"Well, everyone," said Sumire to the assembled regulars. "It turns out that the school hasn't cut all of our funding, so we'll be able to keep our more successful sports teams." She grinned. "That, of course, means all of you, as long as you keep up the hard work."
"All right!" Momo pumped a fist in the air. Everyone looked happy, with the exception of Ryoma, who had to pretend as though he didn't care.
"But," she said, holding up a cautionary finger, "we're not going to have as much money as we've had during previous years. So if anything breaks or is stolen, we won't be able to replace it."
"We'll have to be very careful with all of the equipment, then," said Oishi, still smiling with relief at the fact that the tennis team wasn't going to be cut.
"That's not all," said Sumire. "The school won't be paying for any transportation to tournaments, and we can hardly help it if some of the older equipment wears out."
The regulars glanced at each other, puzzled. "So…" Oishi said. "What are we going to do if we need money for anything?"
"I'll pay for it!" said Eiji, and then checked his pockets. "Oishi, I might have to borrow some money from you, though. Momo used all mine last time we went out!"
"Hey, I didn't use all of it," Momo protested. "Echizen ate tons, too."
"All right, all right," said Sumire, forestalling an argument. "None of you are going to have to pay for the equipment yourselves. Inui has come up with a plan to get the team the money it needs. Inui?"
Inui stepped forward, his glasses glinting ominously. "We will be holding..." he paused for dramatic effect. "A fundraiser."
"Fundraiser?" Momo and Eiji echoed.
"Yes, a fundraiser," said Inui. "I have been calculating which type of fundraiser will perform at maximum efficiency in our situation, and I came to a conclusion."
"What kind of conclusion?" Ryoma asked suspiciously.
"We will be selling lemonade," said Inui, with an air of great pride.
The dumbfounded silence that followed did nothing to diminish Inui's look of self-satisfaction. "Lemonade?" Kawamura ventured.
"My little brother sold that once," Kaidoh said. Everyone gave him a strange look, and he hissed and looked down at the ground.
"Sounds interesting," Fuji commented, smiling, which didn't seem to bode well for the project.
"We will be setting up a table at the front of the school," said Inui. "I, along with Ryuzaki-sensei, have already prepared the lemonade that we will be selling."
"It had better not taste like Inui Juice…" said Eiji, making a face.
"This is stupid," said Ryoma. Tezuka gave him a warning look.
"We'll be taking shifts," said Inui, ignoring Ryoma. "There will be two people assigned to each shift. I have prepared lots to determine which of you will be paired toge-"
"I want to be with Oishi or Fuji!" Eiji piped up before Inui could finish.
"As long as I don't have to work with that stupid mamushi, anything's fine," said Momo.
"Same goes for me!" Kaidoh snapped, glaring at him.
"Oh yeah?" Momo asked. "Well, you're stuck with your own stupid self anyway, so ha!"
"Idiot!" Kaidoh growled, and would have lunged at him except that Sumire stepped between them. "Enough, you two. You all have to work together on this one, no matter who you get paired with."
Soon enough, Inui had brought out the slips of paper with the regulars' names written on them, and Eiji and Momo had purloined Ryoma's cap to put them in. Ryoma stood by with his arms crossed, scowling at the ground.
"The first pair," said Inui. "Momoshiro and…Kaidoh." Inui frowned slightly.
"I said, I'm not working with him!" Momo and Kaidoh both said at once.
"We could draw new partners for you both," said Inui, who had clearly been displeased with the results himself.
"Not fair!" said Eiji. "Then everyone should get to choose again if they want someone else!"
"All right then," said Inui, reluctantly acquiescing. "The next pair is…"
"Oh, Inui, look, you dropped one," said Fuji pleasantly. He leaned down to pick up the paper and handed it to Inui.
"Thank you, Fuji," said Inui. "I will use this one for the next pairing, then. The next pair is… Fuji and Kawamura."
"You don't mind working with me, ne, Taka?" Fuji asked.
"Of course not, Fujiko," said Kawamura.
"D'you think Fuji-senpai cheated?" Momo whispered dubiously to Ryoma, who scowled even more.
The next set of names drawn were those of Oishi and Eiji, which probably supported the idea that Fuji had rigged the drawing.
"The next pairing," said Inui. "Tezuka and-"
At that point Ryoma darted in and snatched his hat back, spilling the paper slips all over the ground. He replaced the cap on his head. "I'm with buchou," he said, pulling down the brim so that no one could see his eyes.
"But ochibi-" Eiji started to say.
"It's fine," Tezuka said shortly, speaking up for the first time.
No one was going to contest that.
"This is stupid," Ryoma repeated, sitting behind the table that was actually made out of two desks that Inui and Eiji had filched from the science classroom.
"It's for the good of the team," said Tezuka sternly, sitting behind his own half of the table.
"Che. But no one's even bought anything yet." They had a whole two pitchers of lemonade and dozens of cups, all yet to be used for anything.
"Inui says this is the most efficient fundraiser possible," said Tezuka.
"Inui-senpai is crazy," said Ryoma. "No one will buy this if they know that he made it."
"It's not polite."
"Would you drink it?" Ryoma asked.
Tezuka didn't say anything, and Ryoma nodded, satisfied. "See." He leaned back in his chair, tilting it onto two legs and balancing there.
The chair teetered dangerously, about to fall, but then Tezuka put a hand on the back of the seat and steadied it. "Thanks, buchou," said Ryoma, and then eyed the girls who were in the process of crowding around the table.
"Ryoma-sama is really selling lemonade!" squealed Tomo.
"So is buchou," said Ryoma.
"And Tezuka-buchou!" Tomo added cheerfully, unfazed.
"We have to buy some!" said another girl, and there was a general clamor of agreement. "We need, um…" Tomo looked back. "Five, six, seven…nine cups of lemonade from Ryoma-sama and Tezuka-buchou!"
Ryoma rolled his eyes and then started counting out the cups.
"Smile, Ryoma-sama!" A camera flash went off, followed by a flurry of others. Ryoma glared. Tezuka maintained a perfectly stoic expression.
"Here." Tezuka picked up one of the pitchers and began to pour the lemonade. Ryoma grudgingly picked up the other one and did the same.
"So how is business going, Ryoma-sama?" Tomo asked. All of the girls were sipping at their lemonade and chattering amongst themselves. None of them had passed out yet, so evidently Inui hadn't put anything strange into it.
"You already have your lemonade," said Ryoma. "Why are you still here?"
"Business is fine," said Ryoma, with a quick glance at Tezuka.
The girls left after a few more minutes. Ryoma hoped they'd all realized that he'd only speak to them when Tezuka told him to, but that was unlikely. They weren't very smart. As they were leaving, he heard Tomo say to Sakuno, "We're so lucky that Eiji-senpai and Fuji-senpai told us that Ryoma-sama was selling lemonade out here!"
"Stupid senpai," Ryoma muttered. Tezuka didn't correct him this time.
"Echizen!" Apparently Eiji and Fuji had spread the rumors to more than just the female population of Seigaku. Horio ran over to the table, with Katsuo and Kachiro close behind. "Echizen, you're really selling lemonade!" For some reason, no one seemed to believe that Tezuka was also sitting at the table, possibly because it was so far removed from anything that Tezuka would logically do.
"Horio-kun, you shouldn't-" Kachiro started to say.
"I've been selling lemonade since I was eight!" Horio proclaimed. "With my years of sales experience, I could teach you how to sell lemonade better, Echizen!"
"No," said Ryoma.
"Eh? You don't want to take advantage of my lemonade-selling experience?" Horio was incredulous.
"Not unless you buy some," Ryoma replied.
"Eh! How much is it?" Horio asked, rummaging in his pockets to find some money.
"A thousand yen," said Ryoma with a straight face. They were selling the lemonade for one hundred yen a cup, but Horio hadn't looked at the sign.
"A thousand yen!" Horio squawked, dropping his wallet.
"No wonder you're not selling very much!" said Horio, shaking a finger and then leaning down to pick up his wallet. "I'll take one cup!" He presented Ryoma with a thousand yen.
"Echizen," said Tezuka.
Ryoma looked at Tezuka, and then sighed. "It's only a hundred yen." He handed the money back and waited for Horio to give him the right amount. Tezuka nodded slightly in approval.
"Thanks, Echizen!" Horio took the cup of lemonade that Ryoma poured for him and walked off. As he went he could be heard bragging, "Echizen gave me a discount! Probably because he thinks of me as his mentor!"
"I'm thirsty," said Ryoma, after a few minutes had gone by and they hadn't gotten any more customers. The sun was bright and they didn't have any shade at all.
"We have lemonade."
"But Inui-senpai made it," said Ryoma. "I don't trust it."
Tezuka stood. "I'll buy something."
"Okay. Thanks, buchou," said Ryoma.
Tezuka walked away in the direction of the vending machines. Ryoma wondered what he'd come back with. Probably tea, or something equally healthy.
"Oi! Echizen! How's it going?" Momo walked over to the table, grinning. "Sold anything yet?"
"Yes," said Ryoma. "Ten cups."
Momo laughed. "Yeah, but that was mostly those girls Fuji-senpai and Eiji-senpai sent over, right?" Ryoma scowled, which was answer enough. "So where's Tezuka-buchou?"
"He's getting drinks," said Ryoma.
"Why don't you just drink the lemonade?" Momo asked, blinking in confusion.
"Inui-senpai made it."
"Oh yeah." Momo winced. "I forgot. Hey, mamushi, what are you doing?" This last part was called to Kaidoh, who just happened to be walking by.
"Shut up, idiot," said Kaidoh. "I just wanted to see where we'd be selling the lemonade."
"Well, you shouldn't," said Momo. "Your ugly face'll scare away all the customers!"
"What did you say?" Kaidoh stalked closer and shoved Momo.
"You heard me," Momo said, and shoved him back.
"You'll break something," said Ryoma, but they weren't listening to him and Ryoma didn't care enough to try harder.
Right at that moment Tezuka's voice rang out: "Momoshiro, Kaidoh, ten laps!"
"Yes, buchou!" they chorused, breaking off in mid-fight. Of course they started again as soon as they jogged off in the direction of the tennis courts, but at least they weren't putting the glass pitchers in any danger anymore.
Tezuka set a can of Ponta on the table in front of Ryoma, and sat back down in his own chair. He'd bought a bottle of water for himself.
"Thanks, buchou," Ryoma said again, looking away so that Tezuka wouldn't see that he was smiling almost like one of those girls when they thought he did something cute.
"You're welcome, Echizen."
Ryoma opened his can of Ponta and took a sip. It was way better than lemonade. Then he put it back down and put a hand underneath the table. He found the edge of Tezuka's chair, and then he found Tezuka's hand. He slipped his fingers through Tezuka's.
"What are you doing?" Tezuka asked, glancing at him.
"Holding your hand under the table," said Ryoma.
"I see," said Tezuka, and didn't say another word about it. He also didn't take his hand away, not even when they had to pour another nine cups of lemonade when the girls came back. Fortunately they were both ambidextrous. Tezuka used his right hand and Ryoma used his left and they managed admirably, with their other hands still linked where no one else could see.
"Impressively successful, for the first day of sales," said Inui, consulting the data in his notebook. "We sold a total of seventy-two glasses of lemonade altogether, and escaped with minimal damage to persons and objects." The minimal damage had, of course, come from Momo and Kaidoh, who had a black eye each and had broken one pitcher. The two of them were sitting on opposite sides of the room, glowering at each other.
"Tomorrow we will be continuing the venture," said Inui. "I have considered the matter thoroughly, and I have decided to divide the original pairings in order to preserve diversity and to build team relationships."
That brought an outburst from everyone; from Eiji because he wanted to stay with Oishi, from Kaidoh and Momo because they definitely wanted to change, and from Fuji, who looked as though he was planning to cheat the partnering system again.
Ryoma waited until everyone else had quieted down a little, and then he spoke. "I won't do it unless I can be with buchou again," Ryoma said firmly.
"Echizen," Tezuka reprimanded, but he didn't sound like he meant it.
"Well, I won't," said Ryoma.
There was silence as Tezuka looked at Ryoma, and no one else dared to speak. "Inui," said Tezuka finally. "The pairs will be the same tomorrow."
Ryoma grinned. Yes, it had been a very successful first day of lemonade sales.