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the Caged Birds of Kirayama

Chapter Text

Silence greets Sugawara inside of Karasuno’s dorm.

No one else is here yet. His relief does nothing to slow the rapid thud of his heartbeat.

He hurries to his bag and stuffs the bronze charm inside just in time. The door behind him opens and a murmur of voices spill inside. He no longer hears the accompanying thunk of the brass against the wood.

Daichi and Asahi wander in together, speaking under their breath, but their conversation comes to a sudden halt when they spot him. “Suga?”

Sugawara turns to them with a smile. “Hey.”

“There you are. I was wondering where you went,” Daichi says, surprised.

“We were looking for you and couldn’t find you,” Asahi explains as he and Daichi drag out their futons, getting ready for bed. “We ran into Hinata and Kageyama, and they were acting pretty strange.”

“Strange?” Sugawara shifts nervously, standing up from where he’d crouched to dig through his bag to help them with the futons. “They were probably trying to sneak into the gym, right?” He tries out a laugh, finding it awkward.

“No, I don’t think so,” Daichi says. “They weren’t anywhere near the gyms. I thought they were with you, so I asked them where you were. They evaded the question… any idea what that was about?” Daichi gives him a purposeful look as they shake the blankets out, and Sugawara avoids looking him in the eye, even as he gives a delightfully puzzled smile in return.

“Hm? I wonder… what could that be about?” He evades it, sounding guilty even to his own ears. They finish with their futons and drag out the rest of them as they talk, preparing them for the other boys.

“I figured you could tell me,” Daichi replies.

“Dunno,” Sugawara shrugs.

Daichi looks like he wants to press the issue when Asahi speaks up again. “Have you been feeling alright, Suga? You’ve had a troubled face on for a while now.”

The question takes him off guard. “Have I?”

“I didn’t want to say anything during dinner... I wouldn’t have wanted to be put on the spot, after all… but I think the others noticed, too.”

Daichi looks over at him and nods. “You’ve been pretty tense since we got here. You aren’t sick, are you? Is it the altitude change?”

“Kuroo mentioned that,” Asahi says. “But… I don’t think it’s that. Suga’s usually the one to joke around, but…” He glances away, like he feels bad for calling his friend out. “You’ve been pretty quiet.”

“True,” Daichi mutters. “You’re usually the least responsible, but you’ve been so serious.”

“I feel like you’re insulting me when you say that,” Sugawara sighs, crumpling against the increased weight of his friend’s concern. ”I guess I’ve had a lot on my mind… but was it really that obvious?”

“Only a bit,” Asahi speaks cautiously, trying not to upset him. “It wasn’t like you were gloomy, per say, but kind of… defeated,”

“Tired,” Daichi nods. “You look worse now than before.”

“Sorry to worry you all,” Sugawara gives a resigned sigh as they sit down together, pulling his knees close to his chest. “But I’m fine, really.”

“Are you sure?” Asahi asks. “If you want to talk about it, it’s not a bother… we don’t mind.”

“You mentioned what Kageyama said on the ride up, earlier. Is that still bothering you?”

Daichi hits the nail on the head and Sugawara can’t restrain his grimace this time. His two friends share a look, surprised. They don’t say anything else—they give him a second of contemplative silence—and that’s all it takes for him to start spilling his guts.

“It’s not that, not exactly. I’ve been thinking about it, but I’ve also been thinking about other things, and… I don’t know, isn’t the atmosphere up here weird? Kageyama even threw up.”

“I haven’t noticed or felt anything,” Daichi murmurs. “I mean, Kageyama is just sick—wait, Suga... does this have something to do with you borrowing the keys?”

Sugawara can’t hide his surprise. “How did you know?”

“I didn’t know. You just told me.”

He groans. “I should probably give those back to you, huh?” As if to make a point, he digs around in his pocket, passing them off with a guilty smile.

“It didn’t help that they acted like they’d killed you and hid your body when I mentioned you,” Daichi deadpans, taking back the keys without much in the way of sympathy.

“So, what were you doing?” Asahi’s innocent bemusement makes ignoring Daichi’s guilting a bit easier. “With Kageyama and Hinata.”

“Hinata wanted to go through one of the old rooms,” Sugawara begins, taking a second to glance over at the door cautiously, worried it might open. He lowers his voice deliberately. “So I took them there and opened the door for him. Kageyama was stuck in the infirmary all day, after all… I couldn’t help myself! It wasn’t fair.”

Daichi has never been more unimpressed. “Like I said, least responsible. And?”

Sugawara’s face drops. He fidgets with his hands in his lap, crossing his legs. “... we found a book. It… gave me the creeps.”

The door opens behind them and Sugawara nearly jumps out of his skin.

“—offered to help, anyway!”

Nishinoya trails in, chattering loudly. A laughing Tanaka follows behind him. “What did you expect to happen? I wouldn’t let you five feet near a stove!”

“I can cook! I cook for myself all the time, and I cook delicious food!”

Tsukishima slips past the two bickering boys, eyebrows raised. “You’ll eat anything. It makes me doubt your standard for delicious food.” Beside him, Yamaguchi stifles a snort of derisive laughter.

“What does that mean? Tsukishima, you got somethin’ to say? And you, Yamaguchi!”

“I agree,” Ennoshita follows behind the first years, walking past the loudly grumbling Nishinoya. “What do you usually make for yourself, anyway?”

“Rice and miso soup!”

“Hinata’s little sister can probably make that,” Ennoshita replies, thoroughly unimpressed. “Is that supposed to be special?”

“You’re going to get it, Chikara!”

Daichi regains Sugawara’s attention with a forced sounding cough. “What were you saying?” His whisper is a polite urge for him to finish explaining.

“Well, we—we found a book. A journal,” He glances at the second years as they rough house, Tsukishima loudly complaining and dodging the attempts to cajole him into joining. As reluctant as Sugawara is to talk about it with the first and second years within earshot, he feels obligated to explain further. “It was… from a student that used to go here.”

Asahi nervously wrings his hands together. “I don’t really like the sound of that. Isn’t it… disrespectful, to dig through people’s possessions…?”

“And?” Daichi prompts Sugawara eagerly, ignoring Asahi.

“It was creepy. I can’t explain it any other way. The contents were… from a disturbed student,” Sugawara sighs, rubbing the back of his neck. Going over it again in his memories makes him feel sick. Asahi was right; it was disrespectful. Sugawara had been too carefree. “They were obviously bullied.”

A silence lapses over the room, and Nishinoya looks over like a cat spotting a mouse.

“What are you guys whispering about?” He asks, bounding toward them with a spring in his step. “Suga, you still feeling sick?”

“H-huh? I was never…”

Tanaka points at him. “There! There’s the ‘Uneasy Suga’ I was talkin’ about. See? Daichi, Asahi, you noticed it too, right?”

“Shut up, Ryuu! You can’t just point it out!” Nishinoya slaps the offending hand away, clearly enraged. “Have some tact!”

Sugawara watches them bicker over the possibility of having offended him and heat rushes to his cheeks. He was bothering them all, wasn’t he? Nishinoya always disguised his worry with jokes and light-hearted antics—the fact that Sugawara has been so transparent that it’s come to this is horrifically embarrassing.

He goes bright red, and not a second longer do they argue before Nishinoya spots it and smacks his friend with a “Ryuu, look!”, effectively drawing his attention to their upper classmate’s embarrassment.

“... Suga? What’s up, man?” Tanaka asks, real worry etched in the furrow of his brow, the downturn of his lip.

The room is quiet and stays that way until Sugawara speaks up.

“I’ve been really selfish, huh?”

The second years are quiet. Everyone is quiet. Yamaguchi and Tsukishima glance over from where they stand by their bags.

“What was in that book?” Daichi weighs every word with a deliberate caution. The other boys stare at him, but don’t say a word. It lances Sugawara through the heart that even though the second years don’t get it, they don’t ask for clarification. They just wait.

“... whoever wrote it was clearly bullied. They detailed several events… me and Kageyama read them aloud.” He expects judgement for the callous act, but no one says anything—no one makes a face at him. “And there were these pentagrams, these circles… there were things written in a different language.”

“What language?” Asahi asks, clearly unsettled.

“I don’t have a clue; none of us could tell.”

“None of us—meaning you, Hinata and Kageyama?” Ennoshita asks from Asahi’s side, having drawn closer during the course of Tanaka and Nishinoya’s arguing.

He nods. “One was on the front page of the book, and the other was on the back of a polaroid. The journal was full of pictures. I thought he must have been a photographer, but… I don’t know. He never mentioned it. Over time, the photos… started to change. It’s hard to explain.”

“They got creepy,” A voice mutters from the shadows, and everyone jumps a half foot in the air.

“When the hell did you two sneak in?!” Tanaka shouts, a hand clutching his chest. “Nearly gave me a heart attack…” He grumbles, trailing off weakly.

Kageyama and Hinata stride forward from the shadows of the doorway, both seeming nervous, but determined.

“Sorry, you two,” Sugawara murmurs, flush creeping up his neck. “I ended up spilling it myself.”

“No, I would have told somebody anyway,” Kageyama admits without hesitation, or even the barest hint of guilt. Sugawara decides not to say anything about that.

Reluctantly, Asahi asks: “What do you mean by ‘they got creepy’?”

“I don’t know,” Kageyama shrugs. “They just changed.”

“The quality of the photos degraded, and some of them were marked. Like I said, one of them had a pentagram on the back. I… don’t remember what that one even looked like. I avoided it,” Sugawara explains.

“Nishimoto said he hid things, in the floorboards and closets and stuff,” Hinata pipes up, filling in the missing blank that Sugawara had struggled to avoid remembering—or mentioning.

“Like what?” Nishinoya is curiously calm, contrary to the wary caution of the others. “Did it say?”

“Stuff like knives,” Hinata says, and Sugawara wishes he hadn’t.

Knives?” Daichi is incredulous—and by rights, he should be. Sugawara can’t believe it, and he’d read it himself. “What do you mean, knives?”

“It sounded to me like he wanted to kill somebody,” Kageyama says, speaking in Hinata’s stead. “He was bullied by a girl and her classmates, so he probably wanted to get rid of her.” When everyone stares at Kageyama blankly, he scratches his cheek awkwardly. “... I was just following the narrative.”

“Even if I am kind of proud you know what that means, it’s not a story on a test,” Ennoshita scolds him gently.

“Are you sure it wasn’t a novel after all?” Tsukishima speaks up, discontent with staying silent now that Kageyama and Hinata have joined the discussion. “You didn’t pick up a book and mistake it for a journal, did you?”

His snide attempt at mocking Kageyama’s intelligence even now irritates Sugawara more than it should. He shuts it down as quickly as he can. “It wasn’t a novel. The way it was written was unmistakably from a student of this high school. We found a photo album with his name on it.”

Hinata gives Tsukishima a haughty smirk like he’s trying to say take that! and Kageyama doesn’t even spare a glance his way.

“So you found this journal and read it—then what?” Nishinoya asks, bringing their focus back around.

“That’s just it. Nothing. We just put it down and left. I didn’t want to stay there anymore.”

He looks around at the faces of his teammates—everyone is unsure, shifting around and looking at each other like they’re not quite ready to take things seriously yet, still expecting someone to spout an answer, or laugh and say ‘we got you!’, but there is no punchline, and as far as Sugawara can tell, there is no answer to this mystery.

“Well, it’s not like we can do anything about it now. Even if he was planning on killing someone, that was twenty years ago.” Tsukishima summarizes Sugawara’s thoughts and delivers the blow in a smooth, nonchalant tone of voice, like they’re discussing the weather.

He can’t leave it at this.

“There was… something else,” Sugawara starts, glancing over to where his bag sits with a sense of both guilt and deep dismay. He wants desperately to ignore it, or pass over it—but there’s something inside of him telling him that doing that is wrong. It assaults him like a headache or a sickness, slowly strengthening his resolve. “There was a brass charm. It was… hanging on the door knob. I took it off.”

Nishinoya breaks the tense silence following that. “I never noticed something like that... why did you take it off?” He sounds innocently curious, and somehow, that absolves some of Sugawara’s shame.

Without a word, Sugawara stands and makes his way over to his bag, fishing the ornament out and bringing it over. He sits with his legs tucked neatly underneath him and places it in front of him. Hinata makes a small noise, recognizing it instantly.

“That’s like the other circles,” He says, and Sugawara sweats. “I knew I saw something like it before! But it’s not really the same… it’s got a picture of a scorpion?”

“Is that what it is?” Kageyama tilts his head. “It looks like a lobster to me.”

“Kageyama, you idiot, how the heck is that a lobster— ouch! Don’t hit me out of the blue!”

“Knock it off,” Daichi warns before returning his attention to the charm. He picks it up to examine it, and everyone draws closer like that’s permission to inspect it themselves.

After a long moment of silent contemplation, Tsukishima speaks up. “The writing is in hebrew.” Everyone looks at him in astonishment, and he seems almost—put off? “Don’t look at me like that.”

“How can you tell?” Sugawara asks, stunned.

“I’ve seen it once before. I’m really just guessing,” he adjusts his glasses with a surly shrug. “This isn’t a pentagram, though. Is this really what the other circles looked like?”

“They had triangles in them and stuff,” Hinata says, peeking at Tsukishima with an undisguised curiosity. “You know everything, don’t you?”

“I know more than you,” He says, and he’s so smug it should be annoying but the pinch in Sugawara’s chest lessens, just a bit, the tension of the atmosphere easing with that small interaction between the two of them. He lets go of the breath he was holding. “Anyway, this is a pentacle. Don’t ask me to read it.”

“Just read it, you show off!” Nishinoya cheerfully bumps Tsukishima’s elbow.

“I can’t read hebrew.”

“Well, that’s lame. Anyone know what it means?” Nishinoya asks, and everyone shakes their head—no. No one has a clue what it means. “Okay—so maybe someone from Nekoma or Fukurodani would know.”

“If you’re going to ask someone, it should be Takeda,” Tsukishima says, giving a nasally little exhale, like it’s obvious.

“But we snuck into that room?” Hinata points out. “We would get in trouble.”

“That’s something you should be used to by now, though.” Tsukishima deadpans.

“Suga,” Daichi begins, tapping the charm. “This was on the knob of this door, right?”

“Yes,” He nods, warily looking between him and the charm. “It was.”

“Then you could ask,” he says, “since it wasn’t in that room, no one would get into trouble.”

“It would be hard to explain,” Sugawara rebukes that suggestion, but it’s not like he isn’t considering it. “... but you’re right.”

“Listen,” Ennoshita starts, and everyone does listen, turning their heads curiously at his suddenly strict tone. “I’m not saying it’s not creepy, but if someone put that there, then they probably did it for a reason. I think we should put it back where it was.”

“I agree,” Asahi immediately says, sounding horribly nervous. “This is like—like kokkuri, isn’t it? Or—”

“That’s an urban legend,” Daichi says, sounding exasperated. “This is something different. I don’t have a clue what, but it’s not that.”

“Isn’t it kind of like witchcraft?” Yamaguchi suggests timidly. “The writings, and the circles and stuff, I dunno… it’s spooky, isn’t it?” He looks at Tsukishima helplessly. Tsukishima doesn’t say a thing.

“Then if it’s witchcraft, we really shouldn’t anger anyone,” Asahi mumbles, growing frantic. “Seriously, guys, let’s put it back. What if we get cursed?”

“Man up, Asahi!” Nishinoya shouts, making the older and bigger boy jump in fright. “That stuff isn’t real! Curses don’t exist, and witches don’t either. That stupid charm doesn’t scare me, and it shouldn’t scare you, either!”

“But, I mean, what if, there’s a chance after all, isn’t there—”

“There’s no chance!” Nishinoya is getting heated. “If I can’t see it, it isn’t real!”

“I agree,” Tsukishima mutters in a monotone. Nishinoya turns to him and pats him hard on back.

“See, Tsukishima’s a real man!”

“Don’t make it angry!” Asahi shudders, wrapping his arms around himself defensively. “You shouldn’t mess with spirits...!”

“Even I can’t say we should inflict curses on ourselves,” Tanaka grumbles, not quite nervous, but not nearly as assured as he’d usually be. “It’s kind of creeping me out, too.”

“We’ll put it back,” Daichi announces, voice booming. That shuts everyone up; he turns to Sugawara with an apologetic smile, lowering his voice. “... I’m sorry, Suga. I know you don’t want to, but… I don’t think we should touch this. Whether or not there’s anything spiritual going on.” He gives Asahi a piercing glance, as if to tell him to shut up. “It’s more likely to upset Takeda if he notices it missing.”

“No, no—I’m fine with it. I was acting on impulse when I took it down, so—I’m sorry to inconvenience you all.” He forces himself to smile. He’s exhausted with this, and he doesn’t want to think anymore. “We should go to bed and forget about all of this.”

Even saying it feels wrong, but no one protests to that. He stands up and, with Daichi, steps outside. They wrap the charm back around the door knob.

They stare at it together, transfixed by the swaying motions. It doesn’t look right. The knot in Sugawara’s chest tightens. This can’t be right.

His anxiety is asphyxiating him, and Daichi can tell.

Daichi rests a hand on the small of his back and steers them aside, away from the door, allowing Sugawara a quiet moment to lean into his shoulder.

“Are you really okay?” He asks, just resting his hands on Sugawara’s back.

“Give me a second.”

He does. Daichi gives him a second. They breathe together in the serene darkness of the empty common room and Sugawara empties his mind of everything. Of the journal, of the photos, of the fragmented worries and the restless anxiety swirling in his head. Bit by bit, breath by breath, it seeps out of him and into the open, empty air.

It’s so cold. He shivers faintly. The moon is obscured by clouds. It’s so much darker without it.

“I’m okay,” he says, pulling away reluctantly and only when he knows he’s overstepping his bounds by lingering further. Daichi raises a hand and touches his cheek, and then his warmth is gone.

“Then let’s go back in,” He smiles, genuine and heartbreakingly fond. Sugawara follows, as he always has—and as he always will.

Outside, it begins to rain.

 

 

After the Karasuno team clears out of the cafeteria, the Nekoma and Fukurodani teams gather together. The other coaches wave goodnight, leaving Nekomata to lock up after the children.

Nekoma eventually realize it’s about time to head up to bed when their coach wanders over and takes a seat at the end of their table.

“How do you boys like it here?” He asks, drawing their attention.

“Hmm, it’s cool,” Inuoka says, excitedly gesturing. “I really like it here! I’m just glad to be playing against Karasuno again!”

Nekomata is nodding. “They are a strong team, and we were lucky Takeda was able to secure this place for the camp. But he did owe us one,” Nekomata laughs dryly, the comment going over the team’s collective head.

Kenma raises his head as if he wants to say something, biting his lower lip in hesitation. Nekomata notices his unusually strained expression and calls out to him. “Kenma, what’s the matter?”

After an awkward beat of silence, he reluctantly speaks up. “I… had a question.”

“Go on then!”

“Why is the abandoned gym locked up?”

Nekomata hums thoughtfully, placing a hand on his chin in consideration. “I’d say it’s because you aren’t allowed in. It’s not safe. You should remember what Takeda said about it.”

“I do remember,” Kenma murmurs. “But it’s excessive… the padlock is extreme.” A pause. “That’s just what I think.”

“Ah, that, eh? I guess I should have expected one of you to notice it eventually.”

He pauses after an uncomfortable laugh. Kenma doesn’t say anything, and it’s obvious he wants to ask more or push further. His silence is just another way of doing that.

“That’s just to keep people out,” Yaku tries to fill the awkward silence, aware that Kenma isn’t particularly skilled at talking to adults. “It might look a little extreme, but if it’s for safety…”

“No, it’s not necessary at all,” Nekomata’s blunt admission takes Yaku by surprise. He places both elbows on the table, drawing their full attention as he leans in conspiratorially. He lowers his voice to a whisper.

“Okay. If I tell you boys a secret, can you keep it?”

Yaku glances over at the Fukurodani team, bustling with laughter and chatter. He nods—everyone does. Kuroo crosses his arms with a complex expression on his face, as if interest and doubt are pulling him in conflicting directions.

“The truth is…” Nekomata taps the table with his index finger. “This place has a lot of bad rumors. You’ve all heard the ghost stories surrounding our school and other schools, I’m sure.”

“Those are just urban legends,” Kenma mutters. Yaku supposes he must feel made fun of, for something like this to be brought up. “They aren’t real.”

“Oho, but that’s where you’re wrong! The curses that unhappy spirits leave behind are strong. They’re stronger than any of you realize. An evil spirit can grow stronger just by having their name spread around in the form of myth, or legend. There will always be those who believe, even if they say they don’t.”

At that, he gives Kenma a pointed stare. The young setter shifts uncomfortably and looks away.

“Disbelief is powerful, but belief is even more powerful. Really, kids your age are the most gullible… that’s why ghosts gather in schools and why a lot of urban legends are told to children.”

Kuroo smirks dubiously. “Then how could a place like this be cursed? I haven’t heard a single rumor about this school. Following your logic, the more people that know about it, the more real that curse becomes, right?”

“Oh yes,” Nekomata nods deeply, flitting over Kuroo’s obvious derision. The other team’s chatter has lulled to a suspicious quiet. “I’m about to tell you that rumor now. If even one person knows, it always spreads, after all. I’m sure by the time you leave, you’ll have an interesting ghost story to tell your friends.” A rumbling laugh. “Are you all listening?”

Absorbed in the atmosphere, everyone leans in, even Kuroo. Yaku wonders if that was enough to convince him.

“I read up on this place as soon as Takeda told me we’d be coming up here. There were mostly news reports on the landslide, as you already know, but when I dug deeper, a few other things came up—”

“The landslide was just one part of why everyone left, right?” Yaku murmurs, remembering the conversation they’d had before heading up the mountain. “That’s unsettling by itself.”

“Exactly! It’s worrying. You don’t need a curse or a ghost to be unsettled by this place. That alone is enough to create an energy here.”

“An energy,” Yamamoto repeats, surprisingly captivated. “For, what, the spirits to feed off?”

“An energy is just that—an energy. All large buildings or gatherings of people have energies built up, from emotions and experiences of the people there. But that’s not the point.”

“That’s kind of cool, but mostly scary,” Inuoka says, transfixed.

“Terrifying! Anyway, after the landslide, the consensus was that the mountain itself was cursed and that the next time a disaster occurred, it would hit the school itself. Now, now, don’t worry; that just won’t happen. The mountain is safe. Those were just a few baseless rumors. But there were different rumors. Children had supposedly been spirited away. I thought that it was nonsense… but,” He taps his finger on the table again. “I found the ‘reality’ behind the rumor of the curse. There was a record of missing students.”

“Wait,” Yaku blurts. “You’re saying a few kids actually went missing?”

Nekomata has a gravely serious expression on his face. He nods slowly. “There were detailed reports. It happened days before the landslide.”

“What… how did they go missing? Did they run away?” Inuoka’s voice quakes uneasily.

“That’s just the thing, you see? I also thought that perhaps the children had run away, and that the idea of a curse was facilitated by the school and the media to hide that truth. But the police investigation went nowhere. They managed to determine a few things: it happened in the middle of the night. No one saw or heard anything, and there was no evidence of foul play. The student’s bodies were never found.”

“They disappeared into thin air?” Inuoka breathes.

“They were spirited away,” Nekomata solemnly nods. “That was exactly what happened. No evidence of their departure.”

“Are you saying a ghost did this—what, placed a curse on the mountain to punish intruders?” Yaku asks, clearly skeptical.

“I’m not saying anything. But it’s interesting, isn’t it? Mysterious, how they just disappeared. What could have caused that other than the supernatural?”

Their coach leans back, as if to allow that information to settle in. The smile he wears is smug, but the information is admittedly scary. Yaku crosses his arms, thinking it over. He’d heard about this sort of thing before, even mentioned it to Sugawara, but the fact that it’s being brought up for the second time today, and by their coach… it makes him feel uneasy.

“You are saying ghosts are real.” Kuroo sounds distinctly unimpressed.

“That’s up to you to decide.”

Nekomata looks around at them all, serious expression wavering. He breaks the sullen silence with a roar of a laugh, slapping his knee with a good-natured grin.

“You’re all so young and so gullible! That’s the story of this school,” He says, gesturing to the space around them. “But that kind of rumor is a rumor you can find anywhere. Truly, truly, it’s something you have to decide for yourself.”

Kuroo seems put out. Inuoka is stunned. Across from them, Fukurodani is muttering amongst themselves conspiratorially. Nekomata stands from his seat, cracking his back with a groan. “Now, I believe I’ve left everyone waiting long enough. You should all get a good night’s rest.”

“Wait,” Kenma softly protests, meeting his coach’s eyes over the heads of his muttering teammates. “You never answered my question.”

“About what?”

“The gym.”

Nekomata’s smile doesn’t falter, but it no longer reaches his eyes. “The floorboards are rotting. It’s a precautionary measure against nosey kids who want to wander around even when they’ve been told they’re not allowed to. We have a liability to keep you safe.”

Kenma holds his gaze for a long second, seeming undisturbed by the bustling chatter of his teammates, who are all busy discussing the story. He shrugs, eventually accepting it. “I see.”

Nekomata waves goodnight to the remaining students still paying attention to him and leaves without another word. Kenma’s eyes follow his back until he disappears.

Beside him, Kuroo heaves a dramatic sigh, languidly stretching. “Ah, geez! Now everyone’s going to have nightmares about getting cursed, huh?”

“I don’t think that will be a problem,” Kenma murmurs, drawing the attention of his friend and his teammate, Yaku. The others continue to blabber worriedly. “It might be exciting to talk about, but until a ghost appears in front of us, I don’t think anyone would be likely to believe something so juvenile. Um,” He looks up, watching as Inuoka clings to Yamamoto as he tries to stand from the table, blubbering shamelessly. “I’d want to think so, at least...”

“True,” Kuroo laughs. “It’s hard to believe in urban legends in this modern world if you’re not a little kid or a delusional adult. It’s impossible to take seriously.”

“Do you think it’s true?” Yaku whispers. “I mean, the part about the missing students?”

“I dunno,” Kuroo shrugs in response, a worried look on his face. “Maybe. Even if we look it up when we get back, there’s nothing we can do to confirm it right now.” He glances over at the Fukurodani team and groans. “That old man had to put ideas in their heads, huh? It seems like even Fukurodani heard. I don’t want to hear that owl crying about ghosts.”

“I’m more worried about how everyone else is taking it,” Yaku agrees. “Once you hear a story like that it’s hard to forget, even if you don’t think it’s real.”

“It is kind of scary,” Kenma murmurs.

Kuroo peers at Kema, a complex expression on his face. “Kenma, don’t tell me you’re taking it seriously?”

“No, it’s just… I think it’s kind of fun,” He smiles. “To pretend that it’s real.”