Chapter 10: A new Regular? Part One

Several weeks later…

Ryoma was having the best time of his life. Every single day was great. Going to school early in the morning. Meeting Sakuno in front of the school and heading to the tennis courts. Watching the team as they practiced and trained for the upcoming tournaments, occasionally cringing at the Inui juices and being thankful that he didn't have to drink it like the others. Spending time with Tomoka and Sakuno before going to classes. The overly loud Horio, who loved to gossip and was over-confident but kind in his own way. Then there was Kachiro and Katsuo. They were all really close to each other and all very kind to him.

Eating lunch with the regulars was always a joyful experience. It was loud and fun, and Ryoma couldn't remember spending so much time smiling with a group of people not related to him. Though he was still a little nervous about the others bringing up tennis and him in the same sentence… No one actually brought up the incident at the courts his first day there thankfully.

Ryoma's relationship with each of the regulars was different, but he was closest to Tezuka and Kawamura out of everyone.

He was very, very content with his life.

After the team's game against Fudoumine and their resulting win, things began to speed up for the regulars as well as the other teams in the region. Seishun Gakuen won the Tokyo Prefectural Tournament by defeating St. Rudolph Gakuen, which included Fuji's younger brother Yuuta. And then they defeated Yamabuki.

Fudoumine went on in the tournament to face and win against the Drama Queen, or King Atobe, and his team from Hyotei Gakuen. But then Fudoumine forfeited against Yamabuki, which Ryoma still didn't understand. Because of Fudoumine's forfeit Hyotei continued in the tournament to defeat St. Rudolph to qualify for the Kantou Tournament.

The first five rounds took place on the first day of the tournament while the last two rounds took place a week later. (A/N: Thank you FET website for this timeline.)

It wasn't until the Kantou tournament that things began to turn for Ryoma, in the biggest way possible.

It all started when Oishi-senpai injured his wrist. There was no regular to take his place, and against Hyotei, this was not going to be good.

Ryoma and the others were waiting for Oishi-senpai to arrive for their Kantou tournament. He was running late, and the registration stand was going to be closing in just five minutes. If even one of the regulars was missing, then the team could not sign up. If they did not sign up, then they were disqualified.

Ryoma could feel the tension rising as the time ticked down to three minutes.

Eiji-senpai was about to drive everyone up the walls with his pacing. Horio's loud bragging about how he hadn't been late in 2 years was scratching the last nerve for both Kaidoh-senpai and Momo-senpai, while Tomoka whispered to Sakuno that Horio had been late three times last week for class alone. Sakuno giggled at the fact, but she, like everyone else, kept an eye on the staircase at the entrance of the courts.

Oishi-senpai was still not there. Two and a half minutes to go.

Coach Ryuzaki's cell phone beeped, making her answer. Ending the call with a curse, she turned to the others. "Oishi is not going to make it in time. I just received a message from him, and he is in the hospital. He hurt his wrist and won't be able to play. We're down one regular."

The news shocked everyone down to their toes. What were they going to do?

Let's just say that the answer put Ryoma into hysterics.

After Coach Ryuzaki's announcement there was a momentary pause before everyone turned to Ryoma. He was stunned. The next thing he knew Kaidoh-senpai was putting his regular's jacket on him, and Coach Ryuzaki was asking him to put his name in the substitute's position.

Ryoma thought he was going to be sick.

They were already walking towards the registration stand, and they were all looking at him, waiting for his answer. Some were reassuring him that they would win their matches before Ryoma would even get a chance to play. Ryoma still didn't know what to do.

He glanced at the clock above the stand. Only 30 seconds left to decide.

Ryoma glanced at all the regulars, his new friends, and then at Sakuno. She too had this pleading look on her face, but she wasn't saying anything to him.

20 seconds.

Ryoma looked at Tezuka-buchou. He too had yet to say anything, but he was holding the registration papers. Ryoma had so much respect for Tezuka-buchou and wanted to be like him, strong and confident.

10 seconds…

Ryoma did something crazy, in his mind anyway, and nodded his consent.

Tezuka-buchou immediately turned and handed in the forms to the stand after writing in Ryoma's name.

They were accepted and stamped with approval. Just a few questions about the sudden change of players were thrown around before they were on their way to the game against Hyotei.

Ryoma was going to be sick.