One Touch @syrinxsilenus
Chapter 1

One Touch

DISCLAIMER: I DON'T OWN ANYTHING ASIDE FROM THE EXTRA OCs. Prince of Tennis is created by Takeshi Konomi.

Summary: Who would've thought that one fateful encounter with Karupin would lead Sakuno closer to the prince that she'd admire for so long? One-touch. Just a simple accidental bumping of lips started it all, and there was no turning back now.

Main Pairing: Echizen Ryoma x Ryuzaki Sakuno

Side pairings: Momoshiro Takeshi x Tachibana An, Kaido Kaoru x Osakada Tomoka (probably only mentioned)

RATED M


~One~

Karupin

If someone had told Sakuno that she would one day become close and intimate with her long-time crush, the Prince of Tennis, Echizen Ryoma, she would've looked at you funny as if you'd just blurted out the most absurd joke that she had ever heard in her life. Fortunately for the fifteen-year-old girl, the powers above had other plans for her that would spin, smash, slam, and roll her life for better or for worse, and she didn't have a say in any of it.


It was a fine Sunday when her grandmother, Sumire, sent her to the nearest grocery store to buy ingredients for their dinner that night.

It was already late morning, the sun was at its peak and the bright blue sky was clear and refreshing, indicating the good weather for the rest of the day; or so Sakuno hoped.

The wind blew calmly past her, making her bangs dance in tandem with the cold breeze. Sakuno closed her eyes as she exhaled, enjoying the calm scenery as she strolled past the many houses in their neighborhood. She stared at the sky as birds flew by and admired the verdant color of the trees around her. She watched in fascination as the birds sang and danced in the wind while courting their love interests, twirling around each other until they finally paired and flew away.

Sakuno giggled to herself before she shifted her attention back to the road, only to blink in bewilderment at the unfamiliar neighborhood in front of her. A sinking feeling started forming in the pit of her stomach as if she had been forced to drink one of Inui-senpa's newly produced Penal Tea.

She hung her head and sighed dejectedly. "Mou, I'm lost–AGAIN!" she fisted her hands on her chest and shouted in frustration at the sky. "Why does this always happen to me!"

She really didn't get it. Why did she always end up lost no matter where she went? Was this some sort of a curse or something? How could she get lost on her way to the grocery store when she always walked the same path every time she went shopping?

Taking a few deep breaths to calm herself, Sakuno started observing her surroundings to look for any signs that would lead her to the right path but she found nothing familiar. Panic bubbled in her chest as sweat started trickling down the side of her face.

"It's okay Sakuno, you can do this!" she mumbled, trying to encourage herself.

She whipped her head from side to side and decided to try and trace her steps back when a burst of boisterous laughter cut through her ravings.

"It looks like a big rat!"

"Voices…" she whispered under her breath. Then it was like a lightbulb had lit up at the top of her head and her eyes sparkled in renewed hope. "I could ask them for directions!" she happily exclaimed, clapping her hands in front of her once, then proceeded to follow the voices.

As the noise grew louder, she heard something else aside from the sound of laughter coming from three different people.

"Meowr!"

Sakuno stopped in her tracks and her brow furrowed, "That sounded like a… cat."

"Stop whining you rat!" the voice shouted followed by a bout of cruel laughter from his companions. Sakuno's eyes widened when she finally registered the cruel undertone in their voices. The cries of the cat grew louder in her ears.

"Kick it harder! Hahaha!"

Gasping in horror as she realized what was happening, she sprinted towards the voices only to freeze at the sight that greeted her.

The cat was trying to stand up but ended up flat on the ground as another foot connected with its frail body. One of the kids kicked it so hard that the feline slammed into the wall and crumbled pathetically on the ground like a lifeless doll.

Sakuno turned red in anger and clenched her hands tight as she mustered her fiercest glare, "Hey, stop it right there!"

The three kids flinched and turned their heads towards her only to visibly pale and hesitantly took a step back.

"Ah! Run!"

Sakuno opened her mouth to scold them but the children didn't let her. They immediately scurried away from the scene, leaving the poor cat sprawled helplessly on the ground. Her eyes widened as she saw the cat rose slowly, its right leg bent at an angle it wasn't supposed to. Gingerly it placed its paw onto the concrete only to pull it away, whimpering in pain. She frantically ran towards the cat, kneeling before it.

"Oh no, you poor thing." Sakuno didn't know how to touch the feline as she hovered her hands above its struggling body.

"Meowr," the cat cried, staring at her straight in the eyes as if afraid that she would hurt him too.

Something pricked in her chest and Sakuno gingerly picked the cat up and wrapped it in her warm embrace. The cat, realizing that he was safe, nuzzled his face on her arms and Sakuno smiled warmly; only to morph into a worried frown when she looked closely at the injured leg of the cat. She grimaced as she slightly tightened her hold around the poor feline.

"I'm so sorry that they hurt you," she mumbled as tears pricked the side of her eyes.

"Meowr." The cat hung its head low as if surrendering to her completely, already losing the will to fight for itself.

"D-don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you. I-um, let's fix your leg," she said, smiling warmly before her head shot up as she remembered one important thing:

"I forgot that I'm lost! Mou!" She hit her head lightly and pouted in frustration. She huffed before she stood up and started running aimlessly with the cat secured in her arms as she looked for a vet clinic to treat the cat's injury. Her kind heart squeezed in pain as she remembered how helpless the animal looked as those cruel children kicked him.

Miraculously, as she ran blindly, she stumbled across an animal clinic and immediately went inside without a second thought. She hadn't even realized where she was or that she was going to end up using the money for her grocery shopping to pay for the cat's treatment and she didn't even know whether someone owned it or if it was just a normal stray cat. She also didn't realize that the cat didn't look like any normal cat, all she knew was that she needed to help it.

Sakuno had always been a selfless person, worrying over others instead of herself. She knew she had a weak and soft spot for cats and other cute animals. Seeing other people being cruel to one pained her to no end. Panting as she entered the clinic, Sakuno locked eyes with the veterinarian, or at least she assumed he was as he was the only one there. Those few grueling seconds of startled staring took too long.

"Help, he's injured!" she urgently said.

That snapped the man out of his surprise and his eyes landed on the injured animal in her arms. He immediately approached her and grabbed the cat to examine it.

"What happened, why is he injured?" the vet asked while checking the cat's leg.

Sakuno worriedly walked towards them with her hands grasped tightly on her chest. "I found it being kicked by a bunch of kids," she answered timidly.

The vet nodded as he proceeded to treat the cat's injury. "Hm, his leg is fractured. Good thing that it doesn't seem that serious, though he needs to rest for a couple of weeks until it heals," the man paused for a bit to look at her with a gentle, reassuring smile, "You can sit there while I finish this." He gestured his hand towards the sofa before he turned his eyes back towards the injured feline.

Sakuno let out a sigh of relief as she sat heavily on the sofa, "Thank goodness."

"Hm, this is a Himalayan cat and it's a male. You got a unique taste in cats," the vet commented offhandedly and Sakuno ducked her head in embarrassment.

"Umm, he's actually not mine. I-I just stumbled over him by chance," she whispered as her cheeks turned red.

The vet stopped what he was doing for a second to smile at her. "How kind of you. Not many people would do this kind of thing."

Sputtering indignantly, Sakuno waved her hands in denial. "N-no! I-I–"

The vet laughed at her reaction, "It's alright. I get it, but this is not just any normal cat. It's a very rare breed among the Persian cats so it probably has an owner."

"I-I'll just look for his owner later then," she mumbled under her breath, feeling a bit disappointed that she couldn't keep the cat for herself.

Sakuno ducked her head again and quietly waited for the treatment to be finished.

Minutes passed by before the vet gave her back the cat, instructing her how to clean and redo its cast and reminded her about the steroid pill to speed the cat's healing. She then repeatedly thanked the vet and paid for the pills, treatment, and examination without any second thoughts after the man finished giving her instructions. Saying one final thank you, Sakuno walked out of the clinic sighing in relief before she remembered that she didn't have any more money to continue her grocery shopping.

"Mou, what am I going to tell grandma now." She hung her head dejectedly as a cloud of depression hovered over her head.

"Meowr!"

Sakuno stared at the cat who was looking at her with his big blue doe eyes as if apologizing for the inconvenience he caused. Her heart melted.

"I-it's alright, I'm glad that you're fine. I can handle grandma's scolding." She smiled warmly as the cat nuzzled comfortably in her embrace. "Well, let's go find our way back home," she said as she started walking aimlessly. "Mou, where am I seriously?" She bit her lower lip as her eyes roamed around, looking for a familiar establishment.

"Karupin!"

Sakuno jerked her head in surprise as she heard a familiar voice. 'It couldn't be.'

She blinked twice and scratched her ears before she pouted.

"Mou, I'm hearing Ryoma-kun's voice even now. I'm probably losing my mind," she mumbled to herself, shaking her head twice before she looked at the cat who perked up so suddenly in her arms.

"What is it?" she asked, even though she knew that she wouldn't get an answer.

"Karupin, where are you?!"

Sakuno perked up, her head whipping around to look for the owner of that familiar voice. "T-That's definitely Ryoma-kun's voice!" she exclaimed in delight and started running towards the direction of the voice.

"Karupin!"

There was the voice again.

"R-Ryoma-kun!" she called out, seeing someone appearing from one of the streets and running ahead of her. He abruptly stopped when she called his name again and turned towards her.

Intense gold eyes clashed with dark amber.

Sakuno couldn't help the smile that slowly formed on her lips as she confirmed her suspicion. But Ryoma only muttered "Karupin?" before dashing towards her, barely paying attention to the holder of said–

"Karupin?" Sakuno spoke aloud and belatedly realized who he was referring to. Forehead creasing, she looked down at the cat who was staring at the person in front of them with his blue eyes sparkling with recognition.

"Meowr."

"E-EEH!" she exclaimed in dawning realization before she looked up at him, her face probably screamed her disbelief.

"You found Karupin!" he exclaimed and hurriedly extended his arms to grab the cat in her arms. Sakuno became suddenly alarmed when she remembered the cat's injury and she immediately dodged Ryoma's hands in reflex.

"Wait! Ryoma-kun."

Ryoma stopped mid grab and stared with startled eyes at her.

Sakuno blushed in embarrassment as her action registered through her muddled brain and she stuttered. "H-he's injured, be careful when you t-touch him," she explained before she gingerly placed the cat in Ryoma's waiting arms.

Something sparked in the boy's golden eyes when he noticed the bandage wrapped around his cat's leg and Sakuno was surprised at the intense look he sent her.

"What happened?" he asked, his voice laced with alarm as his hold tightened protectively around his cat.

Sakuno felt the blood rushing to her cheeks as she looked at the adorable worried expression on Ryoma's face. 'Ryoma-kun looks so young and cute when he's worried.' Seeing another kind of emotion than his normally neutral expression was doing wonders in her already stuttering heart that it took her three seconds before his question finally registered through her.

"O-oh, Umm I a-accidentally stumbled across him when I heard laughing voices a-and saw three kids kicking him! So I-I just went to help," her voice turned softer in the end and she blushed harder when she noticed that Ryoma was staring at her so intensely that she could've melted then and there.

"But I didn't know that i-it's y-y-your cat, honest!" she defensively stated, waving her hands in front of her as she grew redder and redder by a second.

Ryoma didn't reply and just silently looked at her. Sakuno didn't know where she was going to look as she darted her eyes around and nervously fiddled with her fingers.

Ryoma finally averted his eyes from her and nodded as he patted his cat's head. "Thanks for taking care of Karupin, Ryuzaki," he said, a genuine look of gratitude visible over his face.

Sakuno's heart almost leaped out of her chest at the look that he sent her. 'Mou, you're going to kill me with your fierce eyes Ryoma-kun!'

Still beet red, she waved a hand in front of her and she smiled at him. "N-no, it's nothing. I just can't leave him in t-that state so I–I looked for a vet clinic to treat him a-and umm, t-the vet said that it would take him a couple of weeks before he fully recovered, s-so you've got to take care of Karupin," her voice was frantic at the start of her sentence but it turned softer in the end as she fidgeted and fiddled with her skirt. "Y-you don't have to worry, though. The vet told me that it wasn't so s-serious so–" she stopped rumbling as she heard a sound coming from Ryoma and she looked up to see his reaction.

He was frowning at her. "Ryuzaki, how much did you spend with Karupin's treatment?"

Sakuno flinched at the boy's question and she ducked her head in embarrassment.

'I-I can't let him know that I used the money for grocery shopping to treat Karupin's injury!'

Panicked, she started awkwardly brushing it off. "I-I-It's alright! Don't worry about it Ryoma-kun!" she said, waving a hand in front of her as she nervously and awkwardly laughed.

Her face continued to burn as Ryoma quietly observed her and his eyes were definitely telling her that he didn't believe her at all. Sakuno sweatdropped.

'Mou, I'm really a bad liar.'

Then she heard Ryoma sigh again, making her lookup.

"Let's go," he said before he started walking again.

Sakuno blinked and stared at his back. 'What?' Her mind pretty much malfunctioned as she tried to decipher what the boy was trying to tell her.

Ryoma stopped when he realized that she wasn't following him and craned his head to look at her. "What are you waiting for?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.

Sakuno jolted and hurriedly caught up with him. 'So he just wanted me to follow him?' her brow furrowed in confusion.

"W-Where are we going, Ryoma-kun?" she reluctantly asked.

Ryoma glanced at her before answering, "You're lost again, right?" he said matter of factly as if there was no way that he had guessed wrong.

"Mou, Ryoma-kun, how mean," Sakuno mumbled as she twisted her skirt in her hands. She looked down, her thoughts running wild again at Ryoma's on-point statement. 'H-how did he know?!'

Ryoma smirked at her as if seeing through her thoughts, "You're always lost."

She briefly looked up at him but when their eyes connected, she ducked her head again. "Mou, Ryoma-kun," she murmured dejectedly, Sakuno could practically feel Ryoma smirking at her.

'His cocky attitude is rearing its head again.' she internally sighed. 'Still, even though he's so blunt and cocky, I can't help but want to be with him. To watch him as he plays tennis, or as he drinks his favorite Ponta, or when he's running laps; walking on the road, or just simply existing. I can't help but seek his presence. I'm seriously hopeless.' This time, her sigh was audible, and chanced a glance at the Tennis Prince walking a few feet ahead of her.

She walked with him for fifteen minutes, too distracted by Ryoma to figure out where they were or where they were going. As she continued to watch his back, she couldn't help but question, 'How the heck did I end up with Ryoma-kun today? Because right now, I'm currently walking with him, and actually managed to exchange more than a single sentence with him, and apparently, the cat that I saved is his cat, and its name is Karupin–' Slowly, Sakuno's eyes widened in realization. Her stuttering mind finally finally managed to digest the events that transpired for the past hour.

'I-I accidentally saved Ryoma-kun's cat! A-and I'm walking with him right now! Is this fate? What are the odds of me saving Ryoma-kun's cat of all the millions of cats all over the world? I-is this a sign?'

Sakuno's eyes slowly traced Ryoma's figure and her mind flashed to the time when she heard his voice calling out for Karupin. To his worried expression and his powerful eyes staring straight at her for more than a minute. Sakuno felt the blood rushing to her cheeks and she couldn't help but clasped her hands in front of her.

'Please, my house, be further away!'

Her heart started beating so fast she was afraid that he could hear it. Reluctantly, she fastened her pace a bit to walk side by side with him. She could almost feel her heart in her throat but still, she wanted to see his face.

'Just a glance, just a glance!' She encouraged herself. She took a deep breath and reluctantly chanced a glance at him.

The breath caught in her throat and she couldn't help but stare at him for more than just ten seconds.

Ryoma was gazing at Karupin with a soft look on his eyes that Sakuno had never seen before. His usually indifferent face was gone, replaced by a child-like expression as he looked at his most beloved pet. He was softly caressing his cat's fur, giving all of his attention to it that he didn't even realize that she was staring.

Today, Sakuno found out another vital information about the tennis prodigy.

Echizen Ryoma didn't only care about tennis and Ponta. No, Echizen Ryoma actually cared about three things: Tennis, Ponta, and his Himalayan cat–Karupin.

'He looked so cute, worrying over his cat,' she thought fondly as she softly smiled.

Sakuno suppressed the urge to chuckle and let the silence reign over them. She was used to silence. Whenever she ended up being alone with Ryoma, silence always overpowered them. The ability to talk was quickly rubbed off of her and she couldn't help but to just quietly bask in his presence because it was rare for her to be able to be with him.

Sakuno knew though, oh she knew that she was probably the luckiest girl in the world to be able to spend a moment with the tennis prince. Many girls would kill for just a few seconds of Ryoma's attention. But here she was, the plain, clumsy, scatterbrained Ryuzaki Sakuno spending more than a minute of Echizen Ryoma's time.

She was definitely more than lucky.

She should try and say something, right? To try and talk with him, but about what? What was she going to say to him? She tried to open her mouth twice to say something–anything to him, but then Ryoma suddenly turned and started opening a gate.

Sakuno blinked in bewilderment. She hadn't realized where they went at all. She couldn't even remember the path that they walked on.

"Ryoma-kun?" she timidly called out to him.

Ryoma stopped entering the gate and looked back at her, "Hm?"

"U-umm, w-where are we?" she nervously asked, eyes darting around and refusing to look at him.

"My house," he deadpanned as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Sakuno's face boiled, "Y-Y-YOUR HOUSE!? B-B-BUT WHY?"

Ryoma cringed at her sudden outburst and looked at her weirdly. "I'm leaving Karupin here. I can't carry him around while he's injured. Wait for me here," he simply replied and proceeded to enter his house.

Sakuno blinked twice and looked up to observe Ryoma's house.

'I'm in front of his house!' her ever-present blush wouldn't disappear from her face anytime soon as she eyed the huge house–temple–in front of her.

'He lives in a temple,' she absentmindedly thought, looking dazed. She didn't know how long she was standing there as the overwhelming feeling of being with Ryoma assaulted her mercilessly.

'I've been with him all this time but like always, I can't seem to find the right words to say to him. We always spend our time in silence whenever we're together, and that's rarer than the blue moon. Though I guess, I'm fine with it.'

"Let's go."

Sakuno jolted out of her thoughts when she suddenly heard Ryoma's voice behind her, as if a reflex, she turned around to face him. She hadn't realized that he had returned.

Without waiting for her reply, Ryoma started walking ahead of her again and like an obedient puppy, she followed silently.

"O-Okay," she mumbled while she quietly watched Ryoma's back as he led her to her house. Come to think of it, 'How come he knows the direction of my house better than I do?'

At this realization, a cloud of depression hovered above her head. 'Mou, I'm so pathetic.' she sighed in disappointment with herself as she followed behind the person she liked. 'That's why he would never notice me. I'm always pathetic and I couldn't even speak properly in front of him like a normal human being.'

Sakuno stared at Ryoma's back in longing. All she wanted was to at least be friends with him, but how could she, when she couldn't even look at him straight in the eyes without stuttering?

'Mou, I'm definitely hopeless, but I guess, I'm fine being his silent supporter as he conquers the world with his tennis.' Sakuno smiles softly as she remembers the burning passion in Ryoma's eyes whenever he steps inside the tennis court. How powerful and fluid his every move was as he hit the ball back to his opponent and won the match with overwhelming skills.

At the tender age of fifteen, Ryoma had conquered many international tennis tournaments all around the world and already became one of the youngest tennis pros. That was why it was quite surprising how Ryoma still chose to continue his studies in Japan. He went to America during his second year in middle school but he flew back to Japan during their third year and stayed up to today. Sakuno didn't know when he would be going back to America again, but right now, she was content to just be with him and silently watch him play in person during every school tournament together with their senpais.

It was quite astonishing how all of Seigaku's regulars still decided to go to the same high school connected to Seishun Gakuen Middle School, Seigaku High and bonded like they were still in middle school as if time hadn't passed by them. Although captain Tezuka only returned to Japan in his second year in high school–already a professional tennis player like Ryoma–Sakuno was thankful that she could still watch them play again as a team.

She didn't know how long they walked. Still lost in her thoughts, Ryoma stopped in front of her, and she ended up bumping painfully into his back.

"Ouch!" Her hand flew up to rub her forehead before she looked up with one eye closed to Ryoma who was looking at her with mild amusement.

"Absent-minded as always, Ryuzaki. We're here," he informed her, jerking his head in the direction of her house.

Just then, Sakuno realized that they were indeed in front of her house. She felt her ears burn in embarrassment.

"T-Thank you, Ryoma-kun," she said, bowing before she proceeded to reluctantly knock at the door.

Her heart started hammering inside her ribcage again, but this time it wasn't because of Ryoma's presence. She felt her stomach drop at the thought of telling her grandmother that she had lost the money intended for grocery shopping.

'I'm sooo doomed!' She bit her lip. 'I just hope that grandma won't skin me alive,' she thought as she squeezed her eyes shut so tight.

The door opened after three knocks and the worried face of Ryuzaki Sumire welcomed her.

"Sakuno, what took you so long? I thought something happened to you," her grandmother frowned at her and Sakuno ducked her head, an apology already at the tip of her tongue.

"She's with me, Ryuzaki-Sensei." Sakuno jerked her head, startled at Ryoma's sudden interruption, and turned to look at him who was apparently still there standing indifferently with his hands shoved inside his pockets.

"Oh, Ryoma," her grandmother said, looking bewildered at the sight of the tennis prodigy together with her. Sumire's eyes darted from Ryoma to Sakuno and she couldn't help but blush to the roots of her hair.

"Did Ryoma go with you for grocery shopping?"

Sakuno's world seemed to stop as that question came out of her grandmother's mouth. She involuntarily flinched and started to panic. Sweat was trickling down the side of her face and her hands suddenly felt so clammy 'Oh no! Grandma, don't–'

"Grocery shopping?" Ryoma asked in confusion, eyes darting at her pale expression.

Sakuno could've had a heart attack right then and there. "A-Ah! It's–"

Sumire's eyebrows shot up at Ryoma's question and her eyes started inspecting Sakuno's person, especially her visibly empty hands.

"Wait, where are the groceries Sakuno?" her grandmother questioned her, eyes still flickering from Ryoma's confused one to her ashen like face.

Sakuno's pale complexion started having colors as it turned different shades of red and she started stuttering pathetically, "I-I-I g-got lost! S-sorry grandma!" she exclaimed as she bowed low, tightly closing her eyes while painstakingly waiting for the scolding to start.

'He's still here! Ryoma-kun, go away already!' Sakuno wanted to cry in frustration and utter embarrassment. 'Why does he have to witness this?!'

'I should've thought more before agreeing with his offer to walk me home!'

She had been too lost in la-la-land to realize that Ryoma, walking her home could lead to this.

'Stupid, stupid Sakuno!'

Sumire massaged her forehead as she sighed in exasperation. Ryoma stayed quiet but his eyes remained on Sakuno.

Meanwhile, Sakuno wished for lightning to just strike her dead on her feet to end her misery.

"Seriously, Sakuno. You always get lost. Now go ahead and buy the ingredients for our dinner tonight or we're not eating anything later."

"Y-Yes, grandma!" she immediately answered, standing straight with a forced smile on her lips while internally going crazy at the thought of not having money to buy the ingredients. She mentally cried.

'Mou, what am I going to do now?!'

"Ryoma, why don't you go with her. She might lose her way again."

Sakuno was startled and she immediately whirled around to face the tennis prodigy. "R-Ryoma-kun, you don't have to! I can take care of–"

"Don't worry, sensei, I'm planning to accompany her anyway." Ryoma cut off any of her protests and sent her a meaningful gaze.

'You better explain yourself to me later,' his eyes seemed to say. Sakuno internally wept.

'I'm so doomed!' Sakuno tried her best to stop herself from hyperventilating and bit her lower lip hard. She bowed her head and squeezed her eyes shut. She heard her grandmother sigh.

"Run along then, kids. Get back here immediately, Sakuno."

"Yes, grandma," Sakuno murmured, thanking the heavens above that her voice didn't quiver. Sumire looked at both of them for a few more seconds before she went back inside the house and closed the door.

Sakuno sighed in frustration. "I'm so dead," she whispered disheartedly, forgetting about the boy who was still standing beside her.

"You used the money for grocery shopping to treat Karupin's injury."

Sakuno staggered as Ryoma suddenly spoke. She took a step back trying to look anywhere but him. 'Wow, he definitely nailed it.'

"I-I...umm,"

Ryoma muttered something under his breath that Sakuno couldn't catch before he looked straight at her again. "Don't even try to deny it, your expression said it all. As always, you're still Mada mada dane, Ryuzaki" Ryoma deadpanned.

Sakuno felt her cheeks burn and she couldn't do anything but duck her head again. "I'm sorry," she whispered miserably.

"Seriously," Ryoma muttered, voice laced with exasperation. "You could've just told me earlier. I have enough money to help you with grocery shopping. I wouldn't really mind it." Sakuno bowed her head lower and Ryoma sighed again. "It's the least I can do for your help with Karupin."

"I'm sorry! I-I didn't think at all. I-I just… Karupin's hurt and I-I don't want to see him suffer more, a-and I don't want to trouble you with my problems since I'm the one w-who chose to spend the money for Karupin's treatment," she murmured, looking down. To her horror, tears started to gather in her eyes and she tried her best to restrain them. She really didn't want to worry him.

Ryoma muttered something under his breath again that Sakuno couldn't catch and then, her hand was suddenly grabbed and she was being pulled. Her feet following along as if they had a mind of their own. Her brain stuttered into a grinding halt as her neurons tried to comprehend what the hell just happened.

She looked down at their connected hands, staring dazedly as if she herself couldn't believe the hand that was holding her. Her eyes slowly traced the owner of the hand and Ryoma's back greeted her, adorned with his red jacket up to the back of his head. Dark green hair with his usual white cap invaded her sight and that was when the information finally registered.

Warm.

His hand was calloused against her soft feminine one, yet, it was warm. Engulfing her small hand perfectly.

Ryoma was holding her hand.

THE ECHIZEN RYOMA...was holding her…hand.

It wasn't a secret that many girls from Seigaku High and all the way to his international fanbase, that Echizen Ryoma, tennis prodigy who had won many tournaments in and out of Japan, was like a literal prince from the palace of England and it was a miracle to gain a millisecond of his attention. Just a glance from his smoldering golden eyes was enough to catch any girl's breath away. Especially when he had turned his attention away from tennis even just for 0.1 seconds to glance at you, but to actually be able to touch Echizen Ryoma's hand...

Sakuno choked on her own saliva, her face probably turning ten shades of red.

'R-Ryoma-kun is holding my hand! HE'S HOLDING MY HAND! HE GRABBED MY HAND ON HIS OWN!'

"R-Ryoma-kun! W-W-What–"

"Let's buy those ingredients," he simply said, still dragging her along and NOT letting go of HER HAND. 'Does he even know what he's doing?!'

Heat crept up her neck up to her entire face and ears, making Sakuno feverish. 'A-re, am I having a fever right now?'

She forced herself to speak and tried to reason with him, "B-b-but I-I don't have any–"

"I told you, I don't mind paying for it," he nonchalantly replied.

Her head jerked to look at the back of his head in disbelief as she unconsciously tightened her grip on his hand. 'I almost forgot that he said that! B-but that's too much! Making him pay for our grocery–'

"B-But Ryoma-kun–"

"Stop protesting," he eyed her with a serious and stubborn glint in his eyes.

Ryoma wouldn't accept 'No' for an answer. "Ryuzaki-Sensei will scold you if you come back there empty-handed," he said, craning his head as he raised a brow at her.

Sakuno hung her head in resignation, "O-Okay, I-I'm sorry for the trouble Ryoma-kun," she whispered, utterly embarrassed.

"Not really."

"B-But–"

Ryoma stopped walking and abruptly turned towards her and flicked her forehead.

"Aww!" she exclaimed in surprise as she put a hand on her stinging skin, rubbing it to elevate the pain. "R-Ryoma-kun!"

"Stop complaining and just follow me already," he said, a smirk slowly forming on his lips as his eyes sparkled with amusement.

Sakuno pouted as she rubbed her forehead. "Mou, you don't have to flick me," she murmured. Ryoma just raised an eyebrow at her and Sakuno internally sighed. 'How can he look so handsome no matter what he does?'

As if taking pity on her blood circulation, Ryoma jerked his head to the side, "Let's go." and he started walking again, not grabbing her hand this time.

Somehow, Sakuno was slightly disappointed. She couldn't help but wonder if it was really such a nonchalant thing for Ryoma to grab a girl's hand, but of course, she would never voice out her thoughts so she just once again followed him silently while clutching the hand that he held earlier to her chest.

The heat from the pad of his hand still lingered on her skin and she couldn't forget how tingles had crawled up her spine when he dragged her along earlier. Her heart was still pounding erratically inside her chest and no matter how many deep breaths she took, it wouldn't calm down.

'Ryoma-kun… '

Sakuno knew that Ryoma had more important things to worry about than romancing anyone. She knew that she could never be more than a silent supporter for him, but right now, she couldn't help but hope that he had at least considered her a friend. Being his friend was more than enough for Sakuno. As long as she could stand by his side, she was fine with it.

Sakuno trailed her eyes at Ryoma's familiar back. 'I've always been staring at his back, but I'm happy that I can at least be with him.'


Sakuno scanned her eyes on the vegetable section and grabbed two carrots in each of her hands, inspecting them with critical eyes.

"You can just buy both if you can't decide which one to choose." Sakuno was yanked out of her concentration and diverted her eyes towards her companion. She pouted when she heard him murmur: "They're the same anyway."

"Ryoma-kun, you can't just pick whatever you first laid eyes on. You need to make sure of its quality," she lectured, eyes turning back to the vegetables in her hands before she finally chose the one on her left.

Sakuno heard Ryoma sighed in relief as she finally decided to pick one carrot. "Are we done with the vegetable section?" he asked, sounding exasperated.

Sakuno sweatdropped as she realized that it took them an hour to finish shopping for vegetables. She chuckled nervously and avoided looking at his eyes, "Sorry for wasting your time Ryoma-kun–"

"It's nothing, let's go to the meat section," Ryoma grumbled as he walked towards the visible sign of the meat section while carrying a basket full of vegetables and Sakuno immediately followed.

As she walked behind him around the grocery store, she couldn't help but notice the couples doing grocery shopping as well. 'D-do we look like a couple too?!' she couldn't help but think as the heat started creeping up her neck again, she tried her best to suppress it this time.

She shook her head to get rid of her silly thoughts and just in time too since Ryoma had stopped in his tracks and was now staring at the glass containing different kinds of meat.

Ryoma craned his head to look at her, eyes twinkling with unconcealed amusement. "Do you need multiple choices for these meats too?"

Sakuno blushed to the roots of her hair, "Mou, Ryoma-kun. Stop teasing me, I just need to make sure to grab the best quality," she muttered before her eyes drifted towards the meat inside the glass.

Knowing that the meats here were all fresh, Sakuno didn't need the same amount of time in the vegetable section. She pointed out the pork, beef, and chicken to the salesman and watched as he wrapped them accordingly.

They then went to the fish section and wasted half an hour choosing what fish to buy. Sakuno had a feeling that Ryoma was already bored out of his mind that he resorted to finding amusement in the least interesting thing around him–namely: Sakuno. She didn't know whether to be annoyed that he was making fun of her indecision in the fish section or be happy that he was actually paying attention to her.

"Mou, Ryoma-kun. Stop it already," she pouted.

Ryoma pinned his hat down to hide his expression but the mild shaking of his shoulder didn't escape her notice.

"I thought you're going to inspect every single fish in the aquarium. They might end up traumatized, Ryuzaki," he said, not even bothering to conceal the mirth in his voice.

Sakuno felt the tip of her ears burn for who knows how many times since meeting him today and she couldn't help but pout again.

"Are we done here?" Ryoma asked with a faint smirk on his lips.

Sakuno nodded in reply and they proceeded to the counter to pay for the things they brought. There was a small line in front of them so they waited patiently for their turn.

"Ryoma-kun…" she silently called out.

Ryoma turned to her and hummed in acknowledgment.

"Thank you for accompanying me and being patient with me today," she said, staring straight at his consuming eyes, trying to gaze longer, although she knew that she could only stare at him for a total of ten seconds before she felt the burning feeling on her neck spreading through her whole face. Sakuno immediately ducked her head to conceal her flustered expression. 'His eyes could melt anything!'

"It's nothing, don't worry about it," he nonchalantly said before he moved forward putting the things they brought onto the counter table.

'Ah! It's already our turn, I didn't realize it.' she thought as she hurried beside Ryoma and proceeded to help him unpacked the goods from the three baskets.

Just like he said, Ryoma paid for everything and quietly grabbed all the plastic bags but she insisted on carrying at least two of the bags and Ryoma reluctantly conceded. Sakuno couldn't understand why he was hesitating though, she couldn't let him carry all those bags alone. However, as soon as they stepped out of the grocery store, Sakuno realized why Ryoma was reluctant to let her help because not even a few feet away from the exit of the store, she tripped on an unsuspecting rock and almost ended up making out with the cold ground if not for Ryoma's athletic reflex.

An arm immediately wrapped around her petite waist, successfully stopping her from face planting on the floor. She could feel the heat that was emanating from his skin on her waist and she felt her whole body tingle in delight at their proximity.

'It felt like he just hugged me.' Steam seemed to puff out of her head because of these thoughts and she immediately tried shaking the hopeful thoughts away. 'Stop being stupid, Sakuno. Mou, how embarrassing!'

Sakuno felt as if an eternity had passed before Ryoma steadied her and removed his arm from her body when in reality, it was just a total of five seconds. Her face burned in utter embarrassment and she repeatedly thanked him for once again saving her, only to be cut off when the two plastic bags in her hands were snatched out of her grip and was replaced by a single plastic bag–probably the lightest bag in his hand.

Sakuno blinked twice before her eyes connected with his cat-like golden orbs and once again, she was enthralled.

"Mada mada dane, Ryuzaki," he said with a smirk as he proceeded to walk ahead of her.

"Mou, Ryoma-kun…" she muttered before following him in silence as he led her back to her house.

She didn't know at that time, but that was the day when things started shifting between them when their simple acquaintance relationship changed into something else. Something they could never back away from.

To be Continued...


A/N: I know I know, I already have three on-going stories but I couldn't help myself. I just really need to write and post this for the sake of my inner peace. Don't worry, I'm not going to abandon any of my on-going stories. I'm working on them just be patient. Anyways, this is my FIRST attempt at doing pure romance and I don't know if I'll do just fine or I'll suck at it, please let me know what you guys think and leave your reviews. English is not my first language so pardon me if there are grammatical errors. I'm still looking for a beta reader who knows the plot of Prince of Tennis cause these Beta readers are my betas for my older fics and they mainly a Naruto and Yu Yu Hakusho watcher.

Thanks to the following people for beta-ing even though Prince of Tennis is not your fandom:

to2llyuntraceable, o0CrimsonsDragon0o, Stacy Donnely, and John Holley Jr.

SyrinxSilenus

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