Hello everyone (or no one if no one reads this story)! This is another Real story. Like before, English is not my native language, so forgive me in advance for the mistakes. I don't own anything but this story (ask the marvellous Takehiko Inoue). It takes place between the team's splitting and the Mizushima Ryou's arrival. I also don't know the customs in Japan about calling someone by his/her surname or first name.
"Azumi, come on! We're going to be late!"
"Coming, coming!" said Azumi shouts.
"Finally! What took you so long?"
"Nothing, Kiyo, just a few checks before leaving…"
Both nineteen-year-old leave the small apartment and climb in a car, driven by the boy.
"How many of them do you think there will be?" he asks, unsure.
"The championship is very soon… Don't worry, I'm sure everyone will be there."
"I'm not worrying!" he grumbles.
"You sure are not…" his best friend says playfully.
They finally arrive at a gymnasium, where the young man removes his right-leg prosthesis, before sitting in a wheelchair.
Entering the building, followed by his friend, he yells, startled.
"What? No one's here!"
"Erm… Kiyo? We're half an hour early…" his companion states.
"Oh… Well… I thought since we had the gymnasium earlier than usual, everyone would be practicing, taking the most of this additional time…"
"Not everyone is an overachiever like you" comments Azumi softly.
"Hum… Well, since we're here, we might as well begin practice!"
Azumi smiles in front of that oh-so-well-known energetic behavior.
While he is practicing, she goes to retrieve the equipment needed. As expected, the other members of the wheelchair basketball team, the Tigers, come shortly after. Then begins the real training session.
As always, Togawa Kiyoharu, the youngest member but also the most hard-working one, is shouting orders during the whole practice, while Nomiya Tomomi, ex-basketball player in his high school, before being expelled after a motorbike accident involving a girl he didn't know at the time, cheers and gives pointers with Azumi, the manager of the team.
Eventually, after a tough two-hour workout insanely led by Togawa, the exhausted group makes its way towards the locker room.
"I drive you to uni, Azumi?" Kiyoharu asks.
"No thanks. I got…things to do" replies the dark-haired girl, awkwardly.
"You sure?" the young man insists, a bit puzzled by the odd behavior of the one he's known since kindergarten. Him driving her to her lectures after practice is common, he just keeps asking out of habit.
"Yes, I am! I still am allowed to there on my own, am I not?" she almost barks back.
"Erm... OK, I guess"
Togawa knows something is up with his friend but doesn't pursue it.
Once all the guys leave, Azumi allows herself to sigh, relieved.
"I'm not sure if I would have been able to keep a straight face with him during the journey. And if not, he would have forbidden me to get him his birthday present" she thinks.
After cleaning everything up, she locks up the gymnasium and walks towards the nearest mall.
Arriving, she goes straight to the sports sections, asking details to the seller. She can't help but feel a bit breathless by her little walk, though it is common for her to walk instead of taking the bus inside the city. Having all information she wants, she makes towards the old tattoo place nearby.
The place is neat and clean, with only a young blond girl at the desk rearranging files, due to the morning hour.
"Can I help you?" she inquires, all smiles.
"Actually yes. I've been told you know a certain Tora Katsuta…" the team manager asks, unsure.
"I know him well, what do you want from him?"
"Well, I'm a friend of Togawa's and…"
"A friend of Kiyo? You must be Azumi!" exclaims the energetic blond. "Come here, come here! Kiyoharu told us so much about you! I'm Azuza by the way, I worked with Tora before he left for the States, he's a great artist there…"
"Oh, that's…great" Azumi manages to utter, a bit thrown off by Tora's former assistant's exuberance.
"I know! But here I am, talking and talking instead of asking you how I can help! So, tell me everything!"
Hands folded under her chin, Azuza adopts an 'I'm all hears' posture, making the younger girl a bit hesitant.
"Well… Kiyo is turning twenty very soon, and I know Mr. Tora was very important in his life. I mean, he doesn't want to leave the Tigers because the team was created by him, and he wants it to live as long as possible, also, I think we owe Mr. Tora for helping Kiyo just after his accident and…"
"So you wanna know if that's possible for Tora to come back to Japan for Kiyo's birthday, right?" Azuza interrupts.
"I know it can be difficult for him to fly back and all, but I'm willing to pay for the trip and everything…"
"Nonsense!" the blond cuts again. "Tora will be so glad to come back for him. Particularly seeing how he managed to do this well for the team. I know Tora-sama is very proud of him. Moreover, didn't I tell you he was a great artist? He comes back from time to time; money isn't really a problem for him."
"That would be wonderful! Thank you so much" exclaims an enthusiastic Azumi.
"I haven't done anything yet. But give me your number, that way we will be able to plan everything up."
"Sure thing." She scribbles something on a piece of paper at hand reach. "Do you know other people from your former studio?"
"Yes, I'm still in touch with the other two apprentices. Do you want me to give them a call too?"
"Yes, I'd like you to, if that's not any trouble. And then I'll call you back to invite you all to the party."
"Oh! A party! You're so sweet! Togawa is very lucky to have such a girlfriend by his side…"
"Erm…No! I mean, no! I'm not his girlfriend! I'm just… a friend..." stutters Azumi, who grows redder and redder.
"Oh! I thought…" begins Azuza, remembering the times they were all with Togawa "erm… never mind, I'm always assuming things! It comes with the babbling I guess!"
"No… it's ok…it's just that… it isn't true at all. We're just friends!"
The tattoo artist smiles at the vehemence of the statement, but relents.
"It's alright. Then, I shall call you back later?"
"That would be wonderful! Thanks a lot!"
"You're welcome! Bye!"
Satisfied, Azumi exits out the studio to head towards her college.
"I wonder why people always assume Kiyo and I are an item…"
That's for the first chapter. I don't know at all how many of them there will be. Review please!