chapter three: imposter
A/N: Ahahahahahaha. Delay? What delay? This chapter was completely on time. It wasn't late. At all. This was all planned out. Yeah. Uhuh.
(Btw none of my chapters are ever beta-ed, and I usually write them at night when I'm sleepy. So there will veeeryyy likely be mistakes.)
All humans must die
Leaving a scar
Like a memory
-Immortal Rain, Ozaki Kaori
Kagami blearily stared at the bathroom mirror as he methodically brushed his teeth. Spitting it out, he rinsed his mouth and splashed water onto his face, trying to wash away sleep with sheer cold. It didn't work. Sighing, he cupped more water into his mouth and began to gargle.
"Ah. Good morning Kagami-kun."
The red haired boy spat out a spray of water and began to choke as he stared in shock at the sudden appearance of the blue haired boy beside him. Kuroko raised an eyebrow at the somewhat disgusting display as the explosion of water and foam flew through him.
"Argh-kah-koff-what are you…I thought I told you not to do that!"
"Greeting you in the morning?"
"SCARING THE SHIT OUT OF ME IN THE BATHROOM!"
Kagami wiped his mouth with the towel and glared at his new flatmate as he strode past him in the corridor. "By the way, didn't you say ghosts don't sleep?"
"Then what's up with that insane bedhead?"
Kuroko stared up in confusion, trying to catch sight of his hair as they entered Kagami's bedroom. "What bedhead?"
"Your hair! It's- just look in the mirror!" The red-head dragged the ghost by the scruff of the neck to the body length mirror hanging in the bedroom. "It's…huh?"
Kagami stared into the mirror. His reflection stared back in confusion, alone. Blinking, he looked down at his left hand, where Kuroko hung, looking much like a displeased cat.
"Could you put me down now?"
The taller boy complied, his mouth still gaping at the new found knowledge that his flatmate had no reflection.
Kuroko began to try and flatten his hair, with not much success. "It shouldn't be that surprising, Kagami-kun. Isn't it general knowledge that ghosts don't have a reflection?"
Kagami scratched his head, looking intently at the mirror. "It's one thing to think about it, it's another to experience it. There's something unnerving about seeing someone there right in front of you but not appearing the mirror." He blinked. "Wait, does that mean you don't even know what you look like?"
Kuroko finally gave up on his useless quest. "I get the general idea. I know the length and colour of my hair, that my skin is kind of pale, those kinds of things. But…" He reached up to pinch his own cheek. "I've never seen my face."
"Ah…I see." Kagami stared thoughtfully at the blue haired boy. "Well, you have eyes the same colour as your hair, and they're kind of creepy. You're facial expression also never changes, that's creepy as-"
Kagami closed his mouth promptly as he felt Kuroko stare at him, displeasure radiating from his eyes at the somewhat insulting description.
"Ah, what if we take a picture, then you could see yourself, right?"
Kuroko blinked at the suggestion. "That…could work. I've tried it once; though not many people have taken pictures in the park, there was this one couple who did, so I photo-bombed a few they took. Unfortunately I never managed to see the pictures." Kuroko thoughtfully cocked his head. "Come to think of it, they never came back to the park ever again."
Kagami fished for his cellphone in his schoolbag. "Eh…I wonder why…Aha!" He held out the flip-phone victoriously. Pushing a few buttons to get it to the camera setting, he waved his flatmate over. "Come on, a congratulations photo for finding out what you look like for the first time."
Kuroko expression radiated cautious hope. "You sure this will work?"
"Well, we'll never know if we don't try right?"
They leaned close, sporting awkward grins and victory signs. Kagami held the phone away from them and pressed the 'capture' button. "Cheese~"
"Okay, let's see-"
Kuroko looked on in wonder as an indescribable scream left the redhead's mouth as he flung the cell-phone away from him in terror. Sighing, he walked over to the miraculously intact device, concentrating to pick it up from the ground where it had fallen after almost shattering the mirror. He turned to regard his hyperventilating flatmate who was beginning to crawl into a ball. "Seriously, Kagami-kun, you get scared too easy." He flipped open the cellphone. "What could possibly be-"
Kuroko stared at the photo, unable to tear his eyes away from the sight. A grinning Kagami took up half of the photo, sporting half a victory sign; he'd only managed to photograph half of his hand.
The other half of the photo…
Kuroko felt himself execute a miniscule cringe. Next to Kagami was a ghostly black and white apparition, its features vague and not entirely humane. He couldn't make out much, but the murderous grin on the blurred figure was very prominent.
Instantly he deleted it.
Flipping it closed, he sat down with a somewhat depressed look upon his face. "That's…that's not how I look like to others…right?"
Kagami quickly shook his head, having somewhat recovered from his terrifying ordeal. "No way. If you really looked like that I'd definitely be dead by now from fright."
Kuroko flipped the phone back open and stared thoughtfully at the main menu display."…By the way, Kagami-kun."
"What time does school begin?"
"I want a vanilla shake."
"Buy me a vanilla shake, Kagami-kun."
The ghost and the boy sat across the somewhat isolated table tucked in the corner of the burger restaurant. A huge stack of hamburgers lay piled like a toppled pyramid on the tray before the red head, who was rapidly gobbling them one at a time like a squirrel.
Kagami sighed, food still in his mouth. "Wh-"
Kuroko looked away in slight disgust, rising to comfortably float crosslegged above his chair. "Please don't speak with food in your mouth. It's disgusting."
The redhead glared, before taking a large swallow. "Why? You can't even eat anyway."
"You bring food and sake for your ancestors, right?"
Kagami glared at him. The ghost boy had surprisingly not followed him to school that morning, instead announcing that he would go explore the rest of the vicinities and find out his new physical limits. Kagami had been returning home exhausted from afternoon practice when he had come across the somewhat frightening view of the dead boy floating in front of Magi burger, staring longingly at the vanilla shake on the menu display. Somehow it had all escalated into them having their (well, his) dinner there. "Are you honestly just going to keep on bothering me until I get you one?"
"That's the plan, yes."
"It's a great plan, except for one minor detail: It isn't going to work." He took another bite off his current hamburger. "Why should I buy something that won't even be eaten?"
"You can eat it afterwards, can't you? "
"No, I refuse."
"Buy me this vanilla shake, Kagami-kun, and I'll get rid of the red marker stain on your bedroom wall."
*A few minutes later*
Kuroko floated a few centimetres above his chair, a glow of utter bliss somehow radiating from his usual expressionless face, doing nothing but staring transfixed at the tall glass of vanilla shake placed before him.
Kagami aggressively bit into his 12th hamburger. "So? Did you find out anything useful about your new boundaries today?"
The ghost boy cocked his head to the side, still staring surreptitiously at the vanilla shake as he answered the red head. "Well, finding my boundaries was my original plan…"
"You…got distracted, didn't you."
"Indeed." A faint smile appeared on his lips. "I used to think my world was limited to the park…but…it really is big, isn't it? So many different things…so many different people going about their varied lives and experiences...all making up this small part of this city." He reached out to grab his drink, frowning slightly as his hand phased slightly through the glass. "The world is large. I can't imagine it."
Kagami swallowed the last of his 15th burger and took a sip of his soda. "You don't have to. Before you know it, you'll have experienced so much that your world will be larger, brighter and more varied than you'll ever have wanted it to be. I'll guarantee it."
Kuroko stared at him. "…I always thought you were just a basketball idiot, but you sometimes you actually seem cool, Kagami-kun. It's amazing."
"Don't stealth insult me, I'll knock over your vanilla shake."
Kuroko protectively pulled in his precious drink towards him. "By the way, did you manage to get to school on time?" He watched as Kagami flinched, a cold chill seemingly settling on the red-head's shoulders.
"…I guess not."
The taller boy depressingly sipped at his drink, swallowing his 19th burger. "…the coach…wasn't too happy about me getting another detention. "
"Hmm, that reminds me." The blue chill seemed to instantly leave the red head as excitement took its place. "It looks like our basketball team is having our first practice match with Kaijou!"
"Apparently one of the Generations of Miracles is in their team….uh I forgot his name...Kida Ryousuke?"
"What's the Generation of Miracles?"
"Eh…I don't really know much, but from what the upperclassmen tell me, there was this really strong team in Teihou...Teirou…Tei-something Middle School. The Generation of Miracles apparently were the regulars in that team…ah, that's right. Furihata gave me a magazine that did an article about them a year ago or something." He fished into the school bag lying haphazardly next to his chair, before pulling out a crumpled booklet and handing it to his floating companion.
"Hm…they must've been really strong if they managed to get such a powerful sounding epithet. I doubt they'd call any team the 'Generation of Miracles'." The ghost lazily spun upside-down as he flipped through the pages of magazine. A lone man on a nearby table stared astounded at the booklet levitating by itself before Kagami slammed it down back onto the table from the ghost's hands.
"Ahahahaha! Look at that! It got stuck on a giant cobweb! Wow! Amazing! Ahahaha…" Panicked laughter left Kagami's mouth as he glanced nervously at the other man until he looked back down towards his food, shaking his head in puzzlement.
A breath of relief left the red head, before he reached out to push the floating blue head back onto his chair by his head. A vein popped as he began to whisper angrily at the unrepentant ghost. "I thought I told you not to freaking do any of that stuff when people can see you! How am I going to explain things floating around to them when they see it right in front of their faces!"
"Eh, sorry. I just forgot." Kuroko's tone did not sound sorry at all as he turned a page on the open magazine now less suspiciously lying on the table. "And you got the names wrong, Kagami-kun. It's Kise Ryouta from Teikou Middle."
Kagami leaned back on his chair and took an angry bite off his 20th hamburger as he shrugged. "Eh…I knew it sounded a bit strange as I said it." He looked up to see Kuroko staring intently at the photos on the page before him. "…what's so interesting?"
The shorter boy blinked he turned the page. "Nothing, it's just…nothing really." He looked up, closing the magazine gently. "Only one of them went to Kaijou High, does that mean he split off from the rest? Or, did they decide not to stay together and split off into different schools or something?"
"All I know is from what the upperclassmen and the coach told me, but…" Kagami frowned and chewed thoughtfully on his 15th hamburger. "They all split up into different schools, I think...yeah. They're all probably playing in different teams." A sudden gleam appeared in his eyes. "That means we can face off against each and every one of the members, one on one."
Kuroko stared at him, unimpressed. "That's a…rare opinion. Most people would be worried by the level of their opponents."
Kagami simply grinned. "The match wouldn't be fun unless we had some kind of impossible challenge right? I'm getting excited just thinking about it!" A group of girls sitting at a nearby table stared at him strangely, and he flushed, lowering his voice. "Of course, it wouldn't really be that fun if we lost." A slow grin spread across his face. "That why, we won't."
"So in the end, you weren't able to sleep a wink last night because you were too excited. What are you, a pre-schooler excited for a field trip?"
Kagami twitched his bloodshot eyes that were ringed with tired black as he trudged past the bus stop to the Kaijou School gates getting ever closer. "Shuddup. You're too loud in the morning."
"It's noon, Kagami-kun. I think you need coffee." Kuroko floated beside him as he walked, his zen expression calm as always. He had come to watch the practice match, 'for support' he said. Judging by the aura of excitement radiating from the expressionless boy, Kagami personally thought he just wanted to watch for his own benefit.
"It's alright, I'll be fine after slapping myself a few times."
"Need help with that?"
"No I insist."
"…Are you still mad about me accidently spilling your vanilla shake last night?" It had been a tragic affair. It was also the only time he had actually seen an actual expression on the normally blank face. Kagami didn't know if he wanted to see that look of horror and rage again in his lifetime.
Kuroko didn't reply, instead somehow managing to convey a glare from his blank expression.
"Seriously? You weren't even drinking it! And besides, you haven't even kept to your side of the bargain yet; that red marker stain is still there!" In fact it had looked like it had somehow worsened, the smudge looking bigger and a brighter red. He suspected foul play.
"Bakagami!" Kagami jumped in surprise as the exasperated voice of Hyuuga Junpei in semi-clutch mode rang out behind him. "What are you doing muttering to yourself back there? You're falling behind!" The rest of the team stood behind him, all having paused in their walking to stare somewhat worriedly at their oddly acting teammate.
A small snicker made him whirl back to face the ghost boy biting his lip to repress another. "Bakagami?"
"Shut up, Kuroko."
Kagami only stared while Izuki-senpai whistled in appreciation at the large gym complex before them. Kaijou's sport and athletic facilities were nothing like Seirin's, just for the fact that it was larger, more varied, and well….larger.
Riko hmmed as she flipped through her phone while the rest of the team just gaped. "I'll have them send someone over, this place is too large for us to find the court and get there on time."
Hyuuga scratched his head. "I thought Seirin had impressive sports facilities as a new school, but this just takes the cake."
"Well, the energy they put in the sports clubs here is on a different level, I suppose."
The team turned to meet a tall boy in a practice t-shirt and shorts jogging up towards them. "Excuse me, are you from Seirin High?"
Riko deleted her half written message and flipped her phone closed. "Yes, we were supposed to be meeting in the gym courts for our practice match…but…"
The boy let out a relieved smile. "Looks like I've found you at the perfect time. The coach sent me to get you guys. Ah, my name's Kobori Hiroshi, Pleased to meet you."
"Riko Aida. This is Hyuuga Junpei, our captain."
Kagami watched the exchange next to the other first years, who seemed to have crowded around something. Letting out another yawn, he stretched his arms, accidently stumbling into Kawahara behind him. "Ah sorry….wait what are you guys doing?" Looking closely, he realised that the first years were all crouched down in a circle around a ball of fur.
"Ah, we realised this little guy had been following us for some time now. From the looks of it, it's lost so we're trying to the owner's details on its collar."
'Little guy? Collar?' Kagami stiffened as he began to realise what that little, white with black spots, wiggling ball of fur exactly was.
It was a puppy. A small, adorable puppy.
It was also (in Kagami's eyes) frickin terrifying.
Kuroko blinked in surprise as a screaming Kagami suddenly grabbed him and flung him between the trembling red-head and the puppy innocently wagging its tail. "Kagami-kun, what are you-" Kagami simply flinched when he realised the puppy has established eye contact with him, and had begun trotting its way towards him, tail wagging happily.
A silent scream leapt out his mouth as a cold chill settled on his shoulders.
Kuroko suddenly felt himself being shoved forwards by the no longer properly functioning red-head, towards the small puppy. His feet had tripped over themselves somehow, and he found himself stumbling past the adorable pet and towards one of the first years watching Kagami's somewhat hilarious reaction. Expecting to phase through and fall to the ground, he raised his arms to protect his face.
Kuroko blinked. There was no impact. He hadn't fallen. "Huh?" And his voice was different…
Izuki stared at the panicking Kagami crouched in the corner, muttering unintelligible gibberings to himself as he covered his ears with his shaking hands, pretending the cute dog was not indeed a few centimetres behind him, panting excitedly and happily wagging its tail. Riko beside him twitched, the scary shine she got in her eyes whenever she saw something adorable beginning to manifest.
"Hm…you know…it's like that…right?"
Hyuuga beside him nodded, the same look of dull surprise and vague discouragement that adorned the self-proclaimed pun-master's face on his own. "Yeah, I know what you mean."
"I mean, when we first saw him, he seemed pretty cool, right?"
"Yeah, but now…." Placing their initial impression of the red head and his current situation side by side, there was a jarring difference.
"I CAN HEAR YOU, YOU KNOW!" Said red head hurriedly ducked back into his protective crouch after his angry outburst. Hyuuga sighed, whilst Izuki bit his lip to stop his incoming snort of laughter.
"He's shaking like a new-born Bambi. Oh deer."
"Izuki, shut up."
"Ah! Lala-chan!" Kobori rushed in to grab and cradle in his arms the terrorizing puppy. "I'm very sorry, she wasn't supposed to be wandering the school grounds alone like this."
"She's the tennis club's mascot, but most of the people involved in sports in this school know her. I'm so sorry, the tennis club usually manages her, I don't know why she's alone here."
"Ah…um…could you…please…take her…away?" Kagami's uncharacteristically frail voice whispered from his stiff shell of a body.
"Oh, yes, of course. I hope you don't mind me returning her to the tennis club members whilst on our way to the game."
Riko smiled. "No, it's alright. Lead the way."
The team began to follow. Koganei and Mitobe looked back at the still stationary Kagami. "You coming?"
"I'll…come later…at a 30 metre radius from the dog."
They looked at each other, before the cat-like senior shrugged at his silent companion. "Don't be late to the match though, okay? Hyuuga and the coach will get scary if you do."
Kagami froze as Hyuuga suddenly seemed to appear out of nowhere to clasp his shoulder, his entire body wreathed in a terrifying fear miasma. His voice was barely louder than a whisper. "Come late, Kagami, and I'll show you the true meaning of hell."
The red-head felt his chill worsen. "…..yes."
The red-head whipped his head up and jumped up from his crouch in surprise. He had been in the middle of counting to 60, waiting for the approximate moment when the member of the species that served as the bane of his existence would finally be a safe distance from him (30 metres at the closest). It had been so quiet that he'd thought he had been alone. 'I can't believe I forgot about Kuroko, maybe it's because he's a ghost, but sometimes it feels as if he has no presence. And why does his voice sound so weird?'
"Jeez, don't interrupt me while I'm recovering from canine trauma, Kuro-" He froze as he finally turned to face the speaker.
A somewhat expressionless Furihata stared nonchalantly back at him.
"….ro…ro…roooooeallly nice weather today, isn't it, Furihata? Ahahahaha…." Kagami's smile was strained and almost painful to maintain as he awkwardly scratched his head. "I thought you'd left with the rest of the team." 'Crap, please don't ask who I'd thought you were.'
"Um…Kagami-kun, it's me."
"Huh? Yeah, I know it's you, Furihata."
Kagami blinked. Slowly, his eyes and mouth began to widen with delayed shock, before he snapped out of it to yell hoarsely.
The Furihata-Kuroko body-consciousness combination….thing….winced and covered his ears from the outburst. "How many times do I have to say this until your brain can finally understand this concept? I am Kuroko."
"You can…what…you never told me you could possess bodies! Moreover, what about Furihata! What did you do to him!"
Kuroko shrugged. "I'm confused too. This has never happened before, possessing bodies. It's very strange." He turned in a half circle, inspecting his new body. "The ground looks really far from here…I'm kind of jealous."
"Why would height even matter to you? You can fly! And answer me, I'm getting nervous for Furihata."
"He's probably alright…" Kuroko closed his eyes. "I can still sense him…but his consciousness seems…quiet. Maybe he's sleeping?"
'More like you forcefully knocked him out.' "So he'll be fine once you get out of his body, right?"
Kuroko shrugged, a look of helplessness almost there on his face. "I can't seem to leave."
"I've never been able to possess bodies before, no naturally I have no idea how to leave. Every time I try I get pulled back…it's kind of the same sensation as when I try to go further than my boundaries."
Kagami blinked. "But then…why are you able to do it now?"
The boy possessing ghost thoughtfully cocked his head. "I was thinking about it, maybe it's because you pushed me?"
"I believe you were attempting to use me as a human shield against your worst nightmare. It was nice to see how much you care for me, Kagami-kun."
"It must be the power of that flounder charm, I beginning to believe."
Kagami frowned and pulled it out of his shirt to inspect it. The lacquered wood innocently glinted in the sunlight, and the flounder grinned its stoned smile as always. 'Ugh…I forgot how ugly it was.' He stared intently at it, Kuroko coming to stand by his shoulder to do the same. "Makes you speculate about what other wonders it can do…is it even okay for me to carry around this mysterious thing we know nothing about?"
"Definitely. Don't ever get rid of it, or I'll paint your bedroom walls in red marker, Kagami-kun."
Kuroko ignored him. "But to be honest…having a physical body…it's really…" He didn't finish his sentence, and instead closed his eyes and raised his arms, feeling with his whole body the gentle breeze that washed over them.
"…I didn't know the human body could feel like this." He breathed in. "I didn't know the world smelled so much. All these sensations…"
Kagami's demand to try and find a way to remove him from Furihata's body died in his throat, and he looked somewhat sadly at the ghost quietly reacquainting himself with his two lost senses. 'Sometimes I forget, but this guy is dead. He's lost his physical body and his memories, and yet still tries to enjoy what remains of his world.' A sad smile found its way onto his lips. 'But in the end…even after learning more about the world and enjoying it...'
Kagami looked away to stare at the ground. 'He'll disappear, as if nothing had happened.'
'This is a friendship without a future.'
"I can't believe we actually made it on time. I honestly thought we were going to die by the captain's hand." Kagami leaned against the gym wall with one hand, pausing to catch his breath. Quickly he began to make his way to the rest of the team waiting on one of the benches on the side of the basketball court, dragging his ghostly friend with him by the scruff of the neck.
Kuroko's breathing was erractic as he irritably shook the red-head's hand off and stumbled along beside him. "…I..can't…breathe."
"Eh? What! Why?! Furihata's body should be athletic enough for this run to have been easy!"
"…I'm…not used to…having to breathe…it was…hard…adjusting breath…for…running."
"…at this rate you might actually kill Furihata. Please be careful with that body."
"I…take…back…what I said…about….physical bodies…help me get out…Kagami-kun."
"We don't even know how. Besides, the match is about to start, no can do. Just wait until the match is over, jeez, we'll try to find a way then."
They reached the bench, where the team was beginning to stretch and get ready for the match. Fukuda and Kawahara looked up as they approached. "Ah, there you were, Furihata! We were wondering where you'd gone off to."
"Yeah, we were sure you were right behind us until we actually looked back…"
Kuroko by now had somehow returned to a calmer breathing pattern. "Ah…yes…hello."
Fukuda frowned. "You okay, Furihata? You sound weird…and you look kind of different."
"Yeah, your facial expression looks really blank."
Kagami decided it was time to change the topic. "Ahahaha…uh…where's the captain and coach? I don't see them around."
Kawahara shrugged. "Kaijou apparently decided we were small fry and so opted to have our practice match on a half-court. They're with the other team's coach, being angry at him- I mean, trying to argue for full court."
"Yeah, it also looks like the famed Kise Ryouta won't even be in the match." He pointed to one of the benches on the other side of the gym, where a tall, blond boy sat, clearly not in a basketball uniform but in a t-shirt and shorts. Even from the other side of the court, Kagami could tell he was attractive, if not from his looks then from the crowd of girls on the upper benches, cheering for and fawning over their 'beloved Kise-san'. He seemed to be a happy person, judging by the cheery smile on his face, even as an another shorter, black haired student dressed in the number four basketball uniform kicked him irritably. Kagami guessed, from the angry gesturing, that he was annoyed at the fangirls and the reason for their appearance massaging his kicked back in front of him. 'Seriously, he's not even going to play? Those bastards are looking down on us.'
Kuroko beside him seemed to be entranced by the Kaijou prodigy. He stared without blinking, an aura of inquisitiveness and ….something else…about him.
Kagami shook his shoulder, startling the ghost out of whatever had held him. "What, is this your first time seeing a relatively famous person?"
"No…it's just…" Kuroko frowned as he looked on in the blonde's general direction. "Don't you think there's something….wrong about his smile?"
"No, it's nothing." He finally looked away from the blonde to watch the verbal argument between the two teams' coaches, Hyuuga's hand on Riko's shoulder in some kind of moral support. "It looks like we're heavily being looked down upon, for them to not even bother with full court." Looking closer, he realised that the captain's action was actually for the purpose of inconspicuously restraining her from jumping and attacking the other coach.
Kagami tched, before an uncharacteristically devious smile began to grow on his lips. "Well, if that's the case, we just have to show them we're serious, don't we?"
"You do realise you're going to have to pay for the backboard you broke."
Kagami flinched at the thought of the fees involved. "Hey! I got us our full court! And thanks to me they got rid of their annoying arrogant attitude. Besides, how is it my fault the backboard was old and weak?!"
Kuroko shrugged. "You're still going to have to pay for it."
The red head dropped his head in defeat. "…Don't depress me before a game."
"Oi! Kagami, Furihata! The coach wants a talk before the match begins! Get over here!"
"Ah, yes!" Kagami quickly turned to the (still) shorter Kuroko. "Okay, luckily no-one appears to have really noticed yeah, but make sure no one even suspects you of not being Furihata, got it? Act like him."
"But I'm not familiar enough to know about his habits and how he normally acts, Kagami-kun."
"Just don't be yourself. That'll probably work."
"No monotonous talking, and put an expression on that face." Kuroko winced as the red-head stretched his cheeks to force a smile on him.
"Oi! Get over here before I drag you here!" Hyuuga was slowly getting impatient, and the miasma that had comfortably cloaked him earlier seemed to slowly be returning.
"Yes!" Kagami called back. Kuroko grabbed onto his arm before he walked off. "What if Furihata-kun gets called onto the court to play?"
Kagami didn't stop walking, and simply dragged the shorter teen along with him as he did. "He probably won't, it's more likely that the senior members will be called in to sub. But, even if he is, you'd be able to play, right?"
"I mean, the first time I found you, you were playing basketball in the abandoned court. You're like a basketball ghost. You're at least skilled enough to play in a game right?"
Kuroko beside him fell silent, before a hesitant reply left his lips.
Koganei flailed in the air as he quickly passed the ball back into the court before he stepped backwards. Sticking his left foot back to steady himself, he froze as he felt it slip on the floor.
Riko winced in sympathy as the cat-like boy tripped over the bench and fell backwards onto the floor, managing to hit the back of his head with a concerningly large sound. She signalled to the referee, and his whistle soon sounded its shrill call, signalling a temporary pause in the match.
Quickly making her way to the fallen second year, she pulled out the first-aid kit. "You alright? Koga…ah." He was unconscious. She suspected he had managed to knock himself out as he hit his head. Kneeling down to examine the swelling bump on the back of the boy's head, she turned to the two first years looking over worryingly behind her. "Fukuda, Kawahara. He's probably fine, but we can't be too sure. He'll most likely wake up in a few minutes, when he does, see if you can help him to the nurse's office to get that checked out."
She turned to the remaining two occupants of the bench, the ever calm and easygoing Tsuchida, and a strangely blank faced Furihata. 'What's with the strong feeling of zen between those two?'
The score was 22-15, with Kaijou in the lead. The first quarter hadn't even finished yet, and yet already there had been 37 points scored. 'I might have expected something like this in a match between two teams which specialise in offense, but even so, this game is too fast paced.' She turned to look over the players still on the court. 'At this rate we'll get too tired before we even reach mid-game. And the point difference between us…it's getting wider.'
Sighing, she scratched the back of her head. 'We need to slow the pace down. Focus more on defence.' Her eyes glanced to Kagami. He had exceeded her initial evaluation on his ability, managing to go one on one with the Kaijou's ace and one of the Generation of Miracles, Kise Ryouta. 'Even so, this won't last.' Her eyes narrowed. 'I'm getting the feeling they're just warming up. That Kise Ryouta…his ability to copy other's techniques and make them his own is troublesome.'
'We're in big trouble, aren't we?' A sudden smile appeared on her lips as she turned to Furihata. "You're up, first year."
The boy blinked and slowly pointed to himself. "…Me?"
She nodded. "It's your debut, Furihata. Get ready." 'Right now we need someone to slow down the pace. This might be his first game ever, but I'm confident he'll be reliable at times like these.'
Kagami wiped his forehead as he watched the figure of Furihata Kouki calmly get up from the bench and walk onto the court. 'Kuroko's being subbed in?'
He paused at that thought.
'…It'll be okay, right? He likes basketball so much that he remembers it from when he was alive. He's been playing by himself ever since he was dead in that abandoned courtyard. He's probably really good at it, right? Look at him, radiating confidence somehow with that expressionless face. It'll be okay, right?'
The red-head shook away the thoughts of doubt as the whistle blew, signalling the beginning of the third quarter. 'He'll be fine, just leave him to it.'
*5 minutes later*
Kagami looked on in numb horror as Kise stole the ball from a mildly surprised Kuroko. Shaking his head, he rushed in to intercept, only for the blond to dodge him and Mitobe to jump towards the basket, performing another of his slam dunks.
This had been the sixth time in the last five minutes where the Kuroko possessed Furihata had gotten the ball stolen from him as he dribbled.
It was like watching a car crash you couldn't stop.
'Why? Why is this happening? Why is Kuroko so bad at this? He's a basketball ghost that haunted the abandoned court, there's no way he should be this bad! He looked like such a pro! I don't understand!'
"Time! Seirin requesting Player Switch!"
The red head wiped his forehead and looked surreptitiously at the scoreboard as he made his way to the bench. 'The score difference between us is increasing…as this rate it'll be difficult to close it up before the game ends.'
"I should've noticed this sooner, but are you alright, Furihata-kun?" A concerned Riko forced Kuroko down onto the bench. "This can't be attributed to nerves, your playing's worsened dramatically, and your body movements seem strange, not to mention the fact that your breathing is erratic. Even your facial muscles seem to have weakened. You should've told me if you were sick or felt weak!"
'Ah…his movements seem strange because he's not used to being in this body, he still hasn't gotten the hand of adjusting his breathing….and Kuroko's facial expressions are always like that.'
Kuroko simply blinked, trying to recover his breath. "Ah…I'm…sorry…coach…"
Riko shook her head. "No, it's fine. Do you need to go to the nurse?"
"No…I…think…I'll be…fine…after…a few…minutes."
Mitobe silently handed the poor boy a towel and water bottle as Riko considered their new situation. "Tsuchida, you're in."
She turned to the rest of the group. "Slow down the pace. Focus on strengthening the centre, and stopping the goals more than making our own. And you!" Kagami flinched as she suddenly pointed to him. "Don't get goaded into one on ones with Kise! I want you to help with defence, got it?"
A sudden cold chill blew into the gym as the beginnings of a dark miasma seemed to form around the older girl. "Got it?"
'How do she and the captain even do it?' Kagami gulped."…yes."
"Isn't it time to admit it?"
Kagami wiped the sweat off his face with his shirt as Kise landed down firmly on his feet from his latest slam dunk. "What?"
The blond boy turned to face him, an uncharacteristically hard look on his usually cheerful face. "As you are right now, it's ten years too early for you to challenge the Generation of Miracles." He looked directly into the red-head's eyes. "I'll acknowledge your potential, but you're still no match for me. No matter what kind of technique you use, as long as I see it, I'll pay it back twice as much immediately."
'In the face of hardship, there are two kinds of people, Kise-kun. Those who give up during the way, and those who-'
"No matter how much you struggle, you can't win against me. Well…" A somewhat pained smile seemed to form on the blonde's lips. "…just remember that reality isn't such a sweet thing."
'Which of the two kinds of people are you, Kise-kun?'
The red-head was silent, his neck tilted down to look at the floor. His bangs hid his expression. Kise began to turn away from the defeated boy, before a soft chuckle reached his ears. Startled, he turned back, to see Kagami holding his stomach, letting out a happy, refreshed laugh.
"I'm sorry, but…ahahaha…I'm just a bit happy."
The red-head wiped his tears. "It's been a while since someone's said that to me. Really, I'm a bit embarrassed to come back to Japan with this kind of mind-set. After all, life is about challenges. Without strong opponents, it wouldn't be fun." He finally straightened to grin at the stunned blonde, a determined and challenging look in his eyes. "It's perfect if I can't win."
Kise stared at him blankly, before a somewhat hesitant smile found its way to his lips. "I see."
"That guy was right."
"Huh?" Kise blinked, surprised at the sudden non-sequitur.
"Your smile, something's wrong with it. After all…" Kagami scrunched his eyes in thought as he passed by the blonde back to his side of the court.
"I've never seen a guy with a brilliant smile have such sad eyes."
Ever since he had been called out onto the court to sub, Kuroko had felt something within him change.
He didn't know what it was. All he knew was that there was this sensation of something deep within him beginning to rise. The deep sunken 'something' within the dark pool of memories was slowly, carefully, emerging. It was heavy and dense, and fought to pass through the viscous fluid which had kept it sunken all those unknown months.
And yet, as he lay watching the one on one against the Kaijou's ace Kise and Kagami, he felt it finally surface.
"…Coach, I have a request."
"Hm? What is it, Furihata?" Riko seemed to snap herself out of the intense analytical observation of the match, concern apparent in her face as she turned to face him. "Do you need to go to the nurse?"
"Ah, no." Kuroko slowly sat up from his reclining position and stretched his arms. "Please sub me back in."
Riko's eyes widened in surprise. "Huh?"
He turned to face her head on, his gaze sincere and serious. "I…I've got the hang of it now. Those five minutes in which I failed the team…I will make it up to them."
She stared at him then, noticing every detail on the boy. His uncharacteristically expressionless face somehow conveying determination and sincerity, the way his hands fiddled with his wrists, as if playing with wristbands that weren't there, the way his legs seemed poised to jump up to run onto the court.
The way his eyes shone with barely hidden excitement.
Riko made a decision then, a risky bet that would normally never be taken. She narrowed her eyes at the somewhat…changed Furihata. "Can you guarantee those words?"
The boy nodded, and stood resolutely. "Yes."
Riko nodded back, before turning back onto the court. "Seirin, time! Requesting a Player Switch!"
The whistle blew. A somewhat confused Tsuchida jogged towards the bench to tag on Kuroko who had begun walking onto the court.
The female coach watched him go, a just revived and confused Koganei beside her. "…you really believe in him, Coach?"
"Hm…I don't really know."
A slow smile began to spread on her lips. "Call this…woman's intuition? After all," She raised her voice. "You'll succeed, won't you?"
The Kuroko possessed Furihata raised an arm to give a small wave, a hidden smile on his lips. "Of course, after all…" He brought it back down to adjust a non-existent wristband.
"I've remembered my basketball."
Kasamatsu looked on in confusion as Seirin no. 12 re-entered the court. 'What are they thinking? I thought they'd learned from the last time he was on court that this newbie is a disaster.' He glanced at the Seirin's female coach. 'What made her decide to put him back in?'
The whistle sounded again, and the Kaijou team captain shook off the puzzled thoughts. 'We'll just have to teach them again that we're not a nice enough team to babysit their newbies.'
Kagami was full of worry. 'Why did the coach put him back in? This guy can't even adjust his own breathing!'
The red head pulled away from those thoughts as he caught the pass and began dribbling towards the goal, dodging and pushing past the defending Kaijou players. He slowed down as Kise rushed forward to mark him, eyes coldly blank as they watched his every move.
'I can't get past him. One wrong move and he'll steal it.' Kagami's eye darted wildly as he searched for a free teammate to pass it to. 'At this rate, I'll be forced into a one on one…' A blur of light brown hair appeared in his peripheral hindsight; it was Kuroko.
'…One on one, or Kuroko?' It was a difficult decision, one as risky as the other, but… 'Coach can't put have put him back in without a good reason. I'll take a chance.'
Kise looked somewhat surprised as Kagami backed off from the challenge to pass to the body possessing ghost, and then…
Kagami blinked. 'What?'
A startled Hyuuga caught the ball, and instantly performed one of his three pointers. The whistle sounded as the scoreboard went up by three to Seirin, but the occupants of gyms, whether they were players or observers, all stayed in stunned silence.
"How did he get that pass through just now?!"
'I passed to Kuroko, not the captain, and yet…how? I didn't see what happened.' Kagami stared at the ghost nonchalantly adjusting his uniform. From the way he wasn't looking like he about to collapse any minute, the red-head guessed that he had finally managed to learn how to adjust his breathing. 'I didn't see what happened, even though it was right before my eyes. What happened?'
'What the….where did that ball come from?'
The Kaijou team captain stared at the Seirin team's no. 12 shirt, who was currently having his back clapped upon by his ecstatic if not somewhat confused team-mates. 'That kid…what did he do?"
"…just now….that was…."
He turned to the team's ace beside him, concerned at the blonde's uncharacteristically stuttering voice. "…Kise?" He froze at what he saw.
Kasamatsu remembered the first time he met Kise Ryouta as clear as day. The other basketball team members had been either staring in shock or admiration at the famous member of the Generation of Miracles as the coach introduced him to the Kaijou team. The blond himself had just confidently stood there with a large, friendly smile on his cheery face.
Everything went fine, everything was normal.
But Kasamatsu could not shake the feeling that something was wrong.
Kise quickly became well-liked by near everyone. A model, an ace basketball player, and just overall a really friendly guy, it wasn't entirely surprising. Though he oozed with confidence in both his looks and basketball skills, there was no ugly arrogance in his cheerful personality.
But Kasamatsu didn't like the new ace's carefree smiles and friendly laughs. Something was wrong. Kise unnerved him for reasons he didn't understand. Something was wrong.
It took a while for him to realise what exactly it was, but when he did, it never left him.
Kise was crying.
His mask was perfect, flawless. No one other than him seemed to see that it wasn't his real face, and there were times when Kasamatsu himself doubted his own judgement. It never cracked, it never faltered. Like a motionless dam, it flawlessly hid the pain behind smiles and laughter.
Which was why Kasamatsu found himself staring in open shock as Kise's mask suddenly shattered completely with just one word uttered from his lips.
"I just remembered."
Takao turned the regard his eccentric green haired friend leaning forward on his desk, gazing blankly out the classroom window. Lowering the juice box that had been halfway to his mouth, he raised an eyebrow. "What?"
"I had a friend in middle school who wanted to go to Seirin." A slight frown appeared on Midorima's brow, slightly dislodging the spiral glasses (his lucky item for the day) perched on his head.
Takao leaned back on his chair. "Seirin…ah, you mean the school that's having its practice match with Kaijou? I didn't think you'd be interested in these kinds of things, Shin-chan." Midorima didn't respond, and just continued to stare intently at the flower buds of the tree outside the classroom. Takao finished off his juicebox. "So…did he go in the end?"
The conversation was trivial and inane, but the raven haired point guard felt it essential to participate in any conversations his green-haired friend began, simply for the fact they were rare. Very rare. "Eh~ What made him change his mind?"
Takao frowned in confusion as Midorima finally stopped his intense staring match with the outside world and turned to stare down at his bandaged fingers.
"He couldn't go in the end."
The green haired boy paused. "No…never mind, it's nothing."
'He went somewhere, too far for us to reach.'
She lay as cold as ice.
The forgotten apple gone forever.
A/N: If you read chapter two, Kagami already witnesses how Kuroko has no reflection via the windows of a passing subway train. He forgot. Because he's an idiot. (casually denying continuity problems.) Also I apologise if the basketball rules here look wrong, my knowledge of basketball is only from Kuroko no Basuke.
And so this chapter I reveal to you that this story isn't just a Supernatural/Friendship genre. I couldn't fit them all in, but it's also Tragedy (because well, one of the characters is dead -_-) and Mystery. Because, pfft, I'm not gonna just easily tell you exactly what happened to Kuroko. And maybe Horror. I don't know. Also, I'm sorry about my terrible sense of humour which tends to be at the expense of Kagami.
Chapter 4 preview:
"Ah, that reminds me. There was something else Coach Riko told us about the Generation of Miracles that I forgot to mention."
Kagami scratched the back of his head. "Well…I dunno, but it appears that one of them quit basketball after entering high school. He hasn't entered the team. Aho…ahomine…I think it was?"
"No matter how much a parent may dislike their own child, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't hate him so much they would name him 'idiot'."