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Never-ending Promise Chapter 01
Chapter One: Encounter with the Juniors!
“What’s this?” Hayato asked, turning the open magazine which lay on Akari’s desk. It was the current month’s Pro Tennis Magazine issue.
“Joint Special. Back to the 80’s. Japan’s Golden Age,” he read out loud. The article had some pictures of a man with long brown hair with a white band of cloth tied around his forehead.
“An article written by Inoue Mamoru.” Akari passed a glance over the article. “Don’t you have to go to class?”
“You do too,” he remarked and they both got ready.
The walk to school was silent, as usual, but both enjoyed the serenity of it. It was dark, but Akari was walking with eyes half-closed. They separated and Akari went to the locker area before going to the classroom.
Almost everyone’s head turned to see who had entered. Lucky enough, there were only few, it being only six fifteen in the morning. The people were intrigued when they saw the new student.
They had enough reason to be, honestly, for Akari’s butt-length straight lavender hair was laid down, going over the sleeves of a gakuran (military-style male uniform) and framing a fine-featured face.
“Is she a he or is he a she?” came across the room as the figure walked to the farthest corner, nearest the window. Even as Akari sat down and retrieved a book form the bag beside the chair, the looks would not stop.
Nobody noticed the lingering smirk on lips hidden behind the pages of a book.
“Are you going to sign up for the tennis club?” Akari asked Hayato as the two walked with sling bags over their shoulders.
“Dance Club first,” he replied easily. “You?”
“Same.” Akari stopped in front of her locker and rummaged around, emerging with a tennis bag. Hayato’s brow rose. With a sly smirk, Akari said, “Screening for Dance Club isn’t till five.”
“Echizen, Yamato, wait up,” called someone from behind. Both stopped to see a brown-haired boy from Ryoma’s class running to catch up with them. A school bag hung over his right shoulder while a tennis racquet in a jacket hung over his left. “You’re the Echizen from my class and the Yamato from Class One, right? Are you joining the tennis club too?”
“Who are you?” Ryoma asked bluntly as both stared at him.
“I’m Horio,” he replied in an arrogant voice after clearing his throat. “As you may know, this school is famous for its tennis. There are a lot of strong players. Even though I look like this, I have two years of tennis experience.”
“Hey, wait up!” he called when he saw that he was talking to nobody and that the two other freshmen were already at the courts, and ran to catch up.
‘I wonder what’s wrong with them,’ Horio thought as he watched Yamato and Ryoma walking with their eyes closed.
“Oops.” The two boys opened their eyes to see a tall boy with spiky black hair and violet eyes. “If you don’t look where you’re going, you’re going to hit someone.”
Yamato and Ryoma stared at the guy in front.
“That’s a big bag you’re carrying.” The taller male frowned. “I don’t like your look. But since you’re freshmen, I’ll let it pass this time.”
‘Uh-huh…’ Yamato was almost rolling his eyes mentally. Externally, he was staring the Junior down. Or up, depending on how you look at it.
“Look in front when you walk,” he waved as he walked to the school building, the smile back on his face.
“It’s just like Seigaku to have nice facilities,” Horio suddenly commented. They had reached the tennis park within the school in absolute silence, and it was unnerving him. “Let’s go sign up now.”
“You can’t.” The three freshmen looked and found two other freshmen near the entrance of the first block of courts. Both were wearing identical white shirts and red shorts.
“The Juniors and Seniors have a game with another school,” informed the taller boy with cropped black hair.
“Sign up begins tomorrow,” said the other shorter one with longer black hair. He was kneeling next to his bag, putting out some tennis balls. “Most freshmen have already left, but we want to hit some balls before we go.”
“Damn, this sucks,” Horio sighed.
“Hey, are you guys going to join our club?” a junior with medium brown hair and tanned skin came up to them. He was in a blue tennis jersey with a white shirt and white shorts. Standing next to him was a slightly taller guy with bluish hair, also wearing the jersey, but with matching pants.
“Ah, hello,” Horio and the two other boys greeted. They all bowed at the same time to the two older boys standing inside the court.
“I’m Mizuno Katsuo, a freshman,” the taller boy from earlier introduced.
“Kachiro Katou,” said the other.
“I’m Horio Satoshi,” he announced, scratching the back of his head as he grinned sheepishly to the two older boys. “I’m honored to be able to join a tennis club as renowned as Seigaku’s. I have two years of tennis experience.”
“You two over there…What are your names?” the boy with bluish hair asked. Ryoma and Yamato stood there, unresponsive and only eyeing the brown-haired boy. Annoyed, the inquirer snapped, “Hey! Can’t you hear me?”
“It’s okay,” the boy with brown hair pacified, placing a hand on his friend’s shoulder. He had a sly look in his features that sent off warning bells in the two more perceptive freshmen. “We know a good game. Want to try it?”
“You mean that?” blue-haired one blinked. When he saw the look on his companion’s face, he ushered the three freshmen into the court, grinning and saying, “Right, right. You have to play that.”
“The rules are simple. You serve from over there and try to hit this can with only ten attempts,” the brown-haired one explained. He placed a can near the service line. “The prize money is one thousand yen. Well, it’s like a sign-up ritual.”
“Tryout fee is two hundred yen per person. Want to try it?” coaxed the other one.
“Of course we’ll do it!” the three boys exclaimed eagerly. “Senpai-tachi* please allow us to try it out.”
“That’s the spirit!” the russet-haired boy cheered. He faced his companion, and the two secretly shared a laugh.
Yamato and Ryoma were at the sidelines, watching, with the former standing, his hands in his pockets, and the latter leaning wordlessly against the fence.
“You guys really suck,” Horio huffed as he stepped up to the baseline confidently.
“You can say that, but this is our first try at tennis,” Katsuo said, he and Kachiro bending over in exhaustion and disappointment. Both had finished serving ten balls, none even managing to touch the can.
“We can’t hit such a small thing with only ten balls,” Kachiro piped up.
“I, Horio, with two years of tennis experience, will now try,” he announced, then having changed from his school uniform to a vibrant green shirt with orange accents and red shorts.
“It’s not supposed to be like this,” he said when his third ball flew above the can, as his other shots had.
The two other freshmen just watched, both having something in common. Horio had hit nine of his balls. His last one grazed just the top of the can but did not even move it.
“Too bad,” the brown-haired junior said as he got off from the umpire’s seat.
“That was difficult after all,” Horio muttered, scratching the back of his head. He dug into his pocket, took out some coins and held them out to the older boys, as the other freshmen were doing. “So the tryout fee was two hundred yen.”
“Huh? Maybe you guys misunderstood,” the fairer one said.
“Knock-the-Can-Down Serve Game.” One of them turned the can around, revealing a slip of paper taped to the side. Smirking, he read, “One hundred yen per ball, two hundred tryout fee. Together, that’s one thousand two hundred yen.”
“What! We don’t have that kind of money!” the three freshmen exclaimed.
“You two over there…” the brown-haired called with a smirk on his face. “…You should both try this too.”
The other one started taunting them as well. “Don’t you think you can save them?”
“Sure, I’ll do it.” Ryoma stood up. Yamato was doing the same thing. The two walked over to their tennis bags and produced their respective racquets.
The three other freshmen watched their saviors in mild amusement and much awe. Yamato was around 158 centimeters tall (five feet, two inches) which made him taller than most freshmen. He was in black shorts and a blue-accented white shirt. His legs and arms were wrapped in white arm warmers with dark straps and his navy blue cap had an “R” embossed on it. Ryoma was shorter, just right for his age, in black shorts and a red-accented white shirt, his white cap also with an “R” on it.
The brown-haired junior produced another can and waited smugly as the two prepared to hit the target. Yamato went to the baseline, twirling his white-and-blue racquet repeatedly, the black grip creating a sort of illusion. Ryoma was standing beside him on the other half of the court, gripping his red racquet on its black grip.
“Don’t do it Echizen, Yamato!” Horio warned. “You’ll never hit it.”
“You can’t knock it down if you aimed directly at the can,” Ryoma said.
“Wh…What do you mean?” the brown-haired junior stammered. A bead of sweat rolled down his cheek.
“There are rocks in there, right?” Yamato asked, having spoken for the first time since his arrival. He threw the ball upwards and hit it with precision. The green ball hit the lid of Yamato’s designated can, making it topple over and revealing the rocks inside.
“Amazing! He can hit the top of the can with pinpoint accuracy!” Katsuo said in amazement.
“Ah! The senpai’s cheated!” Horio screamed in incredulity.
Yamato twirled the racquet around his hand a few more times before getting out of the court. Ryoma served his ball without any effort. He repeated it a few more times, shocking the others.
“If I can hit the can one hundred times, then you’ll owe me one hundred thousand yen, right?” Ryoma taunted as he got ready to give another serve. He hit the can about five more times before the juniors were able to recover.
“How can you use that tone to a junior?” the blue-haired one said.
“Just because you were born a year earlier, doesn’t mean you can do something like this.” Ryoma got ready to serve again when a ball suddenly flew by, hitting the can right in the middle. When it did, it left a large dent and sent the ball flying to the fence.
“Oh, I hit it, lucky,” came a familiar voice.
“Oh, the guy from before,” Horio blinked.
“Hey, Arai, just because the seniors aren’t here, doesn’t mean you can bully the new freshmen,” the spiky-haired boy with violet eyes said in a light manner. Yamato immediately noticed the warning for what it was.
“Mo…Momo…something came up so I’ll be leaving first,” Arai stuttered as he began to flee.
“Hey, who said you could go?” the Momo guy grinned. Arai faced him before taking another step back.
“Yup it’s him, Ryoma,” Sakuno said as she was pulled by someone, with two adults following them. “And it’s the other guy from the tournament.”
“So cool!” the other girl muttered. “Sakuno, who is that? Introduce him!”
“Oh…This is Echizen Ryoma,” Sakuno said. “And the other one, from the tournament…I think his name was Yamato…Yes, Yamato something.”
“Heh, so you’re Echizen Ryoma? Much smaller than I thought,” the junior with violet orbs jibed. “And who might this be?”
“Who are you?” Ryoma asked, his voice tinged with slight annoyance.
“Second Year, Momoshiro Takeshi,” he announced. “I heard from Ryuzaki-sensei that you could use the Twist Serve. And just recently, she couldn’t stop talking about another guy she saw at the Seniors Tournament. Was that you?”
“You won’t know if you don’t see for yourself,” Yamato said in an unreadable voice.
‘Geez, why does he have such a cold voice and a stoic face? It’s almost like Tezuka-buchou**! It’s unnerving!’ Momoshiro thought, smirking to cover his real thoughts.
“So how about it?” Ryoma asked, a slight smirk playing on his lips.
“I’ll crush you both,” Momoshiro smirked.
* Senpai-tachi refers to senior members of a school, club, or group. Plural. Senpai refers to only one.
** <name>~buchou translates to “Captain <Name>”