During the week leading up to the tournament, Sakura and I practiced badminton every day. Of course, we couldn’t practice for a long a while because of school, but I think I was able to teachher the bare minimum of what she needed to know. She had been taught the rules roughly in PE and other classes, so it was much easier to teach her.

“So, do you have any questions about what we’ve done so far?”

“Right. I would like to know how you were so good at badminton, Kanata. And I don’t know if you’re insulting me or what, but every time you throw a shuttle back to me, you repeatedly rotate the gut in the air and catch it with your other hand.”

“Um……it’s just happened?”

“My heart almost broke a couple of times, you know !?”

I tried it because I thought it would be cool, but it didn’t seem to go over well with Sakura. On the contrary, the number of steps was also restricted from the middle, but it would be safer not to say this.

By the way, if Sakura keeps this up, she shouldn’t lose to an average opponent. I had already covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time, including small techniques, places to aim, and even tips on how to serve. The only thing left to do now was to leave it completely up to her.

“Then I’m going to get a good rest today. Even though I’ve been busy lately.”

“I understand…, are you busy?”

“I’m doing some research on something. I hope my bad premonition doesn’t come true.”

Anyway, I walked with Sakura on the way home that day and we parted ways. But I still had some work to do. It’s called investigation.

“It’s fine. I believe…..”

By the time I went back home, it was already midnight.

The day of the tournament. I met up with Sakura and headed for the public gymnasium. I was going to meet up with Shinya kun there. But it might be too late.

“Ugh, I`m getting nervous.”

“I’m sure you’ll be fine. You did your best in the past week, Sakura and even if you lose, it’s just because the opponent is stronger….”

“You’ve never lost a game before, have you !? No, I’m nervous regardless of whether I win or lose.”

Sakura has never competed with anyone before. That’s probably why she’s even more nervous. Well, I guess this is where the master comes in?

I stopped once, at that moment, Sakura also stopped walking. Staring at Sakura’s gaze as to why she stopped, I started talking about what I was thinking.

“Hey Sakura, let me tell you something, this challenge itself is reckless in the first place, right?”

“Eh, reckless…..”

“Because you’re not in a badminton club, nor you’re a professional, Sakura. And only practicing in a week, there’s a limit to how reckless you can be.”

“Ugh, why do you say that?”

I’m sure Sakura knew too. At that time, she accepted Shinya kun’s proposal because of the mood and atmosphere, but she realized on the day that her ability wasn’t there. Sakura leaves only half-baked results.


“But even so, you didn’t run away until today. It was the same from the time you asked me to be my apprentice, but you never run away, Sakura. At that point, you should be proud of yourself, right?”


“So go ahead and challenge your limits. Knowing how far you can go here is the kindling that fuels your passion to move on. At least the Sakura I know have a passion like no one else.”


“Well, if you’re going to go through all this, go ahead and have some fun with it. You won’t get to experience something like this very often.”

When I say that, Sakura’s cheeks turn red for a moment and she smiles wryly. It seems that I have reached her heart. By the time I was about to take the next step, the trembling in her body had subsided.

We then headed for the entrance to the gym where Shinya kun was probably waiting for us. Then Sakura whispered to me.

“Thank you so much, Kanata.”

“If you think so, go ahead and do your best.”

”Fufufu, I’m going to win anyway !”

Sakura, who’s fighting spirit must have been ignited, is determined to do so, and I push her back. As I was doing so, I saw Shinya kun at the entrance of the gymnasium. He also spotted us and waved to us.

“Hey, this way ! Hurry up, the registration desk is about to close !”

Hearing his voice, Sakura and I started running at once. It seemed that we had been talking longer than we had expected. Sakura managed to get through the reception just in time, but by this point I was feeling a bit tired.

“Well then, Kanata, we’ll be over here !”

“Good luck, both of you !”

[ [Yeah.] ]

I split up with them and moved to the audience seat. As I expected from a local tournament, there were not many people there to watch. Looking at the participants, there was a surprisingly wide range of ages. The youngest were elementary school students, and the oldest were seniors. Apparently, this tournament does not divide the competition by age group, but instead decides the opponents by drawing lots. It seems equal and unreasonable…….

“Oops, those two are in different places.”

Apparently, those two won’t fight each other in the first match. Looking at the tournament table from a distance, the two of them will be fighting at the top of the list. That is, the final match. I don’t know if they will be able to stay in the tournament until then, but I would love to see them play.

“Hmmm, who should I root for when it comes to the finals?”

I guess it would be Sakura, but Shinya kun is a friend of mine, too. I can’t make a difference there, and I don’t intend to discriminate. Well, anyway, let’s think about it after the final match between those two has come.

I checked the rules again based on the pamphlet for this tournament.

“The rules are the same as the normal rules, 21 points first. However, only one game is played and there’s no deuce.”

In other words, it was a head-to-head, hard-fought match. Originally, the player who wins two out of three games wins, but by making it a one-game match with no deuce, it seems that each player can easily fight to the best of their ability. Some people may get nervous because they don’t have any time left.

“Well, for Sakura, it’s better that way.”

Sakura is good at short-term sports. My experience so far and what happened just the other day proves it.

On the way home from badminton practice, there was a time when we got tangled up in a drunkard, but at that time, Sakura instantly scooped his leg and threw him down. That person must have been very unhappy, but he was a good sandbag for Sakura.

“Oh, Sakura scored first right off the bat.”

In no time at all, the first round started, and Sakura made some sharp shots against her opponent. However, the opponent also seemed to be an experienced player and not only kept up with Sakura’s moves, but gradually started to push Sakura. But Sakura was not to be defeated by such a thing.

“She just landed a smash.”

“She’s only a little girl, but she’s good.”

“Oh, she netted the next one!”

Sakura has the ability to make small moves and to make decisions. Sakura had accumulated this kind of power from her past experiences. That’s why she would not be defeated by an ordinary opponent.

“In the first round of Block A, the winner is Shinkai Sakura !”

“I did it, I did it, Kanata !”

And Sakura happily waved her hand at me. Come to think of it, this might be the first time for her to win in a tournament.If so, this must have been an important moment for her.

“I’m really proud of you, Sakura.”

I waved my hand back at Sakura as I thought so. Then Sakura was scolded by the referee to move quickly. What are you doing, Sakura?

The game went on and on with a lunch break in between. Sakura and Shinya kun each won smoothly, and they really went on to the finals.

I was inwardly excited, wondering if this was the [let’s meet in the finals] kind of thing. And I had already decided which one I was going to root for.

(I’m rooting for both of them on the outside, but in my heart, I’m rooting for Sakura.)

As soon as I had made that decision, it was finally time for the game to begin. The two walk up to the referee.

“The final match is about to begin ! The representative of Block A, Shinkai Sakura! ! The representative of Block D, Shishiyama Shinya ! Both of you, please take your positions.”

The two of them faced each other on the court under the instruction of the referee. They both smile and grip the racket tightly.

“Shinya, I’m not going to go easy on you !”

“I’m going to give it my all, too !”

And so the match began. The first to serve was Sakura. After taking a deep breath, Sakura vigorously served just short of the line. However, Shinya kun hit it back with ease. The first point was taken away from Sakura who was caught off guard.

(As expected, Shinya kun is good at badminton.)

Every single movement is refined and precise. He must have been playing badminton for years. With his ability, he should be able to achieve good results at the national level.

“Ugh, the real ones are really good after all.”

This time, Sakura didn’t use the net in like she did in the first round. Apparently, when she won the second round, she started to hate using it because it was a little cowardly tactic. I think it’s a great strategy.

“Then let’s keep going !”

And so began Shinya kun’s unparalleled performance. He would drop the shuttle aiming at a position where she could never hit it back, or make a cut shot after faking it. At the very least, this was not a game for beginners. That’s how wary Shinya kun must be of Sakura.

“I definitely won’t lose !”

Shinya kun’s caution was correct. When Shinya kun scored five consecutive points, Sakura dared to raise the shuttle high in the air. It was an erratic move, but it was a familiar sight to Shinya kun, who had played it many times in club activities.

“Okay, I got it !”

Shinya kun then leaps high and launches a smash. But in the meantime, Sakura had moved close to the net and was setting up her racket.

“Got you !”

Was that a push, perhaps? At first glance, it looked like a reckless act, but that stance splendidly captured the shuttle that Shinya kun shot.

“What !?”

Shinya kun was surprised and tried to deal with it, but the shuttle had already fallen to the ground with great force. The crowd was getting more and more excited as Sakura stopped Shinya kun’s onslaught. I, too, was getting a little excited.

“I told you, I won’t lose !”

“I will win !”

At last, the two of them got serious. While Shinya kun attacked with his skill, Sakura pursued with her racket. And they scored many times against each other. The scene gave the people around them a sense of oppression, as if they were in a gunfight on the battlefield.

At last, they tied. Both of them scored 20 points. In other words, the winner was the one who took the last point. Sakura took the serve.

“Haa, haa, here I go !”

“Ugh….come !”

Sakura glared at her opponent with sharp eyes even though she was out of breath. Shinya kun also had a calm impression, but he was completely hot-blooded.

“C-come on !”

Then, Sakura, with all her might, unleashes her serve. But of course, Shinya kun hit the shuttle back with even more force. This exchange continued for several tens of seconds.

Finally, Shinya kun came to decide the match !

“Take this !”

“What !?”

It was the net-in that Sakura had done in the first game. The moment it hit the net, the shuttle dropped vertically.

“I’m not giving up yet !”

Sakura slid in like she was flying and stretched her racket toward the net. Her determination not to lose was obvious even from this far away position. And….

“The winner, Shishiyama Shinya !”

Sakura’s passion did not reached. However, Sakura’s face, which should have been defeated, was somewhat refreshed, and she didn’t seem to be holding back tears. She just had a smile on her face.

“Ehehe, I’ve lost. But I won’t lose next time !”

Sakura was looking ahead to the next round. I don’t know if she was hooked on badminton, but she still seemed to have developed an obsession with the game.

“Thank you, Shinkai san. You were so strong !”

“If we have another chance, let’s fight again.”


And so the two shook hands. At the awards ceremony, the winner’s medal was placed around Shinya kun’s neck, and Sakura and I celebrated with applause.

On the way home. The three of us were at a rest area behind the gymnasium. This time I bought the two of them drinks as my treat. It was a small gesture, but it was the least I could do.

“Both of you did a great job. Shinya kun was amazing, and Sakura, you did amazingly well in just one week.”

“Fufu, Thank you very much. I’m glad to hear you say that, even though I didn’t win.”

“No, you’re a tremendous threat to be able to catch up with experienced people in a week. You both are amazing !”

And so we talked about our day. We talked about our struggles and how good it felt to be victorious. Both of which could only have been experienced today. And as it was getting dark, we decided to part ways.

“See you at school the day after tomorrow !”

With that, Shinya kun left. He left with his medal still around his neck, looking very happy. It must have been an unforgettable memory for him.

“Sakura, you can cry if you want to, you know?”

“No, it’s certainly frustrating and I was about to cry, but you also said at the beginning, Kanata. It’s reckless to challenge a pro in one week.”

“Well, I guess so.”

To be honest, I expected it to end like this, but I didn’t expect Sakura to stick around like that. I’m always amazed at how much Sakura has grown. Perhaps, I can’t afford to be careless anymore.

“This was a good experience for me. Thank you for your support, Kanata.”

“Hm, I was cheering for both of you, you know?”

“No, you looked frustrated every time I was getting beat up. Even though you’re among the crowd, you’re standing out, you know?”

“It’s all in your mind.”

Geez, Kanata, said Sakura. Surely this event will be one setback for her. However, this will not make Sakura back down. Whether it is badminton or something else she will try in the future, I’m sure Sakura will be able to achieve good results.

(If that happens, my role will be over, too.)

The reason I feel sad when I say that in my mind is because she has become so important to me. Well, I’m convinced that there’s no master who doesn’t think his pupil is cute.

(I can leave that thing alone for a while, too.)

Kanata decides to let a little weight off his shoulders. I was worried about her until yesterday, but seeing how she is today, I thought she would be fine. Right now, let’s just watch the growth of my apprentice.

And so they will continue to walk together. Proudly and without regret.

But they do not know. That this badminton tournament was the turning point that led to that incident…….

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