After not writing multiple-chapter fics for so long, I regretfully have to admit that I'm not very good with plot advancing anymore OTL. but yes, if you feel like I'm just randomly throwing stuff into the story, its true. I write spontaneously without much planning, so yeahh...
I'll try to come up with something more.. I don't know, surprising next time? gahhh my head hurts ;;u;;
on the side note, thank you all so much again for all the responses! I don't deserve so much love. ;_; really, I don't. I'm half-assed and shit. There. I'm swearing. OTL.
*sigh* sorry. I'm feeling pretty down now after realizing just how much my writing skills have deteriorated. I'm losing self confidence, okay? OTL
derp. I'll shut up. I feel like those attention-hungry people. please ignore the last part of this A/N.
Excuse my mistakes. KuroBasu isn't mine. thank you so much in advance for reading!
The argument between Aomine and Akashi had barely flared down when Momoi and Kise made their appearance, both looking weary.
"How's Tetsuya?" Akashi inquired when both of them had settled down. Kise turned away, unwilling to meet his gaze. He bit his lip so hard that he tasted blood. His eyes showed pain, very deep pain. He looked like he was trying his best not to break down and cry right there and then. He did not trust himself to speak.
Momoi, on the other hand, had not bothered to undergo such measures. Her eyes were red, and her face was streaked with tears. She had obviously been weeping. Seeing Kuroko - Kuroko, who was always there to cheer them up in his endearingly deadpanned manner, who was always there to support them, and who was always there to calm Aomine and Kise's meaningless arguments - in such a state had broken their hearts into a million pieces.
"..Tetsu-kun has calmed down. He's asleep now." Momoi's voice was hoarse when she spoke, as if she'd swallowed a gallon of sand. She realized that, and politely cleared her throat. "Midorin's remedy helped. It took a while for us to coax him to eat it, though."
"What happened?" Kise asked softly, gathering all his courage. He will not cry. For the sake of Kurokocchi. "Why did he suddenly..?"
All eyes focused on Aomine, since he was the only one there when everything happened.
"I wish I knew," he said, exhaling exasperatedly. "I was right by him the whole time. I only looked away for one second, and then it happened."
"Were there anything to trigger his memories about that incident?" Akashi asked.
Aomine shook his head. "I was looking around and there was nothing out of the ordinary. And besides, we were far from that place. It's impossible."
"But something must have happened," Momoi insisted. "Tetsu-kun was trying so hard to forget it. Something must have triggered the remembrance."
Akashi laced his fingers, deep in thought. "No," he decided. "Daiki is probably right. There couldn't be anything in that part of the city that could have reminded him of that day."
"He must have accidentally thought of it," Akashi hypothesized. "Tetsuya had been spacing out quite frequently these days. There's a high chance that he'd accidentally came across the thought, and was unable to push it away."
"There must be something we can do," Kise said, hugging his knees. "We can't let this happen again. I don't want to see it happen again."
"Neither do all of us, Ryouta," Akashi assured him, the flames of the candles dancing in his heterochromatic eyes. "There is something we can do."
Three faces looked at him expectantly.
"To destroy a plant, we have to pull out the roots," was all he said, but the message was clear.
Haizaki. They had to deal with Haizaki Shougo. Huh. That wasn't so hard.
"No harm plucking some leaves while we're at it," Aomine sneered, cracking his knuckles with newfound anticipation. He was so going to kick that bastard's ass. "So what's the plan?"
"Patience, Daiki," Akashi soothed. "Before all that, we would need information." He turned his gaze to Momoi. "Satsuki."
The girl pulled on a shaky confident smile. "On it."
"What about Kagamicchi? Should we include him in this?" Kise blurted out. He got several blank stares in return.
"Kagami?" Aomine sounded incredulous. "Why should we drag him into this?"
"Well.." Kise shifted his weight, realizing that maybe it wasn't that safe to bring up the redhead at that moment.
"We saw him walking away from this area while we were heading here," Momoi said. "We thought you guys sent him away or something."
"Huh?" Aomine stared at the two like they'd grown another head. "What are you two talking about? We didn't see him at all."
Kise and Momoi exchanged looks. "Could he be..?"
"It doesn't matter," Akashi dismissed with a slight wave of his hand. "Even if Taiga heard us, it will not hinder what we do. He's trying hard to stay out of this himself, though he'll probably burst from curiosity soon."
Well, if Akashi says it's okay, then it's okay.
"In the mean time," the redhead went on. "We'll keep a close eye on Tetsuya. We'll discuss this matter again when the time comes."
The others nodded in agreement. "I'll keep him company tonight," Aomine and Kise spoke up at the same time. When they realized what had happened, they glared at each other competitively.
"I'll do it, Aominecchi," Kise feigned sweetness in his voice. "You must be tired after running around with Kurokocchi on your back."
"Nahh," Aomine had the same tone in his voice. "You're the one who should rest. Calming Tetsu down couldn't have been an easy feat."
"Go rest, Aominecchi. I insist." Kise pulled on a very forced smile.
"You do it. I'll be fine."
"Both of you can go," Akashi cut in. His eyebrows twitched microscopically with annoyance. He was not in the mood to watch those idiots argue. "I have a feeling that Taiga won't be there tonight."
The others stared at him. Kagami won't be there? Of all times, he had to disappear now?
But no one found the urge to question the redhead about his statement. Glumly, they bid their leader good night, and took their leave.
When the footsteps of his companions have receded and he had been left alone, Akashi brought his fist upon his table. He hit it with such force, it rattled violently and threatened to come apart, but Akashi didn't care. He raked his fingers through his hair, and heaved a sigh.
That night, as Akashi had predicted, Kagami did not return to Kuroko's home. Aomine and Kise wondered if they should be furious at him for abandoning Kuroko, or grateful for giving them space.
As it turned out, Kagami camped out on a tree. Not under one. On one. He'd wandered around aimlessly after fleeing from the area around Akashi's house, and had somehow came to a decision that he shouldn't go back. Not yet. So he ventured into the forest, picked a nice, strong tree, and decided that it would his bed for the night, not caring if it was dark or dangerous.
Kagami hadn't climbed trees for a while, and his skills had rusted a little. But he had strong arms, so he figured it didn't really matter. With practiced grips and steps, Kagami scaled the tree; and in a few minutes, he was standing on one of the thicker branches with about a dozen splinters in his hands. He swept his gaze around him, taking in what he could see from his spot while he plucked the pieces of wood off his skin. A gentle breeze caressed his face. Somewhere further in the woods behind him, the waterfall roared. Several trees to his left, on a branch slightly higher than where he was, perched a bird nest. It was dark, but Kagami could make out the bright blue feathers of the animal occupying the nest. He turned and gazed into the distance. He was careful not to wander too deep into the forest in case he got lost, so he kept close to the village. He could see the lights half a mile away. And in the far off distance, Kagami could make out the dark silhouette of the high walls that separated the main city from the outside world.
Kagami bent down, inspecting the strength of the branch. He wouldn't want to be falling to his death while he slept. Fortunately, it seemed sturdy enough. Kagami carefully adjusted his position so he was sitting right at the base of the branch where it provided the most support. He stretched his legs out before him, and leaned against the rough surface of the tree trunk. He crossed his arms behind his head, and tilted his chin upward, looking at the night sky. There were small clouds drifting by here and there, but there was nothing to indicate that it would rain later on. Kagami exhaled, almost wearily, and closed his eyes, letting the strange cries of insects and unknown animals lull him to sleep.
When he woke up the next morning, he was positively aching all over. Kagami groaned, flexing his sore shoulders. Strange. He had no problems sleeping on the hard wooden floor of Kuroko's home. Kagami inhaled the fresh morning air, his eyes fixing themselves towards the rising sun in the far east.
Wait. Rising sun in the east? He woke up that early?
A sigh escaped his lips as he slowly accepted the fact. He had a feeling he wouldn't be able to go back to sleep even if he wanted to. He swung his legs off the branch, dangling them in thin air. His side was now facing the tree trunk. Kagami watched as the villagers gradually woke up to begin their daily activities. He could hear the faint chatters of people making their way to the waterfall for morning baths. No one noticed him, since he was quite hidden behind layers and layers of leaves.
Kagami subconsciously hummed a tune as he swung his legs back and forth like how he used to when he was younger. The action calmed him, for some reason. Maybe it was the song. His mother used to sing him to sleep with it. She had this sweet, melodious voice that Kagami loved.
Strangely, Kagami did not try to stop the reminiscence. Another memory resurfaced, and a soft chuckle escaped his lips. It was that one night when his mother was away. Kagami had thrown a tantrum, refusing to sleep until she comes back and sing his favorite song. His dad, knowing that his wife would not be back until the following afternoon at best, was desperate. Kagami had a loud voice, and his screams and wails and demands were on the verge of driving him crazy. So he did the first thing that came into his mind. He sang.
He sounded like a strangled goose. And Kagami was holding back when he told him that. It was baffling, how his mother could sound so beautiful while his father sounded like a choking horse. But Kagami had stopped screaming, and had listened in silence. And slowly, he'd started laughing.
Kagami couldn't help wondering: which one of his parents did he take after? He'd never tried singing. He was almost sure he inherited his father's strangled animal voice.
But hey. He was alone now, and he was hidden from sight. What harm could it do? Curiosity got the better of him. Kagami took one last look around to confirm his deductions. Then he inhaled once, and started singing.
It was a miracle he could remember the lyrics. Kagami hadn't heard the song in years, but somehow, the words just came back to him. He started in a soft tone, but it gradually got louder and louder as he lost himself in the song. Kagami had to admit; he sounded okay as long as he needn't hit high notes. He decided that he'd inherited a little bit of both from his parents; his mother's calming voice when he's singing normal notes, and his father's strangled voice when it comes to higher ones.
He had barely just finished the last word of the lyrics when he heard the claps. Kagami glanced around, wondering who had heard him. He looked down, and after a while of searching, he noticed a boy with a familiar mop of pale blue hair standing right beneath him.
"K-Kuroko?" Kagami stuttered, surprised. He started blushing from embarrassment.
"Kagami-kun has a really nice voice," was all the shorter boy said. Kagami covered his face with his hands, mortified.
"How long have you been there?" he asked.
"About half the song."
Kagami considered fading into the tree bark, but it was pretty impossible. With a sigh, he stood up, and jumped, using his hands to hold on to the branch before he could drop on the ground. He estimated the distance of the drop; which was about six meters. A piece of cake. Kagami had jumped from higher trees back home. After he'd broken his leg and twisted his ankles several times, that is.
"Stand off before I land on you, Kuroko," he warned. Kuroko obediently stepped out of the way.
Kagami exhaled once through his mouth, and released his grasp. He hit the ground with surprising lightness, his knees bent with the momentum. He straightened up, and stretched.
"Why are you up so early, anyway?" Kagami turned to Kuroko, trying - and failing - to sound pissed off. "It's dangerous for you to be wandering around alone; especially with everything going on."
Kuroko shrugged. "I couldn't go back to sleep."
"Still," Kagami huffed.
"Besides," Kuroko added, a mischievous glint in his eyes. His face was still expressionless, though. "I feel like scaring Aomine-kun and Kise-kun a little when they wake up."
"You're a deadpanned sadist," Kagami decided.
"I guess growing up with Akashi-kun left some effects on me," Kuroko said. Kagami couldn't tell if he was joking or not.
"So what do you plan to do? It's too early for breakfast or anything." Kagami shifted his weight from foot to foot.
Kuroko stared wistfully at the branch Kagami had been sitting on a minute ago, not saying a word. The redhead blinked in mild confusion for a short while before following the shorter's line of sight.
"You want to go up there?" he asked.
"I've always wondered how it felt like to be higher and taller than everyone else." Kuroko shook his head. "But I'll never be able to. I don't think I can climb up there."
Kagami considered this for a moment. "I can help you up, if you want."
Kuroko looked at him doubtfully. "I don't think we'll be able to reach even with both our heights combined."
"No problem," Kagami turned so his back was facing his companion. He bent his legs so he was halfway squatting. "Come on up."
Very reluctantly, Kuroko gave in to the temptation. He climbed onto Kagami's back, gingerly wrapping his arms around the taller boy's neck. His thin legs circled around Kagami's waist, his ankles crossed to keep them locked in position so that he will not slip off.
Kagami wasn't really surprised by the fact that Kuroko weighed almost next to nothing. If he were to be distracted right then, he was sure he could forget that he was carrying a boy on his back.
"Hang on tight," Kagami to Kuroko as he started ascending after finding a firm handhold. "Going up."
Kuroko's arm instinctively tightened around Kagami's neck as they rose higher and higher. He had a sudden vision of himself falling into a never ending void, and he worked to push the thought away. He tried focusing on other things instead.
Kuroko became instantly aware of the fact that his body was pressed flushed against Kagami's back. In fact, he could feel the other's body heat through the ragged clothes they were both wearing. Kuroko involuntarily blushed at the thought. Oh, well. There was nothing he could do about it. Since he was already in that position, he might as well just enjoy Kagami's gentle warmth while he could.
The scenery from a higher place was definitely different from the one he always saw from eye level. Kuroko was too nervous to appreciate it at first, but after finding out that the branch was strong enough to hold his weight and there was enough space for him to sit on, he figured he would survive. Kagami didn't join him on the branch. Instead, he hung on with only one foot on a part of the bark that jutted out, and one arm around the tree. Kuroko was sure it was a risky thing to do, but Kagami looked so confident, he decided not to comment.
The two of them stayed there in comfortable silence for a while; Kuroko enjoying the sight and breeze while Kagami mentally debated with himself whether or not to ask the question that kept lingering in his mind ever since he saw the pale boy. Carefully, he stole a glance at his companion. The dark circles under Kuroko's eyes betrayed his lack of sleep - probably due to those countless nightmares he'd been having for the past week or more. Kagami wasn't sure if he was imagining it, but Kuroko even seemed thinner. The first time they met, Kagami thought of him as slender. Now he seriously looked like he was just skin and bones.
"Why didn't you come back yesterday?"
Kuroko's voice jerked the redhead out of his thoughts. "Huh?" Then his brain registered the question. "Oh. Well, I thought.." he paused to scratch the back of his neck as he struggled to find the words. "I thought I should give you guys some space or something. I figured that I would just be a hindrance if I go there."
Kuroko kept his gaze towards the horizon. "Aren't you.. wondering what happened?"
"Of course," Kagami admitted. "But if you guys are not willing to talk about it, then I won't pry."
"..One day," Kuroko promised. "I'll tell you everything."
And then they heard the scream.
By the time they reached the hut where they thought the scream had come from, a crowd had gathered.
The two boys plowed their way through, struggling to reach the scene. Kuroko heard many unsettling things as he worked to reach inside; most of them mentioning a single name that made him want to hide under a blanket and not come out until he was thirty. But he would save those useless thoughts for later. He had to concentrate on what he was doing now.
Finally the crowd parted, and Kuroko made his way towards a young woman kneeling on the wooden flooring, her head in her hands, sobbing uncontrollably. Some villagers were trying in vain to console her. Kuroko tensed. He recognized this lady.
"Tanaka-san," he said, kneeling down next to her. He rested a hand on her shoulder. Upon hearing his voice, the lady lifted her head.
"Yes," Kuroko answered, his voice gentle. "We heard you scream. What happened?"
As if his question reminded her of something, the lady grabbed his shoulders and shook him frantically, her nails digging into Kuroko's skin.
"Please!" she begged. "You have to save her! It's him! He took her! He took my daughter!"
Kuroko's breathing hitched. No. Not again.
"Please calm down, Tanaka-san," Kuroko tried hard to keep the quaver out of his voice. "Tell me what happened first."
The lady swallowed. "I-I was cleaning and tidying some of our things. Neri was still asleep, so I did not worry about her wandering off or anything. She.. She was still there lying peacefully in her cot when I went out to air some sheets. It barely took five minutes. B-But.. when I came back inside.." She once again buried her face in her hands. "It's all my fault!"
Kuroko couldn't think straight. It's all happening again. History was repeating itself. Everything was just like that day five years ago. Except he was the one missing then.
It finally dawned him. He finally understood why Haizaki came back.
"It's okay, Tanaka-san," Kuroko soothed. "I'll save her." He stood up, eyes burning with determination. He wasn't going to let anything like that happen again. Not ever. "We're quite deep in the forest, so it'll take some time before he reaches the city. He couldn't have gone too far."
He wasn't even planning to stay long enough to hear the lady's thanks. With that decision made, he turned, and strode out.
"Wait." Someone caught his arm. Kuroko glanced over his shoulder.
"What is it, Kagami-kun?" He sounded hostile even to his own ears. "I'm in a hurry."
"It's him, isn't it?" Kagami demanded. "The one who took the girl was Haizaki."
Kuroko tugged at his arm, but Kagami kept him in an iron grip.
"Let go of me," Kuroko said, turning to glare directly at the redhead.
"You can't possibly expect to confront him by yourself, are you?" Kagami asked, almost incredulously. He completely ignored the look Kuroko was giving him. "I was there with you that night. I saw how terrified you were when he showed up!"
"It doesn't matter," Kuroko gritted his teeth. "All that doesn't matter now. I have to save her."
"You could at least tell the other's first," Kagami reasoned. "What if something happens to you?"
"Then you go," Kuroko's dared. "Go tell Akashi-kun and the rest of the Generation of Miracles what I'm about to do while I chase down Haizaki-kun."
"You might as well be asking me to suicide," Kagami exhaled in frustration. "Fine. I'll go with you. And I don't expect a no for an answer."
Kuroko stared at him, eyebrows knitted slightly. Then he decided that there was probably no use arguing with the redhead. Kagami was as insistent on following him as Kuroko is on tracking down Haizaki and rescuing the girl.
"Don't let go of my hand," he muttered, so softly that Kagami barely caught it. His long fringe shadowed his expression. "We're taking a shortcut."
Kagami did not know the way to the main city since he'd never been there, so he wasn't sure if Kuroko was being generous by calling the road they took a 'shortcut'. Kuroko led him into the forest through a thick growth of trees, his pace quickening with every step he took. Kagami realized long after his breathing had turned heavy that they were going straight ahead without making any turns.
"Haizaki-kun left the village some time ago, so he should not be aware of the other paths we'd discovered later on," Kuroko explained, never once slowing down. His was panting slightly, but he seemed determined not to stop anytime soon. "The path he's probably using now has lots of twists and turns, so that will buy us some time."
"We are not facing him by ourselves," Kagami said, carefully leaping over some protruding tree roots as he struggled to follow.
"We're not," Kuroko agreed, not looking back. "We might hurt the girl if something were to happen. Our priority now is to save her, then we'll immediately rush back using the way we came from. I don't think Haizaki-kun would dare follow us though an unfamiliar path."
"But how are you going to do it?" Kagami asked. "Save the girl, I mean."
Kuroko did not answer. He abruptly paused in his tracks, his rest rising and falling rapidly. His head whipped around as he surveyed the area. He then squatted down low, pulling Kagami with him. Kagami released his grip on his companion's arm as Kuroko motioned him to go right. Hidden by a thick growth of bushes and berry plants, they slowly inched eastward, careful not to make a sound. It was difficult, with all the dry leaves and stray branches lying around. It took Kagami lots of effort just to keep the bugs out of his face.
Kuroko stopped, Kagami following suit. Cautiously, they peeked over the blueberry bush they were hiding behind. Kagami blinked as he saw a clear road before them. It was a path where the trees parted as if making way, the ground firm and sandy. It somehow reminded him of the road he took when he'd first started his journey.
"..I'm a 'shadow', Kagami-kun," Kuroko whispered, answering the question directed to him earlier. "He won't notice me."
Now that their breathing and heartbeat had returned to normal, they could hear the sound of footsteps. In the distance, Kagami could make out a figure slowly approaching. If that was Haizaki, he wasn't in a hurry.
"It'll be risky," Kagami said, working to come out with a decent plan. "He might be too fast for you."
"I'll catch him by surprise."
Kagami chewed his lower lip, making up his mind. "I'll distract him."
Kuroko stared at him, eyebrows raised.
"You said you're a 'shadow', right?" Kagami said, smiling reassuringly. "There's no shadow without light, and people tend to notice the light more. So for now, I'll be your light. I'll distract him while you save the girl."
Kuroko opened his mouth to argue, but Kagami was already heading out, positioning himself in the middle of the road. He stood there casually with his arms crossed, as if he had been there waiting all day. Too late to change plans now. Kuroko hunched lower behind the bush.
Kagami had no idea how Kuroko knew where to stop or how he could be so confident that they could overtake Haizaki. He figured the pale guy was just strange that way. The sound of footsteps halted, and Kagami looked up.
Haizaki Shougo stood several meters away from him, carrying a sack over his left shoulder. Judging from the way it was moving with lots of muffled screams coming from it, the girl must be trashing really badly in there. Ouch. Her kicks must be a real pain.
"Oh? What do we have here?"
Haizaki feigned amusement in his voice, and his lips were upturned in a mock grin. But Kagami saw his eyes. If glares could kill, Kagami might just be dead.
"What do you plan to do with the girl?" Kagami asked, not budging from his spot.
"I'm surprised you actually managed to overtake me," Haizaki said, not answering the question. "Who showed you the shorter way?"
"No one," Kagami lied. "I was only given directions."
He could tell that Haizaki did not believe him one bit, but he stood his ground.
"Don't try to stop me, outsider," Haizaki said, his voice all serious now. "This does not concern you."
"What doesn't?" Kagami snorted. "The fact that you kidnapped an innocent child or the fact that you stole my things?"
"Hey, they were just begging to be taken." Haizaki shrugged indifferently. "You can't possibly still be bitter over something that happened that long ago."
"Actually," Kagami said in a monotone. "I still am."
Haizaki narrowed his eyes.
"Why are you doing this?" Kagami demanded. "Why are you willing to kidnap kids that did nothing to you?"
He was sure it was a reasonable question he asked, but Haizaki burst out laughing.
"Are you kidding?" he sneered, wiping the corners of his eyes. "Are you that stupid that you can't even guess?"
Kagami stayed quiet, waiting.
"Money." Haizaki spread his arms, as if emphasizing his point. "Do you have any idea how much those fools in the city are willing to pay just for a scrawny kid like the one I got here? They're desperate, all right. They'd give anything just to satisfy their desires. I only need a small bunch of brats to strike rich."
"You're sick," Kagami decided.
"And what are you going to do about it?" Haizaki challenged.
"Nothing yet. I've got more important things to do." Kagami inhaled once, then shouted; "Kuroko! Now!"
They waited. Ten seconds passed. A minute. There were no signs of other movement except for the breeze that was blowing.
"Did you really think something that cheap would trick me?" Haizaki demanded, looking bored.
Kagami grinned triumphantly. "Nope."
Haizaki barely had time to comprehend what just happened when an invisible force slammed on him from behind, yanking the sack with the girl from his grasp.