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Allies

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They fall in step with the ease of people who have been fighting with and against each other for years. For they have, Daichi and Kuroo, Karasuno and Nekoma, they were allies before they had allies. Somehow, he has forgotten such a basic, important fact. He has forgotten this one truth, this single certainty in the world of full lies and uncertainty he has come to hold on to in his and his family’s most difficult times.

Nekoma would always stand by Karasuno.

The least he and Karasuno can do is to do the same for Nekoma. But he had let himself be swayed, giving into his doubts just because of some disagreement and misunderstanding that could be easily settled if he was more willing to listen, to understand.

He is the one to put them in this position, separated from their guardians, fighting for their lives against enemies intent on killing them by using excessive number and force. He was prepared for Kuroo to throw him an I-told-you-so remark and he would not dispute him. But instead, the Nekoma boss simply put his back against him and threw a wall of fire around them to give them time, quiet and focused as his Mist flames surrounded him. He couldn’t help the flutter and the warmth in his chest at the sight despite the guilt and loathing threatening to devour him. He owed the other man and his family more than just an apology. He would make things right between them. He would make sure of it. With that resolution, he fell easily into hyper dying will state, pressing his back against Kuroo and taking a fighting stance. When he snapped his eyes open, Sky flames burned brightly in his eyes and on his hands. Together, back-to-back, the two young leaders took on the overwhelming odds.

Daichi isn’t sure how long they have been fighting and evading their relentless pursuers. It might have been minutes or hours, he cannot tell with how persistent their attackers are. It seems one down only for another to take their place. They have agreed to keep moving and looking to regroup with their guardians. Kuroo managed to contact his guardians, thanks to Nekoma’s new, advanced technology, and decided on a meeting point for them to regroup and get to pickup point. They found out that their guardians had paired off like they did, to their relief, but also had the same problem with they did, unable to shake their attackers off and being kept from getting to the others. Daichi and Kuroo exchanged a grim look at that, realizing how serious and determined their enemies were to take them out of the picture.

Daichi follows Kuroo’s lead as he gets them through the path with the least resistance with the assistance of who is likely Kozume in his ears. The men are easier to handle now they are the ones choosing the place to fight. Somehow each of Karasuno’s guardians gets paired up with Nekoma’s, so neither Suga nor Asahi are flying blind in the chaos. He counts his blessing in this clusterfuck. He is taken out of his musing when he feels his intuition flared up. He avoids a punch to his face and takes out another’s knee under him, but the warning is still there. He spreads out his awareness as he is taught, while his body keeps moving and fighting.

Something… Somewhere… But before he can pinpoint the source of the danger

“Sawamura!”

he finds himself being pushed to the ground, barely catching himself on the hard asphalt at the unexpected force and weight on top of him.

“Kuroo, wha-!” His surprised yell is cut off when he hears the familiar zing of a bullet far too close for comfort and the resulting boom and destruction from where the bullet hits. Daichi lets out a loud curse at the realization that they have a sniper who is a flame user targeting them. He lets out another when his intuition warns him another bullet is coming their way. He pushes against Kuroo, but the other man doesn’t budge despite Daichi having more weight on him.

Move!” Daichi is prepared to use his flame-enhanced strength, only to freeze when he catches an impossible sight at the corner of his eyes. Kuroo’s eyes are not burning indigo, which is typical of Mist flame. They are burning orange, which is not typical of Mist flame.

That’s not possible. There’s only one flame burns that color.

Wide-eyed and breathless with surprise and confusion, he watches in slow motion how those orange–orange, he keeps repeating in his mind, as though it will changeflames gather in the air… and stop the bullet in its tracks and have it returned to where it comes from from one breath to the next. He won’t realize what is happening if he hasn’t been closely paying attention. For all he know, there’s a sudden stop of barrage of bullets. Before he can gather himself, Kuroo pulls him up by the arm, strong and sure, and pushes him in front of him.

“We need to go.” With Kuroo behind him, Daichi cannot see his face. There are so many things he wants to say, but he knows better that this is not the time and place. They are still not out of danger. 

Only now that they are moving again, he realizes that the area they are currently in is surprisingly open with higher ceiling and less obstruction around them. He strongly doubts that Kozume led them to this place without counting on the possibility of a sniper. This means that their enemies are more coordinated than they realize and they should not give them time to spring another trap like before. They skid to a stop when they are close to the meeting point right behind a pillar with good vantage point, not wanting to give away their position and plan in case of watching eyes.

“The others are still on their way.” Kuroo says after they catch their breath. Despite having better stamina than most and having each other to watch their backs, it hasn’t been easy fending off their attackers, especially when they’re trying not to kill them when the other side has no such inhibition. Kuroo doesn’t have such constraint, but he has followed his lead. It is his Mist illusions that make it possible for them to prevent high casualty, but it is also why between the two of them he’s the most drained out of flames. However, when Daichi looks at him, Kuroo is much too pale and clammy for mere exhaustion.

Before Daichi can say anything, his senses catch the familiar presence of Suga and Asahi. At the same time, Kuroo receives the confirmation as he straightens up next to him. In wordless agreement, they break into a run. For a while, they fend off the attacks on their own until soon they are joined by their guardians who immediately flank them as they move out towards the pickup point.

Daichi exchanges relieved gazes with his friends and guardians as they don’t seem to have been injured badly. Suga looks rather winded with only shallow scratches on his body. Asahi is better off but seems worse with the gash on his head, the only injury he can see. He is surprised to find that both of his guardians manage to pair up with Nekoma’s guardian they work best with. Suga with Yaku and Asahi with Kai. Himself with Kuroo. Inwardly he wonders what the chances are for them to end up in advantageous pairing in such commotion. He doesn’t let himself wonder for long, pushing his senses and his flames to the limit as they are now in the open in order for their family to get them.

They don’t need to wait long, two black SUVs zoom into the area in full speed, skidding into a stop with a screech and in a V-formation to give them cover. Tanaka comes out from the car to get them to safety as Yamamoto does the same in the other car. Daichi’s guardians close in on and around him, pushing him into the car before he realizes that he is separated from Kuroo.

“Chikara, drive!” Daichi should be worried that Chikara’s the one driving, but instead he feels dread gnawing his insides the moment he lost sight of Kuroo.

“Daichi, what are you doing?” Asahi pulls him back, Daichi doesn’t realize that he has been trying to reach the door until Asahi’s panicked voice break through his stupor.

“Wait,” without preamble Suga takes his jacket off him, hands on his back.

“Suga?!”

“There’s blood on your back.”

“What? How? I’m not injured.” Daichi should have felt it by now if he was. Wordlessly Suga shoves the jacket at him, flipping it over to show a suspicious stain on its back. With trembling fingers he touches the fabric only to find them wet and coated with red.

His mind flashes back to the warmth and weight pressed on his back, keeping him down to the ground. His blood freezes in his veins at the realization.

Kuroo.

Chapter Text

“Kuroo!” Kuroo barely manages to keep himself from groaning in pain when he feels hand pressed against his bleeding chest. He knows his injury is bad and it will be worse if Yaku attempts to heal him. Fortunately his reflexes are still sharp as he manages to seize his Sun guardian’s wrist and stop him from using his flames.

Don’t.” He can taste blood on his tongue as he rumbles the command. Unsurprisingly he receives the full brunt of Yaku’s fearsome glare at the action.

“What the fuck are you stopping me for?”

“It’s Cloud fragmented bullet.” That stops Yaku cold, his eyes wide with shock and realization. Fragmented bullet is dangerous enough that they shatter upon impact, and most often inside the victim. Cloud-imbued fragmented bullets though, they don’t just shatter, they multiply, thanks of the flame’s unique propagation properties.

And damned they multiply. Kuroo can testify to that, he’s been feeling the pain since he was hit. At first he could easily ignore it as a prickling sensation in his chest, but eventually it grew into a constant stabbing pain that he finally understood as the fragments further multiplying and embedding themselves in his flesh. Sun flames with their activation properties would only accelerate the process and kill him.

Shit.” Yaku jerks his hand away from his bleeding wound as though he fears accidentally using his flame. “Kai!” Kai takes Yaku’s place, his face unusually grave as he gently places his hand on his chest and closes his eyes to concentrate better especially with Yaku yelling at Fukunaga to floor it and his quiet and careful guardian, actually flooring it. He cannot help the twitching of his mouth in amusement at the simultaneous sounds of seat belts clicking. He might be injured but he still has his sense of humor, if anything his ability to find anything amusing gets better the worse the situation gets. It helps to reduce the tension and if it never fails to annoy the hell out of the all too serious people around him, it is a plus.

Kuroo bites back a sigh of relief as he can feel the cool flames finding the fragments one by one, nullifying the Cloud flames and stopping the fragments from further multiplying. It is a delicate and dangerous process, when the Rain flames’ properties are also capable of stopping living cells, but control of their flames is what Nekoma prides themselves in. It is what Nekoma excels in. He would have tried to help, but it takes all of him to remain still and conscious.

“Kuro.” Kuroo doesn’t realize he has closed his eyes until he blinks his eyes open. Kai still has his eyes closed with a furrow on his brow as he pushes his flames further inside his chest. Yaku has pushed his sleeve up and placed on his arm some sort of device he found in the opened first aid kit. Neither is speaking, focused on whatever they are doing. It is not their voice he is hearing.

“’m here.” His voice has grown weaker, but he is sure that the sensitive piece of tech he is wearing is able to catch it and reassure his best friend and right-hand man as he can hear the underlying worry and fear he catches from that one word.

“Do you know this is going to happen?” Always asking the right questions, Kuroo thinks fondly. He catches how everyone in the car seems to freeze at the question, which means that their exchange is overheard by the others. He doesn’t like to worry his family, but he knows that the last thing they need is to be kept in the dark.

“All I know is-” breathing is getting a bit difficult now, “-that the mafia will fall into chaos… if anything happens to Sawamura.” Karasuno is a tight-knit family, and Daichi is more than just their boss. He is the only reason why Karasuno manages to rein themselves in. Without him, Karasuno will not hesitate to exact revenge to every single person and family involved.

Suga might look like an angel, but he has a vindictive streak, and Azumane doesn’t take any slight towards his family lying down. They have Ukai Jr. but he doubts the advisor will stop them, having no love for the mafia. The mafia needs change, Kuroo doesn’t disagree, but forcing change without proper planning will end in disaster. The Karasuno Daichi aspires to be will be gone. The mafia will change, but not necessarily for the better.

“And nothing will happen if it’s you?“ The low, venomous growl that comes through the earpiece shocks them. Kenma can raise his voice in the rare times he is annoyed, but he is very rarely, if ever, truly angry.

“…Because I ask you to.“ Even without looking Kuroo knows how his family reacts to his words. He never demands their obedience. He requires little from his family but for few rules they are not allowed to break and have to uphold. He asks less for himself, always for the family. They can refuse his orders for good reason, and they have, but they never turn down his request, when he allows himself to be selfish.

Tetsurou.” He can count the times Kenma calls him by name, but this is the first he has heard it is spoken with so much emotion. It is as though he is close to tears. The realization hurts much more than the bullet does. He doesn’t intend to die, but he is aware of the possibility. He is prepared for it, and he wants the same for his family.

He breathes in and out, in and out, reaching for the flames within him, its warmth clearing the haze from his mind and muting the pain in his chest.

“We… are blood. We must flow without stopping.”

His vision slowly gets dimmer, and then… darkness.

 

***

 

Yaku doesn’t immediately realize that Kuroo has fallen unconscious, so lost in the comforting and reassuring warmth of his words until the device shrieked in alarm. He should have felt afraid and panicked at the dropping blood pressure, but all he can feel is calm. In the back of his mind, he recognizes this as the effect of Sky flames.

“He’s going into shock. Status.” Yaku commands into the earpiece, knowing everyone is listening in. He quickly snatches the oxygen can from the kit and put its mouthpiece over Kuroo’s face.

“We’re coming in hot.” Yamamoto gives the first good news he hears all day. He can see the gates opening ahead, giving them entrance to their safe house. 

“I’ve nullified the last of them.” Kai straightens up, brow decorated with sweat.

“Infirmary fully stocked and ready for surgery. Inuoka and Lev are meeting you in front with the stretcher.” Shibayama reports. Yaku cannot be happier to hear his protégé's voice. He might be the Sun guardian with extensive biological knowledge, Shibayama is still the one with formal medical education. Between the two of them, Kuroo's chances are looking better. Yaku doesn't fail to realize that somehow all of the inner circle manages to come together despite not being in the nearby area. He glances at his leader wondering how much it is Kuroo's foresight and how much it is their family's love and loyalty.

Fukunaga manages a smooth stop. The doors to the backseat opens up to the sight of the tall youngest members with a stretcher between them. In a perfect coordination, they manage to transfer Kuroo smoothly from the car and wheel the stretcher towards the infirmary. All the doors are open to make a clear path, most likely due to Kenma. Under the lights, Kuroo looks much worse with his sickly pallor. Yaku grits his teeth, he is not going to lose his friend, not under his watch.

“Stay outside!“ He barks at the others, stopping them dead in their tracks. Yamamoto has mutinous look on his face, but he stops Lev before the younger can start his tirade, recognizing that they are wasting time by arguing.

“Save him.” Yaku hears the plea loud and clear, bolstering his determination.

“I will.“ In record time, he is already cleaned up and changed into surgical scrubs. The body scan is completed when he enters the sterile room. Yaku can’t hold back the curses when he sees the extent of the damage, not only the bullet shards managed to scatter and multiply, they also manage to burrow into important organs and veins. Kuroo must have been in extreme pain and blood loss, but he managed to remain calm and conscious throughout.

Always this kind my ass. That joke has stopped being funny the moment Yaku knew the Nekoma leader better. It has stopped being funny the moment he realized that Kuroo doesn’t believe that he is capable of being kind. You are, you fool.

Once they have opened the chest cavity, Yaku goes to stop the bleeding and repair the damage with his Sun flames while Shibayama takes out the pieces of metal with his Rain flames. In most cases, bullet fragments like these are left in the body so long it’s not endangering the person’s life because they cannot afford removing every single one of them, but in this case, there’s no choice when they are Cloud-imbued. It only takes Sun flames to activate the propagation properties and cause damage once again. They cannot take the risk, not when it’s their boss’ life at stake.

Meticulously they remove the fragments from the vital organs and veins, and quickly heal the damaged parts. Slowly but surely the bleeding is stopped and the blood drained out. Mentor and disciple work flawlessly together with little to no communication between them, completing a task that would have taken ordinary surgeons longer, time that they cannot afford to lose. Regardless, a piercing wail breaks their focus.

Yaku doesn’t need to look at the monitor to see that Kuroo’s heart has stopped beating, and so does his heart. Shibayama, bless that boy, does not stop and stare.

Fuck, fuck, fuck!“ Yaku doesn’t bother to censor himself, snatching the defibrillator Shibayama hands him. Once in place, Yaku gives the heart its first shock.

“No heartbeat,“ Shibayama reports, keeping his eye on the monitor. Yaku gives it another moment before giving second shock to the unmoving organ.

“No heartbeat.“ The young Rain guardian’s voice remain calm, but there’s a forced quality to it. Yaku counts down the second until he gives the third shock, raising his gaze and expecting to be rewarded with a beat and a wave on the heart monitor.

“Still nothing.“ Shibayama turns to look at the Sun guardian, his eyes wide in fear. Making a split-second decision, Yaku shoves the defibrillator at Shibayama and goes to pump the heart with his hand. 

“Come on… Come on…“ Yaku forces himself to remain calm, but the muscles in his hand is terrifyingly still. He recalls everything he knows about human body and Sun flames. Lightning flames might be helpful in this case, but Lev hasn’t achieved the level of control needed for such delicate process. Yaku goes over every flame and its properties only to realize his flame has the best chance. He positions his fingers on the heart nodes respectively, and focuses his flames on the tip of his finger, trying to activate the heart’s natural pacemaker. It’s incredibly difficult to do so while pumping the heart, but Yaku has the best control and concentration of his flames after Kenma who is the natural Mist user, and Kuroo who is capable of using both of his flames at the same time effectively and efficiently, a feat that is unheard of.

“Come on, dammit. Don’t die on me you bastard.“ Yaku can feel tears gathering in his eyes. He is aware of the muffled sobs across him. He has to quash the instinct to comfort the younger man. He is Kuroo’s only chance. The moment he stops, all hope is lost. Seconds, minutes pass with no sign of heartbeat, the sound of the flat-lining heart taunting them.

“Come on, Kuroo!“ Out of desperation, Yaku sends a sharp, concentrated burst of Sun flames into the nodes.

Then he feels it, a minute movement under his hand, followed by a faint chime from the monitor, before the heart beats. Once, weakly. Twice, stronger.

By the third, the heart has beat strongly against his hand that when he slowly releases his grip, it no longer needs his help. The sound of Kuroo’s heartbeat is like music to his ears. When Yaku finally looks up and sees Shibayama teary face, he realizes that he is crying too. They allow themselves a bit respite after the close call, letting the tears run their course and dry out. After they regain their calm, they give each other a nod and finish the surgery.

Yaku makes another scan to make certain they have all damage repaired and all fragments taken out before closing up the breastbone, then the chest. Sun flames ensure no wires and stitches are needed, leaving smooth skin in their wake. He dips his head to Shibayama, smiling tiredly.

“Go tell the others.”

“Yes, Yaku-san!“ Shibayama reverts to his polite self, even going as far as bowing to him before scampering in his haste to share the good news. Yaku’s smile fades as he looks down at the figure on the operating table. Kuroo’s not out of the woods yet. He lost a great deal of blood and his heart stopped beating for far too long. His eyes traced the skin where he previously cut his chest open. 

There’s nothing left to show how close to death his friend is. No, Kuroo has died, he did die. Yaku felt it down in his bones when his friend-brother-leader’s heart stop. He felt the painful loss, the gaping hollowness in his chest that would have sent him on his knees if he wasn’t being obstinate and refused to give up.

It is the trait of his that often exasperates Kuroo, but also the reason why he is the one entrusted to watch over the family, to look after the stubborn people who know not to ask for help in Kuroo’s stead. Only now he realizes the foolish man didn’t include himself in the request. 

“For someone so smart, you’re really stupid.“ Yaku lays his hand on top of Kuroo’s heart, finding comfort and assurance in the steady thrum beneath his palm. “You’re not going anywhere. I- We won’t let you. You hear me?”

“You’re stuck with us, Boss. Live with it.” His voice cracks, tears blurring the sight of the calm, peaceful face of his leader-brother-friend. 

“You hear? Live with it.“

Chapter Text

For the nth time, Daichi subtly checks his phone. Since he was named as the heir and future leader of Karasuno, he has come to keep his phone close to him, turned on and fully charged. He is not allowed to leave anywhere without any means of communication. It is the first and most important lesson in leadership Ukai Ikkei has imparted to Daichi, instilled through the tutelage of his grandson, Ukai Keishin: communication. A leader must not and should not lose touch with his people and his surroundings. He should be able to be approached by the lowest ranked member of the family. He should be able to be reached in any time and in any capacity. He is a leader of an organization, but he is also the head of a family. His family is not limited to those sworn to him, but also to the people who support his family and live in his family’s territory. It is why Karasuno is so strongly established in Miyagi despite the presence of Shiratorizawa and Aoba Jousai, it is because their leaders are respected and admired by their family, mafia and civilians alike.

His ability to be reached also signifies his family that he is there, that he is safe and sound, or as close to it, because having his phone with him indicates that he has means to contact them, and or in worst case scenario that he cannot, they have means to track him and come to his aid. It is why for all their frugality, Karasuno spare no expense in technology, communication technology in particular. It is why he pushes hard for Karasuno to develop their own communication device and have their own technology division, more so seeing that Kuroo managed to start his own. However, with their limited resources, Karasuno has settled on using Nekoma’s device and sending their tech people to learn from Nekoma as part of their alliance agreement, which turns out among his best decisions because Nekoma eventually establish themselves as the forefront of technology for the mafia and knowing the cats, it’s a matter of time before they move beyond the mafia. He has no doubt that Kuroo already laid all the groundwork to make it possible. He’s good at that, finding himself smiling a little at the thought.

"Still nothing from Kuroo?" Daichi looks up at the question to his right-hand man. The rest of the family has vacated the room, leaving only two of them and giving them the privacy Daichi didn’t realize he needed. His family has been sticking close to him since the ambush. He is never alone whenever he goes, even in the compound. It has been too much of a close call. He only realized it after receiving the reports from Johzenji. 

On his way to safety, Daichi took no time to call Terushima and demand for Johzenji’s best to be sent to the area he and his guardians escaped with their life. Considering how well prepared their enemy was, Daichi was certain they would be quick to cover their tracks, if they didn’t hurry there would be nothing left to figure out who might be behind this nefarious plot. Fortunately the Johzenji boss picked up the seriousness of the situation and was nothing but professional as he listened and agreed to his demand. Daichi felt ashamed and guilty for being so curt and demanding afterwards. He always tries to be respectful to everyone, especially to his family and his allies. He makes sure to frame his orders less like a demand and more like a request. But... the moment he saw the blood on his back, he didn’t really care. Someone wanted to kill them, someone nearly killed his family and friends, and someone hurt Kuroo. That someone was not getting away easily. Being polite and respectful was the last thing on his mind.

The decision was proven to be a good call on his part. Johzenji, living up to their new reputation for speedy service, managed to get to the scene before cleanup got underway. They’ve successfully documented all the important details in pictures and bag all the necessary evidence without giving away their presence. When Johzenji went again to scope the area not another hour later, any sign of hostilities were all but gone. No bodies, no wreckage, nothing. The report sent chills down his spine. He already had an inkling back in the middle of fighting for his life, but this confirmed that the enemy they were dealing with was not to be underestimated. Their enemy is not only powerful, they are also smart, and that makes them all the more dangerous. At the realization he couldn’t help making sure over and over again that Johzenji were careful in fulfilling Karasuno’s demand. He doesn’t want any more of his allies pulled into this mess. He doesn’t want to put anyone else in danger, not if he can help it. He has screwed up badly with Nekoma, he won’t repeat the same mistake.

Daichi had initially wanted to make the meeting between himself and Kuroo official, which would not only include their respective inner circle, but also chosen representatives of their family as a gesture of faith and goodwill from both sides. He believed it was necessary to remind their family that they were allies first and foremost, and they would and should always be able to settle their differences peacefully. However, Kuroo had suggested for a preliminary meeting only between them and some of their guardians, where they could speak more freely than they would have in official setting. Daichi didn’t think twice to agree back then, reminded of how badly their last conversation had gone, with raised voices and hurtful words. They needed this conversation far from prying eyes and ears, agreeing upon meeting on neutral grounds with details only known to select, trusted few. He was horrified to think what would happen if Kuroo didn’t make the suggestion and they went ahead to arrange an official Karasuno-Nekoma meeting with so many of their most important members in one place. They would make such an easy target for their enemy.

And yet... with smaller meeting, with fewer people involved, still they were found out. Not only their enemy knew when and where the meeting was about to take place, they also managed to set up an ambush for them. Daichi has complete trust in his guardians, so does Kuroo. Daichi has been careful, and he is certain that Kuroo has been even more so, considering that he was the one who urged him caution before the meeting and later on brought up the possibility of an outsider trying to pit them against each other. It can only mean one thing.

They are being watched.

It didn’t take long for Daichi to come that conclusion, and he didn’t need to look at Suga to know that he shared the same suspicion, so were his sharper, calmer guardians when he recounted the event in the emergency meeting. Still, Daichi needed to give the order for the guardians to stand down instead of seeking retribution, and to keep the information strictly among the inner circle, outside advisors included. Johzenji’s reports further solidify the decision. They need to figure out how they are being watched and how to gain and spread information without tipping their watchers. Until then they cannot afford to make any move or give away any sensitive information. They have to keep up the illusion that they remain unaware of outside presence.

It is why he cannot contact Kuroo, however much he’d like to. They don’t know how secure their communication is. He has faith in Chikara and Tsukishima and their technology division, that they can and will find out if someone has been tapping their communication, but Nekoma has superior team and resources, and between the two families, the cats are more likely to have figured out where their enemy get their information from and come up with ironclad measures. He won’t be the one to compromise Kuroo and his family, or any plans Kuroo set forth. Kuroo has to be the one to contact him, and it’s the same for all their Nekoma’s counterparts.

"Nothing from Yaku?" Daichi returns the question to Suga. Only Nekoma and few of their closest allies are aware that Kenma is Kuroo’s right-hand man. The Mist guardian doesn’t like interacting much with people and rather awkward in dealing with pleasantries required and demanded from the position so Yaku takes on the role for him and Kuroo lets the assumption that Yaku is his right-hand man stand, so that most of the mafia know no better. It’s more likely the call to come from Yaku, but if Kenma himself calls... His hand clenches in white-knuckled grip.

"Nothing yet." Suga shakes his head. "Remember what they say: no news is good news." His former vice captain lays a comforting hand on Daichi’s shoulder.

"It’s a fragmented Cloud bullet, Suga. Kageyama and Tsukishima confirmed it." Among the evidence Johzenji picked up and bagged was the bullet taken from the dead sniper.

"And you know how lethal the bullet is. If Kuroo was truly hit by one, he shouldn’t be able to still fight and move. There wasn’t much blood either." Suga’s words should have been comforting, but Suga doesn’t know what he knows. 

That Kuroo has Sky flames.

Daichi has refused to believe it at first, but after the dust has settled and he looked back to that moment in time, he became certain that his eyes didn’t deceive him, nor his intuition. He didn’t notice during the chaos, but his own flames have reacted towards Kuroo’s flames. They sang. They recognize the flames as kindred.

Of all the Dying Will flames, Sky flames are the least known of their origin and application, which is not surprising considering how rare they are, rarer for a family to have a long, unbroken line of Sky flame wielders enough for them to study about them. Fortunately, Karasuno is one of those families, and the only one in Asia. Even though so, their scholars are still unable to pin down what makes Sky flames. The closest description they can come up with of the properties of Sky flames are harmony. Since the Sky flames are the purest and strongest of all the flames, they are of the opinion it is because the Sky flames are actually a uniquely balanced combination of the rest of the flames, thus they have the combined power of all the flames. It is further supported with evidence of Sky flame wielders executing feats that is only known to other flame wielders with their flames, although in a relatively smaller scale. It is not outside the realm of possibility that Kuroo trains himself to use the Mist properties of the Sky flames that he is as proficient as Mist flame wielders. For the same reason, it is also possible that in that split second Kuroo recognized Cloud flames in the bullet, he tried to nullify it using Rain properties. However, unless he trains his Rain as extensively as his Mist, he might only slow the propagation process. He was merely buying himself time.

Time that he might or might not have.

Daichi cannot tell any of this to Suga without betraying Kuroo’s trust. For all the man could talk his ear off with inane details of himself, his friends and family, he rarely speaks anything of true significance especially when it comes to himself. Despite their close and long-standing friendship, Kuroo is slow in sharing himself. He doesn’t give himself freely and easily. He learns more about Kuroo by reading his silence, his unspoken words. He learns how much Kuroo trusts him by counting the growing moments of silence between them. Kuroo can lie and deceive like the best of the mafia, but he never does around him. He might evade or stop the questioning like the sly, slinky cat he is, but he never outright lies to him. How can he forget this? How can he- 

He cannot forget the sad, resigned look on Kuroo’s face as he threw accusation after accusation, as he expressed his disbelief and disappointment that he and Nekoma were capable of such reprehensible acts. He has let his anger cloud his judgment. He didn’t give Kuroo chance to explain himself, unwilling to be reasoned. He cannot forget the cold, steely look in those golden eyes when he crossed the line by questioning Nekoma’s morality and integrity, before Kuroo finally spoke up, mercilessly cutting him down to size and forcefully ending what was supposed to be a pleasant time between friends and equals. Kuroo didn’t look back when he left. He had all the right to be angry, and to stop talking with him, but Kuroo still picked up the phone and listened to his proposal to end the hostility between their families. He still agreed to the meeting and.... still protected him from the sniper he missed.

How many debts has he accrued to Kuroo? How many apologies does he owe his friend? 

Would he have the chance to pay him back?

Before Daichi can linger at the bone-chilling thought, the doors to his office are thrown open with a loud bang.

"Daichi-san!!" With his typical disregard for formalities, Hinata runs up to his boss, Kageyama following not a step behind, scolding and apologizing for his friend at the same time. However, both Daichi and Suga don’t fail to notice the serious looks on their faces, making them straighten up in attention what might put such expression on the two youngest members of the family.

"ItextedKenma." Hinata says in a rush.

"Hinata-" Daichi instinctively starts scolding the Sun Guardian the moment he figures out what he said.

"I told you not to start with that," Kageyama hisses under his breath, but Hinata is undeterred, talking over them.

"I know! I know I am not to contact Kenma or Inuoka or Lev or anyone from Nekoma, but I thought a message should be safe because the app I have is the latest one from Nekoma, still the beta version from Kenma himself. I know I’m not the smartest, but I do know enough that beta version is safer than released version since not many are using it, which means less chance of people using it to listen in on to our communication."

Daichi and Suga exchange a surprised look. It is actually a sound reasoning.

"So I tried to send some texts, if only to check whether he’s there and reading it." He hands over his phone with open conversation between himself and Nekoma’s Mist on the screen. He points at the small shapes next to the bubble of text.

"Two checks means the text is read. One means the text is received." The previous conversations Hinata had with Kenma before the incident all have two checks. The two texts Hinata sent to check on Kenma after the incident have one check. However, the last few texts have an unfamiliar shape of circular arrow.

"Circular arrow?" It is Suga who voices the question.

"It means I have to resend the text, and it only happens if," he pauses, which immediately catches the attention of the others, because Hinata rarely hesitates, "either the phone is dead or disconnected."

"So I tried to call Kenma." This time they are too surprised to scold Hinata because that is the unlikeliest possibility for the most technologically advanced Nekoma. Hinata goes on to press call on his phone. Instead of a ringback tone what comes up is a mechanical voice.

"The number you are trying to reach has been disconnected and is no longer in service. Please check the number and try again."

Hinata doesn’t wait for their reaction, wiping his screen to the next conversation with Inuoka and pressing call. The same mechanical voice greets them. Hinata who is close with the younger Nekomas and in constant communication with them doesn’t stop there, and moves on to Lev and Shibayama, to the same result.

Kenma, Inuoka, Lev and Shibayama. That’s almost half of Nekoma’s inner circle. It cannot be a malfunction or a coincidence.

A blackout.

For Nekoma to take such drastic measures... Daichi doesn’t know what might be the expression on his face, but Suga turns the two guardians around and pushes them towards the doors, taking Hinata’s phone along with him.

"We’ll check with the others. See if it’s really on their end or it’s on ours."

Daichi is barely aware of them leaving or the doors closing, his gaze fixed on his phone. He is barely aware unlocking his phone and staring at the number he programmed into speed dial for a certain Nekoma, finger hovering uncertainly as the dread he has been pushing down starts coming up to the surface. Setting up his jaw, he makes the call and prepares for the worst when he brings his phone up to his ear.

To his surprise, it is not a mechanical voice that greets him, it is a ringback tone. His grip tightens on the phone, hopeful. He remembers that Kuroo only shares this number with his family and closest friends and allies. It is meant for personal and emergency use, which means it should have the best security the Nekoma can offer. However when the first ring turns into the second, a frown forms on his face.

Kuroo always picks up in the first ring. He has picked up his call even when he was in a middle of a situation if only to tell him that he was busy.

It keeps ringing

"Pick up, Kuroo." 

and ringing

"Please, Tetsu," his voice breaks, "Please." 

and ringing.

With every ring the hope slowly dwindles and fades, so it takes him completely by surprise when the ringing ends and a familiar voice filters through.

"You have reached Kuroo Tetsurou’s voicemail. If I can't pick up the phone then it is likely I won’t be able to return your call. If you have urgent matter, please call Yaku Morisuke or Kai Nobuyuki for assistance. Thank you for calling. Goodbye."

It is blunt and straightforward, but it is not cold and impersonal. There’s... an underlying warmth and kindness Daichi has slowly learned to recognize. But what strikes Daichi the most is his chosen words. Of all message he could have composed for his voicemail... of all the words he could have picked...

Kuroo uses his words like one wields a weapon. His words are chosen with care and deliberation. Oftentimes he builds layer upon layer of meaning to keep people on their toes. Daichi has learned to read between the lines, and he doesn’t like what he sees.

Daichi presses call again, cuts it off before reaching the voicemail only to make the call again. 

Over, and over.

He loses count how many times he makes the attempt, before the doors are opened once again, this time admitting his entire family. They all share similar worried looks, but it is Tsukishima whom Daichi locks on to.

Tsukishima, who is cold and distant, who hardly displays any emotion or opens up to people, who takes time to finally warm up to Karasuno and trust Daichi as his leader until two young persistent, annoying young leaders managed to break through his cold exterior and became the few people he respects and admires... is right now anything but.

His skin turns impossibly paler. His mouth is painted in a harsh, grim line. His eyes... his eyes are wide. The calm and composed Cloud guardian is afraid

"Kuroo! What were you thinking? Why did you pick up the phone when you were in a middle of a fight?" 

"Eh, why not?" Daichi wanted to strangle his old friend for the unconcerned tone he adopted. Sometimes he swore the sharp, observant man could be deliberately obtuse.

"You know how dangerous it is to have your attention divided in a fight."

"Ooh, is Sawamura concerned for lil’ ol’ me? I’m touched! " Kuroo’s refusal to take things seriously never failed to make his eye twitch in annoyance. 

"Why should I be concerned? You sound perfectly fine to me." He had been worried, but he couldn’t say it out loud, not when Kuroo would blow it out of proportion like this. "Next time, if you’re in a fight or in an important meeting, just ignore my call-"

"Sawamura." The change in tone from playful to serious stopped him cold in his tracks. "The number I gave you is my personal number. It’s meant only for friends and family." It was meant only for the most important people. "I’ll always pick it up on the first ring. The moment I don’t... is the moment I can’t. This is my promise to all my friends and family."

Daichi has tried to block that conversation from his mind, because if he acknowledges it, he’s acknowledging the possibility that Kuroo doesn’t pick up because-because he-

DreadSorrowGriefDenialRegretGuiltRageRAGERAGERAGERAGERAGERAGERAGE-

Rage unlike he has ever felt before consumes him, so blinding and encompassing, igniting the flames residing within him and coursing through his veins, under his skin, burning everything on their way, leaving startling clarity and stillness in him.

It is with burning amber eyes he turns his gaze upon his guardians, who all have turned completely tense and silent when they look at him. He recognizes their fear and surprise and concern at seeing him this way, but it feels distant and muted to him when in another time and circumstance it would matter to him how he makes his family afraid of him, but there’s no place for emotions this time. They will only get in the way and cloud his judgment, which he cannot afford.

"Rescind the previous orders." His strong, steady voice cuts through the silence, making his guardians stand in attention. 

"Karasuno will no longer stand down. We will find out the people behind this." His eyes flash briefly with orange flames. 

"And we will bring them to justice."

Chapter Text

Blood loss and flame exhaustion.

That’s why Kuroo is not waking up even after receiving the best care under the ever watchful eyes of Yaku and Shibayama and in the safety of Nekoma compound.

Medically speaking, he’s on his way for full recovery. His vital signs are strong and his brain activity is normal. His blood work returns clean. 

Yaku tried his best to explain Kuroo’s condition when he called for urgent family meeting. They might not have extensive medical knowledge like their resident physician and future certified medical doctor, but they knew enough from experience that three days were far too long to regain consciousness. Even after the most difficult surgeries and heavy sedation, there was always a brief moment of awakening before falling unconscious again. Kuroo didn’t.

He’s just... sleeping, or as close to it. 

Yaku and Shibayama didn’t waste any time in performing all the tests they could think of, then turned the results over and sideways and asked for second opinion to no avail, until they went over Nekoma medical records and stumbled upon the possibility of flame exhaustion. It is a rare condition for the Nekomas whose training heavily emphasizes control, so they very rarely exhaust their flames, regardless of the size of their reserves. They are also trained to recognize their limits, so they can train to push them without exhausting themselves. The records showed that the condition was and should be easily rectified by proper rest.

Tetsu... He drains himself dry, literally and metaphorically.

Kuroo shouldn’t be alive, he should have been dead the moment the bullet entered his body, with the speed it shattered and multiplied, especially when it hit so close to vital organs. There could only be one reason for his survival: he managed to use his Rain flame on the bullet... all the while fighting for his life without using his original flame. Yaku also suspected that Kuroo turned on his foresight throughout the fight. While it was not draining his flames-considering it was a natural ability of Sky flames, it gave him double vision which would also take concentration for him to separate the future possibilities and reality.

There’s nothing much we can do but wait.

The ensuing silence was unbearable. Kuroo could be terrifyingly cold and detached in his decision making that he never placed his life of higher importance than others’. It was a trait that his family both loved and hated in equal measure. Kuroo was not careless with his life, his family extracted that promise from him, but he would and could not promise to choose himself over the lives he could save. It felt like a paltry promise back then, but seeing how hard Kuroo fought to keep that promise, to survive...

Kenma cannot stay any longer in the room, leaving an illusion of himself in his place to keep the others from noticing. He stumbles out to the hallways, his breathing short and quick. He tries to slow his breathing, he tries to count up and down, he tries everything but nothing works. It has been so long since it was this bad. He has learned to recognize the signs and remove himself before it turns into a full-fledged attack, or Kuroo does it for him. But Kuroo is...

Kuroo... who is lying pale and lifeless on the infirmary bed surrounded by machines... whose flames are so faint and flickering... That Kuroo is not Kuroo. That Kuroo is not his Kuroo, his first and best friend, his brother, his leader. That is-that is not- 

The distressing thought does no favor to his condition as his breathing gets worse. Kenma clutches his chest, trying vainly to slow his breathing as he flounders aimlessly. His head feels light, his vision narrow.

Hey, hey. Breathe with me. You’re okay. You’re okay. Suddenly Kenma is seeing young Kuroo crouched in front of him, eyes wide and concerned for a child he had just met. His young self had inched away in surprise at the strange child’s appearance who had managed to see past his Mist illusion.

He never dealt well with children around his age, more so with strangers, and yet despite his initial surprise and suspicion, he found himself drawn to the boy and the outstretched hand.

Kenma had always been able to sense flames, he could feel the slightest change in them and shape them into his liking. It came to him as easy as breathing. He cared not for the clamor and praise that came with it. He cared only for the respite and knowledge he was granted. He cared only for the ability to hide and to tell whom to trust. Kuroo burned with flames that he had never seen before, bright against the darker flames of Mist and warm against the cool indifference of Nekoma. 

He finds himself reaching out... and trips face-first on something soft. In his surprise he breathes in, familiar scent and warmth assaulting his senses. He knows this scent, he knows this warmth. He grapples blindly, opening his palm and stretching his fingers to feel. He knows these sheets, these pillows and these blankets thrown haphazardly over large mattress. He doesn’t need to look around to know where he finds himself in.

Kuroo’s bedroom. Kuroo’s bed. Kenma’s and Nekoma’s safe haven.

Since their early acquaintance, Kuroo had made himself available for Kenma. He learned not to lock his doors and grew used to Kenma sneaking into his room and making himself comfortable. However as they ventured deeper and further to the family business, Kenma was becoming not the only one needing comfort and finding their way into Kuroo’s room. After witnessing and experiencing the worst the world could offer, it was not unusual for the family to spend the night together. When Kuroo finally claimed the boss’ quarters, he didn’t bother with proper bed and brought in the widest, thinnest, and most comfortable mattress, covered it with the softest sheets and thrown as many pillows and blankets over it.

Kenma can sense traces of himself and his family between the sheets. He can feel the lingering emotion and memories left among the pillows and blankets, the good and the bad. But most of all, he can feel him, suffusing the bed and the room with his warmth and kindness, with his patience and understanding, with his love and loyalty for his family. Something inside him flickers insistently, as though telling him to pay attention and so Kenma follows, tumbling down and falling deep into himself.

He finds his flame easily, burning indigo-bright. However, there’s another flame, smaller and weaker, but no less bright or warm. Kenma finds himself cradling the orange flame protectively to his chest. He cannot forget how it feels when the light and warmth that he doesn’t know have always been there suddenly are gone, leaving him cold and empty and blind in the dark. He cannot forget the agonizing moments when all of them could only stand still, refusing to believe what they all felt, refusing to mourn and grieve, with nothing they could do but hope and pray and beg that when the light and warmth finally returned they could barely believe it. He cannot forget how they cried, they yelled, and they cried some more. Kuroo was gone, but he was back. He was back.

The flame seems to burn brighter at this realization, sending pulsating warmth throughout his body. It feels familiar, it feels like...

Breathe, Kenma. Breathe. I am here. I am going nowhere.

Kenma finds himself matching his breathing with every pulse, and slowly, surely it evens out. For a while, Kenma lays there, just breathing, letting Kuroo’s presence surround him. However, his analytical mind cannot truly rest, slowly gathering together all the pieces from all his knowledge and observation, but two facts stand out the most in his mind: Kuroo is weak and vulnerable, and he is easy prey to those who want him dead.

Kuro is in danger.

Cat-like eyes snaps open in the dark, bright and sharp. Kenma might not be as dedicated and passionate as others, he has a tendency to shy away from duty and responsibility, but he has given his pledge and loyalty to Kuroo. He has chosen Kuroo. Kuroo and the family he made for himself are and will always be his top priority. If there’s anything that can make him take action, it’s Kuroo and their self-made family. Mind whirling with projections and calculations with such speed and accuracy, emotions set aside and discarded with such ease that makes him valued and considered as the next Nekoma boss, Kenma knows that he cannot act without knowing more information. 

He traverses the dark room with ease and familiarity towards the wall on the side of the room. All the rooms in the family quarters are highly secured, because it uses a combination of biological and flame signature. However, one room takes it further by using flame pattern as its lock, which can only be opened by someone who knows the pattern and has the control needed to make the pattern with their flame. It’s a room that can only be opened by Kuroo, and Kenma as his right-hand man.

The lights turns on the moment he steps into the private study of the Nekoma boss. All sides of the room are crammed with information in various forms, from the traditional paper archives to modern digital archives, all but one side that is at the opposite of the grand wooden table with documents and stationary strewn over that has multiple screens mounted on it. In the middle there is interactive table that is not dissimilar with the one they have in the conference room, and its hologram is surprisingly active.

Kenma doesn’t think twice to approach the table and looks over the hovering images of boxes that are intertwined with each other with multiple lines so massive that it almost takes the whole room. Kenma picks one box at random and is wholly unprepared when a familiar voice rings out. 

“Vision number 1283-”

The boxes are the detailed accounts of the futures Kuroo has seen. Some futures appear only once, some appear frequently. Some change with time, some don’t. Some are clear, some are not. Kuroo managed to organize them into somewhat coherent manner, grouping together similar visions and then arranging them in a timeline. In every account there is a thorough analysis of what he has seen, deciphering what it means, whether it’s a constant or a changeable future, whether it’s part of action and consequence, or completely unrelated, whether the people and the event have any significance. 

It is a time-consuming and meticulous work, not mentioning how large and complex it is. Kuroo is thinking more just than the future, he is thinking of the ripples on the pond, of the making of waves. Kenma is capable of seeing the future based on the present and making plans for it accordingly, but this... this is something else. Every person, every action is accounted for, so are their roles and their impact to the future. Kenma is sure that lines should be more convoluted than this but Kuroo has worked through them, removing the uncertain futures and directing them to a more favorable and controllable outcome so that what is left is a tangled mess that Kenma can still follow. It helps that Kuroo also recorded his musings so he can see where he’s coming from.

Kuroo plays out various scenarios, adjusting it accordingly with every change in reality and in foresight until he has narrowed it down into the most plausible scenarios and make plans of action based on them. He scraps the worst of the plans marking it down as unacceptable outcome and keeps the best of them by marking it down as acceptable outcome.

Acceptable outcome.

Kenma’s breathing hitches when he reads the plan. The plan that would have the least consequences, the least casualty: himself.

Acceptable outcome.

The world goes red and when he comes to, Kenma finds himself curled in the corner, the room completely dark but for the screens, flickering in and out, some are cracked. Things are scattered all over the room as though a whirlwind has come and upended everything inside. However, the interactive table somehow remains untouched with its tangled boxes hovering in the air, blocked by a figure reading through the page that he has left open. Kenma watches silently and knows the exact moment when Yaku finishes because he recognizes the unadulterated rage crossing his features. 

“It’s my fault.” Kenma finds himself speaking out, catching the Sun guardian’s attention whose expression morphs into concern when he sees him. Yaku kneels down in front of him, careful to keep his distance.

“Why?” It speaks how well Yaku understands Kenma that instead going for reassurance, he goes for clarification.

“I should have been the boss. I shouldn’t have run away. I shouldn’t have Kuroo shouldered the burden that is not his to bear.” Once he starts, Kenma can’t seem to stop. “The council didn’t want him, Mori. They wanted Mist boss, even after they found out that he had Sky flame.”

Kenma sees understanding dawns in Yaku’s eyes, the pieces falling into place to make the complete puzzle of one Kuroo Tetsurou. Why Kuroo doesn’t think much of himself despite all of his achievements, why Kuroo insists of using the Mist aspect of his Sky flames, why Kuroo’s backup plans tend to put Kenma in the center, why Kuroo rarely sends Kenma out to the field unless necessary. 

Yaku leans back on his heels as though he is struck, the look on his face is of great incredulity.

A placeholder? All this time?” Yaku looks like he wants to cry and curse and yell, so does Kenma. He should have realized. He should have known better. Kuroo cares too much. He has too much heart. He always wants the best for others, but he rarely, if ever, considers himself. He is his very own and only blind spot.

It should be his duty and responsibility not only as his right hand but also his friend and confidant to make Kuroo see. That he has been the best leader Nekoma can ask for, more than Kenma can ever be.

Kenma presses hard the heels of his hand to his eyes. Kuroo needs time to rest and recover, time he might not have if Kenma wastes his time to wallow in guilt. Kenma stands up, taking Yaku by surprise.

“Yaku.” Yaku snaps to attention at the change of address. “Call for an emergency meeting in an hour. Attendance is mandatory. Lateness, furthermore, absence, will not be tolerated.” 

It takes a moment for the Sun guardian to respond, barely recognizing the younger man before him. Kenma doesn’t look away, doesn’t duck and hide. He meets his gaze straight on. Kenma is dead serious. He won’t accept any excuses. He will have them in the meeting one way or another.

This is Kenma the right-hand man of Nekoma.

Yaku smiles grimly as he stands up, nodding his head. “Consider it done.”

Kenma’s gaze follows Yaku until he’s out of sight, knowing with certainty that he will have all the inner circle along with council members and family representatives in the meeting. He walks towards the interactive table, briefly hesitating before opening up the backup plan Kuroo left behind in the event of his death. As he skims through the plan laid out before him, he understands why Kuroo made the request. He knew he was asking much from them to remain calm and neutral when all they want is to raze the bastards to the ground, because the best outcome hinges on it. Although Kenma has a feeling that Kuroo underestimate how much. 

Before he knows it, an hour has passed. Kenma steps into the conference room with Yaku and Kai at his immediate right and left, the rest of the inner circle at their sides and back, giving him the support that he doesn’t realize he needs as he is greeted by the full ensemble of Nekoma’s council members and family representatives standing around the large conference table whose gaze immediately trained on them. Kenma knows Kuroo’s absence doesn’t escape their notice despite their best attempts to hide their alarm especially when he takes his place next to seat at the head of the table. Only the Nekoma boss has the power to call for emergency meeting. And yet, he is not here. Hush falls over the room, which doesn’t help his nerves. Kenma tries not to fidget as he grapples to say something.

“Please be seated.” Kai, bless ever reliable Kai, takes care the formalities so Kenma has less one thing to worry about. Everyone takes their seat, all but Kenma, who cannot find it in himself to sit in Kuroo’s place so he remains standing next to the empty seat. 

Kenma breathes in and out, drawing strength from the flame inside him that belong to Kuroo.

For Kuroo.

“Three days ago, we met up with Karasuno to discuss the details of truce arrangement between both of the families. We sent Kuroo, Yaku and Kai, and Karasuno sent Sawamura, Sugawara and Azumane. It was supposed to be a highly classified meeting with only few people in the know. And yet, we were attacked.” Kenma pauses as much to let the news sink in as to give himself time.

“We were outnumbered and overpowered. We managed to escape, but Kuroo... Kuroo was hit by Cloud fragmented bullet.” Shock ripples throughout the room. This is the gathering of the most brilliant minds in Nekoma, they are fully aware of the significance and the consequence of the action. Before they arrive to the wrong conclusion, Yaku is quick to step in.

“Kuroo is alive.” The Sun guardian stares them down, daring them to question his words. “However, he suffers from blood loss and flame exhaustion. We don’t know when he will regain consciousness.” Kenma watches everyone’s reaction carefully.

“This is concerning.” Nekomata speaks up. “This is not just simply another assassination attempt. Do you have any suspects?”

“We do, but we do not have sufficient evidence.” All Nekoma in the room catch on to the underlying meaning. Only few people outside the inner circle know about Kuroo’s foresight, but they all know the infamous Sky intuition and has seen it in action that they are willing to set aside their skepticism and follow the plans based on it so long they are ironclad. It will be so easy to give them names and have all Nekoma go after them. But that’s not what Kuroo wants, or what he needs.

"So what would you do?” Kenma cannot quite quell his trepidation when he hears that voice. It is the head of the council himself, Hyou Sakaki. Hyou is among the few of the older generation that remain in the council and representatives. He is a traditionalist, or the closest equivalent to it, in flexible and adaptable Nekoma, because however much Nekoma changes, their core values must and should not change. It is why he is elected as the head of the council, to be the foil of Nekomata, and later Kuroo who are the radicals of Nekoma. He is firm and unyielding as required by his position. He is Nekoma’s harshest critic and devil’s advocate. 

Kenma doesn’t have pleasant memory of the man, despite having him as his main supporter for the succession because it meant the elder demanded more from him. Hyou wanted more traditional and less radical leader for Nekoma. While he can think out of the box, Kenma does favor the more proven and tested approach and is content with status quo, unlike Kuroo who is more willing to take risks backed with his intuition and challenge the status quo. Hyou doesn’t hide his disappointment when Kenma chose to give up his position as the successor and his disapproval whenever Kuroo showed his radical inclination. Regardless, he has sway over the family, and Kenma needs his support with his plan. He cannot show any weakness.

“We’re executing Plan D. Nekoma will go to ground.” 

The declaration is met by surprise and disbelief. Of all orders Plan D is the last order Kenma is expected to give, because it is not a simple matter of staying quiet and under the radar. It is a complete withdrawal of Nekoma presence in the mafia world with the exception of the people and businesses to which their association to Nekoma are not known. It is an extreme measure that is meant for the direst situation.

“Do you know what you’re asking?” Hyou narrows his eyes at Kenma, making his disapproval clear. “You are asking for all of our businesses to be closed down and stop operating. You are asking for a recall and reassignment of our people. You are asking for a major undertaking that is going to cost us the longer it is in motion.”

“Yes. I do know.” Kenma doesn’t back off, signaling his seriousness in the matter.

“Then why?” Naoi asks. 

“They’ve gone this far to kill Kuroo. They won’t stop until he’s dead. The way he is now, Kuroo is an easy target. Any other course of action, any other plan, will put him at risk.”

“So you’re putting the safety of one person above the family?” Kuga Haruka-the second most influential person in the council-inquires, an elegant eyebrow raised.

Kenma can sense the rest of the family bristling around him, taking offense in the council member’s words, but it serves to center him instead. Finding his courage, Kenma straightens his spine and meets the gaze of every single person in the room.

“No. Because Kuroo is Nekoma, and Nekoma is Kuroo.”

The moment the words come out from his mouth, he realizes how true they are, and he is not the only one with how he stunned them speechless. It’s ironic, in his attempt to make Nekoma free and independent from inside and outside reliance, Kuroo becomes an irreplaceable figure himself. Nekoma will carry on without him, but it won’t be Nekoma anymore. Kuroo is not just Nekoma’s leader, he is their heart and soul. It is why the council was so against of having him as the successor to Nekomata, because Kuroo inspired steadfast love and devotion in the coldest and most rational of Nekoma. It was dangerous for Nekoma that placed mind above heart, rationale above intuition.

“Any objections for implementing Plan D?” Kuga asks the room at large.

And they are right. Because against all rational thought, none of them raise any objections, not even Hyou himself. Without a shred of doubt and hesitation, they all come to an agreement. The decision is unanimous. 

“We shall proceed with Plan D. You have our full support.” Hyou concludes.

Kenma should feel relieved, but all he can feel is sadness.

Can’t you see how much you are loved, Kuro?  Kenma clenches his hand, his gaze sharp and determined. Wake up, and we’ll show you.