Phew... oh boy. Took me forever to get the courage to post this. I can't ever finish chapter fics, and... the characterization in this stinks. I found that Bunta is a lot harder to write than I thought he would be. I can't count how many times I cursed Konomi for giving him no screentime (for the anime or manga) while I wrote this. It's hard to work with his character when the only base he really gets is a snarky, arrogant ass. Well... don't shy away from criticizing this. Frankly, I really need it.

Anyways, this is dedicated to awin-chan and EmbeRin, who beta'd this, for their continued support and suggestions as I wrote this piece. What would I do without you guys?

Disclaimer: I do not own Prince of Tennis or the characters. If I did, then Seigaku would've lost to Hyotei in the Regionals and Rikkai will win the Nationals, which I'm sure they won't in the actual story. -seethes-
Pairing: Sweet Pair, BunJi, BuntaxJirou, whatever you want to call it.



Perpetual Hourglass

KatYoukai (Chocolate Confection)
-
Prologue

If you had asked Marui Bunta where he might have imagined himself after high school, he would probably have said something along the lines of Professional Tennis Player. It was only fitting for the tensai he considered himself to be. But as it would be, things don't always turn out the way you expect, and more often than not, your own dreams will change and maybe fade with the passage of time. The Bunta in junior high would've laughed if he saw himself struggling to get past university entrance exams like any ordinary graduate now.

He had long since stopped playing tennis, at least on the wider scale. He still practiced and occasionally dropped by the local clubs or street courts, but it had been a long time since his days on the Rikkai team. After junior high, he had joined the high school tennis club alongside everyone else. Nothing had changed when they first entered the high school section. However, gradually, the difference made itself apparent.

Yukimura had been the only one of their year to make it into the Regulars that time. Looking back on it, Marui realized that he really should've expected it. After all, how often was it that a first year managed to make it that far, whether in junior high or high school? Echizen Ryoma's kind was rare and far between. Even so, it had been a hard blow to his – their – pride back then.

They worked hard nonetheless and proved themselves to be no ordinary freshmen. Earning the recognition of the team was no difficult feat. If they had continued along that path, they would've become Regulars by their third year if not by their second. That is, if they had.

First had been Yagyuu, who dropped tennis in favour of joining the golf club in second year. Then, a little into the year, Sanada was offered the position of fukubuchou on the Kendo club, and after an encouraging word from Yukimura, he quit the tennis club to better focus on his new duties. Again, looking back on it, such things were a natural occurrence. Time changed all things, Marui remembered Yukimura saying to those of them that were left. But to the him back then, who still didn't quite understand, it felt like the world he knew was shattering.

Regardless of his feelings, time continued to pass, as unaffected as always, and just as Bunta was thinking that he was getting used to it all, it happened. The news was sudden and he had argued vehemently against it, getting himself into a fight with his parents. Despite the angry, frustrated words, and locking himself in his room, the decision was final and nothing he said could've changed it. And so it was that in the middle of his second year of high school, Marui Bunta found himself transferring to a better, more prestigious high school that offered a better education than Rikkai Daigaku Fuzokukou did. When he really thought about it, he would've liked to say that he'd known all along that those kinds of things happened, and had been prepared for it, but that would've been a lie. And even though he'd been able to lie to the others, he wasn't able to lie to himself.

-

Marui flipped idly through the newspaper, skimming over articles for anything remotely peaking his interest. There were none. Occasionally, he read about Yukimura, or Atobe, or that annoying Seigaku brat, from whom the tennis world expected 'great things'. Apparently.

He had fallen out of contact with his former buchou after transferring from Rikkai, so he hadn't heard of the other's success from Yukimura himself, but he hadn't expected anything less from him. Like with Yukimura, Bunta had found that without being able to see them on a daily basis at school, his relations with the old Regulars had slowly dissolved, most into nothing. He did, however, sporadically hear from Niou and Jackal.

Marui shook his head, tossing the paper aside. He didn't have time to dwell in the past, the first of Fuyumuki Daigaku's entrance exams were coming up. The university was notorious for being especially difficult to enter, but Marui was determined to pass the entrance exams with flying colours. It wasn't really a matter of brains, just studying. Yes, lots and lots of studying.

He found himself fumbling through his pockets, searching for a stick of bubblegum. Finding what he was looking for, he undid the wrapping, chucked it into the nearby waste bin and popped the gum into his mouth. Satisfied, Bunta flipped open the review book sitting in front of him.

-

The red-haired boy growled, slamming the text shut. It took every ounce of self-control in his body not to chuck the book across the room. He'd already tried that once and now his TV was broken. It was hard enough to gather up the amount needed to pay the rent for the small apartment, he couldn't afford repairs.

"On the bright side, if I fail the entrance exams, I can go back to mooching off my parents until they disown me." Previous confidence lost, Marui was fairly sure that was exactly what was going to happen now. Well, not entirely. He was still going to fail, but he'd be forced to stay in his current residence for experience's sake.

Fuyudai's entrance exam system consisted of three exams and the first one was in less than a week.

With a resigned sigh and a long swig of coffee – the six packets of sugar he'd dumped in there were really good for calming nerves. And making you twitchy, it was really good at that – he opened the textbook again, trying his best to absorb the information.

-

"Ah… crap…"

He winced as the exam supervisor shot him a glare. Yeah, yeah, quiet during the exam, he knew, he knew. But damn it if these questions made any sense at all…!

What the hell was a misanthrope anyways?

English, Marui decided, was a useless language. It sucked and if he failed the exam, he knew exactly what to blame.

-

Post-examination nerves, he discovered, were by far, worse than those before and during the exam. That was because then you could still make a difference. You could study till your brain stopped functioning prior to the exam and you could still change your answers while writing, but afterwards all you could do was pace around outside the examination building, waiting for the results and hoping for the best as you clawed your face off.

It would appear that he wasn't the only one thinking the same thing though as most of the examinees were also crowding around outside the building. A bit useless, actually, considering the exam had only just finished and the results would not be posted for another few days.

Marui contemplated returning home for a huge dosage of sugar. The large intake of sugar would cause a sugar rush and then he could forget about the exam somewhat. Of course, then it would wear off and his nerves would come crawling back, out to kill him. Also, he would be tired afterwards and unable to work properly tomorrow.

Luckily, before Marui could go and perform said actions, which would lead to him losing his job, a finger tapped his shoulder, bringing him out of that train of thought.

He turned, opening his mouth to ask what it was the person wanted. But as grey-violet eyes met shining amber ones, any words he had meant to say died before they could fall from his tongue. His mouth remained opened.

"…Marui? Marui Bunta?"