A/N: This is the edited version of Sakuno's Corner. I reread the original one I wrote, and it made me go 'blech' with the number of grammatical errors and etcetera. Rest assured this version is of more quality. Writing style and order of events changed, but main themes are still present. By the way, this story takes place three years after the series. Sakuno is fifteen-years old and now enters Seishun Gakuen High School alongside her senpai-tachi whose ages range from sixteen to eighteen. Oh, and Ryoma is here but will not be Sakuno's pair.
This is my second take on the story, and hopefully it would turn out much better. I'm open to constructive criticisms, suggestions and comments. Nonsensical flames will be ignored.
THE NEWSPAPER CIRCLE
Seigaku's No.1 Fan
In the heart of Tokyo was Seishun Gakuen, an academy that prided itself with talented and well-equipped tennis players. Every day, both during the mornings and late afternoons, the tennis courts were filled with resounding 'poks' that signified the club's practice. The entire tennis club was well-deserving of praise for their hard work and determination to grow. Everyone did their best and had all intentions to make a difference, especially the tennis regulars.
Seishun Gakuen wouldn't be prominent for tennis if it weren't for their regulars who strived and struggled to perfect their moves every day. They were the elites who can silence the club with their mere entrance (what more when engaged in a game), touched the hearts of young females in the school population, and ought to have more recognition for all efforts and accomplishments instead of mere displays of appreciation through bento and onigiri.
Now, there exists a girl, Ryuuzaki Sakuno, who had gone through the habit of bento-giving ever since her tennis interest had been piqued when she was twelve. She hung out in every practice almost every day at her fascination of the club and its activities. God knows how hard she even tried to play the sport. However, she wasn't really born to be in the courts and hold a racket. Her grandmother's genes in tennis had unfortunately not been passed on to her. So, she resorted into showing up in games and offering what she could instead.
But that was past.
Currently fifteen-years of age and enters Seishun Gakuen High School, Ryuuzaki Sakuno had long outgrown her fondness for tennis. At every after school practice, her face wouldn't be seen around anymore. True, she had found herself better things to do rather than offer bento and watch every practice; but whenever support was sought for in a game, Sakuno was sure to be present. It may be that her in-born clumsiness attested her utter hopelessness in tennis. Or perhaps the loss of her strong feelings towards a certain tennis prince kept her from continuing showing up in practices any longer. But Sakuno still remained to be the team's number one fan, and her adoration for the regulars never waned throughout the years.
And it was at that particular sunny morning that Sakuno's full-blown support was to resurface once more…
"I'm going to be late!" she cried, running as fast as her legs could bring her and ignoring the weird glances she received from the passers-by.
It was her first day in high school, the time for a fresh, good start. But here she was, still the same klutz back in middle school who was about to be late in her most important application yet. Honestly, who would take thirty minutes photocopying five sheets of school records? Only Ryuuzaki Sakuno.
Just when she turned around the corner, she accidentally bumped onto someone. In the next moment, the papers she took thirty, agonizing minutes photocopying floated down like withered autumn leaves. "I'm sorry!"
Sakuno stiffened. It was a voice she knew from anywhere.
After several moments of telling herself that it wasn't the end of the world after bumping the person whom she thought it was (and the last person she would have wanted to bump)… Sakuno slowly looked up.
It was Seigaku's team captain, Tezuka.
Sakuno gasped and quickly bowed to hide the fierce blush on her face. "I'm sorry!" she squeaked. When she was met with nothing but silence, she looked up to see if he was still there. And indeed he was. Mistaking his lingering gaze as a sign of annoyance, she reiterated rather fearfully, "I'm-I'm really sorry-"
Tezuka silenced her with the narrowing of his eyes. "It's okay," he replied impassively. This made Sakuno all the more uncomfortable… but not as uncomfortable when Tezuka squatted to pick up her papers on the ground.
After realizing what Tezuka was doing, she practically scampered on her feet to approach the scattered mess, fell on her knees and began picking papers, too. It was a bit windy despite the brightness of the morning that a few of the papers chose to dance with the wind. It was really comical to see Tezuka running around for her papers (okay, maybe she exaggerated the last bit); her face was burning from embarrassment the entire time. When one paper was left to acquire, she was about to grab it when instead she grabbed Tezuka's hand.
Sakuno's blush intensified. She dropped his hand just as soon as she had grabbed it. "I-I'm sorry!" she apologized yet again.
Tezuka merely stood up from squatting position, and he seemed not at all pleased with how fidgety Sakuno was around him. Sensing the awkwardness of the moment, Sakuno stood up, too, with the documents finally secured in her hands. "Be more careful next time," he told the girl.
Sakuno blushed but nodded her head nevertheless. "Uhm… sorry again… and thank you, senpai…"
Tezuka acknowledged her response with a small nod. A few moments passed and when Sakuno seemed to have no intentions of stopping her fidgeting and moving on, he asked, "Why were you in such a hurry?"
And with that one question, all awkwardness dissipated. It made Tezuka wonder what it was that made the girl instantly brighten. Perhaps it was his sudden interest towards her? Not likely. Sakuno was far from being a fan girl of his. Or maybe his unusual talkativeness? But technically, asking just one question wasn't being talkative… though being Tezuka, maybe it was.
"I'm going to apply for the school newspaper, senpai."
"Aa," A corner of Tezuka's mouth slightly tugged upward.
At first, Sakuno thought her mind was playing tricks on her. But in the end, she decided it was definitely a potential smile. So bumping into Tezuka had brought some good after all; she found out that Seigaku's Iceman was actually capable of smiling. The next moments had been of not-so-discrete staring at Tezuka's lips.
Seeing the way Sakuno was gazing at him, he cleared his throat, "Well, good luck."
Sakuno couldn't help but return her senior's momentary smile. "Thank you…" she said sincerely, her discomfort slowly ebbing away. "I hope I get in." Her cheeks were a bit flushed from the coolness of the morning and at the fact that she was actually engaging herself in a conversation with Tezuka-senpai of all people!
The next instant had her taken aback.
Tezuka reached out to pat her head. "Do your best." Then he retracted his hand and began to walk his way to the tennis courts.
Sakuno, still dazed from Tezuka's random contact with her, wasn't able to compose herself immediately.
"Ryuuzaki, don't you have an application to worry about?"
Now that sent jolts to Sakuno's system. "I'm late!" And in the blink of an eye, she was off to the school newspaper's office.
Tezuka looked back to where Sakuno disappeared to and then headed off to his world.
"Geez, I never knew you'd grow this tall…" Momoshiro snickered after chugging the contents of his jug in one gulp. The tennis club had just finished their practice for the day. "Seems like Inui-senpai's advice of drinking three bottles of milk every morning worked after all."
Echizen pretended to have not heard a word his senpai said.
"To be honest, I'm glad you're practicing with us again," Momoshiro said with a goofy grin and ruffled Echizen's hair.
"You haven't changed at all, Momo-senpai," Ryoma muttered after freeing himself from Momoshiro's grasp.
Momoshiro laughed. "You too, Echizen. You too... Well, maybe except for the fact that you grew a foot over the years."
"Thank goodness Inui's idea of hell is over! Don't you think so, ochibi?!" Out of nowhere, Kikumaru suddenly glomped the living daylights out of their youngest teammate.
"You haven't changed too, senpai…" Ryoma coughed after Eiji released his hold and settled beside his kouhai. "Though if you've noticed, I'm not short anymore."
"Glad to be back, Echizen?" Fuji was by the door of the locker room with the rest of the members behind him. Tezuka was the last to enter, his expression unperturbed despite the sudden riot of hilarity and cheery greetings in the locker room.
"Where's Inui-senpai?" Momoshiro asked all of a sudden. He tossed his jug inside his duffel bag as he began working on his shoelaces. "He's not going to insist on us drinking that horrible juice, is he?"
"Inui?" A sadistic smile spread across Fuji's lips, having his cerulean eyes exposed as well. "He's taken care of." Fuji replied. He plopped himself beside the rest of his teammates and began drying himself with a towel.
"Now that's a change..."
Fuji turned towards Ryoma, with the towel still draped over his head. "What's a change, Echizen?"
"For once, you actually didn't want to drink Inui-senpai's juice." He smirked.
Oishi chuckled while he neatly folded his jersey and placed it inside his bag. "Well, you must know that Inui's blend had gotten more... erm... what's the right word... gotten…"
"More disgusting than ever."
Everyone blinked at Tezuka who was currently preoccupied with changing into his uniform.
"Did buchou just join our conversation?" Ryoma piped in amusedly which was merely responded by a blank gaze from Tezuka. "Heh. Buchou has changed, too."
"You can say that again." Fuji remarked with a smile. "He was surprisingly late for practice today, wasn't he?"
Laughter erupted in the room as Tezuka merely stared at his laughing teammates.
"Speaking of changes... I haven't seen Ryuuzaki-san around in practice today." Momoshiro said casually as he eyed Ryoma for any trace of reaction that could at least give him an idea of what happened. But, he was disappointed, for Ryoma was still as a stoic as ever.
"I've heard from sensei that she isn't much of a tennis fan anymore…" Oishi looked thoughtful. "She must have found better use of her afternoons now."
Tezuka had been silent the rest of the conversation.
"I think we can find out more about that change," Fuji said all of a sudden. "Sensei's coming."
There was a sudden knock on the door. After a chorused 'come in', the door creaked open. It was indeed Ryuuzaki Sumire. What bothered the regulars wasn't her presence, but at the fact that she looked solemn.
"Tezuka, I need to talk to you."
"Is she aware of this?"
Sumire looked at Tezuka as if he had just insulted the entire Ryuuzaki clan. "Of course. What kind of grandmother do you think I am?"
The young captain immediately apologized.
Sumire sighed. "It's alright. I apologize for being crankier recently... It's just that this newspaper business of hers is really important to her, and it's really awful of me to leave her at a time like this..."
Tezuka was impassive all throughout Sumire's explanation. "Is there anything I can do?"
"Prepare rigorously for the tournaments although I know you need not be told of that..." She fondly smiled at the tennis captain who, on the other hand, remained pokerfaced.
"Why have you called for me then, sensei?" Tezuka asked, now slightly confused.
"Take care of Sakuno for me while I'm gone, Tezuka."
That had Tezuka taken aback for a split moment, but the surprise had left his face in the blink of an eye.
"Keep her out of trouble and protect her. That's all I ask of you." Sumire's face softened. "Please."
The silence that ensued was excruciating to Sumire as she watched Tezuka appear as emotionless as ever. Only at his next few words did she feel relieved.
Tezuka nodded, "As her senpai, I promise."
"Your grandmother's heading to Qatar today?!"
Sakuno shushed Tomoka quiet when several heads turned their way at the outburst. They were currently on their way to homeroom class.
"But how is that possible? Didn't she say that she's going to be the one to personally tell you if you're proceeding to the next level of application or not?" Tomoka asked confusedly.
Sakuno smiled somewhat sadly. "I will still be able to see my name on the released list, Tomo-chan."
Tomoka rolled her eyes. "That's not what I'm trying to point out, Sakuno-chan... The fact that she won't be here to help you out when she was the one who introduced you to this new way of 'supporting Seigaku' is what I'm trying to stress, thank you very much."
Sakuno's face darkened. "It's not like I can't handle things on my own—"
She was on the floor instantaneously, her books and papers already a cluttered mess in the hallway. A girl with long, black raven hair looked at her disgustedly, her presence looming over Sakuno like an enormous ogress. The girl was beautiful though, and she knew it... which explained the snotty and confident air she carried with her.
"Watch where you're going," Were her last words before stomping off to her level's floor.
After extending her help, "If only she wasn't a senior, I'd give her a piece of my mind!" Tomoka said through gritted teeth as they continued on their way to homeroom. "The nerve of that girl to bump you like that without even apologizing and helping you up!"
"I'm fine now, Tomo-chan," Sakuno assured softly. "Though I'm wondering who she is..."
"She's Watannabe Meira. Senior in Seishun Gakuen. President of Tezuka Kunimitisu's fan club." After receiving a queer glance from her best friend, "If you're wondering how I knew this, it's because there had been a recent meeting among the presidents of the Seigaku fan clubs."
"Oh." Sakuno nodded her head in understanding. "I take it that she likes Tezuka-senpai then."
As they entered class, Tomoka's eyebrows crunched at the disappointment she thought she heard in her friend's voice.
Homeroom passed by quickly, and the classroom still buzzed with chatter. The noisiest area was the desk of a certain tennis prince where the entire female population of I-2 gathered around, except Sakuno and Tomoka who were properly seated in their seats – Sakuno for the reason that she chose to engage herself in reading a book instead and Tomoka for the reason that she did not have enough energy to pursue her tennis prince in that horde of obsessing classmates.
"I don't know why, but there are an awful lot of things that's annoying me this morning... and I'm bored!"
After sparing her friend a concerned glance, Sakuno merely smiled then resumed reading her chosen book contentedly. Tomoka, on the other hand, had her gaze linger on her friend longer.
"But one thing amazes me..."
"You really are over him, aren't you?"
Sakuno stopped midway from flipping a page in her book. Tomoka had her eyebrows crunched together with a grin from ear to ear plastered on her face. She patiently waited through the awkward silence. After a moment, Sakuno securely set her book on the table to turn to her expectant friend. "Don't imply that I do not support Seigaku with that one fact," she said then happily returned to her book.
Tomoka shook her head in slight disbelief. "And I thought he was your knight in shining armour."
The classroom chatter vanished when the door slid open suddenly. The girls around Echizen's table were all instantly back in their proper seats. Tomoka straightened herself up. Sakuno put her book away. Expecting to be greeted by the sight of their Calculus teacher, they were surprised at who entered instead.
"Buchou?" Ryoma's eyes widened.
A wave of squeals immediately resounded in the classroom.
Standing erect in front of I-2 was Seigaku's famed captain, Tezuka. Sakuno was shocked to see her senpai in class, but she soon realized that the senior visited to have some business with Ryoma. After all, the regulars had finally reunited once more. It was a given fact that the entire tennis club would have been pumped up with the return of their beloved tennis prince.
She then decided to return to her book.
The ensuing silence unnerved Sakuno that she couldn't help herself but steal a glimpse of the captain from the corner of her book. It slightly bothered her that Tezuka remained where he was, with no one in class neither moving nor uttering another word. The boy simply looked around the classroom as if to spot a certain someone. It confused her why there was a need to look around the room when Ryoma was right in front of him. Only when his gaze landed on her did her blood run cold for reasons she did not know.
All eyes were on Sakuno the next instant.
Tezuka started walking towards the still stunned Sakuno, and everyone swore that their classmate's face was going to be on fire any second now. The entire class silently watched the tennis captain approach Sakuno's desk slowly, each moment a wonder why he was even there. He stopped when he was right in front of her, and then brought out a white envelope.
Sakuno was utterly bewildered. "T-Tezuka-senpai?"
Tezuka's expression was blank as he stared at her, his eyes never leaving her burning face.
"Congratulations for making it to the interview for the editorial board, Ryuuzaki."
Sakuno blinked… and only found her voice several moments after. "For real?!"
Students eligible in the application for the editorial board:
Watannabe Meira (Year 3-1)
Shinomura Saeki (Year 3-1)
Igahara Hikari (Year 3-1)
Misora Aki (Year 3-2)
Miyamae Megumi (Year 3-3)
Masuda Toshiro (Year 2-1)
Uchimura Kei (Year 2-1)
Sawada Haruko (Year 2-4)
Otake Kumi (Year 2-5)
Kaede Yue (Year 1-1)
Mitsumoto Aya (Year 1-1)
Ryuuzaki Sakuno (Year 1-2)
Takagi Akira (Year 1-3)
Natsume Ayame (Year 1-4)
Satsuke Suzuki (Year 1-4)
Note: Students will be pulled out for the interview any time tomorrow. Good luck to all!
Sakuno couldn't believe her eyes. "It is for real…" she muttered, which earned her a random whack on the head. She turned to Tomoka who was just right beside her, having her usual giggling fits at the moment. "Mou… Tomo-chan. What was that for?"
Tomoka ceased her giggles and rolled her eyes. "Of course it's real! Don't tell me you didn't believe Tezuka-senpai when he said you passed!" Then she started giggling again. "You passed! Aren't you happy?"
"Of course I'm happy…" Sakuno sighed and continued to rub the place her friend had hit. The two were currently heading to the school gates to head home. They just finished looking at the bulletin board by the school newspaper's office for some verification of the news the entire I-2 heard that morning care of Seigaku's famed captain. "It's just that Tezuka-senpai visiting class is still hard to believe, you know…"
"Sakuno-chan. If you haven't realized, Tezuka-senpai descended two staircases from his floor just to say that you passed. At least give him a bit of appreciation!"
Sakuno gasped. "T-Tomo-chan! What made you think I do not appreciate Tezuka-senpai's gesture?"
"Well, you surely are acting like you don't," Tomoka replied accusingly, her face serious. "Even if it's really shocking that someone would do that, Tezuka-senpai of all people, you do have to admit that it was kind of sweet."
Sakuno instantly reddened. "T-There must be some reason why he did that…"
…Didn't she say that she's going to be the one to personally tell you if you're proceeding to the next level of application or not…
Obaa-chan. Sakuno stopped in her tracks. "I think the only reason why Tezuka-senpai did that is because—"
"He supports you." Tomoka's smile was devilish.
"W-What?" Sakuno sputtered. Everything in her head suddenly disappeared as the lone thought of Tezuka (Seigaku's captain) supporting her (Seigaku's mere fan) reverberated in her mind.
"And you support them, right? That's why you wanted to apply in the first place…" Tomoka stated gently, a smile never leaving her face.
"Well, yes… I'm a mere fan—"
"Ah ah ah!" Tomoka wagged her pointer finger in front of her flushed best friend. "You should know by now how important support is in every game! I'm sure everyone had their own conclusions why you haven't appeared in the courts anymore. Though that couldn't be helped since you gave up on tennis a long time ago... But!" Tomoka grinned from ear to ear. "You're doing this to become a more independent, responsible, and self-accomplished girl..."
Sakuno couldn't help but return her friend's blinding smile as they went home side by side, the sunset painting the horizon a myriad of colours.
"…and of course to prove that you are indeed… Seigaku's number one fan."
A/N: I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter! I believe it its shorter than the original, but certainly more meaningful (in my opinion anyway). I doubt anyone even remembers what the original was like. Anyhow! I'm glad that you guys made it this far into reading without falling asleep and whatnot. So, how was it??? Was it bad? Good? I hope Tezuka hadn't appeared OOC with his randomly entering Sakuno's classroom. But be reminded that our beloved captain doing that has something to do with his promise to Sumire. It's like… he's taking Sumire's place as of that moment. And perhaps… something else? Haha. Well, I hope everyone got this chapter! Review please! If anyone has questions, don't be afraid to ask!
Up next: Extra! Extra! Hear all about it! The Newspaper Circle is in search of their next editorial board! And Sakuno was good enough to make it to the interview! Introduction of new characters! More intrigue and revelation! And what is this rumour about Tezuka and Sakuno?! Wait for the next update to find out!