Two Shadows

I'll Play For You

Thank you to everyone who had reviewed, or had put this story on your alerts and favourites. You've made my day when I opened my email, and saw email after email! Regarding Mayuzumi, honestly, even now, I'm still not entirely sure what to do with him.

While I would like nothing more than to put him in Seirin, some of your arguments make sense too in that he's a third year and he wouldn't leave a prestigious school like Rakuzan just to attend Seirin. While I initially had a plan to deal with that problem, I agree that Mayuzumi won't exactly fit at Seirin. And as Seirin is a new school, I'm not sure if there are any third years there, as thus far, all I'm seeing are freshmen and second years.

Pairings: Mayuzumi/Tamaki. One sided Aomine/Tamaki. Possible Shigehiro/Momoi

Warnings: AU Universe. OOC. Gender swap. Nice Akashi. Overprotective Generation of Miracles

Disclaimer: I do not own Kuroko no Basuke and any of the characters, but the OC characters belongs to me

Chapter Two: I'll Play For You

"I'll play on for both our sakes." - Mayuzumi Chihiro

XXXXXX

Spring had always been the season of beginnings.

As such, April also represented the start of the school year, and with it, the full bloom of the cherry blossoms. It is particularly so at Seirin High School, a relatively new school that had just been built about a year ago.

Like all high schools all across Japan, Seirin High School is also holding their school opening ceremony that day. In the school grounds were booths set up by nearly every single club that had ever existed in Seirin, with the members of those clubs hollering over each other, trying to get themselves heard by the freshmen, much to the annoyance of the teachers and the other students who were all trying to get into the school.

Kuroko Tamaki walked into the grounds of Seirin High School, unnoticed by all which is normal for her, and she easily ducked out of the way of a particularly excited Literature Club member who is trying to recruit aggressively, much to the chagrin of a freshman who was just behind her.

Glancing at the map on which was drawn the locations of the booths of the various clubs, Tamaki spotted the basketball club's booth almost immediately, and started to make her way towards it.

The student coach, Aida Riko was seated at the table, staring with interest at an application form that she had in her hand, with the captain, Hyuuga Junpei looking over her shoulder in curiosity. A few of the other basketball club members, Koganei Shinji and Tsuchida Satoshi were standing near the table, a stack of flyers promoting the basketball club in their arms.

All of them seemed rather interested in what their coach was saying, and Tamaki chose that moment to make her appearance.

"What did I miss?" she asked innocently, causing Koganei and Tsuchida to jump almost a foot in the air as she was just behind them. At the table, Hyuuga almost choked on his drink whilst Riko jumped slightly in shock.

"Tamaki!" Koganei beamed, getting over his shock quickly, turning around to face the small freshman. "You're here!"

The small teal haired girl gave a small smile in response, and Riko beamed at the only other girl in the group who is currently dressed in Seirin High's female uniform. They have often seen her in her Teiko uniform whenever they met her at the hospital when she is visiting Kiyoshi, but seeing her in a sailor type uniform is a big change. And for some reason, it seems to fit her, especially since Tamaki had picked the dark blue coloured female school uniform instead of the gray uniform.

"It's been awhile, Tamaki-chan." Riko beamed at the small girl. "You look well."

When Seirin had first met Kuroko Tamaki in Kiyoshi's hospital room, they were wary in the beginning as they recognised her as one of the Generation of Miracles, but soon realised that she doesn't act as if she's a member of the famous team at all. She loves basketball, and that's why she plays the sport and trains to get better at it. It is only much later when Seirin had heard from Kiyoshi what had happened to her, and why she looked as if the sky would fall onto her head at any moment now.

"Now that you're here…" Riko took the stack of application forms and handed it to her. "I'm counting on you, manager-san." She said with a wink.

Now that the basketball club had an actual manager, Riko can actually hand the administrative stuff of the club over to Tamaki, and just focus on the team's training. Though she knew that she will also be depending a lot on Tamaki for training regimes and strategies for matches, since she is basically the brains behind Teiko's three consecutive victories at the three major basketball tournaments.

Unknown to Riko however, the rest of the team were secretly relieved for Tamaki agreeing to Kiyoshi's proposal to help them as their manager, as it also means that they can avoid being poisoned by Riko's cooking.

"Hmm… An American returnee…" Tamaki mused, staring at the form at the top of the stack that she's holding that had been filled out by that scary redhead that had just left the basketball club's booth before Tamaki had shown up. "Kagami Taiga… He probably learned directly from the source then." She concluded.

"What do you think of him? He's pretty tall. That is one golden egg for our team." Riko grinned manically at the thought of milking out Kagami's potential to the maximum.

"It says here that he attended Eikan Middle School for middle school." Tamaki said, looking at Riko and her seniors. "I've never heard of him before. If he had faced Teiko at least once during his middle school career, his file will be in my data, but he isn't."

Hyuuga could only nod slowly at that. All of Seirin have seen Tamaki's notebook that she had used during her time at Teiko. The girl is a freaking perfectionist as she had listed every single detail about Teiko's opponents—right down to the strategy that they would use in a match, any possible future growth that they would have, and even their habits.

That's part of the reason why Riko had gotten so excited when Kiyoshi had told them a month ago that he had asked Tamaki to join Seirin High and be their basketball club manager. While Riko is good at coming up with training regimes, there is no denying the fact that Tamaki is better than Riko at devising strategies and tactics.

"Eikan Middle School…" Tamaki mused, noting the name of Kagami Taiga's middle school. "They aren't exactly a strong school. They always get kicked out in the first round of the Inter High every year. Suffice to say, he probably never even heard of them."

Hyuuga smirked, resting his chin on his palm. "No problem then. Once he meets one of your former teammates, he will go after them like a hungry tiger," he grinned.

"Pretty ironic, seeing as how his first name is 'Taiga' (Tiger)." Tamaki couldn't hide her amusement. "But he probably don't even need to wait to meet one of them." Seeing the confused looks on her seniors' faces, she reached into her bag and took out an application form. "I'm submitting this on someone's behalf. He'll be a little late. He said something about finding housing as his enrolment in Seirin is kind of last minute, and not to mention he only arrived in Tokyo last night." She explained, handing the application form to a confused Riko.

Riko's eyebrows shot up to her hairline as she read the messy handwriting on the form that is definitely NOT Tamaki's. She should know, since she'd once seen Tamaki's notebook that contained every single detail on the opponents that Teiko had faced, and even the notes that she'd made on her team and even training regimes. That is the last nail in the coffin that made Riko decide that she definitely wants Tamaki on the team as their manager.

"Ogiwara Shigehiro?" Hyuuga said in surprise, reading the name over and over again to make sure that he isn't reading wrong.

Tamaki nodded. "Ogiwara Shigehiro of Meiko Middle. You'll probably know him as 'Lionheart'." Behind Tamaki, Koganei and Tsuchida looked close to be having a stroke, and Riko almost had stars in her eyes as she looked at the application form in her hand like it's the recipe to gaining eternal life. "If he had been in Teiko with us, most probably, he would have been part of the Generation of Miracles."

"How did you convince someone like him to join Seirin?" Riko almost squealed, already seeing the championship trophy in their grasp. "He's on the same level as your former teammates!"

"He's my childhood friend." Tamaki said tiredly.

She just knew that her cousin is behind Shige-kun joining Seirin, and she don't even need Oha-Asa prediction to know why. But still, she has no objections being in the same team and school as Shige-kun since that had been what they have initially wanted for middle school.

Unfortunately, Mrs Ogiwara is adamant about her only son attending a school close to home at that point in time; otherwise, Shige-kun would have been in Teiko with them. It is only when it came time for them to enter high school when Mrs Ogiwara had agreed to Shige-kun returning to Tokyo for high school.

Tamaki still remembered what Shige-kun had told her when he had arrived in Tokyo last night and had appeared on her front doorstep, much to her surprise.

"I'll play for you! Someday, when you are able to stand on the court once more, let's fulfil our promise from back then. Until then, I'll play for you. I'll play for both of us."

"Well then…" Riko grinned even as she passed Ogiwara Shigehiro's application form to Tamaki. "I'm counting on you for the year, Tamaki-chan."

Tamaki smiled a small smile. "I'll do my best."

XXXXXX

Tamaki was nervous as she headed towards the direction of the school gym after school that day after she'd headed to the administrative office with Shige-kun to settle some admission issues that had came up thanks to his late enrolment. Tamaki also has to settle some of her own issues regarding her participation for physical education class thanks to her wrist injury.

She didn't show it on her face, but she is nervous.

And if truth be told, Tamaki don't exactly know why either. It's not like she had never done team managerial duties before. That had been basically her job for an entire year back at Teiko, aside from her job at training the non-regulars.

"It'll be fine." Shige-kun grinned at her in that cheerful grin of his. "I'll be here with you. Besides, everyone from the middle school circuit knew about you. They'll know better than to underestimate you."

"That's what I'm worried about actually." Tamaki sighed much to Shigehiro's confusion even as they arrived at the gym only to see several boys—mostly freshmen, who were all standing in front of Riko in a line with their shirts off.

"Uh… Should we come back later?" Shigehiro asked awkwardly, seeing the eyes of everyone present on them both.

The seniors looked ready to burst into laughter at this comment, and Riko looked ready to chuck her clipboard at Shigehiro. Tamaki's lips twitched, but she pulled Shigehiro into the gym after her.

"Sorry we're late. We have to head to the school office." Tamaki told Hyuuga who nodded. Sighing, Riko handed Tamaki the clipboard that she had been holding earlier, in which Riko had written the stats about the new members and what she'd noticed about their bodies.

"Well, you're the last one. So just introduce yourself and the position you play." Hyuuga told Shigehiro who nodded.

"I'm Ogiwara Shigehiro! Just call me Shige!" he said cheerfully, and half of the freshmen gasped at the mere mention of his name. Obviously, they must have played basketball during middle school, and remembered him. Similar to the Generation of Miracles and the Crownless Generals, Ogiwara Shigehiro is rather well known in the basketball circuit. "I'm formerly of Meiko Middle School, and I play Power Forward." Kagami Taiga blinked upon hearing that this cheerful and friendly guy plays the same position that he did. "I'm a first year too, class 1-B." Kagami was bewildered upon hearing that this guy was in his class too. Why didn't he see him earlier? "I like basketball and my best friend!" He glomped Tamaki who didn't seem to notice Shigehiro glomping her as she continued reading what Riko had written in the clipboard, but if she did, she simply ignored it and all the weird stares from everyone in the gym.

The second years nearly sweat dropped at this sight. True, Tamaki did mention her childhood friend in passing to them when they'd engaged Tamaki in conversation once when they'd met her in Kiyoshi's hospital room when she is on another of her visits, but she never did mention her childhood friend by name, only that he has rather weird quirks and habits, and his favourite pastime seems to be hugging her and treating her like his own personal teddy bear.

Riko coughed loudly into her hand, giving Shigehiro a pointed look who got the message, and he released his hold on Tamaki, though with a small pout on his face. Riko is starting to wonder if this guy is really a high school freshman.

"Tamaki-chan, you next." Riko told the teal haired girl who nodded, and looked up from her clipboard.

"I'm not a player, but the team manager." Tamaki performed a small bow to the boys. Half of them have faint blushes on their faces. "I'm Kuroko Tamaki, formerly of Teiko Middle School. I'm a first year too, class 1-B. I'll be in charge of your training regimes and things like practice matches, even administrative stuff for the basketball club. So if you have any problems, come and find me. Nice to meet you."

Even as she spoke, she scanned the eyes of each and every single one of the new members of the basketball club that stood in front of her. Nearly all of them were nervous beneath her gaze, as Tamaki had a way of making one feel as if they were being X-rayed. The teal haired girl scanned their bodies before resting on Kagami Taiga who is easily the tallest person in the gym, save for perhaps Mitobe-sempai.

Apart from Kagami, it is apparent that the rest of the new members need training. Lots of training. That is if they can first pass Coach Aida's first test.

Kagami on the other hand was very confused as he looked from a grinning Shigehiro to the nonchalant look on their manager's face. Both of them were in his class? But he didn't see them earlier during class introductions. Weren't they in class earlier?

The other freshmen whispered amongst themselves, giving Shigehiro and Tamaki curious and wary looks, with the words 'Teiko', 'Mirage' and 'Generation of Miracles' coming out more than once. Tamaki sighed inwardly. She knew what is coming next and prepared herself for a round of questioning.

One of the freshmen, a brunette who looks rather timid spoke up. "Um… Kuroko-san?" He raised his hand as if he was in class, and looked as if he is ready to wilt and die when Tamaki looked at him with a questioning gaze. "Are you the Kuroko Tamaki? 'Mirage' Kuroko Tamaki of the Generation of Miracles?"

Hyuuga and Riko exchanged looks. Shigehiro looked rather annoyed at this question whilst Tamaki didn't show anything on her face, but Riko and Hyuuga knew that she would be upset at this question, as it only serves as a reminder that she can no longer play on the court.

Honestly, with the Generation of Miracles all entering high school this year, Riko knew that the high school basketball circuit would be full of rumours and gossip. Tamaki especially had been a point of interest ever since her middle school days as she's the only female regular in that legendary team, and not to mention that it is well known that she had been the brain behind Teiko's three consecutive victories. Even Kiyoshi, Hyuuga and Izuki knew of her as they've often seen her on the court during the basketball tournaments back during their middle school days.

Tamaki sighed. "…Yes, I am her."

Kagami frowned. 'Generation of Miracles?' he wondered.

The freshmen had awed looks on their faces as they looked at Tamaki like she's some sort of goddess. Half of them gave Shigehiro adoring looks as well – most probably his fans from back in middle school.

Seeing another freshman about to open his mouth, no doubt about to ask Tamaki another question, Riko interrupted. "Okay, stop badgering Tamaki-chan!" she ordered. "And no more questions! She is our team manager, and like what she'd said, she won't be playing in matches. Whether she is from Teiko or not, that is in the past. You're all in Seirin now."

Tamaki gave Riko a grateful look, as the coach had most probably saved her from a bout of questioning. She never did like it when reporters came to question them – one reason why magazines and reporters have found it so difficult to so much as clinch an interview from the famous team. Only exception is that time back in second year after Kise-kun had first joined the Teiko team as a regular.

Sei had relented and decided to give an interview at that time only because he wanted to make it clear that he has every intention of cleansing Teiko's bad reputation, and that he will not tolerate any foul play from any member of his team. Before they have stepped into the picture, their seniors who had been part of the former varsity team had used every trick and foul play ever known to Man in matches.

Hence why Tamaki and Sei have such a bad year during their freshman year, as they were busy cleansing the reputation of the club, and not to mention that there was some internal squabble within the School Board at that time. They were lucky that their principal and the school director aren't pushovers, and they have stood firm, especially after Sei and Tamaki have brought a signed petition to them, petitioning to create a new varsity basketball club.

Freshman year had been particularly taxing on them, since they have to be on their guard all the time, particularly from the seniors who were the former regulars of the basketball club. Hence why by the time that they were in second year, apart from a couple of students like Nijimura-sempai and Hinata-sempai, there were barely any seniors in the team at all.

"You are all dismissed for today." Hyuuga told the freshmen. "Come to the gym after school tomorrow for practice, and don't be late!"

The freshmen muttered amongst themselves, looking at Tamaki and Shigehiro curiously before they filed out of the gym slowly, talking amongst themselves. Snippets of the freshmen's conversation reached their ears, with words like 'Generation of Miracles', 'Teiko', 'champions' and even 'Lionheart' coming out once in a while.

Just before the gym door closed behind the freshmen, Tamaki could hear the loud voice of Kagami Taiga. "Hey, what is this 'Generation of Miracles' that you were talking about…?"

Tamaki sighed in relief. "Thanks for the save, Coach," she said, turning towards Riko gratefully. "I really don't feel like answering their questions about my days in Teiko." She admitted.

"If you don't feel like answering, then don't." Hyuuga said curtly, and the other second years nodded. They only know briefly what had happened in Teiko, and it was an unspoken agreement amongst them that any questions about Teiko are a taboo topic. "They will be curious definitely. Teiko is a famous name amongst the basketball circuit."

"Not just Tamaki." Izuki Shun smiled at Ogiwara Shigehiro. "You too. Be prepared for an onslaught of questions."

"I think I can handle it." Shigehiro grinned.

"But nevertheless, I think we're going to have a lot of work cut out for us." Tamaki sighed, glancing at the clipboard. "Half of them probably hadn't even touched a basketball before." She grumbled. This is her freshman year at Teiko all over again!

Riko grinned. "Well, I'm counting on you, Tamaki-chan," she said cheerfully. "Feel free to whip them into shape."

Tamaki muttered something beneath her breath. "…I'll do my best."

XXXXXX

"T-Thank you. Please come again." The severely shocked cashier at Maji Burger managed to say as he watched with wide eyes as Kagami Taiga take a tray with a mountain of burgers on it. The customers currently lining up at the cashier to make their own purchase could only stare with wide eyes, wondering if the redhead could really finish it all on his own.

Kagami frowned even as he scanned the eatery, trying to find an empty seat, but to no avail. It was currently evening, and nearly every single seat in the eatery is full. Most of the seats are occupied by students, with a couple being occupied by working adults who have apparently just knocked off work.

Kagami frowned as he looked down at his pile of burgers. Maybe he should ask for a bag or something for takeaway as it looks like he couldn't find a place to sit…

"Kagami?" A cheerful voice said from behind him, and Kagami turned only to see a beaming Ogiwara Shigehiro standing behind him, a tray in his hands.

Kagami blinked in surprise. "H-Hey." He nodded politely to his classmate and teammate.

"Can't find a seat?" Shigehiro grinned at Kagami. "Come with me. Tamaki's saving me a seat, and there should be room for you as well."

"Huh? N-No—"

But Shigehiro refused to listen to any protests and promptly tugged Kagami along with him, leading the redhead to a corner booth where Kuroko Tamaki is waiting patiently. She looked a little surprised to see Kagami with Shigehiro, but she nodded politely to Kagami even as the two boys occupied the seats in front of her.

"There isn't any available seats for Kagami, so I asked him to join us." Shigehiro said cheerfully even as he set out a small disposal cup and a small burger in front of Tamaki, setting out his own larger portions of a burger and fries in front of him.

Tamaki said nothing but just stared at Kagami's Leaning Tower of Pisa even as he unwrapped one burger, looking at him disbelievingly before looking back at Shigehiro who simply looked very amused, but shrugged. Clearly, the mountain of burgers is all for Kagami's consumption.

"Is that all that you're going to eat?" Kagami asked, bewildered at Tamaki's small food portions. Something like that isn't even enough to qualify as a snack for him.

"It is enough for me." Tamaki answered, sipping her vanilla milkshake.

For the next several moments, Kagami and Tamaki both listened as Shigehiro talked nineteen to the dozen, talking about everything under the sun. About how he and Tamaki frequent this fast food joint, about how he had moved to Tokyo from Kyoto, and how much it had changed, and about the school, and even about the basketball team.

Tamaki was listening to her childhood friend and nodding every now and then, but Kagami was barely listening with half-a-ear, as his mind was on what his fellow freshmen in the basketball club have told him earlier.

"I'm surprised that you've never heard of them before." Fukuda Hiroshi, Kagami was sure that was his name at least, told him, surprise on his features even as he changed out of his practice clothes. "Nearly every single basketball player in the middle school and high school circuits have heard of them. Even the coaches in the professional league have their eye on them."

"I attend Eikan Middle School." Kagami told him with a frown.

His middle school basketball team is mediocre at best. He is easily the best player in his team at that time, and all his other teammates never seemed to really take basketball seriously or even train seriously as 'they won't win anyway'. Hence why they always get kicked out of the Inter High just in the first round alone every single year.

Furihata Kouki exchanged looks with Fukuda, both teens not exactly knowing what they should say.

For lack of a better word, Eikan Middle School is right at the bottom of the list when it comes to the strength of the basketball teams. To put it politely, they're ranked last. Hence why they always lose in the first round of the Inter High tournament every single year. It is also probably why Kagami has never heard of Teiko and the Generation of Miracles then, as Eikan Middle School would never have gotten the chance to meet Teiko in a match if they always lose in the first round of the Inter High.

Though even if Eikan had never had the opportunity to meet Teiko in a match, shouldn't Kagami have read sports magazines like Basketball Monthly at least? Teiko had always been featured without fail almost every month in sports magazines, though it isn't exactly easy for them to acquire interviews with the regulars.

"What are they anyway? This Generation of Miracles?" Kagami was honestly curious why a middle school team would get such a corny name. Surely they can't be that good right?

"They're a six player team – basketball regulars of Teiko Middle School, the strongest middle school team." Another freshman piped up. "They're the ultimate team. No one would want to face them in a match. They're that strong. They're so strong that no team could hope to beat them and clinch the championship in a basketball tournament. The best that they could hope for is only runner up. They've been champions at the three major basketball tournaments for the past three years. Every single team that has ever gone against them will no doubt have their score doubled or tripled by Teiko."

All the other freshmen nodded their heads at this. It is common knowledge amongst the basketball circuit.

"And the manager is part of them?" Kagami asked, his interest growing. After all, he had heard his fellow freshmen name her as part of this group earlier.

"Apparently." Furihata nodded. "The Generation of Miracles had always been the hot topic for sports magazines. But it isn't exactly easy to get interviews with the regulars. Hence, what we know about their members are from rumours and the matches that they participated in. The only interview that they've given is about two years ago, and all the regulars of the team were interviewed. 'Mirage' Kuroko Tamaki. She is the only female regular of that team, and the vice-captain furthermore. And according to rumours, she had been the brains behind Teiko's three consecutive victories."

"And that guy with her?" Kagami asked, his interest peaking. "Is he part of the Generation of Miracles too?"

"No." Fukuda shook his head. "'Lionheart' Ogiwara Shigehiro of Meiko Middle. He's strong. If he had been in Teiko during his middle school years as well, he would have been named as one of the Generation of Miracles. He's that strong."

"Are you really one of the Generation of Miracles?" Kagami blurted out suddenly, staring at Tamaki. Is she really a member of the legendary team that his fellow freshmen have made such a fuss about? He can barely smell anything on her! Now the guy next to her, that Ogiwara guy, Kagami can believe that he's strong. But the teal haired girl on the other hand…

Tamaki raised an eyebrow at Kagami. "I guess that I don't look like it, but yes, I am one of them," she answered.

"Tamaki, you just don't look like you're a regular of the ultimate team, that's all. You don't meet many girls these days that take basketball seriously." Shigehiro grinned.

Kagami looked almost excited, and his eyes were almost sparkling like a kid in a candy store. "If you're really a member of that ultimate team, have a match with me." Kagami said excitedly. "Let's have a one-on-one."

Shigehiro winced. Uh oh. Kagami really shouldn't have said that.

Tamaki's eyes darkened over. "I refuse," she said.

Kagami definitely wasn't expecting this answer. "Why not?" he almost whined, reminding Tamaki a great deal of Kise when the other regulars were picking on him, usually Aomine.

Tamaki took a bite of her burger and swallowed it before speaking once more. "I can't play," she said curtly.

"What do you mean—"

"Kagami, stop." Shigehiro looked sternly at Kagami. This is bad. He knew that Tamaki is still hurting inside because she can no longer play. For someone who loves basketball as much as she does, this is akin to torture. He can understand now why Seijuro had asked him to attend Seirin to watch over Tamaki. Not being able to stand on the court as a player anymore, being the basketball team manager is the best that Tamaki could do. "Don't go there. You don't understand—"

Tired of avoiding questions, and knowing that this piece of knowledge will come out sooner or later anyway, Tamaki pulled back the left sleeve of her uniform, and any and all protests that is about to come out of Kagami's mouth was stuck in his throat as he stared, wide-eyed, at the brace around Tamaki's left hand.

Shigehiro flinched. He had been one of the first ones to visit Tamaki after that disastrous match back in second year when the teal haired girl had that 'accident' with Hanamiya Makoto's team. Compared to then, the condition of Tamaki's wrist looks a lot better, though it doesn't change the fact that her left hand is all but crippled now.

Kagami was speechless for several moments, staring wide-eyed at the brace around the manager's left wrist.

He had never seen it because the female school uniform of Seirin High School is long sleeved, with it currently being early spring, and thus, the weather is cold. Cold enough that a few of his classmates have walked into class that day for the first day of school wearing a scarf and coat. Kagami suddenly felt like a total ass for demanding a match from Tamaki. Now he can understand why the manager had that look on her face.

One of his friends back in America had gotten really seriously injured when playing basketball once, and the ligaments of his right leg was torn so badly to the point that it can't fully heal. When his friend had heard that he could no longer walk properly on his right leg, let alone play basketball, he looked crushed, and look as if the sky is about to fall atop his head. Now that Kagami thinks about it, the teal haired manager had the same look on her face that his friend had back then.

"Does this answer your question?" Tamaki asked coldly. "I can no longer stand on the court as a player. I can no longer play. Not anymore."

She sounded as if she's about to cry at that point in time, and Kagami quickly looked down at his dwindling mountain of burgers, feeling awkward. He has no idea what he should do if Tamaki really cried in front of him. He is no good with girls, since they always found him scary. The only females in his life are just his mother and Alex.

"Kagami." Shigehiro cut into the conversation, thus dissipating the sudden tense atmosphere. "If you truly want to measure yourself against the Generation of Miracles, I'll have an one-on-one against you later. I'm not one of them, but apparently, I'm good enough to stand on the same pedestal with them, according to Tamaki and several of my old teammates."

"Shige-kun, I still say that you underestimate yourself too much." Tamaki sighed, inwardly grateful to her best friend for the change in topic. "You're good at basketball, and you know it."

"They told me about you earlier." Kagami was relieved that the conversation was steered out of less uncomfortable waters. "They told me that you're known as 'Lionheart'."

"That name is really embarrassing." Shigehiro scratched the back of his head awkwardly. "But like the Generation of Miracles, I didn't really call myself that. One of my opponents back in freshman year nicknamed me that, and the name kind of stuck." He admitted. "How about it? Let's have a one-on-one later. I hadn't played for some time, so I might be a little rusty."

Kagami smirked. "I couldn't ask for anything better."

And this is how the three freshmen found themselves at a nearby street court an hour later after they have finished their meal, with the two boys stripping off their gakurens.

"Both of you, don't go too overboard." Tamaki warned as she stood by their bags, becoming their referee. "We have a practice match scheduled tomorrow, and Coach will kill you both if you come in injured."

"We'll be fine." Shigehiro said cheerfully, facing Kagami who currently had possession of the ball. "Just a word of warning, Kagami." His eyes darkened over, and Kagami resisted the urge to shiver. Is this guy bipolar or something? He was so cheerful and happy-go-lucky just a moment ago. "If you can't beat me, you won't even reach the feet of the Generation of Miracles. They are strong. And seeing as how I hadn't been playing for nearly four months, they are bound to be stronger than me by now."

Tamaki then kept her eyes on the 'match' if one could even call it that for the next minute.

She knew what Shige-kun could do, and his basketball style. Shigehiro is strange for a Power Forward. Most Power Forwards utilise power in their basketball. But Shigehiro tends to favour speed and flexibility over anything else. In contrast to him, Kagami uses power to try to overwhelm his opponents.

Tamaki wasn't joking when she had said that Shigehiro is on par with the Generation of Miracles. The cheerful teen is strong. Honestly speaking, back during middle school, if Shigehiro's other teammates have been on the same level as the teen himself, then Meiko might not have lost that badly, and the match might not have gone so badly. In fact, they might just be able to beat Teiko.

Tamaki's eyes narrowed as she studied Kagami's movements as he tried to break out of Shigehiro's pressure defense. It is clear that he isn't used to trying to break out of defense, as he looked extremely frustrated. For a moment, Tamaki was confused, as she found Kagami's play extremely familiar.

After a moment, it then hit her. His play and movements are similar to Aomine.

'He's good.' Tamaki thought to herself, keeping her eyes on the match. 'He's probably received some proper training before from someone who knew what they're doing. But at this point of time, if he goes against any of the others, he'll get slaughtered.'

After all, Tamaki had played and trained with the rest of the Generation of Miracles for three years. She knew what they're capable of. While to a normal person, Kagami is fast, to someone who had been part of Teiko's regulars, he is as slow as a tortoise. Forget Aomine. Kise and even Murasakibara could beat Kagami when it comes to speed, and the latter is never one who takes on an offense role, and prefers standing in his comfortable spot beneath the ring.

Tamaki then narrowed her eyes as Shigehiro let Kagami pass him, and he leapt into the air, attempting to dunk the ball in. Not to be deterred, Shigehiro smacked the ball out of his hand.

"Okay, stop there." Tamaki interrupted, and the two boys turned in surprise. "If you continue playing, you'll get injured. Besides, it's getting late."

Kagami doesn't look satisfied, but Shigehiro nodded. Even he knew better than to go against Tamaki when it comes to things like this. "It's enough, Tamaki?" he asked.

"Yeah. I've seen enough." Tamaki nodded. She glanced at Kagami who looked ready to open his mouth to argue. "If you want another round, you're going to have to wait. I can tell you that at your current level, you will never be able to beat Shige-kun, let alone the Generation of Miracles. If you go against them right now, you'll get slaughtered. You won't even reach their feet."

Kagami was silent. "Are they really that strong?" he asked, doubtful. After all, ever since he had returned to Japan, he had never met anyone who is good at basketball. Even his old team captain is average at basketball at best.

Shigehiro and Tamaki exchanged looks. "It isn't something that I can explain in words." Tamaki said at last. "It is something that you'll only understand once you meet them and face them yourself. That is if you can even comprehend the true definition of strength."

XXXXXX

Tamaki turned on the lights of her apartment even as she removed her shoes, closing the door behind her and locking it. She then dropped her keys on the table, also placing her school bag onto the chair at the small table. She then pulled out her pyjamas from her wardrobe, heading into the bathroom to have her shower. Twenty minutes later, she soon emerged from it, towelling her hair dry.

The screen of her cellphone lit up just then, with it sounding with a message tone. Furrowing her brows, Tamaki picked up her phone, noting that Mayuzumi Chihiro had sent her a text message.

To: Kuroko TamakiFrom: Mayuzumi ChihiroSubject: I'll try once more

I've made my decision. I'll stay on in the basketball club. I first started playing because I like it. I don't particularly care even if I'm not good enough now. I'll try once more. I'll play on for both our sakes.

Tamaki managed a small smile as she typed a reply back.

To: Mayuzumi ChihiroFrom: Kuroko TamakiSubject: RE: I'll try once more

That's good to know. Maybe someday, my team can get to meet you on the court.

A reply was almost instantly sent back.

To: Kuroko TamakiFrom: Mayuzumi ChihiroSubject: RE: RE: I'll try once more

I won't put too much hope in it. By the way, are you free next weekend? Do you want to catch a movie together?

Next weekend? Tamaki furrowed her brows for a moment, wondering if she had any plans, but then decided that she should be free on that day.

To: Mayuzumi ChihiroFrom: Kuroko TamakiSubject: RE: RE: RE: I'll try once more

It should be fine.

Almost like Mayuzumi had been waiting for an answer, his reply message was quick.

To: Kuroko TamakiFrom: Mayuzumi ChihiroSubject: RE: RE: RE: RE: I'll try once more

Great. It's a date then.

Tamaki was left speechless, staring at the short message that had appeared on her screen for several moments, even after the light illuminating her phone had gone out thanks to non-activity.

It's a date.

She wasn't seeing things, was she?

Did Mayuzumi Chihiro seriously just ask her out on a date?

A/N: Please read and review! Reviews give me inspiration to update!

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