Momo was the one who started the sudden rush of bets at Seigaku...sort of. “I bet I can eat more in five minutes than you can eat in the whole lunch hour,” he said, shooting the challenge at Kaidoh. “You eat like a girl.”
“I don’t,” Kaidoh said, glaring at him. “I eat politely. You eat like a pig.”
“So you going to take my bet?” Momo picked up a sandwich and raised it to show Kaidoh. “Or are you scared that I’ll win?”
“What are you two going to bet?” Fuji inquired, making both of them jump and then stare at him.
“Fuji-senpai,” Momo managed. “I didn’t notice you standing there.”
“I wasn’t,” said Fuji. “Now, what are you two betting on this?”
“What?” Momo looked at him blankly. “I don’t know. It was just for the hell of it, really.”
“That’s no good.” Ryoma had to add in his two cents. “You have to bet something, or it’s not a bet at all.”
“That’s right, Echizen!” Fuji smiled brightly, as though his prize student had just gotten the last answer at the spelling bee. That look made Momo eye Echizen warily, mentally reminding himself to file Echizen into the “possibly Fuji-senpai dangerous” category in his head.
“We’ll bet, uh...” Momo looked at his sandwich and thought about it. “If I win, mamushi has to buy me lunch for the next month!” He glanced triumphantly at Kaidoh. Lunch for the next month for Momoshiro was a considerable expense, somewhere along the order of buying a car.
“Then if I win,” Kaidoh shot back, “you have to pick up balls with the freshmen for the next month.”
“But I have to practice!” Momo complained. “That’s not fair.”
“It’s not fair that I’d have to buy you lunch for a month, either.” Kaidoh made a reasonable point, and so Momo conceded. He really, really wanted free food.
“Get on with it,” said Ryoma, already sounding bored with their nonsense. With that, Momo began to scarf his pile of sandwiches as quickly as he possibly could. Kaidoh kept glancing over at him and making disgusted faces, but he, too, ate faster than he normally would...staying polite the entire time, of course.
“Time!” Fuji sang out. Everyone in the cafeteria gaped at the empty sandwich wrappers on Momo’s plate after just five minutes. Six of them! Not that anyone had any doubt to begin with that Momo could eat more than almost anyone, but this definitely cemented it.
“I don’t have six sandwiches!” Kaidoh had suddenly realized the problem that would stand in the way of his winning the bet, and he glared fiercely at Momo, who was looking hungry again, but smug too.
“I guess you lose, then.” Momo started in on his seventh sandwich.
“Fuji. Psst, Fuji.” Eiji poked Fuji’s ankle with his foot. Their math teacher was droning on and on about equations or something like that, and Eiji wasn’t inclined to listen and he knew Fuji didn’t need to. “I bet you that I can hit that window with this eraser.”
“That’s not a challenge.” Fuji kept his voice to a low whisper. “Hit, oh, say, that scratch in the upper right pane. Then I’ll bet.”
“Okay. Then I’ll bet you a new roll of grip tape that I can hit it.” Eiji sounded quite confident in his own abilities as he picked up the eraser. He closed one eye to study the window closely, held up the eraser then put it innocently under his desk when the teacher turned around. Then he aimed and in one swift motion, threw it at the window. It hit its mark and bounced off...hitting the teacher in the side of the head.
The math teacher whirled and eyed them all. “What the-?!” he demanded, then cut himself off. “What was that?”
“Nothing, Kanau-sensei,” came the chorus of murmurs from every member of the class.
“Hmph,” he said, glancing suspiciously around the room. “‘Nothing’ had better not happen again, then.” He went back to the lesson.
“Ha.” Eiji was beside himself with glee. “I want that new purple grip tape they were selling the other day.”
Everyone who was anyone heard about the lunchroom incident, and everyone who knew anyone from Fuji and Eiji’s class knew about the eraser. Suddenly, making bets was the thing to do. It didn’t matter what you bet, or with whom. The bigger and better, the more fame for the person who won the bet, though.
“This is unhealthy.” Ryuzaki-sensei sighed heavily and drummed her fingers on the desk, watching the tennis team out of her office window. Horio and Momo, it seemed, had both lost whatever idiot bets they’d made and were, respectively, limited to hopping on one foot and skipping around the court.
“I agree, sensei.” Tezuka watched, too, and shook his head.
“I guess it’s the thing around school these days, but I can’t say I approve. Look at him out there, skipping like an idiot and missing everything hit his way.” Ryuzaki-sensei snorted and studied the papers on her desk, then glanced up at Tezuka. “At least I can count on you not to start making bets like the rest of them.”
“Yes,” said Tezuka. “I don’t know how to skip.”
Ryuzaki-sensei sneaked another look at him, but it was impossible to tell when Tezuka was trying to be funny and when he was being dead serious. He wore the same implacable expression either way. Someday, she decided, if he didn’t become a pro tennis player, he’d become a pro poker player and bluff with the best of them.
Damn. All this talk of betting had gotten to her, too.
“I’ll make you a bet, Fuji-senpai.” Ryoma was annoyed. This was the fourth time his towel had gone missing after he’d come out of the shower, and he was not at all amused, although the rest of the team seemed to be, given Momo’s and Eiji’s repressed laughter from the corner and Inui’s furious scribbling in his notebook. “If I win, you stop stealing my towel.”
“Stealing your towel? Why would I do something like that?” Fuji smiled widely, pausing in the middle of tying his shoes. “By the way, the natural look is good for you, Echizen.”
Ryoma crossed his arms, determined not to show any embarrassment at the fact that he hadn’t bothered to get dressed before confronting Fuji, mostly because he was still wet and he needed his towel, dammit. “I know it was you, so quit pretending it wasn’t.”
“And if I win this bet, what do I get?” Fuji asked, neither confirming nor denying that it had indeed been him who’d stolen Ryoma’s towel.
“You get me for a whole day, and you can do whatever you want.”
Fuji’s eyes lit up, even as Eiji’s eyes widened and Momo looked dumbstruck, mouthing hurriedly, “Echizen, no!”
“Anything?” Fuji’s tone was disturbingly eager.
“Anything,” Ryoma confirmed, unfazed and hoping that neither Buchou nor Ryuzaki-sensei would walk in on this little exchange. They most definitely would not approve.
“But whatever will we be betting on?” Fuji inquired.
“One game of tennis. Winner takes all, no rematches,” said Ryoma, feeling confident in his chances. He and Fuji had been pretty evenly matched before, after all. He could beat Fuji if he went all out right away.
But Ryoma’s cockiness proved to be his downfall.
“I’ll bet you that I can get Ryoma-sama to say hello to me,” Tomoko said. Next to her, Sakuno looked worried and murmured something about Ryoma-sama not being a proper subject for a bet, but Tomoko just shook her head.
The other girl, Kaori, put her hands on her hips. “You cannot! Ryoma-sama doesn’t know you exist anymore than he knows I exist!”
“Well unlike some people, I show up to every tennis match. Oh! There he is!” Tomoko hopped on her tiptoes, waving wildly down the hall. “Ryoooooooma-sama! Ryoma-sama!”
“That’s not him.” Kaori squinted down the hallway. “What are you talking about?”
“Of course it’s him!” Tomoko said indignantly. “Do you think I wouldn’t know Ryoma-sama’s walk? Ryoooooooma-sa-” That was as far as she got before the words faded on her lips, and she gaped. “Ryoma-sama!”
Ryoma barely glanced her way as he walked by. “What?”
“Why are you wearing that, Ryoma-sama?” Tomoko squealed. Both she and Kaori stared at him.
Ryoma didn’t bother to reply, just stalked the rest of the way down the hall to his classroom.
“Echizen, you’re right on-” Oishi, like Tomoko before him, gaped in utter confusion. “Echizen...why...”
“He lost a bet to Fuji-senpai...” Momo’s voice died away as he surveyed Ryoma closely. “I mean, why else would he...”
“Yes, I lost a bet,” Ryoma snapped irritably. “Get over it. I’m going to go and change.”
“Oh, but Ry-chan!” Fuji entered the clubroom along with a pervasive aura of evil, but maybe that was just Ryoma’s imagination. He walked over and put an arm around Ryoma’s shoulder’s, leaning in close to his ear to say, “Remember, I said you had to wear that all day, didn’t I?”
“Not to play tennis!” Ryoma was horrified at the very idea and couldn’t help letting himself sound that way for a moment. “Fuji-senpai, I can’t play tennis in this! In these shoes!”
“I think you look good,” Momo offered weakly.
“I think ochibi looks good, too,” Eiji offered.
Kaidoh, who had come over to see what the commotion was about, hissed, flushed, and walked away.
“Hey!” Horio’s shriek resounded throughout the entire room as he slammed the door open dramatically. “Everyone, Echizen is wearing a dress! And girl’s shoes!” It sounded as though that was the worst thing that could ever befall a person. “Oh, Echizen!” he wailed, spotting the subject of discussion. “How could you have let this happen!”
Just then, Tezuka, Kawamura, and Inui saw fit to enter the room. Inui’s glasses glinted and he snapped open his notebook. Kawamura stopped in his tracks and stared, then averted his gaze like Kaidoh had done. Tezuka gazed around at the occupants of the room.
Oishi looked ready to faint. Kaidoh was in a corner. Momo was gaping like a landed fish. Horio had his mouth open, having cut himself off in mid-shriek. Fuji, predictably, was smiling. And Ryoma was wearing a long, curly black wig with ribbons in it, a perfect little black dress with frills and lace all over it and several petticoats showing underneath, black nylons, and patent leather Mary Jane shoes.
Tezuka took all this in with an amazing level of calm. Ryoma met his eyes with a mixture of embarrassment and defiance. “I lost a bet with Fuji-senpai, Buchou.”
“Are you wearing girl’s underwear?” Momo asked randomly.
“Momoshiro. Twenty laps,” Tezuka instructed.
Momo seemed to break out of his trance and ducked his head guiltily. “Yes, Buchou.” But he made no move to leave just yet.
“And Fuji...” Tezuka paused. Did he have grounds for assigning laps to Fuji, really? He looked back at Ryoma and concluded that, yes, he did. “Thirty laps for you.”
“All right.” Fuji linked his arm through Ryoma’s. “Come on, Ry-chan,” he cooed.
“I didn’t assign laps to Echizen,” Tezuka said coldly.
“No, you didn’t,” Fuji admitted cheerfully. “But as Ry-chan already mentioned, he lost a bet and is therefore mine for the day, to do with as I wish. Right?”
“Right,” Ryoma said grudgingly.
“So there’s nothing you can do, really, Tezuka,” Fuji said lightly. “I can take him with me if I want to.”
“I’ll make a bet with you.” A collective gasp sounded from the audience, which was quelled as Tezuka sent a scathing Buchou glance around the room.
“Oh yes?” Fuji inquired, and patted Ryoma on the head. Ryoma scowled fiercely, and Fuji smiled tenderly as though Ryoma had done something adorable. “What will we be betting on? And more importantly, what will we be winning?”
“A coin toss.” Tezuka held out his palm with a coin resting in the middle of it. “Heads, then...” he paused. “Ownership of Echizen for the day will transfer to me.” Ryoma looked up quickly.
“And if it’s tails?” Fuji arched an eyebrow. “You’d better make it good, Tezuka. I’ve thought of all sorts of fun things Ry-chan and I could do together.”
“If it’s tails,” and here Tezuka paused again, as though he’d rather be saying and doing anything else in the world, “then I will be in your...custody...for the day as well.”
“Why didn’t you say so!” Fuji absolutely beamed.
“Buchou, don’t do it!” Momo shouldered his way through his teammates until he stood right next to Tezuka. “On a coin toss? Fuji-senpai’ll flip the coin with his psychic powers, or something!”
“Would you like to bet on that?” Fuji asked sweetly, and Momo backed up a step. “Uh, no.”
“Momoshiro is correct, Tezuka.” Inui flipped through his notebook and examined a particular page. “Fuji’s success when it comes to games of chance rests at about sixty-five percent, which is above average, although doesn’t necessarily suggest ‘psychic powers,’ as you put it, Momo.”
Ryoma glared at Momo and then at Inui, the force of said glare somewhat negated by the fact that one of the wig’s curls had fallen over his left eye.
Tezuka accepted Inui’s news calmly. “That means he has a thirty-five percent chance of failure.”
“True,” said Inui. “However...”
“I am making this bet, regardless of the percentages involved, Inui,” Tezuka told him. “Fuji, do you accept?”
“Of course,” said Fuji. “With such a prize at stake, how could I not? You’d look good in a maid’s uniform, I think.” Another gasp went through the room at Fuji’s blasphemy, then silence as everyone imagined it. “You can even be the one to flip the coin,” Fuji added charitably.
“I will, then.” Without further ado, Tezuka flipped the coin into the air.
If everyone was expecting the coin to flip in slow motion and take eons to come down, they were sorely disappointed. As a matter of fact, the coin flew through the air at a perfectly normal speed and without evidence of being influenced by either psychic abilities or the Tezuka Zone. It hit the floor, spun dramatically on its edge for about half a second, then fell.
Inui muttered to himself, “Tezuka’s success in games of chance rests at seventy percent, a probability which defeats even Fuji’s tendency to-” which faded into incoherency after that as he filled up an entire new page of his notebook.
Immediately, Tezuka turned to Ryoma, who grinned saucily back at him despite the clothes he was wearing. “Echizen. Go and change into your uniform.”
“Thanks, Buchou.” Ryoma got up with as much dignity as he could manage, given the outfit he was wearing. He flipped Tezuka a saucy grin. “I can always put it back on later, since you have me for the rest of the day...”
“Go and change,” Tezuka repeated, raising an eyebrow. He would figure out what to do with the rest of the day...later.
“Okay.” The smirk never left Ryoma’s face as he sauntered off, his skirts swishing.
“Lucky thing that I took pictures earlier,” Fuji murmured.
“Fuji, fifty laps,” Tezuka ordered with a stern glare, both for that comment and for the one about the maid uniform. “And there are to be no more bets made within the tennis club. Understood?”
“Yes, Buchou,” everyone chorused.
Tezuka wondered fleetingly what Ryuzaki-sensei would say when she found out about this, then decided that it didn’t matter since his bet with Fuji had turned out so well. He’d think about it... after the rest of the day was over.