It was a typical Thursday afternoon of in the start of April. The orange hews of the evening sun had been scattered over the landscape of a rebuilding Academy City—a far cry from what happened just a few months back, with the heat wave crisis, the rampage of the High Priest, and the crisis concerning Aleister Crowley affecting much of the independent city-state. But right now, it seems like none of those even happened as a lot of establishments and schools have been rebuilt abnormally quickly and the youthful populace are acting like the days before the events of November and December.
The tranquil afternoon has been broken by the scream of one Kamijou Touma. To an ordinary witness, he's a typical Japanese teenage boy with a decent build, spiky, black hair, and a delinquent look. But right now, he is currently running away from a girl with prepossessing features.
"I'm sorry Fukiyose! I didn't mean to…" he was cut off by a duffel bag that was thrown to him, causing him to fall headlong in the pavement.
"Come here, you pervert! I'll teach you a lesson on how to deal with your perverse motives!" the girl named Fukiyose Seiri, who had large breasts, long, black hair, and wide forehead, shouted as she leaps up and caught up on him. As soon as she had the incapacitated boy in the ground, she quickly placed Kamijou first on a headlock then second, on a German Suplex. After that, she proceeded to kick his gut, which made the misfortunate boy wince in pain.
"I hope you learn your lesson!" she roared as she gives a final kick before she left, "Another perverted tendency of yours tomorrow in class and expect me to beat you up once more."
As he watched her shadow fade away in the streets, Kamijou sat up as he holds his stomach that was on the receiving end of Fukiyose's merciless attacks. Damn rotten luck! First, I lost my soda can in a river, got my papers burned and now this.
His vision's blurry and his mind's been aching, he sat down in the cold pavement for at least thirty minutes before getting back to his feet.
After a few more misfortunate encounters, including getting zapped by Misaka Mikoto, who just happened to pass by and saw the poor boy, slipping into a puddle of mud, and almost getting bitten by a stray dog after accidentally stepping on its snout, Kamijou finally reached his dormitory battered and bruised.
"Hey, Touma, what happened to you?" Index, who opted to stay with the Imagine Breaker user after their confrontation with Coronzon and the Golden Dawn, asked as she continued to watch television.
"Nothing, Index. I just happened to slip on the road," Kamijou muttered as he immediately puts down the grocery items that he bought from the usual supermarket.
"Okay Touma. What will we eat for dinner?" Index asked as she turns off the television to help the injured boy unpack the ingredients, which consisted of frozen chicken, chili pepper, ground black pepper, honey, soy sauce, sugar, vegetable and corn oil, mozzarella cheese, cabbage, a bundle of seaweed, soybean paste, dashi, tofu, and scallions.
"I'm thinking of cooking Fire Chicken and Miso soup," Kamijou replied as he puts the chicken in the sink to taw, "Fukiyose's really mad…"
While eating, Index had asked Kamijou, who is busy tending to his bruised stomach, "That looks extreme for a simple slip in the pavement. What really happened to you, Touma?"
Kamijou winced in pain as he touched the bruised part. Please Index, just eat your food. I'm grimacing in pain to answer your question!
"Touma! Touma!" Index suddenly shouted, "Hey, Touma! Are you listening to me!?"
"It's not that! It's just that—ouch!" The unlucky boy sprang up to his feet as Index, who got annoyed by his response, leaped up and chomped down his head. "Please, Index! I'm in serious pain right now!" Kamijou shouted as he began to run around the room just to try to shake off an irritated Index.
"Seriously, Touma, why did you have those bruises and concussions?!" Index asked once again after biting his head for nearly ten minutes.
"Okay! Okay! Some classmate busted my ass for just some accidental touching and then…" he wasn't able to finish his sentence as he notices Index suddenly grew out his fangs as if magically and all of the sudden, she ended up biting home again, only more severe this time, "Touma! Didn't I tell you that fornication's a sin to the Almighty Father…"
"It wasn't intentional!" Kamijou screamed as he began to lose consciousness before eventually passing out.
"Kuso…" Kamijou woke up to see Index already sleeping soundly in her bed. He then checked his alarm clock, which showed that it's already 11:30 pm. "I didn't realize that I was unconscious for that long. Such misfortune," he muttered as he stands up and goes to the kitchen, praying that Index would be merciful that she would leave even crumbs of food. But true to his rotten luck, he just saw that the plates are wiped clean by the mouth of the nun-in-training.
"That warugaki…" the boy cursed, "Not even my pitiful condition is enough to make her spare me some food that I cooked. First, with Fukiyose, second with that annoying Misaka, and now, this. It was already better when that damned crisis happened…aaaaah!" Frustrated, he threw his shoe into a plastic box, which was sent by his father just last Monday. As a result, some items spilled from the said container.
"Yabe…" he cussed as he tiptoes towards the scattered things, "Now I have to clean this up as well. Well, look at this rubbish things my dad brought here…Buddha statues…pins…and…hey, what's this?"
He found himself holding what looks like a bundle of old compact drives packed in a folding box with the title "NBA'S GREATEST MOMENTS".
"NBA, huh? So this is about basketball? Something like Kobe, Lebron, MJ, huh?" Kamijou whispered as he holds the dusty objects, "Not like I saw them play because of my washed-out memories…" He suddenly stopped speaking as he thought of something.
He then found himself being tempted to play the drives. Unable to hold himself any longer, he then got up and took the bundle. Those spilled things can wait.
He then opened his laptop and while waiting the computer to load, he then cleaned the pack with a moist cloth and as soon as he is finished wiping, he then inserted the first CD and it began to play. As soon as the video started playing, his attention got glued immediately.
The first CD was a compilation of the greatest moments of the late 1980s to the entire 1990s. In other words, it featured stars like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Reggie Miller, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, Penny Hardaway, Gary Payton, Chris Mullins, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Isaiah Thomas, and a lot more. It featured some of the highlight reels, from Jordan's double clutch against the Lakers to Olajuwon's dream shake.
"Su-Sugoi…" Kamijou can't help but admire all the plays, "I can't help it but it feels like…" He then noticed than he began to motion his arms and hands as if he himself is playing the game. It feels like I want to play basketball, too. At first, I thought that it's just a game where you have to shoot the ball but…
He then motioned the next CD, which is lying there as if pleading to be played. Suddenly feeling excited, he then picked up the next drive and he inserted it immediately after the first one was finished driving.
The second CD contains the highlights from the first three years of the 2000s era of the NBA. It featured stars like Kobe Bryant in his Afro-style hair, Shaquille O'Neal, Allen Iverson, Jason Kidd, Ray Allen, Steve Nash, Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, Rasheed Wallace, Chris Webber, Allan Houston, Cuttino Mobley, Mike Bibby, etc. This one's equally explosive, if not more than the first video, Kamijou muttered to himself as he watches Allen (then a Milwaukee Buck) swishes another one of his three pointers against Iverson's Philadelphia Sixers in game six of the 2001 NBA playoffs. That's so amazing! That Ray Allen guy shoots the ball with a flawless jumper. And that Allen Iverson dude with cornrows had got to be the sickest dribble I have ever seen. Maybe…just maybe…maybe I could do that…
Without realizing it at first, he then stood up and tried to replicate Ray Allen's jump shot as well as Iverson's crossover. Surprisingly, even without an actual leather ball, he felt good as he just felt that he could actually do it decently, if not good enough.
"Maybe with some practice, maybe I could pull it off…hey wait, am I really serious about it?" Kamijou then stopped and only then he did realize he was moving his body like he was playing in a real basketball tournament. Chuckling a bit, he then motioned to the next two CDs so he decided to stop the second one to play the third one.
The third CD showed what looked like the highlight reel of the 2003 – 2004 NBA season which showed a teenage Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Darko Milicic (LOL), Kyle Korver, Boris Diaw, etc.
"This season looks great as well," Kamjou commented then gasped to see Wade pull of a smooth crossover, making his defender stand frozen to the ground, "Amazing! He even made the defense look silly!"
After watching the third CD, he then proceeded to the fourth one, which is emblazoned with an "AND1 and other streetball greats" writing. As he played it, he was hoping to see another highlight.
He wasn't disappointed.
To say he was amazed is an understatement. He was basically awestruck to watch streetball, a variation of basketball which is more leeway when it comes to rules and regulations. To watch Julius "Dr. J" Erving slam the ball at Rucker Park, Rafer Alston and The Professor gut it out and Hot Sauce and Earl Manigault dishing out their handles, it's like the spiky haired boy is watching an entertainment show.
"Wow! I never knew basketball can also be done this way…huh?" he then felt his hand shaking as if it's being restless. Quickly, he touched his heat with his right hand to make sure all of this is just an imagination conjured up to escape his pitiful condition. When he realized that it was really real, that's when he decided to conclude.
"Oh man, I have found something really amazing!"
The next day, Kamijou Touma woke up rather early at 5 am despite having a short sleeping time because since he decided to play basketball, he quickly watched some YouTube videos about the basics of the game, including dribbling, shooting, passing, etc. and while he watched them, he quickly made some written notes about it. Whether he'll play in a varsity, local tournament, or just for fun, he wasn't so sure yet. But he had made up his mind.
Basketball looks fun so I'll give it a try!
"Touma? Why are you so early to wake up? It doesn't sound like you. And what's with this simple breakfast of cereals and milk?" Index somewhat grumbled as she began to pour milk into her bowl of cereals.
"Stop complaining. At least, you have something to eat," Kamijou replied as he consumes his toasted bread splattered with butter, "Also, I had something important to do so I have to wake up early. Also, don't forget to give Sphynx and Othinus their breakfast," he added as he glanced at the dollhouse where the Norse magician, whose height had drastically been reduced to a mere 15cm, still slept.
"Okay fine but what is this important thing to do?" Index asked, "Is it about school work? Is it about Komoe-san?"
"No. It's something else though you might find it a bit boring," Kamijou replied as he fidgeted at the fact that he just called basketball boring, "Well, I gotta go now. See ya later Index. Let's go out in a family restaurant tomorrow since it's Saturday!"
"Okay!" Index basically had her eyes shining at the Kamijou mentioning the family restaurant.
After he gathered his things, Kamijou began to jog under the still dark sky, though traces of sunlight can already be seen in the far horizons of the sky. So if I learn basketball, what shall I do next? Be the best in the whole of Academy City?
He made a sullen expression. Since this city has focused more in producing Espers above all other things under the sun, he doubts that there is a school here who had a dedicated varsity team. There might be a mini-tournament out there but it might not be enough…
He shook his head. He knew he can't just simply think about abstract thoughts if he isn't that capable yet to play basketball. I'll have to be solid on the basics first!
In a short time, he managed to reach his school, which is still devoid of human life, with only a few early birds and a phalanx of guards strolling around the campus, not that he minds. He quickly entered the building and made a smile to the people he passed by. So far, nothing bad has happened to me, huh?
He quite shivered at this. Usually, when something doesn't happen, it could mean that a bigger misfortune could be underway after a long day of normalcy. He gulped. I hope that nothing bad happens!
He then entered his own classroom which was still empty as the official start of classes are still at 8:30 am.
It was just days since the match between the Jabberwocks and Vorpal Swords have finished and right now, all the holdovers who are currently third and second years are practicing vigorously with the aim of wresting the top dog status in Japanese high school basketball.
"Okay, take five!" coach Aida Riko of the Seirin High School basketball team shouted. The team had recently won the Winter Cup and has etched its place among the top schools with three of its regulars as members of the Jabberwock team.
But right now, it's been obvious that every school has been seeking to dislodge the newly-installed rising star of Tokyo and as a result, training has been especially harsh.
"Coach is too merciless," Kagami Taiga mumbled to his partner as they rehydrate themselves. The high-jumping power forward of the third-year club has been specifically instructed by coach Riko to train in the swimming pool while the others do their regular shuttle runs.
"You're stating the obvious," Kuroko Tetsuya, the Phantom Sixth man of the fabled Generation of Miracles and Kagami's current partner, said as he wipes off the sweat from his forehead.
"Be quiet you two or the coach will hear you!" team captain Hyuga Junpei smacked the two of them, "By the way, we have some good news. Kiyoshi's recovery and rehabilitation from surgery has been successful and by the first week of May, he might already be joining us once again. Second, Kuroko, didn't Akashi told you that the next Olympics Basketball would be held in Tokyo?"
"Yes, he did," Kuroko said as he fishes out his phone to make sure that the Rakuzan point guard had indeed said something, "According to him, the Japanese Basketball Association would at least need three strings, with 25 players each, though the official playing lineup would still stand at twelve players per Olympic team. The screening would start at the first week of June, though official practice will start in the first week of July and our spots have already been secured, as reported by Akashi."
"By our, you mean those bastard GoM plus you? So only 19 players would be needed for the remaining spots in the first string? And what's with the short preparation?" Kagami, who is slightly annoyed that his partner and the rival Miracles (especially Touou's Aomine Daiki) have been secured at least a spot even without undergoing tryouts, asked.
"Akashi-kun must have planned that. He has his reasons after all. As for the short preparation, I don't know about that although I heard that the other Japanese Olympic teams are being more prioritized by the MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology)," Kuroko could only shrug as he opens his water jug.
"Speaking of tryouts, we only have a few freshmen who are enrolling in this club and seriously, no one's even lasting in the first test!" Izuki Shun, the eagle-eyed point guard who just came back from the washroom, exasperatedly exclaimed, "Our recruitment's getting out of nowhere. We might have gotten a larger funding from the principal but that might be used to buy more balls when I get to put the ball…"
"Izuki, shut up!" Hyuga shouted as he knew that the guard is going to make another lame pun, "But what you said is true though. We desperately needed a few more members. I think that we would have to wait until the start of June to get at least ten recruits."
As the seniors talk to themselves, Kuroko could only blink as he listened to their conversation. Don't give up, captain. I'm sure help will come along the way.
"That's so unexpected of you, Kami-yan!" Tsuchimikado Motoharu, who is sadly one of Kamijou's very few friends in school, mocked him as the rest of the class began to enter the room. Some of students, especially the boys, have been talking about how "unusual" that the usually unlucky boy didn't encounter something odd.
"Just shut up, Tsuchimikado," Kamijou scowled as he decided to put away the negative aura surrounding him, "Can't you be glad that for once, nothing bad happened to my day that is usually filled with nothing but rotten luck?"
"It's just really so out-of-place, Kami-yan," Aogami Pierce, sadly another of Kamijou;s friends and a self-confessed masochist and lolicon, chimed in, "And what's shocking is that you even came early than Fukiyose, who is usually the early bird here!"
"I don't find anything wrong with it," Kamijou, already starting to get irritated, replied, "Just stop your yapping for once and let me be in peace."
Meanwhile, Fukiyose, who didn't even believe about Kamijou's misfortunes, even found it strange that the boy he claimed to "hate" didn't encounter some type of trouble nor does he intended to start one right now.
"Okay, class!" Komoe Tsukuyomi, who had entered the classroom, squeaked, "Let's start the homeroom now!"
The day had gone as smoothly as ever, only getting disrupted by Fukiyose looking at Kamijou with a killer intent that is signifying that she's still mad at him, Tsuchimikado accidentally spilling his lemonade drink at the Imagine Breaker user, and Aogami freaking out that he had just found out a new way to make women squirm.
After the classes, Kamijou was itching to rush out of the classroom when Komoe suddenly called him out.
"Kamijou-chan!" the pinkette loli called him, "I like a word with you."
"Yes, Komoe-sensei?" Kamijou didn't know what the problem is as he gets near his homeroom teacher.
"I just noticed that you're having a good day, so far," Komoe smiled as she offers him a cup of tea, which the teenager politely refused, "I hope it becomes permanent!"
"Uh…thanks sensei," Kamijou flatly answered and then immediately went outside of the classroom. After leaving the campus, he immediately proceeded to the mall where he usually buys his grocery and he spotted a basketball apparel store, which happened to be almost deserted since it only has a few buyers. He quickly enters the establishment.
"Good evening, sir!" a tall, ash-blonde man who looks like the store caretaker greeted Kamijou, "I'm Sekiguchi Toru at your service! What do you want? There are a lot of basketball items here that is available, like the official Spalding Official Game Ball and Street Ball, the Kobe shoes, Air Jordans, duffel bags, Adidas Crazy shoes, etc. and etc."
"Well…" Kamijou was picking carefully so that he can manage his budget carefully. After some initial selection, he purchased a pair of basketball leggings, a pair of Kobe 9 EM "Laser Crimson", a leather basketball, basketball socks, and some apparel.
"That's quite a bundle," Sekiguchi chuckled, "Do you play basketball?"
"Actually," Kamijou replied, "I…well…I actually a beginner in the game."
The ash-blonde man raised his eyebrows, "Eh? That's so late for your age. Oh well, it's not my business. Here you go, customer!"
"Arigatou Gozaimashita!" Kamijou thanked Sekiguchi and then sped off to buy the essential cooking ingredients he'll need.
"What's taking you so long, Touma!?" Index, who is already getting impatient, began to growl as Othinus simply watched the unfortunate boy cooked.
"Just wait, dammit!" Kamijou bellowed as he flips the frying pan.
"Human, what are you cooking for dinner?" the Magic God asked as she began to go back and fourth from her doll house.
"Beef broccoli and some fried fish," Kamijou replied as he continued to think about what to do as they eat. So while they eat, what shall I do first? Practice dribbling, shooting, or passing?
After serving their dinner, Kamijou then went to the bathroom to change his clothes. He donned a simple white t-shirt, a playing shorts that he purchased a while back, and the pair of Kobes. Taking the Spalding ball with him, he was already heading out for the exit door when he was stopped by a munching Index.
"Touma? Aren't you going you going to eat? And what's with the strange outfit?" she asked as she eyes Kamijou's basketball attire.
"I'm just going out for some exercise," the Imagine Breaker excused himself, "Don't worry, I already ate so you're free to gobble up everything."
"Okay, Touma!" Index replied then proceeded to munch and munch her already-filled plate.
Once Kamijou was outside, he began to walk until he spotted a deserted street basketball court which is frequently passed by a lot of students despite no one actually using it. Once he had stepped on the court, he began to dribble the ball while repeating everything he had learned in those YouTube sessions he had in his brain. For some reason, dribbling is so stimulating.
He then proceeded to make a simple layup. I hope this doesn't go wrong. So while I ran, I dribble the ball and take two steps before making a layup…
Moving rather on instinct, he inhaled and exhaled before sprinting towards the ring. Normally, total amateurs tend to make trivial mistakes but for the spiky haired boy, he was able to actually make a layup, which genuinely surprised him.
"I did it, huh?" he said as he watched the ball fall from the net, "Hmmm…then let's take it in a faster beat."
For the next hour, he practiced his dribbling, which is already accompanied with the high pace usually associated with professional players. For someone who is considered unlucky and an idiot, he's actually learning so fast that it's like he had been doing those movements for years. After dribbling, he then practiced his shooting. Not surprisingly, he didn't manage to hit his first three shots due to either shooting too strong or too far and near. But after some few adjustments that he did, he manage to sink a basket—first in the free throwline, second in the perimeter, and third, three steps behind the three point line. Amazed by this small feat, he then picked up the ball and began to do the more unconventional styles that he watched players from And1 do. And despite being his first time, he was actually able to do some decent tricks, such as the Stiff Leg Crossover, Spin Move Crossover, and Baseline Behind-The-Back dribble. After doing those moves flashy, unstoppable moves, he was basically gaping. Did I really do it? Or maybe this is some kind of imagination? He then touched his head with his right hand to see if he wasn't conjuring up fantasies. He then didn't hear the usual shrill when his right hand breaks illusions. So this is real, huh?
"For someone who claims a novice, you're doing quite pretty well for an amateur…"
Kamijou stopped. That voice! I think I heard that somewhere a while back…
"Se-Sekiguchi-san!?" Kamijou turned to see the ash-blonde storekeeper, who is now wearing a black jersey and shorts, standing on the sidelines while holding a ball, "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be working in the store?"
Sekiguchi chuckled, "My store closes early so I can play here. By the way, mind giving me your name? I gave you mine, after all."
Kamijou sighed, "Oh yeah. I'm Kamijou Touma, a second-year student and a Level 0 Esper."
"I see," Sekiguchi hummed as he rolls the ball in his hand, "So you're younger than me, huh. By the way, Kamijou, what made you decide to play basketball? Is it because you're a Level 0 and getting discriminated that you want some purpose or goal that's different from this city? Or you're simply bored in life?"
Kamijou stopped. He's so perceptive! To be honest, it's quite a little of both.
"It's okay if you don't want to tell me," the ash-blonde took him out of his thoughts, "After all, people have different reasons to play basketball. Most do it for fun, some do it for domination and power and others…well…they simply love the game. But to tell you honestly, if you really don't enjoy the sport from the bottom of your heart, then you don't have the right to play it."
Kamijou narrowed his eyes, "Hey, Sekiguchi-san, I know it may sound rude but can we please have a little duel? I just simply wanted to assess how much should I learn."
Sekiguchi seemed to be consider it, "Okay lad. Whoever gets 30 points first gets the win. Let's do Janken to determine the first possession."
After determining whoever gets the ball first, Kamijou and Sekiguchi then faced off in the court.
"Yes! It's my 28th point!" Sekiguchi shouted in victory as he began to defend against Kamijou, who had amassed twenty points.
The raven, despite being the one trailing, found himself enjoying the game. I never knew I could enjoy something else other than saving people's lives here and outside Academy City!
"I hope I don't do anything wrong," he mumbled as he quickly goes up for a shot, which was preempted by the taller male and jumped high. However, as Sekiguchi was still in the air, Kamijou realized this and quickly drove past him.
"No, you don't!" Sekiguchi suddenly shouted and was able to catch up on Kamijou, who was slightly surprised at his mark's quick response. His reflexes and defense are amazing! But I can do this!"
He then stopped and spun around as he dribbles the ball between the legs for a quick fadeway shot. Sekiguchi saw this and quickly extended his arms to try to block the shot but suddenly, he noticed Kamijou's shooting form and was quickly stunned.
What!? His body's almost parallel to the ground! I don't know if it's possible but it reminds me of that guy from our old middle team…
He was taken out of his daydreaming as Kamijou shot the ball, which was well out of the block's reach. The ball rattled off the ring before eventually landing beneath.
"Yes! This isn't over," Kamijou raised his fists although deep inside him, he was equally dumbfounded by what he just did. My body's lower than the usual fadeaway! Is that mere body instinct or adrenaline! No wait! I have no time to think!
He then began to pressure Sekiguchi, who was struggling to penetrate. The latter was equally frustrated and amazed by the defense of the smaller guy. His feet are strong and his reflex, agility, flexibility, and speed are raw but can be devastating when polished and used correctly. His eyes then widens. Perhaps, can he be in equal footing with those…
"Shit!" he cursed as he saw Kamijou stole the ball and quickly made a fastbreak. But he recovered and immediately stopped him when he's still six feet from the three point line, "You're not going anywhere!"
"Dammit!" Kamijou cussed as he began to dribble, "But if I can to that fadeaway, maybe I can gamble on this." I haven't seen anyone do this but…
He then entered his shooting motion, with the ball in his hands. "You can't be serious!" Sekiguchi screamed as he watched Kamijou attempt a quick shot far away from the three point line. As he released the ball, he was sure that there's no way that it's going to even reach the ring. He's an amateur so he won't make this one!
He should have thought otherwise.
The moment the ball came crashing down through the ring, without a hint of grazing the ball, both players were shell-shocked. I did it? I really did it! Kamijou thought aloud as he takes a look at his right hand.
"You have potential," Sekiguchi said aloud and then suddenly, he then drove to Kamijou's goal. The shorter guy wasn't able to react (due to shock) as he watches the ash-blonde slam the ball, "I take the win!"
Kamijou sighed. Such misfortune!
"But like I said, you have potential," Sekiguchi said as he turns to face the spiky haired boy, "To start with, what position do you want to play?"
"Position? Well…uh…point guard," Kamijou flatly replied.
"Well, you're actually more suited in the floor general…" Sekiguchi then trailed for a bit, "Hey, wait, since this city's not even famous when it comes to basketball, what do you plan to do now? I don't know any clubs that you can join here."
"The truth is, I don't know," Kamijou confessed, "I actually considered joining a varsity but there really aren't any clubs that's devoted to basketball."
Sekiguchi then frowned. I pity this kid. If only he can battle the…
Suddenly, he had an idea.
"Well, I have a suggestion for you," Sekiguchi then said, "I'm saying this because I don't want to get your potential wasted. Listen, if you agree to get out of this city and find a school in Tokyo that had a basketball club, I can train you as much as I can for a bloody price of nothing."
"Huh!? What!?" Kamijou suddenly was shocked at Sekiguchi's suggestion.
"It's a suggestion so it's still your choice if you accept it or not," Sekiguchi clarified, "But if you were to ask me, I'd say that you get out of this city because outside this place, high school basketball is waiting for you. There are a lot of schools that offer basketball-related programs and I'd pay to see you play in the three important matches of Japanese high school basketball tournaments, namely the Interhigh, the Winter Cup, and the National Sports Meet. But more than that, your potential, if improved and polished further, can rival the Generation of Miracles."
"The—what?" Kamijou asked.
"If you haven't heard of them, then I'll summarize it. The Generation of Miracles is the most powerful team in the history of Japanese basketball," Sekiguchi explained, "I don't know if you'll believe me but the GoM and I attended both the Teiko Middle High School. As such, I was their senior when their talents bloomed."
Kamijou cannot believe what he had just heard. This guy was a part of what he claimed is a legendary team!?
"Right now, all the members of the Generation of Miracles have attended separated high schools. So the schools you have to look out for because they all each have a regular from the vaunted group are Shutoku, Seirin, Touou, Kaijo, Rakuzan, and Yosen…well…they're supposed to be only five but…" he then stopped. Kamijou then saw that his face was bearing an expression of uncertainty.
"It's better of you're that one who finds out," Sekiguchi blurted, "I don't know how to explain this but to save you of hassle, the GoM had an additional sixth man who is valued because of his uncanny but powerful methods of passing. You might not understand it but that's that. If you want to find out, then you better get out of this city."
Kamijou then began to think twice. I haven't known any other home besides this place ever since my memories got wiped out. But honestly, this guy's offer is so tempting to resist.
He then inhaled and exhaled. I have given up my time and even life for almost everyone, especially in this city. Maybe it's not wrong if this time, I'll be a little selfish for myself.
"If I accept it, how will you train me?" Kamijou then asked.
"The fastest way is to join pocket tournaments," Sekiguchi replied, "Since you have an idea about the basics, then all I'll have to do is to point out what's wrong in your movements and to teach you some additional moves."
Kamijou then smiled, "I accept it. So when do we start?"
It was already past 11 pm when Kamijou Touma got home. Man! Sekiguchi's such a sadist! He made me run, dribble, and shoot endlessly!
He entered his dorm, which was already silent. But if it will help me get stronger in no time, then I'd happily follow his training regime!
He then went straight to the kitchen where he saw Index already have arranged the dirty plates in the sink so that he'll only have to wash them. He smiled. At least, it's better than having her just lazing off the whole day.
He froze. What!? She's still awake!?
"Hey, Index. Still up?" He turned around to see the silver-haired nun, who is in her sleeping clothes, standing beside her (Kamijou's) bed.
"What took you so long!? Me, Sphynx and Othinus have been planning to go out for an ice cream session but it seems this exercise of yours seemed to be another pretext for fornication…" she ranted as her fangs began to show up.
"Uh! Please Index! Let me explain!" Kamijou panicked as he tried to save himself, "You see, this is quite an important announcement that it might affect our lives!"
Index seemed to calm down, "Touma, what is that important thing that you say?"
"Well…" Kamijou was choosing his words carefully, "How do I say it? Hnnnnh…Index, would it be fine if we will all move to our home in Metropolitan Tokyo?"
"Huh…why?" Index was taken aback by the sudden decision her partner just made, "What's wrong?"
"It's just that, I started playing basketball and…"
"Hey, what is basketball?" Index interrupted him, "Is it a Japanese term for football?"
"Uh…no Index," Kamijou made a weird expression, "They are two different sports. If soccer is played by using your feet and with six players each on two teams, basketball is a sport played by two teams with five members each. Well, the mechanic is slightly similar to football except that you score by trying to shoot a ball into a hoop which is 10 feet tall. What makes it hard because unlike football, your all playing in a tightly-packed court so the defense is harder to penetrate."
"I see," Index nodded, "So in your opinion, which is harder to play?"
"Well, they're equally challenging," Kamijou continued, "When you're talking of stamina, footwork, and endurance, football is slightly more challenging because you'll all basically run in the field all trying to kick a ball. But if you're going to consider height, speed, agility, athleticism, and execution of skills, I think basketball's the more challenging due to sheer complexity."
"Okay," Index nodded once more, "Then what is this problem that you're talking about?"
"To cut the chase, I have decided to transfer schools," Kamijou said offhandedly, "The reason is because there is no basketball club here."
"Well…I'm fine with that but Touma…" Index then trailed off, "Will it be fine to bring Othinus and Sphynx there?"
"Uh…yeah!" Kamijou answered with a slight hint of uncertainty. I do hope mom and dad doesn't mind free loaders at home.
"Okay, then it's settled! But before that, don't forget your promise about the family restaurant tomorrow!" Index made a peace sign and then she fell asleep as she was exhausted from waiting Kamijou.
Kamijou smiled as he then fishes out his phone. After a few rings, he then heard the voice of some he knew.
"Woah—Touma, why are you still awake at this point? You should be sleeping—"
"Dad, I'll be straight to the point. I plan to transfer to find a school there."
"Huh!? Why so sudden, Touma!? The new term has barely begun and yet—"
"Dad, please, just this once, please do me a favor. You want us to be together again, right? Plus, I get to be with mom every day. I know that you're concerned about the bad luck that I have but I can handle that on my own."
"Hmmm…fine then, Touma. When do you plan to go back here?"
"Before June starts, dad. Oh dad, please do some quick research right now for schools which are nearby our home so that I can simply walk."
"Well…okay…wait a minute son. I have a pamphlet here that was dropped by a random student. Let's see…Senshinkan…Meisei…Seiho…Kyoritsu…well, they're the best schools here that I saw…"
"Uh, Dad, isn't there anymore schools?" Inwardly, Kamijou was slightly disappointed that none of them are the schools which Sekiguchi mentioned.
"Well, son…there's this school called Seirin High which is actually the nearest to our home that you can cover the distance. But they're actually just a young institution compared to the…"
"It's okay, dad! I'll attend Seirin, then!"
"You sure with that, Touma? We just want the best education for you."
"Yeah, dad. I have decided."
"Okay, but what's with the sudden change?"
"Well…you see…I got interested in playing basketball and so, I ended up getting scouted so that's why…" Kamijou slightly twisted the story.
"REALLY TOUMA!? THEN YOUR MOTHER WILL BE SO HAPPY ABOUT THIS! AFTER ALL, YOU DID SAY THAT YOU WANT TO PLAY BASKETBALL WHEN YOU WERE JUST IN KINDERGARTEN!"
"Yeah…huh…wait a minute…what did you just say?" the last part actually caught the spiky haired boy by surprise.
"You don't remember Touma? The NBA CDs that you kept pestering me to buy when you were young? They were just scattered here so I decided that I sent them there!"
"I see. Well, good night dad!" He then hanged the phone.
"That's some strange twist," he whispered to himself as he enters the bathroom to sleep.
The next day, Kamijou, Index, and Othinus, who is on the teen's pocket, are headed early in the morning for some heavy lunch in Julian's Family Restaurant. But as they walked in the streets, the silver-haired nu began to talk.
"Touma, why are you wearing again that weird sports clothing?" she asked as she motions as his pair of Kobe sneakers and the Nike duffle bag that is slung into the shoulders of the teen.
"After lunch, I'll have to do something, Index so the two of you should stay home. Don't worry, I'll order something like hamburger for the two of you to eat as snacks this afternoon. I'll be arriving home late so behave while I'm gone," Kamijou explains to them as they enter the establishment.
Once they were able to find their seats, Kamijou then ordered something to the cashier and was about to pay his bill when he spotted someone familiar.
"Sekiguchi!" he called out to the taller male, who happened to be at the same place and was also at the line to order as well.
"Yo, Kamijou!" the ash-blonde responded, "I'm surprise you're here as well. So, have you decided to finally transfer? And is yes, what school is that?"
Should I tell him that I plan to go to Seirin? Kamijou thought as he went out of the line to give way for Sekiguchi, who ordered two burgers, a coffee drink, and potato fries. I don't know but I'm not actually prepared to tell him that…
"What's wrong Kamijou? Your mind seemed to drift off," Sekiguchi, who was staring at him for some time, snapped him out of his lucid dreams.
"Ah sorry. About your question, I already planned to transfer before the end of May but I'll still have to complete some of my requirements here and I haven't chosen a school yet," Kamijou decided not to reveal yet that he'll attend Seirin.
"I see. Hey, since you're here, why don't I join you in the table?" Sekiguchi asked, "Do you have any companions with you?"
"Ah yes—oh, wait!" Kamijou remembered that he's with Index and Othinus. Maybe it will be alright if it's Index but how can I explain to him about Othinus' presence. Oh right, she's asleep in my pocket. I'll have to play this one right!
"Join us then!" he gave off a wide grin, which Sekiguchi found it weird but decided to let it slide. The moment they had went upstairs to eat, Index saw them and began to question about the identity of the guy who is walking beside her partner.
"Touma! Who is that guy!?" Index scowled as she narrows her eyes towards Sekiguchi, who could only stare back, both amazed and confused at her nun robes and petite size.
"This is Sekiguchi Toru-san," Kamijou introduced the ash-blonde immediately to remove any signs of tension, "He's my training partner in the sport that I mentioned to you. Sekiguchi, she's Index Librorum Prohibitorum or you can just call her Index, for short."
That's some strange name, Sekiguchi thought as he lays down his tray of food.
As they began to eat, Kamijou then looked outside the window, which revealed a panoramic view of a recovering Academy City. He smiled sadly. In just a few weeks, I'll be leaving this place with no regrets to face a new future.
"So…what will be your house in Tokyo like, Touma?" Index suddenly asked him as they are busy munching burgers.
"Uhm…it's just a typical modern Japanese house with figurines, sofa, a television, kitchen, and a two-bed room," Kamijou tried his best to describe a home which he only visited once while the incident involving Angel Fall was underway. I think that house has been repaired to what it should be.
"You seemed to have your mind wandering off again, Kamijou," Sekiguchi suddenly interrupted his thoughts as his huge hands revealed his bitten burger, which shows how large he can take.
"What? Ah gomen," Kamijou somehow looked like he was high that he forgot that Sekiguchi was even sitting beside him, "I was just thinking about what should I expect when I return to Tokyo."
"There's nothing much to expect," Sekiguchi shrugged, "The only difference between this and that place is the robots, phones, hi-tech weapons, scientific innovations, and some crazy stuff of Academy City. If anything, that so-called "thirty years advanced" is slightly exaggerated a bit, in my opinion."
"What are you doing here, then?" Kamijou was curious to know why an ordinary person from a school outside of this city doing business in this place.
"Nothing fancy. It just happened that there are a lot of basketball outlets in the main metropolis so some college friend suggested that I do some business here but apparently, only a few kids here is actually interested in basketball, counting yourself. I guess I'll have to go back to Tokyo as well," Sekiguchi explained, slightly disappointed, "By the way, I was wondering what Exper ability you could have developed if you are more than a Level 0."
Kamijou quickly shook his head, "Unfortunately, that seemed inapplicable to me. But I'm pretty happy and content in my life despite the fact that I'm only a Level 0."
"Good for you then," Sekiguchi replied, "After all, life is much simpler but slightly better outside rather than here. Well, I'm finished eating. Just catch up with me when you're done. The tournament's will start in 3 pm and be finished by 5 pm, not 7 so you don't have to worry about getting home so late." He then stood up and quickly left the area. Kamijou watched him walked briskly. Well, life here in Academy City had its own moments as well, you know.
"Touma! What tournament is he talking about!?"
Kamijou froze to see Index asking something which she should not know, "What is this tournament I'm hearing about? Huh!?"
"Index, it's nothing too sinful…" the spiky haired boy tried to soothe the nun, "Just, stay home and feed Othi…"
"I'm going too! I don't care what you say! I haven't been in a tournament before!" Index then began to throw tantrums.
"Index, they don't allow spectators your age," Kamijou then explained while giving an excuse, "Besides, it might bore you so easily so please don't be so…"
"But Touma! What if that event is only a pretense to fight off magicians!?" Index wouldn't hear any of her partner's explanations, "You can't just go off on your own. I have already dealt too much heartbreaks with your memory lost, your World War II engagement, and that sorcerer's magical tortures that he inflicted to you!"
"Index, magic has nothing to do with this," Kamijou, already starting to lose his patience, facepalmed, "Argh…fine…I'll at least explain it to you. Basically, I was invited last night by Sekiguchi to play in a five-on-five street basketball tournament which would be held outside the upper borders of District 13 which means that it would be held on the streets of Western Tokyo and that would mean a farther distance from our apartment. That's the damn reason why I don't want to bring you and Othinus along."
Index seemed to nod but suddenly, "Then, I'll still go with you!"
"But Index…" Kamijou wasn't' able to finish what he said as suddenly, Index leaped up and began to chomp on his head.
"OUCH! Such Misfortune!"
After treating his head with ointment, Kamijou, Index, and Othinus are now headed straight into the borders of District 13. Armed with a gate pass, a leather ball, and an extra pair of clothes, Kamijou was quite nervous as this would be his first time playing in a real basketball game. Talk about butterflies in my stomach, this is getting pretty put of hand.
After managing to get out of the walls, the scenery then changed into a typical, Japanese modern town with houses, mini-stores, regular schools, and playgrounds. After walking an extra mile, they managed to reach the designated place, which happened to be dotted with a lot of players and spectators.
"Wow! That's a lot of people! I never knew basketball could be this big in this country," Kamijou genuinely gasped as he saw rows and columns of basketball courts being filled with competing pickup teams, a few foreigners, speactators, and a lot of food stands.
"To—Touma, where are we?" Index, not being used to an environment outside of Academy City and the walls of a cathedral, and the English countryside, actually shivered as she hugs Sphynx.
"Yeah, human…where are we," Othinus, now awake, asked as she tried to open up the zipper of the duffel bag, where she is kept.
"Oh you're awake Othinus," Kamijou then peered in his bag, "Just to you know, we're not in Academy City so I would appreciate it if you keep quite for at least an hour in this bag."
"Ok but do try to give me some water," Othinus then returned to her sleep.
The spiky haired boy turned at the source of the voice and was surprised to see Sekiguchi running towards him along with two other guys, "Kamijou, I'm glad you arrived earlier than what we agreed upon. By the way, this guy here is Kubota Masaya and this little runt here is Tanaka Tobio. We'll be playing together!"
"Hey there dude!" Kubota greeted, his black bangs covering almost his eyes. Tanaka simply gave off a timid smile.
"Okay but where is our fifth member?" Kamijou asked.
"Oh…Okusu Ryuji's not here yet, is it?" Sekiguchi scratched his head as he looked to Tanaka, who simply shrugged, "Well, he'll be here in time. Let's go get ready to warmup!" The three then ran towards the basketball court to sweat out.
As Kamijou was removing his orange short that revealed a white one, Index suddenly voiced out her concerns, "You can't just leave us here! Where are we staying then? What about our food? What about…"
"Just wait Index," Kamijou irritatingly said as he then walked to a nearby food stall to order something. I shouldn't have brought her here!
"By the way, just sit in the bleachers in the sidelines of this court," Kamijou reminded the nun as they are waiting for the ten burgers to be ready.
The referee of the streetball match whistled the start of the match. Two teams then lined up. "Let the second tournament match between Team Green Dragons and Team Blue Waves begin!" the female announcer blared in the mic.
Ruckus and cheers followed the announcement as the sidelines is now packed with a lot of people.
"Man, this is quite nerve wracking!" Kamijou, who is wearing a black-and-green jersey, which he found surprising since the measurement is accurate, commented as he watched the whole crowd waved.
The ball was tipped between the Blue Waves center and Okusu, who was 190 cm tall. Unfortunately, the opponent got the first possession and so, the Greens decided to set up their defense. The Blue's point guard then made between-the-legs dribble and he dashed past Sekiguchi, who wasn't able to keep up with the speed. The guard then stopped and turned around and faded for the jump shot, earning their team the first score.
"Dammit!" Sekiguchi angrily seethed as he inbounds the ball. Meanwhile, Kamijou couldn't help but admire the move. That turnaround was simply but deadly. Hmmm…maybe I could do it too?
He gets the ball and then began to dash towards the opponent's goal. Facing the guard who had score the first point, the spiky haired boy decided to apply what he learned from Sekiguchi's lessons last night and from the videos of And1. He then dribbled to the right and as his mark followed, he then made a hesitation dribble. Eyeing as if he is about to pass the ball to Kubota, who is waiting on the left corner, he suddenly made a quick switch by dribbling between-the-legs on his left and began to ran past the blue guard.
So fast! I know it might sound ridiculous but his speed reminds me of that certain player from Touou Academy, the point guard, who just fallen in his knees, thought.
Despite the quick help from the defenders, Kamijou then made hesitated and suddenly, he swerved to his left and quickly dribbled past them.
"Not letting you!" the center then shouted as he jumps but to his surprise, Kamijou stopped and made a quick turnaround which both shocked and entertained the crowd.
His body's almost parallel to the ground! The crowd miraculously thought at the same time.
Even before the center manage to fall back to the ground, Kamijou had already released his shot, earning himself a basket.
"I can't believe it!" Kubota shouted.
"So I was right all along," Sekiguchi narrowed his eyes. I know it sounds stupid but his raw speed and agility is there. It might not yet be on the level of those bastard kouhais but if he trains on it, he'll definitely reached their feet. Though there's one thing that's bothering me. That turnaround jumper. It's the same as the opposing guard had done, except that Kamijou's form was definitely better and well-executed. But still, I didn't even see him do it last night. Could it be…
He was taken out of thoughts by Tanaka shouting, "Captain, they're on offense!"
All the Greens used a 3 – 2 defensive pattern, with Kamijou and Kubota in the front. As the opposing point guard moves, he then motioned a past to his left but as Kamijou reacted on instinct, his mark suddenly faked and dashed on the right side and as Kubota came in to help, the guard quickly stopped and made a step back, one-legged jumper. The score is now 4 – 2, in favor of the Blue team.
"That move reminds me of Dirk Nowitzki," Okusu whisperd to no one in particular as he wiped of his sweaty face. However, Kamijou seemed to having different thoughts. That move is amazing as well. Maybe…just maybe…I can also execute it…
As Greens are in offense, Kamijou had the ball while eyeing Sekiguchi on his right and Kubota on his left. Giving a 'screen please' signal by tapping his scalp, Kamijou hesitated a dribble as Kubota came rushing in to free the spiky haired boy of his defender. However, the latter, for some reasons, had read this and quickly tried to avoid colliding with the raven but in a split second, Kamijou spun and made a back dribble before crossing to his right, shocking his mark who got entangled with Kubota for a bit.
Reacting on instinct, the center once again faced off with Kamijou but before he could move from his spot, the spiky haired boy quickly stopped and made a jaw-dropping one legged fadeaway, almost the same as the earlier made by the Blues but with a higher release. The score is now tied.
"Amazing! Who is that spiky haired dude!"
"I don't know. It's my first time seeing that guy. He might not be a regular here in the public courts."
"But still, he is skilled!"
Hearing these comments, Kamijou somehow felt flustered as he hears the sound of the whistle signaling a timeout. He then looked at his right hand and then touched his head to see all of these is real. He gasped. So it's all real, huh? But what's more amazing is, every basketball move that I see, I can execute them immediately. But how did I do that? I don't know. I really don't know. It's just as if I can learn any basketball skill by seeing it only once…
"Good job, kid!" Sekiguchi slapped his back as they all went to the sidelines, "Hey, do you have some time after this game? It won't take a minute."
"Uh, why?" Kamijou asked.
"I do have something in mind when I saw you play in a real game for the first time," Sekiguchi replied as he then took out a pair of compact disc from his duffel bag, "I won't say anything much but after this match, I want you to take this home."
"Uh, what's this?" Kamijou asked as he eyes the first CD, which is marked with a cover entitled Teiko Middle School Progress Reports. The other CD looks like a scouting report based on the tile it had.
"Well, the first CD, as you read it, is about the highlights and progress of the five, or rather, six members of the Generation of Miracles from middle school. If you want to be stronger, watching them could help you. And the second CD is the highlights of the GoM from last year's Winter Cup when they are all freshmen high school, about the same age as yours," Sekiguchi explained as he placed the CDs on Kamijou's waiting hands, "And I have a challenge for you. If you can execute everything that you watched from your opponents or better if it's from CDs like And1, I might consider giving you a treat."
"Sure," Kamijou, quite giddy that he grinned like he hasn't smiled in a century, accepted the challenge, "Just make sure you keep that promise!"
"Baka…I don't break such promises," Sekiguchi chided the boy as they all went back inside the court though inwardly, he actually has another reason for this. I just want to see and confirm it if it's real. Because if it's real, then who knows? He might be on the same level as them.
The rest of the match was simply disastrous for the Blue team as Kamijou, after seeing their moves just once, began bring it back twice the power. But that's not the only thing he did. As the spiky haired boy had watched the And1 mixtapes from Friday night, he simply recreated them, sometimes even overlapping two moves into one. This resulted in Kamijou being too hard to guard, though some of his opposing marks hear him whisper something like "left…right…cross over here…spin…between the legs…" as he seems to imagine something.
The game ended in a rout, 100 – 62.
"Yosh!" Sekiguchi raised his hands in victory as he and his teammates go and celebrate, but Kamijou then cut in, "Hey, please treat us in those food stalls as you promised. I swear, I don't have any money left."
"Yeah, yeah!" the ash blonde replied as he fishes out a wallet. So it's safe to say that he got that same ability as that annoying blonde, at the very least.
While they were eating in a near Kebab stall, Sekiguchi then started speaking, "We'll have some light training tomorrow to assess your ability. But for now, try watching the CDs that I have sent to you. You might be shocked that guys your age are playing a higher gear of basketball."
"Is that so?" the spiky haired boy asked as he munches as piece of ground beef. Index, for her part, had ordered at least five rolls of Kebab, much to Sekiguchi's annoyance.
"That's all I can say, for now," Sekiguchi smirked as he wipes off his mouth with a handkerchief, "The rest would be up for you to know. And don't forget about training tomorrow, kid." With that, he already left.
Later that night, as Kamijou, Index, and Othinus are busy eating their supper, he kept remembering what Sekiguchi said about those supposed basketball geniuses playing a level at par with professional players in the NBA. They're supposed to be in the same age as me, right?
He then eyed at the two CDs which were lying the platform besides the television. He then gobbled up his food consisting of fried rice, boiled chicken, and orange juice.
"Touma? Why are you eating so fast?" Index asked the boy, who was about to stand up.
"I need to do something quick so I ate fast," Kamijou excused himself as he puts his plates in the sink and quickly took out his laptop. He then sat on a separate table and once he had set the gadget, he quickly inserted the first CD.
To say he was amazed was an understatement. Shit! This guys are a like basketball gods! They're play's almost equal to those of professional NBA players and hardcore street ballers! I never knew there are Japanese guys who could move like this!
He watched moves like a shot being casually thrown like a frisbee, a whole-court shot, crazy ankle breakers, whole-perimeter defense, and freestyle basketball. But two things stood out for the boy.
Woah! Who's this blonde guy? He seems to be able to copy moves and attack them twice the power. Perhaps, I seemed to sense some familiarity here. Could it be because I also learn new techniques after seeing them once? I can't be sure yet. And what's with this guy…hey wait a sec…I didn't even notice him when I first played the video. Who is this pale guy?
He had to rewind and repeat the video, even playing it backwards so that he can finally view of the pale guy, whom he immediately suspects is the Phantom Sixth Man that Sekiguchi's talking about.
What's with this? He looks like a ghost! But still, those passes…I have never seen such strong throws before. It looks like that Biri Biri's railgun. And he looks as if he's magically teleporting the ball!
He then smiled.
Looks like this year's gonna be the first time I'll be lucky!