The Heart of a Snake

(a Prince of Tennis future fic)


By Orla


Part One



Disclaimer: Not mine – damn!



Exiting the train, Kaoru Kaidoh checked his watch and felt a great sense of relief. He was still in time. Dealing with Hazue’s problem hadn’t put him too far behind. However, he still walked quite quickly towards the exit, determined that he would set an example by being early.

Passing the map showing the location of the varying exits, he noticed a young woman staring at it in confusion and his steps slowed. Kaidoh might have a forbidding expression on his face ninety-nine percent of the time, but he was really quite a good-hearted person and was trained not to leave people in distress, especially women.

“Excuse me,” he said politely, coughing a bit to get her attention. “Can I help?”

“Oh!” the young woman turned and regarded him with wide eyes. She was very pretty with long straight black hair worn loose about her shoulders and a fringe just above her eyebrows. “Why, thank you…” she said after a moments surprised pause. “I need to get to Watase Tennis Court, but this sign isn’t very clear about which why I need to go.”

“Watase?” Kaidoh swallowed. He wasn’t very good around girls, especially pretty ones and he had hoped this encounter would be over soon. However, since he’d offered to help… “I happen to be going there myself, w-would you like to come with me?”

A brilliant smile illuminated her face. “What a wonderful coincidence!” she bowed. “Thank you very much for helping me, I really appreciate it!”

“Aa… think nothing of it,” Kaidoh rubbed the back of his head and bowed back. “Er, this way…” he stuttered a little and pointed to the left.

“Are you playing in the tournament?” she asked as they set off. “Oh, no… you can’t be,” she added before he could speak. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that you were a…”

“It’s all right,” Kaidoh hastened to reassure her. However, he comment burned a bit. He didn’t look THAT young, surely! “I… er… coach a team,” he explained.

“Oh!” she smiled. “How lovely! Which school?”

“Seigaku,” Kaidoh said shortly and then inwardly cursed his lack of conversational skills. This woman probably thought he was the curtest man she’d ever met. However, instead of being offended by his abrupt answer, the woman came to a complete halt and stared at him.

“Seigaku?” she gasped. “No! Really? Oh my!”

Kaidoh stopped and blinked at her. “You find that amazing?” he asked, with just a hint of an edge to his voice.

“Yes… oh, not that you’re a coach,” she blushed slightly. “But my cousin once attended that school and was a member of the regulars at the tennis club about… oh, I think he started there about seven years ago.”

“Your cousin? Seven years ago?” Kaidoh was genuinely curious now. If this woman’s cousin was a regular at that time then Kaidoh would’ve known him, but he couldn’t recall any of the others having a cousin as pretty as this one. Not that I would have noticed… Kaidoh thought, considering how intent I was on tennis at that time.

“Yes, Ryoma Echizen,” she said and completely floored Kaidoh with that announcement.

“E-Echizen?” he croaked. “ECHIZEN?”

“Yes,” she looked at him curiously. “Are you all right?”

“I-I knew Echizen,” Kaidoh managed to get the words out. “I was a regular on the tennis team at the same time.”

“Really?” she laughed suddenly. “What a small world!” she stopped laughing and tilted her head to one side. “Actually, your face does look familiar… I think I saw you in some team photos,” her brow wrinkled. “But your name…”

“Kaoru Kaidoh,” he said stiffly, still reeling from finding out that he was talking to the brat’s cousin.

“Kaidoh, huh?” she made a thoughtful sound and then nodded. “Yes, I remember Ryoma mentioning you… the boomerang snake was your special attack, right?”

“Yes,” Kaidoh started walking again. Echizen mentioned me to her?

She walked beside him. “Ryoma always said it was a pity that you couldn’t go pro,” she bit her lip after that pronouncement. “I’m sorry… I shouldn’t say such things.”

Kaidoh was torn between being furious with Echizen for talking about him and absolutely astounded that the kid had considered it a shame that he hadn’t become a professional player. “It’s… all right.”

“And I am being so rude!” she said suddenly. “I haven’t even introduced myself properly,” she nodded her head. “Nanako Echizen, pleased to meet you, Kaidoh-san.”

“Likewise,” he mumbled. “Uh…”

“So how long have you been coaching the Seigaku team?” Nanako asked brightly. “They’ve been doing very well so far I’ve been told.”

“A-about a year and a half,” Kaidoh glanced down at his right hand and flexed his fingers. In his mind he heard the screech of tires and the awful sound of crushing metal. “Coach Ryuuzaki invited me to help,” he added to cover the stretching silence.

“She must be very grateful for your help,” Nanako said softly. “Considering your talent and all.”

“Uh,” Kaidoh jerked his head in an abrupt nod. They were almost at the Watase Tennis Court now.

“I’m here to cheer on the son of a friend of mine,” Nanako said brightly, noticing that his mood had taken a downturn. “She’s in a conference in China and couldn’t get out of it so I promised to come and support Akira-kun,” she smiled at Kaidoh. “I think his team is facing yours.”

He appreciated the change of subject. “Then you’d better be around to comfort him,” he said with the smallest of smiles. “Seigaku are ready to face anyone and anything.”

“How about a bet?” Nanako proposed with a hint of mischief.

“Bet?” Kaidoh looked at her suspiciously. He glanced in the direction of where the team was supposed to be gathering and saw that a couple of the regulars were already there, eager and now watching the assistant coach’s conversation with a pretty lady with great interest. “What sort of bet?”

“Nothing fancy,” Nanako assured him. “Just… well, Akira-kun is playing singles 3. If he loses to your player then I’ll buy you a drink, if your player loses…”

“I’ll buy you a drink,” Kaidoh finished and the small smile widened a little.

“Bing-bong!” Nanako held out her hand. “Shake on it?”

Kaidoh prayed that his palms weren’t sweating as he took her slim hand in his much larger one. They shook and then he released her hand quickly. “I… er… should go to the team,” he said and bowed awkwardly. “It was nice to meet you, Echizen-san.”

“Kaidoh-san?”

“Yes?”

“Please call me Nanako!”

“Ehh?”

“It makes me think my uncle is nearby when someone calls me ‘Echizen-san’!” Nanako smiled. “I’ll see you at the singles 3 game!”

“Yeah,” Kaidoh watched her as she left and was rather embarrassed and annoyed to find his hand half raising in response to her cheery wave when she turned. Hissing softly, in a way that he hadn’t done in years, he thrust his hands into his pockets and strode towards the Seigaku team.

“Oi, Coach Kaidoh, is that your girlfriend?” one of the more cheeky members called out and Kaidoh fixed him with a glare guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of all.

“Ten laps around the court!” he barked at the unfortunate regular who gulped, jumped and immediately obeyed. “Huh,” Kaidoh folded his arms and narrowed his eyes. “Kids today…”




Go on to Part Two

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