Hunted

A Prince of Tennis Fanfiction

By Jaelle



Disclaimer: So not mine
Ratings: G, Humour
Spoilers: Not really
Setting: Ryoma’s final year at Seishun Gakuen



Summary: Sometimes the rivals you get are not the rivals you want.



"ECHIZEN-KUUUUUUUUNNNN!!!" An ear-splitting yell was heard across the tennis courts. "WE FOUND YOU ECHIZEN-KUUNN!!!"

The former Seigaku Regulars exchanged grins.

“Guess he wasn’t fast enough this time,” Momoshirou grinned.

“Their speed has increased by fourteen per cent,” Inui noted. “An impressive feat.”

“Well, it IS the Nationals,” Fuji pointed out gently, “You’d expect them to perform at their best.”

“Exactly as expected from two of the quarter-finalists,” Eiji agreed, eyes dancing merrily.

The rest of the team nodded in agreement and stifled snickers as Ryoma Echizen walked past their seats at a pace that was not QUITE a run, but was unmistakably an attempt to flee the area.

Behind him trailed two boys, each of them wearing different school uniforms and both of them waving their racquets around madly.

“ECHIZEN-KUUUUNNN!!! WAIT FOR US!!!”

Momo and Eiji choked back laughter as Ryoma threw dignity to the wind and made a run for it, his two rivals in close pursuit.

The third and final year of Ryoma’s junior high school life had dawned unimpressively, almost an anti-climax to his frantic first and steady second years. No longer the “genius freshman” of the tennis world (or, more irritatingly, the “Prince of Tennis”, “amazing second year”, “miracle prodigy of Seigaku” or any of a dozen other nicknames that had become attached to him over the years. If Ryoma had one true ambition in his life it was to find out who it was that kept giving him these stupid names and MAKE THEM PAY!), Ryoma’s third year had apparently started off quietly and looked to conclude the same way.

It had come as no surprise that he’d been named Captain of the school team, and he’d shouldered all of the duties that came with the post with his usual mix of arrogance and insouciance, and a minimum of complaint. (From this his sempai all reasoned that he was actually quite pleased to be chosen, even though there really had been no doubt as to who would take over.)

Nearly all of his rivals had now moved on to high school, and the new players coming up through the ranks were not of a calibre high enough to truly challenge him (although that didn’t stop them from trying. There was a certain smugness among a number of Ryoma’s former opponents that he was finally finding out what it was like to be King of the Hill and have all of the younger, fiercer players gunning for HIM for a change). Still, Ryoma took his duties seriously and trained a strong team, ready for the challenges the National competition would bring (after all, he couldn’t play ALL the matches himself), but it looked as though he would have a mostly uncontested cruise through the singles one positions.

With the sole exception of two others.

Taichi Dan and Kentarou Aoi were the only tennis players his own age that Ryoma had ever paid much attention to. Kentarou and Ryoma had both been first year players on their respective teams (although Kentarou had been captain as well), while Dan had been inspired by watching Ryoma to improve his own tennis and achieve a place on his own team. Over the years, both Kentarou and Dan had matured into extremely good tennis players and, as the seniors graduated, become the only people who could consistently make Ryoma work for a win. They’d both declared him their chief rival, and subsequently regarded him with a certain proprietary attitude that he considered both presumptuous and irritating. Many of his former rivals snickered when they heard about this.

Collectively the three boys were called "The Three Princelings", and their occasional matches against each other were always well-attended. They were the top of their level of tennis; talented, skilled, dedicated.

Unfortunately, Dan and Kentarou were also both loud, extremely energetic and somewhat over-emotional, three things guaranteed to irritate Ryoma, who was torn between wanting to play them and wanting to strangle them. And that was when they were apart.

Ryoma considered the day that the other two had first met on the tennis courts to be one of the blackest in his life.

Much to his disgust, they'd bonded instantly. His life had never been the same since.

"ECHIZEN-KUUNNN!!!"

Ryoma searched for an escape route.

"Play a match with me, Echizen-kun!" Kentarou yelled.

"Play one with me first!" Dan shouted. "Or we could play doubles."

The pair of them had hounded him all year. He’d played both of them in various competition rounds, but the one time Seigaku had defeated Rokkaku before it got to singles one, Kentarou had nagged him for weeks for a match. Dan had helped.

They were driving him crazy.

His former sempai grinned as they watched Ryoma get boxed in as he tried to escape. All but one, that is.

"This is not conduct befitting of the Captain of Seigaku Tennis team," Tezuka said disapprovingly, watching his former kouhai back himself up against the wall.

"Oh Tezuka, that's not fair. You know Ryoma is even more anti-social than you are," Oishi said placatingly. "And those two follow him round like ducklings."

"And here come the rest of them," Fuji said with a grin. Even at this distance, the hunted expression on Ryoma's face was clearly visible as Sakuno and Tomoka arrived, along with Kachiro, Katsuo and Horio, all of whom added their own voices to the fray.

Kaidou snorted, "More like he's the duckling and they're the ducks. You'd think with all the milk we fed him he'd grow, even a little bit."

Everyone turned to Inui, who shrugged. "I can't explain it," he said helplessly. "I've gone over all of the data, three times. I even asked Renji to check my calculations. Echizen swears he's followed my diet plan, and with his fitness regime and genetics taken into account, he should at least be even with Fuji by now, but he's barely grown an inch."

Momo grinned, "It ticks him off too. He was in a pissy mood for weeks when Dan shot up five centimetres last year. Now they're all taller than him, even the girls."

"Not all of them," Inui refuted, "Sakuno is the exact same height as Echizen."

"Doesn't seem to have hurt his popularity though," Eiji grinned. "Everyone thinks he's sooooo cuuuuute... All the old granny's coo over him."

There was another round of snickers at the thought of their short teammate's likely reaction to that sort of treatment.

Tezuka's disapproving face did not relax. "That's still no excuse."

"Now Tezuka," Fuji's smile widened. "Why don't you try to imagine what it must be like for him to deal with this. You never had this kind of problem. Can you imagine Atobe and Tachibana following YOU around demanding extra matches?"

There was a long pause before the entire group (minus Tezuka) dissolved into hysterical laughter at the mental picture.

"Tezuka-kuuunnn..." Momo mimicked. "You are to play a game with me! At once! And then after I defeat you, we shall hang out and you may tell me how wonderful I am."

"Tezuka-kuuunnn..." Eiji joined in. "Let us play a game! And although neither of us will change our facial expressions, I know we will enjoy it. Somewhere. On the inside. Deep on the inside."

"You can both run 20 laps when we get back," Tezuka said, a faint tick crossing his face as he got to his feet.

"Tezuka? Where are you going?" Oishi asked.

Tezuka paused, "To rescue Echizen."

He strode off without looking back, but unfortunately the wind brought Fuji's final parting shot to him...

"Tezuka-kuuuunnn... you're my hero! Let's play a game and I will be a pillar of Seigaku for you."

"Fuji! You do 50 laps!"

End.



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