A/N: I'm baaaaaack. And still as obsessed with KnB as ever. Yup. This fic idea came while talking to someone while I was making a Kuroko amigurumi. Enjoy!
Chapter 1: The beginning of the end
The bus stopped in front of a small building, at the edge of a forest. The door opened to let a line of high school students out, more or less quietly. As his foot touched the ground, Kagami gave a broad look around, taking in the view unfolded before his eyes. The forest spread to nearby hills and past them, sometimes scarce, sometimes thick, making the terrain uneven and perfect for running. Above his head, the few white clouds could hardly veil the bright sun that made Kagami wince as he looked at it. He wasn't sure whether to rejoice about the weather or not; on one side the forecast didn't announce any rain for the entire week, but on the other side it meant that it was going to be quite hot at the training camp. Well, never mind that. They were here to train, not to complain.
"Hey, if you're done daydreaming, move aside. You're blocking the way, Bakagami." an annoying voice drawled behind him.
"Don't call me that, Ahomine!" Kagami snapped back, glaring at the Touou ace who pretended not to see him.
"Now there, don't start fighting when we just arrived." Kiyoshi grinned as he stepped down the bus right behind Aomine.
"What do you mean, 'start'? They've been at it for the whole trip." Hyuuga grunted.
"Well, it put some animation in the bus!" Takao joined in as he hopped down the bus after the Seirin captain. "Right, Shin-chan?"
"I don't have the same definition of 'animation' as you, it seems." Midorima stated with his usual frown, following his teammate. "To me that was sheer annoyance. And why are you holding my arm, Takao?"
"Hm? Because I like it?" the Shuutoku point guard answered innocently.
"Tch, you're quite the annoyance too."
"Come on, stop complaining! We're going to spend an exciting week all together!" Momoi gave a strong pat on Midorima's shoulder. The latter glanced at her:
"Tell me once again what you're doing here, Momoi." he said.
"Obviously I'm here to help the other coaches come up with a perfect training program for you all! Organizing such a camp with all the Generation of Miracles teams was such an excellent idea! Oh look, those are the buses from Kanagawa and Kyoto! So Ki-chan and Aka-chan are already here!"
A bit farther away, the newcomers had gathered in front of the building, sport bags on their shoulders.
"So that's where we'll be accommodated, huh? Not too shabby." Imayoshi commented, examining the two-storey inn. It looked no different from the other places where he had had training camps, except that this one had an outside basketball court. It apparently also had bigger hot baths. Well, it was good thing given that the basketball teams from six different schools were going to camp there. The last thing Imayoshi wanted was to be cramped in the hot baths.
"Alright! Let's get our rooms so we can drop our stuff and start practicing." Kagami said as he started stepping forward, but a small hand grabbed him by the sleeve.
"Kagami-kun, please don't be so hasty. We should wait for our coaches to take care of the rooms." Kuroko said, making the redhead jump.
"Kuroko! Stop popping up out of nowhere like that!"
"I was here the whole time." came the usual, calm answer. Next to them, Aomine snorted.
"I swear your misdirection can be a pain, sometimes." Kagami muttered. "Anyway, what are we waiting for? Kaijou and Rakuzan are here already."
"So there's only Yosen left." Aomine said before turning to a teammate next to him. "Hey Sakurai, gimme food. I'm fucking hungry."
"Y-Yes, right away! I'm sorry you are hungry! I'm really sorry!" the blonde boy hurriedly produced a box of cookies from his bag and put it into Aomine's lazily extended hand.
"Aomine-kun, you shouldn't terrify your teammates like that. It isn't healthy for your teamwork."
"Hah? Who's terrifying here? And don't give me lessons, Tetsu, you know I hate them."
"Doesn't mean you don't need them." Kagami smirked.
"What did you say?" Aomine asked slowly, but he wasn't given the leisure to further his threat as a loud, cheerful voice cut them in:
"Aominechiiiiii! You're finally here! Oh, and Kurokochi, Midorimacchi and Kagamicchi too!"
"What's with the 'too?'" Kagami mumbled. "We all arrived together."
Yellow flashed past his eyes in Aomine's direction. The next second, the Touou ace was suffering suffocation from Kise's strong hug.
"Wh-Kise! What the fuck are you doing?! Let go of me!"
"You know, I asked our coach if we could go in the same bus as you, since Tokyo isn't that far after all. I wanted to do the trip with you!" the Kaijou ace whined, only to have his head hit on by Kasamatsu. The captain dragged him away and bowed slightly to Aomine as an apology for Kise's childish behaviour.
"By the way, I don't see Akashi or any of the other Rakuzan." Kagami noted as he looked around. "Where are they?"
"Oh, they're–" Kise started before freezing on the spot as he heard an all too familiar voice rise behind him:
"Ryouta, what's with all this commotion?"
At the entrance of the inn, arms crossed, was standing the Emperor – namely Akashi Seijuurou. The Uncrowned Kings were there as well, with Mibuchi winking at Hyuuga who immediately turned away, hardly hiding an expression of disgust. Akashi's heterochromatic eyes landed on Kuroko.
"Tetsuya, Daiki, Shintarou. You've come." he stated coolly. "Atsushi should be there soon as well. I'm looking forward to this training camp." he added, and somehow, despite the hot temperature, everyone there felt a sudden chill run down their spine.
With the Emperor here, they were going to suffer, and not just a bit.
Though they had just arrived, the coaches from the six high schools showed no mercy to the basketball players for their first afternoon at the training camp. The program had started with a classical cops-and-robbers game – an idea suggested by Riko – with teams made randomly. The game lasted for two long hours of running up and down the hills in the forest before the coaches called for a break. It was welcomed with open arms by the sweat-drenched and out-of-breath players. However, those who believed they'd be allowed a short snack time saw their hopes crushed ever so quickly when Masako Araki announced they were going to have short basketball matches in the form of a small tournament. This naturally stirred up some excitement among the players.
"Finally! We get to play basketball!" Kagami exclaimed, not caring the least bit that his body was screaming for rest. "We're gonna beat the crap out of everyone! Right, Kuroko? Kuroko? Hey, what's wrong?!"
To no one's great surprise, Kuroko was sprawled on the ground, face down, looking dead.
"Sheesh, his stamina still sucks big time, I see." Aomine commented as he crouched down to poke at the lying figure. The gesture irked Kagami, for some reason.
"Hey, don't touch him like that." he said, pulling Kuroko up on his feet and slipping an arm around his back for support. "Kuroko, are you OK?"
The latter opened his eyes with some difficulty.
"I'm fine, Kagami-kun." he replied, though the way he was leaning against Kagami's arm pretty much showed the opposite.
"You should take a break, Kurokocchi." Kise insisted with obvious concern.
"Kuroko, do you want to rest a bit?" Riko inquired.
"I'm fine." the blue-haired boy repeated. "I came here to train; I can't rest while everyone else is working hard."
"Excellent! That's what I wanted to hear." the Seirin coach clapped her hands. "Then let's get on with the tournament rules." she added, turning to Masako who nodded then cleared her throat.
"The winner team doesn't get anything but the losers will have to run to the town down the road and back here. For your information, the total distance is roughly ten kilometres, and you don't get to eat before you're done. We'll have tournaments like this every afternoon, and every day we'll increase the distance you'll have to run if you lose." the Yosen coach declared, one hand on her bamboo stick that was planted on the ground next to her.
"Does she often hit you with her stick?" Kagami asked Himuro in a low voice.
"Usually it's only Atsushi, when he eats too many sweets during practice." the latter whispered back. Next to them, Murasakibara gave them a quick glance before focusing back on the bag of sweets in his hands.
"I'd say, not as much as your coach. I heard her slaps are quite… powerful."
"Don't remind me." Kagami muttered before grinning: "Anyway, get ready to be crushed, Tatsuya."
"Don't cry later when you have to run while we get to eat." Himuro countered, smiling.
Unfortunately for both of them, it went without saying that Rakuzan completely annihilated the other teams – and without much effort, to add salt to the injury. Riko blew the whistle for the last time of the day, announcing the Kyoto team's complete victory.
"Too bad for you all." Hayama snickered. "Have fun running."
"Don't tease them too much." Mibuchi patted his teammate's shoulder. "Remember they all fought bravely." he added with a hint of emotion in his voice. "But hey, that also means we get the hot baths just for us!"
"It's not like anyone can actually beat us!" Nebuya boasted proudly, both fists on his hips.
"We'll freaking beat you up next time!" Kagami and Aomine countered in unison, before glaring at each other.
"Hey, don't steal my words, Bakagami."
"Right back at you, Ahomine."
"All right, all right!" Momoi intervened. "Don't start an argument here and get ready to run!" she added happily.
"Dammit Satsuki, gimme a break." Aomine grunted.
"Well at least it's only ten kilometres today." Takao said optimistically.
"But that's not fair! Everyone knows Akashicchi's team is insanely strong!" Kise complained. "Not even Seirin managed to beat them. And it's already 8 pm, I'm hungry!"
"Stop talking and run!" the Yosen coach shouted, making everyone jump. "That is, unless you don't want to have dinner."
"Scary, I tell you." Kagami muttered to Himuro as he started running, along with the whole group.
At 11 pm, each team was in their respective rooms – the girls in a separate one – and ready to go sleep after quite an exhausting day. In the Seirin room, Kagami stretched his arms and yawned loudly.
"Damn Akashi and his Emperor's eye. A bit more and we could have made them eat dust." he said.
"I'm not sure what you call 'a bit', but yeah, he's definitely the annoying one here. Man, if the next days are going to be like this, I'll be dead before long." Izuki sighed. "Sometimes I wonder if Akashi's even human. He looks more like a demon to me."
"C-could you please stop saying his name? It gives me the chills." Furihata shivered on his futon.
"You're unlucky he seems to have taken an interest in you, then." Koganei said.
"W-What do you mean?"
"Ah? You didn't notice? He kept staring at you during our matches with Yosen and Shuutoku. I thought he wanted you dead or something."
"Stop scaring him like that, Koga. Look, he's white as a ghost." Izuki laughed. "But I have to admit that Hayama annoys me to no end, too." he added.
"Tomorrow I'll definitely crush that she-male." Hyuuga joined the anti-Rakuzan league.
"Well, we had fun, that's what matters!" came Kiyoshi's usual answer.
"As expected, playing against the Uncrowned Kings is a real pain. Right, Mitobe?" Koganei asked his neighbour who merely nodded.
"Everyone here makes it sound like Rakuzan is our only opponent." Kuroko's soft voice joined the talk.
"Well, they are the most annoying bunch of all." Kagami retorted.
"Then I suggest we all go sleep now so that we aren't too tired tomorrow. We have to wake up at 7." Kuroko reminded.
Upon everyone's approval, lights were switched off to welcome the first night of the training camp.
The next day was, to put it simply, close to what one could call hell. The six coaches plus Momoi had come up with different programs for each player, depending on what they needed to improve the most. That included basic running, swimming in the river, tree-climbing, as well as ball exercises. The required physical effort was one thing, but the scorching heat of the cloudless day put even more toll on everyone; no one was complaining, though. In fact, it was rather the opposite. The competiveness that existed between the schools was an excellent incentive enough to prompt them to do better than their opponents. Needless to say, the war between Aomine and Kagami was particularly tough, even with Kuroko and Kise in-between to cool them down.
Lunch break soon arrived like salvation for all the growling stomachs. After making sure the meals hadn't been prepared by either Riko or Momoi, the high-schoolers found themselves eating by a large table set just outside the building.
"I'm looking forward to the tournament this afternoon." Takao commented as he started gulfing down his meal. "You think Seirin will get to play Touou today? I'd like to see a rematch of Kagami versus Aomine."
"I suppose it's a possibility." Midorima answered. "Though those two are overdoing it." he added, glancing sideways at Kagami and Aomine.
"It's actually nice to see Dai-chan like this." Momoi said. "I'm really glad he found someone who could make him enjoy playing again."
"Do you know the match-ups for today's tournament?" Takao asked, but the pink-haired girl merely smiled.
"Hm? The match-ups? Teehee! We have a surprise for you all!" Momoi said mysteriously. "But I'll let you find out when the time comes!"
"Oh come on, tell us!"
"Yeah, I wanna know too!" Miyaji joined in.
"I have to admit I'm curious as well." Imayoshi nodded.
"You won't get anything from me!" Momoi grinned, much to the others' disappointment.
It was only when afternoon came and everyone was gathered that the coaches announced the news.
"There was a change of plans." Harasawa declared, his usual stern face on. Even now, the Touou coach was the only one dressed in full suit, as if insensitive to the heat. "It was observed by several of you that the tournament system wasn't perhaps the fairest way to compete, given the... better aptitudes of some of you here, especially with such short matches." He was polite enough not to look at the Rakuzan team. "That is why a new idea was suggested." He cleared his throat. "From now on, you will have a game of hide-and-seek every afternoon."
Unsurprisingly, the last sentence resulted in cocked eyebrows and round eyes. Fukui raised his hand:
"As dumb as this may sound, but when you say 'hide-and-seek', you do mean that game where people hide and other people find them?" he asked. His coach Masako nodded.
"There is a twist, however." she said. "Only one person will get to hide, and the rest of you will have to find him."
"And the person who'll have to hide is Kuroko!" Riko continued happily. "It will be an excellent training for you all."
"How so?" Hyuuga inquired, dubious.
"For Kuroko, it'll test his ability to use misdirection for an extended amount of time." Riko answered.
"And for the rest of you, it'll be a race!" Momoi continued. "The first one who catches Tet-chan wins!"
"Who the fuck came up with that stupid idea?" Aomine asked.
"I did." a familiar voice rose calmly next to him. Turning to its owner, Aomine grunted:
The latter gazed at the Touou ace, eyes undecipherable. Around him, the other players were wondering whether it was time to take cover or not. However, Akashi merely walked forward to stand facing the small crowd of players, and it was with a composed voice that he spoke:
"As this is a training camp for all of us, I believe we should practice in the fairest way possible for everyone. A hide-and-seek game will not penalize anyone, as it was pointed out earlier. And if you need an incentive, I think it would not hurt to add a reward for the first person who manages to find Tetsuya." he declared, not even asking for the coaches' opinion. "Therefore I decree that the winner will be able to spend the full night with Tetsuya. What you do with him is up to you."
"WHAAAAAT?!" Momoi exclaimed out loud. She wasn't the only one. The last sentence triggered a hubbub of various reactions, globally oriented towards sheer incredulity. Even the coaches looked completely dumbfounded, and Riko was waving her arms everywhere while protesting something unintelligible.
"What the fuck do you mean, Akashi?"
"Akashicchi, isn't that a bit too much?"
"Hey Akashi! Who the hell gave you the right to decide whatever you want with our Kuroko?" Kagami snarled.
"Since when is he 'our' Kuroko?" Izuki whispered at his captain who merely shrugged.
"Kuro-chin, you'd better hide well, then." Murasakibara stated plainly, not seeming to find anything strange here.
"Atsushi... don't tell me that's all you have to say." Himuro sweatdropped.
Curiously enough, the main character involved – namely Kuroko – remained silent. Noticing it, Kagami turned to him, frowning:
"Hey, aren't you gonna say something?"
"There isn't much for me to say, Kagami-kun." Kuroko replied quietly. "It has already been decided."
"Decided? It's just that damn Akashi who spouted nonsense!"
"Kagami-kun, have you forgotten? Akashi-kun's–"
" –words are absolute." Akashi finished, emitting a overpowering aura of domination around him. That, and his blazing heterochromatic eyes were enough to make everyone shut up. Only Liu was brave enough to speak again:
"What if we aren't interested in the reward?" he asked, expressionless as ever.
"The punishment for the losers remains the same as for the tournament." Akashi replied. "Running and no eating until you're done."
"Geez, I still think this is fucked up." Aomine scratched his head, but a mere gaze from the Rakuzan captain was enough to turn him silent and scowling.
"My words are absolute." Akashi declared, and no one dared challenge him.
And thus, on that joyous note, the battle to catch Kuroko started.
Tadaa! Yeah, the idea really came out of nowhere while I was crocheting lil' Kuroko. Opinions? :]