The eleven boys sat in the table in a circle, leaving one space for Atobe. Since they were eliminated at various different stages in the nationals, there were familiar and alien faces for almost every one. The best way to solve this was to have an introduction- which was quite successful.
“I kept on hearing this weird noise.” Shiraishi pointed out once the last person finished introducing himself. “It sounds like a stampede or something.”
The captains from the Tokyo district schools immediately nodded in understanding.
“Ah, Atobe.” Tezuka said simply with another nod of his head.
“How long is this going to continue?” Shiraishi asked when the chanting was becoming louder.
“Until Atobe enters.” Tachibana told him sympathetically. “Meeting Hyotei for the first time is quite an ordeal.”
“It is going to get louder?” Shiraishi said with a groan.
Whoever said that people from Osaka was loud should come here to be proven wrong. First he had to hear Sanada’s roars, now there was this. Perhaps he should stop complaining whenever Kintarou or Watanabe shouts, because it was no where near this level.
But the noise suddenly stopped, although many of them would probably prefer to continue hearing the loud chants of “Hyotei and Atobe” instead of “Ah, be awed by the sight of ore-sama’s dazzling prowess.”
Even as this was declared out, a jacket flew in the room, landing at the very centre of the table.
“Atobe…” Sanada began, his voice very low, but the buchou of Hyotei seemed completely oblivious to the danger that was approaching.
“Ah, everyone else is here. Well, now that ore-same is here, let us start the meeting.”
“YOU ARE HALF AN HOUR LATE!”
Everyone, with the exception of Yukimura, all started to push their chair back. They could all sense the deadly aura that was radiating from Sanada.
If Sanada was holding a katana then he would probably pull it out due to Atobe’s words.
“But ore-same is the most important person in this meeting, so it is alright for ore-same to be late.”
Shiraishi wasn’t sure whether he should describe this as being thick-skinned, pure shamelessness or true ignorance. What made it surprising was that Atobe could say that when Sanada was probably contemplating on the best way of murdering him.
Beside Sanada, Yukimura actually frowned. Perhaps he thought that his fuku-buchou was being too extreme, since every one was continue edging their chairs away. Or maybe he just wanted to do this for reasons of his own.
“Now, Sanada, the main thing is that Atobe-kun is here.” The address by the last name, as well as the slightly raised tone, made Sanada sat back down without saying another word.
The other effect it had was to cause the person sitting beside Yukimura to move his chair even further away.
This fear was proven to be very rational by Yukimura’s next words.
“Ah, Atobe-kun, I am glad to see you. I must say,” the buchou of Rikkai said very sweetly. “It is a pity that your hair grows so fast as your new hair cut really suited you.”
“You seem to have recovered completely, Yukimura-kun.” Atobe gritted out between his teeth, “Ore-same is glad to see that.”
Yukimura bowed in acknowledgement to this, as if Atobe was paying him homage.
“But know that even though Hyotei lost this year, it will be different next year.” Atobe continued, “Hyotei’s next buchou will lead the next generation to beat Rikkai.”
“We have a very good successor too.” Yukimura said, his smile growing wider.
“Echizen Ryoma will continue being the pillar of Seigaku.” Tezuka butted in with a firm nod from Ooishi, although most other people were looking at them a bit blankly.
“Seigaku winning the kantou regional this year is only this year!” Sanada added heatedly, “Rikkai will continue being the champions. This year means nothing!”
Shiraishi gave a sigh as the others began to argue about how their school would do in the Kantou regional next year, since they were all from that region. Well, Shitenhouji was the unchallenged Kansai champion.
Feeling a bit bored, he took out his phone to cheek if there was any messages, upon seeing the pleading from Kenya that asked him to ring back as soon as possible, he turned to the others to see if they would mind.
“The entire Fudomine team will continue playing next year…” even Tachibana was drawn into the conversation.
They wouldn’t mind, Shiraishi decided as he pressed the dial button.
“Shiraishi you have to save me!” his fuku-buchou yelled out. “We were almost thrown out as our coach was snoring.”
“He did that last year too.” Shiraishi said rather calmly. “Just poke him every five minutes, that will also prevent you from sleeping. But make that sure that he doesn’t start yelling.”
A long silence followed before Kenya said in disbelieve: “Please don’t tell me that was what you did last year.”
“Sort of,” he said with an automatic shrug, although it was not as if Kenya could see that. “But it is not that bad because the food was really good, and they did give quite high quality equipments.“
“But it is so boring!”
“Boring stuff can be good, Kenya.” At this he smiled rather sourly, his perfect tennis was just like that.
“Well, thanks for the advice. By the way, how is it at your end?”
“It is certainly…entertaining.” he said truthfully.
He was going to continue chatting until he noticed that everyone was looking at him strangely, which caused him to quickly end the conversation.
“What?” he asked a bit defensively, “It was an emergency call from my fuku-buchou and since you guys were so busy talking about the Kantou regional while I’m from Kansai…”
“No, that is not the point.” Saeki spoke on behalf of everyone, “It’s what you were saying…it sounds so strange.”
“That’s Kansai-ben.” Shiraishi said, failing to understand their extreme reaction. “It’s not that different.”
“It seems like a completely different language!” Sengoku said. “So, Shiraishi-kun, do people speak like that in where you live?”
“I live in Osaka! It’s not as if I live in some really isolated place.” He pointed out dryly, “I still don’t know why you guys are acting as if I am speaking in a foreign language.”
“Can you teach me some phrases then?” Sengoku pressed on eagerly.
“What do you want to learn? Stuff like ‘the weather is fine,’ ‘where is the train station?’” he mentioned these sentences as they were what he tended to find in text books.
“No, no, no, that’s not interesting.” Sengoku said with a rather sage shake of his head. “I was thinking more along the lines of ‘You are very pretty’, ‘why don’t we spend sometime together?’”
Shiraishi was considering whether he should let Sengoku memorise “I am not a pervert”, if he really would teach him some Kansai-ben.
The sound of Atobe snapping his finger would not have been loud if it wasn’t for the fact that Atobe did it in front of the microphone.
“Ore-same believes that we should begin the main purpose of our meeting.” Atobe declared out. “And that is the recording of the song.”
Why this song in particular? Shiraishi thought dryly as everyone began to flip their ‘script’. His mother would always play that song on these three days without fail: the anniversary of her wedding, the day she and his father had their first date, and of course, on Valentine Day. Being a boy, he thought that the song was very cheesy, and always implored his mother to turn the volume down.
However, he could no longer complain about it as Ashita seemed to like it as well. At the first Valentine day that they spent together, she had clapped her hand in delight when she heard the song and made him dance with her.

“Ah, ore-same will naturally begin.” Atobe said, snapping his fingers once again. “Be dazzled by the prowess of ore-same’s voice.”
It was clear that Atobe was certainly enjoying himself, and everyone doubts that he could get any more into it. In fact, he was all but hogging the microphone now.
Upon finishing his verse, Atobe turned to Tezuka: “Now, Tezuka, see if you can even compare to Ore-sama.!”
There was no doubt that Tezuka was among the very top when it came to tennis, but his singing skills were not in the same rank. Sanada naturally used the world slack, although Tachibana was the one who made a more accurate judgement: Tezuka was not really trying, his voice was almost monotonic, and no one was convinced that tomorrow was a special day.
“Ooishi, yudan sezu ni ikou.” Tezuka said sternly as he handed the microphone to his fuku-buchou, who has been taking very deep breaths ever since the first person began to sing.
Ooishi’s version was much better then Tezuka, although it almost had a maternal touch to it.
When Tachibana took the microphone it was as if he was undergoing a personality change. The rather calm and composed buchou of Fudomine began to sing very passionately, almost roaring into the microphone when he was not waving it.
So that is what Tachibana used to be like, Shiraishi thought as he observed this, I really didn’t’ think he is the type of person who would play in such a wild and aggressive way.
This would probably be quite an interesting piece of information for Chitose- provided that the other will stop laughing at the mere thought of Shiraishi being a participant in this.
Meanwhile, the microphone has passed from Tachibana to Minami, whose version was rather bland, not very distinguished. But it seemed that Yamabuki’s fuku-buchou has always stood out much more then their buchou.
Sengoku has been waiting for his turn very eagerly, as this was surely a very good way to be noticed by girls. He was quite disappointed that Minami did not manage to make him more distinguished, but he consoled himself with the fact that since he was directly after Minami, girls will be more likely to notice him.
“Alright!” he yelled out as soon as he grabbed the microphone from Minami, after being scolded for grinning to himself. “This is for all the cute girls in Japan…no, this is for all the cute girls in the world!”
Needless to say, he gained himself a follower: Aoi Kentarou was starting to regard him as an idol.
“Well done, Sengoku-kun,” Yukimura said with a smile, “However, it is Rikkai’s turn. Genichiro,” he stated, even though his voice has not raised, there was a very strong authority in it, “We will show everyone how well Rikkai performs.”
Sanada certainly tried very hard, but the words seemed a bit strange to be sung by him. As he listened to the verse that Sanada was singing, Shiraishi suddenly felt that he was at the morning assembly, just about to sing the school song.
Yukimura was certainly different, he definitely sang the song with much more convection then Sanada, although many were wandering whether it was done too well. All of a sudden, the song no longer seemed to be about a happy date on Valentine day, but a last meeting between two doomed lovers.
Even though this whole thing was really bizarre and rather pointless, Shiraishi realised that he was actually really enjoying himself. It was certainly much more fun then the Osaka meeting that his coach and fuku-buchou were currently attending. That was why he was quite cheerful when he accepted the microphone from Yukimura, although he was slightly worried that Sanada would suddenly yell out “This is too slack a performance! Put the microphone down right now!”
He needn’t have worry as even though his singing was not particular unusual, it was very good. He might not have moved the audience to tears, but he was never out of tune. The fact that he was thinking of his girl friend made his version rather pleasant to listen to, as they could detect the affection in his voice.
The song was finished by Saeki and Kentarou, the latter doing a very good performance due to the fear of not being able to go on a date for three years if he did not sing as well as his senpai.

When the meeting finally concluded, Shiraishi has to consider the problem of the rest of the night. Kenya told him that he could stay with his cousin Yuushi if things get too late, and this was probably his best opinion as he was sure that the last train has left.
“Atobe-kun, do you know where Oshitari Yuushi lives? I think I will probably have to spend the night in his house since the next train to Osaka only comes at next morning.”
“Ah, stay in Oshitari Yuushi’s house? Shiraishi-kun, are you deserted in Tokyo with no one to turn to?”
“It is true that I don’t really know anyone in Tokyo but…”
“Then ore-sama generously invites you to stay in his house as ore-sama has many guest rooms, so ore-sama is convinced that one of the rooms will be able to suit your requirement.”
“Well…”
“Of course, this will not trouble ore-sama at all.” Atobe continued grandly, “No, not at all.”
Do I sound like a beggar begging? Shiraishi thought dryly.
“Since Shiraishi-kun just agreed,” Atobe said on behalf of Shiraishi, as he was certain his offer would not be rejected. “Ore-sama extends the invitation to all of you.”
“Well…we don’t want to impose on you Atobe.” Ooishi began timidly.
“Nonsense, Ore-sama’s house is big enough for all of you. What do you say to this, Tezuka, ah?”
Sengoku naturally agreed as he has heard of Atobe’s reputation of being super rich.
“Us too! This is awesome! Lucky!” he cried out happily.
Saeki agreed as well, because like Shiraishi, their train has probably left. His original plan was to stay in Fuji’s house, but Atobe’s offer was much better as Kentarou would probably be a bit frightened by Fuji. Despite being very close friends with Fuji, Saeki knew that his friends could be rather unusual.
“Yukimura, we are…” Sanada began, but he was interrupted by his buchou, who seemed on the verge of clapping his hands.
“This sounds fun! Don’t you think so, Genichiro?” without waiting for him to speak, he turned to Atobe, “We are coming as well!”
“Well, Tezuka, it might be good if we go as…”
Tezuka gave a nod as soon as Ooishi finished his explanation, since he knew his fuku-buchou very well.
“Ah, then follow ore-sama!”

When Shiraishi finally returned to Osaka, he naturally had a lot of stuff to tell everyone, as well as distributing a large amount of gift. Upon hearing that he intended to buy some souvenirs, Atobe gave him an enormous pile. Shiraishi didn’t mind accepting them at all, because he knew that this has nothing to do with Atobe being very rich, it was just because Atobe wanted to give him some gifts as thanks for attending the meeting, and being Atobe, he has to do it in such an extreme way.
“How was the meeting, Shiraishi?” Watanabe asked when he picked the young boy up at the train station, rather surprised at his extra luggage.
“It was very interesting,” Shiraishi said after a slight pause, “I learnt a lot of stuff. I think the most important thing is that I realise the images we see of our rivals on court can be quite different from what they are like in daily life.”
Although some people seemed to be quite similar, he thought warily as he recollected the lectures he had received from Rikkai’s fuku-buchou due to being late.
“I am glad that I went.” He finally said. “I really am.”

Final note: The whole thing with the drinking machine is actually one of the first inspiration for this story. Basically in that meeting in 20.5, Aoi said something which caused Sanada to yell at him, saying he is much too slack, Tachibana then told Sanada that he should be a bit tolerant, since Aoi is only a first year. Sanada then said that when he was a first year, he was actually noticing that the water supply in the stadium is really bad, and that he went to suggest them to install some vending machine. That just kind of gave me the idea. And I naturally thought that it will be really fun if Shiraishi is there since he is quite a famous figure in their world. Initially I was going to put Higa’s buchou in but that didn’t fit.
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autumnleaf16

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