Wakashi Hiyoshi had never been close to people.
While making one's way to the top, one had to step on others along the way. When he was in kindergarten, the boy learned that beating everyone in the classroom at tetherball left him nothing but upset classmates. He soon earned the reputation of being 'unfair' by the other children.
So he learned. Wakashi learned to not make friends, to keep to himself and just concentrate on tennis and other activities. Friends did not matter as long as he made it to the top.
Not communicating with other children caused him to never learn proper people-skills. He became shy, cold, always staring ahead with hard eyes and a raised chin. Dojo students would stay away from him. "He looks scary," they said. "He's always trying to beat the best."
And that was fine. Let them be scared of him! That way, he would keep them distant. Making friends would only be a bother now. After all, why make friends if you were going to hurt them in the end?
The time came for Wakashi to enter sixth grade. He figured he would go through it as normal, since he had known most of his classmates from Hyoutei all of his life. It was not supposed to be a big deal...
But he joined the tennis club.
Of course, that was what he had been aiming for. And he knew how big it was. But when he was around so many people who liked what he did, he was a little overwhelmed.
He had to beat them. Every single one of them. He had to be the best.
By Wakashi's second year, he was on the regulars of the Hyoutei Tennis club. But that was only by default – He was only put there because another regular had fallen out. Wakashi felt gypped in a way, though he knew he should not have. He was the best second-year player on the Hyoutei team.
And yet he had not been made a regular before Choutarou Ohtori or Munehiro Kabaji.
No, he did not feel right about this step-up at all. It was not the way he wanted to win.
So, one day after school, Wakashi went to the player he had replaced, Haginosuke Taki. Wakashi really did not like him – He was stuck-up and arrogant. And when he found Haginosuke, he was met with a door slamming into his face.
"What the hell was that for?" Wakashi growled after he reopened the door to the empty classroom. Haginosuke did not even look up at him. Wakashi calmed himself and blocked the door so that his senior could not leave. "Excuse me, senpai, but I'd like to have a word with you."
Haginosuke lifted his head from his desk boredly. He finally stood up to face Wakashi, picking a piece of lint off of his jacket. "What do you want, Hiyoshi? Haven't you caused me enough grief?"
Wakashi kept a straight face. "I do not understand what you mean, senpai."
"You already took my place," snarled Haginosuke, gathering his things. "I figure you have no other business with me."
Wakashi frowned. "I didn't come here to gloat. Personally, I did not like the way things were handed. If anything, Shishido-senpai should have taken your place."
Haginosuke slammed his books on his desk, whirling around to face the other again. "Yes? Well, he did too, didn't he?" he snarled. Haginosuke had really liked his place on the regulars. Being around Choutarou was nice too, however, it seemed that Choutarou always went back to Ryou Shishido in the end.
Wakashi only watched Haginosuke with an emotionless face, though he felt something pull at his heart. Was it pity? Remorse? Guilt? He did not know, and he mentally scolded himself for thinking things like that anyway. But, for some reason, he could not help but feel that he and Haginosuke were the same somehow.
The orange-haired player lowered his head. "I want to play a game with you," he said softly. "To TRULY beat you. Only then, will I feel worthy of actually taking your place."
Haginosuke was stunned. For one thing, the kid had the NERVE of predicting his defeat. Still, giving Haginosuke an actual chance to redeem himself was a rather fair thing to do. His teal eyes bore right through Wakashi's, a glare of ice. He had no idea what to make of the junior.
"To truly beat me, huh?" Haginosuke said, lowering his head. A smirk slowly spread across his face. "And... What if you lose?" He had every right to say something like that. After all, he HAD been on the regulars.
Wakashi just stared back. "I won't."
And he did not.
While it was a close game, Wakashi always kept at least two games ahead of Haginosuke. Despite having lost, Haginosuke was quite impressed. The kid DID have potential. No wonder he was rumored to be the next captain. And he respected Wakashi for proving himself. They went to the locker room to clean up, Haginosuke actually feeling a little better than before the unofficial match had taken place.
"You're not as harsh as you look, Hiyoshi," Haginosuke said as he grabbed his water bottle to fill it. "I'm not sure most of the members here would have given me the chance to play them like that if they were in your shoes."
Wakashi was silently for a long time, resting on the bench with a towel over his head. He finally spoke, rather quiet. "I never said I was unfair."
"Unfair?" Haginosuke asked as he sat beside the other.
Again, Wakashi paused before answering. "They always called me unfair," he said. "But I always gave them the chance to beat me." His face could not be seen under the towel but Haginosuke saw his hand on his lap clench into a fist. "Always. They had a CHANCE."
It was now Haginosuke's turn to be quiet. He did not know what to do in this situation, especially with someone like Wakashi. He was obviously angry, and yet he never really stated his feelings. It was a strange situation. Haginosuke turned his head to try and catch a glimpse of Wakashi's face. It looked normal, hard, like it always did. A dead expression.
But for a second, Haginosuke saw those dark eyes quiver. Only for a second, and they were back to normal before Haginosuke could blink.
They left Hyoutei together in silence. At times, Haginosuke would subtly turn his head to see if he could see Wakashi with a different emotion. Of course, he had no such luck.
Before they knew it, they were on the street heading to Haginosuke's house. "Shit," Wakashi murmured. "My house is in the other direction entirely." He had been somewhere else that walk, just following Haginosuke blindly it seemed.
Haginosuke could not help but chuckle just a bit. "Well, I thank you for walking me home anyway, even if you didn't want to, Hiyoshi."
Wakashi blinked and then gave Haginosuke an odd stare. He was blushing, and that only caused Haginosuke to laugh harder. Wakashi finally turned away, running his hand through his hair as he tried to get a hold of himself. He was so embarrassed.
Haginosuke waved and began walking down the street to his house. When he got about halfway, he turned to look at the junior again. "Oh, Hiyoshi?"
Wakashi lifted his head in response, though he did not say a word. What did that guy want now?
Looking at him was enough of an acknowledgement, so Haginosuke continued. "You should really change your face more often. You don't want it to stick in that grumpy frown forever. Besides, you look better when you blush!"
Again, Wakashi's face went as red as a tomato. "Shut up, senpai!" was all he could shout back. He grumbled in frustration. "That guy..."
Yet, Haginosuke had been the only person to change his face in a long time. And he felt his lips tug up in a very faint smile.
Good thing that no one was around to see it.
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