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Laree's Slam Dunk Fan fiction
Down A Different Path
Part One

" And that, Rukawa-san, is why I believe that  Shohoku would be the best school for you."  Mitsui Hisashi sat back expansively on his seat , a small, self-satisfied smirk on his lips.  Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of Kogure Kiminobu giving him a thumbs up sign and Akagi Takenori, who was sitting beside him, was nodding his head in total agreement to the thirty minute speech that Mitsui had just recently delivered on the merits of Shohoku High school and its basketball team.  The cat, rather, the Kitsune, was in the bag.  If that little pro Shohoku speech didn't get him, then nothing would, of this Mitsui was confident.  He had to stop himself from cackling out loud as visions of him dominating the world of Japanese Basketball came into mind.  With this Rukawa Kaede on their team, Shohoku could only get stronger, and the stronger his team was, the more attainable his dreams were.  " Soo...What do you think?"

" I think you talk too much..."

Mitsui had to resist the urge to jump up from his chair to strangle the guy.  He had just given this boy the honor of listening to his speech, which  he had been told by all he had asked, was really rather good, and the only thing that he could say about it was that he thought he talked to much?  If he hadn't wanted Rukawa to join the Shohoku team so badly then he would have just said, to hell with it all, and hurled the glass of coke that he held in his hand right into the guy's eerily expressionless face.

Seeing that the captain of the Shohoku Basketball club was rather pissed at that moment and couldn't be trusted to open his mouth without saying something that would blow their chances, Kogure Kiminobu stepped in rather hastily.  "About going to Shohoku and joining the team, he meant, Rukawa-san.  We would like to have your answer as soon as possible."

" That's right.  We've just about done with our recruiting and you were the only one that didn't give us an answer immediately..." Akagi put in.

" Who else have you talked to?"

Mitsui shrugged.  " Only the best recruits in Junior High such as yourself, Rukawa-san." A little discreet flattery could go a long, long way after all.  " We believe in taking only the very best in at Shohoku.  We have very high standards.  We have already managed to recruit several outstanding Junior High basketball players.  One of them being Sakuragi Hanamichi, the Center of Wako Junior High.  You've heard of him, of course?"

" That do'aho.  I've played against him a few times."

" See!  A familiar face in Shohoku!"  Kogure exclaimed excitedly, thinking that the prospect of having someone that he knew in the team would entice the younger boy.

" The guy is a joke.  I wouldn't play in the same team as him if you paid me."

Mitsui gritted his teeth at this, slightly miffed because the fiery, redheaded player had been a draft choice of his from the start.  The guy's fighting spirit appealed to him but he supposed Rukawa found showing any sort of emotion, as Sakuragi tended to do, offensive.  " He's better than you think."

" He's a do'aho."

" Okay, we're getting off the topic here.  We're not asking you for your opinion about Sakuragi Hanamichi, who even I have to admit is a pretty decent player despite of his personality which I find to be lacking..." Akagi thought the redhead was a loudmouth but he was a talented loudmouth nonetheless.  One that would greatly help the team.  " We're asking you whether or not you plan on going to Shohoku and joining the basketball team once there.  We're not expecting your answer right away but we would just like to test the wind here and see how you feel about it.  I think playing in Shohoku will benefit you.  We are ranked second in Kanagawa, our overall National ranking is fourth place.  That's pretty good, but it isn't good enough.  We aim for the number one spot in the Nation, Rukawa-san and I'm not going to mince words here.  We believe that you will be able to help us get one more step closer to this goal with your talent."

" So you'd like me to go to Shohoku."

" Yes."

" And play with that do'aho."

" That would seem to be pretty unavoidable, seeing as how Sakuragi-kun is already slated to take the position of Power Forward..." Mitsui replied.

" No thanks."

" Wha...What?"  Kogure asked in disbelief, pushing his glasses up his nose nervously.  His eye's darted over to Mitsui, who he was afraid would launch himself at the guy any second now for acting like a bloody prima donna.  They had known of Rukawa's reputation for being difficult but they hadn't been prepared for this!  " You're giving up the opportunity to play for one of the top four teams in Japan just because you don't like one of the members?!?  That's...That's just-"

" Sheer , fucking stupidity is what it is!"  Mitsui finished for him.  Though these weren't the words that Kogure would have chosen himself, that was pretty much the gist of what he had been about to say before the captain had interrupted.  He didn't care anymore what this bastard thought about him.  He had just about had enough.  " Are you out of your bloody mind?  Why the hell would you turn something like this down?  It's a fucking honor to be asked to join the Shohoku team!  A fucking honor to play with me and Akagi and Kogure and the others and you turn it down just because you don't fucking like one of the new recruits?"

" You're upset."

" Damn right I'm upset."

Rukawa seemed as unmoved by Mitsui's emotional outburst as ever.  " It's not just because of the do'aho.  I have another reason."

" And it just bloody well better be more plausible than that one!" Mitsui growled, wondering if he could just drag Rukawa to school and register him himself.  Rukawa was one of the most talented young players around.  Tomigaoka was ranked number one in the Junior High basketball circuit because of him.  He would hate to lose the guy like this.  It wasn't that Shohoku desperately needed the guy.  He had a good enough team as it was, it was just that with Rukawa, the team would be even better than it already was, which was saying a lot, what with Shohoku being one of the best teams in the nation.

" I already decided on Ryonan."

" Ryonan?"  Akagi repeated, thinking that there must really be something wrong with the guy what with him coming up with this stupid decision and the fact that the expression on his face hadn't changed since he first saw him.  The word autistic came briefly to mind.  " But they didn't even reach the final four last time!"

" The guy who talked to me was convincing..."

Mitsui bristled.  He was sure that whatever that recruiter from Ryonan had said couldn't have been better than his ' The benefits of  going to Shohoku High School' speech.  He had a lot of pride in his speech giving  abilities.  After all, it hadn't failed him with any of the other prospective incoming freshmen, until this one at least.  " And which Ryonan bas-"

" Player." Kogure interjected.

" Yes.  Which Ryonan player, came to talk to you, may I ask?"

Rukawa shrugged.  He wasn't really big on details and tended to forget the names of people he thought of as unimportant.  " Forgot.  Some smiley face.  I agreed just so he'd piss off.  That's how annoying he was."

Mitsui caught Kogure's eyes and they both spoke at the same time.  " Sendo."

" I think that was it..."

" Goddam Sendo Akira!" Mitsui muttered, his hands clenching into fists by his sides.  "If it wasn't for the fact that Auntie loves that stupid son of hers so much I would have killed him by now!"

" Auntie?"  Rukawa raised an eyebrow and examined Mitsui closely, " Smiley is a relation of yours?"

" No.  Not really.  We've known each other since we were kids, though.  Sort of grew up together." Mitsui gritted his teeth, remembering the conversation that he had had with his childhood friend only a few days before about recruiting Rukawa Kaede into the Shohoku team.  He hadn't thought of it back then.  Though Sendo was a Ryonan player, Mitsui had never held that against him and had never thought that the guy, his best friend in the whole wide world along with Kogure, would do something as underhanded as this.  He remembered Sendo saying something about Rukawa being fair game but hadn't really taken it seriously since it had come with the younger boy's usual cheery smile.

" Oh.  Poor you.  I only talked to him for a few minutes and couldn't stand anymore of him.  Can't imagine what it must have been like for you..."

" So come to Shohoku!"  Mitsui made one last ditch effort to change the boy's mind.  " That way, you wont have to be team members with him!  If you go to Ryonan, he'll bother you every single day you're there!"

" I can't go to Shohoku."  Rukawa insisted, shaking his dark head adamantly.

" Why the hell not?  Hundreds of kids go to Shohoku every day so why the fuck can't you?"  When Mitsui got upset, his sentences were usually peppered with swear words.  Needless to say, he was very upset at this moment.  He had been busy thinking up great plays that involved the two new freshmen, Sakuragi and Rukawa, and their incredible jumping power and speed.  Everything would be ruined if he couldn't convince the guy...

" Because I don't wanna play with you."

Mitsui threw his hand up in the air in his exasperation.  " Can you please make up your mind?  First you say that you don't want to play with Sakuragi, now you say that you don't want to play with me!  Anyone else in Shohoku that you have a problem with?  Do you have something against Akagi?  Or maybe there's something about Kogure's glasses that you don't like, dammit?!?"

" I don't want to play with you.  I want to play against you."

The older boy blinked, not comprehending what the guy meant by this.  " What do you mean?"

Rukawa shrugged.  " I'm going to be the best High School basketball player in Japan.  To do that, I have to beat you.  You, Maki, Fujima and Sendo."

" But can't you beat me while you play in the same team with me?" Mitsui demanded.  Oh, God.  He must sound so desperate.  This wasn't like him at all, usually.

" Look.  I've made up my mind."  Rukawa got to his feet, signaling the end of their talk.  " Now if you don't mind, I'd like to be left alone so that I can sleep."

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