Disclaimer: I do not own Prince of Tennis
It's been ten years since Ryoma has returned to America. Now, 22, he works as a coach at a tennis club. Finding it quite boring now, Ryoma seeks interest. But when someone shows up, is it just what he's looking for? Or something worse?
"All right, everybody line up."
The boys and girls all line up on the courts and stand eagerly to learn from their coach.
Ryoma stares at the line of boys and girls and then lifts up his clipboard. He notices that one person was missing. A girl named Riza. He scanned the line of kids again, and couldn't find her. Just as he was about to mark her absent, the gates opened and a woman walks in with a child only the age of five.
Ryoma placed the clipboard down and then approached the young woman. She had silky brown hair and innocent brown eyes. The little girl looked just her. Once Ryoma was in front of the girl, he looked the woman and then at the child.
Wait…she reminds me of someone…
"Sorry we're late. There was traffic and it just wouldn't speed up."
The little girl just stared at him and grabbed her little racket.
"It's fine, we're just getting started anyway. You must be Riza right?"
The girl nodded and then ran to the line of kids. Her mother smiled and then looked at Ryoma. He was still trying to figure out who she reminded him of, but decided to forget about it for now.
"All right kids, let's get started!"
Ryoma observed the kids for the whole day and decided to place into appropriate groups. Riza however, exceeded his expectations and was quite impressed with her skills. That afternoon after practice, the other kids left and Riza was left alone with Ryoma. She sat on the bench, but it was getting late, and her mother was still nowhere in sight.
Ryoma swung his bag over his shoulder and was about to leave. But he saw that little Riza was still sitting on the bench. He walked over and sat next to her.
"Where's your mom?"
"I don't know…she's always late though."
Ryoma gave the little girl a look, but she was looking at the ground.
Huh, this must happen often then. Looks like she's used to it.
Ryoma reached into his bag and took out a deck of cards. He handed it to the little girl and she took it eagerly. She laid down on the asphalt and started to take the cards out of the package.
"So, when did you start to play tennis?"
The little girl didn't look up but answered.
"When I was able to walk. Mommy made sure that I was the best."
"Does your mom play tennis?"
Riza nodded and then started to arrange the cards.
"How long has your mom been playing tennis?"
Riza thought for a moment and then turned to Ryoma.
"She said when she was in middle school. She told me that she met a boy and watched her play and then she just loved the sport after that."
Ryoma suddenly remembered Sakuno. But then he doubted that it was her. But then again, she looked like Sakuno from their middle school years.
"What's your mom's name, Riza?"
Ryoma felt his heart stop. He felt his body go cold. The thought that she now has a child…is she married?
It's not like Ryoma had feelings for Sakuno, he could hardly remember her name the first few times they met.
Eventually, nighttime fell and Riza fell asleep. Ryoma sat on the ground now, while Riza slept on the bench.
Where on earth is her mother?
A car pulled up and the headlights blinded Ryoma's eyes. The car parked and Ryoma stood up.
"I'm so sorry! I was held up at work and I lost track of time."
She bent down and scooped up Riza. Ryoma grabbed his bag and took back the deck of cards.
The woman stopped and turned around. Riza rested on her shoulder and slept away.
"How do you know…"
"Riza told me. Why are you here in America?"
Sakuno hesitated to reply but did anyway.
"I wanted to find you Ryoma-kun."
Ryoma turned to her and looked at her.
"You left Japan without a warning and never came back…I just wanted to know how you were."
Ryoma started to walk away.
"Well, now you know. I suggest you take better care of the kid though. Try not to be late anymore."
Ryoma got into his car and then drove off.
Sakuno held her little girl in her arms and smiled to herself.
Looks like he does remember me after all…does this mean that…?
The next weekend Sakuno was late to pick up Riza again, and Ryoma stayed with her again. Riza appeared to like Ryoma now and was quite talkative around him. When Sakuno finally came, Riza didn't want to leave.
"Mommy, can the coach come have dinner with us tonight?"
"Err…well yes of course, but we need to know if he has time to come over."
Riza turned her big brown eyes to Ryoma who just sighed and nodded.
"Sure, I'll come over for dinner."
After eating, Riza fell asleep and Sakuno went upstairs to tuck her in. While Sakuno did so, Ryoma walked around looking at pictures. He noticed that they were all of Sakuno and Riza, no one else.
She's not married?
Sakuno came down stairs and saw Ryoma looking at the photos. Ryoma looked up at her and then turned away.
"I should probably get going now. It's late."
Ryoma stopped at the door and then turned around again to face her.
"You're probably wondering about Riza's father…"
Ryoma just stared off to the side and remained silent.
"Well, her father…left us."
He turned back and saw that Sakuno was tearing up. He wanted to comfort her, but wasn't sure how.
"After Riza was born, he left…but now Riza…she's grown to such a wonderful little girl…"
Ryoma placed his hand on her cheek and gently touched her.
"It's okay. I'm sure that Riza will grow up just fine."
Sakuno burst out in tears, and then buried her face into Ryoma's chest. Ryoma was quite shocked by this, but placed his arms around her to comfort her.
He remembered the cheerful Sakuno from middle school and never would have thought that she had to live such a life.
Sakuno stopped crying after a while and then wiped her tears.
"Ryoma-kun, could you…come over for dinner again tomorrow?"
Ryoma blinked but then nodded. And then turned and opened the door. Sakuno took the door and then waved goodbye. She closed the door and Ryoma walked to his car.
Ryoma fixed the nets on the tennis courts and tightened everything. It was early, and he wasn't expecting anyone to come until later. Weeks have past since he realized it was Sakuno, and he's spent a lot time with them recently and little Riza began treating him like a father. They took pictures and such together, but Ryoma couldn't help but think of Riza as simply Sakuno's child, not his. The gates swung open, and saw that Sakuno was there with her daughter.
"Sorry, I have to drop off Riza early today. I have some plans for today and I thought I might drop her off early."
Ryoma nodded and took Riza's hand. She hopped down the courts and back and forth.
"Uhm, do you think you could take care of Riza?"
"What do you mean?"
Sakuno turned around and left the courts. Ryoma watched as she got into her car and drove off.
"Same old Sakuno…"
That evening, Sakuno didn't show up to pick up Riza again. Riza was getting tired and constantly asked Ryoma if sing her to sleep. He refused.
Suddenly, a car drove up and parked urgently in front of them. A man steps out and walks toward them.
"Are you Echizen Ryoma?"
"Is that Riza?"
Ryoma nods and stands up.
"What's going on?"
"Riza's mother was in an accident. She's in the hospital right now."
At the hospital, Sakuno was in a patient bed and surrounded by numerous nurses and a doctor. Riza ran up and tugged on her mom's hand, urging her to go home. Ryoma waited outside when a doctor approached him.
"Are you friend of the patient?"
"I'm afraid, there isn't more we can do."
Ryoma understood and gave out a little sigh. The doctor left him and he peered through the window. Riza was trying to get Sakuno to go home, but Sakuno just shook her head and tried to hide her pain.
Ryoma went inside and took Riza's hand.
"Riza, why don't you go outside? Your mom needs to get some rest okay?"
Riza looked at him but then nodded. A nurse came over and took her outside. Sakuno was lying in bed and reached out a hand to Ryoma. He took it and held it tenderly. She was having a hard time breathing.
"What did the doctor say?"
Ryoma didn't say anything and just looked at Sakuno.
"Don't be sorry. I'm glad that you remembered me again."
Ryoma felt tears suddenly start to well up into his eyes. But he didn't let them out.
"Ryoma-kun. I wanted to tell you that you were someone I always admired. You were someone that always stayed in my heart…"
She grip weakened, but Ryoma used two hands to hold up her hand.
"Can you promise me something?"
Ryoma nodded and took in a deep breath.
"Take care of Riza for me…It's her birthday tomorrow and I wanted to give her something…but now…"
"Don't talk anymore. You need to get some rest."
Sakuno smiled and took in deep breaths.
"In my room, behind a picture of her, here a little box…I want you to give her that box tomorrow. Please."
"I will don't worry."
Sakuno smiled and then closed her eyes. After a few moments, she opened them again.
"There's one more thing I want to tell you…"
Ryoma leaned in and Sakuno whispered it into his ear. He burst out into tears and she let go of his hand. The rhythmic beeping of the machine stopped and a long beep took its place.
Ryoma walked outside and saw little Riza sitting on a chair. He walked over and tried to hide his agony. Ryoma sat down next to the girl and looked at her. Riza looked at him and tugged on his sleeve.
"Is mommy sleeping now?"
Ryoma hesitated and then took Riza's hand.
"Yes…mommy's sleeping now."
Ryoma went to Sakuno's house that night and into her room. There were pictures of Riza on the dresser, but only one with a box behind it. He found it, and opened it.
Inside, there was a necklace in the shape of a heart. He opened it up and saw a picture of Sakuno and Riza in the picture, and him as well. On the other side, it was engraved: A family forever.
As he left the house, he thought about what Sakuno said as her last words.
Ryoma-kun, I love you…
Celsius 13 Degrees: This is just a sad story again…but I really wanted to write it so yeah. Please review and suggest! Thank you!!!