A/N: This is the second chapter for tonight. I admit I'm feeling very nervous about this chapter, I hope I get Ryoma's character or I'll just die of embarrassment for posting this.
PLEASE PLEASE READ AND GIVE ME YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE TEASER STORY AFTER THIS CHAPTER.
Italics + Bold words are dialogues spoken in English: "RyoSaku forever and ever…"
Storms of Feelings
"Rika and Kaori (is or are) climbing down the stairs."
Ryoma put down the notebook that he was reading and stared blankly at the girl sweatdropping in front of him.
"Ryuzaki, you need to give me a direct answer, not answer me with another question," he said with an arched brow.
"Y-yes, I'm sorry," she said before she ducked her head.
Ryoma sighed. "Relax, I'm not a teacher so it's okay to give the wrong answer. That's why we're studying," he said, stretching one of his numb legs under the small table in between him and Ryuzaki.
"O-okay…" she mumbled.
Today was Saturday and they were, once again, sitting on Ryuzaki's bedroom floor as they went through another English lesson. It had been two weeks since the accident with Karupin happened, and today was his sixth day of tutoring.
She wasn't that bad if only she didn't stutter and hesitate with her answers all the damn time. She also needed a dose of self-confidence to ask a question if she had one. The paper wouldn't give her an answer no matter how hard she stared at it.
Ryoma looked at her for a few seconds in contemplation, 'Should I explain in detail, or continue watching her intense staring contest with her notebook?' He sighed and started writing.
"Ryuzaki, in order for you to know what's the correct linking verb to use, you need to identify the subject in the sentence first. The linking verb is the one that connects the subject to the rest of the sentence. For example…" he trailed off as he finished writing on the notebook. He stood up to sit beside the girl and put the notebook on the table.
"Look at this sentence," Ryoma said as he pointed the pen at one of the sentences he wrote.
Ryuzaki moved her head to look at the sentence and read it out loud.
"Horio is annoying," she slowly read in English.
Ryoma noticed that her pronunciation needed a lot of work but that would do for now. 'She doesn't need to speak during the test anyway.' He heard her suddenly giggle and he raised an eyebrow in question.
"You just happened to pick Horio's name, Ryoma-kun?" she said, a hand covering her mouth.
"He's annoying," he deadpanned, which caused her to giggle again. Ryoma felt the corner of his lips twitch, but he immediately rearranged his face into its usual indifference.
"Point out the subject," he instructed.
Ryuzaki picked up her own pen and encircled Horio's name.
"Underline the word that described Horio," he flatly stated.
Ryuzaki obediently followed his instruction and underlined the word annoying.
Ryoma picked up his pen and put a double line under the is.
"As you can see, 'is' is connecting the subject to the rest of the sentence. Which is why it's called, linking verb," Ryoma finished and gazed at Ryuzaki as she nodded her head.
"Try doing the same thing to the rest of the examples. Identify the linking verbs," he said while propping his elbow on the table and resting his cheek on his palm.
As Sakuno began to work, Ryoma let his eyes roam around the room, pausing on the calendar atop her side table. He noticed a particular date encircled with a red pen, and Ryoma squinted his eyes a bit to read the little scribbles inside the small box.
'Monday, English exam. Fight-O! Sakuno!'
His lips twitched in amusement as he noticed a little caricature of herself drawn beside the scribbles.
He couldn't help but remember the tennis ball he asked to have from her just before he flew back to America during their first year in middle school. She also drew a small caricature of himself on it, and it was still in his possession after all this time. It was safely hidden underneath his bed inside a box, together with another tennis ball he got from her with a 'No. 1 in National' written on it.
His eyes shifted again and zeroed in on the numerous pictures plastered on her bedroom wall. He smirked. 'Girls are sentimental.'
His mother kept hundreds of his childhood pictures on five, thick albums. All of them looked so ridiculous that he tried to bury them a couple of times in their backyard, but for some reason, the albums kept on returning to the shelf the next morning. One time he tried to burn them but his mother caught him.
Ryoma suppressed the shiver that involuntarily crawled up his spine as he remembered the terrifying expression his mother had made when she caught him red-handed. He was forced to eat western food for two weeks and was forbidden to practice tennis with his father for a week. A week! Imagine the agony! After that, Ryoma stopped his criminal attempt against the cursed albums.
His mom was sentimental, Nanako was sentimental, and now, he found out Ryuzaki was too. So, he could safely conclude that all females were sentimental beings. No one could tell him otherwise.
Ryoma vaguely ignored the small voice reminding him of the box hidden underneath his bed. He wasn't sentimental. No. He just… wanted to make sure that his valuables wouldn't suddenly disappear because his perverted father decided to be nosy.
He snapped out of his thoughts at Ryuzaki's timid voice.
"I'm done…" she murmured, sliding her notebook in front of him.
Ryoma checked the girl's answers with an arched brow. "Heh, not bad. Just review our past lessons, and you're ready for the exam."
Ryuzaki smiled at him. "It's all thanks to Ryoma-kun's help."
"It's nothing." He immediately waved her off and returned his elbow back on top of the table. He rested his cheek on his palm before he noticed her fidgeting on her seat.
Being in Ryuzaki's company for two weeks straight, Ryoma already figured some of the meanings behind her confusing actions. This one meant she was struggling to say something to him, so he waited patiently for her to spit it out.
"Umm, this is our final lesson Ryoma-kun. I'll just reread all the notes you've written for me tomorrow, and I'll be fine on Monday," she told him softly, staring briefly at him before she looked down at her lap.
Ryoma frowned, he just couldn't understand why she was still acting shy around him. "I guess…" he mumbled.
"Ryoma-kun. Thank you so much for all your help." She looked up and gazed into his eyes.
He suddenly felt uncomfortable. 'Her eyes...since when did they become so distracting to look at? And her lips are small, but... they're naturally pink.' Ryoma realized then, that he had been staring. All of a sudden, his body started feeling feverish. His ears and neck felt hot, and to his horror, his cheeks were too. He shifted uneasily.
"If it weren't for you, I'd probably flunk English again," she muttered.
Ryoma turned his face to the side. "D-Don't sell yourself short. You worked hard too," he paused, clearing his throat before he lifted his gaze back at her. "...and thank me once you have passed the test."
She smiled softly again, and Ryoma was taken aback by the sudden gentleness in her eyes. He unconsciously clenched his fist as a foreign feeling welled up in him. His stomach was doing flips, and to his mortification, his heart started beating abnormally again.
'The hell! Why does this keep happening? I'm definitely going to ask mom about this. I can't afford to have any sort of heart disease now.' It wasn't happening frequently. There were just times that it went like this. It happened more than thrice now, and it normally occurred whenever he was around Ryuzaki.
He still didn't know what was triggering it, but something in him was urging him to haul his ass back home right about now. Deciding to follow his intuition, he reached out to grab his cap on top of the small table and put it securely on his head to hide his eyes.
"Ne, I'm going. See you on Monday," he said, acting calmly while hastily putting all his things back inside his tennis bag.
"Umm, you don't want to eat anything before you go?" Ryoma stopped zipping his bag and looked up to blink at her. 'I forgot, I usually eat here whenever I tutor her.' At the thought of his favorite food, he forgot the reason why he was hurrying to go home in the first place.
"Let's go?" he asked uncertainly instead of demanding it like he originally intended to.
"Somewhere else?" asked Ryuzaki, confused. "Like… to a restaurant? T-The t-two of us?" Her face turned so red that she was slowly starting to resemble a tomato.
Ryoma tilted his head to the side, puzzled. "Oi, you're red. Are you sick?"
She jerked and started waving her hands in denial. "N-No! Don't mind me! So what do you mean, Ryoma-kun? Do y-you want to eat outside?"
He was still a bit skeptical but decided to shrug it off. "Why do we need to go out, stupid? I'd rather eat your cooking than those fancy restaurants," he mumbled.
For some reason, the redness of her face deepened and crawled up from her neck to her ears. He couldn't help but wonder how far the redness could reach, and...'Is that steam coming out of her head?'
His lips twitched. 'Cute…' He blinked and pulled the bill of his hat over his eyes.
"Un!" Ryuzaki rapidly stood up, almost tripping in her haste to open her bedroom door.
She marched rigidly to the kitchen, refusing to speak or even look back as he followed her.
If he went home without eating here, he wouldn't have a choice but to eat his mom's cooking. It wasn't as if he hated his mom's cooking, but she liked western food more than Japanese food, and Ryoma wasn't a big fan of it.
'I'm staying because I don't like western food. It's for the food...it's for the–' He abruptly stopped his train of thoughts. Why did he sound so defensive all of a sudden? It was not as if he was doing something unusual. Ever since he started tutoring Ryuzaki, he'd eaten dinner here. It was a hotdog with rice vs. grilled fish, and Chawan Mushi, plus Ebi Senbei all together, of course, he would choose the latter!
For a time, they ate in companionable silence, silence which he'd become very used to in her presence. Actually, it was what he liked about her company. The silence that he rarely got in school, in the tennis club, and at home because of his noisy father, was freely given to him. That was why he preferred her more than his crazy senpais. Sometimes, they were tiring to be around.
"Ryoma-kun, here." He looked up and saw a can of Ponta in Ryuzaki's hand. He didn't realize that she had stood up to grab one from the fridge.
"Thanks," he muttered as he accepted the can from her. It was Grape Ponta, his favorite. Ryoma arched a brow, 'Since when did she start storing Ponta in their fridge?'
He glanced out the window, it was getting late, and it was raining quite heavily.
He frowned. "Ryuzaki-sensei isn't home yet."
Ryuzaki thoughtfully looked up and put a finger on her cheek. "Umm...she probably has some paperwork to finish. She'll be home soon."
He shifted his gaze back to the dark sky. Lightning struck, immediately followed by a booming sound of thunder and an ear-piercing shriek from Ryuzaki left his ears ringing.
He jolted in surprise, and then everything was dark.
The loud pouring of the rain echoed inside the house with the sound of the ferocious winds.
His brows furrowed in worry and he abruptly stood up, his chair clattering loudly. "Ryuzaki."
He tried to look for her silhouette in the darkness, but for some reason, she wasn't where she was standing before.
The lightning struck again, momentarily chasing the darkness away, followed by the crackling of thunder.
She let out another scream.
"Ryuzaki!" he called out, a touch of alarm lacing his voice as he heard her start to sob.
It was the first time Ryoma heard her scream like that, and it seriously frightened him. Her sobs were getting closer to hysterics.
'What's happening to her?'
He fished for his phone in his pocket and turned the flashlight on to look for the girl. He rounded the table and saw her on the floor, shivering in fright as she covered her ears with her hands while she tried to curl up into a ball.
The thunder roared again, and Ryuzaki let out another scream. Big droplets of tears were rolling down her cheeks like waterfalls, and she was gasping for breath as if she wasn't getting enough oxygen in her lungs.
He began to panic. 'What should I do?' He didn't have any experience with comforting girls. Ryoma practically avoided them like a plague. Aside from his mother and cousin, Ryuzaki was the only girl he actually interacted with–Osakada didn't count.
He was at a loss. He warily crouched in front of her.
"Oi, Ryuzaki," he awkwardly tried to call out, but it seemed she hadn't heard him as her body continued to shake.
Ryoma hesitantly stretched out a hand, and lightly squeezed her shoulder when the thunder crashed again.
And suddenly, Ryuzaki jumped him. She launched herself into his arms, wrapping her own around his neck like a vice grip. He could never have braced himself. They tumbled to the floor, his back slamming against the table on the way down. His phone clattered beside him.
"T-That hurts…" He winced and sat up, Ryuzaki almost on his lap.
"Ryuzaki," he called out, but it was as if she hadn't heard him. She buried her face in his chest as her body quivered. Her hands clutched his shirt so tightly, Ryoma was afraid she would tear it. His mother would surely scold him for this later.
The warmth that he felt earlier started devouring his senses more strongly than ever, and he involuntarily took a sharp intake of breath. The scent of strawberry with a touch of vanilla invaded his nostrils, making him feel hypnotized.
His senses unconsciously sought out more of the honeyed fragrance, making him lower his nose closer to where the scent was stronger–Ryuzaki's hair. Ryoma inhaled more of her smell, lost in a sea of foreign sensation.
He didn't know what he was doing, or why he was doing it. All that he was aware of was her surprisingly sweet scent, and her small body touching his. The word soft suddenly came to his mind.
Abruptly, his ears blocked out anything but her sobs and heavy breathing. The loud beating of the rain outside disappeared from the background. There was no time, no wind, no crackling of thunder. There was only the touch of her body and the warmth that she emanated.
It was surprisingly soothing.
Slowly, Ryoma's arms moved on their own and cautiously wrapped around her quivering form while he felt her tears soak his shirt. To his bewilderment, he actually didn't mind this at all. His right hand patted her head while his left tightened around her waist.
Ryoma didn't understand what was happening to him, and he actually didn't want to think anything at all. All he knew at the moment was that… he liked this feeling. He wanted to stay in her warmth much longer.
His mouth opened to call out, "Ryuza–" Her hands tightened on his shirt as a particularly loud clap of thunder brought him back to reality.
The girl in his arms whimpered, and Ryoma unconsciously tightened his hold around her.
As if to seek more of his comfort, Ryuzaki buried her face in the crook of his neck with his right hand supporting the back of her head, her body flushed against him. He could feel her warm breath fanning his skin, and his body was frantically turning as hot as a furnace.
All of a sudden, an involuntary shiver crawled up his spine, and his hold tightened around her.
"Ryuz–" Somehow, it suddenly felt so wrong to call her Ryuzaki now. Ryoma frowned, gripping her waist tighter as she kept on shivering and sobbing uncontrollably.
'I need to help her somehow, but how?'
He licked his surprisingly dry lips and opened his mouth once again. "S-Sa-Saku..no," he whispered. Her name suddenly felt so heavy in his tongue. He was answered by a quiet whimper.
'I should...say something...something to distract her–'
"I never won a single match against my father," he carefully said.
He hesitated for a moment, but her shaking hands urged him to continue. "I challenged him every day, demanding him to take me seriously, but he was just toying with me." Ryoma wasn't a fan of sharing his inner thoughts, but for some reason, he kept going.
"The old man was having the time of his life seeing me suffer. I told myself every single time, 'I'll make him eat dust the next time we play.'" He took a deep breath as he leaned his head on the table's leg.
"The truth is, I'm always afraid that I won't be able to defeat him, and that I need to try much harder. People say that I'm a shadow of my father. For a long time, I was afraid that I would never be able to leave his shadow."
Sakuno's shivering stopped, and the sobs quieted down. It was then that Ryoma realized that he was rubbing his hand on her back, unconsciously trying to soothe her fears. Sniffling was heard as she slowly moved her face away from his soaked collar to finally look at him.
"But then again...I managed it somehow, although I still haven't been able to beat my old man, I am now my own person. I already found my own tennis, and soon...I will be able to beat him once and for all."
Their eyes met, and without breaking eye contact, he continued.
"All I'm saying is, everyone has their own fears. Even I have them." He paused, contemplating. "Actually...I have many of them. But each one that I overcome helps strengthen me. You have to do the same."
This was probably the longest he had ever talked, and he probably didn't even know what the hell he was saying anymore, but he continued anyway. What else could he do?
"If...you're not strong enough to do it on your own, you have to be strong enough to let others help," he finished.
He could feel the quivering of her hands starting to lessen as she looked straight at his eyes for the longest time since meeting each other.
"I-I…" began Sakuno.
Lightning struck again, illuminating the darkened kitchen for a brief moment followed by the booming thunder. Sakuno whimpered and tears gathered in the corner of her eyes.
Acting on impulse, Ryoma covered her ears with his hands and gently guided her face up to look back at him.
"You're what?" he asked, gently coaxing her body to lean more on him while not breaking eye contact.
"I…can't express myself," she said, barely above a whisper.
Involuntarily, his thumbs stroked the sides of her face, encouraging her to continue.
"I-I'm afraid of...getting close to people..."
"Why?" he asked.
"B-Be-because I don't want to offend anyone." Ryoma frowned. He knew that she had always been shy, but it looked like it wasn't just as simple as he thought.
"Why?" he repeated patiently.
"B-because...if I do something wrong, t-they...they will leave me too, and I will be alone again. I don't want to lose anyone. I'm always afraid that people will hate me. I d-don't want to make a mistake, but I always...always fail." Tears leaked out of her eyes as she blinked and Ryoma unconsciously wiped them with his thumbs.
"I want to express myself more…I want to do better, but I still fail, and sometimes, I wonder...when will Grandma get sick of me, when will Tomo-chan find a b-better, more confident friend than me, when will the senpais stop talking to me, and w-when will...Ryoma-kun stops acknowledging my exis–tence."
The last part of her sentence was barely audible for anyone to hear, but their close proximity and his keen ears made it clear to him. She tried to look down, but his hold on her was firm. He refused to let her shy away again.
"I...would never do that."
Her eyes widened at the same time as his. He didn't know why he said that, it just came out of his mouth before he could even think of anything to say, and yet Sakuno did not scramble away. Instead, she let her head fall softly against his chest. Ryoma decided then, that perhaps it was worth letting his mother scold him for the shirt.
Time was forgotten. The darkness continued to engulf the whole house, and the only source of light was coming from Ryoma's phone. Nothing seemed to matter.
"R-Ryo–" A loud boom interrupted her, and the last syllable of his name turned into a shriek of, "–maaa!" Her fingers twisted his shirt, and the shivering returned.
Unexpectedly, his chest rumbled and a chuckle escaped his lips. He placed his face on her shoulder to hide his expression.
Sakuno whimpered and clenched his shirt. "W-Why a-are y-you l-laughing?" she asked as she slowly lifted her head, but another roar of thunder moved her back to her previous position.
Suppressing the sudden urge to nuzzle her neck, he lifted his face from her shoulder to look down at her. "Heh...you just screamed my name without honorifics, Sakuno."
She let out a cute squeak and met his eyes. Through the small light coming from his phone, and with the help of his sharp vision, Ryoma could see the redness surrounding her face.
"I-I...I'm s-sorry...I–" Another roar of thunder, and she squealed as she ducked her head, her trembling hands covering her face.
Ryoma couldn't help but smile as he moved her head back to its previous position with a small sound of surprise coming from her throat.
"I'm not complaining, it's just surprising coming from you," he poked her forehead, "I didn't know you could scream like that," he teased as his lips stretched into his signature smirk. He could practically feel her face burn in embarrassment.
"R-Ryoma-k-kun, it was an accident, the thunder…"
"Heh, I think it sounds better," he said, smirking faintly.
Sakuno sighed, "You're teasing again."
She let out a little laugh which made him smile a bit. However, he could still see the tiny quivers in her hands, and body.
Ryoma frowned. 'This isn't just a normal kind of fear.'
"Sakuno...do you have–" Before he could finish his question though, his phone started ringing. He picked it up from the floor and squinted his eyes from the sudden brightness of the screen.
'Ryuzaki-sensei?' He immediately answered the call while his left arm remained secure around Sakuno.
Before he could greet his old coach though, she started talking. "Ryoma, do not, under any circumstances, leave Sakuno's side."
Ryoma blinked in surprise as he looked down at the girl in his arms. "She's here with me," he said.
There was an exhale of relief on the other line. "I'm sorry Ryoma. I know this is too much to ask from you, but I can't leave the school in this weather. I'll be sleeping here in the office, and forced to wait until the storm stops. Can you keep Sakuno company till then?"
"I can't actually go home in this weather, sensei, and Sakuno didn't stop shivering since the thunder started." He frowned as another loud clap of thunder echoed outside, and she whimpered.
Ryoma shifted as he tightened his hold around her and soothingly rubbed her back to ease her fear.
"That's what I was afraid of," Ryuzaki-sensei's voice was laced with worry and Ryoma couldn't contain himself from asking anymore.
"Childhood trauma?" he guessed.
Ryuzaki-sensei sighed. "Yes. It's from an accident she was involved in when she was eight, it's not my place to say more. If she trusts you enough, then she'll open up."
Ryoma contemplated the information, 'An accident, huh. What kind of accident could result in such fear in thunder?' He tightened his hold around Sakuno, and much to his relief, he noticed that she was already fast asleep. Her breaths were finally even, and her body relaxed.
"I usually sleep with her during storms such as this, and tightly shut the windows and doors around the house, but I'm not there with her now so I'm worried. She just needs to fall asleep," Ryuzaki-sensei said.
"She's asleep now," he said, stroking her head with his hand.
"Oh...that's surprising. She usually spends hours crying before she tires herself out."
Ryoma grunted as his eyes continued to trail on her curled form, the heat of her body easing him.
"Sensei?" he answered absentmindedly.
"Are you hugging my granddaughter right now?"
Startled beyond belief, he jerked in surprise as heat exploded from his neck up to his whole face and ears.
"Ah...I–s-she jumped me first!" he stuttered. Suddenly, he was tempted to bang his head multiple times on the wall.
Ryuzaki-sensei chuckled on the other line. "I entrust my granddaughter to you, Ryoma. Don't take advantage of her vulnerability."
"I won't! Sakuno's my friend. I would never..." he gritted his teeth in irritation. He sounded defensive even to his own ears. 'Damn it!'
Ryuzaki-sensei mischievously cackled. Ryoma didn't like the sound of it at all.
"Since when did you start calling her Sakuno?" her teasing voice itched in his ears, and his frown deepened. However, he was promptly frozen as his old coach's question finally registered to him.
'S-Since when did I start calling her by her first name?'
Ryoma wasn't aware. He didn't even realize it.
The tip of his ears burned more than ever and he clenched his jaw. "Am I not allowed to?" he gritted out.
Ryuzaki-sensei chuckled again. "She's your friend, right? It's alright if she let you."
Ryoma nodded his head, finally able to put his confusion and panic at rest.
'Right, she's one of my closest friends after all.'
–Only to be utterly shattered by Ryuzaki-sensei's next statement.
"The question is… do you only want her to be your friend?"
Ryoma stiffened. 'What?' Much to his horror, his heart started beating fast again, and his hands turned clammy.
He swallowed the sudden lump in his throat, and briefly closed his eyes to calm himself. He hoped to Kami-sama that his voice sounded as nonchalant as he intended to. "I don't know what you mean, sensei. Stop spouting nonsense, and just call my old man to inform them of my whereabouts."
"Of course. Take care of her, Ryoma," Ryuzaki-sensei said softly.
Ryoma suddenly forgot about all the teasing his old coach did as he remembered how frightened Sakuno was earlier.
"I'll put her in her bed," he said, indirectly asking for permission.
The coach hummed in agreement. "Go to the room next to Sakuno's. I put my son's clothes in the cabinet there. Don't worry, it's clean. Just choose something to sleep in. There's also an extra futon, pillow and comforter there."
"Got it." He nodded even though Ryuzaki-sensei couldn't see it.
"Remember, Ryoma. I entrust my granddaughter to you," There was a warning in her voice, and Ryoma snorted.
"I'm not my father, sensei."
Ryuzaki-sensei laughed. "Prove it, kid. I'll go now."
"Che. You don't have to tell me." He replied, pursing his lips in distaste.
"Hmp, cheeky brat," she muttered before the line went dead.
Ryoma exhaled and sat there motionless for a few seconds when the light abruptly returned. He blinked his eyes at the sudden brightness and looked down at Sakuno as she shifted in discomfort. The rain continued to mercilessly pour outside along with the howling wind, and the crackling of thunder.
He sighed before he proceeded to lift the girl in his arms. It was a good thing that her body was light. He didn't have any trouble getting her up to her bedroom and onto her bed.
Ryoma gently lay the girl on the soft sheet, taking care not to jolt her awake as he cushioned her head with a pillow. He covered her body with a blanket before he went to the next room to do as Ryuzaki-sensei had instructed.
Grabbing a simple white shirt and black shorts, Ryoma entered Sakuno's bathroom to take a much-needed shower. He needed to clear his head for a bit.
He leaned his forehead on the cold tiled wall as the hot water continued to rain down on him from the showerhead.
He really couldn't understand himself. How did this turn into something complicated? Just what the hell was he thinking earlier?
Just then, the memory of him inhaling Sakuno's strawberry-vanilla scented hair invaded his already confused mind.
Ryoma's head met the wall hard this time, leaving a stinging feeling on his rapidly burning skin. "Argh! Damn it!"
"I want to express myself more... sometimes, I wonder...w-when will...Ryoma-kun stops acknowledging my exis–tence."
"I...would never do that."
His voice echoed through his ears, repeating like a broken disc.
'Why did I say that?'
Just who was Ryuzaki Sakuno to him? Would he ever do the same thing if this happened with another girl? Like, Osakada, or Tachibana-san's sister? Would he make an effort to comfort them? Would he...hug them too?
Just then, an image of him trying to comfort a crying Osakada, snot, and tears all over her messed up face came to him. However, he couldn't even picture himself coming a foot near her.
'No. There's just no way!'
With Tachibana-san's sister. "You're being weird, stop crying." He could practically hear how flat his own voice sounded.
He shook his head, 'No, I'll probably sleep while the girl cries, or just stare off the distance. Why do I even care? It's not my problem.'
Then, what made Ryuzaki Sakuno different? Just...why?
As if his mind was trying to prove something to him, he thought of Sakuno giving him Ponta, a gentle smile on her face, and his whole body's temperature increased along with his heartbeat.
Flustered and utterly distracted, he hadn't realized that his grip on the shower handle increased, and before he knew it, cold water was already raining on him.
Ryoma yelped in surprise.
Unprepared for the sudden change of temperature, the icy water painfully pierced through him like a thousand needles, and his previously hot skin turned to frozen cold.
He stepped out of the shower shivering after torturing himself for three minutes under the freezing water. He immediately changed into his borrowed clothes and put his laundry inside the automatic washing machine to wash and dry for tomorrow. He then trekked back to the room next door and pulled out the extra futon.
He contemplated whether he should just sleep in this room or back in Sakuno's for a moment before remembering Ryuzaki-sensei's request. Sighing tiredly, Ryoma went back to her room and arranged the futon.
After a few seconds, he finally sat down on the soft sheet to stare at the sleeping girl. With his sharp vision, he was able to see the girl's face amidst the surrounding darkness. It was then he realized that he hadn't even finished his dinner or even took a sip on his can of Ponta.
Ryoma narrowed his eyes at her, "Che, such a troublesome girl."
The early morning was calm after the rain. Rays of golden sunlight streamed through the curtains, and there was no sign of the previous storm, except for the raindrops bubbling against the window. And yet, daybreak offered Ryoma no comfort.
Echizen Ryoma, the famous Tennis Prince of Seishun Gakuen, who considered sleeping as one of his favorite past times, hadn't slept a wink since laying down that night. His mind had mercilessly tortured him until the sun rose up the sky, and the clock read 6:30 am.
Ryoma knew, without looking at any mirror that he looked utterly miserable.
Rising from the supposed-to-be-comfortable futon, Ryoma dazedly stood up and returned the futon back to its original place. He robotically went towards the bathroom to wash his face and looked at the stranger staring back at him in the mirror.
His face was as pale as a paper. Dark circles surrounded his cat-like eyes, and his dark, blue-green hair was sticking in odd directions more than usual. Ryoma glared at his own reflection before he grabbed his previous clothes from the washer, already dry and ready to use.
He placed his borrowed clothes in the washer before he put on his own clothes. After making sure that he hadn't left any mess inside the bathroom, Ryoma went back to Sakuno's room to look for his tennis bag.
As he roamed his eyes around the room, he caught a glimpse of the subject of his thoughts all night long, sleeping like a log even after the previously chaotic night.
As if having a mind of their own, his traitorous feet brought him to the side of her bed and found himself staring at her sleeping form. He watched as her chest rose and fell with each breath she took. Her long, auburn, twin-braided hair was splayed across the pillow.
She barely seemed to move while she rested. She was like a baby, slumbering deeply, oblivious to the chaos she had caused him all night long. She wasn't snoring, sleep-talking, or making any sort of noise; she was as quiet now as she was awake (not counting yesterday, of course).
Ryoma stretched out a hand and touched her forehead with his pointing finger. Suppressing the urge to flick her, he pursed his lips.
"Stupid Sakuno, because of you, I didn't get a wink of sleep." He glared at her. "Che. Do your best tomorrow," he finally said as he removed his finger from her, and proceeded to go downstairs.
He went to the kitchen to grab a glass of water and caught sight of his tennis bag and his fila hat lying beside one of the table's legs.
'So that's where I left them,' he mused as he downed the water on the glass in one gulp.
Ryoma found himself unconsciously staring at the place he and Sakuno sat last night, and the memory of him embracing her from the same place flashed through his mind at the sight of the table.
He felt his whole face burn, and he furiously shook his head as he placed the glass in the sink. Hastily grabbing his bag and hat from the floor, he caught sight of his can of Ponta, left forgotten under the table.
'Bingo.' He grabbed it without hesitation, eager to douse himself with his favorite drink to help clear his head. He walked out of the kitchen while opening the can in his hand and went towards the front door, not wanting to stay another minute inside this house. He put on his shoes in a hurry and opened the door while sipping on his Ponta...
Only for Ryuzaki-sensei's face to greet him.
Ryoma almost spits the Ponta out of his mouth and into Ryuzaki-sensei's face. He slapped a hand to his mouth, the liquid instead dribbling down his chin.
"Oh, Ryoma… you're up early," his former coach said.
He wasn't able to reply. He was busy slamming a hand on his chest as he violently coughed, trying to breathe normally again.
Ryuzaki-sensei stood there, watching in amusement as he choked to death.
'Damn, stupid Ponta!' Never in his life, Ryoma thought he would one day curse his beloved beverage, but here he was.
After his coughing fit settled down, he looked back at his trying-not-to-laugh-but-failing-miserably Ryuzaki-sensei.
His eye twitched.
Attempting a nonchalant expression, he cooly put his fila hat on top of his head.
"Chisu," he greeted in a flat voice, "I'm going now, sensei." With a hand holding the bill of his hat, he bowed his head a little and proceeded to walk past his old coach.
"Hm. Your eyebags are pretty thick, weren't you able to sleep properly?" Ryoma froze in his tracks, and silently cursed his stupid eyebags.
He pulled on the bill of his hat much harder. "Che."
Ryuzaki-sensei laughed at his typical response. "I see, my granddaughter caused you a lot of trouble last night. I apologize on her behalf."
Ryoma frowned and twisted his body to look at Ryuzaki-sensei, only to see her eyes twinkling with glee. He scowled and drifted his eyes to the side, eyeing the innocent-looking bushes.
"Not really…" he denied, eyes refusing to look back at the old woman's face.
Ryuzaki-sensei laughed again and shook her head. "Thank you for taking care of my granddaughter, Ryoma. Go home safely."
Nodding slightly, Ryoma muttered a simple, "Osu," before he calmly continued his walk towards his home.
When he was a distance away from his old coach's house though, he sprinted towards his house as if Inui-senpai was hot on his tail with his special deluxe juice in hand.
To Be Continued...
Thank you to all my beta readers!
to2llyuntraceable, o0CrimsonsDragon0o, Stacy Donnely, Black angel in love
A/N: Let me know your thoughts about this chapter guys, and please read the teaser story below, I wanted to know if people like to read this kind of plot.
A Heartbreak That Leads Back To You
Written by: SyrinxSilenus
Summary: 8 years ago, Ryoma rejected Sakuno and returned to America the next day. After years of separation, she never thought of meeting him again during the worst moment of her life. In front of a love hotel as she stalked her cheating fiancé 2 months before their wedding. Fate was probably having fun playing her life.
Disclaimer: Prince of Tennis is owned by Takeshi Konomi, I own nothing but my Ocs.
Sakuno never thought after eight years of not seeing him, she would meet him again in the most unexpected way, during the worst moment of her life.
She could still remember how hopelessly in love she was with the Tennis Prince, Ryoma Echizen. Since meeting him for the first time, on that train where he accidentally saved her, she was hopelessly drawn to him. She followed him everywhere like a well-trained puppy and her eyes never left his person. She always wanted to see him, to be with him. For three years of her middle school life, she loved him.
She painstakingly hoped that one day, he would realize her worth and reciprocate her feelings, but no. She was just a stupid girl who was too far gone with her fantasies to realize the glaring truth.
Sakuno could still remember that day, all those years ago during their middle school graduation. She had swallowed all of her shyness and pushed herself to confess to him, hoping to all the gods in the world that he wouldn't reject her and that he also felt the same way towards her.
She felt special because he ate all the lunch boxes she made him and accepted the chocolates she had given him every Valentine's Day. He only accepted her chocolate, not his fangirls and not even Tomo-chan's. So she hoped; but deep down she knew that she was only deluding herself to avoid the pain, to avoid the thought of his heartless rejection, yet she pushed that assumption to the back of her mind.
She hadn't thought of the possibility that maybe he accepted her chocolate because she had given each member of the tennis team one. Maybe he accepted the lunches that she cooked for him because she shared her food with his fellow teammates, with Horio and the others to be precise. Maybe he tolerated her presence because she was their coach's granddaughter.
Those possibilities were so far from her mind.
So she confessed to him, and it was a very grave mistake. She could still vividly remember the words that she blurted out.
"R-Ryoma-kun, I-I…I l-like you. I have for a long time now."
She thought that she was special, she thought she had a chance, but a simple sentence made it all clear to her.
"I'm sorry, but I have more important things to do than play romance with you," he said, eyes were hidden by his Fila visor. He turned his back on her with a hand in his pocket and quietly left the rooftop, leaving her to wallow in her sorrow after his painful rejection.
Sakuno knew all along, no matter how much she tried to dismiss it, that Ryoma Echizen had a dream, and that dream was his priority in life. Not even she, an insignificant female who assumed that she had a special place in his heart, could fit herself in.
The next day after graduation, she found out from her grandmother that Ryoma flew back to America to fulfill his dream, and that was the last time Sakuno had seen him. She cried for countless nights and blamed herself for assuming things on her own–for thinking that she was special because he treated her a bit differently from his fangirls.
The thought of Ryoma's rejection consumed her for many days and nights. She felt like she wouldn't be able to live a normal life again. It was suffocating. Living a life without Ryoma, without seeing him and feeling his presence. She didn't realize it, but she grew dependent on him. Now she didn't know what to do with herself. She thought she wouldn't be able to survive the heartache.
Thankfully, after two years of trying to move on and with all the help of her two best friends, An and Tomoka, she managed to pull herself back again and learned to live a life without Ryoma on her mind.
She went to high school and focused on her studies. For three years she didn't entertain any of her suitors. She promised herself that she didn't need a man in her life, and so, she graduated high school and went to university to study fine arts.
A year into college, she met a man. His name was Kei Yamamura. The two of them met in an explosion of books and pens in front of the library and it was then that a new cycle in her life started. Kei's appearance in her life was as abrupt as Ryoma's, yet less complicated than him. She could still remember their first meeting as clear as day. Their first collision.
Today was their last meeting before their final project presentation and Sakuno was already running late. if she could've just remembered the right way to the library, she could've gotten there much earlier. It was unfortunate but nineteen years of existence didn't cure Sakuno Ryuzaki's directionally-challenged self. Thankfully, her clumsy personality had lessened considerably. Well, she assumed.
As soon as she thought that, she turned in a corner and painfully collided into something–or someone. Her books and pens scattered on the floor as she landed ungracefully with a wince. Muttering an apology, she started picking up her things.
"I'm so sorry, I wasn't paying attention," the person she bumped into said.
"It's okay, I was in a hurry so I didn't see you," she replied.
Once all her things were gathered, a hand came into her line of sight and she took it without much thought. The man–Sakuno assumed because the voice sounded masculine–helped her stand up and that was the first time she managed to gaze at his full image.
"I'm Kei Yamamura. I'm sorry for the trouble I caused."
"It's alright. As I said, I'm also at fault. I'm Sakuno Ryuzaki."
The man, Yamamura-san, smiled at her and they shook each other's hands. She had to admit, he was handsome, but Sakuno had spent her time surrounded by so many good-looking men that he just seemed average compared to the men she met through tennis.
"I still feel awful. I'm new here so I'm still unfamiliar with the buildings," he said. Sakuno's mouth formed an 'o' as she nodded in understanding.
"You transfer today?" she asked.
"No, yesterday. I'm looking for the library. Maybe you can point it out to me," he said, smiling sheepishly as he rubbed his nape.
"Umm, I'm actually going there," she muttered. Yamamura-san's eyes lit up.
"Really? Then let's go together."
Sakuno opened her mouth to agree but remembered that she was also lost. Now how was she going to tell him this? 'Oh no, this is so embarrassing!' Wishing for the earth to open underneath her and devour her whole.
"U-umm…" she hesitated and her eyes darted around before landing on the sign just beside them.
"Library…" she whispered in bewilderment as she pointed at the huge sign on the door to their left. Yamamura-san shifted his head to follow her finger and mumbled, "oh…"
They gazed at each other for a total of three seconds before they started laughing. After they exchanged another comical apology, went inside the library, and went their separate ways. Or so she thought.
As if fate wanted to play matchmaker on them, they met again in Sakuno's next class and the class after. It was then that they developed an odd kind of friendship and started interacting and meeting more frequently.
They went to the library together, ate in the garden, watched the Twilight Saga in the theater and a few other outings with Sakuno's best friends and old Seigaku's regulars. It was a harmless friendship for her. Tomo-chan and An-chan thought otherwise, but she ignored them and insisted that they were just friends.
She vowed to herself that she would never fall in love again because she didn't want to experience another heartbreak. She probably wouldn't be able to survive a second time. Once was enough. She was wrong though.
Sakuno realized from the start that Kei Yamamura and Ryoma Echizen were two different individuals. But every time Kei did something Ryoma wouldn't, she was surprised.
One of their most glaring differences was Kei talks a lot while Ryoma preferred to be silent. Kei was careful with his words and always kind to everyone unlike Ryoma who blurted his thoughts as short and blunt as he could. Kei gave her soft smiles, Ryoma smirked mockingly. Kei would give way to others while Ryoma would take whatever he wanted for himself.
Ryoma taught her tennis, and the joy and agony of loving someone for the first time, but he broke her heart. She fell in love at first sight and loved him for so long, yet, it led to a tragic end.
Sakuno was afraid to experience it again, but Yamamura Kei appeared in her life. He taught her how to love again and how to be loved back. Kei taught her that love wasn't just a give and give relationship but a give and take.
She was finally opening herself again. Someone had helped her out of her shell to welcome love for a second time around, and he wasn't Ryoma Echizen. He was Kei Yamamura. For a long time, she believed that Kei would be the one for her. She thought she could completely erase Ryoma Echizen's traces in her heart. She thought that Kei was the one for her.
He was everything Ryoma was not. Kei was considerate, kind, and friendly. She enjoyed his company and they got along well. With Kei, she felt comfortable to be herself. So she took a gamble and accepted him into her life.
Their relationship was actually refreshing, considering this was Sakuno's first romantic relationship. Not much conflict because she was always understanding, and in return, Kei was sweet. He never forgot their anniversary, celebrated every birthday, and always made their time together special.
Kei's family was very influential, so when his family found out about Sakuno, they were ecstatic. His family immediately accepted her, and she was happy– for a while. She was finally able to experience the joy of loving someone again, of giving him almost everything to express how much he meant to her without being afraid of rejection. A year into their relationship, Sakuno was finally content. They were happy together, or so she thought.
Four years later, here she was, now twenty-three years old, standing behind the topiary and trees in front of a hotel, stalking her fiance as he walked with a sexy, beautiful woman beside him. His arms were wrapped around the woman's waist, and they were laughing and kissing as they walked. Sakuno's world shook as she felt her heart being torn apart into tiny little pieces.
She had accidentally seen them at a coffee shop on her way to Tokyo after she visited her grandmother in Hokkaido. The place was far away from the usual places Sakuno went and it was only by chance that she stumbled on them.
This was planned, to avoid any confrontation with her. Sakuno was beyond shocked at seeing her fiancé laughing with another woman and they were touching each other's hands while exchanging intense looks. She tried her best to deny everything she saw. She made excuses.
'Maybe I'm assuming things and they were just colleagues.'
With shaking hands, she immediately called Kei and asked where he was. Practically begging to the gods that 'It's not what it looks like. He isn't cheating on me.' But then, he answered.
"I'm with Tony today, just hanging out."
'Tony, his male best friend, but that isn't Tony. Tony's a man, that's– that's a w-woman, Kei,' Her chest constricted, and she started losing oxygen. Sakuno could only reply a quiet, "oh" as she listened to his farewell and fake 'I love you's'.
Her eyes followed Kei's every movement as he put the phone back in his pocket and returned his attention back to the woman in front of him. He smiled so sweetly at her, and Sakuno watched as he reached out and touched the woman's hand that was placed on the table. The woman smiled back at him oh so sweetly.
Sakuno didn't know how she did it, how she remained standing as she watched them. How she could continue to look at them. To continue seeing Kei with another woman as her whole being slowly crumbled into dust. She wanted to just leave and get away from the sight, to run away from reality, but her feet wouldn't let her. It was as if her feet had a mind of their own. It was as if someone was telling her to follow them and get some evidence.
So she followed them after they left the cafe hand in hand, even though she felt as if her heart was about to explode and she was on the verge of unconsciousness. She pushed herself to walk and take pictures–'I can't call off the wedding without proof. It's to show his family that I'm not the one at fault. It's to protect myself from other people's assumptions. It's to have something to remind myself that what I saw wasn't just a simple nightmare.'
Sakuno hid as her eyes continued to trail them until she saw their final destination.
"H-how long...how long were you fooling me, Kei-kun?" she couldn't help but blurt out as she felt her whole body go numb.
Sakuno stood there like a statue, watching while her fiance and his woman took their time flirting while they walked towards the hotel's entrance. 'A hotel. A private room for themselves. For them to...completely enjoy each other.'
Her mind felt like it was malfunctioning. Sakuno was in a daze; she felt as if her soul just left her body to rot. She didn't know what to do now. Her mind was becoming blank, and she was on the verge of a total breakdown.
That was the exact moment that she bumped into him.
She didn't notice him at all. Her eyes were too focused on her fiance, and he was too focused on running away from his fangirls to see her walking like a corpse. Their collision was so hard that they simultaneously fell on the ground.
It was as if her whole body went into shock that she didn't even bother immediately standing up. She slowly grabbed her fallen eyeglasses and put them back on her face, but her eyes stayed on the ground, completely defeated.
"I'm sorry." His deep baritone voice seemed to echo amidst her chaotic mind, and Sakuno slowly looked up with the tears in her eyes that she had been suppressing since she saw her fiance leave the cafe. Because she knew that voice no matter how long it had been or how it had matured since the last time she heard it. She would recognize it even in the middle of a crowded street.
Her eyes slowly traced the person on the ground; from his expensive-looking shoes, up to his clothed chest, shoulder, and then neck. Finally, dark amber eyes clashed with familiar cat-like golden irises, and Sakuno felt like laughing.
'How cruel. Is this how you punish me, fate? What did I ever do to you?' she miserably thought as she gazed at the surprised eyes of Ryoma Echizen, the Prince of Tennis and the world's most famous tennis player.
It was funny how he could still remember her name when he usually forgot insignificant things that weren't related to tennis. Sakuno felt like laughing again.
She quietly stood up even as Ryoma followed her every move with his wide fierce eyes. She dusted herself off and bravely met his gaze, even though she was perfectly aware of the flowing tears on her cheeks. He was probably freaked out seeing her after so many years.
Sakuno knew Ryoma, even though it had been years. Ryoma Echizen may act tough, but he didn't like seeing tears on women, especially not in front of him. She realized after talking with the senpais, and multiple months of analyzing his actions that that was why he had turned his back on her when he rejected her all those years ago.
Sakuno understood that back then, Ryoma had tried his best to get his point across her as softly as he could even though his words hurt more than a stab of a knife. Now here he was, right in front of her again. Witnessing her crying because of a man again. Sakuno Ryuzaki, crying because she was broken once again. How utterly pathetic.
"I'm sorry Ryoma-kun, I would like to say that it's nice meeting you again after so many years but I–" she couldn't continue what she was trying to say. It was getting hard to breath.
"O-oi, why are you crying?" His voice was in a panic, and he looked as if he didn't want to be there.
Sakuno almost felt sorry for him, but she had other things to worry about. New strength was given to her upon seeing Ryoma again. She didn't know why, but the determination to get to the bottom of this was suddenly fiercer than earlier.
She had to follow them and get more solid evidence than what she currently had. She needed this. Not for her to beg Kei to forget about that woman and choose her, but to convince herself to let go and hate him. This was for her, so she wouldn't accept him in her life again even if he begged her to stay with him.
She shifted her eyes away from Ryoma and back to her soon to be ex-fiance. She saw them finally entering the hotel's door, and she almost panicked. She had to follow them now.
Her eyes snapped back towards Ryoma, and she was finally able to notice his signature Fila hat and the sunglasses in his hand. Before he could say anything though, she abruptly snatched the hat from his head which startled him beyond belief.
"I'm sorry Ryoma-kun, I don't have time to chat right now. Let me borrow this for a moment," she said.
"W-what! But I need–"
Again, she didn't let him finish and just grabbed the sunglasses from his hand too.
"Oi, Ryuzaki! What do you think you're doing–"
For the first time since meeting him, Sakuno snapped at him. Her voice laced with an ice-like coldness that chilled even her to the bones, but she knew the expression on her face remained as blank as a piece of paper.
Ryoma looked utterly flabbergasted. At any other time, Sakuno would have laughed at the expression he was making right now, but she didn't have enough time. Before Ryoma could protest again, she walked towards the entrance of the hotel.
"Wait, oi, Ryuzaki! What the hell do you think you're doing?! People will recognize me without my cap and–"
Again, Sakuno didn't let him finish. She craned her neck to briefly look at him.
"Use the hood of your jacket, stupid," she said coldly before she continued into the hotel.
Sakuno was too focused on catching up with Kei and his woman that it didn't even occur to her that she just called the Prince of Tennis 'stupid'. She was too focused on the task at hand to completely process Ryoma's sudden appearance in front of her after eight years of not seeing or hearing from him. Sakuno didn't even bother to look at his reaction and just simply went to the front desk and asked the female attendant for Yamamura Kei's room number.
"Ma'am, we can't–"
"I'm not in a mood to argue with you. Tell me his room number, or I'll bury you with my cheating fiance's body...alive," she coldly hissed.
Sakuno knew that she was acting so differently. She knew that she was not her usual kind and meek self, but the pain was overbearing. She felt like she would die if she didn't do something. If she didn't somehow let it out.
She was probably going crazy. Everything was a mess, and she was moving on autopilot. She just saw her boyfriend of three years, and fiancé of one, cheating on her two months before their wedding, and then, just as she saw them about to enter a hotel, she bumped into the first man that ever broke her heart. 'What is this? Mess with Sakuno day?'
Thankfully, the attendant seemed to understand the situation and immediately obliged with her demands.
"I-Is he with you, ma'am?" the attendant asked, pointing at someone behind her. She didn't need to look at the person to know who it was, and Sakuno felt like bawling.
'Why are you still here?!'
She wanted to scream at Ryoma, who was undoubtedly still following her, but she had other things to do. It was ironic since it was the other way around when they were in middle school. She took a deep breath to calm herself, briefly side-eyeing him before answering.
"I guess." She briskly turned around and went towards the elevator.
She knew that her fiancé and his woman weren't inside their room. She could probably see them entering it if she hurried. So she went inside one of the elevators with Ryoma still following her. She suppressed the urge to ask him why he was following her, and just pushed the button to the third floor.
They stood a few meters away from each other in silence until it was broken by the soft ding of the elevator. Sakuno wordlessly went out and ran towards the appropriate hallway and stopped to hide as she saw her fiance making out with his woman.
"Can't even make it inside the room, you assholes," she mumbled as she took out her phone and snapped a couple of pictures of the two.
"Ne, who are they?" Ryoma finally asked beside her. Sakuno suppressed the urge to frown at him for being nosy and remained silent instead. She pretended as if she hadn't heard him ask at all.
When the two lust-filled assholes started walking towards their appropriate door while still kissing, She captured another picture. Her tears were finally dried and her whole being was filled with too much anger, suffocating pain, and worthlessness. Sakuno felt like a useless toy thrown carelessly in the garbage can after four years.
'Am I so unlovable that no one wants to stay with me?'
Sakuno watched as her soon-to-be-ex-fiance and his woman went inside the room while hungrily eating each other's faces. She numbly walked towards the door to their room and took a picture of the whole door with the room's number, standing there for a total of five seconds. She was aware that Ryoma was still there. 'What the heck does he want? Is his hat that important to him?'
Sakuno tried her best to dismiss his presence as she walked towards the door and leaned on it. She just stood there as she took a number of deep breaths.
"Oi, are you...going to wait for them 'til they finish?" Ryoma asked, he looked uncomfortable, and somehow, Sakuno felt a sense of accomplishment. 'Hah! Suffer with me then, It's your fault for being nosy!'
"No," she finally mumbled as she started walking towards the elevators again with Ryoma following her.
They went inside, and she pushed the G button that would drop them to the parking lot. Sakuno continued to ignore the Tennis Prince and dialed a number while looking at the changing floors to the side. She waited until the other line picked up.
Sakuno felt Ryoma suddenly perk up beside her when she mentioned their senpai's name.
"Hello, Sakuno-chan, why did you call me? Fuji and Kikumaru-senpai are here with An and Tomoka too. I'm helping them with the wedding preparation. Where are you? We've been waiting for you since forever."
"Momo-senpai, cancel everything we planned for today, and please do me a favor." She ignored everything that Momo-senpai said. She didn't want to hear anything about the stupid wedding plans.
"What! But Sakuno–"
"Is it not possible?" she asked, cutting off any of his protests.
"I–no. What do you need, Sakuno-chan?"
"I need to borrow your car, Momo-senpai. Please meet me in the parking lot of the Starlight hotel," she said, trying her best to make her voice steady.
"Starlight hotel? What are you doing–"
The other line paused at the tone of her voice. It was not cold like the other times. It was broken. Full of pain and anguish.
"Sakuno-chan, what happened?"
She couldn't take it anymore. Her heart was about to explode. Her whole body was trembling and on the verge of collapsing.
There was a ding, and she robotically walked out of the elevator with her feet becoming heavier and heavier with each step.
The smell of the underground parking lot invaded her senses, but it didn't help her ease the pain. Her chest felt so tight that she just wanted to rip her heart out to stop everything from hurting. 'It's so painful. Everything felt so painful. I feel like I'm drowning.'
"Momo-senpai…" her voice cracked and the tears burst out of her eyes. They were flowing so fast, and so freely, like a waterfall while her breaths were in staccato.
"Sakuno-chan!" Momo-senpai sounded alarmed now.
"He–I...I s-saw Kei, Momo-senpai. H-he's w-with a-a w-w-woman," she was hiccuping and gasping as the sobs burst from deep within her. She didn't care if someone saw her here. She didn't care at all.
"What? Are you sure that you're not mis–"
"I saw him making out with a woman. A damn sexy woman! They were sucking each others' faces, and they weren't even inside their damn room yet! They couldn't even wait and just frenched kissed in the hallway until they got inside of their hotel room! I even filmed it! I saw them flirting at the coffee shop and on their way to the hotel, they were already exchanging kisses! How long has he been lying to me, Momo-senpai!? Why did he do this to me? What have I ever done to him?!"
Her knees gave out on her with the sunglasses falling on the ground as she sat on the cold floor of the parking lot weeping like a baby. She was screaming now and definitely in hysterics, but she just simply didn't give a damn.
"That bastard! I'll kill him! We're coming now, Sakuno-chan. Wait for us." Sakuno could hear footsteps scrabbling away and some voices talking in the background, but she was too far gone to notice who those voices belonged to.
"Momo-senpai, I-I j-just need t-to get a-away f-from h-here. P-please l-let me b-borrow y-your car," she hiccupped.
"Okay, okay. We're on our way," Momo-senpai said before the call ended.
Her breathing became heavy as she continued crying and gasping for air. She wrapped her arms around her knees and buried her face as she let her tears fall freely from her eyes. She just wanted to curl up and die. She wanted everything to stop.
'Please let this be a dream, please let this be a dream. Please please please!'
Just then, she felt something soft dropped on her shoulder and Sakuno jerked her head up in surprise only to be greeted by a pair of cat-like golden eyes.
"R-Ryoma-k-kun? W-Why are you s-still h-here?" she asked, still gasping for breath. She had forgotten about him. She was consumed with too much pain and self-pity to even remember his presence there.
Ryoma quietly sat beside her before he answered. "How could I leave you here in this state?" he asked as if talking about the weather. Sakuno wanted to laugh.
'How ironic, my first heartbreak is trying to comfort me? Unbelievable.'
"Y-you don't have to p-pity me," she mumbled. She heard him sigh.
"It's not that," he said.
"T-Then what?" she asked as she sniffled.
Ryoma gave her a handkerchief before he answered her again, and she thanked him as she accepted his offer.
"We...go way back," he mumbled, not looking at her. Sakuno looked at him in confusion, not understanding what he meant.
"You're...one of my...friends," he barely whispered his last words. She knew that it probably took him a lot to admit that, and Sakuno was undoubtedly flabbergasted. "I...don't want to leave a friend in need," he mumbled, his eyes hidden under his bangs.
Her eyes widened.
She sat there gaping at him. Never in a million years, had she ever thought that Ryoma Echizen considered her a friend.
"I-I thought that...y-you don't consider me a...f-friend," she whispered.
Ryoma looked at her weirdly. "You're the only girl that I actually talked to in middle school," he said matter-of-factly.
"Oh…" she dumbly replied, then she sighed. "You know, i-if you just told me that you see me as a friend then we wouldn't have d-drifted apart like total s-strangers. I would n-never have pushed my f-feelings on you. I w-would've understood. I'm f-fine being your f-friend. I would b-be happy even just k-knowing that you c-considered me a friend." She hiccupped as she wiped her tears.
Ryoma was silent for a few seconds before he answered.
"I...I didn't want to hurt a friend," he said as he finally met her eyes. Sakuno's tears continued to fall. "I knew that if I kept you around while knowing your feelings, I would just continue to hurt you without meaning to. Knowing you, you probably wouldn't even complain about it. I wanted you to move on peacefully, and continue with your life."
Sakuno exhaled. "I guess...that makes sense, and now… here I am. Still, the pathetic girl that you left behind eight years ago," she muttered as she dryly laughed.
"Not really. Your ex is the one who's pathetic," he deadpanned. Sakuno laughed much louder.
"Stupid bastard," she mumbled.
Ryoma looked at her with amusement visible in his golden eyes. "The first time I heard you curse earlier, I couldn't believe my ears," he said, smirking at her.
Sakuno chuckled before it morphed into a sad smile. "I just...couldn't help it."
'And there go the tears again.'
Sakuno tried to suppress it because she didn't want to show Ryoma her weakness, but she couldn't take the pain anymore. She wanted to tell him everything. To let him know all the feelings she had bottled up since her confession and her trials of getting through them until she was finally able to stand by herself and move on from him. All the overwhelming emotion was consuming her.
Before Sakuno knew it, she was blurting out everything to Ryoma. How hard it was for her when he suddenly disappeared after her confession. How incomplete she felt. How she just wanted to disappear and how much she blamed herself for assuming and confessing to him. How that point in her life had changed her tremendously. How she coped in her high school life until she graduated and went to university.
She told him how she met Kei. How everything started between them. Her happy moments with him as she finally allowed herself to fall in love again after closing her heart for so many years. Their most unforgettable anniversary. That time he had surprised her on her birthday.
She told Ryoma how she graduated from college and was now a painter with a lot of exhibits since graduating and that Fuji-senpai helped her a lot. She told him about the senpais. How they never left her side and how they became closer. She told him that Momo-senpai and An-chan were about to get married six months from now and that Kaido-senpai was surprisingly the first among the senpais who got married to her best friend, Tomo-chan, and how Horio had cried rivers of tears.
Sakuno told Ryoma that two months from now, she was supposed to marry the love of her life. If she hadn't seen them earlier, she would probably spend the rest of her life married to a cheating bastard. She poured her feelings out in the open, and Ryoma quietly listened to her. He didn't comment or reprimanded her for all her wrong choices, and he also didn't offer any advice. He was just there, sitting a bit closer to her, giving her warmth as if to offer his silent comfort. It was a very Ryoma thing to do. No words needed, just his presence.
As her sobs were dying down, two cars stopped near them and the senpais and her two best friends, Tomoka and An came out running towards her only to stop so abruptly that they bumped into one another at the sight of Ryoma Echizen beside her.
The senpais and her two best friends all gawked at Ryoma as if he had ten heads on his shoulders. It took them a few seconds before Momo-senpai managed to get a word out of his gaping mouth.
"E-Echizen! W-when did you get back from America! And what on Earth are you doing–"
"Senpais. Ryuzaki needs to get away from here. Let me borrow your car," Ryoma cut Momo-senpai's questions off and stood up with his hands in his pockets.
Sakuno didn't speak and pulled down the bill of Ryoma's hat to hide her tear-streaked face from her friends' view. She didn't know why she was suddenly feeling embarrassed when she just broke down on the phone with Momo-senpai but right now, Sakuno felt like hiding from the world was a great idea.
"W-what?" Momo-senpai dumbly asked with his eyes bulging out of their sockets. Before anyone could say anything though, Fuji-senpai stepped forward and handed Ryoma his car key.
"Here, take care of Sakuno-chan for us, Echizen," Fuji-senpai said.
Sakuno peaked from under the protection of Ryoma's hat when she heard Fuji-senpai's tone, and she saw his intense blue eyes staring straight at Ryoma's fierce eyes.
"You don't have to tell me," Ryoma said seriously as he grabbed her hand and gently pulled her with him. Sakuno let him as she looked down at her feet.
"Oh…" He suddenly stopped. "The bastard's in room 305. Make him pay, senpais," he coldly said. Sakuno looked up at him in surprise, and she caught the sight of her senpais' firm nods from the corner of her eyes before he continued to pull her towards the cars.
"R-Ryoma-kun?" she asked, uncertain.
Ryoma glanced at her and tightened his grip on her hand as if assuring her that everything would be fine and somehow, Sakuno felt like believing in him. It was as if she was a twelve-year-old girl again who was depending on Ryoma to save her. Like the old times.
Ryoma pointed the car key and pressed the button to find out which of the two cars were Fuji-senpai's and opened the door of the red one that blinked its light. Sakuno followed along like a puppy.
"O'chibi, update us!" Kikumaru-senpai yelled as Ryoma strapped her into the passenger's seat. He closed the door after he made sure that she was settled and nodded at Kikumaru-senpai.
Sakuno watched Ryoma as he walked around the car and opened the driver's side door. He situated himself inside the car and put on his own seatbelt. All the while, she remained quiet. She felt drained after she poured out everything to Ryoma. She just wanted to sleep and pray that the pain wouldn't haunt her nightmares. She vaguely heard Ryoma starting the car but before she knew it, she was already fast asleep.
End of TEASER...