Sakaki assigns Ohtori to play a singles match opposite Hiyoshi Wakashi. He says it like it is an afterthought, waving them onto the court while walking away. Ohtori sets his feet in the back court like he is told.
Hiyoshi has protest in his eyes, and takes to the court silently, twisting the racquet handle in his fingers. He thinks of Ohtori as a doubles player, someone who is the right to his partner's left.
Hiyoshi is his own right and left.
Back when Ohtori first met Hiyoshi he knew that they would never be friends. Hiyoshi didn't join the Hyotei tennis club to make friends. He didn't come to school to make friends. He didn't really seem to get up out of bed in the morning to make friends and Ohtori could just about see the cloud of space that hung around Hiyoshi and let him be. Let him be until Hiyoshi approached him first after people started to talk.
Hiyoshi wins his service game and when they change courts, Taki jeers from the bleachers. Ohtori's serve bounces at Hiyoshi's feet and slams into the fence behind him, bending the chain links as if it might break through. And then the next one and the next one and on the final serve, Hiyoshi wraps around the ball like a snake coiling around its prey.
They talked about how Hiyoshi was going to be the next captain of Hyotei. They being the preregulars, the freshmen and then finally they being Sakaki himself who mentioned it once in passing and the words began to pump through Hiyoshi's veins even then. Ohtori never wanted to be a leader so they didn't talk about him like that. Sakaki never made a passing remark about him.
There is always a sway in a tied match and Ohtori knows that he just barely held onto the game. Hiyoshi's hands wrap around his racquet, white knuckled and ready.
"Why do you go to this school anyway?" Was the first and only question that Hiyoshi Wakashi ever asked Ohtori. And the answer was less interesting than it should have been, involving his family moving close to the school and his grades being at the top of the class. He liked playing tennis. So it was logical to join the club, right? He liked playing tennis, but he always got the feeling that Hiyoshi hated it.
They find out that the net can catch three of Ohtori's serves in succession before the netting begins to fray. An offhand comment about how they will need a new one soon jabs at a nerve.
He thought about asking Hiyoshi about Kobujutsu because Hiyoshi seemed to come to life in his enbutenshu, carried a martial arts uniform in his tennis bag, carried bruises on his forearms and shins. When he did finally visit the Dojo he saw something that could mold into iron fists with enough patience.
When the next ball sails over the net and into Hiyoshi's stance, they can see a glimpse of just how fierce he can be. Just how much that meaningless shot means to him. Not as a return on a tennis court, but as everything in the universe in just that moment.
Ohtori has had a feeling that they will make Hiyoshi the captain because he wants it more than anyone else. Not because he is particularly capable. Not because he has the power to awe. And somewhere in that teeth-grinding anger, Ohtori thinks that maybe he can trust this new Hyotei.
There is nothing to overcome here. Ohtori is at worst below him and at best, close to an equal. There is no one to overthrow, no reason to relish in the victory.
Sakaki sees that Ohtori is power and Hiyoshi is conviction. A soft Hyotei wouldn't be Hyotei at all.
Ohtori still has some questions that he might ask Hiyoshi someday if he ever thinks he might get an answer.
When you get to the top... where will you go after that?
Winner. Hiyoshi. 7-5.
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