From the day they met, Yukimura Seiichi knew he was in love. He was rather perceptive as a small child and was in tune with his emotions from a young age, The warm, fuzzy feeling in his chest, the sweaty palms and his mind going blank at the sight of that person were textbook symptoms of a crush in the making. The experience was exhilarating. The only issue was the young boy was falling for someone that did not fit the image of an innocent childhood love.
Sanada Genichirou was a heartthrob to literally no one with his permanent scowl and overly serious demeanour. He was awkward to speak to, especially if he was trying to communicate with any woman who wasn't his own mother, sister-in-law or teacher. His own awkwardness even caused him to mistake the young Yukimura for a girl; a mistake that was quickly corrected but had caused a lifetime of teasing from the same boy he thought he was not. Other than his inability to communicate with the opposite sex, Sanada had many redeeming qualities that detracted away from this. He was strong-willed, diligent, honourable and fiercely loyal. When people saw through that exterior, there were many things to fall in love with.
It all started at their after school tennis club back in elementary. After the brief awkwardness caused by the same stoic fool, the two soon became inseparable. No matter the game, the two would always be playing with or against each other. They made a dynamic duo that complimented each other's strengths and weaknesses on the court. When they weren't destroying the hopes and dreams of other children their age, the two would often be found studying together. Sanada would always be following Yukimura like an obedient dog, which was cute and endearing when they were younger, but now seemed rather odd as fully grown adults.
When they both entered Rikkai's middle school division together, they knew they would find themselves on the nationally-ranked tennis team. It was their joint dream to be the champions and they would stop at nothing until that dream came true. When they won their first, Sanada and Yukimura believed that no one could stop them from taking the next one either. When they claimed their second title, the idea of making Rikkai the three-time champions felt more like an obligation they had to fulfill than a dream they wanted to achieve. Then came the collapse of the team's leader, which sent the entire team into a calm chaos.
Yukimura's mysterious illness put a damper on their plans. When he first became ill, no one knew just how serious his condition was nor how long it would take for him to recover, if that was even possible. He was mistakenly diagnosed with Guillan-Barre due to the initial symptoms that were present, but the more the condition progressed, the less likely that it was an autoimmune disease. Despite never truly figuring out what the condition was, an insanely risky surgery ended up curing him, which he was more than happy about.
Throughout the entire ordeal, Sanada was there for him. He was the shoulder Yukimura cried on. The person he would verbally abuse with his frustrations. The person who saw him at his weakest and worst state without running away. Sanada held his hand when Yukimura got anxious about a test. He fell asleep by his bedside on nights where his friend was too scared to be alone. He sacrificed everything to support the frail boy, which only caused Yukimura to fall even deeper into the rabbit hole he was already in.
Even after recovering completely, Yukimura was still terrified. He was slowly starting to accept his feelings for his best friend, but that acceptance also opened up the anxiety-inducing floodgates of unhealthy thoughts. Why did he love Sanada? Would it be better if he wasn't a boy? What would he say or do if he found out? Day in and day out, those thoughts would permeate through his head until he felt his stomach flip inside out. The worst part was the fact that he had no one to talk to about these feelings. For all he knew, his friends would likely not take the news well and the only person he could trust with his thoughts was the last person who should ever know.
Atobe Keigo was a man who always got what he wanted. As the only son of an extremely successful Japanese business mogul, there was nothing he couldn't obtain with his absurd amount of wealth. He was always spoiled for choice and knew he was in an extremely privileged socioeconomic position from birth. That privilege also came with high expectations and rigid rules that could not be broken. As free as he was to act flamboyant and flaunt his wealth, he was also equally trapped by his duty to uphold his family's honour and to not deviate from the affluent societal norms.
From a young age, he was always trying to prove his worth. With tennis, he had to be the best at it. With academics, he had to be the top of his class. He had to pick his friends carefully. Every action he made had to be calculated, which was exhausting for such a young mind. His arrogant personality stemmed from these hardships as he quickly learned that great people were the only ones allowed to talk about their achievements. The more he achieved, the worse it got. At first, he felt that the words were empty, but, by now, it gradually morphed into his natural speech. When he entered middle school in Japan, this way of life got him off on the wrong foot with too many people. Fortunately for him, his vast wealth and second-to-none tennis skills and intelligence were enough to shut down his harshest of critics. It was an isolating life, despite the number of people he interacted with on a daily basis. He knew that his "perfect" image, there was something abnormal about him. He just didn't seem to feel any particular way about anyone when everyone else around him seemed to know exactly what they wanted. Atobe wanted nothing more than someone who could impress him and catch his fancy.
Enter Tezuka Kunimitsu: the stoic and brilliant captain of Seigaku aiming for the big leagues in professional tennis. Tezuka was everything Atobe wished he was and more. He didn't have his destiny set in stone and predefined by people who had good, but misguided, intentions. He wasn't expected to uphold any image other than the one he set out for himself. He was unreasonably skilled at everything he did because he could; not because everyone expected him to be. To Atobe, the bespectacled boy was free to mess up his life however he wanted, even though everyone knew that he would never do such a thing.
Like many people who fell for him, Atobe was immediately blown away by his handsome exterior. His soft, chestnut brown hair and tight-lipped expression were both alluring and mysterious. His commanding presence and tall stature made him stand out from many. He was fiercely patriotic to his school and team and selfless to the point where it was reckless. Playing against him for the first time in the Kanto Regionals of their final year in middle school awakened something within the self-proclaimed King. He wanted to destroy Tezuka for being everything he wished he was. Even after pushing his arm to its limit, Tezuka would not back down from the marathon of a fight. Seigaku's captain was going to see it through to the end, even at the cost of his future.
Atobe could never understand why Tezuka went through such extreme lengths for the sake of others. He was willing to kill his entire future of being a professional player just so his second-rate middle school could have the chance to win a national title. This was something Atobe would never do, even if it would solidify Hyoutei as one of the greatest schools of all time. It infuriated him that he couldn't figure out why. The more he obsessed over him, the less aware he was of everything else. He hadn't realized he was completely smitten by the thought of being with Tezuka Kunimitsu.
The King and Child of God never liked each other. Rather, they couldn't stand the thought of being alone in a room with each other without trying to choke the life out of the other sod. They had known each other since they were young due to both of their fathers' lines of work. They pretended to get along in front of their families and in front of their friends and rivals in the tennis circuit well enough to win acting awards hundreds of times over. Everyone, save for some snooping data collectors, were blissfully unaware of the cold war being fought in front of their eyes.
Yukimura would always beat Atobe any day of the week in tennis, but Atobe had the advantage on academics and business over him. One was frail and unassuming while the other was stalwart and conceited. Yukimura absolutely despised grand gestures that were an obvious waste of money. Atobe couldn't stand overly proper people who hid their true natures behind a facade. They were both opposite sides of the same coin. They were both in love with a heterosexual man and had no idea what to do about it.
Now that high school was upon them, this tense relationship was only going to get worse. As they struggled to understand their simple infatuations for a man in their lives, the two esteemed tennis team captains found themselves falling victim to circumstances beyond anyone's control. With emotions running high and life slipping through their fingers faster than they realized, the two couldn't help but wonder why life was so cruel. Their waltz towards destruction was going to hurt a lot more than just themselves.