This story is narrated by Echizen Ryoma. And every break line represents a time skip. I would tell Ryoma's age, though.
Disclaimer: I do not own Prince of Tennis.
"Oyaji, why did you quit tennis?" My voice displayed curiosity.
"Because I want to, shounen! Now mind your own business!" My father shooed me with his free hand as his eyes roamed around the page of the 'newspaper'.
I never asked him after that. Yet still, the inquisitiveness I had during that time still lingered and I particularly wanted to know if his reason was really that important.
As a recap for those who didn't know, Oyaji quitted tennis right when he had reached the finals for the Grand Slam Competition. He really never told me his reason for doing so every time I questioned him before, and at the rightful age of twelve, I started to bear in mind that he didn't want me to know anything about it.
My mother told me that I would soon understand when I grow up. That I would be able to decipher why Oyaji gave up on the sport he dedicated his own life into. Yet, here I am now, the current champion of the Wimbledon Tournament at the youthful age of nineteen.
I did grow up, eventually leading to various changes physically and mentally. But I still did not know the answer.
The flashes from the cameras greeted my eyes as I entered the Conference Room. I was getting used to it though, since I had been experiencing stardom ever since my Wimbledon Title when I was nineteen. Now, at the age of twenty-one, the numbers of fans and paparazzi doubled even if I hadn't been on any tournament for quite a while.
I scanned the room for my manager, Momoshiro. He was my former senpai at Seigaku and I can sometimes tell that he was quite unreliable. Yet the bond of friendship we had through the years tightened, and he was the person I trusted most.
That was until I heard her timid voice from the outside.
"AH! Ryuzaki-chan? My, you sure have grown! Mind telling me what you're business here is?" Momoshiro's powerful voice rang through my ears.
"I was just asked by Shiba-san to bring her some lunch." The voice that replied caught more of my attention and flashbacks during middle school came into my mind.
It was a good thing that most of the presses were busy with their notepads that they barely noticed me slipping off the podium and walking out of the door. Searching for my manager's face within a crowd was kind of difficult. Yet since I heard their voices from the inside, I assumed that they were nearby.
"Oh! S-Sorry!" The stutters came from my arms, and I immediately knew who the klutz was.
"Ryuzaki." A smile emerged from my lips.
And for the first time in my life, the curiosity subsided.
When I brought Sakuno home, it was disastrous at first.
Yes, we began dating a few months after I saw her at the Conference Hall a year ago. It did occur to me that she was an important person while we were in high school, yet those feelings were foreign and a thought of dismissing it was etched through my mind. It took long enough for me to realize the truth behind it, and by now, I can say that I'm contented with my life.
Yet as we approached the doorstep, chaos ensued. Ryoga-baka kept on smiling at me with that devious grin of his as he circled his arm around Sakuno's shoulder as we entered. He then invited her to sit on the couch where a stack of my photo albums when I was five lay ahead.
"Look here! This was when Chibisuke lost on our match and cried to Kaa-san! It was hilarious!" Ryoga pointed at a certain picture.
"Baka. That was you. I am here, stupid. You're the one who lost." I motioned my finger towards a smirking lad by the side of the picture.
Ryoga then glared at me while his cheeks flared in embarrassment. I smugly smirked as Sakuno giggled while Ryoga stormed out of the living room. Then when I thought that I got rid of the troublemaker, Oyaji showed up.
"My, Sakuno-chan! You look nothing like that old hag!" Oyaji gave her a hug, which resulted for me to glare at his back.
"Ne, Ryoma-san, no need to be so protective." My cousin, Nanako, flashed a knowing smile at my direction as she offered tea to everyone.
It turned out well right after Sakuno got accustomed to what my notorious brother and perverted father were doing. Introducing her to my family wasn't that of a hassle, since they all welcomed her as if she was already part of it. And when Kaa-san noticed that it was already half-past eleven, she asked Sakuno to stay at Ryoga's room since the baka was already drooling on the couch.
Assuring myself that Sakuno was to stay for the night, I stood up from the settee, only to be stopped by Oyaji.
"I never thought you had such natural talent, shounen!" A wolf-like grin was plastered on his face.
"What do you want?" I glared.
"Remember the last time when you asked me why I quitted?" He then laid his 'newspaper' on his secret compartment below the couch, his grin still on his features.
"You're gonna answer it?" Curiosity welled up once again.
Oyaji looked straight into my eyes, as if I was looking through a mirror. With a flick, he closed his own set of feline orbs, yawning like a weasel as he set himself on the sofa.
"Nah. But you're one step closer to knowing it." He then snored loudly, urging me to burn down his porn into pieces.
At the age of twenty-four, I was finally getting married.
The memory of my unexpected proposal flashed across my mind as I nervously waited for her to enter the church. It was really unanticipated—even I didn't see myself doing it during that time.
It was particularly five months ago, when my stupid of a brother found out about the ring I had skillfully hidden beneath my father's rack of porn. Don't get me wrong, I was not reading those hideous magazines. It just so happened that it would be the most unlikely place for hands (other than Oyaji's, he knew it all along anyway) to be at.
But I didn't take into notice that Ryoga would be perverted enough to rummage into that stack of magazines.
And it just so happened that Sakuno was there since Momoshiro organized a celebration party right after my win against a British tennis star (if you ask me his name, I don't remember).
"Oi, Oyaji! What's this ring doing there on your porn stack?" Ryoga held the ring for everyone to see, not noticing my livid expression as he gazed at it in confusion.
To make things worse, Oyaji eyed me in amusement before bursting into a fitful of giggles. He then fell off the couch when I stomped towards the fool I call Ryoga and punched him squarely on the nose.
"Ryoma-kun!" Sakuno gasped audibly as I snatched the ring from my brother, the glare still imprinted on my furious face.
The room was silent as I stood up, my father continued to wipe his tears with his sleeve. He then sauntered clumsily beside Sakuno and snaked his arm on her shoulder with the knowing smile on his lips.
"Come on, shounen! She saw it anyway!" Sakuno's perplexed expression led for my stupid father to emit another roar of laughter.
"What's he talking about, Ryoma-kun?" Sakuno eyed me with the same questioning glance, oblivious to the churning turmoil inside my system.
With a sigh of defeat and one last kick on the unconscious Ryoga on the floor, I grabbed her wrist and slid the ring on her finger.
A smirk adorned my face as I raised my head to face her—only to see her eyes clouded with tears and her mouth open like a fish.
"Marry me." And I dipped down for a kiss.
"Here she comes, Chibisuke." I glared at my brother who was bouncing in excitement before I gazed towards the oak doors of the church.
She eyed me intently as she waltzed nearer and nearer, her smile was unwavering and growing bigger with every step.
Ironically, I was smiling widely, too.
It had been Christmas Eve and my birthday when the news of her pregnancy reached the ears of our family.
My father literally jumped and shouted his cheers about how I was such a natural (that was the most embarrassing moment of my life). Nanako and Ryoga continued their debate as to what the child's gender would be, saying certain points as to how it would be better if it were a boy (in Ryoga's opinion) or a girl (Nanako's). Sumire and kaa-san helped us to prepare for the baby—which was the only relief we ever had right after we had revealed the news. Throughout the night, my father rambled about the beauty of having a child and even scooted close to Sakuno in order to gather some "juicy" details. I, of course, smacked him squarely on the head with a tennis ball and eventually had to settle it with tennis.
Oyaji and I battled on the court behind the temple, the game ending with a score of 7-5. Unfortunately for me, Oyaji won. With a tired sigh, I positioned myself on the bench underneath the temple bell and shut my eyes closed.
"Still behind, I see." I eyed my father with my left orb, not strong enough to fight over something stupid at the moment.
"Tell me about it, oyaji." I shifted and faced his curious face. "Why did you quit?"
A smug smile was plastered on his face as soon as the question left my lips. He laid down beside me with the tennis ball that I had thrown at his head earlier on his hand. He eyed it longingly and then tossed it at me. Releasing a deep breath, he muttered softly before he snored.
"You'll see. You'll know it soon enough."
"Go, Echizen!" "Fight! Echizen! Fight!" "You can do it!"
Various cheers from strangers danced around my ears. I focused on my enemy that was positioned at the other side of the court, his hands bouncing the tiny ball as he prepared for his service.
It had been the semi-Finals of the Grand Slam Competition and if I win over this guy, I would be another step closer to the title. The current game score is 40-40 and if he would be able to maneuver his way into another point, we would subject to a rally.
He serves and I move to my right to answer his swift start. The ball bounces back to the other side of the court and I positioned myself on the front, preparing to volley.
He struck the ball onto the far corner of the court and I find myself using my side-step technique. Returning his hit, I then positioned my self at the center where I had assumed he would hit next, seeing that I had intentionally let the ball fall near the net.
With a smirk, he lobbed.
Watching his stupefied gaze at the ball, I jumped into the air and finished it with a Cyclone Smash.
"Game and match, Echizen! 6 games to 4!"
Cheers erupted from the crowd as I made my way onto the bench.
"Echizen Ryoma, age 25 is now qualified for the Grand Slam Competition Finals to be held a week from now. He would be battling…" The announcer rambled on.
Refreshed with my Ponta, I gazed questioningly at my smirking father and the proud Momoshiro. Without hesitation, I asked where Sakuno was and why she wasn't with them today.
"She's staying at home. It seemed that she wasn't feeling well." An unfamiliar look crossed Oyaji's face as his eyes searched mine. I nodded my head in understanding, noting to myself to tend to her needs as I got home.
Oyaji then placed his arm around my sweaty shoulder as I glared at him. A smirk filled with pride and triumph was adorning his old face.
"Looks like you got until where I got to." Nanjirou ruffled my hair. I slipped away from his naughty fingers and smirked in return.
"I would go farther, baka Oyaji." I took another swig from my Ponta and looked at him, expecting to see his glare.
Yet, surprise took hold of me as I saw his smiling and carefree face and another can of Ponta was on his hand.
"We'll see about that." He drained the can and walked away.
Once again, curiosity sneaked its way inside me.
"This is it, Echizen." Momoshiro smiled goofily as I packed my tennis gear in order to get ready for the finals.
It had been a quarter past nine in the morning when Momoshiro arrived at my doorstep here in Kanto, Japan. Sakuno was currently under the care of kaa-san, Nanako and Sumire as I was training for the finals of the Grand Slam Competition. Today, I would be facing an American and like the old times, I don't remember his name.
"So, you'll be fighting against the legendary Michael Summers." Ahh, so that's his name. "He won the Grand Slam just last year and it looks like he's pretty good. Well, not as good as you are anyway." Momoshiro continued his blabbering about my enemy.
The competition would start at one o'clock in the afternoon and is fairly far from my home. After finishing my shoe laces and checking if my gear and Ponta reserve is okay, I grabbed the car keys and the tedious Momoshiro and made our way into the courts.
It was a good thing that we left early, since the heart of Tokyo was completely tangled in traffic. We had been stuck in it for nearly thirty minutes and only the sound of car horns and the blasted radio (Momoshiro turned it on) was filling my ears. I yawned in expression of my boredom as Momoshiro continued to drool on the passenger seat.
Sensing my need for a miracle, the traffic began to lighten and the cars in front of me started to move once again. A smirked in relief and started revving the engine. At the same time, my phone rang.
"Hello." I greeted nonchalantly, not wanting any forms of disturbance right now.
"Chibisuke!" Ryoga's voice boomed from the other line.
"What do you want?" I huffed in annoyance. "I'm on my way to the tourname—"
"Forget the blasted tournament! Come back here!" My eyes went wide for a split second and then I growled in response.
"Go back?" I swerved to the right. "This is the finals, you idiot!"
"Well, you're the idiot! You're wife's currently undergoing labor and all you can think about is winning that stupid competition! We need you here, you selfish brat! You're the only one who has a car!" I pressed the brakes hard as Ryoga finished his statement, resulting for Momoshiro to bump his head.
"Ow!" I threw the phone to the side and the line went dead. Without hesitation, I turned to car around and made my way to the Echizen residence.
"H-Hey! Why are we going back?" Momoshiro's confused voice only led me to raise the speedometer.
"Echizen! Slow down, will you?" Momoshiro was now plastered on the seat. "Tell me what's going on."
The tension inside me only made me say three words to him as an answer. However, those words were enough to make him shut up.
"Sakuno. Baby. Now."
It was all over the news. The media covered every inch of my sudden disappearance right before the finals. Inuoe-san even said that it felt like deja-vu, since my father had done the same years ago.
Yet, I paid them no heed as I clutched my head in between my palms and continued to pray that everything would be all right. Sakuno was immediately admitted inside the delivery room right after I brought her to the hospital and two hours later, still no news.
Only Ryoga was at home during that time, so only Momoshiro him and I were staying at the hospital. Kaa-san, together with Sumire and Nanako were out shopping for the baby when Sakuno went into labor and they called immediately once they heard the news that I wasn't present during the final match.
And as I continued with my internal thoughts and nervous breakdowns, his voice became audible.
"Going farther, my ass." A low chuckle reverberated beside me.
I jerked my head as I watched him knowingly, a small smile playing on his lips.
And with a flash of realization, I chuckled as well.
"It's because of me?" I smirked at his direction. "You quit tennis because of me?"
He then stood me up at the same moment that the nurse repeated my name for the third time, saying that Sakuno wanted to let me see her and the baby.
Oyaji patted me on the back and pushed me towards the door, a knowing look glittering behind his feline orbs. Then as he turned around to walk back into the lobby, he threw me the tattered ball that I had thrown at him that night during Christmas Eve.
"I had quit because of that." He then walked away.
Engraved on the ball was a word, a word that banished all my curiosity away.
Tucking it in my shirt, I pushed the doors open and for the very first time, I met the sole thing that made my father quit his beloved sport.
And as I took him into my arms and saw Sakuno's happy gaze, I knew that I had done what my father had done as well.
I quit tennis.
For the sake of the word written on the tennis ball.
Finally done it! Please read and review! :D
The baby was a boy, by the way. :]
I had finally edited this story! Waha! For the previous readers, sorry for the 'quitted' inconvenience and thank you for pointing it out. I thank all the people who read, reviewed, and added this fic on their favorites. Thank you for the support and I would gladly write more as long as my ming is working. Haha! Once again, thank you! :D