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Of Defeat, Consolations and Promises

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Senpai’s eyes were red when we returned from our tragic match with Touou. He didn’t hit me when I teased him about it, and took me seriously when I said I needed him to comfort me. And yet as he reached up to ruffle my hair, I could feel his fingers still trembling.

Everyone in the team was devastated, but perhaps excluding my obvious demise, it was Kasamatsu-senpai who had it hardest. Not only because he was the captain, but this also triggered the guilt from causing the team to lose when he was a first year.

Nevertheless, the Kaijo locker room was quiet even as we returned, heads hung low. Even Moriyama’s antics and Hayakawa’s unintelligible speech couldn’t be heard.

“Stop sulking. You guys did well; we just lacked more practice.” Coach Takeuchi addressed the team, trying to cheer everyone up. “Let this be an inspiration for each one of you to improve.” He then glanced to me. “Kise, you won’t be playing in the next match against Shuutoku. Go have that leg treated on that period of hiatus.”

I nodded. No matter how much I wanted to play, and win with everyone, Coach was right. All I can do for now is stay in the backseat and cheer for them, then healing my leg so I can play and win with them again.

Coach then turned to Senpai. “Kasamatsu, I know you’re blaming yourself for this but you’re wrong. Go easy on yourself a bit; vent your frustrations to practice… so you won’t have to regret anything when you quit next year.”

Eh? Quit? Senpai is?

“Tch. I know.” He muttered bitterly. “I’m just worried how the team will manage next year, without us third years, but…” He shot a glance to my direction. “I guess I don’t need to.”

Oh right, he’s a third year, so he and the others won’t be playing next year anymore…

“You can worry about that when the school year ends. For now, we do our best to win against Shuutoku. After that, we take our revenge against Touou at the Winter Cup.” He then addressed the rest of the team. “It’s the same for everyone else. Focus on improving your individual skills so we won’t lose against Shuutoku. We have to show them that Kise isn’t the only strong player in Kaijo High. That will be all.”

The air in the room had slowly changed from bitter to determined. Coach Takeuchi’s small speech really helped us a lot.

“Senpai.” I called out, and as he turned to me I noticed his expression didn’t seem as depressed as before. I inwardly sighed in relief. “I… I believe in you. And in everyone else.”

“…Of course you should, idiot.” He replied, landing a fist on my head just like whenever I teased him. However, it was a lighter punch that didn’t hurt. Nevertheless, he was livelier now.

I chucked softly. “Yay, Senpai is back to normal…”

“Y-You… You’re one to talk, g-going all quiet too and not pissing me off a while ago!” he stuttered. Aah, this is definitely the Kasamatsu-senpai I like best. He’s so cute when he’s blushing.

“Eh, did you miss me teasing you all the time?” I said, fanning the flames of his red cheeks even more. “Aaah, I missed that tomato face too…”

“T-Tomato… You…” Oh shoot, his fists are clenching.

As soon as I thought that, I felt a hard fist hit my cheek. It hurt, but I was glad. Senpai wasn’t sad anymore; he was back to normal.

“Geez, those two…” Moriyama said, watching as we bickered like usual. “You two never stop, don’t you?”

“Just leave them be…” Kobori said, obviously the most used to his teammates’ idiocies. He noticed steam erupting from Hayakawa’s head, and sighed. Here we go again…

“Yosh! I’m all fired up!! Next time, we’ll definitely win!!” Hayakawa burst out, his speech unintelligible as usual.

And just like that, Kaijo’s idiot team was fired up and back to normal.

“Hey, Kise. Did you maybe do that on purpose?”

“Eh? Did what?”

“From before. Making me angry and all that. Did you do it to cheer the team up?”

“Aah, that… I just wanted to erase Senpai’s depressed face, but it unexpectedly brightened everyone else, too.”

“I-I see…” Kasamatsu-senpai looked away. He was probably blushing behind the extra shirt he was currently changing into. Suddenly, I’m glad everyone else went home; it’s nice to be the only one who can see this flushed face of him. “A-Anyway… good work.”

I beamed at him. Aah, senpai is being cute again…

Then it occurred to me, what Coach said before. “Hey, Kasamatsu-senpai…”

“What’s wrong?” He must have noticed the uncharacteristic seriousness in my voice.

“I wonder if the team would still be as lively and fun next year…” was what I said, but my heart told me something else, something I didn’t want him to hear.

I don’t want Senpai to quit the team. I want to play basketball with him, and have fun with him forever…

“Idiot. You have to still win games even when we graduate… and besides, I’m sure stronger players would join next year, since this is a powerhouse school after all. Maybe you’ll find someone else to annoy next year too, and forget- oi!”

I couldn’t hold myself back, and pulled him into a desperate hug from behind. There’s no way I could find a replacement for him that easily. “Senpai, you idiot…” I don’t think he understands just how much he means to me and what I’m feeling for him.

But then again, neither do I. All I know is that thinking of how lonely it’ll be next year without him pains me. But I don’t think he sees me as anything more than ‘the annoying Miracle kouhai who’s strong but needs to grow up’.

“…Geez, if you’re that worried, we can always keep in contact.” I felt his hand reach up to tousle my hair softly. “Nowadays, it’s easy to talk with just a phone call… A-And I’ll admit I’m going to miss you and your annoying face, too.”

Uwaah, he’s being honest with himself… That’s so cute… “Senpai…” I tightened my grip on his chest. “Do you really mean it?”

He answered me with silence, but just as I was about to look at his expression, his lips met mine.

“S-Senpai…! You…” I felt my own cheeks flush. I guess now I know how embarrassed he feels when I tease him… is this retribution?

As my grip on him loosened, I was unexpectedly punched on the stomach as he pulled away from me. “Y-Y-You stupid idiot… It- It was supposed to be on the cheek! Why the hell did you turn so suddenly?!”

“H-How was I supposed to know?!” Geez, Senpai’s embarrassment is really contagious.

“A-Anyway… th-th-that’s how it is, idiot! If you have a p-problem with that, I’ll kill you!”

“Ah, nope, no complaints here!” I put my hands up defensively. “Just… could you please repeat what you said earlier? I kind of want to hear you say it again.”

“You…” Oh shoot, he’s mad. Maybe that was too much of a request? “STUPID KISE! I’LL REALLY KILL YOU!”