Summary : Like all good things, our world, the one we had together built around ourselves, had to end. We were at the top, the pinnacle, and from there we had nowhere to go but down.
(A/N): Okay so, this is a new chapter (no pun intended) in my fanfiction career. I found this anime, fell in love, began devising plots, and then decided to type them out. This is the product. I would like to thank my Prince of Tennis beta, Vierblith, for going over this for me and correcting my grammar. It was generous of her to take her time doing so, round of applause please. Also, I am undecided on pairings for this story, or even if I'll attempt pairing. As the story progresses, I hope you readers will be willing to tell me which, if any, pairings you would like to read. I can't guarantee that I'll do all of your suggestions (that would be rather impossible). However, the ones with the most votes I will try to incorporate. So, I think that covers everything, thank you for reading and enjoy the story.
Disclaimer: I claim no rights to this anime, though I am thinking about asking for them for my birthday.
Chapter One: Five Years in Wait
We were perfect, and we had triumphed.
"We're the champions!"
"We won! Oh my god, we've won!"
We were gods, built up to the highest peak. We stood at the top of everything. Like a crystal chandelier hung high for all to see, to shed light on that which was beneath us.
"Remember when I said, 'Let's play together, always?' Well, I meant it."
We had risen to the top together, carried forward by our leaders. We stood on their shoulders, and watched as the world beneath us passed. We were invincible. So long as we remained together, we would triumph. But as with everything that has been raised to the pinnacle, all have but one option. Clouds can only rise to a certain point before they precipitate and disappear, and mountains can only grow so tall until they crumble. They all have only one fate, to fall.
"What are you trying do, kill yourself? Because if you keep this up, that's what will happen to you."
Like all good things, our world, the one we had together built around ourselves, had to end. We were at the top, the pinnacle, and from there we had nowhere to go but down.
"I can't do this anymore. We can't do this anymore … I'm sorry, but it's time to end this."
We fell hard, all of us did. The fall was abrupt and jolting. Unable to hold onto each other, we were thrown downward. The darkness consumed us as we each plunged into it, one after the other, until none of us were left to stand at the pinnacle. Not even the one we had all expected to soar.
"What do you mean Ryoma is missing?"
"Did you hear what happened?"
"I don't believe that! They would never!"
"Momo-sempai … what have you done?"
"I heard that Inui-sempai just upped and left. Is that true?"
With each sequence of events we all fell. Individually, from our podiums in the sky, we collapsed to the earth and hit everything on the way down. Without one another to hold onto, we toppled and fell to the bottom where we all laid apart in crumbled heaps.
"Eiji-sempai, why are you doing this?"
"What is wrong with you?! How dare you hit her!"
"…They say the only reason he survived was because he was so drunk…"
"It's not Tezuka's fault!"
"But I heard he can never play tennis again!"
Inui stared at his computer intently. Many things were running through the data collector's mind. Among them was the thought that if he slanted his glasses 3.5 millimeters to the left, then the effect of his ever shiny glasses would be a hundred and ten percent more effective. This thought brought a small quirk of a smile to Inui's face, and then with one hand he quickly tilted his spectacles. If there was one thing he knew, it was that your appearance could never be too intimidating.
Thinking of glasses glinting sadistically reminded Inui of the task ahead of him, and the smile slid cleanly off his face. He raised his long fingers over the keypad once more, but then he curled them back, defeated. The data collector sighed. Who knew writing a letter to one's old friends could be so hard? He did not. However, what he did know was this: there was a hundred percent chance that composing this simple email would take him longer than anything else he had ever undertaken. Even the extensive dissertation he had written a few years ago blanched in comparison.
Inui glanced at what he had written so far. It wasn't Nobel Prize worthy by any means, but Inui thought it did the job.
To: sfuji; ktezuka; tmomoshiro; hoihoi; soishi; kkaidoh; madamadadane; sushichef; sryuzaki
I hope you are all well or as well as you can hope to be. While I'm uncertain if I have your correct and current emails, (there is an 88.8 chance one of you won't receive this) I do hope that if you see a discrepancy in the email system, you will send it to the missing correspondent.
Perhaps now I should get to the reason why I am contacting you.
I personally feel it has been too long since we have seen each other. Therefore, I am planning a reunion for all of us to hopefully mend any rifts and to gather the team. Also, I believe that it would be beneficial to collect some newer data. Oh, and I would also like to see you all.
At any rate, I am planning on having this gathering in approximately a month, which would be June 12 or so. I will send further instructions as for the exact time and place once I receive the general consensus from you. (And yes, Tezuka, one word answers will suffice.) I expect you all to reply and be there, unless of course you would care to sample some of my original Inui Juice creations. Please note, I am not joking and I will go to great lengths to track you down.
Until we meet again,
CEO of Inui Health Products
It wouldn't have been half bad, had he not been writing it for the past five years. Perhaps that more than anything else explained how far they had fallen away from each other. Inui felt his heart drop at the thought. If someone had told him ten years ago that he would be this hesitant to send an email to all of his old teammates, he would have not believed them (and maybe force-fed them Inui juice for even making such a suggestion).
Looking back over the emails, Inui realized that perhaps some of them were rather outdated. Both Kikumaru's and Ryoma's were from middle school and high school, and Inui wasn't even sure if they used them anymore. As for the rest of them, Inui was fairly sure that he got them right. Fuji had been helpful in this regard. The tensai had some how managed to gather all the emails Inui had requested, save one.
"I'm sorry, Inui." Fuji's calm voice said over the phone. "But I honestly don't know where he is or even how to contact him. It's the same for everyone I've spoken with. No one seems to know where he is." But Inui had expected as much. It was a ninety-nine point nine percent chance, especially after what had happened, and it made Inui wonder. Ryoma had been gifted beyond anything he had ever witnessed in one player, and that was saying something when he was compared to Seigaku legends such as Tezuka and Fuji. Inui wanted to know just what had happened to their freshman ace.
"Inui-san, do you need help?" Inui leapt at her voice. There was a seventy-two percent chance she would startle me today, he thought as he adjusted his glasses, which were no longer in proper 'intimidation placement' from his fright. Then, he turned to face his young and rather attractive secretary.
When he had first hired Naoko, Inui had been the constant object of the buxom girl's attention. He had found it amusing at first, as she obviously had not heard or realized his preference was towards an asexual life. As time passed, however, so did the girl's attention lavished on him. Eventually, the girl cut her act completely, and settled for chasing after some of the vice-presidents' of Inui's company. Inui had to admit he rather enjoyed the data he got from this. As things stood now, several years later, Naoko was among his most trusted employees. Despite her flirtatious mindset, Inui had found her to be logical and honest, two things he highly prized.
He gave the pretty girl a half smile before saying. "Thank you, Naoko-kun, but I'm afraid I must be the one to write this email."
It wasn't that Inui didn't want the girl's help. If he was going to be perfectly frank, he would have loved to accept such offer. The problem was that he could not. Not only would the girl not understand the implications of the letter, but all of the subtle jokes and fleeting hints of the past that had transposed themselves in the letter would also be lost.
Even though he wanted to cling to the past, Inui knew it was futile. He was a different person now at the age of twenty-five. For starters, Inui had made his fortune early on, around the age of twenty or so, with the invention of his 'Inui Revitalizing Drinks.' They were much like the concoctions he had created as a teenager, only these were actually palatable. With a team of wealthy investors behind him, Inui had become the leading business tycoon in health foods at the age of twenty-one. Since then, he had furthered his global market and was now sitting on a not too small fortune.
He was proud of his accomplishments as anyone would be. Inui had achieved in a few years what most people never achieved in a life time. Yet, despite all of the money, fame and glamour he was surrounded with, Inui still felt a sense of loss. It had been five years since he had even seen his friends. Although he held the occasional correspondence with Fuji and sometimes Kaido, he never actually saw his them.
From what Fuji told him, Seigaku's tensai was a famous photographer who went under the alias, Émile. Inui had been shocked when he heard this, and had glanced carefully over at the large photograph behind his desk. Sure enough in the corner of the elegant photograph picturing a crane rising from the water there was the name Émile scrawled delicately in the oddly familiar handwriting.
Inui continued the conversation with Fuji, now more curious than ever. He inquired as to how Fuji was doing with selling photographs. The tensai told him that he was doing quite well, and his count was now well into the thousands as far as the prints he had sold. Through his mental calculations, Inui took the sum he had paid for photograph he had purchased, a hefty sum, and multiplied it. The number he came up with was well past anything a normal photographer would ever dream of making and Inui thought of recalculating. However, then he remembered who he was dealing with. After all, Inui reasoned, when had Fuji ever been associated with normality?
Inui snapped out of trance and glanced up at his secretary. "Hai, Naoko?"
"Inui-san, may I ask what are you writing that has you so stumped?" The woman asked as she leaned causally against the door frame her arms crossed across her large chest. It caused her breast to appear twice as large as normal.
Inui quirked an eyebrow and made a mental note to write down this discovery he had made. (It would be interesting to see how that young vice-president would react if Naoko did this in front of him.) "It's an invitation to my old friends, to come and spend some time together. We all haven't seen each other in five years." Inui told her in response to her previous question.
Naoko's eyebrow's knitted together. "Your tennis friends, Inui-san?" Naoko had seen the pictures, the really old ones.
It was about four weeks ago. Inui had been dictating a letter to her when, Naoko, constant plagued with wandering-mind syndrome, had seen the old picture in its silver frame behind the stack of recipes he kept on his desk. It was a picture of all of them during his third year of middle school. Naoko had first commented on Tezuka (Inui had predicted this at eighty-four percent, the remaining sixteen percent directed towards Fuji). She raved about how handsome he was, and had asked several times, in various roundabout ways, whether or not he was single. Inui hadn't responded. It wasn't that he hadn't wanted to answer, but the truth was he hadn't known, and that embarrassed him.
He had always been the data master of Seigaku. He knew everything about everyone. Even people like Tezuka and Fuji were not totally out of his grasp (though collecting data on them did prove to be a challenge.) There was no one Inui did not know something about. But now he did not even know the most basic information about them. The thought sickened him, and it had been this that really prompted him to finish the email he had been putting off for five years. Now that he had the motivation, the only problem Inui kept facing was a way to keep his friends from declining it.
"Yes, they are my tennis friends," Inui responded absently remembering Naoko's question. His mind was still wrapped around the current problem.
Naoko shook her pretty brown-haired head. "I don't understand, Inui-san. Why wouldn't your friends want to come and see you? I can arrange the jet if that is the problem." Inui smiled. Naoko was like many of the people he had now surrounded himself with. She thought that money could fix problems, and, if that didn't work, then it wasn't meant to be. She would not understand something as delicate as what had happened to them. Inui sighed.
Inui adjusted his glasses. "It's not that, Naoko. Originally, my friends would have sold their souls for the price of being together. But I know that isn't the case anymore. I don't think any of them would have a problem seeing me, but I can't say that they all would want to see each other. There were … issues when we last parted." He wasn't going to elaborate. Even though five years had past, Inui had never come to accept everything he now knew to be true. To accept what had happened, he felt was like giving up, and he would die before he let that happen.
Naoko nodded. "You know this situation sounds a lot like my family." The woman's voice was thoughtful as she entered his office and came to stand beside him. "You see my in my family my two brothers hate each other. It was over something stupid that happened years ago." Naoko waved her hand flippantly. "But even so, they've never forgotten it. Anyway, it was my mother's birthday a year ago, and she told us that all she really wanted was for all of us to be there at once." Naoko leaned back against Inui's desk. "Well, I guess you can say I made an executive decision." Inui noted to the pun. "I told each of my brothers to come and visit mother and me, but didn't tell them that the other was coming. Since they never talked, it worked out, and my mother got her wish." Naoko reached for something behind her. When she brought it forward, Inui realized it was the old picture. "Maybe my story will give you an idea, Inui-san?" Naoko was smile at him now as she pushed the photograph into his hands.
Inui nodded, his mind mulling over her words. "Indeed, Naoko. You've given me a great deal to think about."
Naoko nodded. "Well, I should get back to work then." The woman pulled her lean frame up from the desk and crossed the plush carpet toward the door. She had almost pulled the door shut behind her, when she paused.
"Inui-san, may I ask a question?" The hesitation in Naoko's voice was what really caught Inui's attention, and, before he knew what he was doing, he had already nodded his consent. "What happened between your friends and you?" Naoko asked tentatively, her hand resting on the doorknob.
Inui looked down at the silver framed photograph in his hand. Then in a soft voice he said, "Life, Naoko." He knew this was not the answer she wanted, but the truth was not something he ever want reveal.
"Hai, Inui-san. Life can be a killer sometimes."
Inui shook his head. "Life doesn't kill, Naoko." He glanced up at the attractive girl from behind his glasses. "That would make things too easy."
Naoko blinked once or twice, apparently at a loss for words. Inui smiled inside. That was a first. Then he rescued the tongue-tied girl. "Thank you for your help, Naoko. You can go back to what you were doing."
Naoko nodded, though she seemed less chipper than before. "Hai, Inui-san." Her response was softer and tamer than it normally was, and she left the room without the customary sashaying of her hips. Inui would have been fascinated by this discovery, had he been paying attention to his secretary. However, Inui's attention was far from the attractive girl, and instead his whole mind was focused on the computer screen in front of him.
Inui looked down at the mouse which sat innocently beside his laptop. Then he laid his hand over it and rolled the pointer to the words, Send to All. He was about to click, when Naoko's words assaulted his brain. "I told each of my brothers to come and visit mother and me, but didn't tell them that the other was coming…" Inui moved the mouse away from the Send to All button.
"A white lie," he murmured as he re-typed and rephrase his message, personalizing it for each of his friends. He worked methodically, manually sending the individual messages to all of the persons. Inui clicked on the last email, Ryoma's, and his computer gave a cheerful ding, signifying it was sending the message. Inui sat back and sighed while rubbing his exhausted eyes. All the while, percentages raced through his mind, but no matter how he shifted and manipulated them he couldn't get a concrete answer.
Probability of his friends answering this email … Inui didn't know. Even he couldn't calculate something like that.
So how was that? I hope you all enjoyed this chapter of the story, the next will be out shortly, most likely by Thursday. Thanks and I hope you enjoyed the chapter. Oh! Please review and tell me what you think!