*Author's Note*:

Hey everyone! So happy that you guys decided to give this a chance! This is going to be a multi-chapter fic that was kinda just a plot bunny I had I'm fairly new to Kuroko No Basuke and I kinda just read majority of the series in a couple days (I'm dead X.x). I don't know who actually wins in the Winter Cup (I'm at the beginning of the grand final) so the info you read about the results in here are false. Alrighty thanks for reading again! Enjoy!

Kuroko P.O.V.

"I'm gonna die!"

The corner of my mouth twitched in a suppressed smile as I examined my team mates, the lot of them looking on the verge of passing out. I absentmindedly continued to dribble a basketball leisurely with one hand, my other rising to wipe away some of the sweat that had gathered on my forehead.

"Riko… why…?" Hyuuga huffed, hands braced on his knees as he tried to regain his breath. The effort was in vain as, a moment later, he flopped back onto one of the bleachers, his face coloured a pretty vicious shade of red. "It's getting too hot to do that much running!"

"I don't see why you're complaining," the coach of Seirin, Riko Aida, hummed, examining her clipboard before scribbling something down. "You were able to handle that work load during the Winter Cup. Don't tell me you guys put on weight after the competition?"

A chorus of protests arose from the statement but they were fairly half-assed, the team far too tired to put up much of a fight. The coach merely chuckled and left them to recuperate, calling out that they only had ten minutes before training started up again. Load groans followed but she merely ignored them, coming to stand beside me with a small smile on her lips.

Riko had seemed to grow a lot since our near loss at the Winter Cup. Her hair was still short but now it seemed to curl gently around her softer features, her eyes warmer but far wiser. She had grown a few centimetres and, even if it brought a tiny blush to my face, even I had to admit that her chest had gotten slightly bigger. Every day she looked more and more like a young woman.

And yet she still coached like a demoness.

"What about you, Kuroko?" she asked gently, that same smile on her face as she teasingly poked my side. "You haven't put on any weight, have you? You still look as if you might fly away if a gust of wind sweeps past us."

"I'll take that as a compliment," I murmured back, eyes darting over to the others before coming back to rest on her face. Before the Winter Cup, we had been around the same height but now she was much taller, her head having to tilt down to look at me.

"We haven't had a good chance to talk yet," she said after a lengthy pause, lowering her voice so that the others didn't hear. "I know that… what happened at the competition affected you the most."

I shrugged my shoulders, brushing her last comment off with a wave of my hand. "Don't worry," I answered immediately, unconsciously dribbling the ball a little harder. "We'll win next time."

"Definitely," she agreed quickly, a grin snapping into place as she threw an arm around my shoulder. "Especially now that we know you can score baskets too! We'll have to up your training and perhaps get you some sessions with my father and then make sure we do gym sessions and-"

"Run, Kuroko! Quick, before she signs your death warrant!" Captain Hyuuga called, laughing a second later as Riko tossed him a withering glance.

"You're all jerks," she huffed in annoyance, crossing her arms and pursing her lips. "I don't know why I bother! That's it! All of you have triple workloads!" she exclaimed, stomping her foot down.

That sent the entire team into anarchy. I could only watch in faint amusement as the 'too-tired-to-move' team leapt to their feet and yelled in defiance. The coach merely waved the complaints away, crossed her arms and glared at them, daring them to defy her.

To this day, not a single person had beaten her when she took on that stance.

I watched as Kagami ran an annoyed hand through his hair before meeting my eyes, a tired smile twitching on his features. He moved over, a towel around his shoulders which he used to dab at his forehead.

"They'll probably turn on you once they realise Riko isn't going to change her mind," he commented, watching the scene alongside me.

"If I minded, they wouldn't be able to find me," I answered.

He nodded in understanding before a sly grin stretched across his face. I stared at him warily before he suddenly moved to steal the ball in my possession, spurring me into backing up and trying to evade him. The two of us laughed as a sudden one-on-one competition arose between us, the small battle ending pretty quickly as I was overwhelmed by Kagami's pure strength.

"Can't even go easy on me just this once?" I huffed, sweat making my bangs stick to my face.

"Aren't you the one who said you didn't want anyone going easy on you?" Kagami shot back, easily dunking the ball and allowing it to roll away from us. I watched it move, something akin to contentment filling me.

Why was I feeling this way?

None of it really made any sense. It had been only a couple weeks since Rakuzan had beaten Seirin by a one-point difference. I knew I should have been upset, we all should have been, but for some reason none of us had ever felt more capable. It was like a switch had been turned inside of each and everyone one of us, the realisation of just how close to #1 we came spurring us into trying even harder to get there next year.

But still…

I had never been one to be satisfied in my position; that's what Teiko had done to me in Middle School. Being 'okay' with my stature was no okay. I had to grow, had to advance and evolve into something that was so unbeatable that even the heavens would shake at the sight of me. Since I had never achieved that, it meant I could never be content. That's why this feeling made me feel rather uneasy.

But it was nice nonetheless.

"You heading down to Maji Burger after training?" Kagami asked absentmindedly, glancing over the scene to see whether our Senpai had been killed yet.

"Hm… I suppose so," I mumbled, trying to remember if I had anything on later in the afternoon. When nothing arose, I nodded my head, shooting my partner a look that silently asked if he would be joining me.

"Don't even need to ask," he joked, rubbing his stomach seconds before a large grumble could be heard. "I'm always hungry."

I smiled in understanding before Riko called us back over for the second half of our training. The next hour was fairly horrific and, regrettably, I found my old habit of vomiting afterwards trying to rear its ugly head. I forced the nausea down, determined not to show that weaker side of myself to Seirin, and focused back on the task at hand.

By the time it finished and we had all been allowed access to the changing room, the entire team had to practically drag ourselves to the showers. I clutched at my stomach, secretly glad that I had only eaten the bare minimum for breakfast that morning as I went to go take a shower. The hot water was glorious on my aching skin and I unconsciously began to stretch out my muscles, my fear of being stiff and sore tomorrow outranking my tiredness.

"I thought Coach was tripling our training?" Kagami commented as I walked out of the shower, towel hanging around my hips.

"You're joking," Izuki replied, jaw falling open as he stared in horror at the younger player. "You're not even tired?!"

"I had a big breakfast."

"What does that have to do with anything?!"

"Whoa! Calm down, you lot!" Kiyoshi laughed, good naturedly patting the provoked Izuki on the shoulder as he strode past. He had just stepped out of the shower, his muscles glittering with water and making his hair stick to his scalp. "I didn't think it was that bad either."

"You're both monsters!"

I chuckled lightly as that same content, happy feeling filled my chest as I walked over to my bag. I took out a pair of comfy shorts and a simple black and blue shirt, getting changed as I listened to the others bickering nonstop. The topic of conversation was a normal one that followed any of our training sessions and I couldn't help but notice that, despite us having lost the Winter Cup, nobody seemed overly discouraged.

Win or lose, we'd had fun.

My pleasant reflection was interrupted as I noticed that there was an uncomfortable weight in my pocket. I frown and reached in, blinking in surprise at finding that I had forgotten my phone was there. The little L.E.D. at the top was flashing and I frowned, wondering as to who would be sending me a text message. I lived in an apartment alone with parents who only ever sent me messages for special occasions so they were out of the question. I was at training so no-one in Seirin could have messaged me.

Ogiwara and I weren't in contact anymore.

Who else was there that had my number?

As soon as the question presented itself in my head, I knew the answer. My original happiness slowly began to ebb away as I stared at the dark screen, my hands so stiff that they couldn't even make a move to try and confirm my suspicions.

"Oi, Kuroko, you alright?"

I glanced up from my phone, my blank face having already snapped into place to hide the emotions that had tried to leak out. Kagami was staring at me in concern, his words having spurred the others out of their conversations to stare as well. I swallowed before forcing a nod, tucking my phone back into my pocket for the moment.

"Yeah, fine," I answered evenly, repacking my bag. "Just remembered I was busy after all. Sorry, we will have to visit Maji Burger together another time."

"Oh… yeah, sure," Kagami said, a little surprised. He shrugged his shoulders before moving back off to his own things, exchanging words with Kiyoshi and Hyuuga.

Without a backwards glance, I picked up my bag and moved back off into the deserted gym, my phone already back in my hand. I felt my heart sink as I saw the message was indeed from Kise, the pure ominous feel about it making me feel as if this was not actually from the blonde teen but from someone up higher.

Someone with red hair and oddly coloured eyes…

Upon opening it, I found I was not disappointed. The text may have been from Kise but it was all Akashi's words; simple orders that told me where we were all going to meet this afternoon. It wasn't a request, oh no, this was an order. Kise was just the messenger and I had to remind myself of that as bitterness threatened to overtake my mind. Snapping my phone closed, I shoved it grouchily back into my pocket before moving out of the gymnasium towards the street basketball court that I had been summoned to. I knew this wasn't going to be good and yet I couldn't stop myself from going.

Akashi's orders, even to this day, were absolute.