Summary: Sakuno Ryuzaki had always been a hopeless case when it came to tennis, but what if she met someone who saw her latent ability in the sport? What if he decided to teach her and turn her into one of the best tennis players in the world?
Pairing: Eventual RyogaXSakuno
"Speaking on the Telephone"
Chapter one begin ####
Strands of sunlight streamed through the small opening in the curtains, hitting the room's only occupant directly in the face. The serene atmosphere quickly disappeared when a blaring alarm went off.
"Sakuno! You're going to be late for school again if you don't wake up soon!"
The occupant, Sakuno, began to stir after she heard the elderly voice of her grandmother. She slowly stretched and yawned loudly before looking at her alarm clock.
Sumire Ryuzaki sighed when she heard her granddaughter's scream from the first floor of their two-story house. This had been their daily ritual after Sakuno had moved in with her when her parents passed away. Sakuno would wake up late, scream, rush to put on her uniform, and come crashing down the stairs because of her clumsiness. Speaking of which, that should happen in 3, 2, 1.
Sumire sighed and walked over to the sprawled out girl and gently picked her up. Sakuno smiled brightly at her grandmother and quickly went to the kitchen to grab piece of toast before exiting the house. She had been living with her grandmother since she was ten and now that she was fifteen, there were no changes from the shy, clumsy, directionally challenged little girl who Sumire had first met.
'She may have actually gotten worse,' Sumire thought as she watched Sakuno run into a pole, apologize, and run faster in the wrong direction.
"…wait a minute…SAKUNO! YOU'RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!" Sumire yelled in vain as Sakuno had already turned the corner, too far for her to hear.
"Jeez…that girl…hopefully she realizes she's going in the wrong direction soon enough to make it back to the school before lunch," Sumire mumbled, then cursed when she looked at her watch, "Now I'm going to be late."
Sakuno had run as far as Rikkai Daigaku Fuzoku before she realized she had run the wrong way. The young girl frantically checked her watch but almost cried in frustration when she saw that class had already begun a good thirty minutes ago.
"Oba-san is going to be so mad. Why do I always get lost," Sakuno whispered sadly as she walked towards a bench.
It was always like this and no matter what she tried to do, nothing changed. She groaned and placed her face in her hands. If her parents saw her now, they would surely be amused at the fact that she still got lost. After the first few times, they only felt amusement when their daughter would try to lead and get them all lost.
A 'thump' next to her drew her attention away from her thoughts and towards the now occupied seat beside her.
Ryoga Echizen had just gotten back to Japan from a tournament in America when Nanjirou had decided to call him and tell him that he was going to stay with the whole family.
"Oyaji that isn't necessary. I can get a place to stay," the seventeen-year-old tried to dissuade his father from this recent decision to no avail.
"Relax Ryoga; RInko and Nanako miss you, so does Ryoma even though he doesn't admit it. I miss you too."
Ryoga's eye twitched when he heard his father's words. It wasn't as if what Nanjirou had said was false, but the way he said it, so sadly, made him suspicious. Ryoga quickly regained his composure and asked, "So oka-san is holding your porn hostage again isn't she?"
There was a pause before loud sobs broke out and pleads for him to just come home for the week.
The green-haired boy sighed and rolled his eyes before responding with a firm rejection and hanging up before his father could even begin to beg him profusely. For such an amazing tennis player and stubborn man, he sure caved in quickly when it came to the safety of his porn.
Ryoga snorted while thinking, 'Well at least I'm not that bad.'
As soon as he got his luggage, a backpack full of clothes and his tennis racquets, he began walking towards hotel. He occasionally stopped to flirt with some cute girls; he was his father's son after all. Both of them couldn't leave any beautiful woman alone without flirting with them. It must've been for that reason that he sat down next to the sad girl on the bench.
The girl had beautiful hair, long and a shade of auburn that he had only seen on Sumire-san. She had on a high school uniform, a Seishun Gakuen uniform. Nanjirou had told him all about Sumire-san's shy little granddaughter who had a huge crush on chibisuke. This girl next to him had to be her, the resemblance between her and Sumire was too uncanny.
"Are you ok?"
"Are you ok?"
Sakuno looked over, directly into slightly familiar amber cat-like eyes. Her eyes widened and she gasped a little.
The Ryoma look-a-like smiled, something Ryoma Echizen never did, and laughed. Sakuno stared at him with bulging eyes while silently trying to compose herself.
"No, I'm not chibisuke," the boy smiled at her, "I'm his older brother Ryoga. You must be Sakuno Ryuzaki; Oyaji has told me so much about you. Although I had thought the old man was exaggerating about how cute you were, but now I know he was telling the truth."
Sakuno turned an astounding shade of tomato red, on the verge of passing out because of Ryoga's complement. She wasn't complemented very often, and the times she was, it was for things like her cooking, never about how c-cute she was.
"A-arigato Echizen-san —
"Call me Ryoga, Echizen-san makes me feel old," Ryoga cut in with a charming smirk.
"A-arigato R-R-Ryoga-san," Sakuno stuttered while turning a brighter red and quickly looking down at her hands.
Ryoga simply smirked at her shy behavior. It was cute, and the way she blushed made him wonder just how red she could get. His smirk grew even wider when he decided to test this.
The charming boy grabbed one of her hands and placed a kiss on the back of it. The effect was instantaneous, Sakuno's complexion was stained red and her eyelids fluttered as she fell forward.
"Sakuno-chan? Oi Sakuno?! SAKUNO-CHAN!"
Sakuno woke to the strange but pleasing scent of woods and musk. She was in a room with a jacket over her that definitely wasn't hers and the only thing that kept her from completely losing it was the fact that Ryoga Echizen had just walked in.
"Oh, you're awake. It's 1:30 and I've already called Sumire-san and told her that you'd be staying here so don't worry about her. Oyaji and Oka-san are fine with it as well. Are you feeling any better?"
Sakuno simply stared at him, face reddening as the events from a few hours ago began rushing back. She was so embarrassed. It seemed that only the Echizen family could make her feel like this. She felt so hot and she was feeling very light-headed.
Ryoga, seeing where this was going quickly intervened, "Hey Sakuno-chan, I saw you had tennis equipment with you, wanna go play a set?"
His statement shocked Sakuno out of her embarrassment and made her eyes bulge in shock. Even after all the years of playing tennis, she was still horrible at it. Her grandmother had tried for years to teach her the basics but she still sometimes made errors on them. She just didn't understand the way Sumire was trying to explain things to her. Sure, Sakuno loved tennis but it also made her frustrated. Everyone knew just how bad she was but no one ever tried to bring attention to her when she was practicing because she was so nice. They didn't want to embarrass her, so Ryoga's innocent question was a huge shock to her. It was such a surprise that she couldn't respond for a few moments.
Ryoga, taking her silence as confirmation, grabbed her wrist and dragged her down the stairs. Sakuno only just yelled out a hello to the Echizen matriarch before she was pulled outside.
Ryoga Echizen was extremely different. Well, that wasn't quite fair to him because the only other Echizen Sakuno could compare him to was Ryoma and he wasn't exactly normal either. Unlike Ryoma, Ryoga seemed to have no problems socially interacting with others and he was extremely exuberant. Ryoma on the other hand was quiet, hated any form of social interaction, and rarely showed any emotion other than boredom.
"Saku-chan, I already brought your racquet out so we can begin quickly."
Ah, the way they called her was also different. When Ryoma could remember her name he called her Ryuzaki but otherwise he'd just yell 'you'. Ryoga on the other hand called her by a nickname like he was her best friend. Sakuno didn't know whether to be flattered or offended.
"Saku-chan are you listening?"
Sakuno shook herself from her thoughts and nodded. She resolved herself to stop comparing the two siblings. They were their own person and didn't have to be exactly alike.
"I-I-I'm not very good R-R-Ryoga-san, but I'll try my best."
After Sakuno had fainted on him, Ryoga felt extremely guilty. He had just barely begun to tease her when the girl had blacked out. He didn't know that she was that bashful. If he had then maybe he wouldn't have teased her in the first place.
Sighing, he laid her down on the bench and called Nanjirou. He had heard from the man that Sakuno's sense of direction was legendary. The man had found it hilarious when she gave Ryoma wrong directions on their first meeting.
"Oyaji, that offer still standing?"
"Bringing home an unconscious girl? Ryoga you dog!" Nanjirou's sly voice exclaimed as soon as he saw his eldest son carrying in a girl. He froze however when he got a good look at just who this mystery girl was. "Eh…Ryoga, t-t-that's the old hag's GRANDDAUGHTER! What the hell did you do to her?! That banshee is going to KILL me if you got her pregnant!"
Ryoga's eye twitched. His father always assumed the worst of him, or at least what he himself would do given the situation. Sometimes Nanjirou Echizen's personality pissed him off almost to the point of no return.
"Relax Oyaji. I met Saku-chan on the way here and we were talking when she fainted. Being the gentleman I am, no thanks to you, I brought her here. Now if you'll excuse me."
Nanjirou didn't even have time to ask about the nickname when Ryoga determinedly pushed passed his father and went up the stairs to his old bedroom. He only just restrained himself from going down stairs to beat the crap out of his father when the man had the nerve to start laughing and screaming about 'Ryoga the gentleman'.
'Later,' he thought maliciously, 'Later he'll pay, but for now Saku-chan comes first.'
Time passed quickly when one was speaking with Rinko Echizen. The woman, while not his biological mother, had a close relationship with him. They could talk about virtually anything. The only things he could not talk to her about were his various girlfriends and his father's porn collection.
"So Ryoga, I saw that you brought Ryuzaki-chan here. Now why was she with you when she had school today?"
Ryoga gulped at the strange glint Rinko had in her eyes. It was the same glint that she got when she was burning his father's collection.
"She and I met on my way over here. She seemed upset and I walked over to her to ask what was wrong. We began talking when I realized she was the Sakuno Ryuzaki that you and Oyaji talked to me about. She must've not been feeling well and she fainted so I brought her here."
Ryoga grimaced a little at the lie, but decided that there was no way in hell he was going to tell Rinko that he'd been flirting with her and made her faint. No way would he get away unpunished. He shivered just thinking about all the possible consequences Rinko would have had for him.
"Oh my son," Rinko hugged him; "you're such a gentleman, just like how I taught you."
Ryoga laughed self-consciously and broke the hug, "Well Oka-san, I should go check on Sa— Rinko gave him a stern look— Ryuzaki-chan."
Rinko sighed, "Alright Ryoga. I'll start on dinner."
Ryoga hadn't really thought about playing tennis until he saw Sakuno's equipment next to the stairs. His father had told him about her abysmal skills in tennis, another thing Nanjirou found hilarious because of her crush on Ryoma. He had thought that his father had been exaggerating when he described her but as it turned out, he had been making a huge understatement.
Sakuno's judgement on where the ball would go was horrible, her forehand was almost non-existent because she was too slow to set herself for one, her back-hands were weak, her stamina was laughable, but she did have determination. Ryoga admired her for that. No matter how many mistakes she made, she continued trying the entire time. He was pretty sure that if he were in her situation, he'd just give up and stop embarrassing himself.
This was it, match point and it was Ryoga's turn to serve. He gently tossed the ball up and served. He cursed when he realized he hit it a bit too hard when he saw the ball zoom towards Sakuno. He watched as Sakuno simply stood there with a determined look on her face. The ball that Ryoga was sure he had hit across the court was now moving towards her. It was as if it was being moved by a magnetic pull.
Sakuno's weak stance completely changed. She pulled back her arm and swung.
'A Drop Volley!'
Ryoga ran to the net and popped the ball up. He looked up just in time to see Sakuno running towards the ball. As she jumped up Ryoga cursed, she was going to do a smash.
As soon as she hit the ball, it slammed into the ground. Ryoga tried to return it but he was too late.
'That was the Dunk Smash that chibisuke's friend does. Could it be that she's unconsciously using the Muga no Kyochi?'
Ryoga looked over and grinned. Sakuno seemed to be completely focused on their match now. There were no traces of hesitation left on her face. Well playing tennis was definitely in her genetics.
"15-40, possible match point," Ryoga muttered but Sakuno couldn't hear him. It seemed like he was going to have to take this match up a notch.
Ryoga grunted as he served and the small tennis ball zoomed towards Sakuno. She returned with a topspin shot. He hit it back and she returned with a slice. The shots continued in that order which made Ryoga frown. Maybe he had been wrong in his assumption of her using the Muga no Kyochi. That was when he felt it, a slight contraction in his muscles, which caused him to miss the ball.
"30-40," Sakuno intoned fiercely.
She wasn't quite sure how she was doing it, but she was scoring against Ryoga. Her body was just playing from memory. She had copied Momo-sempai's Dunk Smash, granted he used far more force than she did, and even used Shinji Ibu's Spot. Playing and scoring like this gave her a feeling of euphoric satisfaction. It was something she had never felt before in her life. Now she understood why Ryoma and everyone loved playing tennis so much. She never wanted to give up this feeling ever.
Her attention quickly snapped back to Ryoga when he served. The ball would land close to the net. The next thing she knew was that her body was already in motion, sliding to get to the ball. Her mind then shut down and she relied solely on her memory and instincts.
Ryoga's grin widened even further when he saw Sakuno sliding to reach the ball. He knew that move. She was about to use the Drive B, his brother's move. This match was turning out even more interesting than he had thought.
Ryoga decided to test her. He served and watched critically to see how Sakuno would react to his twist serve. He had mixed feelings of shock and delight when he saw her using the Carioca Step that he had learned about from one of the soccer players he'd met in America. He quickly moved and returned the ball with a topspin shot. Sakuno answered with an extreme slice, otherwise known as the Tsubame Gaeshi.
Ryoga was barely able to hit the ball back before it hit the ground. He had heard all about the Tensai of Seigaku's counters from his father. The Tensai was apparently one of the only people on the Seishun Gakuen team that could hold his own against Ryoma.
Sakuno wasn't able to reach it in time and Ryoga scored. Her panting and exhaustion had grown and her legs were shaking but that euphoric feeling kept her from collapsing.
Ryoga served once more and she returned. She wasn't she for how long they continued to volley exactly. It could have been several hours or just a few minutes but she didn't care. All she was concerned about was the ball and not allowing Ryoga to score.
It was then that she noticed it. There was several spots on the court that just shown like beacons. They were Ryoga's weak spots, she realized. Sakuno had always been able to spot flaws instantly and her intuition was actually great even though her sense of direction caused others to believe otherwise.
This wasn't a technique he had ever seen. Sakuno seemed to know just where to hit the ball so that he couldn't reach it. They had been constantly switching who had the advantage point and Ryoga could see that Sakuno was on the verge of collapsing. He needed to end this now.
He used the twist serve once again when he had the advantage point, knowing that Sakuno's body was too tired to use the Carioca step again. He was proven correct when she collapsed onto her knees, sweating profusely.
"6 games to 0; game set, and match."
Sakuno bit her lip in frustration. She wanted to continue playing but her body wouldn't let her. Was this her limit? She had finally begun to actually play tennis and she had already reached her limit. She was so pathetic.
"Gomen Ryoga-san, I'm not very good at playing tennis, Oba-san gave up trying to teach me and Ryoma-kun's tried to help as well but it seems like I'm not meant to play tennis."
What was she saying? She had so much latent ability that it wasn't funny but the way she said it, so soft and sadly, made him realize that she really believed her words.
"Sakuno, you scored against me didn't you?"
The tired girl nodded and became just a little bit teary-eyed.
"Then you aren't bad at tennis because I am most certainly not a bad tennis player and you scored against me," Ryoga stated so arrogantly that Sakuno had to laugh, "and as for being meant to play tennis, well do you like playing tennis?"
"Then you were meant to play tennis."
Ryoga watched Sakuno's panting form thoughtfully. Sakuno was far from a horrible tennis player when she lost her hesitation. He could see her frustration with herself in the first few sets, but as soon as she strengthened her resolve her hesitation faded away. That allowed her to unlock the Muga no Kyochi, a technique that even he had trouble with. Although it was really those last few points that caught his attention. It had felt as if she was looking straight through him, seeing every little mistake he had made and every weakness he had. It gave him chills, of both fear and excitement.
He knew that everyone had already labeled her as a hopeless case when it came to tennis. Although he was also sure that no one had ever seen her play like she had with him; she was a diamond in the rough. He was positive that he could turn her into an amazing tennis player.
'Now that would get chibisuke's attention,' Ryoga thought slyly as he made his decision, her crush on his little brother had been the first thing Nanjirou had told him.
"Well Saku-chan, I could teach you. I mean if you'd like, I could help you out with anything you're having trouble on in tennis. I'm going to be in Japan for a while so if you'd like we could practice together or something."
Sakuno froze when she heard Ryoga's rambling. She desperately wanted to improve and feel that feeling of euphoria again but she was afraid that once he saw she was a lost cause, he'd give up. Her grandma had tried, Ryoma had tried, even her tennis coach had tried and failed. She was hopeless and she knew it but maybe, just maybe this time it would be different. The match with him had already proved to her that she had played much better than she ever had in her entire life.
"W-w-will you really help me?"
Ryoga stopped his ramble and looked at Sakuno surprised. Even though she had stuttered when she asked, her tone was so pleading that it had made him freeze. He nodded at her solemnly. He'd help her become an amazing tennis player.
"It'll be hard and at times you're going to hate me but I promise you I can turn you into a great tennis player."
Sakuno shakily got up from the ground and looked at him directly in the eyes. She searched his face for any lies or doubts of his words, finding none she nodded determinedly.
"Alright Ryoga-sensei," Sakuno said with a small smile.
Ryoga blushed when she called him sensei and rapidly told her that he was fine with Ryoga-san or Ryoga. Sakuno laughed tiredly at her new teacher's actions. Ryoga and Ryoma were definitely different people, but she found that she didn't mind all that much.
"Alright, well we'll begin tomorrow afternoon after school. Let's meet at the public tennis courts and we'll work on basics."
Sakuno nodded happily as they walked back to the Echizen household. They continued on silently until Ryoga stopped and told her that he had forgotten something and that he'd meet her back at the house in a few minutes. Sakuno simply smiled and agreed wondering just how long they'd been playing because the sun was already beginning to set.
Ryoga went back to the court and grabbed his racquet smiling and said, "You can come out now Oyaji"
His father slowly got up from behind the statue overlooking the court. He had an uncharacteristically serious look on his face, with his hands tucked into his sleeves. He looked at Ryoga and shook his head.
"I never thought that clumsy little girl could play like that."
Ryoga smirked at his troubled look. Nanjirou Echizen prided himself on being able to clearly read the potential and abilities of others in tennis. For him to miss such gigantic potential in Sakuno was a huge blow to his pride.
"How far do you think she could go?"
Nanjirou frowned before he answered, "If she was able to play like that all the time then there's no doubt with a few months of training to refine her skill, she'd be on par with Ryoma."
Ryoga's smirk grew and said, "Well then I've got my work cut out for me."
Nanjirou shook his head with a slight smile. They both couldn't resist a challenge and teaching Ryuzaki-chan might just change the world of tennis. He had seen those last few volleys; Sakuno had been in complete control of the game. She saw all of Ryoga's weaknesses and accurately hit them into those spots. If she were to refine her play style then there's no telling just how far she could go. Her use of the Muga no Kyochi could even make him consider her to be a prodigy because copying the moves that she had only seen, with hardly any explanation was a prodigal skill. He couldn't wait to see just how much she'd grow under Ryoga's tutelage.
End of Chapter one
I hope you all enjoyed this chapter. This idea has been rolling around in my head for quite some time and I finally decided to post it this year. Sakuno's ability of viewing any and all weaknesses was based off of Atobe's Ice Kingdom in the New Prince of Tennis Series. Until next time
Tsubame Gaeshi: Swallow's Return
Chibisuke: Little one/Shorty
Muga no Kyochi: State of Self Actualization