Psidai: Comedy of Errors - The Kanto Finals
Title: Comedy of Errors - The Kanto Finals Series: Psidai AU Fandom: Prince of Tennis Rating: G Word Count: 7525 Pairings: Atobe/Tezuka/Fuji, Golden Pair, InuKai (bit of Inui/Yanagi & MomoKai), Oshitari/Mukahi, ShishiTori Warnings: OOC-ness, crack
Timeline: Takes place in high school with the same lineups as current continuity in junior high.
Summary: It’s the final match of the Kantou tournament with Seigaku and Hyotei facing off for the championship. Everyone is looking forward to yet another match that will go down in history. Little did they know…
Warnings: Some OOC all around. Just pretend it's crossed over with a chibi episode.
Comedy of Errors A Kanto Finals Story
The last day of the Kanto tournament was a noisy affair, with the arena full of the various high schools that had participated in the Kanto and were eagerly awaiting its final match between the notorious rival teams of Seigaku and Hyotei. Many were eagerly awaiting a replay of the historic showdown between the two schools three years ago at the Kanto preliminaries. There were even scouts from outside the Kanto region, there to gather information about the strongest contenders for the upcoming Nationals.
The Seigaku Regulars, who had just arrived at the tournament, found themselves waylaid first thing by the Rikkai team, who they had previously defeated with ease at the semifinals due to a series of accidents involving Inui Yanagi Juice. Actually, those afflicted with the concoctions were still not well enough to attend the day’s matches, which explained why Yukimura, Yayuu, and Niou were absent from the group.
“You better not lose this one, Seigaku,” Kirihara drawled as he approached the Seigaku team. “There’s no way that Rikkai is going to lose to someone in second place.”
Sanada, the Rikkai fukubuchou, remained silent as he came up behind Kirihara. But his stern look as he exchanged looks with Tezuka told everyone that he agreed with the sentiment as well.
“Of course,” Tezuka replied. “We’re here to win.”
Yanagi, meanwhile, had turned to his childhood friend, which incidentally also put the rest of the Seigaku team between himself and Sanada.
“What do you think your chances are, Sadaharu?” Yanagi asked of his former doubles partner.
Inui sighed as he flipped through his ever-present notebook. “Based on strength of Hyotei’s current team, I would say that our chances of winning are exactly 50%.”
“Aren’t you being too generous, Inui?” interrupted a third voice. Everyone turned to see Hyotei’s buchou Atobe walking up to the two other teams with the rest of Hyotei’s team trailing behind him. “Hyotei is definitely going to win this one.” He exchanged looks of challenge with Tezuka and the bystanding Sanada.
“Hm, 50% is close to my calculations as well,” Yanagi told Inui, ignoring Atobe altogether. “So which position are you playing?”
“We don’t know yet,” Inui replied. “Our coach turned in the registration form early without telling any of us what our lineup is going to be. I guess we’ll just have to wait until the matches are announced to find out. However, my calculations indicate that there is a 60% chance that I will be playing Doubles 2 with Kaidoh, 15% chance that I will play Singles 3, and a 25% chance that I will be Alternate.”
“Eh? You guys don’t know your lineup?” Ohtori broke in. “Okina-sensei did that to us too! Atobe-buchou was really mad at him.”
It was at that moment that the attention of all three teams were diverted by a pair of disturbing similar chuckles, sounding rather like mad cackling, which came from the two coaches of Seigaku and Hyotei senior high. As one, everyone turned to see Hiko-sensei and Okina-sensei hanging off each other like old friends at a reunion… old drunk friends.
The collective team members of Seigaku and Hyotei, with the exception of their buchous and the ever-expressionless Kabaji, sweatdropped at their coaches’ antics. Tezuka stared at the Hiko-sensei with a flat expression that spoke volumes of his silent disapproval.
'I hate my coach.'
Atobe’s eyes twitched as he openly glared at the Hyotei coach.
'I hate my coach.'
In perfect synchronization, Atobe and Tezuka turned to each other in a moment of perfect understanding.
'We hate our coaches.'
To one side, Sanada’s mouth twitched fractionally in amusement.
'I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with a coach for Rikkai, much less someone like those two.'
Abruptly, Tezuka and Atobe whirled around to fix twin glares at Sanada, as if they had picked up on his thoughts, which, given the hidden talents of the two buchou-tachi, wasn’t impossible.
'This WILL come full circle, Sanada!'
Sanada looked aside from the piercing gazes directed at him, allowing his hat to hide his eyes. “Let’s go!” he told the rest of his team.
Yanagi exchanged one last amused smile with Inui before following his fukubuchou to the audience stands. As they settled themselves into a good position to see the entire court below, the Rikkai strategist took stock of the audience in general. He could spot just about all the teams from those schools that participated in the Kanto, several teams from nearby areas outside of the Kanto region, as well as quite a few scouts for various private universities and professional tennis.
The announcer’s voice came out clearly over the loudspeaker. “First up is Doubles 2. Hyotei’s Ohtori-Hiyoshi pair—”
There was a loud cry of “WHAT?!” at where the Hyotei team stood at the sidelines. The ground suddenly began to rumble. Oshitari jumped on Shishido and put his fellow teammate in a headlock, turning on his tranquilizing aura as he did so. “Shishido! Calm down!” The rumbling subsided.
“—versus Seigaku’s Momshiro-Echizen pair.”
Another cry of “WHAT?!” came from two voices where the Seigaku team was gathered.
“Both doubles pairs please step into the court.”
“No way!” Kirihara gaped from the stands. He turned to his fukubuchou, who for once was equally visibly surprised. “They took Echizen out of singles?”
Down at Seigaku stands, Echizen had somehow latched onto one of the posts, resisting being pulled off onto the courts by Momoshiro.
“I don’t want to go!” Echizen declared.
“Well too bad!” Momoshiro snapped back. “The announcement said it was us and so we have to go!”
“Iyadda!” Echizen’s struggles suddenly paused as a shadow fell over his form. He peeked up right into the unamused gaze of his buchou. “Erk. Fine.” Letting go of the post, he pulled his hat down over his eyes and resigned himself to following his senpai onto the courts.
“One set match. Seigaku’s Momoshiro to serve.”
Back up on the Rikkai stands, Kirihara rubbed his chin as he considered the two pairs on the courts. “Hm, I get it now. Seigaku must really want to get a first win if they’re going to put Echizen on Doubles 2.”
Yanagi chuckled. “Heh. Akaya-kun, I don’t think—”
“30-love. Hyotei leads.”
“—that’s it,” Yanagi finished. He smiled in amusement at the surprised looks on his teammates’ faces. “From what Sadaharu tells me, Echizen is singularly… untalented… in doubles.”
Back at the Seigaku stands, most of the Regulars groaned yet again as the Ah-Un pair missed yet another easy shot due to their utter lack of doubles combination ability.
“This is a slaughter,” Oishi lamented with his face buried in his hands. “I wonder what possessed sensei to put them on doubles. They have no combination whatsoever.”
“Nya, though I can’t blame them for being confused,” Eiji commented. “Why does Hiroshi’s hair keep switching colors? It’s making my eyes hurt!”
“It’s probably the result of both Momoshiro’s and Echizen’s powers subconsciously activating under the stress,” Inui speculated. “Hiyoshi’s own powers are being affected due to his close proximity. I suppose it’s just as well that neither his nor Ohtori’s psi-abilities are dangerous.” He looked over at the Hyotei stands where Oshitari still had Shishido in a headlock, while Mukahi had securely wrapped his arms around Shishido’s legs to keep him from kicking the bespectacled tensai.
“But still,” Oishi looked up at the ongoing match and cringed. “What possessed either of our coaches to put these two pairs up for doubles?”
“The probability for these two combinations was 0%,” Inui sighed. “I suppose we should be resigned to losing the first game. However, we do have a chance to even things in Doubles-1, since it will most likely be the Golden Pair versus Hyotei’s Oshitari-Mukahi pair.”
“Eh, that’s fine with me!” Eiji declared. “It’s about time I settled things with him!” He glanced over toward the Hyotei stands at the other red-haired acrobat and grinned.
Mukahi had just happened to look over toward the Seigaku stands at the time and grinned back in answer to his rival’s challenge. “Oh? So I guess we’re playing against Seigaku’s Golden Pair next, eh, Yuushi? We have to win this time!”
“Of course,” Oshitari replied confidently. The effect was unfortunately spoiled by the following “oof!” as Shishido’s struggling arm rammed into his stomach.
Back on the courts…
“Game, Hyotei, 4-0.”
In the Rikkai stands, Kirihara stared at the small forms of Echizen and Momoshiro in horrified awe. “Geez. How could someone that good in singles suck so much in doubles? And why the hell did they put him in doubles at all?”
Not even Yanagi had an answer for that.
Finally, the match ended in a humiliating 0-6 loss for Seigaku. Momoshiro and Echizen shuffled back to their team in embarrassed silence.
“Um, you guys did your best,” Oishi told them with a wavering smile. Eiji wavered between muffled laughter and soundly berating his kouhai-tachi for their awful doubles play.
Kaidoh glared at Momoshiro for their first loss. “Che. Baka.” Then he turned away to hide the smidgeon of sympathy in his eyes. No one should be asked to play doubles with Echizen.
Meanwhile, Ohtori and Hiyoshi had also returned to their team. Hiyoshi’s hair was an unnatural electric blue and he glared at anyone who approached him. “That was the most humiliating game I’ve ever played,” he muttered to no one. “I never want to go through that again.”
Atobe spared a glance at Hiyoshi before turning to glare at Okina-sensei, his famed insight telling him just who was responsible for the whole debacle. ‘I wouldn’ bet on it, Hiyoshi,’ he thought in response to the disgruntled second-year.
The confused and disbelieving murmurings from the audience at large that had continued throughout the game suddenly quieted down as the announcer called out the next match.
“Next is Doubles 1. Hyotei’s Oshitari-Shishido pair versus Seigaku’s Fuji-Kikumaru pair.”
“WHAT?!” This time it was Mukahi’s turn to jump to his feet in indignation. “Why am I not playing against Kikumaru?! Yuushi! Why am I not playing with you?!”
“No idea, Gakuto,” Oshitari replied through clenched teeth as Shishido’s anger boiled up again at being paired in doubles with someone else other than Ohtori, “but we’ve got bigger problems here.”
“Mukahi. Sit down,” Atobe commanded as he turned around to glare at the acrobat.
Mukahi glared right back, and for a moment, seemed as if he was going to openly defy Atobe and the tournament rules. But finally, he dropped back down into his seat, sulking and muttering dark things under his breath.
Atobe then turned his glare on Shishido and Oshitari. “Go,” snapped at them.
“But Atobe…” Oshitari protested with his arms still hanging around Shishido’s neck, and he was bodily dragged along as Shishido stomped toward the courts. “…We’re on a hill! In monsoon season! Think about the earthquakes! Mudslides! Avalanches!”
“Then you’ll just have to keep that from happening, na Oshitari?” Atobe replied coolly.
Up in the stands where the Rokkaku team had gathered, Saeki grinned at his teammates. “I guess this should be an easy win for Seigaku,” he said. “Fuji and Kikumaru’s Dream Pair should be more than good enough to handle that mismatched pair.”
“Uh, but Saeki-senpai,” Kentaro replied, pointing onto the courts, “why is Kikumaru acting like he’s high on something?”
Sure enough, Eiji was weaving back and forth before the net as if drunk.
Saeki blinked as he suddenly became the center of attention of the rest of his team.
“Hey, why are you all staring at me?” he protested. “I never gave any… uh… of the good stuff to anyone from Seigaku… well, except for one small sample for Fuji-kun.”
Meanwhile, Rokkaku weren’t the only ones who were wondering about Eiji’s erratic movements.
“Oi, Eiji! What are you doing?” Oishi called out at his partner from the sidelines. “Eiji?” he called again when the acrobat didn’t respond to his call. “Eiji?!”
“I believe he is being affected by Oshitari’s tranquilizing aura set on its maximum setting,” Inui said. “It’s interacting negatively with his own empathic aura.”
“Oi, Oshitari!” Momshiro immediately yelled out. “We’re not allowed to use our powers in a game!”
“Baka!” Oshitari yelled back from where he was still clinging to Shishido’s back. “We’re on a hill, you know! Do you want to get buried under a mudslide?”
“He has a point,” Inui said, waving Momo off. “However, I’m also worried about the blanketing effect that Oshitari’s aura will have on Fuji’s sight.”
As one, everyone looked toward the tensai, and sweatdropped when they saw Fuji standing on the court… facing the direction opposite of the net.
“Th-this is bad,” muttered Oishi.
“Well, on the bright side, the Hyotei pair isn’t in any better condition,” Inui replied helpfully.
“Oi, Seigaku!” Everyone’s attention was suddenly directed to Atobe, who was calling over from the Hyotei stands. “Why don’t you just have Tezuka turn everyone’s powers off so they can have a normal match?”
“That’s right!” Oishi agreed enthusiastically. “Can you do that Tezuka? …Tezuka?”
“Eh? Where did Tezuka-buchou go?” Kaidoh looked around the stands in bewilderment. “He was here a moment ago.”
“Hiko-sensei sent him back to the school,” Echizen spoke up in a flat voice. “He said he forgot some paperwork there.”
Everyone stared at Echizen, and then at the Seigaku coach in horror. Atobe just glared with his hands twitching intermittently as if itching to strangle someone. ‘Damn you, old man!’
Back on the court, Fuji had just spun his racquet to determine the serve. “Anou…” he turned his head vaguely toward where he heard the voices of the other Seigaku Regulars coming from. “Which way did the racquet fall?”
Oshitari answered instead. “It’s—” he tried to take a look but found it impossible over Shishido’s shoulder. “Oh nevermind! You can serve!”
The referee, who was by this point of equal parts freaked out, tranquilized, and confused, let it pass. “One set match. Seigaku’s Fuji to serve.”
There was a moment of silence as Fuji picked up his racquet and took out a ball… still facing the wrong direction.
“Damn it,” Kaidoh muttered. “What are we going to do now?”
Inui chuckled next to him, causing his kouhai to instinctively inch away. He pushed his glasses up. “Just leave it to me,” he declared. Then, as his teammates stared at him in trepidation, Inui took a few steps forward and leaned out with his hands cupped around his mouth.
“Fuji! You’re facing the wrong direction. Turn around 180 degrees!”
Everyone sweatdropped as Fuji followed the orders called to him. “Is this the right direction now?” he called back.
“Almost!” Inui called. “Turn a little more to your right! …Your other right! …Your other other right!”
“I don’t believe this,” Momo muttered as Inui shouted out directions for Fuji to follow. “It’s so embarrassing.”
“Not as embarrassing as you were,” Kaidoh muttered, which immediately sparked another vocal argument between the two second-years.
“Kaidoh, Momo, please stop before I’m forced to give both of you Inui Juice,” Inui’s voice immediately broke through their argument with the mention of his equally infamous concoction. “I can’t give Fuji directions with you two arguing like that.”
“S-sorry, Inui-senpai,” the two squeaked back in fear.
Nodding, Inui turned back to Fuji, who was finally facing the right direction. “Fuji! Hit the ball with a soft underhand serve! You just have to make sure it goes in. Trust me!”
There was a slight pause as Fuji considered that last part. Then his fast serve zipped out to smack onto the court.
“Fuji! I thought I said to trust me!”
“Are you joking, Inui?” Fuji yelled back exasperatedly, far too frustrated now to keep up his cheerful mask.
“Just try it once, Fuji!” Inui yelled back. “Then you can decide for yourself!”
Fuji sighed and served his next ball as Inui told him. Shishido lunged forward as the ball cleared the net. Unfortunately, the weight of Oshitari clinging to his back threw off his weight and summarily sent the both of them to the ground flat on their faces. The ball plopped down softly in the receiving court.
“15-0, Seigaku leads.”
“See? I told you so!” Inui wasn’t above gloating.
“Shishido-san! Ganbare!” Ohtori cheered from the Hyotei stands. Hiyoshi stared at him oddly and wondered if his teammate was watching some other match than the debacle that was happening on the courts in front of them.
“Well, I suppose we’re doing alright,” Oishi said weakly back on the Seigaku stands, determined to look on the bright side of things. But his optimism was shattered when Fuji’s next serve conked the still randomly wandering Eiji right on the head.
“Uh, er, fault.”
“Eh? Inui! What happened?” Fuji called out.
“It’s all right! Eiji just wandered into the path of your serve. Now make the next serve quickly before he gets back up!”
“Double fault. 15-all.”
“Eiji!!” Oishi’s knuckles were white where they gripped the edge of the low fence surrounding the courts.
“Sorry, Fuji! Eiji recovered faster than I calculated!”
“Is he all right?”
“He’s fine! As long as you hit soft serves, the hits won’t cause much damage anyway!”
“Inui! How can you say that?!” Oishi demanded of the team data-man.
“Well there’s nothing we can do about it,” Inui pointed out reasonably. Then he turned back to Fuji. “Fuji! Just wait until he wanders out of your path!”
“Tell me when!”
“30-15, Seigaku leads.”
Back up at the Rikkai stands, there was utter silence as the entire Rikkai team, just like the rest of the audience, stared in stupefied awe at the spectacle below.
“You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.” Kirihara bit each word out slowly. He turned to Yanagi with wide eyes. “Is that even allowed?!” he demanded, waving his arm down toward the match where only one person of the two doubles pairs was actually ‘playing’ tennis, under the explicit directions called out by his teammate at the sidelines. Every once in a while, a cheer of “Ganbare, Shishido-san!” would naively drift out from the Hyotei stands. Or, a terrified shout of “Eiji! Stay down!” would come from the Seigaku stands, which would cause Kikumaru to duck clumsily to the ground for all of 10 seconds before randomly popping back up again.
Yanagi flipped through a tennis rulebook that he had pulled out from nowhere. “Well,” he said at last, “there’s nothing that forbids it. There simply isn’t any precedence for this kind of… situation.” He felt rather sorry for Inui for having endured such a coach for the last two and a half years.
The rest of the game took forever to play out, from the perspectives of just about everyone playing or watching. Each of Fuji’s serves took time to direct. Each of everyone else’s shots ended up a double-fault. As well, Oshitari’s aura was also taking its toll on the referee, who was practically nodding off in his seat and had to be verbally prodded to make each score call. Finally, it was over.
“Game and match to Seigaku. 6-2.”
Shishido stalked back to the Hyotei stands, an exhausted Oshitari still in tow. As soon as they were away, Oishi raced onto the courts to retrieve an unconscious and much abused Eiji. But scarcely had they settled back down when the next match was announced.
“Next is Singles 3. Hyotei’s Mukahi versus Seigaku’s Kaidoh.”
The audience stirred from the lethargy they had all fallen into under the utterly boring Doubles 1 game. Finally, it seemed as if there would be a normal and possibly exciting match. Famous last words…
At the Seigaku stands, Inui turned to his kouhai and placed a hand on Kaidoh’s shoulder. “Kaidoh,” he cautioned, “you’ll have to be careful to catch Mukahi’s acrobatic shots. Speed will be the key to this match. If you can manage to catch most of his shots, you should be able to prolong this match into a stamina game, and there’s no way for you to lose to him there.”
“Hai, Inui-senpai.” Kaidoh nodded in acknowledgement before heading out to the courts.
Inui looked pensively after him. ‘Kaidoh’s chances against Mukahi are not good. Even though he is faster than Momoshiro, he lacks his rival’s superior tennis sense. The difference may not be enough against Mukahi’s acrobatic play. However. The fact that Momoshiro has twice beaten his current opponent may serve to motivate him, and I know from personal experience just how persistent a highly motivated Kaidoh can be.’
Inui’s glasses glinted and he smiled thinly, silently wishing his kouhai luck. Then he immediately began to formulate ways to prod Momoshiro into incidentally “motivating” his rival at strategic moments of the game.
But when Kaidoh arrived on the courts, he found that he was the only one there. Puzzled, he turned to look at where the Hyotei team was gathered in the stands. There, Atobe was facing off with a mulish looking Mukahi, who had taken the duration of the Doubles 1 match to comfortably entrench himself into his sulk.
“I’m not playing and you can’t make me,” Mukahi announced, arms folded against his chest. “If I’m not playing against Kikumaru and not with Yuushi, then I’m not playing!”
Atobe’s eyes twitched. “Yes you will, Mukahi,” he snapped. “Kabaji!”
Atobe’s hulking follower bodily picked up the much smaller and lighter Mukahi, and summarily tossed him onto the courts. Kaidoh stared as the Hyotei acrobat landed on his feet and rolled with his fall, ending up sitting cross-legged at the net.
Mukahi returned Kaidoh’s stare. “I’m not playing,” he announced to his opponent with arms crossed.”
“What do you mean you’re not playing?” Kaidoh demanded, irritated.
“This whole thing is a farce!” Mukahi declared. “Play whatever you want. I’m not moving from this spot!”
Kaidoh stared at him for a moment longer, before abruptly turning around and heading for the service line.
“Hey, wait!” called referee. “You haven’t determined serve yet!”
“I’m serving.” Kaidoh glared at the referee, who nervously decided that backing off would be the safer thing to do.
“Uh… nevermind. Um, one set match! Seigaku’s Kaidoh to serve!”
Kaidoh spared Mukahi another look as he bounced the ball in preparation for his serve. He wasn’t entirely sure that Mukahi’s pose wasn’t just some kind of ploy. Well, there was only one way to test that. He tossed the ball and served it as he ordinarily would.
“15-0, Seigaku leads!”
Mukahi hadn’t moved a muscle. Kaidoh’s eye twitched. He served again.
“Oi! Get serious, will you?!” Kaidoh yelled at his opponent.
“I told you,” Mukahi yelled back, “I’m not playing!”
“Why you…” Frustrated beyond measure by the looming possibility of having another no-game from the second Singles match he’d gotten in over two years, Kaidoh served the next ball right at Mukahi. However, his effort was wasted as the Hyotei acrobat casually moved his head out of the ball’s path just at the last second, without even bothering to move the rest of his body.
The next ball was also aimed at Mukahi’s person, and just as easily dodged.
“Double fault! 30-15!”
“Teme…” Kaidoh gritted his teeth and glared at the arrogant acrobat sitting across the net. “Play or forfeit, damn you!”
“Atobe won’t let me forfeit or I would have!” Mukahi snapped back, looking angrier by the moment, “and for the last time, I’m NOT playing!!”
“Kaidoh!” Inui shouted out from the sidelines. “Calm down! If he doesn’t want to play then just finish it off!”
Growling under his breath, Kaidoh raise the ball to serve again. However, he was interrupted by an ominous rumbling sound from high above. Looking up, he could see a large mass of black clouds gathered in the sky. In fact, they seemed to have been gathering for a while now, probably from the start of the Doubles 1 match. Lightning flashed.
‘Uh-oh…’ The thought flittered through Kaidoh’s mind as he stared up into the sky wide-eyed.
“Kaidoh! What did you do?!” Surprisingly, the yell came from Atobe, who was looking rather murderous.
At the Rikkai stands, Kirihara looked up in trepidation. “Ne, Sanada-fukubuchou. This doesn’t look good. Maybe we should leave…”
“We are on a hill,” Yanagi murmured, “and this is the beginning of monsoon season. If Mukahi lets loose, the chances of a mudslide—”
Sanada gave them a dark glare. “We’re staying,” he said in no uncertain terms. No one else dared to gainsay him.
In a fit of desperation (or perhaps melodrama), Oshitari dashed out from the Hyotei stands, making a beeline for his partner, and then flung himself at Mukahi in a less-than-graceful arc. He landed right on top of his target, crushing the smaller boy into the ground. However, nothing changed in the storm brewing above. Evidently, Oshitari’s aura had been overtaxed trying to contain Shishido, and he had nothing left to spare.
Kaidoh blinked at the tableau in front of him, with Mukahi splayed on the ground with his larger partner sprawled all over him. If the situation hadn’t been so dire, it would have been obscene. However, given the circumstances, Kaidoh’s instincts told him that perhaps it would be safer to make like his namesake and slither away. Slowly, he edged away from the courts and toward the relative safety of the Seigaku stands.
“Do you think they’ll cancel the game for this, Oishi-senpai?” Momoshiro asked back at said stands as he looked up into the sky.
Oishi frowned with worry. “I don’t know, but if this keeps up…”
“Oishi. What’s going on here?” A familiar voice suddenly cut through their conversation. Everyone (aside from the still unconscious Eiji) whirled around.
But before anyone could say anything more, Atobe was suddenly among them, looking both angry and frazzled as he shook Tezuka by the collar.
“Tezuka! Where were you?! Do something about Mukahi before we all get killed!”
Tezuka was unable to reply due to being shaken around like a rag doll. Fuji glared openly at the Hyotei buchou who was taking such liberties with Tezuka.
“Take your hands off of Tezuka, Atobe!” the tensai warned. However, it didn’t seem like Atobe even heard him.
Echizen sighed from nearby and swung his racquet between Atobe and Tezuka’s faces. “Oi! If you want our buchou to do something, you should let him go first.”
Atobe abruptly let go of Tezuka. Released from the other’s grasp, Tezuka stoically smoothed out his jacket and headed toward the courts without a word.
Meanwhile, Atobe took deep breaths and tried to get himself under control. It was rather undignified of him to lose his composure like that, after all, even if he had due cause.
“Where’s that Kaidoh of yours who started this?” he demanded of the other Seigaku players, still sounding rather murderous. Nevermind the fact that Mukahi’s mood had been going downhill for quite a while before his match, and Kaidoh was probably just the last straw for the acrobat.
“Eh?” Everyone stared out onto the courts, just noticing now that Kaidoh was nowhere to be seen.
“Where is that mamushi?” Momo wondered as he scratched his head. “He was there just a minute ago. Do you know where he went, Inui-senpai?” he asked the older boy standing in the corner.
“Iya.” Inui’s face was expressionless. He adjusted his glasses and turned back to his notebook, giving absolutely no hint of the fact that Kaidoh was actually hiding behind him. He wasn’t about to take the chance, small though the possibility was, that Atobe might actually kill his kouhai. He was rather too attached to having Kaidoh around.
Finally, the lightning and thunder stopped. The gathered clouds thinned a little, but did not wholly go away. A light rain drizzled down from the sky, but not enough to stop the match from continuing. The momentum of the weather couldn’t be stopped, after all, even if the unnatural force behind it could be.
Just in case, and because Japan was at the beginning of monsoon season, the tournament official defaulted Hyotei’s Singles 3, thus bringing the overall score to 2 wins and 1 loss in Seigaku’s favor. After a slight break for everyone to catch their breath and calm their nerves, the Singles 2 match was announced. Many of the teams who remained in the audience, waited with bated breath and morbid fascination at just what kind of insane match-up would face off on the courts this time.
“Next is Singles 2. Hyotei’s Kabaji versus Seigaku’s Oishi.”
“N-nani?” Oishi blinked as the rest of his team, sans Tezuka and Eiji, collectively sweatdropped.
“Oi, Oishi-senpai, be careful of that monster’s power attacks,” Momoshiro. “I still remember what he did to Taka-san the last time.”
“The probability of Oishi being able to return Kabaji’s power shots is approximately 30%,” Inui put in (un)helpfully. “However, if he catches them continuously, the probability that he will sustain heavy if not permanent injury is 97%.”
Oishi turned to the referee. “Anou… would it be possible if I forf—”
He was cut off by a hand landing heavily on his shoulder. Oishi turned to look into Tezuka’s serious eyes.
“Yudan seizu ni ikou.”
“B-but Tezuka!” Oishi protested, “I’m having serious premonitions of my death here!” The claim was perhaps a little melodramatic, but the scary thing was that it might be true.
“Just do your best, Oishi,” Tezuka told him sternly.
Oishi sighed, resigned to his fate in the face of Tezuka’s unyielding command. He shuffled onto the courts, his racquet dragging on the ground behind his limp hold.
Eiji, who had regained consciousness by this time, but was still more than a little disoriented from all the headshots he suffered, blinked at the familiar sound that was ingrained into his reactions. “Nya? Oishi’s starting off with a Moon Volley?”
Echizen rolled his eyes. “Mada mada dane.”
Up in the Rikkai stands, everyone stared disbelievingly at the lopsided match. It was rather clear that Kabaji had orders to keep hitting his most powerful Hadoukyuu level shots, and that after a token effort at returning the first two, Oishi had no intention of catching any of the rest of them.
“First they keep beaming Kikumaru with balls and now they put Oishi up against Kabaji?” Jakkaru asked rhetorically. “Is Seigaku trying to kill their best doubles pair?”
“Maybe they’re just trying to kill their fukubuchou,” Kirihara speculated gleefully, “because he was being a mean and aggressive tyrant—” He abruptly stopped when he felt a looming presence close behind him, and whirled around to be faced with Sanada’s dark glare. “Eep! I mean—err—they must be really mean to be doing this to their awesome and wonderful fukubuchou… pleasedontkillmeSanadafukubuchou.”
“Hm… I think I see what he’s doing,” Yanagi murmured. “Oishi is using his precognitive powers—”
“—in order to avoid the incoming high speed power shots.” Unknowingly, Inui was giving the same analysis to his own fellow teammates.
“What?! But I thought we weren’t allowed to purposefully use our powers in games!” Momo cried out, loud enough to be heard on the court.
“Well I’m not using it to win, am I?!” Oishi yelled back toward the stands as he dodged yet another shot that scorched the ground where he had been standing. The stress of being pressed for survival and the impending doom that weighed heavily on his foresight had taken its toll on the normally mellow Seigaku fukubuchou. His civility entirely deserted him.
“There is some logic to what Oishi is doing,” Inui said blandly, pushing up his glasses. “There is a high probability that he might sustain heavy injuries from this match even without his premonitions to confirm it. By conserving himself, Oishi is only making sure that he will still be able to play at the nationals, when he hopefully be put back onto doubles as more befitting of his skills.”
The other Seigaku players, sans Tezuka, all nodded and very carefully did not think about another certain injury that resulted from a long ago game with Hyotei and the consequences it caused.
“Game, Hyotei, 4-0!”
“Game, Hyotei, 5-0!”
“Game and match to Hyotei, 6-0!”
Jakkaru whistled as he looked at his stopwatch. “That match only took five minutes! That’s got to be the shortest time ever in the history of Kanto.”
“What?!” Kirihara jumped to his feet. “But that’s almost ten whole minutes faster than the record I set for the shortest Kanto match in junior high! Kuso! Did they plan for this in the beginning?!”
“I doubt it,” Jakkaru told him in a flat deadpan, nobly resisting the urge to whack his idiot junior over the head.
But Kirihara wasn’t listening. Forgetting his previous indiscretion, he bounded up to Sanada. “Sanada-fukubuchou! Can we throw our next lineup so I can get my shortest match record back?”
Sanada gave him a glare-o’-doom that told him that in no uncertain terms was Rikkai going to throw anything and that Kirihara had better shut up before Sanada was forced to make him.
“Eep. Nevermind.” Kirihara slunk back into his seat to Marui’s snickers and Yanagi’s quiet chuckle.
Meanwhile, back at the Seigaku stands. Tezuka gave Oishi a stern glare as the latter staggered back to his team.
“Oishi, 50 laps when we get back.”
“Hai, hai,” Oishi waved off the punishment as he collapsed onto the benches. He lay there, awkwardly positioned but uncaring, muttering a steady stream of “I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive” under his breath. After all, there wasn’t much punishment that could compare against the looming alternative of death, and the relief of escaping it.
“Next is Singles 1,” called out the announcement.
“Well, at least we’ll still be able to see Atobe and Tezuka play again,” Marui quipped from the Rikkai stands as he gazed at the ready forms of both captains down below.
Sanada and Yanagi remained pensively silent. Both of them shared the same concern that things might not be as simple as that.
“Hyotei’s Akutagawa versus Seigaku’s Inui.”
“…WHAT?!” This time, the disbelieving cry rose from the entire audience in general.
“Y-you’ve got to be kidding me,” Marui mumbled.
“They put the captains on Alternate?” Jakkaru gaped.
“What the hell are Seigaku and Hyotei doing?!” Sanada demanded aloud, losing his temper completely.
“Sadaharu,” Yanagi murmured under his breath, “somehow, I don’t think this was in either of our calculations.”
Sure enough, back at the Seigaku stands, Inui was still frozen in the spot as when the announcement had been made. His pen and notebook slipped unknowingly out of his numb hands and plopped down on the ground.
Over at the Hyotei stands, Atobe was shooting a glare that promised long and painful death at his coach. Or, rather, at the two coaches of Seigaku and Hyotei, who were doing some kind of archaic dance together, singing about how they were geniuses.
“One set match. Seigaku’s Inui to serve.”
Inui meditatively bounced the ball in preparation for his serve, his mind racing through his calculations and data. ‘My data on Jiroh’s best performance is only 75% complete. If we both play seriously, there will be a high possibility of my calculations being off. That means there is only a 60% chance for me to win this match. That probability is too low to be acceptable. However! If I can prevent Jiroh from playing seriously and drag the game out long enough, there is an 80% chance that he will fall asleep and default the match. To do that, all I have to do is to play at a barely competent level while making sure to match each one of his points with 1.25 of mine. That will be my strategy then. Yosh.’
Just then, his thoughts were interrupted by a low buzzing sound and a yelp. He looked up just in time to see Jiroh spasm where he stood, his hands going to clutch at a black metallic collar at his neck. Inui turned to look at the Hyotei stands, and sweatdropped when he saw Atobe standing there with a determined look on his face and some kind of remote controller in his hands. Every once in a while, his thumb would push down on the device, and Jiroh’s body would jerk spastically in synch.
‘Perhaps this will take longer than I expected.’
Kirihara, back up at the Rikkai stands, twitched as Jiroh spasmed once again on the courts. He turned to Yanagi with a worried look. “Yanagi-senpai, what’s going on with that guy? He looks like he’s having fits.”
Yanagi grinned. “It seems that Atobe has placed an electroshock collar on his neck and is periodically shocking him to keep him in line—er, I mean, awake. Most effective, I must say.”
Kirihara eyed his senpai’s eerie smile nervously. “Etou… senpai, you’re not thinking of using that on me… are you?”
“Of course not, Akaya.” Yanagi waited until Kirihara breathed a sigh of relief. “You would need something much smaller.”
“Yanagi-senpai!” Kirihara scooted away from the team data-man and turned to Sanada for help. “Sanada-fukubuchou! Help me!”
Sanada shot Yanagi a stern look. “Renji.”
“Saa. Very well, Genichirou.” Yanagi didn’t quite pout.
“…I’ll provide the batteries,” Sanada finished, a look of amusement flashing through his eyes.
“Sanada-fukubuchou!” Kirihara sounded scandalized and looked as though he might bolt.
“Ne, Yanagi!” Marui suddenly broke into the conversation. “Isn’t Seigaku’s Inui supposed to be about your level?”
“Yes,” Yanagi replied, “you’ve all seen Sadaharu play me before.”
“Then why is he playing so… badly?” There was no other word to describe the situation on the courts.
“Hm…” Yanagi considered the question. “Ah, I believe I see his strategy. By keeping his playing level at just barely around competency, Sadaharu is preventing Akutagawa from fully waking up and playing seriously. Therefore, all Sadaharu needs to do is to keep up a 1.25 to 1 point ratio with his opponent, and he would eventually either win the game, or Akutagawa will fall asleep and have to default.”
“That’s a lame plan,” Kirihara declared.
Yanagi looked on in amusement as Jiroh’s fits of spasming slowly began to occur at a faster rate as Atobe’s patience wore thin. “Well, it is rather amusing though.”
“Our master strategist is so cold,” Marui muttered, rolling his eyes. “But still, I can’t believe we lost to that,” he sighed.
“Well, we didn’t exactly lose to that,” Jakkaru corrected, “…even though we kind of did.”
“Oh you’re such a help, Jackal” Marui shot back exasperatedly.
“Mou, what’s taking Inui-senpai so long!” Momoshiro complained from the Seigaku stands as the first game of the match entered its 20th deuce.
“It’s like watching a game of really bad pong,” Echizen muttered. “Mada mada dane.”
Fuji chuckled. “I don’t know. Don’t you think it at least takes some skill to keep your playing level at just around competency?”
“No,” everyone else replied.
“I guess not,” the tensai continued blithely. “I also suppose that it’s rather frustrating for him to play something like Jiroh, not to mention in the rain.”
As if to prove Fuji’s words, Inui paused before his next serve to wipe uselessly at his glasses with his sleeve.
“Maybe he should get contacts for future games,” Oishi suggested.
Kaidoh remained quiet, though he inwardly shivered at the thought of his Inui-senpai sans glasses.
“Game, Seigaku, 1-0.”
Up at the Rikkai stands, Jakkaru blinked as he looked at his stopwatch. “What the… damn it, the first game alone went over the limit of my stopwatch?!”
“You’re kidding!” Marui leaned over to stare at the readout. “But your stopwatch goes up to an hour!”
Yanagi looked at his perfectly normal wristwatch and jotted down a time on his notebook. “It’s been one hour and five minutes.”
“For the first game?!”
“It seems this will take a while. Who knows? Maybe they’ll set the record for the longest running game today just like they did the shortest.”
Finally, at 5-4 with Seigaku leading and Jiroh to serve, the ball slipped out of Jiroh’s hand as he tossed it for the serve and plopped to the ground. It was then followed by Jiroh’s body, which dropped motionlessly to the ground as well and did not get up again, despite the vague buzzing noise that was coming out of his neck collar.
Inui turned to the referee. “I believe my opponent has fallen asleep.”
The referee shook himself awake and stared at the tableau in shock. Evidently, even the referee had had enough of the ridiculous event disguising itself as tennis.
“Hyotei defaults. Game and match to Seigaku!”
Amid the confused cheers from what was left of the audience (most had left either in disgust or boredom), the referee approached Jiroh’s fallen form to wake him up.
“Oi! Akutagawa-kun! Wake up!” When Jiroh didn’t move, the referee peered closer at the fallen boy. Suddenly, he stood up and called out frantically, “Hey! He’s not breathing! Someone call the ambulance!”
“Damn it!” Atobe threw his controller onto the ground. “The doctor told me that I could use it for up to two hours without causing damage!”
“Anou… But Atobe,” Oshitari spoke up after checking his watch. “It’s been almost five hours.”
Sighing with relief that the whole ordeal was finally over, Inui made his way back to the Seigaku stands, noticing as he did so that Fudomine had also come down from the stands to awkwardly congratulate them for their victory (or perhaps to demand answers regarding their lineup).
Fuji was the first person to speak up when Inui approached his team. “Ne, Inui, that was a good strategy. By dragging the game out, you forced Atobe to shock Jiroh senseless, thus giving you the win.”
Inui paused mid-step, taken aback by the misinterpretation of his intentions. “What? But that’s not what I—”
He didn’t get to finish his protest as Eiji jumped in with an indignant cry. “Inui! How could you be so cruel!”
“Yeah, Inui-senpai!” Momoshiro agreed. “That’s taking winning at all costs a little too far!”
Oishi was nodding along as well. “Inui, Jiroh is a living human being too. You simply can’t go around hurting people like that.”
“Yeah! That would make you no better than Kirihara!” Kamio put in. Distantly, there was a cry of “oi!” from up stands where the Rikkai team was, and Kamio promptly finished with, “…well, before he reformed, anyways.”
“I don’t know why you guys are all blaming Inui-san,” Shinji muttered loud enough for everyone to hear, breaking into the conversation, “when deep down you all really blame you coach for putting you all into this position anyway. I mean, you guys and the Hyotei people all hate your coaches now for messing up your lineups and humiliating the sport of tennis and they probably did all this on purpose just so they can watch you guys make fools out of yourself and so that other rival schools won’t get any good information on you. Not that their plan makes sense since you’d have to play well against other regional champions at the nationals anyway unless they want to mess up your lineups for those games too, in which case you’d probably lose early. So I don’t see why you keep your coaches around when you can do better by offing them like we did with our coach—”
“Shinji!” Tachibana gave his problem child a stern glare.
“—Well, okay so we didn’t actually kill our coach. But we just as might as well have since that would effectively get rid of him too like what we actually did—”
“…Shutting up now. Sorry, Tachibana-san.”
But now the rest of the Seigaku team had diverted their attention to their coach, or rather, the two coaches as Hiko and Okina-sensei had resumed their little dance off by the side. Hyotei was glaring at them also, no doubt having heard Shinji’s little speech as well.
“We are geniuses. We are geniuses. There are no others as great as us…” sang the two old men.
“Hm, I see,” Yanagi muttered from behind the Fudomine group. No one knew when the Rikkai team had descended the stands. “Well, they are right about one thing. I didn’t get any useful tennis data at all from today’s matches.”
Then he smirked. “But on the bright side, some parts of it has been highly entertaining.”
And thus ended the Kanto finals for that year, a match as “historic” as any could have hoped for… just in a different implication of the word.
~* owari *~
Disclaimer: Prince of Tennis and all associated characters belong to Konomi-sensei, not me.