[My name is Kuroko Tetsuya.]
"Oi, Kuroko! You sure you don't wanna go to Maji with me?!" said a very bulky man wearing a black gakuran uniform.
[To most people, I am what you call, an 'enigma'. They say I am an 'awfully reserved person' who, despite being friends with for a whole year, does not share any personal information.]
"Gomen, Kagami-kun. But I have some personal matters to attend to." replied a slightly smaller boy, wearing the same uniform. With a completely blank face, he was somehow able to direct an apologetic look towards his companion.
[But that's not true. It is not that I don't like sharing anything about me to my friends. In fact, I would answer their questions truthfully if they asked.]
"Tch," the other frowned, scratching his dual-colored hair with his pointer finger as his left eyebrow(s) twitched. "Suit yourself."
[I attend Seirin High, a school that was formed only three years ago. Despite being new, it was well-known for its Basketball Club —a club that I am a member of, along with my partner, Kagami Taiga.]
"Then, I'll be going now."
[Kagami-kun is a Japanese-returnee from America, and he is my light in the court. We were both known as the Light and Shadow duo, with me being dubbed as Seirin's Phantom Sixth Man.]
"Geh," Kagami snorted, rubbing his nose as he huffed gruffly, turning on his heels to walk in the opposite direction. "Guess I'll see you next week then, Kuroko."
[The two of us are now in our second year of high school. Kagami-kun and I have been members of the Basketball Club since our first year of high school. Just last year, we lost at the Inter High in the game against a strong school, but made a comeback during the Winter Cup, bringing light to the name of our school. The basketball team grew closer into a tight-knit family ever since then.]
"Goodbye, Kagami-kun." Kuroko bowed, waving as Kagami dismissed his formality with a careless 'yeah, yeah'. Once the shorter boy lost sight of the redhead, he began walking towards the cross-section that was at least fifteen minutes away from Seirin.
[And yet, even though the team and I have become like family, there is still one more thing about me that they don't know about.]
His teal-colored flip-phone sounded as he received a message. Opening it and scanning over the message, Kuroko's lips gave a miniscule raise as he murmured silently to himself.
'She should be here by now...'
As if on cue, there was a light, screeching sound as soon as that thought crossed his mind.
The next thing he knew, Kuroko found himself being pounced on by a cheery, pink-haired girl. Having been used to such antics, however, Kuroko was prepared to catch himself before they end up toppling over each other from the sudden collision.
Smiling to himself, Kuroko greeted back just as happily.
"Hello, Momoi-san." greeted he, turning his head to meet a pair of fuschia orbs.
[Yes, I have a girlfriend.]
The said girl pursed her lips in a form of a pout, a few strands of her long pink hair falling on her face as she tightened her hold to her arctic blue-haired boyfriend.
"Mou, Tetsu-kun. I thought with us dating, we'd be on first name basis already..."
[And no, I had no intention of keeping her a secret.]
"Momoi-san has been Momoi-san for as long as I've known her." Kuroko reasoned, his cobalt blue eyes gazing at her fondly.
[Rather, everyone just assumed that I wasn't interested in dating because I have my eyes only on basketball. But that's not true, as you can see.]
"And it would be difficult to change names over the course of one day."
[Momoi-san and I have only begun dating yesterday, you see. So today will be the first day we'll be spending time together as a couple.]
Momoi only continued to pout, but considered Kuroko's reason to be logical. "Fine, but Tetsu-kun should try calling me Satsuki one day!" —still, she was persistent.
And Kuroko, knowing how stubborn his girlfriend could be, conceded. "Alright, Momoi-san. I promise."
This earned him a grin from Momoi that made Kuroko's heart flutter in his chest.
"I'll be waiting for that day, then." said she, standing beside Kuroko as she fixed her skirt, which was part of her uniform from her school, Touo. "Well, shall we, Tetsu-kun?"
[I have known Momoi-san since we were in our first year of high school, and Momoi-san has been referring to herself as my girlfriend since day one. Even though my relationship with her has changed since then, nothing had changed between the two of us from how we've been before.]
Kuroko smiled, openly this time. "We shall, Momoi-san." he breathed out, holding out a hand that she took without hesitation.
[Believe it or not, Momoi-san has been confessing to me since the first day we met, openly sharing the feelings she had for me. So why did it take this long for me to reciprocate?
The answer is quite simple; I was afraid.
You see, the first time I met Momoi Satsuki, she was being harassed in the same train I often take to get home. I was able to stop said sexual assault by simply directing everyone's attention to the scene, which led to the Train Station's security guards escorting the man out for further questioning.
Momoi-san, sharp-eyed as she was, was able to spot me and thank me for helping her. Somehow, she knew that I was the one responsible for attracting the attention of bystanders towards the train molester.
To anyone who knew me, they would think me as a person so invested in basketball, I never gave girls a single thought. But that's not exactly true. My mother may have raised me as a gentleman, but I can appreciate beauty. And Momoi-san is one.
Anyone who looks at Momoi-san would think the same, and honestly, I grew worried that she's become a target of harassment everywhere she goes.
To someone with a nearly non-existent presence, it was hard to imagine what it feels like to have eyes on you everywhere you go.
So I asked her, 'does this happen often?' to which she replied with, 'no, Dai-chan usually accompanies me home, but he has basketball tryouts today.'.
Even to this day, I did not know who 'Dai-chan' was, but after I made sure she will be able to go home safely, she asked for my name, and I asked for hers.
Somehow, she was able to find me at my favorite restaurant (Maji) the next day, and proceeded to confess her feelings to me.
And the day after that.
And the day after that.
And the day after that.
The whole time, I respond by politely declining her advances. Momoi-san was beautiful, yes, but I knew she wasn't serious with her feelings.
I read a lot of books in my free time, but I knew love at first sight only exists in fairy tales.
Besides Momoi-san's apparent childhood friend 'Dai-chan', I was the first man she met that hadn't tried to 'pick her up' (Momoi's words) and turn a blind eye to her predicament. Being the first 'other person' to do this, she decided she had liked me.
Infatuation. I knew, her feelings were only a fleeting thing that will fade in time, confused with her gratefulness towards my action.
However, as time went by with Momoi-san's attempts at dating me, we grew to be good friends outside of school.
She and I would always meet up after school, and somehow none of my teammates ever saw us together. I was there to listen to her, and she was there for me when my team lost at the Inter High.
And eventually, I grew to like her back.
It was... painful, knowing I grew feelings for her yet not being able to say so. Because if I accept her feelings now, then I would be taking advantage of her infatuation towards me. And I didn't want that.
For months I suppressed the feelings I had for her, and waited for her to realize her mistake. I wanted her to see that the affection she thinks she has for me was not real, and when she does, then I will tell her.
One day, yesterday, I decided enough was enough.
So I asked her, 'does Momoi-san like me?'.
And she replied, 'un, I like Tetsu-kun the most!' confused, as if the answer had been there the whole time.
And I said, 'I like Momoi-san too, but I'm not sure if she means it.'.
To which she giggled at. 'Silly Tetsu-kun. I've liked you since we met, but I like you even more now that I got to know you.'.
Mildly surprised with her response, I looked down in embarrassment, biting my lip nervously. 'Then,' I looked at her, all doubts, all hesitation gone. 'Would Momoi-san like to go out with me?'.
She smiled. 'Yes.'.
Perhaps, it was a bit cruel of me to dismiss her feelings as whimsical. I had underestimated her too much, it would seem.]
"Please wait here, Momoi-san." Kuroko said, halting their steps in front of a small convenience store.
"Sure, Tetsu-kun!" Momoi replied with her usual glee.
Kuroko nodded before heading inside, going straight to the freezer to get a pair of Garigari-kun¹ popsicles for the two of them. This was a routine for them even before they dated —which was only yesterday, really; getting popsicles at the end of school days.
After taking a yuzu-flavored² popsicle for Momoi and a peach-flavored one for himself, Kuroko went to the counter and paid 200 yen. As he waited for his change, he turned to look at the glass windows only to be met with two high school men surrounding his girlfriend. Sighing almost in resignation, he quickly took his change and bolted out of the store.
He caught Momoi's eyes as he approached the three, immediately receiving a relieved look on her face. In two quick strides, he was right in front of the two high schoolers who seemed to not have noticed his presence yet.
Clearing his throat loudly, Kuroko stood tall —or as tall as he could— between the two thugs and his girlfriend in a protective manner, with two popsicles occupying both hands earning surprised yelps from the two.
"What the hell?! Where'd the midget come from?"
Kuroko, slightly miffed at the prospect of being called short, chastised "Please leave Momoi-san alone. You are scaring her." with eyes narrowed disapprovingly as Momoi swooned on his back.
"Tch!" one of the thugs with three piercings on each ear said, "what, you her boyfriend or somethin'?"
Kuroko remained silent.
"Geh, what the hell?" laughed the other, elbowing his companion on the ribs after finding the situation funny. "This kid's her boyfriend!"
The blond thug with the mohawk and the nose piercing snorted. "Yeah, right. What're ya gunna do? Fight us with popsicles?"
The two burst out laughing.
Kuroko, despite maintaining a calm façade, felt his eyebrow twitch in irritation as a few jabs on his height was thrown carelessly around.
However, in the fit of laughter the thugs were having, one of them slapped the Garigari-kun on his right hand as the two chanted how pathetic he was. He flinched lightly at the stinging sensation on his hand, and Kuroko must have blinked because the next thing he knew, both thugs were on the ground with a hand mark on the cheek, and the other clutching his stomach from a roundhouse kick (probably).
[Momoi-san is probably the only woman who can threaten my masculinity.
(Oh, Tetsu-kun! Your pale complexion and your gentle nature alone already threatens your masculinity!)]
"YOU IDIOTS! How dare you make fun of Tetsu-kun!" Momoi fumed, biting the inside of her cheek as she glared with such ferocity on the two, trembling high schoolers.
[But that's part of what's amazing about Momoi-san.]
"Tetsu-kun is a hundred times more manlier than you! All you boys do is loiter around convenience stores extorting money from innocent students. Your mothers would be ashamed of you!" she exclaimed as the two gulped, before narrowing her eyes and adding, "Kiritsugi Shirou-san, Yaruko Karuzawa-san."
The two mentioned boys gulped and nodded furiously, before bolting out of sight once Momoi didn't seem to have anything to add.
Once the two were alone, Momoi's previous cold expression morphed into her usual cheery one when she turned to hug Kuroko.
"Don't worry, Tetsu-kun! I'll protect you!"
[... I am still the man of this relationship, right?]
"Hai, Momoi-san." Kuroko sighed, wondering how this was his life. He then turned to the bubbly pinkette and asked tentatively, "but how did you know their names?"
"Hm?" she tilted her head cutely to the side. "Ah, kaa-san likes to gossip around the house about informations she gathered in the neighborhood. There was a rumor going around about two troublemakers with a name like that. So I assumed that those two were said troublemakers."
Kuroko stared at her blankly. 'As expected of Momoi-san³.'.
"More importantly," Kuroko exhaled, dropping the subject. "We lost one of our popsicles." muttered he, gazing forlornly at the Garigari-kun on the sidewalk. Turning to the pink-haired girl, he said, "Please wait here, Momoi-san. I'll go get another one."
"Hai, Tetsu-kun! I'll wait for you forever if I have to~!"
[Just by looking at us two, you could tell immediately that our relationship isn't as normal as others.]
"Hello again, Clerk-san."
"OH! It's you again. Haha, didn't see you there. Anyway, one Garigari-kun this time?"
[Though that's probably just Momoi-san.]
"Here you go, Momoi-san."
"Hai! Thanks, Tetsu-kun!"
"For you, Momoi-san, you're always welcome."
"Nothing! Tetsu-kun is just too cute!"
[But I wouldn't want it any other way.]
Momoi stared disappointedly at her finished popsicle stick, staring at the words carved on the piece of wood that read 'loss'. Shifting her gaze to the other, she waited patiently for him to finish his popsicle. 'Tetsu-kun is a slow-eater...'.
"Ah..." Kuroko murmured as Momoi craned her neck over his shoulder to gaze at his popsicle stick, staring with a knowing gaze.
It read 'winner'.