"That's it, everyone," said Tezuka as he watched his team run laps around the tennis courts. "That's it. Keep it up. Don't let your guard down."
Inui happened to be standing a few paces away when Tezuka had said this. He wasn't running for some reason, and Tezuka never seemed to be bothered by it so he tried to get away with it as often as possible.
That, however, is not the issue at hand. Usually, whenever Tezuka says, "Don't let your guard down," no one really notices. They've heard it so many times that the words have basically lost their meaning but, on this sunny afternoon, Inui tuned in just for a moment to hear it.
So he, against his better judgment, decided to call Tezuka out on it.
"Tezuka," he began.
"Yes?" said Tezuka.
"When you say, 'don't let your guard down' to us, what exactly do you mean?" Inui asked.
Tezuka stared at Inui blankly and actually seemed confused for the first time in his life. In fact, there might have even been a hint of a disgruntled expression on his face (but he might have just been farting.)
"Never mind," said Inui. "Forget I said anything."
"I will," said Tezuka.
So Inui wandered off to stalk someone in order to collect data, leaving Tezuka to himself. At first, he went back to thinking up a new tennis move and how he could perform it efficiently, but he couldn't shake Inui's question. How could someone not know what he meant when he said, "Don't let your guard down,"?
And then something occurred to him: If Inui didn't know what he meant by his famous phrase, is it possible the rest of the team was also in the dark? If so, how dare they deny the captain this information!
Just when Tezuka was going to fume internally, he stopped and considered the phrase.
"Don't." That's a negative. It means that the listener should do the opposite of whatever the speaker is about to say that follows that word. Without the word 'don't', in front of the words 'let your guard down,' someone might just be inclined to let their guard down.
"Let." Well, that one was a little tougher to decipher. 'Let' isn't exactly a word one can ponder about the meaning because it's so basic that everyone should automatically know its meaning. Tezuka thought back to the time when he was so bored with being in the same room as himself that he actually read the dictionary, but sadly, he didn't make it all the way to the Ls because he realized he could have been practicing tennis instead. But he assumed the word "let" implied permission.
If "Don't" was a negative, and "Let" was permission, then clearly "Don't let" means that the listener does not have permission to do whatever follows those two words.
"Your." Well obviously. This meant that the speaker is directing his comment at the listener, and the listener alone. Saying, "Don't let your" obviously means the speaker, Tezuka himself, is refusing permission to the speaker concerning whatever follows the first three words.
"Guard." Tezuka thought about this one for a long time. Guard could be a verb, which would mean keeping something from danger. But it could also be a noun, which meant it was a physical posture of readiness. So, if the listener was not attentive and ready, then his guard would be down. By revoking permission from the listener concerning his guard, Tezuka was, in a way, informing them to maintain guard.
"Down." Down finished out the negativity of the sentence. Without it, there is simply not completion to the order. Without it, the sentence is incomplete and incorrect, and we all know how much Tezuka doesn't like incorrectness. So "Down" rounded out the sentence.
"Don't let your guard down." The words on their own made enough sense, and Tezuka couldn't possibly understand what Inui meant when he questioned the meaning of Tezuka's favorite phrase. It seemed like common sense, yet Tezuka constantly observed his teammates letting their guards down in spite of his warning. Did that negate the purpose of the warning? Was Tezuka wasting his breath when he informed everyone to not let their guards down? Were his teammates put off by the negativity of the statement? Should he say, "Keep your guard up," in order to appeal to the more positive people on the team?
One would never know it, but this was secretly causing Tezuka internal anguish and he found it impossible to concentrate. His teammates finished their laps and came over to him for advice concerning their matches coming up in a few days.
Tezuka hesitated and then hastily said, "Don't let your guard down."
The team nodded, agreed and simply shrugged it off as they wandered away to get their rackets. Tezuka couldn't help but feel everyone was just as confused as before he had informed them it was important to not let their guards down.
"What I mean is," Tezuka continued.
Everyone stopped and faced him again.
"What I mean is that every one of you does not have my permission to allow yourself to be caught in a state of unreadiness," said Tezuka. "I don't think unreadiness is a word, but for our purposes, I'm sure you all understand."
"Wait…" said Eiji slowly. "What do you mean?"
"What do I mean?" said Tezuka.
"Yeah, I'm confused too," Momo admitted. "We should be in a state of unreadiness?"
"No, if you listened to my statement, then I clearly revoke permission of such acts," Tezuka said.
"Such acts being our states of unreadiness?" questioned Kaidou.
"Can we choose a word that actually exists in order to describe our state?" Inui requested.
"Your state should not be that of unreadiness," said Tezuka. "I clearly said that you do not have permission."
His team stared at him.
"So what are you saying?" Oishi asked finally.
Tezuka frowned deeper. "What I mean is," he started. "Just don't let your guard down."
"Oh," said Taka. "Why didn't you just say that?"
"Because I thought none of you knew what it meant," Tezuka said.
This confused everyone.
"But you say it all the time," Eiji pointed out.
"Exactly," said Tezuka. "I just wanted to clarify my instructions because Inui implied to me that he wasn't quite sure what the phrase meant."
"Well, who knows anything about Inui says?" said Oishi.
Inui just stood there and adjusted his glasses. "Yes well, why is it Ryoma always says, 'You still have a lot to work on'?" he retorted.
"Why is this about me all of a sudden?" Ryoma said.
"It's true, you do say that a lot," Eiji pointed out.
"Well what about you?" said Ryoma. "You make cat noises."
"So?" said Eiji defensively. "Taka's the one who's always shouting weird declarative things in English."
Taka looked embarrassed for a second, and then decided to join in on the circle of hate. "What about Kaidou?" said Taka. "He hisses."
"And?" Kaidou said angrily. "Momo said 'Don.' What does that mean?"
"Hey!" said Momo. "I'll have you know that 'don' means…" Momo trailed off and then noticed everyone was staring at him. "Fuji! What about Fuji? He always says, 'It's still too early for you to beat me' or something like that."
They all turned to Fuji and waited for him to say something about Oishi since he was the only one who had not been harassed. Actually, Oishi looked kind of excited to find out what his trademark phrase was, but Fuji only continued standing there with a smile on his face, looking ultimately scary.
"Oishi," Fuji started as everyone leaned in. "What are those black things coming out of your forehead?"
"What?" Oishi cried. "That's not something I say!"
Fuji only chuckled warmly, but it wasn't warm at all because it was absolutely terrifying for anyone standing around.
"Anyway," said Tezuka, clearing his throat. "I suppose that concludes practice for the day."
So then Ryoma went to practice tennis as Taka went to his sushi restaurant and Kaidou decided to do some laps and Inui collected data while doing more laps than Kaidou. All the while, Eiji and Oishi decided to go on an ambiguously gay adventure, hand in hand, as the best of friends looking at toothpaste and discussing which way Eiji's teddy bear leans. Momo rode his bicycle around while Fuji observed some cacti and kicked some puppies.
In the end, Tezuka wasn't sure if everyone understood his message of keeping their guards up, but he wasn't sure if it mattered anymore. After all, since all of them had incomprehensible things they said often, then why should he be the only one to explain his recurring behavior?
And speaking of recurring behavior, Tezuka's horrible injury that always comes back to haunt him at the worst of times suddenly… came back to haunt him at the worst of times. It would seem Tezuka allowed himself to be found in a state of unreadiness.
Well, congratulate me. This is not only MY SEVENTH BIRTHDAY on fanfiction dot net, but this story contains my two millionth word. I recall my one millionth word and it was the stupid word 'it' which was useless, so I wanted to make this word mean something. Can you guess what the word is? That's right! It's a made up word all together! Unreadiness! (The actual two millionth word is the first time 'unreadiness' is used, by the way. Yes, I counted. Lolz.) Seven years on fanfiction dot net is a lucky year...holler back at me if you're a geezer like me, holler at me if you're a baby or if you're an adolescent. Holler at me if you know what's good for you! Happy Birthday and Happy 2 Million Words to me!!! (BUSTAMOVE!!!)