Fragments

worries

[INTRODUCTION ARC]

The day after Seirin got qualified for the preliminaries' semifinal, Miyuki was happily chatting in the classroom with Taiga and Kuroko-kun.

"Even after all this time, the fact that you can eat that much is still a mystery to me..." was the only thing she coud say while she watched Taiga eating his 9th cheeseburger.

"You are always eating well." she sweatdropped at this more than obvious statement made by her friend.

"I'm the one surprised you've got enough with that. We've played two matches yesterday. It's logical to be hungry, right ?" Now that she was looking at it, she ate way more than Kuroko-kun. Well, eating more than Kuroko-kun wasn't hard, to be honest.

"I do have proper muscle ache."

"What the hell's with that 'proper'. Well me too, but... still, the two opponents yesterday were at the same level as us or inferior. And we still only barely made it in the end. At this rate... the two next matches will honestly be hard..."

Miyuki didn't have time to answer because she saw Riko-san standing at the door of their classroom "Kagami-kun, Kuroko-kun ! Just the guys I needed, come here for a second ! Masako-chan, come with us too !" She gave them the boxes that were in her hands as Taiga began to grumble "With that muscle pain... Are you a demon ?!"

"Come on, don't you feel like helping a pretty girl carrying all that ? That's when boys are in the spotlight !"

Please Taiga, don't say

"I don't see a pretty girl anywhe –

"Ouch !" Too late...

Taiga probably decided it was better to not be hit again (a wise choice indeed) so he changed the subject of discussion "By the way, what's that ?"

She wasn't tall enough on her wheelchair to see the content, "DVDs from matches of last year and this year I carried from the clubroom ! We're going to review them. Since we're going to face two kings in a row, we can't afford not to investigate them !"

"Coach is right you know !" Observing the opponent was always important.

"Ah, Masuko-chan I almost forgot ! I wanted to ask you if you know when will be your surgery ?"

She began to move on her wheelchair uncomfortably and looked away "Yes. It will be the day after the semifinal and final. And... I think I will miss the semifinal. I'll have an appointment to prepare the surgery because they don't know if they will suceed at repairing it but I'll be there for the final !"

She expected disappointment from her team about not being there for the semifinal, she didn't want to fail them but she got instead a crushing bone hug from Riko-san. "Coach... I can't breathe."

Finally realizing this, Riko-san let her go "Ah, gomen ne !"

She laughed softly because of her motherly nature. She really did care about her team, although she was showing it rather violently. But it was probably she cared about them that she wasn't scared about pushing the team so much and that was why she took this decision "No, it's okay ! I actually wanted to ask you something, Coach."

Riko-san's eyes reflected her curiousity because she only called her 'Coach' while training, "What is it, Masuko-chan ?"

She took a deep breath. That was it. "If my surgery is a sucess and my anterior cruciate ligament tears is repaired enough to allow me to play football again, I would like to have you as my therapist. The orthopaedist said I have to either stop school for a few months to make intense re-education or either find a good therapist to follow me anytime... I chose the latter."

That choice wasn't easy. Of course she wanted to fullfill the last promise she made before leaving France, but that didn't mean she wanted to sacrifice the new bonds she just made... Not to mention the fact she wanted to help her best friend to keep the good path while becoming the best in Japan because she knew it could happen. He could become merciless and play selfishly, she saw it happening too many times for the past years.

And intense re-education may looked good but she knew she couldn't handle it because she still lacked of stamia -though it has greatly improved, she still didn't have the stamia of a professional player- and she knew she wouldn't have the spirit to stay between four and six months in an hospital.

That was why she wanted to do it in her own way. In Seirin's way, as she could say. She was taking a liking for this school.

"I know it's only been a month since I arrived but I have complete faith in you... Riko-san is a very good coach, your team needs you and I want to keep helping the team as its manager."

Riko-san stayed silent for seconds, maybe minutes. Feeling even more unconfortable with the silence, she whispered "Coach, I would perfectly understand if you refu –

"Baka ! Of course I accept, how could I let our manager like that !" This time, the hug Riko-san gave her was more gentle. She could feel hot tears on her sailor fuku as Riko-san's head was burried on her shoulder. It was painfully obvious in her eyes that Riko-san wanted to truly be acknowledged as a competent coach... and as a female.

It wasn't that Riko-san didn't trust her own skills because it was clear she aimed nothing but the top, meaning national level. The team had no problem with her and respected her and acknowledged her but she knew it wasn't the case for exterior people. Riko-san was thinking that she would always be Seirin's coach, just Seirin's coach. She thought like that for herself as well, until a few months ago. That was why she hoped she would be able to see Seirin as Riko-san's team too.

But for now all she could do was to pat her head and whisper "I know." She looked at her two classmates with a smile. She saw the encouraging glance from her tealed-haired friend while Taiga was looking at the ground, feeling now uncomfortable.

The idiot was still like this everytime it was about feelings after all but it was also one of the reasons she loved him so much.

The bell announcing the end of luch time interrupted them "Gomen Coach, we have to go. We'll see you after classes." Miyuki waited for the boys to put the boxes in the room before they went back to the classroom. She waved at Riko-san who was still drying her tears. Seirin basketball team was really lucky to have her as Coach.


Miyuki might loved school but that didn't mean she loved every subjects. To her mind, math was just something plain and boring. No poetry, no mystery, just series of numbers. She saw no interest in this, there was no emotion, nothing human in it... And the fact that their sensei was deadly boring wasn't helping. That was how in the middle of taking notes, she began to observe people from her class. She didn't even need to look at the one on her right since she knew Taiga too well. He was sleeping in class, not even bothering to snore softly. Well, she had to admit this time that he was totally right: math was just boring.

Her gaze now travelling the classroom and she saw a few students fighting not to sleep. A boy with brown hair passing a word to a girl, probably a love letter judging by her giggling. A girl on the third rank texting on her mobile. The best student of their class being unusually distracted – judging by his eyes, he liked the giggling girl who just got a new boyfriend –

The usual as she could say... Until she met Kuroko-kun's gaze. His eyes widened before he gave her a soft smile. That was how she found out she wasn't the only one who liked observing people. This could be a funny game during math classes ! Kuroko-kun probably thought the same way since he continued to observe – with more intensity this time –. She did the same, happy to have found a good rival.

After these two endless hours, classes were finally over and because Taiga forgot his towel in the locker room, he led her there with him.

"So, don't you feel a little stressed about this match ?" She wasn't only talking about Shutoku and he knew it. It wasn't that he underestimated Seiho no, they were one of the three Kings after all... But she knew all he was thinking about now was beating the 'Generation of Miracles' and Shutoku happened to have the green-haired one, Midorima Shintaro. She had to recognize he did a strong impression on her as a player, with his amazing shot and its exceptionally high arc. However, she had this murky sensation while watching him. It was seeing the possibility of what Taiga could become : someone who doesn't enjoy playing basketball anymore.

"Are you kidding ?! I'm all fired up !"

Her gaze seemed now far away, lost in thoughts "Um, a little too much..."

He looked at her questionably "Uh, what do you mean ?"

It was better to avoid this topic for now. She knew she would have to tell something about this sooner or later, but she was waiting for the right moment. "Oh you're here too, Kuroko-kun !"

Taiga didn't even noticed him until he closed his locker. "WHAT THE HELL, since when are you here ?!"

"I had forgotten something, and Kagami-kun is the one that entered after me."

"Say it when you're here, it's scary, damnit !"

"Masuko-san noticed I was here."

"But she's different, I mean how the hell's she able to see you is a mystery to me."

She repeated the same sentence everytime someone asked her that. "I told you, it's the eyes."

"That makes no sense, he –

Kuroko-kun interrupted one of their usual bickering (he was being used to it now, and she suspected he was almost enjoying it). "It seems the Coach forgot something too."

It was a DVD of Seiho VS Kitawada. "It's the next opponent, right ?"

"It seems like the Coach asked some of her friends to film it. Actually it's perfect, let's give a look."


They're strong. Really strong. That was what all she could say when she watched them. Seiho was indeed powerful but she had faith in them, in Seirin. That was what she kept telling in her mind while she waited in the empty corridor like a motto, to forget where she was. She frowned at the thought of her MRI's results. She already made a first one before leaving France and it wasn't good but now that her knee wasn't swollen anymore, she made a second one. And now she was waiting for the results...

"Masuko Miyuki-san ?" Osawa-sensei's assistant looked at her, a polite smile on her face that couldn't tell her if it was good or bad.

"Hai."

"Follow me, please." She did so and saw the orthopaedist looking at what it seemed to be her MRI.

"Konnichiwa, Masuko-san."

" Konnichiwa, Osawa-sensei."

Feeling her nervousness, he immediately told her what she wanted to know. "As you know, your anterior cruciate ligament tears is quite serious. However, the probability of completely of repairing it is between 80 and 90%."

At this moment, part of her anxiety was gone. She trusted him enough to make it a success. "But the surgery is just the first step. You already know that the hardest will be to regain your anterior level at football. A third of players after this injury couldn't regain it because they are afraid to relive an injury. You know I strongly disagree with your decision about your re-education but if you think it is the best choice, then I'm letting you do so."

This decision may seemed reckless but she spent hours to make up her mind and the fact that Osawa-sensei let her do so told her it wasn't foolish... Not completely, at least. "I know." She was going to go through at least six months of re-education and the only thought she had was that she would fully understand how Coach's training was a living hell. "Sensei, could you tell me how long I'll stay here after the surgery."

"You'll have to stay here at least two or three weeks, to learn how to walk again and then I'll let you leave the hospital."

She sighed. It was the best she could have hoped. "Very well. Arigatō gozaimasu, Osawa-sensei !"

Before letting her leave, he gave her a soft smile "I'll help you to make sure you regain your anterior level, Masuko-san."

"I'm sure you will, Osawa-sensei." She will make it. She had to make it so she would fullfill the last promise she made before leaving her home country. But before that, she had to make sure Seirin won.

Looking at her mobile, she saw a simple text from Riko.

'We're waiting for you to come for the final, Manager.'


After somehow getting into the building before the rain started, she went to the locker room. It was only 10 minutes before the match but Taiga and Kuroko-kun were still there.

"Kuroko-kun, the game is gonna start soon !"

"Masuko-san is back."

"Hai." She threw a look on her best friend, surprisingly asleep on the floor. "I think you should wake him up now."

"Kagami-kun, it is time."

Instead of grumpily insulting him, he immediately complied "Yes." There was a serious look on his face she had rarely seen and she didn't know if she should be either reassured or worried... But the instant he saw her, he was back to his usual self. "Emilie, you're back ! So what did the doc say ? Are you okay ?"

She giggled, glad to see he was still the same "Taiga calm down, I'm fine. We'll talk about this once the match over."

"Right, let's go !"

Finally joining the team, they greeted her with smiles before leaving her with Riko-san to focus on the game. They watched them forming a circle to listen to Hyuuga-senpai.

"Haa... I'm tired ! I've been melancholic since this morning, you know... Two matches in a row, against Kings... When I thought that we won against Seiho, we'd have a match after that... But there's only one match left, we don't have to hold back anything. Be happy, there is only one thing left to do ! We'll throw everything at them until we take them down !"

Hyuuga-senpai's rather strange speech seemed to had worked one the team, determination obvious on everyone's face, shouting "Yeah !" before going on the court.

"The beginning of his speech was intriguing but Hyuuga-kun is becoming a good captain, don't you think ?" Riko-senpai had a gentle look on her face while saying that. Miyuki was sure she wasn't aware of it but sometimes, she could see her eyes softening and her lips turning curling, making a tiny smile while she was watching Hyuuga-senpai.

"Hai.", she agreed.

The other players seemed ready to go into battle and that reassured her although couldn't help but cast a concerned look on her best friend. Riko-san noticed it "What is it, Masuko-chan ?"

"I'm..." She didn't exactly know how to say it, "I'm just really concerned about Taiga."

"What are you talking about ?"

"Didn't you notice he isn't like his usual self, Coach ?"

She looked even more puzzled and she took a look on Taiga "Now that I think about it... He's calmer than I expected."

She knew it was no good. That could only meant that he was frustrated and waited the game to release all of this frustation "Coach, did you sub him and Kuroko-kun out like I suggested you ?"

"Hai." It was in fact an idea by both Hyuuga-senpai and her since it was the best strategy to be able to play the final against a member of the Generation of Miracles, adding the fact that Seiho's defense was incompatible with Taiga's style. But she knew it would have one risk...

"Hm ? Is it alright to only greet Kuroko-kun ? What about Kagami..." Takao-kun's question draw her attention.

"It's unnecessary. I have nothing to talk about with someone who played pitifully his last match. If he has something to say, then he should express it with his plays, not words."

Depending on how Taiga would react, these words will be the best for them or the worst. Hyuuga-senpai also heard these words and knew it "Kagami !"

"I agree... When I remember it, I can't help but being mad at myself. Frustration keeps piling up, So... Let's play already." The look on Taiga's face drastically changed and she could feel his aura similar to a beast craving for food, "I've been piling it up to turn all of it into fighting spirit, in order to defeat you bastard. I just can't hold back any longer."

Hyuuga-senpai must be feeling unconfortable after hearing these words as well judging by the look on his face while Kuroko-kun simply stared him then briefly her before leaving to join the court.

Midorima-kun seemed irritated by Taiga's words "...What did you say ? Do what you want... If you can, that is."

The tip off made Seirin get the ball first but Shutoku's defense prevented their attempt of quickly scoring. Izuki-senpai took the ball and passed it to Kuroko-kun who gave it to Taiga for an alley-oop.

"Yes, we're the first to score...!"

At the last moment, Midorima-kun blocked it, to her and everyone's shock. Is it even possible to block that... ?!

Takao-kun now got the ball and then passed it to Shutoku's #5 who tried to score but failed thanks to Hyuuga-senpai's intervention. She took note that Takao-kun was indeed a point guard like she suspected.

Two minutes had passed and nobody had scored yet, meaning the team who scored first would win the first quarter. At Seirin's failed attempt, Shutoku made a quick counterattack resulting a three-pointer by Midorima-kun but she saw with astonishment Kuroko-kun running already to take the ball. Making a Cyclone Pass to Taiga, he left Midorima-kun speechless as the ball flew past him.

She huffed "Thanks to them, the flow of the game hasn't changed yet..."

Riko-san added "The real match starts now." She couldn't be more right.

Shutoku's ace got the ball but to her surprise, he passed it to someone else. "Wait... Is Midorima-kun sealed ?"

"Hai. Midorima-kun's technique has the merit of defending against conterattacks. But it's not like all the team is falling back. They're all staying behind, just in case it misses and they need to get the rebound. But here, the time it spends flying back backfires. Because if Midorima-kun has the time to get back, Kagami-kun has the time to run too."

"I see... So that means that with the speed of that attack, the counter-attack will just get through Midorima-kun. That's why he didn't shoot."

As Seirin and Shutoku scored back each other, Miyuki felt uneasy. Shutoku Coach's order only strengthened this feeling (how ironic, he thought but now wasn't the time to think about it) "Takao, take care of the number 11."

This was bad. Kuroko-kun had the same role as Takao-kun, to pass the ball to the rest of the team so that made Takao-kun the worst match against Kuroko... because they were the same kind. But the uneasiness she felt couldn't be only explained by this. So that could only meant... "Could it be ?..."

"What is it, Masuko-chan ?"

"NO WAY !"

"Kuroko's pass... failed ?!"

"Did he make a mistake ?"

It was in fact worst than expected. "No, that's not it Furihata-kun. I think Takao-kun's eyes are special like Izuki-senpai's... No, they're probably better." Right now, she couldn't found any solution "Coach, we need a time out !"

"I know."

Now all seated on the bench, Riko was thinking about what to say to them, especially Kuruko-kun who was upset, to say the least.

"Coach. Let's keep up just like this... Please." Taiga was strangely calm about it meaning he had probably something in his mind. He ruffled his partner's hair "Hey, it can't be that you're going to let him stop you like that, right ?"

"Well... I guess I would not like that."

"Your misdirection doesn't work on Takao-kun isn't it ? Is it alright ?"

"It isn't, it's a problem."

"Yes... Well. Hell ! What to do ?"

"END OF THE TIME OUT !"

Before they went back to the court, she stopped her friend "Kuroko-kun ! I don't have the solution yet but I think... I think you could use Takao-kun's eyes against himself. I don't know how but.. I'm sure you could find something."

"I understand."

Shutoku was currently in the lead but Midorima-kun's shoot had a meaningful impact: his shoot range was the whole half court.

Her eyes widened "He scored from center line ? Is that even possible in basketball ?"

"It isn't. It's just... The Generation of Miracles truly are monsters."

"This isn't good... At this rate, the difference will increase." She didn't need to be a math genius to tell that between their two points and his three pointers, his shots had more effectiveness. It only left them with two solutions: block him or score even more, with three pointers, if possible.

"Coach, what's this ?" curious, Miyuki looked at the thing in question.

"Aaah, ! I broke this a few minutes ago, I forgot it..."

"Broke ?!"

"Because we lost last year... Hyuuga-kun asked me to find something to change him from an ordinary guy to someone used to pressure. So now everytime he misses a shoot, I'll break one of his precious figures of the Sengoku General."

"FOR REAL ?!" Oh, she could see where this was going.

"But because of that, Hyuuga-kun...

Hyuuga-senpai's shout interrupted them "The Kings don't matter anymore ! DIE !"

"... Even though his character changed a bit"

She thought right, "I see."

They didn't have the time the discuss about Riko-san's... drastic method because Midorima-kun got the ball. "What is he doing ? He's standing at the opposite of –

Impossible. And still, the ball flew through the entiere court to land into the hoop.

"The whole court... is his shooting range."

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