I don't own 'Prince of tennis'… but this story does!

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First, let us have this overview in the past…

Summary:

It was in December time, cool wind with a continuous fall of pure white snow around. Christmas minute is about to take place. Rinko was sleeping with her 5 years old son, whom will be turning six in just a couple of minutes. Ryoma, a cute little boy with dark unruly hair and pair of gold orbs will be celebrating his sixth birthday. It was indeed a two-time celebrations for the Echizens.

At the strike of twelve, Ryoma got up from his bed rushed to their Christmas tree, enthusiastically seeking for his present. Nanjiroh was there, silently staring at his son, wandering along on every gift. He smiled and sighed. He handed him a large box (not that exactly large) with a ribbon on top. Ryoma requited his smile and started to open the present. His golden eyes grew wide as he saw a little white Himalayan kitten with brown large spot on its face and some other specks on its feet and tail. Its lapis-lazuli eyes simply melt Ryoma into a puddle of goo. He clasped the kitten and noticed a yellow cream ribbon that wound around its neck as a rosy card with a note: "Happy birthday and merry Christmas, Ryoma-sama. I'm Karupin."

He worked the name on his tongue and smiled. He mewed softly, telling him in words of 'Nice meeting you.'

He hugged the kitten as he promised to himself that he would be taking good care of him. Since that day, Ryoma and Karupin become such good comrades. Cherishing one another devotedly and used to spend their time with each other under the Cherry Blossom tree on the yard.

End of summary.

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It's already ten o'clock in the evening. The falling snow is started to cover the whole area. The road is slowly vanishing from sight, being replaced by white. It was too risky for a stripling like him to go home in that kind of weather condition, but still, stubbornness was his nature.

"Are you sure, Echizen?" Momoshiro asked worriedly while accompanying him outside the gate.

"Ah. Karupin wasn't used to sleep in other's house. We'll be fine."

A soft tickling fur brushes his legs. Ryoma looked at his whitish Himalayan cat with his arms opened telling him to leap on him. He patted the grown-up cat on his arms and granted him with what was, simply, delicate smile. His wool-gathering has been cut-off when his senpai says something.

"If I'm just, I wouldn't let you go alone…okay, I'll walk you home."

"Iie. No need senpai. Thanks anyway…Ja! See you tomorrow." He started to walk home clasping his cat gently.

Ryoma wasn't yet that far from Momoshiro when a speedy car accidentally lost its break and involuntarily collided to a wall. Momoshiro heard it clearly and suddenly shuddered when the first thing that came up from his thought was Ryoma. He rushed at the vicinity of the incident and saw Ryoma unconsciously lying on the ground. Bleeding. He called for his other teammates whom were also there at his house that time. They brought Ryoma to the nearest hospital. Inui and Fuji took the responsibility of informing his family. The driver was nowhere to be found. Huh! Curse him!

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They sat in the waiting room of the city hospital. Everything could have made has been made. He was given transfusion to replace all the blood he had lost. The broken bones were all set and put in cradles. Luckily, it was just a light-fractured bone on the arm, so he could still enjoy tennis as soon as he recovered in no time. But still, Ryoma was unconscious.

"Is he a strong boy? Has he a good constitution?" the Doctor asked.

"Hai. Surely, he is that." Nanjiroh answered hoarsely.

"Then he might have a chance, but I won't conceal from you that he's life was on the line, unless he shows signs of recovery from coma."

Rinko and Nanjiroh as well as Nanako stayed at the waiting room. Silently, patiently waiting for a miracle to come up. The rest already went home, even them should at least take some rest. They might come back tomorrow for visiting.

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Momoshiro went back to the vicinity of the earlier incident. He had remembered something, which is very important for Ryoma. He spent a couple of hours looking for Karupin and went home with mauve, shuttered face. A day after, Momoshiro was sitting on a bench (near the tennis court) with crossed fingers. No practice for today, no Ryoma around and worst, there was no Karupin.

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As the main entrance of the hospital by that afternoon, it became perceptible that a cat seemed to have shifted up position outside the hospital, with a fixed intention of getting in. but animals were of course forbidden to go inside. He looked completely soiled and pleading and determined.

A moment later, Nanjiroh came back from a convenient store. He brought something eat for his wife. When he reached the main entrance, he saw a brown Himalayan cat.

"Karupin." He exclaimed as he recognized the cat even though he was completely soiled. Karupin ran up to him, moaning. He attempted to take him inside but the guard was firmly strict.

"I'm sorry sir, you can't bring that cat inside."

Nanjiroh used his aggressive tennis abilities and retorted,

"You know what? This cat took the trouble of coming here in this hospital just to see my son. Heaven knows how he knew he was here but obviously he knows. He ought to have his rights! Are you really that stupid to keep him out with your nasty rules and regulations?!"

"Cho-Chotto matte kudasai, I'll have to ask our officer." The guard said timidly.

A few minutes more, a man with a coach approached Nanjiroh and told him frankly straight to the point.

"It's strictly against the rule, but since it was a serious case, we're making an exception. But only for a couple of minutes."

Nanjiroh nodded as he headed inside. Karupin followed him closely, as if he knew his hope lay with him. When they reached Ryoma's room, the Seigaku regulars were there as well as the freshmen trio, Ryuzaki-sensei was also there with Sakuno and her best friend, Tomoka. They were inside the room. It's possible since the room is quite spacious. The quietness deafens them. As Nanjiroh opened the door, Karupin took the chance to rushed and jumped up into Ryoma's bed. He mewed softly, causing Ryoma to open his eyes.

"Karupin…" he mumbled as he patted the cat and granted him with gentle smile.

Ryoma fell asleep again. Nanjiroh noticed the shocked faces of Rinko, Nanako, and Momoshiro but he ignored it. He was so happy that the big thorn in him has been finally pulled out. Karupin jumped off the bed and led his way at the corridor. He ran off swiftly along the passage. Nanjiroh would have followed him but his wife, his niece, and his son's friend had come out of the room. He talked to them with a sight of relief.

"I wonder how Karupin have managed his way out here, but still it's all thanks to him."

"Demo, Oji-san, that can't have been Karupin." Nanako said shocked is still drawn on her face.

"Not Karupin? I suppose I ought to know my own son's cat since I'm the own who gave it to him."

"But Nanjiroh, Karupin was killed by the same car that hit Ryoma. Momoshiro told us." Rinko explained.

"Hai. I found him dead. I'd asked for your wife's permission to bury him." Momoshiro said.

Upon knowing the truth, he suddenly went into a stupor as they slowly looking at the trail of smudge footprints that led straight to the corridor way. In the Echizen's yard, some words have been engraved at the stone under the Cherry Blossom tree. It says: Karupin, Ryoma's cat. Guardian of this tree.

---The End---

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To all of the Ryoma-Karupin fans… my apology! But I was just inspired by the story of Joan Aiken entitled, 'Lob's Girl'… that's it! Hope you enjoyed this heart-warming tragic fiction…. Review of course are always welcome!