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King of the Court v2 [CH6]

by InuYosha

[Chapter 6]

[True Strength]

"Listen, Fernando," said Horace, "The only way to truly win is to be strong."

"I know, man," Fernando replied, uninterested. The game was already over. The seventh and eighth graders dominated the game again. He was starting to regret joining the basketball team. He was told that Pennel Creek had quite the strong basketball team, and he hoped that in joining it, he could improve and learn from older students.

However, the reality was very different from what he thought. Pennel Creek was simply too carefree. In fact, they had the ability and talent, but they refused to cultivate it and let it grow. Fernando hated words like 'talent' and 'naturals'. Even more so, he hated people who thought they could do anything as long as they were naturals with talent. If the game was easy, Pennel Creek would win in the worst way possible, and if the game was hard, they would lose terribly.

Nothing dominated games more than practice. That was it. And that was why Pennel Creek lost against Forton Middle in the regional tournament, in round four.

Fernando hoped that his older teammates would use the loss as a way to motivate them to become stronger, but instead, they used it to fuel their rage and hatred for the middle school that dared to defeat them. But Fernando already knew that Forton Middle would crush them again this year.

Fernando hated seeing them like that. He knew his teammates so well. He knew that they were better than that, but for some reason, they couldn't get themselves serious. All of them were amazing at basketball, but they didn't have the drive to get better.

Horace was his best friend, and a fellow benchwarmer for Pennel Creek. Like Fernando, he was not very skilled and didn't play very much. Although it was to Horace's great dismay, he had to insincerely apologize to losing teams every game, just like Fernando and all the other bench players.

Fernando despised the way that Pennel Creek played basketball. He himself didn't have very much talent. He was athletic and tall, but couldn't play as well as the older grades.

"If you don't get strong, you can't stop your opponents," Horace explained. The parents in the bleachers were beginning to disperse. The game was over, after all. Fernando felt bad for those parents who had to watch their children demolished like that.

Fernando shrugged, "As strong as the eighth graders?"

"No!" Horace cried, "They're not strong at all! They crushed this team even more so than the last ones. That isn't strength, that just means they don't know how to win! We need to stop this!"

"Oh, look, the game is over," Fernando started walking over to the opposing team's bench.

Some of the opponents from the school called Marble Creek were talking to each other. One was named Michael, and another was Alex. They talked to each other in depressed tones.

Fernando paused for a moment. He stared at each of the player's faces, and most of them were in tears. A few sobbed. He couldn't fathom the reason why his teammates would do this. Crushing dreams. Breaking hearts. His teammates weren't just mean, they were villains.

Fernando said meaningfully, as loud as possible so that they could hear him,"I'm sorry."

But no one heard him.

His voice was crushed by the mocking apologies of his teammates.

. . .

His personal practice was so rhythmic, that Fernando often found himself not paying attention as he shot the ball, staying in the gym very late.

He would grab a ball, jump, then shoot it. Oftentimes, it missed, but that didn't matter. What was important was the refining of his form. That was what Horace told him anyway.

Grab, jump, shoot. Grab, jump, shoot. Grab, jump, shoot. Fernando practiced endlessly. Teammates and friends began to grow concerned for his health. He didn't mind them. Even his parents started to talk to him about it.

Eventually, Fernando gave in to their requests, but the work was already done. He had become a very talented shooter. His form was virtually perfect, his range extended to the three-point line, and his height allowed him to brush past most blockers.

Grab, jump, shoot. Grab, jump, shoot. Grab, jump, shoot.

Nevertheless, Fernando did not slow his practice by very much. Instead, he abandoned other extracurricular activities to improve his sleep schedule.

Grab, jump, shoot. Grab, jump, shoot. Grab, jump, shoot.

His range surpassed the three-point line, making him a very valuable asset to Pennel Creek. Fernando practiced every day of the week. He neglected studies, and spent his days in solitude, perfecting his basketball.

Grab, jump, shoot. Grab, jump, shoot. Grab, jump, shoot.

Everything was perfect. Fernando was the ultimate sharpshooter. He was on a different level than other players, and he was strong enough to destroy teams however he liked. His range was approximately five feet behind the three-point line.

Yet he felt something was missing.

. . .

After Fernando arrived in eighth grade, he found solace in basketball. Simply put, he realized that others could play how they wanted, but if they didn't play their best, then they would be crushed. Fernando's perfect accuracy was more than enough to destory his opponents.

"I hope those idiots can see me now," Fernando mutters under his breath, thinking about the previous players for Pennel Creek who never played seriously. Fernando knew he was getting better. In fact, many teammates praised him as a genius. He was the captain, and he practically ruled over the team. Of course, he was a benevolent ruler. He liked to let the others score ocassionally, of course. But he especially liked when they praised him.

That made him feel good.

Horace, however, didn't often show up to practice lately. For some reason, he seemed to be lacking in his love for basketball.

The day before, Fernando asked Horace why he wasn't coming to practice, and Horace simply replied that he 'wasn't strong enough'. Fernando inwardly raged at this, but didn't argue.

. . .

"We have a match against a team called Marble Creek in a week. Our basketball needs to be nothing short from perfection!" Fernando said. The others looked at him dejectedly. Fernando frowned. It seemed that more and more of them were acting distant from him. He had no idea why they would do this. He was their star player. He was the reason they could win. Why weren't they happier?

Interestingly enough, Horace was present that day. He usually showed up once or twice a month, but Fernando allowed it because Horace was a good friend. Having no coach, but simply having an advisor was hard. Fernando struggled to keep up with all the hardships that came with being a player-coach. He had to train everyone, and keep them in check. He also had to work out practice game schedules, because the advisor didn't really care.

"Fernando!" Horace called out to him after practice.

"What is it?" he replied, walking over to him. It was about half and hour after practice. To Fernando's surprise, Horace was shooting. Horace usually never showed up, much less practiced extra.

Horace paused and said slowly, "Are you sure you want to play Marble Creek?"

". . . yeah?" Fernando said, confused, "What about it?"

Fernando started picking up stray basketballs, placing them on the rack. Lots of the players didn't ever bother to clean up after themselves. Fernando decided he would lecture them about it next practice.

"You don't remember?" Horace stared at him with an astonished look.

"Remember what?"

Horace bit his lip in frustration, "No . . . why did you of all people have to turn out like this?"

"Turn out like what?" Fernando asked, still unsure of what Horace was trying to tell him.

"I'm sorry, Fernando," Horace turned away in the direction of the door. He grabbed his backpack, and started to run.

Fernando blinked, running after him "Sorry for what?"

"The only way to win is to be strong," said Horace sadly as he neared the door, "You know that, don't you?"

Fernando chased after him, shouting, "Wait! Wait, what did I do?"

Horace opened the door and stopped. He placed the ball on the ground and stared at Fernando with the same look that he used to have, years before. The same helpless and disappointed look that Fernando himself had.

"Fernando . . . I don't want to play with someone like that again," he said, pointing to the second place banner on the gym wall. The banner that was won two years before, back when the oppressive upperclassmen were still around. Horace slammed the door closed, leaving Fernando alone in the gym. Fernando gave off a low growl. He had no idea what is going on, or why Horace was mad at him, but he did know one thing:

It must have been the fault of Marble Creek Middle School.

. . .

Colin looks closely at Fernando during the time-out. After four of the six minutes in the quarter, Pennel Creek had already dragged out a nine point lead, and it isn't looking good for Marble Creek, who only had one offensive possession during the entire game.

"Don't frown," Spencer pokes Colin's head, grinning. Colin whirls around and recoils, but Spencer doesn't seem to notice.

"You're gonna get a permanent crease on your forehead," Spencer laughs, squishing the skin on his forehead to make it look like he's angry. Colin finds that it looks strange, because there is no way that Spencer Brennan, in any universe, could be angry.

"Alright," Colin smiles back. Spencer's grins are so different from Chris's. Chris has a mean, vitriolic smirk, but Spencer's grin is light-hearted and innocent.

If this world was a bunch of Spencers, then it would be a lot more peaceful, Colin thinks, analyzing Spencer closely, Maybe his personality is a factor to his athletic ability?

Colin slaps his face hard, Shoot! I'm thinking like a nerd again!

In reality, Colin only began playing basketball in elementary school to not appear dorky, but eventually, it grew into a fervent passion for the sport, although Colin still can't really tell if his passion for the sport is real, or if it's just as much of a lie as the rest of him.

"Uh, dude, are you alright?" Spencer asks, poking Colin on the forehead. Colin senses that this action is most likely less an act of concern, but more an act of checking for creases.

"Yeah, I'm fine," says Colin as he waves Spencer's hand away.

As if to sound tough and excited, Colin shouts, "Alright, I'm pumped! Let's play!"

. . .

Spencer frowns, staring at Colin, who is walking onto the court in a jovial manner. Of all the members of Marble Creek's Basketball Team, Colin seems to be the weakest, although he puts up a front to appear strong. Spencer doesn't really understand the details of why Colin is this way, or what his motives for doing so are, but he does know something.

"We aren't gonna lose!" Spencer shouts, even louder than Colin. He gets a few strange looks from the audience and reddens.

Spencer sheepishly walks onto the court and looks over at Pennel Creek's bench, and what he sees makes him unfathomably afraid.

The hot-shot shooter from the other team is staring at Alex. It isn't just a stare. It is a look of absolute contempt and hatred, as if Alex had done something terrible to him, and the latter is back for revenge. The boy's fists are clenched with rage, and then he gives Alex a sinister smile, although Alex's back is turned and doesn't notice. Spencer himself backs up a few steps in fear.

Alex . . . be careful . . .

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1105 Reviews

Points: 90339
Reviews: 1105

Mon May 23, 2022 11:27 am
IcyFlame wrote a review...

Hello I'm back for more! (apologies for all the notifs you're gonna get from me, haha xD)

I really like that we've got some background on Fernando, although I wonder if it hasn't come too soon? I feel like I want to dislike him for a bit, before understanding why he is how he is, does that make sense? It does help put it into perspective though - every team has a team they are desperate to beat so for PC they probably don't care about Alex's team at all.

Fernando hated words like 'talent' and 'naturals

This is an interesting line, and makes me wonder if it comes from a place of jealousy because he's had to work to be good?

Although it was to Horace's great dismay, he had to insincerely apologize to losing teams every game, just like Fernando and all the other bench players.

This is what Alex was referring to before, right? Is this a basketball thing or a Pennel Creek thing? It doesn't seem very sporting? Fernando doesn't seem to like it, but he also seems very mocking towards Alex/Chris etc. so I'm finding him hard to place right now.

The interaction with Horace was definitely confusing and I don't quite see how we got to the idea that Marble Creek had ruined everything so that part threw me a bit. The rage Fernando then shows towards Alex feels weird as he was perfectly normal to him earlier... mocking, yes but I didn't see any hatred. Perhaps we could have a hint of that before so it flows into the flashback?

I'm now a bit worried for the team, I hope Fernando doesn't have anything planned! I feel the need to tell these boys that it's just a game xD

Hope this was helpful!


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1203 Reviews

Points: 119190
Reviews: 1203

Sat Feb 05, 2022 10:51 am
MailicedeNamedy wrote a review...

Hi Yosh,

Mailice here with a short review! :D

That was a cool chapter. I really liked the intensity of the flashback and like how you get out of the way and introduce us to other characters.

I have to say I was a bit confused at first when we saw Fernando as a main character here, but the more I read on I liked the idea of it and I think you definitely proved an interesting approach with the last chapter and this one.

You introduced Fernando and the opposing team superficially in the previous chapter and now you go deeper into why this team always wins. I like very much that from the superficiality of the opponent there is now a certain sympathy, and where you can definitely draw some parallels with Alex. I think it's good that you create an opponent where the reader can also understand where the motivation comes from.

I think that's a way you can create very interesting characters and I hope you keep it up. I'm curious to see how you always create new motivation so that it doesn't become too monotonous.

In terms of style, I like (and I know that now italic = flashback) that you use a different approach and create a writing style that is a bit faster. My only advice would be, as in the previous paragraph, to try to tailor the flashbacks to the character. Here with Fernando it was a quicker tone, partly with an obsession in it, where you show how he changes, but now there is a danger that you could repeat that, so I would advise you to create the characters even deeper and more developed from now on, maybe partly with very extreme drives and motivations, otherwise it can come to a kind of rip-off.

I think you are now on a good path to not only present Alex's team well, but also the other side. Definitely a surprising result.

Other points I noticed while reading:

The game was already over. The seventh and eighth graders dominated the game again.

I would rewrite the second sentence and leave out “the game”, just adding “it”.

Grab, jump, shoot. Grab, jump, shoot. Grab, jump, shoot. Fernando practiced endlessly. Teammates and friends began to grow concerned for his health. He didn't mind them. Even his parents started to talk to him about it.

From that point on, I thought we went into a kind of spooky flashback. I don't know how to describe it directly, but for me, this is the break for Fernando, between his old self and his new self. I think this is the tiny highlight in this chapter.

I was very surprised by the chapter and liked that we got a flashback. Something like that can be inserted more often.

Have fun writing!


InuYosha says...

Thanks for the review! I'm glad you enjoyed the flashback!

If you're hoping for more stuff like that, I don't think you'll be disappointed, because most of Alex's teammates still have a lot of backstory to cover. :D

including your onion breath suggestion

i will not let it go to waste, don't worry

-crabe yosh

I hope the onion breath guy is from an exchange class from Romania. :D

May you never steal, lie, or cheat. But if you must steal, then steal away my sorrows. And if you must lie, then lie with me all the nights of your life. And if you must cheat, then please, cheat death.
— An Unknown Bride, Leap Year