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The Dispossession of Echizen Ryoma

By Sinnatious
 
Summary: When Ryoma finds himself in a tough situation, his pride might keep him swimming, but it’s Tezuka who keeps his head above water.
 
Rating: PG-13
 
Author’s Note: Thanks again to Kaori for her excellent beta work. This chapter was a complete mess before she got her paws on it. :)
 
The Dispossession of Echizen Ryoma

Chapter 4
 
Ryoma’s second night in the park was marginally better than the first. Now that he'd seen it in daytime, the menacing shadows all had benign objects attached to them.  He still cringed at how easily spooked he became - for the first couple of hours he continued to tense whenever footsteps or voices wafted within earshot.  His heart almost stopped when one pedestrian walked through sometime around ten at night, obviously using the park as a shortcut, but they passed right by him without even missing a step.  That had been the only case of anyone actually entering the hidden patch of forgotten green, so he managed to eventually relax enough to drift off into an uneasy sleep.

Morning once again came far too soon for his tastes - Ryoma woke up with a twig digging into his side, with the sun only just breaching the horizon.  His unsuccessful attempts at falling back to sleep were not accommodated by the cold, dewy ground and the dead leaves tickling his legs. With a sigh, the freshman sat up, resigned to another early morning.  His stomach complained of hunger, reminding him that he'd barely eaten the day before, but it was hard to process through a sleep-deprived brain. 

Ryoma arrived early at morning practice again and resorted to hitting a ball against the wall while he waited for someone to come and open the clubhouse. Oishi turned up after a few minutes.

"Oh, Echizen, early again, huh?" he asked cheerfully.

"Hn."

"I have to say, it's nice to have someone turn up before me for a change.  Twice in a row!  Are you turning over a new leaf?"

"Something like that," he replied in a dry tone. 

Oishi laughed, though he immediately turned his humour into concern.  "Seriously, though, are you doing okay Echizen?  You seemed really out of it yesterday, and you don't look like you've been sleeping well."
 
“The house has just been noisy the past few mornings,” he lied, “Makes it hard to sleep in.”
 
“Ah, I understand,” the vice-captain agreed. “It seems like whenever I actually try to sleep in, there’s some racket in the kitchen to wake me up. I guess over time I’ve become used to waking up early.”
 
Ryoma didn’t bother responding. He raised a hand to cover a yawn. Once they finished setting up the courts, he wandered off to start his warm-ups early, but moved through them so sluggishly that most of the rest of the club had arrived by the time he’d finished. At Coach Ryuuzaki's direction, he started feeding balls to the juniors who’d also finished warming up for their backhand practice. Having to focus what little concentration he had on the task in his tiredness, he remained completely oblivious to the discussions about him taking place just two courts over. 
 
“What do you think was wrong with Echizen yesterday?” Fuji asked, approaching Tezuka.
 
“I have no idea,” the captain responded, not even pausing in his stretches.
 
“I thought maybe he was just having an off day, but he didn’t even react to Inui’s juice.”
 
“Inui?” Tezuka deferred as the senior in question walked up behind them.
 
The senior paused in his notebook scribbling to fiddle with his glasses. “At first I was inclined to believe that his problem was personal in nature, perhaps caused by some tragedy as many of his symptoms were indicative of a severe emotional shock. However, after further observation yesterday afternoon and his appearance this morning, there is a 75% chance that he is either merely ill or experiencing a brief bout of insomnia. It explains his poor concentration, fatigue and his lack of reaction to my juice yesterday. It is quite common for one’s sense of taste to dramatically diminish when one becomes ill or overtired.”
 
“Hmm, that’s no good. I hope it isn’t anything serious,” Fuji mused.
 
“Echizen very rarely gets sick from what I’ve been able to tell. This will be an excellent opportunity for valuable data. It is good for the team to be aware of how a player’s sickness pattern plays out, so that tournaments can be planned for appropriately. Did you know, for example, that Kaidoh generally only gets sick for three days, but during those days he’s scarcely able to get out of bed? Kikumaru, on the other hand, tends to have his illness drawn out over a number of weeks, with brief relapses until he manages a complete recovery, but during that time he is typically able to function at about 70% of his regular capacity.”
 
“Fascinating.”
 
Tezuka completed his warm-ups, taking a moment to send an expressionless glance in the Ryoma’s direction, before ordering, “Fuji, take three of the juniors and have them work on serve and volley. Inui, go run the freshmen through the standard set of forehand drills.”
 
“Does that include Echizen?”
 
Tezuka sent the other senior a disapproving look, and Inui promptly headed over to where the rest of the freshmen were standing. 
 
Ryoma, in the meantime, was enjoying losing himself in the familiar repetitive motions of swinging a tennis racquet. He was disappointed when morning practice was called to a close, but shuffled off to class along with everyone else without complaint, continuing to struggle to stifle his yawns. It looked as though English class was going to be relegated to nap time once again. 
 
Classes that day at least went a little better than the day previous.  He still hadn't done his homework - it hadn't seemed important at the time - but most of the teachers took one look at the deep bags under his eyes and didn't even ask.  Everyone was allowed to have a couple of off days, even though Sakuno and Tomoka and the 'freshmen trio' as his senpai called them all asked him multiple times if he was okay and whether or not there was anything they could do to help.  He brushed them off for the most part, but when Ryuuzaki had offered him her extra rice balls at lunch, he gratefully accepted.  That act only seemed to prompt more questions, eventually forcing him to seek sanctuary on the roof once again. 

Still, Ryoma knew that he had to pull himself together, and fast.  He'd established his situation now, and the shock was starting to wear off.  If he remained a space case through classes and practice forever, the questions wouldn't stop, and eventually someone would find out about his situation.  He didn't think he could bear the embarrassment of everyone knowing.  Homework would have to start being done again, for one.  Ryoma figured he could use the library after tennis practice, but he wouldn't have enough time if it ran late.  Finding time was going to be the tricky part.  Most of it could be done during his lunch hour, but after that he might just have to do it on his lap at the park.  A desk had never been considered a luxury before, but things changed fast, apparently.

Afternoon practice went a lot better than the previous, largely due to the fact that he was focusing as much of his attention on appearing as normal as possible.  Again, everyone was allowed an off day, even the regulars, but if he messed up his drills two days in a row his team mates would be giving him the third degree. Now that he was starting to pay attention, he was a little more aware of his senpai’s curious eyes on him, but their attention started to drift after he’d said ‘Mada mada dane’ a few times and managed to complete his drills without any mistakes. 
 
Even so, Ryoma hurried off as soon as afternoon practice had ended, forgoing burgers in attempt to avoid any more offers for a ride home from Momoshiro. The past two days had been spent sorting everything through in his mind; firstly trying to figure out what exactly had happened, then turning to the much more pertinent question of what to do about it. After he’d nearly spilled to his senpai the day before, he had stopped and reconsidered staying with a friend – surely out of all of the regulars, there ought to be someone able to put him up for a while – but he’d eventually dismissed that idea as Ryoma couldn’t deal with the notion of admitting to his team mates that he’d been literally thrown out of his own home for something as absurd as losing a tennis match. And he didn’t really know where else to turn. He’d never been a sociable person, and the only other family he even knew of were Nanako’s parents, but they lived all the way out in the country. That wouldn’t do. He had to keep attending Seigaku. It was the lone thread of normalcy he was clinging onto.
 
It was fortunate Seigaku wasn’t a private school; he wouldn’t be able to pay tuition. Since that wasn’t an issue, for the time being his biggest concerns were food, shelter, and not being found out by anyone. 
 
He’d brought all of the money he had saved with him, luckily, but that was probably only five or six thousand yen. It had seemed like quite a lot of money while he’d been saving it, but now seemed a mere pittance, as he didn’t yet know when or where he’d be able to acquire money next. That was relegated to the ‘problems to deal with later’ section of his brain as he returned to pondering other dilemmas while heading to the park, intent on doing at least some homework before the sun set. How the heck had Ryoga done this for so many years? Then again, his elder brother was a far more sociable individual than he ever was – he probably had plenty of friends in America he could have stayed with - and he didn’t have the same sort of pride that Ryoma did. Of course he didn’t; he hadn’t had to put up with his old man trying to crush it every day of his life. 
 
Dinner was bought from a ramen stand on his way to the park. It wasn’t really enough to fill him up, but Ryoma was reluctant to spend his finite supply of money on something more substantial. Weighing up his options as he ate, he figured that he could probably stay at the park for a while. It wasn’t a permanent solution, but he didn’t have the ability to consider much more than his day-to-day necessities at that point in time. That only left keeping his secret, but all he had to do for that was think up some good excuses for turning down Momoshiro’s offers for rides to and from school and he was essentially in the clear there. It was almost fortunate he was such a private person in that regard. And if he kept up the trend of getting to practice early, he only had to brush his senpai off in the afternoon. 
 
There were other things to think about, too.   He desperately wanted a proper bath, but clubhouse showers were going to have to suffice; going to the public baths would erode his meagre savings even faster than what food would. Most of the other issues could be put aside for the time being, though, while the freshman got his rhythm back and settled into a new routine. 
 
With that temporary plan of attack in mind, he retired to the park to work on his homework until it got too dark. He wound up struggling through the last few questions under the streetlight. His handwriting was probably barely legible, but at least it was done. After that, he wandered off to the street tennis courts for a while to watch some strangers play before returning to the park to sleep. 
 
The rest of the week passed painfully slowly.  The first year took solace in his time at school, basking in the familiar presences of his teammates.  After the first two nights, he'd grown somewhat used to sleeping in the park, and while he wasn't sleeping well, he at least had enough rest to function normally during classes.  On his fourth day of arriving at practice early, Oishi had presented him with a spare key to the clubhouse, saying, “It was a bit tricky to get permission since you’re only a freshman, but since you’re one of the regulars Ryuuzaki-sensei figured she could make an exception.”   Despite that, the vice-captain was still surprised to see him arrive at practice before him most days, but continued to greet him cheerfully - at least he'd stopped asking if anything was wrong, seeming happy to accept his dry remarks as explanation enough. Ryoma had thrown himself whole-heartedly into his tennis, and apparently most team members judged him by the standard of his game, so the vice-captain likely assumed that all was well if the sudden precision and power of even his right-handed game was anything to go by.
 
When the weekend rolled around, Ryoma tagged along with Momoshiro until the junior ditched him – presumably to go on a date with Tachibana’s little sister. He took that opportunity to make his first visit to the Laundromat. Thankfully he'd packed both of his school uniforms, but he'd been alternating between the two of them all week, and they needed to be washed.  As far as he knew, Laundromats were pretty cheap - and it wouldn't hurt to wash some of his other clothes, either.  Sleeping on the ground tended to get your clothing dirty.
 
Fortunately, there was one just a couple of blocks from Seigaku, into which he wandered with his duffel bag, feeling a little lost. Neither of the other two people inside paid him any mind. By the looks of it the machines were coin operated - there wasn’t a cashier in sight. There was, at least, a vending machine with washing powder.   Ryoma purchased some of the same stuff he could see the tired-looking lady on the other side of the room using, quietly mimicking her movements out of the corner of his eyes and taking a wild guess at how much washing powder was needed. As soon as the lady had walked out of the shop to the convenience store across the street, he darted over to her washing machine to check that he’d matched the dials correctly.   Satisfied that everything checked out, he settled down in front of his own machine, opening his books to do his homework – it looked like he was going to be there for a while. 
 
He was just finishing his work and wondering how much longer his clothes were going to take when a mother and her child – the kid looked like he was about eight years old – wandered in. Bored, he settled for watching them out of the corner of his eyes as the child tagged along behind his mother, asking a series of inane questions which the woman answered with a patient smile. 
 
The washer clicked as it ended its cycle, momentarily taking his attention away from the pair. Wrestling his wet clothes from the machine, he shoved them in the dryer, hand hovering anxiously over the time dial as he wondered how long it normally took clothes to dry in a dryer. Back home, Nanako had nearly always hung their washing out to dry, even though they did have a dryer. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the luxury of a place to hang his clothes to dry without looking weird. 
 
“I find about ninety minutes on these machines just about takes care of it,” the mother suggested from the left. 
 
Struggling to contain an embarrassed blush, Ryoma hurriedly twisted the dial and set the dryer running, muttering, “Thanks,” as he retook his seat across from the machine. 
 
The woman smiled at him. “You just looked a little lost. Are you doing the washing for your mother?”
 
Ryoma didn’t know why the question hurt. If anything, he should have been irritated for being mistaken for being younger than his actual years once again. Shoving his hands in his pockets and looking away, he replied, “Something like that.”
 
“That’s so responsible of you! I can’t ever imagine this one being that much of a help,” she said with a beam as she ruffled her son’s hair. 
 
“Stop it!” the kid grumbled, shuffling away. 
 
Ryoma stared at the exchange, feeling suddenly nauseous. 
 
“Oh, but you know that you don’t have to sit there and wait for your clothes, right? You can just come back and pick them back up from the machine when they’re done. No one will bother them.”
 
“I don’t mind waiting,” was the first-year’s only reply. Even if it was highly unlikely that someone would steal his clothes, he didn’t particularly feel like risking the only clothes he had. It wasn’t as though he could just go buy new ones. The way his life was going these days, chances were the whole damn building would burn down if he left.
 
“Well, there’s a stack of magazines in the back left corner to read if you didn’t see them earlier,” she said, finishing loading her clothes. She grasped her son’s hand and started leading him from the Laundromat. “Have fun, and make sure the clothes are completely dry before you take them out or they’ll smell later!”
 
“Thanks,” he mumbled again as they left. Even though he was pretty sure that he was capable of figuring out how to do laundry on his own, it had been nice to hear some confirmation, even over inane and obvious things that were probably only inane and obvious to people who’d been doing it for ages. The freshman had rather expected that he had at least another couple of years of his mother or cousin doing his laundry before he had to even start thinking about it, after all. 
 
At the reminder, his mind leapt unbidden to thoughts of his mother. What was his mother doing? He still didn’t know what she had made of the entire situation. Was she happy to just capitulate to his father’s demands like that? Originally, Ryoma did think that his mother probably wouldn’t be terribly happy with his father’s actions, but then, she’d let Ryoga leave, hadn’t she? And she hadn’t come looking for him all week, either. Maybe Ryoga was proving to be a better son, and she didn’t even miss him. 
 
It was that doubt that kept him from even trying to go back and seek her assistance. Even if he was only half sure, the young tennis player didn’t think that he could handle the heartache if his mother turned him aside so coldly; just because his father had thrown him out due to that one lousy match. It was better to leave it open-ended rather than risk having his emotions crushed. A more cynical part of him wondered if she had even noticed. She worked overtime so much these days he hardly ever saw her. 
 
His mother had always had eyes for his father first and foremost. What she saw in him Ryoma would never understand, especially with the man’s notorious flirtatiousness and attempted womanising. Still, forcing her to choose would be cruel, but not nearly as painful as the result if she were to choose his father. Yes, best to leave that issue alone. If his mother sought him out herself, it would be a different matter, but until then…. Until then he’d preserve what little pride he had remaining with all the energy he had.
 
There was something oddly hypnotic about watching the clothes tumble in the dryer that made it a little easier to think. Unfortunately, Ryoma was starting to severely detest thinking – the past week had given him entirely too much time alone with his thoughts. It might not have mattered so much if he actually got somewhere with it, but most of the time spent dwelling on his problems just left him brooding over them rather than finding any solution. He just couldn’t see any way out of his dilemma, short of waiting a year like his father had said to challenge Ryoga again. The thought of that was less than appealing. It wasn’t even the part about waiting a year; would he even want to go back to his house after he’d been thrown out? It wouldn’t be a home that could be taken for granted, but rather a tenuous privilege that could expire at any moment. Maybe that was why Ryoga had never tried to come back before.
 
Eventually, he was rescued from his morose musings by the dryer finishing its cycle. He withdrew his clothes and folded them as best he could, taking special care with his uniform – without access to an iron they’d get wrinkled, otherwise. Ryoma left the Laundromat, giving a polite nod of acknowledgement to the mother and son who were returning just then. Sighing, he adjusted the straps on his duffel bag and headed towards the street tennis courts, hoping that maybe some people he knew might be there so that he wasn’t stuck with his own thoughts for company yet again. 
 
It was going to be a long weekend.
 
 

Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
faire_estela
Mar. 13th, 2008 11:37 am (UTC)
Haven't read the chapter yet, but Kaori [...] got her paws on it. So, heh. First, there was Loveless. Then, there came PillarCats. And now we have... NekoKaori!

>D>D This is not as amusing as I find it, is it? ^^'
sinnatious
Mar. 13th, 2008 11:46 am (UTC)
*dies laughing* I think she is becoming feline.
faire_estela
Mar. 13th, 2008 11:52 am (UTC)
Indeed! I think she has developed an odd fondness for Karupin lately :P

Anyways, just finished reading it now. I'm still angry with Nanjiroh, and I hope Echizen never goes back for a rematch. I hope he succeeds on his own -well, fine, he can get some help from buchou- and doesn't need his father nor his brother anymore. DEATH TO THEM. As I said in the previous chapter, good job in making me dislike Nanjiroh. It's supposed to be a difficult task =(=(

Also, I still think Echizen should seek help from Ryuuzaki-sensei. She'd either take him in or bash some sense into Nanjiroh's head.

And thanks for the frequent updates! =D
sinnatious
Mar. 13th, 2008 12:19 pm (UTC)
Alas, the fic is already written. :P *spoiler* I'm sorry to say that she does not turn up until close towards the end, though your scenario is compelling. But hey, it means fast updates!

Um, SUCCESS? I feel strangely guilty. o__o;;

Thanks for reading! It is always an honour to have your commanding buchou icon grace my journal. *___*
roseofthine
Mar. 14th, 2008 04:18 am (UTC)
...-starts laughing uncontrollably-
pat_ace87
Mar. 13th, 2008 01:02 pm (UTC)
You can't stop there, NNNOOOOO X_X!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! **sits anxiously waiting for next chapter** XD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
jade_peace
Mar. 13th, 2008 02:30 pm (UTC)
Oh Sinnn. I love your writing, I do.

I hope Ryoma never sets foot in his former home again.
sinnatious
Mar. 14th, 2008 12:59 pm (UTC)
Awww, thank you.

My buchou face, let me show you it. :|
iluxia
Mar. 13th, 2008 05:53 pm (UTC)
Healing balm for my aches! Panacea for all diseases!! Cure for all boredom and writer's block!!!

*SQUUUUUUUUUUUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESH*

Lovezyou.
sinnatious
Mar. 14th, 2008 12:58 pm (UTC)
*glomps* Does this mean we'll be seeing more fic from you? *___*
iluxia
Mar. 15th, 2008 12:23 am (UTC)
Hai, hai. I shall write, okay, alright. *sighs, goes to pick up laptop*
roseofthine
Mar. 14th, 2008 04:20 am (UTC)
Oh, Ryouma

(is seigaku public in the anime? o_O I thought Fudoumine was the only public. x3;; but it doesn't matter--this is wonderful. <333)
sinnatious
Mar. 14th, 2008 11:21 am (UTC)
*gasps* I thought it was, but maybe I was wrong? I just assumed, given that it had a public-school sort of name and building, and the fact that the school uniform was the traditional variety? (I think it's more the private schools that go for the jacket and ties and other alternatives?) This is going to bug me until I know for sure. o____o
mimineko_chan
Apr. 6th, 2008 03:06 am (UTC)
Your writing is just so beautiful... but it still makes me want to cry.

Rinko loved Nanjiroh. He was her hero, her knight in shining armor from the fairy tiles that her mother used to read her when she was a small child. She always wanted a prince to save her. That happened one day in a club where she worked. She was like Cinderella being chosen by the crowned prince. She always felt lucky and truely blessed. On the day of their wedding, she made a promess to herself that she would do anything for him. She never interfeared with Nanjiroh's tennis training for Ryoma. But abandonning her child? Their child? And in favor of the child that he had with another? Could she take it? Could she accept it in her heart? But she loved Nanjiroh. She would die for him. And bowing her head, she went back to the kitchen to make Nanjiroh's favorite plate.

That's all I'm writing... Too eager to know when Tezuka will take Ryoma in.

- Mimi
sinnatious
Apr. 6th, 2008 04:57 am (UTC)
T_____T

*hugs*
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )