Chapter 4 – Post-encounter
"I shall meet you later Daiki, at the location I showed you."
"Yeah, yeah I know. See you later Sei." And with that Aomine departed to go for dinner. Soon after Akashi left to go to the first location Momoi had suggested to him. It was a quiet street on the edges of a shopping centre, seemingly uninteresting and like any other, however Momoi had assured him it was a likely attack spot.
It was becoming rather dark as the time approached 6 o'clock. Akashi was nearing the location now and so decided to put on his mask. It was a red and gold dragon mask specially made by Himuro a few years ago. The mask maker had included intricate details in Akashi's mask, with each scale being defined, the edges trailing off into curls to create a fire like effect and even two horn's protruding from the top of the mask. Akashi had little use for it as he rarely had to go 'hunting' in the city, but tonight he wanted to wear it just in case he ran into any unwanted company.
He was walking down the street when he heard a crash in the distance. Perhaps it's the binge eater Akashi thought. He picked up his pace, moving forward with a light jog, taking care to be quiet. He was nearing the alley he'd heard the sound coming from when he inhaled deeply through his nose. Akashi could smell that there was definitely a ghoul and human nearby.
When he reached the alley, he hid around the corner before peeking round to look at the scene unfolding before him. A grey haired ghoul with a rinkaku kagune was approaching a human slumped against the wall. The binge eater. Akashi smirked to himself, proud to have found him so quickly, however his moment of pride quickly died when he caught a glimpse of the human's teal hair. Is that Kuroko? What's he doing here? He's meant to be with Kagami and Daiki…
Akashi was brought out of his thoughts when he saw the binge eater lift his leg, about to kick the human. In a split second, Akashi ran over, into the alley and released his own rinkaku kagune. He lashed a tentacle out to knock the aggressive ghoul away from the blue haired man. Akashi looked to the human to confirm his suspicion. The human seemed to be quite out of it, however Akashi was sure now. It was Kuroko. He then hastily ran to attack the binge eater further. He knew he was supposed to be talking to him, giving him a chance to stop, but realising that it was Kuroko the ghoul was about to devour released a bout of anger and protectiveness from Akashi.
The binge eater released another three tentacle like kagune from his lower back, bringing him up to a total of four. Akashi seemed to have the disadvantage, only having two, however his skill and accuracy easily made up for the physical disadvantage.
Punches and kicks were thrown and dodged by both of the ghouls. Each used their kagune to deal strikes and defend however the grey haired ghoul was a moment to slow when Akashi's kagune made a jab for his shoulder. The tentacle sliced right through the shoulder area of the offending ghoul causing the binge eater to stagger backwards slightly. Akashi moved in to strike again, however a punch to the face caught him off guard, dazing him momentarily. He saw the binge eater getting away, likely having judged that he wouldn't win the fight. Akashi moved to pursue him but hesitated. Is Kuroko-kun okay? I haven't seen him move since I got here... Deciding that checking on Kuroko took precedence over pursuing the ghoul, he looked back to the human.
Kuroko was still leaning against the wall, looking rather stunned. At least he's still conscious Akashi thought before slowly approaching the man. A part of him was worried that he'd be recognised, but he could not just leave Kuroko here if there was a possibility that he was severely injured and needed to go to the hospital.
The red head froze when Kuroko's pale blue eyes looked up, gazing directly into his black and red ones. The two just stared at each other in silence for a moment. It was then that Kuroko began to stand up, taking a small step towards Akashi. This startled Akashi, causing him to take a small step away from the human. After a brief second of hesitation from Kuroko, Akashi decided that Kuroko was in a good enough condition to be left alone and so he turned tail and ran from him.
When Kuroko arrived at the steak house he realised he was slightly late. Kagami was already sat in there with Aomine so Kuroko walked in and sat down with them.
"Hey Tetsu! What kept you, you're usually slightly early, not late."
"He's right, I never thought I'd see a day where Aomine was more punctual than you." Kagami sniggered. Aomine shifted his gaze to glare at him in annoyance.
"Sorry Kagami-kun, Aomine-kun." Kuroko began, with a slight bow of his head to each he addressed. "I got caught up in something on the way here."
Both Aomine and Kagami turned to look at their shorter friend with worried expressions. "What happened?" Aomine asked with concern.
"Yeah Kuroko, you look kind of shaken up…" Kagami chipped in, having noticed that Kuroko was avoiding eye contact, instead looking around the restaurant as if looking for something.
"There is no need to worry yourselves. Nothing happened. I am fine, I was just held back a bit." Kuroko hoped the two would drop the subject. For one, the two were over-protective as it was and Kuroko didn't know if he could deal with them worrying over him anymore than they already do. Plus it's not like they could do anything about the situation now anyway. He also wanted to investigate further into what had happened on his own. He wanted to talk to Akashi and verify whether it was really him that was the ghoul who saved him. Like he'd reveal that he's a ghoul to me. He has no reason to trust me.
"If you say so Tetsu…" Whilst Aomine's words implied he was dropping the subject, his tone clearly indicated that he was still concerned and would be keeping a close watch on the cerulean haired male.
After a short period of awkwardness, the conversation between the three began to pick up. They discussed how their weeks had been and Kagami told them about all the stuff he was going to do when he got back to the States. The food was delicious, although Kuroko would never understand how Kagami could shovel so much food into his stomach. After they had finished the main meal and when they were waiting for dessert Kagami went to use the restroom quickly, leaving Aomine and Kuroko alone.
"I was wondering…about how you and Akashi ended up in the same family. How long have you known each other?" Kuroko had wanted to ask this before anyway, but after the night's events Kuroko was even more interested in the answer. If it was Akashi-kun who saved me, and Akashi-kun is a ghoul, then surely Aomine-kun must know.
"Eh, why do you want to know?" The dark blue haired boy looked suspiciously at Kuroko. Unknown to Kuroko, Aomine had received a text shortly before Kuroko arrived. Akashi had told him to keep a close watch over the light-blue eyed man, making sure that he was not feeling unwell or walking home alone.
"I've been talking to Akashi-kun a bit more recently, but he wouldn't tell me. He said it should be you who tells me instead. I would really like to know more about you Aomine-kun, but if you don't want to tell me now I will understand."
At that moment, Kagami returned and Aomine used it as an opportunity to drop the conversation. He didn't like talking about his past. He didn't want Kuroko's or Kagami's sympathy for having been abandoned as a child or for having his adoptive father crippled and there was no way in hell he was going to tell them he was a ghoul. He just wanted things to remain light-hearted between the three of them.
Kagami quickly diverted the topic of discussion and Kuroko decided to let it go for now.
Soon the evening came to an end, with all of them having finished dessert. As Kagami ordered the bill, Kuroko began to feel uneasy. He had not organised a way to get home, he would have to walk back. In the dark. Down that same street again…
"Hey Tetsu, you listening?" Aomine brought Kuroko out from his thoughts.
"I was just saying that my friend Satsuki agreed to give us all a lift home tonight, so don't worry about having to walk back. She should be here in a few minutes."
Kuroko visibly relaxed and gave a small smile to Aomine. "That is very kind of your friend Aomine-kun."
"Yeah, well she's like that I guess."
Six minutes later Momoi Satsuki texted Aomine, telling him that she was parked outside. The trio paid the bill and walked out to get in the car.
"Hey Satsuki." Aomine sat in the front passenger seat, whilst Kagami and Kuroko sat in the back together.
"Hello Dai-chan! I assume these are your friends!" Momoi turned to talk to Kuroko and Kagami. "Hello! My name is Momoi Satsuki, and yours?"
"H-hello, I'm K-kagami Taiga." Kagami stuttered out a response to the woman, his skin turning pink. Aomine laughed at Kagami's awkwardness and Kagami glared at him irately.
"I am Kuroko Tetsuya. It's nice to meet you Momoi-san, thank you for offering to give us a lift."
"You're welcome Tetsu-kun! Let's get going now." She said turning to the steering wheel and turning the ignition.
"Hey Sei, what was that text about earlier?" Aomine asked the shorter man he was walking the streets with. It was nearing midnight now, the moon high in the sky. Aomine had been confused enough as to why he had received the text earlier that evening, but when Kuroko arrived late and shaken up he knew something must have happened.
"I wanted you to make sure that Kuroko-kun was okay and would be safe. Nothing more."
"Yes, but you can't be telling me there was nothing that provoked that text. What the hell happened?" Aomine squinted suspiciously at the red haired man.
Akashi looked up to his adoptive brother with a serious look in his eye. "Do not flip out at what I'm about to tell you Daiki." Aomine became rather nervous at Akashi's words. Why would I flip out? What happened? "But I managed to find the binge eater-"
Aomine was puzzled by this. "That's great Sei! Then why are we-"
"I was not finished Daiki. Do not interrupt me. I found him attacking Kuroko-kun in an alleyway." Aomine paled at this. His confusion turning into rage. How dare anyone try and hurt Tetsu, I'll kill this asshole myself dammit. Akashi could see Aomine's fury and fear in his expression. "Daiki, calm down. Fortunately I was able to stop him from doing any serious harm, however I had to let him go in order to check Kuroko-kun's condition." Why didn't Tetsu tell me about this? He was attacked by a freaking ghoul and he didn't say anything! That idiot. Aomine thought as Akashi spoke. "Whilst I am glad that I was able to prevent the attack escalating any further, I am rather annoyed that I may have just blown our only chance to catch that bastard tonight. Not to mention there is a chance that Kuroko-kun recognised me. I was wearing my mask, but let's be honest, how many people have hair of my colour?"
At that, Aomine remembered the teal haired man asking him about his and Akashi's past. Maybe it was just as Kuroko said and he was just curious but maybe…
"He was asking about us actually…at the restaurant he wanted to know about our past."
This worried Akashi. He let out a sigh of frustration. I knew I shouldn't have got my hopes up. There's no way I can have a human friend, it's too dangerous. "Whilst this may just be a coincidence he must be, at the very least, suspicious that I was the ghoul. Few ghouls attack each other and then let the prey get away. I will have to avoid him from now on, only interacting when necessary." It was not what Akashi wanted to do. He had truly wanted to be friends with Kuroko. But what other choice did he have?
"Hey there's no need to be drastic Sei, just tell him it wasn't you if he asks about it." Aomine had noticed the two talking on Wednesday afternoon. Both had looked so happy to be in each other's company, and in all honesty they could both do with having more friends.
"It's hardly the most drastic solution Daiki. And do you really think that hasn't crossed my mind? If I were to lie to him, do you really think that would settle his suspicions? Because I don't. Anyway, I want you to drop the topic now. We may as well try to find this binge eater again. I will feel much better once he's out of our ward."
Aomine agreed as he watched Akashi walk slightly ahead of him. He was one of few who knew the man well. Looking at his brother's back, Aomine wore an expression of hurt, knowing that Akashi wanted to drop the topic because he was angry and upset.
Annoyed that he could no longer be close to Kuroko.
It was about 7am when Akashi returned home with Aomine. He heard Takao and Kise getting ready for work in the backroom. The two enthusiastic ghouls got on very well, often revelling in teasing the others, particularly Midorima. Akashi walked up the staircase to his and Aomine's apartment. Whilst the other four ghouls did not live there, they frequently visited the place and occasionally stayed overnight. Today, Midorima was sat in the living room reading a newspaper, likely waiting to hear back from Akashi on the night's events. Akashi and Aomine sat down on the sofa adjacent to the one Midorima was sitting on.
The green haired man looked to the two. "Did you find him then?"
The other two ghouls in the room looked slightly irritated with themselves.
Akashi spoke up first. "I did find him, however I lost him rather quickly. We continued to search for him, however we were unable to find him again."
"That is unfortunate." Midorima frowned before asking "Were you are least able to find anything else out about him?"
"I am afraid I didn't. All I know is that Himuro-san's and Satsuki's information was accurate. I will try looking for him again tonight." Akashi paused thinking of what to do next. "Daiki, if you would like to accompany me again then you may, however you need to cover my afternoon shift today, Shintaro needs to run some errands. Now I shall be going to bed for a few hours. Please wake me if anything important happens." Akashi then stood and left the room.
"Sssssh Nigou." Kuroko looked worriedly at his dog. "You need to be quiet out here okay."
Nigou made a whining sound as his master tied his leash to a bike rack outside the café. Kuroko was only stopping by to grab a takeaway coffee today, as he wanted to take Nigou out for a walk before the sky began to darken.
Once he was sure Nigou was secure, he walked into the coffeehouse. Looking to the counter he saw Aomine and Kise bickering over something, and a shorter, dark haired man was cleaning the tables glancing over at them with a look of exasperation.
As Kuroko walked up to the counter, the blond greeted him energetically "Hello Kurokocchi~!"
"Hey dumbass get out the way, it's my turn to take care of the customers."
"Tsk, Aominecchi, you shouldn't use words like that, Akashicchi will punish you! And why can't I serve Kurokocchi?"
"Um, hello Aomine-kun, Kise-kun. Can I please order the usua-"
"Coming right up Kurokocchi/Tetsu!" The two baristas said at once before turning to scowl at each other and making a dash to make the drink for the teal haired male. The two butted heads and started bickering over who should make the coffee.
"Why the hell are you even adding 'cchi' to his name?! You don't even know him?!"
"I respect him a lot because he somehow manages to put up with your annoying ass!" The two began arguing, making no progress in preparing the shorter man's beverage.
Kuroko now understood the exasperated expression of the other barista in the room. Speaking of the raven haired man, he was approaching Kuroko.
"Sorry about these two idiots sir, they're always like this…well their not usually this bad in front of customers but…"
"It's okay, Ahomine is a friend of mine."
"Ah I see! Anyway those two don't seem to be getting far with your order. Just tell me what you want and I'll make it for you, it'll be much quicker than trying to stop their squabbling." Takao looked at the two across the counter. Aomine was now holding Kise in a head lock and the blond was crying with his usual exaggerated tears.
Kuroko noticed the black haired man's name tag Takao Kazunari. "Thank you Takao-san, that would be very kind of you. I would like a vanilla coffee to go please"
Turning back to Kuroko, Takao spoke again, "You're welcome sir. I'll have it ready soon!" and with that Takao walked behind the counter and began making Kuroko's coffee. The other two baristas had yet to notice Takao, who attempted to work around them as they continued fighting.
At that point, Kuroko's mobile went off, indicating he had received a text.
To: Kuroko Tetsuya
Hey Kuroko! I landed in America about an hour ago, safe and sound. Make sure you stay safe and keep that idiot Aomine company. See you in a month, feel free to message me whenever.
Kuroko was glad that Kagami was okay and appreciated the text. He smiled at his phone before looking up at 'that idiot Aomine'. Watching his interactions with Kise made Kuroko laugh internally to himself. He knew from his experience with Aomine and Kagami, that if Aomine was acting this way with Kise it probably meant they were actually good friends. He was glad to see his old friend getting on 'well' with his colleagues.
Kuroko's mind began to wonder as he watched the two arguing. Where is Akashi-kun? I would have thought he would have shown up to stop their bickering by now...
Kuroko felt rather disappointed that his new friend was not around, however it was not particularly unusual. The baristas here frequently swapped shifts and it was perfectly logical that he may not be working today. But there was a part of Kuroko that thought What if it really was him last night? What if he's avoiding me?
Little did Kuroko know that Akashi was out back, seething with rage at the two idiots in his employment. The crimson haired ghoul was glad that Takao had at least tried to be polite and help out the customer, but he would definitely be reprimanding the other two for their rude actions. He would have gone out and disciplined them there and then, except Kuroko was there. He was not ready to talk to Kuroko and in all honesty, Akashi was trying to convince himself that it was best to ignore the teal haired man. Though he worried that if they were to talk anymore he would only become more attached and unwanting to let go.
"Here you go sir! One vanilla coffee to go!" Takao grinned at Kuroko as he handed over the hot beverage. "Have a good day Kuroko-san!"
"And you Takao-san." Kuroko replied.
With that, Kuroko left the coffee shop and untied Nigou before walking away.
A grey haired ghoul had returned to an abandoned warehouse late at night on Thursday. Having been interrupted by the red haired ghoul, he decided to change his plans.
As he staggered into the warehouse he was greeted by his boss. A tall, dark haired ghoul with large eyebrows. "What are you doing back so soon Haizaki? I thought you'd take a lot longer getting dinner." The taller ghoul had yet to notice the binge eater's wound.
"Yeah, well I got disrupted by some stupid scavenger with a red dragon mask. I was worried he might be looking for me so I came back here." At the mention of the red dragon mask the dark haired ghoul perked up.
"Hmmm, did this ghoul have bright red hair as well?"
"Yeah actually…anyway I'm going to lie down. If someone could go get me some food it would be much appreciated. Goodnight Hanamiya-san."
"Goodnight Haizaki." Hanamiya smirked to himself.
END OF CHAPTER