Ryoma-sempai

A Prince of Tennis Fanfiction

By Jaelle



Disclaimer: Not mine
Rating: G
Genre: Drama
Characters: Hazue, Ryoma, Kaidou, Momoshirou, Akutsu
Setting: Hazue’s first and Ryoma’s second year at Seigaku



Sections in italics are flashbacks.

Short Glossary:
Buchou = Captain
Fukubuchou = Vice-Captain
Nii-san = Older brother
Sempai = Upperclassman/senior

Dedicated to Lady Orla, who suggested a way to make this a much shorter story, thus ensuring that I would actually write it.



Hazue never heard his brother’s footsteps coming up behind him, but the outraged bellow of “Fifty laps around the courts!” echoed in his ears long after said laps were done. He’d run as fast as he could, all the while sneaking glares at the person responsible for his predicament.

Echizen Ryoma.

Hazue had been excited about going to Seishun Gakuen, although this excitement was barely discernable to most. And there was plenty to be excited about. Junior High was a big step; new people, new uniform, and his own brother was Captain of the famous tennis team! Hazue knew he had a lot to live up to. Kaidou Kaoru was an excellent student, and well-known as one of the top players of the school. He’d even been a part of the winning team that had returned from the Nationals the previous year.

But none of that really mattered to Hazue. Oh, he knew his brother was great, but he was just pleased to be going to the same school again. Ever since his brother began attending Seigaku, he’d seen less and less of him. By the end of the previous year, Kaoru had been so busy training or playing that he’d only ever come home for meals, and Hazue had felt the absence of his older brother keenly. On those rare occasions when his brother had taken him places, or hung out with him, Hazue had gotten the distinct feeling that he was keeping him from important practices.

But now they were at the same school, surely they must see more of each other. And you’d think that once they were in the same club, they’d be able to at least TALK to each other once in a while.

But this was not to be. Kaoru was the Captain, and Hazue was just a freshman. Oh, he didn’t really mind that his brother mostly ignored him at practice. He wouldn’t have EXPECTED special treatment, and he certainly didn’t flaunt his relationship to the Captain, like he could have. But he’d thought they could at least talk about tennis at home. Only his brother seemed to be even MORE busy now, and when he was home, he was usually planning training exercises or strategising for upcoming matches with Momoshirou-fukubuchou and Ryoma.

And that was where the trouble had started.

Echizen Ryoma. Echizen Ryoma. Everywhere Hazue turned it seemed that noone was talking about anything else. The amazing prodigy who had made the team in his first year, defeating two incumbent Regulars at the very first ranking match he took part in. All the other first years were in awe of their short sempai, and competed with each other to be noticed by him. Hazue couldn’t understand it. They didn’t follow their beloved Momo-chan-fukubuchou around that way, and none of them would even entertain the thought of trying to attract the attention of Kaidou-Buchou. (They called him scary. SCARY!! As though Nii-san was ever anything but kind). But for Echizen Ryoma, everything was different. His courts were always cleaner and clearer of balls than anyone elses’, and whenever he wanted some water, bottles were thrust at him from all directions. And he accepted all of this with no apparent recognition of the efforts put forwards by others, as though it were natural to be treated this way.

Hazue had even caught his own brother smiling faintly at Ryoma, as though amused by his actions. Certainly Momoshirou-fukubuchou seemed to find them hilarious. But Ryoma seemed oblivious to it all.

At first, Hazue had been confused, then annoyed, and finally enraged by the way that everyone fawned over the other boy. Ryoma wasn’t even a THIRD year yet, and he barely gave respect to his OWN sempai, most of whom seemed to naturally defer to him. His fan-club was the largest (and noisiest) in the school. And worse, Kaoru even included him in discussions about the future of the team with Momoshirou-fukubuchou, and listened to his opinions. It wasn’t just at tennis either. Whenever Ryoma spoke, everyone listened.

Hazue was infuriated. Just because he was moderately good at tennis, everyone treated him like royalty. ‘The Prince of Tennis’, he’d heard him referred to.

(It was that title, unfortunately, that had gotten him into trouble earlier that day.)

Finally Hazue decided that enough was enough. If Ryoma refused to properly respect his seniors, then perhaps he deserved a taste of his own medicine. It was easy enough to slip the insult in. They were both library monitors, and Hazue frequently found himself rostered on at the same time as Ryoma. One afternoon, handing over a pile of books, he’d made his first attack. He remembered how it felt.

Biting his lip painfully in apprehension, all the while wondering if he truly dared do it. His eyes had narrowed as he resolved himself to this course of action. Perhaps NOW Echizen-sempai would be more aware of the proper way of doing things.

“Here are the books, Echizen...” He’d said, and searched the boy’s face carefully for a reaction.

“Thanks,” Echizen-sempai had muttered.


After that, he’d tried again, at a time when Ryoma was less occupied. Still no result. And again, and again. Until it had become second nature to refer to him as Echizen. Seeing no result from his actions had spurred him to greater heights of contempt. His fellow classmates had been appalled the first time they’d heard him calling their beloved sempai, “Ryoma-san”.

“Hazue-kun, what do you think you are doing?” Fuchigami had hissed. “That’s Echizen-sempai you’re referring to. Show some respect!”

“I don’t think he’s so great,” Hazue had snapped back. “He’s nothing like nii... Kaidou-buchou or Momoshirou-fukubuchou.”

“No, he’s BETTER,” Hamasaki had retorted. “Didn’t you know that he defeated Kaidou-buchou in his first ranking match? The first time he’d really played against a Regular, and he won! You’d better be more polite to him from now on.”

“Shut up!”


Hazue had been appalled. His brother had been the first one to lose to Ryoma? Surely not. His brother was a great tennis player, and trained hard. So very, very hard. How could Ryoma possibly be as good as that?

And then there’d been the match against Rikkai. And Nii-san had put RYOMA in Singles One. After that, nothing on this earth could have forced Hazue to be polite to the other boy. He’d dropped the –san entirely and begun calling him Ryoma. And STILL he hadn’t reacted.

Nii-san had though.

“What’s gotten into you this year?”

Hazue had turned, a cold feeling creeping over him at the sound of disappointment in his brother’s voice. “Nothing.”

Kaoru had regarded him steadily. “Some of the others have been talking about your disrespect towards Echizen. Arai even told me I should teach you proper manners.”

Hazue had balled his fists, eyes prickling with tears that he refused to shed. “What about HIS disrespect? He’s always so arrogant! Why doesn’t you tell HIM to be more polite?”

“Because there’s no point wasting my time,” Kaoru had said, a wry smile twisting at his lips. “Echizen is Echizen. He’s a brat, and there’s no sense wasting effort trying to get him to change.”

“That’s no excuse!” Hazue spat out.

“HAZUE!”

His brother’s roar made him flinch.

“It’s not your place to judge Echizen,” and now he was no longer nii-san, but Kaidou-Buchou. “It IS your place to show proper respect towards your sempai, regardless of who they are. I don’t want to hear any more complaints about your behaviour, is that understood?”

“Yes, Buchou.”


But it was too late. As far as Hazue was concerned, Ryoma was totally undeserving of respect, and so he gave him none. Not in the library, and not at the club. And finally, one day, he’d just snapped.

“Hey, can you pass me that ball?” Ryoma pointed with his racket.

Hazue, the only first year nearby, picked it up and walked over with it.

“Here you go, Prince,” he’d said, face expressionless.

Fifty laps later, he was still in disgrace.


Hazue was not looking forward to going home tonight. Kaoru was really, REALLY angry with him, and it didn’t look as though the laps had been enough to assauge his rage. Everyone else was saying horrible things about his lack of respect, and some of them had even made disparaging comments about his brother at the same time. He felt like he was going to fly apart from a mixture of nerves, rage, and a strong feeling of injustice. It wasn’t his fault! He was polite to everyone! Just not Ryoma. And noone criticised RYOMA for being rude.

Hazue kicked at a stone, and watched it bounce down the footpath. He really wasn’t looking forward to getting home at all.

“Hey, you!”

“Huh?” Hazue looked up and blinked at the older boys who had surrounded him. “Y-yes?” He vaguely recognised them as some third years from his school, but none of them were in the tennis club, so he didn’t know their names.

“I hear you think you’re too good to have to observe the proper behaviour to your sempai,” one of the boys spoke up, pushing him back roughly.

“N-no, that’s not right at all, sempai,” Hazue’s eyes widened. “I mean...”

“Are you calling your sempai LIARS?!” One of the other boys roared.

“I didn’t mean that...” Hazue shrank back, wishing heartily that his brother was here. “I just...”

“Still, I suppose we couldn’t expect much from that freaky Viper’s little brother,” one of the others drawled, and Hazue saw red.

“Don’t you DARE say such things about nii-san, you bastards!” He raged. “He’s a good person!”

The first blow shocked him into silence, and the second one knocked him to the ground.

“Little brat!” One of the boys raised his foot to kick him...

“Hey!”

The circle opened slightly and Hazue peered up at his potential rescuer.

Echizen Ryoma scowled at the boys. “You’re blocking the path.”

“What the hell? ANOTHER brat?” The first boy had grabbed Ryoma’s shirt and hauled him up onto his toes. “You want the same treatment that this one is getting?”

Ryoma stared at him fearlessly, contempt clear on his face. “If getting the same treatment means that I agree with him that you’re all morons, then go for it.”

“You son of a...”

“He’s right, you ARE all morons,” a voice drawled behind the group. “Want to try to give ME the same treatment?”

“Who the hell?”

Everything became very quiet, and the boy holding Ryoma released his grip, backing away slowly. Ryoma straightened his shirt and looked down at Hazue. “Are you going to lie there all night?”

Hazue scrambled awkwardly to his feet and moved over to Ryoma, wondering if he dared take refuge behind the boy he’d insulted earlier. He looked over at the direction of the third speaker and gulped. A tall, tautly-muscled boy sneered down at the group of third years. His skin was very pale and his hair almost white, and his eyes... Hazue felt a cold shudder go down his spine as they flickered over him, ultimately dismissing him as unimportant.

“Well?” The new person spoke again. “Are you going to beat me too, or not?”

The group of boys was slowly breaking up and moving away, trying to get out of reach.

“Well, come on then,” the boy snarled. “If you won’t beat me, then I’ll beat you!”

The group broke and ran, chased by the mocking laughter of the taller boy.

Ryoma shrugged uncaringly, “Come on. It’s late.” He began to walk and Hazue quickly matched his stride.

As they came even with the other boy, he looked down at Ryoma and smirked. “You owe me, brat.”

“Nobody asked you to get involved,” Ryoma retorted.

Hazue trembled, but forced his chin up as the other boy looked over him again. “Who’s this?”

“Kaidou Hazue,” Ryoma replied, and Hazue blinked in surprise. “He’s in the tennis club.”

“Kaidou?” The other boy considered. “Any relation to your freaky teammate?”

“He’s NOT a freak!” Hazue snarled, fists clenching. He glared at the taller boy steadily, no longer intimidated. He was sick of hearing people insult his brother. He didn’t CARE if he got beaten up, noone was calling his brother a freak in his hearing again!

“Oh ho, so the smaller snake has fangs too,” their rescuer laughed. He leant down, and Hazue refused to back away as his face neared. After a tense few moments of reflection, the older boy pulled back. “Baby teeth only. Too bad. Come back when you’ve gotten your adult growth.”

Hazue’s eyes narrowed but he made no response.

“Are you playing tennis again yet?” Ryoma asked casually.

“No. Everyone’s too boring,” the boy replied. His eyes gleamed and he looked hungry. “I’m waiting for you to get to High School. Hurry up and grow bigger, I’m looking forward to crushing you completely this time.”

“Never happen,” Ryoma said dismissively. “But I’ll look forward to your attempts anyway.”

“Brat,” the older boy smacked Ryoma upside the head lazily. “You should get home. It’s getting late and little boys should be tucked up in bed at home, safe from people like me.”

Ryoma gave a half-bow and started walking again. Hazue paused to shoot one more glare at their rescuer, which seemed to amuse the boy, before running to catch up with his sempai.

“Who was THAT?” He demanded when they’d gotten a few streets away.

“Akutsu,” Ryoma replied shortly. “Isn’t this your street?”

“What? Yes. But who...?” Hazue became aware that Ryoma was now walking away, once again paying no attention to anyone else but himself. His anger rose up inside again. “Ryoma!”

“What?” The other boy turned irritably. “What do you WANT Hazue?”

“You... you remembered my name,” Hazue was shocked. It hadn’t been a fluke before. Ryoma had remembered his NAME. Ryoma NEVER remembered people’s names. Momoshirou-fukubuchou often joked that he barely remembered the names of his own teammates!

“Of course I remembered your name,” Ryoma said grouchily. “You’re the only one who ever calls me that aside from the old lady. Now, what did you want?”

“Just... I just...” It was all too much. “I just wanted to say... THANK YOU VERY MUCH SEMPAI!” Hazue bowed deeply.

“Fine, whatever,” came the flat reply. “See you tomorrow. Good work today.”

Hazue straightened and watched him leave without turning back, before continuing on his way.

When he got home, Hazue hesitated for a long moment before sprinting upstairs to his brother’s room.

“Nii-san!” He panted as he threw the door open, “I have to talk to you, I have to tell you...” His soul shrivelled as he realised he’d added to his list of sins by interupting a strategy meeting between his brother and Momoshirou-fukubuchou.

“Hazue,” Kaoru frowned at him, anger flickering across his face. “You can’t just come barging in without knocking! Your behaviour today has been inexcusable. Go. I don’t want to talk to you right now.”

Hazue wilted in the face of his brother’s still-obvious wrath.

“Don’t worry about it,” Momoshirou-fukubuchou stood up. “It’s obviously important. I’ll wait downstairs.”

“No, I, it’s...” Hazue stopped, gulped once for air, and then just blurted it all out. It came out as a mixture of apology and explanation. His anger with and isolated campaign of disrespect towards Ry... Echizen-sempai. The incident on the way home and his rescue by Echizen-sempai and the mysterious Akutsu. He confessed it all and then stood, trembling in the doorway, waiting for his sentence to be pronounced.

“Akutsu? That jerk?” Momoshirou-fukubuchou raised an eyebrow. “Wonders never cease.” He glanced at Kaoru, “Want me to try to find out who those guys were?”

Kaoru still looked slightly stunned by it all. “But Hazue, I still don’t understand why you’d act like this,” he said finally.

“I don’t KNOW!” Hazue said, staring at the floor. “All I could think about was how Echizen-sempai is always acting so casually towards you and Momoshirou-fukubuchou. And you said that it was just him, but if someone else acted like that you’d be angry.” He clenched his fists. “Echizen-sempai is always doing that sort of thing and nobody even blinks but I can’t behave like that and you’re MY brother!”

There was a long silence.

“Hazue, just because Echizen has no manners, it doesn’t mean I like him more than you,” Kaoru said finally.

“I know,” Hazue said wretchedly. “But... you’re always so cold to me at school.”

Another long pause, until finally Kaoru glanced down at the papers he was holding.

“Momoshirou, could we continue this meeting tomorrow morning?”

“Sure, I’ll get together some ideas and meet you before club,” Momoshirou-fukubuchou said, grabbing his gear. “See you tomorrow.”

“Yeah.”

On his way out the door, Momoshirou paused and put a comforting hand on Hazue’s shoulder. “You know Hazue-kun, Echizen was brought up in America.”

Hazue nodded. He knew that already. His classmates thought it made Echizen-sempai exotic.

“In most American schools, it’s the normal practice for students to use each others first names,” Momoshirou continued. “Regardless of what year they’re in. So I really don’t think that Echizen would have been particularly bothered by you calling him ‘Ryoma’.”

Hazue’s eyes widened as Momoshirou continued. “In fact, he’s probably more used to it that he is being called Echizen. So don’t worry about offending him by using his first name. If he didn’t like it, he’d have said something.” He patted the younger boy gently and then left.

Kaoru let him have a few moments to take that in.

“Shut the door,” he said finally.

Hazue stepped into his brother’s room and closed the door behind him, then leaned against it. He glanced up at his brother’s expression, then back down at the floor.

“Hazue, you don’t really like tennis, do you?”

Hazue’s head snapped up. This was not the approach he’d been expecting. He opened his mouth to deny it but his brother shook his head at him.

“I just haven’t been doing it long enough, that’s all,” Hazue said, changing his reply. “I’m sure I’ll start liking it soon.”

Kaoru sighed. “Come here.”

Hazue approached cautiously and was enfolded into a warm hug.

“Idiot,” his brother said quietly. “You don’t have to follow me everywhere, Hazue. You’re my brother. I’m never going to forget about you.”

Hazue closed his eyes. “But, it’s really important to you.”

“And so are you. I’m sorry I made you think that I thought tennis was more important,” Kaoru released him. “I haven’t been a very good brother lately.”

“You’re the best brother,” Hazue defended. “I’m sorry I was rude.”

“I’m not the one you should be apologising to,” Kaoru said, affectionately running a hand over his hair. “Echizen has a lot of faults, but for once he’s innocent.”

“I’ll apologise to him tomorrow,” Hazue promised. “I’ll treat him with proper respect from now on.”

“Good. That’s what I wanted to hear,” Kaoru nodded decisively. “And you’re to spend the rest of this week thinking about what other club you want to join.” He frowned sternly at Hazue. “Think carefully to make sure that this is your decision, not mine.”

Hazue nodded and relaxed. “Yes, nii-san.”

Kaoru’s face went back to its normal stoic expression. “Excellent. Now, why don’t you sit down and tell me how things are going in your classes?”

“Okay,” Hazue sat down on the chair Momoshirou-sempai had been using. “And after that, nii-san, can you tell me about this Akutsu guy?”

**

The next day Hazue went to tennis club with a whole new perspective on the game, his brother’s dedication to it, and Echizen-sempai. There were a few whispers amongst his yearmates when he showed up, but they went away when he ignored them and conducted himself as befitted his status. There were a few comments from various other people when he apologised to Echizen-sempai, but when there was no reaction from the older boy (who seemed a bit confused about what Hazue was apologising for, finally brushing it off with a “fine, whatever”) they too died down.

It was during library duty that Hazue decided he should properly apologise again. And he hadn’t really thanked Echizen-sempai for putting up with him all this time. He approached quietly and waited until Echizen-sempai noticed him.

“Echizen-sempai...”

“So you’re back to that one again,” Echizen-sempai gazed at him flatly. “Just pick one and stick with it.”

“Uh, yes, sorry sempai,” Hazue watched in amazement as Echizen turned back to the shelves. He really was a strange one.

Echizen-sempai paused in the act of re-sorting some books, and casually tossed a comment over his shoulder. “Ryoma-sempai is fine.”

“Thank you, Ryoma-sempai!” Hazue smiled slightly.

“Whatever. Let’s just finish up.”

The two boys continued their work in comfortable silence, and for the first time Hazue found himself enjoying hanging out with Ryoma-sempai. At least he didn’t talk on and on in an annoying way like some of the others. Afterwards they headed for the tennis courts.

“I hear you’re leaving the club,” Ryoma-sempai said abruptly, as they neared.

“Yes,” Hazue replied calmly. “I’ve decided to join the karate club instead.”

“Ho?” Ryoma-sempai paused, looking down at him. “Planning to grow stronger fangs?”

Hazue bared his teeth at him in a smile, and Ryoma-sempai smiled slightly, turning away.

“You still have a long way to go,” he said as they arrived.

“But at least you’re on the right path now.”

End.



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