A Ritsu Route (Updated 12/26)

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DanjaDoom
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Re: A Ritsu Route (Updated 7/1)

Post by DanjaDoom » Wed Jul 03, 2013 7:35 pm

Hoitash wrote:
Guestimate wrote:Something I thought of, that may be contributing to the fast development of their relationship. With Hisao doing the "I'll always be here" and whatnot. While this is incredibly sweet, she's feeding right in to his White Knight complex.
It seems like Ritsu is holding out for a hero, though. Whether or not she needs one...
Ahem...
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We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey-Sanic

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Hoitash
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Re: A Ritsu Route (Updated 7/1)

Post by Hoitash » Wed Jul 03, 2013 8:54 pm

DanjaDoom wrote:
Hoitash wrote:
Guestimate wrote:Something I thought of, that may be contributing to the fast development of their relationship. With Hisao doing the "I'll always be here" and whatnot. While this is incredibly sweet, she's feeding right in to his White Knight complex.
It seems like Ritsu is holding out for a hero, though. Whether or not she needs one...
Ahem...
Alternatively...

Anywho, interesting to see how Hisao's protective nature will play out with Miss Tainaka.

Also, I like how different you've made her from the K-On! character, because I can enjoy the story without it upsetting my Mitsu OTP feelings.

...I'm gonna go over there, now, /smokebomb.
"Who are you, that do not know your history?" -Ulysses
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Re: A Ritsu Route (Updated 7/1)

Post by forgetmenot » Wed Jul 03, 2013 10:29 pm

Hoitash wrote:...I'm gonna go over there, now, /smokebomb.
http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m0z86 ... o1_500.gif

On a more serious note, I too am OK with the pace of their relationship. It allows more time to be spent on important character development and less time needs to be devoted to will-they-won't-they wishy-washy filler BS.

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SemisoftCheese
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Re: A Ritsu Route (Updated 7/1)

Post by SemisoftCheese » Thu Jul 04, 2013 2:23 pm

first off, thank you for everyone who read/replied. i'm immensely flattered by the fact that people care enough to read let alone comment on my work. thank you all.
Retrograde01 wrote: I'm loving this, although I do feel like you're moving along rather quickly here. This chapter gave me some feels, but they could've been much more powerful feels if there had been some... buildup(?) beforehand. Implying I have room to talk.

Keep up the good work. I'm looking forward to more.
thanks! you are correct in that i'm trying to walk the very thin line between drama and dullness. hopefully i can make the next chapter better in this aspect.
Joonwoo wrote:I like where this is going immensely. Please continue the hard work! :)
thank you! i think i have more time to write now, so get ready for more.
DanjaDoom wrote:Good chapter, but there were a lot of lines that could have been grouped together instead of being standalone.

In other words, your dialogue is ronery.
yes, this is something i am still working on. for some reason, i hate writing in paragraphs, but i'm working on it.
Mirage_GSM wrote:
A littleer bitter, but not that bad.
Ritsu Tainaka. Winner, Orange Bowl 2010.
Oooh. An iPhone that can google the future!
(Remember the story is set in 2007...)
I played soccer, thanks every much.
Nice chapter, and imho some other stories go way overboard with the buildup, so just continue as you have - it's fine.
thanks mirage. regarding the iphone and the time setting, i'm going to play a little loose and fast here. i think for the story's sake, i'm going to jump ahead five years and set yamaku in 2012, so any references i make will be on time and not completely illogical. this is because if i have to set the story in 2007, i have to set every tennis reference pre-2007, which will give me a headache and probably make little difference to the reader, and factually is a pain in the ass because of the transient nature of tennis. so i'll be bending the facts a tiny bit here, but it's all for the plot, i promise.
Guestimate wrote:
Ritsu Tainaka. Winner, Orange Bowl 2010.
... I thought the Orange Bowl was College Football (American)...
there is a college football orange bowl, and there's the junior tennis orange bowl, which is one of the most prestigious junior tournaments you can find. it's an itf-grade A (1 of 5 grade-a tournaments) in terms of junior rankings points, and winning it basically means you're a rising star. past winners include andy roddick, andre agassi, and roger federer, to name a few.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunlop_Orange_Bowl
ProfAllister wrote:I, I, I, I...

She, she, she, she, she...

Her voice, her voice, her voice...

I give a sigh, she gives a sigh, he gives a sigh, we give a sigh, they give sighs...

The repetition of words and phrases is a bit heavy. It happens to everyone (You should see some of my prerelease drafts ><). Something you might want to keep an eye on.

While I disagree on your pacing, that's certainly an area where there can be disagreement. I'm more concerned about how everything's always a huge moment. Especially when you seem to be going for a theme of playing up the normal and the ordinary. You have a lot of interesting bits here - I'm just afraid that you might be neglecting the skeleton. And no matter how pretty a person might be, she's just a creepy-looking pile of meat if she's missing her skeleton.
thanks prof, i'll keep an eye on the repetition. regarding the pacing, the next chapter is detente, so your point was correct.
griffon8 wrote:The fast pace of their relationship is much more understandable now. Ritsu doesn't know how to do anything but live tennis, so she feels she has to figure out everything on her own. I hope Hisao can help her learn to be happy being Ritsu.
thanks griffon for your reply. as far as i know, this story has a happy ending, i just haven't written it yet.
Guestimate wrote:Something I thought of, that may be contributing to the fast development of their relationship. With Hisao doing the "I'll always be here" and whatnot. While this is incredibly sweet, she's feeding right in to his White Knight complex.
i think hisao is a white knight in almost all of the routes. i tried to balance this a little bit by making ritsu self-sufficient, as in the fact she handled the dog on her own and didn't bash hisao for completely forgetting about it. the white knight thing is something i'm going to try and tone down in the future, but you are correct.
Hoitash wrote: Also, I like how different you've made her from the K-On! character, because I can enjoy the story without it upsetting my Mitsu OTP feelings.

...I'm gonna go over there, now, /smokebomb.
thank you! i'm looking forwards to developing her character more.
forgetmenot wrote:t allows more time to be spent on important character development and less time needs to be devoted to will-they-won't-they wishy-washy filler BS.
thanks mate, keeping this in mind for the future.

once again, thank you to everyone who read and replied. already in process of writing the next one.

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SemisoftCheese
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Out Getting Ribs

Post by SemisoftCheese » Wed Jul 17, 2013 7:37 pm

Early to bed, early to rise. Makes a man stupid and blind in the eyes.

I showed up at the Yamaku track early on this Saturday morning. Far too early, it appears. The sun isn’t even out and the sky is a pale gray.

The nurse told me when I first came to Yamaku that I should start running to stay in shape. Part of me wants to start running to stay in shape, but part of me also has a lot of questions for Emi, who I’m sure is going to be up this morning for to run. She told me she’s up here every morning, rain or shine, sleet or snow. Hopefully she doesn’t mind an extra running partner.

I admit that what I’m doing is a little overbearing. Ritsu doesn’t need a hero, and I’m certainly not one. She’s an individual and she can carry herself just fine. She doesn’t need me to pick her up and solve all of her problems.

But part of it is to know for myself. I’m don’t know anything about the life of an elite athlete. Ritsu made it seem like it was Mars.

But I guess also as much as it pains me to admit it, I’m just as new to the concept of a relationship as Ritsu is. I don’t know what to tell her or what she wants to tell me. I just was stupid lucky that she decided I was worth opening up to. In a way I feel pity for Ritsu.

I chuckle.

I should be feeling pity for myself. 17 with a heart of an 80 year old and at a boarding school for the disabled. I take enough pills to make Lindsay Lohan look like a pariah. I don’t think I’m doing that much better than Ritsu herself.

But I’m still out here at the track, for better or worse. Maybe Emi can provide me with some answers or direction. Or at least an idea of our next date. Or something. I think it’d be even more stupid to assume Ritsu can handle herself and just leave her alone. For now, I think I’m going with the heavy-handed option. She’s the kind of girl who will tell me if I’m being too overbearing anyway.

I shiver in the cold. It’s fucking freezing at this time of day. I guess when they say the sun warms the earth they aren’t joking. My breath is crystallizing in the air and I’m clad only in a thin PE shirt and shorts.

I take a look at the track. I’ve never run on a track before. Speaking of which, I’ve never run at all before.

I mean, yes, I’ve run on the soccer field, and ran when I was late to class or I had to catch a train, but I’ve never put on running shoes with the express purpose of running. It seemed stupid to me somehow. Traveling a distance to actually end up nowhere. And it seemed so painful. Running is one of those sports where it’s a constant mental battle to keep yourself going to the next step. Why run when you can play soccer or a sport, if the exercise is the same and the latter is so much more fun?

Well, it is one of the most popular and ancient sports in the world. I guess some people see merit in it.

A head pokes over the edge of the bleachers I’m sitting on. It’s not the strawberry-blonde hair color I was expecting.

Instead it’s dark brown, followed by a dark, angular face, and a purple, flashing set of eyes?

Miki?

She cocks her head in amusement.

“Hey loverboy, what’re you doing here?”

I make a nonsensical gesture with my hands. Miki was the last person I expected to see. My head is groggy. I didn’t expect this. I didn’t expect this. at all.

“I was waiting for Emi to run, but I kind of didn’t tell her, so I was waiting for her.”

I exhale slowly in the winter morning. From the events of last week to this morning, my days have only been getting crazier.

Miki quizzically tilts her head even further.

Uh oh. Have I slipped up? Or am I reading too deep into it.

I mean, am I implying that Miki isn’t an adequate running partner, or that I’m a weirdo who waits for girls in the track in the morning, or that I make sudden appointments on people and expect them to accommodate me? Or am I just worrying too much? Or is it not weird to be on the Yamaku bleachers at 5AM on a Saturday morning wearing shorts while a pretty girl with one hand and a stump stares at you in quizzical confusion as you try and explain that you’re actually asking about being an athlete because your girlfriend is a serious ex-athlete, but she hasn’t told anyone at Yamaku and you’re not sure if it’s a secret you can share with anyone, so you’re going to have to dodge the question, and you were going to ask Emi about it, but she’s not here right now and Miki is here and Miki’s going to run and you’re going to look like a dumbass because you’re just going to sit on the bleachers and watch her run because you’re waiting for Emi and that’s not creepy and all and AUGHHHHHH.

What a headache. It’s too early to deal with all of this. I’m so confused. I don’t know what to do.

I acutely feel a sudden weariness in my bones. I’m so tired. There’s too much information to process. I’m overextending myself. I can barely keep my head up right now. There’s too much to think about and I’m doing too much with myself.

Why did Ritsu have to burden me with all her problems? Why me? Why now? Why am I up at 5 in the morning at some school for disabled kids in the middle of nowhere?

I feel an unexplicable anger build up inside of me.

Why of all people did I have to have a heart problem? I should be at home with my old friends in the city. Life wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t nearly as stressful as this. I had my school, and my subways, my hangouts and my routines. Life was stupid and routine and perfect. I didn’t have to deal with any of this shit then like girls with braces and bangs and stupid bleachers and creeping around everyone’s fucking disability and pretending that I’m normal and everyone else is normal when they clearly aren’t.

Miki watches the entire play of emotions roll over my face without saying a word, looking slightly concerned and a little confused at the play of emotions on my face.. She starts to speak. I expect her to crack a joke and I’ll have to make small talk before she goes off and runs and I wait like a dumbass. What comes out next is a shock.

“Well, she’s not here because she’s out with the flu, so want to run with me?”

She says it without any pretense and completely normally. It’s a normal offer. The kind of thing normal people do.

For some reason, which I can probably pick out from my frustrated mental rant, I can’t formulate a reply.

“Uhh... sure.”

She flashes a smile with me and waves her arms at the track.

“Great! Let’s get started then!”

I follow her down to the track and do my best to imitate her warmup routine, which is a bewildering mix of static and dynamic stretches, high knees combining with long reaches and lunches. I feel my muscles already start to burn at this level of activity.

She notices my clumsy attempts to follows her routine and raises an eyebrow in question.

“Not a big athlete, huh?”

I shake my head, regaining my breath in the cold morning air.

“No, not at all.”

She shoots me a grin and crosses her arms on her chest.

“There’s always a first time, and it’s better you’re out here starting than in your bed being a fatass. We’ll take it easy today.”

I breathe a sigh of relief. Miki wags a finger at me.

“That doesn’t mean we’re going to slack off, though. For starters, you do that stretch like this, all the way down, not with a bent knee.”

With Miki’s help, I manage to make it through her warm up routine, and we start into a light jog.

The jogging is a lot easier than I thought. My hair is jumping up and down in the air, and I’m slightly out of breath, but it’s a lot more relaxing than I thought it would be. My shoes create a quiet rythym, beating out a steady rubber patter against the turf of the track.

Running isn’t half as bad as I thought it would be. It’s still gray outside, but I’m not cold anymore. The air is moving through my lungs as I run at a steady pace, and as I complete my third lap, I feel strangely alive. My legs move of their own volition and I’m floating on a mental cloud.

Allowing for some introspection, I probably shouldn’t have freaked out like I did before. I guess I can blame it on not getting enough sleep because I woke up so early. A lack of sleep always leaves me a little frazzled.

My mind drifts back to Ritsu. I want to be there for her, but I’m not really sure what qualifies as being there for her and being overbearing. I don’t want to be a drag, but at the same time I don’t want to be too distant either.

I mean, I fucked up majorly with that dog thing. I saved the damn dog and I don’t even bother to follow up after it had surgery. Ritsu handled the bill and everything.

To be honest, it kind of made me feel like a child. She took care of it all and I just sort of dawdled along in my school life without any responsibility or idea. I guess it shows how used she is to taking care of herself, which kind of scary how mature she is, but I guess what she told me before directly contradicts that.

It’s kind of funny yet sad in a way. I don’t really know what to make of it. I guess I’ll think about it more later.

Ahead of me, Miki slows down to a stop on the track, barely sweating at all. I’m drenched with sweat, but it’s still a good feeling, a healthy, glowing one.

I stop in front of her and catch my breath.

“Hey, what’s up?”

Miki gives me a shrug.

“I dunno. Don’t really feel like running anymore. Want to do something else?”

Come to think of it, after stopping, I don’t really want to start running anymore either.

“Sure. What did you have in mind?”

After rolling her head around in mock deliberation for a minute, her eyes settle on the field in the middle of the track.

“I know! Let’s play soccer!”

Miki darts over to the shed at the corner of the track, and after fiddling with the lock, ducks inside.

A loud crash occurs inside the shed, and I move closer to see what’s going on.

“Are you ok?”

Her voice rings out from inside the shed, abnormally loud.

“I’m fine! No need to come in, haha. Just getting the soccer ball. That’s it.”

I’m a little suspicious, but she sounds fine, so I guess I’ll wait outside.

Around 30 seconds later she emerges from the shed, spinning a dusty looking soccer ball in her palm.

She boots it to me and I catch it in my hand. For all the dust, it seems pretty inflated. We walk over to the field, and I take a look at the Yamaku field. It’s actually pretty nice. A full-box goal with suspended corners, like they have in the pros, and an astroturf cover. It’s much nicer than anything I’ve ever played on, and I feel the spring of the turf under my feet as I step onto the pitch. It feels familiar, and I’m hit with a surge of confidence. I might not be able to keep up with Miki on the track, but I’m right at home here.

I juggle the ball in my hands as I look at Miki, pumped to kicking the ball around. I guess one of us will be in goal and the other will take shots.

“Hey, what position you want to play?”

She rolls her eyes at me

“I don’t do goalie that well, Hisao.”

I wince at my mistake. All of my confidence drains out of me like a balloon.

“Sorry.”

She waves her hand--no--stump--at me in a dismissive gesture.

“It’s fine. You’ll be taking goal then?”

I nod, and take my position. Slightly in front of the line, hands in front, knees slightly bent. I was defense, but I’m not unfamiliar with playing goalie.

Miki drops to the ball to her feet, takes a short dribble, then winds up, her left shoe arcing back. She’s goofy-footed, or she can shoot with both feet. Interesting.

She makes a solid kick, the ball flashing through the air with lefty slice, and it takes all of my speed to knock the ball out with my right fist.

She arches an eyebrow at me.

“Not bad, Nakai.”

I give her a bemused look.

“You’re not so shabby yourself.”

As she moves off the pitch to get the ball, my eyes flicker to Miki’s shoes. Adidas Sambas. The classic indoor soccer shoe. Someone’s played soccer before.

Miki jogs back on on the field and gives my goal position a careful eye. I bend down again and settle my feet. The noise outside fades to a drone.

I feel my heart slow as Miki winds up again, and her left foot flicks out instead of in--spinning the ball toward the post instead of the center. I reach for it, but the ball passes right beyond my outstretched hands.

"Nice shot, Miki"

She mockingly bows.

"You're all too kind, Sir Hisao."

As I roll the ball back to her, the question escapes my lips.

"Did you ever play before?"

As soon as the ball reaches her she powers it into the net, and answers my question with a shrug.

"A little."

Miki pauses and continues.

"I used to play for a junior national selection squad, but I decided to do track here because soccer at Yamaku isn't that great, y'know?"

Another shot rockets past my hands and into the goal. Miki's shooting form is excellent--shes completely relaxed.

"You're not that bad at track, either, you know."

Miki flashes me one of those thousand-Mikiwatt grins.

"Thanks, Hisao."

Miki seems like more than qualified to answer my questions about Ritsu, and she seems to be pretty friendly too. And she saw the entire thing in the classroom. She seems pretty "on the ball" about social stuff as well.

I guess the only thing left to do is ask.

"Miki, I have a question."

She shoots me a sideways glace as she drills in another goal. She really has put her time in.

"It's about Ritsu, isn't it?"

My reaction is one of surprise.

“Ye--how did you know?”

She gives a shrug, rainbowing the ball over her shoulder.

“I figured that you came to the track to ask Emi about Ritsu. If you came for your health, you would have started coming when the Nurse asked you to, which was most likely when you first arrived at Yamaku. Barriing the possibility that you had a sudden come-to-Jesus moment about your help, you probably came to ask Emi a question about Ritsu, which was supplemented at your surprise at me showing up and the fact that you just asked me if you could ask a question. It’s because she’s an athlete, right?”

My mouth hangs open in shock as Miki slices the ball into the high left corner, with a righty kick.

“H-how did you know?”

Another shrug as I roll the ball back to her.

“I could say the entire Emi thing again, but it’s really because of how Ritsu walks. I knew she was a top-tier athlete she walked into the door at Yamaku.”

She flashes a bright grin at me.

“Most elite athletes can identify someone who’s especially gifted, because the way they move is normally different from most people. Not saying I’m an elite athlete, but if I had to guess, I would say her sport was something in bursts, like basketball or tennis or racketball.”

She’s pretty spot on. Still, I have my doubts whether Miki has an outside source of information and she’s just playing me.

“What makes you say that?”

Miki crosses her arms in thought.

“It’s the way she moves. Everything is very efficient. Distance and endurance athletes move very languidly. Ritsu tends to make short, powerful, moves--you can tell she’s a top-tier athlete because she’s still graceful, but an endurance athlete wouldn’t move like that because it costs a lot of energy.”

Miki uncrosses her arms and starts dribbling the ball again, apparently bored with the conversation.

“So, what’s your question?” She begins spinning the ball around in circles, weaving it through and between her legs.

My brain stops. For all my deliberation, I hadn’t actually thought of the question I was going to ask. Fuck.

Miki pauses and sees the confused look on my face.

“Okay, let’s start small. What’s her sport?”

“Tennis.”

Miki chuckles to herself. I guess everyone likes being right.

“Tennis, huh.”

I guess I should ask now.

“I was wondering what it was like to train at an elite level for a sport. You know, the kind where you don’t go to school and learn or anything.”

Miki rolls her eyes at me. I hurriedly rephrase my question.

“I-i-mean, what’s it like in general training at a top level. Is it really that different from everyday life?”

Miki gives another shrug and crushes a goal in the corner, with a little more force than normal.

“I wasn’t that good, Hisao. I never made the national team. But I suppose I can answer your question. I know a couple of kids who made it.”

She pauses and lets the ball lie still at her feet.

“Soccer, at that level, isn’t a sport. It’s a lifestyle. You can laugh at say it’s a stale joke or whatever, but I’m not joking. You have to love it, you have to live it, you have to breathe it when you wake up in the morning and dream of it at night. You have to have grass stains on your on not just your knees but your elbows and your shins and everywhere you can think of. This sport is your life. It’s all you have.”

She starts dribbling the ball again.

“I never really wanted to make that commitment, so I never really reached the level of the national squad.”

I should have realized I was asking Miki to relive her past. Stupid of me. Shit. Now I’ve basically forced Miki to evaluate all of her life choices because I had a question about my girlfriend. Selfish Hisao. I’ll make it up to Miki somehow.

Another goal in the corner.

“But to answer your question, if Ritsu was any worth, she’d know nothing else but tennis. She’d have grown up with a racket in her hand and went to bed with it every night.”

Miki looks at me and I see a strange fear in her purple eyes. What is it a fear of? Why is she afraid?

“I was always afraid that if I took soccer seriously I would wake up in some backwater country, playing for a nobody team with nothing but a string of goals and a pair of shin guards.”

She sighs.

“Everyone wants to turn into Lebron James when they’re a kid. But no-one realizes the harsh truth until they get older. For every Cristiano Ronaldo, there are a hundred or even a thousand twenty-year olds chasing the dream in some backwater development team in the middle of nowhere, until they wake up and they’re forty and all they know is how to kick a stupid leather ball with a pair of destroyed knees. And you know what the crazy thing is Hisao?”

“What?”

She looks at me and the fear is deep, strong, present in her purple eyes. This is a choice Miki made.

“They all know it. You know it when you sign up. For every concert pianist at Juilliard there are five hundred music teachers in Wisconsin. But if you love the sport anyway, you take the chance and you hope you go for it. So every game is a question. Every practice. Every minute, every goal, every kick, every second. Am I good enough? Every day is a test. And it’s torture if you come up with the wrong answers.”

She starts walking off the field.

“I hope that answered your question about Ritsu. Come on, let’s get some breakfast.”

I follow her off the field. Now seems like a good time not to ask any questions.

Miki ducks into the shed again, and returns with two bags of chips.

She tosses me one, and I turn it over. Lay’s potato chips. Barbecue ribs flavor.
I turn a questioning eye towards Miki.

“Barbecued ribs flavor?”

She shoots me a pouty look.

“If the track team sent me to go grocery shopping, and I just pulled a bunch of bags off the shelf and threw them into the cart, is it my fault that some of the flavors were less than normal?”

“What flavor do you have?”

She turns her bag towards me. Barbecue ribs flavor. Okay... I’m still pretty suspicious.

“Why does the track team need chips?”

She waves a hand in the air.

“Calorie replacement. Don’t tell Emi, we hide the chips under a plank she doesn’t know about.”

I’m still dubious about the entire idea.

“Still...”

Miki punches me in the arm, a light grin on her face. She looks more normal now.

“Don’t be a wimp, Hisao. Eat the chips, breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day.”

I reluctantly open the bag of bag of chips and take a bite.

Sweet. Tangy. A little porky. And crunchy, of course.

On a whole, it’s not as bad as I expected. Maybe not something I’d buy in a store... but not that bad.

I look over at Miki. She’s eating her chips and gazing out towards the track.

Rosy-fingered dawn is peeking over the horizon, just beyond the trees surrounding the field.

Miki speaks again.

“I don’t know too much about Ritsu. She hangs out with us sometimes, and she’s good company. I think she’s a good person. But I think she made the choice, Hisao. Ritsu got lucky. She got an early exit option for what most likely would have been a life of disappointment. Not saying she didn’t have the talent. But it’s just the math. Talent can only carry you so far. Hard work can only carry you so far. At some point, it’s just luck.”

I wonder if Miki knew how good Ritsu was. Or if she’s saying something that’s true no matter how good Ritsu is at tennis. Miki crumples up her chip bag.

“I think Ritsu’s a nice girl, and I hope what you get what you want, Hisao, you and her both. But don’t forget that she’s never done anything normal before. Be nice to her, Hisao, and be forgiving. She deserves it. When you live your life like that, with every day a question, you deserve it.”

She wags a finger at me.

“So I’ll be keeping an eye on your relationship, Detective Nakai. And I’ll be around to help if necessary.”

I breathe a sigh of relief. It’s good to know I’m not on my own.

“Thanks, Miki.”

She smiles at me knowingly. Feminine wiles.

“Okay, Hisao, time to run again.”

Wait, what?

“What? Again? Why?”

She shrugs.

“I feel like it.”

“But we just ate! And it’s Sunday. Don’t you want to go back to the dorms and shower and sleep?”

She blinks innocently at me.

“Sleep, Hisao? I don’t know anything about that. I didn’t spend all night playing poker in a room with the crewinstead of going to sleep on a Saturday night like the choirboy I am.”

I roll my eyes.

“Come on, Hisao, don’t be a bum! Don’t you want to show Ritsu that toned bod of yours?” She pokes me in the stomach for emphasis.

I follow Miki out onto the track as she beckons me with a hand. Sun’s out. It’s warm now.

A few more laps couldn’t hurt. Even on a full stomach.

=======

"Out Getting Ribs" is a song by Zoo Kid/King Krule

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Re: A Ritsu Route (Updated 7/17)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Thu Jul 18, 2013 2:40 am

Nice chapter, but it shows evidence of some heavy editing afterwards, for example:
I showed up at the Yamaku track early on this Saturday morning.
...
Or is it not weird to be on the Yamaku bleachers at 5AM on a Saturday morning
...
“But we just ate! And it’s Sunday.
or
You have to have grass stains on your on not just your knees
ot 2-3 others I can't find again at the moment^^°

So, basically Miki simply confirmed what Ritsu told him in the previous chapter. Why would Hisao need to confirm the stuff his girlfriend told him with someone else? Did he not believe her?
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
Sore wa himitsu desu.

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Re: A Ritsu Route (Updated 7/17)

Post by Joonwoo » Thu Jul 18, 2013 4:16 am

An update *drool*
Narcolepsy without the cataplexy. Tired but no random fainting. I made it, so can you.

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Re: A Ritsu Route (Updated 7/17)

Post by Parliament » Thu Jul 18, 2013 2:29 pm

Loved this chapter. I'm also really enjoying the addition of Miki in a lot of fics I've been reading.

I like the way you use her here but she felt a little Holmes-ish when deducing Hisao's reason for waiting at the bleachers. Whether or not that was intended I'm not sure, it just felt a tad out of character. Of course you are at liberty to make her that type of character, as her appearance in KS was brief and left a ton of room for interpretation.

Loving this route =)
I wish I had some kind of succinct piece of wisdom to put here. Oh well, bathrobes are comfy =)

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Re: A Ritsu Route (Updated 7/17)

Post by Guestimate » Thu Jul 18, 2013 6:41 pm

Miki-bro is best bro.

Another good chapter, by the way. I think you got a better handle on the pacing this time... unless I'm thinking of another fic, I have at least five of them that I waiting for updates on :P.

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Re: A Ritsu Route (Updated 7/17)

Post by SemisoftCheese » Fri Jul 19, 2013 9:25 pm

Mirage_GSM wrote:Nice chapter, but it shows evidence of some heavy editing afterwards, for example:
I showed up at the Yamaku track early on this Saturday morning.
...
Or is it not weird to be on the Yamaku bleachers at 5AM on a Saturday morning
...
“But we just ate! And it’s Sunday.
or
You have to have grass stains on your on not just your knees
ot 2-3 others I can't find again at the moment^^°

So, basically Miki simply confirmed what Ritsu told him in the previous chapter. Why would Hisao need to confirm the stuff his girlfriend told him with someone else? Did he not believe her?
thanks for catching the edits. to answer your question in the shortest manner, yes. hisao wanted another perspective on the athlete lifestyle beside ritsu's firsthand account.
Joonwoo wrote:An update *drool*
thank you! i'm glad you're enjoying it.
Parliament wrote:Loved this chapter. I'm also really enjoying the addition of Miki in a lot of fics I've been reading.

I like the way you use her here but she felt a little Holmes-ish when deducing Hisao's reason for waiting at the bleachers. Whether or not that was intended I'm not sure, it just felt a tad out of character. Of course you are at liberty to make her that type of character, as her appearance in KS was brief and left a ton of room for interpretation.

Loving this route =)
yeah she's a pretty darn useful character. i keep on painting her in different lights because she's so versatile. i'll try and make her more miki-like next time.
Guestimate wrote:Miki-bro is best bro.

Another good chapter, by the way. I think you got a better handle on the pacing this time... unless I'm thinking of another fic, I have at least five of them that I waiting for updates on :P.
thank you! good to hear i'm better on pacing this time.

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Re: A Ritsu Route (Updated 7/17)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Sat Jul 20, 2013 3:37 am

i keep on painting her in different lights because she's so versatile. i'll try and make her more miki-like next time.
"Miki-like" is a relative thing...
We only have one scene of Miki in the VN. All characterization beyond that is only by some other Fanfiction authors whose opinion is no better than yours. The great advantage of little used characters like this is that you can take them in unexpected directions without being OOC.
Don't waste that advantage.
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
Sore wa himitsu desu.

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Re: A Ritsu Route (Updated 7/1)

Post by demonix » Mon Jul 22, 2013 6:05 pm

Mirage_GSM wrote:Oooh. An iPhone that can google the future!
(Remember the story is set in 2007...)
And I wouldn't be sure if the original iPhone would have worked in Japan since it was a 2G device, and I'm not sure if there were any active 2G networks in Japan at that time (if there weren't, then it would put a massive plot hole into the story since internet access would have been impossible).

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Re: A Ritsu Route (Updated 7/17)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Tue Jul 23, 2013 3:25 am

Interesting... Apparently iPhones weren't available in Japan until 2008.
When Microsoft does it today, people are (rightly) complaining, but back then nobody cared about Apple...
Anyway, since the author said he set the story in 2012, this problem is moot.
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
Sore wa himitsu desu.

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Pretty Girls

Post by SemisoftCheese » Sun Aug 04, 2013 3:28 pm

Ugh. Today I had to wake up early again. My brain is so foggy at these early hours, and the sky is still dark.

A week ago, Ritsu said she had a surprise for me.

The “surprise” turned out to be two VIP passes to the Rakuten Open--some big tennis tournament. She said they were gifts from her old friends. The passes look pretty official--they’re laminated and even have our photo ID. Someone must have pulled some strings--we’re both classified as player attaches.

As interesting as the passes are, I was a little less enthusiastic when I found out the tournament was in Tokyo, in Ariake Park. That’s two hours by train from here. Ugh. We’re leaving Yamaku at around 6AM to get there by 9.

Ritsu looks just as bleary eyed as me when I greet her at the bus stop, but she also seems excited. I’m wearing my school uniform but Ritsu has changed into a pair of skinny black jeans, a blue polo shirt, and a flashy red team jacket--dri-fit, kevlar, and emblazoned with sponsor logos--I guess a throwback from her old tennis days.

It’s too early for buses at this hour, so we called for a taxi to the JR station in Sendai. It’s freezing on the platform, but at least we’re taking a bullet train, so the journey won’t be too long.

Ritsu and I planned out the journey a few days ago. JR Touhoku Shinkasen from Sendai to Tokyo station, then transfer to the JR Keihin Tohoku line towards Isogo, then at Oimaichi station take the Rinkai line towards Shinkiba.

It all sounds very neat, but as I stand on the platform with my breath crystallizing in the air, and a two hour journey in front of me, I resolve that my first invention as a scientist will be teleportation. It’s fucking cold outside,

=======================
On the train, the time passes pretty quickly. Ritsu used her Amex to upgrade us from second-class to first, which I feel kind of bad about, but she shot me a flat look and said it was as much for her as it was for me. As I sink into the cushy seat and accept a cup of coffee from the stewardess, I can’t help but agree.

Ritsu puts on a pair of headphones and quickly falls asleep, her mouth half open as she snores quietly.

I supress a smile. I guess some things never change. I hate sleeping on trains, so I guess I’ll settle for watching the scenery.

The countryside flashes by in smears of green scenery intersparsed with small towns. I try to remember how fast the bullet train goes? 300 kph? It sounds almost like a dreamy figure.

One cup of coffee turns into three, and I have to refuse the next cup offered by the stewardess. No sense in having caffeine burnout in the middle of the day.

It doesn’t help that the coffee’s so damn good, though.

I feel kind of bad that Ritsu’s taking all the momentum in our relationship. First the dog, then setting up our first kind of formal date--and paying for it too. Maybe I’ll make up for it by paying for lunch.

I kind of wish I brought my mp3 player for the train ride, but it’s not so bad just sitting and watching the scenery go by. And I won’t have to carry it for the rest of the day either.

The train starts to slow, and I shake Ritsu gently awake.

“Hey Ritsu, it’s time to transfer trains.”

She looks around slowly, her eyes settle on me, she gives a lazy smile, and drifts back off to sleep.

“Hey! Wake up!”

After some vigorous shaking and her giving me a pouty face, we manage to make it off the train in one piece.

I stand looking at the timetable.

There’s twenty minutes until our next train, so maybe we can find a shop and get some breakfast.

I feel a heavy weight on my shoulder. It appears that Ritsu has seized the moment to nap on my shoulder.

Looks like breakfast will have to wait.

=========
We eventually arrive at Ariake Park at around 9. The lines for entrance are swarming with spectators, and it doesn’t help that it’s now sweltering. I’m sweating already looking at the hour-long lines packed with tennis fans.

“Are the lines normally this long?” I ask Ritsu.

She gives a noncommittal shrug.

“The Rakuten Open is the biggest tennis tournament in Japan, and really the only one which draws high-level competitors. If you’re a Japanese tennis fan, this is the one time of the year you can see the stars you see in TV, in person. It’s not like Europe where they have a tournament every other weekend. The Asia tour is pretty minor at best.”

She pulls a sly grin.

“But don’t worry about the lines, Hisao, I’ve got that all taken care of.”

My heart sinks. Knowing Ritsu’s mischievous nature, this could involve anything from shouting fire to hopping over a back fence.

I’m surprised when she simply hands me my pass and walks over to an obscure looking tent. We flash our passes, and after a quick metal detector test, we’re straight into the main thoroughfare.

I grab her by the shoulder. I want to make sure Ritsu didn’t just slip the guards a fifty or something. I don’t like waiting in lines, but I don’t want to circumvent the system either. It’s not right.

“Hey, Ritsu, how’d we get through the lines so quickly?”

She looks back at me in surprise.

“Huh? We’re player attaches. That means we get to use the player entrance and we have access to all the player facilities.”

She rolls her eyes in mock evil at me.

“You didn’t think WE’d have to wait in LINE, Hisao? That’s only for the COMMONERS!” She follows this with an evil cackle.

I try and shush her. Bystanders are giving us strange looks.

“Okay, okay, I get it, was just curious.”

Ritsu stretches her outwards in the gesture of a conquering general.

“SOON our plan to take over the--MMmph”

I shush Ritsu forcibly by putting my hand over her mouth and pulling her into a bear hug.

“Okay, Ritsu, when I let go, are you going to shout anything crazy about the public?” I whisper into her ear.

She shakes her head emphatically, and I release her from the hug.

She bends and sucks in a huge gasp of air, and shoots me an amused look.

“You’ve got big hands, Hisao. You know what they say about big hands--”

Her face turns into a sly grin as she begins to deliver the punchline, but I cut her off.

“Hey, what’s with all the energy all of a sudden? And you can’t say stuff like that in public!”

She shrugs and grins happily.

“It feels so good to be home, Hisao. I never knew how much I missed this place.”

She sweeps her arms around at the entire tennis complex.

“This-this is my home. This is where I’ve had my greatest victories, my worst defeats, and everything in between. I’ve felt elation, I’ve malice, fear, anguish, spite, nervousness, depression, mania, anxiety, and most of all, apathy. I’ve lived my life here. This is it. This is all I know. This is home.”

That was oddly... poetic. I look to Ritsu to see if there’s more coming, but she’s already turned her attention to the draw posted on a wall, eyeing the day’s matches to see what we’re going to watch.

Well, I guess the poetry analysis can come some other time.

I move next to Ritsu to check out the draw sheet. It’s a 64-person knockout draw; one for the men, and another for the women. Most of the names aren’t familiar, but one catches my eye.

Roger Federer. From Switzerland? I think he’s number one? I know he’s good. Time to show Ritsu she’s not the only one with tennis knowledge.

Play it cool, Hisao. I tap Ritsu on the shoulder.

“Why don’t we go see Federer in the main stadium? He’s number one, right?”

Ritsu rolls her eyes at me. Ruh oh. I wasn’t expecting that.

“You want to go see Federer? Of all people? I like swiss chocolate.”

Having rudely dismissed my seemingly ridiculous notion, she turns her attention back to the draw panel.

I grab her by the shoulder.

“Hey, what was that for? He’s number one, right? Why so hostile?”

Ritsu considers my question before pulling her eyes from the sheet.

“Sorry, Hisao, I keep on forgetting you don’t play tennis alot.....”

She checks the sheet one more time before setting off towards the outer courts.

“Come on, I found a match, I’ll explain while we walk.”

Heading in the opposite direction everyone else, Ritsu and I weave ourselves through the quickly thinning groups of people. As the walkways grow, she starts to explain.

“The truth about the top 100 in tennis is that in terms of skill, they’re all virtually the same. The difference between Roger Federer and John Journeyman, ranked 89, in terms of skill, is close to nothing. They’ve both put in the same time, and obviously they have the talent, otherwise they wouldn’t be the top 100 in the world.”

We turn a corner and in front of us stands a empty court with a set of metal bleachers. It looks like two the two players are just unpacking their bags, unwrapping rackets in plastic bags and getting drinks from variously dyed bottles of water. There’s no umpire in the chair or linespeople. In fact, there’s no one else watching, either.

Ritsu motions me onto the bleachers, and we take a seat. Despite there being a brick grandstand on the other side of the bleachers, the venue is all but deserted.

I start to ask Ritsu what’s going on.

“Hey, Ritsu--”

She cuts me off by placing a finger on my lips.

“Whisper, Hisao. Tennis is a gentleman’s sport.”

I pull her finger from my lips and continue in a low voice.

“--where’s the line judges and everything? Is this a match?”

Ritsu waves her hand in dismissal at me, her eyes focused on the court.

“It’s a practice session, I’ll explain soon.”

I want to know more, but I don’t want to disturb her either, so I turn my attention to the court.

The two players have moved to their respective sides of the court and begin warming up, bouncing on their feet and hitting the ball back and forth with easy, rythmic motions. One is tall and built, wearing a light green shirt and white shorts, and the other slightly shorter but far more muscular, wearing a dark blue shirt and white shorts. Both of them hit the tennis ball as if it weighed nothing more than a feather. The one in the dark blue shirt seems slightly slower, but they both hit and move effortlessly.

The way they move too is interesting. When they’re not hitting the ball, they bounce on the tips of their toes as if they’re dancing in place. Moving is a matter of a few steps--nothing more than necessary--and as soon as they step in one direction, they quickly move back to the center. It looks more like boxing footwork than what you would expect from a racket sport.

They hit at an incredible pace--speed, then slow, short, then deep-mixing every possible combination. As soon as a ball goes out or into the net, a new one is put into play, and the entire rally starts over again. It seems kind of... monotonous.

I look at Ritsu. She’s completely rapt--focused entirely on the yellow tennis ball being hit between the two. I guess she can see all the secrets going on-the intricacies only a top player would know.

Catching my eye, she nods and begins to explain in a lowered voice.

“Okay, Hisao. This is a practice session. Tennis is like any other sport--if you don’t practice, you won’t perform well at match time. More often than not, the best way to get close to the pros is to find an outside court at a pro venue--no-one likes having to deal with crowds and attention while they’re practicing.”

Okay, that makes sense.

“Who’s playing?”

“I’ll do them one-by-one.”

She points at the shorter of the two players, in the dark blue.

“That guy? That’s Stan Wawrinka. This guy is killer.”

She punches me in the shoulder for reference, and then looks back just in time to see him wind up and hit a winner.

“The bottom line with this guy is, if you don’t do something with your shot, he’s going to hurt you. Not like physically hit you, but he’s going to make you run and work for it. Big time. This guy hits hard and heavy, and every ball is relentless. Lots of other players make safe shots when they’re out of position, or just keep the ball in play. Not this guy. Every shot is quality--he also happens to possess some of the most technically perfect groundstrokes in the game. This guy is the guy who listened to the coaches’ advice when he was little--he has a technically perfect, classic, attacking game.”

Considering all this information, I take a look at the dark-blue guy again. He does hit hard, but he still seems a little bit slow compared to the other guy. I tug on Ritsu’s sleeve.

“So if this guy is so perfect, why isn’t he number one?”

Her reply is instant--she doesn’t even take her eyes off the court.

“His groundstrokes require a traditional, low-to-high windup--which takes a lot of time. So when he’s entirely out of position, his shots tend to suck a lot more than others--because he can’t just flick his wrist to hit the ball. Also his need to be stable when he hits the ball--a tenant of classic form--and it costs him time because he needs to properly set up. This guy is living proof that by-the-book isn’t always perfect-- being able to hit the same shot without needing all the form crap is worth a lot more at the top level. Stan is by no means untalented, but the technical perfection of his game hurts him more than you think. His forte is what kills him.”

She pauses and considers for a moment.

“I mean, this is in terms of relativity. Right now he’s around 13 in the world, which is pretty darn good.”

I stop and watch again. The dark blue guy--Wawrinka--does hit hard, now that I notice it, his shots are kind of elegant. Every one has the same preparation--methodical--as if he’s a martial artist practicing a kick. Every shot speaks of discipline and hours of practice, not to mention some sort of natural talent. His play style is organized--neat--with every point carefully constructed and executed.

Or I’m making it up because Ritsu explained it to me. I turn my attention to the other guy.

Unlike Wawrinka, this guy seems almost lazy. His footwork is much quicker, but besides that, his shots seem effortless. For every carefully placed shot that Wawrinka hits, this other guy simply draws his racket back and knocks it across in a crisp, fluid, motion that seems to vary shot by shot. One shot he’ll finish with his racket under his waist, the other high over his head. Yet it doesn’t seem ugly or un-natural--just less precise and less disciplined. It’s a easy, natural, liquid grace. The result, however, seems to be the same or even better--more often than not he seems to be able to outplay Wawrinka though a fluid, natural, attack. For every careful shot that Wawrinka hits, this guy seems to do it without even thinking. He could as easily be having breakfast in bed instead of slugging it out with the number 13 in the world.

I tug on Ritsu’s sleeve again. She turns to me.

“Who’s the other guy?”

She looks back at me and gives a quick, thin-lipped smile for a moment, before she returns her gaze to the court. Then she begins.

“That’s Tommy Haas. Now that’s a story and a half.”

She watches Haas flick a winner beyond the reach of Wawrinka before she continues.

“Tommy Haas moved from Germany to Florida at the age of 14 to pursue professional tennis. He won a scholarship to the prestigious Bolletierri Academy and Nick Bolletierri liked him so much that Haas eventually moved into his house. We’re talking about a guy who trained some of the greats here--Andre Agassi, Jim Courier--every single legend around--and he liked Haas so much that he treated him like a son. His first four years on tour--Haas was a force--picking up five titles including a Paris Masters, and a silver medal at the 2000 Olympics. This guy was the next cover of Sports Illustrated. Even Federer couldn’t match him.”

She pauses.

“In 2002, Haas’ parents got into a car crash and he spent most of the year taking care of them, instead of playing tennis. After not playing for so long, he injured his shoulder and didn’t return to professional tennis until 2004. In 2006, 07, and 08, Haas again settled into near top form--reaching the US Open semifinals, picking up four titles and a string of impressive victories.”

Ritsu’s just rattling it off--her eyes are completely focused on the court as she repeats the complete biography of man she’s probably never even spoken a word to.

“In 2009, Haas finally hit high gear--he won his first grass title--making him one of the very few players to win on grass, clay, and hardcourt.”

She looks at me for emphasis.

“That’s like a pitcher who can throw with both arms. It’s rare. This guy had talent.”

She tilts her head towards Haas, who is now warming up what I would assume to be his serve. Or at least that’s what my meagre tennis knowledge tells me.

“In 2010, Haas injured himself again--this time his hip as well. He didn’t play in 2011, and he only started competing in 2012. As of July 2013, today, Haas is ranked 11 in the world--this would be his third comeback to date. He’s thirty-five years old--in a sport where many people quit in their late twenties. To be 11 in the world at thirty-five years old... it’s something special. It makes you wonder what he could have done if all that stuff didn’t happen.”

She sighs.

“You can see his talent, can’t you? Every person who knows tennis knows the story of Tommy Haas. It’s a kid who grew up, put the time in, even had the talent to boot--but here he is--at age 35--still chasing the dream.”

She throws her hands up in a mock gesture of defeat.

“It’s not to say he failed. He’s gotten farther than almost everyone else. But to be so good and fall just short every time--there’s something basic, fundamentally, painful about that. He doesn’t play for the money anymore--he already made enough of it to live on for the rest of his life by 2005. I think now, it’s just a matter of pride.”

In the entire time, Ritsu’s eyes haven’t left the court. She’s rapt--completely fixed--on the battle between the two.

Looking at the court, I never would have known the history behind the each player. Or even guessed at a shred of the truth. Ritsu really knows her stuff.

It’s kind of perverse, in a way, that Haas and Wawrinka are practicing with each other. The ex-star and the perfect kid lacking that extra bit of talent. I wince and check myself. These guys are 11 and 13 in the world. They’re not doing so bad. But the way Ritsu puts it,

The two players move to the side of the court and take out sports drinks. I guess it’s time for a break.

Ritsu gets up, dusting her skirt off.

“Come on, Hisao, let’s go see another match.”

“Okay.”

We make our way back towards the main stadium, the crowds getting thicker again. Ritsu and I are again forced to edge and shoulder our way through the throngs of people.

Bleagh. I’m all sweaty. Hopefully this match is in the shade or something.

And I’m pretty hungry. Maybe we can get something to eat, and I can treat Ritsu to lunch.

Just as I’m about to tap Ritsu on the shoulder to ask her about our plans, a high voice calls above the crowd.

“Ritsu!”

Both of us stop, trying to track the source of the voice.

“Ritsu! Over here!”

The voice belongs to a tall, dark-haired girl waving by the food court. As we come closer, I can see she’s wearing the same player attaché passes we are. Ritsu locates her and her face lights up in an expression of joy.

“Ah! Mio!”

Edging our way through the crowd, we make our way to Ritsu’s friend—Mio, I guess. Ritsu wraps Mio in a long, enthusiastic hug, and then turns to introduce me.

“Hisao, this is my friend Mio Akiyama. I’ve known her since I was five, when I played in her a junior tennis tournament.”

Mio gives me a polite nod, her eyes a strikingly calm grey.

“A pleasure to meet you, Akiyama-san.”

She waves her hand in a manner much like Ritsu.

“Please, Mio.”

I sense the topic of polite introductions is dying, so I decide to introduce a controversial topic.

“So, when you first played, who won?”

A loud proclamation from my right, issued by a yellow-banded girl, is no surprise.

“Me!”

This earns her a swat from Mio. Giving me a pleasant smile, she opens her mouth to speak.

“Ritsu back then… let’s say that her line calls weren’t exactly fair.”

Ah. Right. You call our own lines in tennis. At least I know this much. This earns a another protestation from Ritsu.

“I got rid of that habit!”

Mio rolls her eyes.

“It only took you what, four years on the junior international tour to figure that out?”

Ritsu pouts. I chuckle. Seems like Mio knows exactly how to handle Ritsu. Mio surveys the crowd again, and turns to face us.

“So, is it just you two guys here?”

Ritsu’s still pouting, so I guess it’s my turn to answer.

“Yeah, it’s just us. We took the train all the way from school actually. How about you?”

Mio looks over the crowd once more. Is she looking for someone?

“I came with a bunch of friends—but they all just left to get frozen yogurt. Ritsu knows them all very well, actually.”

Stopping to shake Ritsu out of her pout and get her attention, she continues.

“I came with Mugi, Yui, and Azusa—but they’ve been gone for some time. It shouldn’t take them this long to get yogurt.”

Ritsu creeps up on Mio’s back, grabbing her behind the shoulder. Mio doesn’t look very comfortable all of a sudden.

“Maybe they were… KIDNAPPED!”

Mio shudders and gives a loud cry, drawing stares, then drops back down and knocks Ritsu on the head. Ritsu rubs her chin in thought.

“Mugi, Yui, and Azusa… huh… I haven’t seen them in ages.”

A loud squeal interrupts her thoughts.

“RICCHAN!”

I turn to face the source of the voice. It seems like everyone’s doing a lot of shouting today.

A girl with her hair parted in the middle runs up and gives Ritsu an enthusiastic hug, inadvertently sticking her cone of yogurt straight into Ritsu’s hair.

Strangely enough, she remains in the hug for a good number of seconds, completely unaware to Ritsu’s squirming at having frozen yogurt stuck into her head.

While Ritsu attempts to extract herself from her captor’s grasp, I take the time to survey her other two companions.

There’s a girl who kind of reminds me of Mio—serious, polite, expression, and long black hair—but done up in twintails instead of worn straight.

The other girl is strikingly foreign—with thick blonde hair and blue eyes—and carries a look of complete distraction and wonderment as she examines her frozen yogurt. It’s like she’s never seen it before or something.

Hmmm. Well, I never really gave thought to what Ritsu’s friends were like. I thought she said she didn’t have any. Maybe that was hyperbole or something.

With a loud gasp, Ritsu extracts herself, and immediately begins to verbally abuse her assailant.

“YUI! YOU GOT YOUR YOGURT ALL OVER MY HAIR!”

This is followed by a frenzied combing movement with her hands over the damaged area, spraying melted yogurt everywhere. It kind of reminds me of a raccoon I saw in a zoo that was grooming itself.

The antagonist—Yui, I guess—is completely ignoring Ritsu and looking at her now empty waffle cone with a mixture of confusion and despair. Meanwhile, the blonde girl steps forward.

“Here, I have a handkerchief.”

Ritsu gives up the combing effort and sighs. Accepting the handkerchief, she mops the rest of the yogurt.

“Thanks, Mugi,” moans Ritsu in a tone of despair.

Ah. So the blond one’s Mugi. That means the pigtailed ones… Asuka? Ayusa? Something like that. Azusa, I think.

The scene before me is like a comedy scene from a bad B-movie. Azusa’s frantically comforting Yui, who seems to be on the verge of tears after realizing that her yogurt’s placed the majority of itself in Ritsu’s hair and not in her mouth. Mugi and Mio have moved to help clean the yogurt out of Ritsu’s hair, while she maintains the look of a near-drowned cat.

I chuckle to myself. It’s kind of funny, in a extremely perverse way.

Mugi notices me standing there and gives Ritsu a tug on the shoulder. A loud whisper of “Ricchan, who’s that?” is followed by a curious pointing gesture at me.

Ritsu exhales a loud sigh of what can only be desperation.

“That’s my boyfriend, Hisao Nakai. Before I met you guys, he didn’t know that my hair could absorb such a large quantity of vanilla frozen yogurt.”

Mugi gazes at me in wonderment, while Asuza and Yui pause to look at me if I’m kind of zoo animal.

They immediately converge around Ritsu into a huddle, and I hear loud whispers of “Ricchan, you have a boyfriend!???!” and “Why didn’t you tell us!!?!!?!” and “Does he have more frozen yogurt!?!!?!!”

The huddle breaks up, and Mugi is the first to reach me. Sticking out her hand, she starts to issue a greeting.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Nakai-san.”

“Hisao. Nice to meet you as well.”

I grasp her hand and shake it, and find that she has an unsually—no—make that extremely unsually strong grip. Like the kind of grip that draws to mind the words ‘Iron vice” and ‘superman.”

The second to detach from the huddle is Azuza, who bows and also introduces herself.

“I’m Azuza Nakano. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

I shake her hand, and she seems normal. I think. A little earnest, but pretty normal.

The last one to detach is… Yui? I think. She looks like she’s still mourning the loss of her yogurt.

She grabs my hand in both of hers and starts to shake it enthusiastically. Wait a minute.

Wasn’t she supposed to introduce herself first?

As she realizes this as well, she stops shaking, leaving us in an awkward position as she attempts to reconcile this breach in social protocol.

Her face brightens and I’m met with one of the happiest, genuine smiles I’ve seen in a long time.

She lets go of my hands and introduces herself.

“Hi! I’m Yui Hirasawa.”

I can’t help but smile back.

“Hisao Nakai. Good to meet you.”

Now that introductions are through, I survey the situation. Mugi and Mio are still combing the yogurt out of Ritsu’s hair, which unfortunately looks like it’s starting to dry. Ritsu still has the look of a wet cat.

Yui is pouting at her empty ice cream cone, but it looks like Azusa is spooning out half of hers into Yui’s cone, which is causing her to give that star-bright smile again.

Seems like the situation’s under control. Well, at least marginally. I should probably go try and help Ritsu.

I head over to the situation, where Mio and Mugi are dabbing away at the now-clumping strands of Ritsu’s hair. I don’t think this is the right solution.

“Hey guys, why don’t you take Ritsu to a bathroom or something so she can wash this stuff out of her hair?”

Mio considers my answer while Mugi continues to dab dutifully at Ritsu’s hair.

“Well, we could take her to the player’s lounge. They even have showers there. What kind of tickets do you guys have?”

I fish my player attaché pass out of my pocket.

“We have these—not sure exactly what that means.”

Mio’s eyebrows raise in surprise, but she nods in acknowledgment.

“Sounds good, then. You guys have access to the lounge, so let’s go there.”

She follows this up by speaking directly to Ritsu.

“Hey, Ritsu, we’re going to go to the player’s lounge, where you can wash the yogurt out of your hair.”

This earns a groan from Ritsu, but she stands up and stretches her arms. I would make a jab about her current condition, but I doubt she’s in the mood to hear it.

We make the long trudge over to the main stadium, where apparently the player’s lounge is.

Ritsu doesn’t really seem to be in the mood to talk, but Mio and the others chatter idly away about the day’s matches. They seem just as fluent about tennis as Ritsu... which is kind of disturbing. They rattle off facts and dates like it’s the alphabet. Are all tennis fans like this?

We reach the stadium and step into a side entrance, where we flash our passes and pass through a set of double doors.

Another set of doors, and we enter a roughly painted, grey, concrete hallway. Panel lights hang from the ceiling and pipes line the high corridor walls. It’s about three people wide--and although clean and well lit, has an industrial feel.

You know, I wasn’t expecting the Ritz-Carlton or anything, but I thought the entrance to the player’s lounge would be nicer. Maybe I was picturing the wrong thing when I was thinking of the player’s lounge. Maybe it’s just a locker room or something.

We climb two flights of stairs, stop in front of a another set of doors, and our credentials are checked again. We pass through the doors, and I stop as my jaw drops through to the floor.

The player’s lounge is around the size of a football pitch. On the left, seperated by a low glass divider there’s a completely empty buffet line, with a bunch of chefs in white hats waiting patiently behind rows of steaming food. On the far wall, there’s a glass window over looking the grounds--floor to ceiling mirror glass--you can even see the Tokyo skyline in the distance. On the right wall, there’s a row of flat-screen TV’s, probably around ten of them, tuned to various sports channels and news stations, and even more are placed in various nooks and crannies. Scattered around the room are leather couches and furniture, beanbags, a few ping pong tables, a pool table, a foosball table... this isn’t a player’s lounge. This is a lounge for billionaires or something. This is the fucking coolest room I’ve ever been in.

There are a few people in the lounge, but it’s mainly empty. I guess no one likes hanging around or something. I could hang out in here for a pretty long time. Maybe for the rest of my life if no one minds.

Ritsu immediately heads off to the side--to the showers, I guess. Meanwhile, the girls head to the buffet--spearheaded by Yui, who seems eager to replace the half frozen yogurt she lost.

I collapse onto a soft leather couch. The cool air of the lounge is such a relief after the muggy outside. The leather is soft and has just enough spring to it. I feel so happy I could die. I close my eyes. Bliss. My mind is an empty, blank orb. I am attaining zen. I am the zen. I am zen. Zen.

My bliss is interrupted roughly five minutes later by comically loud whispers.

“Should we wake him?”

“No, he’s sleeping.”

“He looks so cute when he’s sleeping.”

“Yui, that’s Ritsu’s boyfriend!”

“I was just noting... everyone looks cute when they sleep.” I smile. I pretty much can picture Yui’s pout in my head.

“Hey, he’s smiling!”

Someone gives me a inquisitive poke, and I open my eyes to see Mugi’s face... an inch away from mine.

“Hey!” I recoil backwards onto the couch in not one of the smoothest displays possible. Groan. Way to look cool in front of four girls, Hisao.

Mugi looks worried. I quickly move to allay her fears.

“No, no, it’s okay, I was just shocked from being woken.”

Azusa slides a plate of food towards me. It looks delicious--fresh pasta, salad, and some kind of seafood rice. Not the greasy sports-event fare I was looking forward to, but this can do.

“We brought you some food in case you were hungry.”

“Ah, thanks. It looks great.”

We begin to eat, and the only sound is the quiet chewing of food. I guess everyone’s hungry.

As I start to eat, I realize I’m ravenously hungry as well. The only thing I’ve had to eat today is three cups of coffee. The food is even more tasty than it looks--rich in flavor, yet light. The kind of food a top athlete would want, I guess. I clean my plate and am suddenly onset by an assault of thirst.

“I’m getting a drink, does anyone want anything?”

I’m immediately onset by a flurry of drink requests.

“Orange Soda!”

“Dr. Pepper, please.”

“Root Beer--no--Cream Soda--no--Shirley Temple!”

“Diet Coke would be great, Hisao.”

All of this is shouted at me within the space of a few seconds, but no-one seems fazed in the slightest. My head still ringing slightly, I head over to the bar and get the drinks, and a coke for myself.

Placing their drinks on the table, I flop back down on the couch. I wonder where Ritsu is? She’s been gone pretty long.

Everyone’s finished their food and is pretty much in the same state as me-- post food coma, sprawled out on the furniture.

A question comes to my mind. It’s been lodging there for a while, but it finally came up to the surface.

“Hey, how do you guys know Ritsu?”

Everyone starts to respond at once.

“WeRicchanIwell--”

Then they all stop, not wanting to interrupt each other.

There’s a slightly awkward silence as each of them waits for one of them to speak, but Mio takes the lead.

“Like Ritsu said, I first met her when I played in a Tokyo juniors tournament. But all of us play tennis at the competitive level, so we know Ritsu pretty well. All of us are her age, excluding Azusa, so we’ve competed with her and trained with her over the years.”

At this moment Ritsu comes walking over, her hair still wet from the shower.

“Hey guys, what’s going o--”

Her faces turns flat.

“You bastards ate without me.”

She sighs in mock depression.

“Okay, okay, I see I’ve been replaced by Hisao. I know he talks about tennis and girly things like shoes better than I do, so I’m going to get some food and lament my fate.”

She turns off and trudges off to the buffet line. I chuckle. Ritsu’s a handful, but she has her moments. I turn back to the group.

“So, do you guys come to tennis tournaments often?”

This time, Mugi answers.

“We consider them to be a part of our training. It is possible to learn a lot just from watching the top players hit for a point or two.”

Azusa interjects.

“It’s nice to get out and break the rhythm of training. Like Mugi said, it helps, and more often then not, we get to take a lot of breaks anyway.”

Yui interjects.

“And we get to eat food like french fries and hot dogs!”

At this moment Ritsu comes back. She seizes the opportunity to make a wry remark.

“Hey, that’s not all she eats. Last time we went to a tournament she ate four funnel cakes.”

This draws a pout from Yui.

“They were good. And so small.” she protests in a low voice.

Everyone smiles at Yui’s frown as Ritsu settles in and starts to eat.

“So, you guys have all met Hisao?”

Everyone nods. A sly grin makes its way onto her face.

“And what’d you think?”

I sigh. Leave it to Ritsu to ask those kinds of questions. I’ll step in and answer her question.

“They thought that I was way too smart and handsome for you. Before you came, they were just asking my availability on weekends.”

Hopefully they’ll catch on and play along with my joke. Thankfully, everyone nods with dutiful poker faces.

Ritsu sighs loudly, not missing a beat.

“Well, I guess I’ll just have to give you up then. Watch out girls, Hisao goes dutch on dates.”

“I do not!”

Everyone laughs. I get a sense that when it comes to humor, Ritsu likes it rough.

She tugs on my shoulder.

“Hisao, I’m thirsty. Would you mind getting me a Coke Zero?”

“Sure.”

I drag myself off the couch. It’s probably for the best, I was almost falling asleep.

“While you’re up could you also get another--”

“Orange Soda.”

“Root Beer.”

“Shirley Temple--no--now Roy Rodgers!”

“Diet Coke”

I tilt my head down in defeat.

“Sure, no problem.”

A chorus of “Thanks, Hisao,” rings out, and as I look back, the girls are clustering around Ritsu, no doubt filling her in on the latest gossip or something like that.

Bleagh. Carrying this many drinks is probably going to result in a large spill. I should probably get a tray or something.

The bartender raises his eyebrows at my order, and I tilt back my head back at the girls to explain. He nods gracefully, and sets about fulfilling my rather large order.

Bringing the drinks back took a bit of skill, given my piss-poor sense of balance and hand-eye, but I manage to set the tray down without causing a major calamity.

Another chorus of “Thanks, Hisao,” ensues, and I realize I forgot to get myself a drink. Oh well.

Ritsu, now having her food, speaks up.

“Hisao, we were thinking about going to see another match. Are you ready?”

I stretch my arms out.

“Sure, where to?”

“We’ll decide on the way. Come on.” She tilts her head at the door, and we all gather our stuff and exit the lounge.

============
It’s almost dusk now, and the girls had some appointment to keep, so Ritsu and I have retired to a cafe on the tournament grounds. We have night match passes, but I don’t think we’re going to stay.

I’ve ordered a cappuchino, and at 500 yen, I hope it’s somewhat decent. Ritsu’s ordered some kind blue sports drink.

Believe it or not, sitting and watching other people physically exert themselves is kind of tiring. I’m exhausted.

While we wait for our drinks to arrive, I’ve got a big question for Ritsu. I look at her to see if she’s in a talkative mood.

She looks kind of tired, and her red jacket is dusty by now, but her eyes are active, darting over the crowd and flashing in the fading light.

“Hey, Ritsu, I’ve got a question.”

She looks over at me, snapped out of her daze.

“Shoot.”

“I thought you said you had no friends in the tennis world. How do you know Mio and all the other girls?”

A look of understanding passes over her face.

“Oh, I should have explained that.”

She pauses to accept her blue neon sports drink from the waiter, takes a sip, and then starts to explain.

“In every country where tennis is big, or it’s a 1st world country, there tends to be a government agency or federation that provides support and regulation for tennis events in the country. In the United States, it’s the USTA, in Britain the LTA, or Lawn Tennis Association, in Australia it’s Tennis Australia, and in Japan, it’s the Japanese Tennis Association. More often than not, these organizations are more than just figureheads--the USTA runs the US Open, the LTA runs Wimbledon, you get the idea--these are multibillion dollar entites solely devoted to tennis. For the most part, they spend the majority of their time promoting tennis in their country, which includes sponsoring promising youth players.”

She takes another sip.

“There are a lot of benefits to this. For the most part, it means that you don’t need to be extraordinarily rich to attempt a career in pro tennis--you just need to show the requisite talent. The Federation will pay for your coaching, travel, fees, everything. Even more, they don’t expect any of it back when you turn pro. It’s as free and as good as it gets”

Interesting. She continues as I accept a steaming cappuccino from the waiter.

“The only catch in training with the Federation is that you’re stuck with whatever they give you. Which, for the most part--is nothing short of excellent--they often spare no expense in training and hiring coaches and whatever. But you’re often forced to train in your native country, and train with other prospects from your same country--which in a small country like Japan, can be a death sentence--you simply won’t get the intense, international competition that you need.”

Hold on. That doesn’t sound right.

“Wait wait wait. So you’re saying that training with the top Japanese players isn’t the same as say, training with the top American players?”

She shrugs.

“For the most part, no. Japan is such a small country that their tennis prospects are few and far in between. In a large country like America, there’s a much larger talent pool--and as a result, competition there is much more intense. It sounds silly but it really is a huge world of difference.”

“Anyway, so for the aforementioned reasons, many top players in small-ish countries, providing they have the money, choose to train in America or Spain--where all the top juniors train. Training with the Federation doesn’t mean you’re not going to make it on the pro tour--but it’s really a matter of common sense. If you train with the best, logically, you’ll probably play like the best when crunch time comes. That’s why I chose to train outside the Federation.”

Another shrug.

“Mio, Mugi, Yui, and Azusa are all Federation players. They’re top talents in their own right, but they don’t really train at the same level or have the same “accomplishments.”

Well, okay. So how do they know each other then?

“So how do you guys know each other then? If you train in America, how do you know them so well?”

She looks surprised at my question before understanding snaps on her face.

“Oh. Uh, not training with the Federation doesn’t mean I avoid them entirely. I still play junior events that are based by country, so when I do, I have to use the Federation to register me and get me on the team. One of the reasons why I get along so well with those four is that I rarely compete with them--for the most part, we’re often working as a team to win a tournament.”

Team?

“Isn’t tennis a one-on-one sport?”

She raises her eyebrows, then smiles understandingly as she address my question.

“I keep on forgetting that you haven’t lived this sport. It is, but there’s doubles, which is two-on-two, and things like junior Fed cup. A team would be three singles players and two doubles teams--and depending on how many wins your team has, you either “win” the overall competition, or you “lose.” These are actually pretty prestigious, and you have to play for your native country, so I play for Japan.”

She gazes out onto the tournament grounds.

“Actually, when I think about it, those are some of my happiest times in my life. When we’re not playing, we’re basically hanging out, so it’s always a week of just having fun 24 hours a day. We stay up and gossip and play video games and eat ice-cream. You can’t really do that in the American training camps because it’s so intense. The moment you slip up a tiny bit someone’s jumping to take your place.”

She looks out at the grounds and doesn’t speak for a while. I guess I should try to cheer her up.

“So you enjoy time with them more than time with me?” I do my best to look like an injured puppy.

She smiles wistfully and ruffles my hair.

“You’re a keeper, Hisao.”

Then she leans over the table and motions me to come closer, as if she want to tell me a secret.

“Yes, Ritsu?”

The next sensation is Ritsu’s lips, soft and full, pressing hard against mine. We’re in a public place! This can’t be normal.

Still, I give way to the kiss. It’s just too good to stop. After a good five seconds, we pull away.

“Ritsu, this is a public place!”

She waves a hand at me.

“Hisao, you worry too much. Look around.”

I look around. Everyone is going around their business like before.

“See? No one cares.”

I breathe a sigh of relief.

“Still...”

She looks at me critically all of a sudden.

“Hisao, your tie isn’t straight.”

“Huh?”

I look down. It’s pretty straight, but it is a little loose.

I move to fix it, and Ritsu’s soft lips press against mine again, her breath warm and hot, and I give way a second time to a lingering, impossibly amazing, kiss. This one lasts for a good ten seconds before she pulls away.

My face is all flushed by this point.

Down, boy.

“You were saying, Hisao?”

I hold my hands up in surrender.

“Okay, you got me.”

I take the last sip of my cappuccino before settling back.

“So, what should we do now?”

Her face screws up in thought.

“Well, we could go souvenir shopping. I always try and buy something at every tournament I go to. It’s like a tradition.”

“Sounds good. What were you looking to buy?”

“Probably a shirt or something. How about you?”

If I’m honest, there’s been something I’ve been wanting to buy all day. I’ve been holding back because I thought it was childish... but now that we’re going shopping... I guess it’s fate.

“I want one of those large tennis balls. You know, the ones the size of your head.”

She guffaws, breaking into laughter while unsuccessfully trying to conceal it with her hand.

“Okay, Hisao, whatever you like. Didn’t know you were a five year old.”

“Hey!”

We get up from the table and start heading towards the shopping arcade.

===========
By the time we get off the bus at Yamaku, it’s well and truly dark. After shopping, Ritsu persuaded me to stay the night matches, and we ended up seeing a five-set thriller between some guy from France and other guy from Serbia. According to Ritsu, Serbia is a tennis powerhouse or something like that. Anyway, it was pretty fun, but I’m really dog tired.

Shopping was also productive. In my right arm I have a large, roughly basketball-sized tennis ball. It cost 5000 yen, but I’ll be damned if I let something this cool pass me by.

As we reach Ritsu’s dorm, she turns to face me. She gives me a warm, pleasant, smile, as her golden eyes glitter in the moonlight

“Hisao, thanks so much for coming with me today. I haven’t had that much fun... in a long time. Being with you... made me feel like I was an actual teenager today. Thanks.”

“Hey, Ritsu, you always know what they say about being a teenager.”

Her face shows complete curiosity.

“What?”

I grab her by the hips and pull her into a long, lingering kiss, and she wraps her arms around me and pulls me in even closer.

She pulls away for a brief second. Her face is flushed with the thrill of a challenge.

“So what do they say, Hisao?” her voice low and husky.

As she pulls me in for another kiss, I whisper the answer in her ear.

“Third time’s the charm.”

======

"Pretty Girls" (Benny Benassi Remix) is a song by Wale

RedRover
Posts: 37
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Re: A Ritsu Route (Updated 8/4)

Post by RedRover » Sun Aug 04, 2013 4:59 pm

You just included all of the characters from K-On in this fic. +100 internets for you, sir.
"Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated." -Confucius
Quotes are fun.
I have a oneshot about little ol' Suzu. Read it! Or don't.

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