Chapter 1: Shuutoku
A minute and a half into the practice match between Seirin and Shuutoku, Izuki makes a pun. Takao laughs. Everything goes downhill from there.
warning for period jokes and just terrible puns in general i’m sorry
It’s not even halftime yet and both teams are ready to kill their point guards.
“Takao-kun, I hear you have a very intensive training regimen,” says Izuki as he fends off Takao’s attempts to steal the ball mid-dribble. “Kuroko-kun mentioned something about a bike and a rear cart.”
“Yeah, it was Shin-chan’s idea.” Takao’s eyes never leave the ball. “We’re supposed to switch off, but somehow Shin-chan never loses when we janken for it.” He swoops in for a steal, but Izuki thwarts him with a crossover.
“Sounds exhausting,” says Izuki. His eyes slide to the left just before he throws the ball in Kuroko’s direction on his right. “Have you ever fallen over while you were biking because you were just two-tired?”
Kuroko’s palm slams violently into the ball, sending an ignite pass that scrapes a layer of skin off Kiyoshi’s right hand. Kiyoshi’s yelp is drowned out by the sound of Takao’s laughter. He passes the ball to his left hand and dunks it over Ootsubo’s head.
“Kuroko, no more of those. Please.” Kiyoshi sounds pained.
“Tell that to Izuki-sempai,” Kuroko mutters.
Takao is still laughing when he receives the ball for the next play. “That was a good one, Izuki-san,” he manages between chuckles. “You should join the drama club and put on a performance with your puns.” He bounces the ball between his legs and into Midorima’s waiting hands. “It would be a play on words!”
Izuki’s eyes shine while Takao doubles over, gasping for breath at his own joke. Midorima considers shooting the ball so that it comes down on Takao’s head, but settles for saying “Shut up, Takao” instead as he takes careful aim and releases.
Izuki watches the high arc of Midorima’s three-pointer slamming into the basket with something akin to wistfulness. “I would love to, but I can’t leave the basketball club without a point guard. It would be pointless.” He gasps. “Oh, man, I should write that one down!”
“Izuki,” Hyuuga says, very very pleasantly, “please go die.”
Hyuuga has been in permanent clutch time mode since Takao and Izuki first started trading jokes. Riko fears he might actually pop a vein. She’s starting to feel one throbbing in her temple herself. “Izuki-kun,” she calls testily. “No more puns or I’ll sub you out.”
“Eh?! Coach, that’s too much! Are you on your period or something, because I think you might be ovary acting.”
“That’s it,” Riko snarls, and rounds on the scorer’s table. “Seirin requests a substitution!”
Chapter 2: Kaijou
Izuki’s puns were such a hit with Takao that he decides to try them at their next practice match too. Unfortunately for him, Kasamatsu takes things Very Seriously.
There’s a minute left on the clock, and Izuki is beginning to despair.
“Are those compression socks of yours any good?” he says as he doggedly marks Kasamatsu. “I’ve been thinking of getting a pair myself, but they look pretty tight. I don’t think I could pull them off.”
Kasamatsu frowns. “If you need them, then it shouldn’t matter if you think you look good in them or not,” he says. “Letting yourself get injured out of vanity is a stupid thing to do.”
Izuki grits his teeth. He’s been marking Kasamatsu the entire match and delivering puns at every opportunity, but Kasamatsu just doesn’t seem to get it. Every time Izuki thinks that this next one will surely net him a chuckle or a groan or some sort of reaction, Kasamatsu just looks baffled and turns the joke on its head. It’s frustrating, to say the least. Even worse, he’s unintentionally casting himself under a bad light. Izuki is not vain, dammit.
He tries again. “There are other ways to avoid putting strain on my legs. I usually take steps to avoid elevators, but maybe I should break that habit.”
Kasamatsu gives him a strange look. “Or you could just get compression socks.”
Izuki barely manages not to heave a sigh. One more try. “I could, yeah. I would prefer to stay away from elevators anyway. I just think they’re wrong on so many levels.”
Now Kasamatsu looks even more confused. “What do you have against elevators?”
Ah, well, Izuki thinks as he watches Hyuuga sink a buzzer beater, clinching Seirin’s victory. I guess puns just aren’t for everyone.
Chapter 3: Touou
Izuki deeply regrets initiating conversation with Imayoshi.
It starts out innocuously enough.
“Nice glasses,” Izuki says as Seirin sets up their defense. “I want to get a pair too, but the last time I tried on Hyuuga’s, they made me see-sick.” Hmm, that one needed a little work. Maybe he should have added something about being on a boat.
Imayoshi’s eyes somehow manage to glint despite staying firmly shut behind his lenses. “Ya really shouldn’t be doin’ that,” he drawls. “Don’t wanna make a spectacle of yourself, know what I mean?”
If it were anyone other than Imayoshi, Izuki probably would have laughed and made a mental note to write that one down later. Instead, Izuki feels a shiver work up his spine. Imayoshi’s tone had been perfectly pleasant, but it had felt like a declaration of war. Izuki wonders briefly what he’s gotten himself into.
Before he can think of a comeback, Imayoshi is speaking again. “Besides, ya don’t really need glasses, do ya, Mr. Eagle Eye? For eyes like yours they’d just be a hindrance. Four-eyes like me are jealous, ya know.”
Well, shit. Izuki wracks his brain for something to say, but again Imayoshi beats him to it.
“At least they help me out in math. They improve division, after all.”
And so it continues for the rest of the match, Imayoshi keeping up a running commentary that puts Izuki’s 108 joke books to shame, all while delivering perfect passes to his teammates interspersed with sudden three-pointers that come at the worst possible time for Seirin. Izuki can barely catch his breath, let alone think of responses to any of them.
“Well, if ya really want to get a pair, maybe ya could look into some sunglasses.” Imayoshi tosses the ball carelessly in the direction of the basket. Izuki turns to watch it ball bounce off the backboard and fall through the net just as the buzzer sounds. Touou has won yet again.
Behind him, Imayoshi adjusts his glasses with a smirk. “Or should I say, punglasses?”
Chapter 4: Yosen
Izuki is introduced to the wonderful world of Chinese puns. Or at least he thinks he is. Turns out Fukui is a troll.
this one’s a little different from the ones before because my brain was crying
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Izuki-sempai.” Kuroko’s voice comes from directly behind Izuki’s shoulder. “Is there a reason why you’re laughing at a picture of Murasakibara-kun holding Fukui-san up by his ankles?”
Izuki yelps and drops his phone. Kuroko catches it before it can hit the floor and then stares at him, faintly radiating disapproval.
“It’s fine, it’s fine! I’ve been trading puns with Liu since Fukui mentioned during our practice match last week that Liu loves puns,” Izuki explains as he takes his phone back. He points at the caption under the photo. “This is a visual pun. See, Fukui’s name is written with the kanji for ‘fortune,’ and in China they write it on pieces of paper and hang them upside down because the Chinese phrase for ‘fortune upside down’ sounds the same as ‘fortune has arrived.’ It’s meant to bring good luck.”
“That’s… a lot of work for one pun.”
“Isn’t it great?” Izuki sighs. “I would love to visit China someday. Liu says these kinds of puns are everywhere. I’m really glad that Fukui gave me Liu’s email after the match.”
Kuroko studies the peeved expression on Fukui’s face. “I imagine he might be regretting that now.”
“Haha, maybe.” Izuki types in a quick reply and hits send.
“…Did you just respond with a bunch of fives?”
“It’s another Chinese pun!” Izuki says defensively. “Since ‘five’ is pronounced wǔ in Chinese, and it sounds kind of like the ‘w’ we use for laughter, they use it the same way. Fukui taught it to me during the practice match. He said he learned it from Liu... What?”
Kuroko is staring at him again. “…Sempai, you know that’s probably not true, right?”
“The ‘w’ we use for laughing comes from warau, ‘to laugh,’” Kuroko says patiently. “Why would the Chinese use something that sounds like the Japanese word for laughing? I think Fukui-san was pulling your leg. It probably means something else entirely.”
As if on cue, Izuki’s phone beeps. He flips it open to find a new message from Liu.
Thou hast been crying a lot lately. Also, thou hast been saying some rather unflattering things about my mother. It’s not like thou. Art thou alright?
“His mother?” Izuki says. “I haven’t learned any Chinese puns about mothers. Fukui knew a lot about horses, though.”
“Did you know,” Kuroko says slowly, “that the reason why Liu-san talks like this is because Fukui-san told him it was popular to do so?”
The faintest tendrils of unease curl through Izuki’s stomach. “No, I didn’t.”
“Izuki-sempai.” Kuroko manages to sound concerned while keeping his face and voice completely neutral. “What other things have you been saying to Liu-san that Fukui-san taught you?”
“Ummm,” says Izuki.
Explanation of the Chinese puns in this:
- Izuki’s explanation of the pun on Fukui’s name is the only one that’s correct.
- 5 really is pronounced wǔ, but the part about it being used for laughter because it sounds like the “w” the Japanese use for laughter is complete BS. The 5s are used for crying, not laughing.
- The words for “mother” and “horse” are pronounced the same (though with different intonations). When I wrote this, I was thinking of how the phrase 草泥馬 [cǎo ní mǎ; literally “grass mud horse”] is used to circumvent internet censorship to say 肏你媽 [cào nǐ mā; “fuck your mother”] but honestly, with the high degree of homophony in Chinese, the possibilities are endless.
I think that’s all… sorry, this one is probably hard to understand if you don’t speak Chinese OTL.
Chapter 5: Rakuzan
Izuki is really not sure how he expected Akashi to respond, but it definitely wasn’t like this.
Izuki is beginning to suspect that Akashi cannot actually hear any of the puns he’s making.
To test this theory out, he sends up a quick prayer for his safety, swallows hard, then opens his mouth and says, “Do you have a part-time job? Because I thought I saw you at the convenience store down the street yesterday, working as Akashier.”
It’s a ridiculous statement. Izuki knows that there’s no way the son of a family as prestigious as Akashi’s would ever be caught doing such a menial job. It’s probably also insulting in a hundred different ways, and if he’s wrong and Akashi really has just been ignoring every pun he’s made during the first half, then he has no doubt that he will be dead as soon as Akashi figures out the best way to ankle break him into a million pieces.
But no, he’s still alive and well and standing and whole, and Akashi doesn’t look any more murderous than he did ten seconds ago, so Izuki breathes a sigh of relief as the buzzer sounds and both teams depart to their waiting rooms for the halftime break.
“I don’t know,” says Kuroko. “I think it’s been like this for a while now. The Akashi from middle school would mostly just ignore them, but if it was an especially good pun he might smile or respond with some clever repartee. But this Akashi doesn’t seem to hear them at all.”
“For which I am extremely grateful,” Izuki sighs. “That last one probably would have gotten me killed.”
“Are you an idiot,” says Hyuuga. “Why would you make a joke that would get you killed by Akashi, of all people? Are you secretly a masochist?”
“I was just confirming my theory!” Izuki protests. “By then, I had made a bunch of puns with absolutely no reaction, so I was pretty sure I was safe.”
Kuroko clears his throat. “Well, there’s another possibility.”
“Uh-oh,” says Izuki.
“Akashi might not have taken action just yet because he can’t do anything that wouldn’t interfere with the match. Victory is everything, after all.”
Silence descends as everyone processes this.
“So what you’re saying,” Hyuuga says slowly, “is that Akashi might be waiting until after he has achieved victory to, uh, pass judgement on Izuki.”
“Yes,” says Kuroko.
Izuki puts his head in his hands. “I’m going to die, aren’t I?”
“Well,” Riko says at length, “if that’s the case, then there’s only one thing left for us to do.” Her gaze sweeps over all of them. “Do you know what that is?”
“Please don’t tell me to write my will,” Izuki says without looking up. “That would be a dead giveaway.”
“No,” Riko says impatiently. “We’re going to win. If we defeat Akashi, then it proves that his victory is not preordained, he is not absolute, blah blah blah, all that bullcrap is just bullcrap, and hopefully the shock of it will keep him from killing Izuki-kun.”
Everyone turns to look at Kuroko.
“It might work,” Kuroko decides. “In any case, it’s better than nothing. But Izuki-sempai, you may want to write your will anyway. Just in case.”
From where he’s still sitting with his head between his hands, Izuki moans.
Chapter 6: (+1) Seirin
Seirin’s first-years face off against their seniors during practice one day.
i ended up not finishing this one in time for character battle but wrote it for Izuki's birthday instead. thanks for reading this far!
Kagami has barely landed from his dunk when Kiyoshi steps out of bounds and launches the ball halfway across the court. “Fast break!”
Izuki snatches the ball out of the air and races down the court, dribbling, but Furihata soon pulls ahead of him, arms outspread, forcing Izuki to slow down and wait for his teammates to get into scoring position.
“I’m impressed, Furihata-kun,” Izuki pants. “You’re tiring less easily these days. I relish the fact that you’ve mustard the strength to ketchup to me.”
Instead of ignoring him like Izuki’s come to expect, Furihata manages a grin. “Well, I needed to do something to stop my mom from taking me to see the Chinese doctor about my low energy levels. I don’t trust acupuncturists. They’re all back stabbers.”
Izuki gapes. Did Furihata just—?
“Don’t make excuses, Furihata,” Kawahara calls. “You’re scared of pointy things, aren’t you? What a scaredy-cat. I’d tell you to get a book on phobias, but you’d probably be afraid that it wouldn’t help you.”
“How does he handle things like pencils, then?” Fukuda chimes in. “I mean, you could get a pencil with erasers on both ends, but what would be the point?”
Izuki’s head is reeling. “What—”
“S-Sempai! Want to hear a joke about amnesia?” Kagami’s face looks as if he’s physically in pain. “Actually, I forgot it.” His expression morphs into a snarl when the other first-years collectively heave a sigh. “Shut up! This wasn’t even my idea!”
“Kagami-kun, that was terrible,” Kuroko says, voice devoid of expression as usual. “I didn’t think you could be as bad at puns as you are at algebra, but I guess both are 4n languages to you.”
Izuki feels like he’s in a dream. He’s been in possession of the ball for well over twenty-four seconds now, but everyone’s just standing there, grinning at him and not saying anything, and for some reason Coach isn’t blowing her whistle—
Someone behind him walks into the periphery of his Eagle Eye. Coach?
He cautiously turns around to see Riko standing on the court with a smile on her face, holding a cake held in her hands. “Happy birthday, Izuki-kun!”
Stunned into speechlessness, Izuki can only stare as the rest of the team gathers around them, chorusing “Happy birthday!” and “Congratulations!”
“You— the cake—” He swallows. “Please don’t tell me—”
“I didn’t make it,” Riko grits out through her smile. “But if you keep making that face, I’m going to make you run laps until you wish I had, birthday or no.”
Izuki hurriedly wipes off his horrified expression. “Yes, ma’am!” He waits until she turns and starts walking towards the bench before breathing out a sigh of relief. The team trails after her, clamoring, excited at the prospect of ending practice early to eat cake.
“Izuki-sempai,” Furihata says as they wait for Mitobe to hand out plates, “did you like our puns? We first-years are kind of broke, so this was the only thing we could come up with to surprise you.”
“It was a pain in the ass to think up something,” Kagami mutters. “Ouch!” He rubs his side and glares at Kuroko.
“Kagami-kun’s wasn’t even very good.”
“I know that, bastard—”
“They weren’t bad,” Izuki cuts in before things could escalate. “Kagami, you had the right idea, you just need to find a better way to work it into the conversation.” His eyes light up. “Maybe I could tutor you, give you some tips—”
“No,” Kagami says, blanching, then hastily adds, “thank you. But I don’t really want to learn. I felt like punching myself in the face just saying that one, nevermind everyone else’s reaction to it. I don’t know why you do it all the time.”
“Well, you know,” Izuki says, a familiar sparkle in his eye, “it’s not always about the reception. A good pun is its own reword, after a—”
Hyuuga shoves a slice of cake into Izuki’s mouth, effectively shutting him up.