Useless Notes: Taka-san needs more love. Here's me giving it to him.
Disclaimer: I don't own Prince of Tennis, but if I did, Taka-san would get more screen time. With Fuji.
This is going to be a long ride, so please don't try to fall asleep while reading it.
Seigaku's Dead Weight: From the Inside
I. Inui Sadaharu
The power match between hard hitters Ishida Gin and Kawamura Takashi had started and Inui was already focused on his notes, his thoughts running faster than his hand. He was hurriedly taking notes on Ishida, analyzing and scrutinizing every bit of him, just to be able to find a weakness, a weak point, anything that would help defeat him.
Because should his calculations add up correctly, Kawamura should lose.
Now, Inui wasn't the type who'd go about talking about one of his teammates like that, but there was nothing the data specialist could do but analyze the information and say it as it is.
The information that pointed to nothing but Kawamura's absolute and devastating defeat.
His eyebrows crossed in a look of confusion and worry as Kawamura prepared to do his newly-discovered finishing move, the Dash Hadoukyuu.
The Dash Hadoukyuu being used so early on in the match? Ii data de janai. His hand and pen move in a flash once again as he took down the necessary data.
"Fifteen-love!" the referee shouts.
His eyes look up in mild interest and complete discomfort as Ishida returns the shot. He is as surprised as the others, but he does not show it. Ishida's return was to be expected anyway, he being the inventor of the Hadokyuu styles in the first place.
In fact, the game looked awfully one-sided, with all the data and statistics on Ishida's side. It seemed impossible for Kawamura to pull off an upset.
But after spending time with the Seigaku regulars, one should have learned long ago, that with them, the unexpected always happens, no matter how impossible the odds seemed.
Inui has learned this lesson well.
The will and the drive of a person to win cannot be put down in numbers and figures. It is incalculable and always surpasses normal expectations. And it is for this reason alone his hand chooses to stop, forcing his eyes to look up from his notebook and watch the game without having to calculate the possibilities.
But as he looks up, he sees an already battered and bruised Kawamura sprawled on the ground; badly injured by Ishida and his third style of Hadoukyuu.
His running thoughts come to a full stop and Inui doesn't even notice his pen fall from his hand. His teammates watch in shocked silence as Kawamura again prepares to perform the Dash Hadoukyuu.
Inui doesn't bother to calculate the risks involved anymore, nor does he bother to pick up his pen. He hears Oishi and Ryuuzaki-sensei shout to Kawamura, but he appears not to have heard. Inui also wants to shout out to his friend; tell him to sit down and forfeit, as it would be the more logical choice. The safer choice.
But the will and the drive of a person to win cannot be put down in numbers. It is incalculable and always, always surpasses normal expectations. And because of this, his hand drops the notebook and grips the railing instead.
He feels an anxious breath of air escape his mouth as Kawamura charged towards the ball. His teeth clamp down hard on each other as the power player falls onto the ground, with fresh wounds marking his body.
Gin's face remains expressionless and he tosses the ball up in the air for another power serve. Inui knows what is going to happen, but he doesn't turn away this time.
Because as soon as Kawamura hits the ground, he stands up again, his hands still tightened around his yellow racket and his eyes still focused on Gin.
He continues to grip onto the railing as his notebook still lies on the ground, unused. He continues to watch the courts along with his teammates, somehow captivated by Kawamura's sheer display of power and stubborn admittance to defeat.
His eyes haven't left the court since.
II. Oishi Syuichiroh
This isn't happening.
It was all Oishi could think of as he saw a weak Taka-san pant heavily on the coach's bench, bandages and bruises covering his entire body.
It was painful to watch- just watch- his teammate and friend suffer like this, if only to ensure a victory. Well then, Oishi thought grimly, if this is what happened to winners, then he wasn't sure he wanted Taka-san to play anymore.
As everyone started talking at the same time, Oishi stayed quiet, having already voiced his concern. He watched Taka-san's back move slowly, and soon, Oishi found himself counting the bruises and scrapes that huge, strong back had endured. How many more it would have to endure.
The others' voices bounced off around him, asking, pleading Taka-san to sit down and leave the rest to them. But Oishi knew that all these fell on deaf ears.
He felt it: the resolve and the determination given off by Taka-san. He'd felt it before; a long time ago when he'd tried to stop Tezuka from continuing that match against Atobe. He knew that it was the kind of resolve one had when he put his mind on something. The kind of resolve that no one could stop. He would not be swayed, he would not listen, no matter what everyone else would tell him.
So he stayed quiet and let everyone else scold Taka-san for a while. It seemed like only Oishi knew what was going on anyway.
"Not going to give up are you," he sighed helplessly. "Just like Tezuka."
But second thoughts quickly invaded the vice-captain's mind; thoughts of extreme worry and uneasiness, as the vice-captain's worrying nature took over.
There was the issue of his having used the Dash Hadoukyuu more than once already- more than thrice, in fact. The present condition of his body was another. And there was also the other factor of Ishida's mastery over the Hadoukyuu.
"Taka-san, what are you doing?!" he wanted to bellow, even if he knew what was going on in Taka-san's mind.
But then, as if hearing Oishi's thoughts, Taka-san slowly turns around to face them; to look at them, to tell them to trust him.
"Please don't stop me," he begs, his big eyes filled with confidence and assurance. "Please don't stop the match."
Then, as if turning to Oishi, he adds, stressing his point.
And with that, he stands to leave, holding both his jersey and his racket, going back to the courts and to the match.
Oishi couldn't do anything else but stare after him, completely at a loss for words.
But even if he had his way, Oishi knew it wouldn't do either of them any good anyway. He didn't stop Tezuka then and he wasn't about to stop Taka-san now. The only thing left to do was to watch and trust in his teammate to take care of the rest.
Just like he had asked him to.
III. Echizen Ryoma
Seigaku's dead weight.
The words kept on replaying in Echizen's mind, as if he was actually hearing the people whisper those to him.
"But that Kawamura Takashi… he's Seigaku's dead weight, isn't he?"
Seigaku's dead weight. Kawamura-senpai.
Echizen frowned. They didn't sound right together, but no matter how much he refused to accept it, he found himself agreeing with the opponent (whoever he was). True, Kawamura-senpai was a hell of a player (pardon his French), but to him, and probably to everyone else on the team, he just didn't measure up to the other Regulars.
The creases on his forehead grew deeper. He couldn't believe he was thinking of his senpai like that, not when he's done anything else but try. Thinking of anyone like that wasn't a nice thing to do and Echizen wanted to hit his own head, if only to remind himself of that.
He winced suddenly as his senpai took another hit from another Hadoukyuu and flew into the rafters.
He felt like shouting out to his senpai for him to be okay, but somehow, his mouth wouldn't work. It was as wide as his eyes were, still trying to process everything he was seeing. There was no more use in pretending to be calm and cool in a situation like this; no can of Ponta to calm his nerves. This time, he could shout all he wanted and react like he wanted, because this was Kawamura-senpai getting massacred out there.
Seigaku's dead weight.
His eyes darted to Kawamura-senpai's opponent: a big burly man; a far cry from the other Ishida they met at Fudomine. The man's lips formed a straight line and his face was devoid of any emotion, as if he was used to seeing his opponents fall like this every time he had a game.
The prodigy snorted as he looked at the "Master". Man, was this guy mada mada dane! He actually thought of 108 styles for his senpai's power move!
The man lacked originality; his only style was the Hadoukyuu- all 108 levels of it- and it seemed that he had no other strategy other than to beat the living crap out of his opponents.
The boy muttered something out loud, but he hadn't realized that Ishida had heard it. His teammates looked over at him worriedly; why had he said such a thing? But so what? He needed to hear it since he was being so mada mada dane. He heard Ishida grunt in annoyance and saw him turn his attention back to his senpai.
Momoshiro also turned his head to Kawamura, causing Echizen to do the same. He let out an inaudible sigh of relief and learned how to smile again when he saw Kawamura-senpai pick himself up and stalk back to the courts, ready to take on whatever Ishida would throw at him.
"Prove them wrong, senpai," he thought with a little smirk forming on his face.
He caught the fiery glint glowing in his senpai's eyes and Echizen pulled down his cap a bit lower.
"Show them what you can do. Show them that you're not our dead weight," he nodded randomly as Kawamura charged towards the ball again.
IV. Kaidoh Kaoru
Kaidoh stared in complete horror and shock as Kawamura plunged into the audience rafters once again. Each style was getting stronger, while Kawamura was getting weaker. And yet, his senpai just refused to give up. He just kept on coming back to the courts and repeating the same move, even though it was clear that it was of no use against his opponent. All thoughts of strategy and technique were completely abandoned by Kawamura, who was already relying on perseverance and stubborn will to continue the game.
It wasn't fair. How could this happen to Kawamura-senpai of all people? He had worked so hard for this and if that baka Momoshiro thought he was the only one who understood what was going on in Kawamura-senpai's life, then he was wrong.
Unknown to many, probably even to his other teammates, Kaidoh had seen the other Regulars training on their own for the National tournament. He passed by them as he jogged; Echizen sparring with the wall at the local courts, Oishi-senpai and Eiji-senpai working on their formation under Ryuuzaki-sensei's watchful eye, Tezuka-buchou exercising his arm at the gym, Inui-senpai revising his data in his bedroom (Kaidoh dropped by occasionally to say hi), Fuji-senpai having a practice game with Yuuta and Momoshiro eating another dozen burgers at the local burger joint.
Everyone was doing their own thing and he was sure they were all working hard, but in his opinion, no one worked as hard as Kawamura-senpai.
Kaidoh would sometimes pass the school grounds on his usual evening jogs and on those sometimes, he would always hear someone thwacking tennis balls against the walls. The serves were hard and powerful and Kaidoh would almost think it was Momoshiro, but the heavy panting and the energetic shouts of "Burning!" always proved him wrong.
This went on for days, with Kaidoh only passing by the school grounds and never actually entering so as not to distract his senpai. But one night, his curiosity got the better of him and he silently entered to see what his senpai was doing.
Kawamura stood, his back turned to Kaidoh, sweating heavily and gripping his arm in silent pain. He was wearing his Seigaku jersey, but the headband that sushi chefs always wore was still on his head. The realization then dawned on Kaidoh that Kawamura-senpai must have gone from his shift at the sushi shop. The hour was already late and the shop would probably be already closed and yet, here was Kawamura-senpai, still working on his Hadoukyuu at the school.
Kawamura winced and held his hand in slight pain, but his expression displayed nothing else but joy and relief. He lifted his eyes to the wall before him and Kaidoh saw the huge dent his senpai had made. Kawamura picked up his racket, drew another ball from his pocket and got ready to serve another Hadoukyuu.
No one could be as persevering, hardworking and stubborn as that.
But how long would that perseverance and stubbornness last, he wondered. How long would his strength hold? Even if Kawamura-senpai could still manage to pick himself up after every hit, there had to be a limit.
Everyone had a limit.
It was one of the first lessons taught to him by anyone, but now, here in Seigaku, everyone seemingly went against it. In Seigaku, they were all superhuman, often going on when most others would just give up.
And eventually, happily, Kaidoh hopped onto the bandwagon.
Another loud crash into the rafters brought Kaidoh out of his thoughts and back into reality.
There was Kawamura laying on the stands, his feet wide apart and his face contorted in pain. But the sights that struck Kaidoh the most were the fingers that were tightly squeezing the racket, as if it were a lifeline and the steely gaze his senpai fixed on his opponent.
And slowly, painfully, he picked himself up again and returned to the courts to continue playing.
He crouched down low and stared straight ahead, his burning, fiery eyes boring through Gin.
The ball was served and Kawamura shouted and charged undeterred in a manner Kaidoh found himself vowing to imitate- and surpass.
V. Kikumaru Eiji
Eiji winced as he saw Taka-san fly through the air again, his body full of bruises and wounds from the game. He wanted so much for Taka-san to just drop his racket and stop it. To stop getting himself hurt just for this. For them.
But he couldn't.
Because Taka-san told them not to.
"Please don't stop me."
Because Taka-san asked them not to.
He could almost feel the pain coursing through Taka-san's body as he saw him stand up tiredly to go back to the courts.
Taka-san gave up a lot of things for the team. He always did.
But sometimes, he gave too much.
He'd always give up his arm for them.
It was too much. Eiji couldn't stand it.
Everybody's mouths are open (including Ochibi's) as their power player soars over them again and crash-lands into the stands.
He stands up slowly and troops back to the court, each step giving him pain. One of his eyes is closed in hurt and Eiji can already see him biting his lip, but whether it was out of frustration or the throbbing of his wounds, he doesn't know.
Once his feet reach the court, they look like they're about to buckle under him, but they don't. It's because Taka-san's giving it all he's got. He's not about to lose. Not here. Not now.
Taka-san always gets injured and he always gives up his arm for them, but now, his whole body has to pay the price.
This had to stop. Someone had to do something.
Eiji saw the ball rushing towards Taka-san, but he was ready for this. As soon as Taka-san was in the air, his feet had already started moving and were already running towards the chairs.
Eiji was so caught up in his running, that he didn't notice the rest of the team follow him.
For such a powerful and muscular guy, Taka-san felt surprisingly light. But that was only because Momo and Kaidoh were also carrying him.
Taka-san slowly opened his eyes and looked around, as if he was surprised that he wasn't lying on concrete. His questioning look immediately gave way to one of gratitude and relief as he caught the familiar faces of his teammates surrounding him. He broke out into a smile, and for the first time since the match started, Eiji felt his own lips form a smile much similar to that of his friend's.
Taka-san slowly picked himself up and hobbled back to the court, but not before tossing his teammates an appreciative smile.
Eiji smiled at his back and watched him return to the game. The rest of the team went back to their seats, but they didn't settle down into them right away. They stayed alert, their eyes trained on the court and on their player.
And suddenly, Eiji realized, his heart felt a little bit lighter and his smile got a little bit bigger, because right now at least, he could do something for his friend. He didn't have to feel guilty about anything anymore and he could tell Taka-san that he wasn't alone in this.
He never was.
He felt his feet start moving again and he ran towards the large shadow that had appeared over the set of chairs beside theirs.
(Taka-san wasn't alone in this.)
He felt everyone else behind him, all of them running towards that spot.
(He never was.)
He was the first one there.
So Eiji put out his hand and reached.
VI. Fuji Syuusuke
Fuji watched, both his eyes and his mouth wide open as Taka-san flew through the air again, thanks to another Hadoukyuu to the stomach.
He didn't fall on the concrete anymore though. Eiji and the others had made sure of that.
He returned to the courts, with fresh pain marking his face and his body, and yet, he still had the strength to crouch down low as he prepared to do the Dash Hadoukyuu again.
Taka-san was so strong. His strength was already evident when they were still in first year and it was pretty obvious that this boy was going to shake the tennis world when he got older and when those muscles got developed.
But unfortunately, that was all he had. Strength. Power. He didn't have enough skills to back those up and that proved to be his undoing. His senpais made fun of him about it; they always challenged him to matches, knowing full well that none of Taka-san's shots would have counted, as all of them were too powerful to stay within the court's borders.
It wasn't a pretty sight to watch.
But seeing Taka-san outside the tennis courts, watching the sun go down with that look in his face… that was more than not pretty to watch.
It was heartbreaking.
Just like what was happening right now in the game.
Since he didn't have enough skills to back him up and since the only thing he relied on was power, he didn't seem to stand a chance against the heavily-favored Ishida Gin.
However, there was something Taka-san had that was more important than all the tennis skills in the world. Something that he had more of than his senpais and Ishida.
That was all that mattered. The heart and the passion for the game; that was what Taka-san had lots of. That was why he continued attending club practice despite the teasing he would have to endure from his senpais. That was why he would always have that regretful look on his face every time he would make them sushi. That was why he was still standing there on that court, his eyes trained on Ishida and his hands prepared on the racket.
That was all that really mattered.
But that heart and passion seemed to have diminished as the game wore on. The spark and the burning in his eyes have died somewhat.
No. This can't be happening.
This shouldn't be happening.
Not to Taka-san.
Compared to Taka-san, Fuji was a shrimp. He was tiny, fragile and weak. Taka-san however, was always so strong, so powerful, but always the first to remind Fuji that he was still better than he was. He had the brains at least, while Taka-san had the brawn. That was why everyone was, in a way, jealous of Fuji.
But no. They should be envious of Taka-san, not him. Taka-san was so kind, so nice, always wanted Fuji to smile. Taka-san always had the strength to go on with the battle even when all the odds seemed against them.
Taka-san was their anchor, their rock. He held them together and he was always happy to support them even if he was a little wounded himself.
But now, seeing that rock starting to crumble right now, in front of them, what were they going to do?
Fuji could see it. Taka-san may have been going back to the court dutifully and bravely, but he was already crumbling on the inside. His inner demons were taking over. They were telling him that everything wasn't enough; all the actions, all the words- they weren't enough. Nothing was ever enough.
Taka-san desperately needed a wake-up call, but Fuji was not the right person to give him that. It was the person who was standing quietly at the back, watching the entire game. The person who scowled at how the game was turning out. The person who had known Taka-san the longest.
Taka-san was once again thrown into the stands, but the Hadoukyuu that hit him was too hard, that he soared beyond everyone's reach.
It was then that Fuji opened his eyes in alarm: the look in Taka-san's eyes weren't good. What if he fell too hard and didn't return to the game anymore? What if he was already too tired and too wounded to go on? What would happen to the team?
What would happen to him?
Much to everyone's surprise though, Taka-san never made it to the ground. Akutsu had caught him safely and what he told Taka-san, nobody knew. Whatever it was though, it seemed to give him renewed strength and he stood up to return to the courts.
Fuji breathed a sigh of relief. The flash in the power player's eyes was back and he was actually smiling.
Fuji closed his eyes again and smiled his usual smile.
Welcome back, Superman.
VII. Tezuka Kunimitsu
Tezuka Kunimitsu, the stoic and silent captain of Seigaku, stood quietly by the bleachers, his arms crossed tightly across his chest and his frown set grimly on his face. By the way he was standing, nobody would have thought that the stoic and silent captain of Seigaku was scared.
But that was exactly what he was feeling as his eyes stayed focused on the game.
The match had been going on for some time now and his teammate hadn't scored a single point yet against the bald man they called 'Master'. He had been repeatedly sent to the rafters through the hits the 'Master' had released on him.
Kawamura had been severely hurt by all the blows he had received, but Seigaku refused to see him get hurt any longer.
They yelled out his name in concern every time he made harsh contact with the ground. They cheered him on for every effort he made to stand up again. They caught him as he fell. That was all they could do for their power player and although it wasn't much, their actions were returned with grateful smiles.
But the match had already reached its crucial climax, the all-or-nothing stage, the phase that would determine the one and only winner of this match. For Kawamura, there was no turning back as he climbed back over the railings and walked back to the court.
This would be the last time he'd fall, Tezuka thought. This would be the last time Kawamura would allow himself to be thrown back into humiliation and suffering. This would be the last time his body would absorb another Hadoukyuu.
But despite his thoughts, the captain was also an ordinary man. Ordinary men had fears and Tezuka was not immune to this.
He wasn't Inui; how could he be sure that Kawamura would be able to survive the last leg of the match? How could he know whether Kawamura would make it out with the win or not? How sure was he that Kawamura still had the gut and courage to go on with the match?
And then, in a matter of seconds his thoughts and fears are suddenly hushed by a sound louder than the noise all his thoughts could ever make.
It was applause.
The slightly startled captain looked around at the stadium he was in. Everybody was clapping, from the opponents to his teammates and even the random strangers who appreciated the sight before them.
It was solid, hard and loud; and it was all for Kawamura.
Kawamura, the player who never gave up, the player who didn't let his power go to waste, the player who had spilled the most blood and sweat just to play at the Nationals today.
Kawamura was the friend and teammate Tezuka deeply and sincerely admired ever since he saw him play against all of the other rude senpais two years ago.
Kawamura didn't get as much recognition as the other Regulars and he wasn't a very well-known player, probably because of his lack of skill. Tezuka was clearly disappointed when he had learned about it from Inui, since he didn't believe that Kawamura had a lack of skill at all. He was also as gifted as the others, although not very many saw what Seigaku did.
Right here and right now, in no other event than the Nationals, Kawamura was being showered with all the recognition and appreciation he should have received ever since he first picked up his yellow tennis racket and shouted "Burning!"
It was probably the only applause he had ever received in his entire tennis career.
And for this, Tezuka was glad.
He nodded randomly at the sight and couldn't stop the thin smile from gracing his features as he saw Kawamura still battling it out despite his fatigue and pain. Tezuka had full faith in Kawamura.
He would not let them down. He would not lose.
The applause had already stopped long ago, but Tezuka hadn't noticed the sudden silence in his mind, nor had he noticed the calm beating of his once excited heart as he watched his teammate prepare to serve the ball; the final ball against Ishida Gin.
This time, it would go in.
VII. Momoshiro Takeshi
That was how Momo was already addressing his senpai.
Not Kawamura-senpai, but Taka-san. Because for both of them, they had already come to the point wherein they knew the other inside-out.
Momo knew Taka-san well. It was a fact that was long established among him, Taka-san and the other Regulars.
You do not truly know a person overnight. That knowledge has to be earned and seen through countless experiences, until one has the right to say that he really knows his friend. That was how it was with Momoshiro and Kawamura.
They had spent so many times training together and improving each other's technique, that it wasn't impossible for them to really get to know the other.
It all started when Momoshiro had asked Kawamura to start training him like what Inui was doing with Mamushi. The young lad had figured that if his rival could find himself a mentor on the team, then so could he. And besides, he reasoned, both of them used raw power to win games, so it was only natural that power players such as them should stick together and help each other out. He'd make him proud one day, the younger boy had promised.
And so, Kawamura had taken him in, since it was never really in his nature to turn anyone down.
The two of them trained together; Kawamura gave out tips on strengthening the impact of the racket on the ball and Momoshiro took note of every single detail his senpai was telling him.
With all the training they were doing, naturally it didn't take long for them to open up to each other and share a piece of themselves to the other.
And so, that was how it happened, with both them exchanging questions and answers and finding out about each other along the way.
Eventually, they got to know each other so well already, that each knew what the other was thinking through only their mannerisms and expressions.
Which was why Momo was standing here now, gazing intensely at Taka-san, who
took in a deep breath and shouted, with all the strength he could muster:
Momoshiro's heart had started beating excitedly when Taka-san had already thrown the ball up in the air for his final serve.
He felt his breath lodge in his throat as Taka-san lost his footing and started to slowly collapse towards the ground. But Momo knew he would stand up again, for he could see it in his eyes: the determination and the power that nobody else ever saw.
Taka-san was going to stand up again. He just knew it.
And so, he did. And Momo smiled in relief.
But the battle wasn't over yet. It was a thought both power players shared at that same moment; a thought that fueled Taka-san's spirit into jumping back up again to unleash the power he was hiding behind his eyes.
Momoshiro closed his eyes briefly and allowed his mind to bring him back to a time when he still called Taka-san senpai. A moment the two athletes had shared when they were taking a break from their usual morning jog up the mountain.
"… Just being able to retire as Japan's Number One power player," Kawamura had said to him aimlessly at the time. "That would be one achievement I'd be really proud on accomplishing…"
Momoshiro lifted his eyes up to the court and he felt the sweat trickle down his chin as he watched on in anticipation.
"At least then I'd know that everything I did was worth it," he closed his eyes and let out a sigh.
"Once you've found your dream Momo, don't let go and hold onto it with your life," he continued. "And then, do everything you can to achieve it. Achieving it will give you the greatest reward and the greatest joy, so don't you ever let go of your dream, Momoshiro. I know you can do it."
He saw Taka-san fly out towards the ball with all the remaining strength he had left, his already broken arm stubbornly holding out until the last minute.
"HIT IT!" he shouted, his emotions sweeping over his entire being.
His eyes and smile were still as wide as they could be as he saw Taka-san soar through the air and achieve his dream.
A/N: That last part was not yaoi.
Thanks for reading!