Guest Review Replies:

(Review received on 15 Feb 2016)

LePoulpe: Thank you! I'm so glad you like Ichiro. Personally, I feel that he's the most annoying yet endearing of the brothers- if a bit creepy... I'm interested in writing about how Murasakibara and Hachiouji interact too, but unfortunately, that won't be for a few more chapters... Your English is great by the way, I really couldn't tell!

(Review received on 21 May 2016)
Sierra:
I guess the Kasamatsu x Rokuro!ship is real- Hahaha. I'm so glad you like them! I've been growing partial to them too, and it was completely unintentional. They just somehow interact really well together. Thank you so much for your kind review!


Thanks for all the support thus far everyone! I really hope you enjoy this chapter- I personally had a lot of fun writing it!

Disclaimer: I don't own Kuroko no Basuke.


"UWWOOOOOOH! WE'RE HERE!" Hayakawa shouted, catapulting himself off the bus with a vigour that was impossible to stop. Kasamatsu stood up in alarm, darting after the rambunctious second year before he could inflict any further chaos.

"GET BACK HERE, IDIOT!"

"UWOOOOOOOOH! THIS PLACE IS AMAZING! JUST YOU WATCH, I'M GOING TO LEARN AS MUCH AS I CAN FOR OUR UPCOMING MATC-"

SMACK!

"SHUT IT DUMBASS! YOU'RE ANNOYING!"

One by one, the team exited the bus, ignoring the ongoing scene in front of them with practised ease. Instead, the Kaijou students opted to take in the vast mountainous landscape and fresh crisp air, some sighing in relief at being free from such a confined space.

Just imagine being stuck in a moving box with a bunch of baboons for an extended period of time, and then factor that disastrous scenario by ten.

"I'm lucky that I'm here at all…" [1] Rokuro muttered to herself in a rare show of relief, eagerly sliding out of the bus. Her expression displayed the slightest hints of exhaustion, showing just how chaotic the trip had been- even for the likes of her.

From behind her, Nakamura nodded in agreement, face pale- there had been some prayers for their safety involved on his part.

They were now at the Mt. Hakone Sports Centre, a luxurious space internationally famed for its state of the art equipment and training facilities. It was a sought after training camp destination, especially for nationally acclaimed sports clubs from both universities and high schools around the globe.

"I must say, this is impressive." The tall sandy-blond haired manager commented, quickly recovering with a smile. She knew how hard it must have been to obtain a booking for this facility, and could only imagine the amount of work it took on Coach Takeuchi's part. "It seems that Coach is pulling out all the stops for the Inter-High."

"Indeed, Hachi-chan~! You can definitely thank me for that! Welcome to your first ever Kaijou training camp!" Moriyama piped up cheerfully with a bounce to his step, looping an arm around the taller girl's shoulders. "My great and mighty love advice must've really worked for Coach! He was all up for this idea!"

"Saa, really now…?"

Nakamura adjusted his glasses wordlessly. Unlike Moriyama, the male could feel the doubt oozing from their manager's voice.

"Yup! So step up and embrace your youth! For the next five days, we'll be able to undergo what everyone considers an essential high school experience!" The third year announced dramatically, jostling his arm and causing Rokuro to stumble, "Today, our high school life truly begins!"

"You do know that there probably won't be any girls for you to flirt with here, right?" Kobori, ever the realist, said bluntly.

Immediately, the shooting guard collapsed into a heap of tears and snot, causing Rokuro to step away from the third year as quickly a she could.

"That's why I wanted to go to the beach, damn it!" Moriyama whined pitifully, lifting his hands to cover his face in despair. "Curse Kasamatsu! He really is the demonic destroyer of hope and dreams!"

"You better not let him hear you say that, idiot." Kobori deadpanned. He really didn't want to be the one to stop Kasamatsu from nearly murdering Moriyama again.

The group sweatdropped.

"OI! Stop playing around!" Said demonic destroyer hollered, tightening his chokehold on Hayakawa mercilessly as he glared at the group of gossiping third and second years; the poor rebound specialist was turning blue in the face from the lack of oxygen. "The upcoming Inter-High Quarter Finals are only two weeks away! We're not here to goof off! Hear me?! Now everyone get your asses to reception!"

"Y-YES!"

Unaffected, the small group of seasoned players watched in amusement as the younger ones immediately fell into a single file upon their captain's orders, mechanically marching into the building.

"Hachiouji-senpai!" Kise piped up in excitement as he passed them, as always, seemingly the exception to the rule. The manager raised a brow at the first year, adjusting the strap of her overnight bag over her shoulder.

"You attended the Touou – Seirin match right? I was looking all over for you at the stadium!" The amber eyed ace proclaimed, before deflating with a sheepish grin, "Though I did kinda get distracted by Midorimacchi…"

Rokuro felt her mood dampen slightly at the mention of that disrespectful moss-head, though she refused to let it visibly show. [2]

"Saa, that's quite alright Kasa-kun, I wouldn't have wanted you to find me." She replied, plastering on yet another one of those easy smiles. While fun to have around, Kise did have an annoying habit of attracting attention. It was something she doubted would have gone over well with the seniors of the Shūtoku team, particularly Miyaji-san.

Basically, the first year was too flashy and shiny for his own good- A shiny banana.

"That's mean!" Kise gasped, placing a hand over his heart, a little hurt by her disregard.

As usual though, he went ignored.

"As entertaining as all this is, we should hurry in before Kasamatsu kills us all." Kobori advised, gesturing for the regulars to head inside. Nodding in agreement, the group followed.

Kise however, remained a step behind. He eyed Rokuro as the group of regulars made their way towards reception building, the gears in his head turning as he assessed the older girl,

'Hmmm, I wonder…'


The team had settled in quickly, depositing their things in their assigned rooms before meeting at their reserved training space in record time.

Coach Takuechi and Kasamatsu would tolerate no less, especially because this was a training camp, and the Inter High quarter finals were looming closer than ever.

Many of the Kaijou members were expecting an incredibly painful and intense series of practices. Nonetheless, their loss against Seirin weighed on them heavier and nobody had even the slightest intentions of complaining. Touou was not an opponent to be underestimated either.

Kise could feel the buzz of excitement and anticipation as he glanced around the luxurious interior of the gymnasium.

Kaijou had reserved Section B of the Mt. Hakone Sports Centre. They had an entire set of state of the art facilities for their unrestricted use, including weight rooms, a gymnasium, an outdoor court, a large track field and their very own recreational facilities such as showers and dorms. They also had access to a common public dining hall and an Olympic pool, both of which were open to other patrons of the facility.

"Alright!" Coach Takeuchi barked, seeing that all the members had gathered. Immediately, the team stood at attention.

"We'll begin with some stretching and twenty-five laps around the track field before diving straight into some drills. Stay hydrated and keep your spirits up! We'll have the practice matches after three!"

"OU!"


Rokuro watched passively as a group of third-string members proceeded on their last set of drills. According to the schedule, they would jump straight into a practice match after they were done. Naturally, the Kaijou regulars had already completed their own menu, and were about to commence their practice game against the second-string.

'Their timing is a little on the slow side- perhaps Coach needs to increase their strength training in the interest of raising their stamina.' She noted, quickly writing some data down as the first members of the group began to slow down. While not at all an expert like Momoi or Aida, she did know the basics from her years of playing.

"Hachiouji-senpai."

The female manager looked up from her clipboard at the voice, absentmindedly identifying the owner to be Kise. She paused to observe the sweat coating his brow; understandably, he was a little winded from the drills.

"I have a favour to ask of you." The first year continued in a forward manner, seeing that he had gained at least part of the female's attention.

Rokuro felt her brows rise at his bluntness. Ever the social butterfly, Kise usually had more tact than this. He was by no means so...unceremonious when it came to speaking to his peers, especially when it came to requests.

Instead of being offended though, the tall girl took it all in stride. There was something about the look in Kise's eyes that had captured her interest; his golden orbs were almost burning with intensity, which made Rokuro more than a little curious…

From a ways away, Coach Takeuchi and the Kaijou regulars paused, eyeing the exchange with bewildered expressions on their faces.

"Yes?" The tall girl lowered her clipboard to regard him fully.

"Let's play, one on one."


"Dai-chaaaaaaaaan! Wait for me!"

Aomine flinched before releasing a heavy sigh, reluctantly slowing his stride on his way to their school's gymnasium so that Satsuki could catch up to him.

Usually, he would have made a run for it, but his childhood friend had been concocting some rather cruel and unusual punishments lately in response to his escape attempts, ones that he'd rather avoid if he could help it.

Obediently, he waited for her on the path, vaguely registering the sound of an ongoing basketball practice that he may or may not be absolutely late for.

Funnily enough, Satsuki was unusually cheerful today, which perked the male's interest somewhat. Considering he was roughly an hour late for practice, her good mood was really quite unexpected, not to mention just a bit terror inducing.

"I got something amazing today!" She grinned happily causing Aomine to roll his eyes, previous terror-cum-fascination fading quickly. It was probably some new brand of makeup or something- not that he ever paid much attention to any of her girly interests. She really needed some female friends.

The tall male jolted to a halt however, when the pink haired girl shoved a square of plastic in his face, causing him to squawk indignantly.

"Hey! Watch it, Satsuki!"

"Look at this! Look at this! It's a recording of Hachiouji-san's game from middle school! I got it from Sakurai-kun's cousin, Sakurai Sae-chan!" [3] The girl announced proudly, smiling a winning smile that would've launched a thousand ships if he actually cared.

Aomine felt his eyes widen considerably as he stared at the compact disc, interest undoubtedly peaked. Snatching it from the pink haired girl's hand, he brought it closer for examination, a smirk growing as he read the words written on it with thick black marker:

Female Basketball Middle School Championship Finals
Shōei Junior High versus Meikō Junior High
[4]


"What do you think you're doing, Kise?" Coach Takeuchi demanded seriously, crossing his arms and staring the pair down with unforgiving eyes. The rest of the regulars exchanged uncertain looks as they gathered around to watch the scene, many of them wondering where Kise was going with this.

"Coach, I'd like to play a one-on-one match with Hachiouji-senpai." Kise replied steadily, gesturing to the girl in question, voice unfaltering. "Instead of a practice match now, I'd like to play against her."

"I didn't ask for the details. I'm asking you: just what do you think you're doing," Takeuchi repeated slowly, "Hachiouji here is a manager."

The rest of the team remained dutifully silent. Never before had they witnessed the coach give Kise such a serious rundown- it was almost like the man was testing him. Kise swallowed, realising that he had only one chance to convince the coach that this was a good idea.

The blond knew it was. The match from the cultural festival had been laughably one-sided, but her play had been burned into his retinas from the moment she began handling the ball. It always remained at the edge of his consciousness, an irritating niggling thought that refused to grant him reprieve.

As the player who'd challenged Aomine all throughout his basketball career thus far, Kise was intimately familiar with the other male's monstrous style. This of course, made him well aware that he needed an extra push- a key to unlocking his potential and evolving, so that he could stand up to his former teammate and win.

'And she's my only chance in getting it.'

"I…" Kise began slowly, his golden eyes darting towards the manager in question before returning to their coach and the rest of team, meeting each and every one of their eyes resolutely. "I feel that letting me play against Hachiouji-senpai gives me the best chance at beating Aomin- no, gives us the best chance of beating Touou. Aominecchi's basketball is quite simply, incredible; not even someone like me, who'd challenged him every single day back in middle school, has ever managed to develop a proper counter to beat him. But, after seeing what Hachiouji-senpai can do, I now know that I may be able to too. The both of them, their basketball- their styles are incredibly uncanny, and I want to develop my own counter using Hachiouji-senpai as a model."

Hachiouji tapped her slender fingers against the skin of her hip rhythmically, intrigued by the Kaijou Ace's proposal. She was honestly more impressed than surprised by Kise's open declaration, never mind the comparison betwen her and Aomine-san (she still didn't know how to feel about that yet).

Never did she think that the first year had been brewing such an idea, but he had obviously been considering it for a few good weeks now.

Meanwhile, Takeuchi Genta crossed his arms over his chest in thought. The man was fully aware of Hachiouji's rather… prestigious history. He had watched some of her past games out of curiosity when she'd first joined his team as a manager. He could not deny that he had been curious, and had wanted to know precisely what Fujiwara was fussing about.

Needless to say, the only thought that ran through his mind at the time was how it was an absolute fucking shame that Hachiouji Rokuro couldn't play in the male league, knowing well that it simply needed someone like her. That had been his honest to god opinion, up until he saw the Touou-Seirin game footage that Hachiouji herself had procured: the Kaijou coach was acutely aware that the male league now had a monster like Hachiouji of their own, and it was quite frankly, daunting.

It was with this knowledge that the portly man could never deny Kise's rather accurate assessment. The boy had a knack for making bright decisions, and pulling off even better plays.

'And that's why I chose him to be Kaijou's Ace.' The coach thought with no small amount of pride, before refocussing his thoughts on the matter at hand.

"And what would happen if I agree to this?" He openly demanded, gaze roaming over to the pair. He knew that Kise's idea was truly their best bet, but he needed to ascertain that the blond had a proper plan for this. They couldn't afford to play any games.

Truthfully, this was a lot to ask considering their deadline. Kise was basically saying he wanted solo training away from the team- something that wasn't quite heard of considering the team nature of basketball. The coach was done making the same mistakes he had back at the Seirin practice match.

"If I win, I'd like Hachiouji-senpai to train me for our upcoming match against Touou." Kise replied seriously, before turning to look at said manager in question. At this, some of the regulars gave the girl prodding looks, attempting to gauge her response. However, her expression remained largely unreadable.

"Of course, I'd still train with the team," The blond Generation of Miracles member continued, "but as Kaijou's Ace, I recognise that I need to develop a stronger weapon in our upcoming match, especially because we'll be playing against Aominecchi. The present me..." Kise looked pained from what he was about to say, "...the present me can't beat him."

A tense silence ensued.

While slightly shocked by Kise's open admission that he needed help, there were no objections to the idea from any of the Kaijou team; they had all heard about what happened at the cultural festival. The news of their manager being the former Kaijou Women's team Ace had spread like wildfire throughout the school, especially since she'd completely obliterated a former Kaijou regular in such a brutally efficient manner.

There were even some ridiculous rumours on how she'd ended up on their team, but none had dared broach the subject with her.

"...Hachiouji, how about it?" Takeuchi asked suddenly, causing the students to jolt in surprise. "I can't force you, but if you agree, I think Kise would benefit from this quite a bit."

At this, Kise and the rest of the regulars regarded the second year girl with bated breath.

The girl smirked, her eyes opening to reveal deep pools of wine red. Kasamatsu jolted when her piercing gaze landed on him briefly, before returning to Kise with an almost ravening smile painting her lips,

"Saa, I don't see why not."


The training facility gymnasium came alive with activity as the two blonds stood on opposing sides of the tip off area, each having just completed the appropriate warm up for their one-on-one game.

Kise smiled in anticipation, hands on his hips while he rolled his ankle in a light stretch. He watched intently as Hachiouji bent to adjust the laces of her basketball shoes, eyes roving her athletic and toned form.

She was dressed in what he assumed was her regular basketball practice wear: a dark grey form-fitting crop top that made some of the team members blush, along with a pair of white women's basketball shorts that hung low on her hips. Her long champagne blond hair was tied back in a low ponytail, and a black wristband was around her slender wrist.

'Funny that she'd brought her stuff along…' He thought in mild amusement, the corners of his mouth lifting further.

The rest of the club stood to the side, having ditched their own training to watch the match. In all honesty, nobody could blame them. The full extent of Hachiouji's potential was a huge mystery to everyone here.

What they did know though, was that Kise could most likely draw her skills out, and that it would be a spectacle to watch.

"This is going to be an intense match, isn't it Kasamatsu?" Moriyama asked his captain, expression serious. Kasamatsu turned to look at his fellow teammate; there was a light of excitement in the shooting guard's eyes, one that Yukio was sure were reflected in his own steel-blues.

"Yeah."

"UWOOOOOOOOOOOH! THIS IS SO EXCITIIIIING! I HOPE HACHIOUJI PLAYS ME NEEEEXT!" Hayakawa cried, slapping his palms against his cheeks and raising the tension of the area even higher. He earned a look of annoyance from Nakamura for his efforts.

The bespectacled male resumed his observation of the two players on the court:

While not the closest in the world, Nakamura did consider Hachiouji a pretty good friend. They'd met when he was assigned as her seatmate in homeroom back in their first year, and through some odd coincidences, have been frequent project partners ever since. Their relationship did not escalate from acquaintances into friends however, until she'd joined the Kaijou male basketball team as manager. It was then that they bonded over their mutual annoyance over Hayakawa. Nakamura quickly found that she was an interesting person to be around, despite her strange personality and downright troublesome quirks.

Kise on the other hand, was an individual that Nakamura had more reservations about: the prodigy had been the one to take his spot on the regulars string after all. It had been incredibly painful to realise just how much the younger male outclassed him in terms of skill and potential.

It was laughable really; the first year had, intentionally or unintentionally, cheapened all of Nakamura's hard work through his existence alone. The coach's blatant favouritism at the start of the year made the situation infinitely worse too. Thankfully, their loss against Seirin fixed that, but the ash blond still found it uncomfortable to talk to the younger male despite said improvements.

The Kaijou regulars watched as both Hachiouji and Kise approached each other, expressions brimming with challenge as they faced off in the middle of the court. The pair seemed trapped in their own world, their eagerness practically palpable in every one of their coiled muscles.

"-a single quarter match! All one-on-one rules apply and we'll be using half the court and two baskets." Coach announced firmly, launching into a long-winded explanation of the rules. "Losing scorer gains repossession of the ball."

"I wonder if those two are even listening," Kobori mused in mild amusement as he took the pair of blonds in, "It's a little hard to tell how this match is going to go, isn't it, Nakamura?"

Said second year pursed his lips, eyes narrowing as he sensed the incredible auras they were giving off. It was clear that those two were in a class of their own, segregated from everyone else through sheer talent and ability.

"Yeah," The reserve shooting guard agreed quietly, dark eyes never straying from the court, "It's Kaijou Ace versus Kaijou Ace."


It really had been awhile since Rokuro felt such pure anticipation for a game.

Leaping into the air at the shriek of the whistle, her slender fingers tipped the ball, slamming it into Kise's side of the court with a flick of her slender wrist.

The crowd gasped as she effortlessly dodged the first year's form in mid-air, landing just past him and pursuing the projectile at breakneck speed. She caught up to it just before the echo of the ball's impact dissipated.

"Attacking already?!" Moriyama exclaimed. The champagne blond haired girl was being incredibly aggressive- more so than she had been at the cultural festival game.

Of course, Kise was not one to let all of this pass. Like lightning, the first year was in pursuit, positioning himself in front of her with an iron-clad defense.

Rokuro remained undeterred. She dribbled the ball, focusing her energy through her four slender fingers. The projectile was sent ricocheting off at a uniquely sharp angle, causing Kise's eyes to follow it involuntarily, his right hand moving out to reach for it in reflex.

"Never take your eyes off your opponent, Kirara-kun."

"What?"

Like water, the rubber sphere slipped through his fingers, guided by the pale hand of his opponent. Her movements were jarringly seamless and in a blink, she had driven past him through his left side within two solid beats.

It was a highly exaggerated feint, Kise realised; not something one would usually risk in a high pace game, particularly against an opponent like himself.

'...Unless you're Aominecchi.' He thought grimly, eyes narrowing as he dashed after her, 'Ugh, Momoicchi was right- she's even faster than him.' [5]

Rokuro smirked when he caught up, expecting this. She swiftly stepped forward, guiding the ball to her left before abruptly pulling it back over to the right. Having seen her spin on an Allen Iverson Crossover before, Kise steadfastly tracked her movements with his eyes. His muscles however, were tensing from the effort. He was barely keeping up, ill prepared for the intense high pace she had started her rhythm with.

The tall female remained undeterred by his persistent tagging, quickly altering the course of the ball through a flexible manoeuvre with her right hand. She slipped straight into a Hardaway Crossover by sending the ball through her legs, catching it with her left, and launching herself forward and away from him.

'Shit!' The blond first year realised too late: both Rokuro and the ball were already on his far right, and Kise simply couldn't adjust his position quick enough in order to catch up to her. Taking this opportunity, the second year player quickly entered the key, smoothly performing an elegant layup and scoring the first two points of the game without breaking a sweat.

A flurry of murmurs burst forth as the spectators began commenting on what had just transpired. Some individuals were unnerved; she had made breaking Kise's defense look much easier than it should have been.

'Incredible ball handling, speed and the ability to read someone quicker than an open book.' Kise scrutinised her with a critical eye, lifting the back of his hand to wipe at his chin. 'Man, this woman is amazing.'

The Kaijou Ace smiled wryly. He couldn't help but be reminded of those many defeats against Aomine back in middle school; the emotions he felt then were certainly not dissimilar to those of now. He was taken back to the time when he first started playing for Teiko as a fresh upstart training under Kurokocchi, constantly pestering Aominecchi for games until the other boy snapped or gave in.

All those losses, while at times frustrating, were also downright fun. As someone who'd been struggling to find something that really snagged his interest at the time, the challenge of beating Aomine Daiki was more than what Kise Ryota could've asked for. The prospect of defeating him, the prospect of becoming Teiko's ace, those were all things he had to look forward to.

Kise always did have trouble adjusting to Aomine's style. It was the one thing in life that didn't come easily to him. At the time, it'd felt as if he could've amassed all the experience in the world, and he still wouldn't have known if he could evenly match up to the guy.

And that, that was considered a good thing.

Now, here he was, a fair few months later, playing against an opponent who was so similar to that man that it was almost scary.

'Ah, this is bad, I'm realising it all over again...' The blond first year thought to himself with a grin, absently kneading at his knees; he would forever remember the day he witnessed Aomine Daiki playing in the Teiko gymnasium, that was for sure.

'Basketball... Basketball really is amazing.'

Receiving the ball as it was passed back to him, the blond first year closed his eyes, releasing a steady stream of air through his mouth and finding his centre.

Satisfied, he snapped them open, golden eyes glowing in intensity as his pupils dilated, rapidly cataloguing information and burning it all into the core of his memory.

He smirked.

This would be his first step into developing his very own copy.


"Kasamatsu, this is crazy."

"Ah."

Kasamatsu crossed his arms over his chest in an attempt to ground himself, standing beside his fellow regulars as they watched the proceedings of the game in a morbid mixture of fascination and disbelief. He didn't much care for fancy titles and verbs when it came to describing basketball, finding that in his experience, they hardly mattered in the grand scheme of things.

That is, until now.

It seemed as if the world was out to prove him wrong: The nationally acclaimed point guard did indeed feel like he was witnessing a miracle. The kind of miracle that left you both queasy and in awe at once.

The game's pace was almost like an active war zone, neither player was giving in. His eyes were straining to keep up with the events, having adjusted to the fact that within a blink, you could quite literally, miss it all.

It merely took a single, minute slip up for the ball to switch between them. He had lost count on the number of times both had lost the ball and subsequently taken apart their opponent's defenses.

His attention darted towards the scoreboard briefly, noting that they were about halfway in; Kise, surprisingly was in the lead with a score of 32 to 24. It was clear that the younger player was beating Hachiouji, and by a sizable margin too.

'Judging by that smirk on her face though, Hachiouji isn't gonna stand for this for long.' The Kaijou Captain thought grimly, eyes observing the girl as she received the ball in preparation for her next offensive attack.

Kise may be his team's ace, but Kasamatsu was fair. He had a bad feeling that not a single person on this court truly believed that that girl was going to lose.


Her startling eyes were constantly affixed on him now, tracking him with a tenacious energy. He had grown accustomed to her wine red irises as the game continued, but that didn't mean that their intensity was any less unnerving.

The blond first year rolled his shoulders back in preparation, his confidence steadily swelling with every basket he made. He was getting a sense for how Hachiouji played much quicker than he expected, returning her moves with versions of his own, and almost matching her speed.

It was without a doubt an added strain to his muscles, but his body was slowly acclimatising to moving at such a high tempo.

'As expected, her defense is nothing to laugh at either.' Kise went in for a steal, causing Rokuro to lean back on the heel of her right foot, dodging it with a flexibility that would have sent most players tripping. She nimbly compensated for the movement, leaning sideways at an impossible angle and pulling her arm back for a formless shot.

In response, Ryota jumped, his fingers grazing the ball and sending the shot off course, causing it to ricochet harmlessly off the rim.

Hachiouji couldn't say she was surprised by how he'd thwarted her attempt to score. The boy had adjusted to her speed comfortably enough, and he had an impressive sense for reading his opponents too.

It was Kise's turn to start with the ball.

With a near identical level of skill, the male performed yet another version of her rapid fire crossovers- it was eerily similar to the one that she had used during her game at the cultural festival. Rokuro twisted on her foot and extended her arm in response, having read his intentions.

Her ruby eyes narrowed when she missed the ball by a hair's breadth, failing to gain possession of it.

This allowed Kise to gain enough space for his next move: immediately the golden eyed first year adjusted his stance, performing a more refined version of Kagami's high powered drive from the Seirin- Shūtoku game.

Not one to let this pass, the tall champagne blond haired female caught up, rearing her arm back in yet another attempt for a steal, causing Kise to display a strained smirk.

'Don't tell me he's going to-'

Rokuro realised too late, her eyes widening in shock when in an exact replica of her earlier actions, the male Kaijou Ace quickly altered the course of the ball through a flexible twist of his right hand. Easily, Kise slipped into a Hardaway Crossover, sending the ball through his own legs and catching it with his left. Her inability for action allowed him to launch himself forward and away from her, leaping into the air and performing a powerful earth-shattering dunk.

BAM!

Cheers erupted from the audience at the blond's stunning performance. Rokuro huffed out a giggle, coming to terms with the fact that the younger player had managed to fight past her and score, yet again. She wiped at her soaked forehead with the base of her palm, remaining stationary just outside the key.

Hachiouji was taking the moment to experience, to relish, to feel. There was a long-forgotten burn settling into her lungs, and a steady ache in her muscles that had her limbs protesting; blood rushing in her ears and her heart hammering against her chest almost violently.

She couldn't get enough of any of this- she really couldn't! These sensations, this struggle, being challenged-! They were thrusting her into a mad sense of euphoria that was quickly becoming hard to control.

Kise Ryota was without a doubt an exciting opponent. He didn't simply copy, he learned, and at a downright inhuman pace too. It was with this realisation that she began testing a plethora of different techniques on him, watching in absolute fascination as he absorbed all of them like an overeager sponge. He could pick apart her simpler techniques too, making adjustments to them to suit his whims and churning them out as counters to use against her- like he was doing now.

He definitely deserved his title as a formidable genius, and the best part was: he was still growing.

Honestly, her only regret was that she didn't get to play this boy sooner!

"...Kise-kun." She suddenly spoke up, tone adoring. Said first year answered her with his attention from his own position under the net, ball clutched in his hand. Her wine red eyes twinkled with some unknown intent, her smile growing enough that it made the younger blond pause, "As expected, you're the best."

"...Excuse me?" Kise asked between breaths, eyes questioning when he saw her expression darken almost maliciously, sending a shiver jolting down his spine.

"I mean it." Rokuro continued, her laughter subsiding as her face split into a wide carnivorous grin, "This game, playing against you- it's all the best!"

The younger blond took a moment to absorb her statement, a little worried for the older girl's sanity. However, she paid his dubious look no mind, pointing at him with her finger shaped into a pistol, as if to say 'target locked on':

"Saa, let's up the ante on this, shall we?" [6]


"...D-Dai-chan, I-I wasn't seeing things, was I?" Momoi asked shakily, her carmine eyes wide.

The pink haired girl felt her jaw loosen further in unadulterated shock as the recording continued to play, unable to form the appropriate words. "T-That style... That's not-!"

Aomine ignored her, his own cerulean blue eyes fixated on the screen with an almost mad purpose. There was a wide grin plastered on his face, his body hunched forward eagerly, quite nearly leaping out of his seat. The camera was slowly panning over the face of a younger Hachiouji Rokuro. Unlike now, her champagne blond tresses stopped just below her delicate chin in a short bobbed style, further accentuating the older girl's youth.

Chuckles burst forth from his lips, exploding into full blown laughter when she yet again scored onscreen; the Touou Ace lifted a hand to cover his eyes as he leaned back into his seat, oblivious to Momoi's concerned and frightened eyes.

That woman...! Hah! What a woman! And this! All this was in her third year of junior high?!

He parted his fingers to peek at the video footage once more, another wave of laughter bursting forth when he was unable to contain his amusement.

Shōei Junior High versus Meikō Junior High, current score: 125 - 25


'What the fuck is going on?!'

Kise wasn't one for swear words, but he was inclined to make an exception in this case. He panted, the exhaustion getting to him as his mind continuously replayed what had occurred in the last five seconds since Hachiouji's manic declaration...

"Saa, let's up the ante on this, shall we?"

Kise raised his brows in a combination of shock and worry as he stared at his opponent disbelievingly. His brain was having trouble processing her words; surely she couldn't mean that they were going to escalate this game even higher? That was impossible! And judging by the crowd's reactions, they knew it too.

He passed the ball to her warily, watching as she nonchalantly received it.

Her eyes had lost some of their intensity some time between her declaration and his own disbelief. It was almost like a switch had been flipped: her pale pink lips loosening into a relaxed, serene smile that was infinitely different from the plastic one she always wore.

In fact, she had an almost... tranquil aura around her, despite her heavy perspiration; the previous euphoria she was in now presented itself in a calmly contained manner. He watched as she held the ball almost carelessly up by her slender fingers, lifting her free hand to knead soothingly at her neck, posture wholly relaxed.

He blinked, and almost missed it when she abruptly lunged forward, driving past his dead side and arriving at the three point line before he could even breathe a single word.

'When did she-!' With no time to lose, Kise pursued her. It was taking all of his focus and energy to catch up to her, exhausted as he was.

Moving in for a steal when he saw the opportunity, he couldn't react when she immediately sent the ball behind her back, skillfully catching it with her other hand and pushing it up and away with a powerful extension of her arm, all in a single, instantaneous movement.

'Wait! At that angle, she's going to miss!' Kise thought in confusion, wondering if Rokuro had fumbled- made an error in judgement due to her sheer speed. Alas, it was not to be. Instead, like magic, the ball landed precariously on the backboard, almost as if it was walking on a tightrope. It rolled forward gradually, stopping right over the net and-

Swoosh!

The buzz sound that signaled a score resounded through the gym, stopping the clock on the game, and freezing everything in place. [7]

The ensuing silence was thick enough to smother the very air.

"That woman-!" Kasamatsu was the first to break the heavy tension, stepping forward in shock. The rest were still stuck in varying forms of stupor. "She's been toning down her speed this whole time! And just what the hell was with that shot?!"

Kise ignored the shouts of astonishment that followed his captain's statement, his eyes fixated on his current opponent with an intense focus.

Not once in his life had he been completely unable to react to something. Not once, had he felt so utterly under-prepared. Perhaps it was from what he could read in her posture, or from that knowing look on her visage but he hadhe had an incredibly bad feeling about those movements and that unreal looking basket.

Be that as it may, his instincts were screaming at him, telling him that this wouldn't be the last he would see of those marvelous plays.

Many would have been inclined to chalk that basket up to a simple trick of fate, a simple coincidence. However, Kise knew, and he knew damn well that Hachiouji Rokuro was not a player who played via luck- Not by a long shot.

If his gut was right, he would be redefining the term 'miracle shooter' to include two kinds of players by the end of today.


"GOD DAMN IT AOMINE! YOU SKIPPED PRACTICE AGAIN!" Wakamatsu yelled thunderously, storming into the club room with all the ferocity he could muster.

The Touou team had found both Aomine and Momoi seated in the club room in silence, an unusual scene if Imayoshi ever saw one. It was customary for Momoi to drag Aomine all the way to practice before it ended- She was the one reason that the boy even attended at all.

'Hnn... though the young lady seems kinda out of it at the moment.' The captain noted, surveying said girl with fox-like eyes. Before he could ponder it further however, an irritated shout from Wakamatsu broke the raven haired male out of his musings.

"Maa, maa, Wakamatsu, calm down." He stepped forward, refusing to deal with a brawl in the club room if things got out of hand. Not that he really cared if there was any violence or not, but Coach Harasawa would have his head. Besides, he really liked some of the new furniture they had in here.

The bespectacled captain turned towards Aomine, noting that like Momoi, the Generation of Miracles Ace was in an unusual state of quiet too. The first year was carrying quite the heavy atmosphere on him, one that was darker than the pent-up bitter arrogance he usually exuded.

'Interestin'. Did somethin' happen?'

The observant third year shifted his attention towards the club room's television set, having surmised that it was the only thing worthy of answering his concerns. He noted with some level of confusion that the pair of first years had been watching a women's basketball game, of all things.

"Hnn, what's this? A recordin' of a women's middle school finals game?" Imayoshi wondered aloud, giving the first year most likely to respond a probing look, "Momoi, you mind telling us why you two missed out on practice today?"

As if snapping out of a trance, the pink haired girl blinked, scanning her surroundings. She was stricken to realise that the entire team was there in the club room with them.

"Oh no! Practice is over!" She cried, lifting a hand to cover her mouth apologetically, "I'm so sorry, Imayoshi-san! We lost track of time!"

The raven haired captain raised a brow at the pink haired beauty, intrigued by her inattentive state. "It's all fine and good, but can ya tell me what the both of you were doin' in here?"

"A-Ah! Nothing, we were just reviewing a game that's all!" Momoi stuttered out, hurriedly jumping up to eject a mysterious disc from the player. The Touou team watched in curiosity as their first year manager fumbled around, quite obviously flustered by the recent turn in events.

'Don't tell me somethin's finally happened between these two.' Imayoshi thought flatly, taking in their odd states; he never did believe in the concept of male and female friendships, especially one quite like Aomine and Momoi's. 'If that's true though, then what's the deal with this game that they were watchin'?'

Aomine abruptly stood up, causing the more skittish members of the Touou team, namely Sakurai, to jump with a squeak.

"I'm going home."

"WHAT?!" Wakamatsu was the first to react, practically breathing fire at the younger male's utter lack of respect. Unfortunately, his discontent went thoroughly disregarded.

Everyone eyed the navy haired male cautiously as the temperamental first year rudely exited the club room without so much as a single acknowledgement of the people there.

"HEY! WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA! AOMINE, YOU BASTARD! GET BACK HERE!" The loudmouth second year moved to go after their rebellious first year Ace, only to be stopped by a hand on his shoulder from his captain.

"Maa, Wakamatsu, leave him." Imayoshi advised calmly, before turning towards their manager with a deceptively genial smile, his attention shifting between the girl's face and that mysterious disc currently clutched in her hand. Momoi inwardly recoiled when she saw this- his expression resembled a certain Kaijou second year way too much for her liking.

"Now Momoi, would you mind enlightenin' us on what's goin' on?"


It was as if Hachiouji had just switched gears, and not in a good way either.

At first, Kise had thought that the second year girl was quite simply, a more agile Aomine (not that that was actually simple), particularly because of their similarities in both style and play. Their movements were comparable to that of a tightly coiled spring and their energies came out in instantaneous bursts throughout the course of the game. It was these traits, combined with their unbeatable ball sense, that cowed most players where they stood. The both of them perfected the image of street-ball to a 'T' while on the court, making them impossibly challenging opponents, particularly for those who'd learned basketball the traditional way.

Kise was quickly finding however, that all his assumptions on Hachiouji Rokuro's playing style had been just plain, wrong.

The Hachiouji-senpai of now was like a well-tuned machine. She was unbelievably fluid, her speed giving her an almost methodical feel and her energy radiated from her in a steady intimidating aura. In short, the player in front of him was vastly different from the one he had witnessed before, and that was what stupefied him.

'This- this isn't street ball anymore!' Kise concluded with no small amount of astonishment, wedged in a precarious state of fending the girl's attempted steals off. He desperately struggled to keep the ball away from her, dodging left and right and employing the use of Rokuro's very own crossover techniques against her.

Nevertheless, his efforts were looking bleak; her movements had morphed into becoming way more unbidden and efficient. They seemed deadlier now, and had an intent behind them that was similar to methodical machinery more than actual person.

'Shit! She's persistent!' The ball was knocked loose from his hand at the thought, sending it flying towards the baseline on his side of the court. Kise subconsciously relaxed when the projectile moved past him, knowing that it would be in his possession once it was reintroduced into the game again.

That, was yet another wrong assumption.

Every single person in the gym gaped as Rokuro sprinted straight past him, her body slipping into a graceful dive in pursuit of the ball. No sane person would have wasted their energy in trying to save it, but obviously she didn't agree.

On a single hand, Rokuro balanced the entirety of her weight to stop herself from overshooting and exiting the court. Her free arm meanwhile reached forward to snag the ball into her clutches, right before it overshot the baseline, thus effectively preventing the call for an 'out'. Lithely righting herself, the unbelievable player planted both her feet right on the corner of the court where the lines met, adjusting her hands and sending the ball into the net in a graceful arc, all in a single uninterrupted flow.

Swoosh!

"A... A three pointer from there?!" Someone, probably Moriyama, exclaimed faintly, voicing the disbelief on everyone's faces. Kise struggled to catch his breath, realising that she had made an inconceivable save and an effortless basket.

Quite predictably, the whole thing had him on edge.

"Let me tell you something, Kise-kun." The champagne blond abruptly spoke up, calmly walking forward to pick up the fallen basketball from a few metres away. The Kaijou Ace warily followed her movements, feeling a bit like prey entrapped by a predator.

"Street-ball, while rather fun, is only something I picked up in the last year and a half or so." She explained in a level tone, earning looks of incredulity from her opponent and the audience, "Right before I started playing for Kaijou actually. It was rather interesting and I enjoyed developing it, but in the end, it was just something I used to pass the time on the public courts."

With that statement delivered, the second year balanced the basketball on her finger absentmindedly. Kise felt his fingers twitch and his muscles burn, eyes fixated on the second year girl in a mostly stoic manner- His suspicions had been confirmed.

"Your real basketball is something different." He called out dangerously, finishing her explanation for her, "Right?"

Rokuro gave him a look of wonder, the corners of her lips upturning into a pleased smile. "Saa, your ability to read people on the court is magnificent. I expected no less from you."

Calmly, she sent the ball rocketing straight into the hands of her opponent, words somewhat taunting,

"Your ball, Kise-kun."


"Hey Kobori, Moriyama." Kasamatsu suddenly spoke up, pulling his teammates' attentions away from the exchange on the courts. His eyes remained unwavering in focusing on the game however. "...Do you guys remember that issue Basketball Monthly published on a female player back when we were first years? "

There was a pause as the two other third years processed the question.

"Ohhh!" Moriyama chimed in, his thin brows lifting in thought. "It was a Basketball Monthly feature article on a female player from Shōei Middle, right? She was a huge topic that made a splash alongside the Mukan no Goshō. [8] Some 'once in a generation' player with an incredible 'unbeatable' playing style. I only read it because it was the first time the magazine featured girls though~" He said saucily with a silly wink, earning a light reprimanding smack on his head from Kobori.

"I kind of recall it too." Kobori spoke up slowly, rubbing his knuckles absentmindedly as he addressed his captain, "I remembered thinking that it was a bit of an exaggerated article at the time, and since it was about the girl's middle school league, I really wasn't all that interested."

"I wasn't too interested either." Kasamatsu admitted, "But, I do remember the article highlighting on some things: a player who had an almost inhuman ability to score under any circumstance and fantastic professional level ball control. "

"Professional level?!" Some of the players exclaimed, utterly scandalised. That was a tall claim for a major magazine to make on some middle school kid!

"... Well, that really wasn't the most unbelievable thing about it actually. You guys ever heard of trick shots and stuff?" The Captain asked, only to receive a few confused looks from the rest of the team.

Calmly, the older male began to explain, "I guess that's not unusual. I mean, while amazing to watch and all, those are usually just gimmicks and skills that are pretty much impossible to utilise properly in normal games- people don't really associate it with official basketball because of that fact; the techniques depend too much on luck and chance, and are almost never emulated properly in games unless through a fluke."

"So it's a skill that's practically useless in a game?" Nakamura asked plainly, raising a brow.

"Pretty much." Kasamatsu agreed, "Reality is, it's pretty darn stupid to try and perform moves like that during an official match, due to the overwhelming risk of incurring technical fouls and the pathetically low success rate... That female player from the article though- she was described to have the ability to take all those tricks and stunts and adjust them to the game rules, fitting them in through unconventional and unorthodox means. Crazily enough, the article declared that she'd never once incurred any sort of technical foul. Her techniques were so good that they seemed like magic- even the magazine named her Magician of the Court."

"If what you're saying is true, captain, then what kind of ridiculous style is that?! Is that girl a monster?!" Hayakawa cried in response, voicing everyone's thoughts.

"Considering all this info was about a player in a different league, I really didn't think that it was all that important." Kasamatsu stated, "But if my instincts are right, then we're witnessing that same ridiculous play style right now."

"Wait! Wait! Wait!" Moriyama cut in, quickly catching on to what the captain was implying. "Kasamatsu! Don't tell me you're saying that Hachi-chan is this Magician chick?!"

"Ah. Think about it: she's been pulling off some inconceivable shots lately, from that impossible one with the backboard to that freaky three pointer- You can't tell me that that's all a damn coincidence." Kasamatsu pointed out logically.

"...Her strong ball-handling skills and crazy speed allow her to manipulate the ball any way she wants," The raven haired male concluded in explanation, keen steel blue eyes narrowing, "Meaning that she can literally create opportunities at will and turn 'luck' into a certainty.

Despite the ridiculous nickname, that girl is probably the kind of miracle player that makes the 'impossible' become 'possible'."


"Captain!"

A pair of crimson eyes shifted, pinning the newcomer with the weight of his gaze. He wasn't entirely pleased that the male had interrupted their practice, albeit they were now taking a short break. "Shota, it seems you're back. What is it?"

Higuchi Shota gulped, unnerved by the stare so tinted with displeasure. He had known that announcing his presence in the gym would've been potentially disastrous for him, but really, he had been left with no other choice on the matter.

"It's- U-Uh well, C-Coach Shirogane told me to let you know," The third year answered quickly, realising he had been stalling for too long, "apparently there's another school here with us at the facility."

The captain paused when he heard this, expression contemplative, "I see."

"Haah?! Another school?!" A large muscular male with tanned skin called out obnoxiously from a few feet away, tossing his towel to the side with a careless air. He gave a derisive snort at the news, noisily guzzling water from his drink bottle and earning disgusted looks from his teammates.

"Mou~ You're such a brute! And would you stop leaving your dirty towels everywhere?! It's gross!" An effeminate looking male darn near shrieked, sharp eyes glaring in contempt at his teammate.

"Hey! Hey! Hey! They must be some big shots if they're at this facility right? Should we go and check them out?" Another of their teammates, one with a head full of spiky orange hair, called out excitedly with a sharp-toothed grin.

The captain ignored them, instead returning his attention back to Higuchi, expression once again passive, "Who?"

"Kanagawa's Kaijou High School, captain." The manager replied immediately, resisting the strange urge to salute. "They seem to be holding practice matches in area B's gymnasium right now."

"Interesting." The rouge haired male mused thoughtfully, a small smirk gracing his elegant features. The entire team looked at him in surprise, having expected their captain's response to be more dismissive. "That would be Ryota's school."

"...You mean one of your middle school teammates?"

"Yes." He answered. The occupants of the gym felt shivers run down their spines at the predatory glow that entered his sharp blood coloured eyes,

"...I suppose it would be rude of me not to greet him." [9]


[1] Let's just say she honestly thought she was gonna die at one point. On another note, can you imagine the reactions of the Hachiouji boys regarding this trip- particularly, Ichiro?! Luckily for Roku-chan, Ichiro is currently in New York, so he couldn't stop her.

[2] Refers to the last chapter. Yes, Rokuro does hold grudges. Haha. Kasamatsu was right (reference chapter 7)

[3] I wonder how they got so close? Anyone who deduces the right answer gets a cookie. Hint: The Hachiouji Rokuro Fanclub.

[4] Hint! Hint! This will be important in the coming chapters

[5] Kise's opinion is actually quite biased here, so don't take it too seriously. He's comparing Rokuro's speed to the Aomine he used to play back in his 3rd year of middle school. As such, nobody really knows just who is faster. It may be Aomine, whom I would assume logically, has evolved since then due to the physical changes of his body or it may be Hachiouji, who naturally has a lighter weight class due to her gender. Remember, when Momoi made the observation on Hachiouji's speed back at the cultural festival, she'd been watching a game in which the opponents were weaker, and Hachiouji was not playing seriously. So yeah, both observers could have been affected by certain biases, and at this point, the whole answer to this debate is a mystery!

[6] I swear I didn't intend to make Rokuro seem batshit insane, but somehow she just came out that way.

[7] Remember Chapter 4? She did the exact same move when she played against Kagami in that chapter. At the time, a lot of people would have assumed her style was street-ball, but it's not.

[8] Mukan no Goshō (無冠の五将): Uncrowned Kings or Crownless Generals

[9] Oh would you look at that! I wonder who he is~ (whistles)


Author's Note:

So Rokuro's actual basketball style is now revealed! I never strictly said that her basketball style was street-ball, so I hope everyone was surprised.

Okay, so I took a page out of Fujimaki-sensei's book and made Rokuro this impossible 'anime-physics only' kind of character, just like all the Generations of Miracles and Kagami actually. I liked the idea of her being able to manipulate physics through her sheer genius. It just seemed like something a prodigy would do, ya' know (i.e. Fuji from PoT).

Yeah, I may or may not have been a little overzealous with this...

Once again, I hope you enjoyed the chapter! Comments and critiques are welcome!