Kuroko has finally handed in his resignation letter to Akashi, and he is no longer the Phantom Sixth Man of the Generation of Miracles. Though, one could argue that he’d lost his title months ago. He feels listless, like the sole survivor of a shipwreck left bobbing alone in the middle of the ocean; floating along with no hope of rescue, waiting to die alone.
What to do now…
Even if he wanted to join a new club, it’s far too late in the year to accept new members.
He supposes this is it then. He’ll just join the ‘Going Home Club' and spend the rest of the year in social isolation. It's hardly anything to adjust to though. These three years in middle school have been the outliers since every other year has been spent in this fashion. Before he had met Ogiwara, he had never put much effort into peer relations. And even in the short period they were together they had attended different schools, and they couldn’t meet at the court every day. So he has always been well accustomed to this kind of lifestyle, and it’ll merely be a matter of readapting.
He hadn’t gone to practice ever since that game.
It’s been three days since he’s shown his face in the gym, and at no point on any of those days have his teammates looked for him.
He had spent most of today's practice sitting on the bench of a nearby park, folding and unfolding his resignation prior to getting up and delivering it before practice ended. Other than Akashi he had only seen Midorima shooting into a net by himself, while the other first stringers shared the remaining hoops and played mini-games. Akashi had been merely supervising, taking notes on a clipboard and the stern-looking second-year next to him was no doubt his successor. He had crept into the gym silently walking along the sidelines until he reached Akashi’s position, then calmly handed over his letter, speaking with the same stone face and polite tone he had first joined the team with. He’s still relishing the memory of Akashi’s face, just shy of outright shock when he told him.
So now he’s left with roughly an hour to himself before his grandmother expects him home. He bides his time sitting on the very same bench as before, but now he is unburdened with by weight of words to be said. The cheap plastic water bottle he bought from the nearby convenience store has long lost its chill, but he still fingers the bumps and ridges of the twist-off cap. He watches students walk by in increasing frequency as clubs reach their conclusions for the day. There are some he recognises from the halls and others from the basketball club’s expansive roster, but there are far more he’s never seen and all of them fail to take notice of him. He hears rapid footsteps in the distance. Multiple. Drawing nearer.
There's a chase going on, and they’re heading in this direction.
The bench is backless and while not the most comfortable, it allows him to turn around in his seat and watch four individuals dash by the park. Only one person is being hunted, and his figure is so distinct that even at a brief glance he knows it to be Haizaki. Judging by the uniforms of his three pursuers, he’s being closely followed by three high schoolers.
It’s none of his business. Besides, he has no doubt that Haizaki brought this trouble upon himself.
Between Haizaki skipping school and Kuroko himself not even desiring to find him, it’s usually weeks between sightings of him. Rumours however, float around every day, which only cements his desire to stay in his own lane, and out of Haizaki’s drama when he has enough of his own. Although they're already well out of sight again, Kuroko turns back around so he is quite literally looking the other way from it.
Had Teiko been an ordinary school, no one is under the impression that he would still be allowed to attend with his current behaviour. But Teiko is the kind of school that is made of money. No matter how foul a character, as long as their income can mask the stench of their misdeeds they feel no need to step in unless their reputation is at risk through association. Until now he hadn’t cared about rampent currption of the institution; he had never been a victim or a perpetrator of its machinations but now he loathes this place. Kuroko hadn’t even entertained the thought of speaking to the headmaster because he knew he would not see any problem with the new Akashi Seijuro. He still met every challenge and returned victoriously, he still carried himself with dignity and decorum, and his father’s pockets were deeper than ever. No one else sees anything wrong with him.
It makes him feel insane.
So perhaps it’s lucky that he has no other ties to the student body, and it’s beyond fortunate that graduation is so near. He doesn’t know what he would’ve done if he had to spend another year here, but without even a shred of the blissful wool of unawareness shielding his eyes he would’ve done something drastic.
He doesn’t want to ponder those kinds of what-if's.
He tries to stop thinking and tries to occupy his mind with people watching. There are still students walking home and adults strolling to places unknown, but carrying enough clues to keep him entertained with theories of their origin and destination. By the time he needs to start heading home the sunset has started to set in, dyeing the sky a ripe orange colour. The sidewalks aren’t very populated and everyone keeps to themselves, eyes trained forward, gazes aimed past each other and directly through him. Right as he finds a comfortable pocket of apathy to seat his consciousness in, he sees a pair of legs sticking out of a patch of tall grass. He recognises those sneakers, and the Teikou uniform only raises the probability of it being exactly who he thinks it is.
He considers stepping around him like countless others probably have, but he feels a pull of guilt at the thought. As easy as it would be to stop caring about other people entirely, he isn’t so heartless as to leave anyone – even Haizaki – unconscious in a bush when he could be dead or dying. He steps off of the sidewalk and into the patch of undergrowth.
He’s relieved to find that Haizaki appears to be breathing just fine, and while he could draw the line here as well, he feels it’s still his responsibility to make sure he’s not in need of serious medical attention and is actually able to wake up. There are bruises forming along his jaw, and part of his bottom lip is swollen and bleeding. He takes a moment to pull out his water bottle, there’s only a third of the liquid left but if he really needs any further stimulation it wouldn’t be too much effort to slap him. He unscrews the cap and unceremoniously pours the liquid over Haizaki’s face.
The reaction is immediate. He thrashes and sputters as if he’d been water boarded before throwing himself upright. “Who- What the fuck?” He wipes his face smearing the watery blood across his cheek.
“…Haizaki-kun.” He shouldn’t be engaging him. He’s awake and cussing so he’s obviously fine.
Haizaki still yelps in surprise. “Holy shit…” He pants. “Fuck off you little cunt, there’s nothing to see here…” He starts looking around, either taking stock of his surroundings or searching for his posessions if he had any before.
“I found you unconscious. I wanted to make sure you were alright.”
“Yeah, well how’s that working out for you? Fuck off.” He snarls as he tries to get his feet underneath him. He looks a bit dazed, but in Kuroko’s unprofessional opinion he’s not about to die.
There’s no point in continuing this conversation.
“As long as you say you’re fine.” He watches Haizaki stumble to his feet before backing out of the weeds and returning to the sidewalk. That’s been his good deed for the day.
“I’m surprised your little body guards let you out of their sight. I thought Akashi kept a tighter leash on his pets.” Haizaki taunts after him.
Kuroko ignores him.
“They’re a bunch of shit-spewers who can’t tell their heads from their asses!” He’s reduced to shouting as Kuroko walks further without giving him the satisfaction of a response. And for a moment Kuroko thinks that’s the end of it, but he’s quickly reminded that Haizaki is dangerously persistent…
“…Holy shit. They dumped you didn’t they?”
He really should’ve defended them if he wanted to keep up an appearance.
“Oh my god! They dumped you like a two-dollar whore!” He’s completely enthralled by the news and Kuroko’s own stubborn refusal to refute or confirm his theory is only incensing him. He’s grinning like he won the lottery, the smile is wide enough to split his lip further open causing fresh blood to start beading, which he licks away.
He’s caught taste of a wounded animal.
Kuroko starts walking faster.
Haizaki chases after him, walks beside him as if they’re just out for a stroll. He looks absolutely mad with that bloody smile and his wet grass-stained shirt. “So who’d they replace you with? I never thought you were one-of-a-kind, but I figured Akashi would’ve picked ‘em from the start if there was anyone better…” Haizaki halts in his tracks.
Kuroko keeps walking.
“…They didn’t need one did they?”
An awful wheezing laugh fills the air. Haizaki cackles as if he’s heard the joke of the year, but Kuroko doesn’t look back to see his face.
Perhaps it is.