Gah... I've been working on this one for a while... just never got around to uploading it... ^^'

All characters but one belong to Konomi Takeshi... I own nothing T.T

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The U-17

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It had been a bitter defeat. He had managed to take one game. Just one. All his returns had been broken. Even rai had been defeated. The only thing that comforted him was the fact that Yukimura hadn't held back. Yukimura had gone full strength to defeat him. He let out a bitter laugh. Did he? He didn't know. How much time had it been? He didn't know. He didn't have a watch. Not that it would have helped if he did. He still couldn't see. He couldn't see, he couldn't hear, he couldn't feel anything. He sensed a presence, his swordsman kicking in. He ignored it. The presence approached him and he swung his sightless eyes towards it. The presence stopped and then continued advancing. He gave up. If the presence wanted to come then let it come. He let out a breath and closed his eyes, tilting his face upwards. He soon grew aware of the sun on his face and the cold hard metal of the bench he sat on. Then, he heard someone singing. Very faintly at first but he heard it. A girl's voice. He opened his eyes and blinked. The sunlight virtually blinded him. He looked towards the source of the singing to find a girl sitting next to him.

She stopped when she saw him looking at her, "Yukimura's tennis is brutal isn't it?"

He opened his mouth to agree but loyalty to his captain got the better of him, "He needs to be."

She laughed, "Of course. I see you have your senses back. I guess I'll go now," she stood up to leave.

He caught her wrist and raised an eyebrow.

She blinked and looked right back into his eyes and smiled, "You make a very easy target."

He studied her for a moment before letting go of her, "Who… are you?"

She stopped walking and turned back to face him, laughing, she said, "No one really," before walking away again.

He wrinkled his brow and stared after her.

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So… he understood. Well he had been basically deprived of all his senses. It was a wonder no one had tried to bother him yet. He had surprised her when his sightless eyes turned towards her and had focused on her when she approached. How much had his ki reading skills had improved?

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So that was who had followed him from the courts. He scowled and recalled her features. He had never been attracted to anyone in his life. Oh, the team had its own rumor that he had a thing for Yukimura. So what if they went home together? Yukimura lived right across the street. Besides, two people walking home at six-thirty in the evening was better than one. He had never been attracted to anyone in his life, but somehow, in the back of his mind, it registered that that girl had been strikingly beautiful. Her pale skin, wide dark eyes, long straight raven-black hair. He grudgingly admitted that she was very pretty. Almost like a geisha. But then again what did he know about her?

He sighed and stood up. He turned towards the courts and proceeded towards them. He had been eliminated. He could accept that. It just meant that he had to work harder. Then again, he didn't know if he would be playing tennis after junior high. Maybe high school? He wasn't sure. He picked up his bag and his racket from where he had tossed it in the bleachers. He looked out at the courts. It was a harsh way to pick out the best of the best. Pitting best friends against each other. For that sake, even Seigaku's golden pair was broken up.

Finally, they made the announcement that all the players who had lost were to be shipped back home on the bus that was already waiting for them. Quietly, he got up and took a seat on the bus, the others following suit. He couldn't help but feel sorry for Momoshiro. That giant had taken out both his wrists. He scanned over the players that were on the bus with him. Many complained that it hadn't been a fair game. That this time, the victory had also been bitter.

The complaints went on until, impatient, he called out, "Quit whining."

Someone demanded a rematch and, quite suddenly, the bus stopped in the middle of the road. The doors opened and the bus driver pointed into the forest, "Out."

After they had all filed out with their things, the bus roared away and they were left to negotiate the forest towards which the bus driver had pointed to. It wasn't long before they stumbled into a clearing where the coach from before greeted them. He had a hand on each of the shoulders of the first-year from Seigaku as well as the one from… was it Shitenhouji? It was something of the sort. He glanced around and saw his fellow tennis players had a hopeful, fragile expression on their faces.

He vaguely heard the coach say, "From here on out, my real work begins."

His eyes flashed. It wasn't over. He still had a chance.

Someone asked, "Didn't we get kicked out because we lost?"

"You did. However, for those who don't want such a gap to exist between themselves and those who won, why don't you see if you can climb this cliff?" the coach gestured at the massive stone precipice behind him.

He shrugged, it was better than giving in. He set his pack more firmly on his shoulder and began the ascent with the other regulars. He went on climbing for a while, ignoring Niou's imitation of Atobe and the issue with Momoshiro. He sensed something falling in his direction, fast. He looked up and, reaching out an arm, caught Koharu. It took all of his self-control not to let go when the guy looked up at him admiringly and said, "Such valiance."

He swallowed his near-disgust, "I won't let a single one of you lose in this."

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"They should be here by now… unless ojii is being harsh on them…" she stood at the edge of the forest, looking up at the sky.

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They continued climbing until Niou, squinting at the sky, said, "Say, are those tennis balls?"

Indeed they were tennis balls. All of the regulars who were able pulled a racket out of their bags and managed to return one. He watched the tennis balls go soaring back onto the cliff.

Just as he was about to mount the cliff, he heard Ryoma, "Don't worry about it… no need for you guys to get it… I got them all for you."

He smirked, that cocky first-year. He stood on the edge of the cliff and heard the first-year from Shintenhouji, "Hey, Koshimae. This place is kind of interesting too, don't you think?" He looked up and saw the boy hanging recklessly from the branch of a tree by his knees. The other tennis players, the ones who were eliminated before from the tennis ball drop, dressed from head to toe in black looked flabbergasted.

"You're late," the coach grumbled, "You brats."

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She almost laughed when she saw the boy hanging from the tree. He looked so comical there. She had heard their yelling before she saw them. When all of them managed to scramble atop the cliff, they made a rather imposing picture. That boy from before, with the hat, sitting there dull and senseless; he wasn't senseless now. He stood there; his legs spread apart, his tennis bag slung casually over his shoulder, his arms crossed. He didn't even look winded. The other boys stood around and almost behind him, a mosaic of different schools. Altogether, with the first-year squatting down front with his tennis racket out, these boys looked extremely impressive.

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So that's the end for now... I'll try to update every once in a while... I need to get better at that oAo;

but yeah... since the manga updates like... two chapters a month... I may or may not be able to crank something out by then... it depends...

Read/Review! :D