Title: Heads you lose, tails he win
Written at: November 27-28, 2007
Summary: Contain spoilers about the singles 2 match of the nationals as well as the chapter after it. Shiraishi ponders on the singles 2 match in the final of the nationals, what Niou’s lose mean to him as well as making a realization about Niou.
Word count: 1610
Warning: More like a warning but I’m totally not on Seigaku’s side. In fact, this match is something that I really would like to forget if I could- so this should give you a hint of what the story will be like.

Courtesy was expected from anyone, but it was especially important for the buchou to demonstrate this. This was why Shiraishi still gave a polite nod when he happened to come across either Niou or Fuji, even though he would really prefer to ignore them due to the reminder their presence brought up.
He really shouldn’t let what happened in the singles 2 game bother him, but it was affecting him in a very strong way.
That was why he left the stadium as soon as he could. His team mates did not blame him at all as they could see that their buchou was clearly affected by what had happened. He tried to act otherwise, but his emotions were no longer so carefully concealed under that patient smile now that he finally released the burden and secrets he had due to his sense of responsibility.
Even Kintarou realised that something was wrong when his buchou’s threat was accompanied by a rather strong anger instead of a stern expression, although it was his thoughtless words that caused this.
Shiraishi would not deny that Kintarou’s words made him very angry, especially when he was already in a very foul mood due to what Seigaku’s coach was saying. But Kintarou’s immediate attempt of cheering him up then quickly proved that there really was no malice in his words as his kohai would only voluntarily apologise if he felt that he did do something very wrong.
It was probably the coach of Seigaku that made him more upset, her words of how Fuji has showed himself to be as good as Tezuka, as well as achieving revenge for what had happened.
To have revenge…
That made Shiraishi felt that he did something dreadfully wrong, a crime of some sort. He suppose he could be said to have done this if he looked from Seigaku’s view, but to use that word still seemed to be going too far- everyone was allowed to have this dream of being the winner.
It was unfair for him to be labelled as having done a wrong just because he won a match against their team member.
He also heard these accursed words of ‘the real winners’ again, many were saying that he only won in the semi-final due to luck as Fuji’s triumph showed who really was better.
Was he useless just because he was not a genius? He had to first watch an opponent suddenly climbing to his level just due to a sudden change in attitude, and now the same thing was happening again- but to make things worse, he was now seen as being suppressed.
Nor was Fuji the only one that hurt him- the fact that Niou could just copy his technique made him more then a little upset. He would not say that Niou put no effort in unless he had proof, but he was still sure that Niou did not put as much an effort in doing perfect tennis because he was obviously training himself to be like Tezuka at the same time.
But wouldn’t this mean that Niou’s imitation was not as good as his? He had to believe this. Yet he doubts that this would make a difference as everyone seemed to have made up their mind already.
He and Tezuka were both involved in this game due to what Niou did, but unlike the latter, Shiraishi did not have Fuji defending him. The truth was that Fuji’s sixth counter would not give him that big a disadvantage because hitting cord balls was only one of the skills he was highly skilled at. In fact, that was one of the reasons he choose to play perfect tennis: to not specifically rely on any particular technique.
Yet this obvious truth was not seen by anyone else, as most were ready to believe that Seigaku was the hero…He was not from Kantou so he was not exactly sure about what had been going on, but it was clear that there was an antagonism against Rikkai. It was probably because Rikkai had been the winners of the Kantou regional for the past sixteen years, as well as the winners of the past two nationals.
As his coach had reminded them- human kind find it very easy to be jealous at those who achieved great success.

“Oniisan, can you get off if you are not going to play?”
Muttering some sort of an apology, Shiraishi quickly went to sit at one of the benches instead. He had wander to the park as he was not sure where he should go after he managed to coax Ashita into giving him sometime to think alone. He could not return to his lodging as it would only result in his team mates bombarding him, at the very least Kintarou would be dragging him onto a tennis court in order to cheer him up as things were that easy to Kintarou.
So he somehow ended up being here.
As he watched all these kids lining up to go on the swing, he smiled due to recollecting the time he and Ashita took his cousins to the park: the four children all ended up arguing about who would get to be pushed on the swing by him first, as well as who could go and buy ice cream with Ashita.
The same kid who chased him off the swing took a seat right beside him when his turn was over, and he then began to play on a game boy- causing a great deal of envy, especially from those who were watching around him.
“Oh my gosh, it’s a clone of the final boss!” someone yelled out.
“Don’t worry, he’s not as good as he is not the real monster.” The owner of the toy said, even though he was quite nervous.
That was right! Shiraishi realised. No matter what, Niou would not be as good as him if he was using his perfect tennis. It was not because Niou was not good, but it was just that anyone using another person’s playing style could never be as good as the original.
He knew that he was one of his school’s top players, but he would still lose to many of his team mates if he tried to use their playing style instead of his own.
The kid beside him let out a triumph yell at the same time the familiar music that accompanied the hero’s victory starts to play.
“So this means that you can finish the game soon!”
“But this round is easier then the next one. This is just the clone.”
“I heard that a lot of people get stuck on this round if their level is not high enough…”
He must have turned around really sudden as the kids all began to apologise.
“No, I’m not angry. Tell me,” he began, using the voice he often uses with his cousin, as well as Kintarou if the situation demanded it. “What is this game about?”
They eagerly retold the old cliché of a hero going to save someone and he listened to all this with a smile even though this was not what he wanted to know.
“…and then you meet this clone, which is actually made by the final boss- the villain,” the boy who owned the toy continued, “You have to beat him before you can face the final boss. The clone is really good but the final boss is still better.
“Do you want to try, oniisan? You can play the round I just won.”
“I think I’ll pass but thank you very much.” Shiraishi rejected the offer gently before he muttered to himself. “I feel too sorry for this clone to attack him.”
“But he is one of the bad guy!” the children all pointed out innocently, clearly very confused.
But there was no villain or heroes in real life, in this national. Everyone had a right to wish for this same thing due to reasons of their own. He felt that one could only be labelled as a villain if they were trying to win just for the sake of preventing another from achieving their dream.
He realised something else from the kids’ game…
He actually felt very sorry for Niou Masaharu, because the other had been playing a game that he could not win at all.
Right now, Niou lost, and people from Seigaku were saying that this was because Niou was simply not as good as their buchou, while he was just convincing himself of this same fact: that he was better then Niou when it came to his own playing style.
But what if the table was turned? Would this then be seen as Niou’s own triumph? No, not likely. People would then say that Niou only managed to win because he transformed into Tezuka and Shiraishi, that it was their skills that caused the win.
The main reason he felt sorry for Niou was because he believed Niou’s actions were guided by a sense of sacrifice toward the team, despite Niou’s cocky and rather careless attitude. Ultimately, everyone wished for glories of their own, but Niou deliberately threw his chance away. As Shiraishi was sure that Niou understood of the consequences of his action, he must have decided to do what he did because he believed that this method was more likely to score a win for his team- a bit like why he played perfect tennis.
“I hope your team at least will know of your sacrifice for them.” He whispered quietly. “And that will be enough, wouldn’t it? Because that is why you made this decision.”

Final note: Congratulation to all that made it here, and now- explanation. I’ve already had a whole big rant about this whole Niou transforming thing at my blog. But basically the parts that I am really angry is that:
1) Fuji said that Niou is not as good as Tezuka, implying that him beating Niou does not mean anything, yet no one defended Shiraishi- almost as if the author is suggesting that Fuji beating Niou does equal to Fuji beating Shiraishi.
2) how people say Fuji’s sixth counter is a proof that he can be as good as Shiraishi- as the story and my blog entry point out, this is really stupid because Shiraishi is the last person this will apply to.
3) Ryuzaki-sensei’s words (seriously, I’m starting to doubt her suitability as a coach instead of just wondering about her capability.)
4) the fact that I already think Shitenhouji should be standing in the final (I have reasons to believe this, which is in my blog entry)- and that the author have to pick on the one person who did win.
5) I also don’t like how Fuji uses his original three counter as I feel that is suggesting Niou/Shiraishi is not as good. (although I didn’t get to discuss this idea in the story).
6) I actually feel really sorry for Niou- the fact that he is in a lose lose situation in my opinion, hince the title.

In regard to Niou… I really don’t have a grasp of Rikkai’s character. The truth is, I thought that Niou might be a bit like Fuji, he does not care about tennis that much. However, as I think about why he would do this, copying others when I firmly believed that he have the ability of having a really good playing style of his own, this is the answer I came up with: he does this for his team. Once I realized this I am really touched, and now I actually think this is why Niou does it. He is quite cocky, but I think he really does care about his team, he just doesn’t easily show this. Why else would he put himself in this lose-lose situation? And Niou is one of the smarter kids in regard to daily life, so I think he will be aware of it, that is why I think he did what he did for his team.

But the sad thing is that the rival schools are just really dismissed. We see all these people who eventually end up going “Oh my gosh Tezuka is so noble for that he did” but do we have anyone going ‘Oh my goodness Shiraishi sacrificed his own enjoyment for his team?’ No. Even if I omit that example, because I think Shiraishi deliberately hides this from his team (advertising- please read ‘An impossible opportunity’), there are still other proofs. For example, Atobe deciding to be more offensive in the national’s quarter final- which is a sacrifice as he is giving up doing what makes him have more fun. Do we get any: “Atobe did all that for us?” No, the closest we get is Sakaki-sensei doing something like “Yeah, and that’s his decision”. No one commented on this (as opposed to whenever someone said something inspiring from Seigaku). I am sorry but I just think that the rival schools has been treated too cruelly, the author is making the hero school much too heroic.

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