The first time Kageyama Tobio and Hinata Shouyou play an official game for the national team, the audience erupts in murmurs. They’re the only two rookies in the match, for starters. What more, Hinata Shouyou is small, and even smaller compared to the other players. He looks like a kid facing off giants.
There are rumors about these newbies, these two newbies who’ve been making names for themselves ever since high school. But information about them is restricted to smaller volleyball circles—the ones who go to local school matches, and the ones who read magazines about “new, rising stars”. They’ve placed nationals before, but placing nationals in high school and playing university games is an entirely different beast from this.
This is almost Olympic-grade. This is Japan’s men’s volleyball team.
This should be Team Japan’s revival.
The game starts with a strong serve and a roar. Kageyama and Hinata work just as hard as the regulars. After Bokuto Koutarou, the other wing spiker scores a point, he screams and throws the leaping Hinata a high-five. Their opponents shrug it off and tell each other that they’ll take it back.
A particularly long volley erupts, along with frantic chases of blocked balls and diving receives. But right when the audience is convinced the ball will fall on Team Japan’s court, the libero gives a stellar receive.
Hinata flies to the other end of the court as Kageyama sets the ball, Bokuto jumps, and then—
The ball slams into the opposite court.
Hinata lands back on his feet.
Everyone is still.
For a moment.
Suddenly the crowd is screaming, screeching. What was that? What was that? Did you see it? What just happened?
Even the opposing team can only blink. The nearest player hadn’t been fast enough to reach the ball. He stares up at Team Japan, whose presence seems to grow darker, if only for a split-second. The regulars pat Hinata and Kageyama on their backs. “Nice kill!” they call out.
The opposing team eventually catches up. Hinata scores two more points and almost crashes into the benches after diving for the ball. Bokuto slams his way past three blockers. Their middle blocker scores a service ace by aiming dangerously close to the sideline.
Team Japan wins three straight sets. For the first time, the Oddball Duo is introduced to the world.
There’s an image of the entire team taken right after the game. All of them except Kageyama Tobio smile at the camera, no matter how small. Hinata’s grin is especially wide. But the short rookie throws up a peace sign too, while his other hand tugs at Kageyama’s jacket, as if to say look here!
Kageyama only looks mildly uncomfortable.
They’ve played three-quarters of a season before a reporter eventually gets Hinata for an interview. It’s right after he’s finished practice, and he’s flagged down by a lone reporter and her cameraman.
“Despite being a rookie, you’re blowing everyone away! How does it feel to play for the national team?”
Hinata’s grin is brighter than the sun. He bounces on his heels, throwing the reporter an excited glance.
“It feels amazing! I’m so happy and lucky to be here! Everyone’s worked really hard to get where they are now... But we’re always trying to improve. The team is definitely very welcoming... I hope to play with them until we reach the finals!”
The reporter fires off a few more questions, all of which Hinata answers with glee. He tells her that he’s been playing since high-school, that him and Kageyama were scouted after they graduated from university, that he enjoys Tokyo a lot but misses Miyagi sometimes. The casual interview’s just trying to profile him a bit, especially since he’s been rising in popularity ever since that first game. Hinata knows this and it excites him, but there’s one question he’s been waiting for—
“And one last thing: is there anything you want to say to our viewers?”
Hinata nods and quickly turns to the camera. He beams, teeth sparkling.
“I would like to thank my team and my family. You’ve all been very supportive of me, and I’m very very grateful. I don’t just mean Team Japan, I also mean Team Tsukuba and especially Team Karasuno High! You guys gave me the opportunity to know what being part of a team feels like... You guys brought out all my potential. But most of all—“
Hinata pauses mid-sentence, spinning around to step out of frame. The reporter and cameraman exchange glances.
The redhead quickly pulls another person to his side. It’s Kageyama Tobio, who’d been skirting around the three of them. Hinata grins and pulls him down. All the setter does is look away and scowl, trying not to make eye contact with the camera or the reporter. He tries to pull himself away but Hinata’s grip is strong.
“This is Kageyama Tobio, my setter. Without him, I wouldn’t be able to spike!”
Hinata’s smile is all sunshine. Kageyama freezes, looking a bit like a giant sulking wolf, and stares down at the floor. His eyebrows scrunch up into a glare but his face is a bit red. The reporter clears her throat.
“O-Oh, of course. Kageyama-san, would you like to add anything?” she asks, pointing the mic towards him.
Kageyama doesn’t even look at her, just shakes his head, mumbles “no” and tries to pull away again. Hinata finally lets him.
The interview only airs on the local sports channel, but it quickly spreads. Hinata Shouyou makes a good impression—while he does sound overeager his excitement is endearing. Most people laugh Kageyama’s segment off, thinking, so even a genius can be camera shy, huh? He still looks frightening, but with Hinata pushing him around he looks more lost than ferocious.
And that first interview is where it starts.
A college-aged couple—Watanabe Yuuki, 21, and her boyfriend Mori Keisuke, 22—runs into Kageyama Tobio and Hinata Shouyou late at night in one of those 24 hour convenience stores. Both players are arguing over something, although Yuuki isn’t sure what it is.
Hinata aggressively shoves five different snack cartons into Kageyama’s arms. Kageyama yells at him, almost dropping the boxes on his foot, but Hinata only huffs and lifts the instant noodle packets in his hands.
“I mean, this wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t such a bad cook, Kageyama. If we’re going to be eating instant noodles for a week straight again you’re going to have to treat me to this so my taste buds don’t rot—“
“I’m not the one who almost burned the apartment down!” Kageyama interrupts. Hinata splutters.
“A-at least I tried to cook!”
“It doesn’t count, dumbass. You couldn’t even get past pre-heating the oil—“
They’re still arguing by the time they exit the shelves. The lone employee at the register surprisingly hasn’t kicked them out yet, but it’s probably because his music is so loud that Yuuki can hear them through his headphones. Seriously, how is he not deaf?
She and her boyfriend are big volleyball fans and she’d been a bit starstruck with seeing Japan’s two rising stars right in front of her. She squeaks, hoping for a picture and an autograph, but they don’t actually see her yet.
Hinata’s arms are full of cheap, instant food and Kageyama’s carrying a couple of sports drinks and two milk boxes. Hinata’s still balancing several umaibo sticks on Kageyama’s pile, jumping up and down to get him to accept them.
Maybe Yuuki is standing still with her mouth open, because the two athletes eventually look up and stop in their place.
“U-Um—“ she begins, suddenly wondering if maybe this is an invasion of privacy or something... Are national volleyball players not paid that well? Wait, are they even regulars yet? Suddenly she’s forgotten everything she knows about these two... Which isn’t a lot, considering they’re still newbies but she saw them play against Team Thailand and wow, she hadn’t been so enthralled by a game since high school—
“S-Sorry,” Keisuke says. “My girlfriend’s a big fan. We didn’t mean to stare.”
Kageyama’s frown turns into a pout. Yuuki squeaks when he looks at her—why is he glaring? Did she piss him off? But Hinata’s smiling at both of them. He jumps, noodle packets almost spilling out of his arms, and runs towards them both.
“Oh, really? You’ve seen us play? And you recognize us? They recognized us, Kageyama! Thank you very much for watching our games!” Hinata’s practically vibrating in place. Kageyama only sighs, stepping a bit closer to his teammate.
“Do you mind if we take a picture?” Yuuki asks, finally finding her voice. She holds up her cellphone. Hinata laughs and shakes his head. Kageyama’s still glaring, so Yuuki avoids looking at him. Hinata doesn’t seem to mind.
“Okay, here we go.”
They all crowd together—Yuuki and Hinata in front and Keisuke and Kageyama at the back. Hinata presses his face near Yuuki’s—they’re about the same height—while he elbows Kageyama and tells him to smile, damnit, no wait not that smile, okay nevermind, jeez, Kageyama.
Yuuki thanks them over and over. The cashier doesn’t recognize either of them, or maybe he doesn’t really care. Hinata says he’s really glad that they’ve met, and Yuuki’s a nice girl. Kageyama only hums, staring down at his horde.
Eventually they pay for their stuff and leave. Kageyama carries the bigger bag because Hinata has a habit of running around and jostling them. It seems like the redhead had smuggled more snacks into Kageyama’s grip, forcing him to pay for them, but while Kageyama glared at him and demanded he pay him back he didn’t actually return any of the sweets.
Yuuki only stares. They’re much different in real life than from the court, which makes sense, of course. People are different in real life.
She quickly posts their picture.
The next day Hinata retweets it on his official account, thanking her for being such a nice fan. She’d cropped out all their embarrassing groceries. The photo gains lots of attention, even from other pro volleyball players. Oikawa Tooru, charming as ever, calls Hinata lucky for having such a cute fan. And that Tobio-chan should be nicer to girls. Why does he smile like a lecher? You won’t get any fans that way, Tobio-chan~
Maybe Yuuki has died and gone to heaven, she thinks.
How Kageyama and Hinata manage to be so close is everyone’s favorite mystery. Their fights are becoming legendary (and the cause of numerous penalties), but when they’re in a game they’re totally in sync. It’s kind of scary.
There are lots of forums online about these two, and even though netizens can’t seem to decide whether they love or hate the ultra-dynamic duo their skills on the court are unquestionable.
And okay, maybe their PR Team is milking them for all they’re worth. Kageyama might be a disaster in interviews but he’s tall, dark and handsome. It doesn’t matter how sweaty he gets during a game; anyone can admit that his face of pure concentration is attractive. As long as he isn’t ambushed alone he’ll be safe. Or if he’s with Hinata (which he always tends to be) then Hinata provides a nice distraction while Kageyama awkwardly—or maybe angrily, people can’t really tell—hovers in the background, refusing to look at whatever camera’s pointed at him.
Meanwhile, Hinata quickly becomes a crowd favorite. At first he’d been an underdog with that height, but his insane speed and reflexes prove that he isn’t at a disadvantage. He’s got the kind of cheerfulness that pumps fans up, no matter how tired he is from a game. Hinata is pleasant and sociable, loud and simple, and doesn’t hate the press like Kageyama does.
He’s the kind of player that makes friends with the opposing teams too, but anyone he’s ever played against knows that there’s a beast deep down inside of him—the beast of determination that only wakes up at crucial moments in games, or when people underestimate him.
Kageyama Tobio’s scary face has been captured more often, but Hinata’s is just as scary, the other players think.
Oikawa Tooru is Team Japan’s other setter, and at a first glance he’s the complete opposite of Kageyama Tobio.
“Oh, you want to talk about Tobio-chan?” he asks with a pleasant smile. The girls sitting on the gym bleachers swoon behind him. Some of them whine, as if saying we’d rather you talk about yourself, Oikawa-san! (Even though he’d been talking about himself already) Or maybe it’s: you’re such a good senpai, Oikawa-san!
“He’s been my underclassman since junior high. He’s a genius on the court, but he’s not charming outside of games, is he?” Oikawa laughs. “He was much worse in junior high, you know. Glaring at everyone and being so anti-social. Now it’s kind of cute, but that’s only because he has the shrimp to rein him in! Such a shame that he couldn’t learn his charms from his senpai. Do you know how long it took him to—“
Oikawa freezes as a volleyball speeds an inch past his face.
A couple of girls scream. Oikawa’s smile strains.
“Sorry,” Kageyama murmurs from across the room.
“Don’t worry, Tobio-chan. But maybe you should practice your aim a bit more. At this rate, I’ll end up replacing you as setter for the rest of the season—“
This time Oikawa ducks as the volleyball spins right through where Oikawa’s head had been. When he stands back up, he grins even wider, not even a hair out of place.
“Oi, you idiot, if you hit the Great King you wouldn’t be allowed to play our next game!” Hinata Shouyou screams in the distance. He smacks the setter repeatedly in the arm.
“Yeah, well, I didn’t, so stop hitting me and practice your shitty serves, dumbass—“
“Shall we move on?” Oikawa asks, hands on his hips. He moves behind the camera a bit more. Not that anyone notices.
Look! Kageyama Tobio and Hinata Shouyou were spotted at the local park. They were out jogging but eventually started playing volleyball. They work so hard even in their free time! I got a picture with them, look!
Wow, I’m so jealous!
Kageyama-san is so handsome even in a tracksuit... Don’t you think he could be a model?
What do you mean? He’s so scary!!
They’re both models, technically... Haven’t you seen their Gatorade ads?
But don’t forget Hinata-san. He’s so cute! And he’s such a sweetheart. He didn’t mind signing his autograph even though I caught him off-guard...
Someone got another picture of them in the convenience store! Look at how they’re bickering... Do you think they’re sharing an apartment or something? Do those two even know how to cook?
I would gladly cook them a nice meal~
They’ve been friends since high-school, right? Plus they’re the Oddball Duo. It makes sense for them to be roommates.
But they argue a lot!
Yeah, but they’re always in sync on the courts! I watched a game live once... They’re so fast! I can’t even tell how they signal each other...
Plus Hinata-san always mentions Kageyama-san at least once during his interviews...
And he always helps Kageyama-san out when he’s stuck on a question... I think it’s kind of cute, actually. Kageyama-san is probably just shy.
They argue a lot, but it’s really funny seeing little Hinata-san drag Kageyama-san around all the time. It’s like a tiny orange puppy pushing around a big black wolf! www
You’re right! Kageyama-san has a surprising gentle side... Although most of the time they act like they just want to hit each other...
I heard it’s their thing!! My cousin trains with the national team. They know something’s wrong if Kageyama-san and Hinata-san aren’t fighting.
I guess it’s just the way they’re friends?
Matsuoka Haruka sighs, looking up from her cellphone. Her older sister used to drag her to volleyball games all the time until she eventually started looking forward to them herself. And right now, she’s intrigued by Team Japan’s Oddball Duo. They’ve got something of a large fanbase online. After all, it seems like they’ve got everything: they’re young and handsome—and like Haruka’s older sister thinks, they’re both cute, not just Hinata-san; they’re so skilled it’s scary (they’re definitely bringing Japan back to the Olympic stage, but there have been so many good players cropping up lately); and most of all, it’s the fact that they’re a pair. They’re a duo. They complement each other on the court and maybe they do too in real life—although they’re both pretty immature, from what she’s heard.
Haruka peeks out from her phone and stares at her half-finished milkshake. The family restaurant she’s in is starting to empty out. Her sister should’ve been here half an hour ago...
“I’m so glad Noya-senpai’s back! His saves today were amazing! He was like pwah, and then he dove and went bwah, and then the ball was just like zoom!”
A loud voice distracts Haruka from her thoughts. Why does that voice sound so familiar?
She slowly turns her head and blinks. Two guys take the table right next to her. One of them is tall with dark hair. He leans his elbows and his toned arms against the table. He’s frowning a bit as he puts down his bag, but he looks up at his companion every now and then.
His companion is short but loud. His hair is bright orange and pretty messy, making him look young and boyish. He makes noises as he gestures with his arms—is it supposed to be his impression of what a ball sounds like? And eventually takes a seat.
Hinata Shouyou and Kageyama Tobio.
Haruka is sitting next to Hinata Shouyou and Kageyama Tobio. She squeaks and looks away, hoping that she won’t be caught staring.
Hurry up, sis!! You wouldn’t guess who just sat at the table next to me!!
“Man, I’m starving...” Hinata grumbles. Kageyama only huffs, already eyeing his meal. He looks like a lion about to pounce on his prey. A shiver runs down Haruka’s spine.
“Ohh, your fries look good, Kageyama! Can I try one?” Hinata practically lights up. Kageyama swats his hand away.
“No. Get your own—“
“I’ll trade you some chips for some fries.”
“If you wanted fries you should’ve ordered them yourself, idiot.”
“But I just want to try some! Don’t be so stingy, Kageyama-kun.”
“Oi, that’s mine!”
“Delicious! I barely got to taste it! I’ll take another. Here, you can have some of mine—“
“I don’t want your damn chips—“
Yes, they’re very different in real life, Haruka thinks.
Within five minutes her sister texts her to say that she’s sorry but she’s running late, all the trains are full and it’s really hard to get a ride. Haruka tells her to be careful. It’s a bit fun to eavesdrop on the conversation of the table next to her... if it can be really called a conversation.
“Hey, Kageyama, the captain says he wants us to use the new quick for tomorrow’s game.”
“We haven’t practiced enough.”
“That’s exactly what I told him! But he says that we can do it anyway...”
“You’re going to miss the ball again.”
“N-No! You’re going to miss the ball.”
“You’ve missed more balls than I’ve missed tosses, you know.”
“But I’ve spiked more points!”
“That’s not the point!”
“We should do it!”
“The new quick! We should do it.”
Haruka glances at them. Hinata’s leaned over the table, his eyes gleaming. He stares Kageyama down, a thin smile on his lips. Haruka’s never seen him like that before... Not in pictures, not in anything.
She shivers. Suddenly their area’s gone a bit cold.
“You just said you didn’t think we could do it,” Kageyama tells him, voice level. He narrows his eyes.
“I changed my mind. We can do anything, right? Let’s practice it again after this, okay?”
Kageyama only holds his stare, not saying anything for a while.
Eventually, he nods.
Hinata’s smile brightens up considerably. He throws his hands up in the air.
The room grows a bit warmer.
“Why are we doubting ourselves so close to a match? We’ve done it once today, haven’t we?” Hinata asks quietly. Kageyama exhales, sounding a bit defeated.
“Fine. I’ll toss to you.”
Hinata smiles. “To the top of the world, Kageyama.”
“To the top of the world.”
Haruka’s not sure if it’s a trick of the light, but she thinks that Kageyama just smiled.
And it’s sweet, not frightening.
Team Japan wins the last game of the season.
Hinata Shouyou spikes the last point. It’s a wipe, out of all things. His opponents are half a meter taller than him, and yet he takes them out in the best way he can.
His entire team yells the same time the crowd does, but Hinata can’t hear any of them. All he hears is the pounding of his heartbeat in his ears and his own voice bellowing out a loud battle cry.
They are one step closer to conquering the world.
And he’ll stand with Kageyama. He’ll stand with all of them—his team.
Hinata screams and runs headfirst towards his setter and leaps onto Kageyama. Kageyama takes a few steps backwards and almost topples, but he manages to steady himself. Hinata wraps his legs around Kageyama’s torso and embraces his neck and tries not to cry because they’ve won, they’re really here and they’ve won.
Maybe Kageyama’s crying; he’s not sure. Kageyama’s gripping his thighs tightly so he doesn’t fall off. He buries his face in Hinata’s shoulder so no one can see what expression he’s wearing, and Hinata can’t tell if the dampness he feels is tears or maybe just sweat.
His teammates all pat them on the back. Even his captain looks so happy that his smile threatens to split his face into two. Hinata grips Kageyama even tighter and knows that he wears the stupidest, widest grin on his face. Everything’s so loud and bright and warm, and Hinata can feel the laugh bubbling out of his throat.
The next day there’s a front page image of them on the newspaper. Team Japan’s Olympic men’s volleyball team. Hinata’s wrapped around Kageyama, his head thrown back and eyes closed as he laughs. Kageyama’s face peeks from his shoulder. He looks up, eyes focused on the face of the man in his arms. His cheeks glint with fresh tears, but most of all there is his large, happy smile.
The first one they’ve photographed.