SemisoftCheese

"Midnight Life" (Ritsu Route Epilogue)

Dec 25th, 2013
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  1. ======
  2.  
  3. Some dumb act/chapters about Hisao finding his way, a brief fling with the character of your choosing (how scandy), and a year passes.
  4.  
  5. ================
  6. The Epilogue.
  7.  
  8. The player passes for the Rakuten Open 2014 came a week ago.
  9.  
  10. Miura, Miki, and Nakai, Hisao. All Access, Player Guest of Tainaka, Ritsu.
  11.  
  12. Miki pouts as I lead her past the food court, a crumpled receipt and ice cream cone in her hand. She hasn’t been too happy with the food prices here, or the fact that they rejected her ID when she tried to buy a beer.
  13.  
  14. “I mean, like, what’s the point of even going to sporting events if you can’t drink. And this ice cream cost like ten bucks. Tennis is a dumb sport.”
  15.  
  16. I shake my head as I lead her through the crowd. There’s only one thing on my mind. It’s a text message from someone I haven’t seen in a long time.
  17.  
  18. “Player’s lounge, 12:30? Bring Stumpy if you like.”
  19.  
  20. She’s a player now, a bona fide tennis pro. In the top 100 in the world as an 18 year old. And if the commentators and reporters are correct, she’s got a bright career ahead of her.
  21.  
  22. I open the door to the player lounge and she’s there. Dressed in a bright blue Nike jacket, she’s there—yellow hairband, golden eyes and all. She gives me a bright smile, and we don’t bother words as she wraps me in a warm, tight hug that feels like it lasts for ages. This is what I’ve missed.
  23.  
  24. Behind us, I hear a cutting voice. It’s Miki, as she crosses her arms and comments drily.
  25.  
  26. “I know you don’t like me that way, Ritsu, but I did come along as well.”
  27.  
  28. Our faces burn a bit, and Ritsu lets go and wraps Miki in the same, tight embrace, although I’d like to think mine lasted a little longer.
  29.  
  30. As Ritsu and Miki finish their hug, we all stand there kind of awkwardly. But Miki, ever to the rescue, breaks the ice.
  31.  
  32. “So y’know, Ritsu, I’m grateful for the free ticket and all, but did you know they refused my ID here! A girl could use a drink or two, if you know what I mean.”
  33.  
  34. We both shake our heads, but the tension dissolves and Ritsu leads Miki to the bar—as expansive and impressive as it was before.
  35.  
  36. “Hey Aoi, want to fix my friend up with some drinks?” Ritsu tilts her head at Miki for emphasis, and gives him an exaggerated wink.
  37.  
  38. The bartender, a salt-and-peppered man with a neat crew cut, rolls his eyes drastically, but he doesn’t ask Miki for an ID. Lucky, I think the only person who would be fooled by Miki’s ID is Miki herself. The fact that it says “for prop use only” really detracts from the value.
  39.  
  40. Drink in hand, Miki turns to us from the bar.
  41.  
  42. “So, uh, I know I’m a pretty big deal, but Ritsu, why don’t you catch up with Hisao. I’ve got everything I need here.”
  43.  
  44. She rattles the drink for emphasis.
  45.  
  46. “Go on, you two. Play ping-pong or something.”
  47.  
  48. She gets a devilish look on her face.
  49.  
  50. “Just don’t be gone too long, or I’ll assume you’re both making out in the corner.”
  51.  
  52. We both blush.
  53.  
  54. As we make our way to the ping-pong table, I say the first words between us.
  55.  
  56. “I saw that you won your first round match. Congratulations.”
  57.  
  58. She looks at me shyly, then more confidently. The same gold is there.
  59.  
  60. “Thanks, Hisao.”
  61.  
  62. The words tumble out of my mouth before I can catch them.
  63.  
  64. “Are you going to be around in Japan longer? Because we could get lunch or something.”
  65.  
  66. She smile at me warmly, genuinely, and I feel a glow I haven’t felt in a long time.
  67.  
  68. “I’d like that, Hisao.”
  69.  
  70. As we get the table, we both pick up paddles, and start to play wordlessly. Ritsu is, of course, kicking my ass, but that couldn’t matter less right now. It’s a joy, a privilege to play with her.
  71.  
  72. The ball bounces, back and forth, wordless and dancing to an unknown melody.
  73.  
  74. I feel… free.
  75.  
  76. The girl in front of me is dancing as well, in a perfect series of orchestrated movements, and if I think about it, I am too, all of us drawn to the allure of the dipping, elusive, ball.
  77.  
  78. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Miki drunkenly regaling some poor patron of the bar, probably famous, with some story about how she drank a handle of vodka without stopping.
  79.  
  80. I should probably go help the poor guy.
  81.  
  82. But I can’t help myself.
  83.  
  84. I just want to play a little longer.
  85.  
  86.  
  87. =======
  88.  
  89.  
  90. "Midnight Life" is a song by The White Panda
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