Chapter 9- Panicking Is Never Good

Choutaro felt stupid. No, feeling stupid was not even close to how he felt that very moment. He heaved a sigh of frustration as he watched Ryoma enter the courts (for real this time) and face Renji of Josei Shonan. The way thee younger moved within the court was… gracefully. Choutaro had never seen anyone moved the way Ryoma did. It was as if the freshman was dancing to a tune only Choutaro could hear. The blond was trapped into a trance, watching Ryoma move about without looking away. The rest of the world simply faded into the background.

Shishido was looking at him and eyed his partner carefully then turned to where the eyes were looking at. It didn't take him long to add two and two to figure out how deep Choutaro's 'admiration' for the Seigaku freshman went. However, it was not only Shishido who noticed. Fuji Syusuke, Atobe Keigo, Tezuka Kunimitsu, and Yukimura Seichi were four among the others who had began to notice the way Choutaro stared at their Ryoma. Yes, in each mind, they all claimed Ryoma as their own.

Mizuki and Minami along with Inui and Renji were having an amusing time. They had band together and decided to make theories of who will get far enough to face Ryoma in the end, knowing full well that the said freshman would be one of the last two players left standing. "I think that Fuji might have a chance. But with Atobe and Tezuka, it seems like a long shot." Inui spoke. "Not to mention the Child of God and the Emperor are after the child wonder as well." Minami added. He meant Yukimura and Sanada. He didn't need to mention Kirihara since the Rikkaidai ace was going to be facing Shitenhoji's red headed menace.

"Well, I think that it is between Yukimura-kun and Sanada-kun who will be facing Echizen in the final match." Mizuki said confidently as he twirled his hair. Renji was silent for a long time. He had to think about the other players who are all after Echizen and the probability of them winning. However, he also had to consider the driving force as well. Among the ones left, only Otori Choutaro stood different. He had never played singles in any official matches nor had he even faced Echizen in a friendly game. Nevertheless, Renji could already see the outcome and he was sure of it.

"I am a hundred percent sure that Otori Choutaro of Hyotei will be the sole player left to face the wonder boy. Though it may seem unlikely, I can see that he will do and give all that he has to reach the end of this mock tournament. Unless there will be some one new that will add to long list of potential opponents, Otori-kun probably knows that he will have to battle hard if he desires that spot with Echizen at the very end." Renji said and gave the group a rare and confident smile. No one said anything yet turned to assess for themselves if Otori would indeed conquer heaven and earth for Echizen.

Meanwhile, Choutaro was already shaking. He knew what he needed to say to Ryoma when he got the change. But it didn't mean that he wasn't nervous. "I think I'd rather face Atobe-bucho than sit here and worry." He thought to himself. Ryoma's match was near its end. He was crushing Renji with the guy's own strength and power. It was like a repeat of their first match but this time, everything was a whole lever higher than last time.

The match ended and Ryoma won. Choutaro moved and went to the bench that he and Ryoma had occupied the day before and prayed that the heavens wouldn't hold his tongue and help him speak clearly.

Ryoma shook hands with Renji and exchanged a few words before leaving the court. He went directly to the vending machine yet discreetly glanced at the Hyotei area to see if a certain blond haired teen was there. Alas, no blond was seen which made Ryoma feel confused and hurt. "Wait! Why am I hurt?! I'm mad at him to begin with! Ugh! Mada mada dane!" he mentally scolded himself and shook his head to focus once again to where he was going.

When he got there, he didn't see that someone was sitting down on the bench under the tree. Ryoma was lost in mundane thoughts when someone called out, "R-ryoma… May I speak to you for a few moments? Please?" the voice asked. It sounded so familiar. However, what caught Ryoma's attention was the fact that the voice sounded like it was pleading for a spare second of his time. The next second, he already knew who it was that called him. He turned around and eyed Choutaro carefully.

"You have three minutes. You better not waste it." Was all Ryoma said and Choutaro nodded, understanding that he was granted the 'few moments' he asked for. He took a deep breath and looked straight into Ryoma's eyes. "I'm sorry Ryoma. I know that your mad at me that I called you Echizen when your sempais were around. Even though I know you told me in not so many words to call you Ryoma, I… I panicked." He said as he looked down on the ground. Ryoma listened carefully but wasn't about to hide his surprise.

Choutaro panicked? "You see, I didn't know if you'd allow me the same treatment if someone else was around. I panicked when the Golden pair came and thought that they might ask you too many questions and pester you if I suddenly called you by your first name with them within hearing distance. That Kikumaru-sempai of yours was already asking questions when he saw that I was drinking the same soda you enjoy so much. I just didn't want them to begin inquiring any further." He continued.

By this time, Ryoma was getting slightly confused. Why would it matter to his sempais if someone from another school call him by his first name? And why was Choutaro worried that Kikumaru-sempai would ask more questions? Was there something he had to know? "Aside from the fact that he likes Tezuka-bucho? Hmmm… Maybe he was scared that I might slip and tell Kikumaru-sempai that Choutaro likes bucho." His mind told him which just made him a bit mad once again. And Ryoma ended up saying something he wouldn't normally say.

"If your worried about me telling Kikumaru-sempai that you like Tezuka-bucho and that you want a match with him, I won't. So you can stop worrying about that." Ryoma said as he took a sip of his Ponta. He turned around and was about to leave but Choutaro grabbed his arm. "What did you just say? And how did Tezuka-san end up in this conversation?" Choutaro asked. What was Ryoma talking about? Choutaro admired Tezuka-san but that was it. It didn't go into anything else and he certainly didn't feel the way he did for Tezuka the way Ryoma made him feel.

Ryoma was shocked but recovered quickly though he had yet to reclaim back his own arm. "I said that if your worried that I would tell my sempais that you like Tezuka-bucho then you don't have to worry. I won't tell anyone. Its not like I care anyway." He said and mentally groaned as his last sentence came about. However, instead of being mad, Ryoma stared at the laughing Choutaro in confusion. He knew he didn't say anything worth laughing about so why was Choutaro laughing?

"I don't see why you need to laugh." Ryoma said with a tone as he took back his arm. Choutaro sat up straight and wiped a tear from his eye. "Well, it if funny to me. I don't like Tezuka-san the way you seem to think I do. Yes, I admire him but only because he has fought many players and won. The way he handles situations makes me sometimes wonder how deep he thinks. Atobe doesn't deal with us the way Tezuka-san does with your team." He said with a smile. "Besides, the one I like is standing in front of me and I have been trying to come up with a way to make him forgive me for my blunder this morning." He added which made him freeze.

Crap. He just confessed to Ryoma without thinking about it through. "Too late. You've said it already. All wee have to do now is wait for him to speak." His mind told him and he tried his best to calm down.

"Did I hear just right? He likes ME? I thought…" Ryoma didn't finish his thoughts because someone else decided to drop in on them. "Well, its seems like Otori-kun slipped sooner than I thought he would." Someone said which made the two turned around to identify the unwelcomed guest. It was no other than Mizuki of St. Rudolph.

"Well, Echizen-kun… Now that Otori-kun has confessed how he feels, I feel like its my obligation to inform you that he is not the only one who harbors such feelings towards you. I will not tell you who they are yet but as the tournament proceeds, you will see for yourself just how far they are willing to go for you." He said and walked away. Ryoma began to wonder how Mizuki kept appearing out of thin air, in the middle of something so important, speak, and then leave as if it wasn't a matter that holds interest to him.

Choutaro shrugged, "His right you know. I'm not the only one who feels this way. I know there are others and I know that they will also fight hard to claim the spot next to you in the final game. It's not really the game that we're playing for, but its about who gets to face you and actually confess and given a chance to go out with you." Choutaro told Ryoma was stunned yet again after another load of information.

"Hold up, your telling me that all this…" Ryoma made a small gesture with his hands in a round circle that clearly meant the whole mock tournament, "All this was about who gets to confess and go out with me?" he asked. Choutaro sighed and nodded. How could he deny such truth? Ryoma was bound to know sooner or later. Ryoma slowly began to smirk. It was not because that the tournament turned out the way it did. But he smirked because he was beginning to wonder if Choutaro would give it his all to win.

"Well, one this is for sure, you've already confessed Choutaro. Even if you haven't won yet. Which I don't mind really." Ryoma said as he began to leave. He stood beside Choutaro's side yet he was facing the courts. "But just so you know, I don't like you… yet. But you're doing good on your own so far. How far will you go in this tournament?" he asked and left Choutaro to think about it. Yes, it was a question worth thinking about.

Choutaro stood there for what seemed like hours, trying to come up with an answer to Ryoma's questions. Then it just dawned onto him which made his smile to himself. "I will gladly go to the ends of the world for you… To make you feel my love." He thought to himself and turned to watch Ryoma walk away and reach the other Seigaku members who looked at him funny. "Yes, Ryoma. I would gladly to so." He said to the wind as he made his won way back to his time. He had been successful. He was now forgiven, in fewer words. And that was all that mattered at the moment.

TBC… ^_^

A/N: Read and review, my good people. You reviews matter to me! ^_^