Whispering Fireworks

Chapter 18

Kuroko sighed and sank into the white bed. Once again, he was in the medical room of Akashi's house. Coincidentally, this was the first room he had woken up to when he was brought here in the beginning. Bright lights that refused to be dimmed burned his sensitive blue eyes, and the color white was basically the only color he could see. The medical bed was much softer than his normal one, but it was annoying with the various, hot sheets.

It's been two days since the incident with Akashi and his passing out on the spot. Thinking about it, Kuroko could only cover his face and silently vent his embarrassing thoughts in his head. Akashi had carried him all the way from the clearing to his house and thrusted him into Midorima's arms to be treated. His remaining wounds were healed, but the greenhead could not do anything about his exhaustion. So, he was ordered to stay in bed for at least two days by Midorima.

Unfortunately, the rest of the Miracles agreed. Kuroko was confined to bed.

No action has been taken to rescue Kise. Akashi said any attempt to rescue him now would be useless. They did not know Haizaki's location, and his army would only overwhelm them like last time. It was now the time to become stronger and focus on training and come up with strategies that incorporated the new weaknesses they saw from their last battle.

Aomine grew more grumpy and quieter each day. He snapped at anybody who tried to talk to him, and even vented once to Akashi about how stupid it was to wait when they could be saving Kise now. It didn't help that they recently received a rather threatening letter from Haizaki that was sent from an abandoned return address. A picture of an abused Kise was attached to it, but Akashi would not allow anybody but him and Midorima to see it. Aomine punched another hole in the wall that day. Other than that, he did not speak, and he rarely left his room. In rare occasions of the day, he would bring Kuroko's food, and Kuroko would be able to hold a terse conversation with him.

As for Akashi, the incident was not spoken of. Murasakibara and Midorima didn't dare question the red mark smarting on Akashi's cheek nor the slightly pink palm of Kuroko. Akashi only checked up on him, but they never exchanged words.

In truth, Kuroko did not regret his actions. Akashi was going down a path he could not bear to see.

The phone next to him vibrated, alerting the half-asleep tealhead. He scrambled to read the text. It was from Kagami.

Idiot! Now you answer? I need to meet with you.

Kuroko noticed he did not answer his question from his last text. Frowning, he replied,

I can't, Kagami-kun.

The response was almost instantaneous.

Don't fuck with me. I'll be waiting at seven. You're in Kyoto or something, right? Meet me by that main park. You better be there, Kuroko.

Ignoring Kagami's fast-texting skills, Kuroko observed the state of the text. It sounded rushed; panicked and demanding. What was so important to call out Kuroko now?

"Communicating with someone?" Midorima interrupted his thoughts. The greenhead walked in, his taped hand holding a glass frog. "Not that I care, so long as you don't get too close to them."

"It's only coach scolding me about skipping practice," Kuroko lied blandly, snapping his phone shut. "Am I free to go, Midorima-kun? I think staying in bed is worsening my condition."

"That's just in your head." He rolled his eyes, but checked Kuroko's pulse and scanned his body for any hidden wounds or signs of fatigue. He found nothing but some sore leg muscles. "You should stretch your legs to relax your muscles."

Kuroko pulled his shirt back down. "How can I do that when I'm trapped to this bed?"

"You sound like you're in jail. You should be glad you're resting. Aomine's been such a bother these past couple of days." Midorima pushed up his glasses, annoyed at the ganguro's behavior. "Even though Hanabi can't be found anywhere, he's been slacking off his duties in Tokyo." Reviewing Kuroko's vital signs, he nodded. "You can participate in small exercises. Your body is still not ready to use your new ability. Elemental abilities creates large strain on the body."

I remember when Akashi collapsed when he was younger, Midorima thougtht silently. Akashi had ordered him to forget that ever happened, but it was just something you couldn't forget about.

"I was already told by Akashi-kun." Kuroko threw off his blankets and climbed over the bed railings. "Is Akashi-kun in a bad mood, today?"

"It's hard to tell." Midorima shot him a weird look. "Why?"

Kuroko didn't answer. Instead, he staggered out of the room, relieved to see some color on the walls. Aomine's door and Murasakibara's door were closed. Akashi's was open. He could hear signs of life in the kitchen.

The captain was indeed in the kitchen, in the midst of cooking lunch. His expression was calm, though you never knew with Akashi. Of course, Kuroko was not one to talk about facial expressions.

"Tetsuya," Akashi greeted, monotone. "Shintarou has allowed you out of bed?"

"Midorima-kun says I am fine."

"I see." A stretch of long, awkward silence vibrated between them. Akashi whirled around to grab some spices, feeling Kuroko's endless stare. "Is there something you need?"

"I am going out today. Specifically, at seven."

"Go where? You are not allowed to train."

"Coach says there's extra practice today. Seeing that I can't do anything, I thought I would come and observe. I haven't attended a practice in awhile."

Akashi raised an eyebrow, the only sign that he was listening. "Is that wise? Haizaki could go on the move any time now, and your companions are in danger if you get too close to them."

"It is only basketball practice." Kuroko was feeling a bit uncomfortable at the awkward communication between the two of them. Things would probably never be the same. "Or does Akashi-kun not want me to go?"

The redhead said nothing as he turned off the stove and poured the noodles and hot water into a strainer. Wanting to end the conversation, he answered with a terse, "If you happen to be attacked, call for back-up immediately."

"Hai. Thank you, Akashi-kun." Kuroko lingered for a moment before disappearing from the kitchen. He felt uneasy about their strain to communicate.

Akashi listened for the faint steps to fade. That day in the clearing was dominant in his mind. It was not Kuroko's strike that truly bothered him, but his words that cut deep into his thoughts. He shook his head. He didn't have time to think about that. Besides, something about Kuroko's excuse to get out was untruthful.

"Aka-chin?"

"Atsushi." Akashi dumped the cooked noodles in a large bowl and turned off the rice cooker at the same time. Glancing at the sleepy giant, he could detect signs of distress on Murasakibara. "What is it?"

"The one-thousand men that arrived late; they came to Akita instead of here."

Akashi's grip tightened on his spoon. "Jingo," he murmured. "Tell the leaders to station themselves in Kyoto, or they will have to answer to me."

"Mm." Murasakibara gave a loud, wide yawn and shuffled his large body out to the living room.

"Did Daiki check on the reinforcements in Tokyo?"

"No. Mine-chin has been playing basketball all day." He slouched against the couch, his large body limp and lazy. "How boring. Isn't basketball boring, Aka-chin?"

"Hm." Akashi was not listening. His mind was preoccupied by Kuroko.


A monstrous dunk was yet again performed by Aomine. The rim creaked and protested under his immense power. Sweat poured off his skin. He hung onto the rim for several seconds, timing his heavy breathing with each slow second in his head. Quick, strong heartbeats pumped loudly, like a drum that beat continuously. His weight bent the basket forward. Somewhere behind him, the basketball bounced and rolled away.

He detected light, incoming footsteps, and he glanced lazily with the corner of his eyes. "Tetsu." Letting go of the rim, gravity took its toll and he landed on his feet easily. "Why are you here? Midorima actually let you of the house? Does Akashi know?"

Kuroko bent over and picked up the basketball. "Midorima-kun has allowed me to partake in small exercises. As for Akashi-kun, no, I snuck out of the window when I saw Aomine-kun playing basketball."

"That's pretty bold of you." Aomine wiped the sweat from his brow, one hand on his hip as he took deep breaths. "So? Why'd you sneak out?"

"Going out the front door would have been troublesome. It's uncomfortable to talk to Akashi-kun."

He snorted. "Give me the ball."

Kuroko studied the ball in his hands before sending Aomine an accelerated, strong pass. The ganguro, caught by surprise, barely caught it with one hand. "Iteh," he grumbled, shaking his hand. "You look useless in basketball, but I can see how you're a regular."

"It's rare to see Aomine-kun play basketball." The tealhead was surprised Aomine was actually talking more than usual. Basketball must be some sort of comfort to Aomine.

"Really?" Aomine shrugged and formlessly shot the ball into the basket. "Practicing is boring, but there's nothing else to do."

"You're pushing Akashi-kun to his limits." Kuroko watched enviously as the basketball went through the hoop without effort.

He grunted. "A bigger training menu isn't going to rescue Kise."

The air became tense. "Kise-kun is strong," Kuroko tried. "He will be okay. But it won't help if we charge in. We'd only be caught."

"Yeah, yeah, I don't need to be lectured by you." Disgruntled, Aomine picked up the basketball, dribbling it experimentally before bouncing it onto his index finger. It spun obedientally. "Tch, that Akashi. He doesn't even plan to go after Kise. Ah," Aomine threw his head back with a groan. "First he lets Kise get caught, and now—"

"Don't," Kuroko interrupted. "Please don't blame Akashi-kun. It is unfair to do so. Kise-kun's capture was—was not anybody's fault." He sounded like he had to convince himself more than Aomine. "Kise-kun did it to save—"

Aomine growled and threw the basketball hard against the basket's rim. "I know. I know the dumbass had to save me. I know it's my fault that idiot is on the verge of death. Damn it." Lacing his hands behind his head, Aomine bent at the waist, breathing heavily with rage. Kuroko took a step back, unsettled by bluenette's behavior. "That dumbass had to act all heroic. Shit, it would've been better if I was captured! And don't say it's not better, Tetsu," he cut off Kuroko's response. "Kise, more than Akashi, is the person Haizaki hates the most. Do you really think Haizaki would let him live if he had no use for him? Kise isn't going to make it through Haizaki's torture. Have you forgotten how he can make his victims beg for death?"

"Why is everybody blaming only themselves?" Kuroko countered, his voice quiet yet strong. It was one thing when they blamed someone else, but in the end, everybody around him was burdening themselves with the guilt of Kise. But, he was not one to talk. "Aomine-kun—everyone—is so quick to blame themselves. Why is that? Isn't, isn't the one who you are supposed to blame is me?"

Silence stretched across the basketball court. Aomine dropped his arms from his head and stared at Kuroko, incredulous. Kuroko, having not meant to blurt it out loud, clenched his fists and lowered his head. The ball rolled with the wind and nudged Aomine's foot.

"Ah-h-h!" Aomine slapped a hand over his eyes with a loud groan, effectively startling Kuroko. "Don't tell me you're an idiot, too?" A exasperated, fake laugh rumbled through Aomine's chest. Before Kuroko could reply, Aomine removed his hand to look into his eyes. "Listen here, Tetsu. Haizaki isn't the kind of bastard that would beat around the bush and capture Kise just to lure you in. Yeah, part of the reason is to negotiate a trade." The ball picked up by Aomine bounced back and forth between his hands. "He needs you and your abilities: you're a different, invisible player with an element at your side. But at that warehouse, if he really wanted you that badly, he would have went after you there."

"He went after Kise-kun because he knew all of you would recklessly protect me," Kuroko argued. The basketball soared through the air and suddenly bopped him in the head, hard. Shocked by the pain and action, Kuroko swayed and clutched his wound. "That hurt."

"It's not reckless. The first reason Haizaki went after Kise was for the trade. The second," Aomine ground his teeth. "was to humiliate us."

"Hu . . . miliate?" Kuroko rolled the word off his tongue.

"One of the things Haizaki hates most are the relationships humans make with each other, and the pride and seriousness we have in our jobs. The bastard never really cared he was supposed to protect the four energies. He was prepared to get rid of his 'Miracle' title, as long as everything went his way." Aomine shrugged. "Akashi and the rest of us kicked him out. Really, the main reason he created Hanabi was to take revenge on us. Now that he has Kise, he can break the Miracles apart."

Kuroko's fist tightened. Yes, he had considered that factor, and he knew somewhere in the back of his mind that Haizaki's true intentions were not only to control the world, but to break and crush the Miracles so hard it would satisfy his blood-thirst.

"By having us comply to the trade, it'd be the same as surrendering. But, you're right on one part," Aomine released a stream of air. "We shouldn't be sulking or blaming. Haizaki's trying to separate us through blame. That fucking coward." He shook his head.

A gusty wind blew over them, reminding Kuroko that he had gone out without a sweater. He didn't try to hide his smile when he said, "Aomine-kun can be very stupid."

"Wha, Tetsu, you-!"

"But," Kuroko interrupted. "We have to blame someone for Kise's incident to ease our nerves. Blaming the manufactures who made that steel wall and Haizaki will be enough, right?"

Aomine blinked repeatedly, processing the spoken words. Then, he scoffed and held up his hands. "Come on, Tetsu, let's play one-on-one."

"No, thank you."

"Wha—"

"Aomine-kun would destroy me."

Unbeknownst to them, Akashi stood outside on the patio, observing the two with a calm gaze. He had been rewriting everybody's training menu in the living room when Aomine's voice was picked up by his ears. Interested, he listened discreetly.

A miniscule, thoughtful smile curved onto the lips of Akashi.


"You're meeting that Bakagami?" Aomine asked as Kuroko shrugged on his jacket. "I remember him, that jerk from the dinner."

"I would appreciate it if you would not call my teammate a 'jerk', Aomine-kun. Or add onto his name." He slipped on his shoes and wrapped the muffler once more around his neck and mouth. After, he adjusted his beanie and pulled on his gloves. It was particularly cold on this Kyoto night. "Tell Akashi-kun I am leaving."

Aomine stuck a pinky in his ear, tweaking it. "Hah? Akashi already left."

"I see. I'll be going." Kuroko opened the door, reluctant to go out in the monstrous winds. Dark grey skies signalled incoming snow. Why did Kagami have to choose this day, of all days?

Aomine blew a long whistle. "Good luck, Tetsu. If it snows, call Murasakibara to pick you up."

"Ah-h-h?" came Murasakibara's protest from the kitchen. "You want me to crush you, Mine-chin?"

Kuroko took a taxi instead of a designated driver by the Akashi residence. The traffic on the Kyoto streets were horrendous, and Kuroko worried he would not arrive on time. Three minutes passed seven, and then six minutes. Sure enough, when he was halfway there, snow started to fall. Small, white flakes of snow attacked the windshield of the taxi.

"You're crazy to be going out tonight, boy," the taxi driver said. "Why are you going to the park at this hour? Your parents allow this?"

"My father has sent me to look for my lost little brother," Kuroko lied, astonished at how easy the lie had escaped his lips. The way the Generation of Miracles lived and acted toward society was rubbing off on him. He used to be an awful liar. It almost scared him how much he had changed.

"Oh, so you're playing the big brother role, are you?" He grunted and pulled over by the sidewalk. "We're here. Be safe on those streets, kid. Your brother, too."

Kuroko gave him some bills. "Thank you very much."

Getting out of the taxi was hard. Howling winds opposed his direction, and snow that made contact with his skin melted into cold water. He pulled the muffler tighter around his neck, covering his mouth and nose from the biting air. Several pedestrians bumped and pushed passed him, desperate to get home before the worse of the storm took over.

The park. Akashi-kun showed me where it was . . . Kuroko kept walking, his vision blurry from the snow. Already his cheeks felt numb. Where is Kagami-k—

An arm gripped Kuroko's shoulder and pulled. His body was propelled sideways. Defense took over Kuroko, and he gripped the attacking hand, twisted it, and shoved the attacker against a concrete wall.

"Kuroko!" Kagami gasped, his cheek squished against the wall. "What—the hell?"

"Kagami-kun." Kuroko released Kagami immediately. "You startled me." He slowly dropped his arms, until he felt a sticky liquid on his fingers. Surprised, he lifted up his hands and saw red. Blood. ". . . Kagami-kun?" The latter turned around, or more like stagger toward Kuroko. Now aware it was his friend, Kuroko was able to see the extent of Kagami's injuries. Blue eyes widened a fraction. "Kagami-kun, what did you do?" His voice sounded almost horrified.

"Why do you automatically blame me?" Kagami grumbled, but he fell to one knee in pain. Two bullet wounds clipped his right shoulder, one bullet right on top of the other. One, thin cut decorated Kagami's cheek. A large gash trickled blood from his left arm, and there was at least one more injury on his stomach, judging from the amount of blood on his shirt. Bruises and scrapes scattered throughout his body. "They came after me."

Kuroko ripped off his scarf without a second's thought and knelt down to press against the bullet wounds. Kagami winced. "Who, Kagami-kun?"

"I don't know," he rasped. "I was in Shiga, ready to go to Kyoto. Then some guys came with guns. They chased me all the way to Kyoto." Strong fingers gripped Kuroko's shirt, staining them with blood. "I don't know what's happening, Kuroko, but I'm being followed. Only now they've attacked me. I'm in danger . . ."

"I would think so, Kagami Taiga." Akashi stepped out from the corner, his eyes bright and narrowed. His red hair blew along with the wind. There was a dagger-like weapon in his right hand. Kuroko's movements stilled from shock. "Son of Kagami Takeshi, the lost American 'Miracle'."


Author


I realize this is short, and I apologize, but I needed it to be in order to break the main events into the way I want it. I also realize it's been ten days since I have updated. I don't know why, but this was actually a really difficult chapter for me I: It was the same feeling when I was writing the court chapter in Betrayal. Well, I got it finished (despite the fact I have been dying from the latest KNB AkaKuro chapters)

This is completely not edited. I post this now because it's a certain someone's birthday. I will edit it as soon as I get back from a little trip I'm going to. Please, please, tell me of typos and grammar mistakes. This will tremendously help me in the editing process.

Also, I've been getting demands of AkaKuro. It will happen. It will happen, but not suddenly.

Thank you! Reviews motivate me, and I am very appreciative of my supporters.

~Virelei