Chapter 17 – Warm Up
"Again." Akashi commanded.
"I can't do it Seijuro-kun, you're too fast." Kuroko panted disheartenedly.
"You can, you just need to keep trying Tetsuya and don't hold back." Akashi insisted, taking up a defensive pose as he prepared for his partner to attempt an attack once again.
The two had started the training at 6am in the basement of the coffeehouse. They had only been training for an hour and Kuroko was already beginning to show vast improvement in his skill and strength. But even so Akashi wanted to push him as much as he could. If Kuroko were faced with an A or S class ghoul as his opponent, Akashi wants him to at least have a chance in defeating or escaping them. Though I hope he's never in that kind of situation again. The manager thought.
For the moment, Akashi was focusing on Kuroko's core fighting skills, without using his kagune.
Kuroko began his mock assault again, taking the stance Akashi had told him would maximise the amount of power he could put into his attacks. Akashi had taught him multiple moves and when to use them. Rather than using a routine, he instructed Kuroko to react to the situation and use sequences of moves he believed suited the circumstance.
Throwing a high kick, Kuroko tried to break through the red head's defence. During the brief moment that Akashi's arms were lowered, Kuroko threw a punch at his face, quickly followed by a gut shot. Perhaps if he had used full force, Akashi would have counted it as a successful assault but Kuroko was pulling his punches, not wanting to harm his lover too much.
Akashi barely stumbled backwards. "I told you there's no need to hold back Tetsuya."
"But I don't want to hurt Seijuro-kun."
Akashi sighed. To be fair, he understood that training was always different to an actual fight, in which someone's life was on the line, anyway. Most people fight their best when danger is presented to them, not when they feel safe. Not to mention, Kuroko never seemed like the violent type to Akashi.
Thinking about how to further the training, Akashi could only come up with one alternative.
"You did well today Tetsuya. In tonight's session I will be trying to attack you. I'll go easy on you but you still need to defend against me and attack when possible." Akashi informed him.
Kuroko frowned at the thought but conceded with an "Okay."
"Can I have a moment before we go back upstairs to meet the others?"
"Of course, what do you want?"
"I need to talk to you about something. I'm going to inform everyone of the situation soon, but I just wanted to give you some forewarning." Kuroko looked at the scarlet haired ghoul curiously as Akashi paused, taking a deep breath. "Last night, I received a call from Himuro-san. The short version of the story is that there is a good chance you, myself, and the rest of my colleagues here are going to be targeted by a large ghoul faction that is seeking to enslave the human race." He knew that he had to tell Kuroko the truth, not only out of respect but for his safety. But the ghoul was concerned that the news would trigger Kuroko somehow. "Also, they seem to have expressed an interest in one-eyed ghouls. Whether they are looking for a specific one or any one-eyed ghoul, I do not know yet. Though I do intend to find out."
The fear in Kuroko's body language was subtle, but existent. The way he tensed did not go unnoticed by Akashi. He's learning to mask it. Akashi noted with a grimace.
Following the training, Akashi waited for the rest of the baristas to arrive at work for an urgent meeting he had called.
"We've got a big problem."
The other six ghoul baristas in the room gave Akashi their full attention after noticing his serious, grim tone.
"Himuro called me last night to inform me that the Kirisaki Daichi and Jabberwocks have combined forces. They are planning on destroying the CCG and any ghouls who oppose them in order to enslave humans, which suggests they will likely be planning an attack on us in the near future."
The revelation led to some concerned expressions from the coffee shop workers and some choice curse words from Aomine.
"Shit." The navy head cussed.
"Quite." Midorima murmured in return.
"We need to decide the best way to deal with this." Akashi continued. "I would argue that we need to deal with them as soon as possible. The longer we leave them, the stronger they will become."
"Couldn't we just run?" Kise asked nervously.
"Idiot. Do you think Hanamiya would simply let us all get away?" Midorima scolded.
"Shintaro is correct Ryouta. Hanamiya is not one to let his prey escape him. Knowing him, he would probably enjoy the chase." The crimson haired ghoul said. "A fight between us and them is inevitable. Our best chance is to arrange a surprise attack on the Jabberwock leaders. If we can take them down, the rabble will be weakened and more easily broken."
"But how can we fight them if they're as strong as you say?" Kuroko questioned.
"It won't be easy, I know. But as I said, a fight between us is unavoidable. If we can time it right we will only have to battle against a dozen or so ghouls rather than the entire two gangs combined. We're going to be at a disadvantage numbers wise but with our superior skill and the element of surprise we could succeed." Akashi reasoned.
"I'm going to communicate with Satsuki and Himuro-san in order to get some names. Hopefully we'll be able to get some times and locations on the bosses of the Jabberwocks and find the opportune time to attack."
"You're looking for a one-eyed? Well that's interesting, I just happen to know of one." Hanamiya told Nash Gold and Jason Silver.
"Well we're looking for a very specific one." Silver growled, clearly holding some disdain for the ghoul they were looking for.
"We had a run-in a few months ago with some kid who seemed to consider himself some sort of vigilante or something. He told us that if we kept pushing forward with our plan he'd stop us."
"Yeah, the damn brat thought he could take us on, ha." Silver chimed in.
Gold scoffed. "You laugh but he actually took out a few of our best men. Whilst he doesn't pose much of a threat alone, he's a nuisance. We need to make sure everyone knows what happens to people who piss us off."
"Sounds good." Hanamiya smirked. "I've only ever met one half-ghoul before and I highly doubt it was him seeing as he was only converted just over a month ago. Do you have any leads as to who this guy is and where he could be?"
"He was converted a few years ago by some doctor, from what we can gather. We got some reports that he came to this ward a couple of months ago, we were planning on checking this place out anyway and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to visit."
"I'll make sure my men stay on look-out for any one-eyeds then."
"Good. Silver will give them the description of his appearance. Now then, shall we discuss our war plan?"
"I'm glad you never found this café in the bookstore. We may never have met if you had." Akashi said amusedly.
Kuroko gave the comment thought. "Hmm, perhaps. But the coffee isn't as nice and it's quite far from my house…"
"Oh? And how do you like the baristas?" Akashi asked with a teasing tone and smile.
Kuroko replied with an unimpressed stare at Akashi before taking a sip of his coffee. The two were sat by a window in a chic, chain coffee shop that was situated within another bookstore in the town centre. After the meeting that morning Akashi had brought Kuroko out to buy another book, giving them a little bit of private time to socialise before the storm of war came.
"What book did you buy anyway?" The crimson eyed ghoul murmured, changing the subject.
"It's the second in a series of mystery novels I've been reading. It's called 'A Fox's Tale'."
"Interesting. You'll have to tell me if it's any good once you finish it."
"Sure thing Seijuro-kun."
"And how is Kagami doing?" Akashi asked.
"He's okay. Aomine-kun and I took him home the other day, he took a week off of work so his ribs could heal some more."
"I hope he makes a swift recovery, but you should know that it's best that you avoid meeting up with him until we've finished our…dispute with the Jabberwocks." Akashi told the blue eyed man reluctantly. Kuroko frowned, but knew that Akashi was right to ask this of him.
Glancing at the doorway, Akashi picked up on some men staring at the couple from a distance. He locked eyes with the tallest of them, trying to read the man's intentions.
That's when all hell broke loose.
The sound of glass shattering broke the casual chatter in the room as a giant of a ghoul sprinted at Akashi and tackled him out of the glass window he and Kuroko were sat next to. Unfortunately, the café was on the second floor.
"Seijuro-kun!" Kuroko shouted from the other side of the destroyed window.
Tetsuya? Why does he sound so distant? Akashi wondered, his mind still muddled from hitting his head on the hard concrete pavement outside.
It didn't take too long for Akashi to react after the impact of the landing, regardless of how his head buzzed. The red head made haste to get up and went to tackle the attacker head on. He easily noticed the smell of ghoul on him.
Why on Earth are they attacking in broad daylight?! In front of a crowd?! As annoying as it may be, the fact still stood that if Akashi didn't want to have to go into hiding or risk the CCG showing up, he could not use his kagune whilst in the public's eye, nor could he use any super-human moves.
Akashi's arms locked around the offending ghoul as he tackled him to the ground. He was about to start beating on him when the other two ghouls he'd seen staring earlier appeared before him.
The two made to grab both of Akashi's arms in the hopes of restraining the crimson eyed barista, unfortunately for them, Akashi was not as out of it as they were hoping and the red head managed to pull the two down to the ground as well.
At least they must be after me not Tetsuya. He thought, knowing that had Tetsuya been the target they would not all have come down here to attack.
As Akashi fought with the three offending ghouls, who had in fact been sent by the Jabberwocks in an attempt to catch the powerful coffee shop manager out in the open, Kuroko looked on from the window above. He could hear screams and fearful talk amongst those in the café as well as outside.
What do I do? Do I jump out the window and help? Should I call Aomine-kun? Should I…should I...Kuroko's mind was racing with panicked thoughts on what he should do. He was afraid to fight again, especially seeing as it would be in public. What if my kagune comes out? I still can't control it and someone will inform the CCG! The thoughts wouldn't stop rushing until Kuroko heard a cry from his partner from the ground.
An offender had brought Akashi to the ground and punching him aimlessly. It was then that Kuroko's mind cleared. I need to help Seijuro-kun.
The cyan haired man carefully jumped from the window before moving to attack the ghoul holding Akashi to the floor.
With a strength he didn't know he had, Kuroko managed to kick the hooded ghoul before pulling him off of Akashi and throwing him towards the road. Once having done so, Kuroko offered his hand to Akashi so that he could pull him up, which the red haired ghoul quickly took and thanked him for.
The three ghouls made to attack again and Akashi, still gripping Kuroko's hand, pulled the teal head away with him as he began running. "We need to go somewhere more private if we're going to stop them." Akashi called back to Kuroko as they ran into an alley, their attackers close on their heels. He may be able to defeat the ghouls with his fists alone, but he couldn't be certain. He wanted to have the ability to fight at full strength.
However he was horrified to find that once he went down the long alley, two more ghouls were waiting. The other three ghouls soon caught up.
They were trapped.
"Tetsuya. If you see an opening I want you to run."
"Seijuro-kun, I can't leave-"
"You can and you will. They're after me not you."
Akashi did not doubt Kuroko's ability to fight, nor his strength. But the red head did worry about his mental well-being and safety. He could probably take these guys without Kuroko's help anyway now that he could use his kagune.
What surprised Akashi was when the thugs stopped, simply standing in a manner that blocked off the couple's only exits. He was even more confused when one of them started speaking rather than attacking.
"Oh, we're not gunna let him go. Sure you're the target but if he's your friend he's gotta go too. Bosses told us to kill anyone with you while we're at it."
A female ghoul asked. "But wait, the short one with the blue hair and eye-patch – isn't that the one that guy told us was a one-eyed? The boss is looking for a one-eyed, do you think it's him?" Akashi glared at the ghoul.
"Now that you mention it yeah…he doesn't quite fit the description but maybe we should bring him back alive anyway. The boss might like to have practice killing a one-eyed. He'd be real happy with us then." The ghoul smirked.
"I'll kill you before you lay a hand on him." Akashi snarled, an immense dark aura pouring from him.
The situation was reminding Kuroko all too much of the night he was taken. But-but this time I'm not defenseless. I c-can defend the ones I care about. Kuroko thought. Whilst his determination was clear he was still afraid and nervous as to what was about to happen. Yet another fight. He may even have to kill one of these ghouls in order to defend himself or Akashi.
Kill…Kuroko thought. He had still not performed the act directly, the idea seemed foreign to him. But if it was necessary for their survival then perhaps….perhaps he could do it.
Before he could think too much more about the situation, the ghoul who had spoken first made a move to attack Akashi. The short red haired ghoul was fast to react, releasing his kagune and dashing at the attacker.
In a rageful barrage of attacks, Akashi tore the ghoul apart. He wouldn't fail Kuroko. Not again. There was absolutely no way he would let these ghouls take away his beloved. Two more ghouls ran at Akashi, whilst the remaining pair made for Kuroko.
Kuroko took up the defensive pose that Akashi had taught him. I need to use the momentum of their attacks against them. He thought, remembering his lesson from earlier that day.
A ghoul surged forward at Kuroko, fist flying towards the one-eyed ghoul's face. Kuroko ducked down slightly and using his shoulder managed to flip the ghoul over his back and onto the ground with an audible thud.
There was no time for a celebration for the successful manoeuvre however as the next attacker was quick to follow, kicking Kuroko in the shins hard, causing Kuroko to fall to the ground.
The ghoul he had thrown to the ground now wrapped a muscled arm around Kuroko's neck, choking him. As he did this the other ghoul released her kagune and looked at Kuroko with a sneer.
Kuroko closed his eyes, preparing for the impact, when he felt a strange tingling in his lower back.
That's when the ghoul strangling him suddenly let go with a howl, which also caused the ghoul in front of Kuroko to stutter as she saw her fellow Jabberwock get stabbed by a rinkaku kagune.
Without Kuroko doing anything, his kagune had naturally released itself and acted on its own in order to defend Kuroko. Opening his eyes, Kuroko quickly went to attack the ghoul ahead of him whilst the other one lay on the floor with an impaled stomach.
Everything was happening so fast and all Kuroko could do was let his instincts take over and tell him what to do. In a blur of attacks, Kuroko brought the ghoul before him to her knees and his kagune quickly ended the fight.
"Tetsuya!" Akashi shouted, running towards the teal head.
Kuroko turned behind him to see Akashi stood over him, shielding his back with his body.
And blood that matched the colour of his hair was soaking into his white shirt as a tentacle like limb pulled out of his body.
Fortunately, Akashi's own kagune had stabbed the ghoul attacking him whilst he had taken the hit for Kuroko.
The fight was over.
Kuroko made haste to his loved one's side and brought him into his arms.
Akashi coughed up blood.
"Seijuro-kun!" He exclaimed concernedly.
"I'm okay Tetsuya." Akashi panted.
"I'd hardly call this okay Seijuro-kun."
Akashi would have laughed at Kuroko's worry were it not for the fact that he didn't believe his body could cope with that without hurling up blood.
"We're not far from your café, I'll take you there."
Kuroko moved an arm under Akashi's armpit so that he could use his shoulder to help him up. He was hoping that the red head may be able to take at least a bit of his own weight, but Akashi went completely limp.
"Seijuro-kun?" Kuroko asked worriedly.
Kuroko looked at his face. He had passed out.
Deciding that his best option was to get Akashi home as soon as possible, the half-ghoul brought his other arm to Akashi's knees, before lifting the taller man up bridal style.
Kuroko hurried out of the alley, into a less crowded residential street. Whilst he was concerned of how suspicious it would look with him carrying a body covered in blood, he was lucky and managed to get by, using quiet alleyways and his natural sneaking abilities and low presence.
He used the back entrance of Akashi's home and shop. He knocked on the door using his foot, unable to use his hands.
Fortunately it was Aomine who opened the door.
"Hey Tetsu…" The navy head began before noticing Akashi in Kuroko's arms. "What the hell happened?!" Aomine said in a raised voice.
"They were sent to kill Seijuro-kun…They just attacked him out of nowhere." Kuroko said in a shaky voice, his eyes almost tearful.
Aomine gulped. "Are you okay carrying him?" Kuroko gave a nod in response.
"Take him upstairs, I'll go get Midorima from out front."
As Akashi fluttered his eyelids open he was made aware of a throbbing in the back of skull. He groaned at the feeling, immediately closing his eyes again. It wasn't until a few seconds later that he began to remember what had happened. I passed out in the street with Tetsuya after…after we were attacked…attacked. He thought dazedly. Tetsuya!
The ghoul sat up quickly, paying no attention to the pain in his chest and head. He saw that it was dark and he was in his own bed. To his right Kuroko was curled up on his side and fast asleep. His heart returned to a normal pace after confirming that the two were safe. Well…as safe as we can be at the moment.
He then checked himself and noticed bandages covering his chest and part of his stomach. That's when he heard Kuroko shuffling next to him.
"Seijuro-kun? You're awake?" Kuroko murmured, having awoken after sensing Akashi's stirring.
"Yes love." Akashi whispered, giving Kuroko a chaste kiss.
"You should rest some more, you took quite a beating." Kuroko said, anxious about Akashi's health.
"If you think that's best then I suppose I can stay here with Tetsuya for a bit longer." Akashi smirked, sneaking an arm under the one-eyed ghoul.
The two through the night.
The next day Akashi awoke to an empty bed and a phone call. He picked up the phone to hear Momoi informing him of some news she had come across. Whilst he listened to her talk he began to search around the house for Kuroko.
He soon found him in the kitchen, pouring out some food for Nigou. The two made eye contact and Kuroko gave the crimson head a warm smile which Akashi returned with a relieved one. Kuroko would have said something had he not noticed his partner was on the phone.
"Are you okay Akashi-kun, you sound worried." Momoi asked over the phone.
Akashi had let out a breath as he mentally eased upon seeing Kuroko. "I'm fine Satsuki. Thank you for the names and information. I'll make sure to put it to good use. Do you have anything else for me?"
"No that was everything. I'll speak to you soon. Stay safe!" She said.
"Thank you Satsuki. Make sure you keep safe as well."
"Of course. Bye. Tell Dai-chan I said hello!"
"Sure thing. Bye."
After hanging up the phone Akashi turned his full attention to Kuroko.
"And what are you doing up so early Tetsuya?"
"Nobody fed Nigou last night so he came in this morning to ask for food. I'm sorry if I worried you but it would have been cruel not to get up and feed him Seijuro-kun."
During the conversation, Akashi had crossed the space between Kuroko and himself so that he now stood directly in front of the shorter male.
"I see. I suppose that's a reasonable enough excuse. Although I'd prefer to be given a note next time." He said, encircling his arms around Kuroko's waist.
"Okay, I'll try to remember that for the next time." Kuroko agreed, returning the embrace and burying his face in Akashi's shoulder. "How are you feeling this morning Seijuro-kun?"
"Besides nearly having a heart attack when I realised you weren't there?" Akashi teased.
"I'm really sorry about that, I thought you would still be asleep by the time-"
"It's fine dear, I'm only teasing you. I'm feeling fine. Sleeping by your side did me some good."
"I'm glad to hear that."
"I'm sorry for ruining our date and losing your books yesterday."
"That was hardly your fault. Anyway, I'm sure we can go on another one and buy the books again some other time."
Akashi hummed in agreement.
"What did Momoi-san want? It was her on the phone wasn't it?"
"Indeed. She dug up some more information on the Jabberwocks. I'll discuss it with everyone in our meeting this morning. Before that though, I'm going to check in with Himuro-san."
"Okay. I'll be in the living room if you need me." Kuroko said before leaving.
Once alone, Akashi called Himuro.
"Himuro-san, do you have any updates?"
"So what's the plan Akashicchi?" Kise asked.
All of them were gathered in the living room yet again.
"Satsuki has given me information about the leaders of the Jabberwocks – their names, their skills and their history. Our two main concerns are Nash Gold and Jason Silver. Each of whom may hold power even greater than my own."
That earnt some very concerned expressions from his comrades.
"Gold has a koukaku kagune whilst Silver has a bikaku type. Thus, in an attack, I will face Gold as my kagune will be most suited to defeating him. I will leave Silver to Daiki and Ryouta."
"As for the rest, I do not know for sure who we shall be facing. I trust you all to make sensible decisions on the battlefield. Although try to make sure no-one is fighting alone."
"Where exactly is this fight going to happen Akashi? And how are you planning to orchestrate it?" Midorima inquired.
"Himuro has given me the location of their base. It's an old abandoned factory by the harbour. Satsuki has promised to run some interference. She's going to create some problems that will require them to send most of their men away. Once she has done so, we storm the base at full power. We end this before anyone else gets hurt."
"When is this going to go down?" Aomine asked.
"In 2 days. After the attack yesterday, we know that they're already targeting us. We need to be careful. Keep your witts about you until then." After a short pause, Akashi asked "Any more questions?"
"Aka-chin, doesn't Kuro-chin still need a mask?" Murasakibara reminded the red head.
"You're right Atushi, he does. I'll take him to Himuro-san's place tonight to get a mask fitted. Anything else?" When he was met with silence he continued. "Keep safe everyone. Tomorrow is your last day of work until this is all over."
After the speech like meeting with Akashi and once everyone else had left, Kuroko wandered up to the manger. "Seijuro-kun…"
"Yes Tetsuya?" Akashi said, detecting that Kuroko wanted to ask a question.
"Is there any chance we can get some sort of protection for Kagami-kun? I'm worried about him, what with all the ghouls who seem to be after us."
"I will ask Satsuki if she's willing to watch over him for a day or two."
"Thank you Seijuro-kun."
"I love you." Akashi said with a smile.
Kuroko blinked. "I know. I love you too Seijuro-kun." Kuroko said softly, looking deep into Akashi's eyes. "And don't bother asking me not to fight alongside you guys, because I am coming with you."
"Tetsuya…" Akashi said with a sigh. Kuroko had quickly seen through his thoughts.
"Please don't tell me I can't join you. I know I'm weak. I'm not as strong or skillful as any of you but I can't bear to stay behind while you all fight."
Akashi closed his eyes for a moment. "I don't think you're weak Tetsuya. You're one of the strongest, bravest people I've ever met. But I don't want to push you into a fight that you are not ready for. Physically or mentally."
"I think if I am fighting alongside everyone, I will be okay Seijuro-kun."
Akashi gave a saddened smile. "If you feel you can then I will not stop you Tetsuya. But I need to warn you that Satsuki informed me that Hanamiya may be there. If that triggers y-"
"I will be fine Seijuro-kun. I want to do whatever is necessary to protect the ones I care about."
"Okay Tetsuya." Akashi conceded. This was a battle he could not win, and part of him knew that he couldn't justify stopping the man fighting. "I'll have to hasten the pace of your training for today and tomorrow though. And I want you to know that my offer for you to talk to me about what happened still stands. As it always will."
"You still whimper and cry out in your sleep you know? Begging and pleading for it to stop."
Kuroko looked down at the carpeted floor, greatly saddened. "I'm sorry."
"It's not your fault Tetsuya. I just wish I could help you. Or better, do something to undo what he has done to you. To change what he did…" Akashi's fists clenched. In no way did Akashi want to force Kuroko into talking about what he went through back then but he also couldn't bear to continue to watch him suffer alone.
"We both know that's impossible Seijuro-kun." Kuroko said as he stared at his boyfriend grimly.
"I know." Akashi said giving the teal head a sympathetic look. "That's why I'll do everything in my power to stop anything like it ever happening to you again. I will always protect you Tetsuya."
END OF CHAPTER