Disclaimer: Tennis no Oujisama/Tenisu no Oujisama/Prince of Tennis has been created by Konomi Takeshi-sensei. I make no money via this piece of fanfiction and no infringement in intended.

Those Afternoons


Summary: A couple of afternoons from Kisarazu Ryo's life.
Chapter 1

Anticipation


It was a Wednesday afternoon again. Hence, there would be no additional club activities after school. Who was it who had first decided that? Ryo couldn't recall. It had always been the rule. Probably Oji, he thought, looking down into the textbook to hide his grin. He vaguely wondered to which generation Oji's family registry would show him to belong. That was an interesting thought. It would be fun to check it out.

His mind jerked back to Japanese History as the sharp voice of Yagami-sensei echoed through the classroom. He narrowed his eyes at the 1855 staring at him from the top of the page. He held no particular dislike towards the subject. However, the period seemed the longest of any during the week because immediately after school, he would go to the arcade.

No, that wasn't the best part of it, he thought, his heart beating a little faster. He would go to the arcade with Jiro-san.

The pencil pressed just a little harder on the notebook as his grip on it tightened. It was not really a routine. Usually, Jiro-san would return home to help his younger siblings with their homework. After tennis, Kojirou Saeki's siblings were his priority – or so it seemed. However, once a month, Jiro-san would accompany him to the arcade. However, Bane would be sure to overhear him asking Jiro-san and tag along.

But today, Bane had skipped school. He had left after the first period, much to Ryo's satisfaction.

A thin film of sweat had settled over his right palm. He felt the tingling, pleasant ache that was always a premonition to his victory. It essentially meant nothing more than two friends going to an arcade. Nevertheless, Ryo rarely had a chance to be alone with Jiro-san because the latter was too popular to be left alone.

Ryo took a deep breath as the cool air breezed in from the window just a seat away. It was going to be a great day!

Yagami-sensei had stopped the dictation. Ryo swiftly pushed the stationery in the pencil case and stuffed it in the backpack along with the books. In a minute, he would be out of the class, rushing towards 3-A, waiting seemingly casually for Jiro-san to disengage himself from the volley of fan girls.

"Arcade, Jiro-san?" he could imagine himself saying, his voice and manner admirably free of the nervous tension he felt.

It was the last Wednesday of the month. As he had been refused for a long time, he was sure he would meet with success today. 'What's more,' he thought, grabbing his bag as the last bell rung, 'Jiro-san wouldn't be concentrating on Bane! I am sure Bane distracts him from me on purpose!'


"Hey, Kisarazu! Where'd you think you're going?"

He had hardly stepped out of his own class when a classmate's voice stopped him.

"What?" he barked out impatiently.

"Eh?" The poor fellow was taken aback. "Don't… don't we have cleaning duty today? You can't leave on your own like that!"

Cleaning duty. It was only when he heard those words that the fact came forth in his mind. Oh yes. How could he have forgotten?

His face darkened with disappointment and anger. Of course, he had forgotten! How could he not have forgotten? A golden chance… after so many weeks of patience… all for nothing…

"Let's get going! I want to go home as soon as possible!"

It was horribly unfair! He had never really had a moment alone with Jiro-san all this year. Next year, they might be in different Senior High schools. He might not even see him once this session came to an end. But today was supposed to have been his day! After basking in the beautiful happiness of such expectations, he could not bear to have his hopes shattered in such a manner.

But there was no way around it, was it? Conscientious Kisarazu bunked cleaning duty... word would surely get around. He was sure that one of the myriads of fan girls who lingered around Jiro-san couldn't help mentioning it to him. "Saeki-sama is so different!" they would say, "Perfect Saeki-sama!" While Saeki-sama hardly ever relished such comparison, being Ryo's companion during his truancy would be enough to kill his faith in him.

"Kisarazu! Why are you still standing around?"

He flung down his bag and hands shaking with suppressed emotions, set to work.


Kisarazu pulled down his cap over his eyes and sat down on the steps leading to the school auditorium. He was unwilling to leave with his classmates. Their laughter and careless chatter was gross cacophony to his ears. He had tried to direct his anger towards the dust and dirt in the classroom. However, it had not been enough. He felt murderous. He felt murderous enough to cry.

Laughter reverberated in the empty school. It was fate laughing at him, he thought, drawing his cap further down to cover his face. Why was life so full of unfairness?

He glared at a pebble lying directly below his eyes. Before he knew it, it blurred. A blink later, it was drenched in a salty tear.

Ryo sniffed and quickly wiped his face on the sleeve of his shirt. "What the hell!?" he muttered, sniffing once more.

Anyway, Jiro-san might have refused, he told himself as he shouldered his schoolbag and racquet backpack. After all, they would be preparing for Senior High Entrance examinations as well as for the Kantou Regional – and then the National, of course. The third-year club-members would have to put in extra effort. The summer break, which was about to commence next week, would have to be carefully planned out. In fact, Ryo himself should concentrate more on his studies.

It was hardly of any use, though. The little voice that would often work hard to console him during trouble was even less effective than usual. He felt ill-disposed towards all reason.

All of a sudden, he stopped in his path.

"Play tennis…," he said, looking up at the cloudless, clear sky.

Generally, he would go home, complete his homework, and then go to the tennis practice stadium not far from his house. Shudou and Itsuki usually came down there, too. He remembered that some punks from Narita visiting the city had challenged them to a match today. It would be no trouble. That happened every now and then, but as it often meant some good practice, it was no bother. Even so, the beady-eyed guy with his hair dyed red looked like he could embarrass his opponent. He might as well go to the stadium now. Release all this pent-up frustration and get back his focus before the match!


He had just zipped his jersey when he heard the familiar, "Hey ya, Kisarazu!" A small pause. "Well, early, aren't you?"

"You're here?"

Bane grinned and pointed to his unnaturally pink nose. "Allergy trouble – thought some tennis could cure it. I thought you'd come much later, though."

It didn't fail to remind Ryo of his earlier misery.

"Changed practice grounds?" he asked, determined to avoid the topic.

"Change always does the technique good, doesn't it?"

Ryo tightened the knot and tied the shoelace and didn't reply. On retrospection, he was feeling a bit guilty for thinking that Bane would always get in his way when they went to the arcade.

He unzipped the backpack and pulled out the racquet. He was feeling better already, he decided, as his grip closed perfectly around its handle. Oji was a treasure for Rokkaku!

"Say, Ryo," Bane flung an arm around his shoulder, "do you want to go to karaoke after you show those guys Rokkaku power."

Maybe Itsuki had let slip the thing about the match with Narita guys and that's why Bane was here.

"No."

Ryo shrugged off his arm and hurried out of the locker room. Somehow, he just did not feel like spending more time with Bane than he had to. It only served to dampen his already waning spirit.