Title: Imperfection
Written at: August 7, 2007
Summary: Upon a chance meeting with some of the members from Seigaku, Shiraishi ends up playing a match with them, using the way he used to, making him recollect what he initially felt at playing tennis.
Theme: Examining why Shiraishi chooses to play his perfect tennis when it is only a bit better then his old playing style.
Word count: 2282

“No way!” the captain of Shitenhouji announced as he threw his pen down in despair. “There is no way that I am going to write ‘And hand in hand, we walked toward the sunset with new vows of regaining our honour’ into my report.”
“But you did ask me to read out some lines from my book in order for you to gain inspiration!” his girl friend laughed out as she turned the page. “What about this line then, Kuranosuke? ‘They silenced their enemy’s bitter taunts by vowing to make amends by carving a new path of blood’.”
“That was before I realized what you are actually reading.” Shiraishi said with a slight roll of his eyes before he complained once more. “Why do I have to write two pages and talk about the whole team, while Kenya only needs to write half a page with just a brief description of what I did?”
“Because you are the buchou while he is only the fuku-buchou.”
At the blunt truth, he could only sigh and pick up his pen once more, staring at the papers in front of him. As the buchou of the tennis club, he was obliged, with some help from his fuku-buchou, to write reports for every important tournament that they participated.
In Shiraishi’s opinion, writing these reports was the most tedious part of his duties next to playing his perfect tennis. It usually take him about a week to write it, as he would only write a small proportion each day, unlike now- he was actually trying to finish it in one day.
He was fairly successful, as he has produced three-fourth of it already, especially impressive when he only started to write it this morning- although he did spend his whole morning doing it.
But he was suddenly faced with a new distraction: he was actually so hungry that he wanted to abandon his writing even though he was so close to finishing it.
“I haven’t eaten anything since last night.” He admitted, as it was not even noon.
“Kuranosuke, you can be so…single-minded sometimes.” Ashita said with a shake of her head. “But why are you so eager to finish your report?”
“Because sensei wants to get it published in the school news paper as soon as we get back to Osaka.”
This was true, but his main motivation was Watanabe’s bribe- that he’d consider treating the whole team, including Ashita, to yakiniku instead of nagashi somen, if he gets the report completed before they returns to Osaka.
“I’ll go and buy you something to eat, so you can continue writing.” She decided.
Knowing about her attitude in regard to money pretty well, he quickly put his wallet into her bag to prevent her from even being in a dilemma. She must have understood his actions as she leant forward to kiss him on the cheeks rather shyly, finding herself still unable to do what he did the night after the semi-final’s.
As she walked out of the park, she would turn at certain points in order to wave at him. Likewise, he waved back and only returned to the work he was meant to do when he could no longer see her.
“Alright,” he said out aloud. “I will get this finish before Ashita comes back so we can have lunch together.”

His initial reaction at the footsteps was thinking that Ashita has returned, so he naturally prepared to greet her with a smile.
“Seigaku’s team?” he said softly as he managed to recognize the three in front of him, although they were not wearing their uniforms. He remembered the one with the bandana as one of the two who played against Shitenhouji’s infamous doubles, while the one with the glasses was the one who was meant to be playing doubles with Tezuka…
He smiled sourly at this, as it was one of the bits he was having great difficulty in writing, he asked Zaizen for some suggestions, but all he got was another lot of complaint. Not that he could blame his kouhai at all. Like the rest of them, Zaizen was eager to play in the nationals, especially when he was the reserve for the quarter finals. But not only did the double match turned into a single one, he was almost embarrassed for trying to participate.
Hence he wasn’t really surprised that Zaizen was in a foul mood after the semi-final’s, snapping at the non-regulars and addressing the seniors on the team with cutting remarks. But he naturally still had to do something about that since he was the buchou, and he would have if his coach didn’t tell him that he would handle it, as well as insisting that he go to see Ashita.
Something was obviously done as Zaizen’s attitude was very different the next day. It was not as if the boy was really rude in the first place, but he could be rather sharp tongued at times and he was not one who easily said what he wanted. That was why Shiraishi was quite shocked at the emotions behind Zaizen’s words that day- when said that he would win this for Shiraishi’s sake.
It was not just sincerity…it almost appeared as if Zaizen was seeing the win as a way to thank him.
“Shiraishi-kun?” some one called out, interrupting his thoughts.
“You must be Oishi, the fuku-buchou of Seigaku.” He said, extending his hand.
“We…were wandering whether you might be…whether you will…” Oishi took a slight cough as he began again, this time much calmer, “Kaidou and Inui are going to play doubles at the finals, while Eiji and I will be playing doubles too. We thought that it is best to practice but Eiji is not here, and it seems that he will be quite late…”
“To help you practice?” Shiraishi asked, as the vice-captain of Seigaku was beginning a list of how worried he was, and the consequences his team mate was causing by not turning up.
I am no where like that in regard to Kintarou, he said to himself.
He took a quick glance at the report he was meant to be finishing, then at the time on his cell phone. It was not even noon, and technically his part of the bargain would be fulfilled as long as he gave the completed report to his coach on the day before the finals, which was more then a day away.
He really wanted to play with them as he was actually quite curious about how good he would do against skilled people like them with his old method of playing.
Beside, no matter what the result was, the process would be fun, as it was not his perfect tennis.
“I don’t mind but my racquet is in my lodging.” He pointed out.
“There’s an 86% chance that Oishi will have a racquet that Shiraishi-kun would be able to use.” Inui said steadily. “On the other hand the likehood of him agreeing to play doubles with us is…”
“I’ll do it!” Shiraishi said, a bit louder then necessary in order to drown out Inui’s calculations, no wonder there were rumours about data tennis being one of most annoying things they’ve ever heard. “I can play doubles, I used to do throughout my first year.”
If he was honest with himself, then he would admit that playing doubles had been more fun for him as he was never affected by so many pressures and duties, and the most important bit was that he never once used perfect tennis in a doubles match.
And this is something that will never happen, he decided.
“Were you in the school team since your first year?” Oishi asked, rather surprised, while Inui was busily recording this new piece of data.
“Senpai-tachi, can we please start?” Kaidou asked, his tone was worried, as he was rather nervous about the soon to be match, since Shiraishi was from the same school as the infamous joking tennis pair.
“By the way, I don’t play doubles like Koharu and Hitouji at all,” Shiraishi announced as he went to stand beside Oishi with the borrowed racquet in his hand, it was not what he was used to but it shouldn’t disadvantage him that much.
As Oishi and Shiraishi began to discuss techniques, Inui was half instructing, half assuring Kaidou.
“We’ve seen him play two days before so I have collected fresh data, this is also a good way to test whether I can apply data tennis really quickly.” he said.
“But Inui-senpai, sometimes you can know something and still find it difficult, like Fuji-senpai’s counters.” Kaidou pointed out.
“True, but if we can return whatever he hits then we have a huge advantage, because you can drag him to exhaustion. Every one will start to make mistakes when they get tired…”

As he served the first ball, Shiraishi suddenly remembered the very first time he did such a thing. It was when he was still in kindergarten, the day his teacher glued some cardboard together and brought a small bag of small rubber balls for them to use. It wasn’t the proper equipment, but she was using that for the purpose of letting them understand tennis.
What did he felt? All of a sudden he seemed oblivious to everything else, all he knew was that he had to hit it the way she taught him to, and there was a strange excitement as he watched the ball flying.
Not only did he want to do it again, he also wanted to be good at it.
He made his busy parents take him to the sport store when they picked him up that day, as he desired to hold a true racquet. That wish of wanting to hit a ball returned the moment he closed his hands over the then rather large equipment.
This feeling never went away, although it almost did when he begun to play perfect tennis fully. Dread was often in the place of that joy, because both practice and playing became so boring. As he told Ashtia, sometimes he would ask himself why he was doing this.
That was why he would always make sure that there were times when he could play his old way. His practice partner was almost always Kintarou, because he gets so absorbed in his own game that he rarely notices Shiraishi changing his style of playing.
One reason that perfect tennis was boring was because it focused on details too much, it sometimes made him feel that he was not playing a whole game, but only analyzing and returning individual serves, it forced him to focus on each of his opponents and his own moves in such a precise way.
Another thing he had to give up was his desire of experimenting with the ball, to create new moves. Even though it was really fun, they were not really useful, since they often result in him doing something that could be done in a much simpler way.
Now he was playing more with his instinct, no longer seeing everything so carefully, and that was why Inui was having difficulty in carrying out his plans. There were times when he failed to return Shiraishi’s balls as he was not always hitting it in the best possible way, the way Inui believed he would.
“This doesn’t make sense!” Inui called out when his racquet was knocked out of his hand. He had been unprepared as the situation did not require the ball to be hit with a lot of force, and he was sure that Shiraishi would be able to see that. “Data cannot lie but…”
“Don’t worry, Inui-kun, your data is not wrong!”
Standing in the spot where Shiraishi was previously sitting, was his coach with two of his team members: those from Seigaku could recognize one of them being Oshitari’s cousin while Inui identified the other one as being his ‘counter part’ in the ‘doubles’ match.
“But Shiraishi is not using his perfect tennis right now.” Watanabe said with a slight smile, “Kenya, do you recognize his playing style?”
“That is the way he used to play,” Kenya commented. “But I think he only played like that against me in our first year. He used his perfect tennis when I challenged him in our second year, although he said that it was not fully developed.”
“That was you?” Zaizen butted in, generally curious. “I always thought that it was someone else as that person seemed to dislike buchou quite a bit…”
“That was quite a long time ago.” Kenya said hastily. “But sensei, isn’t that the playing style he used in his first end of the year match when he participated as a first year?”
“But this means that he is still really skilled even if he doesn’t use his perfect tennis!” Zaizen said in surprise upon their coach’s nod, “So why does Shiraishi-buchou play perfect tennis when he doesn’t really need to, especially if he doesn’t like it?”
“Because,” Watanabe began, placing two fingers on the brim of his nose as if a pair of glasses was there,” the chance of winning a game with his old playing style is 90%, while the likehood of perfect tennis giving him victory is 99.99%.
“His team became more important then anything else.” Watanabe commented, now very serious. “He was not choosing tennis over his girlfriend, it was really his team’s interest over both his girlfriend and his love for tennis.
“For a boy his age, that is not an easy thing to do. The truth is, Zaizen and Kenya, your buchou is no less admirable then Seigaku’s Tezuka.”

Final Note: This started off with the intention of being a conversation about Shiraishi talking to Fuji, I read a friend’s story where Fuji and Yuuta was having a talk, and that kind of made me want to do a similar thing. Obviously this didn’t work as neither of these two even came out, but I think the main focus of this drabble/one shot ultimately is about Shiraishi thinking about what he feel about tennis.

I know that you can argue giving up his own pleasure is not that big a deal but I feel it really is, like most of the characters in this story, he loves tennis but then he end up playing it in a way that he doesn’t like. I think for a boy his age that is a really admirable feat, and it must be painful to do something that you find really boring over and over again when you can actually do it in another way that is fun. And it seems that he only began to use perfect tennis after being the captain so I feel that his old way must be really good as well, if it can let him be the captain. (hence there’s that bit when Watanabe imitate Inui), but I think that is his main reason, it is more likely, even if it might just be a very small increase.

My last sentence- Tezuka is quite admirable, I do believe that, but I just think captains like Shiraishi, Tachibana and even Yukimura (I say even because we don’t know that much about him) will do a similar thing if they are in Tezuka’s situation. But they are lucky enough to not be in such a situation. They aren’t mentioned because it’ll be weird if Watanabe start to list all these guys.
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