MY DEEPEST AND MOST SINCEREST APOLOGIES FOR TAKING FOREVER TO UPDATE. HAVING WRITER'S BLOCK, SUCKS!

DISCLAIMER: *clears throat* Despite wanting to own Prince of Tennis, I can't. I don't own it now and never will I own it.

Still, a bit of OOCness won't hurt. Don't like it? Don't read. That simple.


Chapter 17- The Start of the End

The day of the Mock Tournament Finals finally came. Everyone was wondering who the coaches were going to pair off. Inui and Renji had told everyone that Tezuka had to withdraw from the finals due to the precautionary step Ryuzaki-sensei wanted to take. She couldn't afford to have Tezuka injured even if the said Captain said that he was fine. Sakaki–sensei and Oji seconded her decision.

"Is it just me or is this whole tournament is about me rookie?" Ryuzaki asked as she rubbed her temples. Sakaki simply nodded in agreement while Oji chuckled. "It's safe to say that Echizen-kun proceeds to the finals. The players we need to pair up are Yukimura-kun of Rikkaidai, Atobe and Ohtori-kun of Hyotei, and Shiraishi-kun of Shitenhoji." He stated. It took the coaches nearly three hours to decide the final match up.

While waiting….

Choutaro and Ryoma were sharing a nice cool breeze under their tree while drinking Ponta. Despite the fact that they still didn't know who was going to face who, the two players left in behind when they were sharing a peaceful moment. Ryoma took a deep breath, "Choutaro…" the blond turned to the freshman who continued to stare out into the sky. "If we face each other… You better not hold back." Ryoma told him as he turned to look at Choutaro seriously. The other gave him a smile and nodded, "As long as you don't hold back on me as well." Choutaro countered and Ryoma gave him a smirk that clearly meant 'of course'.

At the waiting area…

Marui, Gakuto, and Eiji were busy eating doughnuts to even care about what the others were thinking. Jiroh was sleeping while the others were spread around. Momoshiro, Kirihara, and Jackal were trying to control the three eating red heads only to be joined by Kintaro who brought a box of chocolate that Ann Tachibana had given him. Momoshiro, Kirihara, and Jackal were tempted to kill the freshman menace if it weren't for the fact that Gin was watching him and that Ryoma was now fond of the sugar crazy boy.

It was just then that Momoshiro noticed that his best friend wasn't around. He approached Oishi who was Oshitari, Saeki, and Tachibana, talking about Tezuka's withdrawal from the finals. "Ne, Oishi-sempai, have you seen Echizen?" Momo asked as he still kept looking around. Oshitari looked around to look for someone and smirked to himself. "It seems that Choutaro is not here as well." Said the Hyotei Vice Captain. Ryu came with a box in his hands and Gakuto sulking behind him. Ryu had taken away the cake that Kintaro had brought which was silently thanked by Gin, Jackal, and Kirihara.

"Ryu, have you seen Choutaro?" Oshitari asked as he smirked at Gakuto crossing his arms across his chest like a little school boy. "Hmmm? The last time I saw him, he was making his way to the vending machine." Ryu said as he pulled Gakuto to their waiting tent and planned to make him drink three tall glasses of water to counter the amount of sugar that his teammate had ingested early that morning.

Oshitari smiled at Oishi, Momoshiro, Saeki, and Tachibana. "Well, there you have it. Wherever Choutaro is, your rookie is bound to be there as well." He stated like he was sure of it. Inui and Renji came and nodded. "Oshitari is right. Ohtori-kun is with Echizen-kun at the moment and they looked like they were enjoying a moment of peace." Renji said with a knowing smile. "So that closes all bets then. It's the blond that Echizen likes." Momo said with a happy grin. "Well, we still don't know who confessed to him though. And after Echizen-kun' date with Shinji and Kintaro-kun, he had not gone out again." Tachibana said. "Well, he hadn't gone out again because no one had asked him after. I don't why no one dare to ask him out again but maybe they thought that they weren't worth it because they had lose their matches and got dropped from the list of fighters." Mizuki injected from out of nowhere.

Momo shook his head and smiled, "Echizen isn't that thick to decline offers just because the one asking had lose. He would have declined properly even if it doesn't seem like something he does." He said confidently. Oishi nodded in agreement and knew that Ryoma wasn't like what Mizuki had said.

Then the coaches came out and wrote the match ups.

Game 1- Shiraishi vs. Yukimura Game 2- Atobe vs. Choutaro

Echizen Ryoma proceeds to the finals.

No one spoke for what seemed like a very long while. Ryoma and Choutaro weren't around so both didn't know the pairing. The Seigaku freshmen trio plus Taichi of Yamabuki, The Tanaka twins of Josei Shonan, Kintaro of Shitenhoji, with the girls, Ann Tachibana of Fudomine, Sakuno and Tomo of Seigaku ran out to find Ryoma and Choutaro. Good thing the twins and Kintaro knew where they could find the pair.

When they found the pair, both players turned to look at them and silently asked what happened and why they were running. "The match ups are posted." Sakuno and Ann said at the same time. "Shiraishi is going to face the Rikkai Captain" Kintaro informed them. Now it was just Tezuka and Atobe left. Who were the captains going to face? Ryoma and Choutaro thought that they were going to have to face their captains. "Ryoma-sama, Tezuka-sempai was pulled out from the finals by Ryuzaki-sensei." Tomo said which made Ryoma's eye widen in shock.

"Ryuzaki-sensei said that it was a precautionary step to make sure that Tezuka-sempai didn't get injured during a mock tournament." Taichi explained. "Which means that you Ryoma-kun proceed to the finals—" Youhei began, "While Choutaro-sempai faces Atobe-sempai." Kouhei finished. The pair was stunned. Ryoma was still in shock from hearing that his captain was pulled out. Then he was to proceed to the finals? It was just bomb after another form him. For Choutaro, he wasn't really that shocked that he was going to be facing his own captain. He had wondered when he would actually face Hyotei's captain. Now, here was his chance.

"However, since Ryoma is proceeding to the finals, whoever wins between games 1 will face the winner of game 2 to face Ryoma." Ann stated as she looked like she was thinking deeper into the plot. "However…" she began. "However, If Shiraishi-sempai faces Yukimura-sempai, there is a huge chance that both of them will be too tired to even play for the last spot next to Ryoma-kun's name." Sakuno finished which shocked the others. She gave them a smirk that they thought she never had, "I may look weak but that doesn't mean I don't know a thing or two." She told them which made Ryoma smiled at her.

Ryoma turned to Choutaro who was smiling and nodded. Both stood up and look at the others, "Time for us to begin the end of this whole charade." Ryoma said with a smirk and everyone nodded. They made their way to where everyone was waiting and the older players knew that Ryoma had already been informed of the match ups. "It seems that the time to finally end this games have come." Ryoma spoke which made everyone smile and/or grin. "You got that right brat. And prepare to face Ore-sama when he finished the other three." Atobe said confidently.

"I am the least of your worries, Monkey King. Because the 'other three' as you put it won't go down without a fight." He said as he looked at Yukimura, Shiraishi, and Choutaro. The four other players were eyeing their opponents. "Gomenasai Atobe-bucho. But you have to defeat me if you want that final spot on the finals." Choutaro said seriously. Atobe nodded and left. Yukimura and Shiraishi left without having to say anything. "The Bible versus the Child of God. I wonder who will come out alive." Asked Aoi who seemed to voice out what the others wanted to ask as well.

Choutaro turned and was about to leave when he stop next to Ryoma but didn't look at him. "You better not lose, Choutaro." Ryoma said and the other nodded and left to get ready. Ryoma wasn't going to watch and Choutaro knew it. But he knew that Ryoma was cheering for him under their tree. And Choutaro wanted to spend another moment like that with the golden eyed rookie.

The others were now starting to bet if Ohtori Choutaro stood a chance against Atobe Keigo. Ryoma had already left so he didn't hear what his sempais had to say. "I think Ohtori-kun has the potential to defeat Atobe." Inui began. "It all depends on how much he wants that spot next to Echizen." Renji finished. Tachibana and a few others shook their heads. "No, it's not the spot Ohtori is after." Yuuta began. "His win will depend on how much Echizen means to him." Syuusuke finished his brother's statement which earned him a nod from the St. Rudolph lefty killer. This made everyone nod in agreement.

"Well, we'll just have to wait and see. Each game will be played in one court. Game 1 then Game 2. We'll have to watch Shiraishi and Yukimura first then Atobe and Ohtori-kun." Inui said and Renji nodded. Even though Game 1 seems like a game of a life time, since Ryoma was the prize in the end, Game 2 was just more interesting.

In the middle of A court, Yukimura was facing Shiraishi. "As much as I want to see who comes out on top between us, don't you think that we should spare everyone a long wait and just proceed to Game 2?" Yukimura suggested. This surprised Shiraishi. "I was told that you were also after Echizen's affection. This would mean that you've practically lose the right to face the victor of Game 2 for the final spot." He said. Yukimura nodded, "I know. But I feel that even if I walk out the victor between us and win against either Atobe or Ohtori-kun, Echizen won't see me the way I want him too. Besides, I get the feeling that the one Seigaku's pillar actually likes is playing in Game 2."

Shiraishi didn't have to be told any further. Both turned to the coaches, "We decided to make this match a draw." Both players said at the same time which made everyone gasp. A draw? Where they really serious? Well they looked like they were. So there was no point. Ryuzaki-sensei was rubbing her temple. "Alright, Game 1 is decidedly a draw. We now proceed to Game 2. And the victor will face Echizen Ryoma for the Singles Championship." She said and retreated to her seat.

Everyone began to talk in excitement. Ryoma gripped the fence tightly as Choutaro and Atobe entered the court. The blond turned to him and smiled. Ryoma nodded and left. He knew that Choutaro was going to win even if it was the Monkey King he was facing. He went to the vending machine and got a can of Ponta and sat on the bench he and Choutaro were occupying not that long ago. "You really better not lose, Choutaro." Ryoma said to the wind that blew by.

Choutaro and Atobe shook hands, "May the best player win, Ohtori-kun." Atobe said seriously. The other nodded and they went to their positions. It was Atobe's serve and he wasn't going to be holding back. "Have a taste of Ore-sama's Tannhauser Serve." He said as he gave his own member his fast serve that he had perfected since the Goodwill Games. Choutaro was in for a long match.


TBC… ^_^

A/N: Read and review, my good people. You reviews matter to me! And this story is nearing its end. Watch out for a follow up story of the Ryoma Death Series entitled "Told You We'll Meet Again". ^_^

Sorry for ending it like this. But their match takes up half the chapter of the last chapter in my head. So yeah. This will be the second to the last and I hope that you all have enjoyed the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.