Summary: It was just her luck that she passed by the basketball gym at the worst timing, and had the courage to barge into the beast's lair. Akashi Seijuurou has locked himself up and accidentally gave the key to a stranger. Sakurano Reiko has zero intention to get caught up in the drama that has encapsulated the basketball club, unfortunately, there was no escape for her now. (AkashixOC)
Disclaimer: I don't own KnB.
Chapter 1: Eroica I
Orange streaks of light stretched across the skies in the far horizon, signalling to the imminent evening.
It was another long day at school for Sakurano Reiko. Yet again, Reiko has found herself staying back in school way beyond the curriculum hours, and this was all because of one Kise Ryouta. She walked through Teiko's courtyard, cerulean blue eyes laden with tiredness, as the early autumn breeze swept up some of her long raven locks. Raising a hand, she combed back the loose strands, and tucked her hair behind her ears to reveal a fair face with delicate features. It was a combination that could be considered attractive by Japanese beauty standards.
They needed to stop getting her to fill in for Kise. It was getting ridiculous, really, the number of times she had been forced to fill in for the absence of the wildly popular model from his school committee duties since the beginning of the school year, simply because that guy had too many photoshoots to tend to. Why would he join a school committee in the first place if he didn't have the time to commit himself?
His fan girls must have known that joining the same committee as Kise wouldn't earn them any brownie points, if the fact that she was the only person from his class who was also on the Health Committee was any indication of girls' wisdom. For some reason, it seemed only logical that she would be willing to cover his duties because everyone should be smitten with the oh-so-glorious model, who also happened to be a starter for the acclaimed Teiko basketball team. It was almost too much honour concentrated on a single person; if there wasn't Akashi Seijuurou for comparison.
Reiko paused at the sudden cacophony, averting her eyes to the source.
The basketball gym. She shouldn't be surprised. Having established the source of noise, Reiko shrugged it off and continued walking.
Bang! Tweeaaak – THUD!
That was loud. Startled, Reiko ceased movement. What… exactly was happening in there? Once again, she stopped in her spot, this time curiously regarding the gym. Rumours have been going around about the recent hospitalisation of the first string coach, and there were hushed words about the disorder that has ensued. If the words were true, she could imagine the chaos the club must be in.
It would probably be best if she simply continued going her own way. Reiko knew – she always knew what was considered politically correct, but knowing was often different from acting on it. Her cousin frequently told her that she was naive, and her foolish actions didn't do her academic achievements justice.
Why do you insist on acting against the better of your judgment, Reiko? He once asked, and she had remained quiet back then, not challenging his assertion of what was the better of her judgment. There were two weighing scales within her, one in her brains, the other in her mind. The brain was logical, cold and pragmatic. The mind was willful, a complicated bundle of philosophical notions which represented her beliefs.
In many ways, Reiko was an idealist, and her values contradicted her logic.
Because of that, her brain and mind often formed conflicted, ill-defined judgments. Most of the times, she would end up discarding all of that and simply follow her instinct. Instinct stemmed from the mind and was guided by the brain. It acknowledged both sides, and helped her to stay within boundaries.
But instinct stemmed from the mind. Much as she would like to deny, her mind was dominant, and right now, her mind was… curious. She should probably get out of the habit though; curiosity killed the cat, after all. Not all things that rouse curiosity should be pursued.
… Such was the thought going through her mind; yet, before she knew, she had her hands on the gym doors, and the next moment, she was already pushing it.
She should get her brain and mind to operate on the same frequency someday. Reiko sighed wryly for the umpteenth time and slipped into the gym, squirming in the unexpected darkness.
She heard heavy breathing. Soon after, her eyes accustomed to the darkness, and she saw him.
Him. The one person she wouldn't have expected to see practicing by himself after school hours.
"Akashi… Seijuurou?" Reiko murmured in quiet disbelief at the sight of the dishevelled redhead slumped on the floor. His hair was slick with sweat, sticking to his fair face. The dignified manner he typically carried himself in had completely melted away – if anything, he looked almost vulnerable.
His head snapped up at her voice, as if breaking out of a trance.
She took a step back when he stared at her through sharp rose-red eyes, his eyes – his eyes were burning, filled with wrath and fury, those irises had contracted and they narrowed so much that he seemed vicious, feral even.
He looked nothing like the person she had become accustomed to seeing during her time in Teiko. Akashi Seijuurou was someone whose very existence could drive a person into depression. He stood at the top of Teiko's social hierarchy, and it was safe to say that he was unparalleled by all. There didn't exist anyone in Teiko who could hold up to him and combat his social standing – because he was a synonym of perfection.
First in their cohort, president of the student council, captain of their nationally-acclaimed school basketball team... his list of achievements could go on and on. It certainly didn't hurt that he was strikingly good looking, was a complete gentleman, and supposedly came from a very well-to-do family.
Swallowing in her throat, she took another step back when she noticed his surroundings. The gym… was in a wreck.
Akashi sat amidst a mess of basketballs, an overturned ball cage not far off from him. However, those weren't what caused her to back off from him.
It was the fallen basketball hoop that lay in between them, the fallen basketball hoop that served as a barricade somewhat for her from him.
She suspected it was also this same object that was behind the loud sound which drew her into the gym.
"You shouldn't be in here," he lowered his head again and murmured quietly, voice cold and still as death. He was nothing like the warm, amiable person she had heard about in rumours.
For the first time in a long while, her brain and mind concurred, and her instinct told her to leave. To get as far away as possible.
"Yeah, that's true… I'll get going, then," she responded awkwardly, ready to exit the gym. It was then she noticed a glisten on Akashi's arm from the scarce, dim light. It wasn't the silvery shine of sweat, but crimson.
Reiko could recognise blood when she saw it.
"You're injured," she blurted out, and immediately regretted it.
"You will have matters more severe than my wellbeing to be concerned about if you opt not to leave now," he said smoothly, a clear, ringing undertone of warning weaved into his words.
A part of her wanted to leave him there and then. Akashi was being unnecessarily difficult, and she wasn't the most patient person, if she had an ounce of sense in her, she should probably leave that horrible ingrate on the floor, looking broken and clearly shaken by something she was pretty sure she didn't want a part in. A frown emerged across her face.
But there was guilt. She could have just left if she didn't see the blood on his arm, but she had seen it – and she couldn't pretend that she didn't.
No, no, she shouldn't get involved in his problem. Tentatively, Reiko took a few steps towards the exit but her insides lunged as soon as she did that, her conscience was crying out accusingly at her – don't leave him there! Didn't you see his injury!
She stopped on her heels, breathing sharply as she came to a decision in her mind.
She would probably regret this, but guilt wouldn't let her live up to it.
"I have bandages on me," she said as she turned around and walked back.
"You're surprisingly meddlesome. Mark my words you will regret it if you refuse to take your leave now," Akashi's words drifted through the air, muffled by the position he was taking. His face was shielded from sight, and his entire being was enshrouded in darkness.
"I'll leave right after I fix that arm for you," she murmured and gingerly stepped over the fallen basketball hoop.
Just another five steps and she will be within arm's length of Akashi.
"Consider this your last warning. Do not touch me."
Reiko shuddered at the venom his words were laden with. She almost paid heeds to him and backed off, but a moment of silence and two deep breaths later, she took another determined step toward him.
"I'll be quick about it," she promised, and blocked off her rationality that was practically screaming at her to stop as she reached out towards him–
She stopped, again, because he had lifted his head and was staring at her with hollow eyes. His lips were pressed together in an impassive frown, the expression on his face was cold as ice. He seemed like a sword that has been through war and bloodshed; she thought to herself; equally sharp, merciless, and gleaming.
Scary. Intimidated, Reiko subconsciously took a step back, only to lose her balance and trip over her feet.
No! She immediately launched into panic mode, instinctively reaching out for something to grab on. Unfortunately, she caught hold of one.
Clearly, Akashi did not expect her… audacity, as he was easily taken down by her. His eyes widened in surprise when she took him down with her, forcing him out of position as she landed on her bum when she crashed onto the floor.
Akashi's reflexes served him well enough for him to put out his arms and support himself above her so that the incident couldn't get more intimate, but his eyes crashed into hers at an unprepared moment.
Void, ruby reds stared into helpless, sapphire blues that were widened in shock due to their suggestive position.
She couldn't breathe as he hovered over her in a predatory manner. The ruby reds seemed to darken and lighten at the same time. It was as though she was looking at the flickering light from a faulty lamp, the light dwindled and rekindled; his eyes crackled like sparks of fire and they slowly widened to a frightening proportion – like a forest fire, ready to consume anything and everything.
He looked like a beast. He was a beast.
"I told you to be gone," he murmured, lifting his injured arm and leaving just his uninjured one to support himself, "it's too late now." He held her chin as his irises settled back to their normal sizes, only the reds far deeper than before. "What is your name?" He demanded, rather than asked.
She felt horrible. Like she had just released a dangerous beast from its cage.
"Sa, Sakurano, Reiko."
She wasn't usually a wuss, but she was certain anyone in her position right now would be far too frightened to do anything other than answering honestly and truthfully to Akashi.
"Year and class?" He continued.
"Year 3 class B," she answered quickly, barely able to hold her voice together.
"Kise's class," Akashi nodded, finally removing himself from their position. "You do not look like a foolish one, however, should you need a reminder, I will make it clear to you that nothing should be spoken of our encounter today. Now, you may leave, I will see you soon… Reiko." He ended on a low note.
She shivered at the way he enunciated her name.
"Reiko-chan? Are you okay?" Shinjo Etsuko waved her hand in the face of the distracted black-haired girl. "You look pale. I mean, you've always been pale but you know, you look paler than usual," Etsuko commented with a concerned look.
The glazed look on Reiko's face dispersed as her eyes flickered to life.
"I'm fine," she assured her friend, "it's just… I'm worried about our upcoming Japanese History test."
"For real? You need to loosen up a little, Reiko-chan!" Etsuko scrunched up her nose in disgust and exclaimed. "If I were within top 5 of our cohort, I wouldn't be worrying about a test. Ice-cream, goukon, Akashi-kun… ah~ the things I would spend my time on." She counted her priorities on her fingers and sighed woefully at the end.
Reiko smiled feebly in response.
An awkward silence suddenly descended in the air, causing Reiko to be aware that the voluminous chatter in the classroom has subsided abruptly. The moment of silence was followed up with low, even more excited exchanges that drew out an ominous feeling in Reiko. It couldn't be…
But it was.
Her suspicion was confirmed by the smooth, terrorising tenor voice that came from her back.
If it was possible, her face turned even paler.
She had known – she had known that he would find her, he had asked for her name and class – but she hadn't expected him to seek her out so quickly, their run-in happened just yesterday.
"Do you have a moment to spare?"
His polite choice of words was really a deliberate veneer draped over sharp icicles.
"Reiko-chan? Earth to Reiko-chan! Akashi-kun is talking to you!" Etsuko whispered urgently and used the desk as a cover up for her to shake Reiko's arm in excitement.
She was aware of that. She heard him just fine.
Reiko gathered all her courage and turned around to face Akashi before any of her classmates caught on to the strained atmosphere between them. She flinched when she saw his calm, composed red eyes staring holes into her. He had a polite smile put on his face, but his eyes certainly didn't reflect the same courtesy.
"Of course, Akashi-kaichou," she managed to say without stuttering. Kaichou was the most common suffix Teiko's students attached to Akashi's name, for he had been the student council president since his second year. However, girls would typically refer to him as 'Akashi-kun' for obvious reasons.
"This way, Sakurano-san," he gestured for her to follow him, clearly satisfied that she didn't let anything slip. As Reiko left the classroom with Akashi, she shut her ears to the explosion of curious jealousy in the wake of her exit.
They arrived at the courtyard.
"It is unfortunate that you did not pay heeds to my advice yesterday," he assessed her as he spoke, a strange look in his eyes. It was a mix of scowl and reproach, and more subtly, observation.
This must be the first time the Golden Boy of Teiko was showing such an undignified expression on his face.
"I won't say anything," Reiko held her ground and assured him in a haggle to end the conversation.
"As… I have told you. It is too late, Sakurano-san," Akashi shook his head, "but this may be for the better altogether." He fixed his stare on her. "I would like to extend an invitation to you."
"I will not take it up," Reiko shook her head firmly.
"This is a personal request from me," he stated quietly, ignoring her outright refusal, "soon, an inevitable event will occur. When the time comes, I ask that you stay close to me."
Confusion surfaced in Reiko's eyes.
He wasn't making any sense at all. If she were just a little more narcissistic, she'd think that he held amorous feelings for her. To anyone, his words would sound highly suggestive.
He didn't explain himself, merely continued airily, "fill in this form and hand it to me after school. I may not be so understanding in future."
His second sentence was bordering on threat, but it didn't seem that shallow. There was something deeper beneath.
Raw bitterness, she identified, and that compelled her to shut her mouth. Why was Akashi Seijuurou, someone who excelled in all areas, who had the best of all worlds he chose to venture into, showcasing such an emotion?
He was still holding out the piece of paper to her, waiting for her to accept it. Reiko caught a glimpse of the header.
Teiko Basketball Club Application Form
In the position section, a sharp, clean tick was already placed in the box next to 'manager'.
"You're a confusing person, Akashi Seijuurou," Reiko observed cautiously, "it's strange that you would want me to apply to the basketball club at this time of the year."
He gazed at her. "Perhaps, I need a catalyst."
"A catalyst?" she blinked in bemusement.
"Never mind that. I expect to see you at the basketball gym after school, Sakurano-san. Till then," Akashi said and firmly handed the application form to her, giving her no chance to refuse. He lightly inclined his head, and turned his back on her to take his leave.
And that was the last Reiko saw of him for a long while.
This story is posted to seek feedback. Do review and let me know what you think, because I'll greatly appreciate it! :)