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Laree's Slam Dunk Fanfiction
Down A Different Path
Part Two

" Well, well.  Isn't this a great way to start the first practice of the school year?"  Miyagi Ryota drawled as Mitsui dashed into the gym and collapsed into a haphazard heap onto the polished court  floor.  " The Great Captain is late, as usual."  Clucking his tongue, he made a big show of shaking his head in disapproval.

" Don't start with me, Miyagi.  Not unless you want your ass kicked..."  Mitsui moaned and clutched at his stomach.  He made a pitiful sight writhing around on the floor like that.  It wasn't really unusual for them to see the captain in a similar state at any given day but Kogure didn't really think this was the best image to give the freshmen on their first day.  He dashed to Mitsui's side and attempted to talk him into getting up to his feet.  " Get away from me, Kogure...Gonna kick that bastard's ass...As soon as I catch my breath again, that is..."

" Hisa-kun, your shoes..."

" Figures that you only care about your precious gym floor..." Mitsui muttered, taking in a few, experimental breaths. 
" Don't give a damn that I've just been socked in the guts by a malicious little bitch.  What is it with girls, Kogure?  What is their problem?!  Do they always have to be so violent when I tell them that I'm not interested?  Be a pal and take off my shoes for me, will yah?"

Kogure did as he was asked to and gestured for freshmen who had gathered around Mitsui's prone figure to move back.  He could hear a few snickering, the redheaded Sakuragi of Wako Junior High letting out the loudest of them all.  No, this definately was not a good start to the year.  Thank god that Anzai-sensei wasn't going to show up for this practice.  He could hear a slight commotion from behind him.  Akagi had just delivered a punch to the Sakuragi's head and was demanding to know what was so funny about the captain's suffering.  " If you'd only be a bit nicer..."

" I was being nice!" Mitsui protested, finally managing to sit himself up.  He glared balefully at Miyagi as he reached for the gym bag which he had dropped beside him and proceeded to pull on his trainers.  " Then she just suddenly punched me!  These girls are getting on my nerves...I swear, sometimes I think the whole world would be a better place without them..."

" Never knew you were the type who went for yaoi..." Kogure commented innocently.

" Me?!  No!  No!  What are you talking about?  Of course not!"  Mitsui sat himself up straighter and tried to look as macho as one could while sitting spreadeagled on the ground with another young man kneeling by him.  " I'm just saying that they're sometimes annoying!  It's not that I don't like girls!  It's just that I still have to find a half way decent one!"

Kogure blinked at his reaction.  " Hisashi-kun!  I don't have anything against gay people!  I wouldn't mind a bit if you were-"

" Who the hell have you been talking to?"  Mitsui hissed, red faced.  He glanced around at the others to see if they had been following their conversation.

" Er...No one...I was just saying..."

" Oh..." Mitsui relaxed.  He even managed to flash Kogure one of his easy smiles.  " I thought that maybe you thought that I was, though I'm not.  Anyways, lets get on with things, shall we?"

After being helped up to his feet and introducing himself, Ayako and the rest of the seniors on the team, Mitsui asked the freshmen to introduce themselves to the seniors.  There was quite a lot of them this year.  A few, like Sakuragi Hanamichi, had been especially recruited by Mitsui himself.  There was quite a lot of new, promising talent and Mitsui was looking forward to getting to see these kids in action.  Especially the redhead.  Too bad that he hadn't been able to convince that Rukawa to join the Shohoku team.

" I am Sakuragi Hanamichi of Class 1-7.  I come from Wako Junior High and my position is Center!"  The freshman practically yelled.

" Good, good, Sakuragi-kun.  Here you will be playing as the Power Forward though.  Not Center." Mitsui informed the younger boy.

Hanamichi laughed as he began to shake his head furiously.  " Oh, no, no, no, Micchy.  I don't play any other position but Center!  I've always been Center and always will be..." There was a hint of a threat in his tone of voice as he glared down at the slightly shorter captain.

" Well..." Mitsui's voice was slightly less self confident this time.  He had never liked pain and the redhead's eye's promised plenty of it if he even tried to contradict.  " Someone is already playing Center here..."

Hanamichi shrugged.  " That's no problem.  You just tell the guy to give me the position.   Only the Tensai deserves such an important and crucial job as being the Center!"

" Care to have a little talk with the Shohoku Center about this then?"  Mitsui asked, a little smile forming on his lips as he gestured for Akagi to come forward.

Shouts of pain filled the gym as Akagi managed to convince the freshman to abandon his plans of taking over his position.  Just when Sakuragi was pleading for the ' Gori ', as he had dubbed him, to let go off him as he couldn't breath anymore, a soft, tentative voice interrupted the potential homicide, " Nii-chan...What are you doing to that guy?"

" Haruko!  Don't mind him.  He's an idiot."  Deciding that the little fool had had enough, Akagi released his grip on him and allowed him to crumple onto the floor.

Akagi Haruko was a picture of concern as she dashed into the court.  She took a moment to lightly smack Mitsui and Kogure on the shoulders.  " How could you two just stand there and watch the guy being strangled?"  She demanded.

Kogure scratched his head awkwardly while Mitsui shuffled his feet.  " We just didn't wanna meddle..." The Shohoku captain mumbled meekly.  He and Kogure had known Haruko since they were little and though they were a couple of years older than her, she didn't think twice about reprimanding them when the need arose.

Haruko gave them one last glare before she knelt down by Sakuragi, her elder brother glowering down at her the whole time.  " Hey, are you okay?"  She asked softly, reaching out to lay a hand gently against his shoulder.  Akagi looked as though he was ready to blow up.  He couldn't stand the sight of his younger sister being so friendly towards such a cretin.

Hanamichi was about to snap out a biting reply, did she think she would be all right after being strangled half to death by a big, dumb gorilla, when he looked up and found himself gazing into the warmest, most beautiful brown eyes he had ever seen.  " I...I...I..."  He spluttered.  He knew that this was the time to say something intelligent and funny, but for some reason, his brain seemed to have stopped functioning...He could only stutter that word out over and over again like a broken record.

" Oh, good God..." Mitsui muttered under his breath as he watched the younger boy's reaction.  " The idiot is in love...  Will I ever again, in my life, lay my eyes on something as pathetic as Sakuragi Hanamichi is at this moment?"

Miyagi came up to stand beside Mitsui, a smirk on his face.  " Well.  This ought to be interesting..."

Haruko just smiled.  As though Hanamichi wasn't acting at all strange.  " Hi.  I'm Akagi Haruko."


" Trust Sendo to be late on the first day of practices..." Koshino Hiroaki scowled, his eyes trained on the entrance to the gym.  He was too worried to actually listen to the welcome to the Freshmen speech that Coach Taoka was giving.  He had seen the old man's eyes narrow once he noticed that the spiky haired star player of Ryonan was still not there and he was sure that Sendo would be in for quite a scolding once he decided to grace the common people with his revered presence.  " That's the problem with these so called ' Ace Players'.  They all act like Prima Donnas.  Sendo thinks that he can just get to practice any time he bloody well feels like it just because he happens to be one of the best players in the team.  Well-"

" Er...Koshino-kun, I think your audience has fallen asleep."  Ikegami Ryoji informed him as he gestured towards the peacefully sleeping dark haired boy sitting beside him.  Rukawa had his head resting against another freshman, Hikoichi Aida, who didn't dare move.  He was a classmate of Rukawa's and had seen what had happened to the unlucky student that had tried to wake him up just that morning.  Needless to say, it hadn't been pretty and Hikoichi would like to avoid the same fate as much as he possibly could.

" Oh, good God.  How the hell can he sleep with the Coach shouting out his little pep talk?" Koshino asked, watching with morbid fascination as a drop of drool made it's way down the boy's slightly open mouth onto the floor.  " That is just disgusting..."

Ikegami shrugged.  " Who knows?  Who even cares as long as the kid is as good on the court as they all say he is?  I've only seen him playing once, against Wako and he seemed to be a natural born ball player.  Only problem is that he seems to be a bit of a maniac.  He spent nearly the whole game exchanging insults with that weird redheaded center that Wako had before..."

Koshino chuckled.  " Do you know that this guy supposedly turned down Mitsui Hisashi's offer to play for Shohoku just because they'd already recruited that Sakuragi Hanamichi?"

" You're kidding, right?"

" No, senpai.  I'm serious!"  Koshino insisted, raising his right hand up as though he were taking an oath.  " See, I'm friends with Mitsui's younger cousin, knew him from primary school, and Mitsui-san couldn't stop going on and on about Rukawa and how he was going to bring him down when the time for the IH preliminaries come.  My friend said that Rukawa actually told Mitsui to his face that he was going to beat him."

Ikegami shook his head at this.  He was amazed that a rookie like Rukawa, no matter how good he was supposed to be, would have the guts to say something like that to one of the best players in the Kanagawa region.  " Well, we've got to give the guy some credit for his guts..."

" Oh, I don't know.  I think the guy is just very, very stupid."  Koshino remarked. " Anyways, maybe with Rukawa in our team this year along with Sendo and Uozumi-senpai, we actually have a chance to be one of the top four teams in Kanagawa..."

" I think that's perfectly possible.  It will be interesting to play against Shohoku again.  Mitsui could only have gotten better after all this time and he was already unbelievable the last time that we played against them."

" Yeah.  I wonder who they'll have guarding Rukawa.  Maybe Mitsui himself?"

Ikegami shook his head.  " I don't think so.  Mitsui already has dibs on Sendo.  Always has and always will.  They'll probably put that new freshman of theirs from Wako on him.  The one  that I told you about before."

" If you two gentlemen would like to shut your mouths now..."  It was only when Coach Taoka spoke that the two noticed that the man had his attention on them.  " Maybe we could go on with the introduction of the freshmen.  Rukawa, would you like to start us off?" Moichi Taoka rubbed his hands together gleefully as he eyed the latest addition to his team.  One that would undoubtedly bring him all the glory that he craved.  There was no response.  Rukawa remained silent except for the occasional snore.

He tried again.  " Rukawa?" It was then that Taoka noticed the small puddle of drool that had gathered on the floor beside the rookie.  He gritted his teeth, reminding himself that it wouldn't be wise for him to blow up at his star on his first day.  He cleared his throat and made his voice louder.  " Rukawa."

Still no response.  Finally, losing his temper, Taoka hurled the towel that he held in his hand at the sleeping form even though Hikoichi begged him to let the guy be.

Rukawa's eyes flew open suddenly and locked on Taoka.  " I will not let anybody disturb my sleep no matter who they are." He recited in his usual monotone.  " You shall be punished." He jumped to his feet and the ensuing chaos that followed as he hurled himself at his new coach made sure that Sendo wasn't even noticed by Coach Taoka when he finally did make it to the practice a whole thirty minutes late.

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