From out of the crowds of cheering fans, a disgruntled-looking girl came out, bearing a video camera. She darted past cheerleaders and players watching to collect data. That is, until she tripped upon a sleeping Jiroh.
Jiroh awoke with arms out and stretched towards the endless sky with a few leaves sliding down his clothes and fluffs of hair. Shishido and Choutarou stood above them, waiting.
“Jiroh-senpai, don’t forget your bag.” Choutarou said, as they were ready to return to the courts.
Groggily, Jiroh scanned his surroundings for the tennis bag. He looked around, and suddenly scrambled himself up, and started darting around a few trees, looking for something.
“Where is it?” he asked, not seemingly annoyed at the predicament, but more curious in a childish sense.
“Ugh,” Shishido grumbled. “How could you lose something like that?”
The boys looked around the place Jiroh was sleeping but eventually found nothing.
“It’s not that bad,” said Choutaro, looking around a nearby tree. “Was there anything important inside?”
“I had my tennis racket there” Jiroh replied. “Oh well, it’ll turn up. I probably left it at the courts with the rest of the team.”
Shishido crossed his arms a scowled. “If we keep at it, we’re doing to be late. I’ll check around."
He gave his tennis racket to Jiroh.
“Take it in case you don’t find. Now go!”
The culprit, guilty of stealing one tennis bag, lounged leisurely under the shade of the many trees
“Stupid Miki and her stupid whining… ‘But I must watch Atobe-sama play! Sqeeee~” she sarcastically imitated.
She briefly glared at the playing teams. No point of interest really caught her mind until she saw him, the boy whom she had stolen something from.
“So, he’s playing with a borrowed racket, it seems. He probably feels horrible about losing such a good racket.” She said under her breath as she saw the boy completely ready for the match.
She sat up and gave all her attention to the match.
Rackets swayed, players flew, and a single ball danced in the air, almost always landing on Hyoutei’s opponent. She never took her eyes off the game.
“T-those volleys…” she stammered as Jiroh shook his opponents hand after about twenty minutes of game play. Surprisingly, the opponent had a few entertaining moves with him, but he didn’t know how to execute them well. However, it was enough to stir Jiroh’s interest and awaken his bright and cheery character. “This genius is interesting.”
After another victory for Hyoutei was not a surprise for most. The other team, relatively new but full of raw talented, lost almost pathetically to Hyoutei. Among the winners were cheering members and fans. Of the strongest were the regulars who calmly congratulated each other with a sense of class. They still had the next matches in mind and did not want to get careless.
A girl holding a familiar tennis bag came towards this group. She was a little taller than half the regulars, but she was blushing greatly, despite her effort to look prideful.
“Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Jiroh, isn’t that your-“Gakuto was interrupted by an all-too-excited and completely awake Jiroh.
“My bag! You found it! Oh my gosh, thank you so much!” Jiroh unintentionally shocked the girl nearly making her jump after claiming the bag by grabbing it.
Torrents of “errs” and “uhhs” followed from the girl. She tried to say something, like an apology or something.
“Who are you?” A question finally erupted from none other than Atobe Keigo.
When the question came up, she finally regained her composure and said, “My name’s Rei…Sorry.”
Then, she left, faster than the amount of time it would take to grab her.
Oshitari stared hard at the running figure, “She looks familiar… Is she-“
“Ehhhh?!” exclaimed Jiroh, interrupting Oshitari. “What is this?”
“What’s wrong?” asked Shishido.
Jiroh, shocking everyone around him, looked confused out of his mind.
“My racket isn’t here.”
The following morning, tennis practice for Hyoutei ended. The sun was barely up, meaning that classes would start soon, so the time to go a-leaving was now. While everyone else was chatting with their friends or getting the rest of their school things ready, Jiroh slept under a tree.
It was then, when people were not around, that Rei snuck over to him.
“Psst! Wake up!” she whispered as loudly as she can. Unfortunately, the results she wished for didn’t happen. “How can a person just sleep like this?”
She leaned in a little closer until she basically towered just a little but above him, wondering if he was sick. She looked at him and stared. She stared at his face and stroked his hands and pats his hair. His hair was clean and somewhat groomed, so he couldn’t be sick from unsanitation. His hands were warm, and the color was still in his face.
She said to herself that he was perfectly healthy and did not need medical treatment, but she didn’t take her eyes off him.
Then, Jiroh spontaneously woke up; he saw that he was just a few inches away from her face.
“What? What are- Mmf!” Both were at fault for what happened. Partially was Jiroh’s for springing up from his shock, and partially was Rei’s for doing the first thing possible to get him to shut up before attention came to them like lions came to prey. These specimens of prey, however, were both blushing madly at the unnecessary amount of contact they had.
Shock caused a momentary pause until the realization sunk it. At least, it would have if Oshitari and Taki hadn’t arrived at that exact moment.
Rei took a hastily scribbled note from her pocket and snuck it into Jiroh’s right hand before she dashed off.
“What happened?” Oshitari asked the stunned Jiroh when he made his way towards him.
But before Jiroh could make a storm of a reply, Taki had to inquire.
“Isn’t that Asano Rei?” Taki asked. “Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve ever seen one of her games.”
“Asano Rei?” replied Jiroh.
“Asano Rei. She should be eighteen by now. She goes to Kuruzou Cho High. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen any of her games. I was a big fan a long time ago. ‘Course now there are better players around in boy’s tennis!”
“She’s a tennis player?”
“Actually, she was pretty famous a while back when she was attending Suzune Yama Jr High.”
“Now, she’s actually pretty infamous.” Oshitari added.
“What do you mean?”
“I recognized the Kuruzou School’s uniforms, so I contacted an old friend of mine from there and asked him about this Rei. It turns out she was a regular on the girl’s tennis team there until she got suspended from the team before Nationals last year for a violent act. Since then, she skipped exams and was held back. I even heard that she harasses some tennis players from around there now.”
“She got suspended that year? Pity, she was pretty good. Kuruzou might have beaten Johan if she played. You better watch out, Jiroh. She’s way taller than you and almost as tall as our buchou! She could crush you!”
“Really? How cool! That just makes me want to play her more!”
“What?” They said in unison. “What do you mean?”
He shows them the note, reading:
If you want your tennis racket back, come to the street courts two blocks from Kuruzou-cho High School and play a game with me.
“Tell me more about her playing style.” Jiroh commanded Taki, flapping his arms like a
“Wow! That match was so awesome! I almost can’t believe that I won!” cried Jiroh with a bright smile. “That serve that you did really rushed past me really fast! And those other shots you did had me running around like crazy! My eyes could barely keep up! You’re so cool!”
“Damn… You really are good… I still think that I could have beaten you, rich-school punk!” Rei said, taking in as much breaths as she could. She muttered a bit of contempt for her seven-month absence in tennis, being that it was her lack of stamina that caused her lost in the game. She shoved the racket that she held with her into Jiroh’s torso. “We should play again some time. Come on, Miki!”
“Hai~” her friend replied. Miki had just talked to Atobe Keigo, the boy that she admired for so long. Though he paid virtually no attention – he was more focused on the match – Miki was still highly content.
As the two friends left the court together, Miki asked, “Why did you ask Akutagawa to play with you? I thought you hated tennis, now.”
“I did. It’s just that… When I saw him play, I thought that I might like tennis again the way he does. Maybe I thought I could be like him, I guess. It’s silly, but I think I may actually… l-lo-ve…”
Rei couldn’t say anymore.
“Aww! Rei, it’s okay! You might play against him soon someday.”
But Rei just smiled in a foreshadowing fashion. “I think we’ll be playing each other sooner that you think.”
Back at the courts, the few members that came with Jiroh to his match against Asano crowded around Jiroh, who was solemnly staring at something on his racket.
“What is it?” one of them asked.
“She left so quickly, again...”Jiroh shifted his racket so that everyone had a clear view of what he was staring at. “Look.”
On his racket, in permanent marker, was Asano Rei’s phone number.
Two weeks later, a sleeping Jiroh was surrounded by pranksters who were just about ready to pull a prank. Then, they saw a tall, towering figure above them.
“What are you doing?” it said. It only took a few seconds for the pranksters to run away. The figure, Asano Rei, soon leaned towards the helpless Jiroh until –
“Damn it, Jiroh-kun! Why is it that you always wake up when we’re always this close together?”
“Who knows? So, are you back on the tennis team, yet?”
“I will be soon, but I have to get better test scores.”
“Good luck, Asano-chan!”
“I told you not to call me ‘Asano-chan.’ It’s ‘Rei-chan!’ Hell, we don’t have time for this! It’s your turn to play soon. Let’s go!”
“How’s the opponent?”
“Weak. This game will be short. When you win, I’ll take you out. What do you want?”
“I heard they have great lamb there!”
“I do like spicy foods…”
“What is it, rich-school boy?”
“Don’t run away from me like you always do ever again.”
“… All right.”
In case you guys cannot get my attachment.