Summary: Konomi Ritsu was one of the luckiest girls in Rikkai Daigaku Fuzoku; she felt no infatuation towards the tennis regulars. However, many of her close friends, ever since meeting the regulars, had instantly been "in love". Unfortunately, they were always rejected of their confessions and who else can Konomi be, than that of a heart-fixer?
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Prince of Tennis characters.
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"That's just disturbing." Tanaka's disgusted voice traveled towards Konomi's drowsy ears. Konomi looked up, her chocolate brown eyes peeking over Tanaka's shoulder - taking note of her friend's wild icy stare on her phone screen. Konomi narrowed her eyes. "What is?" She wondered. Her voice echoed across the clearing, surprising her more than it should have. Tanaka's aquamarine blue eyes met Konomi's gaze and she pointed her index finger back on her phone screen.
It was an article of a girl who had been kidnapped months ago in the Okanawa region and had been found dead at an abandoned factory with blood spread over her genitals. Reporters say it wasn't a pretty sight. That girl had only been ten years old. She had her whole life ahead of her. A small picture of her mourning family was spread at the top of the page, their faces pale with grief, despair, and a slight hint of anger.
"Who would do something like this?" Tanaka shook her head, slamming her smart phone back in her jeans pocket. The two of them were waiting for Kiseki and Ranawa who decided to have their secret park clearing be their study spot. Konomi's older sister had her rowdy high-schooler friends over and her room was a bit too cramp to have four people be studying in it.
Tanaka's house was currently being occupied by Niou's younger brother and her own brother who had decided to bring friends over that day. Her room was too small, similar to that of Konomi's situation. Kiseki's overpopulated house was a big no-no and Ranawa couldn't contact her parents to ask.
Presently, Konomi shrugged at Tanaka's question and sighed. "I guess, the world just isn't a nice place anymore."
At this, Tanaka chuckled. "The world was never a nice place. We were just guarded from it before." She replied, a thin line forming on her mouth. A cool breeze rushed through, even though it was only 3:45, fifteen minutes after Rikkai's final bell.
Konomi tugged on her baby blue sweatshirt and wondered, "When did you guys find this place?"
"It was a pretty funny story, actually." Tanaka turned over to her, a smile forming on her face now. "It had been a few months ago, when Kiseki just moved in from Kansai. At that time, Shoko was still playing softball and Naomi, Shoko, and I decided to teach Kiseki and Ranawa and Aeha how to bat and pitch and all that. We brought our own plates and equipment and everything. We even set up our own small diamond just over there." Tanaka gestured towards patches of grass a few yards away. Her blue eyes were almost glowing.
"It was Kiseki's turn to bat and she striked twice. 3rd time was the charm, I guess and she hit it. But it went foul and flew the wrong direction - it rolled all the way down to where you're sitting now. Ever since then, we always used this clearing if all our houses were unavailable. If we ever need some fresh air by ourselves, we come here. But rarely though - y'know because of those kind of stories." She motioned towards her phone, where they had read the article a few minutes ago.
Konomi chuckled. "I kind of wish I was friends with you guys before." She sighed, remembering those regretful moments when all she'd do during the weekends was hang out with Chikako, Tsukiko, and Rika who did nothing but fawn over the regulars and distract from her studies or ballet.
"Everyone regrets something. It's part of why we're human." Tanaka smiled, raising her head as she saw a flash of light auburn hair making its way over to the clearing. "Is that Kiseki?" She narrowed her eyes.
Konomi turned to look and waved, clarifying Tanaka's question. A few moments later, Kiseki dropped her bag with a loud thud on the clearing floor, her auburn hair windswept but her forest green eyes were sparkling. Konomi figured it was probably Kiseki's love of studying and textbooks that kept her happy even in windy weather.
"Ranawa's coming in a few minutes. She called me." Kiseki informed them, setting herself down across Konomi. She was sporting a warm striped top under a plain red cardigan, a pair of washed skinny jeans, and All Stars. Konomi made the mistake of not changing out of her uniform and just throwing a baby blue sweatshirt over her blouse. Konomi observed Tanaka who was tapping her fingers impatiently on the cover of her English Textbook. She was wearing black skinny jeans and a black tank top under a red distressed hem knit sweater. Konomi was envious of how warm and toasty the both of them looked.
"Cold?" A cheerful voice sounded from the entrance of the clearings. All three of them looked up, apparently not hearing Ranawa's footsteps. Her wavy black hair was wrapped in a messy bun, her neck protected by a warm white scarf, and she was wearing denim jeans, a black-and-white striped top under a blue blazer and white sneakers. She dropped her bag next to Tanaka, who didn't even flinch at the thudding sound and blankly stared at the wide trunk of the tree across from her.
Ranawa's dark ebony eyes seemed to be gazing at Konomi as she realized the question was aimed towards her. Konomi reluctantly nodded, embarrassed. Ranawa grinned, unwrapping her wide and long scarf and tossed it over to Konomi who muttered a soft thanks.
"So, who's ready to study?" Kiseki warmly asked them, textbook in hand. By the time they started, it was almost 4 o'clock. Ranawa grinned as she let her textbook fall open in her lap and her workbook on top of it.
Tanaka tapped the eraser end of her pencil on the cover of her closed English textbook. "Anyone up for Math?"
Konomi was hesitant to answer; Math was one of her weakest subjects, and she looked down, ignoring the question.
"Sure." Kiseki and Ranawa replied in unison, switching textbooks as Konomi sighed knowing this was not going to be the happiest moments of her life.
"Konomi, if you had been struggling this much before, you could've told us. We can always help you." Ranawa told Konomi pitifully, who after tutoring from all three of her present friends had finished her Math homework after forty-five minutes of starting.
The sun was starting to set down, but not just yet.
"I'm sorry." Konomi apologized, blushing profusely. Her chocolate brown orbs, looking down trying to ignore her friend's gazes.
Tanaka sighed. "Honestly, Konomi - it's nothing to apologize for. Everyone has their weak spots; the first step is to target that weak spot and make it better, right?"
"Still. I feel like I've troubled you." Konomi scratched her forearm, biting her lip.
Kiseki smiled, her forest green eyes glistening,"Well, we volunteered for this. No backing out now. I mean, when we became friends with Naomi - did we know baby-sitting her siblings was part of the deal? No, but we still did it anyways."
"Yeah, at least you won't barf on me like her baby brother did once." A sour look spread across Ranawa's face, her dark eyes darkening as she sat there, remembering the memory.
Tanaka smirked. "We should continue." She gestured towards the English textbook, as the other three nodded. It was another round of infinitives and all sorts of pronouns and noun but Konomi pulled through. She would, at times, poke at Kiseki's side to ask for help and much to Konomi's surprise, the auburn-haired girl would willingly give it. Konomi remembered about what Shoko had said the other day; that Kiseki believed girls were capable of being more than just looking pretty.
At around fifteen to four, all four of them slammed their textbooks shut and sighed. The sun was nearly setting, but it was still bright. The rays pricked the autumn leaves, leaving behind a pleasant effect around the clearing.
"Um..." Konomi began. Three heads turned towards her, faces curious and eyebrows raised. "Shoko told me something the other day." She continued on, slightly twirling her brown locks nervously. Tanaka's cool blue eyes intimidated Konomi's chocolate brown eyes. Ranawa's analyzing facial expression made Konomi swallow uncomfortably whereas Kiseki kept a mere curious stare.
"What is it?" Ranawa coolly asked, crossing her arms and sharing a few glances at Tanaka and Kiseki.
Konomi swallowed yet again. "Something about...uh...beliefs?" She attempted to smile, but Konomi was certain it turned out to be a painful grimace instead. She turned her eyes toward the ground, uncomfortably with the three of them giving her strange looks. Suddenly, Tanaka let out a chuckle and Kiseki soon joined in. Konomi swiftly looked up to see the two best friends shaking their heads in laughter. Ranawa's face was smeared with a knowing smirk.
"Ah. She told you about us?" Ranawa questioned, shaking her head slightly. Konomi nodded in response as Kiseki stopped chuckling and began playing with the fallen faded-yellow leaves scattered in the vicinity and smiled instead. Tanaka stopped as well, scratching the back of her head and grinned.
"What exactly did she tell you?" Tanaka wondered, her grin slowly turning into a smirk.
Konomi bit her lip. "About how Ranawa believes in logic, and Tanaka believes in fearlessness and Kiseki believes in feminism."
"It's strange, isn't it?" Kiseki asked her cheerfully, her wide forest green eyes meeting Konomi's. Konomi was about to shake her head and respond no, but Kiseki had already started continuing. "As middle school girls, it's funny how we're so serious about things we really shouldn't be that serious about."
"What was it you were curious about?" Ranawa wondered curiously, staring at Konomi.
Konomi blinked as she hesitantly smiled. "Why?"
"You're asking that from each of us?" Tanaka questioned her. Konomi nodded.
Ranawa smiled and stared at the other two. Kiseki and Tanaka both gave her affirmative nods. Konomi could only look on in confusion.
"I'm sure you must be confused about my belief in logic. In all honesty, it makes me sound a bit inhumane and robotic, doesn't it? But let me elaborate. I don't merely believe in logic alone. I believe in logic over emotions. Emotions are heavy burdens to carry, but I've realized that its a part of what makes us who we are. So, in conclusion, my belief is to always keep your head clear no matter how many emotions decides to cloud it." Ranawa brushed her black side-bangs away from her eyes as she averted her gaze from Konomi's.
Konomi slightly frowned in response. "Why is your belief that?" She pressed on, curious as can be. Something inside Konomi yearned to understand these girls. Why they were so different from the others. How different were they.
Ranawa sighed softly and finally met Konomi's stare. "When my mother was only a year old, my oji-san (translated: grandfather) left my oba-chan for a younger woman. They had been married three years before my mother's birth and a few months after my mother's first birthday - he had just disappeared. Months later, oba-chan received an apology letter explaining that during the time my mother had been in my grandmother's womb, my grandfather had been passionately in love with someone else. I didn't find all of this out until my oba-chan told me when I entered middle school."
Ranawa stopped briefly and swallowed then continued on. "She told me to always keep my head and not fall in love too fast. Oba-chan told me that the only reason oji-san married her was because he had gotten her pregnant with their first child, my mother's older brother on their last year of high-school. They were only eighteen, under peer pressure, and foolish. Oji-san felt like he owed marriage to oba-chan since they were starting a family, and during graduation day - he proposed to her. Two years later, he met somebody else and promised himself to the other woman. He finally cracked and left oba-chan after my mother was born. In the letter he had written my grandmother, he confessed that he never did love her enough to truly treat her like the wife he wanted and he had pretended to be in love with her because she had sacrificed too much for him."
Ranawa narrowed her eyes and her mouth formed a thin line. "He just left. Can you believe that? Grandmother had a toddler and a new-born child, and juggling two jobs at the same time - and he just left and let her fend for herself. If he used his head, maybe stayed for a little while longer - she wouldn't have had to endure as much pain as she could. But at the same time, I feel like him leaving is a blessing itself. Imagine me having a grandfather who never did love the family he created. It would be too much."
"Ranawa's family hasn't seen him since." Kiseki told Konomi in a soft tone, her forest green eyes seemingly teary.
Ranawa nodded. "I'm glad he never tried to show up. Otherwise, my grandmother would be in even more pain." Ranawa then stared back at Konomi. "That's why. Even my own mother warned me - if I fell in love, I should be prepared to fend for myself even when he leaves me behind. To never let feelings bypass your mind. To love but not so much as to destroy yourself internally if your other half decides to leave."
"Oh. I see." Konomi didn't know what to really say, biting her lip wondering if interrogating Kiseki and Tanaka would be a wise idea still. Ranawa seemed to read her mind. "I'm sure Kiseki and Tanaka wouldn't mind sharing their stories either." Ranawa told Konomi chuckling, her voice strained with an emotion that could only be described as pain. Ranawa smiled, as if to assure the rest of them that she was fine.
Konomi turned towards Kiseki in a hesitant manner. "Kiseki-chan, what about you?"
Kiseki smiled, her auburn hair gliding in a slight breeze. "I don't remember exactly when the whole feminism thing started off. I was probably ten or eleven, a couple of years before I moved to Kanagawa. My whole family and a few of our friends went to a comedy play in some theater in Kansai. It was a modern play, with men acting as superior characters and women acting as idiotic inferior characters. At first, it wasn't apparent that the women characters were meant to be materialistic and degrading. As the play continued on, it started becoming more obvious. I was disgusted by it. And women in the crowd were laughing as well, including my older sister and my own mother. I knew it was meant to be funny, but I was ticked off by the time we arrived home."
Kiseki sighed and ran a hand through her hair then continued. "In the olden ages, women were meant to do nothing but tend to the house, take care of the children, make food, and to be a mere trophy wife for braggarts. Even the United States, a country of freedom, didn't have equal rights between genders until the 1950's. At an early age, I became obsessed with the belief that women are meant to be more than just something beautiful to stare at and lust over. Even though there is a handful of petty girls who act as if their appearances are all that is important, there are more than enough other girls who don't behave so superficially. If men are human and treated as so, why can't women?"
Konomi nodded, agreeing while Tanaka had a wide smile across her face. Ranawa sat there, smirking.
Then, Kiseki started laughing. Her face broke off from the once-serious expression she wore and turned into an embarrassed beet red. "I guess, it's pretty funny for a middle school to be this way, isn't it?" Kiseki then realized that she was the only one chuckling while the other three donned solemn expressions. Kiseki scratched the back of her auburn hair and bit her lip. "Isn't it?" She repeated, her voice echoing in the silence.
"It's admirable." Konomi grinned at the embarrassed Kiseki, and patted her on the shoulder to assure the auburn-haired girl.
Tanaka cleared her throat, and stares made its way towards the bored look on her face. "So, Konomi - ready to interrogate me?" She asked, grinning widely. Konomi nodded eagerly and imitated the smile on the Ice Princess' face.
"Ne, Tanaka-chan. Why?"
Tanaka exhaled and smirked. "Well, you can go almost everywhere with the word 'fearless.' It has a lot of meaning and depth for a two-syllable word. Too many interpretations to count and so many different things vary with it. Ever since I was a kid, I had a knack of diverging from the usual way. If people ran in a straight line, I'd go zig-zagging on the track. If people picked cupcakes, I'd go with muffins instead. If people liked their eggs scrambled, I'd want it boiled. If girls went into the bathroom in groups, I'd make a big show of going into it alone. It's fun to be different, to know that you're not generic and that you have a place in this world all because you see life in different colors than everyone else who sees it gray."
"When I was in elementary school, I'd be the girl who would isolate herself to one corner, reading a foreign book and would barely speak. I'd be the girl who'd stay in the classroom at recess while everyone went down to the playground. I'd be the girl who'd eat lunch by herself while everyone sat in groups. I thought of myself as special, untouchable - all because everyone else was too hesitant to come and speak to me. At that time, I thought to myself as fearless, just because I dared to be everything they weren't. But I was wrong. Fearlessness is more than just being different. I learned that the hard way."
"There was an underclassmen girl, a year younger than me. She acted exactly like I did, isolated and friendless. But unlike me - she'd be conscious about it, embarrassed of how she is and the insensitive kids soon found that weak point. They'd bully her after school or at lunch, whenever the teachers wouldn't be looking. Kids at my year would do it to her too, tripping her when she walked through the hallway or 'accidentally' shove her down the stairs. Of course, she was too reluctant to say anything to anybody. The bullies would never physically hurt her or say awful things to her when adults would be watching or looking. Sometimes, I'd hear them down at the playground during recess when the teachers would go into the teachers' room. Of course, we didn't have enough money to fund for yard duties or anything."
Tanaka sighed, biting her lip and continued on. "Some of the things they told her were pretty sickening. How both of her parents never loved her. How even God hated her. How she'd remain friendless all her life. How it's better if she was dead than alive. I don't understand how kids at that age could be so mean, but they were. They picked on her fear of heights and force her down on a swing and pushed her up until she couldn't go any higher. She was crying, but it was barely audible because everyone else was laughing. All her tears were drowned out by their disgusting amusement. Even though I'd hear my classmates snicker and whisper behind my back, all it took was one glare and they immediately stopped. All of them knew that they weren't capable of hurting me, and they were right. Maybe they felt so strongly against me, they decided to take their hatred onto a defenseless person as that other girl."
"This was about a year before Niou moved in, so I was probably in third grade. I was never traumatized before by any of the bullies, but this one memory always keeps coming back to haunt me. I walked in on a bullying session once. They had her trapped at the back of the school; this time, they were not only mentally hurting her, they were physically assaulting her. There were about ten of them surrounding her. She was on her knees, begging for them to stop. Some of those kids were in my grade, one of them in my class. She was only in second grade, for crying out loud. Even today - I couldn't understand why they hated her so much."
"She was begging, crying. I can still her pleading voice in my head at night. I accidentally stumbled in on them, and she stared at me as if I was an angel sent down from heaven. She cried out my name, Yoshida-san, she said. Please help me. She reached out a hand towards me, but they slapped it away and stared at me, anticipating what I would do. She begged again, but this time - for me. I did the most shameful thing, the most fearful thing, the most heartbreaking thing I could've done. I walked away. She was on the ground, pleading for my help and I could've have helped her, but I turned my back on everything I thought I stood up for and left." Tears began to flow into Tanaka's lap, her gaze on something the others couldn't see.
"Every night, at the end of each day - I knew that I would regret that decision all my life. It was the one time I had the chance to defend someone who needed me, and I was so shameless that I walked away. I thought I was fearless, but I wasn't. Like I said before, fearlessness isn't about being different. It's something so much more. It's not just behaving differently than everyone else. It's not just being fearless for yourself, but being fearless for others. It's standing up for what you believe in, when everyone else is too scared to. Being fearless doesn't mean pushing people away, it means having enough courage to bring others into the light when everyone else in the dark. It's not just being fearless for yourself, but being so fearless that other people can also be fearless because of you."
Tanaka's eyes was brimming with tears. Konomi stared at her, awestruck and amazed. That Rikkai's Ice Princess wasn't at all what everyone thought she was. That this girl who everyone thought didn't care about a thing in the world, cared the most for the people around her. Kiseki shared a smile with Ranawa as they nodded, patting Tanaka on the back. Tanaka turned her blue eyes towards Konomi, whose mouth was wide agape and her eyes wide with surprise.
"That's why I brought you to the group." Tanaka's voice was strained with emotion, but continued talking nonetheless. "Because I saw something in you that I doubt your former friends ever saw. I doubt you see it yourself, but it's obvious to the rest of the group. Which was why Shoko accepted you so easily, when if it was anyone else - she'd have rejected them immediately. Which was why the Hayashi sisters were so eager to be friends with you, because they also saw what we saw. Which was why Kiseki, Ranawa, and I never stepped in between you and your friends - because we knew, you standing up for yourself was the first step to you realizing what it is you're capable of being."
"What am I capable of being?" Konomi asked in a whisper, heart pounding for the answer.
The other three shared the same kind of look. They smiled to themselves and in unison, they whispered back.
And something inside Konomi fluttered.
You're capable of being anything.
By the time they finished, it was about 5:30 and as they packed their bags and walked home together, chatter began about a traditional festival opening tonight.
"My little brother and Niou's little brother wants to go, but then my parents would ask me to chaperon them. And knowing them, Niou would be included too. That was just be awkward." Tanaka complained, scratching the back of her dark mahogany brown hair with her free arm.
Ranawa smiled. "Ah...The beginning of a possible romance. Isn't it sweet?"
"Oh, look. She's blushing!" Kiseki could not resist noting the faint blush that began to appear on Tanaka's cheeks, pointing it out for a whole block to see. Konomi could only giggle as she observed the scene before her. Ranawa leading in front, confident and alluring with her dark wavy locks down from her former bun and black ebony eyes calculating and taking note of everything.
Tanaka with her dark mahogany brown hair and her icy aquamarine eyes, scowling at Kiseki's never-ending teasing. Her bag was swung over her shoulder, walking with a stride no one could match. Konomi remembered what Shoko had told her days before: Fearless. Tanaka is Fearless.
Then, she turned to look at Kiseki who's forest green eyes seemed to sparkle in the lamplight. Her auburn hair seemingly streaked with red as the light shone on her, skipping with a carefree smile. Her schoolbag in one hand, a heavy textbook in another.
Slowly but surely, Konomi felt like she was merging in with them. When she stared into the mirror, her chocolate brown orbs weren't dull anymore but shimmering. Her boring brown hair seemed to be more golden now. Maybe, just maybe, she was beginning to be herself again.
From the park, Kiseki's house came nearer, then Ranawa's, then Tanaka's, and lastly Konomi's. As Kiseki left, a few minutes later, so did Ranawa. When they neared Tanaka's house, the local Ice Princess turned towards Konomi and asked, "Will you be fine?"
"Don't worry, Tanaka. I think I can take care of myself now." Konomi nodded confidently.
Tanaka smirked and messed up Konomi's long straight hair. "Looks like I'm finally rubbing off on you now. So, planning to visit the festival later tonight?"
"Yeah. I've never gone before." Konomi said.
Tanaka grinned. "Have fun, then." She clicked open the door and the rowdy yells of her brother and Niou's little brother sounded from the opened door before it snapped close.
Konomi smiled as she fast-walked to her house, being a bit frightened after reading the article on Tanaka's phone. At long last, she reached her house to find her older sister, Kiseki cleaning up garbage on the coffee table.
The onee-san's gaze met the imouto's. "So, how was studying?" Kiseki teased her little sister, knowing full well that Konomi didn't adore the practice.
"It's actually fun when you're in a group." Konomi told her incredulously.
Kiseki chuckled. "Isn't it?"
"Onee-chan, have you heard of the annual festival in Kanagawa?" Konomi asked her older sister.
Kiseki nodded, her amber brown eyes meeting her sister's chocolate brown ones. "Yeah, I've been urging you to go these past few years."
"I don't remember." Konomi told her honestly.
Kiseki rolled her eyes. "Maybe you just never listened. Are you planning to go?"
"Yeah. Just by myself. For myself. You know?" Konomi replied, smiling.
Kiseki grinned back. "At least you're not as dependent as you had been before. Go, I'll tell okaa-san and otou-san for you."
"Thanks, nee-chan!" Konomi rushed to give her big sister a hug before bounding up the stairs. Kiseki could only stare at her little sister's cheerful back with a sense of pride and gladness.
Konomi entered the festival after paying the small fee at the gate. She was dressed in a navy blue asymmetric striped long t-shirt, an assortment of bangles, a black cross necklace, light blue sneakers, and a pair of distressed light blue cropped jeans. Her golden brown hair was styled in a side-braid down her shoulder, and a cute hat that Kiseki had let her borrow.
Lights flooded from each corner of the park, an enormous Ferris wheel behind a large carousel in the middle of the park. Everywhere she looked, people were in a cheery mood. She was entranced of how much happiness can exist in one place alone. Konomi knew she looked foolish, like an overgrown sheltered child who had never been into a real festival before. Well, it was partly true but self-consciousness could not deter her excitement.
She bounded off from one place to another, eating warm snacks in a section of the park and obsessing over cute stuffed teddy-bears in the prize part. A particular large panda bear caught her eye, but when she realized how many tickers it would take to buy - Konomi felt her hopes die. At last, she found herself resting on a seat in the Ferris wheel. She had bought a scone to munch on as she studied the park from above.
It was a breathtaking view. From below, she could only stare up at the strung lights from the Ferris wheel to the rooftops of the different sorts of stands. From above, she saw the lights hanging over every spot, and traditional lanterns being lit up. The many uncountable people who had decided to come only made the festival even more lively and fun. Laughter and happiness oozed from each corner. It could only be described as pleasant.
She finished her strawberry scone, and couldn't bring herself not to look at the food section. The small treats were barely distinguishable but the overly-decorated gigantic cakes reminded her of a certain adorable tennis tensai who had a way of making her heart beat faster than how it should. There, she saw people eating and picking out various kinds of delicious treats. Konomi felt her stomach mumble at the sight. Then, suddenly - her eyes spotted something.
That yellow-and-black tennis jersey. That trademark bright red hair. That apple-flavored bubblegum. Her eyes drew into Marui Bunta, an arm thrown over the shoulder of a light-brown-haired girl who seemed to be giggling and pointing at all the food stands. Konomi felt a claw scratch the insides of her heart out, as she felt her jaw drop open instinctively. The feeling of her heart plummeting towards its demise was anything but pleasant. She couldn't describe the distinctive flash of pain that drove itself in her chest.
She saw the girl point at a particular mouth-watering pastry and Marui immediately bought it for her, with no hesitation. As she took a bite, the girl pointed the pastry at Marui's mouth and he finished it in one gulp. The girl chuckled as she wiped off the crumbs surrounding Marui's lips as he threw an arm over her shoulder once more and they continued to a different section of the park. A small part of Konomi wondered how his fangirls would react to this.
Konomi lowered her gaze on the ground, wanting the stone platform underneath her to open up a hole and let her sink in it. The feeling inside her chest burned into her; and not in a warm cuddly way, but a painful excruciating way. She held back the tears starting to form. As her carriage came to a stop, she hesitantly stepped down, taking her bag with her and sighing.
"I'm really stupid." Konomi told herself, wanting to hit her head on something. She aimlessly walked through the park, no longer ignoring the sights she would have enjoyed minutes ago.
Of course, it was always Fate's decision to find a way to make the night worse. She had been holding a vanilla and strawberry ice cream cone, licking it as she went along when she ran into someone and caused her to drop the ice cream, but not before spreading itself all over the cute white blouse of the person she ran into.
"I am so sorry! I'm sorry!Sorrysorrysorrysorry!" She tried to find tissues in the bag she brought, but failed in vain. Konomi looked up to see the amused eyes of both Marui Bunta and the pretty girl whom he was accompanying. The girl grinned and said, "It's alright. I can always wash it off."
"I'm really sorry." Konomi told the girl again, as Marui and the girl continued to grin.
The girl smiled and clapped a hand on Konomi's shoulder. Konomi observed that she really was pretty. And it hurt her even more. "Really, it's fine. I'm just really sorry about your ice cream. Do you want another one?"
"No, it's alright." Konomi shook her hands in front of her face, almost as if she was flailing.
Marui stepped forward and asked, "Are you here alone?" His eyes seemed to be intently on her chocolate brown orbs.
"Yeah, I've never been here before." Konomi gazed down, scratching her forearm.
The girl unclapped her hand from Konomi's shoulder and said. "I'm Sotomachi Aiki, by the way. I go to Hyotei." She smiled and took a hand. Konomi shook it and introduced herself as well.
"Sotomachi's my date." Marui threw an arm over the girl's shoulder again, and possessively drew her closer. Konomi could only make a small smile; inside, she was grimacing. Sotomachi rolled her eyes in response at Marui's actions.
"Ne, so see you tomorrow at school?" He asked Konomi, stepping forward with Sotomachi towards the opposite direction where Konomi was going. The ice cream cone was left lying on the ground, free for anyone to step on.
Konomi forced a smile again. "Yeah, ja ne." She turned, walking on nearly in tears. Konomi knew she was jealous. For some reason, after the past couple of weeks, Marui had charmed his way into the insecure girl's heart. Realizing that she was not the only girl in his life pained her, even though she knew it had been foolish to think so.
Minutes passed, as Konomi continued to explore the park. Knowing that it would be a waste to sulk on, she put her best foot forward and tried to enjoy as much as she could. It had been a good thirty minutes since the incident with Marui and Sotomachi.
Konomi observed the claw-catcher machine which she had never one at before. A small machine was laid near the entrance of a shop. As Konomi walked over to the yellow and red machine, she realized that the handles were on the direction where she would be standing if she was playing and she could look down the claw to see which one she could catch.
Konomi had never been good at games like these, but some of the small stuffed animals in the machine caught her eye. She realized that with her bad luck this night, nothing could be worse. She looked through her bag for spare change and immediately found some.
She dropped the coins inside the slot and began to play. The machine gave her three minutes; something unusual, since most of the ones she's played at only gave her a minute or so. Konomi smiled as she looked down at the glass and aimed for a pure-white teddy-bear holding a stuffed heart-shaped pink balloon to its chest.
She narrowed her eyes and her mouth turned into a slim straight line. Completely focused and undeterred.
Meanwhile, Marui was being lectured by his cousin Sotomachi Aiki to not make girls jealous by using their cousins as dates. Marui scratched the back of his head as Aiki left with some of her Hyotei friends, and he aimlessly wandered through the park. He could tell that Konomi was jealous, and deep down inside - he was pleased. It just means she did like him after all. But her forced smile made him feel guilty inside and he went to look for her to explain properly.
At last, he found her concentrated on a claw-catcher machine. She was looking over the glass, which reached near her waist, her hands gripping the handles tightly. Marui grinned, chewing his gum faster, walking stealthily behind her.
Konomi bit her lip. One minute to go and she was determined to get that white teddy no matter what. She narrowed her eyes and frustratingly saw that one minute had turned to forty-five seconds.
Suddenly, a calloused hand gripped itself over hers and the handle, as a chest pressed itself on her back. The smell of apple-mint gum reached Konomi's nose as his arm possessively swung itself around her waist and brought her body closer to him. A face brought itself down, his cheek touching hers as Konomi saw from her peripheral vision those distinctive magenta eyes and the trademark pinkish-red hair.
Konomi reluctantly turned to look only to see Marui's carefree face grinning as he pressed the button to catch the white teddy she wanted. "Eh? Marui-san?" Konomi cried out as the claw-machine dropped the teddy onto its prize pocket for her to pick up.
"It's Bunta, Nomi. Bunta!" He told her, winking.
Konomi's mouth turned into a thin line. "What about Sotomachi-san?"
"She's my cousin, baka." Marui's face was smeared with a wide smile, teasing her.
Konomi's eyes widened. "Isn't that incest?" She wondered.
"You're so slow sometimes." Marui shook his head, taking out the teddy and placed in into her hands.
Konomi scowled. "No, this is yours." She pushed the bear onto his chest.
"No, it's yours." Marui scowled as well.
Konomi narrowed her eyes. "But I didn't win it. You did."
"I won it for you. There's a difference." Marui told her, pushing the bear back onto her.
Konomi shook her head. "I don't need." She started walking away to some random direction of the park. She crossed her arms stubbornly and lightly stomped her way through the mingling crowds of people.
"Are you mad I made you jealous?" Marui pressed on, walking in step with her. Konomi felt a tug on her forearm and looked down, only to see a strong grip around her arm but gently enough not to hurt her.
Konomi blushed. "You didn't." She turned away, hoping he wouldn't see as she continued walking on. However, her efforts were in vain as Marui pulled her aside from the crowd and trapped her between him and the haunted house behind her.
"You're blushing." Marui pointed out, grinning.
Konomi scowled. "Well your hair is pink."
"It's red." Marui told her pointedly.
Konomi blinked. "No, it's pink. You're so girly, Bunbun." She sent the teddybear flying at him, as he easily caught it and attempted to go around him. She failed as he quickly wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled as close to him as she deemed possible.
"Don't make me press you up against a wall and show you how much of a man I am." Bunta looked down at her and threatened the poor victimized girl, turning his voice husky.
Konomi's eyes almost bulged out. "What?" She bursted out, feeling her heart pounding against her chest.
"Just kidding!" Marui letting her go and instead, took her wrist gently and led her towards the haunted house behind them."Come on, let's go into the haunted house!"
As they entered the dark bin, Konomi felt sick. She had always been frightened of anything horror-ish and began to close her eyes as Marui led her more into the haunting dark house. Marui grinned down at the frightened girl and smirked. He too (although he wouldn't admit it) was scared of haunted houses and he was glad she was playing into his tactic so smoothly.
Konomi heard him stop but didn't dare open her eyes. Suddenly, she found herself tossed into his arms bridal-style as he carried her out the haunted house and towards the Ferris Wheel. When Konomi finally opened her eyes, she found herself in Marui Bunta's slightly muscular arms with people staring and murmuring around them as they neared the Ferris Wheel.
"Marui Bunta, put me down!" Konomi demanded, scowling while blushing at the same time.
Marui grinned as he gently placed her down, holding a tight grip around her wrist as he led her into a Ferris Wheel carriage and closed the door tightly as they began to move up a level. Konomi's eyes widened and she cried out, "This is harassment! Somebody let me down!" Marui took a seat next to her and chuckled lightly, messing up her hair.
"Guess we're gonna be stuck with each other for tonight, ne Konomi?" He teased her playfully, sitting within a very close proximity next to her.
Konomi stood up and switched the seats opposite of where she originally was. "Don't talk to me." She was partly mad, and partly embarrassed that she didn't realize he had been lying about Sotomachi when they bumped into each other at the carnival.
"You know, I kind of liked you way better when you could barely say a word and wasn't this assertive." Marui complained loudly, scowling as he crossed his arms over his head.
Konomi stared out the window. "Too bad." She told him, ignoring the sad-looking tensai across from her.
"Ne, Konomi - has a guy ever confessed to you?" Marui asked rather randomly as his magenta eyes captured her gaze.
Konomi couldn't stop the faint blush from appearing on her face. "Why would you ask me that?"
"Just wondering." Marui shrugged his shoulders.
Suddenly, Konomi spotted something again. The long dark-colored hair stubbornly being followed by that noticeable silver hair.
"Ehhh? Is that Tanaka-chan and Niou?" She stood up, placing her hands on the window - her face almost touching the glass. Marui stood up as well, surprised as he looked over the window. The pair was being dragged along by two male versions of the two. Konomi couldn't help but note the sour look on Tanaka's face as well as the smirk on Niou's.
Suddenly, she found herself in a similar position as a few minutes ago. Marui's face was relatively close to hers, their cheeks barely touching as she caught a whiff of his mint apple-flavored bubblegum. His chest was lightly touching her back as his forearms touched the edge of her waist and placed his hands a few inches below her own. For the second time that day, Konomi felt her heart soar.
She smiled to herself as the tennis tensai curiously followed Niou and Tanaka as best as he could with his eyes.
You are capable of being anything.
Picture of Konomi's Festival Outfit can be found on my tumblr. Check my profile for the url.(:
P.S. This revised edition is about twice as long as the original. More fluffiness between Marui and Konomi?OFCOURSEYES. But I won't forget the original reason why I wrote this fanfiction in the first place. Enjoy the history between Tanaka, Kiseki, and Ranawa's beliefs as well as more fluffiness between the once-insecure-slightly-turning-assertive teenage girl and the overly confident sweet-tongued tennis tensai.