your singing if you didn't want me to." At the remembrance, Atobe actually blushed. He turned his back to Sakuno, who was too busy blubbering unneeded apologies to notice Atobe's uncomfortable ness of the matter. "Ah!" Sakuno smiled brightly, holding out an unsteady hand. "M-My name is Ryuuzaki Sakuno."

Atobe nodded in acknowledgement, turning around to grace her with his magnificent presence, once he was sure that his face was no longer scarlet. "Atobe Keigo." The Hyoutei president clasped his hand around Sakuno's, the younger student slightly flustered. Hmm, she really is too cute for her own good. Atobe's royal air seemed to not affect the girl in ways it normally did with other girls.

Instead of not being able to tear her gaze away from his face, Sakuno tried her best to avoid looking anywhere near Atobe's dark sapphire eyes. "Please excuse ore-sama's rudeness, but ore-sama would like to inform you that he has given Sasaki-sensei the letter." Why am I so nervous? Damn it, Keigo, pull yourself together. She is nothing more than another girl who will, soon enough, be awed by my prowess.

Sakuno's face brightened, and without realizing what she was doing, she flung herself at Atobe, who was surprised by the petite girl's actions. She was just so overjoyed at the news that her actions were uncontrolled. "Thank you." She whispered happily. Now Ryoma-kun won't hate me. "Thank you so much, Atobe-san! You don't know how much this… eto, means to me!" She finished off, although she felt a small tug at the depth of her heart. She was being selfish. She was only happy Atobe had given Sasaki the letter so her Obaa-chan or Ryoma-kun wouldn't hate her. I really am just a selfish human being, aren't I?

There was no more wind, the air around the two completely still. Sakuno held her breath, scared of what he—no, Atobe—would say next. She didn't have to wait long, luckily, his smooth silky voice almost drown out the nothingness of the thin atmosphere. Sakuno was surprised that someone's voice could have such an effect. "Ore-sama will do you the honor of taking you home." He said; his tone perfect. Why he was offering her a ride home was beyond his knowledge, but it almost made Atobe feel… warm. Being in Sakuno's presence was, without a doubt, warming.

The Seishun student's large, scarcely russet, eyes widened. "Ano, Atobe-san, it's all right! I-I have to go home… but Obaa-chan wants me to come to watch practice first and then go home… She doesn't think I can get home alive." She admitted, shamefacedly. "…And I'm so clumsy and uncoordinated that I was surprised I was able to keep up with you." Sheepishly, Sakuno smiled. "But you're actually a very warming person, Atobe-san. Thank you." Her lop-sided grin broadened, waving her hands timidly as she skipped off the direction of Seishun. "Thank you very much, Atobe-san!"

"She said that I was… a warming person?" Atobe stood in the middle of the naked trees whose branches trickled with ice. The air reeked with seclusion, but it was nothing the egoist wasn't used to. If one was raised in such surroundings, where everything was fake, business-like, planned out, they themselves would grow up fake and planned out. He smiled dimly, taking out his mauve cell phone with amethyst gem stones. "Apparently, Ryuuzaki Sakuno doesn't know me too well." Atobe smirked, watching the petite girl stare at the floor as she ran, nearly tripping over the irrelevant gravel a couple of times. "But you will learn, soon enough… Sakuno-chan." Never once did she look back.

Atobe ran a slender finger through his hair, his mask fell for a second, allowing himself to smile as he watched the clumsy girl trying to run without tripping on the way. He enjoyed watching her like this, from afar. If he came too close, if he touched her insipid skin, Atobe thought he would indulge her unique perfection. "You're etched into my heart, Sakuno-chan." She was, in her own odd way, more than Atobe thought she was. And maybe that was why he wasn't meant for her. And she wasn't made for him.

"At any rate, that is what it seems like God is trying to tell me. That Sakuno-chan and I will never be together."

Sakuno beamed happily as she let her brown locks bounce gradually, jogging back to Seishun's frozen gardens. "Atobe-san…" She thought aloud, hearing the sound of her own voice wilt back into her ears. "He's very nice." Sakuno blushed, Ryoma had never done something like that for her, and she was sure he wouldn't start anytime soon, either. "Mou, Atobe-san… you didn't have to. Obaa-chan would have told me anyway." Her gaze turned distant, staring up at the hazy frost sky. Guilt. That was what Sakuno was feeling. Untainted guilt. Atobe had taken his time off, for her, and come all the way to her school, just to tell her that he had given the coach the letter. To ease the heavy feeling. Sakuno was only overjoyed because of the news. Nothing more. "W-What if Atobe-san thought—oh no…" Her school was now in the clear and Sakuno felt nauseous.

Sakuno was never one who got caught up in mixed-signals. But maybe, this time, she would. She had no idea what Atobe was thinking, but she just hoped it wasn't what she thought he was thinking. She already gave her heart away. She gave it away so fully that she was sure that there was nothing left to give anymore. Atobe-san shouldn't waste his time. That was Sakuno's only thought. She wanted to be fair, and leading Atobe on like that was not being fair at all.

Not at all.

An exhausting week had passed, and it was, finally, the big day. Seishun Gakuen vs. Hyoutei Gakuen. It would be a match to definitely look forward to. The spectators came from all sorts of schools, the numerous faces erased in the immeasurable swarm of students. Sakuno sat on the high-rise of the bleachers, the small hat on her head indifferent. Beside her was no one; Tomoka was down there with everyone else, cheering on the tennis team as if it only contained Ryoma. Sumire had asked if Sakuno would like to come along with Tomoka, but she gratefully declined her Obaa-chan's offer. She didn't know why, either. She had an idea as to why, but she just hoped it wasn't so.

The weather had let up a bit, or at least enough so that no one needed to bring a jacket. Tomoka had told Sakuno that she needn't one, so Sakuno, being the considering friend she was, didn't care to bring one because she believed in Tomoka's judgment. Although, to say she was cold was an understatement. There was no wind, but the air still contained the same sort of iciness she felt when she was around Atobe. Stop thinking about him. But Sakuno noticed; as her eyes darted from each end of the bleachers, she was trying to spot one face in particular.

This only worried Sakuno. She was supposed to think of Echizen Ryoma and no one else. At least, that was what Tomoka said she was supposed to do. Her heart already belonged to another, so she had no right to think about someone else, no matter who they were. The first match, the doubles two pairing, was up first, and to say Sakuno was watching the game would be a lie. Why couldn't her head just focus? Sighing in defeat, Sakuno shuddered. She was really beginning to feel the unpleasantly bitter atmosphere.

"Losing sight of everything, what do you desire?
There is no hesitation inside of this heart

The beautiful hum echoed through the vivid air, the familiar voice travelled through Sakuno's ears. Gasping aloud, she received many odd stares, but Sakuno didn't care. Not then. She jolted from her seat, trying to follow the fading song. It wasn't very loud to being with, only a slight sound that no one else could hear. There was no piano playing to accompany the words like the last time, the beatific voice was raw.

"What is it that you want to see overflow from me?
There is no acceptance reflecting in these eyes

The sound was dying out, and Sakuno was trying her best to keep her pace with the song. It was as if her whole body became in tune. The question she couldn't answer; what she was doing? What did it matter? She would just be invading his privacy again. But that tugging at her heart refused to listen to any logic behind her movements. Sometimes, Sakuno saw, that the tugging became so fierce that it was becoming very hard to fight. It called out to his music, it called out to him. Her heart.

Why couldn't her heart just beat normally around him, like it did with everyone else? Why couldn't she keep what little cool she had around him? No. I am not in love with Atobe-san. T-That's just weird! I don't even know him. Why is my heart so stupid? Staring at the clearing ahead, she saw Atobe; his eyes were hardly open, lying under a tree. His usually sharp stare was remote. "Ato—" Sakuno bit her tongue, what would she say, exactly? He would obviously ask what she was doing, something even she didn't know. There was no reason for her to be following him. But it wasn't Sakuno who was following Atobe Keigo. It was her heart. He was like the sun of her world, the planets of Sakuno's well-being revolved around him.

And Sakuno didn't like it one bit.

From the tiny portion of her ears that still worked, Sakuno heard the conclusion of the doubles two match, the game going to Seishun. But Sakuno couldn't even find enough will-power to curve her lips into her usual unbalanced smile. Slowly, from afar, behind another icy tree, she watched Atobe begin to become aware of his surroundings, the unusual look of cluelessness on his face, priceless. "How did I…?" He growled, turning his head directly towards Sakuno, out of reflex.

Sakuno's heart rate doubled; the thudding she was sure anyone could hear. How could someone not hear something so deafening? The egoist ran a finger swiftly through his uncontaminated hair, his eyes closed. Not making as much as a peep, Sakuno tried to cautiously walk away before she was spotted. Her lack of balance wasn't on her side today, unfortunately, as she fell over a twig she could have sworn wasn't there a second ago.

"Sakuno-chan?" His voice abnormally drowsy, Atobe began to walk towards Sakuno, whose face was flushed with embarrassment. Atobe caught a glimpse of the fallen girl, and immediately, his pace began to quicken. "And what is this?" He began; his voice smug and overflowed with self-assurance. "A gift from the Gods, ore-sama assumes." As he held his hand out to help her up, Sakuno's gaze was fixed on only the floor. Now that she stood up straight, Sakuno saw that Atobe's face was even better-looking, if possible, up close.

Every time you stare at me… I honestly, truly can't breathe. Sakuno's mind seemed to be having a verbal brawl, unaware that Atobe's icy, but sweet hand was dragging her away and back to where he was resting a minute ago. Why am I such an idiot, I don't love Atobe-san. That's just weird!! Sakuno shivered, but she wasn't too convinced it was, from top to bottom, the bitter weather conditions. "Eto… Atobe-san?" Her voice squawked without her permission. "D-Don't you want to watch the tennis match? I-I mean, I think doubles one finished by now… or… ano, I don't know." The words she was trying to say were elapsed; the same tugging feeling was re-emerging.

Atobe looked down at the girl; she simply fidgeted under his forceful watch. In one swift motion, Atobe had taken off his wine-colored jacket, the pricey and warm material now enclosed around Sakuno's numb shoulders. "You'll catch a cold." It was a simply, obvious statement, when looking at the way the first-year shook uncontrollably. The narcissist slumped down the tree, sure that his tennis uniform would develop some sort of scratch, or scratches, but his mind was paying attention to other things.

He wasn't even sure when he had lost all this energy. Maybe it was a side-effect from being around Sakuno? Maybe that cold he caught a week ago was more than a cold? But, he paid no attention; he found Sakuno's health more important than his own. When did I become like this, ahn? Atobe never cared for anyone other than himself, a fact that was well-known to everyone. He put himself above all else. Always.

To have a sudden change wasn't something Atobe was ready for. That and he had no reason to care about Ryuuzaki Sakuno. She was just… 'another girl'. Or so Atobe thought. He had no idea why she looked so gorgeous under the heavy shade of the tree; maybe it was just his cold beginning to take effect. He had other things to stress about as captain, like the current match, but that just wasn't getting through today. He felt very… complete. With Sakuno sitting beside him, quiet and content, he felt very complete. Like the part of him that was missing for the past fourteen years had returned.

If only he could keep it that way.

Minutes passed quietly, none paying attention to the passing of the time. Atobe's eyes began to droop, Sakuno's angelic voice bringing him back to life before he could completely return to the world he could only conjure up when asleep. Maybe this was all a dream? Maybe, Sakuno didn't really exist, and just like that flower in his mind, she would wilt away. But Atobe didn't want that to happen. Half conscious, the captain grabbed a stunned Sakuno by the shoulders, forcing her closer to him, her gentleness radiating off of herself. "A… Atobe-san?" Her voice was soft, not angry, but exceedingly surprised.

"Ore-sama feels very sleepy… I'll just…" A muffled yawn cut Atobe off, his face dropping itself in Sakuno's lap. By the sudden contact, her body stiffened, Sakuno's entire body becoming board-like. His face looked anything but the way he really was. He looked innocent, his mouth slightly ajar. Sakuno's face softened and her body began to relax, a little too close for comfort, in her opinion. She tried her best to take in everything she could about Atobe. The way his hair always tickled her, sprawling itself against her skin, the way his protectively cold hand wrapped itself around her waist, the way he was just… whole.

The timid girl couldn't explain any further than that. Atobe was simply whole. That was something she could never be. With her heart already given away, it still latched on to the sleeping boy in her lap. This was tearing her heart in two. She couldn't just give both Ryoma and Atobe half, that wasn't right of her. "(13) Demo… Ryoma-kun was first… I just don't know anymore." Shyly, Sakuno took her hand and gently ran her fingers through Atobe's silk like hair. Mmm… he smells like oranges.

"Ne, Atobe-san?" Sakuno whispered to herself, unaware of Atobe's listening ears. "How come you don't like people listening to your songs?" The question wasn't a direct question; Sakuno didn't mean to offend Atobe in any way, either. Whatever Atobe-san has… I must have caught it. It seemed like a reasonable explanation. Sakuno never wanted to ask that, it just came out unexpectedly. The sun was beginning to dim, and the young girl had to now squint if she wanted to look up at the sky. But, she didn't; she just wanted to look at the slumbering boy in her lap.

Atobe's grip tightened, his face further burying itself in the dumbfounded first-year's lap. "Ore-sama doesn't like anyone listening to his heart." The answer was a low, scarcely audible mumble, but the sweet, melodic voice still made its way into Sakuno's ashen ears. Sakuno's heart started to ache, she was certain she would not be able to take this any further. Atobe was getting a wrong signal, right? So it was Sakuno's job to un-cross the wires.

"The Singles' One match will begin now. Would both the single one participants please get ready for the match; after a ten minute break, the game shall continue." Atobe paid no attention to the loud speaker, until he figured that he should at least do a couple of warm-up stretches to prepare for his match. But he was in heaven right now; he didn't want to leave. He didn't want to admit it, he had too much pride to, but he was really enjoying this. And he might have been… in love with Ryuuzaki Sakuno.

Suddenly standing up, Atobe straightened himself, dusting off any traces of dirt on his tennis uniform. It was only then that Sakuno realized that he was on the Hyoutei tennis team. And a regular member too. Her eyes widened in surprise, and Atobe smirked as he gently picked Sakuno up off the floor, her body brushed against his colder one. She couldn't help but panic from the sudden contact. This was not un-crossing the wires. "E-E-E-E-Eto! Atobe-san!" The small girl whined as the older student carried her, bridal-style, toward the tennis courts. "Atobe-san… w-what are you doing!?"

"Isn't it obvious, Sakuno-chan? Ore-sama is carrying you." Sakuno continued to whine; going on about how she wasn't a baby and that she didn't need carrying. She had reminded Atobe that he had already given her his jacket, which was more than enough, but Atobe made no movement showing that he was going to let go. Sakuno didn't fidget, the affectionate hold made her feel wanted. But when the chocolate brown-haired girl asked Atobe why he was holding her, his reply was firm; "Ore-sama wants to hold Sakuno-chan."

It was at that moment Sakuno realized what she felt for Atobe was more than just a friendly type of liking. The thought was terrifying; Sakuno had never been in love with someone like Atobe. Actually, the only other person Sakuno was ever in love with was Ryoma. And she still loved him. That was why she couldn't love Atobe. She wasn't being reasonable, she was just being greedy. Being in love with two different people wasn't right; even Sakuno's mind thought that. But her heart didn't, and so the tugging feeling just got worse.

Half a year passed since that day that Sakuno had begun to realize things she wished she didn't. She didn't see Atobe around too much; and that helped… a little. What was worse, Sakuno didn't know; the fact that Atobe seemed like he was avoiding her, or the fact that she cared that he was avoiding her. If the captain wanted to shun her out, what right did Sakuno have to comment on that? It was his choice, wasn't it? But that still didn't seem sensible to Sakuno. She wanted to know. What did the egotistical captain really think of her?

Mou stop thinking so much, Sakuno. This is making my head hurt. Raising a tired hand to her head, Sakuno heard her name being called in the distance. "Sakuno-chan!" Tomoka called out hyperactively, running down the school steps and nearly colliding with a shocked Ryuuzaki Sakuno. The petite brunette looked back at her friend with wide eyes, as if wondering what could get her this exited. The only things that excited Tomoka were tennis matches, but only the ones that involved Echizen Ryoma. The first-year waited patiently, letting her friend take her time before continuing. "Can you believe it!?" The pair of excited gray eyes fell directly on her.

"Believe what, Tomo-chan?" Sakuno asked politely, a small giggle making her way out of her mouth. She was used to this, Tomoka was easily amused, not that Sakuno minded. It was actually a breath of relief when compared to the other stone-faced regulars on the tennis team. Well, some of them anyway. The two walked down the steps together, in silence at first, Tomoka fiddling with her high-pigtails. "Ano, Tomo-chan, are you going to… eto, continue?" Sakuno spoke up meekly.

Tomoka turned to Sakuno, a wide grin spread across her face. Quickly, she grabbed both of Sakuno's hands, dragging the unknowing girl behind a nearby tree. Sakuno stumbled, it was hard enough to keep up as it was, but now Tomoka was starting to gain speed. "T-Tomo-chan!" The longhaired girl panted and wheezed, and finally Tomoka came to a halt, letting go of Sakuno and allowing her to bend over, out of breath. "Ne…" A small whine was heard, "What is so important that you had to run here like that, Tomo-chan?" Leaning against the tall tree trunk, Sakuno allowed her body to slide down and she watched her best friend from the corner of her eyes, noticing the growing blush on her unusually embarrassed face.

Her friend soon sat next to her, under the tree, cross-legged. Sakuno watched as she brushed the short strands of sunburnt tan out of her eyes. "Well…" She began, glancing at Sakuno, to see if she was giving her full attention. But there as nothing to worry about there, Sakuno cared greatly about others' and respected their privacy greatly. She was selfless to the point where she always put others before herself, a quality many others' wished they could possess so genuinely. Tomoka never thought of that though, she was more self-centered, and she didn't care what others thought about her. But sometimes, only sometimes, she would catch herself thinking how great it would be to be as genuine as her friend.

Times passed by slowly, Sakuno starting to fidget under the invisible pressure. She just wanted her to continue so she could release the inflated breath held. "Sakuno-chan, you know how I love Ryoma-sama, right?" The question lingered in the air for a second before receiving a dull nod from the other party member. Tomoka blushed, hugging her knees tightly against her chest. "Well, I met this guy yesterday…" Looking into Sakuno's eyes for approval, Tomoka continued, "And I think I'm truly in love with him, Sakuno-chan! B-But I have no idea what he thinks about me! I mean, I just met him and everything was going so perfectly! But—! I don't know. I mean, he's very popular, what chance do I stand, Sakuno-chan?"

It was warm outside, being a late May afternoon, the winds fierce, but the sun sill shone brightly in the sky, giving warmth to everything. Sakuno stared back her fellow first-year in astonishment; she didn't know Tomoka had met someone. It made her feel left out, a little. Tomoka was able to move on and forget out the tennis-centered prodigy, why wasn't she able to do the same? Shaking any selfish thoughts away, she focused completely on Tomoka's problem. Her problems could be dealt with later. "Tomo-chan, of course you're good enough for him!" She said cheerily, pumping her hands into fists. "S-So what I'm trying to say, Tomo-chan, is don't give up, okay? You stand just as much chance as any other girl!"

Atobe-san… Sakuno gasped, covering her mouth with her hands. Why had she just thought of Atobe? Flustered, she scratched the back of her neck, hoping Tomoka would just let it slide. All she received was a strange look from the other party member, eyebrows raised in a questioning manner. But luckily, Tomoka did let it slide, and continued on blabbing about the boy she had just met.

Sakuno listened carefully, word for word, giving as much focus as she could to her friend's dilemma. It didn't help that her mind strayed away to unnecessary things every now and then for the past six months. That tugging would never leave, and Sakuno had even begun to become used to it. She didn't accept it, not yet, but she was more aware of it than she was a few months ago.

"Tomo-chan," Sakuno mumbled, her eyes drifting to the edge of her uniform skirt. "I think… I think…" I think I'm finally going to tell Atobe-san how I feel! But Sakuno couldn't force the words out of her mouth, instead she trailed off, standing up slowly, trying to buy off as much time as she could. She couldn't just barge into Atobe's house, expecting to tell him how she really felt without so much as a warning. But she would tell him. Eventually… she would. Tomoka's quizzed look hardened, but she simply shrugged, walking off in the opposite direction; waving her 'bye's' to the other first-year.

Her footsteps a little more confident now, the small girl made her way out of Seishun's gates. Where the confident had come from, Sakuno didn't know. Where she was going, she was just as clueless. Would she tell Atobe the truth? That, only time could tell. Her pace quickening, Sakuno quickly turned the corner, determination written clearly on her face. Her small positive-streak was cut short, however, when she ran into someone else, who for whatever reason, was going just as fast as she was.

Atobe was knocked against the hard cement floor, his face filled with astonishment as the smaller body fell on top of him. His eyes partly blinded from the scorching sun, Atobe growled. "How dare you just knock down ore-sama like that, do you know who ore-sama is, you commoner!?" He barked, about to fling the other body off of him before he noticed that the figure was strangely familiar. Sakuno shot up quickly, embarrassed, apologizing to the ignorant boy.

"I am very, very sorry Atobe-san!" Sakuno whimpered, helping Atobe up. As she outstretched her pale arm, she noticed Atobe wasn't making any attempt to stand up. Instead, he just sat there, staring up at Sakuno, wondering whether the self-conscious girl standing in front of him was real or just a hallucination. "Atobe-san… (14) daijoubu ka?" She kneeled down, "Do you need help, o-or maybe you were g-going somewhere and I was just distracting—"

Her rants were cut off, Atobe's soft lips lightly pressing on to hers. Too stunned to move, Sakuno allowed Atobe to further deepen the kiss, his cool hands wrapping around her miniature waist. Sakuno's fragile mind swiveled in circles, unsure of what had just happened, or what was happening. But, for reasons beyond her knowledge, she couldn't care any less. Timidly, Sakuno wrapped her trembling hands around Atobe's neck, feeling his heart beat furiously against her own. I-I can't believe it Atobe-san's heart is beating so fast. He's even more nervous than I am Wow, I didn't that was possible. Mmm, he tastes just like how he smells. Sakuno blinked after she pulled away, a blush crawling up toward her ridiculous smile. Oranges.

Gradually, their relationship began to grow, Atobe finding himself even more in love with the granddaughter of the coach of Seishun Gakuen, if that was possible. The two saw each other, now, on a daily basis. None of them talked about the invisible, giant rift between them or the fact that Atobe only owned half of Sakuno's heart. Their conversations were always peaceful. No one dared to damage that fact. No one knew the two were seeing each other either; no one would be pleased with that. They kept it up, too, for what seemed like forever. And it was only getting harder and harder to avoid their parents. Eventually, they would have to know.

It was now the 4th of October, the multi-colored leaves imprinted on the unsoiled ground. They were crushed, however, from the nervous footsteps that belong to one of the richest men in Japan. Atobe Keigo, at age seventeen, walked into one of the finest jewelry stores. He had been here many times, buying only the most expensive diamonds ever found. But that was always for himself. Right now, he was looking for a ring to buy for Sakuno. That normally wouldn't provoke the narcissist's nerves; it was no big deal to buy a simple ring. But this wasn't jus any other ring.

It was an engagement ring.

He wanted to marry Ryuuzaki Sakuno.

Finding the most beautiful, most luxurious ring possible, Atobe walked out of the store a satisfied man. He was just about to turn a new page in his unwritten book that was his life. Now, all he needed was to give it to Sakuno when the moment was right. "That had better not take long." Atobe huffed, glimpsing at his watch from the corner of his eye. "I'll pick her up at school." That was the only other choice, he decided, getting into his colossal limousine.

"To Seigaku High." Was the simple request that slipped out of Atobe's mouth. What if she thinks this is too early? Atobe fiddled with his un-fastened seatbelt, keeping his eyes fixed on the darkened windows. After all, Sakuno-chan is only fifteen. But today is my eighteenth birthday and so I can be her legal guardian. The scenery took a full turn, the gray sky brightening, and the grass becoming greener. He was nearing Seishun.

The school was not much unlike from the middle school; the only difference was the size, seeing as it was bigger. Atobe was very familiar with the scenery, however; he came to pick up Sakuno almost everyday. The limousine being pulled up to the side of the school wasn't something the Seishun students were not used to, but the girls would still become overexcited, surrounding Atobe as he came out. But today, he wanted to talk to Sakuno as soon as possible. Stopping a girl he vaguely recognized, Tomoka, he thought it was, Atobe asked for directions to Sakuno's class.

Tomoka plainly gave him an angry stare, ignoring the astonished egoist as she took off without a word. Atobe could only wonder what he had done to her, but honestly, he couldn't care less. She was probably another jealous fan girl. Apparently, word had gotten out to everyone asides their parents that the two star-crossed lovers were a little more than 'just friends'. "Keigo-kun?" Sakuno's voice drifted from behind Atobe. "You're here early."

Atobe smirked his usual smug smirk, which over-flowed with confidence no matter what the situation. He subconsciously traced his finger over the outline of the jewelry box. "Is that anyway to greet your boyfriend, Sakuno-chan?" Sakuno chuckled warmly, sending pleasant shivers down Atobe's back. "And on his birthday, ahn?" He didn't wait for any response as he slipped his hands into hers, dragging her gently away from the busy students which were eager to leave the old school building.

"Keigo-kun?" The brunette squeaked, trying to co-ordinate her feet so they could fall into perfect harmony with Atobe's; she always felt like he was always ahead of her. But it seemed like he always was. One step ahead, no matter what Sakuno did. "Where are we going? Obaa-chan wants me to—" Atobe cut her off, soothingly grabbing her warm hand, placing it securely on his chest, right above his beating heart.

"Can you hear that sound, Sakuno-chan?" The two were under the heavy shade of one of the many trees on Seishun's property, the other students long gone. Sakuno flushed, having her hand against Atobe's chest made her blush. Surprisingly, it was much softer than she had expected. She had always thought that it would be rough, like the other guys, but it wasn't.

Remembering his question, Sakuno closed her eyes, leaning hesitantly against Atobe's chest, listening to his heart. "H-Hai… it's so loud." And it was, the sound would be deafening if it were any louder. But the only thing that Sakuno wondered was, why was Atobe so nervous? Sure, it was his birthday, but that was no reason to worry. That and, Atobe wasn't one to worry. He never had to worry. He had everything he had ever wanted. Sakuno was living proof of that.

"…It's the sound of ore-sama's heart beating." His eyes, too, were closed, listening. The moment was very passive, sincere. For Atobe, it was now or never. Sakuno asked if he was nervous, and Atobe roughly chucked away the thought. "No. Ore-sama is never nervous." And it was a fact. Atobe was never nervous, he was so full of himself that he had no room to worry, no room to feel apprehensive. Sakuno giggled lightly, hugging Atobe's lean frame. For some reason, the egoist was still struggling with his words.

Atobe tightened his grip, worried that the girl may disappear. He waited for her answer, holding her breath, hoping that he could just ease into asking her. It wasn't so bad. Sure, his parents would blow a fuse; an Atobe never married until his fiancée, too, was of what his parents considered 'decent' age. Ryuuzaki Sumire wouldn't agree either, the third-year was sure she never liked him to begin with. She was only worried for Sakuno, Atobe thought. Worried that he didn't truly love her. But that wasn't true. He loved her with every fiber, every cell of his body. But for some reason, no one other than Sakuno could see that. Opening her eyes, Sakuno mumbled, "That's silly Keigo-kun. Everyone gets nervous."

"Fine, ore-sama will admit that he's a little nervous." There was no way that Atobe would ever admit that he was currently a nervous wreck. He was almost a celebrity, everything he did or said would immediately be known to his public. But if Sakuno was his public, then he had no reason to worry. She had accepted all of his qualities. The good with the bad. But only half of her loved him. She had already told him that, long ago. That the other half of her heart would forever belong to Echizen Ryoma, the boy who was too dense to notice the unrequited feelings.

"A little?" Sakuno raised an eyebrow. Opening her eyes, she eyed Atobe's movements carefully as he smirked, taking some sort of box out of his back pocket. The movement was swift and before Sakuno realized what was going on, Atobe held the box out to her, his eyes never once left her face. Her heart started to beat twice as hard, the color of her face draining slowly.

"Well it's not everyday ore-sama tries to ask Ryuuzaki-sensei for his granddaughter's hand in marriage."

To say that time had stopped would be an understatement. Everything seemed frozen in place, Sakuno's heart ticking. Atobe's facial expression wasn't even readable, but that superior smirk was long gone. His face was caught between doubt and impatience. A hazy breeze hurried along, playing with Atobe's bangs and Sakuno's still-braided pigtails. The silence was awkward, and finally, after a long period of quiet, Sakuno uttered a small whine. Her eyes began to water as she brought her hands to her face to wipe away the hot tears.

Atobe bristled, he was sure that these weren't tears of joy. "Keigo-kun…" She whispered hoarsely, Atobe tried to reach out for her delicate hand, but she halfheartedly pushed it away. Rejection. That was what this was. Atobe had been rejected. So this was what it felt like, to be unneeded. To be unwanted. It wasn't a nice feeling, Atobe had to admit, and it even hurt. Not physically, but mentally. It was as if whatever was felt of his fragile heart had finally collapsed. And for the first time since he had met Sakuno, Atobe wished that she had never melted the frozen core he had once called his heart. "I can't, Atobe-san." And with those three simple words, it not only broke Atobe's heart, but Sakuno's too as she watched the gorgeous ring tumble against the grass. None of them bothered to pick it up.

The wind blew furiously, Atobe's body even harder than usual. His voice was passive, his eyes fixed strictly on Sakuno. "Well now, you can just go back to Echizen." Turning his back, the egoist remained oblivious to the trembling girl behind him. He was being a jerk; Atobe knew that. But it was true, wasn't it? She had told him, from the beginning, that he only owned half of her heart.

Every time he leaned in to kiss her delicate lips, half of her would constantly think of the prodigy. At first, Atobe could accept the fact that he would never fully have Sakuno's heart. But now he was graduating high school, it was only mere years now until he owned his father business. He was Atobe Keigo, damn it! He could never have anything less than perfection. But he used to think that Sakuno was an exception.

Or, at least, he used to.

Sakuno twitched, trying to keep in the surfacing tears. The shudder was barely noticeable, but the young girl could feel the heat rushing to her face. And for once, it wasn't from the embarrassment she felt around the man she loved. This time, it was because she was scared. She was scared that Atobe didn't love her anymore. She had never thought that she would be able to hear such hateful words from his mouth. Shaking, Sakuno turned her back to Atobe, now unable to see the other student's already turned back. A moment of deafening silence passed, before, after what seemed like forever, Sakuno spoke. "…So that's what you think, Keigo-kun?"

Her voice was breaking and Sakuno knew it, but she had no time to think about that. She was about to loose the only person she truly cared about. She wasn't even thinking of the tennis prodigy. She was thinking of Atobe. And only Atobe. "You think that I-I'd… go back to Ryoma-kun?I gave up Tomo-chan for you…" Taking small strides, Sakuno walked up right in front of Atobe, her usual cheerful features were heated. Taking his face in her hands, Sakuno spoke slowly, "Keigo-kun. I love you, and I always will… please know that, okay?"

The older student took a moment to absorb Sakuno's words before finally deciding on grabbing her and holding her close. "Okay… ore-sama… no, I, trust you Sakuno." Atobe mumbled; leaning down and giving the shivering girl a kind kiss on her forehead. "Whenever I see you around then, ahn?" Sakuno smiled faintly, her body becoming numb. This was it, and she knew it. Atobe wasn't coming back. There wasn't going to be an 'around then', Sakuno knew.

But for some strange reason, she wanted there to be one. When she had finally decided that she could give Atobe what he wanted, it was too late. It was Sakuno's fault, and Sakuno's fault alone. There was simply no one else to blame. And, as Atobe walked away from her life forever, Sakuno couldn't conjure up enough courage to cry. It was odd; this was when she was supposed to cry. But she had rejected his offer to marry him. She had no reason to expect him to return. But she still could have hoped, right? And, of course, she would always wait for him.

No matter how long he took.

"Mada mada dane, Ryuuzaki. Hurry up." At age twenty, Sakuno tried her best to keep up with Echizen Ryoma, her best friend. The two were out shopping together, as a request from Ryuuzaki Sumire. Although, Sakuno knew this was only because her Obaa-chan was worried about her mental health. Ever since that day, five years ago, Sumire had been trying, time and time again, to get her granddaughter to date the young tennis player. Sakuno refused, repetitively telling her Obaa-chan that she would wait only for the man she truly loved. Sumire had given up by the third year, surprised by the young woman's stubbornness.

Sakuno piped up, her face content, "H-Hai, I'm sorry I'm so slow Ryoma-kun!" She stumbled across the music store the two were browsing through. It was Sakuno's idea, but Ryoma asked, with great difficulties, to come along. Glad for the company, the shy brunette agreed, although it did not help with Sumire constant pestering. But Sakuno knew, even with the constant tugging of her heart that she was looking for one thing in particular.

She didn't know why, but even with the five-year separation, the towing only became more noticeable. Sometimes it hurt so much that Sakuno would have to hold her stomach until it died down and faded away like the setting sun. Sumire had panicked at first, terrified for the girl's health. But within the passing time, the retired coach got used to it, and grew to not observe it at all. It became normal, and no one commented on it anymore.

"Ah! I found it Ryoma-kun." Sakuno beamed, hastily reaching for the last copy of the CD and happily walking back to the cash register. The man laughed a tickled laugh, going on about how the CD was a hit, top of the charts, and the young girls especially, couldn't get enough of the singer. Then he asked if Sakuno was a fan, but when Ryoma had noticed the sudden frown crawling up on Sakuno's face, he simply threw the man the money, huffing and hauling the surprised girl along with him.

Ryoma looked down at the ground, finding a sudden interest in the way the sidewalk was developed. "I don't see why you bother listening to that stuff…" He growled, the hands in his pockets becoming nervous with sweat. He really, really hated feeling nervous around his friend. "It's stupid." Sakuno only smiled, a faint smile, holding the CD close to her heart. She wanted this more than anything else she could have right now. Even at age twenty, a young woman whom attended the local university, best friends with one of the most sought after guys, Ryuuzaki Sakuno only thought of one person.

And even though the songs he sang now were cheerful, Sakuno knew whenever she listened to them, she would cry.

"Unable to say the words that I want to tell you…
…They shatter in the bottom of my puzzled heart
Passion is thrown out of order in sleepless nights…
…Like wandering in endless dreams

In the time that we were moving on…
…didn't we meet by chance? You and I?
I keep this overflowing feeling warm…
…so it won't disappear
In the glistening future
I want to be together only with you

"Can you hear that, Sakuno-chan?"


"Do you know what it is?"

"Of course, Atobe-san! I-It's the melodywe make."

I'm sorry this story is so blunt. It didn't come out the way I wanted it to. I kind of hate Sakuno for this, though. But at the same time, I can't help but pity the poor girl. Atobe too, of course. There are so many loose ends; like why was Tomoka mad? Atobe became a singer!? Why did Sakuno reject Atobe? What happened to Atobe afterwards? Sigh… I'll make a following one-shot some other time… trying to loosen up the wobbly edges on this. Until then, I'll go back to working on LBtST. Until next time, ahn?


(1) Hai: Yes

(2) Obaa-chan: Grandmother

(3) Ano: Uh

(4) Eto: Um

(5) Mou: Geez

(6) Ano: Uh

(7) Baka: Stupid, Idiot, Moron, etc.

(8) Nani: What

(9) Ore-sama: A conceited way to refer to oneself.

(10) Buchou: Captain

(11) Kouhai: Underclassman

(12) Gomenasai: I'm sorry

(13) Demo: But

(14) Daijoubu ka: Are you all right?


Signing Out.

Prince of Tennis © Takeshi Konomi