Disclaimer: I do not own any of the character in Prince of Tennis, but I do own my OC(s) and this fanfic's plot.
A/N: I'm still alive! We are once again in Ryoma's POV. Enjoy!
I have redone all the crappy previous chapters! Pleased read them again if you want :)
The Dreamer Serve13:
Summer Camp Part 3
I sighed. Momo-senpai, as energetic as always, walked in front of me, taking the candle with him. He was talking happily as we managed to get the ball and were on our journey back to the camp. I barely paid attention to what he was talking about though. I bet it was nothing important. It had to be something about how he wanted to show the Viper the ball he managed to get in a very short time. We were the last to leave, but since we – or him – ran towards the temple, we finished the test quite fast. I shoved my hands into my pockets and just responded lazily when he asked.
By the time we arrived, it was drizzling, but I barely paid attention to it since there was a ruckus among the tennis club members. I saw out coach and the third-year seniors, including Tezuka-buchou, who looked unusually distressed, and Oishi-fukubuchou, were discussing about something. Among them, there was a girl who was stuttering and shaking her head frantically, while her captain was trying to calm her down. I remembered seeing her with Menou. She was her partner for the courage test.
Speaking of her, I did not see her around.
Her partner was back, but she was nowhere to be seen.
No, I did not want to think about it.
It had to be wrong...
Whatever I was thinking had to be wrong...
Nothing happened to her, right?
Before I did anything, Momo-senpai beat me to it. He ran towards the group and I ran after him. "Eiji-senpai, what's happening?" Momo-senpai asked the older regular anxiously as we both joined the group.
He faced us with a worried face and exclaimed, "We cannot find Menou-chan! She's missing!"
I was always glad to be right, but at that moment, I hated my intuition to be correct.
I could feel my palms were getting sweaty from anxiety, which rarely occurred to me. That stupid girl and her idiocy...
"Calm yourself down, Ryoma," I thought. "Panicking won't solve anything."
"Tezuka, we have to search for her," the girl's captain stated urgently, her arms were still wrapped around the panic girl.
My captain nodded while our coach spoke up, "The girls should stay, I will ask the boys to go to find her."
Tezuka-buchou agreed and quickly gathered all the tennis club members. There was urgency in his tone as he told us what to do. Figure, she was his sister after all. No matter how stoic and calm he could be, he truly cared about his sister. The boys of tennis club immediately grabbed a flashlight and went to the forest, splitting into small groups. I was with Momo-senpai again. The two of us walked back the track to the temple, looking around carefully.
I tried to find some traces of her presence, but it appeared that we could not find any clue. The drizzle slowly turned into a rain and it was increasing in intensity. Both the rain and the dark forest made it harder for us to find something that could lead us to her. I had a feeling that she went off track. The whole courage test thing was not her forte at all. She might have been scared by the "ghosts" and ran the wrong directions. Silently, I walked deeper into the forest, where there was no clear track.
As I had predicted, there was no clue of her. I sighed in frustration. Just when I was about to turn back, I thought I saw something white hanging on a tree. I was not sure but after flashing the flashlight towards the direction, I really saw a small white cloth. I walked closer to inspect it. It was a torn piece of a slightly bloodied bandage. I remembered that she injured her hand few days before. The cloth was hanging on a broken, old branch of a tree.
Trying to picture what had happened, I thought she might have fallen somewhere and tried to get her balance back by grabbing the nearest thing to her. The thing happened to be a weak branch which broke when she held it. It meant that she had fallen down somewhere. I slowly looked around the thick bushes and kicked a pebble. The pebble made a continuous noise and that made me realize of the presence of a barely noticeable small cliff.
Something clicked in my mind just then.
Looking down in haste, I saw her lying motionlessly on the ground below the cliff. I was not sure, but I thought my heart stopped for a second there.
I rushed towards her, sliding down the cliff, hastily inspecting her condition. From the way her chest rose and fell, I could tell she was still alive. Thank goodness for that. Below her head, there was a small puddle of blood. Perhaps, she had hit her head hard as she fell, which explained why she was unconscious. Her clothes were slightly torn here and there, leaving small scrapes. She was wet from head to toe. The rain had drenched her completely. I knew we had to return to the camp fast to get her treated.
Gently, I lifted her head off the ground with one hand and supported her torso with my other free arm. I shook her gently, calling her name. After several shakes, I felt her stirred, opening her eyes slowly. Her eyes were hazy and a little unfocused. A moment of silence ensued between us, before she finally broke it.
"Ryoma-kun?" Her voice was weak, unsure. "Where-"
"You fell down a small cliff," I cut her off before she finished asking, jerking my thumb towards the top of the cliff.
She frowned, trying to remember what had happened to her as she sat up slowly. "Y-yeah, I kind of remember."
A strong wind suddenly blew around us and she shivered violently, instinctively getting closer to me. I was torn between pushing her away or letting her stay that way. However, seeing her flushed face and ragged breathing, I allowed her to stay that way, knowing something was wrong. Wrapping one arm to support her torso, I used my free hand to check her temperature. She was running a high fever.
I did recall taking note of her drenched clothes due to the rain. The blowing chilly wind and night-time cold temperature were not helping at all. To make her feel warmer, I took off my jacket and wrapped it around her shaking frame. She subconsciously pulled it closer around her, but her shaking did not lessen. In fact, she looked worse as seconds passed. She looked ready to faint at any time.
Seeing her condition, I asked her, rather impatiently, "Can you walk?"
Silently, she nodded, trying to get back to her feet. I assisted her by holding both of her hands. I let her hands go as she fully stood up. Just when she managed to stand by herself, she let out a small gasp and fell back to the ground, one hand holding onto her right ankle. I knelt down next to her, taking her hand away from her swollen ankle. She had sprained it when she fell.
"S-sorry," she gasped, looking at me apologetically.
Sighing, I knew I have no choice but to carry her back to the camp site. It was a bit embarrassing, but not that I could worry about that, not with her condition. I rubbed the back of my neck before kneeling in front of her, looking at her from the corner of my eyes. She stared at me in shock, puzzled. I was a bit frustrated that she did not get the hint. I wanted to get her back fast and there she was, slowing me down.
"Menou," I quietly called her with her first name – for the first time – staring at her from the corner of my eyes.
Albeit hesitantly, she slowly climbed onto my back, looping her arms around my neck. I supported her legs with my hands under her knees and rose from the ground. She was light, as I expected after seeing her thin and small figure. She murmured another apology as I started to walk uphill. After going down the cliff, I had no choice but to make a detour to get back to the camping site.
The path was not too difficult, but it was longer than the original one. I was not worried whether I could make it since I knew I could make it even with her on my back. I was worried about her condition if we took too long to reach the site. Her breaths felt really hot on my neck and I could feel her shivering form on my back. Since I was carrying her, I thought she could use some rest. A rest might be good for her condition.
"Hey," I called her quietly, "Get some rest."
She shifted slightly and asked in a weak voice. "Huh?"
"Rest," I told her with a commanding tone, "You're sick."
It seemed she got it finally as she murmured a small 'yes'. She was not in a condition to argue after all. Soon enough, her head rest against my shoulder and her grips slackened slightly. I could only feel the gentle movement of her chest as she inhaled and exhaled. Her breaths were quick and short even when she was sleeping. I tightened my holds on her and quickened my pace.
About ten minutes later, I saw a bright light which could only come from the camping site. There was a sigh of relief escaping from my lips. She could be treated properly once we got to the site. The moment I reached the venue, there was a loud noise from the crowd. Apparently, I was the last to return and the one who came back with Menou. I noticed that my captain was rushing towards me, Fuji-senpai close behind him. I nudged the sleeping girl with my shoulder to wake her up. She exhaled a shaky breath as she opened her eyes slowly.
"Menou," Tezuka-buchou said in a low tone. He was quick to stand next to me, bending down to her eyes' level and holding her shoulder.
"Kunimitsu-nii," she murmured tiredly, half-conscious, looking at her older brother. Her arms unwrapped themselves from around my shoulders and she extended them towards Tezuka-buchou, like a small child asking for his mother to carry him. The older of the siblings immediately understood and took her into his arms, carrying her princess-style. The younger girl wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her face into his chest, returning to her slumber. Tezuka-buchou pulled her close to him and I could see relief written all over his feature. His gaze met mine and he inclined his head slightly, thanking me silently. I could only nod back.
The next person to approach her was Fuji-senpai, who put his palm against her flushed cheek gently. His eyebrows furrowed. "Tezuka, she's really ill. We should get her to the hospital."
He nodded in agreement and hurriedly rushed towards our coach, who had been waiting with her car. They entered the car and left in haste towards the hospital. The girl's team captain sighed in relief and suddenly changed back to her usual demeanor. She was ordering the people to get back to the cottage since it was raining which the members immediately followed. Oishi-fukubuchou was doing the same.
Once I reached the cottage, Momo-senpai threw a towel at me to dry myself. He was scolding me for disappearing suddenly without telling him, but was grinning as he told me how he was glad I could find Menou and returned safely. I nodded to reply him and gratefully accepted the towel, sitting down on an empty couch as I dried my hair. Although I should have felt relieved that Menou was safe, there was a disappointment as I saw her left with her brother. Deep inside, I wanted to be the one who stayed with her.
I palmed my lightly blushing face. Damn this stupid feeling...
"It's okay, Echizen," Fuji-senpai said. I looked at him in surprise. I did not notice he approached me and thankfully, my blush was gone.
He smiled. "Menou's fine now, thanks to you. She's lucky you can find her fast."
I shrugged. "It's nothing."
"However, it seems that Tezuka isn't willing to let someone to take over his place yet," he added with a grin, to which I was completely taken aback. "You have to pass him first to get her."
"What-" I started to speak, but he had walked away, humming happily.
He stopped half-way, however, and looked at me. "It will be tough, Echizen. Good luck."
I mentally cursed. He knew it. He knew about what I was feeling about our captain's younger sister. And he knew how tough our captain could be when the matter was related to his sister. I realized it too, but then, she could be worth the problem.
I thought about how she smiled at me and cheered for me during a match. I recalled how she looked so happy when I gave her the doll and how I felt happy about it too. I remembered what I felt when we danced together. I enjoyed teaching her to improve her tennis skills with her strong will, even if she was all clumsy about it. I wanted to protect her when she looked so weak and fragile. I wanted to be the one who stayed next to her when she needed someone.
Thinking about all these, I realize something important.
I like her...
...and she was worth the problem
A/N: Yes! It's a major improvement! The fics will really go a different way from the real Prince of Tennis' story from now on. It's all for the sake of the development of their relationship. And I'm currently writing the fics based on Futari no Samurai.
Stay tune for more about Ryoma and Menou's relationship :)