Approaching Fineness

After watching Regional finals, Yuuta and Mizuki both have a new range on their goals. Drama with Romance, I-3

“…didn’t think that doubles pair would hold out nearly that long!”

“I didn’t think Aniki would hold out that long! I never thought you could play tennis blind like that.”

“Or like that Echizen did. Did you see that jump?” Yanagisawa shook his head in amazement.

Yuuta snorted. “Since I’m not blind, yeah.”

Hajime leaned back in his bus seat and half listened to them, eyes closed, letting numbers dance behind his lids. The rate of progress among Seigaku’s second years was indeed very unusual. Fuji’s breakthrough was a little less so, perhaps; if his new model was correct, then Fuji was just mining skills he’d already had.

Echizen, of course, broke all the curves he’d predicted, but that was, itself, starting to be predictable.

“Echizen is still in motion,” he murmured. “He will not be entirely predictable until he stops, as Tezuka has.”

After a moment of silence, Yuuta asked, slowly, “Does that mean Tezuka-san is actually the easier one to beat?”

Hajime smiled; observing the tournaments seemed to be doing good things for Yuuta’s awareness of the mental game. That would be useful. “Indeed. In strategic terms, at least.” He glanced over his shoulder at them. “You need the basic strength to carry out any plan to defeat him, but he is less likely to break the parameters than someone like Echizen.”

“Yeah, but who’s got the strength to beat Tezuka?” Yanagisawa asked, skeptical.

Hajime’s mouth tightened. “Possibly no one,” he admitted, grudgingly. “Yet.” Any stable variable could be solved for.

“Yeah, but I’m not going to have a chance for another two years.” Yuuta sighed, rather wistfully Hajime thought. “You guys will get him next year.”

Hajime pursed his lips and said, reluctantly, “With a brand new team, perhaps not. Unless of course we can catch Seigaku again at Prefecturals.” He might get lucky and find strong players who just happened not to have formed a club yet, but he’d be foolish to count on such a thing.

“So there you go, no one from our side will be taking Tezuka on before you catch up.” Yanagisawa grinned at Yuuta. “If you do, I mean. You could go back to Seigaku for high school after all.”

Hajime stiffened. He hadn’t even thought of that. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t thought of that. Yuuta might… !

Yuuta growled. “Shut up, senpai.”

Hajime tried to swallow sudden panic down out of his throat, as Yanagisawa snickered. “Do you… think you’ll go on to St. Christopher, then?” He tried to sound careless; from the startled way Yuuta looked around at him he didn’t think he quite succeeded.

“I’d pretty much planned to, yeah,” Yuuta answered, a little tentative.

“I’m glad to hear it,” Hajime said with generous understatement. “I shall plan for your arrival.”

Yuuta smiled, relaxing again. “I thought you already were, Mizuki-san.”

Hajime blinked. Yuuta had seen that, and he… didn’t seem to mind. “I had hoped,” he murmured, while he turned the thought over.

Yuuta nodded, looking satisfied. “So this year and next I’ll concentrate on the team, and taking us just as far as I can, and the year after I’ll meet up with my senpai again.”

The way that knot in his chest eased, on hearing that Yuuta would follow him, made Hajime tense up in a different way. Yuuta was his ace player; Yuuta’s game was excellent, and growing better; Yuuta’s passion cast light around him, on the court.

And Hajime didn’t want that passion to go away.

This… this was not what he had expected, when he’d found Yuuta at that tennis school and dangled St. Rudolph in front of him.

Was it a problem, though? He worried at the question as Yuuta and Yanagisawa discussed the new Regulars behind him. Perhaps he and Yuuta could just… balance each other nicely. That could work, on the courts as well as off. So perhaps it was all right to want.

To care.

He would try to make it be all right; because he didn’t want to stop, now.