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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: Please don’t hate me for this chapter. :( It’s a really short one, too. 
 
As always, links to previous chapter can be found here.

 
 
The Dispossession of Echizen Ryoma
 
Chapter 20
 
They were both quite tardy to practice on Wednesday morning. It earned them more than a few confused glances, but Tezuka had sort of expected it after their late night heart-to-heart. He barely stifled a yawn as he ordered the juniors into drills.
 
“More drills?” Ryoma muttered next to him under his breath.
 
Tezuka’s lips quirked. “Coach’s orders.”
 
Heaving a sigh, Ryoma left his side to join the other regulars in their stretches. Tezuka didn’t follow suit – he’d just be supervising. Given how little sleep had been had the night before, that was probably a good thing. It looked like Inui had broken out the juice again. 
 
Still, despite the sort of cold, fuzzy feeling generally associated with too little sleep dogging him, Tezuka felt immeasurably lighter. Ryoma had spoken with him freely and honestly the night before, possibly for the first time. Certainly, he was no Oishi, but he could handle these matters - in Ryoma’s case, anyway. The senior expected it was easier with Ryoma simply because he’d come to know the freshman that well. It still struck him as absurd, though – that Echizen, of all people, was probably his closest friend. And though it was presumptuous of him to even think it, the reverse was likely true as well. 
 
A warm resolve filled him. Ryoma would not regret granting him his deepest trust. He would make sure of it. 
 
It was a relief when the freshman appeared by his side at lunchtime without having to be dragged to the cafeteria – a confirmation of sorts that things really were sorted out. They went through the line, getting food, and joined the other seniors at the table. Ryoma took nearly half of his lunch this time, eliciting a raised eyebrow from Fuji, and Tezuka made a mental note that now that Echizen’s appetite was starting to return to more normal levels, they’d probably have to start thinking of an alternate arrangement for lunch. His parents had left enough money for both of them, but over the past couple of weeks sharing lunch like this had become habit.
 
“Echizen, Tezuka,” Inui greeted them both with a nod, scribbling in his notebook with one hand while eating with the other. The others nodded hello as well, not breaking their conversation. Most of it was revolving around schoolwork. Inevitably, though, the topic eventually drifted towards tennis.
 
“It can’t be too long until the first snow,” Oishi worried. “There’s been frost the past two mornings, even though it’s still nice during the day.”
 
“It’s not like club activities will stop altogether,” Kawamura pointed out, though they could all see that he was feeling a little gloomy at the prospect. Tezuka recalled the power player’s repeated statements that this was going to be his last year playing tennis seriously, instead choosing to focus on his sushi-making. Though he approved of his classmate’s devotion to his ambition, it was sad to think that even if the rest of them continued, they were still going to lose a part of their team. 
 
“Indeed. Statistically speaking, on average snow does not fall until the end of December here and will not stick until mid-January. We likely have at least a few more weeks until the first flurries arrive.” Inui adjusted his glasses. “Though I expect we will be stopping morning practices before that, Tezuka?”
 
The captain nodded. “According to Coach Ryuuzaki, this week will be the last of the morning practices.” Even if the courts remained clear, the low temperature would eventually have too great an effect on the bounce of a ball.
 
“Hoi! It’ll be nice to sleep in. And you won’t have to worry about being late, Ochibi!” Kikumaru sang.
 
Ryoma just frowned.
 
“Ah, but Echizen’s been early to practice for a while now!” Oishi remarked cheerfully. “Except for this morning, of course.”
 
“You were late too, right, Tezuka?” Fuji asked interestedly.
 
“Hn.” He couldn’t really explain that they had come to school together without explaining why, and doing so would be breaking Ryoma’s trust.
 
“Momo was so relieved! He was soooo late, and all worried about the laps he was going to have to run!” Kikumaru bubbled, almost bouncing in his seat, then paused. “Um, I don’t think I was supposed to say that.”
 
“Don’t worry about it,” Oishi assured his doubles partner.
 
“Though with so little time left, we’re running out of chances to finish our match, right Echizen?” Fuji asked.
 
“Che. You’ll lose,” the first-year remarked confidently.
 
“Ryoma,” Tezuka chided. Even if he’d earned the right to be arrogant, it did not mean that he should be.
 
Inui dropped his pen. The sudden silence at the table was deafening.
 
Frowning, he glanced at the others, wondering at their slack-jawed expressions. What… ah. It had been more natural for him to slip into first-name basis with the freshman than he’d thought. In any case, Ryoma seemed quietly pleased – likely appreciating the confirmation of friendship in public with witnesses, given his recent insecurity.
 
“It’s true,” the freshman pointed out, apparently deciding to ignore the others’ stunned faces.
 
Fuji was the first to recover. “We’ll just have to play to find out, I suppose.” With a serene smile, he turned to Tezuka. “I must say, though, I’m… surprised.” He didn’t elaborate on what had surprised him. There apparently wasn’t a need.
 
Tezuka pretended not to notice anyway. “Hm?”
 
Oishi fidgeted, obviously not wanting to offend his friend, but battling with his curiosity at the same time. “Oh, it’s just… how long…” He couldn’t bring himself to say it out loud. 
 
“In his time at Seigaku, Tezuka has never once referred to anyone by their first name,” Inui mumbled.
 
It occurred to Tezuka belatedly that his friends, Oishi in particular, might be slightly offended that he’d come to call Ryoma by his first name in a comparatively short time, yet still referred to all of them by their last names. Honestly, it hadn’t been something he’d ever considered before. Oishi regularly called Kikumaru by his first name after all, but his doubles partner didn’t respond in kind, and almost everyone called Kawamura ‘Taka’, too. He expected a brief moment of surprise, but not this awkward confusion they were all displaying.
 
Perhaps it would be best to act nonchalant over the issue. “Ah, that. It’s only recent. I didn’t even notice, originally.” 
 
“Echizen has been eating lunch with us a lot lately, right?” Kawamura asked cheerfully.
 
“Almost every day for the past couple of weeks,” Inui reported, retrieving his pen and scribbling furiously in his notebook. “My data has been thrown into disarray,” he muttered to himself a moment later. “I will need to adjust the rest of my statistics accordingly.”
 
“What brought about the change?” Fuji asked Ryoma congenially. “I would have thought you’d be more interested in eating with Momo or the other freshmen.” The question was innocent enough, but Tezuka was growing wary of the line of the conversation was taking. They couldn’t really explain that he’d started dragging the first-year to lunch to ensure that he ate properly without having to explain a great many other things. 
 
Fortunately Ryoma was two steps ahead of him. “Che, they’ll all be here next year. There’s only a couple of months left before all of you leave.”
 
“OCHIBI! You’re so sweet!” Kikumaru bawled, wresting the freshman into a tight hug that more closely resembled a headlock. “Don’t worry, we’ll still be around! We’ll be friends forever!”
 
“Eiji! You’re choking him!” Oishi fretted, trying to pry his doubles partner loose. It was difficult to tell whether Ryoma’s face was red from blushing or lack of oxygen.
 
The bell signalling the end of lunch trilled then, rescuing them from further interrogation. Ryoma extricated himself from the acrobat’s grasp in order to join the other freshmen, while the seniors broke apart and made their way to their own classrooms. Despite how close his teammates had wandered near sensitive topics, Tezuka was in a rather good mood, for once not totally consumed with worry for his charge. 
 
This was not to last.
 
“Tezuka,” his teacher said, stopping him as he made to enter the classroom, “You’re to head to the main office straight away.”
 
“Pardon?” It wasn’t as though he didn’t get called to the offices fairly often – either as captain of the tennis club, or for student council duties – but it was rarely so sudden.
 
“Hurry along,” the teacher prompted him softly. Bewildered, the senior complied; walking briskly through the emptying halls towards the main office, mind cooking up any number of potential – though unlikely – scenarios. It wasn’t anything do with Ryoma, was it? No, that was ridiculous. He’d just seen the freshman not ten minutes ago. 
 
The vice-principal was waiting for him. “Tezuka, good. Please, enter.” The man looked unusually solemn. His apprehension grew.
 
To his surprise, his mother was waiting for him in the office. What? Wasn’t she supposed to still be in Kyushu? “Oh, Kunimitsu, you have to come quickly. I’ve already packed you a bag. We’ll go straight to the station – there weren’t any available flights on such short notice,” she blurted, standing and taking his arm when he entered and steering him back into the hallway, voice quick and low.
 
His heart leapt into his throat as the dots started to connect and dread settled in the pit of his stomach.
 
“School?” he asked.
 
“I just spoke with your teachers. Now come quickly,” she prompted. 
 
For her to pull him out of school… “…Mother?”
 
She pursed her lips, and looked at him softly. “It’s your grandfather. They said we ought to hurry and bring any close friends and family members as soon as possible. Your father’s still there.”
 
That worry that had been brewing slowly in his gut over the past couple of weeks suddenly curdled, and Tezuka felt physically ill. Shocked into silence, he hurriedly followed his mother from the school. He didn’t remember arriving at the train station, or boarding the train, or any of the scenery that went past. He was having trouble thinking of anything at all.
 
Fifteen hours later, in the early hours of the morning in Kyushu, Tezuka Kunikazu passed away at age 73 with his family at his side.
 
 

Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
argentum_luna
Apr. 2nd, 2008 07:34 am (UTC)
Nooooooooooooo! Poor Tezuka :( And the Japanese are usually so long-lived, too.

This means that Ryoma gets to comfort him, right?

On a more cheerful note: Eiji is so cute.
su24
Apr. 2nd, 2008 08:38 am (UTC)
he died?!? ~look gloomy~....but, but wut about ryoma?!? i'm guessing tezuka forgot about him in shock?!? where is he going to stay?!? gah!!! you're putting me in suspense!! :)
iluxia
Apr. 2nd, 2008 09:27 am (UTC)
I should be saying "Oh no, Tezuka!", but I'm actually shouting "Oh no, Ryoma!!" right now. -____-;; The kid's gonna have withdrawal. Oh, and he'll be locked out of the house in the cold, shivering. He does not have a key. He will not have dinner, except if he has enough money to buy enough. He could stay at the clubhouse...

*GLARE* HOW LONG UNTIL THE NEXT UPDATE? HOW LONG?! DON'T MAKE ME VEDA-RIZE YOU.

sinnatious
Apr. 2nd, 2008 11:53 am (UTC)
Tomorrow. I promise. I'll even try and update early in the day. ACK, TIERA-GLARE! At least I don't pull a Sunrise and make you wait six months? ;__;
iluxia
Apr. 2nd, 2008 11:56 am (UTC)
I. Am. Mad.

Really really really mad.

OCTOBER IS TOO FAR. T_______________T
faire_estela
Apr. 2nd, 2008 11:47 am (UTC)
D_____:
Dear Sin,

You should know that I hate you for this chapter. I'm not talking to you ever again. Also, I'm keeping your collection of nude Tezuka pics. You do not deserve to have them returned.

Go get killed by an ice-cream truck,

Ria
sinnatious
Apr. 2nd, 2008 11:50 am (UTC)
Re: D_____:
T__________T

NO, NOT MY TEZUKA PICTURES!
faire_estela
Apr. 2nd, 2008 11:53 am (UTC)
Re: D_____:
YES. YOUR TEZUKA PICTURES. >OOOOOO

I'VE ALSO ASKED FUJI TO STEAL THE NEXT CHAPTER. SO FAR, HE HAS FAILED. HE IS VERY, VERY ANGRY. HIS EYES ARE OPEN. I should have asked Mizuki instead, though :S:S
roseofthine
Apr. 3rd, 2008 03:28 am (UTC)
Re: D_____:
...at least you still have your ryouma ones? 8D
pat_ace87
Apr. 2nd, 2008 11:55 am (UTC)
I'M RUNNING LATE FOR MY BUS SO OI HAVE TO MAKE THIS QUICK HOW DARE YOU KILL HIM THAT POOR OLD MAN WHAT DID HE EER DO TO YOU AND NOW ECHIZEN IS GOING TO THINK THAT BECAUSE TEZUKA IS NOT THERE THAT HE LEFT HIM AND THIS IS GOING TO BE EXTREMELE SAD AND YES IT WAS SHORT BUT IT REALLY GOOD AT THE SAME TIME BECAUSDE IT JUST BROUGHT ALL THIS QUESTION AND DAMN I;M LATE BBBBYYYEEEEE XXXXXXDDDDD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
m3owchan
Apr. 2nd, 2008 08:31 pm (UTC)
;__; awwwwwwww...
jade_peace
Apr. 2nd, 2008 11:00 pm (UTC)
;______;
TT___________TT

SIN. HOW COULD YOU?

TEZUKA. WE DIDN'T EVEN MEET KUNIKAZU.]

AND POOR RYOMA.
sinnatious
Apr. 3rd, 2008 06:58 am (UTC)
Re: ;______;
This was my elaborate plan to avoid having to write Kunikazu? Actually, no, it had a point. I'M SORRY! I made myself sad too. T___T
roseofthine
Apr. 3rd, 2008 03:44 am (UTC)
Oh god. Ryouma and Kunikazu dying and asdfjk;l i wonder how Kunimitsu feels. (oh, using given name to distinguish them. ^^;; )

I love all the little interactions between them in here and ohhhh eiji but asdfjkl; i don't know whether to giggle over how buchou was worrying about how one of them might be offended or to mourn Kunikazu's death.

Don't get run over by an ice cream truck, by the way, because how un-classy is that? =;
roseofthine
Apr. 3rd, 2008 04:15 am (UTC)
also, As always, links to previous chapter can be found here.

There's definitely more than one previous chapter. =|
sinnatious
Apr. 3rd, 2008 07:01 am (UTC)
I disagree! An ice-cream truck is an awesome way to go. Possibly the only vehicle I would prefer to be hit by other than an ice-cream truck (assuming that I have to choose) would be Volkswagon beetle. Your choice of vehicle?

Ha, yes, Seigaku is fun to write. *__* They practically write themselves.
roseofthine
Apr. 4th, 2008 04:29 am (UTC)
Oh, well, duh. One of those tiny little vendor carts that you see on streets (or at least here. >>). 8DDD

It's probably going to hurt, but then I'd die under food, and also, the vendor, who's probably dirt--uh. >> I'M NOT A SADIST, I SWEAR.
yusahana6323
Apr. 4th, 2008 03:11 am (UTC)
First, I have to say I love Inui. XD

Secondly.... ;_; Nooo... poor Tezuka-san... that's terrible. T_T
mimineko_chan
Apr. 7th, 2008 06:24 pm (UTC)
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO *cough cough* OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Gomen for spaming, but you have to understand my shock. Tezuka Kunimitsu! How could you abandon Ryoma this soon after declaring your undying *cough love cough* friendship! I oughta hit you! GRRRRR! What will happen to Ryoma? Did Tezuka give Ryoma a key? He did, right right right? No need to panic, Ryoma will be alright. He has a key to Tezuka's house so no need to worry. Right? *seeking comfirmation!*

On another note, the first name slipping from Tezuka's mouth during lunch is quite endearing.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

"I'm late... damn I'm late! Get out of my way mamushi!"

"Hoi, Momoshiro is late."

"Eiji, calm down. Beside, Tezuka is not here yet."

"Saa, this is quite rare. I wonder what happened."

"There is 67% that you know where he is Fuji."

"Saaa, who knows."

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

I wish I can write more, but I am too greedy. Gomen Sin-chan but you know us cats. We are too curious and I want to know what's going to happen to Ryoma.

- Mimikitty ♥
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )