A/N: I apologize for the long wait. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank those of you who have not abandoned this story. You're motivation means a lot to me.

Chapter 9

A week has passed and Seigaku had to endure Ryoga's training menu from hell. Every day they would do 500 swings for both left and right arms, 500 squats and even increased their ankle weights. Besides that, Ryoga had even taken them up to the forest where they played tennis on an uneven surface. If they failed, they had to drink Inui's Special Deluxe Aozu and not even Ryoma was spared from the harsh training, despite being Ryoga's brother. In fact, it seemed Ryoga was especially hard on him.

Despite the harshness of the training, it did yield amazing results. In that short week the team had found that not only have their strength increased, but also their stamina and balance. Their shots were more accurate, stronger and were more refined than they originally were. Moving quickly on the courts was as effortless as walking slowly down the street and Kikumaru's Acrobatics had developed into something worthy of the greatest circus acts. There was no question that the red head 'cat' of Seigaku's Tennis team would definitely best Hyotei's Gakuto.

"Alright guys! Break!" Ryoga called out as the team slowed to a halt from running their laps. Ryoga had, had them run 30 laps around the courts with their ankle weights on as a 'cool down' session. The older male had to admit, these middle schoolers really had a lot in them. Most people would be passed out by now but the team was only slightly winded. Once everyone seemed to catch their breaths, Ryoga nodded approvingly and asked them to gather around.

"Alright. As you all know, tomorrow we will have a practise match against Rikkai Dai. I want all of you to get a good rest tomorrow to prepare. Rikkai has been the national champions for three years in a row if I'm not mistaken and they will be the perfect team to test out how far you've come with your training." Ryoga said as the team nodded.

"Yosha! We'll be able to take them on, no problem nya!" Eiji said in excitement, bouncing in place. Ryoga's training effort had managed to help him combat his stamina problem and he couldn't wait to go against Rikkai to see how far he had improved. Oishi merely smiled, nodding his head in agreement.

"Rikkai huh… We won't lose to them, we jus can't. Right Echizen?" Momo said, smirking slightly as Ryoma shrugged, a tiny smirk of his own tugging at his lips.


"Ah… But we must not get careless. Rikkai is a worthy opponent." Tezuka said, making sure to make his meaning clear with the look he had on his face. Don't underestimate Rikkai and do not let your guard down. The look was understood by the majority of the team and had Ryoga grinning slightly. He was teaching a bunch of good kids he decided.

"Alright. Everyone dismissed. Chibisuke, I'm heading back first since I need to do something. Can you go back on your own?" Ryoga asked his younger brother. The golden eyed teen nodded his head in agreement. He'd catch a ride with Momo-senpai later. Smiling, Ryoga nodded and walked away, whistling something under his breath as the team headed for the club room to shower and change.

"Ne, I wonder where Ryoga-san is going nya." Eiji said as he stripped out of his shirt.

"I don't know… But he seemed rather cheerful didn't he?" Fuji responded with an enigmatic smile, getting ready to head into the showers.

"Don't you know anything about it Echizen?" Fuji asked the youngest of the team who was stripping out of his shirt. Blanked faced, Ryoma just shrugged his shoulders, signalling that he didn't know either.

"Ah! Maybe he's going out on a date!" came Momo's voice from across the room. He was already part way undress, a towel wrapped around his waist, showcasing the well muscled abs. The training they went through seemed to have given them even more definition but not enough so that he'd look like a body builder.

"Ah! That could be it!" Eiji answered, eyes sparkling mischievously. "I wonder what kind of girls Ryoga-san likes." The red head mussed. During the exchange, Ryoma, Tezuka, Kaidoh, Inui and Taka wisely chose not to comment and instead headed towards the shower room to bath. Ryoma ignored them because the thought of his brother dating anyone was disturbing, Tezuka and Kaidoh because it wasn't any of their business. Inui didn't join in for once because he'd prefer contemplating that question alone and Taka because he thought that the idea was a little far-fetched. Ryoga-san had only been back for two weeks after all.

Somewhere across town, Akira was getting ready for her date with Ryoga. Well, technically it wasn't a date. It was two friends who used to hang out together meeting up over some cake and tea. Never mind the fact that Akira's diminishing crush on the older male had come back full force. Shaking her head, she glanced at the mirror to make sure everything was perfect. Her make-up was flawless, as was her hair. Her outfit consisting jeans, a cute red tank top and a sporty leather jacket over it complimented her looks, giving her that fun, devil may care appeal. Satisfied, the girl grabbed her hand bag and went out, her heart beating furiously at the thought of spending some time with the male she had admired for so long.

"Ne Buchou… What was the special announcement you wanted to give us today?" Akaya asked, his cheeks tinted red from exertion. He had just finished a match with Niou-senpai when Yukimura buchou called them over to make a special announcement. Once the team had gathered, Yukimura gave an approving nod before he said;

"Tomorrow we're going to have a practise match against Seigaku. After classes, meet at the tennis courts and we'll take a bus to Seishun Gakuen. Try not to be late."

Akaya's eyes widened at that as his jaw drop. The teal haired captain's smile couldn't get any bigger as he watched the youngest member of his team flounder for words. Marui, ever chewing on his bubble gum chose to break the silence with a popping bubble while Niou snickered.

"Oh, we'll get to see Bakaya's boyfriend tomorrow~" the silver haired trickster said, causing Akaya to flush a dark pink as a low growl escaped his lips.

"He's not my boyfriend!" the messy haired teen responded hotly, his cheeks betraying his true emotions. The sight just made Niou want to tease the younger male more. And so he did.

"Not yet." The trickster retorted, an amused look on his face. "When are you going to grow a pair and ask him out Bakaya? That boy isn't going to stay single for long." He continued in a sing song voice, causing Akaya to scoff, crossing his arms over his chest childishly.

'Stupid Niou-senpai… Don't know what he's talking about.' The raven haired teen thought crossly though in his mind, a small voice couldn't help but agree with the silver haired patenshi.

Ryoma was admittedly gorgeous despite his young age and as he grows, the golden eyed tennis prodigy would only become more and more handsome and desirable. The thought of another person, be it man or woman having Ryoma to themselves admittedly caused a flair of jealousy to spark inside of him. When he realized that, he let out a soft groan, rubbing his temple slightly. Curse his idiotic senpai who kept putting these thoughts in his head.

"Anyway, I expect you all to be here on time. The matches will be scheduled when we reached Seigaku." Yukimura pressed on before dismissing everyone. As the members left, he couldn't help the enigmatic smile that spread across his lips. Tomorrow would be very interesting indeed.

"Yo Akira-chan." Ryoga called out, spotting the familiar face of the girl that had called him up a few days ago. Kirihara Akira was someone he had fond memories of. When they were younger they used to get up to a lot of mischief. Akira had a thirst for adventure that Ryoga couldn't help but admire. His fondest memory was of them exploring an abandoned train graveyard just outside of the park property. Akira had found a hole in between the fences that they could fit through and they spent the whole day playing amongst the old train container. Now that he had thought about it now, it was pretty dumb of them to do that but they were kids so it was forgivable. At least nothing bad happened and they didn't come across any deranged hobo or anything.

"Ah, Ryoga-kun. Hello." Akira greeted with a grin, showcasing pearly white teeth. Ryoga couldn't help but smile back. There was just something about Akira that made her rather special. Different from all the other girls he had before.

"Been waiting long?" he asked as he took a seat in front of her. The raven haired girl shook her head.

"Nah. I just got here myself. So, ready to order?" she asked, handing him a menu. Ryoga took it with a grateful nod and scanned the content of the menu. Most of it was western food and desserts. He decided on a normal hamburger and a coke. For dessert, it had to be orange parfait. He told Akira and she agreed to share to rather large dessert with him, a pretty blush spreading across the bridge of his nose.

After the orders were placed, the duo sat at the booth, a comfortable silence surrounding them. It was Akira who decided to break the silence.

"So I heard from Kaa-chan that you've begun teaching Ryoma-chan's tennis team. How's that going for you?" she asked, genuinely curios to the development. From her memory, she knew Ryoga was apt at tennis. He probably had improved a lot since then as well. Ryoga smirked and she knew that it was going pretty well. It seemed her talent for reading the older male had not diminished in the slightest.

"It's going well. Chibisuke's team is a pretty hard working. They listen to my instructions and take whatever I say to heart. It's kind of strange but not in a bad way I supposed…" he mused, a strangely content expression on his face before it disappeared to make room for his normal smirk.

"I just didn't imagine myself teaching is all." Ryoga replied to her question, causing Akira to nod, a smile tugging at her own lips.

"Ah… So how does it feel to be back?" she asked as the waitress came over to served them their drinks. Coke for Ryoga and a mix berries milkshake for Akira.

"To be honest… It's kind of strange." Ryoga admitted, taking a sip of his soda. Akira shot him a look and he relented; elaborating his answer for her.

"I've spent almost eight years away from my parent's Akira. No contact, no nothing. Sure I missed them like hell when I was away but there were times I could scarcely remember what everyone looked like." Ryoga said solemnly. Akira felt her heart give a painful tug at that. To not remember what your parents looked like must have been a horrible experience.

"Well, I guess its fine now since you're back here with us." Akira said, trying to lighten the mood. It worked and soon the serious conversation was forgotten, only to be replaced with silly observations and light conversations centred on how Akira's life had turned out. He found out about the move from America to Japan, how she was studying design in college and how she once caught Akaya day dreaming and walking into a light pole one evening a few days ago. At that moment, the oldest of the Kirihara siblings couldn't help but think that nothing could get better than this.

The day of the match had come and the Seigaku tennis team was more than ready to showcase their newly enhanced skill. Eiji could be seen bouncing around the court in glee while Oishi tried to calm him down. Momo and Taka were having a friendly rally while Kaidoh ran laps around the courts under Inui's supervision. Tezuka and Fuji were having a small conversation about something or other in the corner. It probably had to do something with the upcoming match, judging by the look on Tezuka's face. The only member of the regulars who wasn't there was Ryoma. He had told them that morning that he would have library duties and so he'd be a little late to practise.

"Yo guys. I'm sorry to keep you waiting but I've brought some people with me." Ryoga said as he entered the court area with the members of Rikkai tennis team trailing behind him. Yukimura had his usual enigmatic smile on his face while Sanada looked as serious as ever. Renji didn't seem to have any emotions on his face but to Inui's trained eyes, he knew that the other male was just as excited. Niou and Yagyuu looked thoroughly amused while Marui and Jackal seemed a little too calm. The only one showing even a hint of nervousness was Kirihara Akaya who was looking around like he was waiting for something or someone to appear.

"Oi, Ryoga, where's Ryoma?" came Akaya's question, prompting the older Echizen sibling to roll his eyes and shake his head at the younger male's tunnel vision. He wondered if someone had told him that Ryoma would be his opponent in this match. He had wanted to keep it a surprise but looks like that wasn't happening any time soon.

"He's got library rep duties so he'll be here later Aka-chan." Ryoga said, using Akira's nickname for her little brother on Akaya, causing the dark haired male to pout, crossing his arms muttering something about unfair advantages and the likes. Niou and Marui were snickering at the nickname, knowing there was another person who enjoyed teasing their 'little boy.'

Tezuka and the rest of the team lined up in a single row, Yukimura and the rest of Rikkai doing the same thing.

"Let's have a good match." Tezuka said as he reached out a hand for a shake. Yukimura smiled and shook his hand.

"Off course, Tezuka-kun."