Thursday passed without incident, and Friday came. We would be choosing our class representative during PE today.
“Shirasugi, think you’re ready?”
“Yeah. My muscles aren’t feeling too bad either.”
As much as I didn’t want her to, Misora-neesan went to practice yesterday. I was fine, but she had terrible muscle pain when she woke up today. My confidence in my fitness really went up that morning.
“We’re playing against a pair from the tennis club, huh.”
“Be ready for them to throw a curveball.”
We shook hands with our opponents under the net. One of our opponents was a classmate named Hanshou. Although he didn’t stand out much among the boys, he was still a spare for the tennis club.
“I’m going to beat you, Shirasugi.”
“Well, ah, a few of the boys in our year asked me to. They say they saw you walking with a pretty girl at night and that you and Sasashino-san have been getting along lately, so they’ve been holding a grudge against you, you know.”
Hanshou laughed it off, but it felt like there was a hint of resolve in his eyes. His partner, Ouno, gave Sasashino a friendly handshake. She had a very pleasant atmosphere.
We were the only two male-female pairs from either of our classes. This one game would be enough to decide which of us would be the class representatives for tennis. I got in position to play and lightly swung my racket back and forth to warm up. There wasn’t much exhaustion left from yesterday’s practice. Let’s see how good the tennis club really is, shall we?
Hanshou served the ball to us. He was in the tennis club and his serve wasn’t half bad. And it was fast, too.
But Jindou’s serves were much scarier. I hit the ball with everything I had.
Hanshou didn’t expect me to hit the ball back, and it caught him off guard. And so the rally started. He hit back the ball with all of his strength. The ball went back and forth two times, three times, four timesー And there it was.
Ouno moved backward into line with Hanshou, showing no signs of getting distracted. The ball moved out of Hanshou’s line of sight so I made my move. I hit it full-force and made it spin, sending the ball flying toward Ouno. She knew it was on her to hit it.
Ouno reached out far with her racket, managing to volley it back. But it was a weak hit, since she was in an unstable stance, and Sasashino confidently drew back her racket, took aim, and swung. The ball bounced off her racket with a satisfying pa~ng, sending the ball toward our opponents’ court full-force.
“Alright, first point.”
“Nice one, Sasashino!”
Hanshou and Ouno were at a loss for words at how energetically we talked with each other as their eyes went back and forth from us to the ball.
“She’s really good at this, huh?”
“Shirasugi-kun’s alright, but Sasashino-san’s amazing.”
Hanshou and Ouno told each other what they thought of our pair, and I thought the same as they did. Sasashino had only made the winning hit, but the entire match she’d been moving around to keep both Hanshou and I in her line of sight, while also keeping Ouno in check. Ouno’s reaction was slow because Sasashino moved in an unexpected way, breaking Ouno’s line of sight to the ball.
She played against them countless times in the futures she’d experienced, which let her study them well.
Anyway, the pair on the other side of the net looked determined to beat us.
We kept playing rounds. Sasashino was basically forcing Ouno into playing forward defence, which gave us another point. I was pretty much acting as a safety net for Sasashino, which let her make a move on Hanshou, overwhelming him. That was my only contribution in the matches. I can’t deny that I wasn’t doing much.
In terms of points, we’d won two games, while our opponents had only won one. There would be five games in the match, so we only needed to win the fourth game to win overall. Hanshou and Ouno didn’t think we would drive them into a corner up until that point, and they looked frustrated.
Hanshou picked up the ball that had fallen on the ground after hitting the net and called out to me.
“Shirasugi, you move really well. Were you in your junior high’s tennis club or something?”
“Nope, I was part of the going-home club back then.”
”There’s no way. You were definitely in tennis club. Want to pair up with me after this?”
“I’ve already got a part-time job.”
“I see. Sad.”
Sasashino got a similar invitation from Ouno, which she declined with a strained smile. She was only aiming for class representative because she didn’t want to play volleyball, so she didn’t care about joining the club.
Sasashino and I moved back into our positions, and I tossed the ball up.
Because I’d practiced it countless times, as long as I didn’t hit it too hard, I landed my serves about nine times out of ten. If I tried to make it strong, the chance went down to six out of ten. But I still decided to hit this serve with all my strength. And sure enough, the ball hit the net and rolled away, but I didn’t let it get to me and served again. Hanshou ran to where the ball was headed and hit it back at Sasashino, aiming for her feet. She noticed the move and immediately took two steps back, then volleyed the ball to Ouno.
The two started having their own little match within ours. A dizzying exchange happened between the two girls on opposite sides of the net.
“Ouno, send it here too!”
Hanshou noticed that Ouno was under a lot of pressure, so he called out to her. Ouno quickly moved horizontally, leaving it to her partner. He ran toward the centre of the court and hit the ball with everything he had.
The ball flew past Sasashino and I ran toward it, hitting it with a backhand. It went over the net and bounced toward Ouno, who stood ready.
“Sasashino, go forward.”
Ouno hit the ball back with the look of a fighter as Sasashino and I calmly moved into formation. Just as I expected, she hit it with a spin. It wasn’t too fast, but if it was to touch the ground, it would end up flying too quickly to reach. Sasashino calmly swung her racket and shot the ball toward the corner of their side of the court. Hanshou and Ouno looked like they expected it and quickly moved to get there in time.
Even though I could barely catch my breath, I hit the ball back with a quick sidestep. I was starting to lose my strength. Being forced to run back and forth by Hanshou was starting to take its toll on me. The two tennis club members seemed to have plenty left in them, while Sasashino looked like she was having a hard time. If they won this game, we’d be in a tight spot. For some reason, I made up my mind. The two on the other side of the court realized that we were in such a situation and changed their approach to a long-term one.
“Let’s show them.”
Sasashino replied as I hit the ball, choosing to go with a fast serve. I struck it from high up, leaning forward a bit as I did. The serve was unexpectedly powerful, which made Ouno twitch her racket, but it got caught in the net.
“Nice serve, Shirasugi.”
“I didn’t think it would do that. I’ll leave the next serve to you, then.”
“You can leave it to me.”
Sasashino gave a confident reply as she took the ball from me. Hanshou stood on the opposite side of the court, ready to receive the serve. He looked like he was impatient. But ordinary people have no chance to beat Sasashino.
“Alright, I’m gonna do it!”
She moved her body with the elegance of a cat as she let loose a high-speed serve. Hanshou looked like he was under a lot of pressure. Sasashino’s incredibly fast serve was too much for Ouno to handle. Hanshou returned the serve instead of her with way too much force than a girl could hit back.
His target was Sasashino, who had just served. He was trying to keep her in check by forcing her away from the net. In response to his volley, Sasashino smashed the ball toward Ouno, adding a strong rotation to it. Ouno was already in place to volley it back to the front part of our side of the court. Since Sasashino had to move back for the hit before, she couldn’t get to the net in time.
I ran as fast as I could toward the net and barely managed to catch her volley. The ball flew up high toward the rear of the court, an easy target. But it also gave me time to move back into position.
My eyes met Hanshou’s.
Hanshou, suddenly enthusiastic, unleashed a smash with beautiful form. I’d already moved back by then and managed to catch his smash and hit it back. It was getting harder. My arms felt numb.
Ouno, light on her feet, ran into place and flicked the ball over the net just after it flew over. But Sasashino had moved back to the middle of the court and was waiting for a hit aimed at her. Ouno looked impatient. Man, it was written on her face.
I guess it was all going according to their plan as they started running me back and forth across the court. They didn’t expect me to be that persistent, though, so it looked like their strategy was going wrong.
Sasashino stepped in and hit the ball back. It was mercilessly aimed at Ouno’s face, which made her turn her head and hold her racket out in front of it.
Ouno hit the ball. It couldn’t have been easier to hit it back.
“ーShirasugi, please do it!”
From where she was, she should have been the one to make the smash. What can I say? She must’ve been wary of Hanshou. Luckily, I was able to make it into position fast enough. I saw the ball come down, focused on it, swung my racket down.
My racket cut through the air with a whoosh.
As expected, the ball shot over the net at the highest speed of the day, hitting the edge of the court in a straight line. It bounced and hit the wall.
“…Nice one, Shirasugi.”
I responded to Sasashino as Hanshou rolled the ball to me, and he asked her about what just happened.
“Why didn’t you hit it?”
“My confidence disappeared at the last second, sorry.”
“Oh right, your smashes haven’t been the best.”
Sasashino herself wasn’t happy with how things went, and after one more quick game, she finished the day with a point by serving.
”Good job, Sasashino.”
“Thanks for your hard work, Shirasugi.”
We leaned under the net and gave high fives to the two on the other side of the net.
“Aaa, we lost to members of the going-home club! I’ll definitely have to stay late to practice more today. Aaa, maybe our seniors will show a little mercy if we recruit some strong new members! …Stares-“
“That’s a real shame, but I’m going to stick with the going-home club.”
“There’s no hope!…”
Hanshou walked up to the net.
“Shirasugi, you really should join the tennis club, though. We can pair up. If you can move that well even though you have a part-time job, you’ll do well in tournaments, and it also looks good for university.”
“I’m helping a relative, not just working, so I really can’t.”
We shook each other’s hands and praised each other. Sasashino and I had finally won the position of class representatives.
The actual inter-class tournament would have multiple matches. I was so tired after a single game that I wondered if things will turn out okay.
I heard a serious-sounding voice call out to me and looked back. Sasashino had one hand outstretched toward me.
“We’ll definitely beat everyone.”
“That was the plan from the very beginning.”
Our hands met, and we high-fived each other. Sasashino balled her fist with new resolve and gave me a little nod.
We were both set on beating the other classes. We were going to beat the entire tennis club.
But before we could do that, I needed to do some fitness training.
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[On a temporary break for university. Details on Discord. Thank you for reading.]