A/N: First story! Alright, basically I'm just using a pretty common plot (the Ryoma-in-a-different-school one) and giving it some flair. XD What? I don't see anybody else putting him in Saint Rudolph! Don't judge me.
Warnings: Er...I don't think there's any. I kind of took Creative License with Ryoma, though, pretty much altering his background and some of his...skill set...
Pairings: None for now, and there probably won't be any. There may or may not be many, many shounen-ai hints though.
Disclaimer: I don't own.
Edit 10/27/11: Freaking annoying mistypes...
"It's choice - not chance - that determines your destiny."
The courtyard was flooded with teens of varying sizes and tones and personalities, the crunching of feet on gravel audible despite the chatter that filtered through the air unhindered. They flocked in different directions, some out the gates and on to roads that lead places distant, while others walked the winding path to another building set up nearby, flanked by shrubbery and wide windows that peered into stretching rooms, the only safeguard being the heavy, maroon curtains set at each panel. The school building itself was just as ornate as the dorms it boasted, a combination of plaster, wood, and marble that curved delicately at the entrances and alighted the shining of the dark-wooded floors.
Echizen Ryoma wasn't particularly impressed.
To be fair, he had seen his fair share of churches. There had to be one every other block in New York, and his family had not been the church-going type. His only memory of entering such a place had been a bitter one, and the implications of the memory that threatened to overwhelm him at any given moment was not a pleasant feeling. He could look away from the fixtures, though, and on the inside it was just like any other school - the Western ones, that is. It was blatantly clear from where St. Rudolph's Academy claimed its birthright.
The morning had not gleaned anything spectacular; as far as first days of school went, this had to be ranked somewhere around his least exciting. As the shift from societies had initially thrown him off - it was hard to remember that he had to bow for every little thing - he had sort of been expecting his first day at his new school to be somewhat interesting. Naturally, Fate had it in for him; classes yielded nothing more than mediocre work (his English class was a joke), and even his new dorm was the picture of normalcy.
His roommate wasn't so bad - a level-headed third year by the name of Kubota Makoto - but as Ryoma wasn't inclined to talking, their loosely-termed conversation was nothing more than polite manners and formalities. Kubota was decent enough, though, and Ryoma would definitely take him over any other boisterous idiot that seemed to fill the halls of this boarding school.
He had finished his last class of the day, Japanese Literature, and was following the path outlined in the map provided to him by an over-enthusiastic school secretary. His homeroom had been highlighted, along with the cafeteria and gym, and the secretary had even taken the extra step to mark off the tennis courts for the freshman. In bold, blinding green ink. (The man was actually quite frightening; his irreplaceable grin erred on the side of maniacal.)
Saint Rudolph. His father would have had a fit.
The school attracted tennis players with tempting offers of food and board, provided such players actually had talent. The offer was more than enough for Ryoma, even if he couldn't take Karupin along; anything to get away from the memory of the man that had touched everything Ryoma knew. Even Japan had not been a sanctuary to Ryoma; it was like his father was everywhere, lingering inside structures Ryoma had never even seen. Seishun Gakuen had been among his first choices until he learned Echizen Nanjiroh had graduated from there. Hyoutei turned out too expensive - the uniforms were near $3000, which was such an obvious rip-off - while Rikkai Daigakou's staff and tennis club probably ate freshman his size for breakfast.
But Saint Rudolph wasn't bad. It offered an indoor gym, as well as clean tennis courts. Ryoma really wasn't that hard to please.
The thumping of tennis balls on court grounds started to filter through the air, and while Ryoma wished to abandon every other memory, he could not - would not - let this one go. He had consumed it by this point, became so wholly focused on it that giving it up would surely destroy him. His life was focused on that green sphere, the handle covered with grip tape. Sweeps of long patience, muscles tried to exhaustion; that was Echizen Ryoma. Tennis was not about the enjoyment - it was about him, because in the end, that's all there was. Tennis and Ryoma and the memories tied between them like the strings on a racket.
The courts weren't fenced off like the ones back in New York had been, instead framed by blocks of green grass and flowers. There weren't many members around; tennis club members were currently running tracks around the school, but core members - what had the psychotic secretary called them? Regulars? - were gathered in one of the courts, apparently listening to one of their own talk.
The overall effect of the scene was dubious, and Ryoma was hard-pressed not to turn back around and walk away. His scholarship, however, was riding on his participation in the tennis club, and he knew he couldn't just avoid it like he fervently wished he could. His feet continued to drag him forward, down the small flight of steps that brought him to the center of the court as well as attention of those present. (This was one of those times where he inwardly cursed his lack of punctuality; this time it had not been his fault, as his homeroom teacher had held him back awhile to speak to him.)
"Are you a new member?" one of the older boys asked, once the troupe looked done criticizing him with their eyes alone. The one that spoke was the tallest of the lot, broad-shouldered with bronzed skin and lithe muscle covering his frame. His hair was a russet brown, cut to his shoulders but left otherwise alone, his eyes of the same color and narrow. He had not been the one talking before Ryoma had entered the scene; that was the smaller teen wearing a ludicrous shade of violet.
Ryoma tugged the brim of his hat down, out of habit more than any sense of alienation, and gave a small nod and grunt in affirmation. The tall boy moved forward, at about the same time as the lilac-adorned male did. Ryoma leaned back as his personal space was abruptly invaded by the wavy-haired youth who was wearing a smirk as dark as the eyes that roved up and down his form.
"Aren't you a cute little lamb?"
Ryoma's chastity was saved when a multitude of exclamations broke through at the questionable comment ("Mizuki!" "Mizuki-san!"), and one of the teens had stepped forward to grab at the purple-clad boy's arm as if that would somehow impede his molestation. Ryoma took a few cautious steps back, though the tall boy from before just continued moving forward, motioning for the freshman to follow him, completely unconcered by his teammate's advance. Ryoma sincerely hoped that wasn't something he should be getting used to.
Mizuki didn't seem very deterred, merely giving the freshman a knowing smirk before he turned his attention to the boy clutching at his sleeve. The youth was about the same height, of the same pale skin with brown hair shaved just inches from the scalp. The most notable feature was the cross-shapred scar on the upper-right side of his forehead.
"You're going to scare off all of the freshmen-"
The reprimand was cut off by the thick wood of the door as the tanned youth shut the door to the locker room, before turning around to rifle through the contents in a nearby filing cabinet. "Name?"
Ryoma watched the other dispassionately; he had filled out the paperwork for entrance to the club with his registration papers, so the other was likely just looking for the documents to confirm it. The tennis bag slung over his shoulder held not only his racket, but the club uniform; it seemed even freshmen were expected to wear the standard attire. It wasn't that dressy; just brown sweapants (or the option of brown shorts) with a white shirt that had a streak of brown across the top.
Pulling out the file, Akazawa flipped open the manila folder to scan the documents inside. He was merely looking for the name and picture of the other boy for verifcation. He figured he'd order the freshman to get changed, introduce himself and Mizuki (as they were buchou and fukubuchou, respectively), then order him to join the rest of the club on jogging the circuit around the school. It was the start of the new semester and while he was displeased with the boy's latecoming, it was always good to get a new member.
Akazawa was well aware he was rushing and that he should at least take the time to explain a bit about their club rules and introduce him to the current set of Regulars, but he was feeling a bit harried by Nomura's sudden move to Osaka. While by no means the strongest Regular, the youth was at least at a level just above the rest of the populace that made up the Saint Rudolph tennis club, so now they had a spot to fill among their Regulars.
Mizuki had just been filling them in on the top two candidates - not on the rest of the Regulars' levels, but they could at least fill in the replacement spot - when Echizen had come up. They had narrowed it down to Sasabe Sanburou, a thrid year, and a second year named Shindo Hikaru. Mizuki had emphatically shot down the latter, claiming the statistics were high in that the boy would soon join the Go club, and besides, the bleached-banged boy could supposedly see ghosts. Mizuki didn't want to risk Shindou being distracted by "long-dead friends" while in the middle of the match. Atsushi had, of course, emphatically put in that he'd prefer a schizo over an egotistical bastard any day.
Akazawa found his attention pulled to the folder in his hands.
That...can't be right, he thought in disbelief, careful not to let it show on his face as he glanced at the boy by his side. Echizen Ryoma didn't look the type to exaggerate his own skills - actually, he didn't even look fully awake right now - but then again, Akazawa had assumed Mizuki Hajime would be as cutesy as his wavy hair and purple attire had suggested. Reality had been quite cruel.
"Your file says you've won some junior tournaments back in America," It was more a statement than a question, but Ryoma thought the older boy wanted a confirmation nonetheless. He didn't really understand the importance of it, but whatever made the older boy hurry this process up was desired.
"Yeah," Ryoma grunted, seemingly unconcerned.
Don't sound so enthused, Akazawa thought critically. Well, at least the boy didn't have the attitude of Sasabe, because there was only so much Saint Rudolph could handle in terms of ego. At least Mizuki had some talent to back up his claims - as well as the harem he had built up for defense. (It was rather frightening, how popular a pretty boy could become in an all-boys school.)
"I am Akazawa Yoshirou, the Saint Rudolph Tennis club's captain." Akazawa started, putting away the file as he turned his attention to the smaller boy. "Change into your tennis uniform, Echizen, then come out to the tennis courts. I'm going to gauge your experience."
Ryoma cocked his head, a small smirk starting to tilt his lips. "Hai, Buchou."
Akazawa stifled the urge to shiver; the child's gaze was anything but warm.
Walking back out onto the courts, Akazawa felt the cold lift off of him. He hadn't realized it was there until it was gone, but he found himself trying to calm his erratically-beating heart all the same. There was something about the younger boy that was - terrifying, it could be described. The boy had not spoken anything considered negative nor had he made any outright actions that could be deemed inappropriate; it was something more subtle, something that lurked beneath the surface of those eyes.
"Sent the kid on laps already, Buchou?" Atsushi asked, once he had rejoined their little group. Akazawa had half-a-mind to send them on laps for not already beginning to practice, but then he caught Mizuki terrifying Yanagisawa, Yuuta, and Kaneda into something resembling a tennis drill. Though for all he knew, Mizuki could have just been amusing himself; the other youth had a penchant for abusing his own power. Sometimes Akazawa wondered what he had been thinking, making the other his vice captain.
"I think he's that new kid that just transferred in, da ne," Yanagisawa said, momentarily escaping Mizuki's attention.
Akazawa gave a curt nod. "He'll be coming out shortly. There was some interesting information in his files, so he'll be playing a practice match with Yanagisawa." Mizuki wasn't the only one who liked to abuse his power.
"Why me, da ne?" Yanagisawa cried.
"Something interesting in his files?" Mizuki echoed, his attention snapping to the taller brunette with calculating eyes. Yanagisawa shrunk away, attempting to hide himself behind Atsushi as the purple-clad manager leaned forward in interest. "What sort of fascinating things concern that cute boy?"
"Mizuki-san, that's not entirely appropriate," Yuuta stated dryly.
Atsushi nodded in complete agreement. "That's probably bordering on sexual harassment, actually."
Mizuki turned to leer at the two with a wide smirk. "Do you two want a live tutorial on sexual harassment?" he asked, practically gleaming.
Ryoma was unfortunate enough to walk in at this exact moment, causing everyone in the vicinity to freeze in associative guilt. The freshman was casting Mizuki wide, mostly-suspicious looks, moving closer to Akazawa as if he were the only source of sanity among them. (Which had to be false, because he was the reason Mizuki was present in the first place.)
"This is Echizen Ryoma," Akazawa introduced, once he thought that everyone had felt their fair share of trauma for the day. "Echizen-kun, you'll be playing a match with one of the Regulars. Yanagisawa," his glare slid over to the teen huddled behind Atsushi, "Introduce yourself."
Atsushi stepped out of the way, giving Yanagisawa just enough time to recollect himself. The duck-lipped youth stared down at the freshman with a cross between an intimidating smirk and comical smile. (He couldn't decide how he wanted to portray himself to the newest member, so he compromised.) "I'm Yanagisawa Shinya, da ne. I'll be your practice partner."
Mizuki chuckled. "How forward of you, Shinya-kun."
Ryoma's previously considering look morphed into a kind of subdued horror, to Yanagisawa's own horror.
"Mizuki," Akazawa warned. Didn't he just decide that the quota of traumatization had already been filled?
Mizuki waved him off with a small smile. "Just kidding, just kidding."
"Let's just start the match," Atsushi sighed.
"One-set match, no tiebreaks!" Yuuta announced from his place at the referee seat. It had been decided, after a small squabble, that he was best suited to be referee; Atsushi was Yanagisawa's usual double's partner, Akazawa had ordered Kaneda to help him stretch, and Mizuki was...Mizuki. "Echizen to serve!"
"Let's play a fun game, Echizen-kun~!" Yanagisawa called from the other side of the court, practically singing the freshman's name.
Ryoma wondered if it was too late to return to America.
Pulling a tennis ball from the crate set to the side, Ryoma readied himself for the serve. He wouldn't start out with anything special, preferring to see Yanagisawa's strength first and how far he would be able to push the smaller boy. Ryoma did not often feel pressured in tennis, not unless it was against his older brother or him. Perhaps that was why he felt slightly bitter as he gripped the yellow-green sphere, a sense of nausea rising within him as he lightly tossed the ball up and swung an underhand serve.
As predicted, Yanagisawa hit it back with an effortless swing, his previously goofy expression falling from his face as the rally progressed. It couldn't be because of the difficulty - or, at the very least, Ryoma hoped it wasn't - but slowly, the humor began to fade from Yanagisawa's disposition. The smile wilted into a small frown, the eyes hardening as Yanagisawa realized the pressure was only just starting.
A slice scored Ryoma the first point.
Ryoma's second serve was just like his first and for some reason, Yanagisawa found it mildly affronting. He couldn't quite place the reason as to why he felt irritated - it wasn't like he knew enough about the other boy's skills to be able to tell if he was being serious or not - but that stoic expression was starting to irk him. Yanagisawa knew his fair share of implacable opponents; those that wouldn't so much as blink at his ridiculous statements or activities.
Echizen Ryoma was different. His facial expression would waver, especially at the points where Yanagisawa would prove he was no mediocre player - he was a Saint Rudolph Regular, goddammit - or when he began to serve. Yanagisawa couldn't name what he saw flash through the younger boy's eyes; there were too many emotions all at once, the boy's attention both wholly fixated on the match yet seeing something else entirely at the same time.
"What's wrong, Yanagisawa-senpai?" Topspin backhand. "You're not smiling anymore."
Yanagisawa caught lit golden eyes as he raced forward and smashed the ball cross-court.
Goosebumps erupted along Yanagisawa's skin, even as he dashed back to his previous position when Ryoma effortlessly hit back a lob. What was wrong with him? This match wasn't particularly straining; the rallies were simple, Ryoma's hits easily returned and hardly requiring maximum effort. Still, there was something about this match that-that tried him, though he could not appropriately express it. Something that ran underneath the moves, something that glided along with the ball that soared across from one court to another. Whatever it was, it had infected Yanagisawa like a poison, spreading throughout his limbs. His own movements felt sluggish, uncoordinated, and graceless.
"45-love!" Yuuta called out.
Ryoma took up position to serve. Beneath the rim of the fila cap, Yanagisawa caught it - the upturn of lips into a smirk.
Was he enjoying this?
The boy tossed the ball up, following not too long after as he swept his racket forward.
Yanagisawa remained frozen, eyes wide as he stared unseeingly at the other side of the court. His body remained perched in position to meet the incoming ball, but he hadn't moved. The ball itself had grinded against the ground in one spot for a moment before shooting upwards, narrowly missing the older boy's face by mere centimeters. It practically screamed against the fence it was eventually caught in before dropping back to the ground amidst a deafening silence.
"Mizuki," Akazawa hissed under his breath. He finally saw what it was that he had seen in the clubhouse just moments ago; the cold that had settled acorss his skin, the fear that stifled his movements at the mere sight of those eyes.
Mizuki tilted his head, his face carefully set at neutral as calculations ran beneath his eyes. "Aa," he breathed in understanding. He strode forward - subsequently interrupting Yuuta's call for a change in court. Yanagisawa had relaxed his stance but his feet had yet to budge; Echizen was already at the net, looking up as Mizuki and Akazawa approached him.
"That's enough for today," Akazawa ordered, coming up to stand beside Echizen. The younger boy looked up at him questioningly but Akazawa couldn't tell if the other boy was disappointed or just didn't care either way; it was a bit difficult to read behind that indifferent stare. "This match was merely to gauge your skill."
"And what an impressive skill it is!" Mizuki interjected from the side. "To think that someone so small and cute would have such talent! I suppose Saint Rudolph has been graced with another miracle!"
Echizen snorted, shouldering his racket. "So the match is over?"
"You can continue later if you want. For now, however, it seems our fellow club members have finished their laps." Mizuki answered, still smirking as he motioned vaguely to where the other members were slowly starting to trickle in from the side gate. "Besides, that little display - it was a Twist Serve, was it not? - was more than enough to cement the deal. You'll become a Regular immediately, of course, Ryoma-chan!"
"What?" Yuuta, Atsushi, and Kaneda cried out in perfectly astonished unison.
Echizen just looked annoyed. "'-chan?'"
Mizuki chuckled at their response, eyes practically glittering in mirth. "Well of course. Sasabe is our only other option in terms of skill, and he can't even score a single point off Shinya-kun. It only makes sense for Ryo-chan to take the mantle."
"'Ryo-chan'?" came the icy echo from said first year.
Mizuki looked at him liked a parent does to their errant but lovable child. "Would you prefer Ecchi-kun?"
"I would prefer my name to be said correctly."
"Don't be so snippy, Ryo-chan."
"Mizuki-senpai," Kaneda interrupted gently, looking at the newest member in mild concern. "Don't you think this is a little too sudden? I mean, Echizen-kun just transferred in today, and he's probably not used to the school enviornment yet-"
"The most important decisions are made instantaneously," Mizuki said, any and all of his amusement disappearing as he stared at his teammate. He glanced over at Akazawa, receiving only a small nod of acceptance from the captain. A brilliant smile lit the manager's lips as he turned to face the small crowd of club members that had gethered onto the courts, seemingly interested in the unknown boy among them.
"Ah, good, is everyone here then?" Mizuki didn't wait to hear a response. "This is Echizen Ryoma; Saint Rudolph's tennis club's newest Regular."
A moment of silence, before it was followed by a loud cacophony of shocked exclamations.
Mizuki just chortled. "Say hello to your new family, Ryo-chan."
Ryoma glanced from one agitated face to another.
...Maybe Seishun Gakuen would have been a better choice after all.
Chapter One End.
A/N: I cite Creative License for...pretty much all of Saint Rudolph. XD I actually adore Mizuki, so don't expect any bashing in this fic, though there will be some moments where you'll want to smash his head in for being an idiot. And Kaneda-oh, I won't even tell you what I have planned for him. (maniacal laugh)
Kudos to anyone who could place the mentioned-in-passing characters, Shindou Hikaru and Kubota Makoto. I don't like making OCs, so I'll probably just throw in small snapshots of random characters.
Reviews are greatly appreciated and critiques are heartily welcomed!