Disclaimer: I do not and will never will own Prince of Tennis.


Stars

The most brightest of stars are the first to go. Not even Echizen Nanjiroh, one of the most brightest stars illuminating the universe of pro tennis, who retired early, could not escape his fated end. It is too bad that his son, whose aura is just as brilliant, could also not escape the clutches of how the universe works.

At first, it was just a few games. Many reasoned they were caused by recent death of Echizen Rinko, whom was killed in a hit and run accident while walking to the grocery store. It was a shock that Ryoma had even showed up at the tournaments. However, when the tennis prodigy did not make it to the semi-finals of the Wimbledon, something was wrong. What was more horrifying was that he lost the first round, 3-6, 0-6, 0-6.

Reporters had swarmed around Fuji Yuuta, the victor, who looked depressed. Fuji Syuusuke knew why and was disappointed – Ryoma had not been playing his best. It was the most horrible match ever played in tennis history. What scared him was that he could tell that Ryoma's skills had not deteriorated, but his motivation was gone.

After his loss to Fuji Yuuta, Ryoma had simply stopped coming to his matches. He did not even write nor call to inform the administrators that he would not be playing. He just basically disappeared. After weeks of forfeited matches because of his absences, Echizen Ryoma was considered unofficially retired.

Momoshiro Takeshi was the first to try to figure out what was happening. Marching towards Ryoma's house, he banged on the door, too angry to remember that Ryoma's father still lived with him.

He was answered by a haggard-looking man. Staring into blood-shot eyes, Momoshiro gaped as he realized this man was the fierce Samurai Nanjiroh. Before he could say anything, Nanjiroh croaked, "It's best if you come back later." With that, the retired athlete closed the door.


Two weeks after Momoshiro's visit, the headlines were huge: "ECHIZEN USING DRUGS?!" Someone had sent an anonymous tip, and given receipts in Ryoma's name as evidence of steroid and cocaine use. Friends and reporters alike swarmed the Echizen household, but none would answer the door.

People began to wonder whether Ryoma's string of victorious Grand Slams were credible. A small investigation showed that apparently that he started buying them three months before his mother's death. With the lack of evidence that Ryoma actually used steroids, his wins were still legitimate.

The next month, Echizen Nanjiroh had died – an overdose of cocaine. Ryoma was taken into questioning about drug usage but was shortly released. No one knew why, and no reporter was able to get the scoop about the interrogation nor the truth whether Ryoma had used drugs.

There were many people attending the funeral, but more than half of the attendees were not actually there to pay their respects. They were there to interrogate Ryoma. No one had seen the Samurai Jr. in weeks since the annoucement of his father's death, and this was probably their only chance to get close to him. To their surprise, the nineteen-year-old was no where to be found.


It was probably coincedence that Tezuka Kunimitsu found Ryoma, but some think otherwise. After all, he was one of the people Ryoma truly respected.

It was in the hospital. Kunimistu was finished checking up one of his patients when he saw one of his fellow co-workers walking into a room with young blond man limping behind. Perhaps it was also coincedence for co-worker asked him to inspect the patient, as the man just received a call that his wife was in labor.

Of couse, Kunimistu could not prevent the man from seeing his child born, and agreed.

When he walked into the room, the patient looked up and stiffened.

"I'm sorry. I realized I had an appointment," the blond man hurriedly said.

Something was off, and Kunimistu felt a need to step in front of the door. "Then why did you come?" he asked as he opened the patient's file.

"No, don't open it!" The man lunged for the folder, but it was too late.

At the top of the folder, the name "Echizen Ryoma" was written.

The man looked at the ground.

Kunimistu was shocked, to put it mildly. Nevertheless, he was a master of controlling himself. "Look up," he ordered. The man complied, albeit slowly. The man had blue eyes, but upon closer inspection, he realized the man was wearing contacts. Studying the structure of the face, he concluded that this was really Echizen Ryoma.

"Echizen."

"Tezuka-buchou." Seeing Kunimistu raise an eyebrow, Ryoma explained, "I am too used to calling you, 'buchou.' After all, in all the times I've played on a tennis team with you, you were captain."

"Ah."

After a long silence, Ryoma blurted out, "I didn't do drugs."

"I was not going to question you, Echizen. I am just going to – "

But Ryoma did not listen and continued. "My father started doing them. He just wanted to try them because he found a packet of cocaine in one of the magazines he bought. After two months, we, my mother and I, found out he continued to smoke it. The reason why the receipts were in my name was because he used my tournament winnings. He bought steroids to make it look like I was doing drugs, in case anyone found out." Ryoma laughed bitterly. "He always loved to use me as a scapegoat."

"Echizen – " Kunimistu started, but was again ignored.

"A month later, mom was killed, by my father."

Kunimistu could not help but gape.

"They argued and mom stormed out of the house. My father, in order to calm down smoked more cocaine. After an hour, my mom hasn't come home yet. He became angry and hopped into his car. Seeing her on the sidewalk – he…he," Ryoma began to stutter, but made himself continue. "He… he just wanted to scare her, but…" Ryoma's voice cracked, and he began to sob.

Kunimistu felt a sundry of emotions - relief that Ryoma was not doing drugs, and horror that the great Samurai Echizen did. Of course, he could not help but feel extreme sadness at the pitiful figure in front of him. Walking over to the trembling figure, he awkwardly put his arms around the crying man in attempt to comfort him. However, as Ryoma continued to cry, his embraced tightened.


The following week, Kawamura Sushi was reserved for a private dinner. Oishi Shuichiro, a doctor working at the same hospital as Kunimitsu, soon discovered that Kunimistu found Ryoma. And of course, that meant Kikumaru Eiji found out. In no time, everyone in the famous Seigaku Tennis Team and their rivals teams knew.

So when Ryoma came in for a check-up, he was informed by Kunimistu that the latter was taking him to dinner. Spotting Oishi in the parking lot, Ryoma instantly knew why. Despite his instinct to run away, Ryoma had expected this and simply let himself be driven to the restaurant.

It was a big affair as practically every team that had played against Seigaku, as well as the Seigaku's members, were present. Accusing eyes stared up at Ryoma as he entered the doorway. Momoshiro instantly shouted, "ECHIZEN, WHERE WERE– ," but was quickly hushed by Kunimistu's glare.

It was very quiet before Ryoma started to tell his story.

After the truth was learned, Yuuta softly asked, "Is that why you stopped playing tennis?"

Ryoma gripped the table. "I no longer had a goal to aim for. And every time I try to play…" he trailed off, and stared into his tea cup. No one tried to caox Ryoma to continue.


After a few months, everyone finally knew the story due to Meino Nanako, Ryoma's cousin. It was no wonder since she told her husband, Inoue Mamoru, whom was now head of the Pro Tennis Weekly magazine. The publication of the story was delayed but due to Inoue's assistant, Shiba Saori, it was quickly published.

Everyone, was of course moved, but Ryoma further isolated himself from the public. He no longer came to the hospital where Kunimistu worked and the house he lived in was sold.

Once again, Ryoma disappeared.


One year later, Kunimistu saw Ryoma in the park, sitting on a bench, watching a group tennis lesson. His hair was back to it's usual color, but was long and in a braid. Sitting next to him, he was glad that Ryoma did not run away after noticing who he was.

"There are more opponents that are far stronger than your father."

"He was the reason I started tennis."

After a familiar long silence, Kunimistu asked, "But don't you have any more reasons to continue?"

Ryoma turned to watch the children attempt to do a slice serve, then stared at his hands. "Every time I play… there's this sharp pain in my chest. Then I remember my mother… " He wringed his hands nervously, but again looked at the children playing.

"I think… you will feel more pain by not playing," Kunimistu replied. Watching the shorter man clenching his fists as if they wanted to hold something, Kunimistu smiled. After all, Echizen Ryoma was practically born to play tennis.

The next week, Ryoma entered a small tennis tournament. Although he had to start over again, he was determined to once again reach the top.

Perhaps Ryoma was able to escape the ways of the universe. Because Ryoma was not only a star, he was a pillar, and every pillar has a foundation. Staring up into the stands where he could see his friends cheering for him, Ryoma knew that if he crumbled, someone will be there to catch the pieces and help rebuild himself.

End


Well, it's a long time since I posted up any Tenipuri fics. Or any fics/chapters at all.

And it's not even BL, though you can see a hint of TezuRyo... but meh. There's probably a lot of mistakes, as I did not proofread really well, and this is technically my "first draft" but meh.

I am not satisfied with the ending, but I wanted it to be happy... or bittersweent... and they're really difficult to write. I had an alternatire ending, but I was, "Gah, too sad." Oh well. Comments?

I wish you guys a happy belated New Years'.