The Runaway Empress

Chapter 15

"Akumi, come here," Akashi said to the sulking girl at the corner.

"I give up! I'm not made for dancing! Go find another partner!" she said, crossing her arms in front of her, pouting in annoyance.

Akashi sighed. It was PE class and they just happened to have dance lessons for the next three months, and as the girl had said, she was not that good at it.

But Akashi would have none of it. He approached her and tugged at her arm, trying to pull her up from her seat on the gym floor.

"Akumi, let's try again," he coaxed, but the girl was adamant about her decision.

"No!" she said, pulling her arm back.

"Yes," Akashi said, pulling it up.

"No." Down.

"Yes." Up.

"No." Down.

"Yes." Up.

After a brief game of tug-of-war with Kimiko's arm, their teacher finally decided to intervene.

"Okay, so what's up with you two?" he asked, staring at the two freshmen.

"Sensei, tell Seijuurou to leave me alone!"

"Sensei, tell Akumi to stand up and try the dance one more time."

The two spoke at the same time, and realizing that, they glared at one another. Sweatdropping, their teacher pointed to the center of the gym and said, "You two, get back there."

Kimiko sighed but followed the teacher's order. She tried dancing waltz countless times but she just couldn't get it. She'd rather dance hiphop.

"Closer."

Akashi pulled Kimiko closer, so close they could feel each other's breath. She glared at him, and he smirked, even though his feet was hurting from being stepped on several times already.

"Now," Akashi continued. He took one of her hands in his. "Put the other one on my shoulder."

She complied, albeit hesitatingly.

"Good." Akashi already had his hands on Kimiko's waist. "Okay, so from the top." He smiled, looking at Kimiko's golden eyes. She looked away, avoiding his gaze. As the music started to play, Akashi added, "Oh, one more thing, Akumi."

"What?" she mumbled, looking to the side.

Akashi let go of her hand for a moment and held her chin, turning her face to him and tipping it upwards so that their eyes meet. He smirked at her slightly shocked expression. "You have to look into my eyes."

"Why would I do that?!" she growled defiantly, only for Akashi to lean forward and whisper in her ear.

"Aren't you listening earlier? Waltz is supposed to be a love dance, and you can't dance with the one you love without looking them in the eye, can you?"

Kimiko jerked backwards, her face slightly red, her composure gone. "What are you even saying?!"

"Hm? Sensei mentioned it in the introduction a while ago." He chuckled lightly when she huffed at his teasing tone.

"I told you I can't dance waltz... Tsk..."

He smiled, then corrected their positions once again, and gave her a reassuring smile. "Just let me guide you, Akumi. It can't be that hard — just a little practice and you can do it."

They started dancing, and Akashi was surprised by how Kimiko was so elegant and graceful in his arms. Near the song's end, as he guided her into a twirl, he smiled at her proudly.

"See, I told you —"

A pain on his left foot cut him off, stopping their dance as Kimiko pulled away from him with a hurt look on her face.

"I told you I'm hopeless..." she began to turn away, her tone expressing her guilt at stepping on his feet again and her disappointment at committing a mistake right when she thought that she was going to make it. Akashi grabbed her arm and pulled her back to him.

"It's okay," he said, comforting the chartreusette who was unusually looking so depressed. "You almost made it."

His words made Kimiko blink up at him as he patted her head.

"You just need more practice," he said, leading her towards their other classmates who were gathered around their teacher for some announcements before dismissal. "We'll try one more time next meeting. I'll make sure you'll get it perfectly."

xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxooxox

Akashi removed his headphones and placed them on his desk. Lately, his thoughts had been going to the chartreusette more often than he wanted it to. It's just... He can't seem to stop himself from reminiscing every time he sees, hears, smells, tastes, or feels something that is connected in some way with Teiko's former first string coach. Having a perfect memory has it's drawbacks, too, it seems.

He sighed. Another thing that he has been doing more often as of late. After Winter Cup, things were slowly going back to normal. Well, not exactly as it had been the way it was before — that's impossible as they'd been through a lot — but they were slowly but surely repairing their friendship, their bonds, and although they were now rivals on the court and playing on separate teams, outside of it they were all good friends. He was pleased with the interactions of the Kiseki no Sedai during the New Year celebration — that time when they all agreed to gather together. It was like a trip back in time — back to their Teiko years, before the Awakening — and Akashi had to admit, it was pretty nostalgic. Kise was usual loud self, fawning over the phantom and arguing with Aomine loudly, while Midorima would try to shut them up, while dropping Oha-Asa's horoscopes once in a while. Murasakibara just watched them as he munched on his snacks, while Momoi would try to remove Kise from Kuroko while joining the copycat on teasing the tanned ace of Toō. Akashi can only shake his head at their actions before telling them to behave or else. They would listen, only to do the same thing over again after a while.

Now, if only she was there, Akashi thought, gazing out the window of Rakuzan's student council office.

What Akashi failed to acknowledge back then was that he feels something special for the chartreusette — something that's between friendship and love. To an outsider, Kimiko could be deemed as his closest friend in middle school, but somehow the word 'friend' does not really encompass his relationship with her. Looking back, it's more of a 'more than friends but less than lovers' relationship. He finds himself regretting not expressing it to her, but then again, maybe it was for the better. That would only make the pain he caused her much more painful than it already was.

So maybe it was indeed for the better?

He mentally face-palmed. Why does everything have to be so damn complicated?

A shrill ringing sound prevented him from dwelling on it any further. It was his phone. Taking it out, he frowned when he saw the caller ID.

I'll give that idiot a scolding when I get to visit Tokyo, he thought, already knowing the reason behind the call. He pressed the 'Receive' button and put the phone to his ear.

"Hello, Momoi."


"Mai-chan, Mai-chan, Mai-chan..." Aomine Daiki mumbled to himself as he walked to the bookstore where he always buy his treasured Horikita Mai photobook. Dressed in his Touo school uniform, he looks really out of place wandering in the streets at nine o'clock in the morning.

His phone buzzed in his pocket once again. "Stubborn woman," he grumbled as he ignored it, knowing full well that it's no other than his childhood friend that's calling him just to tell him to 'haul his lazy ass back to school'.

Who cares about school anyway? Horikita Mai has a new magazine and that's the most important thing in the world — next to basketball, that is.

The bookstore was only a few meters away, and Aomine quickened his steps. It better be not sold out yet, or else...

Mai-chan, wait for me, I'm coming for

His phone kept on vibrating. Annoyed, he took it out and answered it with an irritated voice.

"Damn it, Satsuki! I said I'll come later this afternoon, okay? I just have to buy something and —"

"Aomine."

The tanned boy, almost dropped his phone. Slowly, he removed his phone from his ear and looked at the caller ID.

In-call. Akashi.

He gulped and hesitantly put it back to his ear.

"A-Akashi...?"

"Momoi had told me that you've been skipping classes again because of THAT magazine. Again, Aomine. Is it true?"

"Well, you see —"

"I expect you to be back in Touo in time for your third period. I'll be waiting for Momoi's confirmation on this."

Aomine started running for the bookstore. Akashi was still on the phone. Damn, he thought. Oh well, if he rushed now, he can buy his precious magazine and sprint back to Touo with time to spare.

"Did you hear me, Aomine?", came Akashi's voice from the other end of the line.

"Yes, yes, I hear you, Ak—ack!" Aomine spluttered as someone grabbed his collar from behind. He turned around angrily, the phone call forgotten. And came face-to-face with a person from the past.


"Aomine, what's happening?" Akashi said into his phone at the sudden interruption in Aomine's reply. "Aomine?"

Just as he was getting worried, the other boy's voice came through. "What the hell is your problem—A-akumi?!"

Heterochromatic eyes widened in shock. Did he heard correctly...?

In confirmation to his uncertainty, another voice entered the conversation.

"Long time no see, Daiki."

It was a voice he knew so well.


A smile graced the chartreusette's lips, her arms crossed in front of her. "Fancy meeting you here at exactly—" she glanced at her wristwatch, "9:13 AM on a Thursday morning. How unusual, isn't it?" Her smile turned into an evil smirk.

Aomine paled. Oh shit. First Akashi, and now his terror ex-coach. "I-I can explain..."

"Explain what exactly, Daiki?" She took a step forward, and Aomine, out of instinct, took a step backward. "Clearly, you're skipping classes again. I don't think that warrants an explanation since I already knew the reason. It's that magazine again, right?" She raised a hand, cutting off Aomine who was about to protest. "I don't want to hear your answer."

"B-but —!"

"Go to school, Daiki. You're not going to be young forever. You can't expect Satsuki to be always there to keep you in line every time you decide to slack off. Soon, you'll go to university, graduate, find a job, get a wife, have kids — Pay attention to what I'm saying, Aho!"

Aomine was looking at her in a strange way as she was lecturing him. With his free hand, the tanned teen poked her forehead, then her nose, then his hand lowered to poke her in the chest when Kimiko grabbed his hand and twisted it in a painful kotegaishi lock.

"Don't even think about doing that, you pervert!" she screamed.

Aomine winced at the pain, but he did not take his eyes off her. "You're real. You're really here. Like —"

"Aho! What do you think I am? A ghost?!" Kimiko shrieked, putting more pressure on the lock.

The pain snapped him out of his daze. "Oww, owww! Oi, Akumi, you're going to break my hand! Owww!"

"Maybe I should."

"NOOO!" Whereupon she released his hand, and crossed her arms in front of her with a smug look as he shook his hand to ease the pain somewhat. "That hurts, you know!"

"My intentions, exactly."

"The first time we meet after a year and this is the welcome greeting I get..." Aomine grumbled, shoving his hands, along with his phone, in his pockets. Kimiko stared at him in disbelief.

"What do you expect?" she asked in an incredulous voice. "Confettis? Trumpets? Roses? An entourage? Maybe a kiss and a hug and and an 'I miss you so much, Daiki!', perhaps?" The last part was said in a high-pitched voice. Her expression turned blank. "Go die," she said darkly.

Aomine shuddered. "You really are Akumi." Aomine yelped when he got a kick in the shin in response. "Itai!"

"Who the hell could I be aside from Akumi?! You idiot! And enough with the 'really' thing! You're just like Ryou-kun!"

Aomine stopped rubbing his shin and straightened up. Ryou-kun? "You mean, Kise?"

Her look told him, 'Duh. Obviously.'

"So you've met with the others?!" he exclaimed.

"Ahuh. So far I've met Tetsuya, Shintarou, Ryou-kun, and Atsushi," she enumerated on her fingers in chronological order.

One detail caught Aomine's attention, though. "Ryou-kun?"

"Ryou-kun, like Kise Ryouta, the blonde copycat, the earring guy, the one who used to hound you with endless questions back in Teiko. That guy. Is there any other 'Ryou-kun' you know?"

Aomine paused to think. "Well, there's a guy in my present team named Ryo..."

He earned a smack on the head for that. "And why would you think I'll refer to that guy on your team? I don't know that person!"

"That's the fourth one, Akumi! I'll end up covered in bruises!" he complained.

"Blame it on your stupidity!" she shot back.

"Geez, and shorty told me to get back by third period..." And that's when he remembered. "Shit, I forgot about him!" He fumbled for his phone and panicking, he flipped it open and saw that Akashi had ended the call for a while now.

"Hmm? You forgot about who?" Kimiko said, stepping up beside him and looking at him curiously.

"No-nothing!"


Aomine ended up getting dragged back to Toō by the chartreusette, who did not allow him to buy his magazine when it was but a few steps away from where they were talking.

Momoi was standing at the gates of their school, looking for a sign of Aomine. It was the ten-minute break before their third period, and Akashi had told her about the deadline that he gave to the tanned ace.

"Stupid Dai-chan..." she mumbled. Even though he rarely skips practice nowadays, his habit of skipping more than half his classes still hasn't changed. It was a miracle how he even manages to pass all their exams — well, just barely, but still...

Maybe they weren't called the 'Kiseki no Sedai' solely for their basketball skills...

She was leaning on the inner side of the wall, facing the school buildings, so she didn't see Aomine approaching. Rather, she heard him muttering to himself. Momoi burst out from her cover to surprise him, but it was her who got surprised instead.

Because Aomine was not alone.

"AKUMI-CHAAAAAN!" she squealed before launching herself at the laughing chartreusette, who hugged her back.

"Satsuki!"

Aomine stared at the two females and cleared his ear with his pinky. Do they have to be so loud? "Tsk."

After a few words, Kimiko glanced at her watch. "Satsuki, you better get going. It's only three minutes before third period."

"But Akumi-chan," Momoi said, still clinging to her arm. She really missed the chartreusette, after all, she had spent a lot of effort in trying to find Kimiko only for her to materialize right in front of her... So maybe Aomine skipping classes is a good thing that happened today because he brought Kimiko with him?

"We can skip classes, you know," Aomine stated as a matter-of-fact.

Kimiko gave him a sharp look. "No, I won't allow that. It would defeat the purpose of me dragging you back here." Then to Momoi, she said more gently, "Satsuki, go now with Daiki."

"But —"

"You have practice later, right?" Kimiko asked, not because she didn't know, and Momoi immediately got her message.

"See you later, Akumi-chan!" she smiled, then grabbed Aomine's arm and dragged him with her to their classroom. Aomine sighed.

What's with women and me getting dragged by them?


Classes ended and Momoi was in a hurry to search for the chartreusette. Strangely enough, she found her talking to Imayoshi, their captain, and the ravenhead's usual expression was gone, replaced by a troubled one. By the smug look on Kimiko's face, it looks like they had a debate and she had clearly won the argument. Momoi, though, did not bother knowing the topic. Whatever it is, knowing the two and their sadistic personalities, it's something that's sure to be a disturbing one.

"Ah, Momoi!" Imayoshi actually greeted her when he saw her approaching them, and was that relief in his voice? "Kimiko here has been looking forward to watch our practice."

"Yes, I am," Kimiko said with a smirk. "Saa, let's go?" And then to Imayoshi, "See you later, Captain."


"Akumi, what are you doing here? Shouldn't you be up there?" Aomine said, pointing to the second floor of the gym. Kimiko shook her head and smirked at Imayoshi's direction.

"Your captain was kind enough to allow me to watch you here," Kimiko said, getting comfortable on the bench outside the court.

"Akumi-chan!" Momoi arrived and hugged the chartreusette tightly, making her to choke a bit.

"Satsuki... Can't... Breathe..."

Momoi laughed and disentangled herself from Kimiko. "Sorry," she said, making a peace sign. Kimiko smiled at her.

"Well, that was weird," Aomine muttered. He looked at Kimiko once again, and noticed that she was holding something — a magazine, to be exact.

Aomine's narrow eyes widened.

"A-Akumi! Th-that's—!" he swiped it from her hands and held it in front of him, admiring the girl on the cover. "Mai-chan!" Aomine kissed the cover. "Akumi, thank y—"

"Shut up, Daiki." Kimiko had shoved the magazine in his face, cutting off his words, then pulled the magazine away from him. "And who said I'm giving this to you?"

"Nooooo! Akumi, you can't do this to me!" Aomine wailed uncharacteristically. "Besides, what are you gonna do with it, anyway?" His eyes glittered mischievously. "Don't tell me you—"

PAK!

Momoi cannot help but giggle at her childhood friend's plight.

"That's the fifth, Akumi!"

"Continue what you're about to say and I'll send you to your grave." Aomine glared at the girl, rubbing his head where she hit him with the rolled-up magazine. "You pervert." Waving the magazine in front of him, she said in a singsong voice, "What am I gonna do with this, you say? Nothing, except to make you jealous, perhaps? Just so you know, it's sold out already — it's a limited edition, by the way."

"WHAT?!"

"Oi, Aomine, quiet down, will you, and who are you — Holy shit." Wakamatsu, who had just come in, dropped his bag on the floor as he stared at Kimiko who was holding a gravure magazine and seemed to be teasing Aomine with it. Momoi was laughing beside the chartreusette.

Somehow, the scene seems wrong to Wakamatsu.

"Oi, Aomine, who's that —"

Toō's ace turned to the gaping Wakamatsu. Suddenly, he had an idea. He smirked, then pulled Kimiko and put an arm around her waist. "Ah, this girl? She's my girlfrie — Oww!"

Aomine bent over in pain, clutching his stomach where Kimiko had elbowed him mercilessly. Freed from his grasp, she looked down at him, while Wakamatsu and the rest of the Toō team watched as their ace got beaten by a girl.

"I'm your what, Daiki?" Kimiko asked with a sinister tone.

"...Your...my coach...back...in Tei...kou..." Aomine managed to say, sitting on the floor now. "That's your sixth time, Akumi!"

"You know, Daiki, counting how many times I hit you isn't any use, you know?" Aomine sighed as she offered him a hand. A smirk began to creep up on his lips but Kimiko shot it down. "No funny business, Daiki. If you pull me down, I swear..."

"Tsk... I know, I know," he grumbled, pulling himself up. "Can't you take a joke?"

"Oh, but you know that I don't like those kind of jokes."

"Yeah, except when it was Ak—"

"Dai-chan!" Momoi interrupted Aomine, knowing what he was going to say next. Good thing that Kimiko didn't caught the last part of Aomine's sentence, or else...

At the blow of Imayoshi's whistle, Kimiko and Momoi shoved Aomine into the court, laughing together at Aomine's glare. The two girls settled on the bench, watching them do their training and talking once in a while.

"Ne, Akumi-chan, can I stay over at your apartment this weekend?" Momoi asked. Kimiko was surprised at the request, but then they used to do that a lot back in middle school, sometimes with the boys too, especially when it was before exam week or when they have projects to do. It was either hers or Akashi's place, which was the only place where they can fit all at once and at the same time not disturb anyone with their usual antics.

"Uh, sure," she said, making Momoi smile at her.

"Yey! Thanks, Akumi-chan!"

Kimiko smiled. An idea was forming in her head. Looks like I'll be hosting a party this Saturday.


After two hours, Toō's practice ended, and everyone was supposed to help with the clean-up.

That is, except Aomine.

"Oi, Akumi, Satsuki, let's go," he said, calling the two girls who were still chatting with each other on the bench. He was already on his way out of the gym, bag slung on his shoulder, ready to leave at a moment's notice.

"Oi, Aomine, help out! Don't you dare leave yet!" Wakamatsu shouted at him, pausing for a moment as he mopped the floor.

Aomine drawled out. "Nah, you can do it ourselves. I'm too —"

"Daiki, where do you think you're going?" Kimiko asked him, eyeing his figure then turning to the other members of the club.

He faltered, instantly recognizing the deadly implications whenever the chartreusette uses that tone. "Ah, I mean, yes, I'm going to help! I'm not going anywhere!"

"Good." Kimiko gave him a sickly sweet smile that made Aomine cringe and hurry to help his teammates. This surprised the club members — how can this girl hold such authority over their ace?

"I'm tired..." Aomine said as they finally went on their way home. Walking before him, Momoi was asking Kimiko on her observations on their practice. He half-listened to them, after all, he was not that interested with such things. As long as he can play basketball, that's enough.

Kimiko used to walk home with Akashi after we reach that intersection, Aomine suddenly recalled. I wonder what will happen when they meet again? They were actually close back then — until Akashi strangled her, that is. Come to think of it, that side of Akashi was overly possessive of Kimiko... To the point that it was scary sometimes.

"Hey, Daiki, you're spacing out... Did I hit your head that hard?" he heard Kimiko say. Aomine blinked.

"Huh?"

"Dai-chan, Akumi-chan was inviting us for ice cream. What do you say?"

"Maybe another hit with this can undo the damage?" Kimiko mused, rolling the magazine in her hands. Aomine backed away as she smirked.

"Akumi, I'm starting to think that you want to kill me. Seriously," Aomine said as they exited the convenience store, popsicle in hand.

The chartreusette laughed. "Come on, you survived a day with me before," she said. "Compared to the beatings you received from me today, it's not even half of what I used to give you when we were in Teikou."

Aomine winced at the recollection.

"You didn't stop teasing Akumi-chan about her hair then..." Momoi said with a giggle. The two used to bicker a lot to the amusement of the whole club. Aomine would say that Kimiko's hair was dyed, to which the girl would retaliate by saying that Aomine got his tan by sunbathing in the school's rooftop.

"I tell you, my hair is perfectly natural," Kimiko said with a glare.

"Then does that mean that your parents have green and yellow hair?" Aomine wondered, causing both girls to look at him incredulously.

"Where did you even get that kind of logic?" Momoi said with a sigh.

"...so if we add Midorima and Kise, we get... you?" the tanned ace continued. Kimiko choked on her popsicle.

Momoi didn't get it, though. "Hah?"

"Then that makes you a product of Shuuzo and Tetsuya, then?" Kimiko said flatly. "Black and light blue makes dark-blue, doesn't it?"

Aomine grinned. "And Satsuki here is from Kise and Akashi."

It suddenly dawned on the pinkette. "Ah! I see! You're talking about our hair colors!"

"Took you long enough to catch up," Aomine said and Momoi stuck her tongue out at him.

"Well, you two always talks about the weirdest topics after all."

"So where were we?"

"We're finished with the three of us. That leaves Tetsuya, Ryouta, Shintarou, Shuuzo, Seijuurou and Atsushi."

"Nijimura-senpai would be a combination of all our colors," Momoi said. "His hair is black after all."

"His name would make more sense if his hair was rainbow-colored, though," Kimiko said thoughtfully, and as her companions imagined their former captain with such hair color, they couldn't help but burst out laughing.

"How about Tetsu?"

"Uhm... Right... Tetsu-kun has light-blue hair..."

Kimiko raised an eyebrow. "It's simple — add Daiki and Shougo and you get Tetsuya."

"Why did that guy suddenly got included?!"

"Dai-chan and Shougo-kun... Eh?! I can't believe Tetsu-kun came from them..." Momoi complained. Her angelic Tetsu-kun coming from such people?!

"So Ki-chan is from him and Midorin?"

"Or it could be from him and Akumi..."

"I prefer the first combination..." Kimiko said. "And Shintarou would be from Ryouta and Daiki."

"Or it could be from you and Nijimura-senpai."

At Momoi's additional remark, Kimiko thought it over. "I'm not sure — does black and yellow-green makes green?"

"Who knows... Does pink and black make red?"

"I think so."

"Then — Murasakibara is from me and... Akashi?"

"Wouldn't it be funnier if our tallest guy came from the two shortest ones instead? Add red and light-blue and you still get purple, right?" Kimiko suggested, grinning widely. Momoi's eyes widened in surprise, then she covered her mouth trying to stop her from laughing out loud.

Aomine gave her a high-five as he laughed. "Yeah. And if you add their height, you'll get Murasakibara's!"

"Nice one, Daiki!"

That was the last straw. As the three joined in another round of laughter, Momoi felt tears welling up in her eyes. She's not sure if they were the result of her laughing so hard or if it was from something else.

It's been a long time since Dai-chan looked so happy and peaceful — it's like before he bloomed...

I hope this moment will never end.

What she didn't know is that Aomine is also wishing for the same thing.


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