A/N: I'm so sorry for the long waiiiitttt! I don't have any excuses but I'm glad I could at least finally be able to upload this. Post your reviews and I would read them.
thank you to my amazing betas who helped me with this: Black Angel In love and PureRedCrane thank you so much for all your help!
Chapter 4: Sakuno's resolve
Ryoma was in such a good mood for the rest of the day that he was smiling as he rallied with Momo-senpai. Unfortunately for his senpai though, he wasn't able to win a single point.
"Game and match ー 6-0, Echizen!" Horio's grating voice echoed around the court and Ryoma smirked in satisfaction.
"Grr, what's gotten into you, Echizen? You're in a pretty good mood today. Have you eaten something good?" Momo-senpai irritatedly said, putting his racket on his shoulder.
There was a giggle outside the court from the fence. "You mean, Sakuno, Momo-senpai!" Osakada yelled with a shit-eating grin on her face.
"T-Tomo-chan!" Sakuno exclaimed, looking scandalized as An poked her side while raising an eyebrow.
"Oh…" Momo-senpai muttered before he waggled his eyebrows suggestively at Ryoma.
"That's right. Ryuzaki-chan and Echizen were gone for half of the English period and only returned during lunchtime!" Horio suddenly spoke, making the other members of the tennis club, who were watching their interaction, throw their teasing remarks.
"Che." Ryoma pulled his cap down to hide his reddening cheeks.
"Oh, what's this? Did something good happen?" Momo-senpai prodded.
"Hn." Ryoma ignored him and proceeded to his tennis bag, placing his racket back inside. He scowled at his senpai. "Stop being nosy, senpai. You're making Sakuno uncomfortable." He shifted his gaze towards their captain. "Buchou, I'm done here. Can I go now?"
Kaido Kaoru, who Ryoma only called Buchou inside the tennis court, glanced up from the notes he was reading with his usual grumpy face.
"Fssh. Get home safe, Echizen," Kaido replied and returned his attention to his notebook. It was probably the notes he requested from Inui the last time the data tennis player visited. Most of his senpais were already in university; soon, it would be Momo and Kaido's turn. Then Ryoma would be the captain again.
Ryoma murmured a farewell before he shrugged his tennis bag to his shoulder and went out of the court.
"Good match, Ryoma-kun," Sakuno said with a smile.
"That's expected." He smirked and she giggled in reply. "I'll just change, then we can go."
Sakuno nodded. "I'll be with Tomo-chan and An-chan," she said before she went back beside Osakada and Tachibana, who was also waiting for Kaido and Momo.
It didn't take him long to change back into his uniform except for his polo for... obvious reasons. Ryoma felt heat creeping up his neck and ears as he remembered what had transpired on the rooftop earlier. He had to slap his cheek to stop any more inappropriate thoughts towards his girlfriend.
'How is she doing this to me without even trying?' He ran a hand down his face and took a few deep breaths to calm himself before he finally decided to come out of the tennis club's locker — only to stop dead in his tracks as he saw Sakuno facing that girl with Osakada and Tachibana standing beside her.
Ryoma's eyes widened and a sudden surge of panic engulfed him. Moving quickly, he planted himself in front of his girlfriend to shield her from the aggressive girl. He noticed the members of the tennis club were already gazing at them in curiosity. While Momo, Kaido, and the infamous trio left the court to provide help if needed. Ryoma quietly sent his gratitude to his friends as he frowned at Yu Reina.
"Oh, such a Prince Charming you are to your mute girlfriend, Ryo-kun," the girl mockingly said with her arms crossed.
Ryoma narrowed his eyes. "What do you want?"
"I told you we'll have to discuss our relationship after class," she said with a raised eyebrow.
His eye twitched. "Let's make everything clear. There's no such thing as a relationship between us."
Yu's eyebrows raised higher. "So the fact that you're supposed to be engaged with me isn't a relationship? You promised me yourself, Ryoma! There's just no way I'll let some weak, useless girl take my place as your fiancée!"
Ryoma gritted his teeth so hard that it hurt. He clenched his fist, praying for Kami-sama to give him the strength to restrain himself from throttling the annoying girl. He opened his mouth to say something nasty when he felt a soft palm engulf his hand and, before he could even say anything, Sakuno had already stepped out from behind him to face Yu Reina for the first time since meeting the girl. Ryoma's jaw went slightly unhinged.
"You're wrong, Yu-san," Sakuno said with a surprisingly calm, but mellowed voice.
Meanwhile, him? Ryoma just stood there, rooted on the spot, unable to believe that meek Ryuzaki Sakuno had just spoken.
"Oh?" Yu smirked at Sakuno, "Now you're talking? Is it because you have a lot of people backing you up?" she said, rolling her eyes.
That snapped Ryoma out of his momentary stupor. He frowned and was about to retort something when Sakuno beat him to it again.
"Eh? I think it's not a big deal if they're here. They're our friends after all." She shrugged her shoulders, "Does that make me look pathetic, Yu-san?" Ryoma opened his mouth to rebuke Sakuno, but she continued before he could say anything yet again. "Because from what I'm seeing, you're more pathetic than me right now."
'Wait, what?!' Ryoma choked on his spit and heard a few gasps of disbelief from their spectators. He blinked his eyes a couple of times and was tempted to rub them just to make sure that he was seeing and hearing correctly. 'Sakuno...just said that?'
Yu Reina's mocking face quickly contorted into an angry grimace. "How dare you–"
"You look desperate enough to grovel at Ryoma-kun's feet," Sakuno said with her forehead creased, cutting off Yu's angry retort as she glared at the girl.
Ryoma could practically hear the loud drumming inside his chest and a conflicting feeling engulfed him. He was...flabbergasted – speechless even. He knew that Sakuno promised that she would fight for him this time, but he hadn't expected it to happen right off the bat. And although he was worried for Sakuno, he couldn't help the fluttering in his stomach and the pleasant feeling of finally having his girlfriend stand up for him. Not that he couldn't handle this on his own ー of course, he could. It's just–
"Hah! I don't need to beg for something that's originally mine. Ryo-kun is mine! We knew each other first, and he promised to marry me before you even came along! You don't have the right to get in between us," the girl said through gritted teeth, glaring heatedly back at Sakuno as she stomped her foot.
With a surprising composure, Sakuno slowly raised an eyebrow. "And who told you that? Did Ryoma-kun sell himself to you or something?"
"Are you blind, or simply stupid?" Yu hissed and Ryoma immediately bristled, but Sakuno squeezed his hand to stop him from doing anything drastic. "I told you we've been engaged since we were four! So he's mine from the start!" The girl's gaze shifted towards Ryoma and was about to address him when Sakuno stepped forward to block him from the girl.
"That's where you're wrong," Sakuno's voice never came out so strong before, but at the same time, her shaking hand against him was so cold. "It doesn't matter whether you met him first or not. The agreement that you've been talking about was considered invalid since I started dating Ryoma. You should learn how to read properly to avoid embarrassing yourself!"
Yu looked confused and incredulous at the same time. "What? What nonsense–"
"The agreement clearly stated that the engagement will only happen if Ryoma stayed single until he turned 18," Yu Reina's eyes widened as, slowly, realization dawned on her.
"You're lying! You just want him for yourself," the girl denied.
"Eh, but I'm not lying, Yu-san." Sakuno suddenly pulled out something from her bag and held it out to the girl. "At that time, I didn't understand why Rinko-san gave me this, but now I know. You can check it out for yourself."
Yu Reina harshly snatched the paper in Sakuno's hand and rapidly skimmed through the paper's contents while her face grew paler and paler by a second.
"T-This can't be...I–"
"Do you understand now? Or do you need a more thorough explanation?" Sakuno asked with narrowed eyes.
Ryoma stared dumbly at his girlfriend. 'Is this really Sakuno? Since when–'
"You!" The girl raised her hand and Ryoma quickly moved before he could even process what he was doing. He thrust his hand forward to grab Sakuno away from the insane girl, but his girlfriend was faster. She surprised them all again by catching Yu's hand and abruptly pulling the girl towards her.
"I'm not done talking." Ryoma stopped in his tracks, hand outstretched, and almost shuddered at the cold, serene voice that came from Sakuno. "Since you used the agreement as your basis to claim Ryoma-kun as your fiance, I guess it's just right for me to use this flimsy paper to rebuke it." Sakuno pulled Yu Reina closer, gazing fiercely at the girl with her chocolate eyes blazing with a rare kind of anger Ryoma had never seen from her before. His girlfriend looked –dare he say it– hot right now. He pinched himself to erase the thought immediately.
"I can no longer tolerate your incessant whining," Sakuno's hand tightened around the girl's wrist. "Yu-san, please keep in mind that Ryoma-kun isn't and will never. ever. be. yours. Who do you think you are to waltz into his life and push yourself onto him suddenly?"
Yu opened her mouth to retort something, but she wasn't able to get out a word.
"Where were you when Ryoma-kun injured himself for the first time inside the court and still pushed through the game even with his bleeding eye? Where were you when he was conflicted about whether he should fight for Seigaku or his nation? Where were you when he was disappointed in himself during the U-17 camp? When he lost his memories? When he was sick when he was frustrated? Where were you?"
It was quiet as everyone gaped at Sakuno. Even Yu Reina wasn't able to say anything. As for Ryoma? He had long since lost his grasp on reality. All he could focus on was the unwavering voice of his usually quiet girlfriend.
"After ten years, you know nothing of how hard he struggled to reach his dream. I don't care about the reason why it took you so long to seek out Ryoma-kun." Sakuno let go of the girl's hand and it dropped limply beside her. "All that matters to me is that you weren't there for him. You've never been," Sakuno whispered as tears gathered at the corner of her eyes. "But I was there. I've been there for him even when we were just friends. I've been there for him even though I thought he would never reciprocate my feelings. I've been there for him through his ups and downs. And I will continue being there for him every step of the way."
"Sakuno…" Ryoma whispered as he gazed at her. Sakuno was not a vocal person regarding her feelings for him. He could see her affections through her eyes and actions, but that was it. This was the first time he was hearing all of this.
Yu faltered as her expression became uncertain. "I...since we were little–"
"You don't know Ryoma-kun!" Sakuno suddenly exclaimed and it made him jolt in surprise. Sakuno had never yelled at someone before. "You don't know him the same way that I do! All you have was the memory of him as a child. You–" She pointed her index finger at Yu's chest. "–don't have the right to say that Ryoma is yours when all this time, you didn't do anything for him! And let me tell you this..." Sakuno stepped back to hold onto Ryoma's hand. A small smile graced his lips as he squeezed her hand.
"For the past three years and the next following years, Echizen Ryoma has, and will always be mine! He doesn't need a desperate girl like you in his life." Sakuno pulled Ryoma closer to her as she glared at Yu. "This is my first and last warning, Yu-san. Please, stay. away. from. my. boyfriend," Sakuno firmly said before she proceeded to drag him away from the tennis court.
Ryoma let her while he continued to look at her. He was still utterly stunned from what had happened to say anything. Her words replayed in his mind like a recordset on nonstop repeat. He had memorized them already. Even he, Echizen Ryoma, was not immune to the overwhelming feeling of strong affection, especially if the person involved was Ryuzaki Sakuno. She was his greatest weakness after all.
Then all of a sudden, Sakuno stopped; pulling him out of his trance. She whirled around to face him with a panicked look on her face as tears gathered at the corner of her eyes.
"Oh my god," she said.
Ryoma blinked in confusion as he stared at his panicking girlfriend.
"Oh my goodness, Ryoma-kun!" She put her hands on her cheeks. "Did I just...what did I just do back there? What did I say to Yu-san? I-I just yelled at her! I called her pathetic! Oh Kami-sama, I'm so awful. How could I ever say something like that!?"
Ryoma could only gaze at Sakuno as she panicked. He was so flabbergasted he didn't know what to say.
"I-I was just so ー so mad, you know! She kept saying that you're hers, hers, hers! When it's not true! I was so angry that I couldn't think straight and before I knew it, I was already talking and my tongue wouldn't stop lashing out and I couldn't think of anything but hurt her and that's terrible! I'm horrible! Oh, Kami-sama! I didn't make Yu-san cry, right?" she asked Ryoma as her face twisted in fear. "Do you think she'll have her revenge on me? She will, right? Oh, what am I going to do?" she cried, anxiously biting her thumbnail.
Ryoma couldn't take it anymore. It started as a small, barely audible chuckle. His bangs hid his eyes as he put a hand on his mouth, trying to contain himself but his shoulders shook. Sakuno gaped at him.
"A-Are you laughing? Y-You're laughing at me? Ryoma-kun!" she yelled as her red cheeks puffed out in embarrassment.
And that was it. He could no longer restrain the mirth bubbling in his chest at the sheer hilarity of the situation. Ryoma burst out in full-blown laughter. Sakuno's eyes grew wide in disbelief as her jaw slackened. He laughed harder at her expression and he clutched his stomach as it started to hurt.
'Damn. Only you, Sakuno.'
"Ryoma-kun!" Sakuno stomped her feet and started walking ahead of him which stopped his laughter immediately as he ran after her. He ended up hugging his red-faced girlfriend from behind to console her even as a few snickers escaped from his lips.
"Mou...Ryoma-kun, stop it already!" Sakuno yelled as she whirled around to face him.
Ryoma bit the back of his fist to stop his laughter, but as he looked at her, he couldn't help but remember the things she said to Yu and her reaction afterward. Then tears started to gather at the corner of her eyes. Okay, he really should stop laughing at her. Ryoma sighed and immediately dragged Sakuno into the empty alley they previously used as a shortcut to escape from school.
"Ok, I'll stop laughing. So no more tears…." He trailed off as Sakuno hid her face in her hands and turned her back on him.
Ryoma scratched his head and poked her shoulder. "I'm sorry. Now stop crying," he grumbled, but Sakuno refused to face him. His eye twitched. Maybe he went overboard. He cleared his throat as he shifted his eyes away from his girlfriend's form. "I can't help it after you said such surprising things to that girl and then just as I was thinking of how amazing you were earlier, you started to–" Ryoma bit the inside of his cheek to stop another chuckle.
"I-I didn't sound a-awful at all?" she murmured hopefully, finally turning around as she peeked between her fingers.
He scratched his cheek as he regarded Sakuno uncertainly before he held her arms. Earlier she was so calm and fierce, then she was hyperventilating, and now she was crying. He internally sighed.
"Well, you sounded awful towards that girl, but…" He wiped her tears with his handkerchief and even urged her to blow the snot out of her nose, which she did. It was normal for them; Sakuno was a crybaby after all. "It's fine with me." A small smile curled up his lips. "You made me...happy." He wrapped his arms around her and bumped their foreheads together. "It's kind of nice to hear, and see you stand up for me." He kissed her forehead before he hugged her tighter against him.
"I-If you say so, Ryoma-kun," she mumbled against his neck, her grip tightening around him.
Ryoma inhaled her strawberry-scented shampoo as he rubbed her back. "Thank you, Sakuno," he said so quietly, barely above a whisper.
Sakuno hummed and nuzzled closer to him. "I...should've done it sooner. I don't want you to think that I don't care even if girls pursue you." She took a deep breath, gripping his shirt tighter "I just...I love you, Ryoma-kun."
His eyes widened and his breath hitched at the same time. His heart started going crazy inside his ribcage. Quickly, he pulled Sakuno's face away from his neck and was greeted by her utterly flushed expression.
"What did you just say?" Sakuno averted her gaze away. "Sakuno?" Ryoma held her face firmly and forced her to look at him. The redness in her cheeks became brighter.
"W-Why do I have to repeat it? Mou, you knew it from the start anyway." She crossed her arms as she looked at the space beside him.
Ryoma continued to gaze at her. Contrary to popular's belief, Sakuno had never directly told him her feelings – although she didn't have to because he still knew it. He noticed her feelings for him after he turned fourteen. Ryoma knew that Sakuno liked him. He knew she had for a long time. Unconsciously, he too came to develop feelings for her. However, during their relationship, none of them vocalized their feelings for each other.
"R-Ryoma-kun?" she asked hesitantly.
Slowly, a small smile formed on his lips. "Heh, Mada made dane, Sakuno."
"E-Eh! What do you–"
Ryoma cut her off by sealing her mouth in a soft kiss and Sakuno readily wrapped her arms around his neck as if on instinct and willingly surrendered herself to him. Ryoma didn't understand how his girlfriend could trust him so much, but he was grateful nonetheless.
"R-Ryoma…" Sakuno breathed softly. Her fingers gently pulled through his locks and slowly massaged his scalp, making him sigh against her lips. After a while, they slowly parted, panting a little as they gazed at each other.
"Sakuno, I…" Ryoma swallowed as she smiled at him in understanding. She gently caressed his cheek while her other hand ran up and down his back.
"I'm hungry," she suddenly said, which made him snicker a bit.
"Let's eat something aside from ourselves then." Ryoma retorted with a teasing smirk which earned him a pinched to the side. Before they left the alley though, Ryoma embraced Sakuno once again and whispered into her ears the words that were only meant for her.
Yu Mamoru knew he loved his daughter so much that he was willing to do everything she asked for without a second thought. Even if that was to marry her off to the Echizen's family. Though that didn't mean he wouldn't take advantage of this opportunity. After all, he also had his company to take care of.
"Have you asked your daughter about her progress?" he spoke to his wife as he scrolled through his phone.
"Hm, about Echizen Ryoma?" Yu Yura asked back as she sipped her tea.
Mamoru hummed in reply, finally putting down his phone to give his full attention to his wife.
He raised an eyebrow. "And what's that? There's no way that brat can ignore our daughter's flawless beauty."
Yura hummed as she shoved a spoonful of her newly baked vanilla cake into her mouth. "Well, apparently, the boy already has a girlfriend, but Reina told me it's no big deal."
Mamoru thoughtfully nodded. "She can just seduce the boy. There's no way he can resist our daughter's charm."
"Hm. You know if Echizen gets engaged to another girl, the contract will be invalid, right?" His wife scooped another bite of her cake and Mamoru took another spoon to taste it. He nodded in approval as the sweetness coated his tongue.
"I know, but if Reina can divert the boy's attention to her before that happens then it's not a problem. And a boy like Echizen Ryoma will not get engaged to some random girl until he turns twenty-five," he said with a dismissive wave of his hand.
"Why can't we just give a bargaining chip to his family? Like, sponsoring their son in every tennis competition and giving him promotion and advertisement to make him internationally famous?"
Mamoru sent his wife an incredulous look. "Are you stupid? Aren't you aware of how crazy rich the Echizens are? It's not just Nanjiroh. The whole Echizen family line is loaded and has many connections worldwide. There's no way in hell we can go against them. That's why we're getting into their good graces by marrying Reina off into their family."
His wife looked at him in surprise. "Really? I thought the Echizens are just famous because they're good at tennis?"
Mamoru shook his head at his wife's cluelessness. He held out a hand, his palm facing Yura. "The five richest families in Japan who have networks all over the world," He pointed his left index finger to his right, "Sitting on the top is the Tadashi family, closely followed by the Atobe's, then the Echizen's. Even still, the connections that the Echizen family have are probably on equal ground with the previous two."
His wife blinked at him in surprise. "Oh...wow."
"The Echizens may not flaunt their power, but they're one of the richest families in Japan. That's why we need their fame and power to make sure our company stands tall in the following years. A marriage between our family and the Echizen will put us so high up in the food chain that no one can easily touch us."
"Oh, so that's why you're supporting our daughter's obsession over that boy," his wife retorted.
Mamoru smirked. "Our daughter liking the boy is just a bonus. So Reina has to do everything in her power to have Echizen Ryoma in the pads of her palm."
Just as Mamoru said this, their front door was abruptly opened and shut as rapid footsteps ran up the second floor. He and his wife exchanged looks before they were on their feet and up to their daughter's room.
"Reina?" He knocked on her door and twisted the knob, finding that it was not locked. He and his wife entered their daughter's room and found her on the bed with her face buried in the pillows as she wailed.
Yura immediately approached the bed and sat beside their daughter. "What's wrong, dear?"
Mamoru followed his wife's example and sat on the other side of the bed, stroking his daughter's head. "What's the matter, Princess? Tell daddy and I'll make sure the people responsible for making you cry will pay."
Their daughter ignored them both and continued to cry on her pillow. Mamoru exchanged worried looks with his wife as Yura rubbed their daughter's back. He and his wife stayed there until Reina's sobs slowly quieted down and she sat on the bed.
"Princess?" He held his daughter's hand and his wife did the same.
"D-dad, mom. R-Ryo-kun d-doesn't like me anymore." Reina sniffled as Mamoru frowned.
"Of course, he does. Why do you think he didn't?" he softly said, trying to comfort her daughter but he got a glare instead.
"He left with his girlfriend and even stood beside her like a protective dog while the bitch insulted me!" Reina exclaimed.
Mamoru exchanged surprise looks with his wife. "What? Someone insulted you? Who?"
"Ryo-kun's stupid girlfriend! She said I'm pathetic and desperate! She said Ryo-kun is hers and I don't have the right to claim him for myself cause I wasn't there for him for ten years!" Reina wailed again much louder this time. "And she even showed me the agreement paper as proof that Ryo-kun is not mine. Why didn't you tell me that I won't be his fiancée if he falls in love with someone else?!"
Mamoru panicked. He didn't expect that they would show Reina the actual agreement. There was a reason why he hid it from her. "N-No, Princess...listen," he held her face, "It was stated that the agreement will only be null and void if either one of the two parties involved got engaged and–"
His daughter's eyes widened in realization as she jolted up from her bed. "Ryo-kun is not yet engaged with that girl! I still have a chance!" Reina squealed and hugged him, "Thank you, daddy! You're the best!"
He smiled as he embraced his daughter. He heard his wife laughing softly in the background. At that moment, he decided that it was due time he visit the Echizen and directly talk with Nanjiroh about this. He didn't like seeing his Princess cry. He would also make sure to have a little revenge towards the girl who upset his daughter.
That night, when he and his wife laid in their bed to sleep, she asked him a question. "By the way, what's the last two families after the Echizen'sMamoru?"
Mamoru blinked his sleep away to glance at his wife, who was looking expectantly at him. "Hm, it's the Hiroshi and the Ryuzaki families."
"Oh…" his wife murmured.
"Ah, I remember there's a controversy regarding those two last families," he added as he looked at the ceiling.
"Hiroshi and Ryuzaki?" He could hear the curiosity in his wife's voice and he couldn't help but snicker. She and their daughter were pretty much alike.
Mamoru hummed. "About twenty years ago, the Hiroshi and Ryuzaki family merged when the heir and heiress married each other. It was a big deal in the business industry because two powerful families merging would boost them up the food chain. However, years after their marriage, both couples died in a car accident, and since then, both families suddenly became silent."
"So, are they still one of the richest families now?" his wife questioned.
He scratched his cheek. "They're still up there. Their connection and businesses are still standing strong. However, according to rumors, the couple's daughter survived and all of their family's inheritance was named after her, but nobody knows who this daughter is or if she's still alive."
Yura nodded in understanding. "So if this daughter is still alive and she's finally at the legal age, she will have the two families combined assets."
"Or she could officially give the right to the current CEO of the company and just have a portion of the inheritance," he added.
"If I was the daughter, I'd make sure I have all that money though. It'd be mine anyway." She shrugged.
Mamoru chuckled. "And that's proof that you are your daughter's mother, Yura."
She snorted. "Oh please, don't act like you wouldn't do the same. You're even using our daughter's obsession over that boy just to strengthen our company's standing."
He raised an eyebrow. "I didn't rebuke you." He waved his hand dismissively. "By the way, we'll be going to the Echizen's house once I sort out my schedule."
"Oh, so you're finally making a move."
"We have to make sure that Echizen Ryoma marries our daughter. It's for our family's future."
Yura shrugged. "Yeah, sure. It's about time anyway. I don't like seeing our daughter cry. I'll make an investigation regarding Echizen's girlfriend soon. She'll pay for making Reina cry," she said with a menacing glint in her eyes. Mamoru could only smirk as he closed his eyes and slowly let sleep succumb to him.
Yu Reina caressed Ryoma's picture in the photo album placed on her lap.
"We'll meet again, Ryo-kun. Please wait for me." She clutched the album to her chest. "I'll be better soon and then...we'll be together again." She glanced towards the open window as the birds chirped and danced around each other.
It had been two years.
Two years since she last saw Ryoma. He was probably still busy playing tennis back in America. Reina giggled. She really missed him. If only she wasn't stuck here.
She glanced up as her mother entered, followed by a nurse. Reina grimaced, but she still laid her back on the pile of pillows on her bed and let the nurse do her daily check-up. After a lot of probing and drawing of blood, the nurse left as Reina gazed longingly outside the window.
"When will I be free again, mom?" she whispered as tears gathered around her eyes. "I want to be with Ryo-kun. I miss him so much."
She felt her mother's warm hands on top of hers. "Soon, baby. You'll get better soon and then you can be with Ryoma-kun."
Reina let out a painful smile. "But...how long is 'soon,' mommy?"
Reina gasped and jolted up from her bed as she anxiously roamed her eyes around the room, afraid that she was back in the hospital again. She sighed in relief as she registered the familiar room she recently got.
'It's okay, I'm still here in Japan. It's okay...It's okay.' She patted her chest to calm herself before she stood up to get ready for school.
"I won't lose this time," she said determinedly before she entered their family's car. As soon as she arrived at the classroom, her eyes searched for Ryoma and found him sleeping on top of his desk while his stupid girlfriend chatted with her equally stupid best friend. Reina huffed as she approached the two girls.
Ryuzaki and Osakada immediately ceased their conversation as they noticed her. A spark of electricity seemed to appear between her and Ryuzaki as the room became eerily quiet. Their staring contest was cut off when their homeroom teacher entered the classroom. Reina sent Ryuzaki one final glare before she marched towards her seat.
Time passed quickly as Reina sat impatiently in her chair, stealing glances at Ryoma from time to time until another class ended and their English teacher entered. As far as Reina knew, they still had another activity in this subject. Last time, she managed to be partners with Ryoma through the help of her mother's intervention. This shouldn't be different.
"I will group you into ten and make you write a skit according to the genre your group will pick." The teacher then started calling names. "This will be your final project with me. You have a month to prepare, so you better plan this thoroughly."
'Huh, a group activity?' Reina frowned as she glanced in Ryoma and Ryuzaki's direction. 'I have to be in the same group as Ryo-kun! I don't care about the others as long as it's not Ryuzaki.'
"Osakada, Miyu, Horio, Katsuo, Katchiro, Echizen–" Reina perked up as soon as she heard Ryoma's name and bit her thumb's nail anxiously, "Ryuzaki," and immediately deflated when she heard that name, "Yu..." Reina jolted and automatically whipped her head to stare at Ryuzaki who was also staring at her with a dumbfounded expression on her face. Two more names were called, but Reina had already tuned them out.
'What the heck! Is this a joke?' Reina glared at their teacher. 'Why did she group Ryo-kun and me with that slut!?' she seethed internally.
"Now that everyone has a group, send a representative to draw a piece of paper for the genre that you're going to write."
Reina scoffed and turned her face towards the window. 'Damn Uchida-sensei! She shouldn't have put Ryuzaki in my and Ryo-kun's group!'
Students shuffled to draw the lots and Osakada volunteered for their group. Their class was divided into three groups, and they were the last ones. She didn't expect their teacher to divert from the original plan. 'How the heck did it turn into a group project?!' As far as she knew, her mom paid her English teacher to make a project for two and have Reina pair with Ryoma. 'Something happened with Uchida-sensei. Why did she back out from the agreement?'
"On the other side of the paper is the story that you're going to play. It's up to your group to choose who will be the characters," Uchida said as their classmates picked up a piece of paper from inside a box.
Reina shifted her attention to glare at Ryuzaki as they stood in a circle together with the other members. Ryuzaki, however, just diverted her gaze away from her and even had the gall to hook an arm around Ryoma's. Reina gritted her teeth, feeling her fingers itching to grab a handful of the girl's hair.
"I got ours," Osakada chirped, holding a rolled-up piece of paper in front of them.
"Show us what you got, Osakada!" Horio impatiently said, tapping his foot on the floor.
"Wait up, stupid. I'm opening the paper...ah," Osakada blinked at the paper before a grin broke out of her face. "Oooh, this is exciting! I already know who's going to be the main character!"
"Show it to us too!" Horio demanded again.
Osakada rolled her eyes before showing the paper to everyone.
"Let's see, the genre is...romance!" Miyu exclaimed with a giddy expression on her face.
"Right!? It will be exciting!" Osakada clasped her hands together with Miyu. Reina rolled her eyes at their childish antics.
"So, what's the story?" Reina interjected, crossing her arms as she raised an eyebrow.
"Hmm...Oh, it's the Sleeping Beauty!" Osakada jumped in delight. "Lucky!"
"What?! That's so cringing!" Horio complained.
"T-Then Ryoma-kun should be the Prince," Katsuo interjected.
"Of course, who else will be the Prince other than the Prince of Tennis himself!" Osakada agreed with a nod.
The others also nodded their agreements and Reina grinned wide. "That's great! Then I'll be—"
"Then Sakuno will be Princess Aurora, right?" Osakada cut Reina off so brutally with a victorious smirk.
"What! She should be the witch!" Reina growled as she stomped her feet forward.
Osakada waved a hand, "Oh please, that role suits you better."
Ryoma sighed and sat down heavily on a chair while the others watched them nervously.
"G-Guys, you don't have to fight…" Katchiro's attempt to stop Reina and Osakada's bickering fell on deaf ears.
"You! Are you looking for a fight?" Reina pulled up her sleeve and stepped forward.
"Oh yeah!" Osakada also advanced, but Ryuzaki pulled her away from her.
"S-Stop it, Tomo-chan. We should just...draw lots again. Whatever we pick, we can't change it and we have to do our roles no matter which character we pick," Ryuzaki suggested.
Reina huffed, crossing her arms. "At least you got something smart to you."
Osakada snorted. "Yes, unlike you."
The others sighed as Miyu and Horio wrote the characters on little pieces of paper.
"Since there's only eight of us, let's just choose the most important characters," Miyu said.
"Umm, that would be Prince Philip, Princess Aurora, the three fairies: Flora, Fauna, Merryweather, the bad witch: Maleficent, and the Queen and King." Ryuzaki wrote down the characters.
"For the others, we can just change roles if needed," Reina nonchalantly added.
"Alright, here it is. No hard feelings alright. Whoever we pick, no one can complain," Osakada reminded.
Reina scoffed. "You don't have to repeat that, we're not deaf."
Osakada was about to retort when Ryuzaki put a hand on her friend's mouth. "Stop it, let's just pick our roles already."
Reina rolled her eyes as they started picking their own piece of paper. She glared at her paper when she got hers. 'Princess Aurora, Princess Aurora, Princess Aurora!' She picked an eye open — only for them to budge out of their sockets when she read what role she was going to play.
"WHAT!? MALEFICENT! This doesn't make sense!" She looked up to glare at everyone when Ryoma beat her to it.
"There's no way I'm doing this role." Ryoma practically spat.
"Right, me neither!" Reina piped out in delight, glad that Ryoma was agreeing to her for once.
"Why? What did you get, Echizen?" Horio asked, already peeking behind Ryoma's back. "GEH! What the heck?! You got Princess Aurora, Echizen!" Horio started slapping Ryoma on the back. "You got pretty lucky, Princess~" Ryoma smacked him upside the head. "Yawtch! I'm joking, you don't have to be violent!" Horio whined as he rubbed his aching head.
"Shut up. I didn't ask for your opinion. Oy, let's draw another lot." Ryoma stood, looking completely irritated.
"No can do, Ryoma-sama," Osakada quickly rejected.
"What! I'm not going to be Maleficent! I want to be Princess Aurora!" Reina objected angrily.
Osakada glared at her. "We already decided from the start that there will be no second drawing of lots. Don't go back on your word." Reina balked as Osakada whipped a pointing finger at her before turning to the Prince of Tennis. "You too, Ryoma-sama!"
"E-Eh, I think there's something wrong with the lots…" Ryuzaki suddenly complained which surprised everyone.
"What, even you, Sakuno? We already agreed that we will do our designated roles no matter what we pick," Osakada retorted, looking a bit confused.
"U-Umm, it's just that...I, ah…" Ryuzaki's face turned red and Reina scowled.
"Speak up already, you're wasting our time!" Reina huffed, crossing her arms.
Ryoma glared at Reina. "Your attitude is annoying."
Reina took a step back in surprise, but before she could say anything else. Ryoma was already walking towards Ryuzaki.
"What did you get?" Ryoma snatched the paper from Ryuzaki's hand and raised an eyebrow as he read before a smirk appeared on his lips. "Heh, what do you know? You got Prince Philip."
"WHAT!?" Reina and Osakada simultaneously exclaimed although she was more in disbelief while Osakada was full of excitement.
"Mine is Fauna," A blushing Kachiro informed.
"I got Merryweather," Katsuo sheepishly said.
"Mine is Flora," Osakada retorted.
"I got the Queen," Miyu shyly stated.
"Eh, I got the King," Horio boasted with his nose up in the air.
"I think we're assigned to assist backstage for props and costumes…" Classmate one said that Reina forgot the name of, but she was a plain-looking girl with glasses and shoulder-length gray hair.
"Mine too…" Classmate two said, who Reina remembered to have the letter 'A' in her first name.
"We'll help, Ami," Katsuo retorted.
'Oh, yeah, her name is Ami. She's a gossiper.' Reina frowned. "Wait, so we're not changing the roles?"
"Of course, we already decided that from the start!" Osakada replied with a wave of her hand.
Reina shifted her gaze to her other group mates in frustration, but everyone seemed to be okay with their roles, even Ryoma shrugged his shoulders with a few grumbles. She glared heatedly at Ryuzaki, who was ignoring her and was only paying attention to Ryoma.
Reina seethed. 'This is not the end, you'll see. You're going to regret stealing what's mine, Ryuzaki! I won't give up Ryo-kun to someone like you!'
To Be Continued…
chichichi97: I'm glad you like it so far. I hope you'll enjoy this chapter too
eccentryssa1: Yep, I also enjoyed writing their relationship and how they developed. Sakuno is still a bit shy and reluctant sometimes but she's finally gaining a backbone.
fairylilygardens: Yeah, I know Sakuno had some insecurities and my vision is to create a Sakuno who finally admitted her selfishness and be confident with her relationship with Ryoma. Ryoma questioning whether Sakuno really likes him also shows that he can be insecure at some things too. I plan to explore their relationship and how they learn to fully express themselves and become much closer. So I hope you continue to stay in tune.
Guest: I'm happy you're reading my stories. I hope you enjoy this too.
chumchum94: I'm glad you noticed! That's what I was aiming for!
hanshiz: I'm so glad you like it. I'm still exploring their relationship and dynamic. I'm happy to know that am not butchering their characters
Caterin Echizen: Hi, I can read your enthusiasm. I'm glad you're liking my story. And yeah, I can guess why you liked the prev chapter *giggles* I'm just practicing how to write kissing scenes for One Touch that's one of the main reasons I wrote You're Mine!
vivania545: Yep, here's more!
Meep: You don't know how many times I re-read your comment. I love it and it made my day. I'm happy to know I'm doing things right here. I hope you enjoy this chapter too. AND yes, I watched the Chinese drama version of Prince of Tennis for more inspiration! And I'm craving for more!
ryochi24: Hi, dear, I'm happy you like it! I'm sorry if my updates are slow. I have work and it's really hard to find time to update fast. But I won't abandon my stories. Please be patient with me.
Guest: Hi, I will continue this of course. I'm glad you love it. I hope this one is to your taste too!
Peter Parker7: Thank you! Here's more!