This is my first Kurobas fic and please be aware that I am not an expert when it comes to this fandom and that some things are heavily influenced by how Japanese fandom sees them. Furthermore, this might also be influenced by Kurosute (the stage/butai version of Kurobas), so if you are a purist canon fan, proceed with caution.
Uh, proceed with caution either way because this is a crack-ship as well because I cannot seem to do 'normal/canon' pairings as of late.
This is going to be one part in a longer fic, which is probably going to go up on Ao3. I wrote like a crazy person today since I won't have a lot of time during the week due to work, so I decided to chop this mess off at some point and post it here.
The title is kind of a pun? Because Kuroko is a shadow and... I know it's lame.
Alright, enough talking. Off you go.
Fic is set during and after the "Extra Game" aka the game against Jabberwock. Kuroko is starting his second year at Seirin.
He couldn’t wait to see how different they would be at their next official match. Both of them had come a long way ever since their last, which had also been their first.
After that match, he had not seen the other for a long time. Not until after his reunion with the other five members of the Generation of Miracles as a team. A team under a new banner. They had been reunited by a common enemy.
If someone had told him a year or maybe just half a year ago even, that things would turn out like this, Kuroko would not have believed them. He might even have thought of the person telling him this as crazy. But what do you know. Sometimes life was just crazy like that. And like all crazy things, they had to begin somewhere.
Yes, it had all started during the one week training period before the game of the Vorpal Swords against Jabberwock.
“Kiyoshi said he’d send someone to help us but I do not see them anywhere.” Hyuga remarked.
“Maybe they’re someone very busy.” Riko shrugged. “Anyway, we’re calling it a day for today. Make sure you’re well rested for tomorrow, training is not going to get easier.”
Everyone filed out of the gym. Kuroko was the last to leave. When he walked past the benches behind the locker rooms he stopped. “Are you the person Kiyoshi-senpai asked for help?”
“Never thought you’d figure that out, genius.” A voice drawled. “Of course I am, idiot.” The figure rose from the bench and walked over to Kuroko, looking down at him. The other didn’t tower over him like some others but there was still a notable height difference between them. In terms of overall appearance as well, there was a gap between them as wide as night and day. This time, though, it was not Kuroko who was in the shadows.
Kuroko looked at the raven-haired male in front of him. “You were observing our training.”
“Thank you for pointing these things out, captain obvious.” The other rolled his eyes. “So let me get straight to the point. That annoying bastard Kiyoshi sent me here to give you goodie goods a bit of a reality check. Considering the opponent you’re up against. He said that it takes one to know one when it comes to assholes but let me get one thing straight. There’s a large difference between playing rough and dirty and just being plain condescending.”
“While I might not agree with you on many things, I can see where your advice for this could be useful. Hanamiya-kun.” Kuroko nodded.
“Honorifics, huh? Guess I didn’t piss you off badly enough that time. Then again, you won, so I guess you have no too hard feelings there.” The captain and coach of the Kirisaki Daiichi basketball team snorted in amusement.
Looking up at the other male, Kuroko admitted, “I was angry at you then but time has passed and I am willing to give people second chances. If they deserve them.”
“Oh? And what could I possibly have done to deserve that?” Hanamiya raised an eyebrow.
“For one, you’re here.” Kuroko pointed out and then hesitated before he spoke again. This little piece of information was something he had so far kept to himself. And he was positive that nobody else but the people involved knew about it yet. “Another thing is that Kiyoshi-senpai seems to trust you and I believe that is because it was you, who helped him to get the treatment in America so fast and easy.”
Hanamiya frowned. “How did you figure that out? Nobody else knew about that.”
“Riko-san said Kiyoshi-senpai was recommended by a Japanese hospital to go to the hospital in the US to receive treatment. I also heard there was Japanese speaking staff on site. Momoi-san had researched good sports injury treatment facilities in the Tokyo area before and came across a hospital with ties to facilities all over the world, renowned for the treatment of athletes. It just happened to be the hospital Kiyoshi-senpai had been treated at. And when I looked at their website, I came across the name Hanamiya. Your family owns that hospital, right?” Kuroko replied in his usual flat tone of voice, as if reciting something he had learned by heart. “I heard the students of Kirisaki Daiichi are from the upper class of society, so I think that fits in. You’re the heir to a large hospital.” He added.
“Well, well, you’ve got more brains than I gave you credit for, shadow kid.” Hanamiya seemed almost genuinely impressed. “I’ll give you a reward then. If you want to hear what I have to say.”
Kuroko regarded the other for a moment, Hanamiya did not seem unnerved by his blank stare.
“Okay. But please don’t call me shadow kid.”
“Let’s go and talk over a milkshake or something then. I hear there’s some kind of burger joint nearby. You could use some sugar in you after that practice.” Hanamiya turned to lead the way, ignoring Kuroko’s request.
The invitation made Kuroko blink in surprise. He had not expected that. He fell into step behind the other and observed the captain of the Kirisaki Daiichi team quietly. On the outside the other might still seem unchanged since their match but he could tell that something was different about him. For one, the burning anger he had felt at the other back then was not resurfacing.
The surprise didn’t dissipate when the other paid for his food and then sat down across from him. “Go ahead and eat.”
“What about you?”
“Not feeling like it.” Hanamiya crossed his arms.
Kuroko said a soft thank you and dug in, the need to replenish his energy taking over. Hanamiya talked while he ate, so he listened to the other.
“What your team needs right now is a unifying force. You’re doing all you can but all of your sickly cute love for basketball and the wounded pride of our senpai is not enough to bring all of these monsters together.” Hanamiya revealed. “But there might just be a way for it to happen.”
Stopping and looking up, Kuroko asked, “What is that?”
“Well, it’ll be right up your alley. Using that righteous spirit of yours and your love for basketball should do the trick. Unfortunately I might have to ask you to put your body on the line for it.” Those words had Kuroko feel a little uneasy but he pushed that feeling aside. He should not judge before he had not heard the full story.
Hanamiya explained what he had in mind. Half of it sounded like an insult but Kuroko figured that it was simply the way Hanamiya talked about people. Listening to the other’s explanation, Kuroko could see where the other was coming from. And he had a feeling that it just might work.
“It requires the right timing but I think you’ll be able to work that out. Just use your brain.”
“It is a gamble but I will try.” Kuroko decided after the other had finished talking. By then he had finished his food as well and moved on to the milkshake. And with that, he figured a small change of topic was in order. “Why are you doing this, Hanamiya-kun?”
Looking away, Hanamiya replied, “Because in reality, I am actually a good person and I could not bear seeing the basketball that I love so much get trampled on. Like hell I would say that.” He snorted and then looked at Kuroko once again. “Well to be honest I was a little miffed by what they did to Imayoshi and them. And well, I would enjoy a good show of seeing them getting crushed and thrown off their high horses but I guess the main reason is that they’re making my team look like we’re pure little angels in comparison and that thought just makes me ill.”
“You actively want to be known as delinquents and rough playing uhm, troublemakers?” Kuroko blinked. He couldn’t understand why people would willingly do so.
A barking laugh left Hanamiya. “You wouldn’t understand.” He levelled Kuroko with a gaze. “But the answer is yes. Being a good boy is boring and restricting. Bad boys have more freedom. I can do what I want. And there are only few who can get in my way.”
Kuroko knew that he himself was one of those few.
“You’re not as bad as you make yourself seem. You might be exploiting your opponents weaknesses and there are injuries in all of your games but for the most part, those injuries were not caused by you directly. You just caused them to show themselves more prominently. And actually by doing so, many have been able to receive treatment faster than they might have, reducing any additional damage that could have been done if they had continued playing.” Kuroko looked at Hanamiya. “As expected of the heir to a large sports hospital.”
“Are you saying that I am creating business for my family?” Hanamiya snorted.
Kuroko looked back. “I’m merely implying it. Or maybe it is a side-effect of what you’re doing.”
“Colour me surprised, you are actually less of an idiot than I gave you credit for.” Hanamiya chuckled and then continued to throw a few more things at Kuroko, other impressions he had gotten during the training he had observed.
When they walked out of Maji Burger, Kuroko chanced a last questions, “Why aren’t you telling all of this to everyone yourself? Kiyoshi-senpai asked you, didn’t he?”
“And here I thought you weren’t an idiot. I guess I’ll have to take that back again.” Hanamiya snorted. “Who would they listen to, you or me, huh? Idiot.” He walked off and then waved back at Kuroko. “Kick some ass, Shadow Boy.”
“Please don’t call me that.” Kuroko retorted and looked at the other’s retreating back.
The other was right. If Hanamiya were to show up at their practice and attempted to help them - even if he meant good - people would not listen to him. Trust would take things a little far, even Kuroko at this point, wouldn’t say he trusted the other but he at least understood the other. Among the members of Vorpal Swords, there would not be many he could say the same of.
Hyuga would probably try to punch the other upon sight, Kuroko wasn’t sure whether or not the same wouldn’t be true for Kagami as well. Kise, Midorima and Aomine had witnessed the other play before, had witnessed the game against Seirin and had probably formed their opinions on Hanamiya accordingly. They might not be outright hostile to the Kirisaki Daiichi captain but they would never listen to anything he said.
Riko of course also harbored an immense dislike for the other. Momoi would not trust anyone like that with information, she would be very guarded.
The only ones who might not care much would be Murasakibara and Akashi. The latter might even see the merit of asking someone like Hanamiya, considering their opponent for this game.
Kuroko walked home with all the new information he had been given. He stopped just before he reached the road that would lead up to his house when he realized something. Talking to the other had been surprisingly easy. Of course there had still been the taunts and insults that the other was known for on court as well as off but that had been it. And really, when it came to crude language he was not worse than Kagami or Aomine.
There was something about the ‘Bad Boy’ that had clicked with him tonight. Something that might not have been there before or maybe it had been something he had not noticed before because it had been overshadowed by his anger.
He would need to look into this more once this match was over, Kuroko decided.
A few nights later found him at a hospital in downtown Tokyo, getting checked up and patched up for the game the next day. He had put what Hanamiya had told him into practice and it seemed to have worked, surprisingly even on himself. It was an insight that might even be level with the ones that Akashi had, Kuroko thought while the doctor treated him.
“He says he won’t watch the game tomorrow because he already knows the outcome,” the doctor spoke up while Kuroko put his shirt back on.
He blinked before his eyes found their way to the woman’s name-tag. “I see.”
She smiled at him - the expression a mirror image of a face familiar to Kuroko but it held more warmth instead of malice. “Break a leg tomorrow. Well, not literally,” her smile turned into a more familiar smirk. “If you do, of course you’re welcome to come back here.”
Bowing, Kuroko gave her a smile in return. “Thank you.”
The next day, fans of basketball all across Japan were either glued to their TV screens or if possible, watching live at the streetball courts in Tokyo.
All members of the Kirisaki Daiichi team had also gathered to watch the game on TV, all but their captain that is. Hanamiya got up to leave the little viewing party just as the game was about to start. “You’re not going to watch?” Hara looked at the other, his bubblegum bubble popping prematurely in surprise.
“Not interested. I already know how this will end.” Hanamiya shrugged. “I also told my mother I’d go and see her at work today. She says she’ll be busy for a while after today.”
Seto - awake for once - raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean you already know?”
Hara grinned around his bubblegum, “If you’re so sure, how about a bet? Losers have to do whatever the winner tells them to do for an entire week.”
Hanamiya chuckled in mild amusement. “You guys already do whatever I tell you to. Buy me whatever I want for a week and we’re talking”
“You seem confident.” Furuhashi observed.
“Here’s my bet. You guys better save up, I have a few purchases in mind.” Hanamiya scribbled something onto a piece of paper and left it on the table as he walked out.
Buzzer Beater, point difference of one securing the win for the Vorpal Swords - the shadow kid will get all worked up, which in turn gets the rest of his team worked up. Especially the two simpletons they call their aces.
Not even two hours later, Kuroko and the rest of the Vorpal Swords were ushered into a locker room where a medical team seemed to be waiting for them. Murasakibara’s injury was immediately treated and Kise was checked over as well.
He found the same female doctor among the people, as he had seen at the hospital the previous night. She winked at him before she focused on her work again.
“Did you arrange all of this?” Riko asked her father.
“Uhm, no. Actually I have no idea where they came from but I guess it’s good they’re here.”
Momoi blinked, “Well, big tournaments come with medical staff on site, so I’m not entirely surprised here. This over there however, is more surprising.” She pointed at a table. It was loaded with food and drinks. All were easy to ingest after a game and had the perfect balance of nutrients to replenish their energy after a strenuous battle.
Kuroko smiled a little to himself and went to get changed. When he pulled out his bag, he blinked when he found a note sticking out of it.
Kicked some serious ass out there, didn’t you, Shadow Boy? Well done.
The note was unsigned and Kuroko didn’t recognize the neat script in which it had been written but there was no mistake as to who could have written it.
“It appears to be the treat of a friend. I guess,” Kuroko told Momoi in passing. “Let’s just kindly accept it and dig in later.”
Kagami, wrapping an arm around his partner’s shoulders, agreed loudly, “I like this idea!”
The victory celebration left a bitter-sweet taste in Kuroko’s mouth. He had been happy to be with everyone, to be with the people he cared about and to celebrate a victory they had all more than deserved. The bitter aftertaste had been in the form of the parting words at the end of the night.
Vorpal Swords were disbanded and all of them went their separate ways once more, which meant that all of them were going back to being rivals.
‘I look forward to our next game. But this time luck will be on my side.’
‘I cannot wait for another game with you, Kurokocchi! Let me see what you come up with.’
‘Show me what you’ve got, Tetsu. That wasn’t all yet, was it?’
‘See ya, Kuro-chin. I’ll beat you next time.’
‘We will definitely meet on court again, Tetsuya. And this time, I will be victorious.’
He wasn’t good with attention being focused on him, Kuroko noted once more. And he could feel the pressure of the expectations starting to mount. It wasn’t like him to cave under the pressure though. He would fight. That’s what he had promised them and himself.
“I look forward to playing with you all again, too.”
His second year in Seirin was promising to be an interesting one as well.
Little had he known just how interesting it would be, nor how many changes he would be facing in it but such was life. The future was ever changing, despite what Akashi would say, there was no way to completely and perfectly predict it. Life had a habit of throwing things in their way that were unexpected and surprising. It was what kept things fun and exciting.
Although things seemed like they were anything but fun sometimes as well.
With the start of the new year and the new season, reality caught up with Seirin. There were not only expectations resting on Kuroko but also on the rest of the team. They were now the defending Winter Cup champion. Their school as well as all others in the region and country were keeping an eye on them, on their every move.
The attention had different effects on people.
Some enjoyed it and actively sought it out, some became nervous and again some got annoyed. It got to the point where Hyuga had to bar other people from observing the team practices, shutting off the gym for anyone who did not belong to the basketball club.
New members had joined the team as well, especially first year students, who had been attracted by the title and maybe also the prospect of becoming regulars relatively fast, considering the small size of the team. Riko and Hyuga had their hands full trying to filter out the ones who would become the new generation of players who would carry the team for the next few years as the majority of the current core players would be retiring come summer.
As the most experienced players among the younger ones, Kuroko and Kagami were being roped into things more tightly as well and he had the feeling that Hyuga might even be toying with the idea of making one of them the next captain - although to be honest, none of them could really see it. Kuroko was nowhere near good enough for the job. He preferred to be in the shadows, to support people from a place unseen. Kagami, too, simply did not have the personality required of a captain. He was the central player on the court but once outside, he required someone to point him towards the right direction.
Despite disliking the attention on him, he could not do anything to pull it away. Not here, not anymore. At Seirin, just like among the Generation of Miracles, he was no longer an invisible man. He was the center of attention. And just like his old teammates, people were quick to pile expectations on top of him here as well.
The pressure kept building up and Kuroko knew he needed an outlet for it or it would swallow him. Unwilling to burden anyone else with it - he needed to deal with this by himself, everyone else had their own problems to deal with - he went to the basketball court away from his usual one in the neighbourhood after school to vent and clear his head. He needed to get away from everyone else for a bit. Away from their looks and eyes that said things.
‘Kuroko will figure something out.’
‘We have Kuroko so things will be alright.’
‘A shadow is always good for a surprise, right?’
He used more force than he should have and the ball smacked against the post and bounced back, whizzing past his head, only narrowly missing it by a few centimeters.
Kuroko blinked when he didn’t hear the sound of it making an impact on anything else, though, nor did he hear the sound of it dropping onto the floor. Instead, he heard the sound of footsteps approaching him and the sound of a ball being twirled.
“That’s not how you bash in your own face, idiot. Can’t even do that without help?” A by now familiar voice spoke up from behind him.
Turning around, he greeted the taller male. “Hanamiya-kun. It’s been a while.”
“It has indeed. Fancy seeing you in this neighbourhood. Come for a change of pace?” The other had seen right through him. He wasn’t feeling too surprised. It probably wasn’t difficult for the other to figure something like this out. So he didn’t think that he needed to tell the other that verbally. Actually, he didn’t really have anything to say to the other right now.
Grabbing his towel, Kuroko went to sit down on a bench.
He slumped down wordlessly, drained. The weight of everybody’s expectations had become rather heavy sometimes. Kuroko wondered if he would be able to carry it all or whether he would get buried underneath.
A movement and sound drew his attention away from his thoughts for a moment and he blinked when a milkshake was set down next to him. Hanamiya was neatly folding the bag it had been in before taking out a book and started reading. He looked casual, like he was just sitting on the same bench by coincidence, enjoying the mild temperatures outside. He neither tried to make eye contact, nor did he start a conversation. He was merely offering some silent comfort and company. Something Kuroko rarely got offered.
It was a good, novel feeling. A feeling of ease that made him feel relaxes not unlike the one he had felt back when Nijimura had still been the captain of Teiko. Not unlike the feeling he got when he had been spending time with Ogiwara. It was a good feeling.
And it was aided or maybe amplified by the cold sweetness that he tasted on his tongue when he took a sip of the milkshake.
He had half expected the other to leave - the other half had expected the other to stay and taunt him - so this unexpected turn of events left a bit of a pleasant tingling in his stomach. Maybe it had been just what he had needed. Silent reassurance instead of loud declarations of trust, of challenges or unvoiced pressure and expectations.
His shoulders relaxed visibly.
Hanamiya left just before Kuroko could finish the beverage. Without a word but Kuroko had caught the other’s eyes just before the raven-haired male had gotten up. They had looked at him to check whether he was alright now. And whatever they had seen they had apparently deemed good enough. Good enough to be left alone.
It didn’t occur to Kuroko until later, on his way home, that the other had found him despite him not wanting to be found. Usually that would make it almost impossible for people to find him. It had always been like that. And yet the other had found him, had seen him. It also occurred to him that Hanamiya must have seen him and watched him first before going to get the milkshake because it had still been cold, the condensation on the cup minimal.
This revelation left him a little puzzled. Once again, he found himself being confused by the other’s thoughts and actions. Hanamiya Makoto was an individual that made no sense to him. The other was unlike any other person he had encountered so far.
Kuroko tried to make sense of the other but found himself hitting walls again and again.
Hanamiya seemed to be somewhat of a moderate version of Akashi and maybe Haizaki. He was a leader but not a king or emperor. He was no absolute god who sought to rule over all. He had his flaws and faults. And while he enjoyed mindgames, like Imayoshi, he didn’t push things to the extreme. He liked to crush his opponents but not in a way that would not allow them to stand up again. He enjoyed the challenge of crushing them again and again to see what they came up with to counter him. And he liked to keep himself just a step ahead of them. He also enjoyed to taunt and be condescending towards his opponents, a bit like Nash Gold Jr. had been but under all of those words there was still some kind of respect.
Compared to the American, Hanamiya at least knew their names, even though he did not use them very often. But to know his opponents required a lot of analysis and confrontation with information. Putting so much effort into studying people required a certain level of interest and respect after all. To be worthwhile of Hanamiya Makoto’s scrutiny was an accomplishment.
At least that’s what Kuroko thought.
He also thought that the other reminded him of some of the things he had gone through with the Generation of Miracles. A playing style and attitude towards basketball that he could not accept being the main things they had in common.
But there seemed to be more to the other. Kuroko could compare him to people he knew all he wanted but that would never suffice. The other was not simply a copy of other people, nor was he a patchwork of their characters or abilities. He was his own person.
A person Kuroko found himself wanting to get to know better.
The opportunity to do so arose when he hit a wall during practice with Seirin once again and Kuroko found himself looking elsewhere for help, found himself looking for an escape from his normal, daily rhythm and life. And that included his friends and teammates.
He also knew that he could no longer rely on Aomine or his other former teammates from the Generation of Miracles. They would not help each other anymore. They were rivals now. They had already shown each other more than what they should have.
The road ahead of him was his to walk. Which did not mean that he had to do so alone.
Hanamiya looked at him when he suddenly appeared in front of him after the Kirisaki Daiichi practice had finished for the day. The other had stayed behind dutifully to take care of his coach and captain duties while the rest of the team had already left.
“You’ve been lurking around and getting on my nerves for a while now. What do you want?”
“You noticed me?”
“Your presence might be weak but it’s not nonexistent.”
That was a novelty. Kuroko was so used to being ‘invisible’ to everyone around him that someone actually being able to see and sense him straight away felt almost strange.
“I’d like to ask you for help.” Kuroko was certain now that he had chosen the right person.
“What makes you think I would help you?”
“Your recent actions don’t say you wouldn’t.” Kuroko deadpanned.
Hanamiya had to blink at that and then laughed, “You’ve got guts. Very well then. Let me hear what you want and I’ll see if I feel like helping your good boy ass or not.”
Picking up a ball, Kuroko shed his uniform jacket.
“Maybe showing you will be faster.”
“I do not dislike this efficiency either.” Hanamiya was still clad in practice gear, so he walked onto the court and into position immediately. “Come at me.”
One-on-one was not something Kuroko was particularly good at and this was not his intention either. His intention was merely to show the other something. Something he wasn’t able to put into words. Something they might be able to work with, hopefully.
After a few minutes, Hanamiya placed the ball back into the cart holding all the others. Throwing his towel towards Kuroko, he used his shirt to wipe sweat off his face. “You’ll need a lot of training and practice for this but I think I sense potential in you. Meet me on the court from the other day this weekend if you’re free and we’ll see if you’re really up for this, Shadow Boy.”
“Don’t call me that, Hanamiya-kun. My name is Kuroko Tetsuya. Please call me by my name.” Kuroko thanked the other for the towel but then straightened up to look at the other.
Eyebrow arching up, Hanamiya replied, “By name, is it now? Well, then Tetsuya, I’ll see you this weekend. Sunday, late afternoon, say three? Should give you enough time to travel and do whatever else you might need to do before. Don’t be late, or I’ll leave again.”
“I will be there,” Kuroko nodded and held Hanamiya’s gaze. “Makoto-kun.”
“Getting down to the same level, huh? How fair.” Hanamiya chuckled. “As expected of a good boy like you.” With that he walked off, ending their conversation.
Sunday rolled around in a flash and Kuroko found himself on a train towards an area of Tokyo he usually wouldn’t go to once again in a span of a few weeks.
There were no club activities today and he had opted out of any social activities proposed by other members of the team - Riko had suggested that instead of being out and about people should focus on their studies as well because things would get problematic if their grades were to drop. Kuroko had made a compromise. He had studied in the morning and now he could go and do other things. It wasn’t exactly socializing or playing around, so he felt that their coach would not disapprove of it if she knew about it.
She might disapprove of the person he chose to meet with, though. But that was not something that played any role right now.
Kuroko had just put on his wristbands and was about to get warmed up when Hanamiya stepped onto the court and motioned for him to stay seated on the bench. The taller male joined him there a few seconds later, leaning back against the backrest.
“I have thought of something and I kind of feel like you might be able to pull it off. You’re not some kind of dimwit, at least when it comes to basketball.” Hanamiya crossed his arms. “Although, it’s going to be the ultimate irony, you playing in the style you loathed so much.” He added with a smirk. “I am going to teach you how to play like my team. How to play like me.”
“I am not going to play dirty and rough.” Kuroko’s head snapped around.
Hanamiya remained unwavered. “What you make of it is your choice. Now listen up.”
Kuroko’s eyes widened when he listened to Hanamiya lay out the strategy to him. It was so logical and obvious he wondered why he hadn’t thought of it himself. The playing style of the Kirisaki Daiichi team was actually perfect for him. It was not their style down to a T - he noticed that Hanamiya had not mentioned any rough play or fouls or dirty tricks at all - but the underlying logic was the same. Which brought up one question.
“Don’t you think teaching me all this is going to be bad for you?”
“If you know how the trick works, it’s possible to come up with a countermeasure. Also you’re forgetting that this requires the cooperation and skill of your entire team or it won’t work. And on top of that, they’ll have to do it unconsciously or at least subtly, too.” Hanamiya looked at Kuroko. “It might only work perfectly if you can pull out that True Zone again that you pulled out of your ass during the game against Rakuzan.”
Kuroko nodded in understanding. The other was right. The strategy was a lot more complex than that of Kirisaki Daiichi. Their method was to utilize the referee’s blind spots in order to hide their foul plays. Kuroko would have to utilize all of the blind spots of the players on the opposing team. Or at least the ones close to him by using the positions of his teammates. He would have to create blind spots. It was a whole new level of misdirection.
“As a Plan B, your teammates will have to overwrite the presence of the ball with their own momentarily, create a window of distraction that allows you to attack. If you can then make use of your opponent’s blind spot effectively, you’ll be able to break free from a mark. Or create enough time for a counter attack. How to use this is up to you in the end.” Hanamiya popped his neck. “Now, enough with explanations. Actions will be far more effective.”
He rose from his seat. “Since I alone won’t be enough to trip you up, I allowed myself to get a few people to help you with this.”
Footsteps could be heard and a moment later, a part of the Kirisaki Daiichi team stood on the court. “The more people you have, the better this training will be.”
“Hello there, short stuff,” Hara greeted Kuroko, chewing his gum loudly and obnoxiously as usual. “Heard you have grand plans for this season.”
“Don’t worry. They know how to keep their mouths shut.” Hanamiya crossed his arms.
Furuhashi shrugged and put down his bag. “And it’s not like we talk to anyone else we could accidentally blurt it out to. Nobody talks to us after all.”
It hit Kuroko then that the other team was always alone. While other teams seemed to interact with each other, Kirisaki Daiichi were always left to their own devices. Not completely without reason, Kuroko thought but still, being as ostracized as them was a feat no other team had accomplished. Hanamiya’s words from before came back to him then.
Bad boys have more freedom.
The practice regimen that Hanamiya had all of them accomplish was nothing short of brutal but Kuroko was willing to go through with it. And by the end, it started to show results.
With his stamina unable to match that of the Kirisaki Daiichi team, Kuroko took a break at some point and went to sit on the bench to watch Hanamiya giving instructions to his teammates. This had turned into some kind of mutual training - his and that of the other team.
It was only fair, he thought.
Fair. That had been Hanamiya’s comment when he had accepted his request. When they had started to address each other more casually than they had up until that point.
This was one of the other’s mind games. Maybe. But it was one that Kuroko could ignore for now. He had other things to focus on. There was something he had noticed while playing with the other time - or against them really. For one, they were holding back with their dirty and rough play, moving in a way that was ‘normal’ so that Kuroko could develop his new technique. But apart from that, he had noticed that all of them were a lot more skilled than people gave them credit for. Some people, including Momoi, had commented on how the Kirisaki Daiichi team were but puppets doing everything Hanamiya told them to. But that wasn’t the case.
All of their minds were in the game.
A voice momentarily interrupted his thoughts. “It takes more skill to bend or break the rules without getting caught than to play fair and square. It is the bigger challenge. Coupled with the environment he was brought up in and the arrogance that was born from it, I guess that was the natural way for things to go.” Seto slicked back his hair. “And not just him. All of us are rich kids with nothing better to do. When we looked for an outlet for our excess energy and to do it in a way that would suit our positions, Hanamiya gave us a way and place to do it.” It was a rather unexpectedly honest self-insight and analysis. “And what’s more, it’s not simply a way to get rid of the excess energy, it’s a fun way of doing it, too.”
Kuroko looked at the tall center of the Kirisaki Daiichi team. “And yet it’s not all bad. A reality check helps a lot of the teams to find weaknesses. In way you teach others a valuable lesson. To not rely on one person too much, to strengthen your teamwork. But also to have a backup plan in case things go down. You are doomed if you only rely on your ace for winning. Basketball is a team sport after all.”
“I can see why he has taken a liking to you,” Seto smirked at Kuroko and then jogged over to where the rest of his team was getting ready for a mini game - Hara and Furuhashi against Hanamiya and the now joining Seto.
Going back to his earlier train of thought, Kuroko continued his analysis.
All of their minds were in the game. And all of them were having fun, too.
Of course it could be questioned whether or not their idea of fun - laughing at their opponents misery - was acceptable or not but if one really boiled things down to the very essence, all of them enjoyed playing basketball. In their way. That was the conclusion Kuroko arrived at.
And that was the reason why, he realized now, he could no longer be angry at Hanamiya or the rest of his team. Yes, he still disliked their rough and dirty play and he disapproved of them using basketball as a tool to make fun of others but just like in the real world, in the world beyond basketball, things couldn’t always go his way. Things wouldn’t always go according to the rules. Life was not easy like that. But like everything else in life, things happened for a reason, things had some kind of purpose.
He hadn’t quite figured out this particular purpose quite yet but he was almost there. Kuroko could feel it. And he wanted to get to the bottom of it.
Which was why he asked Hanamiya after their training session, “There is a reason why you play basketball the way you do, right?” Kuroko was certain of that because everybody had a reason. He was no exception either. “I’d like to know.”
Hanamiya looked up from where he had been packing his bag and sighed. “Since I know you’re going to be annoying about it, I’ll give you a hint. Come and see the match between Kirisaki Daiichi and Meisei next weekend.”
Said and done. Kuroko had a good position in the bleachers for the qualification game of the regional tournament in the Tokyo Area where Kirisaki Daiichi was located. The first thing he noticed when the teams lined up was that the players of Hanamiya’s team looked incredibly bored. The expression reminded him of the time when Aomine had started to change. The expression on Hanamiya’s face was resembling that of Akashi from back then as well. It all had a strong sense of deja-vu. It was like looking at the Generation of Miracles during their Teikou days. Kuroko had a sinking feeling in his stomach. This didn’t bode well.
The next thing he noticed as the game started, was that Kirisaki was not displaying any of their usual rough plays or foul plays. They were playing ‘normal’ basketball. And they did it effortlessly, scoring point after point. But there was no drive or passion in there. They were merely playing. And doing so, were still running circles around their opponents.
By halftime, the score difference was almost overwhelming. The only baskets the enemy team had scored stemmed from clear purposely made mistakes, like Seto yawning and practically sleeping on the court or Hara just letting them pass without moving a muscle.
The opposing team looked frustrated and ready to just give up. Nobody was having fun.
Kuroko could not take it any longer and went to the locker room.
“Stop. Please go back to your normal play.” He looked at Hanamiya.
“Seen it, haven’t you?” Hanamiya chuckled and then turned to look at his team. “Shackles are off everybody. Do whatever the hell you want from now on.”
Hara popped his neck instead of his gum for once. “Finally! I was getting all stiff from being good. People ain’t no robots, Shadow-kun.”
“Please don’t call me that, Hara-kun.”
“Kuro-chan it is, then,” Hara grinned and then offered Kuroko some bubblegum, which Kuroko declined politely, before he followed his team back out onto the court.
The transformation on the court was almost instantaneous. With Kirisaki’s usual play back in place and their taunting as well, the other team regained more vigor and fire as well. The feelings of utter helplessness and despair that had persisted before the break were dissipating. There was desperation in that place now but it was, in Kuroko’s eyes, still a better feeling than the one before. A crushing defeat, as it was dealt by Kirisaki, left you with pieces to pick up and put together again. It left you with lessons to be learned. It didn’t leave you with emotional scars and trauma. It didn’t leave a legion of Ogiwaras in its wake.
As the elite, as those who would stand at the top of society, it was their task, their mission to motivate those following them because that would ultimately be beneficial for all. Fostering competition and strengthening the individual and group would bring forth overall strength.
In the end the ‘Bad Boy’, Kuroko thought, was doing more good than some good guys.
Of course one could argue about the methods being used but maybe the means justified the end. He still did not completely approve of their way of playing but he was seeing it in a new light compared to before. This was something he could come to respect or at least tolerate.
You're up alchemicink!