The Runaway Empress

Chapter 8

"Cancers are ranked first today! Your past will be visiting so be prepared for the shock of your life! Today's lucky item is a stuffed lion! Next in line is —"

Midorima shut the TV off just as Takao called out to him from outside the door. They were not using the rickshaw this time as Takao was too exhausted from their trainings everyday. The shorter male was surprised when Midorima told him that he no longer needs the rickshaw, and had teased him about it.

"So Shin-chan really cares for me! I'm touched!"

To which Midorima, ever the tsundere, huffed and said, "I'm not, nanodayo."

They walked to school together, with Takao teasing him about his lucky item as usual, and Midorima either ignoring him or telling him to shut up. After practice, the two freshmen walked back home together, this time discussing things during their training, pointing out flaws of each other and figuring out how to get rid of them. Takao can be a bit of an airhead, but he was really reliable in the court. Their loss against Rakuzan during the Winter Cup had shaken the boy, and it had been up to Midorima to console his partner. At first Takao was just stubborn, almost quitting the team right then and there, but Midorima won't let him. Slowly but surely, Takao regained his footing and practiced seriously more than ever, determined not to fail the team and Midorima again.

The two were discussing about Takao's passes when Midorima stopped in his tracks. He was staring straight ahead at the figure standing by a lamppost. He remembered today's horoscope.

"Masaka…"

"Doushita no, Shin-chan?"

Without a word, Midorima approached the person, and hesitantly called out her name. Takao followed quietly behind, confused.

"Kimiko."

There was no mistake about it. Chartreuse hair, gold eyes. Yep, it's her indeed.

She faced him then, and recognition dawned. "Shintarou."

To her and Takao's astonishment, Midorima suddenly bowed his head and apologized to her. "I'm sorry, Kimiko. I didn't do —"

She reached out and placed a finger under his chin and slowly lifted his head upwards. When Midorima tried to speak, she hushed him by placing a finger against his lips. She clicked her tongue in mild annoyance.

"Shush, Shintarou. What are you saying? No one is blaming you for what happened. It's all in the past. And you know what they say. The past is a nice place to visit, but not a good one to stay. You cannot hope to move forward if you keep on looking back."

"But you were —"

"How about introducing me to your friend?"She diverted the topic upon noticing Takao looking at her and Midorima in confusion.

Her tone ordered him to drop the subject and Shotoku's ace had to comply. He sighed as her arm dropped back to her side. "This is Takao Kazunari, my partner in our basketball team. Takao, this is Kimiko Akumi, my coach in Teiko."

"Coach? Really? I thought Teiko's coach was an old man…"

"Shirogane-kantoku was hospitalized halfway during our second year until we graduated. Kimiko took over during his absence." Midorima briefly explained.

"I see…" Takao said thoughtfully. He held out his hand to her. "Nice to meet you, Fuji-chan!"

She shook his hand. "The pleasure is mine, Kazunari."


"Hmmm? You know, you really look familiar... Have we met before?" Akumi was staring at Takao intently, as she searched in her memories for this stormy-eyed boy. "Sou da, sou da! We played against your team in middle school! Shoyo Middle, ne?"

"Yep! You got excellent memory, Kimi-chan! Unlike a certain someone..."

Midorima, who was walking behind them, glared at Takao, who merely laughed and returned to his conversation with the charteusette. He sighed as the two in front of him burst out laughing over something he could not hear.

"Oi, Takao, what have you been telling Kimiko?"

"What a tsun-tsun! Hahahahaha!"

"And the nerve of that Kagami Taiga to give an autograph — on his hand no less!"

"TAKAOOOOOOO!"


It turned out Midorima became some sort of chaperone to the two, as Akumi went along with Takao's antics and laughed at his foolishness. He barely joined the conversation as he really wasn't one for talking, and found comfort in listening to them bicker and argue like old friends. Once in a while, one of them would turn to see if he was still there or to ask him a question. Much like how it used to back then: He, Kuroko, and Akashi would be at the back, Momoi latched at Kuroko's arm, while the rest would be up front, loud and noisy as usual, arguing about something that perfectly made sense at the start of their discussion, and thanks to a chartreusette's way with words, would render it nonsensical and absolutely unrecognizable by the time she, Kise, Aomine, and Murasakibara would be done by it.

Akumi was by all means a strict person on court — not a good person to mess with if she's the one handling your training if you hoped to make it back home in one piece. It was the same in class. But outside of it, she was much of a carefree persona, although there was no denying that sharpness in her gaze and tongue and that intimidating aura that radiates off her.

She was what Akashi once called a "living paradox" — because that was what she was, a human being full of contrasting personalities. She was cold as ice yet warm as fire, hard as stone but soft as cotton, sharp as an arrow's point and blunt as an aged knife's blade, evil as Lucifer himself but kind as a saint. Her voice was sweet in a way that it can steal your soul and leave you dead. The way she moves was languid yet graceful, always in perfect rhthym, always drawing attention necessarily or not, each one like a perfectly rehearsed move and refined by years of practicing in front of a mirror. She had a dozen kinds of smiles and your survival whenever you met her depends on what kind of smile she's wearing. Her lithe figure hides a deadly skill of subduing anyone who dare so much as to lay a hand on her without her consent. Her steps were light but her grip was firm as iron.

They reached the intersection where they would have to part ways — she to the south, them to the east. She smacked Takao's head in farewell, and said a proper goodbye to Midorima, who watched as her figure disappeared round the corner before going on his own way, much to Takao's amusement.

"You could've just offered to walk her home."

"She can do it herself, nanodayo."

"Pft. What a tsundere...!"

"Shut up, Takao."

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