Prince Of Tennis Fan Fiction ❯ Chapter 1

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Title:It Was MeCategory: Anime/Manga » Prince of TennisAuthor: Bunny Sailor MoonLanguage: English, Rating: Rated: TGenre: Romance/HumorPublished: 09-14-07, Updated: 09-14-07Chapters: 1, Words: 6,623

Chapter 1: Chapter 1

It Was Me
A Ryoma & Sakuno from The Prince of Tennis romance comedy fanfic
By: Bunny
AN: Hi there anybody reading this. I wrote this story for pure fun and enjoyment. I hope it makes you smile too.
I don’t use much Japanese in my fanfics, but there are a few things that just don’t translate well, (including honorifics) so if you aren’t familiar with them, here is the brief key:
Mada mada dane – this is Ryoma’s catch phrase, though lots of other POT characters use it. The meaning is basically « not yet » « not good enough » or « you still have a ways to go. » I think by those three phrases you can get the gist of the meaning of the idea behind the words.
Baka – idiot, dummy, et cetera.
Ano – a commonly used word whisper. The closest translation would be « um. »
Mou – a word expressing frustration. Not in a minor cussing way like « damn » but more like saying « bother » or « sheesh. »
Ochibi – Eiji’s nickname for Ryoma. It translates with the connotation of « our baby » or « our little one. » It’s an affectionate nickname, not an insult.
Honorifics:
Honorifics are an important part of the Japanese language and are used to indicate relationship or status. When addressing someone in Japanese, and honorific usually takes the form of a suffix attached to one’s name (example: « Echizen-san, » would mean « Mr. Echizen »), or as a title at the end of one’s name or in the place of the name itself (example: « Fuji-senpai, » would mean « Upperclassman Fuji, » or simply « Senpai! » meaning « Upperclassman! »). Honorifics can be expressions of respect or endearment. In an anime and/or manga they give insight into the nature of the relationship between characters.
-san: This is the most common honorific, and is equivalent to Mr., Miss, Ms., Mrs., etc. It is the all-purpose honorific that most will start out with when first meeting someone and until they feel comfortable using another term.
-kun: This suffix is used at the end of boys’ names to express familiarity or endearment. It is also sometimes used by men among friends, or when addressing someone younger or of a lower station.
-chan: This is used to express endearment, mostly toward girls. It is also used for little boys, pets, and even among lovers. It gives a sense of childish cuteness.
Senpai: This title suggests that the addressee is one’s senior in a group or organization. It is most often used in a school setting, where underclassmen refer to their upperclassmen as « senpai. » It can also be used in the workplace, such as when a newer employee addresses and employee who has seniority in the company.
No honorific: The lack of honorific means that the speaker has permission to address the person in a very intimate way. Usually, only family, spouses, or very close friends have this kind of permission. Known as yobisute, it can be gratifying when someone who has earned the intimacy starts to call one by one’s name without an honorific. But when that intimacy hasn’t been earned, it can also be very insulting.
Thanks to Del Rey manga publications for the honorifics explanations. This is not exact word for word, but I used their translation as a starting point for my explanations. To learn more about other honorifics and how they are used, I would Google « Japanese honorifics. »
Also to be noted in address is that generally speaking a family name or « last name » is used with a suffix before a person’s given name, which would denote further familiarity. So by word there is more familiarity from say Ryuzaki-san to Sakuno-san.
Disclaimer: The Prince of Tennis / Tenisu no Ôjisama is copyright Takeshi Konomi/Shueisha.
All these years, I had thought that I understood. Or rather, let me say that all these years, I thought that we had the same understanding. I really thought that even though on all the other things I failed to understand Echizen Ryoma, that on this one thing I certainly knew what he meant. As always though, I, Ryuzaki Sakuno was « mada mada dane. »
I blame it all entirely onthat day. Well, at least, it all started onthat day. There were certainly some events leading up to that point that stick out in my mind, but the starting point for where I am now, originated onthat day. That day that changed everything between us.
Really though, its Ryoma’s fault things got like this. He always has to be so honorable and chivalrous, doing the right thing and playing the knight in shining armor. So what was I supposed to think? From the very first day I met the guy he was protecting me from some mess or another I was getting myself into and being totally nice and understanding about it. It was endearing and unnerving all at the same time. It drew me to him, and yet, made me completely nervous and befuddled around him. I knew I could always count on him to take care of me and to do the nice thing for me in any given situation, but because he was so dependable in that way, it also made it very difficult to tell if he ever did something because hereallyto, or if he just did it to stick to some code of honor he had given himself or something else to that effect.
Oh well, I guess I had better explain the whole story.
That day,Grandma had been called out of town for some emergency business that I had never actually bothered to find out what it was about. As usual, she had dumped me on her previous student and tennis prodigy Echizen Nanjiro.At the time, I hadno ideawhere I was going; in her haste, Grandma hadn’t had the presence of mind to give me a name, it was rather a bunch of explanations. « My friend lives nearby and has a big house, » she had explained while driving me there. Before I had fully grasped the situation, I was unceremoniously dumped at the front of a property with a small overnight bag and after giving me a quick hug and a kiss good-bye Grandma had speed off into the sunset, literally.
Standing there on the sidewalk feeling rather disorientated, I looked down at my small pink duffle bag and breathed out a quiet, « Mou, » to myself. I was feeling very putout to say the least. Here I was, at some stranger’s house to STAY THE NIGHT and well, quite frankly, I was feeling extremely uncomfortable. Having no other choice but to move forward though, I heaved a soft sigh and made my way inside what appeared to be the front of the house.
« H-hello? » I called timidly as I slipped off my shoes.
At my call, a young woman popped her head around the large doorframe to the left of the entryway, « oh, hello, » she called back with a gentle smile. Coming into the hallway she walked up to me and held out her hand to take my bag saying, « you must be Ryuzaki-san. »
« Yes, Grandma says I’m supposed to stay here tonight because she had to leave suddenly? » I questioned, hoping she would confirm the situation.
« Yes, that’s right. I’m Meino Nanako, let me show you where your room will be for the night and then if you like you can help yourself to a hot bath while I finish making dinner, » Nanako answered.
Needless to say, I was starting to feel more comfortable already. I was mistakenly thinking I would be sharing the house with just the young woman for the night. The idea of a relaxing bath calmed me considerably since I was feeling very haggard with the rushing and explaining I had just been pushed through. Grateful, I gave a smile and a nod before following Nanako up the stairs and down the upper hallway to a cozy little room with a freshly made up bed.
« Here you go Ryuzaki-san, » Nanako said placing my pink duffle bag on the bed.
« Thank you, » I said.
Smiling, Nanako went back to the hallway and at the doorway she pointed down the hall. « The bathroom is just at the end of the hall here if you would like to take that bath, » she added.
Stepping back to the doorway to see where she was pointing, I noticed the bathroom door and said, « Yes, I will, thank you. »
Nanako gave another smile as she quietly walked back toward the stairs to head back to the kitchen.
Not wanting to waste any valuable time, I had grabbed my toiletries from my bag along with some fresh clothes and hustled down the hallway into the bathroom.
I enjoyed a rather peaceful, uneventful bath. I was finally completely relaxed and at ease in this strange home, thinking it actually wasn’t so bad being dumped here for the night. So of course, I was caught completely off-guard when stepping out of the bathtub and reaching towards the towel rack the door slid open and closed with a loud CLACK!
Startled at the intrusion, I looked up only to see the very worst possible person I could imagine seeing at this time – the prince of tennis himself, Echizen Ryoma!
I could feel my entire body blushing 100 degrees of red in utter embarrassment at being caught NAKED by my biggest crush! ‘Ryoma just walked in on me naked in the bath’ kept circulating around and around in my head on repeat and I just couldn’t think past that shocking thought.
In my panicked state I noticed that Ryoma’s eyes had widened in disbelief. He appeared to be just as surprised to see me, Ryuzaki Sakuno fresh-out-of-the-bath-completely-naked-and-dripping-water-all-over-the-floo r and without so much as a blink, Ryoma fell to his knees and sat there gaping at me standing there frozen in shock.
After a few frozen seconds, honestly, not even my arm reaching for the towel had moved, I slowly stepped back into the tub and sank my body back into the hot water, ducking below his line of vision. I didn’t really know what else to do! Wasn’t Ryoma supposed to go running out of the bathroom in fright? Wasn’t I supposed to be screaming my head off that he was a pervert and throwing random objects at him as he retreated?
Instead, we both sat there, me ducked down naked in the hot bath blushing and Ryoma blinking at me in shock on the floor for a few minutes. I got more and more uncomfortable as the silence dragged on and he kept staring at me like he was having some kind of hallucination or something else terrifying. The worst thing was that he still hadn’tleftand I wasstill naked in the bath, even IF he couldn’t currently actuallyseenakedness, he stilllookedlike he could. I wondered if I would I ever recover from blushing so much. Mou!
Finally, unable to take it for one more second, I broke the silence by blurting out the glaringly obvious, « R-Ryoma-kun, I-I’m bathing. »
I felt even dumber after that statement, but it did seem to break the spell Ryoma was under. As his cheeks turned pink, he shook his head as if to clear his thoughts, and stood back up saying, « sorry, Sakuno. »
Sakuno! Since when did Ryoma call me anything besides Ryuzaki! Even more embarrassed at his intimate address, I sank a little further down into the water and mumbled out in true Ryoma fashion, « it’s nothing. »
With a nod, he turned and left the room, making a show of locking the door on his way out.
Once the door closed firmly behind him, I let out the breath I didn’t realize I was holding and quickly exited the water, dried off, threw my clothes on and left the bathroom. I ran down the hallway to my room and throwing myself on the bed, I started hyperventilating as the reality of what just happened finally started to sink in. I was at Ryoma’s house! And he just saw me in the bathroom – NAKED! I covered my face in shame, the embarrassment being more than I could handle. I groaned in utter despair as I kicked my legs up and down on the bed trying to get out all the frustration at this completely horrifying situation. Why, why, WHY, did Grandma have to drop me off at Ryoma’s of all places! And WHY, WHY, OH WHY did I forget to lock the bathroom door in a strange house before taking a bath? What had I been thinking? Was my brain really that addled from being unceremoniously dumped off at someone else’s house for the night?
It was while I was freaking out on the bed that my bedroom door opened and sitting up abruptly to see the cause of my disturbance, I saw the last person I wanted to see just then.
« Ryoma! » I exclaimed, shocked to see him again so soon after our embarrassing encounter.
He walked into the room and sat himself next to me on the edge of the bed. Looking at me out of the corner of his eye, I watched his cheeks redden again as he lowered his hat to cover his face.
« Ah, Sakuno, ano…about the bath- » he began.
Not being able to take it, I flailed my arms out and cut him off mid-sentence, « RYOMA! »
He stopped what he was saying and looked back up at me with wide eyes at my outburst.
Embarrassed for yelling at him, I started wringing my hands nervously and looked down, « ano…forget it, okay? Please, just, let’s not talk about it again, okay? »
Giving me a long, hard look of which I honestly didn’t understand, Ryoma finally shook his head and said, « But it did happen. »
Getting completely frustrated with his insistence on this subject, I let out a big huff.
He smirked at me knowingly before he quickly leaned over to close the distance between us. He paused when our noses touched and whispered, « Sakuno. »
I felt his hot breath feather across my face and closed my eyes for a brief moment, too surprised at his actions to do anything but stay there paralyzed and take a quick intake of breath. When I opened my eyes, he was staring into my own and he whispered, « I will protect you, always, Sakuno. »
As I gasped in surprise at his declaration, he placed a feather-light kiss on my lips and before I could so much as blink, he was out of my room and I heard Nanako calling from downstairs that, « dinner was ready. »
All through dinner, sitting there with Ryoma and his whole family, I couldn’t focus on anything. I was such an emotional wreck, I could barely eat a thing. I kept moving my food around on my plate; Ryoma’s whispered words echoing around in my head, « Sakuno, I will protect you, always, Sakuno.« 
« Sakuno, I will protect you. »
« I will protect you, always, Sakuno. »
« I will protect you, Sakuno. »
« Sakuno. »
Could he possibly mean what was implied in such a statement? I allowed myself a few covert glances Ryoma’s way while we were all eating together, but he seemed untouched and untroubled as usual by anything going on around him. Maybe he didn’t understand, growing up in America as he did that a statement like that to a young girl is practically as good as a marriage proposal! NOT that we were really old enough for such a thing anyways, we’re both only 12! Still, you just don’t go around saying things like that to a girl and then kissing her!
At that thought, I dropped my chopsticks and everyone at the table stopped what they were doing and looked at me.
I blushed in embarrassment as I picked them back up and murmured out a quick, « sorry. » Chancing a glance Ryoma’s way, I noticed him smirking at me and almost dropped them again. What was THAT LOOK supposed to mean?
When I was finally excused from the table, I hastened to my room, closed the door, locked it this time, and throwing myself down on the bed, I cried.
Surely, surely, if Ryoma really knew what he said, and was addressing me by my first name only, then surely, he must think me ruined and be trying to do right by me! He was just the type of guy to see a naked girl and think he had to marry her. Oh wretched, wretched, bath! Why did this have to happen to me? I don’t want him to be with me just because he feels like he has to be because he saw me naked! What am I going to do? Troubled thoughts kept me up all night and by time morning came, I still didn’t know what to do.
And so…not knowing what else to do, I didn’t do anything.
That, however was just the beginning. It was how it all started.
It was subtle at first. There were definitely some differences, but they were small, and could mostly go unnoticed by most.
The first difference being that, from that day forward I was never again Ryuzaki.
No, I was Sakuno.
Not Sakuno-chan or Saku-chan or Sakuno-san, but just – Sakuno. Intimate, I-have-a-close-enough-relationship-with-you-to-call-you-by-just-your-first- name – Sakuno.
Of course, there was also that from that day forward, Ryoma-kun was just Ryoma. At his intimate address to me, I followed in kind by dropping the –kun. After all, what was the point? If he was going to go around calling me Sakuno, which I was actually quite okay with after all, then why would I need to continue attaching –kun to his name, as if we still need some kind of distance? The boy HAD seen me naked, proclaimed himself as my personal protector forever and kissed me, so well, whatever.
Everyone that knew both of us noticed the change in the way we addressed each other, but very few dared to comment.
Those who did, were quickly and effectively shot down. Case in point:
The next day, after school and tennis practice, Ryoma had somehow managed to get me to go to the street courts with him to practice. We had just got started when he stopped, walked over to my side of the court and taking my two braids into his hands had proceeded to tie them together behind my back with an elastic he had produced from somewhere. « Now your long hair won’t get in the way as much, » he had explained gruffly.
Rather touched at his thoughtfulness, I thanked him as he made his way back to the other side of the court. We had been working on my forehand for a while before Eiji-senpai, Kaidoh-senpai, Momo-chan-senpai and Inui-senpai showed up. They stood on the sidelines watching us play together and shouting out random comments to us.
« Oi, Sakuno! » Ryoma finally called over the net to me.
« Hoi hoi! Ochibi has a girlfriend! » Eiji announced to the others in glee.
Ryoma promptly lifted his racquet, threw a ball in the air and hit Eiji in the face, knocking him over. The others froze and glanced back and forth between Ryoma, Eiji and myself.
Trying to dispel the tense moment, I called back, « Ryoma? »
« Get your stuff, it’s time to go home, » Ryoma had said.
I gathered my things, Ryoma got his stuff, and we left.
And that, was that.
The second difference was that from that day forward, we were usually together. We walked to school together, we walked home together, we practiced tennis together on the weekends, if there was some event or game, or whatever, we were there – together. Somehow, I even found myself tagging along with him when he flew overseas for tournaments like the US Open he was invited to that year.
I don’t really know how it happened. I simply always found myself by his side. He was suddenly very much there, in my life,all the time. At my house in the morning, waiting for me in the afternoons, calling me up (how DID he get my phone number?) on the weekends, and I, well, I just went along with the flow. Ryoma wanted to spend time with me, who was I to argue that?
But besides that, there weren’t really any other changes. He didn’t kiss me again. He didn’t hold my hand. There were no more strange confessions of protecting me, and that night – that night that he saw me, well, it just wasn’t mentioned.
We went on in this manner for a good year or two until one day in the spring, shortly after the beginning of our last year of Jr. High, we were walking home and Ryoma reached over and grabbed my hand. It came unexpectedly, but I was quite pleasantly surprised. Why now, all of the sudden though? I glanced at him to see what he was thinking, only to see that he had his hat down covering his face like he always did when he was embarrassed and so, I didn’t say anything, we just walked home – hand-in-hand.
From then on, we usually held hands when walking alone together. Again, it was just a subtle difference, though it DID bring back memories for me. Memories of Ryoma telling me he would protect me always. Memories of him kissing me and smirking at me and staring at me.
Ryoma, Ryoma, Ryoma, does he really like me or does he just think he has to marry me because I’m « ruined » and felt that after almost two years it was time to do more than simply call me Sakuno and spend his free time with me? Honestly, I didn’t know, but well, it made me pause and think. Still, I didn’t know what to do, so I didn’t do anything and just followed Ryoma’s lead. He seemed to know what he was doing, but I had my doubts.
It wasn’t long after that, that other things started happening as well. We were a little older, so there were new situations we found ourselves in.
For example, at matches, it wasn’t uncommon for me to find myself cornered by some tennis player trying to ask me out on a date, especially when we were overseas. At times, it was flattering, but I considered that if nothing else, Ryoma and I had some sort of « understanding » and that it wouldn’t be right to date other guys. Not that I ever got the opportunity to express how I felt about the situation.
No, as my self proclaimed « protector » Ryoma would butt in and quite literally « mark his territory » to get the guy to back off. This included a number of embarrassing situations for me; being tossed about, spoken of possessively, left out of the conversation entirely as Ryoma turned the guy down for me, and at times watching Ryoma knock the guys out by smacking them with tennis balls.
Those poor boys just didn’t know any better, much to the amusement of any and all spectators that at times witnessed these situations. I, I was always completely mortified, but also touched by Ryoma’s possessiveness. Wasn’t that some sort of sign of affection? I mean, if he really wanted to get rid of me, it could be as easy as just letting those guys try to date me. But then, on the other hand, maybe Ryoma didn’t trust me to turn them down myself because I was so shy and awkward. It didn’t change the way Ryoma treated me, and I never got to find out for sure, so it was one more thing I had my doubts about, but never did anything.
By then, everybody we knew at least viewed us as a couple, even though we didn’t exactly act like one. I think we both viewed ourselves as a couple, though I never really felt quite right about the whole thing. Besides being together a lot and holding hands, we didn’t really do the things that couples would do. It was unsettling. Although stating his intentions, I always doubted how Ryoma viewed me. I couldn’t help it. I didn’t have the will to speak up about it or do anything to rock the boat about it so-to-speak either. I tried to convince myself that I should just be content and not concern myself about it. We were young, after all.
Then a year later during the beginning of our first year of High School when we were 15, other things started. We got closer, we really did start acting like a couple. I suppose I started it. Or maybe our hormones started it and Ryoma just went along with it because I was there and I was practically throwing myself at him, but needless to say, there were more changes for us that year.
One summer afternoon we found ourselves in the local park playing a match. I had improved from the past three years of Ryoma spending a lot of time teaching me and we would enjoy a heated match here-and-there though he always beat me completely. I never, ever, not even once scored a point. Well, that is until that day. Seeing a golden opportunity, I had launched myself towards the net and flown at the approaching ball to smash it into Ryoma’s side of the court, fully expecting him to « drive B » it back to me, only to watch in disbelief as it hit the pavement and rolled, ruining Ryoma’s chance to return it.
Ecstatic at scoring my first point, I dropped my racquet and jumped over the net, throwing my arms around Ryoma. « Ryoma! I scored! » I exclaimed as we crashed onto the ground. I laid there on top of him completely oblivious of our compromising situation. I grinned at him in my triumph, happy to share this important moment with him. Ryoma rolled his eyes at me and said his usual, « mada mada dane » and added further injury by smacking my butt,underneathtennis skirt, mind you.
« Ryoma! » I had said in embarrassment/indignation as I tried to unsuccessfully push myself off of him and get up. His arms tightened around me though and I stopped to look at him questioningly.
« You did well, Sakuno, » he admitted.
I smirked at him and teased, « mada mada dane yourself. »
« Oh? » he asked.
« MMhmm, » I replied nodding my head.
« Can’t have that, » he had murmured as he suddenly looked serious and tilting his head up, he kissed me.
I gasped. Again, Ryoma had surprised me with his sudden displays of affection with no previous warning.
« Congratulations on getting a point, » Ryoma said as he stood and helped me up from the ground.
I had grinned at him while blushing and not commented further.
Unlike the hand-holding, we didn’t start kissing every day after that, it was more gradual. The next incident was a couple of weeks later at his first match as a High School freshman. Ryoma was excited to be with his original team again, now that they were all reunited in High School and it was their first big match to win to make their way to the Nationals.
There was a lot of excitement in the air that day and it was contagious. As usual, I was there with Ryoma and he had just finished warming up for his first game. Standing there on the edge of the court he had looked at me, his racquet slung over one shoulder and his cap pulled low on his face.
« I’m going to play now, » he said, stating the obvious and giving me a strange look like he expected something.
I didn’t know what he wanted from me. He always said that to me before a big game and I would simply tell him to « do his best » or « be careful » or say something like « good luck » of which Ryoma always gave me a smirk and said, « mada mada dane. » Something about the look on his face that day though was different and it made me pause. He couldn’t be nervous because it was his first High School match, could he? No, he didn’t look nervous. Besides, tennis never made Ryoma nervous. So what was it? I stood there in stunned silence, wondering what it was.
Then Tomoka, loud and pushy as usual had come up behind me, and shoving me towards Ryoma said, « Give the guy a good-luck kiss, Sakuno-chan! He’s your boyfriend, isn’t he? And this is his first big game in High School! »
Completely caught off guard, I had stumbled into Ryoma and he had gracefully caught me, as if catching me being pushed into him was nothing out of the ordinary. I noticed him smiling at someone over my head, so I followed his gaze and looked back to see Tomoka wink at us and not knowing what else to do besides give in, I tipped up on my toes and kissed him. Stepping away from his shocked look I said, « I know you’ll win, Ryoma. »
As Ryoma smirked at me with the satisfied look of a cat that just got away with eating all the cream, I heard Inui-senpai informing the others around us, « There is a 90 percent chance that was their first kiss. »
Ryoma redirected his smirk at Inui and said, « mada mada dane, Inui-senpai. Your data is wrong. »
I couldn’t believe Ryoma had shared that with everybody! They used it to their advantage too, teasing me and pumping me for information all through Ryoma’s game. From that point forward, there was much more teasing from our friends about our relationship since it no longer seemed taboo to talk about it in front of Ryoma.
But there still wasn’t much kissing. Always before a game there was, it was a standard now, but nothing in private. I always felt like I was putting on some sort of show for everyone else, even though I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy kissing Ryoma. I just wanted it to be special. I wanted it to be meaningful and spontaneous. I wanted him to ‘get caught up in the moment’ and kiss me like he had when I scored that first point against him. But it was still something, so I never said anything. I obediently kissed him before each match.
That year, things got a little more complicated publicly as well. By then, Ryoma was a big tennis star on the International level. We were always flying away to some world tournament or another and Ryoma regularly won them. But now that we’d started kissing before games, and now that Ryoma was a world famous tennis star, things got complicated.
Of course, I didn’t expect him to want me to kiss him on the International level before a game, so it was much to my shock and embarrassment that I found myself in front of the world on live broadcast television standing before Ryoma’s first match with him giving me that look. That look he had started giving me before every game that told me he wanted me to kiss him.
For once, I spoke up, « Ryoma, we’re on International television. »
« I know, » he replied and continued to look at me expectantly.
Part of me wanted to pursue the conversation, to insist that he couldn’t be thinking clearly, standing there wanting me to kiss him with the whole world watching. However, the pressure was getting to me. Everybody was waiting for Ryoma to step onto the court and play. So everybody was watching us, wondering what the hold up was. I gave him a pleading look, trying to convey that it was too much to ask of me and rolling his eyes, Ryoma spit out a gruff, « fine. »
As he turned away from me, I immediately started to feel guilty and I had called out to him before I even realized it, « Ryoma! »
He turned back to me with a knowing smile and before I had the chance to do my part he had said, « That’s enough for now, Sakuno. » He leaned down and kissed me and I could do nothing more than smile at him for taking care of me, once again.
It was after that game that everything started happening though. Even though I had always been with Ryoma no-one had really taken notice of me until he kissed me before the world. It brought on a flurry of questions and speculation.
« Mr. Echizen, who is that girl with you at all your matches? » a reporter questioned at the press conference that afternoon.
Ryoma smirked and answered simply, « Sakuno. »
Hearing this, I couldn’t help but giggle. That’s a typical Ryoma answer. Direct, to the point, with no elaboration whatsoever, even though the question clearly implied they wanted more from him than just a given name.
Pursuing the subject the next reporter asked, « What is your relationship with Miss Sakuno? »
Ryoma had smiled and said simply, « she comes with me. »
If that answer didn’t open up a can of worms I didn’t know what else would have. There were so many ways to interpret « she comes with me » that an outbreak of questions were all yelled out to Ryoma in a confusion of words that nobody was able to make out more of than that it was all about me and what I really meant to him/what kind of relationship we have.
At that point, Ryoma stood up and announced, « If anybody wants to talk about tennis, I’m game, but otherwise, I’ll be going now. »
And the press conference had abruptly ended.
I knew though. I knew what « she comes with me » meant. It meant we were a package. There wasn’t just Ryoma or Sakuno anymore. There was either Ryoma and Sakuno, or Sakuno and Ryoma. I knew that better than anybody else, since I couldn’t really remember the last time we weren’t together. I told myself not to let it, but it really touched my heart that he had announced such a thing to the whole world. Even if the only people who really understood that statement would be those who knew him best. Who were really a small number of people, but I was one of them. All the same, after three years, it was the closest thing Ryoma had said to his previous announcement to my ears alone that he would always be with me and despite myself, I treasured it this time and I didn’t freak out.
It was in the spring at the start of our second year of High School after our sixteenth birthdays that we were walking home and Ryoma dropped a bomb on my head. We were ambling along in comfortable silence as usual, holding hands. I was thinking about the homework I needed to do since it was the start of a new school year and I wanted to get ahead.
« Hey Sakuno, » he said.
Still distracted with making a mental list of my work in my head, I had murmured a non-committal, « hmm? »
« When are you going to start planning the wedding? » he had asked it so calmly as if he was talking about what we would be doing tomorrow after tennis practice.
It had taken me a full minute to register what he had asked, and when his words finally sank in, I had stopped walking abruptly and dropped his hand. Ryoma stopped as well and turned his body back a bit to face me with a questioning look on his face.
All I was able to do was stand there and blink at him. I had always figured one day, this subject would finally have to come up. I had always dreaded it. I didn’t want to have this conversation. I didn’t want to tell Ryoma that he was mistaken and he didn’t have to protect me because I wasn’t ruined. I didn’t want him to walk away from me and leave me all alone once I told him he didn’t owe me anything. I had become so complacent, so content, so consumed with a life with Ryoma in the center of it that when the start of the matter finally did confront me, I didn’t really know what to say.
Misunderstanding my silence, Ryoma pushed on, « well, you’re old enough now and I’m making enough money with tennis to support us. I don’t really see any reason for us to continue living with our parents when we could be together. »
I couldn’t believe my ears. Not that I had ever really doubted Ryoma’s seriousness in marrying me, but I didn’t really see him giving it all that much thought either. I also didn’t expect we would have this conversation until we were a little older. Sure, I was at marrying age already, but he wasn’t. Didn’t guys have to wait until they were 18? Didn’t we still need our parent’s permission until we were 20 anyways? What was the rush?
« I don’t think it will be difficult to get a special license if that’s what you’re worried about, » Ryoma said confidently.
Well, there went my last excuse to delay the inevitable conversation.
« Say something, » Ryoma finally demanded.
« I- » I began hesitantly, then with a pained sigh, I said what I must, « Ryoma, you don’t have to marry me. »
That sure got his attention. His eyes hardened for a moment and he questioned, « what are you talking about, Sakuno? »
And then it all just blurted out of me. All my doubts and frustrations and misunderstandings over the past four years came to a head and not knowing what else to do, I spit it all out for him.
« I don’t want you to feel like you owe me anything just because you saw me in the bath all those years ago! »
He opened his mouth to interrupt me, but I held up my hand, stopping him.
« Don’t you deny it! I know how you are with your honor and I know you must think you ruined me, but Ryoma, really! We’ve never talked about it and we can keep it a secret. Nobody knows about that, nobody needs to know about it, so I’m not ruined. You don’t owe me anything. I don’t feel like you owe me anything and I don’t want you to-« 
Finally having enough, Ryoma had stepped forward and pulling me to him he had kissed me into silence.
Once again, I found myself completely confused. Wasn’t he supposed to be walking away right now with a relieved look on his face?
« Wha- » I began.
« Mada mada dane, Sakuno. You’re not the one that was ruined,it was me, » he said.
And then, as he kissed me again, I finally understood why he didn’t go running out of the bathroom that day and why he promised he would protect me that night. It was because fromthat dayforward Ryoma hadn’t been able to see any girl besides me.
Realizing this, my heart exploded with happiness and I felt tears of joy and relief slip over my face. Bursting with love for him, I said, « Okay, I’ll start making preparations. »
Ryoma smiled and said, « It’s about time you understood. »
« I love you. »
« I know. »
« Baka. »
Smirk.
And that, was that.
AN: Well, I hope you enjoyed the fic. Thanks for reading.