The silence in the air was stifling. One could literally feel waves of shock and confusion in that order. The atmosphere became tense, cautious, and wary. Aomine and Kise stared at the frozen teal-head while Murasakibara and Midorima gazed at the broken window. Akashi was the only one who stayed smirking, gazing at Kuroko calmly with a knowing expression. Kuroko's hands were still flung out in front of his face, frozen and stiff.
"What . . ." Aomine faintly started. He swallowed. "What just happened?"
"Aka-chin." Murasakibara looked at Akashi for an explanation.
Midorima blinked rapidly. "The window . . ."
"A-Akashicchi, what?" Kise tilted his head.
Kuroko slowly put his hands down. He tried to get his hand to sting. Then it would make sense that the ball went another direction. His hand didn't hurt at all though, and it proved he hadn't even made contact with the ball before it flew the other way. But it was simply a coincidence, Kuroko reasoned. A strong wind must have pushed the ball through the window, or maybe he had hit it with the tip of his finger nails, and it was enough to change course. He was having a hard time convincing himself.
"Negative gravitation," Akashi said tersely, jerking Kuroko out of his thoughts. "A physical outward force he emits from his body. Right now, he did it unconciously to defend himself. In other words, misdirection."
"Mis . . . direction?" Aomine repeated. All eyes turned toward Kuroko. The teal-head shifted, not used to having the attention on him. "Negative gravitation?"
"How did you know, Akashicchi?" Kise demanded. "No one knows of misdirection, so how did you know he had it?"
Akashi casually tapped under his yellow eye. "I can see it; vaguely, of course. Everybody in here draws in an inward force to their body in order to create their ability. Everybody, except for him." Gazes strayed to Kuroko. He shifted uncomfortably. "Rather than an inward motion our bodies naturally draws, his rejects and pushes outwards."
"Hence, misdirection," Midorima finished.
"Precisely." Akashi walked over to the broken window and closed the curtains, hiding the small hole the ball had caused. "There is more, no doubt. He is still hiding his potential."
"Excuse me," Kuroko interrupted, voice cutting. "I am not hiding anything. I came here for answers, and you've obliged. It does not help when you throw a baseball at me suddenly."
"Anybody could have caught that ball," Murasakibara drawled. "Aka-chin didn't throw it that hard. You're just too slow."
Kuroko's blue eyes turned toward the purple-head, anger beneath the usual blankness. "Excuse me for my unnatural slowness," he kept his tone forcibly polite. "Please be more considerate of my nature next time."
Murasakibara looked the other way childishly. Akashi's lip turned upward for a second at the act of curtness from the boy, but it disappeared as fast as it came. The Generation of Miracles waited with bated breath for their leader to kill the teal-head for speaking toward Akashi in that sort of manner, but were shocked when Akashi obliged, "Yes, I should have warned you. You can relax now; I will answer your questions."
What happened to Akashi? The four colorful teenagers immediately scanned their leader to see if he was a fake. The enemy must have gotten in and disguised as Akashi, that had to be the answer. Akashi was as real as could be though.
Once settled back in his seat, Akashi folded his arms and looked at Kuroko with a smug expression. "Well? Your questions?"
Kuroko tensed but relaxed enough to clear his mind. He would ask about the ball later. "Who are you?" was his first question. He needed to know their identities.
Akashi raised one, quick eyebrow. While he was wary of revealing themselves, he knew he had to get Kuroko's trust immediately, especially with the ability he obtained. "Will our names do?" he asked tersely.
"For now," Kuroko said. He had never been this pushy before, but the nerves were getting to him.
"Very well." Akashi jerked his head toward Midorima. "Shintarou, you are to go first. Full name."
The green-head was a little bit irked to tell his name to Kuroko, but he obeyed his leader without question, "Midorima Shintarou."
Kise went next, "Kise Ryouta . . . Akashicchi, why are we doing this?"
Akashi didn't answer and signalled the next one to go.
"Murasakibara Atsushi," Murasakibara mumbled, lazy to speak up.
The ganguro was after the giant. He gave a fake smile to Kuroko and spoke, "Well, I'm Rob Jameswo—" Scissors flew passed his face and stuck itself to the wall. Aomine froze and looked at the one who threw it.
"Are you telling me you are from America, Daiki, and that your name has been a lie to me?" Akashi's cold voice had him shiver.
"Aomine Daiki," he grumbled, albeit reluctantly.
Akashi looked back at Kuroko with a cool expression. "And I am Akashi Seijuro. Will you introduce yourself?"
"You've used my name many times," Kuroko retorted. "It must mean you know it by now. How?"
"The first time you were here," Akashi answered. "Your Student ID told everything."
Kuroko asked, alarmed, "You stole my ID?"
"Not stealing if you returned it," Aomine muttered.
The teal-head fingered his wallet in his back pocket. When he had checked his belongings from his first visit here, everything had been in its place. He should have questioned whether the strangers looked through his stuff though. Of course, that would explain how they knew his name and possibly get information about him from knowing his school, however—
"Who are the men that are attacking me?" Kuroko asked abruptly. "K—" he paused to remember the names. "Kise-kun and Aomine-kun are killing them when they get close. Who are they? How do they know me?"
Akashi drank his tea carefully and pulled up the right sleeve of his yukata that was falling loose. "Hanabi," he rolled the name off his tongue. The Generation of Miracles tensed. "The men are from an organization, Hanabi. Apparently,they have known of you before we discovered your ability. You seem to be crucial to their plan, so they are not attacking you, per se, but they do plan to capture you."
Kuroko blinked. "I don't understand."
Akashi set down his cup of tea. It wouldn't do any good to stall. "You might be aware of this, but everything needs energy to exist." The red-head held out his hand toward Midorima, whom placed a pen in the outstretched hand. Akashi grabbed a piece of scratch paper and placed it on the table for Kuroko to see. "Veins of energy travels everywhere. Humans need this to survive. You could call it the energy of Life, but the name does not matter. This source is powerful." He started to sketch out long, thin lines across the paper. "They flow in streams such as this one. Right now, most of the veins are flowing freely. This is why Earth is so unpredictable, and humans are so unstable. They are free to do as they please."
He then started to draw choppy, short lines across. "Most, I said," Akashi reminded. "There are people whom wish to control it, and it is very possible. Controlling the sources would mean controlling the humans, the natural disasters—the power of life and death." He paused and looked at the teal-head.
Kuroko stared at the piece of paper blankly. The words were barely translating through his brain. His natural reaction was to deny and reject; it would be anybody's reaction. This was ridiculous and fantastical. Though he remained silent, despite his thoughts.
"Hanabi is an organization whom seeks to control every source." He drew four, thick lines. "There are four main sources that link to all the rest. Once Hanabi controls four of them, the rest is theirs. We, the Generation of Miracles, currently own these four sources. We attack the men who seek to claim one of them. Hanabi has us in numbers, but we have them in power." Akashi flicked his eyes toward his team. They were all stiff, their eyes haunted from the past. The red-head placed a hand on Murasakibara's head, the one closest to him, and discreetly ran it through his locks. Murasakibara visibly relaxed.
"We were created for this very reason, from the day we were children." His red-and-yellow eyes met blue ones. "You seem to be different. You have an ability, yet you are clueless to this world. Who are your parents? Where are they?"
Kuroko looked the other way, trying to sort his mind out. "My family died when I was younger. There are no memories of them."
"Is that what you were told, or is that what you know?" Akashi asked coldly.
He abruptly switched his stare back to Akashi, his emotionless face pulled into a frown. "That is what I know. Are you implying something?"
"Perhaps. Why is it you hold an ability, but you were closed from our world?"
Kuroko gave a sharp intake of air. "There are no such things as 'abilities'." And there was no such thing of the energy they talk about.
Midorima glared. "Don't be stupid. Haven't you witnessed Aomine's speed enough to know the truth?"
"And what just happened minutes ago," Akashi gestured to the hidden window. "Is there an explanation you can come up with?" Kuroko stayed silent. The expression on Akashi's face turned dark. "Denial will only get yourself and everybody else killed. This isn't a world of gangs, mafias, or drug-dealing. I warned you more than once: telling you the truth means sacrificing your own life. Your very companions would die from your relation with you. You said you were prepared for that, but are you?"
Kuroko shaking brought a pale hand to cover half of his face. "Why is it so sudden? Why . . . why is it that now you people are so urgent for me? What will I contribute to?" As far as Kuroko knew, he was weak. Always weak, and always will be. His stamina was extremely low, and he didn't have the strength to match with any of his classmates at school. Ability or not, the weak stayed weak.
Kise casted a wary look to Akashi, but the red-head shook it off. "The war between Hanabi and us is coming," Akashi murmured. "Both sides are looking for one more person to change the aspects of the upcoming war. You, whom have suddenly revealed your strength, are now needed for this war."
"I didn't agree to participate in a war!" Kuroko protested. He stood up in defiance with a vicious frown. "This is too sudden. Don't expect me to accept everything."
"Think, Kuroko Tetsuya," Akashi said calmly. "Whether you believe me or not at this moment, that's not important. What is important is Hanabi will take control of the four main sources of the world. Again, the truth can only be seen with your eyes alone. However, when humanity is being controlled by their very will, whose fault shall it be?"
Kuroko felt dizzy. The world spun and spun, and it didn't stop. Black spots appeared in front of his blue eyes. Exhaustion finally took a toll on his body; he felt himself stagger backward.
"O-oi!" Aomine yelled. He appeared right behind the boy as Kuroko fell, unconcious. The tanned teenager grunted, his arms catching Kuroko easily. Midorima stood up instantly and was by their side. Kise was next, then Murasakibara. Akashi stayed on the couch, analyzing the situation. Midorima put a hand on the clammy forehead, feeling his temperature.
"He's exhausted," he concluded. "His body is fatigued, and no doubt his mind is burnt. It's too much for one day." A soft, green glow emitted from his hand. "I'm going to put him under a deep sleep. He needs rest."
"Very well." Akashi finally stood up and adjusted his yukata. "Put him in the guest bedroom. I suggest for all of you to rest. Movement up in the east have been restless."
"I'm pretty beat," Kise yawned. "Hey, Murasakicchi?"
The purple-head turned his head toward his name. "Mm~?"
"Sorry about those chips. If Murasakicchi wants, I can give you some of my cookies my fangirls made me!"
"No thanks. Kise-chin's fangirls are dangerous."
"Wah—dangerous?" he exclaimed.
"He's pretty damn light for a sixteen-year-old," Aomine muttered, carrying Kuroko bridal style. "Has he been underfed or something?" He started to walk down the hall where the guest bedroom was. The other players followed, going back to their respective bedrooms. "I don't know what Akashi's thinking," he muttered, setting Kuroko on the bed and messily throwing the bed covers over him. "Whatever, as long as the kid doesn't drag us down."
Akashi woke up first, as usual. He opened his door silently and padded down the hallway to the kitchen. It was not his day to make breakfast, yet he felt like making breakfast, and that was what he would do. And knowing they would have one extra guest here, and also knowing the Generation of Miracles weren't exactly the most peaceful eaters, he decided to make something simple and disaster-avoidable.
Meanwhile, Kise woke up with a groan and almost fell off his bed when he rolled too much. "It's so early," he mumbled when he saw the clock. It blinked six-thirty A.M. The blond didn't want to get up, but he knew Akashi would torture him in ways one couldn't imagine if he wasn't out by seven. The red-head was always punctual about time and decency—especially in the morning.
He rolled out of bed, stubbing his toe against the wooden desk in the process. "It-eh!" he cried and hopped up and down on one foot.
"Shut up, Kise!" Aomine's cranky voice drifted from room next to him. "You always do the same thing every morning! If you can take a bullet, you can take a stupid broken toe!"
"It's not my fault Aominecchi is not a morning person." Kise blew a wet raspberry at the wall.
Aomine rubbed his temples with a scowl. Why did he pick a room next to that annoying model? Damn it. He threw off the covers, wearing nothing but his boxers, and headed toward the showers.
Damn Kise. He's going to wake up the kid.
Midorima, whom have actually been the second one to wake up at six A.M., rolled his eyes at noise and snapped off his gloves. He had been doing his own medical work for the past half hour. Akashi's discovery of Kuroko's ability intrigued him, and he wondered if his medical abilities would be any different on the boy than the others. Did having an outward force affect anything?
He pushed up his glasses and stood from his desk. Speaking of Kuroko, he would have to check on him soon. The deep sleep he healed the boy's body into should still be in affect, but he had a feeling Akashi would want him awake, soon.
Midorima ignored the loud crashes and curses coming from Aomine's and Kise's room and walked over to his closet to change into a more decent outfit of clothing. Kise had mentioned several of his men were injured, and the hospitals couldn't take them all, so he was needed in the afternoon in Kanagawa. Wearing something as nice as an expensive shirt would be a waist as he would be working with blood.
"Stop kicking the wall, Kise!" Aomine shouted.
"You stop calling me names, Aominecchi!"
The green-head gave a sufferable, inaudible sigh. Kuroko was probably awake now. Once he was done, Midorima quietly opened his door and revealed himself at the door frame. At the same time, Kise and Aomine came from their bedrooms, hair combed and dressed. They all looked at each other for a moment, then simultaneously turning to stare at the door down to the right. It was the door to the guest room.
"You think he's still asleep?" Aomine asked.
"I doubt it with all the noise you two made," Midorima replied.
"You check, Aominecchi."
"Hah? Why me? You go check on him!"
"But I don't think he likes me! It's smarter if Aominecchi goes."
"Did you see that look he gave me last night? You haven't even talked to him! You go."
Midorima ignored their fighting and headed to the door. He pushed it open as slowly as he could and peeked into the dark room.
Indeed Kuroko was awake—barely. Kuroko sat upright on the large bed, his eyes half-lidded. He looked as if he still was trying to grasp his surroundings. A small furrow of his eyebrows told Midorima the teal-head was clicking the pieces together. He felt Aomine and Kise behind him, peeking in as well.
Kuroko's eyes snapped wide open when he heard loud roars of laughter. He looked at the three intruders, squinting as the bright light seeped into the dark room. He saw one tall figure standing, and two silhouettes on the ground rolling. The source of laughter came from the ones on the ground.
"H-his hair," Aomine wheezed. "I've heard of bad cases of bed-head, but this one-!" The ganguro laughed, not bothering to hide his rudeness.
"Th-that's mean, Aominecchi," Kise gasped, trying a bit more to contain his laughter. "E-everybody gets them once in a-a-awhi—" He looked up once more at Kuroko's hair and burst out laughing again.
Kuroko frowned at their laughter and touched his hair. Yes, he knew he had the worst cases of bed-head in history every time he woke up, but he was used to it. "It's rude to laugh at someone, Kise-kun, Aomine-kun," he said from a dry throat, remembering their names in his hazy mind. Bits from last night were finally coming back to him.
The two stopped immediately, staring at Kuroko. They didn't think he'd actually talk so quick and use their names from just last night. Midorima looked at Aomine and Kise with discontent, stepped over them, and made his way toward Kuroko.
"Do you feel any sore spots on your body? Headache? Fatigue?" Midorima put two fingers to the side of the teen's neck. Kuroko slowly shook his head. The shooter straightened. "Very well. The bathroom is right across from this room. Extra necessities are waiting there." He paused to stare at the birds' nest on Kuroko's head. ". . . There's also an extra brush. We all will wait for you in the dining room." Kuroko nodded, unable to get a word in, and Midorima, satisfied, walked out of the room, dragging the two idiots with him.
"It smells good, Aka-chin." Murasakibara gave a monstrous yawn and stretched his long limbs.
"Set the table, Atsushi. Remember to add one extra," Akashi said, not needing to look up to acknowledge the giant.
"Mm~Just got a report in Akita," he mumbled, getting the plates on the high shelf with ease. "Mini night attacks in two cities."
Akashi turned off the oven. "Am I to assume this is Hanabi's work?"
Murasakibara shook his head, purple locks flying gently with the motion. "That's the problem, Aka-chin," he said it as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "It wasn't Hanabi."
Akashi stopped what he was doing and turned abruptly to face his teammate. "What did you say, Atsushi?"
"Not Hanabi," he repeated, setting the glass plates sloppily on the table as he always did. The plates clattered loudly against the table. "My men don't recognize the work. Survivors say they wore a different uniform."
"What kind of uniform?" Akashi forced himself back into doing his work.
Murasakibara shrugged. "I dunno~The survivors died afterward, so it's a mystery."
"You have cameras in the cities that were attacked?"
"Hm? Well, I guess so."
"Travel to Akita immediately after breakfast. Check the cameras and get a description of their uniforms."
The purple-head sighed loudly but didn't argue. Today was supposed to be his day off, and Aomine was supposed to be covering both Akita and Tokyo on his day off, but whatever Akashi ordered, Murasakibara went with.
Soon, the rest of the Generation of Miracles filed in the dining room. They took their seats, everybody yawning but Akashi and Midorima. "Ryouta, you said you would take care of the sudden movement in the east?"
"Yeah, since Kanagawa is finally settling down, I have enough men to take care of it," Kise said.
"What the hell is taking so long?" Aomine complained, talking about Kuroko. "I'm starving."
"You didn't have to wait." As if on time, the teal-head appeared, his hair now half-decent. Rather than the sleepy expression he had on, Kuroko's face was now bland. "Or make breakfast for me."
Akashi coolly served the food on each plate. "Do you plan on leaving, Kuroko Tetsuya?"
"Yes." Kuroko already had his coat on. He couldn't stand to stay a minute longer with the Generation of Miracles. Being sucked into this world . . . He had thought answers would be worth it, but it wasn't. War was not worth it. On top of that, he was being fed lies; there were no real answers to begin with.
"You're just going to leave after we gave you a place to sleep and answered all your questions?" Aomine asked with a scowl. "Now isn't that rude?"
Kuroko blinked. "I'm sorry. I will repay you another time."
"Are you running away?" Akashi asked very, very quietly. Kuroko clenched his fists. Was he? Was he running away, yet again? This time it was with reason, right? . . . It wasn't running if there had been nothing to run from in the first place. "Come with me, Tetsuya," the red-head ordered, his voice still soft. His teammates held their breath, and Kuroko's attention was on Akashi fully from the use of his first name.
Akashi set the food he had been serving down and disappeared out the front door. Kuroko stared, the door left wide open for him to follow. After a few, hesitant seconds, the teal-head went after Akashi. The door slammed shut.
Murasakibara spoke in the silence, "You don't think Aka-chin's going to show him . . ."
"I believe he is," Midorima said, voice clipped.
"That should change his mind," Kise added softly.
The two walked down the front porch in silence and turned right to go behind the large house, Kuroko following, Akashi leading. The Akashi residence was more than just the large house; it was also most of the land behind the house that led to the small woods as well. No one dared to enter the woods, though, and it was for good reason. Grief and despair clung to the very leaves of the trees that stood, and it wasn't something a person could handle on a daily basis.
Nevertheless, Akashi entered them fearlessly, goading his follower to continue his journey. Dark, flickering anger started to burn deep within Akashi, but he withheld his anger, and continued to lead.
"Akashi-kun, I don't understand—"
Akashi stopped. Kuroko stopped walking soon after to avoid hitting the red-head. "Look," the leader breathed. "See it with your eyes."
Kuroko slowly looked up and furrowed his eyebrows to what he saw. Graves—tombstones. Lots of them. Lined in rows by rows, tombstones spread far and wide in the large clearing the woods gave. Flowers accompanied each one of the graves, new and fresh, as if someone has just dropped them there minutes ago. Kuroko could read the engravings of a tombstone nearest to him:
Died in Kanagawa Prefecture, protecting with honor.
"What . . ."
"Graves," Akashi said. "More than two-thousand of them. This is only half of it. More than two-thousand important men died in battle." He casted the pale boy a glance. "Do you know whom were their last battle against? People from Hanabi." Kuroko clenced his fists again. "Do you know how many men die because of Hanabi in a day on average, Tetsuya? One-hundred." Kuroko pressed his lips together. "Do you know how many men have died all together since Hanabi started? Nine-hundred—"
"I understand," Kuroko interrupted. His emotionless face was distorted with pain. "I understand."
"Do you really?" he snapped. "Do you really know how important you are to the destruction of Hanabi? To stop the ongoing deaths we see everyday with our eyes?" Akashi flung out a hand toward the graves. "Make your decision, Kuroko Tetsuya. Make it in this very spot: will you run away, to run until your life ends while many more cease to live? Will you be enveloped in our world, where deaths can be as common as the cold, and protecting is a word to be taken strongly? Choose, Kuroko Tetsuya." Akashi's voice was severe; cold, wild, but soft.
Kuroko pressed both hands against his face, his breathing heavy and quick. He could see his friends flash before his mind.
"You already know my answer, don't you, Akashi-kun?" he asked faintly.
Akashi's stance relaxed. His face twisted back into a calm, composed manner. His lips twisted into a smirk, and eyes glowed with satisfaction. "Excellent."