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Welcome! This is the shared fanfiction journal of readerofasaph (formerly assyrian) and thephoenixboy. Feel free to have a look around. Some WIPs, ficlets, drabbles are posted under members-lock; feel free to join the comm if you'd like to read those.

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May. 9th, 2006 @ 08:39 pm Champions, part 1/2 [Ryoma, Rikkai]
Note: I've never been very happy with the narrative style and overall texture of this fic, and I'm not going to rule out a revamp of the story some time in the future. But that will take place a long time from now, if it ever does take place.

inspired by prillalar's wonderful story, King, which you should read, if you haven't.



Champions, Part 1 of (2?)
Length: 2500 words.
Warnings: Horrendous prose, among other things. Suspect Ryoma characterisation. Tennis Is Psychic syndrome taken to new extremes.

Erm, if anyone notices typos/Sheer Logic Breaking Mistakes, I will heap love upon you, for pointing them out.




Rikkaidai Fuzoku was the largest school Ryoma had ever seen. Everywhere he went, the place seemed full of students in their green blazers and sky-blue ties, their chatter resembling a marketplace. His classroom was so long that he had to squint to read the kanji on the blackboard, and he wasn’t even sitting in the back row.

It wasn’t surprising, then, that the Rikkai tennis club was large as well, although it was far from being the largest he’d ever seen.

“That’s because it’s useless to join the tennis club,” one of his classmates told him. “It’s impossible to get on the regulars, everyone knows that.”

“Oh, really?” Ryoma fiddled with his cap.

“Definitely!” another boy piped up. “My older brother was in the club for three years, and he never got anywhere near the regulars. He said you need to be nationally-ranked to even consider trying out. We’re better off trying for the judo team, Ryoma, that’s meant to be really good as well – Ryoma? Hey, where did he disappear off to?”


#



There was a vending machine at the edge of the sports centre. Ryoma approached the machine, put two hundred yen into the coin slot and pressed the button labeled ‘Ponta – Orange.’ There was a series of clunks as the coins fell into the depths of the machine. No can of drink appeared.

He frowned, pressed the Ponta button a few more times, and then the coin return knob, but nothing happened.

“You won’t get your money back,” came a voice from behind Ryoma. Ryoma turned. A boy stood there, taller than Ryoma was, and wiry. His eyes were bright and too narrow at the edges.

“You must be a first-year,” said the boy. He seemed to notice the racquet bag Ryoma was carrying. “So you’re planning to join the tennis club? You’d better hurry up, they don’t like latecomers.”

He turned, expecting Ryoma to follow him. They walked towards the tennis court, the older boy chattering most of the way, unfazed by Ryoma’s silence. He introduced himself as Kirihara Akaya.

“The Ponta’s permanently sold out,” Kirihara explained. “So’s the Pepsi and the other sweet drinks. Sanada-fukubuchou set it up so it eats your money, if you try to get one. He did it after Yanagi-sempai said that 35% of the club members were drinking carbonated drinks during practice.” As he said this, they arrived at the courts. A good sixty or seventy students had already gathered there.

Ryoma blinked. “It’s yellow.”

Kirihara snickered. “Everyone says that. It’d be good if we could change the uniforms, but not even Yukimura-buchou can get the school colours changed, I don’t think--”

“Akaya.” They both turned. Ryoma tipped his baseball cap back, and looked up. The boy in front of them looked down at them. He was wearing a black cap that cast a shadow across his forehead and brows. “You’re late again.”

“Sanada-fukubuchou! Ehhh, I was just showing the newcomers around, and time slipped away--”

“Thirty laps. Now.”

“Well, when you put like that ... I guess I’ll see you later, kouhai.” Kirihara bounded down the steps and began to jog around the courts. Sanada frowned after Kirihara, before looking down once again.

A curious feeling came over Ryoma. It was something speaking from inside him, a voice he’d never heard before, and yet it felt as sure and certain as tossing a ball in the air to serve.

This guy is strong.


#


He won his first match, and then the second, and then the third. Was it really meant to be so hard? he wondered, making his way back to the booth to report his last win. None of his matches had been easy wins, but the victory had never been in doubt either.

The redheaded boy at the table was doodling little tennis players across the results sheet. “Hey, you won again? Not bad, kiddo. Although,” he snapped his bubblegum, “the next match might not be so easy. Niou! Stop torturing the first-years and get your ass over to Court C. You’ve got a match.”

When Niou lost 5-7, there was a palpable silence across the courts.

Ryoma was frowning as he came up to shake hands with the silver-haired boy. “You didn’t go all out,” he accused.

Niou looked back. His eyes were calm, clear, and, Ryoma thought, rather freaky. “Not completely,” he agreed. “But I played as hard as I usually play. Congratulations.”

The red-haired boy was not doodling when Ryoma approached the table once more. He was chewing on his lip, and looked distinctly unhappy as he talked to the dark-skinned boy next to him. “Is that first-year really that good? Or was Niou just being careless?”

“Who knows? But Niou wouldn’t lose to just anyone, even if he were careless. Yagyuu must be furious.”

“It’s a total surprise. Even Akaya wasn’t a regular in his first-year. Hey, kid!” Ryoma found himself staring into wide, violet eyes. “My name’s Marui Bunta. One of these days, let’s have a practice game.”

#


On the third day of practice Yukimura appeared for the first time; their captain Yukimura, just out of hospital and flanked on either side by nurses.

Marui explained that Yukimura’s illness was why there was an extra spot on the regulars this year. “He can’t play, so there’s a reserve slot on the team. Although, he told us not to fill it unless there was someone good enough. But that’s not a problem, since you defeated Niou.”

Yukimura was thin and pale and very girly. Every club member seemed to stiffen and stand a little straighter as he walked past them.

He stopped in front of the regulars, and focused on Ryoma.

Ryoma felt like he was choking.

“You’re Echizen, right?” Yukimura smiled. “I’d like to see you play, so I can get a better idea of how you play. Renji, could you please go with Echizen to Court D? It'll be a one-set match."


#


After he’d lost 4-6 to Yanagi, Ryoma sat on the grass and breathed in and out heavily. In the absence of Ponta he drank mineral water in huge gulps.

“When was the last time you lost a game?” He turned and saw Yukimura sitting next to him, cross-legged.

Ryoma pulled his cap down, looked away. “I lose everyday,” he said.

“Oh? Is that so?” Yukimura’s eyes were like the reflection of a cloudless sky on still water. It was that strange feeling again, the feeling of intensity running through your every nerve. Yukimura’s arms were wasted and skinnier than a girl’s. He was incredibly strong. Ryoma couldn't compare it to anything else he'd ever seen.

Yukimura stood up; the moment passed. “Whether you win or lose, there’s something lacking in your tennis,” he said, and it was Yukimura’s turn to look away. “Until then, you’re not even worth defeating.”

#


“Buchou told you that? Ahh, don’t worry about it. Sometimes when he gets like that, nobody can understand him, not even Yanagi-sempai. All you need to do is play good tennis,” Kirihara leaned back against the bus seat and stretched like a cat.

“I guess so.” Ryoma listened to the warm, strangely soothing hum of the bus’s engine. Kirihara was staring out the window. He seemed more sober than usual; there was something edgy and faintly dangerous about him.

“I’m going to be the best player,” he said, eyes darkening. “I’m going to defeat buchou and fukubuchou and Yanagi-sempai and whoever it takes. I’ll crush you, too.” He was not looking at Ryoma, but there was no mistaking the tone in his voice. “You can try using your Split Step or whatever. I’m not going to lose to anyone ever again.”

“I won’t lose to you,” Ryoma said. “Don’t think it’s going to be so easy.”

Kirihara cuffed Ryoma on the shoulder, Ryoma shoved back, and matters degenerated in a progressively violent fashion for the next ten minutes. Eventually the fighting segued into talking.

Kirihara seemed to have embarrassing stories to tell about nearly every member in the club – and every regular, save for Yanagi and Yukimura – “well, I’ve got stories, but if they find out that I told you they’ll get revenge.”

Finally they grew tired of conversation and fell silent. As the drone of the bus continued, Ryoma found himself growing sleepier.

The next thing he noticed after he closed his eyes was someone tugging violently on his sleeve. “Hey, you boys! Wake up!”

Kirihara yawned. “Huh? Are we at Kakinoki yet?”

“We passed Kakinoki twenty minutes ago! You completely missed the stop.” The bus driver glared at Ryoma and Kirihara, who exchanged glances.

“Oh, crap.”

“Sanada-sempai will make us run a hundred laps tomorrow,” Ryoma said. He asked the driver: “Where are we now, then?”

The driver waved impatiently at the sign outside the bus. “It’s Seishun Gakuen, can’t you see? Kids are so troublesome these days.”

Kirihara pulled out his mobile phone and called Sanada as the bus drove off, leaving them on the sidewalk. “He’ll give us even more laps if we don’t call – Sanada-fukubuchou? We seem to have missed our stop and ended up somewhere else - hello? Looks like he hung up on me.” Kirihara put the cellphone back into his blazer. “Well, we might as well make the most of this opportunity, since we’re here—“

Ryoma wondered, sometimes, how Kirihara had managed to survive one year at Rikkai without Sanada forcing him to commit seppuku. It boded well for Ryoma’s future as a regular, since his own trespasses were minutiae by comparison.

They slipped past the school gates, and began walking through the school courtyard. “Seigaku’s captain is an incredible tennis player,” Kirihara was saying. “If it weren’t for Tezuka, Rikkai would have gone undefeated last year. I really want to play a match against him at Nationals.”

“I want to play him as well.”

“That won’t do. You’ll lose, and we’ve promised not to do that.”

“If he’s really that good, you won’t win either.”

“I won’t lose,” The tension was back again. For a moment Ryoma thought he saw a flash of red in Kirihara's eyes, but when he looked again, it was gone. “Ahh, here we are!”

The Seigaku tennis club seemed to be doing multiball drills of some kind. Ryoma watched in interest as players alternated back and forth, serving and receiving from different positions.

“They’re pretty good,” Kirihara said matter-of-factly. “Well, we have to find Tezuka!”

Ryoma noticed two older boys, one with square-rimmed glasses and another with a curiously flat haircut, staring at them. “Umm, Kirihara.”

“Excuse me,” said the boy with the flat haircut (he had bangs on his forehead as well, and it was one of the strangest hairstyles Ryoma had ever seen). “May I ask who the two of you are? You don’t seem to be Seigaku students….”

Ryoma shrugged. As far as he was concerned, Kirihara could cover up for his own mistakes – the second-year was, after all, extremely experienced at the task.

He hadn’t expected Kirihara to scratch his head, smile sheepishly, and say, “Well, we’re from Rikkai and we were just planning to do some spying….”

Murmurs arose. “Investigate? What does he mean? What’s going on?”

Amidst the commotion, Ryoma looked over at the adjoining court and saw Tezuka. He could not have explained how he knew who Tezuka was; all he knew was that he looked up, and immediately knew that he was the one Kirihara was looking for.

“Hey,” he said, walking over to where the tall, spectacled boy stood. “You’re Seigaku’s captain, aren’t you?”

Kirihara disengaged himself from his interrogators and reached Tezuka at exactly the same time as Ryoma did. “Eh, you’re Tezuka! I’m Kirihara Akaya, Rikkai’s second-year ace. I’ve been wanting to have a match wi…”

“Get lost,” Tezuka said. He was about Sanada's height, but with a thinner build. He looked like the sort of person who did well in school. His eyes were narrow and intelligent, but there was something deeper there as well. “You are not members of this club.”

There was no mistaking it: strength, cool and clear, immoveable as the ocean.

Kirihara noticed it; there was a shift in his stance, a watchfulness. Although it didn’t overtake the other parts of his personality. “Come on, Tezuka, just one game. Don’t look so serious – you’re going to wear out your facial muscles, at this rate.”

The discussion rapidly went downhill from there.

An irate Seigaku club member tried to hit Kirihara with a ball, yelling something about disrespecting the captain. Kirihara dodged, and the ball headed straight for Ryoma’s face.

Fair game was fair game, Ryoma decided. He grabbed a nearby racquet and sent the ball flying back at the player.

Somehow, this resulted in a trolley of tennis balls being upended, three Seigaku club members lying unconscious on the ground, and a further five or six running around crying mayhem.

“Uh oh, we should get out of here,” Kirihara said, and he took hold of Ryoma’s arm. “Hey, Tezuka, don’t think this is over yet. I’m gonna crush you.” His voice was low, almost casual. Yet there was this tinge of something else to it, and or a moment Ryoma could see it: that Kirihara loved tennis, that he would do nearly anything to be the best at tennis, and Ryoma couldn’t understand this.


Still, he thought, watching Tezuka’s focus snap onto Kirihara, it wasn’t as if he had any intention of losing to anyone at tennis either. Defeating strong opponents is fun.

Tezuka looked straight at Ryoma. It was not a kind look, nor was it a cruel one.

“Come on, we gotta go,” said Kirihara, pulling Ryoma out of the commotion just as Tezuka ordered everyone to start running laps. “Better not to get involved in their politics, it’s dangerous. Even if it was kind of our fault…”

“What do you mean, our fault--”

“Well, if you hadn’t hit that guy in the head--”

“I didn’t expect him to be so slow at dodging.”

They approached a corner, arguing – and collided with someone. Ryoma rubbed his eyes and glanced up. It was a woman in late middle-age, stern-looking, with her hair pulled back in a ponytail. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “I wasn’t looking where I was going – Echizen?”

Ryoma had already stood up, made a mumbled apology, was walking away. Behind he could hear Kirihara apologising.

“Oi, Ryoma!” he said a few seconds later, running to catch up. “Have you met that old lady before? She seemed to know you”

Ryoma shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“Ah, with that crappy memory of yours, you’ve probably seen her somewhere and forgotten.” Kirihara shrugged it off. “Well, we should probably try and catch another bus.”

Kirihara fell asleep again en route to Kakinoki; Ryoma poured cold water down his neck when they got there.





On to Part 2.
About this Entry
assyrian:
From:nlblake
Date:December 30th, 2006 11:54 pm (UTC)
(Permanent Link)
I'm curious to see where you're going with this and who it will be to wake up Ryoma's love for tennis :)

Good work.
[User Picture Icon]
From:kiriharaann
Date:April 14th, 2007 07:38 pm (UTC)

...Dude

(Permanent Link)
Dude, this is awesome! I've read all your other stories in this community, but I only just figure out how to comment. (Technologically challenged) All your stores are so...deep, and powerful. You're a really amazing author.

Hey, I tried to join threespeak, but it said I had to talk to you about it. I'd really appreciate being able to be a part of this community. It's so friggin' awesome!