The sound of glasses tinkling was heard inside the small but crowded restaurant in the midst of bustling Tokyo. The sun has already set a few hours ago and now the city lights were twinkling in various colors, keeping the city alive.
A group of tall boys were seen sitting circling a table placed in a corner of the room, all of them with their heads down. How they wished they were the ones who were laughing and drinking happily like the people across them. But they couldn't bring themselves to do that after their loss in the match against Rakuzan High.
"It's really depressing…" Midorima mumbled to himself, his fingers were tangling each other under the table. His eyes were staring blankly toward the red bean juice that just arrived a few minutes ago. Even his favorite drink couldn't lift up his mood.
'To think I even have bought tomorrow's lucky item…' Midorima sighed, feeling dejected.
Both of them couldn't come up with anything to reply Midorima, so once again they were wrapped in deafening silence. It was when the entrance door to the restaurant was slid open by someone that their attention was shifted.
Midorima's eyes twitched as it found a group of boys in jerseys which design he quickly recognized it hurt.
Then again, was there any other high school which jerseys were in white and powder blue, with the wearers emanating such ominous aura?
As much as he hated meeting his former captain in a place like this and not to mention just a few hours after his loss, he couldn't just ignore him when the redhead came up to him to say his greetings.
"It is a surprise to see you here, Shintarō, and all of you, too…" Akashi said in a flat tone as he lifted the corners of his lips slightly. He could see the members of Shūtoku High basketball team barely acknowledged his presence as they were still trapped in a somewhat gloomy atmosphere.
"Just why are you here?" Midorima couldn't help but venting out his frustration. It was as if Akashi knew that they were here and came in purpose, just to mock them. Although he knew better that Akashi's pride wouldn't let him do such cheap tricks.
"Eikichi was being very noisy, saying he was so hungry he could die," Akashi answered truthfully as the other members of Rakuzan High basketball team walked toward an empty table placed a few meters from Midorima's and his friends' table, across the reception desk. "It is understandable, though. Since we immediately went to watch Kaijō's and Seirin's match just after our match."
Midorima didn't say anything in response for a few good seconds, until he opened his mouth and said, "But this couldn't get any worse, right?"
Just after he let those words out, the entrance door was once again slid open, and this time was a group of super noisy people—most noticeably, a huge boy with red hair that gradated into black toward the ends.
"What luck you have, Shintarō…" Akashi chuckled lightly. "Are you sure you bought the right item for today?"
Before Midorima could even give a retort, the huge boy and his gang that were standing in front of the reception desk were already behaving embarrassingly, gasping so loud they could suck a galaxy, before pointing their fingers toward the same point and opened their mouths in unison.
"…What a noisy restaurant," Akashi complained, his eyebrows furrowing.
Completely ignoring the restaurant waiter who was showing their table, the members of Seirin High basketball team instead walked toward Midorima and Akashi, without forgetting to cringe dramatically as they walked past Rakuzan High basketball members' table.
"Good evening, Akashi-kun, Midorima-kun," Kuroko gave his greetings as he bowed courteously. "And you guys, too."
"Seriously, this table couldn't get any noisier," Takao who remained silent all this time finally talked. "We were here to mourn for our loss, what are you guys doing here? Showing off your wins?" he nattered as he rubbed his aching temples.
"I'm sorry, but…" Kuroko shook his head. "Kagami-kun here was being very noisy, saying he was so hungry he could die," Kuroko answered.
"Did you realize that you just said the exact same thing as Akashi did, Kuroko?" Midorima groaned.
"Never mind," Midorima sighed. "Tough match you got there, Seirin," he turned his head and looked at the rest of Seirin High basketball team members.
"We somehow managed to win, though," Hyūga, the captain, replied. He gave a genuinely happy smile. It was indeed, one of the best matches he ever had in his life.
"You've played well," Akashi noted.
He was still giving a thin smile before his eyes found the other's red ones, and his smile faded instantly.
"Well, if it is not Taiga Kagami…" he slithered, his voice was barely above a whisper.
"Fancy seeing you here, Akashi…" Kagami replied, his voice hoarse.
Akashi averted his eyes as he smiled once again and said, "I guess I'm taking my leave now. I don't want to keep my team members waiting. Well then," he nodded slightly before taking a step and glared at Kagami who was clearly blocking his way.
"Make way," Akashi whispered to Kagami.
Kagami remained there, not budging at all, until Kuroko pulled Kagami's arm and said, "Kagami-kun. Please don't pick a fight in a place like this."
"I'm not," Kagami snorted. "Just the mere sight of him is revolting."
"That's what one should call 'picking a fight'," Kuroko's face remained expressionless despite the obvious apprehensive feeling. It was, after all, very difficult to tell the difference whether Akashi was angry or not.
"Tsk," Kagami relented as he took a step back, making a space for Akashi to pass through.
The former captain of Teikō Junior High School basketball team walked silently without saying anything, without even sparing a glance toward neither Kagami nor Kuroko. Kagami could only watch the svelte figure becoming smaller and smaller as he walked further.
"Aaah, that was one good meal," said the captain of Shūtoku High basketball team, Taisuke Ōtsubo, as he groaned and slumped in his chair. "It's a pity that we had to have an awkward situation back then, though."
Takao drew a bitter smile. "It's true, after all, that no winner can cheer up someone they just defeated," he continued before taking up his glass filled with green tea and drank it.
"I couldn't even say a thing back then," Ōtsubo sighed. "I'm sorry I couldn't make us win…"
"Hey, what the Hell are you saying!? How long are you gonna weep over that stuff?" replied Kiyoshi, who sat beside Ōtsubo, as he slapped the back of his captain to cheer him up. "You did well. All of us did," the blond grinned. "We have no other way but to improve. To win."
Midorima smiled. He used to think that the sole purpose of a team was to win and win only, with or without teamwork. The time he spent together with his teammates gradually changed the way of his basketball. Instead of fighting alone by himself, now he felt that he could grow stronger if he covered his teammates' weak points, and got his own weak points covered by his teammates.
"I know maybe I've said this before, but…" Midorima said as he fixed his glasses to hide his blushing cheeks. "I'm glad I got into this team."
The other members widened their eyes and remained silent for a few seconds, before grinning widely, laughing with each other.
"Hear that? Our Shin-chan just said something so embarrassing it's making me cry," Takao grinned as he literally wiped the tears that were rolling down his cheeks.
"Don't say that again, seriously," Kiyoshi pouted. "That's embarrassing!"
"We're thankful that you're in our team, too," said Shinsuke as he smiled brightly.
Not long after that, Shūtoku High basketball team members were already packing their stuffs and put on their jerseys. They waved to Seirin High basketball team members' table that was apparently a little bit too far and time-consuming to properly say goodbye, and to Akashi and his teammates' table as they walked toward the reception desk.
"We're going first," Midorima said to Akashi as he waited for Ōtsubo who were paying for their dinner.
"It was nice to meet you, Shintarō," Akashi smiled thinly.
"Hey, Shin-chan! We're leaving!" Takao—who was already in front of the entrance door—called out as he waved his hand toward Midorima.
"Well then," Midorima gave his last words before walking out of the restaurant.
"Can you clean that vacant table?" the restaurant manager said to one of his assistants as he was busy arranging the money Ōtsubo just paid.
Without wasting any time, the waitress walked briskly toward the table where Shūtoku High basketball team members ate their dinner. The waitress was already wiping the table with a wet table-cloth before her eyes found an ivory canvas pouch left under the table.
Akashi, who already finished his meal a long time ago, was watching in slight amazement at Nebuya, the glutton, who was still eating like a hungry animal despite his sixth bowl of beef rice.
Akashi took a lot of effort to keep his diet balanced, followed with routine exercise to keep his digestive system and body fit. He rarely—'never' is a strong word—ate instant foods, deep-fried foods, and any other foods that were of unbalanced substances that possibly could ruin his health. Most of the time he ate homemade foods mostly consisted of Japanese traditional foods, such as raw salmon and other types of fish.
Living such diet for as long as he could remember, it was only normal that seeing someone living off of such impossibly unbalanced diet made him surprised.
As much as he hated having this thought came up in his mind, he remembered Kuroko said, "Kagami-kun here was being very noisy, saying he was so hungry he could die."
Akashi averted his eyes from Nebuya to the table meters away from their table. His eyes found the figure he was looking for: The boy who was eating with his elbows on the table and the bowl right in front of his mouth, ravishing his meal like tomorrow would never come. He exactly looked like Nebuya's carbon copy.
Not long after that, a restaurant waitress came up to his table and said, "I'm sorry for intruding, but do you happen to be an acquaintance of the group that just ate on the table over there? The very tall boys in orange jerseys?"
"What is it?" Mibuchi, who was already done eating ages ago, replied.
"Um, someone might have left this pouch by accident," said the waitress.
Mibuchi glanced at Akashi who remained wordless.
"I believe it is Shintarō's," Akashi closed his eyes. "I am meeting him tomorrow, too. I can give it back to him," he said calmly before the waitress sighed in relief and gave over the mysterious pouch to him.
"…I've never seen a waitress handing over someone else's lost item ever before," Mibuchi mumbled as he stared at the pouch.
"Maybe they are used to having people involved in the Winter Cup around this time and assumed that no one really comes back for their lost items since they generally come from far places, just like us," Akashi replied.
"…And I'm sure I saw him holding this pouch under the table back then, too," the redhead continued.
"Are you a psychic or what?" Mibuchi cringed.
Hayama piped in, "Hey, don't you think that guy with glasses is a bit weird? I even heard during that our match he brought a shōgi piece. A 'lucky item' or something, they said."
Akashi exhaled as he drew up a faint smile. "He is one superstitious person. This, too, must be one of those 'lucky items'."
"Open it, open it!" Hayama got even more excited.
"That would be rude of me if I opened someone's item," Akashi refused.
"But just taking a peek won't hurt one bit!" Hayama pushed on. "C'mon!"
Akashi glanced down toward the curious pouch. He would be lying if he said he wasn't curious of what inside the pouch. He knew by touching it that it would be a small bottle made of glass, but what would be inside the bottle?
"I guess…" Akashi sighed.
He was still indecisive when he pulled the red rope that tied the canvas pouch, but when the pouch was opened, his doubts disappeared.
Inside the ivory canvas pouch was indeed, a bottle. Inside the transparent bottle with red cap made of plastic, was a liquid with thick consistency, in a more mysterious color of tosca green.
"Whoa…" Hayama gaped.
"Is that… a drink or something?" Mibuchi stared at the bottle, his eyes narrowed.
"Who knows," the heterochromatic-eyed captain answered. He put up the bottle to take a better look of the liquid inside. It wasn't mere tosca green liquid, apparently. There were many small, sand-like bristles all over the liquid. Its texture was identical to water-filled sand.
"Would you try that green stuff?" Hayama asked curiously.
"Do I look like I would risk my life for something so suspicious, Kotarō?" Akashi replied in sarcasm.
"C'mon, just a drop won't kill you!" Hayama still haven't found the limit of pushing Akashi.
Despite his earlier curt reply, he admitted that he wanted to know what the item really was. Relenting to his built up curiosity, Akashi opened the cap and pressed his index finger on the opening, making sure that the liquid wouldn't spill any more than a drop. He then licked the liquid.
"How was it!? Bitter!? It looks like a magic potion!" Hayama exclaimed.
"It tasted… nothing," Akashi answered as he closed the cap and put back the bottle into the ivory canvas pouch. He couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed. He, too, thought it would taste bitter like a magic potion, judging by the color and the texture of the liquid.
"I thought it could transform you into an animal or something," Mibuchi frowned. "I guess such things really don't exist, huh?"
Akashi remained silent. He tied the red rope tightly and secured it, and put the pouch into his bag.
"Are you feeling anything?" Hayama still haven't given up on hoping that the liquid could do something magical.
"No," Akashi shook his head.
In a split of second, though, he felt like vomiting.
"…I'm going to the toilet," Akashi kept his calm outlook and stood up, before leaving the table.
"Maaan, nothing really happened, huh?" Hayama groaned in disappointment.
"Hey, what were you guys doing?" Eikichi, who just finished eating, finally piped in with his mouth still full of rice.
Akashi closed the toilet stall door hurriedly before desperately reaching for the toilet bowl, and vomited.
He kept coughing harshly. The extremely bitter taste of his vomit didn't help him at all, instead making him feel more nauseous.
Before long he flushed the toilet and closed the toilet bowl and sat on it, his elbows on his knees and his hands supporting his head. He felt so sick, so nauseous, his head was spinning around, everything around him looked psychedelic, and the silence in the toilet was borderline deafening.
'Damn it,' Akashi panted harshly. 'I was so careless…'
He watched as cold sweat fell down onto the cold floor. It sickened him even more when he realized that he should wait a few more minutes until his body dried up from the sweat that couldn't stop flowing like a flood.
Slowly but sure he felt his sight grew weirder and weirder. At first it looked like everything around him was viewed through fish eye's lens, and then it turned normal again, and next it looked like the colors got even more saturated.
He was still trying to recuperate when he heard a knock on the door.
'Tsk. That Taiga Kagami…' Akashi groaned inwardly.
"Hey!" Kagami kept knocking the door. "Akashi, you're inside, right? I saw you running into the toilet with that funny expression, so I thought something was up. Don't tell me you're planning on something fishy!?"
'God, you are noisy…'
"And just so you know, I'm not bowing down to you!" Kagami kept prancing around, while Akashi was still sitting on the toilet wordlessly. "You and your weird eyes! I don't care how your eyes work, but I'll definitely win! You hear that!?"
"Hey! Say something, damn it!" Kagami couldn't take being ignored completely like this anymore. He proceeded on turning the door knob, and before he could be surprised because the door wasn't locked, the sight before him could make him poke his eyeballs in complete disbelief.
There, sitting on the toilet, was Seijūrō Akashi, indeed, with his trademark red hair and heterochromatic eyes. His expression was still cavalier as ever, although right now he couldn't hide the pained expression very well.
But what made Kagami's jaw dropped wasn't the mighty figure before him that was sitting on the toilet like some salary man who just got fired and now jobless, but it was a pair of red, fluffy ears on his head, replacing the 'human' ears that were supposed to be placed parallel to his eyes, and the long, red tail, that swished around apprehensively.
Kagami's mouth kept moving, trying to say something, anything, but his voice just wouldn't cooperate with him.
Not long after that he finally managed to say a faint whisper, "A—Akashi?"
The mighty emperor narrowed his eyes, trying to retort back about how rude Kagami was for opening the toilet stall door without permission, but what came out of his mouth wasn't something he couldn't dream even in his wildest imagination.
Author's Note - Bubble is baaack! With another Kagami/Akashi story! It has been about three months since the last time I posted my last update. I miss you, my readers! This time is about Akashi with cat ears and tail! The idea just came up out of nowhere ages ago but now it's finally here for you to enjoy! Unlike the previous Kagami/Akashi story, this is lighter and hopefully will bring you smile and make your heart warm (because the mere idea of Akashi getting cat ears and tail is already a joke). I hope you like reading the slow development of Kagami's and Akashi's love to each other! Tell me what you think!
Okay, I'll see you later on the next chapter! Ta-ta!