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20 July 2012 @ 06:23 pm
Proof [01/05]  
Before you protest on why I'm not updating Change Me today, let me explain first. :) No, I'm not abandoning it, in fact, I'm still working on it right now.

This fic idea just hit me a few weeks ago and I figured that I''ll write something Olympic-related for our hardworking Sakurai-caster. :D It's just a mini-series, just five chapters and the updating will span until the Olympics ends (August 12). So I might update subsequently with Change Me.

So here it goes! :) As usual, this is is unbeta-ed so tell me if there are any errors and mistakes. Comments, suggestions, reactions and criticisms are gladly welcomed.

Title:  Proof [01/05]
Pairings: Sakurai Sho X Original Character
Genre: Real life, Romance, Fluff
Rating: PG
Word Count: 3,228
Summary:  Sakurai Sho finds love in the most unexpected time and place.
A/N: A tribute for Sho’s third time as NTV’s main caster for the Olympics, written entirely in his point-of-view. Title is inspired from Arashi’s newest Olympic song Akashi.

[First Serve]

“I used to worry about who I’ll be when I grew up. How much money I’d make or someday I’d become some big deal... Sometimes the thing you most want doesn’t happen, and sometimes the thing you’d never expect to happen does…You meet thousands of people and none of them really touched you. And then you meet one person, and your life is changed forever.”

I heard that line once in certain Hollywood movie I watched and then it makes me wonder and ask, “When will I ever say such kind of thing? When will I find someone who’ll make me feel that way?” A part of me wishes to quickly look for that one person who will change my life, like that guy did in the movie. Meeting someone unexpected and how that person will eventually turn out to be someone really special, someone you’d risk everything for, someone you’d hope to be with forever until you grow old. I long for such person to come.

Almost all of my friends are either married or in a serious relationship, I’m probably the only single guy in the bunch, the only guy without a partner beside me every time we would all meet up for meals. I would usually find myself sitting alone in one corner, listening to them talk about their wedding plans or their married life or their kids and I would just smile and stay silent because I don’t have anything to share. Talking about the Arashi members would probably bore them and they’d think, “How pitiful this single man is.”

And that’s when I started thinking how unfortunate I am. In the love department, that is.

There are days when I would intentionally look for someone, that office lady across the street or that girl on the train bobbing her head to the music on her headphones or that girl walking her dog in the neighbourhood park. But you know how they say that the more you look for that person, the more you’ll never find her. It’s best to let it be, that person will come when you least expect it.

And true enough, I found her in the most memorable summer of my life, at a place and in a time where I never expected to meet her.


*early June 2012, Tokyo, Japan*

“I fear for you, Sakurai-kun. She is known for her powerful serve.” My stylist, Kuri-chan, looked at me with worried eyes as she handed me a tennis racket. “Did you know that at this year’s French Open, she served the ball so hard it practically buried itself on the clay?”

I chuckled. I know about that incident, I even reported about it on News Zero once. “Good thing we’re not playing on clay, huh?” I smiled before exited the van.

The sun is shining brightly after days of cloudy mornings and drizzling nights, today is a perfect day to play on the open court. I sway the tennis racket on my hand as I approach my segment producer, Kagawa-san.

“Have you ever played tennis before?” He asked warily.

I shake my head. “Not seriously.” That tennis exhibition in one Shiyagare episode surely doesn’t count.

Tennis isn’t really famous sport in this country and I preferred playing a more popular one as a kid.

Kagawa-san clicks his tongue. “Okamoto-san gets really serious whenever she holds a tennis racket. When Masu Taichi-san interviewed her last time, she tired him out on the court, the staff almost brought him to the emergency room.”

“Ehhh?” That’s all I can say to react.

“She’s that passionate for the sport.” Kagawa-san pointed out as he pats my shoulder.

A van hastily arrived in front and I can sense my own staff hurrying behind me. A man seated on the passenger’s seat quickly slide the side door open and Okamoto Kaede gracefully emerges from inside.

Okamoto Kaede, twenty five years, a Japanese professional tennis player ranked number nineteen in the world. If you ask me about her last year, I wouldn’t be able to answer anything, no one can probably answer for that matter, expect for those few tennis maniacs out there.

But Okamoto Kaede made a noise earlier this year when she reached the quarterfinals in the Australian Open, making her rank thirty-seven notches higher than her previous standing, the best finish a Japanese player made in the women’s singles competition in nearly five decades. She continued making headlines when she entered the semi finals in the French Open just last week, her brilliant performance earned her a spot in the top twenty world ranking.

And now, Okamoto Kaede is slowly becoming a household name, the same way that tennis is gradually getting the interest of the younger generation.

Kagawa-san instantly approaches our guest with a friendly greeting and I dutifully followed. Okamoto-san is wearing a yellow and blue tennis jersey dress and a sports jacket. Her hair is neatly braided back like usual, making her face even more prominent than it already is.

Okamoto Kaede reminds me of Matsumoto Jun sometimes. She has a small chiselled face, a pointy nose and a very enticing pair of eyes. Her complexion is very fair, although she turned a bit tanned since the start of the tennis season. She can easily pass as the female version of Matsujun, in my opinion.

“It was nice to finally meet you, Okamoto-san.” I greeted politely, bending in a small bow. She bowed lower and the corner of her lips curled into a small acknowledging smile, without a single word.

I fixed the collar of my tennis shirt as I try to shake off whatever awkward tension in the air. It is known that Okamoto Kaede gives off a cold impression amongst co-reporters, the young tennis star barely smiles on and off court. I just never knew it would be this intimidating once I personally encounter her.

“Let’s start right away, people! Kaede still have a practice after this. She’s not as free as you think she is!” A middle-aged man announces, clapping his hand on my staff to quickly start the interview. My poor staff nervously scrambled upon hearing his dominant voice.

Of course, I would do some researching before conducting an interview and according to my research, that man is Okamoto Shindo, Kaede-san’s manager and coach, also, her father. He is a former professional tennis player but his career ended even before it flourished when he suffered a serious knee injury, preventing him from engaging in rigorous sports activities.

Since then he trained his little daughter for the sport, with hopes that someday she would redeem his broken dream. I wonder how Shindo-san feels now that his daughter is finally getting credited with all those years of training and hard work.

“Okamoto-san…” I was about to begin my interview when both father and daughter looked at me. I bit my lip and a flushed of embarrassment is shown on my face.

“Kaede is fine.” She said, walking over to my side. I nodded my head in understanding.

We entered inside the arena and I can see the tennis court is already geared up for us. Kaede-san is still wordless, she is just following my lead on where to go.

“We’ll conduct the interview first, would that be okay?” I told her. She’s holding her racket and I am holding mine but I’d like to follow what’s written on according on my timetable or else, I’ll be out of sync for the rest of the day.

“That’s okay.” She answered as she removes her jacket, still very thrifty with her words.

I lead her into one of the empty seats of the arena, the sun brightly shining on the hard ground tennis court and ahead of us are ten thousand empty audience seats.

“You can take your time, Sakurai-san.” I heard her say, fixing the little fabric left to cover her thighs. “Don’t feel pressured by my father’s incessant babbling. Just ignore him like I do.”

I don’t know if I’ll laugh or not, if she’s talking seriously or it’s just a joke because Kaede-san remained in her usual poker-face. 

“Y-y-yes. Thank you.” I nodded, consulting my notes to hide my uneasiness.

 The camera crew signalled an okay sign and Kagawa-san is already counting down with his fingers for the take. I settled in my seat, smoothed down my clothes and fixed my hair, making sure I shake off whatever left of my discomfort earlier.

And finally, I began my opening spiel.

I was rather glad when we started. Because in front of the camera, I can pretend like I’m in not nervous or uncomfortable around her intimidating presence, I automatically switch on to my newscaster mode and takes control of the atmosphere.

Okamoto Kaede has her camera mode switch on as well. She would smile whenever I ask her a question, although most of the time it looks a bit forced. She would answer seriously and lengthy, every word thought of and spoken with caution.                                                                       
Fortunately, the interview ended on a good note. She’s unexpectedly easy to talk to, in front of the camera, that is. We talked about how she started playing, growing up competing in junior tennis matches around the world and being home-studied instead of attending a regular school, how turning pro changed her life and her thoughts on competing in the Olympics for the first time. Her staff strictly reminded us earlier to only stick to tennis-related safe questions, we even sent a questionnaire draft ahead of time. So basically, everything was rehearsed on her side, thus, a smooth-sailing interview.

I have nothing against that, to be quite honest. Arashi does that sometimes as well and it saves a lot of time. But Okamoto Kaede seems a bit uptight in this situation. I feel like she’s following a script that she didn’t write and it conveys on her facial expressions. I don’t want to assume prematurely but I think she’s being forced.

It has been decided ahead of time that we’ll have a one-on-one tennis match and we immediately proceed to the court after the interview. Kaede-san appears way energetic once she steps on the court, doing some stretching before we start. If the interview on the seats earlier is my comfort zone, this court is hers.

I was a bit confident earlier about this match but now I’m starting to get tensed. First of all, I don’t know how to play tennis and second of all, I’m afraid her powerful serves will hit me straight to the face.

 “Have you ever tried playing tennis before, Sakurai-san?” I heard her asking from the other side. I was surprised that she actually initiated a conversation.

“I haven’t.” I answered with a timid laugh.

She curled the side of her lips. “Then I guess I have to go easy on you.” She said, dribbling the ball up and down.

“If you please do so.” I answered with a small bow. I gripped on my racket and bends down, preparing for her first serve.

Kaede-san bowed as well and she quickly threw the ball up and hit it hard with her racket towards me. Everything seems too fast for me to see and before I knew it, I have my back turned on her as I cover my face with my hands and the ball she threw is rolling off outside the court.

The cameras are still very much on us and I’m pretty positive that it will go on air.

“That was too fast and powerful, Okamoto-san!” I yelled, eyes wide shifting on her and the ball on the ground. She may be calling the shots with this game but we are still being filmed and I’m very good on pretending in front of the cameras. I should not look intimidated.

I saw her smirking as she produces another ball on her pocket. She throws it up and down the ground again.

“Can you please go easier than that?” I tried bargaining, bending down as I await her second serve.

I saw a small nod and then she serves the ball towards me again and this time, she hits it softer. I was able to receive and return it to her, we even made a small rally.

We played for over thirty minutes, with Kaede-san being considerate to her very amateur opponent, she serves the ball softly and carefully after seeing how terrified I am during her first serve. She still remained impassive though and she wouldn’t speak unless I talk to her, sometimes, she wouldn’t even answer at all.

Kagawa-san calls for the end of the filming and immediately Kaede-san’s staff throng around her, getting her precious tennis racket and carefully putting it inside its case, wiping off her sweat and handing her a bottle of water.

Her staff are a bit protective, I noticed. They refrain everyone, sometimes even my own staff, to come near her, even the fans that came to take a peek at their idol, not allowing any camera or anyone within reach. In addition, Kaede-san’s staff are always on stand-by, just a few inches away whenever she needs something, they are like robots, handing her whatever she needed in an instant. In my four-year experience in interviewing sport players, this is probably one of the most memorable. Kaede-san looks more like a pop idol than a tennis player with how her staff treats her delicately, like a fragile girl. Probably, this is her father’s orders and the staff are afraid of him and his domineering character. The man isn’t really likable on first meetings.

“Thank you again, Kaede-san.” I gave her a smile as she passes beside me. “I wish you luck on the upcoming Olympics.”

She gave me her icy smile. “My pleasure. I’ll see you in London, Sakurai-san.”

And with that she left, with her staff tailing behind, not bothering to hear whatever I have to say in reply.

*26 June 2012, Arashi’s dressing room*

 When I entered the dressing room, the other members are already inside doing their own thing. Nino is slouched on the csofa, playing with his DS while Ohno sits beside him, interestingly watches on the small screen. Matsujun is glued on his mobile phone on the other side of the sofa while Aiba is sitting on a single chair, remote control on hand as he watches on the small TV by the corner.

With the London Olympics around the corner, every television channels would have some sort of a primer featuring the players representing the country. This time, NTV is doing a special on Okamoto Kaede and they’re showing some clips on my interview aired last week on News Zero.

“You started playing tennis at a very young age and you’ve competed in numerous tournaments around the world for the past ten years or so... How do you feel now that you’re stepping on the Olympic stage for the first time?”

My caster-mode voice echoed through the room, it even got Matsujun’s attention as he look up on the television.

Okamoto Kaede gave the camera her memorable icy smile. “Olympics have always been my goal since before. It’s been a long time coming considering that my whole life revolved around tennis. When I was young, I pictured myself competing in grand slam finals before I turned twenty but I never achieved it. I haven’t reached a single grand slam final at twenty-five… I was struggling to climb the ladder since I turned pro and the past four, three years have been the hardest to the point when I thought of giving up.

But the year 2012 gave me a lot of surprises and I have to say this year is a thrilling and exiting ride for me… Wimbledon will be coming first before the Olympics and I hope I can bring the momentum from the French Open to the Wimbledon court and hopefully it will continue until the Olympics.”

They showed some clips of her tournaments as the narrator speaks. And then they showed another clip of my interview again. My nervousness and tension that day didn’t show up on the camera, thankfully. My smile even looks real compared to her.

“What are your goals or did you have some special preparations for the London Olympics?”

“My training time is doubled since the start of the year and my exercise and diet is more comprehensive this time, stricter as well. Everything is rigorous and tiring. I was told that the Olympics only come every four years, I may not be able to compete on the next one so I’m giving my all for this... And my goal… Of course, the gold medal.”

 Finally, the members opened their mouths to speak.

“That girl is tough on herself.” Nino commented, his gaze never left his DS but he is listening on the television.

“She doesn’t even smile.” Aiba joins in.

“Did you have a hard time interviewing her?” Matsujun glances at me, I can see that he’s smirking.

I think I did great covering my apprehensiveness but Jun maybe saw something else.

“What made you ask that?” I replied. Still, I try to deny it.

“I just heard that she’s hard to work with.” Matsujun said. “Well, it’s not really her but her staff and her father…”

“Where did you hear such thing?” Aiba curiously ask.

And then Matsujun began explaining. “You know this make-up brand I’m endorsing? Supposed to be, they want to get her to endorse it since she’s so famous now, but her father manages her and he’s really difficult to talk to. He demanded a high talent fee, way higher than mine. His demands are way out of their budget so they decided to keep Kiritani Mirei for next season’s new advertisement.”

 Well, I’m not the only who witness how displeasing her father is.

“But isn’t she a bit sulky as well? She barely put a smile on her face.” Aiba puts in. Nino and Ohno are laughing amongst themselves while playing.

“She’s too serious and engrossed on her craft.” I finally put in my comment. “Every waking day is like a battle for her.”

I heard Matsujun clicks his tongue. “She’s too uptight. She needs to know how to have fun…” He is shaking his head.

“You say that, Jun-kun but you’re the most uptight person in this room.” Nino mentioned and Matsujun’s eyebrows are crossing at him.

Ohno started laughing, not at the game on Nino’s hands but on his comment. “Matsujun, you’re just like Okamoto Kaede when you are at her age.”

“That was before. I’m different now.” Jun defensively retorted.

“Remember the days when Matsujun is always moody? Everyone is afraid to cross his path.” Aiba joins in the teasing.

This kind of Matsumoto Jun bullying wouldn’t happen during that time, I thought. Matsujun would be chasing and smacking them in the head.

“Oi! That’s totally exaggerating it!” Matsujun snapped at Aiba as laughter erupts in the small dressing room with Matsujun outnumbered three to one.

Just a little tennis notes.
*Tennis is played
three surfaces, either on clay, grass or hard court.
*The tennis grand slam tournaments are the Australian Open, French Open or Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open. These are the four major tennis tournaments and the world's most important annual tournaments in terms of ranking points, prize money, public attention and strength and size of field.

Why tennis, you ask? It's the sport I'm most familiar with, I've been watching and playing tennis since I was young. I can write about the sport confidently among other sports I know. :)

Where Dreams Can Be Reality: nadegatajapanmikaa22 on August 7th, 2012 09:40 am (UTC)
I tried, as much as possible, to get into his mind in the best and realistic way I can. And it's really a challenge writing in first person. Hmmm, the MJ thing... I didn't intend to subtly hints her as a female MJ, it's just that Sho reminds him of her. It's also my way of telling the readers she have this sort of character, seeing that this is written as a first person narrative, we can only get to see things through what Sho see and thinks. :)))

I will update this one and also Change Me, just not sure when. I'm still talking a breather. Heehee! :p Though, I don't think I can finish the rest of the four chaps in time for the Olympics closing ceremony like I what I said above.

Aruarasukishi on August 7th, 2012 12:00 pm (UTC)
I guess it makes more sense when you think of it that way ::) Thank you for that!

Never mind the upload sched now. Just please stay safe ::)
Where Dreams Can Be Reality: nadegatajapanmikaa22 on August 7th, 2012 02:07 pm (UTC)
Luckily for me, I live in the higher areas of Quezon City. So we're not flooded at home. Stay safe and dry! :))