A cousin of one of the regulars from Seishun High arrived in Japan, marking the season for change as she affects the team as well as those of their rivals. She is Tezuka's classmate, someone who took Atobe's ego down a few notches or two, Oshitari's pen pal, Yukimura's friend and Sandra's competitor in the Tea Arena. Who is she exactly? Read on for more details.

**FLASHBACK**

Late morning, in the teacher's lounge.

Takashi Kawamura, the power player of Seishun Academy Middle School Tennis Team, walked in and requested for their coach, the dragon lady of Seishun Tennis Team, Sumire Ryuzaki, so as to speak to her. After a while, the famed coach walked out from the staffroom and gestured for him to seat on one of the many sofas lying around. Once seated, she asked "What is it, Taka? You don't normally come and look for me unless it is tennis related and you normally do wait till practice time for that."

"Ano…Sensei, I will like to be excused from today's practice session. Only for one day. I got some personal issues to do at home. I told Buchou, but he asked me to consult with you for this." Kawamura mumbled, looking down at the floor.

"Nothing serious happened, I hope? May I know the reason at least, Taka?" Ryuzaki sensei asked, leaning back into the sofa as she did so, a little crease crossing her forehead.

"My cousin is coming to Japan today. Her flight will arrive in the afternoon, at the same time as practice. My parents want me to pick her up as they got the sushi store to look after. Though she said she can make it here on her own, my parents still want me to pick her up. It's her first time here on her own, with no parents or whatsoever …." He explained, looking up at her.

At this, the dragon lady broke into a smile. "No problem then! I thought something nasty happened at home or something similar to that. No worries. Just go. I will explain your absence to the Captain for this. Only this once right? No problem. Introduce your cousin to us next time."

"Arigato, Sensei! She will be coming here to study for a while. I will definitely do the introductions then. I take my leave first then." Bowing, he went out of the lounge, just as the bell for the end of the break rang.

*** PRESENT, AT NARITA AIRPORT***

Looking around the big airport, Takashi certainly felt dwarfed for a while, with all the structure, lights and people. Tourists and locals all zoomed past him, with a purpose in their steps. Looking at his watch, he found that he is about half an hour earlier than expected. After finding a seat, he settled down to wait for the announcement that will bring his cousin to Japan.

The next thing he knew, a female voice called out to him from behind "Takashi-kun!" Spinning around, he saw a girl of his age, standing beside him, laughing as she waved at him. He was stupefied at first, wondering who is she. Finally, he recognized her. "Ling-chan!"

Ling-chan laughed as she ran forward, hugging her cousin. Tall and slender, she is a sight to behold. Hair tied up in a simple pony tail, she was casually dressed for travel in a kimono styled blouse and jeans, finishing off in heels. She looked up at her cousin and grinned impishly, "It has been a while, Taka-oniichan! What, you couldn't recognize me anymore?"

He laughed and replied "You have changed much. Plus, you had my photograph to consult with! I don't have yours!" Ling-chan giggled as she said "Hai, hai. A truce, alright? My flight arrived early; I thought I could get over to your place earlier. I didn't expect you to come and pick me up! Did Oba-san send you over? I told her there is no need to!"

"It's your first time arriving in Tokyo all alone. You can't expect us not to worry, ne? Have you got your entire luggage? Then we can go." He reached out for her trolley bag as they walked in the direction of the gates, chatting all the while.

While in the taxi, they swapped stories of their lives and things that had happened while they are apart in two different countries. Ling-chan peeked at her watch and saw the time. She then whipped around and glared at her cousin, who suddenly looked very uncomfortable under the intensity of her glare. In the deadliest tone she can master, she growled "Aren't you supposed to be at practice now, aniki? It's practice session now right? I remember you telling me how much you want to play tennis before graduation this year! Don't you dare tell me that you skipped practice just to pick me up!"

"Er….it's just one session!" Kawamura mumbled, wilting under Ling-chan's furious eyes. If he thought that will pacify his cousin, he is sadly mistaken. Cursing softly in German under her breath, Ling-chan turned to the driver and asked him politely to change lanes, as they are going to the school. The driver nodded and gave Kawamura a grin. Once Ling-chan is assured that they are going to school instead to her relative's place, she turned back to Kawamura and said "Don't give me "it's just a session" excuse! I know how much you want to play tennis and your plans to stop playing tennis after you graduate. Plus, it's the Nationals this year. I want to see you carry the trophy before I leave Japan, thank you very much! Hence, you must go for practice!"

"But what will you do while I am at practice? Don't you want to drop your things off at my place first? I can go back to school once you are settled in."

"If I go over to your house first, you will be late for practice. Luckily for us, my flight landed half an hour early. While you go off to your practice, I might as well handle my registration and paperwork into the school. Remember I told you that I will attend Seishun for a while? By the time you finish practice, I ought to be done as well. From there, we can go home together. Even if I finish early, I brought a book with me to read." Ling-chan informed him tartly. All this while, the taxi drove into the roadway, leading up to the school. As they passed the tennis courts, Ling-chan called "Oji-san, please stop here for a while."

Opening the door, she stepped out, and reached back into the taxi to pull Taka out as well. Pushing him in the direction of the courts, she smiled and pointed at a nearby Sakura tree, where a bench was placed under. "When you are done, we will wait for each other at that bench there. See you in a while!" With a wave, she hopped back to the taxi, which then continued on its way up to the school administration block.

*** AT THE TENNIS COURTS ***

"Kawamura sempai? What are you doing here? I thought you applied for leave today?" A junior asked, with his head cocked to one side.

"Ano….I finished my business early, that's why I returned." The power player smiled sheepishly, as he looked at the junior. "I better go and get changed."

"Hai. The regulars are at Court A. See you later, sempai."

*** MAIN BLOCK, IN THE PRINCIPAL'S OFFICE ***

"Your certifications as well as recommendation letters from your teachers and school all spoke highly of you. I see no reason why I should not let you in to Seishun Middle High. However, looking at your results, I don't think you will fit in as a first year here, though your age indicated that you should be placed there. I will like to put you in the third year but you must pass the entrance exam, so as to satisfy the teachers. Is it fair? If you cannot pass, then we will put you in the second year." The Principal said, looking over his spectacles at the girl who sat in front of him.

Ling-chan smiled "Arigato, Principal. I will take the exam. Can I take it now? I brought all the necessary writing materials with me."

*** TWO AND A HALF HOUR LATER ***

Finishing off the last equation of her mathematics paper, Ling-chan fastened and submitted the papers to a reading Ryuzaki sensei, which looked up in surprise.

"I am done, sensei. Thank you for waiting for me to finish them."

"You are welcome. Are you really sure you want to submit this already? You still have half an hour left to your allocated hour for this paper. It's your final paper."

"It's alright. I am sure of these answers." Ling-chan smiled.

"Very well, I shall hand them in to the teachers to grade. Perhaps you will like to go to the library to wait for the results? I will come along later to tell you how it went."

"Arigato, sensei. Which level is the library located at?"

"Level 5. Just follow the staircase outside here to the fifth level. You cannot miss it." With a nod, she went out of the room, heading towards the direction of the teacher's offices.

After a flight of stairs, Ling-chan reached the library. Pushing open the glass doors, she headed towards the bookshelves, intending to get a book to read. Halfway through her browsing of the titles available, she was distracted by a miserable sigh. Looking around, she saw a pig tailed girl, hunched over her books, looking absolutely miserable. Curious, she walked over, to see what the cause for her misery was and saw a page full of English words. Ling-chan then leaned over the girl's shoulder and spoke softly "Sumimasen, do you need help in this?"

The girl startled, and whipped over to see who had spoken. Seeing that it is a fellow member of her sex, she relaxed a little. "Ano….it's just that….I don't understand this passage at all. No matter how many times I read and re-read it! I am really very stupid!" She burst into quiet tears.

"No, you are not. Just that you do not know what to look out for. Come, dry your tears and let's go through this passage together. I shall explain the parts where you don't understand, okay? Over time, you can do this kind of passages with ease. I am Ling-chan. What is your name? " Ling-chan smiled encouragingly at the girl, while holding a piece of tissue to her.

"Sakuno."

"So, Sakuno-chan, let's start off with this first sentence….."

Hence, instead of reading a book as she planned, Ling-chan spent over an hour, teaching Sakuno and helping her with her English homework, Nearing the end of it, Ryuzaki sensei walked in and saw both of them, heads together over a piece of paper.

Sensing another presence, Ling-chan glanced up and saw Ryuzaki sensei. Standing up immediately, she bowed. As for Sakuno, she was so engrossed in her homework that she did not look up for a while. Only when Ling-chan nudged her a little, then she looked up, only to find her grandmother looking down at her.

"Gomen, oba-chan! I didn't see you here. I was doing my homework with Ling-chan's help."

"So I can see. Seat down. I am here to see Ling-chan as well. Her results for the entrance exam are out already." Holding out an envelope, she handed it to Ling-chan, saying "Congratulations, Ling-chan. You are now officially a student in this school. Your results for all the papers are inside there. I must say, you impressed all the teachers with your answers. You came very close to full marks. You will be assigned to the first class in the third year, even though you are not of age yet. This is because; the Principal feels that he will be restricting your growth if you are to enter the second year. Details are inside that package, so please read it in detail. Lastly, try to get a set of uniform soon. After all, you will be staying here for a little while."

"Arigato. I will do my best." Ryuzaki sensei smiled and nodded. Turning to Sakuno, she added "Pack your books. We are going home after I dismiss the boys. I meet you at the tennis courts."

"Hai!"

After her grandmother left, Sakuno looked at Ling-chan with wonder. "So you are a new student! Where did you come from?"

"I come from Singapore. I will be studying here for a few months before returning. However, I have relatives in Japan. My cousin is a third year student here."

"Oh….too bad you are situated in the third year, else we can meet more often!"

At this innocent statement, Ling-chan smiled "Even though we are situated in different years, it does not mean that we cannot meet. How about lunch times and after school periods? I will need assistance while I am here. Who to tell me where my classes are located at? Don't worry, Sakuno-chan, I am sure we will meet up often. Oh, speaking of which, can you tell me where can I buy uniforms?"

"At a nearby shopping centre, there is a store. However, I have a spare set which you can borrow. After all, you will be staying here for a little while. But the length might pose a problem. You are so tall…."

"Let's take a look at the uniform before we jump to conclusions alright? It's late, let's pack up your things and go home. By the way, do you know where the tennis courts at located at?"

"Hai. I play tennis in the girl's team. I am meeting oba-chan there later as well. Let's go together!"

*** AT THE TENNIS COURTS ***

"Taka? What are you doing here? I thought you are supposed to pick your cousin up at the airport and head home afterwards?" Ryuzaki sensei asked, as she gathered the regulars for briefing before dismissing them for the day.

"Her flight arrived earlier than expected and decided to drop me off back to tennis practice while she handles the administration to enter our school." Kawamura replied. "Gomen, sensei."

"Yada, it's alright. Taka, is your cousin the new student transferee, Hitachiin Ling? The tall girl who -" she was cut off by Eiji who then chimed in, "Ne, Taka-kun got a cousin in our school?"

"How come you never introduce her to us, sempai?" Momoshiro grinned, "I would love to meet a new girl!"

"Tch, lecherous peach butt" Kaidoh hissed.

"What did you say, baka viper?" The "peach butt" shouted back.

"New data. Interesting." Inui said, scribbling away in his notebook.

"That's enough, Kaidoh! You too, Momoshiro!" their coach snapped, looking at the two rivals. "As I was saying, the new student impressed all the Heads of Departments today as she breezed through all the entrance exams laid out to her. In fact, she finished all the papers before the allocated time. She will be placed in Class 3A, the same as Tezuka. All the teachers present today were full of praises for her."

"Arigato, Ryuzaki sensei, for those kind words." A female voice rang out, as Ling-chan walked forward, with Sakuno at her side. "I am the new student, starting from today." She bowed to Ryuzaki, and then turned to the rest, bowing as well "Pleased to meet you all. I am Takashi's cousin, Hitachiin Ling."

AUTHOR'S NOTE:

How do you like it? Please review and share your comments with me! In the next chapter, a familiar character will be introduced to you all. No, he is not from Seishun Academy; instead, he is from Hyotei! Who is he? Stay tuned to find out!

In the meanwhile, please review!