Author's note: I wrote this story for a dream novel site's recruitment, but I wasn't selected, so I thought that I'll publish it on fan fiction net.
Warning: this is a dream novel which seems to be qutie controvisal among many prince of tennis fans. But I will stillpublish it here because I don't see why I can't.
She was usually on the point of walking out of the school gate when he appeared: he would always be running easily despite the tennis racquet that he was carrying along with his school bag.
"Hanada-chan." He recognised her as one of his class mates but she was sure that this was the extent of his knowledge, he certainly had no idea that she actually just lived a few houses away from him.
She did though, as she had once saw him leave his house- but he did not even see her as he was running the moment he stepped out.
"See you tomorrow then." He told her easily with a friendly wave before he began to run again, quickly disappearing from her view due to how fast he was.
He also had other words that he wanted to say to her, but he was only a young boy in junior high school- he did not know how to express him self, nor did he realise that he actually did not have to worry at all.
As she watched him leave, Akiko couldn't help but to sigh once more. Despite having the great advantage of living on the same street as him, she was still walking by herself after more then two years.
She knew that she should ask him if she really did want to walk with him, but she was too frightened at the possible refusal. It was not as if she was a very slow walker, but there was no way that she could match the speed-star of Naniwa.
But at least he would not run past her without saying hi to her, she was grateful for this small act even though she wanted much more then that: she wanted to walk with him and talk to him- to know about him better.
Time was running out though as they might soon be heading to different schools for senior high school.
Sighing for a second time, she hugged her bag a bit closer to her.
Like almost all the students in Shitenhouji Chuu, she could easily recognise the coach of the tennis club due to his distinguished way of dressing. She has been to a few of the local competitions and Watanabe Osamu always gave her the impression of someone who often lazed around, a view that was affirmed due to the way he tended to slouch on the bench.
But now he was actually running relatively fast, although he was certainly not able to match Kenya's speed.
"Where is that boy?" Watanabe muttered to himself as he leant against the gate, panting slightly.
"Sensei, are you alright?" Akiko asked politely, as any student would.
"I'm fine." He assured her, although his breathing was still in the process of returning to its normal level. "Have you by any chance saw Oshitari Kenya?"
"He just ran past."
"He ran past?" the coach asked in seemingly disbelieve before he started to mutter to himself. "No wonder no one was willing to give the forms to him."
"I can do that for you as Oshitari-kun is in my class." She offered shyly.
"Thank you! It is just this and this." Saying so he practically shoved a whole folder to her. "And don't forget to tell him that he needs to get it all filled before this weekend unless he wants Shiraishi to come after him."
Akiko did what she promised the very next day. Upon approaching his desk, Kenya seemed quite surprised at seeing her there, although he quickly recovered by thanking her politely before he resumed talking to his friends.
That was naturally what she expected, so she did not realise that even though Kenya was addressing his friends, his eyes actually continued to be fixed on her as she walked back to her own friends.
She was quite disappointed to not see him that afternoon but there had been many times when he left the school before her due to the tennis club finishing a bit earlier, or when her own club ended later then the scheduled time.
Someone told her that the Kansai regional was coming up, so she really wanted to give him some sort of good wish gift, but her problem was that she did not know how to do so without announcing what she felt to the whole world.
Because Akiko was so occupied with her problems, she didn't notice the person who was slowly catching up with her until he began to wave his hand in front of her face.
"Oshitari-kun? But how come you are not running?" she immediately asked.
He gave a deep sigh before he answered by pulling the end of his uniform pants up in order to reveal the weights around both his legs.
"Our coach told me that I need to work on my stamina." He said dryly.
"Oh, that sounds very challenging." She muttered, all of a sudden very nervous since it seemed that they would finally be walking together. "Does…does everyone in the tennis club carry weights then?"
"It really depends."
It was not hard to direct the conversation to the sport that he loved and like any person, he was very eager to talk about something he was so passionate about, especially when his listener genuinely wanted to hear all about it. Their conversation then somehow shifted from tennis to his following team mates- since it was easy for him to make her laugh due to retelling funny annotates that had happened in the tennis club.
"Oshitari-kun, can you answer something for me then?" Akiko asked, a question that she has been very curious about ever since she first encountered it.
"If I can then I will." Kenya promised.
"Why is Shiraishi-kun's hand bandaged?"
He did not frown at this question, but Akiko was certain that this displeased him.
"Are you another of his fans?" he asked rather wearily, his voice almost on guard.
"No! I mean, I don't have anything against Shiraishi-kun but I am not like that at all." She hastily explained, quite upset due to the severity of this misunderstanding. "I am not one of his fans because I…well, I'm just not." She said firmly after she just managed to prevent herself on time.
"It is just that his fans often pester me." He said rather apologetically.
"But I am sure that Oshitari-kun is really popular too. In fact, I know a lot of people who thinks so."
"Really?" Kenya asked in a tone that she could almost describe as being happy, before he gave a slight cough and resumed speaking normally. "Well, it's not as if I really care about it. I'll be happy as long as the person I really care about care for me. I am speaking generically." He quickly pointed out, and fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, Akiko did not see the blush that clearly revealed the truth.
They continued to chat amiably and they actually managed to get on really well together. Akiko was quite worried that she would somehow embarrass herself due to being in front of the one she admired so much while Kenya might have been regarded as talking a bit too much due to who his listener was. But because they both felt a rather similar way toward one another, they failed to see the other as being abnormal in anyway.
"It is really good to talk to you." Kenya told her sincerely when the familiar sight of his house finally appeared. "By the way, where do you actually live?"
"But that's on the same street!" he examined out in great surprise at her answer. "How come I have never seen you before?"
"Because Oshitari-kun is always running." Akiko said simply, very careful in making sure that her voice did not contain any reproach.
"Well, that is true." Kenya replied, laughing rather awkwardly, "but since I have been ordered to carry these weights as I walk to and from school, I won't be doing any running lately.
"So, do you want to meet up in order to walk together?"
"I will be very glad too, Oshitari-kun." She said with a very sweet smile.
"Then that is settled, Hanada-chan." Kenya replied with an equally happy smile.
He waved at her cheerfully a final time before she turned in order to continue walking. But as soon as her back was turn, he couldn't help but to sigh. What has occupied his mind for such a long time was achieved so easily, so he had to ask himself whether he might have spared him self from numerous worrying if he had simply just asked her when that desire first appeared.
The regulars of Shitenhouji's tennis team were all very popular, but unlike a certain school, the situation in Shitenhouji was not out of hand. If Akiko was in that school then she would be dreading school every day due to the numerous fan girls. But since this was Shitenhouji, the most she received was a few hard stare, while most others teased her by declaring out their envy in a rather good natural way.
He began to wave at her whenever she entered their class room, as well as doing a similar thing if they happened to meet in the canteen.
The first time he deliberately went up to her desk was when he told her that the tennis club's practise was going to be extended, so she might want to go home first.
Akiko was sure that the regret was genuine.
After that incident he would often approach her during self study times and there were times when he even asked her whether she wanted to go to the canteen when he was heading there.
By this time, everyone with the exception of the two of them knew what was going on, and why it was happening. The tennis regulars and Watanabe began to tease Kenya endlessly and mercilessly, while many girls started to openly congratulate Akiko.
But Kenya had not idea that Akiko actually liked him for a long time, and that her agreement of walking with him was not just because he happened to be there and she could not manage to come up with any good enough reason to refuse him.
He also constantly reminded himself that her walking with him did not really mean anything...
Akiko was not even sure that Kenya would want to continue walking with her once his finished his 'additional trainings'. This was something that bothered both of them. Akiko saw it as the reason of why Kenya was walking with her, while Kenya used this as an excuse to do what he wanted.
She asked him about it in order to prepare herself but he could only give her a rather unsatisfactory answer of 'whenever the coach feels that it is time to end.'
The Kansai regional was approaching and every regular was working very hard for it, but this does not mean that they still could not manage to find time in teasing their friend after their practise.
"It is so tragic!!!" Koharu and Yuuji cried out together as they stood on either side of Kenya to place an arm around his shoulder. "Kenya is going to be gone from us very soon!"
"Why?" Kintarou asked innocently, "Kenya is right here!"
"It is because he reached that age of his life! The age where he is in love!" Watanabe Osamu declared out dramatically, walking to join his students. "And Kenya, you should really thank me for it."
"Shiraishi, what are they talking about?" the first year demanded to their buchou, who happened to walk in carrying a large stack of paper.
"Shiraishi, tell them to stop this nonsense." Kenya said in relief at the appearance of one of the most mature member of the team, as well as his closet friend in the tennis club.
"Oh, are you guys teasing him about Hanada-chan again?" Shiraishi stated easily. "Come on you two, don't be so hard on him. Kin-chan, you'll understand when you are older."
"Shiraishi…aren't you going to stop them?" Kenya almost implored out.
"I can't tell them off for telling the truth." Shiraishi said simply with a slight smile that boarded on being wicked.
"Kenya-senpai, I told you that you shouldn't have forgotten about going to the canteen with Shiraishi-buchou just because you wanted to eat lunch with Hanada-senpai." Zaizen explained innocently.
"Ah, youth." Watanabe said loudly. "You are doing quite well then, Kenya, but you should grab the opportunity even more."
"It is nothing like that!" Kenya's protest was ignored as Koharu and Yuuji started to lament once more, while Zaizen and Watanabe began to give him suggestions of what he should do.
"By the way, Kenya, I think your stamina has improved quite a bit so I think you can stop carrying weights for a well." Watanabe suddenly said, "Although it does seem a bit of a pity…"
Kenya had to ask himself what he really thought of Hanada Akiko. They had been in the same class ever since their first year in Shitenhouji chuu but he did not really notice her until last year.
He always ran home and somehow he would always run past her, after he found out that she was in his class, he thought that it was common courtesy for him to deliberately greet her whenever he saw her.
Then he started to notice her in class as well, and he just became very curious about her- he wanted to know more about her.
Now? After walking with her for quite some time he realised that he liked what he has discovered, he just really enjoyed being with her and…
"Kenya, how much longer are you going to take? I can't go home until I lock the club room." Shiraishi reminded him rather impatiently.
"I am almost done. Shiraishi… about the rumours that have been spreading…" Kenya began rather tactfully.
"I don't think they are rumours anymore, Kenya, they are probably the truth." Shiraishi said bluntly. "The fact that you are willing to forget about an appointment with a friend because of a girl shows quite clearly that you must like her a lot."
"Is that so?" Kenya muttered to himself as he picked up his racquet and prepared to head off. He did not forget that he was meant to be meeting Akiko in order to walk home, but since he was finally free of his weight he couldn't help but to break into a run.
She happened to finish her club activities earlier then him that afternoon and due to the position she was standing, the pillar of the school gate almost hid her completely.
She was not that that surprised at seeing him running as he still had a tendency to do so whenever he could. She was just about to greet him when he actually ran past her.
She could not blame him for not seeing her, but it really hurt her to see that he did not even attempt to find her.
Akiko knew that she was being rather over dramatic since Kenya never gave her any promise of continuing to walk with her after his training, but she still couldn't stop this sense of depression that suddenly appeared.
She was starting to believe in the rumours that were revolving around them, that Oshitari Kenya liked Hanada Akiko as he always seemed to be trying to spend time with her.
Guess she made the mistake of wanting to believe in what seemed favourable to her.
She ignored the sound of approaching footsteps as she was sure that it was someone else. After all, why would he actually run back?
"I am so glad that you are still here, Hanada-chan." Kenya said with true sincerity. "I am so sorry if I made you wait but my coach told me that I can stop carrying weights and I guess my old habit just…"
"It is alright, Oshitari-kun," She said in what she hoped to be a very calm voice, I understand that you will want to continue running."
"But I don't." Kenya stated loudly. "I like running, this is true, but I rather walk with you instead because I like walking with you more."
"Oshitari-kun, you are joking right?" Akiko began rather nervously. "This…this isn't funny…"
"Do I look like that I am joking?" his tone was rather harsh, almost angry. "I really mean what I just said. I like spending time with you. And I thought that you like doing so too."
"I…I do." She admitted shyly, after all, it was not easy for a young girl to finally tell the boy she likes about her real feelings, even if he all but confessed. "I actually wanted to walk with Oshitar-kun for such a long time but I was always too shy to ask you."
"That was silly, I would definitely have agreed" he reproached her rather gently as he soon admitted that: "But I can't really blame you since I made that mistake too."
"Eh? Oshitari-kun wanted to walk with me as well?" Akiko examined out in great surprise.
"Yes but I didn't know how to ask you either. The problem is that I always run home so by the time I wanted to ask you to walk with me, I wasn't sure how to do so without making it really obvious." Kenya told her. "Well…I guess I better tell the truth now. I wanted to spend time with you because I sort of like you. Now I like walking with you because I really like you."
"I like you too, Oshitari-kun." She told him.
"What about Kenya?" he suddenly said, almost blushing. "All my close friends call me Kenya."
She nodded. "Kenya-kun, should we start walking now?"
"Right, let's go then…Akiko-chan. Well, it'll be really weird if I don't call you by your first name even though you call me by my first name, right?" Kenya quickly said, even though this was not really true, as he still calls many of his friends by their last name.
"Kenya-kun…please don't start running again." She teased him as they began to walk.
"I will walk whenever Akiko is beside me." He promised.
"Isn't it nice to know that we have been responsible for creating this happy ending, Shiraishi?" Watanabe said with a smile from their hidden position behind the empty class room.
"Sensei, you gave that additional training to him because he made you run all the way from the club room to the school gate. Beside, I recall that I told you 'Kenya doesn't really need to improve on his stamina that much'." The buchou of Shitenhouji said with a roll of his eyes, although he was really glad for his friend.
Shiraishi knew that his friend had a crush on Hanada Akiko although Kenya did not really know it himself, but it was easy for him to guess this when Kenya started to talk to her by deliberately stopping in his running, instead of just calling out a passing greeting.
"I'll make a bet with you then," Watanabe said, "We will now have an additional cheerleader in every match of the kansai regional."
It was good that Shiraishi did not take the bet, as he would have lost.
Akiko did attend ever match in order to cheer for Kenya, and by this time they were regarded as an official couple since they have been on dates together.
"Kenya-kun, I made a bento for you…." She began when Kenya and Zaizen finished their doubles 1 game with a glorious win, but had to stop due to Kintarou charging at her upon hearing the word 'food'.
"Kin-chan!" Shiraishi ordered sternly as he waved his bandaged arm in front of the first year, causing him to run in the opposite direction.
"I am very sorry about this, Hanada-chan." Shiraishi said apologetically.
"Oh it's alright, I'm used to it now." She replied with a smile as she has become especially close with Shiraishi out of all the regulars due to their relationship with Kenya, although she only smiled her sweetest smile when Kenya approached.
"Akiko!" her boy friend greeted her by wrapping her into his embrace before he turned to tactfully remind Shiraishi: "You better go and warm up as you might still have to play."
"Do you think I'll actually need to play my singles one match?" Shiraishi said with a roll of his eyes as he began to walk away. "No need to get so jealous Kenya, I won't steal her away from you."
Akiko could only blush, especially when Kenya tightened his hold around her.
"You don't have to be jealous at all, I only like you." She assured him. "And I've like you for such a long time."
"But it is not that easy because you are so pretty." Kenya said simply, upon her blush he made a mental note to thank his cousin for this suggestion later on. "Why don't we go and buy something to drink?"
"Although I often get worried about Kenya-kun too." Akiko suddenly said, "Sometimes I often wonder whether Kenya-kun will start to run when we walk and forget all about me again."
"I have a way to prevent this." Saying so, he took her hand and began to walk. "This way I will never neglect you by running."