I'M SORRY. GPS IS MEGA SORRY. IT'S BEEN A MONTH SINCE THE LAST UPDATE.

School has actually been really busy for me. Freshman year did not prepare me for this at all. I'm also a Club officer, trying to join a sport, and am in a volunteer club which does not help. My life has slowed down a bit, but I'm not sure how fast I can write these chapters. Just know that I am not going to give up on this story and it will not be going on hiatus if I can help it. I'll just be slow (/craissadly)

AkaKuro Shipper: THANK YOU I'M SORRY IT IS NOT YOUR OTP.

There might be mistakes in this chapter, but I currently have a terrible headache so I'll have to correct them later. I don't want to put this off any longer.

With all that taken care of, Kuroko no Basuke is not mine, and welcome back to Kiseki World Online.


Chapter 24: Problems & Good People (Or alternatively: Silver & Gold)


It took less than a minute for the remainder of the fires to quickly burn out. The wispy black flames which had burned so vivaciously just moments ago disappeared, leaving behind only thin screens of smoke which eventually also evaporated into the air.

They decided to leave and teleported back to town where they could perhaps figure out what in the world was happening. If this kind of thing happened to all Living Weapons, they could accept it and just leave it at that; however, neither of them had ever heard of a case like this even though a few other players–Haizaki himself for example–had already reached the same level Kuroko had just become.

The pair entered the closest neutral area building in the vicinity. It was something Midorima had decreed was of utmost importance if they wanted to have any important conversations. Some of the highest level mechanical-type trackers in the game could transmit sound as long as their user was online, and since whoever had attacked them earlier seemed so committed to raiding them, their guild building or anywhere else wouldn't be a good place to talk about private matters. Places like the fast-food restaurant they'd just entered (sadly, not a Majiba as there were none in the town), were convenient since skills and spells didn't work inside, hence the term "neutral area".

Once they were seated across from each other on the semi-hard, leathery benches in the restaurant Haizaki began to talk, though he was soon interrupted by a stone-faced NPC waiter.

"So what will your order be?" the NPC grumbled questioningly to Haizaki, a bored expression on his acne-dotted face while his foot tapped impatiently against the shiny tile floor. He looked like a quietly rebellious and/or snarky teenager who'd probably spit in the food of a customer he disliked if he were human.

"Don't want anything, get lost" Haizaki replied, waving the NPC off with a few lazy flicks of his wrist.

The waiter responded in a slightly annoyed yet still apathetic tone of voice, "Sirs, if you don't purchase anything, I will have to ask you to exit the building". He crossed his arms, looking as if he would rather be doing anything else in the world.

"Bullshit!" was quickly proclaimed.

"Sir, please refrain from profanity. Also, if you do not order, I will have to remove you from the premises."

"I said I don't want any of your crap!"

"Sir, please do not insult our products". A loud, non-inconspicuous sigh followed, along with a sidelong glance at the clock on the wall and more thumping of a shoe on the floor. The waiter recited with fake enthusiasm, "I completely recommend our gourmet, western-style cheesy meat-paradise pizza with four different seasoning as a topping, along with a super cool ra… rooty-tooty cream-covered root beer float as a dessert". He stumbled on the "super cool rooty-tooty" part quite convincingly for an NPC.

A gloved fist was slammed onto the table, courtesy of Haizaki. The Thief glowered at the impassive NPC and brutally murdered him in his mind five times–make that six times. A few seconds passed. Seven. In reply to the serial-killer eyes being directed at him, the waiter just took his notepad and jotted something down onto it.

"One cheesy pizza and root beer float coming up."

Eight times. "GOD FUCKING DAMNIT, ARE YOU DEAF!?"

"You are making a scene, Haizaki-kun."

Several people were indeed staring in the Thief's direction, though they quickly turned back when confronted by his glare. He went back to berating the NPC with insults.

It was as if the gods were set on making it so that Kuroko never had a shortage of the pleasure (please note I am being very sarcastic here) of accompanying people who cause trouble in dining establishments, virtual or not.

Still, fighting with an NPC waiter was a new one. He could now add that to his ever-growing list that started with condiment-foodfight-tag by the guild's idiot pair; drunken disrobement by Aomine–solo; and over-excessive complaints to the manager of the Korean restaurant in the next city over about how the Kimchi wasn't soaked in vinegar long enough, starring Takao Kazunari.

"Thank you for visiting Little Italy Pizzaria & Ice Cream House, your order will be ready shortly."

…Nine times.

With that the NPC left via de-pixelation, leaving behind the fuming, silver-headed, nineteen year-old man-child for Kuroko to deal with by himself.

The table suddenly lurched a bit, and Kuroko realized it was because the other had kicked it. With one last curse and strike directed at the innocent marble, he turned his head to Kuroko and demanded, "Oi, tell me what the hell happened earlier."

By experience, the Light Elf was certain he did not want to do anything to aggravate Haizaki any further. It'd either end in loud, whiny complaints or a reckless fight with a stranger Kuroko was sure he'd be able to find. So in full detail, from the way the words to the spell were flashing in front of him to how the weapon was burning itself with a strange, black, flame-like veil in the end, Kuroko explained. He had forgotten a few of the words to the spell but most of them were there, so he started to quickly jot them down after he was finished talking. He had almost finished when a blur appeared next to their table and became an image.

"Here is your meal, please enjoy", said the NPC. Luckily it wasn't the same one as earlier.

Despite his earlier opposition, Haizaki still grabbed a slice of the pizza with the too-long, too-stupid description and began eating. Kuroko took the float. With his mouth half full, Haizaki then inquired, "So you know nothing about this thing?"

I thought that would be obvious.

Kuroko nodded once in return. "I have never heard of something like this, so I was thinking of asking Akashi-kun for help". The fizzy content of the float was avoided as Kuroko's attentions were focused on scooping out spoonfuls of French Vanilla ice cream to eat without mixing it with the soda. "He seems to be very knowledgeable about this game".

The man sitting across from Kuroko swallowed the food he'd been chewing and stared at him suspiciously. Seconds passed. He looked around the room and, ascertaining that no one was paying attention to him, leaned forward a bit and broke an awkward silence with, "You… how much do you know about Akashi?"

The question was so unexpected that it took Kuroko some time to comprehend what the other had just asked, and then some more to formulate a clear response.

"I do not know much about Akashi-kun outside this game", he finally replied slowly–somewhat cautiously as he stared back at the Thief whose eyes were mixed between questioning and just the slightest bit angry. After Kuroko finished saying so, he relayed the fact through his mind that it was true. Besides the other man's name, age, and in-game appearance, he really hadn't learned anything else about the mysterious redhead.

"Do you know Akashi-kun from real life?" the bluenette asked, feeding a small scoop of ice cream to himself, trying to find something to do other than scrutinize and be scrutinized. Following the previous question (mostly to confirm the suspicions that'd formed in the last three weeks), he added, "Is it possible that he was, perhaps, some kind of beta-tester or programmer who had worked on this game? It would explain a lot."

Another skeptical glance.

"Has he really not told you anything? I thought he would have told at least you or something. I thought you were one of his favorites or something". The gray-haired man let out a dull sigh and sank back into his seat, accidently bumping the underside of the table with his arm while he was at it.

"Well, since you kind of already guessed at it, I don't know if Akashi would be able to keep it much of a secret", he bit into a slice of pizza and took his time chewing, looking as if he were considering if he should continue.

He did.

"But yeah, I know Akashi from real life."

I wonder how. They are very different.

The other didn't elaborate on their relationship, instead carrying on with, "He was both a beta and a programmer which is why he knows a lot. If you're thinking it, he's not hacking the system or using a modded avatar or something; sometimes, it's freaking scary how he's so fucking strong."

He put hand was put to his forehead and let it run through some of his silvery strands of hair a couple times. "A word of advice: for your own good, don't get too close to Akashi."

"… What do you mean by that?"

Haizaki grumbled and took another bite of a pizza slice. "Nothing! Just forget I said it. Haa. And don't tell him I said any of this either–I'm not stupid enough to challenge that crazy bastard."

It seems Haizaki-kun actually holds Akashi-kun in high esteem even though he sounds like he hates him. But what he is saying is very confusing. This doesn't seem like that big of a secret though. It is not really uncommon for programmers to play their own games.

Kuroko wanted to ask for more details, but for some reason the Thief in front of him squinted at something in the air for several seconds, as if he were reading. When Kuroko looked, there was nothing there. A pm? Storage window?

A short period of time passed. The ash-haired man looked somehow fatigued, pale even, and the silence filling the air between them felt just a bit too stagnant, so Kuroko felt he shouldn't bring the conversation back up. He settled for stirring his spoon around the cup's rim, most of the ice cream having melted and mixed into the root beer to the point where he could no longer separate them any longer.

Haizaki stared at the gray-ish wall, table, or something equally uninteresting, looking like he was stuck on a train of thought, and Kuroko pretended to read a book as he examined the previous conversation and took brief glances toward the other every minute or so.

Finally, Haizaki took it upon himself to end it by standing up and brusquely saying, "Let's go training. You have replacement weapons, right? You better not be fucking useless without that staff or I'll kick your ass" followed by him unceremoniously dumping the remainder of his pizza in the trash. He looked a bit anxious stomping so heavily and gritting his teeth like he was.

Kuroko followed obediently. No sooner had they stepped out of the building that a, "Ti-ting!" was heard by both players (In case you're wondering, that's the onomatopoeia for the log-in noise).

{Kise has logged into the server.}

Kise 05/12/38 4:23*
Close message index.*

.

Kise 05/12/38 4:23*
Close message index.*
.

"I'm here! Kurokocchi, Haizakicchi, are you with each other? Oh wait, the guild window map says you are. Anyways, let's go train together. Just go on without me and I'll meet you there in five minutes, I'm on the other side of town right~.

~(*'A '*~) I haven't had much time for playing lately~ Work has been really busy right after the holiday ended. TT^TT A couple of days ago I got a new gig modeling for some kind of cosmetics product that's gonna be released soon. It smells really nice, it's cal…"

Kuroko didn't bother reading the rest of it after seeing the length of the scroll bar. Was it really humanely possible to type that much in less than three minutes?

"Hello Kise-kun, we'll be waiting", the bluenette wrote back.

Haizaki, who'd read half the second paragraph had on a disgusted expression and Kuroko thought he heard the utterance of the words, "creepy", and "gross", about how long it went on about the make-up he was using. The grayheaded man closed the tab and trudged forward, visibly cringing.


The two got to a training ground Haizaki had decided on–one with relatively weak monsters–and it didn't take long for Kise to arrive. It occurred to Kuroko he was being accommodated, seeing as the monsters were just about his level.

Kise showed up quickly and, after saying a quick greeting to "Haizakicchi", sought his "mentor" out. It only took him twenty seconds and an inaudible gasp before he finally noticed the blue-haired man standing next to him–a personal best for the blonde."How have you been?" he asked in an overly-chipper tone. Then when he caught sight of what the Cleric was holding, he inquired, "Kurokocchi, why are you using that? Where's your usual staff?"

"It is a long story."

"I'm going first. Hurry up", Haizaki sighed, slightly peeved by the blonde's presence. They had recently been getting along better, but not really much more than civil. Perhaps it was the bad first impression that had prevented a friendship from budding, though for some reason the silver-haired man really disliked something about Kise that he couldn't quite figure out.

Long strides were taking toward the middle of the hunting ground where the monsters had accumulated. Three or four other players were scattered around the map; it was a problem the member of the GoM usually never faced considering they usually went for obscure or difficult-to-get-to maps. Their leader would often teleport them or give them the coordinates to these kind of places.

Kuroko was busy telling Kise a shortened version of what happened earlier (minus the words he'd had with Haizaki back in the restaurant). The model seemed pretty amazed and, of course, mind-boggled by this, but he didn't really ask any further questions, instead pulling Kuroko into the battlegrounds with a wide, peculiar smile.

"He looks a bit absentminded today", Kuroko thought, "and a bit too enthusiastic".

The thoughts were pushed away when he had to take up his staff and start casting. The one he was using wasn't bad, but it was obviously inferior to the Phantom's Staff in both basic stats and unique skills. It did give him a boost in Light spells, including healing, but neither of his Rogue companions needed many recovery spells.

Off to his left was Haizaki, swiftly cutting through monsters without even using any skills–he didn't need to for creatures of this level. The Thief was absorbed in his nonstop killing-spree even though the monsters weren't much of a challenge for him. It was like watching a hardcore Slasher film.

Off to his right was Kise, who was testing out some skills he'd mimed from some people the guild had fought last week. He alternated between Fighter and Mage skills, killing monsters more for practice than gaining experience or leveling up. And perhaps maybe for relieving stress, Kuroko noted, because the strikes he dealt seemed choppy and forceful, and his movements didn't flow smoothly (that, by the way, was something Kise had tried copying from Aomine).

The Thief looked aggravated, the Bandit tense.

It was Kuroko who, for once, ceased their training session–just before the end of the hour.

In the middle, Haizaki had started clearing out monsters faster than they could respawn, and using forced aggro skills which stole even the monsters from the other players.

Kise became more and more listless as time went on. Whenever Kuroko asked if he was tired though, he'd smile and say, "Nope~! Let's keep going!" yet he still appeared lethargic.

The blue-eyed man was annoyed by all of this, partially because they were being so sulky in their respective ways and partially because his mind was still grating over what he should and could do about his weapon.

Little opposition was put forward to his suggestions of returning back to the guild. They could put away the loot they'd gotten (at least coins since the equipment wasn't too great), and perhaps he could try to find out what was wrong.

You see, if you haven't noticed, Kuroko is quite nosy when it comes to other people, especially when they're in a bad mood.

To an extent, it's because he spends a lot of time observing people, but also because he worries a lot due to how much he cares for the people in his life. Well, sometimes strangers too but mostly about the people he knew. And up until last year, there weren't really many important people in his life. It's been said before, but he could have counted them on his hand.

When the trio got back to the stronghold and deposited their ladomi in the storage, Haizaki flopped onto their new sofa and told them to wake him up in twenty minutes before he was automatically logged out. It raised several questions to Kuroko. Why he didn't just log out? Was he waiting for something in the game? Even if he wanted to ask though, the other was already snoring.

The bluenette sat at the end of the table and motioned for Kise to join him, which the blonde did.

Right as the blonde sat, he asked with a lively tone if Kuroko had read the message, followed by more details about his job and what he did earlier that morning. Since earlier, the Light Elf had skimmed through the message but none of the things he saw could really explain the other's current disposition.

He tired of the animated, too-fast-to-follow chatter after a minute or two, and obstructed Kise from going any further into the description about one of his assistant's pet iguana (how they got here was a mystery), by questioning as bluntly as he could, "Is there something bothering you? You seem off today."

No need for subtlety when you're Kuroko.

The other stopped and gave a wide smile. "No, there's nothing wrong!" he grinned.

Blank stare.

This interrogation process was something Kuroko had down all too well.

It took less time than expected for Kise to crack under those big, ocean-deep eyes, during of which Kise noticed that said eyes were really very, very blue. This newly-gained piece of knowledge was but a fleeting thought though. One of Kise's hands scratched his neck, from nerves not need, and he exhaled and asked in a subdued murmur if it was obvious.

"Yes; your exhilaration over everything today seemed a bit strained."

"Damn. I thought I was a good actor too."

"Did something happen?" Kuroko asked, slightly raising a brow.

The younger man dropped his fake grin and leaned back into his seat–mahogany by the way.

A long, perfectly-manicured fingernail traced a circle into the table and he started with, "I'm having a bit of girl trouble I guess."

Kuroko blinked. Kise went on.

"Just so you know, I'm only telling you this because I feel you can keep secrets well. Anyway, I used to date this girl back in high school before I started modeling. We broke up a long time ago though. But then late last year, we were at a class reunion and she asked if we could 'get together' again, if you catch my drift."

"Hmm?"

"Ermm. Sex."

"…I see."

"I'm a guy. Don't stare at me like that."

"Like what?"

"Umm, Nevermind. So anyways, the problem is that she came back and apparently", he stopped briefly, "She's been pregnant for a few months. And she told me it might have been me. But we're still waiting for the test to get analyzed though."

"So how are you going to deal with this?"

"That's the problem! I don't really know. I only found out about this just yesterday and I've been completely stressing out waiting for the DNA test results. What should I do if it is mine!?"

"Obviously you take responsibility."

"Another problem is she doesn't want me to. She's got engaged to some guy who knows about all this and wants me to keep my mouth shut but she thought I should still know about it. But then I feel extremely conflicted over this. I'm not really mentally prepared but if it's my child then I'd obviously want a part in their life! Plus I feel so guilty! And I also–"

Kuroko put a hand up. "Calm down and breathe, Kise-kun. And stop flailing your arms around like that."

"Ugh. Thanks."

"You still do not know if it is yours though, right?" Kuroko thought about what to say next. He wasn't really used to giving advice in an area like this, especially because he'd never even gone out with another person. It took him a few seconds to find the right words to say–or at least what he thought was right.

"I think you have to take a lot of things into account, Kise-kun. She is happy right as she is now, right? In that case, you should probably try to stay out of her life as much as possible."

"But–"

"It would cause a lot of trouble for her new family if people knew about this. Also, if they are good people, then I don't think you have to worry about them."

Kuroko spent a moment gauging Kise's reaction, but he was silent in contemplation.

"If you don't love each other and she doesn't want you to step in, then it is probably best that you leave it alone or else it will cause conflicts in the future. And you also have your own life and family to think about; there is no way you would be able to keep this a secret if you wanted to take care of the child. The paparazzi would make all your lives impossible."

Kise groaned and slouched back further. "I was thinking that I might… you know… quit modeling. I've actually been thinking about it for a while even before I heard this news though", he said, "Also, at the very least I could provide child support or something to help."

Instinctively, Kuroko bent over the table edge, placed his hand on Kise's head, and began to delicately pet it like he would a child. It was an adopted habit from his family, especially his grandma, who did it to him when he was smaller and younger. He found it to be one of the most comforting gestures he could think of; the soothing kindness of another person transmitted through the gentle, warming touch of fingertips would radiate throughout his entire being whenever he felt disheartened or sad.

Kise smiled and chuckled a bit at the hand on his head, and though he did feel a bit of embarrassment which showed on his face, he let the hand continue.

"I think Kise-kun is a very kind person", the smaller man stated after a few seconds, then sat back on his seat, "so whatever decision you decide to make, I hope you do not regret it."

"Yeah. Thanks, Kurokocchi. I've actually been kind of running away from this, but talking to you makes me feel better. My mom almost killed me when I tried to tell her."

He checked the clock. It was around a quarter after five.

"They said some papers would be mailed to me tomorrow morning to tell me whether or not I'm the father, but right now I think I'll try to go talk to that girl since she should be off work right now". Before Kise pressed the log-out button, he left the words, "I'll be free around twelve tomorrow, so let me tell you the news then, okay? And thanks again."

Kuroko didn't really think he deserved any thanks, but he accepted the sentiments anyways and watched as the image of the Bandit dissolved away.

Though it hadn't been twenty minutes yet, Kuroko went to wake up Haizaki. He was surprised to find the other laying down casually, arms folded behind his head and eyes staring up at the ceiling with a knowing smirk.

"So pretty boy might've knocked up some chick? I wonder what the tabloids would think if they knew."

"You–"

The Thief snorted while sauntering toward the door. "You should see your face, it's pretty hilarious seeing you riled up for once since you have about as many facial expressions as a rock. Learn to take a joke–I'm not that much of an asshole."

"Hmm… Haizaki-kun is also a good person."

"Ugh, think whatever you want but I wouldn't make assumptions about people so quickly if I were you. I could be lying", was what he muttered as he opened the door. Kuroko thought he might've seen the other's face turn a bit red, but couldn't tell if it was because he was feeling angry or flustered.

"Hey, Haizaki-kun?" he waited for the other to turn around. "Why do you play this game?"

"Because I'm bored, like the power and publicity, and Akashi is a douchebag", he laughed.

Something told Kuroko that those weren't the full reasons, but he didn't get anything else other than the door slamming shut.

No one else ever found out about Kise's news even months later, much to his relief. Not that we're skipping that far ahead though; the many events in between are just far too important for that.


THE SECRET OF KISE'S WEAPON I KEEP FORGETTING TO PUT HERE: MEmoria BLade oF Gold (Ignore the O). I almost got it to spell MemorIa BlaDe Of GoLd. (Even though he's a model but still. AND AGAIN THE O IS A PROBLEM) By the way, Haizaki's weapon is called Memoria Blade of Silver.

Thank you for reading peeps.