ink and paper
"You're doing good, Masuko-san."
'...Doing good' my ass !
It was officially the first day of her reeducation and it was harder than expected. She couldn't even make two steps without clinging on the guard rails, making her frustrated. Really frustrated. But she was stubborn and she kept trying to finally manage to make four steps. She raised her hands in victory, forgetting she couldn't even stand without her hands gripped on something.
But instead of falling, someone caught her. She turned her head, expecting it to be the hospital employee but found instead a really tall man holding her. "You should be more careful, young girl." It sounded like a lecture but his gentle smile told her he was just more amused than anything.
She noticed he had big hands though he was being gentle "Um, arigatō gozaimasu."
"Nah, it's nothing. It happened to me everytime too." She looked at him questioningly before seeing his knee. So... "It was on my knee as well. Did you do this at sports ?"
So he was more clever than he appeared, uh. He must have noticed how her leg muscle was more developed than most females "Hai. It was football. What about you ?"
Somehow, the goofy smile the young man had reminded her of Taiga's own smile when they were eight... "Basketball."
She smiled, "My best friend plays basketball as well !"
"That's great !" A nurse came closer and scolded him as he smiled as an apologize and followed him. "Gomen ne, I must leave now."
"Okay... Once again, arigatō gozaimasu."
"Masuko-san, don't be so careless next time !" Oh, there it was. The lecture.
The woman sighed, "It's enough for today, I'll help you go back to your room."
"Very well." As she took her crutches to go back in her room, she remembered she still had not read the two other letters she recieved.
"Ah yes, Taiga left them on the nightstand."
Once arrived, she took them and sat on her bed. The first one was a letter from one of her teammates from middleschool, she was sure of it. She would wait for Taiga to open it. Even if he didn't totally understand french, he would be there to give her reassurance. She looked at the other and immediately recognized the neat and delicate handwriting.
She teared the envelope hastily to find a two page letter and a picture. It was him still in L.A. He did grew up in six months, his hair a little longer but his half smile still there. She took the sheets of paper to read the content outloud. It was writing in english. She laughed. He probably still had difficulties with differentiating american and japanese cultures.
"Hey little bird,
I hope you are fine in Japan. As promised, I sent you a letter, knowing you prefer that rather than e-mails. Uncle sent me the video of your last game, your were brilliant, your new football really is amazing. Once again, congratulations for the championship, your hard work finally paid. For your injury, what you did was reckless but I am not going to scold you, I think your dad has already did it enough for me. How long will your reeducation will be ? Four months ? Six months ? Or maybe more ? In any case, I am sure you will do it and gain back your physical abilities, you have always been a fighter, in all senses of term.
How is the weather in Japan ? Here in L.A, it is very sunny and hot now and I wonder how summer is in Japan because I have always lived here as you know but I am moving out sooner than planned. I will come to the country in a little more than a month with my parents. It is gonna be strange to have you in the same country but not in the same school but at least, we will see each other more frequently !
About school, you do not need to feel guilty. I know you chose Seirin over Yosen because someone needs to watch over Taiga and I know it does not mean you chose a side. I am deeply sorry for leaving you in the middle of our conflict but you have to know our schools will probably clash at one moment. I do not really know about competitions held in Japan but Yosen is one of the best schools in terms of marks and sports. Like you, I am going to keep being in the same highschool year as I was since September because of the strange school calendar in Japan. I am glad I finished my Junior year here, at least I will have some advance once in Japan. I know it is the same for you... I sometimes forget you are a year younger than I. When I will there there, I will just have to work on Japanese and Japan's History. Could you help me with that ? I know you are way better than me at this and not living in Japan for years makes you understand how confusing this situation is. In exchange, I could help you in math. I know you are grimacing, do not deny it but you will have to do math classes until next year. Until then, be sure to try !
I put of picture of myself with the letter. Mom told me I am taller now but I do not really notice the difference. I hope you grew up too, I remember when you were still mocking Taiga for being 'tiny' but I am sure it is not the case anymore (short hair suited you by the way, I was pleasingly surprised to see you cut it like when we were kids last summer). Talking about growing up, how is your family ? I am sure uncle and auntie are happy to go live in Japan and are impatient to join you. I heard from uncle your brother is now playing basketball ! I am sure you are moping because you wanted him to play football with you but you are happy because he found a sport he really loves, am I right ? And do you know if it is a boy or a girl ? Uncle was so excited about it in the e-mail, I am not sure your mother will be able to handle him.
And do not worry, I will take with me the DVDs I borrowed to you: you were right, this show is fantastic, I wonder if it has more seasons ? We should watch together american dramas like we used to but it will take around an hour between Akita and Tokyo so we will only see each other once a week, I think.
Be sure to achieve your reeducation to fullfill your promise and do keep an eye on Taiga will you, even if I will not be his brother anymore after our match, I still deeply care about him. I told you the last time...
P.S: Shuu says hello ! He said he would have slapped you on the head if he was near near for your 'stupid and reckless' act."
After reading Tatsuya's letter, she didn't really know how to feel. She was sure more than happy to finally have him in the same country again but this thing between Taiga and him... She knew it was going to happen but not that soon. Or maybe she had hope that would never happen because she didn't want to see them cut the ties.
She would have to prepare Taiga even harder to have equal chance for their match but she would wait after the Final League to tell him that. She sighed. The two of them had both issues going on, and she wasn't talking about physical ability... She knew both of them needed that match but she would make sure after that, they had to talk to clear things up.
She sent a text to Taiga and Kise-kun 'Come here at 4:30 p.m :)'
Miyuki watched with concentration the video on the computer. Looking at her former teammates' performances was a necessary thing but she didn't think they would become that strong in a few months. That wasn't necessarily a good thing... Especially her, Lisa. She could feel the girl's arrogance surrounding her by just watching the video but damn. Her game became even better, as if it was possible.
The door opened loudly, making her jump in surprise "Yo !"
"Taiga, you scared me ! Oh, Kise-kun and... Midorima-kun ? Bonj – I mean konnichiwa." Taiga gave a cake he made as she greeted him with a peck on each of his cheek. She did the same with Kise-kun who seemed to be in high spirit. Midorima-kun just stood there and looked like he didn't know what to do. It took seconds to her to understand why: japanese culture. Again.
"Right, Midorima-kun wasn't there when I explained it to Kise-kun yesterday. It's the way we greet people like friends and family in France, la bise. I lived for years in France I forgot it's not frequent in Asia."
Taiga snorted, "Yeah, you french have strange manners."
"You're the one who's talking, Mister hugs and bump fists."
"It's just like that in the States, you lived there too."
"You're right, but I'm french." Seeing how this explaination turned into another bickering, she dropped it and continued her explanation. "I asked Kise-kun if it was okay to do it for him as well and he agreed. I'll ask you the same thing. If okay if you don't want to."
The room was silent for a few seconds, all eyes set on him while he wasn't looking back. "I'm... not refusing."
He slowly came closer. For someone that skilled in basketball, seeing him clumsily walking to reach her bed was almost amusing. As she put her lips on his cheek, she noticed his flushed cheks, probably due to his uneasiness. She also notices the little cactus in his hands. She decided not to question him, remembering he was holding a plushie back when they met.
Taiga sat casually on her bed, looking at her computer, "What were you watching ?"
"Something that concerns a letter I recieved yesterday..."
"Oh." He knew the meaning, giving her the 'let's talk about this later' look.
She changed the subject of discussion "Did you bring your books ?"
"Good. Now open the book, read from page 15 to page 29 and make a 250 words recap. I don't care if you do it in english or japanese or french or whatever nor if it's written in colloquial language as long it doesn't have spelling mistakes – Taiga, I'm looking at you. You have an hour. If you can't focus, just use your earphones."
"Hai !" The two young men took the sits to put them in front of the little wooden table and began to work.
She turned her attention back to the third male in the room. "It's very kind to keep me compagny, Midorima-kun."
"Don't be an idiot, I just came the hospital to help my father."
She smiled. "It's still kind from you."
That girl is strange...
That was his main thought about her. Then, seeing Kagami and Kise of all people studying by their own will was not strange. It was surreal. He has been teammate with the latter for two years and the only thing he was doig in library was sleeping or fooling around and Kagami wasn't the type to be serious about his studies.
"Kagamicchi, so mean !" only two minutes had passed and Kagami had already enough of Kise's whispers making him put his earphones to avoid him. He had to agree with one of his actions for once.
"If Kise-kun wins today, I'll make you the cake I talked you about."
"Really Masukocchi ? Then, I'll be the one who'll win today." Kise took his earphones and put them as well and he focused to understand the content of the book.
"I don't understand you."
He expected her to get upset but he was surprised to see her laughing softly instead, "I get that a lot."
"How can you deal with these idiots ?" was the first thing that came to his mind.
"I don't think they're idiots... If anything they're basketball geniuses. They only have basketball in their minds, that and food for Taiga so I'm just using their abilities and their rivals status. Kise-kun is a fast learner and Taiga has his pride."
She is good at making tactics...
"Why is someone like you is Seirin's manager ?" She could have found a way better school but she was being as foolish as Kuroko. She followed her best friend though something deep down was telling him it might be for the best. After all, Seirin wasn't the best team but they weren't bad neither.
She was looking like she didn't know if it was an insult or a compliment – himself didn't know neither – "You can see it, can't you ? Taiga's ability... He's still improving and yet, his body can't follow. Knowing him more than anyone, I'll be there to help him and then, he will be on par with you."
"Don't be ridiculous." But maybe she was right. Kagami's potential made him a worthy player but couldn't see the end of it.
"Taiga is suited to be the challenger. That's why I think his will is stronger than you, the Generation of Miracles. Well, maybe not you nor Kise-kun because losing gave you a new strengh."
New strengh ? What new strengh ?
"You're talking like you know everything." Somehow, the clear image of Akashi came to his mind. Not the ruthless Akashi Seijuro but the previous Akashi Seijuro, the one that had been his friend once... but now he wasn't even sure if they had been friend friends one day. Still, she used that smooth yet certain tone while talking, the one he didn't hear for two years.
"I don't know everything, I'm talking from experience. That's why I can tell Seirin won't make the Final League."
What ? He stared at her, repeating verbally his first reaction "What ?"
"I'm not naive. I know they'll loose."
Wasn't she supposed to have faith in this team as manager and as Kagami's best friend ? But then, she continued her reasoning "I really like this team. I don't know them enough yet but they lack of individual skills for now." She paused again, looking at an imaginary fixed point on the wall. "My team was the opposite: they had individual skills but their team work was near zero."
"Didn't you win the championship ?"
"We did because they changed, and I did change as well, I suppose." She laughed, "Anyway Midorima-kun, let's talk about something lighter. I told you I was Libra but you never told me what is your sign."
This girl is so destabilizing.
People were always telling him he was 'weird' whenever he talked about something related to Oha Asa and there she was, asking him his sign "Why would I tell you ?"
She shrugged, unfazed by his hostility "Then, I'd have to guess. You're... a Capricorn – no Cancer ! It fits better."
He didn't know what to think. She was looking at him and not looking at him at the same time... It was like she was trying to see through him. But that was impossible, right ?!
"You're skillful. Clever. Down to earth. Reserved. You like when things are constant. You don't like to resolve conflicts so you don't get involved. All of this fits perfectly with a Cancer !"
She was right. Everything she just said was right. The only person who could say something like that was Akashi and he was sure she was not Akashi despite the few similiraties. "You... How did you know ?"
"I take extra attention on people who caught my intesrest." And at that moment, he looked straight back at her.
It was like he was seeing her for the first time. He noted her eyes were blue, a rare thing for a japanese, but she was half french as well. They were darker than Kuroko's, like the sea, how strange... but he wasn't the one to talk with his own strange eye color. Until he briefly talked to her in the rain, he thought they were black but only a closer look could tell him he was wrong "And yes, I've read books about astrology."
It was like she had to state that yes, she read books and yet it was totally normal.
"When is your birthday ?"
She looked surprised, "Uh ?"
"Do not make me repeat myself, Masuko-san."
"Gomen nasai, I was just surprised... September 27th. What about you ? Your birthday must be soon."
"Then I'll be sure to give you a gift."
"You don't need to."
"Of course I do ! I always offer a gift to my friends for their birthday."
"We're not friends.", he said that statement in a colder tone than intended however she was unfazed (once more).
"Not yet. We're befriending but that still doesn't change the fact I'll give you something."
He didn't know what to say back. He never accepted to become his friend but he didn't refused neither. "Do whatever you want, I don't care."
"If you say so. And Midorima-kun..."
"What is it ?" He saw what it seemed like hesitation on her face.
"I – I wanted to thank you for yesterday. I know it took a lot of efforts to you and Taiga to make this... truce."
"Of course. I wasn't going to let the idiot stand there forever." In fact, he could have done that but Kami-sama knew why, he accepted than hand-shaking.
"Taiga might be hot-headed and stubborn but he really loves basketball and once you know him, he's quite likeable."
Kise interrupted their discussion, shaking energetically the sheet of paper he was holding "Masukocchi ! Look, I have finished first."
"That's great, Kise-kun, let me read it." He gave her the paper, waiting for her to give her opinion "It's very good, Kise-kun, you could add more precisions about the society during the Edo period with the Four divisions of society for exemple but it's great. Did you memorize some informations ?"
"Yes Masukocchi ! Thank you." He didn't know Kise could talk in english.
"Your accent is getting better, nice !"
"I've finished too."
"Ah Taiga. You wrote it in english, didn't you ?"
"Let me see it... Taiga, what the hell is that ? It's 'an empire' not 'a empire'"
"That's just a detail ! Everything I wrote is right."
"It was good. However, Kise-kun wins for today because the content of his recap is as as good as yours but your english is still crappy."
"See, I told Kagamicchi I was gonna win today."
"Yeah, whatever. I'll go take the food."
"What did you do for today ?"
"You're kidding right ?" She didn't seem to get it. At least, he thought, he wasn't te only one. "Buffalow hot wings and french fries. I'll bring soda too !"
"Wait, does that mean..."
"You're the one who recorded it, you idiot."
"Ah yes, I've got it on my computer ! Kise-kun, Midorima-kun could you go with him to take the food, please ?" He was still clueless like Kise, so he just nodded absently.
"I don't need help."
"I bet you did way more than usual."
"Am I right ?"
"Damn it. Alright, follow me."
As they left to search the food, Miyuki took a piece of paper and her cartridge pen to answer to Tatsuya's letter. She took the habit during middle school to write her lessons with cartridge pen instead of a pen, finding it more neat.
Writing this letter in front of Taiga would be inappropriate but at the same time, Tatsuya was her best friend as well. So she began to write:
I am doing well here ! It still feels strange to live in another country but I have Taiga and I made new friends from Seirin basketball club because I became their manager. Funny, right ? But unsurprising at the end, you will tell me.
Tatsuya, it is part thanks to you that I won the championship. If you had not been here, I would have never made it so thank you, I will never tell it enough. Oh and could you say thank you to Shuu too ? I know he would have scolded me but I know the reason for it was he was worried for me as well so tell him I apologize for that. I hope I can see him soon, the last time I saw him was almost a year ago. It amazes me how time flies... My reeducation will last six months or maybe seven, I am not sure yet. I chose to ask Coach to be the one who will be in charge of my reeducation, I know she will do her best and I wanted to spend this year at school not at the hospital. For now, I am still in hospital for two or three weeks to learn to walk again.
Surprisingly, weather in Japan is nice now though I do not know about the weather during summer. The cherry blossom really are beautiful, that was one of the things I wanted to see here. You are coming in Japan sooner than planned ? Then I am glad because we will be able to see each other more frequently I will have to show you tons of things, especially the album :)
I knew you would understand... I love you both but we talked about it last time... and although you do know I am against this conflict I understand. Both of you.
When you talked about competitions held in Japan, I guess you were thinking Winter Cup, right ? It takes place in December, and I think your match against him will be there. As your best friend, I will cheer on you but as Seirin's manager, I will do my best to make the team win even if it is against you. I know Yosen is strong, I looked for informations when I had to choose between Seirin and Yosen. Seirin is a very interesting team, if you ask me. They have potential, even if it is not enough for now. They are still a new team, you know... but they had good players and I can feel I am becoming friends with them.
Coach is my friend. She is amazing, in fact she is a second year like you. And I am good friend with Kuroko Tetsuya as well. He does reminds me of my brother... And his eyes... It is like seeing a reflect of my past-self. Anyway, you will see for yourself soon. You are gonna keep doing the same high school year as well ? Japan has such a weird school calendar. I will gladly help you. You know, I am currently tutoring Taiga and another basketball player, Kise Ryota, an interesting one as well. And yes, about math, you are right... but last year, it will be over !
I put a picture as well (even if you saw me on the video). See, my hair grew back quite quickly ! And I grew up but not as much as I wanted. I guess 1,65 m is not that bad. Taiga became so tall, it is just unbelievable. And you do seem taller on the picture ! Still hanging out on L.A streets, uh ?
Lu' does play basketball and he is power forward (Taiga is so gonna be a bad influence on him). We still do not know but it is the 3rd month, my parents will probably know it very soon. I hope he or she will play football like his/her big sister ! I am sure dad is being his usual self, the team told me he made them run 10 laps, poor them.
I almost forgot about the DVDs but fortunately, you remembered. We will sure do that, I cannot wait to see you once again.
No need to worry, I will do everything to fullfill my promise and I will keep an eye on Taiga, it is my job after all.
P.S: Text me once you will be able to visit me."
She left the cartridge pen on the table and put the letter on the nightstand. She frowned. She didn't think about it until now but she couldn't send the letter herself. Asking to Taiga to send it was just out of question so she would have to ask to someone else, maybe Kise-kun or Midorima-kun.
Talking about them, she heard loud voices coming closer. They took more time than expected, she even had time to finish the letter. She was going to ask about that but sweatdropped at the sight she got.
"Yo. We're back !" Why should she be surprised ? The three of them came back with their 6 hands full of food and Taiga was just greeting her casually. The food was enough for a whole team !
She sighed. It was the NBA finals after all, "I see... So that's why you took all this time."
"Hey ! It's these idiots fault."
"Don't call me idiot !"
"But Kagamicchi's house is soooo big ! And he made tons of food !" Taiga's gave him a kick "Ouch ! I forgot the finals were yesterday."
"Me too... But I recorded it and I promised Taiga I wouldn't watch before now."
"I also went to your apartment. Uncle left a message on your phone 'bout the baby, he said they'll know next week !"
She smiled in delight. Taiga seemed himself quite happy hearing they would know for the baby soon. "Great !"
"He also said something 'bout U18 or whatever."
"I see... Bring the food, I just turned on the computer."
"Alright !" Taiga sat with her on her bed, and began to eat already.
She look at the other two, who still hadn't moved. It took seconds to understand that her bed was too tiny for them. After all, they were four and three of them were ridiculously tall "Let's sit horizontally."
They nodded. Taiga smirked, looking at her computer. "Still have this wallpaper."
"What's with the smirk ?", she asked almost offended. "Zidane is the best french football player of all time !" She looked in her files to find the video "Found it ! Here we go."
"So, who are you rooting for, Curry or LeBron ?"
"LeBron James because we have the same post !"
The answers were unsurprising. Taiga and Kise-kun chose LeBron because it was more their kind of style, meanwhile Midorima-kun chose Curry because of his impressive three-pointers. "I see..."
"What about Masukocchi ?"
"I don't know... I'm mostly impartial in basketball but Curry has more chances to win if you look at his team and the stats."
"Does Masukocchi follow NBA games too ?"
"Hai. I follow European football with French and American basketball." Oh, if only they knew.
"Shhh, it's beginning !"
Taiga came back to the state of a child during Christmas everytime NBA games were involved.
"Man, that game was awesome !"
"97-105... The gape isn't big and LeBron did an amazing game though he lost."
"That was fun ! We should do that sometimes !" Maybe giving soda to Kise-kun was a bad idea... "Kagamicchi's food was really good."
"Of course, Kise-kun."
"I should leave now. It's getting late."
"Midorima-kun is right, you should leave. See you tomorrow." She gave them both a peck on their cheeks and waved her hand as goodbye. Taiga was the only one who stayed, knowing she wanted to talk about about the letter.
"It's great to see you became friendlier with them."
"We're not friends !" Taiga was in denial.
"Maybe not, but it's not like you hate them neither."
Taiga decided to drop the subject, as expected. "So..."
"I still haven't opened the letter."
"Give me that", he said softly as she complied.
He opened it and gave her she sheet of paper. She read it outloud:
I know it is not my kind to write a letter but I feel like I had to do it. I wanted to call you but you are in Japan now... And because you only gave me your adress, I am sending you that. I am glad we are becoming friends again even after everything. You know, I was not the only one of the team who watched your last game. Samantha and Marie were there as well.
I will never be able to say how thankful we are. They were too scared to come and talk to you but they feel the same. If I am writing you, it is because you need to know about the rest of the team.
I did not want to spoil your joy that day but you need to know. Lisa probably already called you to say she won the female championship but I am sure she did not tell you everything... It was against our team. She destroyed us, 7-2. It was hard but I was inspired by what you did this year and Samantha and Marie felt the same. However, the same cannot be said for Clem. She refuses to touch a ball now and is avoiding us. I think it was too much for her. Lisa played with her mind. We do not know what to do. The only thing we can do is believing in you. For next year, it is gonna be really difficult because half of us is ready to give up because of her. At the end, you were right. Something is wrong with her. Maybe if we have listened to you back in middle school...
Anyway, it is too late to think like that. Kim and Laura in Jean-Jaurès high school are not playing anymore. The others are continuating because it is what expected from them. You know what I am talking about... it became an instinct to play even if the heart is not here anymore. Even those who followed her in highschool seem so desperate. Lisa is playing so well but does not play with anyone else than herself. And when she talks to one of us, it is only to test us. She does not even look us in the eyes, like we were not worth it.
I know you want to know about Noémie. She... still doesn't remember us and I understand why she only remembers you but she is doing fine, the three of us visited her a week ago. She said she missed you and she knows you will make it. I know it too. You may be injured but I know you will be back and even better than before. Until the warm-up matches (it will begin in April, I believe) be sure you are in good conditions, to play together once again.
P.S: I saw the new issue of Football Magazine ! Your team and you really looks good."
She didn't even notice her hands were shaking until Taiga took them.
"Emilie ! Emilie, calm down !" He held her tighter. She felt like she couldn't breathe. She saw blurry. Was that tears ?
"She broke them."
She broke them. She broke them...
"Emilie, you're gonna make a panic attack, calm down !"
What was he even saying ?
"She did this to them." Her breathing went erratic.
"Calm down !"
"SHE FUCKIN' BROKE THEM !"
Taiga's cry brought her back to reality though her hands were still slightly shaking. She heard him saying in a softer voice "Take a deep breath."
Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. "I'm sorry, Taiga."
"It's okay !"
"I just – she didn't have the right to do that to them..." ... just like she did that to me. The last part was unsaid but clear as crystal.
"I wish I could've done something –
"Idiot, you couldn't have avoided it." He sighed, patting her head. "Look, what you did this year was enough. You read it, you gave 'em hope back. Your 'gamble' or whatever you call it... It's working. You'll fullfill your promise."
The pain was still there, she realized. It was still there but she felt better now, a year has passed since then. She found a new team and new friends, "You're right... It was worth it and I hope I'll make it... so we can be friends again. And hopefully, I'll prove them our middle school's thinking was wrong."
He dried away her tears on her face gently, "Your middle school is so fucked up."
"Yeah..." She let out a strangled laugh, "You know, it wasn't totally the girls' fault. Everyone made them thought it was the right thing, including their parents."
"I hate it !"
She put her head on his shoulder. Strange how things changed. She still remembered the time where little, innocent Taiga would put his own head on her shoulder. Indeed things have changed... But Taiga was still Taiga though he now had this rough exterior. They were still there for each other other: that didn't change and never would.