Day after day continued to slip right on by, and as time faded from morning to night, Ryoma never returned to Seigaku's tennis courts. Though Kaidou pretended as if he didn't care about the boy's absence, he couldn't help but turn and look away from the courts; hoping that Ryoma would be trotting his way towards them. Nothing. Not a single passing person; just the wind sadly blowing around.
"We should work on doubles again today. That's always been something we fell behind in," Momoshiro stared at Kaidou and waved his hand in front of his face. "You listening?"
"Yeah, that's fine," Kaidou turned and searched the crowd of tennis players for a specific one. "Take care of the team for a little bit. I need to talk with someone. Horio! Lets talk!"
"Coming!" the younger boy rushed up to Kaidou and followed as he wandered out from the fenced area.
"That Kaidou really needs to start focusing. What is he doing?" Momoshiro mumbled as returned to the rest of the members. Shouting orders, they all began to work in pairs to improve their skills when it came to doubles.
Down towards the clubhouse, Kaidou and Horio walked in silence. Only once they stepped into the room was the silence broken by a soft 'fshuu' sound that slipped from Kaidou's lips.
"What was it that you needed to talk about, Kaidou-buchou?" Horio's voice slightly cracked.
"Was Echizen in class today?"
"Uh… well, yeah."
"He told me not to talk about him if asked though," Horio quickly slapped his hands against his mouth.
Kaidou stared down at the floor and let uncertainty fill his mind. "What did he tell you?"
"He said," the young boy paused and quickly shook his head. "I can't tell you. He said not to."
"Then I guess you can go run 200 laps."
"Echizen said that he refuses to come back to the tennis club and that you can take your pride in the team and shove it up your―"
"That's enough," Kaidou carefully moved towards his bag and pulled out a notepad. He quickly scribbled on it, ripped the page out, and folded it into a crisp square. Returning to Horio, he handed the paper to him. "Give that to Echizen when you see him next. Don't read it and hurry back to practice after you put it somewhere safe."
Once Horio noticed that Kaidou was out of the room, he pulled the note open and read the words out loud. "Come back to practice for just one day. We need to talk about these things; especially those kisses." Gasping at the words, he hurried to fold the paper up once again and shoved it in his bag. Trying to forget what he had read, he ran back to the courts.
The following day, Ryoma took the noted and scoffed as he read it. Crumpling it up, he tossed it into the trash can and returned to his seat. He listened to Horio continue to pester him to return to which he didn't bother to reply to. As class began, Ryoma's mind began making decisions, and once the school day was to end, he would find himself changing into his tennis outfit and walking towards the courts like normal.
Making his way with racket in hand, Ryoma heard mumbles coming from the other students. Rumors had already begun to go around the team about him and Kaidou. Before Ryoma was able to say anything in his defense, a hand touched his shoulder causing him to lose all trains of thoughts.
"We'll start with a quick five laps around the courts," Kaidou growled. "And there will be no more talk about these stupid rumors." When Ryoma attempted to slip away, Kaidou pulled him back. "I don't expect you to do anything."
"If you wanted to talk, lets just get it over with already," Ryoma brushed the older boy's hand away.
"I know that you don't want to be here, and I know that things have been placed in your mind that are causing you to fall apart. It doesn't matter if you stay and play anymore. The choice is completely yours. I can't force you to do anything you don't want to, but just remember that there's always a place here on the team for you. Not as a pillar to support us, but as a valued member just like everyone else," his breathing staggered as he looked over his shoulder; everyone was staring from beyond the fence. "There's just one thing I ask of you…"
Ryoma rose his left arm up and shoved his racket in Kaidou's face. "Buchou, how about one round?" A smirk formed on his face as he cocked his head to one side. "Afraid you're going to lose?"
"Everyone gather around here!" Kaidou placed his hands in his pockets and waited for all the boys to group together. "I want you to watch this match carefully. Analyze every movement we make and learn from it. Momoshiro—"
"Here," Momoshiro tapped the blue racket against the boy's head. "So, what is this going to solve?"
"I'll stay only if you can prove to me, with this match, that you have the strength to do this on your own. One point is all it takes," Ryoma moved to his end of the court and tossed the small tennis ball into the air. "I refuse to lose to you!" His racket made contact with the as it flew through the air.
Back and forth, the ball continued to be hit from one end to the other. Neither of the two boys were willing to give up. It wasn't only a match of skill, but a match between their stamina levels as well. Rushing towards the net, Ryoma had misread Kaidou's next move as the tennis ball swooped around the net and into Ryoma's side of the court. It hit the ground and bounced back up, but by the time Ryoma had reached it, it was already too late. The point had gone to Kaidou.
Beads of sweat dripped down Ryoma's cheeks as he wobbled towards the net to meet with Kaidou. Raising his hand up to shake Kaidou's, he pulled up more and slapped it against the older boy's cheek.
"I'll stay, but don't think you can just kiss me whenever you want to!" Ryoma adjusted his cap to cover the rosy color on his face and ran towards the clubhouse.
"Huh? So the rumors and everything that been said is true. Kaidou has a crush on our little Echizen!" Momoshiro let out a howling laugh and hit Kaidou's back. "You really are terrible when it comes to other people's feelings!"
"Shut up! You don't even know what's going on," an attitude all too normal for Kaidou started to show its face.
"Hey, hey, no need to get angry about it. I'll give you some pointers. After all, I'm great with the ladies and I know Echizen pretty well. I'll help you out."
"How can you help me out when you have no clue what's been happening," he clenched his teeth and hissed. "You would have just let Echizen walk away and quit when you never even knew what was going on in his mind. Maybe you're no better than Tezuka."
"What are you talking about? I would have fought to keep Echizen around," Momoshiro could feel his own rage building up.
"For what reason? To have him continue to support us as the strongest team member? It's not because he's a strong player that I want him to stay. It's because he's a member of this team, and every person he is equally as important as the next no matter how weak or strong of a tennis player they are!"
Momoshiro took his middle finger and lightly dinged Kaidou's nose. "Then maybe you should get rid of that cranky attitude and let him know that." Smiling, he swung his arm around towards the boys watching their spat. "It's encouraging words like what you just said that keep the smiles on all of these boys faces. Give Echizen his spark back by telling him what you just said to me. Oh… and you might want to resist kissing him. Apparently he doesn't like that."
"You can go do a few laps while I start the rest of today's practice," Kaidou didn't bother to listen to anything else that Momoshiro had to grumbles as he walked off. In the back of his mind, he knew he just didn't want to admit to him being right. "All first years need to be grouped with a second or third year for practice matches. The older members with more experience will be able to show you what you're doing wrong and help you with your weaknesses. We'll be working like this for the rest of the week, so hurry up and get a partner!"
In the clubhouse, Ryoma sat down on the floor with his back up against the wall. With his knees tight to his chest, he rested his head as his breathing became heavy. His body shivered and a faint gasping like sob could be heard.
"If I'm not broken…" Ryoma mumbled through his salty tears. "Then… why do I feel… like I'm falling apart? What… what's happening to me…? Kaidou… buchou…"
NOTE: I'd like to just start with an awkward hello and a very sincere apology. Forgive me for taking way too long to get to chapter 7. I hope this was worth the wait. I can't help but question myself as to why this fic has taken over a year to get to chapter 7. I feel like an awful fic writer at the moment. Please, my readers, if you ever notice that I haven't updated a chapter fic in over four months, spam me with messages until I promise to update. To me, this is unacceptable.
Anyways, thank you for reading this chapter. I'm going to put in my calendar to have the next update on the 8th of February. Hopefully this date will work out in the end.
"A faint gasping like sob could be heard." What was I thinking when I was writing that?
Crazy things are happening in this fic… so crazy that I don't even know what's going on anymore. I hope you'll come back for the next chapter!
(I'd also like to apologize if my writing style changed even in the slightest bit and threw you all off. I'm just trying to become a better writer, and that comes with the risk of changing how I write part way through a fic.).