The next afternoon rolled around and Akari, Ryo, and I made our way to the tennis courts just behind the school. No one from the student council had arrived yet, so we had some time to prepare.
"Do either of you know anything about tennis?" I asked.
"Nah bro, I'm just here for emotional support." Ryo said, standing on the sideline.
That was rich coming from him, considering he was the reason this whole match was happening in the first place.
"I wouldn't say I'm a pro or anything, but I played a bit in middle school." Akari said while stretching.
"That's good because all I know about this sport is from a basic tutorial I watched online last night."
"Well, I guess we'll have to just give it our best shot then."
She got down to straddle stretch.
"Can you do me a favor and push down on my back?"
"Uh... I guess so..."
I hesitantly put my hand on her back and lightly pushed. It was incredibly awkward. She was wearing a white T-shirt and a pair of short red athletic shorts. I tried to avoid staring, but I had to admit, for such a plain outfit, it fit her quite well.
"Quit being such a wimp and push harder. Do you want me to pull a muscle?"
I pushed harder. She was actually surprisingly very flexible. Her face was able to touch the ground. If I tried to do that, I'd probably tear something in my groin area and have to go to the hospital.
Red who was sitting beside me on the court spoke up with a mischievous grin,
"You know, I could give you a helping hand with this little game. Let's just say the 'wind' might just so happen to accidentally blow the ball in ways that benefit you."
Was I really going to stoop so low as to use my little invisible devil man to manipulate the outcome of this casual tennis match? ...of course I was!
"Do whatever it takes," I said.
"What was that Kuro?" Akari asked.
That kind of slipped out. I didn't intend to say that out loud.
"Oh, nothing. I was just saying that we should prioritize... Teamwork."
"Hm. I don't know. That didn't really sound like that...and what's with that maniacal look on your face? Are you thinking indecent thoughts about me?" She said, teasingly.
"N-no of course not..."
She laughed at me while I got flustered.
Suddenly we were interrupted.
"Good afternoon Kuro-kun and Akari-chan!" Mei greeted us, intentionally ignoring Ryo.
"Who the heck invited you, Mei?" Ryo said, irritated.
"I'm sorry. I didn't know I needed a reason to support my friends on the student council. Why don't you mind your own business, Ryo." Mei said.
Sato, who was standing beside Mei, chimed in,
"Now now, let's not bicker you two. This is supposed to just be a fun little wager."
Maybe in her mind it was a "fun little wager", but unlike them, we had something to lose.
"Wait a second, both of you are still in your school uniforms. Who's playing as Sakai-san's partner?" I asked.
"Oh that would be Suko-san. We figured it would be most fair if each team consisted of one boy and one girl. They'll be here soon, Sakai is just giving Suko a little pregame pep talk."
I wasn't surprised one bit that Sato didn't want to play. Like usual she had other people doing her dirty work.
A few moments later Sakai showed up decked out in her tennis gear. Thuko followed behind her.
"Let's go, Fuko. I want to get this silly game over with so I can go to my actual tennis practice." Sakai said.
"My name ith Thuko." He said
"That's what I just said."
Ryo chimed in from across the court,
"I think he's trying to say Ruko."
"I don't know. Personally I think I'm hearing Buko." I said
Akari also couldn't help but also join in the debate,
"Guys I think maybe it's Yuko."
"No itth Thuko Thoda!"
"Ah, who cares, just get on the line Zuko." Sakai said.
She essentially shoved him over to his spot on the court.
"So how exactly do we determine who goes first?" I asked.
"Do you not know anything? You toss a coin, dummy." Sakai responded, seeming offended by my unfamiliarity with this sport.
"I can do the toss. I have a coin right here." Ryo said, pulling a coin out of his pocket.
"Yeah whatever, just toss the coin. I call heads"
Sakai seemed impatient to get the game started. Ryo flicked the coin into the air. It hit the ground and rolled a bit. Eventually it settled and landed on... Heads.
"Alright, I'm serving first. Don't think I'm going to go easy just because you're a beginner." Sakai said, bouncing the tennis ball while getting in position behind the serving line.
Red stood in the area her initial serve would land. He had an amused look on his face.
"Haha, get ready to win something for once in your goofy little otaku life, Kuro."
Sakai prepared to serve.
"Just so you know Hako-san. The only reason I'm serving in your direction is because that's the rules of the game... It's not because I like you or anything..."
Akari spoke up,
"As an outsider, I have to admit that's kind of a strange thing to say to a person. I'm getting some real tsundere vibes."
"I know right. She always does this stuff. It's kind of weird." I replied.
"Hey, I'll have you know, that I am not a tsundere! I just... um... wanted to make sure Hako-san didn't get any wrong ideas." Sakai shouted across the court.
"That just makes you sound even more like a tsundere."
"Ah, whatever! I'm going to serve the ball now." She said, getting irritated.
She threw the ball up and smacked it diagonally...
It seemed to go out of bounds just like "magic".
"What the heck?" She said, confused.
She wound up for her second attempt at serving.
It missed its mark again thanks to my little helper. The point went to us.
"I swear something weird is happening to that ball. You didn't do something to it did you."
"W-what of course not, that's crazy." I said.
She cast a suspicious gaze at me.
"You said that a little hesitantly."
"L-like I said. I did nothing."
Still not entirely buying it, she picked up the ball and carefully inspected and squeezed it in her hand. Her hunch about me cheating was correct, but there was no way she could prove it.
"Nothing seems off about it... Just to be safe I'm getting a different ball."
She proceeded to open a brand new can of tennis balls and served again.
Red once again gave the ball a gentle tap.
"Oh what the *BLEEP*!" Sakai raged, while smashing her tennis rack over her knee.
"Pleathe calm down Mith Thak-."
She shut Ruko down instantly.
"Just shut up and go stand in the corner, Tuko! I don't know what's going on, but in all my years of playing tennis, I'd never make a mistake like that."
No one dared say anything else, not even president Sato, in fear Sakai would get pushed over the edge. I never realized this sport meant so much to her.
She grabbed a new racket and once again served. This time she served with such immense force the racket made a cracking noise when it made contact with the ball.
This time Red was caught completely off guard. The ball hit him with such force on the head that it flung him out of the court, knocking him unconscious. Sakai also managed to score that serve. The score was currently 15 - all. It seemed like karma had caught up to me for trying to cheat.
We played the best of five games. Despite our best efforts we lost 5-1 sets. The only reason we won a single set was because Sakai just straight up forfeited the round Thuko had to serve. Surprisingly Akari managed to hold her own fairly well. If anything, I was the one holding her back.
"Well, we gave it our best effort." Akari said, trying to stay positive.
I stood with my hands on my knees gasping from exertion.
"Yeah, it sucks we can't use the copy room anymore though."
"We can always work something out. Maybe we can meet up at your house or something."
"My house?" I muttered under my breath.
"Yeah, would that be alright?"
There wasn't necessarily anything wrong with my house. The issue was my mom and sister would be around and the two of them get a little crazy when it comes to girls. However, I desperately still needed Akari's help, I would just have to make sure the two of them behaved.
"Uh, y-yeah that should be... fine."