7. It's Okay To Die
The tan basketball player stopped walking to turn and see who was summoning him. However, the crowded halls of Teiko made it difficult for him to navigate the source of the voice. With the big cultural festival going on, it wouldn't have surprised him if he accidentally heard someone call his name.
"Aomine-kun!" The voice called again. It was close enough for Aomine to recognize it as Takagi Mia, but with no sight of the raven haired girl, he began to wonder if it was all his imagination.
"AOMINE-KUN!" Mia screamed, making several people around her stop what they were doing and stare at her. Luckily, they seemed to have moved out of her way, giving her access to the man she was looking for.
As the small girl came over towards him, Aomine stared in surprise. He never thought that she could get that loud if she wanted to.
"I was finally able to reach you." Mia said, not showing any signs of having difficulties through the halls. "Sacchan requested that I look for you."
"Satsuki?" Aomine question, arching his eyebrow at the girl in front of him "Why?"
"She said I look lonely and that I should 'hang out' with someone today." Mia's attempt to put air quotation marks on the term 'hang out' was something quite humorous to the taller teen.
"Why don't you hang out with her then?" He asked, turning to leave.
"She said that you probably have nothing better to do." The assistant manager replied quickly, managing to answer Aomine before he left her in the dust. The response, however, seemed to piss off the dark haired male as he had stopped walking immediately and turned to glare at the expressionless girl.
"She also said that she had business with Kuroko-kun."
Growling and mumbling to himself, Aomine looked down at the floor then back up at Mia, the girl's deep blue eyes never breaking contact with his dark ones. It always annoyed him how she never showed what she was thinking like a normal person. Well, at least he knew who to go to if he ever needed someone to play poker for him.
"What are they doing?" Aomine asked. He expected her to at least know what they were doing if Satsuki was so excited to get rid of her.
"They are entering-!" Before she could finish her sentence, Mia was shoved aside by someone passing by. The sudden force made the girl stumble, but she kept her balance.
"As I was saying-!" Again, she was bumped into. This time the force made her back away as a group of girls marched passed them.
Aomine watched the situation with raised eyebrows, not really sure how he was supposed to react. Especially since whenever the strategist was pushed around, she always managed to stay on her feet.
"Ao..mine...kun..." Mia struggled, squished between multiple students going their own way. Her eyes squeezed shut and she held out her hands in the air as if she was waiting for something to grab hold of her and free her.
Sighing, the giant finally gave in. Rubbing the back of his neck, Aomine reached over and grabbed Mia's wrist. With a small tug, she was free from the crowd of people, stumbling over her feet once more and falling into the basketball player's chest. She blinked several times before looking up at Aomine.
"Thank you." She said simply.
It seemed like just a normal sentence of gratitude, but with the close proximity and the way the girl's big eyes stared deep into Aomine's narrow ones, the blue haired teen found himself feeling just a little bit awkward.
Just a little.
"Now as I was saying before." Mia spoke, continuing where she had been rudely interrupted "Sacchan went to find Kuroko-kun by the stamp rally registration booth."
"What?" Aomine questioned "What the hell are they gonna do there?"
"My guess is that they will participate in the event." Her voice was monotonous as ever, but her words made a vein pop on Aomine's forehead as he felt like she was being sarcastic.
"I know. What I'm trying to figure out is why they are participating in it."
"Well then, why don't we go and find out." Mia suggested, freeing herself from Aomine's hold and walking towards the direction that would lead them to the ground floor.
The sight of the strategist trying to make her way through the large crowd before her made the taller male only sigh. He looked up at Mia failing to break the barrier of middle schoolers before grabbing her wrist once more, pulled her back into him again.
"You're obviously not going anywhere like that." He said, pulling her behind him. "Just stay behind me."
The command wasn't threatening, nor was it scary. However, it was enough to let Mia know that Aomine was serious, forcing the girl to allow the basketball player to pull her along by her wrist.
Surprisingly, the wall of students dispatched easily as Aomine walked passed them, creating an empty trail for both teens to go down. Looking around, Mia observed as each of the students' expressions were either serious or scared as they watched them walk down the hall.
"Oh, I see." Mia spoke "It's because Aomine-kun is scary."
"What was that?" The boy in question threatened, stopping abruptly to look down at the raven haired girl. He noticed how she had pulled her black locks into a high ponytail, the tips reaching down the nape of her neck.
The thought of how her hair had grown longer was pushed to the back of Aomine's mind as he remembered why he was even looking at her.
"It was nothing." Mia had responded, refusing to look at the man's death glare. Instead, she chose to try and move ahead of the navy haired male, but was forced back behind him as a swarm of middle schoolers tried to move passed them.
"…You really don't stand out much do you?" Aomine asked, a hint of boredom in his voice as he continued moving forward towards the stairs.
"I do not see a reason why I should."
The duo's conversation died out awkwardly, forcing both teens to continue walking down the stairs in silence. Although, most of the time, Aomine would have loved to not have to say a word to get the point across that he didn't feel like having a conversation, it was the girl with him that made him feel like not having a conversation was equivalent to having to sit in class for eight hours straight.
'Ugh.' The tan player thought before stopping abruptly in the middle of the second flight of stairs they were walking down, causing the girl behind him to almost run into him.
"Aomine-kun?" Mia asked, looking down at the teen for once as she stood on a step two steps higher than him.
Turning to face the girl with ebony hair, Aomine still held onto her wrist, giving it a slight squeeze as he pulled together what he wanted to say.
"Hey." He spoke, his voice deep and rough like Mia always familiarized it to be. "You…"
"Aomine-kun?" A smooth, cool voice spoke, making the person behind it known.
"GWAAA!" Aomine jumped, almost toppling over the side of the stairs. He caught himself in time but whipped his head behind him, ready to glare at whoever it was that almost killed him. Finding the familiar head of teal hair and matching eyes, he facial features morphed into that of pleasant surprise.
"How long have you been there?"
"Quite a while actually." Kuroko said, taking off his black jacket as he did so.
It was by far the fanciest Aomine has ever seen Kuroko. With his black coat, vest, pants and shoes, Kuroko Tetsuya managed to pass of the image of a well defined butler, the white gloves on his hands completing the look.
"I'm sorry if I interrupted what you wanted to say to Takagi-san." Kuroko finished, placing the black coat over his arm as he looked back up at Aomine.
"Ah, no it's fine." The taller male replied, rubbing the back of his head as he looked from Tetsu to Mia who was looking between the two with her normal expression- if you call it an expression at all. However, Aomine could have sworn that in the midst of almost falling over or down the stairs thanks to Kuroko's surprise appearance, Mia actually looked surprised as well. But, by the time he looked back at the girl, any evidence of her ever being surprised or shocked at all as gone.
"I thought you would be with Sacchan." Mia said towards Kuroko. "Weren't you both going to enter the Stamp Rally?"
"I was on my way down to go meet up with Momoi-san now." Kuroko answered, taking off his white gloves and stuffing them in his pockets.
"Seriously?" Aomine piped up, "Well if you're going, Tetsu, Takagi and I are coming with you. I need to say a thing or two to Satsuki about dumping this on me."
As if to prove his point, Aomine lifted the hand holding on to Mia's wrist while the other one pointed at her. Mia's eyes strayed from Kuroko to the back of Aomine's head, her brain coming up with so many things to say to retaliate but her mouth refusing to say any of them.
"I'm fine with that." Tetsuya replied. "But, I don't think you should be referring to Takagi-san as an object, Aomine-kun. It's quite rude."
"Yeah, yeah." Aomine dismissed "Let's just go already before the crowd gets bigger at the registration booth."
Going down the last flight of stairs with Kuroko by his side, Mia walked behind Aomine once more. It was obvious that the girl wasn't a part of the boys' conversation. But she didn't mind.
In fact, what interest Mia more was that even though it was probably okay to just stick closely to the duo and the they didn't have to worry about people running into her again…
Aomine never let go of her wrist.
As the navy haired basketball player continued asking Kuroko questions as to why he was dressed as a butler in the first place, thoughts about how small and warm Mia's wrist was continuously crossed his mind.
"Aomine-kun!" Momoi Satsuki called yet again, trying to get the sleeping giant on the roof of Touou Academy to wake up from his slumber.
It startled the pink haired girl when Aomine's eyes suddenly snapped open, his dark orbs staring straight into her magenta ones as her head was hovered over his own. Figuring out that the one who had called him was just his old childhood friend, the male's eyes slowly narrowed.
"Oh, it's just you, Satsuki." Aomine grumbled, turning over to his side so that he wouldn't have to look at the girl's face in front of him.
"What's that supposed to mean?!" Momoi exclaimed, walking over in front of the man's face again so that he only saw a pair of black socks adorning pale legs.
Actually, he lied.
That wasn't the only thing he saw.
"What's up with your panties today, Satsuki?" The basketball player asked as he lifted his head slightly to get a better look "I never thought you would get a pair like those."
Instantly, Satsuki's face turned beat red, her eyes widening in horror.
"PERVERT!" She screeched. Swinging her leg back, she attempted to kick Aomine in the gut. However, her plan failed when the teenager swiftly pushed himself back so that there was a good amount of distance between Momoi and himself. It was as if he knew it was coming.
"I can't believe you would say something like that!" The victimized girl continued. Marching over to the ladder that led to the door of the roof, Satsuki looked back over at Aomine in a final attempt to talk to him. When all she saw was his back towards her again, her fists tightened at her sides and she immediately started climbing down the ladder.
"Aomine-kun, you're such a dumb idiot!" She yelled before finally slamming the door shut behind her.
Laying on his side for a few minutes, Aomine tried to fall back into the euphoric state that was sleep. But after being robbed of that sensation by both Momoi, the tan player rolled back over onto his back and placed his hands behind his head. If he couldn't go to sleep on his own, then he would just have to settle on staring up at the boring, blue sky until does.
Watching as not a single cloud rolled by, Aomine thought back to his dream and how stupid he realized he was back then. It then dawned on him how similar Mia's wrist felt compared to that stranger he met at a convenience store a few days ago. Soft, warm, and so small. He felt like his fingers could overlap each other if he tried. But, since his hands were so big compared to normal Japanese hands, this was probably the case with everything he held.
Lifting his right hand towards the sky and closing his eyes, Aomine pretended that he was holding a basketball and that he was getting ready to dunk it into the hoop. When all he saw was a certain ebony haired girl instead, he scowled.
There was no way that they could be the same person. He knew that. Takagi Mia had left them all so suddenly that it would take a miracle to bring her back just as promptly.
But in a small corner of his mind, Aomine Daiki really wished it was her.
Seirin High School as always been considered…normal. From the students, to the faculty, to the outside appearance, even to the romantic relationships. There has never been anything extraordinary.
However, lately there have been times when quite a few people have seen things that are considered as 'unusual'.
For second years, Koganei Shinji, Mitobe Rinnosuke, and Tsuchida Satoshi, these are some of those times.
"Hey, Hyuga-kun, how about the beach?" Riko suggested, a slight skip in her step as she walked alongside the captain, Hyuga.
"Yeah, sounds good." He answered. His response, however, didn't hold as much enthusiasm as the coach had hoped.
"Or perhaps the mountains!" She suggested again, hoping this would peak the glasses man's attention.
"Sounds good too." It unfortunately failed.
"Hey are you even listening to me?" Riko pouted.
"Hm? Of course I am." Hyuga defended himself "Wherever is fine. Main thing is that we get to hold our training camp."
As Riko looked at her captain, understanding what he meant, the three men watching the entire conversation had their mouths open in shock, each one unable to say anything as their bodies trembled in horror.
'DON'T GO PLANNING OUR TRIP TO HELL IN THE ATMOSPHERE OF A COUPLE!'
The lunch bell rang just as class 1-B's teacher had finished his lecture. Giving his farewells- or at least trying to, in the midst of loud and ignoring students- he left the classroom, leaving the first years to their bentos or store bought bread. Or, in the case of Takagi Mia, her notebook filled with names, data, and percentages.
"Oi, Takagi Mia." Kagami announced, sitting in the seat in front of her that had been quickly emptied by the original owner who had met up with their own friends for lunch. "It's lunch time. Why are you still writing down things for class?"
"Maybe because what I'm writing isn't for class." Mia replied without looking up at the beastly basketball player. "It's for the basketball club. Mainly for Riko-senpai since it's her that I want to convince to let me become the manger."
Unwrapping his several foot long BLT sandwich, Kagami stared blankly at the focused female before taking a bite and looking down at her work. Once his crimson eyes saw the many calculations and percentages written down, covering practically the entire page, his eyes grew wide and he choked.
"W-What the hell is all that?!" He exclaimed, looking back and forth from the notebook to the person writing everything in it.
"These are numbers Mr. Kagami." Mia said in English. After becoming fully aware that Taiga was a returnee from America such as herself, she began using English a lot more around him, something not appreciated by others around them.
"We humans use them to calculate things in our everyday lives."
"I know what you're writing down!" The hothead growled, stabbing a straw into his juice carton before washing down the evidence of his failed first bite of his sandwich. "I want to know why you're writing down percentages and crap!"
"I told you, I'm a computer. I'm able to take one look at someone, or 'scan' them if you will, and determine what their strengths and weaknesses are."
"Okay?" Kagami said, not really seeing the difference between his coach's ability and her own.
"I can also determine what moves they are most likely going to use in a game by turning the information I get into percentages." Mia continued, suddenly pointing her blue mechanical pencil at the redhead. "Take you, for example. Every player has three main options once they manage to get a hold of the ball- passing to a teammate, getting through an opponent's defense, or shooting a basket right then and there. Of course there are even more options if one does choose to break down an opponent's defense, but that option always has the less likelihood of actually being done successfully so I don't have to worry about that too often. You, however, seem to be one of those idiots who love to make my job harder. Out of 100% your mental ability gives you a 6.021% chance of actually shooting right then and there, a 10.389% chance of passing, and an 83.59% chance of breaking down defense and moving on to different options. I could go on to what those options are but it's useless in your case."
Smirking, she looked back down at her work and continued writing down her data on Kagami, circling the rather large number once it was written in clean numbers. "No matter what, whether you come from inside the court or outside, it's always a 99.8756% chance of you dunking."
It seemed like Kagami had forgotten how to swallow as his juice escaped his mouth after hearing Mia's words. His eyes were wide and although the beverage pooled underneath his shoe, he didn't seem to notice. He could have sworn that what the girl had just said was in Japanese. But somewhere along the way, it turned into something similar to gibberish to him.
"Kagami-kun, you're making a mess." Kuroko said, suddenly beside the redhead.
Jumping at the sudden appearance of his friend, Kagami began choking once more, sticking his face into his sleeve so that he wouldn't spew anything out.
When he was finally able to look at the two without the possibility of seeing death, the redhead stared at both with wide eyes. His mouth was open but he wasn't able to find any words to say. Instead he just continuously whipped his head back and forth from Kuroko, to Mia, to her notebook in front of her.
"Mia's calculations are usually never wrong, Kagami-kun." Kuroko finally said, sighing as he took his handkerchief and started mopping Kagami's mess before sitting down in the empty seat next to Mia.
"So when she said that she was a computer, she meant it like this?" Taiga asked, finally able to use words.
"Teehee!" Mia replied all cutesy. To make her performance even more affective, she held up a piece sign and stuck her tongue out as her mouth formed into something that resembled a cat.
Kagami didn't know what it was about the way she said it, but there was something about that cute facade that made him want to throw up. Luckily for him, Kuroko felt the same way.
"That doesn't suit you, Mia." The teal haired teen stated, sipping on his milk.
"Is that so?" Mia said, dismissing the comment and returning to her work.
"I'm still surprised you're even capable of something this complex." Kagami spoke, trying to distract himself from the horror he just saw.
"I was surprised too when I first found out about it." The girl admitted. Turning the page, she began writing in big bold letters the familiar name of the phantom man next to her, getting ready to write down the new updated data she received from her friend since middle school.
"But now that I know what I'm capable of," She continued "I'm ready to use it so that it may help all of you win the Winter Cup."
Listening to her goal, Kuroko and Kagami smiled. They both knew the feeling of wanting to become stronger, not just for themselves, but for their team as well. If anything, both males were very appreciative of having a girl like Mia come their way.
"By the way." Mia piped up, looking at her table mates as they stopped eating their lunch to look back at her "Do any of you know where we're going for the summer training camp?"
Two weeks passed and several end of the term tests were taken before summer vacation started for the Seirin High School Basketball Team.
Practice started as usual despite everyone slightly hoping they would have a least a day of break before actually doing something. However, unlucky for them, they had Aida Riko as their team's coach.
"This year, we'll hold two training camps, at the beginning and end of summer vacation." Riko announce as everyone gathered around her. "One will take place at the beach and one will take place in the mountains."
'THEY WENT WITH BOTH!' Several second years exclaimed simultaneously in their heads as each one remembered the odd scene they walked in on several weeks before.
'Well I guess that answers my question.' Mia thought on the stage, her legs crossed underneath her.
"The goal this time is to prepare for the qualifications and to overcome our weaknesses, which we've been made aware of in the last game." Their coach continued, not noticing the expressions of sadness and defeat upon most of the team's faces. "Since we're lacking members, stamina is important for us. So, we'll increase the amount of jogging in our normal training."
"Once the vacation is over, the qualifications for the Winter Cup are around the corner." Captain Hyuga took over "We have to make full use of this vacation. Let's get into the mood!"
Mia watched as each individual member looked at both their captain and their coach with determination. She could practically feel the fighting spirit coming from them.
"That's it! Dismissed!"
As each team member scrambled to put away gym equipment, indicating that practice was over, Riko walked up to where Mia was on the stage and placed an arm on the wooden surface as she leaned against it.
"Takagi-san, do you think you could go pass out water bottles to everyone as they clean up?" She asked "They're probably exhausted from their work out."
"Sure! No problem!" Mia responded, closing her notebook fill with each team member's data and hopping off the stage.
So far the trial Mia was given for becoming manager as going by smoothly. She did simple jobs that Riko asked her to do and she even managed to scan almost all the players on the team, filling her book nicely.
Riko, however, still didn't see anything that could be of use to them for the team. Sure she was doing fine in accomplishing her goals she had set out for her to do, but anybody could do simple jobs like those if she asked them to. And that notebook she carried with her every day was another problem.
Mia never explained to her what was inside nor even bothered to do so when Riko asked. Of course the female coach knew that she probably had her statistics drawn up in there and she was fine with that, but what bothered her the most about it was how Mia had rejected her.
"I don't think it's necessary to show you."
What did she mean by necessary? More importantly, how dare she just say something like that to her! She was, after all, the coach! Didn't she want the manager job?!
"Coach." Izuki called, grabbing the girl's attention "Sensei called for you. He said he wanted to talk about the funding for the school trip."
"Yeah? Excuse me then. I'm going ahead."
With that, the coach left the gym at a run, wanting to get the funding work over with quickly so that she may get everything ready at home.
From the other side of the gym, Hyuga watched as his coach and classmate exited the gym, his dark eyes staying on her moving form until he made sure she was completely out of site.
"Ouch!" Mia heard from behind her as she picked up the tray holding everyone's water bottle. Looking behind her, she saw Kuroko with the school's scoreboard and Kagami who was holding a basketball in each hand. From the looks of it, it seemed like Kuroko accidentally rammed the scoreboard into Kagami's anckle, causing him to stumble forwards slightly.
"Ah, sorry." Kuroko apologized.
"Don't give me that!" Kagami snarled, glaring down at the shorter of the two. "Look forward properly!
"Now now, Tiger." Mia piped up, walking over to the duo. "No one likes children who blame others."
"Who says I'm a child?!"
"I am. That's why I'm telling you."
The sudden bark of a dog grabbed the manager-in-training's attention. Looking down, Mia caught site of a small husky with black and white fur and a mini Seirin basketball uniform. She didn't know what it was about its eyes, but she felt like they resembled someone she knew closely.
"Nigou?!" Kagami jumped back several inches from the small dog sitting next to Mia. Looking up at the redhead in confusion, she wondered what his problem was before going to Tetsuya for answers.
"Tetsuya Nigou." Kuroko explained "He's our team's mascot."
"Awww! How adorable!" Mia gushed, setting down the tray of water bottles so that she may pick up the tiny puppy. "Oh I see! It's because he has the same eyes as Tetsuya! That's why they seemed so familiar!"
Giggling as the happy dog licked her face, Mia looked back over at Kagami who continued to stare as the dog, terrified.
"It seems like we may be able to bring him with us to camp." Tetsuya number one commented.
"What?! No way!" Taiga yelled in anguish.
It was just a small sliver of an idea, but the thought of it made a spine tingling smile creep up on Mia's face.
"Tiger~" She called, halting any argument between the shadow and the light. "I think he wants to say hello."
Obviously referring to Nigou, Mia held him out at arm's length towards the beast, causing him to yelp in surprise and drop the basketballs he was holding.
"Oi, stop it!" He ordered, although his command sounded more like a plea when his voice cracked.
"Why~? He's so cute~"
"Stop talking like that!"
Every time the raven haired girl took a step forward with the dog, Kagami always took a step back, obviously scared out of his mind. But this simply fueled Mia's cruelty instead of diminishing it.
"Get him away from me!" Kagami yelled, running around the gym.
"Oh come one, Tiger!" Mia laughed. She chased him holding Nigou in her hands. The dog seemed to be having just as much fun as she was since he kept barking after Mia called after Kagami.
"TAKAGI, I'M GOING TO KILL YOU!"
"You can't kill me if you're scared of dogs!"
"Hasn't something similar to this happened before?" Izuki asked as he watched with the rest of the basketball team from the sidelines.
"Definitely." They all answered in unison. It was clear the scene before them resembled how Kuroko chased Kagami with Nigou the first time they adopted him.
"EVERYONE! ASSEMBLE AGAIN!" Hyuga yelled, echoing throughout the gym.
All eyes turned on him in confusion. Even Kagami and Mia who were busy playing a game of cat and mouse (Or a game of dog and cat as Mia thought later on) halted and looked at their captain. Deciding it was best if Kagami grouped up with everyone, Mia set down Nigou and walked back over to pass out drinks to everyone.
"Listen, you all heard about the training camp just now." Hyuga began, silencing everyone's questions about whether or not practice was really over. "Right now, we're facing a crisis."
Mia looked at her captain with slightly widened eyes as she passed a water bottle to yet another team member who gratefully accepted. It seemed like everyone else had the same reaction as well.
"Since we're holding two camps this year, we reserved cheap inns. This means we'll have to cook for ourselves. That's where the problem starts.
Looking around, Takagi Mia was surprised to find all of the second year senpais trembling in fear. Each one of them knew where Hyuga was going with this.
"Our coach will be doing the cooking!" The captain finally spilled, trying his best not to puke at the thought of Aida Riko's cooking.
"Eh? She shouldn't?" One of the naïve first years asked.
"Of course not! You saw her sweet lemons before, right?"
Everyone thought back to the one game Riko thought it was a good idea to bring everyone lemons and honey. Unfortunately for them, all they received were whole lemons bathing in honey.
The only person who still didn't quite understand the meaning behind the problem was the one person who wasn't there for the game. Because of that, a certain girl with ebony hair tied up in a high ponytail arched her eyebrow at her team.
"Her cooking skills already pass the boundary of inedible." Kiyoshi pondered. It was obvious he wasn't helping any of the first years' who had already begun to imagine the most horrible situation.
"Then how about we cook it ourselves?" Furihata asked nervously.
"I wish we could." Izuki answered "But the schedule is so hellish that no one is able to move afterwards. Don't underestimate it."
'WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!'
Mia watched in disbelief as the senpais transferred their fear to the first years, making everyone tremble and gulp down their vomit in an attempt to not throw up at the idea of their coach's cooking.
'Although,' She pondered 'if the training schedule is just as strict as they say it is, then everyone on the team may upgrade their ability strengths and performance technique by at least 7%. At most they could probably reach 10%! Hmmm...maybe...'
"Oi. Don't tell me your starting to think that it's alright for us to die as long as we build our stamina or some shit." Kagami said beside Mia. She looked at the giant next to her for a second, opening her mouth to say something in defense. But when she realized that he was right, she quickly whipped her head the other way, a weak whistle coming out of her mouth.
"Mia, that's a little harsh." Kuroko commented sadly.
"Eh?! But it's for the sake of the team, right?"
"There's a limit to what is for the sake of the team and what is just plain cruelty."
And with that...the Seirin High School Basketball Team prepared to face one of the most difficult obstacles they would ever have to face...