Chapter 1: The call of the Buchou
Echizen Ryoma woke up in his bed to begin his first day of practice as the buchou of the Seigaku tennis Club. He was the only remaining member from the original team he had started off in two years ago. He got ready and decided to skip breakfast; it wouldn't look too good if the captain was late.
"Hey kid, what's the rush?" Ryoma's father, Nanjiroh asked as he sped down the stairs.
"Move Oyaji, I'm gunna be late for Tennis practice." Ryoma grumbled.
"Oh, that's right; my little boy is starting his first practice as captain. The girls will be all over you." He said ruffling Ryoma's hair.
"Outta the way dad." Ryoma grumbled.
"Now, now, testy buchou, at least let me wish you luck." He offered, but remained unmoving. Out of the corner of his eye, Ryoma saw Karpin slowly creep up under his father's legs and bit him in a place where it would hurt for weeks. "OW! Stupid Cat!" Nanjiroh screamed and jumped around in pain. In the seven seconds of distraction, Echizen made his escape.
It was a long walk up to Seigaku and Ryoma remembered how for the last two years, Momoshiro would pick him up on his bike. 'I need a bike' Ryoma thought as he trekked to the school on foot. It would have been much easier, but it was early and he still had 20 kg power ankles on as well as a bag for school. After he finally arrived, he met Ryuzaki sensei at the tennis courts.
"Welcome Ryoma, just on time. First off all, you made captain, this is hard work. Arrange for the applications for the Tennis club to be available for freshmen. Secondly, in two weeks we are to have a ranking tournament in which you will have to set up blocks. Since most of the regulars are gone, put one regular to every block." She lectured to Ryoma who was trying not to fall asleep.
"Hai Sensei" he replied bowing. She showed him his office, which was quite small, but workable. "What remains of the club is set to arrive in twenty minutes right?"
"Right, so you should put the balls out on the courts and change into your jersey." She said before entering her own office. Ryoma printed out the forms and placed them on a table near the courts.
"Hey Echizen!" Called a third year regular, Soto Akio, one of the three remaining regulars on the team. "First day as Captain, how do you feel?" While Akio had made friends with Ryoma last year, Ryoma had still remained closed off to others. Akio had short black hair that was always neat, and was almost as tall as Inui. He was strong, but much weaker than Taka-san.
"How should I feel?" Ryoma mumbled halfheartedly.
"Well, you should feel great because this is finally our last year of school. We can finally get out of this hellhole!" Akio said gleefully.
"You do know that after middle school comes high school? And that high school has double the work?" Ryoma asked amused.
"Oh, I forgot! Damn, you think if I fail, they'll let me stay and be captain next year? That way if I don't graduate from here, then I'll never go to high school!" Akio was a smart kid, but lazy in every respect. "But then again, high school will have cuter girls. So many factors…"
"Forget it; hey you want to have a rally?" Ryoma asked bored of his friend's musings.
"Sure why not, I'm going to destroy you this year anyway. That Pinnacle of perfection you pulled off at last year's Kantou Tournament was amazing. You totally destroyed that demon Kirihara!" It was true, in singles 2 last year Echizen had finished off Rikkaidai's deadly demon Akaya by mastering the Pinnacle of Perfection. He had won despite a broken arm and knee (both given to him by Akaya).
Both of them took their positions on the court. Echizen drew back and hit the neo-twist serve with all his might. The neo twist could be hit with his left hand and curve either left or right after bouncing. It was derived from the knuckle serve, but without the violence intended. "Too slow." Akio said and returned it with a swift backhand.
Echizen began to switch to rally mode and check out how much Akio had improved. It was a fair bit of improvement. Akio had tried to improve a lot in the summer because of the nationals. He had played the first and second round in singles three, only to lose the first one and sustain heavy injury in the second. While seeing the matches, he realized he was not at a national level yet.
Akio was an Inui brand player. He analyzed his opponent (without a book) and began to mentally predict his next move. It was done subconsciously, but was without a doubt very Inui-like. Ryoma snapped out of his thoughts in time to break the rally with a drive B. The drive B had evolved as well and was much faster and bounced much higher.
Ten minutes later, Echizen declared the match over at 4 games to 2 (in favor of Echizen of course) in order to welcome the returning members. "Ryoma-kun! We heard you were captain, congratulations!" Kachiro and Katsuo said as they ran up to their captain. So, who's fuku-buckou?" They asked.
"Well it's not totally decided yet, but I think that Akio might get it. He deserves it after his improving over the summer, although Kenji is a ready candidate for that as well." Ryoma said. Ono Kenji was the other remaining regular. He was known as the genius of Seigaku, much like Fuji (although not at that level). His nickname was The Fifth ace, because he played very deceptively, tricking the opponent and playing very effective mind games to make his win faster. Nothing he did was straightforward.
"Alright team, gather around. I have some announcements to make regarding our schedule this year…" Ryoma began.