DISCLAIMERS: (See Chapters 1 and 2)
It was a cold night in Tokyo, the majority of the people were indoors either enjoying the warmth of their homes or grinding at their offices, working hard at work. But in one particular school, at a basketball court, a young man with shining blonde hair and deep ocean blue eyes was dripping in the wetness of his own sweat.
He had long discarded his shirt, opting to remove it than risk getting sick the day after. Tomorrow was an important day after all.
He watched as the ball traveled through the air in a perfect arc and slowly paced himself towards the basket as the ball found its' way to the bottom on the net, dropping right on his hands.
The three point shot was a shot he had been practicing for the past few years. His range wasn't as ridiculous as Midorima's but it was a very, very reliable shot whenever he thought the team needed a run to control the game. It was a part of his game that won him the National Player award for the past two years back in the US so it wasn't something a defender can neglect.
He dribbled the ball and jogged with it towards a few feet past the wing. He took a quick glance at the glass of the ring, threw the ball towards it and swiftly sprung towards the direction of the basket. The ball bounced-off the glass but was swiftly caught by Naruto mid-air who quickly twisted his body around himself and clawed it down the ring with finesse the moment he reached it.
"Don't you have an important match tomorrow?"
Naruto turned his head towards the direction of a familiar sweet voice as the beads of sweat crawled down his form. There leaning at the in a very, in his opinion, provocative manner. "I'm assuming you're done with your paperwork already?"
"Answer my question first you idiot."
"You know the answer to that already."
"Likewise, you already know my answer."
The two stared each other down, neither of the two allowing their eyes to blink. After a few seconds both students broke their stares as their mouths split into bouts of lighthearted laughter.
"So, how was your day?" Naruto said in a muffled voice as a towel rubbed over his face.
She idly noted the number of orange balls cluttered around the court before answering. "Tiring and utterly boring. We haven't hanged out much since your birthday last month because of your training and my student council duties."
"Let's hang out after the games tomorrow then, just you and me; like the old times."
"Oh my. How forward of you, Namikaze-kun." The way she had said that and teasing smirk that she tried hard to hide plastered on her face made her a whole lot more attractive to him. There he decided that he would not be outdone by his normally calm and cool best friend in his forte.
He threw the towel on his hands back to his duffel bag and slowly approached Sayuri. He extended his right hand over her shoulder who he observed —in his secret amusement of the situation— was slightly tensed at what he was doing and sent his other free hand to softly caress her cheeks.
"W-what...N-Naruto..." It was taking her all her willpower to stop herself from being flustered and/or mad at Naruto's actions. She honestly wanted to strangle and kiss him so much right now. Him leaning to her face and exposing his very well-built body wasn't helping her one bit.
She felt a puff of hot air by her ears as Naruto lowly whispered to her. "You don't know just how forward I can be, Uchiha-chan~"
"Keh, Naruto you're too close." Her voice came out too meekly for her liking and that ended up making Naruto grin as he straightened his back, moving a bit away from her and fetched his shirt from his bag.
Sayuri watched with a small flush on her cheeks as Naruto put his shirt on. She sighed inwardly to herself at the sudden reversal Naruto had done and was a bit annoyed at that as well. It always ended like that when they teased each other. Not that she didn't like the close contact cause she did but she didn't like being always the one to end up all flustered up.
"Ah, damn. I still have to clear up the court. Wanna help me out Sayuri?"
Despite the want to go home as soon as possible, Sayuri thought that not helping Naruto would be an okay consolation from being out-teased once again. "Hn. I'll think about it."
Naruto groaned with her answer. She isn't even going to lift a finger. "Damn it Sayuri," He grumbled, making Sayuri smirk. "I knew that I shouldn't have let the guys leave earlier without cleaning up their mess."
"Your left hand improve a lot there Kagami,"
Kagami made a side glance at Furihata before answering. "Hell yeah. I can even used it for stuff like eating nowadays."
"Did you perhaps stay up all night Komori?" Kagami blinked a few times when he saw the face of Naruto directly in front of his own before adopting a glare.
"When the hell are you going to stop calling my name wrong?!"
Naruto let out a small laugh and patted the redhead's back causing Kagami to drop his ball before scurrying away the redhead as he went ahead of the group. "Meet you guys at the bus!"
"The hell was that for?" Kagami gained an irritated look as his question was promptly ignored.
"What's that creepy face for Kiyoshi? You're grossing me out."
"Ah, sorry. Don't bother." Most of the freshmen looked at the two founders of the basketball club with a fascinated expression as Koganei joined in the conversation between the two. They were glad that they had fun people as upperclassmen as their conversation alleviated a bit of their tension and nervousness of the upcoming matches ahead of them in the day.
"Is everyone here already?"
"Naruto-senpai went ahead already Coach." Riko nodded at what Hyuga said as she then counted out the team bar the blonde-haired Senior.
"Hmm...we still have one person missing."
"Kuroko!" The freshmen chorused out.
"Gah! The hell Kuroko, where have you been?"
"I've been here from the start."
"That's a damn lie and you know it! Tell us the truth! You only came at the last minute!" Kagami accused the teal-haired boy who silently stood his back against the angry redhead.
Riko looked at the group as she shook her head in amusement before calling them lest they arrive late at the competition. "You guys are too noisy. Let's go already!"
"So today's opponent, Seirin. How are they?" The captain of Josei Highschool, Kawase Youhei, asked the team's manager.
"In simple terms, they're a team that succeeded thanks to a big rookie and it's only their second year playing competitively." Most of the players in the locker room looked at their own big rookie before glancing back at their manager. "Although it's amazing that they've managed to get to the prelim finals this year and last year that's all they have. Our biggest concern is their rookie Kagami Taiga. But based on their summer videos from the finals of the Interhigh prelims, Seirin has a fatal weakpoint."
The members of the Josei basketball club watched silently as the manager drew up a five dots in what looked like a basketball court on the whiteboard in front of them. The manager encircled the two dots inside the poorly drawn arc and continued. "As I was saying, Seirin as a team lacks post presence and altitude. Aside from their rookie, there aren't any athletic bigs in their team. In short their inside is extremely weak."
The captain nodded at their managers analysis as he glanced at their own rookie who was still busy reading a porn magazine. "We'll unleash our big rookie too if that's the case. I'm sure Narumi would be more than a match against that Kagami guy."
Naruto looked at the audience with an unusual expressionless face as he scanned through them looking for a particular set of people. It was refreshing change of scenery to him, as many of the people inside the court barely recognize him. Back in the States, a lot of people would usually have pictures with him (mostly basketball fans and a few fangirls) or would be scouts from the big name colleges and universities or even NBA teams at times. Here people wouldn't even give him a passing glance, at least that's what he thought.
A big grin grew into his face as he saw the Uchiha family along with his grandparents sitting near the front rows.
He locked eyes with Sayuri who gave him a smile and a small nod. The black-haired beauty mouthed him something to which he deciphered as a 'Good Luck' before smiling back at her and waving at the group.
"Good Luck Naruto-kun!" Mikoto shouted at her godson.
Naruto gave her a thumbs-up before shouting back. "Thanks Mikoto-obachan!"
"Now, we'll begin the match Seirin High and Josei High! Both teams, please line up!" The players and the officials who would officiate the game quickly assembled themselves as the announcement of the head referee rang across the court. Fans and supporters of both teams was abuzz along with people who simply came to watch an entertaining basketball match between two good basketball teams. Naruto gave the Uchiha's and his grandparents one last nod before he skidded towards the center of the court with rest of his teammates.
"You look really happy today Teppei. Are you really that excited?" Naruto asked nonchalantly although he couldn't blame the person. If he were in the same shoes Kiyoshi he would be happy as well.
"Tell me about it. He's really creeping me out." Hyuga commented, deciding to give his own two-cents.
"It's my first match in a looong time so I can't help it." A goofy smile threatened to come to his face but was swiftly stopped by Hyuga.
"Hey! I know you're really happy about the match but the team would be troubled if you're stuck sightseeing. You came back to win, you hear that!"
"Loud and clear." A few seconds later, Kiyoshi was smiling weirdly, to the rest of the teams opinion at least, again.
"Heh, I'm a bit excited too. But I'll have to wait before I get to play."
Riko looked at Naruto briefly with uncertainty before she decided to just ask away. "Are you sure you only want to play in the fourth quarter for this game? I can field earlier if you want you know."
Naruto shook his head at her question. "Nah. I'll let the others gather more experience. Besides, I've been playing competitive hoops since middle school. And anyways, we practiced really hard the past month, it would be a waste if they didn't play as much."
"All right then if you're really that sure."
Naruto nodded. "I am."
"Will both teams' starting line up assemble in the court. The rest of the players and the coach may sit down at their respective benches." Naruto along with the other players of both teams went to their respective benches.
"Salute! Let's play a clean match!"
The blonde silently watched in amusement as the one of the players of the opponent's team openly mocked Riko's 'sexiness'.
"Sheesh, he's practically signing Josei's death warrant." As he said that, the head referee threw the ball in the air signalling the start of the game.
"Ho, so they've begun already."
"Seirin vs. Josei, who do you think will win Imayoshi-senpai?"
"Who knows—their strengths are equal but for Seirin, Josei is their worst match-up. Seirin's inside is really weak while on the other hand, Josei's selling point is their powerful inside. Especially with their newest recruit, his quite powerful physique wise. Seirin's gonna have a tough time with them." Sakurai nodded in acceptance of Imayoshi's logic.
As the two entered the court and join the roaring fans of both teams, the score that greeted them at the scoreboard shocked them.
17 - 2
"This is not what I expected..." It really wasn't. The captain of Tōō did not expect the match to be so one-sided in favor of Seirin, in fact he was expecting the game to be a close one and slightly in favor of Josei.
"It makes me wonder how Seirin improve that much in a matter of months..." His eyes glazed over the court, inwardly observing and accounting for the players of Seirin had on and off the court. Then he saw two peculiarities that had him shocked to his core, especially one blonde in particular.
"Sakurai, could you call Momoi and tell her to come here immediately and bring a camcorder with her."
"A-ah, sure...but why?" Sakurai said with a mix of curiosity and uncertainty.
Imayoshi was silent for a minute before he answered Sakurai. "I think Seirin just became the team to beat in the Winter Cup."
Sakurai seemed shocked from the Tōō captain's proclamation and couldn't help but question the logic behind it. "How could you say that captain? I don't see anyone on their team that could possibly beat Aomine or any of the Generation of Miracles for that matter one-on-one."
"There's two reasons behind that actually," Sakurai was even more shocked that Imayoshi actually had to logical reasoning behind what he said. Though he did not like to brag, he knew that Seirin was far from being able to compete with teams like them especially when one considered how their team trashed Seirin during the last game between the two teams. "Do you see that guy, the one with the number seven on his back."
Sakurai fixed his gaze towards the number seven guy his captain was pointing out and watched him carefully. "Slow...Isn't the timing of his shot abnormally slow?"
"Quite. Kiyoshi is an oddball of a center. He possesses the pass sense of a guard, as well as the ability to shoot the ball off the dribble. A lot of teams have trouble playing against him and the main reason for that is that huge hands of his. With the way he holds the ball with that hands of his and his unusually slow release, Kiyoshi has the ability and option to whether to shoot or pass the ball. It's useless to predict his move as he'll just predict yours, in short he has what we call the 'Right of Postponement'. His one of the five people that if the Generation of Miracles we know now hadn't been born, they would have been called the Generation of Miracles."
Now that Sakurai thought about it, the Kiyoshi guy actually looked a bit familiar. "But if Seirin had that kind of a player why didn't he play against us?"
Imayoshi gained a contemplative look as if he was remembering something and then looked at the court as he replied, "I heard that he got a major injury last year that stopped him from playing for a long period of time. If you've haven't heard before, Seirin actually reached the final league of the preliminaries last year with a team of freshmen before they were tossed out the tournament. He was a major part in it."
"What's the second reason?"
"You see that tall blonde guy seated at the Seirin bench?"
"He's the second and main reason why I think Seirin is going to be the team beat when the Winter Cup finally starts."
Imayoshi looked at Sakurai who seemed really shocked by what he said just now. If he wasn't shocked beforehand he was certainly shocked now. "...How good is he?"
Sakurai saw his captain actually grimace for the first time since he joined the team and seeing that made his bones chill. "I don't think even Aomine can beat him one-on-one unless he enters that and Aomine's suppose to be the most talented among the Generation of Miracles. But individual play isn't even the main selling point of his game, far from it."
"Then what is?"
"Naruto-senpai's ability to make other players better with his game was what brought Teikō the two championships they had before the Generation of Miracles came in."
Imayoshi turned to his back when he heard the familiar voice of the Generation of Miracles' and their teams current manager. "You got here fast Momoi."
"I actually went on my own here when I couldn't convince Aomine-kun to come, my senpai from middle school messaged me that someone interesting is going to show up here."
"I'm guessing the interesting person you were told about was Namikaze-san then?"
Momoi nodded. "Yes. Anyways, as I was saying, Naruto-senpai's basketball philosophy is the polar opposite of the Generation of Miracles and that's what me and Tetsu-kun think makes the gap between him and the guys."
"To add to what Momoi said, Namikaze-san there is extremely gifted in both skills and physique. His much taller and bulkier than Aomine-kun but is just as agile as he is. His court vision is also off the charts, far more superior than mine at least. And then there's his shooting and athleticism. I don't think we've seen many people who graced that basketball court with as much talent as he has here in Japan. I know that from first hand experience."
"You've play with him before?" Momoi asked with a hint of curiosity. Although she'd already watched him play when he visited Teikō three years ago, she was a bit curious on how good he was before that.
"Yeah, we were both freshmen at the time. I don't think I've ever felt as humiliated and useless during that game."
Both Sakurai and Momoi was inwardly surprised by the very short yet impactful story of the team captain. It spoke volumes of Naruto's skill and talent coming from someone as prideful as Imayoshi.
The trio was permeated by an uncomfortable silence as they took their seats around the middle of the rows. Momoi quietly set a number camera recorders on tripods and sat with the other two.
The three watched as three quarters went by quickly. Seirin easily took control of the game, dominating the first three quarters by quite a big margin.
Momoi's mind was in overdrive. She was trying to figure out what kind of training regiment Seirin did in order to improve that much in a such short period of time. She had guessed that Naruto's appearance had something to do with their rapid growth but she couldn't give exact figures and methods on what they did to improve that dramatically. She did observe however that Seirin's defense improved tremendously compared to what they showed during the summer.
Looking at the bench of Seirin, she could see the slight physical changes of their players, even Kuroko looked more in shape than compared to before. Her eyes scanned their bench and went wide-eyed when she saw Naruto stretching his legs.
"I think he's going to play in the fourth quarter. But why insert him now...?" Momoi voiced out. With the current scoreline (103 - 39), she wouldn't show other opponents that they had another secret weapon aside from the ones already known. It would be just a waste.
"I think they're going to make a statement. The entire starting line up of Seirin are wearing t-shirts over their jerseys already. Previously they only had one or two of them resting every now and then but now the whole starting line up. I think they know that we're watching."
"Hey Momoi-san, Imayoshi-senpai aren't those people from the other schools—"
"That have the other members of Generation of Miracles! Yes, you're right Sakurai-kun. They're probably scouts or managers like me, they're even holding out camera recorders."
"It seems you're not the only one who's been notified. I'd say that his actually going to showboat with all the people here." Imayoshi commented. "Let's see how much better you got, Naruto Namikaze-san."
"Yosh! I can finally play!" Riko and the rest of team smiled at the enthusiasm their senior was showing. Their morale was at an all-time high going into the fourth quarter and it would most likely increase before the first game ends.
"Damn it! I still want to play! I didn't get to do much during the game because of those pesky double teams."
"Cheer up Cagali! The reason we're leading this much was because of your drawing of double and triple teams, isn't it?"
"Tch, whatever. Just kick some butt out there for me."
"Sure thing! Come on team let's go!" The freshmen along with Koganei cheered as they followed the tall blonde to the court in high spirits. Josei on the other hand...
"The fuck. They're sitting their whole starting line up?!"
"Are they really signing us off already?!"
"Damn those Seirin bastards." The coach muttered to himself angrily. "I don't care if we're down big, crush those scrubs with all you've got!"
Naruto whistled at the sudden change of demeanor of the other team. He thought that they've already given up during the last quarter but it seems that sitting the whole starting line up only made them more fired up. "Damn, they're really fired up."
"Not surprising. They probably think we're underestimating them." Koganei stated cheerily.
"But we're not. I'm finally going to play, am I not?"
"You forget, Naruto-senpai. They probably don't know you or haven't remembered you yet."
"And why the hell not? I'm pretty sure that I'm a pretty memorable person. Let's face it, they aren't many tall blonde blue-eyed people here in Japan."
"...That actually makes a lot of sense. Maybe they haven't played with you before?"
Naruto seemed to agree with that notion as he nodded with rigor at that. "Yup. That's probably it."
"All players to the court!"
With the announcement of the officials, the players quickly positioned themselves at the court as Koganei and Naruto got ready for the inbound.
After receiving the ball from the referee, Koganei threw the ball weakly at Naruto's direction who in turn let the ball roll up the court before swiftly picking it up as it reached the half-court line.
A guard, Josei's captain, immediately closed the gap between the two of them and glared at the blonde. "Are you seriously going to bring up the ball?"
"Yup." Naruto nonchalantly replied, popping the 'p' sound at the end.
"Che, you guys are too arrogant. I don't think you could even dribble that ball properly."
Naruto raised a brow at the taunting of Josei's captain but said nothing as he observed the movement of his much smaller opponent. He dribbled the ball high waiting for his opponent to make an action to steal and when he saw the guy slightly jerk forward he took full advantage.
Kawase's eyes widened as he stumbled down to the floor. Naruto quickly raced passed the fallen shooting guard and quickly penetrated through the inside of the arc courtesy of a solid screen from Fukuda that the rookie from Josei fell to. Seeing that the post was clear, Naruto jumped from the paint, spun his body and jammed the ball down the hoop.
"Holy shit! Did he really just do a three-sixty in a half-court offensive set-up!"
"Who's that tall blonde guy with the number nine shirt?!"
"N-no way! Is that really him? I thought he disappeared a few years ago..."
Naruto smirked to himself as heard the reactions of some of the people from the crowd. It was quite entertaining to hear the reactions of people who've never seen him play before. He sent a playful salute to the general direction of Sayuri's group and quickly went back to defense but not before praising Fukuda for the screen. "Nicely positioned back there Hiroshi! Keep it up!"
Nodding his head, he saw the guard from before glaring at him before throwing him a grin. "You believe me now?"
"Hmph. Who the hell are you anyway?" The teen grumpily asked.
Naruto gave him a confident smirk. "Naruto. Namikaze Naruto." His smirk grew bigger when he saw the shorter teen's eyes widen at his name.
They're probably gonna respect me now.
"Nothing. Just keep your eye on the ball." Kawase was confused by what he said for a brief moment but once again widened his eyes when the blonde in front of him suddenly disappeared. He quickly turned around only to see the blonde man already jogging back to their side of the court and his teammates inbounding the ball.
"Keep your head in the game man. Let's enjoy this game as much as we can."
Kawase and his team never recovered after that.
The quarter ended with Josei not even scoring a point.
"Kise, I want you to train harder this next next month."
"But Captain, I'm already training harder."
"Then try harder. We need to get better fast or else Seirin is gonna eat us up if we meet them again the Winter Cup."
"I'm sure we can handle whatever Kagami and Kurokocchi would throws at us."
"No it's not them."
Kise narrowed his eyes. Who else does Seirin have aside from those two? "Then who?"
"Namikaze Naruto." Kise widened his eyes at the name. He heard of that name multiple times before from his teammates back in Teikō. Just who was he to strike such fear on a person like his captain?
"What is it Muro-chin?"
"The coach says he has package for you. It's a videotape from a person called Momoi Satsuki."
"I heard from some of the members of the second string that there's a number of people new in Seirin Takao."
"They did. They say that the first person was the Iron Heart, Kiyoshi Teppei. The other one, they didn't recognize but the freshmen said that he was incredible. Tall, blonde and blue-eyes. You know anyone like that?"
Midorima narrowed his eyes at the description.
He knew that person.
It wasn't good news for Shutoku.
"Captain, our manager just arrived from the Tokyo pre-finals."
"He looked like he has some bad news."
Akashi Seijūrō raised a brow at the claim.
"He says someone from your previous school returned to Japan."
Aomine Daiki just woke up from his nap. Rubbing his eyes groggily, he lifted his body up and stared at the empty roof in front of him. His surroundings was already dark so he assumed that he slept through most of the classes.
"Aomine-kun." The ace of the Generation of Miracles looked to his back and saw his pink-haired childhood friend looking at him with a serious expression.
"What do you want now Satsuki?"
"Nothing much. I just want you to watch this." She threw a him a black-colored object with a lens and a retracted screen. A camcorder, he concluded.
"What the hell is this for?"
"Just watch it." She said with finality before leaving him alone once again the rooftop.
Shrugging his shoulders, Aomine decided to follow what she said.
Looking at the screen of the camera, he saw the familiar looking uniform of Seirin and raised a brow at it. He had already played with Kuroko's damn team so he was wondering why Momoi wanted him to watch it. Deciding to just play it lest Momoi nagged him to death again he pressed play.
A smile started to form on his face as he watched through the video. It grew and grew until he reached the end of the video and etched his face was probably the biggest smile that he had in years.
"So you're back."
As you may have noticed, I'm not going much in-depth in the basketball games so far. That's intentional. The next two or three chapter will feature the games against Seishinkan (which I'll also be glossing over), Shutoku (I'll be going into detail with that) and Kirisaki Daichi (also in detail).
That's all for now.