AN: My first POT fanfiction, based loosely on the 30 kisses theme 1: look over here
I apologize for possible OOC-ness, as I have not watched all of the anime.
Disclaimer: I don't own POT characters. I have one OC, who is just there for plot movement.
Set when Ryoma and Sakuno are in first year high school.
I'd love to have reviews :)
An unhappy Echizen does not a good tennis practice make, a consensus reached by the Seigaku High regulars of the Tennis club (at least those formerly Seigaku Middle School regulars).
It had been two weeks since the start of his apparently bad mood, which had resulted in more injuries, more laps for everyone, and too many unfortunate encounters with Inui's Penal Tea which the bad-tempered boy had always managed to avoid. This alone was already cause for wanting resolution of his bad mood, noted Kaidoh with a hiss.
But what had caused his bad mood? Echizen, in his own way, had been happy to meet up with his old senpais in high school, though the lack of Oishi, Kawamura, and Tezuka were felt by all (though they still heard from Tezuka through cryptic emails telling them not to let their guard down no matter what they told him, and Oishi and Kawamura still came to cheer them on in games). That moment when he had won his spot in the regulars officially and put on his Seigaku High regulars jacket had brought a smile to all the senpai.
It was Inui, though, who had an idea, after Echizen had beaten him again in a practice match without mercy.
"Why don't we ask his classmates?"
It was a good idea, so they had decided to split up and ask discreetly around.
That same day, after lunchtime was almost over, Sakuno Ryuzaki was replacing the lead of her pencil when she heard footsteps rushing towards the classroom door. She sighed, thinking that her money was running out again. "It must be all the ingredients for our experiments."
"Look, there's a handsome senpai in our corridor! Let's get an autograph!"
"He's got a Seigaku tennis regular jacket!" Her eyes widened, and she stood up and started walking towards the door to see what was going on.
"Hoi hoi," she heard as her eyes widened to see Kikumaru Eiji of the now defunct Golden Pair looking into all the classrooms. "Where could she be?" He turned, seeing many students peering out from the other classrooms. "Would you know where Ryuzaki Sakuno's classroom is?"
"Kikumaru-senpai!" she pushed her way out timidly, blushing at the gasps of surprise that her classmates emitted. "Is anything wrong?"
"Ahh Ryuzaki-chan, I've missed you!" He hugged her tightly, causing even more gasps and people started talking about it. She vaguely heard a cameraphone click, sighing inwardly as she imagined what rumors might arise from such a picture. "Can we talk outside?"
"Demo, Kikumaru-senpai, it's almost time for classes again!" She felt guilty. "You might be late!"
"Don't mind, don't mind, free period today" he said happily. "I haven't seen Ryuzaki-chan in a while, are you not free? What class are you today?"
"Ahh, our teacher is not here today," she said, "we're just supposed to solve some math problems, and I finished them just earlier."
"Then let's talk, ne? Let's go upstairs, to the roof!" He happily took her hand, pulling her to the stairs.
"Ehh?" She looked back at her classmates for help, but they were all smirking at her.
"Ne, Sakuno-chan, we'll cover for you!"
Echizen Ryoma was unhappy.
He knew that he was generally considered to be somewhat bratty and reveled in it, particularly during tennis matches, but this unhappiness was taking a toll on him.
He hated high school. Except for the tennis, and even that wasn't as satisfactory as before. Sure, he was with his senpais, but there was something missing lately. He wouldn't have noticed it as early if Kachiro hadn't pointed it out, but his own observations alone made him displeased.
She was not watching him at practice.
He was unhappy.
Even though everyone thought him dense, he wasn't so dense not to realize that he liked Ryuzaki and that she liked him. He was just… biding his time. Slowly. And avoiding the inevitable teasing of his senpais and his family once anything went further. And the possible wrath of his old coach, which he was really not looking forward to. And his perverted oyaji's perverted remarks. He thought they had some kind of an understanding anyway, given how she was the only girl he talked to on a regular basis and how he gave her his main racket before he left for the USA after their first year of middle school; she had used it faithfully throughout the rest of middle school to his great pleasure but he had not seen her using it since they had started high school. Actually, he wasn't sure if she had been going to her own tennis practice lately, which she usually went to before going over to watch his practice.
He had not asked her why she wasn't present at his practice, not for lack of trying. She seemed always busy lately, even if they were in the same classroom. She hardly even looked at him in class now, her attention intent on the teacher (like his should be, but he couldn't be bothered what with his trying to get her to look back at him), and unfortunately for him there were no groupwork lately so he couldn't confront her. Even when he searched for her on days his practice ended early, she had already disappeared from the classroom, and could not be found on the grounds as far as he scouted. He had not been desperate enough yet to confront her at her house. Yet. Getting there.
Maybe he should have made whatever they had clear so that he wouldn't be feeling this unhappy. And it would likely stop those love letters from appearing in both their lockers, at least. Not that he cared about his, but she always felt bad about refusing boys, which he felt irrationally happy about. Persistent ones, though, were always dealt with by his tennis skills, without her knowledge. It generally worked, though even with those inevitable after school confessions she'd receive she still found time to watch his practice unlike now. Cheh.
He was channeling his unhappiness into his tennis, causing injuries which increased as the days went by. He had ignored the questions of his senpais, not really wanting to be teased. Anyway, today they both had day duty, so maybe he could discreetly ask her where she had been these last two weeks.
He had just come from a quick practice in the tennis court during lunchtime when he noted that many of his classmates were gathered at the door of his classroom, girls squealing and boys with furrowed eyebrows in speculation. They noticed him, and a girl quickly said, "Maybe Echizen-kun knows something, he's also a regular!"
"Are Kikumaru-senpai and Sakuno-chan dating?"
His eyes widened. "What?"
A boy had pulled out his cameraphone, showing him a sickening picture, one of Kikumaru Eiji hugging Ryuzaki that would have looked innocent and cute had he not been Echizen Ryoma, probably jealous. (At least he could admit that much to himself.) "He came by earlier, pulled Ryuzaki-chan to the stairs! You just missed them!"
Ugh. "Don't know," he muttered and pushed through his classmates to get inside. "She'll be late, didn't she know that?"
"But we don't have a teacher this class, remember? We just have to solve these Math problems, and she already submitted it to our class representative." The girls were swooning happily, while some of his male classmates looked discomfited at their behavior.
"Cheh," and he sat down, unhappily starting his worksheet like the rest of his classmates, keeping one eye on the door. "Where is that girl," he muttered. "She better be back before I finish this."
"Ne, Kikumaru-senpai, what do you want to talk about?" She was proud of finally recovering from her stuttering problem after how many years of knowing her senpais. He looked at her approvingly, suddenly hugging her again.
"Ryuzaki-chan," he said quickly, "you are classmates with Ochibi, ne?"
"Hai," she nodded.
"Do you know why he's been mad lately?"
"Ehh?" She had noticed that Ryoma-kun had been somewhat… less friendly in general, though she thought that it was just her imagination. After all, no one was going to award the Prince of Tennis the Friendliness award anytime soon, though he had improved somewhat compared to when she had first met him in middle school. "What do you mean, senpai?"
"He's been killing us on the courts, you know?" He unhappily showed some healing bruises, likely from the Tennis Prince's infamous Twist Serve. "Ne, Ryuzaki-chan, didn't you notice?"
"Iie, senpai, I haven't been watching you practice lately."
"Why not?" She felt her heart twitch as she noted Kikumaru-senpai's sad mien. "Don't you like us anymore?"
"Iie, Kikumaru-senpai!" Unhappy at the thought that she had made him sad, she hugged him quickly, "I've just been busy with a science project with a senpai, he asked me to help. It's almost done, after three weeks!" Kikumaru grinned at her cheerfully, noting that 3 weeks seemed awfully near what the regulars had been puzzling over.
"Science? Ryuzaki-chan likes science?"
"I've found I like it, senpai" she smiled brightly at him, causing him to hug her tighter. "It's like cooking!"
"Demo ne," she said sadly, realizing they had gone off-topic, "I don't know why Ryoma-kun is mad, though. He seems more or less normal in class, though I haven't talked to him lately because of this science project. I could try to talk to him, though! Today we have day duty anyway, we might be able to talk then."
"Will you, Ryuzaki-chan?" He swung her around happily. "Tell me tomorrow?"
She nodded, "If I can! Probably after school, I'll come by your practice!"
"Oi." They turned to find Echizen Ryoma behind them. "Ryuzaki, it's almost time for the next class."
"Ehh? Ryoma-kun? What are you doing here?" She blushed, not noticing his narrowed gaze at their senpai. Eiji, though, had noticed, and the gears were now turning in his head as he looked at the both of them.
"I was the only one finished, so I came to look for you. Don't forget that you're on cleaning duty today with me."
"Ahh, hai, Ryoma-kun, I didn't forget." She bowed to Kikumaru-senpai, "Senpai, I'll see you tomorrow!" She rushed into the stairwell, causing both boys' eyes to widen.
"Oi, Ryuzaki" and Ryoma had quickly pulled her back from a stair that she was about to miss. "No need to rush," he said quickly, "you know how clumsy you are." He continued holding her arm as they went down the stairs.
"Hai, Ryoma-kun" she said sadly. Her first words with Ryoma-kun in a while and again he was berating her for her clumsiness. Kikumaru Eiji, though, behind them had noted the slight redness of the Tennis Prince's ears when he had grasped her arm. "Hoi hoi," he said to himself, "perhaps I have something to report later!"
While practice was ongoing, the regulars save the Tennis Prince were huddled in the clubhouse. They had been informed that he had cleaning duty that day and would be late, so it was safe to talk about him.
"Did anyone find out something?" Kaidoh was unhappy as he had been beaten by Echizen earlier that day during lunch in a "friendly game" with all of Echizen's balls favoring his head apparently.
"I talked to Horio," said Fuji, "he said that Echizen has been unpleasant in class lately, starting from the time that we noted that he had gone mad in practice."
"Hoi hoi!" Eiji said happily, "I talked to Ryuzaki-chan today! She said she was busy doing a science project with a senpai so she hadn't been able to talk to Ochibi lately, but she'd try to ask him today since she has day duty with him! She told me she'd tell me tomorrow!" Everyone nodded. He decided to keep what had happened on the rooftop to himself for now, what he had observed.
"So we'll probably understand tomorrow," said Fuji. "Good work, Eiji."
Suddenly the door to the clubhouse opened, and everyone turned to see the Tennis Prince himself, eyes narrowed at the cheerful redhead.
"Kikumaru-senpai. Game. Now." He turned on his heel and exited, causing everyone to look at Eiji pityingly.
"Hoi hoi, Ochibi, go easy on me!" Kikumaru said weakly, grabbing his racket. He left the room sadly, everyone else exhaling in relief.
"Poor Eiji," said Momoshiro. "What did he do to Echizen this time? And why is he so mad this time?"
Inui pulled out his notebook, flipping through the pages. "I asked Kachiro-kun," said Inui, "since he is very insightful and observant." Everyone nodded in agreement. "He mentioned that before he noted Echizen's change in temperament, he had mentioned to Echizen that Ryuzaki Sakuno had not been watching our practice lately." The regulars' eyes widened, and one could hear the gears grinding in their heads. "I don't think I even have to mention statistics when I state that Echizen has likely started to notice Ryuzaki-chan, though I cannot speculate on how much particularly." Everyone nodded glumly.
"Also, I have acquired this from a classmate of Echizen." He pulled out his phone, showing everyone a picture of Kikumaru Eiji hugging Ryuzaki Sakuno in what seemed to be a corridor. "Apparently this happened earlier during your free period, Fuji. He apparently dragged her towards the stairs and they went missing for a while, probably on the rooftop. Apparently Echizen was also shown this picture and told what had happened."
"Saa," said Fuji, eyes closed, "we may never see Eiji again. But we should talk to Sakuno-chan soon. It might be easier to talk to her than Echizen."
"Well, Eiji said that she'd come by tomorrow" said Inui. "Ii data."
Fuji stretched his arms calmly. "We should just scrape Eiji off the floor later. We'll find out tomorrow."
She tried her best to record what had happened earlier in the classroom in her diary that night, still confused as to what had happened.
After they had gone back to the classroom, Ryoma-kun had been silent the whole afternoon, oddly not asleep for once. He actually seemed to be looking at her, but she was having a hard time following the current lesson so she could not really attempt to talk to him during class. "Well, there is day duty" she thought to herself.
During Day duty, though, she kept on wondering what she would say to him. "How do I ask something like this? He might get mad" she thought forlornly. They had gotten generally closer during the years they had known each other, she thought, but there were still her feelings for him that kept her from asking him about sensitive subjects like his attitude.
He opened the conversation though, as she started writing the diary while he swept the floor.
"Ne, Ryuzaki, what have you been doing after school lately?"
"Ehh?" She looked up at the boy, who was currently staring at a badly cracked tile on the floor.
"You haven't been at tennis practice in a while."
"Ahh," she said quickly, realizing that she might have hurt him with her absences like Kikumaru-senpai had been. "I've had a science project, Ryoma-kun. I've been so busy that I haven't been able to go much to my own tennis practices, though I have permission from our buchou since she knows our project."
"Science?" his eyebrow rose. "We don't have any science project yet…"
"Ahh, Ryoma-kun" she flushed, "It's a special one, I've been working on it with a senpai."
Knowing Ryoma-kun for as long as she did, she felt that he was waiting for her to go on. "He had asked me for help, because he knew I was also interested in that field since we were in middle school" she said quickly, "I'm learning a lot!"
"What's it about?"
"Ah, we're trying to find something useful for our sports teams," she said happily. "Something like Inui juice, but not as… unique-tasting." She noted his incredulous look, continuing "Senpai is on the basketball team, so he is also interested to help his team! And if we do well, it'll be an extra-credit project for us!"'
"Sou ka," he put down the broom. "So when will it be finished?"
"Ah," she was happy at how interested Ryoma-kun seemed to be at the time, "we're writing our paper now, our preliminary testing was successful with the basketball team! They seemed to like it! Then when I finish, I can go back to watching you practice!" She looked at the day diary, noting that she had finished. "It's done, Ryoma-kun! You can go for practice now!"
"Hn," and he went off to put away the broom while she gathered her things, noting that she seemed to have nothing to say to Eiji-senpai yet about Ryoma-kun's behavior. "Oh no," she said softly. "What do I do?"
"What's wrong?" He said from behind her, causing her to gasp.
"Iie, Ryoma-kun!" She was trying to think of how to breach the topic of his mood, still unable to say anything.
"You sure?" His eyebrow was raised again.
"Ahh, Ryoma-kun" she gathered up her courage, "are you okay?"
"Un, why do you ask?"
"Ahh," she was silently pleading with him to not hate her. "You seem kind of… unsettled. I was wondering if anything was wrong that I could help with."
"Betsuni," he said quickly, packing up his things and putting on his trademark cap. "Nothing's wrong now."
Before he could answer, though, her senpai had appeared. "Sakuno-chan! We have to work on our paper, remember? Your house, remember?"
"Hai, senpai! I just finished my cleaning."
"Who's this?" her senpai asked, gesturing to Ryoma-kun who seemed somewhat irritated.
"Ah, senpai, this is my classmate, Echizen Ryoma, we're both on day duty together."
"Ahh, the famous tennis prince!" A frown had settled on her senpai's face, but he had then grabbed her arm, "I'll be borrowing Sakuno-chan then, Echizen-san!"
"Ehh senpai!" She quickly grabbed her bag, a quick "Gomen, Ryoma-kun" and she was being dragged off again, noting the irritated look on Ryoma-kun's face as she was taken away.
She sighed, writing it all down. "Maybe I can ask him at lunch time. A bento might make him more talkative." She then picked up her research materials, "well, I better finish this first tonight."
A weak looking Eiji had been dragged home by the Seigaku regulars after yesterday's practice, looking still weak during morning practice the next day.
"Hoi hoi," he said as he ran laps. "Where's Ochibi?"
"Huh," said Fuji. "Where is Echizen? Momo?"
"When I came by his house, he wasn't there anymore. Apparently he left early, said his cousin."
"But not at practice? Where could Ochibi be?"
"Perhaps he is wondering who Ryuzaki-chan's senpai is," said Inui from behind them, with his eyeglasses flashing.
"I have found out that he is a basketball club member," said Inui, "though the name is unknown. I do know that she has been spotted near their clubroom many times in the last week."
The regulars looked at each other, then ran off.
An irritated Echizen Ryoma was scouting the basketball clubroom from outside, wondering how he could find out the name of the senpai that seemed very close to Ryuzaki.
"I don't know anyone in the basketball club," he sighed. "How am I going to know… maybe Kachiro would know." He trudged back to class.
Unbeknownst to him, the Seigaku regulars had been observing him from the bushes.
"Ehh?" Kachiro cried. "Ryuuzaki is working with a senpai which is why she hasn't been around practice?"
"Shh, Kachiro" said Ryoma unhappily. Kachiro at least had some discretion, compared to his two friends and Osakada.
"Don't worry, Echizen" he nodded. "I'll ask around."
"Ne, Ryoma-kun" he turned to see Ryuzaki smiling at him, causing him to suddenly stop whatever he was thinking about, oh, about how to find out who Ryuzaki's senpai was. "Would you like to eat lunch with me?"
Finally, he grinned inwardly, finally she looks at me during class. And an invitation to further talk to her! This was new, since he knew that she knew he tended to sleep during lunch on the roof top. While sometimes she would visit him at the roof top, other times she would eat with the Freshman Trio and Osakada.
She pulled out 2 bento boxes. "I have extra, Ryoma-kun!"
"Okay," he said quickly. He was not going to pass up a chance to eat her cooking, though he wasn't going to refuse anyway. "Let's go."
"Ne, Ryoma-kun." She tried again to open up the conversation. "How's tennis practice lately?" She was blushing, "I miss everyone."
"It's fine," he said after a pause. "Everyone is still mada mada dane."
She giggled; she saw him smirk. They ate in companionable silence until he spoke again.
"What were you talking about with Kikumaru-senpai yesterday?"
She stiffened. Uh-oh. This was bad, she thought. She had a bad feeling that Ryoma-kun would get mad if he found out that the senpais were wondering about his behavior and asking people about it. She had heard from Kachiro-kun and Horio-kun that Inui-senpai and Fuji-senpai had talked to them too. Actually they were all lucky that Horio-kun hadn't said such in front of Ryoma-kun yet.
"Ah, he was just wondering why I hadn't been to your practice also, like Ryoma-kun." She exhaled inwardly. Good job, Sakuno. It's the truth. It was hard to lie to the boy you liked, not to mention Ryoma-kun was very sharp compared to the average guy.
"Hn." Oh no, he sounded kind of mad. She tried to salvage the situation, bringing out her water bottle. He looked at it curiously as she opened it and drank from it quickly, trying to gain courage from what she was about to show him.
"Ah, Ryoma-kun, here is what we were working on!" She smiled, perhaps this will help. "I've been drinking it, it's quite nice! It helps me with tennis, too, though I haven't been able to go to practice lately. But I've been excused because of the project." She took a gulp, sighing happily. "I wanted to show you!"
"Let me try it," he said.
He took the bottle from her, drinking slowly. He wiped his mouth as he returned it to her. "Not bad," he said, "tastes like Strawberry."
She blushed, thinking suddenly of indirect kisses. An indirect kiss of Ryoma-kun. Eep. "That's good," she managed to say, "I was worried that guys might not like it, but the basketball team liked it so far and now you too. I tried not to make it too sweet."
"It's good," he said, lying down on the roof, "and far better than Penal Tea." He turned to her. "Are you going to give that to us too?"
"Ehh?" She shook her head quickly. "Maybe in the future, but I wouldn't want to presume, Inui-sempai is much better at chemistry than me!"
He snorted but then suddenly yawned, and she knew he was about to fall asleep. "Give it only to me, then. Inui-sempai won't find out."
"Hai," she said softly. She started picking up the bento boxes. "I'll make some and bring it to you later at practice."
"Stay here a while," he said sleepily. "Class is still 30 minutes away."
"Hai, Ryoma-kun." Another failure of an attempt, she sighed inwardly, but at least Ryoma-kun seemed more peaceful today. And he liked the taste of the drink she had made, that was already enough to make her happy.
"Kachiro asked me to pass this to you," said Katsuo as he was about to walk out for practice. He took the note, reading it quickly.
"He's Akihito Kou, Class 2-1, Basketball club secretary. He's known for his dunks, and he's good at chemistry." A small scribble made him bring the note closer to his eyes, which narrowed as he read it. "Rumored to like auburn headed girls since middle school. According to Osakada, he's known Ryuzaki since she was a second year back in middle school."
"Cheh," he said as he tucked the note into his bag. An athlete and a nerd. Who happens to be apparently good at his worst subject, lab experiments. Time to channel his anger into tennis again.
After school, Kikumaru Eiji was looking for Ryuzaki Sakuno to appear at practice. Momo had remarked on it, to which Kikumaru had shushed him, but the damage was done. He narrowly avoided a tennis ball which seemed to be aimed at his head. Both of them sighed.
1 hour into practice, after the 20 laps they had run and some practice swings, he noted Ryuzaki-chan appear at the edge of the tennis courts. She was carrying her bag and a filled bottle, evidently looking for someone. He was about to wave at her when he suddenly saw the Tennis Prince start walking briskly to her. The regulars looked at each other and they immediately made themselves seem uninterested.
"Ryoma-kun," they heard her say happily.
"I brought you the drink," she gave him the bottle, which seemed to be filled with a light pink liquid.
"Sankyuu," and they saw him smile at her. "It'll be helpful."
She smiled back at him, "You're welcome, Ryoma-kun. I hope it does help." She then started looking around again. "Ryoma-kun, have you seen Kikumaru-senpai?"
Oh no, Kikumaru thought, and he saw Echizen turn his head with narrowed eyes as they locked on to him. "There."
"Arigato, Ryoma-kun!" She smiled, and skipped over to him. "Ah, senpai! I have to go soon, so I looked for you immediately after I was free!"
"Ahh, Ryuzaki-chan, arigato" he was unhappy inwardly, feeling an intense glare from the Tennis Prince's direction. "Let's go over there for now." He felt that the regulars were now also spying on him, and wondered if this was how Echizen felt when they spied on him and Sakuno. At least Echizen was now currently 10 feet away from them, personally murdering yet another tennis club member. Again. He felt another massacre in his future full of twist serves.
"Ne, senpai, I tried my best" she said softly. "But Ryoma-kun doesn't seem to trust me," she said sadly. "He says he's fine when I asked, but we mostly talked about my science project also."
"That's okay, Ryuzaki-chan."
"I made him bento, but he was just really interested in the science project. Ah," she said also, "he asked about why we were on the rooftop yesterday also." She had her nose scrunched up cutely, and suddenly her eyes widened as she remembered something. "Ah, Kikumaru-senpai! Ryoma-kun seemed mad yesterday after our cleaning duties." She quickly relayed what had happened. "Akihito-senpai had pulled me out rather quickly because we still had to proofread our paper, and I guess Ryoma-kun was irritated that we had not been able to finish our conversation."
The gears again went grinding in Kikumaru's head, and he grinned at her. He restrained himself from hugging her, else the inevitable massacre might be worse. "Ahh, Ryuzaki-chan, that's something I wanted to know. Who is Akihito-senpai?"
"He's my senpai in the research!" She was smiling quickly. "He's very good in chemistry and he's in the basketball club!"
"Sakuno-chan!" the two turned to see a well-muscled handsome boy running over to her. "We're being looked for by the teacher, remember? You said you wouldn't be long!"
"Ahh, Akihito-senpai! I forgot! Gomen nasai!" She bowed at him quickly.
"It's okay, Sakuno-chan!" He grinned, and Kikumaru Eiji felt some annoyance as he watched the boy take her arm. How close were the two, he wondered. "Ah, who is this?"
"Ah, this is Kikumaru-senpai, he's a tennis regular! He's very good at tennis!" Kikumaru grinned, watching how the male in front of him seemed put out at Ryuzaki-chan's praise.
"Ah, nice to meet you, I'm Akihito Kou from the basketball club" and he bowed quickly to Kikumaru. "May I borrow Sakuno-chan? We're supposed to report to our adviser, then we're going out for dinner."
"We are?" She gasped.
"Did you forget, Sakuno-chan? We were going to eat dinner once we finished our presentation! I promised, remember, I'd treat you for all the help?" He grasped her hands in his cheerfully.
"Ahh, hai, I forgot." She smiled uneasily at the senpai, causing more intense stares, probably from the senpai hiding somewhere. Eiji, though he only saw his Ryuzaki-chan as a sister, felt irritated at how familiar the boy seemed to be with her, how apparently he seemed to like to grab her. "Gomen, Kikumaru-senpai, I have to go." He nodded, and the boy suddenly slung his arm around her shoulders and pulled her off.
The regulars hopped out of the bushes, glaring at the boy openly from behind.
"The plot thickens," said Fuji.
"Oi, Kikumaru-senpai" and suddenly Echizen was in front of him. "I want a match."
He resigned himself to more bruises. Please, Ryuzaki-chan, don't let him find out about this celebratory dinner that sounds like a date. He might kill us all.
Meanwhile, the Data Tennis user was conferring with Momoshiro and Kaidoh.
"I'm surprised that you are not as active in this investigation as I calculated you to be, Momoshiro" said Inui. "I had calculated that it would have been 90% you leading the investigation, though it seems Eiji has taken the lead role quite well."
"I don't really want to interfere with Echizen's love life anymore," said Momo sheepishly, to an incredulous look by Kaidoh and Inui. "Okay, I do, but I think he's actually starting to figure it out. Not like in middle school. I think he's actually doing fine now. He actually talks to her now, or he was until this whole thing started. I don't really know the guy though that she's hanging out with now."
"Fsssh-" said Kaidoh with his arms folded. "I don't like that guy."
"Ah, he is your classmate, Mamushi?"
"So what do you know about him, Kaidoh?" Inui had his notebook open. "I've seen him in the laboratory, but he keeps to his own generally. And Ryuzaki-chan only started here about 2 months ago."
The Viper closed his eyes for a moment. "From Seigaku Middle School also, he is a basketball player, he's good in most science subjects. He… has a picture of Ryuzaki in his card case."
The Viper opened his eyes. "He had left it in the locker room after PE class today, I just returned it. On opening it to find out who it belonged to, I saw her picture."
Inui started scribbling madly in his notebook. "Ii data."
"Let's not tell Echizen that, Mamushi."
"Neh, not tell me what?" The Prince of Tennis strolled past them, entering the clubroom. The door was slammed in their faces, causing the three to cringe.
"More carnage tomorrow, care of Echizen, 100% chance."
After yet another beatdown by the Prince of Tennis, Kikumaru was lifted off the court and settled on the bench outside the clubroom. Echizen was now drinking from the bottle Ryuzaki-chan had given him, and he wondered what was in it. Perhaps it was Ryuzaki-chan's science project, given that it had come from her.
"Ne, Echizen, what are you drinking?" Finally, someone asked. Fuji, the brave sadistic captain of Seigaku. "Doesn't seem to be your usual Ponta."
"Hn," and he continued drinking.
"It looks delicious," said Fuji, "may I have a sip?"
"No," said Echizen, finishing it quickly and walking away.
"Hidoii, Echizen" said Fuji, looking sideways at the other regulars. "Not sharing with your buchou!"
Echizen shrugged, and entered the clubroom.
Unfortunately for everyone else, Echizen did find out about the dinner, no thanks to a loudmouthed Horio who had seen them together yesterday. This resulted in more bruises, more tennis brutality, and only Echizen seemed to be able to complete the assigned laps for regulars nowadays with ease. This resulted in Penal Tea, causing an all-time low in morale for the regulars. Unfortunately they couldn't murder Horio as he was their kouhai, no matter how stupid he was at times.
"How do we stop him?" said Kaidoh. "At the rate he's going, we're going to have to default for prefecturals with all our injuries."
"I have recently come into some information," said Inui, "I heard that Ryuzaki-chan's research is finally over and they're just wrapping up their paper and filling up paperwork for possible patents. The basketball team's performance is at an all time high, as is the girls' tennis club, who have tested it."
"That's good news," said Momoshiro. "Ryuzaki-chan deserves recognition if the drink is that good."
"And if the research is over," said Kikumaru, "Ryuzaki-chan will come back to practices." Everyone except Inui nodded.
"The bad news," said Inui morosely, "is that as we all suspected, Akihito has a crush on Ryuzaki-chan and plans to confess after they file the paperwork, possibly on Friday. Worse, given that they have common interests, there is a chance that Ryuzaki-chan may actually accept him, since according to public opinion her crush on Echizen has decreased by at least 40% given that she does not stutter around him anymore and does not watch our practices anymore."
He paused, taking in their unhappy faces, and continued.
"Worst of all, Echizen actually read Akihito's letter to Ryuzaki over her shoulder when she found it in her shoe locker this morning, asking her to see him after class in 3 days under the Sakura Tree Echizen likes to sleep under. And Echizen has day duty again with Ryuzaki on that day."
"We're dead," they all muttered.
"Please Echizen, grow some balls already and ask the girl out" muttered Kaidoh. Their eyes widened as a ball suddenly broke through the window of their clubroom, almost hitting Kaidoh by centimeters. Luckily, no one was hit by the glass shards.
"Sorry," said the Tennis Prince a few minutes later as he entered the clubroom. "My hand slipped, somehow." He went off to get a broom and dust pain, while the regulars sighed.
"Oi," he said quietly during day duty. "Are you going to go?"
She blushed. "Uh, Akihito-senpai wouldn't call me out for no reason. And he's my friend."
"Ryuzaki, you know I know you're not that dense anymore."
"Hai." She sighed, Ryoma-kun did know, after all, he had helped her decipher similar notes left in her locker before. Ryoma-kun was kind of dense, but he seemed to understand guys more than her, likely because he was a guy also.
"You like him in that way, then?" His eyes were on the day diary, which he was writing on.
The blush had intensified, and she felt so embarrassed. "Iie, he's just a friend to me."
"Hn, so what are you going to tell him?"
"Uh," she wished that Ryoma-kun would stop asking so much questions. "I guess what I've always told other guys?"
"What did you tell them?"
"That I like someone already?" A few seconds, and she clapped her hand over her mouth. Too late.
"Who do you like?" His hazel eyes suddenly met hers, and she felt her heart beat quickly, her cheeks flushing. He closed the notebook and stood up, awaiting her answer. She forced herself to turn away, picking up her bag, already packed.
"Ah, it's time to go," she said quickly, attempting to dodge the question. "Akihito-senpai is waiting!"
Another flush at his unexpected use of her first name, she involuntarily turned to look at him. Eeep. It was hard to speak when those eyes of his stared at you so intently. She again attempted to leave, but his hand suddenly pulled hers back, causing her to fall into his chest. He steadied her easily, and with one moment, his lips had claimed hers.
"Who do you like, Sakuno?" His voice, husky, caused her to shiver as she dazedly looked up at him. He leaned down and kissed her again.
"Ryoma-kun," she said softly¸ grasping his uniform with her hands even after he had pulled away slightly to look at her intently. "I like Ryoma-kun."
He smirked, pulling her closer. "Good."
Finally, after four weeks of terror, Ryuzaki Sakuno appeared at tennis practice and actually stayed until the end.
Everyone sighed in relief. The reign of terror was over. Hopefully.
He was drinking the pink liquid again, the bottle proffered by Sakuno. It was becoming something of a habit now, it did seem to help with his stamina. Though having Sakuno back at practice was better than any drink, delicious as it was.
Having her as his girlfriend now also didn't hurt, because now he could kiss her when he wanted. Apparently his senpais were now too afraid to spy on him, at least for now.
He smirked as he kissed her forehead quickly, causing that delightful blush on her cheeks to appear. Now high school was good.