To Know You
Kogure sighed. It was getting dark and he still found no clues to the Itekami Basketball team. He leaned against the wall of a closing shop and dug out the crumpled photograph from his pocket. He gingerly smoothed it out on the palm on his hand.
A small smile tugged at the edge of his lips. He couldn't help it. Seeing the happy smile on Rukawa's face, the basketball he held in his hand and his father's hand on his shoulder while his mother stood beside them. Rukawa looked so happy. The expression on his face was telling everyone how lucky he is. How lucky he was to have wonderful parents.
But what brought Kogure to Osaka was the jersey Rukawa's father was wearing. Rukawa Taniki - the captain of the Itekami basketball team. The name brought back some unhappy memories. He knew he was being too nosey for his own good but the curiosity was eating him.
With a sigh, he folded the picture and placed it back in his pocket. Now he was faced with the problem of finding the old members basketball team. Apparently, the team was disbanded eight years ago for reasons unknown to Kogure.
I should call back before obaachan worries." He took out his mobile phone and dialed the number of his grandmother's house.
There was the dial tone and then the click of the phone being picked up. But just as he was about to answer, a hand reached out from beside him and covered his mouth. The mobile clattered to the ground, unanswered.
"Nothing could prepare me for that sudden overwhelming emotion that engulfed me when I saw him. I know it wasn't the time to feel happy, even though we did defeat Ryonan. We still have the IH to think about. But the way Rukawa played these few days. It was as if something had possessed him. And I can't help but feel overwhelmed by it. I wonder what was going on in his mind when he challenged Mitsui and then was challenged by Sakuragi. There was such a big change in him. Ara.... I'm going on and on about Rukawa. But I can't help but wonder how he'll look like in the near future. As a basketball star..."
Rukawa closed his eyes, leaning against the railing. He stood at the balcony, a letter clutched tightly in his right hand.
"Sometimes I feel envious of them. They have so much talent in basketball. One thing that I don't have and no matter how hard I try I'm still one step behind. But it's wonderful to have teammates like them."
Kogure-sempai, you're so naive, Rukawa thought, opening his eyes to look at the dark sky.
Endless possibilities. That was what his father had said. The sky stretched endlessly in the air, in unlimited space. Sometimes there would be a cloud in there, preventing everyone from seeing its beauty. An obstacle that would be overcome. To obtain that endless possibility.
Bowing his head, Rukawa hissed, "Why the hell am I thinking of oyaji?"
And why am I thinking about sempai?
He wondered what Kogure was doing. His father's team was disbanded years ago. There was close to zero percent of a chance that the bespectacled boy could find anything about the Itekami basketball team. He growled. His fists tightly clenched at his sides.
He wanted desperately for Kogure to stop doing everything for him. He hated the feeling that was slowly stirring in him. It was confusing him and was driving him to the edge of insanity trying to understand it.
He could remember. A young boy with a basketball in his hand - smiling ever so broadly - laughing without a care - running towards his father.
/"Hora! I got it in!! Otouchan! Did you see?!"/
A distant memory.
Rukawa raised his finger and brushed away the lone tear that escaped his left eye.
/"Otouchan! I want to be just like you when I grow up."
"Hai hai! And then we'll play in America together, ne?"
A hand blindly groped the ground, finally obtaining the object on the ground and picked it up.
Kogure gasped as he heavily rested against the wall. His glasses had been knocked off his face and cracked. A small bleeding cut was visible at the corner of his left eye as a purple bruise formed on his cheek. His body was aching from the rain of blows inflicted on him. He didn't even remember how long he had passed out.
He closed his eyes tightly, wishing the vertigo would leave him. He looked at his mobile phone.
Low on battery.
Kogure gasped at the sudden pain that jolted him when he threw the useless phone away. Seems that he only had two options left. Either sit there, hoping someone would walk by and notice him or get up and try to make it to the shinkansen on his own.
The first option would mean chancing another meeting with a gang. Making up his mind, Kogure forced himself to his feet and decided to walk.
His body was aching at every step he took. Wincing as he used the wall to balance himself. It took him thirty minutes to make it here from the shinkansen.
Kogure wondered how long it would take him to reach it in his current state.
The group of boys laughed as they stood by the wooden crates they placed there. A drum was set at the side and a microphone that was connected to a radio. Two of the four boys each held a guitar and a bass respectively. All four had their hair dyed in different colors and their skin an uncommon pure white.
The guitarist yawned as he looked at the deserted street. His blonde hair covering his eyes. "No one's going to come tonight."
"Ah. Too bad. They won't be hearing our new song then."
The drummer closed his eyes, smiling. "Sa... I guess we should go. Meet back here tomorrow."
"Ma... how could you be so optimistic about this?"
The drummer shrugged.
"Ja." The guitarist stood, checking the strap of his guitar as he walked away from his friends.
"Oi, Kazumi!" The drummer called out but was ignored.
The remaining trio exchanged looks and shrugged.
"Chikuso." Kazumi cursed under his breath, frustrated. They needed a change of location but his friends wouldn't hear about it.
He heard a groan and turned to the source of the sound. He squinted his eyes, trying to make out the dark shadowy figure at the darker section of the street.
"Hello?" Cautiously, Kazumi made his way over to it. "Hey. Is anyone there?" He gasped when he was finally able to make out the face of the person. "My God! Hey, you all right?"
Kogure looked at Kazumi, finally noticing the blonde. Relieved that he had met someone, he fainted.
Shocked, Kazumi quickly stepped up to catch him before he fell. "O- oi! Daijoubu desu ka?!"
"Sa, haven't seen Akagi and Kogure for a while." Mitsui commented, eyeing the gym entrance where the two other seniors usually stood.
Ryota snickered, "They're busy preparing for their exams. Unlike a certain someone."
"Nani?!" Mitsui growled.
"Pay attention to your training!" Ayako exclaimed, whacking Ryota on the head with her paper fan.
Rukawa rolled his eyes. Sometimes he truly wondered if Mitsui and Ryota were truly his seniors as they more often than not *don't* act their age.
He was about to make a jump shot when he heard the familiar voice of his coach calling him.
"Rukawa-kun. A minute please."
Obediently, Rukawa walked over to Anzai-sensei, passing the basketball to Yasuda as he followed his coach out of the gym.
"What was that all about?" Mitsui turned to Ryota, who shrugged.
Anzai-sensei stopped outside the locker room and turned to look at Rukawa. His hands clasped behind his back. "Sa... Rukawa-kun, have you decided yet?"
Minutes later, Rukawa walked back into the gym. The words Anzai-sensei had said rang clearly in his mind.
"Japan's number one high school basketball player."
Owari chapter 5