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Monthly manager

Chapter Text

Closing todays training schedule, Yachi softly sighed, blinked, and turned her eyes to the window. The sun was engulfing the school’s field in eerily long shadows, but the colorfully warm rays gave a romantic contrast to them. The training had gone a bit later than they had anticipated, and even then it was hard to get Hinata and Kageyama out of the gym and send them home.

Sitting over the table, Shimizu closed her own notebook, pushed a stray hair behind her ear, and looked up to Yachi. The small star-hair girl had a faraway look, but Shimizu knew that it was mostly from tiredness. She herself was tired too, however club duty came first, and she was forced to keep Yachi on school grounds longer. In the back of her mind, there was a blank memory that Shimizu thinks is important; something concerning Yachi and her soon-to-be manager role.

Tapping her pen agains the table, Shimizu bristled up to apologize for taking her dutiful apprentice’s off-time, but stopped mid-inhale. Yachi blinked and turned to her senpai, cocking her head, and all of Shimizu’s head cleared of any unknown.

“Huh?” Yachi blinked like a small chick.

Shimizu stared at Yachi with eyes that held the same intensity that Kageyama’s did when he was dead set on winning. Her head lowered enough that the setting sun’s rays reflected agains her glasses and hid her stare. “You are ready,” she spoke in a flat voice that made Yachi nervously sweat in confusion.

 “...Eh?”

 

 

Kenma stared at his open japanese lit book, drained and half-interested. Letters were starting to mingle together, creating a jumble of non-sensensical lumps and blurs.

It wasn’t unusual since today was Monday, midday even, but he had been busy yesterday. Kuroo had already chided him this morning for staying up late and playing far over his normal limit. Kenma had even woken up only when Kuroo was at his bedside, glaring down at him with no sly grin. It was worth it, anyway. He got the limited edition outfit and managed to snag a few extra items. But right after getting them, the slow creeping of boredom had set in its root, and he was scrolling through the internet for the next new game on the market.

However, there was another thing Kenma was looking forward to. His eyes glanced out the window just in time to catch a pickup driving out of the school’s zone.

“Yes,” Kenma though and tiredly stood up when the teacher called his turn, “this will be interesting.”

 

 

A floor under him, Lev scratched his hair with his mechanical pencil, scrunching over english text with his tongue stuck out in concentration. He was so hunched over his papers that he did not notice the teacher call all the students to attention.

A poke on the head from his classmate infront jolted him in sitting straight, and his eyes guiltily looked up to the teacher. The teacher only adjusted his glasses, sparing Lev from any scolding – atleast, that’s what Lev hoped that meant.

The teacher gestured his hand and spoke. “We’re having a transfer student. I’ll let them introduce themselves. Come in!”

Everyone turned their heads with mild interest since transfer students in Tokyo weren’t a rare phenomenom, but Lev’s interest jumped when a girl dressed in a simple, white long sleeve blouse with a dark red skirt and a matching bow around her neck walked in through the door. It wasn’t his school’s issued girls uniform, yet that wasn’t the thing that piqued him. The most interesting thing about this girl was her hair. Blonde with a star adorned side ponytail.

Lev’s face lit up with recognition and a goofy grin appeared on his face. He wiggle in his seat to get the nervous girl’s attention while she walked to the front of the class. Some classmates turned their heads at him when they heard the chair scratch against the floor, but even that didn’t make Lev noticable by this girl.

Star ponytail swinging, the girl almost stumbles over the heighted platform of the classes front. She stiffly turns towards the whole class and there is a slight red from embarrassment engulfing her face. Everyone now was staring at her, and she audibly gulped.

Not being able to meet any of the unknown student faces, fidgeting with her school bag’s handles, she shut her eyes and cheeped: “H... Hello! I am Yachi Hitoka! It’s good to meet you all!” as stiff as a board, she finished it with a low bow.

There were several murmurs and hushed voices while the teacher showed her to her assigned seat. Yachi kept her eyes down all the way, too uneasy in a new place without anyone she knows of. She hooked her bag under her desk and took her seat as silently as she could. As she stared at the empty desk, trying to calm her racing heart, everyone around her shuffled back to concentrating on the subject.

When she finally dared to atleast glance to the side, she saw some students staring in her direction. “W-w-why are they looking at me?” she pondered, examining her clothes and patting her hair in panic. “Is there something on my uniform? In my hair?” There was nothing that she could visibly see or feel. “Do I,” sligtly lifting her arm up, she sniffed her armpit, “...smell?”

She was still confused even after concluding that she did not smell bad at all. A sudden hand with long fingers appeared in her view, bringing her out of her stupor, and waving for her to look up.

She followed it and met childish, green-eyed glee. “Hi, Yachi-san!”

Yachi squeaked out of surprise and got the teachers attention.

“Face front, Lev!” Yachi’s eyes widened, and the glinting green eyes catch the recognition they were looking for before turning away from her stare.

 

 

The bell rang lunch break, and everyone started moving. Yachi hurriedly scribled down the homework for next week and neatly circled it with a different color pen. Clicking the cap on her pen, she inspects her color-coded notes and nods happily to herself. She starts putting everything away in her bag, but a sudden chair screetch across the floor infront of her shocks her. Her eyes meet the same childish glee, but this time she can’t help but notice them more predatory like. That is the last thing she gets to think about before her whole world abruptly spins out of control.

Lev grabs Yachi by the hand and runs straight through the door and hall, dragging the panicking girl behind him. On the go, they pass Inouka and Shibayama who, at first confused by Lev’s running, quickly notice the dangling, half alive Yachi being dragged like a paper kite right behind him. They seem to pick up on the situation and quickly follow them, giving apologizing glances to bewildered students on the way.

 

 

There were slapping noises coming from the hall and they were approaching fast in Yamamoto’s class direction. He could already hear them from the lower floor. It was accompanied by some frustrated shouting. Yamamoto would be lying if he said that he was not interested, but he deduced to just let it slide and allow the hall’s monitor to install peace. Bunch of ruffians.

The telltale slaps of shoes against the floor was getting quite close, and Yamamoto turned his head at the open door to atleast see if they pass by. A blur of long limbs and silver hair run past, and Yamamoto straightens his back in shock.

“Lev?” he whispers in disbelief.

The slapping screeches to a stop and rushes back to his direction. A limbre body that almost reaches the door’s height stops in the doorway.

“What the hell, Lev. I could hear the running of an elephant right across the school,” Yamamoto scowls at the selfsatisfied smile Lev’s face is showing.

Lev doesn’t drop his cat-like grin and moves through the open door, a gasping Yachi half-stumbling after him. “I can’t, Lev-san...!” Yachi whines out of breath, her knees shaking from running up stairs and through hallways. Tokyo schools are so much bigger! No wonder Lev got lost half the way here. They finally stop two steps in the classroom, and Lev lifts their joined hands in the air, as if showing off a hunted prize.

“Yachi-san is transferring here!” Lev proclaims with gleeful pride to his fellow Nekoma teammate. Students around them and those peeking through the open door are silently surpised. Yamamoto’s eyes and mouth are wide open, and his brain is lost of any word. All the cogs in his head have stopped working and he just stares at the grinning Lev and the struggling Yachi.

“L-Lev-san... my hand,” Yamamoto finally blinks as Yachi wiggles against Lev’s hand that is still lifting hers uncomfortably high. Yamamoto quickly barks at Lev and Yachi is freed from Lev’s hand. While Yachi mournfuly sooths her aching hand, Yamamoto has Lev cornered between a wall and himself like a guiltily terrified child and is now scolding him with a fiery passion.

When Inouka and Shibayama run up to the crowded doorway and push through, they see Lev on the ground in front of Yachi and apologizing with all his might, a flustered Yachi vigorously bowing her head in return, and a fuming Yamamoto standing by both of them and murderously glaring down at Lev.

“Oya oya oya,” Inouka and Shibayama turn their heads to see Kuroo and Kenma leaning their heads in to see through the doorway, overseeing the sight in front of everyone else. “A small crow has flown in.”

 

 

Coach Nekomata stands like a dignified, old cat and grumbles out a cough of attention only a man in his years could get out, and everyone stands in attention. Yachi is standing on the left of coach Nekomata, and coach Naoi occupies Nekomata’s other side. Every Nekoma member stands diligently in front of coach Nekomata, with the exception of a bored Kenma and an already energetic Lev, and Yachi shivers a little from all their feline gazes on her. It feels like they have been tossed a new toy to play with – with her being the unfortunate toy.

“We have been generous to Karasuno this year,” coach Nekomata fondly smiles, “and they have sent us a gift in return.” Yachi tightens her grip on the notepad in her hands, trying to calm down her racing heart and slightly shaking knees.

“Hitoka Yachi will be joining us as our team’s manager-“

Yamamoto drops to his knees and his eyes start gushing tears: “A CUTE FEMALE MANAGERRRR!” Yachi jumps at his sudden outburst. The rest of Nekoma players start swaying in their places, disrupted by their ace. Kenma pokes at Kuroo and Yaku for them to grab Lev  before the childish middle blocker creeps too close to the distracted Yachi. When Yamamoto wipes away the last of his tears and calms himself down, coach Nekomata huffs.

“-for a month.“

Yamamoto drops to his knees again and howl in sadness, making Yachi also jump up again. Yaku is faster at grabbing Lev by the collar this time, and Inouka sympathetically pats Yamamoto on the back. “Calm down already,” coach Naoi sighs with tired patience, rubbing his temples from the noise reverberating around the gym.

Coach Nekomata simply waits until the crying and shouting has quieted down enough before continuing his tattered speech. “Yachi-san here will be the manager of our club for a month. See it as a manager on loan, if you must. She’ll be attending our school’s first grade class, – Lev’s class – so she won’t be missing out on any of her own studies.” Coach Nekomata looks down at his feet and thoughtfully mumbles to himself. Coach Naoi whispers to him something, and the old cat pipes up again: “Right! She’ll be staying at my place, so you know where to find her.”

There is a silent pause from everyone before Kuroo lazily rises his hand. “Does she have a cellphone on hand?”

“Since you don’t have a car, how will she get to school?” Inouka cocks his head.

“Is there enough food for her?” Shibayama quietly asks.

“I’ll finally have help with dragging your drunk body back home,” coach Naoi mutters to himself.

Coach Nekomata’s eyebrow twitches. “What are you all, her parents? And I heard that, Naoi!” Coach Naoi quickly glances elsewhere while coach Nekomata is bombarded with questions.

“Yacchan, come here,” Lev whispers in the commotion, slightly hunched over and waving his hand for Yachi to come to him. Yachi shivered.

Yaku quickly slaps him behind the head, and Lev sulks out an ‘ouch’. “Don’t treat her like a dog!”

“Right!” coach Nekoma grumbles, finally having done answering all the questions, and everyone turns back in attention, “treat Yachi well or there will be extra laps around the school ground. Training starts in five minutes. I have to sign some paperwork.” Coach Nekoma turns and leaves with coach Naoi following him through the main entrance. Yachi’s fearful eyes follow them, her heart jumping when the doors slide closed with a loud groan and clack, and she shivers from the coldness of the gym room. Yachi turns back to the Nekoma team like a creaky wheelchair and right away jumps back seeing how close Lev’s face is.

“Lev!” Yaku shouts frustratingly, holding Lev by the jacket while Lev tries to muscle towards Yachi. Terrified, Yachi skitters backwards until her head bumps against the closed door and she clumsily tries to find the sliding doors handle. Lev manages to get out of Yaku’s grasp, and Yachi’s heartbeat spikes up, but he is quickly stopped by Yamamoto and Shibayama. Her knees start to tremble faster and she slowly slumps to the ground, her hand weakly giving up on finding the handle. Her vision starts to become dizzy, seeming to make everything bigger and closer to her, and she cluches her notepad in front of her face. She shakily breathes in and out, wishing she was back at Karasuno with Shimizu, Hinata, and her team.

“Hitoka-san,” a quiet, whisperly voice comes from her left, and she slightly jumps at the closeness of it. She dares to peek around the notepad and she is met with golden, cat-like eyes. They don’t ooze off the predatory look that Lev’s do. In Yachi’s surprise, she is draw into their melancholy shine. She can’t turn her gaze anywhere else, but with her hyper-sensitive personality, she notes that the room has gotten a lot quieter. So quiet, that she may even believe that they are the only ones in here.

The cat-like golden slits nervously glance away, probably from her staring, and it dawns on her. “You probably don’t remember our names,” they glance back and a small smile shows, a glint in their eyes, “but it’s nice to see you again.”

A feeling of calmness sets in her, and Yachi can’t feel her heart trying to burst out of her chest anymore. A slow smile spreads through her lips and she feels at ease. “It’s nice to see you again too, Kenma-san.”

Kenma’s smile a tiny bit bigger and nods.

The moment passes when Yachi feels a looming presence right above her. She gulps and slides her notepad just enough for her eyes to look up. Black hair like rooster’s crest hide one of sharp eyes that are looking down at her. A cheshire grin spreads when Yachi shivers.

“You knew she would come,” the sharp eye glances at Kenma with mirth, “and didn’t tell me anything.” Kenma shrugs and takes out his PSP from his pocket, but doesn’t look guilty which slightly annoys Kuroo.

Yachi allows herself to slide her eyes over the rest of the looming presence’s body while he nags Kenma about teamwork and co-operation. His body moves like a black panther; every movement naturally graceful. The arch his neck and shoulder make to lower himself on Kenma's height, teasing his teammate with no bite, combined with his long legs that show powerful physique makes Yachi remember of their own quiet moon: Tsukishima. Although the similarities end there, Yachi can't seem but wonder if the two had ever met.

Her shoulder relax, but the moment Yachi lets her guard down is the moment she is swept off her feet and dangled in the air. She shrieks in surpised horror, her poor notepad falling on the ground, and unable to grasp where is up and where is down. Frantically looking around, she is met with neat silver hair and emerald cat eyes.

"So tiny!" the green slits shimmer in amazement, pure joy of wonder. "You practically weight nothing!" Yachi is lifted up even higher and she thinks she might die if she fell. Her stomach does a flop when Lev joyfully starts spinning them.

"Lev, you idiot!" someone barks, and Lev pulls Yachi closer to him, squishing her face aganst his chest. Yachi's head spins and, from the sudden movements, she guesses that they are running around, evading someone. Her hands and legs instinctively clutch around Lev's  lithe body when a sharp turn is made.

"Koala!" Lev laughts when he can freely let go of Yachi and see that she is still attached to him. He looks back and sees Yaku letting out fumes of anger, and running towards him with the Nekoma team behind. Lev teasingly jumps up with Yachi practically taped to his body, making Yaku even more enraged. In the blink of an eye, Yaku bursts over to Lev and manages to kick him in the back mid-jump, catching Yachi when she flies off of Lev.

Yaku stumbles from the sudden weight on his arms, but manages to gently put Yachi on her feet. He turns his head to glare at the whining Lev on the gym floor. "Coach Nekomata said that we have to treat Yachi-san with care - not dangle and throw her around like a doll!"

"You wanna lose our first cute female manager, Lev!?" Yamamoto asks in a desperate voice, beads of sweat running down his face.

Lev gasps in shock and guilt shows in his eyes. "No!" Lev crawls over to Yachi's feet and exclaims his guilt: "I'm sorry!"

"Again!" Yamamoto demands.

"I'm sorry!"

"Again!"

"I'm sorry!"

"Stop," Kenma shuffles over, not having been part of the running rush and being left on the other side of the gym, with hands over his ears, "you're too loud." Kenma looks over to Yachi and sees that she is overwhelmed. He walks over to her and gains her attention, looking over her face and body. "Are you okay?" he asks, noticing that her eyes are starting to get a little red.

Yachi shifts her eyes somewhere none of the Nekoma boys' faces gazes could be seen, nervously picking at her gym clothes. She has been trying to hold back tears for a while now, but she can't help but spill out her feelings about the day up until now. "I’m nervous. I’m really, really nervous," she breathes in and out to calm down a little, "I'll have to do a lot to live up to all of your expectations. In all honesty, I don’t want to do this. I want to... go home."

She doesn’t feel right with team Nekoma. She is so far away from home, is going to live in an unknown place, and will be tasked to manage an entirely different team all on her own. Yachi looks over everyones feet, and Lev's hunched over back. Lev has already apologized twice today, and she knows that it came from him sincerely. Somehow, a swift wind of encouragement flew in her chest.

"But!" Yachi quickly looks up at everyone, determination daring to flicker out of her at any second, but she bites through it as best she can, “I want to prove myself to Shimizu-san and everyon else that I can manage on my own. So please, I’m happy if you can accept me for atleast a month!”

Silence fills the gym walls and Yachi is sure that everyone can hear her crying heart. Slow smiles start to spread on everyone’s faces, and Yachi’s own hesitant smile starts to show. Even Lev brings his head up to give Yachi a beaming smile.

“Don’t worry, Yachi-san,” Kuroo places his hand on Yachi’s should, jolting her slightly, and giving it a gentle squeez. “All of us are happy to have you here. Nekomata the most, if I’m honest. He is quite lonely by himself at his house so you will liven it up before his retirement.”

Everyone’s encouraging smiles ignite a hidden fire in Yachi’s heart, and she gives an overjoyed bow that accidentally makes her head hit against the crouching Lev’s.

It takes everyone by surpise, and some can’t help but laught at the scene of the two of them rolling around the floor in misery over their throbbing bumps. After many more expressions of remorse and cool water bottles on sore aches, Yachi remembers something.

"Ah! I had to deliver a note to you all," Yachi skims through her notepad and find the folded paper between the sheets. She gives it over to Kuroo, and the rest of the Nekoma curiously gang around him.

"Dear city boys," Kuroo reads out loud. "Shimizu-san said that Yachi-chan was sent to you for final training purposes. Apparantly, it's mandatory now in our school for new sports club managers to be sent to another school to show that they can manage on their own." Kuroo squints at the start of illegible chicken scratch, trying to make sense of what is written, "but listen here, city boys. If she signals to us that she is having problems and can’t take it anymore, we will take her back and personally come to you to talk in private.”

There is silence after Kuroo finished reading. "Did we...”  Inouka muttered, has face ashen and beading sweat, “already fail them?" Everyone turned to Yachi. Lev shaply clutches his hands behind his head – just in time for an incoming Yaku’s slap. Yaku’s eye twitches, and a slapping match ensues with Yaku mostly doing the slapping, and Lev rolling on the ground.

"I-It's fine, really!" Yachi flails her hands like peace flags to ease the situation. It meagerly reassures everyone, but Yaku doesn’t let Lev slide away so easily.

Fukunaga looks at the paper in Kuroo’s hand and notices something. “Kuroo-san,” Kuroo turns to him, and Fukunaga points at the paper, “there is something written on the back.”

Interested, Kuroo flips the other side of the paper and finds a postscript. He quickly skims over it and devilishly grins when finishes. Fukunaga inquires on what was written, but Kuroo dismisses it. “It was just a note from captain to captain.” Fukunaga nods and joins everyone else on trying to untange Lev from Yaku’s grip.

A creaking echoes through, and coach Nekomata slides the door open and oversees the gym. All eyes turn to him. Suspiciously, the ever present right hand coach Naoi isn’t with him. There is not a single word spoken between the coach and his team, but the temperature of the whole gym had dropped low enough for everyone to visibly shiver. There is a shadowy glint in the coach’s eyes that make everyone gulp.

He gives everyone a last once-over before speaking. “Twenty laps around school ground,” he announces darkly, and everybody scurries out of the building.

Yachi is left behind, watching as every Nekoma member practically stumbles out the nearest door, and is left with only the coach. She turns back to the coach with shivering knees, unsure if she needs to join the rest or start preparing the gym.

What she is met with is a slow but warm smile that dawns on Nekomata’s face. The gym doesn’t seem so cold anymore, and Yachi’s knees stop clacking against each other.

“Welcome to the team, Yachi-san.”

Yachi can’t help but beam up in joy.

“Thank you!”

Chapter Text

“Hi, Yachi-san! How are you doing?”

Tanaka’s and Nishinoya’s ears perked up like satellites, and they turn to their sunny middle blocker. Although he was speaking through a phone, Hinata was nodding his head and smiling his sunshine smile with a sparkle in his eyes.

“Aww, Hinata is talking to Yacchan,” Tanaka smiles, watching the ultimate decoy jump up in exitement. Students, walking past shoe lockers and seeing Hinata, gave weird looks, never witnessing such a childish schooler before. Nishinoya glances and happily agreed, putting away his outdoor shoes and slipping in his school slippers – “Thundering Diety” written on them - while Hinata bubbled by the entrance’s lockers, still in his socks.

 

 

Not far away, Shimizu somberly walked to school. Her eyes are faraway and hair not their usual silkiness. She resembled a mummy that decided to live again, dragging her feet behind her and glaring up at the sun, as if the stare could freeze and snuff it out. It didn’t suit the pleasant morning around her.

Daichi and Sugawara were not far behind her, feeling their spirits being seeped away from the scene they were seeing.  It was hard to admit, but Tanaka and Nishinoya were right – Shimizu does talk more around Yachi.

Sugawara elbowed Daichi, to which their team captain yelped in pain. “Go talk with her.”

Daichi looked accusingly at Sugawara. “You would send the team captain to death?”

“There are always casualities in sports clubs,” Sugawara grimly looked up at the sky as if mourning those casualities. Daichi felt like he already counted as one. A glance that presumably was for encouragement came from Sugawara, and Daichi sighed. Jogging up to Shimizu, he worded back a ‘you owe me’ at Sugawara, to which the vice captain gave a thumbs up.

Daichi came to walk next to Shimizu. She didn’t even notice his presence until he pressed a palm on her shoulder. Her head turned enough to acknowledge him before getting sick of staring up. With Shimizu’s eyes turned downcast, and her whole body showing no sign of wanting a conversation, Daichi was lost. Glancing back, Sugawara was waving his hands to push Daichi forward.

The captain tries: “How are you doing this morning...?”

Crap! That’s not how humans greet, let alone people that know each other for three years. Shimizu didn’t respond, and Daichi desperately looked back at Sugawara for support. The vice captain was already counting prayers. There goes their team’s encouraging pillar. Shimizu sighs, bringing Daichi’s attention back.

Her eyes were crestfallen. “I’m worried about Yachi.”

Daichi’s heart squeezed, feeling her emotions, and hummed.

Shimizu looked up to the passing branches overhead. Weather was in high spirits, but she didn’t feel the breeze rush through. “I never had to do this,” she said after a while, “so I’m concerned about her.”

“I can’t get that feeling out of my system as well,” Sugawara came up to Shimizu’s other side, eyes downcast.

Daichi grimaced. “Me too.”

This is what it felt like to lose a team member. Yachi hadn’t even been that long with them, but she already occupied a tiny hole in all of their hearts. More so in Shimizu because the star hair girl was her succesor. She was in the right to feel most of the loss.

“But,” Daichi clenched his fist, his heart roaring up in passion and faith, “we can trust Yacchan to team Nekoma. They’ll treat her well.” Yachi had a soul that was full of determination; with enough enthusiasm and just a little push, she could do anything she set her mind to. Karasuno captain’s eyes met those of his fellow teammates, passing on the light from heart to heart. “Besides, it’s only a month.”

The third years gave one another trusting smiles and looked forward.  They knew that Yachi will return after a month. She is going to help team Nekoma, learn from the experience, and come back with her golden smile. Even if she is in a completely new place with no friends and family to strengthen her, no means of contacting them outside of phonecalls and facetimes...

A gloom set on the whole party, all of their minds jumping to worst case scenarios and what-ifs. All three of them sigh wistfully.

A month seems so far away now.

 

 

The depressed party of three walk through the glass entrance.

“Come on, Shouyo!” Nishinoya clutches on Hinata’s leg, laying on the ground but in a cool way.

Hearing their fateful libero’s voice, the third year’s heads turn up.

“Don’t hog Yacchan all for yourself!” Tanaka was on Hinata’s other leg, both passionately not allowing Hinata to move. Hinata, sweating from the fiery aura oozing right underneath him, clamped on his phone like a lifeline. Giving into peer pressure, he voiced into his phone.

“Yachi-san, can I put you on speaker?” he asks, scared for his life. A quiet response comes from the phone, and he nods. Tanaka and Nishinoya – with the surprised third years in the background - eagerly watch Hinata fumble with his phone. He almost drops it, inciting various faces of fear from everyone.

After the ninth phone drop, Hinata randomly pushes some buttons out of panic, and Tanaka and Nishinoya are already sprawled on the ground alike corpses, having seen their lives flash by. They were pretty good for Nishinoya. Not so much for Tanaka.

A beep rings from Hinata’s phone. Then a voice: “Hello?”

Tanaka and Nishinoya leap up in an instant, having been reincarnated by the pitched but soft tone from the phone. Even Shimizu, having been dull and spiritless since yesterday, perked up in vigor. Both of their team’s fiery boys crawled back up on Hinata’s legs, unwittingly bumbling their middle blocker to the floor.

“Hey!” Daichi heatedly runs up to the pile of volleyball idiots wrestling on the ground.

Kageyama walks in this moment slurping a milk box, but freezes in the doorway seeing the scene. Tanaka and Nishinoya were jumping up and down, reaching for the phone that was in Hinata’s hold, but who was lifted up by Daichi – ways out both of their hungry grasps. Kageyama walked up to the bystanding Shimizu and Sugawara, confusedly asking what was going on.

Sugawara disappointingly watched the current crisis and explained it to Kageyama. The kingly setter responds with an indifferent ‘ah’ and finished sipping his milk box. “I thought Hinata gave you all to talk with her.” Sugawara and Shimizu turned their heads to Kageyama.

“You had the chance to talk with Yachi-san?” Kageyama turned to Sugawara and a shiver went straight through his spine seeing the soulless looks both senpais were giving him. Kageyama awkwardly tried not to make eye contact.

“Hello, can you hear me?” the unsettled chirp came from Hinata’s phone. All heads turned to Hinata, and their short middle blocker warbled out an answer to Yachi over the phone. Tanaka and Nishinoya calmed down whenYachi, reassured, sighed. There was a peaceful pause. “I miss you all,” the melancholy tone passed through everyone.

Daichi slowly let down a dazed Hinata – having been disoriented himself like everyone else after Yachi’s words went through the phone and the rest of the team. He didn’t know what to say, but he was positive that everyone was feeling the same emotions right now.

Hinata stared at his phone screen, blinked, and beaming at the word ‘Yachi-san’ written there.  “We miss you too, Yachi-san!” he shouted, making everyone straighten up, feelings heard by the girl on the other end of the line. The rambunctious boys shouted tenaciously aswell. The atmosphere was back in full warmth. Sugawara and Shimizu came over and inquired Yachi if she was doing well, if she was treated well, and if she was welcomed with open arms. Yachi cheerily replied in optimism.

“Are you at school or still going to it?” Daichi asks. He isn’t sure if Yachi’s school starts sooner or later, and his natural captain position makes him want to know the well-being of his team’s members.

A small pause follows where the only sound could be heard was a rythmical, low ding.“Still going,” Yachi guiltily replied, “but I’ll be there schoohn!” She bit on her tongue.

“I’m not surprised,” Kageyame puts on his school shoes. “Considering I haven’t been to Nerima a lot, I would get lost.” Hinata gave him a terrified look. “What?” Kageyama glared down at his shoeless teammate.

Hinata turns his shock to his phone and asks: “Yachi-san. You’re not lost, are you?”

The panicky question must have rattled Yachi because she didn’t answer right away. “Nope! I’m not lost at all,” came the reassuring reply. It sounded like it was said with a smile, and that eased Hinata. Around a locker, Asahi walked past and was surpised of seeing them here.

“What are you all still doing here? First period is about to start,” he informed, and Nishinoya leaped up on him, chomping on Asahi’s shoulder in exitement. The ace smiled and said hello.

The dinging from the phone stopped, and Yachi said that she had to go. Quickly, Shimizu places her hand around Hinata’s wrist to move the phone closer to herself. Hinata went bright pink with Tanaka and Nishinoya swirling enviously behind him.

“Do your best, Hitoka-chan,” Shimizu gently smiled at the phone.

The confident reply came without any pause this time. “I will!”

 

 

The call ends.

“How am I supposed to do my best when I am absolutely lost?” Yachi shivers in place, trembling by a railroad crossing. The train had already passed and every sign gave her the ‘go ahead, but Yachi was hesitant. Her knees were quaking right to the tip of her toe’s bones. If she took a step, she would fall in an instant. Tightly screwing her eyes shut, she tried to remember how she got here.

She had passed many different buildings and turned down corners she thought were familiar. Coach Naoi had driven her home yesterday – having arrived and carrying her luggage all around school until Yamamoto offered to simply store it in their gym’s warehouse – and, after a long day in a new school and new people, she was too tired to pay any attention to her surroundings.

She woke up considerably early to find her way to Nekoma’s school. Not that that aided her, seeing that she has endured an hour of blindly trying to, at the very least, find that one Tokyo tower. Surely, she could find her footing from there; at the very least ask the guards or something. Unfortunately, Yachi had no idea that there were so many! Never having seen the astounding architecture with her own eyes, she had been aimlessly running from one strange tower to the next. The more she swung her head in panic, the more dizzy and flustered her heart pulsed. A lone bumpkin isn’t meant for city navigation.

This, in turn, made her imagine scenarios of herself failing to adapt to an adult life and ending up in a dumpster. No job, no friends, no help – everything lost because she was too incompetent. From this unhealthy habit of hers in overthinking stuff, Yachi’s face went sickly violet and panic rose up in her. She felt her heart threatening to fly out of her mouth from the dread of being lost in an unfamiliar place. She desperately looks back at the crumpled paper in her sweaty palms.

“How are you supposed to read this!?” There was a single arrow that was horribly crooked in different angled. That was all. There were no other illustrated landmarks to go by, a single ‘just follow the line’ wobbly written in the corner. Yachi is certain that she was not following the line and, looking at the time, she was definitely missing school. In her indecisiveness, the stop sign started dinging again, and the ‘no crossing’ beam went down to block her way. She clutched her hair and nervously pulled at it, tears brimming in her eyes.

“Yachi-san?” a voice broke through her drumming ears. She turned her head and met Nekoma’s former – something she found out only yesterday from Lev – middle blocker, now wing spiker, Inouka. He had bewilderment on his brow that turned even bigger when Yachi’s eyes started to produce big globs of tears.

“Inouka-san,” Yachi weeped in relief, seeing a familiar face in a sea of foreign land. She was glad that there weren’t strangers around to see her crying – it would have been an awkward scene to explain. While the tears were wiped away in her sleeves, a warm palm rested on her head, gently stroking her worries away.

“What are you doing here?” Inouka asked when Yachi felt at ease. Her lashes still stuck to each other and there was slight redness under her eyes from her rough sleeves, but they wouldn’t last till they got to school.

Yachi bowed her head in shame. “I’m lost.”

Inouka furrowed his brow. “Your phone doesn’t have a GPS?” he confusedly asked. Yachi blinked and looked up at Inuoka. Her eyes turned lifeless and she grimly smiled at her brainlessness.

“Ah...”

Inouka was kind enough to not laught for long. Yachi shyly huffed, but couldn’t bring herself to get mad at Inouka. Had she stayed calm and levelheaded, she could have picked herself up from this mess, but she was still glad that someone was with her in this dilemma.

“We’re still going to miss school,” Yachi mopedly said. Inouka jumped in attention when the realization hit him like a boulder. Firmly, he took hold of Yachi’s hand and held it between them, making Yachi look up at him in wonder. When their eyes met, she saw bright valor in his brown gaze. The train passed in that moment, their hair dramatically danced from the passing train’s tumult like in one of those shoujo manga, and Yachi’s heart surged in her throat.

 

 

Yachi observed the way Inouka sometimes tugged at Yachi’s hand, but never hard enough for her to run after or fall. They were in a brisk walk, not even being able to pick up the pace now that they were forced to take smaller pathways with shops and family businesses, people having woken up and starting their day. He frequently turned back to see if she was still behind him, and smiled after every glance to reassure her. Every-time he looked back, she met those kind, round eyes. It made her trust in him more.

At the same time, he would turn his head at particular sounds, unintentionally bumping in a pedestrian and apologizing sheepishly. Weirdly, Yachi found it endearing – the same way she found Kenma’s quiet observation and Lev’s childish playfulness to be their individual quirks. Inouka shortly stopped to examine a shop’s window in awe before continuing their trek. It seemed like the whole world was a wonder to him. Yachi blinked in revelation.

“A cute puppy!” It felt weird to label a boy taller and stronger thank you as someone as helpless as a puppy, but that was the only thing Yachi’s mind imagined while watching Inouka. When he did pay attention, he, surprising Yachi, easily weaved through the crowd of people walking in random directions.

Every person was doing their own morning routines: shop owners opening their windows, mailmen diving up to residences and delivering the mail, girls running with toast in their mouths. Everyday life was so similar to her own in Miyagi.

They turned a few more streets, and it started to look familiar. Before she knew it, they were standing by Inouka’s school’s entrance. Strolling through the wide gates, they walked as if they weren’t missing first period right now.

Opening the doors, it sounded so much louder than it would if the whole place wasn’t empty of people. Every step bounced off the walls, opening shoe lockers sounded alike thunder. Somehow, it made Yachi even more ashamed of being late.

Tapping her foot against the tile to make sure it was comfortable, she turned to see Inouka standing and waiting for her with a clear smile. She returned the smile. He accompanied Yachi to her class, which wasn’t far from his, and bid their farewell. She watched him walk a door down, stop under the sign reading ‘1-1’, and slide the doors open with a slight bow of the head. When he was gone, Yachi turned to her door and inhaled a large gulp of air.

“I’m sorry for being late!” she bowed in the doorway and, after getting a grunt out of the teacher, she hastily took her seat behind Lev. The lean middle blocker instantly turned and cheerfully greeted her. Yachi managed a small smile before Lev was reprimanded by the teacher.

After that, time flew by with a swift breeze, and the classes were over. All the students were leaving the school ground, creating a ghostly emptiness in the halls.

In one of those halls, Yachi waited for Lev to finish talking with their teacher. She wasn’t confident enough to walk to the gym alone, fearing of getting lost again. It’s surprising how easily she could get traumatized. But she also pinned it down to simply wanting to walk with someone and get to know them better. In part, this will also be a great excercise in getting to know others and making friends.

“Hey, isn’t that the girl Lev-san was dragging around yesterday?” a hushed female voice came not far off. It was accompanied by a commenting murmur.

At first, the words didn’t register to Yachi, but then she blinked, and awareness tumbled on her. The first day was a hectic mess for her, but she could not imagine what kind of scenes were left in the minds of students witnessing all of it. A blush set on her cheeks, and she tried to hide it behind her strands.

Oddly, somewhere out of curiosity, Yachi glanced through her hair to see where the voice came from. Behind a corned, there were two faces peeking; one - big, pink eyes and petite braid, the other – long, silky hair with a fierce glare that made Yachi cower in fear.

Lev slid out the class and smiled down at Yachi. She managed to look up and smile a small, if not nervous, smile up at him and held her bag closer, ready to follow him to the gym as fast as possible. Lev didn’t create the impression of seeing her unease, gleefully turning and striding off.

Yachi could still feel someone bore in the back of her scull. She gulped.

 

 

They were the last to arrive. Lev stood infront of  the boy’s changing room door and was about to open them, but Kuroo stepped out from the other side. Seeing both of them, he smirked at Yachi before turning to Lev and scolding him for being late.

“Ah,” Yachi stood. Kuroo and Lev turned back at her, cocking their heads. Yachi furrowed her brow and looked up at them. “Where do I change?”

Kuroo smugly grinned, slightly arching his flexible back to lower himself. “Why, with us, of course.” Yachi eeped, shaking her head and saying that she couldn’t do that. She visibly went white as marble. Lev poked the marble statues shoulder and, seeing that it didn't respond, turned to Kuroo in horror.

"You broke her!" Lev gasped. The captain saw that his teasing was misunderstood and tried to remedy it.

“Don't worry!" Kuroo nervously waved his hands, "we have female changing rooms.” He was tired, having had a long day, but, when Yachi returned to her normal complexion, sighed in relief. He rubbed the back of his neck and stalked off to the girl’s side of the storage building. Lev and Yachi followed him like a train. He could hear Lev asking Yachi to teach him to turn to stone as well. They stopped at the first door with a sign reading ‘Girls’. It didn’t open. He tried the rest of the handles, but none of them allowed to open their respective doors.

Kuroo sighed, giving them an annoyed eye. “I’ll ask the girls,” he patted Yachi’s head while passing by and sluggishly stepped down the stairs.

 

 

You have a female manager,” the girl’s volleyball captain, Aneko, said it with an amazed face.

Football members ran by them, soles against dirt, hitting up sandy dust clouds. Track teams were running circles in the school’s stadium. The girl’s volleyball team were doing simple passes between each other. It was accompanied with the chirping of distant birds.

“Is it that hard to believe?” Kuroo lazily asked, his posture not his typical panther form. The sweltering sun must be the problem. He glanced around them, taking in the view that a volleyball player usualy didn’t have.

Aneko laughed and gave him the keys to the changing room. It had a dangling Hello Kitty keychain on it. “I’m just surprised that someone even wants to manage for you.” She gave him a sickly sweet smile; one that Kuroo returned in the same intensity if not a lot more sweatily. The gym was quite a walk away. “I’ll come over to pick them up afterwards,” Kuroo gave her a wave while leaving the football yard.

On returning, Yachi and Lev waved at him from the second floor railing. Kuroo smirked up, and swirled the keys around his finger in victory. Both of the first years jumped up in silly joy.

 

 

Lev crawled on the floor.

“What are you doing, Lev,” Yaku arched a brow, unamused.

“Doing diving receives,” catlike emeralds shone up at Yaku with mirth, but the stoic libero saw through them. The crawling, sweating, half-russian crab was trying to sneak out of training.

As if Lev has a sixth sense of realizing when Yaku’s aura becomes murderous, the lean middle blocker skitters to the only ray of hope in saving him – Yachi.

“Hey-o!” Aneko greeted when she slid the doors over. Kai, who was wiping away his sweat, glanced over to her and gave a quick welcome before instructing a tired Kenma. It was past six, and coach Nekomata with coach Naoi weren’t here. When asked, Kai said that they had to leave early. He then asked her on what she was looking for. “Came here for the keys,” she informed, surveying the busy gym and met eyes with Kuroo. The sly captain pointed to a small blonde enclosed by Lev and Yaku before continuing the three on three match.

Lev cowered behind and Yaku menacingly stood in front of the scared girl between them. Two cats between an eeping bird. It made for a confusedly comical picture. Aneko went over to them.

“Yaku-saaan, we’ve been training for five hours now,” Lev pouted behind a shivering Yachi. He could still feel Yaku’s scary aura coming to him in waves, but a sudden shadow, not full of murderous intent, overcame Lev, and he looked up. His eyes lit in delight.

“That’s a regular volleyball player’s schedule,” Aneko smiled down at Lev, then met eyes with the meek girl. She has never seen her before, and, judging from the completely different jersey, this girl is not from here. This kind of explains on how Nekoma got a female manager; she just simply didn’t fit in with the rest of the cats.

Yamamoto, who wasn’t in the ongoing match right now, came over with a water bottle in hand and a towel around his neck. Seeing Aneko, puzzlement rose. “Hi, Nee-san. What are you doing here?”

Aneko smiled. “I finished helping out the football team. I need the keys to the girl’s changing room,” she looked down at Yachi – she barely came to her neck! – and reached out expectantly. “Hello.”

Yachi jolted into movement and fumbled in her pockets. Producing the Hello Kitty keys, she thrusted them forward with a bow. “Yachi Hitoka, it’s very nice to meet you!” she handed the keys like an offering to buddha. “H-here they are!” The words were like shot out from a canon. Fascinated, Aneko took the ring of keys and watched Yachi stiffly straighten up.

“Oh, wow,” Aneko looked down at the small, blonde bird, her eyes glowing up. She reviewed Yachi’s persona before curiously pinching the petite girl’s cheek. So soft! She stretched and mushed them. And it wiggles? Aneko blushed from the adorable way she could mold Yachi’s face, much to the little girl’s discomfort. Lev looked like he wanted to try so too.“Yep!” she let go of the now red cheeks and patted Yachi’s blond hair, “cuteness material.”

“Right, right!?” Yamamoto energetically pumped up, almost squeezing out the water from his bottle. “Although, only for a month,” he noted, taking a sulking swig.

Aneko took in the information and nodded her head in understanding. “Then I’ll ask the janitor to let you have the second set of keys,” she winked at Yachi. The small girl gratefully bowed in return.

“T-thank you... erm... Yamamoto-nee-san?” Yachi meekly glanced up through her lashes. A tingle went through Aneko’s nerves. Yamamoto choked on his drink, and Lev let out a chortle. Only Yaku was composed enough to discreetly cry in his sleeve.

“I’m not his big sister,” Aneko chuckled in good spirit. “Nakata Aneko, but you can call me Nee-san if you wish,” she fisted a thumbs up, trying to look cool.

This seemed to work only on Yachi, who looked up at Aneko with sparkly eyes. Lev and Yaku already knew Aneko’s sisterly personality. She was like one of those big sisters that tried to look amazing in their smaller sibling’s eyes. More or less, she ended up goofy, but loved by everyone nonetheless. Dependable and honest – a true big sister at heart.

“Thank you, Aneko-nee-san!” a sparkle in Aneko’s eyes shimmered to life, and she snickered, patting the small bird. A shout came from the place where the match was set, and everyone turned their heads.

“Ahaha, we won!” Kuroo devilishly grinned at the gasping Inouka, Kai, and Fukunaga with Kenma half-dead in his sweaty grasp. Shibayama was laying on the floor in his own sweat.

“I’m going to hurl,” Kenma lifelessly said. He was let down on the floor, and Yachi rushed over to him.

Aneko watched in amazement on how Yachi treated every Nekoma member with a featherly gentleness. She could see the cats practically melt in her arms – the most being Yamamoto. She gave everyone a bottle of water and a towel, gracing them with a smile and ‘good practice match’. Yamamoto was close to bawling his eyes out.

Yachi’s phone vibrated. “Oh, we have to end.” She stood up, much to Kenma’s dismay, and started to clean up. The rest of the team picked after themselves. Aneko decided to go help Yachi pick up the scattered balls.

Bringing the ball basket over, Yachi didn’t notice Aneko till she had three balls in hand and looking on where to put them. “Here, Yacchan,” Yachi swirled, finally noticing Aneko’s presence. She came over to discard the balls, thanking, and went to collect the rest. The girl’s volleyball captain followed and pushed the cart with her.

 

 

Giving up the girl’s changing room’s keys and the gym’s doors keys that coach Nekomata entrusted her, Yachi turned to everyone. “It was nice seeing you all train,” the sun was painting the sky an ethereal red, and it shone in her tawny eyes, “I’ll be going now.” She hefted her gym bag over her shoulder, her school bag tight in her hands, and she turned to the gate.

“Oh, Yachi-san,” Yachi turned to a concerned Inouka. “Will you be alright walking back home?” Nekoma’s members eyed them with aroused interest.

Yachi smiled and took out her phone. “I’ll take your advice this time, Inouka-san. Thank you!” She turned back forward and walked on.

“What was that?” came Kai’s gentle voice as he directed it to Inouka. “Did something happen?” Eyes turned on Inouka.

Although he didn’t understand why, Inouka felt flustered. He scratched his neck, a lingering feeling in his palm. “She got lost this morning going to school,” Kenma paused his game to glance up at Yachi. “She somehow managed to end up closer to my home than between Nekomata’s house or the school.”

“Really? That must have been scary...” Yamamoto remarked, watching Yachi’s back with a protective gaze. He then frowned. “Wait... you walked her to school?” Inouka eagerly replied in honesty. “Manly of you!” Yamamoto slapped on both of his shoulders and praised him. Inouka perked up like a puppy. Kuroo oversaw with a lazy grin before turning away.

“Yachhan, I can show you the quickest way to Nekomata’s home,” Kuroo stalked over to Yachi with the quickness of a cat. Somehow, without anyone noticing, Kenma was already at Yachi’s side, nose deep in his PSP, but it seemed like Yachi was interested in it too.

“Hey, Kuroo! Don’t get ahead of yourself!” Yamamoto eyes blew wide, and he shouted, running after their sly captain, almost tripping over his shoelaces in the process. Lev saw this as a bout and went straight after them, with Yaku annoyedly following along. The rest of the members actually used their brains and, bidding goodbyes, went their seperate ways.

 

 

Moping, Aneko walked back home, woeful tears sliding down her lashes. It was predictable, but hurt nevertheless.

Yachi lives in the opposite direction.

Chapter Text

“So when I’m captain,” Lev says every word as to be sure he truly understood them himself, “I’ll be pardoned for the llama incident?” Eyes full of hope, he watches Kuroo. Their captain scoffs at the newbie player.

When you’re captain,” Kuroo says, grinning at the groaning Lev. However, his brow furrowed when a thought came. “But I don’t think that a captain has all the power,” he adds.

Hearing this, Lev also furrowed his brow and stows away the melon bread he picked up while on the walk to school. “Isn’t the captain that takes care of the team and, you know,” he shrugs his shouldes, “is the boss?”

Kai, who has been walking with them, although, knowing them, from a safe distance, joined in the conversation. “Partially, but I doubt Kuroo takes care of the club’s expenses and trip organization,” Kai pointedly looks at Kuroo. Kuroo places a hand over his chest, theatrically feigning his pain. It gains no reaction from Kai.

Lev doesn’t know this, or just has never noticed it, but Kai is the one that takes suggestions and manages the team for everyone else. Coach Nekoma and Naoi can only sign papers and talk with the school, but, other than that, they have a busy life outside of school. Kai doesn’t mind. However, lately, it has been gnawing at his academics. Yaku and Kuroo somewhat take part  helping Kai when they can put off other things. Nevertheless, the third years have agreed that they need to find someone reliable to take over. They won’t be part of the team for long, anyway.

So far, their search have been unfruitful – in part due to students not wanting to take on extra work, and in part that their team is, in students’ words, ‘scaringly intimidating’. Kai couldn’t wrap his head around that last part.

“Really? That much is on a captain?” like a child that has read something new in an encyclopedia, Lev ‘ooh’s in marvel. Kai nods his head in a tired bob.

“It’s the team’s manager that does most of these event organization and collecting information on teams, among other stuff,” Kai explains and Lev drinks it in with considerations.

“Then we just find a person that will be willing to be our manager!” the naive glimmer in Lev’s words sets Kai’s stomach churning. Kuroo notices and takes over.

“We’ve tried, Lev,” his words are laced with the melancholic reality, “but there aren’t always people willing to help.” Kuroo sees Lev’s eyes dull and slaps him on the shoulder before the childlike spark dies completely. “However,” Kuroo shakes Lev by the shoulder, bringing some gusto back in the conversation, “we atleast got a manager-on-loan! She must know an answer to your question,” he stops to swipe out his phone but the action immediately halts. They stand there, Kai and Lev confusedly looking at the frozen captain.

Kai is the first to wake up from the dull stupor. “We don’t have her number.”

“We don’t have her number,” Kuroo says.

Kuroo painfully sighs, rubbing his head in frustration. “She’s been with us for two whole days, and we completely forgot to exchange contacts,” he laughs half-heartedly, “we’ll just have to ask her between classes or after school.”

Suddenly, Kai’s and Kuroo’s skin prickle. Their immature middle blocker has not said anything; and that’s a terrifying thing. Their heads hurriedly turn to Lev – only to see his tall figure, now small, already in the distance, running as fast as a volleyball player can.

 

 

Stepping through the school gate, Yachi looked up from her phone’s navigation. The back of her hair rose. She could hear a fast stomping sound approaching. She turned her head just in time to get a glimpse of green slits and unruly, silver mane. Giant, lean paws latched on her shoulders, shaking her, and turning her world in a panic. There were words laced in terror shouted at her, but she couldn’t catch any of them.

“Stop, idiot!” a helping hand released her and steadied her dizzy form. Blinking, she drew her eyes from the saviour hand on her weak arm to the heavy glare of its owner – Yaku. Team Nekoma’s reliable libero’s gaze was set on none other than Lev. Although, from his current appearance, a very distraught Lev.

Their eyes met, and Lev’s shone in persistance. He hastily took his phone out of his pocked and held it out to her in a plea: “Please, Yachi-san, can I have your phone number.”

Yachi stood still as a wall, her breath escaping her. With her numb silence, Lev started to explain on why he wanted her number, gaining some strange looks and whispers from passing students, but it all flew past her stiff mind. In a way, the out of the blue way he so bluntly asked, due to Yachi’s meek nature, shocked her, but the exaggerated yet honest bow he gave her was endearing. It put a smile on her face. Somewhere deep withing her, she knew that the one asking this would be none other than Nekoma’s cheery middle blocker.

She carefully took the phone out of Lev’s hands. Her number was typed in so easily, and she handed the device back to a beaming Lev. Yaku had a concerned look upon him.

Getting his phone back, Lev tapped at the contact’s default picture and took a quick picture of Yachi. Yaku disgustingly watched him while Yachi’s face morphed in confusion. Her phone vibrated in her hand, and she unlocked it, curious. The notification immediately sent her to Line - the app she uses to contact most of team Karasuno – with an invitation to a new group.

“So everyone can contact you!” Lev’s smile is of pure innocence. Yachi nervously smiles while Yaku starts to usher her through the school’s front door – eather to make it to class or distance them from the jubilant middle-blocker.

 

 

Fukunaga’s phone dings. It opens up to inform him that a new number has been added in their team’s group chat. He doesn’t recognize the number. A message from Lev quickly follows: “I invited Yachi-san to the group chat!” with an added row of emoticons. Yamamoto, who was walking besides with his own phone open, tripped in a passing student. He quickly recovered and apologized to the student. Fukunaga frowned. He didn’t believe that Yachi would give her number away so easily.

To Fukunaga’s surprise, Kenma was the first to greet the unknown number as hers.

 

 

“Since when did you get Yachi’s number?” Kuroo arched a sweaty brow, leaning over Kenma’s shoulder while slipping in his indoor shoes.

Kenma shrugged with a delay, too absorbed with the ongoings in their group chat. He typed out something and then shoved Kuroo off his back. “You’re sweaty,” Kenma said in disgust.

“Ahh, it must be spriiing,” Kuroo whined with a grin while following Kenma to the main hall, all the way trying to lean on the annoyed setter.

“It’s fall.”

“No, it’s spring.”

“It’s not.”

“It is.”

“It’s not.”

 

“It is-“

“It’s not.”

 

 

Back where Fukunaga and Yamamoto were, a message came back – a simple ‘hello’ with an exclamation mark, but, somehow, it felt very Yachi. This humble message must have convinced everyone else, including Fukunaga, and replies started showing. The chat rapidly popped with messages of Lev’s apparant dismay of losing sight of Yachi and Yaku near the shoe lockers, Yaku’s light teasing of it, and the rest of team Nekoma welcoming Yachi in their group, scattered between their middle blocker’s and libero’s morning banter.

Smiling, Fukunaga changed the unknown number to “Yacchan✿”.

 

 

Yachi jumps from the sudden vrr! that comes from her bag. She speedily glances at everyone, making sure that all the class’s eyes are set on the given papers, and hastily retrieves her phone. Thank goodness she put it on vibration!

It was a message from Lev. She arcs a brow at his back and opens the text. It was a message she had to expect: “whats the answer to question 13? ( ; ω ; ) (˘̩╭╮˘̩)

She didn’t have time to think over her answer. Her fingers glided over the screen while trying to hide the phone from view.

“please don’t use your phone during class Lev-san ( ° °)

Lev’s shoulders rose and instantly fell. She tries to ignore it, and no more messages came from him. But before she turns back to her paper – “it’s b”

“thanks yacchan!! ( ; >ww<) b”

 

The next message is during an interval. This time it’s from Kenma – 12 messages in total and all pictures of Hinata.

She scrolls through the various (cute) moments caught while they were at the Summer Training Camp. When did he have the time to capture these? Some have a really good angle she could use for a new Karasuno poster. Ofcourse, she will ask Kenma and Hinata for permission.

“Whoaw! Kenma’s sending you pictures!?” Lev’s face slides in Yachi’s view, his back hunched around hers, and their cheeks a pinky’s lenght apart. Yachi’s cheeks flare up, but she’s frozen in place. “What, he never sent me these,” Lev’s green emeralds slip across the screen.

Yachi’s heart is unbearably energetic. She clutches her phone, her fingers white, while Lev taps at it. She desperately hoped that no one was looking at them. Her imagination was running wild, and her eyes were starting to swirl with the nauseous feeling building in her stomach. From the gathering sweat under her fingertips, she’s sure the phone will slip out like a wet soap bar, comically slide across the floor, and probably explode. Then no employer will employ her and she will have to live off of bone scraps and walk around in a cardboard box and- -

“Haha, look at the grumpy Kageyama in the background,” Lev says. Yachi follows Lev’s finger and – there, Kageyama with an angry look at a running, three slices of meat in mouth, Hinata. Also in the background, Daichi had a death glare at the crazy duo, Sugawara with Yaku were disappointed, and Nishinoya, Tanaka and Yamamoto glaring at someone off-screen. She smiles at the memorable scene. She had been too afraid to interact much with anyone in that barbecue, only getting to fully enjoy it when she understood that all the “beasts” around were just fellow rival school’s volleyball players. Nonetheless, at the end of the exhausting yet inspiring Summer Camp, Yachi got plenty of new motivation to fully join on the club she had no knowlage of prior.

“Yachi-saaan, I wanna take a picture of us together!” Lev’s phone is out and ready to snap an image. Yachi mulls over it. Actually, she would like to take some photos with Lev and the rest of team Nekoma. They would be nice to look back at. Besides, pictures are taken to commemorate past events, and she knows that a month will pass in a blink of an eye. It only matters how many time you glance in the clock. Wait...

“Class is about to start, Lev-san,” She states, having checked her phone’s inner clock. Lev gasps and straightens his back, and Yachi smiles. Yachi has noticed that Lev is easily swept in motion, and, having interacted with him more than any other Nekoma member, she has observed that he has a hard time in paying attention in class. He needs a constant encouragement from others, mostly Yaku, to stay sharp, but, when Lev decides to put his mind to something, he is extremely well in achieving his goals. Like his adamant resolve to become Nekoma’s ace. Well, he hasn’t quite got there yet, but he has Yachi’s full support anyway.

“Ah, Lev-san,” Yachi tugs at his uniform before they walk back in class. “Please don’t message during class.”

Lev smiled at her with promising eyes. “I will!”

In the course of that whole class, not a peep from her phone was heard.

 

 

During the next interval, Inouka and Shibayama came over.

“Wait, you got Lev to stop messaging during class?!” Inouka’s face was baffled, and ears unbelieving of what he just heard. Shibayama’s face was less emotional, but just as surprised. He takes out his phone to tell the Nekoma chat on why they had not gotten a single message from their jubilant member. Needless to say, they too were in sheer awe.

Yachi and Lev tilted their heads in puzzlement. Shibayama gave a quick, confused look at Lev while Inouka explains.

“Lev spends more time on the phone than the actual class in session,” says Inouka.

“That I do,” Lev nods his head with a smile.

“It’s not commendable, Lev,” says Shibayama.

“But it’s true!”

“And you should change that!”

“But it’s harrrd,” Lev grumbles and slumps his chin down on Yachi’s head. Yachi stills and glances around to see if anyone is watching. It doesn’t seem so - everyone is busy in their own little worlds - but it feels like there is someone glaring her way. She pushes the creepy sensation away to focus on the middle-blocker leaning on her. Or over her, since he is twice her height and bending over her like a human umbrella.

“It’s important to pay attention in class, Lev-san,” Yachi says. “You don’t want to fail your classes and not get to play in volleyball matches, right?” Yachi doesn’t know if Nekoma’s school functions the same way Karasuno’s does, but she’s taking example on what happened to Hinata and Kageyama.

Lev gasps in shocked realization. “No!”

Shibayama nods in displeasure. “Yeah, Lev. It’ll be like before Summer Training Camp. You’ll have to do the supplementary exams again,” Yachi can feel Lev’s whole body shudder from Shibayama’s words, and he latches onto Yachi’s small shoulders.

“Please, Yachi-san,” Lev begs. He’s bent down behind her and tremblind, which in turn also shakes her frail body like a washing machine. “Will you help me?”

Yachi blinks. “Um-m-m, su-u-ur-re, L-L-L-Lev-san,” she replies without thinking, her words stuttering from the shaking. Only when the shaking has stoppend and she blinks the second time, when Lev has released her shoulders and grabbed her in a bear hug, when the glaring at the back from somewhere intensifies, does she realizes that she might have gotten into something she should have really thought over.

 

 

“Maaan, I want to take pretty pictures of Yacchaaan,” Lev sweatily sulks while taking his seat. They had just changed their teams with Inouka, Yamamoto and Kai versus Fukunaga, Shibayama and Kuroo. Kuroo is actually on his second round, saying that he isn’t that tired out. Kenma had given him a doubtful look when he had said it.

“Creep,” Yaku mutters, and Lev is quick to defend. Yaku shuts down every word Lev says. The match had taken out more than he had anticipated – playing against Lev has become more challenging. He slightly smiles from it, pleased with the developing middle-blockers progress. “Still...” Yaku walks over to collect stray balls while side-eyeing Lev’s pouting face, “if only he wasn’t so childish.”

Kenma puts a hand on Lev’s slumped shoulder. “I’ve got you covered,” he whispers so Yaku and no one else will hear. “I can send them, if you want.” Lev’s surprise turns to glee and he thumbs-up at Kenma, and Kenma gives him a thumbs-up back before taking a seat further away from everyone else.

Kenma needs Lev in top spirits, and none of the taken pictures are indecent. In all actuality, Hinata had asked him prior to send pictures of her, so Karasuno knows she is well. It amuses Kenma on how protective the crows are of their flock. But, in a way, it is envious. He doesn’t have the fighting spirit that they have, he isn’t even that athletic. It makes him feel as if he isn’t trying his best – and he isn’t. The volleyball club is just something Kuroo had dragged him into. Exhausting and mind-numbing.

He tiredly blinks. Then again, the exhausting and mind-numbing volleyball club has made him meet people he had never dreamt of crossing paths. Hinata being one of the most interesting. He has managed to draw out Kenma’s competitive side, and a want to continue playing the tedious sport, just to play a glorious match that even coach Nekomata would be gateful to see. And it’s sort of fun.

“N-Nice kill!” Yachi chirps when Inouka performs a succesful spike, and Nekoma’s cat ears turn to her. Inouka perks from the comment and quickly rushes over to Yachi. She panics at the start, but, when she notices Inouka’s hands up in a very familiar position, she happily raises both of her hands and seconds later they contact with Inouka’s with a slap! and laughter from both of them.

“O-Oy, Kai!” Yamamoto steamily turns his head to their vice-captain. “Give me a pass too!” Kai doesn’t really understand why Yamamoto is so eager, but nods anyway.

“Hey, hey, don’t run off away in the middle of a match!” Kuroo yells at Inouka.

Yaku returns at the bench and spots everyone with their eyes on the match, a new fire lit in them. On the next match, everyone’s energy was back and ready to start another round.

 

 

It’s past six. While Nekoma’s members talk over improving their techniques and positioning, Kai watches Yachi turn off the light and lock up for the day. A pull in his heart ushers him to walk up to her. He stops a step behind her, but, when she turns, she bumps into his chest. His hands shoot up to steady her, grabbing at her arms. As she apologizes for her not paying attention to her surroundings, he looks down at his hands. “So small...” he looks back at Yachi when it seems she’s at the end of her stuttering, and realizes that he is still holding her. He quickly releases his hold.

“Ah, did you need something, Kai-san?” Yachi smiles up at him.

Her question startles him, and he doesn’t know where to begin. “We’re... very grateful for you to join our club, Yachi-san,” Kai lightly leans in a bow, to which Yachi, bewildered, hastily does so too. “We have been trying to find a person to manage our team for a while now, but students are either busy or frightened by us,” he says. Kai’s passive face turns in a confused pout. “I can understand not being able to join due to work, but are we really that intimidating?” Yachi gulps down on how cute his tilted expression looked. She shakes her head of the thought and she starts to walk towards the rest, witch Kai in step. The conversation sparks everyone else’s interest.

“Intimidiating, huh,” Yachi resonates, reminiscing from a time not quite past, “I think I can sympathize with them. Standing before a student your age that is two times taller than you is quite the experience.” The taller Nekoma players seem enlightened by this and ‘ooh’ in understanding, while the shorter ones – namely Kenma and Yaku – make faces at the newly educated. One might think that, for them, the abnormal thing is for everyone else to be so small.

Yachi bashfully smiles and scratches her hand nervously. “Honestly, I was dragged by Hinata to join their club, and I don’t even know how it happened!” she laughts at the memory, still feeling Hinata’s hand grasp hers and tug her forward. “But I don’t regret anything.” The setting sun’s golder rays warm her back, and, deep in her heart, she feels everyone from Karasuno standing behind her, watching and supporting her with everything. However, to Nekoma the sun shone a golden halo around her, catching her hair in white spider whisps. No words were exchanged by any of the members, but they all unanimously agreed that there indeed was someone that could outshine the sun.

A question was suddenly remembered in Yachi’s mind. “Why did you so eagerly want my number, Lev-san?”

Lev’s face morphed from confusion, to thinking, to sudden realization. “Ah! We wanted to know if the team captain is allowed to bring a llama in the gym!” Lev enthusiastically and a little bit hopeful explained. There was a mixture of faces within Nekoma’s group, since not all were a part of the original conversation.

There, in the setting sun’s rays and dead silence, team Nekoma stood in front of Yachi, eagerly waiting for an answer while she owlishly blinks at them.

“A... llama?”

Chapter Text

Yachi watched the morning news as she munched on a bowl of rice.

Nerima had a lot of interesting variety shows. They had quizzes and comedy skits, but none of the celebrities were familiar to her. Although, since yesterday, when Yachi came back to Nekomata’s house, there were faces she could recognize. Coach Nekoma had been watching the TV, and Yachi’s eyes blew out when she saw Aobajohsai High’s boys’ volleyball team’s captain and vice captain. She watched the way they airily answered questions and laughed at the jokes – Oikawa mosty, since Iwazumi had his hands full of not allowing their captain to run his mouth off. It was entertaining and educational for Yachi, and coach Nekomata pointed out that she was unconsciously taking notes in her notepad.

Strangely, in the back of her mind, she was envious. A deep desire in her had bloomed after she joined team Karasuno. Seeing all of the members’ determination to make it to nationals and show everyone that Karasuno could still fly, made Yachi more in need of shouting to the whole world ‘Hey! Karasuno is here!’; to see everyone turn their heads when they see the spirit to never give up and be number one.

The tik when her chopsticks landed in the empty bowl woke her up. Focusing back on the news, Yachi noticed that she missed the weather report. Glancing at the open window, the early sunlight showed no clouds in the bright blue sky. A light breeze passed through, letting the curtains easily spin, and smelt of a fresh morning. Yachi shrugged and went to wash the dishes.

Taking all the necessary stuff for school, she was about to slip in her shoes when she noticed a piece of paper in one of them. Picking it up, it was a note from coach Nekomata. More lines and doodles. Scribbled on it was a list of things she was supposed to buy, and, from what Yachi could deduct, a location on where to buy them. Stowing it away in her pocket, she knew that she should be better off asking one of the boys to decipher the mystifying instructions on where to find this location.

Tapping her shoes, she locked the doors with a spare key the coach gave her, and whipped out her phone’s GPS.

 

 

Strange – the school was empty.

The blue seeped in through the halls and painted everything in its cool colour. It made the lockers a white silver, the corners a dark shadow, windows translucent. Clacking of Yachi’s shoes against the wood beneath her was too loud. Like the scratching sound of an isolated place, it made her feel alike an intruder. Serene, yet lonely. The air was quiet and thick at the same time, giving a suffocating breath to the room. Everything around her seemed lifeless without people.

A pitter-patter started to rise in volume. The glass doors started to get dotted from small droplets to fat globs of rainwater. In the blink of an eye, wet pavement and generous puddles had appeared from the rising gray clouds. The rain had come with no warning. Yachi’s hair strands stood up from the heaviness.

Observing the outside, Yachi nervously shied away from the door. She clenched her clammy hands, and a coldness ran through her. She spun on her heel and went as quickly as she could with her anxiety rising. Her small heart beating more rapidly with every step she took.

Through every hallway, there were only locked or empty rooms. The winds outside picked up. Tree branches swayed aggressively, swishing back and forth, warning Yachi that she won’t be getting home any time soon. All the blue had gone dull with shadows engulfing every corner far from a window. For a moment, she wondered why the school was even open, but that vanished the instant a powerful rumble drummed outside.

Yachi stiffened like a shocked rabbit, hairs on end and eyes fearful. Seconds passed, and she waited for another growl. She waited and waited and waited. Nerves tingled in anticipation, but nothing happened. Her eyes cautiously glanced at the window and the rainy sky as if expecting to meet someone there, but there was no one. Breathing in and out, she swiftly crossed the hallway.

Yachi sat down in an open classroom. With the pitter-patter of rain and windy trees muffled behind the glass, the only ones accompanying her, she took out her English notebook and started colour-coding passages. It was mediating for her. The scribbling with pen agains paper eased her mind and heart, a routine she was used to. These small had a great effect of calming her down whenever she was on edge. She huffed amusedly when she remembered filling up three notebooks with colours due to an intense match Karasuno had been in. She had been up the whole night, but Shimizu revealed that she had done something similar, only with taking care of her bonzai. You never truly get used to it.

Almost at the last page, her phone lit up, a small crow beeping at her. It was a message from Nekoma’s group chat. Inouka was howling in dog emojis about barely getting back home before the downpour hit. Yachi grimaced, pitying herself for not being able to say that about herself.

Dings came afterwards – Lev sulking with a lot of cloud and water emoticons for emphasis while Shibayama was glad that they could take the day off. There were some other remarks from the rest of Nekoma, and it made Yachi’s fingers tingle with a reply of her own. Well, it was easier than talking in person, but would anyone listen to her? Thinking on it, she reminiscenced on how Simizu supported Karasuno as the manager, and gulped down her fear.

Yachi typed a ‘don’t worry, Lev-san! Tomorrow won’t be like this’, to which Yaku quickly agreed. She smiled in acceptance. The texting continued, and Lev revealed that his sister had made lunch enough for him to share with Yachi. Nekoma member made jokes on sharing the food with them too, and Lev embarrasengly tried to defend himself. It touched the star hair girl’s heart nonetheless.

“How is it like holed up in coaches home? Does it smell of booze as much as Kuroo says it does?” Lev’s message popped up. A string of ‘it does’ followed from other Nekoma members before Yachi could type out her answer. She laughed, mentally hit herself for making fun of a truthful fact, and typed out her reply without thinking.

“I’m actually stuck at school,” her message said. “Wasn’t paying much attention to the morning news...” she sheepichly tucked at her strands, blushing pink. Lev immediately spammed horror emoticons with Yaku threatening to kick him out of the chat.

“Really?” Kuroo’s message came right when a sound arose from the hallway.

A terrible sound. It wasn’t another rumble from outside. As best as she could imagine, it was some kind of a crossbreed of a kitten and a car honk. A clatter followed. Yachi warily scooched out of her seat and tip-toed to the open doorway. She peeked and was immediately shocked still.

“I hate you so much,” Kenma sniffed and glared as Kuroo bent down to pick up the dropped phone. Nekoma’s setter’s nose was horribly running, and the glare intensified with every sniff. Kuroo stood back up, handing the phone back in Kenma’s annoyed grasp, and he noticed their blonde manager’s hair showing behind an open doorway.

“Yacchan,” Kuroo smiled, and Yachi noticed both of their appearances then.

They were absolutely soaked. The black sweaters didn’t show the wet blotches that their white shirts underneath did. Yachi could see skin sticking to the wet areas, and it looked uncomfortable. Kenma’s hair looked like a wet mop, and Kuroo was hardly recognizable with his hair sticking to his forehead. It was messily raked back to let him at the very least see his surroundings. Their shoes were indoors, but they still had a trail of puddle following them.

“Umm,” Yachi nervously fidgeted against the door. “I have towels?”

 

 

Kuroo ruffled his hair with a yellow cartoon bird towel, regaining some of his usual bed head back. Kenma was tapping away at his phone, an apple patterned towel draped on his head. They had changed in their gym clothes – the wet uniforms were lying on a nearby heater. School’s heating wasn’t turned on, leaving the soaked clothes’ droplets dripping down. Yachi was glancing between them, a question obviously on her lips. Kuroo smiled.

“I overslept,” he chuckled. Kenma looked up to glare for a second before going back to his mobile game. “I usually wake up Kenma and walk with him to school, but, in my rush, I didn’t check any weather news. I just grabbed Kenma and ran,” he said it so casually that one might think Kuroo dragging a barely roused Kenma to school was a normal phenomenon. Probably was. “We got caught in the downpour and had no option but to come to school.” He added: “Good thing the janitor sleeps like a bear and forgot to lock the main entrance.”

Yachi’s head rose a bit from this; that explains the school being open. Kuroo stopped watching the window behind Yachi and met her eyes. The lazy smile didn’t match his sharp eyes. It felt exposing – as if he was searching something within her. Kenma glanced up, but said nothing.

Silence befell. Yachi watched the chalkboard and listened to the rhythmic rainfall, while Kenma was on his phone, and Kuroo dangerously leaning back on his chair. This continued on for what seemed like hours until Kuroo groaned.

Towel hanging around his neck, Kuroo stood up and shiffed around a couple of tables before sliding his hand under one. It came out with a deck of cards. He smiled to Yachi, invitingly, waving the deck in the air. “To pass the time,” Kuroo said, justifying his means. Golden slits followed Kuroo’s every movement, and shone in a scheming way. The moment Kuroo sat back down at their three chairs and a poor single desk, Kenma spoke up.

“War,” Kenma put his phone aside. Kuroo and Yachi looked at him, confused, but, sharp eyes meeting the golden, calculating ones, the captain caught up quickly. His grin was taunting, and Kenma returned a challenging stare. Yachi was left continuing to scratch her head.

She tilded her head. “I’m sorry, but I’m not following.”

Kuroo relaxed his grin and shuffled his cards. “A card game,” he dealt everyone cards until there were none left, “each person gets a deck of cards, face down. We flip the cards on the surface and the highest hand wins.” He played with his deck, taking his time in neatly organizing them in a stack. Yachi did the same, but with more concentration. Kenma had already organized his, watching Kuroo lazily toying with his cards. The provocative captain sighed from Kenma’s staring and put his deck aside. “You wanna add some rules, Kenma?” Yachi glanced up from her not-so-neat deck. She hasn’t handled cards in a while.

“Truth or dare,” Kenma said. “The winner gets to ask anything to the loser,” Kuroo tried to find something in the golden slits, but, whatever this deathly feeling was, it was well hidden from view. Kuroo slid it under the fact that he dragged Kenma through the heavy rain, and now their calculating setter was out for their captain’s blood. Kuroo’s eyes went to a nervous Yachi. “No weird questions,” Kenma commented, having noticed something in Kuroo that gave him away. The goading captain slouched with a pout.

“Fine, fine, let’s just start,” Kuroo scratched his neck, and everyone put their hands over the first card on their deck. Their cards flipped and revealed the victor – Kuroo. The lowest card was Kenma’s. Kuroo wooped while Kenma scoffed. Yachi sighed in relief with her poor 3 of diamonds close to her chest.

“Truth,” Kenma didn’t wait for Kuroo to ask. Kuroo leaned back in his seat, relaxed and pondering. He scratched his chin before asking.

“Favorite food?” Kuroo asked. Kenma’s stomach instantly growled. Kuroo wickedly grinned while Kenma scowled at him, slightly curling in on himself.

“Apple pie,” Kenma croaks out. Kuroo noticed Yachi’s eyes light up from the new information, mentally noting it. They all put their used cards aside and flipped the next one. This time the victor was Kenma, and the loser was Kuroo. A smug grin appeared on Kenma’s face while Kuroo averted his eyes.

“Dare,” Kuroo looked back at Kenma. He still couldn’t tell what their setter was thinking, but, if he can pat himself, he thinks he picked the better option. Most would steer clear of a dare, but, agains’t players like Kenma, the truth is a much greater tool than a measly dare in these circumstances.

Cogs in Kenma’s brain turned, deciding on what to ask the conniving captain to do. He truly was hoping for a truth, but Kuroo is someone that can read his thoughts. Incredibly useful in their matches; not so much in this situation.

In all honesty, Kenma’s curiosity is gnawing at him like a starving cat – during their period brakes, Kenma had noticed Kuroo seeming distant, as if someone was always watching his back – or Kuroo watching someone else’s. He was paying more attention to the gossip that has been flying around school. As much as Kenma dared, he couldn’t find out what was so interesting about the floating words, but, seeing as it really made Kuroo on edge, he saw simply asking Kuroo straight would be the most convenient way.

Kenma fiddles with his phone, boringly tapping the screen. “For the rest of the game, after every sentence you speak, add a ‘nya’ at the end,” it was weak, but he had to keep all the card close to his chest, lest Kuroo picks up more on his thoughts.

“Going easy on me, nya?” Kuroo smiles a curious grin, watching the way Yachi blushes at the corner of his eye. “I thought I would get destroyed right away, nya.” Every nya is drawn out in a way to mockingly imitate a cat. He watches Kenma tap at his phone some more before bringing his eyes back up.

Suddenly, Kuroo’s phone vibrates once in his pocket. Then, it is followed by multiple vibrations. The same happens to Yachi’s phone, and she curiously picked it up. Kuroo furrowed his brows at the poker-faces Kenma while taking out his phone. Inspecting it, Kuroo noticed an excessive amount of messages from Lev. Accompanied by some stray Nekoma reactions. Scrolling up, he found a voise message from Kenma, quite recent. Actually, it was just a minute ago. Connecting the dots, Kuroo looks at their setter in disbelief. Kenma smugly smiles. “Scheming bastard,” Kuroo thought, but he couldn’t help his proud grin rearing itself up.

“So this is how you betray your best friend after so many years,” Kenma raised a brow after Kuroo’s statement. Kuroo sighed: “...nya.” Kenma looked away, satisfied for the time being.

“Well,” Yachi fidgets, “I think it’s cute.” Kuroo’s attention went to their adorable blonde. He watched the embarrassed honesty in her eyes and the slight blush. His expression must have falsely spoken to her, and she waved her hands as if to clarify more clearly. “Not... not the betrayal thing. The way you say nya is... cute...” with every word said, she withdrew more in her seat, trying to hide her now red face. Her dorky explanation made Kuroo’s own rare blush spread, and he averted his eyes, trying to laugh it off.

Kenma’s eyes were already rolling up to meet is brain.

“First time I’m being called cute by a girl,” he muttered under his hand and doesn’t notice Kenma snap a picture. “Thanks,” Kuroo adds with a gentle grin.

Yachi blinks as she tries to swallow back the bump that went up from her heart to throat. Kuroo cleared his voice; seemingly having the same issue. “Right, let’s continue.” Everyone flipped their cards. Yachi dazedly stared at her card. Kenma sighed, and she remembered to look up to see who won the round. It was Kuroo. She turned back down on her card and saw that she was the loser.

“Truth or dare, Yacchyan?” Kenma furrowed his brow, but Kuroo patiently waited their blonde maiden’s answer.

Sweating from a sudden wave of expectation, Yachi shakily set aside her card. “Truth...” she wasn’t confident enough to do a dare, and both of the Nekoma players knew it. Kuroo glanced at the glare Kenma was sending him and lightly smiled.

“What do you wanna work as, nya?” Yachi’s nervousness diminished, and she thoughfully looked up. Kenma and Kuroo watched her tap her chin, big eyes blinking at the white classroom ceiling.

“I guess I’ll follow my mom and become a graphic designer,” she puckered her lips in an unsure response. It was the thing she was best at, anyway.

Kuroo raised his brow in interest. He leaned in closer to egg her on, but the sharp glow of Kenma’s eyes quickly made him change his mind. Still, he saw Kenma’s own body straighten up, piqued to hear more from their manager. They had no luck on Yachi continuing so they simply moved on to the next round. This time the the roles had flipped.

“What do you want to become as, Kuroo-san?” she had a shy smile, one that made her lips curve slightly, and Kuroo couldn’t think anything else but how adorable that was. He had to close his eyes and turn away his head, because Chibi-chan wasn’t the only one that could blind with a smile alone.

“Something around chemistry, probably,” Kuroo said. He was a third year; he already had to know what he wanted to become. Kenma watched him. “But, for now, I’m focusing on volleyball, nya,” he grins. “As a captain, I need to take care of my fellow teammate,” he puts a hand over his chest, and a saintly light radiates behind him. Kenma squints his eyes. “Poor, poor Yaku is lacking in that good ol’ docosahexaenoic acid, nyaaa,” he sorrowfully shakes his head.

Yachi’s eyes sparkle in inspiration. Kenma sneezed.

While Kenma groans, and Yachi hands him a tissue, they move on with the game. Rounds pass and this is what happens:

Kenma is tasked to lick his elbow. When he does it with ease, even Kuroo’s eyes widen.

The boys find out Yachi likes fugashi among other things.

“What’s your type of girl,” Yachi blushes at Kenma’s question for Kuroo.

“Girls with long hair, nya,” Kuroo says without pause. “Like Kashiyuka, nya.”

Yachi blinks. “From ‘Perfume’?” she asks, and Kuroo straightens up in joy. He asks if she has a favorite, and Yachi shyly swirls a strand of her hair. “A-chan, because I always wanted her curls.” Kuroo agrees on A-chan having springy hair that gives her a bubby persona. This leads to Yachi and Kuroo gushing over the band, while Kenma imagines Yachi with curls.

In another round, Yachi gets over her fear and allows for a dare. Kuroo dares her to pet Kenma’s head. With a little hesitation, and Kenma’s willing bow, she does as told. If Kuroo concentrated really hard enough, he could spot small flowers flutter out of Kenma, and, if he concetrated really really hard enough, he could catch a whisp of Kenma purring into Yachi’s touch. It doesn’t last long, for Yachi quickly withdraws her hand, much to Kenma’s quiet dismay.

The game goes on. They laugh and blush and listen and encourage each other, and Kuroo may be getting too into saying 'nya', but Yachi is having a wonderful time - until Kuroo loses against Kenma. Only this time, Kuroo allows Kenma to ask any question he wishes. In an instant, Kenma’s eyes glow of a cat on a hunt – with his pray right in front of him. He leaps right in.

“Where are you going between classes?”

Kuroo leans back in his seat, grin never leaving. “My-my, that might be a weird question, nya.”

“Might,” Kenma’s expression doesn’t change.

Kuroo watched Kenma, their eyes in a lockdown. The silence stretched on, and Yachi started to fidget from the awkward atmosphere.

She had no idea if there was a secret that they were hiding, or just casual boy talk. Having been around Hinata and Kageyama, witnessing their freakish combo and frustrating relationship, Yachi was used to giving advice or a supporting hand. But she had only been with Nekoma for three days, and she hardly knew their team at all. Not being able to help due to lack of knowlage wasn’t a new emotion to Yachi, but, having been used to an environment where she could help, she now realized that she will have to start from scratch. She clutched on her skirt’s hem and vowed to herself that she will help team Nekoma in any way she could.

The grin turned smug on Kuroo’s face, as if he had found a hidden clue in Kenma’s stone eyes, but didn’t want to tell it to anyone. “Just taking care of my fellow club members, nyaaa,” he pointedly drew out the nya and didn’t elaborate further.

The classroom walls lit up as the light from the window slowly slid in. Kuroo, having been the one with his front on the window, groaned when his eyes got caught in the white glow. Yachi and Kenma, on the other hand, got a nice and warm welcome on their backs. Kenma eyed Kuroo before turning to watch the now fluffy, white clouds pass and reveal the blue, blue sky.

 

 

The air was thick with a smell of recent rain. It was musky and hot, and Kenma tried to air his gym shirt while tapping away at his phone.

“Oh! That reminds me,” Yachi searches her bag, then remembers that she had it in her pocket, while Kuroo and Kenma wait. She produces a folded note.

“Another note from Karasuno?” Kuroo grins as he takes it from her small hands.

“Not... exactly,” Yachi plucked at the hem of her skirt. Kuroo arcs a brow, and Kenma leans to see what’s in the scrap of paper.

Kuroo and Kenma blink in unison. They both furrow their brows, and Kuroo turns to Yachi. “Is this some kind of a curse symbol?” Yachi’s cheeks puff out, but she manages not to laugh. She holds a hand over her mouth as she informs.

“No, it’s Nekomata-san’s instructions.” Yachi says. Kenma looks up even more confused.

“Instructions on summoning a demon?” Kenma asks. Yachi’s cheeks puff out again, and she almost let’s out a snort. She tries to explain to a dumbfounded Kenma that the note, from what she could understand, says on what she needs to buy from the store. Kuroo scans the note multiple times before he grasps on what is written on it. He ‘oh!’s and laughs.

“He really has bad handwriting, but now I understand,” Kuroo grins proudly. “I’m amazed you could even comprehend half of it. Sure took me some time.” Yachi smiles shyly, blushing at the praise. “Anyway, it says that you need to go to that store, since most items on this list are there,” Kuroo points at a store’s sign, only a couple of houses away. The owner was already unlocking the doors back open.

 

 

While Yachi is at the meat section, Kuroo and Kenma drag around by the snack bars. Kuroo only needs to lean his head around the corner to see on what Yachi’s doing. She’s bouncing from one aisle to the next, her eyes reading the labels, scrunching at the note, then back at the labels. If she believes she has the right item, which she checks multiple times, she stows it away in a basket and moves on.

“Talk,” Kenma says, gaining Kuroo’s attention. Kuroo gives a last glance at Yachi before turning a grin Kenma’s way.

“You really want to know?” Kenma nods, his golden slits serious. Kuroo stares him down, the grin fading away.

“There are two girls following Yachi around,” Kuroo says in a serious tone. Kenma doesn’t need to ask further, because Kuroo continues. “From what I got, they are third years. Been some stray rumors going around; most likely from those two. Haven’t done anything to Yachi, yet, but I gave Daichi my word to take care of her, so I’m doing that.”

Kenma nods in appreciation to Kuroo’s honesty and actions. “So that’s why I’ve not seen you around lately.” He then frowns. “Could have asked me for help. I can see you’ve been more exhausted than normal.”

Kuroo’s brows sadden, but he shows a grin. “Thanks for noticing, but you’re not great on interacting with other people,” Kenma shudders. He looks down at his paused game.

“Yeah, but if it’s for Hitoka’s sake, I wouldn’t mind.”

Kuroo watches Kenma with a somber smile. Around the snack shelve, something drops. Kuroo tries to lean around the corner to see what it was, but Yachi bumps into his chest. He catches the basket she was holding prior their bump, managing to not spill everything out.

“Sorry, Kuroo-san!” Yachi rubs her nose while trying to bow.

Kuroo chuckles. “Don’t mind,” he pats her head to ease her worry. “Do you have everything from the list?” Yachi happily smiles with a nod, and they walk to the checkout. “What are you going to do with all of this?” he looks at the hefty basket he is carrying.

Yachi humms. “Nekomata-san didn’t specify, but I think it’s for tonights dinner.”

“You cook?” Kuroo smiles.

“I cook at home,” Yachi replies. “Nothing fancy, though Hinata says it’s tasty.” Kenma’s head perks.

“You make food for Shouyo?” he asks. Yachi stumbles on her next step, but manages to not fall.

“N-No,” Yachi rubs her neck. “I just sometimes have extra food from dinner, and Hinata thinks that my cooking will magically grow him taller. I don’t know if that’s a compliment or he’s starting to become desperate.”

“Desperate,” Kenma turns back to his phone.

“Definitely desperate,” Kuroo nods while setting the basket on the counter for a grimacing old man to scan through. “But,” Kuroo turns to Yachi, “if you have leftovers after tonight, mind bringing some tomorrow?”

Yachi delightedly nods.

 

 

“Sun-chan,” big, pink eyes peeks over a shounen magazine, following Yachi’s blonde star tail slip out the shop’s doors.

A glare - some might even call it fierce – rises beside the shining pink orbs. They follow the bouncing, short hair till it disappears out of the window’s sight.

After Yachi is out of view, the pink eyes turn to the fierce ones. “I don’t think she’s that bad.”

Long, silky hair swish as the glare turns away. Slender fingers put a candy bar on its designated shelf and then rest on the Nekoma girl’s uniform dressed hip. Pink eyes watch as the hair swishes back. Fair skin, small lips, sharp eyelashes, but with cold, blue eyes – her Sun-chan.

“But how does it make us look like,” Sun-chan pointedly takes away the shounen magazine. “Yoko.”

It reveals peachy skin, glossy lips, fluffy eyelashes with bright eyes. A braid runs down the side of the Nekoma girl’s uniform. Yoko sadly looks away, words on the tongue, but little strenght to say them. Sun-chan’s eyes soften and they resemble the blue sky outside.

“Look,” Sun-chan takes Yoko’s hand in hers, “I’m just going to try to confront her tomorrow.” Yoko looks up at Sun-chan with doubt. Sun-chan’s gaze turns steely. “It’s for her sake, not ours.” Yoko nods after a pause, still a bit uncertain of Sun-chan’s plan.

“So ar’ya gonna buy an’thin?!” from behind, the owner barks at them, a broom in his hand. “If nawt, then leave!”

Both girls eep and quickly go to the cash registre with their items. Yoko runs back to grab the shounen magazine Sun-chan left at the rack, jumps up giddily, and goes back to the checkout with it.

Chapter Text

Like the fresh breeze, Yachi strolled to school. Her eyes were sparkling, watching and blinking to see everything around her. She had finally remembered the path Kuroo showed her and had no need to have her head stuck in the phone’s navigation system. Now, she could fully observe her surroundings and get familiar with Nerima City.

While at first, when she got lost, every corner looked as if it was out to get her, today, with the bright morning light, everything seemed more colourful. Every shop was lively while the living areas were groggy. Longing glances stayed on sideway paths full of undiscovered  places. A corner flowershop owner smiled at Yachi while putting out a vase full of mystifying lavenders. Stray cats were soaking up the sunny rays while lazily flicking their ears at birds chirping. Absentmindedly, Yachi’s mind was painting this morning to memory.

She would love to visit some shops and shrines, if she could. Her fear of getting lost is still strong, but maybe she could ask Nekoma members to show her their favorite places.

She looks down at the neatly packed leftovers she is carrying. Kuroo did say she could bring some. Only Yachi saved these from Nekomata.

Truly, living with her mother, there are leftovers all the time, but, this time, Nekoma’s coach had surprised her with his eagerness to eat Yachi’s cooking. He said, over a full mouth, that her cooking is the most delicious thing he has ever eaten – right after his mother’s. He had even started tearing up, and Yachi happily gave him extras. But she also stowed away some of it because Nekomata started choking from trying to guzzle everything down.

She only hoped that the rest of Nekoma will like it as much as Nekomata did.

Students started flowing from side streets, traveling the road to school like a river. From out of nowhere, Lev’s cheery greeting came from Yachi’s side. She was surprised that he found her in this sea of students, but, then again, she was the only one without the proper uniform. They were slowly accompanied by other Nekoma members, and Yachi’s heart became lighter.

 

 

In her temporarily given shoebox, Yachi found an ominously left note. It read: “On the second interval, come to the school’s garden patch.”

Yachi confusedly looked around. Maybe someone slipped it in the wrong shoebox? She’s been here for only five days, she doubts anyone outside Nekoma pays attention to her. And, if it was from anyone from Nekoma, a note in the shoebox would be highly inefficient since they all have her phone number.

She ponders over this till Lev taps at her shoulder with Yaku right behind him. “Class is about to start and you still have your socks on,” Lev points at her shoeless feet. Yachi folds away the paper and quickly puts on her shoes.

While Yachi, Lev and Yaku walk to class, Yachi asks them both. “Your school has a garden patch?” Both Lev and Yaku look surprised.

“We have a garden patch?” Lev turns to Yaku in amazement. Yaku frowns at him.

“We do,” Yaku nods at Yachi. “It’s right behind the main building, in the back fields.” Yachi tries to imagine on where on school ground it is. “You need me to take you there?” he adds after watching her thoughtfully squint her eyes.

Yachi shakes her head. “No, I think I’ll manage,” she smiles to reassure. Yaku nods again and splits off to travel up to the third floor. Lev and Yachi slide their classroom’s doors open and enter right when the bell rings.

For the whole duration of class, Yachi ponders on who was waiting in the garden.

 

 

“I’m Sunako Toma, student body president.”

Yachi had just arrived to the designated spot and was already met with serious eyes. She blinks and bewilderly looks at the two girls between pots of plants and gardening equipment.

The girl that adressed her, the one with the glaring eyes, began to take off the dirty gloves on her hands. She had an apron that was also smudged with dirt, but you could hardly tell from its dark brown colour. There was not a smidge of grime on her face or unifrom.

The other girl, her eyes were softer – the light seeming to hue her eyes rather pink –, didn’t have a frown or a scowl, but her glossy lips were still downturned. She didn’t have any gardening equipment on; instead, she had a “Otome Game no Hametsu Flag shika nai Akuyaku Reijou ni Tensei shite shimatta*” novel open in her hands. The girl greeted herself as Yoko Hino.

Yachi jolted when she remembered that she had not responded and, by now, her slient observation could be labeled as staring.

“I’m... I’m here to manage for Nekomata for a month,” she uneasily said, bowing her head in a greeting.

“See, Sun-chan, she’s not here permanently,” Yoko turns to Sunako, but her friend did not even glance at her.

“You don’t fit in,” Sunako’s eyes were serious. She’s taller than Yachi and looks down on her like gravel on the sidewalk. She even seems as someone that flicks the stray rocks off her path. “They drag you around like a doll. You’re more of a plaything to them than a manager.” Her every word gives a painful wince in Yachi’s fingertips, making them flinch.

She continued to talk, recounting Monday and other numerous things Yachi has been part of. The more Yachi listened, the hotter her veins pumped blood. The re-telling was more or less true, but it still sent small shocks of shameful electricity through her entire body. She fiddles with her fingers while holding herself to not run away. Words were dying before they could pass her sealed lips.

“I understand it’s in your best interests, but you are making a joke of yourself.”

Yachi inhaled. Her fingers started to pinch each other harder, wanting to retaliate, but her lack of confidence holding her tongue down. She wishes she could speak her mind like Nishinoya and Tanaka do. Sometimes they speak their mind too loudly, but atleast they don’t allow themselves to be pushed down against the hard concrete. It feels cold, but her body is searing full of unsaid words. If it continues on like this, she will blow.

Yachi gulps. “Umm... Sun-chan?” Yachi tries hard to keep eye contact, but fails. She had a hard time remembering new names.

“Sunako Toma,” the correction was as sharp as a knife. Yachi winces. Yoko also grimaces at her friend’s tone.

“Toma-san...” Yachi tries again. Sunako raises an eyebrow expectantly. Nothing comes out of Yachi further – she continues to twiddle her fingers, glance at the pebbles and dirt, tug at her skirt. Sunako’s eyes sharpen.

“Yachi-san,” Sunako adresses her with a punctual tone. It makes Yachi stop and look at her. In Sunako’s eyes, Yachi seemed to notice a surpressed emotion, but it was overwhelmed by the frustatingly drawn eyebrows. “Let them focus more on their academics, not this...” she raises her hand, sighing from lack of words, “this... club.”

In that moment, the world stops for Yachi.

It might be weird, but those words struck the most. She wasn’t great at defending her own wants – she needed encouragement from others –, but the conversation had turned on people that were supporting her. She was weak at standing up for herself, yet, when people that had give her only love, respect, help, and stood beside her even though they have only known her properly for less that five days, a wave of defensiveness surged up inside her.

“I... I can’t!” Yachi says with wide eyes, surprising both the girls and herself with her boldness. “It might be just a club, but there is still passion in it!” It felt like spitting out the fire that had been seething in the pits of her stomach. It felt...  weightless. “They enjoy playing volleyball, and I love watching them! It might be... it might be a club, but it’s their club. I don’t... I don’t know anything about their academical skills, but I’m willing to help them in any way that I can. So please,” Yachi deeply bows, “let me stay and see them phlay!” She bit her tongue from her spew.

Sunako was quiet.

Yoko, seeing Yachi’s endearing exclamation, clasped her hands in plea and pushed into Sunako so her friend could not ignore her. Sunako tried to keep glaring down at Yachi, but Yoko’s face was in her vision wherever she turned. Yoko’s puppy eyes were no help eather. The glaring girl’s eye twitched before she sighed in defeat.

“Alright...” Sunako pushed the giddy Yoko away. She had not planned on the conversation going this way. It was frustrating, except, in a strange way, respectful. Still, she had a job to be done. “Prove to me that they can performe well at school and volleyball,” she watched Yachi glance up in hope. “They haven’t flunked their tests – yet –, but I have my eye on them.” Yachi had a feeling on whom Sunako was reffering to the most. “I’ll be checking in myself, if things are looking grim,” she added as a warning. Pausing to mull over on what she was going to say next, she inhaled to ready herself. “Other than that, you can stay with them.”

When Sunako’s words were processed by Yachi’s brain, her smile slowly rose in relief. “Thank you so much!” her excitement could not be shouted any louder. Yoko giggled while Sunako only gave the star tailed blonde a dismissive glance. Yachi turned on her heel and quickly scuttled to her next class.

A prolonged silence followed. Yoko was the one that broke it.

“Don’t you think you were a bit too hard on her?” Yoko’s pink eyes sadly looked at her friend. Sunako shifted hers to the well-kept garden.

“No,” Sunako said. She looked down at the last of the cheerily blooming daffodils. Their vibrant yellow was usually the thing that brightened up her day. Now they were too vibrant. “I am the student body president, and, therefore, I had to say those word to her.” She bent down and cut off a wilted daffodil, throwing it away to not ruin the scene. “Some passions have to stay as hobbies – so you can find a real job.”

Yoko lowered her eyes.

 

 

The next lesson was, simply put, boring. Yachi could see that even the substitute teacher was half-awake in his aloud reading of Makura no Soshi**. While he was unenthusistically reading line after line, Yachi and Lev were passing a piece of paper between themselves. They had an ongoing conversation in it with small doodles on the corners and sides. Despite having started the discussion about homework, they slowly drifted to suggestions of walking around the shopping district and the arcade. Yet Yachi's mind was swimming in other matters.

Was she really that distracting to the boys? They were doing well in training, from the looks of it. Although, that couldn’t be said off-training. Lev and Yamamoto did have a tendency of showing eagerness to be close to her, the latter even asking for advice on how to talk with girls. She did not mind, however. It was the same situation at Karasuno even with Shimizu around. In a way that some people might find it odd, Yachi liked having the company of boys. They had a volleyball brotherhood of sorts that she was dragged in. This led to a supporting passion for volleybal of which she had never imagined of holding.

But, in Sunako’s words, she did sound like a distraction to them. And the ringing ‘this... club’ rebound in her head. With the tone Sunako used, and Yachi believe it was intentonal, it sounded alike calling something meaningless.

At last, the substitute teacher noticed Lev hunched over in his seat.

“You,” he pointedly looked at Lev, not having bothered to remember anyone’s names. When Lev didn’t look up, he addressed again. “Hello? You there with the silver hair, hunched over his seat.” Lev still didn’t look up, too engrossed in his writing.

Yachi nervously looked between the teacher and Lev. She leaned to tap at Lev’s shoulder, finally making him look up. But it was too late. The teacher was already at his table, unimpressively watching him. Lev tried to slip the piece of paper under his literature book, but the teacher caught it

Shame bubbled in her gut, but it couldn’t drown down the idea that she had already failed Sunako, and that the student body president will find out and immediately rebuke their bargain. These thoughts weighed her down for the rest of the class.

 

 

After the both of them received a talking and were dismissed, Lev slid the door closed with a sigh, but his eyes brightly shone when he turned to Yachi. They changed in worry after he saw the sorrowful way Yachi stood hunched over, her hair in her face and shoulders slumped down. He tilted to see Yachi’s face, but she swiftly turned her head away.

“What’s wrong, Yachi-san?” Lev blinked in puzlement. He glanced at the closed door before hunching over to whisper: “I’m sorry that I got you into trouble.” Yachi shook her head and gripped on her bag’s handle tighter.

“It’s not that. Just thinking about other stuff,” she peeped out, quiet enough for only him to hear. Lev regarded her for a second longer before informing her that they can go to the gym now. Today was a short day given to every class, since most of the teachers were on meeting. Hence their literature substitute teacher.

While they walked – Yachi slightly dragging behind – Lev noticed that Yachi was quieter. Usually, whenever they go to practise, Yachi walks beside him, showing the photos Kenma sends her, talking about homework or volleyball. There was a distance today. There were even strange glances from passing students. Lev was positively muddled.

Around a corner, Lev stopped at a shy tug. He turned his head to a depressed Yachi hanging by his jacket.

“Lev-san?” her voice sounded of a hurt bird. She slightly lifted her head, and Lev saw the sorrow on her face. “Am I a bother?”

Lev was taken back. His heart gave a painful thump. He blinked, not able to say anything. Nothing came to his mind that could ease the sadness on Yachi’s brow or turn her lips in the smile that Nekoma so dearly loved to see. He winced from how much his heart clenched. Was this the thing that made her so reserved today? How long had she been thinking this way? Not knowing why Yachi is asking this, but feeling that it would cause bigger strain on her to ask for an explanation, Lev decided to tell what anyone in team Nekoma would say.

“You’re not, Yachi-san.”

It’s true. Nekoma cats cluster to Yachi so naturally, that none of the members thought of her as someone bothersome. Yachi has an air of easiness which is unburrowed whenever her nervousness is not present. She broadens and smooths out their team. Being an onlooker, she can notice flaws and inform them, improving their playstyle. Lev even prefers when Yachi explains a volleyball concept more than when Yaku does. She understands the difference between a ‘whoopf’ and a ‘bu-shaw’!

In return, Nekoma offer their own advice for the manager in training. Sometimes, Lev wishes to do something more for her till the day she eventually has to leave.

Yachi half-smiled. Lev could tell there was still doubt in her. He was also curious about something else.

“Why did you go to the garden?”

Yachi glanced away. “There were...” Yachi didn’t know how to start, or where to end. “There were these girls that wanted to meet me, I guess. One really didn’t want me to be on your volleyball club. She thought that I am a distraction to you all?” Yachi questioned herself about that.

“That’s why you asked me ‘am I a bother’?” Yachi bleakly nodded.

“But I’m not worried about that!” she quickly informed. “You said that I’m not, and I’m really happy about that. What actually bothers me were the things that she said afterwards.” Lev cocked his head. “She said that the club members should focus more on their studies rather than volleyball tournaments. She sounded uninterested in supporting the club."

“That’s strange,” Lev frowned. “I didn’t think that someone would be against us playing volleyball since our team gives this school recognition.” Yachi nodded again, thinking the same.

“Yes, I thought so too, but I think she was talking about individual’s benefits. You can’t finish the school by just being great at volleyball.”

“Ahh, your right,” Lev frowned while pondering. “I have subject that I am really bad at,” he smile with shame.

“I’m not a genius, but I could try to help,” Yachi shyly offers.

“Really? But you’re already helping me in english.”

“I don’t mind! We can revise for tests together.”

“Oho! That sounds fun!” Lev grinned with joy.

Behind Lev, footsteps sounded. He turns his head to see who’s coming. It’s Kuroo.

“Where’s Yachi?” Kuroo eyed Lev up and down with a sharp eye. To Lev, it felt like their captain had an instinct on knowing when something was happening, especially when in came to his teammates. Yachi peeked behind Lev, and Kuroo’s attention went to her. He went over to her and put his palm on her head. It rests there before gently ruffling the blonde strands. “I’m glad you two are having fun, but practise is about to start,” Kuroo grins with subtle warning and walks past them.

Lev watched Kuroo turn behind the main hall’s corner and disappear. He then looked down at Yachi watching as well, her eyes following their captain’s back. “We should get going.”

Yachi strokes her messy hair out of its tangles and, when she turns her head back up at Lev to drowsily nod, she looks as if she just woke up from a long dream. And it wasn’t because of the morning-looking hair.

 

 

Kuroo was missing in training for some time.

Yachi watched as the ball flew up and down in a familiar rhythm. Recieve, toss, spike, recieve, toss, spike. The ball never touched the floor – Nekoma bodies had feline flexibility, so they could perform astounding movements that were enough to slip a hand between the ball and the floor to keep the match going. They didn’t have a great offensive, but Lev’s whip-like spikes had improved considerably to even make Yaku sweat a bit.

The ball went up. Lev’s eyes followed with a twinkle and he jumped. Then, the ball hit the floor right under Yaku’s nose. Yaku didn’t say anything while Lev whooped. The ball gets passed over and, after a whistle, the rhythm resumes.

Yachi blinked. She turned to Shibayama who was sitting besides her. “How long have you been practising on your own?”

Shibayama confusedly flutters his eyes. “I’m resting now, Yachi-san.”

“Oh!” Yachi realizes her wording. “I meant your team!” she corrects herself. “How long has it been since you’ve gone up against another team?”

“Ah...” Shibayama looks up in thought. “Since the training camp? We don’t get to play against other teams often. Nekomata and Naoi are too busy with other stuff.”

Yachi blinked again. Karasuno, from what she has heard, didn’t play against other teams as well, since the previous coach retired. However, Yachi does know that one can manage a plan to have another school’s volleyball team come over for a match. She’s seen Shimizu discuss with Ukai-san and Takeda-san on their next practise matches. If Shimizu can do that, then Yachi should be able to do that as well.

She grabs her phone, pen, and notepad and stands up from her sea. “I’m going to be right back,” she tells a confused Shibayama. He only mutely nods and watches her quietly walk and slip out the gym door. When the doors close, she bolts to the school’s gate.

 

 

“A practise match against another team?” coach Naoi quizzically asks. Nekomata silently watches as Yachi tries to steady her breathing from running. She had just barely caught up with them at the gate before their leave.

“Yes,” she says after swallowing, standing as straight as she can muster with her shaking knees. “I think it will help Nekoma in practising against teams other than Karasuno.”

“Other than Karasuno? You already have a team ready?” Naoi sceptically brows at her.

“Ah, no- no I wanted to confirm it with you first,” Yachi lowers her head. Naoi sighs.

“Yachi-san, it’s not so easy to find someone willing to come over to our school for just a few hours and have a match against,” Yachi’s head dejectively lowers. “It takes meticulous planning and organizing with the our school, the other school-”

“I’ll allow it,” Nekomata interrupts. Yachi and Naoi turn to him in surprise. “I don’t see why our manager can’t try to find a school willing to go up aganst us.” Nekomata looked Naoi in the eyes, and Naoi understood.

Naoi’s lips thinned in a line, and he turned back to Yachi. “Okay, just... ask the boys if they are fine with it.” Yachi nodded.

Nekomata gave her a grandfatherly smile, and Yachi saw them leave the school ground.

 

 

On her way back to gym, Yachi stumbled upon Kuroo.

“Yachi-san? What are you doing here?” he had his schoolbag slung over his shoulder, and gym bag in his other hand. Must have had to take care of something if he wasn’t even dressed to practise.

“I’m going back to the gym,” Yachi said.

“Ah, me too. We can go together,” he smiled at her.

Yachi smiled back. “Great! I had a question for you that I need to ask.” She started walking to gym with Kuroo following in step.

“A question?” Kuroo’s brow cheekily rose. “If it’s nothing too personal, shoot ahead.”

“It’s actually about the whole team. I was wondering if I could rearrange a match against another team,” she looked up at him with her doe eyes. Kuroo didn’t know if it was on purpose, but it was working.

“I’m sure they will agree. Who do you have in mind?”

“I haven’t called anyone yet. I was requesting permission if I can even do this. That is –  if I fail, I won’t be giving anyone false hope,” she smiled with a smile that told of her being unsure of herself. Kuroo patted her shoulder.

“I’m sure you’ll find someone.”

 

 

Kuroo and Yachi entered the gym.

Lev’s cat eyes followed Kuroo leisurely walk with Yachi to the seats. Their captain smiled in a gentle grin while he spoke to Yachi. The star hair manager blushed and bowed at their captain, to which Kuroo simply patted her head. From what Lev could understand, Kuroo was asking questions to Yachi. Lev squinted his eyes and cupped his hands behind his ears to better listen in the conversation, but it was quite hard with the screeching of soles against the gym’s floor.

“Lev!” Yaku called to him but it was too late - Lev’s face received the ball. It wasn’t hard enough to make him unconscious, but Inouka’s spikes sure did pack a punch, and Lev fell on the hard floor with the grace of a camel.

“Sorry, Lev!” Inouka shouted over the volleyball net.

“Don’t feel sorry for him,” Yaku bent don’t to check on Lev. He directed his tone to the injured child, “stop staring at Yachi and focus on the game.” Yaku examined Lev’s face while the middle blocker scowled.

Lev pushed Yaku’s hand away and turned his head to where Yachi and Kuroo were. “I’m just curious on what they are talking about.” Kuroo looked back and gave a pointed look. Lev knew what those eyes were saying: “Get back to training.”

“You’re nosy,” Yaku pointed out while standing up.

Lev snapped his head back at Yaku. There was a seriousness in his green slits that made the libero step back. “Yachi was happy this morning,” Lev’s voice sounded confused and desperate. ”But, when classes ended, she became... sad,” his hands fisted in frustration.

“Didn’t take you for the observant type,” Kuroo came with a sheepish Yachi under his arm. “Don’t worry, Lev,” he smiled. “There were just some weird rumors surrounding Yachi-san, but I took care of it,” he patted Yachi’s head same as someone would pet a meek mouse. “Yachi-san is our first female manager,” Kuroo reflected, and Yamamoto briskly shouted ‘cute female manager!’ in the background. “I’m not surprised that people started talking.” Lev looked away.

“Just  rumors?” Lev thought. “But I didn’t think things could go that far...” Lev mumbled. Kuroo raised an eyebrow.

Yachi jolted and she could feel Kuroo’s eyes slowly turn to her. Lev looked up at the shivering Yachi and he could read Yachi’s eyes like an open book.

“Yachi-san!” Lev exclaims, gaining everyone’s attention back on him. Yachi stares at him with wide eyes. “I want to be your friend!”

Yachi’s mouth fell open like a fish out of water. Lev’s proclaim was so straightforward that other Nekoma members stood in shock.

“Friends?” Yachi whispered, dumbfounded. “You really want to be friends with me?” Lev stood up in a flash and heavily clamped on Yachi’s shoulders.

“Of course!” Lev’s smile was so genuine. For a moment, Yachi’s mouth continued to hang open like a dead fish, but slowly, every so slowly in her Yachi way, a smile rose. She nodded once, then again more eagerly with giddiness, her heartbeat soaring from his words. Lev beamed in glee. “Awesome! Now we have to go to that arcade we were talking about in literature-“ a jab in the ribs from Yaku made Lev splutter and clutch his side in pain.

“You weren’t paying attention in class?” Yaku’s whole body looked as if it came from the shadows, ready to eat Lev whole.

“But it was a lazy day,” Lev whined, “even Yacchan was bored in that class.” Yachi fervently nodded so the blame wasn’t solely on Lev. This seemed to make Yaku give them only a glaring side-eye.

Inouka adressed Yachi next. “So can we call you ‘Yachhan’?” This, from the looks of it, seemed like a serious question for everyone on Nekoma. She couldn’t understand, since it was just a nickname everyone at Karasuno calls her by, but how could she say no?

Yachi smiled in approval. Yamamoto’s tears gush out like a fountain, blissful to be able to call a girl with –chan at the end. Those that did not name Yachi ‘Yacchan’  in their contacts, do so now. Lev whoops and immediately repeats her name multiple times with a childish glee.

Yachi feels her ears become hotter with every time he says her name.

“Oh,” Kuroo claps his hands for everyone’s attention. “I hope you all can come tomorrow to school because we have a planned practise match against another school.”

Yaku grimmaced. “What, on Saturday? Who practises on Saturday?”

“Apparently, by our manager-on-loan’s information, Karasuno.” Kuroo grins at Yaku’s and everyone else’s bewilderment. Kenma looks as if he is about to faint. Lev and Inouka are the only ones impressed by this.

“What are they, immortal?” Yaku mutters.

“We’re up against Karasuno tomorrow?” Yamamoto questions.

“Nope,” Kuroo puffs out his chest. “We’re up against Shiratorizawa.”

The quietness that follows makes it seem that all sound on Earth poofed out of existence by that one sentence.

“Kuroo,” Kai says. “No offence, but I wanted to finish high school.”

 

 

Yachi had locked up and ready to return the key to the janitor when Lev came up to her. Most of Nekoma members, after a grueling agreement to tomorrow’s match, had gone home already. Only Lev had offered to accompany her, and she accepted.

While walking in silence for some time, Lev spoke up. “You didn’t tell Kuroo everything.”

Yachi’s star tail puffed up. “...No,” she replied, head hanging low. “I didn’t want my problems to be his.”

“It’s for the best,” the sudden voice that didn’t belong to Lev or Yachi made the two first years jump. From a shadowy corner, Kenma slinked out. “Yaku might be the mom of the team, but Kuroo is pretty protective himself.”

“Wait, how do you know what we’re talking about?” Lev cocked his head at Kenma. Their setter uninterestingly shrugs.

“I don’t need to know the details to understand,” his golden eyes stare into Yachi’s. The blonde girl doesn’t hold the contact for long.

“I don’t want to re-tell it all again, but I’ve been thinking over the words the girl told me,” Yachi slowly fidgets with her fingers, contemplating. “In a way, she is right. If you don’t try hard enough, the end result will be the same as your efforts.”

“I still like playing volleyball,” Lev sulked. Kenma didn’t say anything. Yachi gently placed her hand on Lev’s arm.

“I’m sure it’ll be fine. Remember,” she broadened her smile, “I’m here to help.” Lev smiled back at her. “Ah! I forgot!” Yachi drew back. She opened her bag to take  out the neatly packed box. “I brought leftovers...”

“Uwah, for us?” Lev excitedly rotated around Yachi, back in high spirits. The girl meekly noddled.

“It’s not much, and I wanted to share it with everyone, but I forgot,” she mournfully said. By now, everyone were on their way to home. She didn’t want to call them back over just to eat only a lunchsized portion of food.

“That’s fine, we can still eat it at the park,” Kenma offered. Lev was too eager for Yachi to refuse.

Kenma walked them to the closest park. On the way, they had bought chopsticks and more food to add to their after-school picnic. The park had an outdoor table and not many people were at it at this hour. They had a nice and quiet spot to themselves, where they could unpack all of their things and reward themselves after such a eventful day.

“Thish is delishos,” Lev complimented with his mouth full. Kenma hummed in agreement, stealing octobus sausages whenever Lev wasn’t looking. Yachi smiled as she munched on her fugashi (Kenma’s treat), watching them happily eat her cooking. She was scared that the food had gone stale, but, in seeing Lev and Kenma enjoying themselves, she was sure that she had to arrange more of these meetings with the whole Nekoma team.

Forgetting about this morning’s events, she was content with this moment.

Chapter Text

It was past school-hours, and Karasuno High’s hallways were silent. It gave a thoughtless break for Shimizu’s mind as she carried a stack of documents.

The papers took her a while to finish; she was prone to divide the stack in two or do it much slower than she could, waiting up on someone that wasn’t here right now. When she caught herself in these moments, her grip on her pen would tighten, taking a longing breath and then continuing.

Stopping at the teacher office, she slid inside and excused herself to the only person there.

“Ah, Shimizu-san, come in!” Takeda waved, his head behind a wall of paper. As Shimizu came closer, she pondered where to put the files she had on hand. The teacher’s workspace was full of documents – it was nearing exam time, after all. She stood diligently with the hefty papers on hand, waiting for the aloof teacher to finish his current signing. With his glasses crooced on his nose, he lifted his head. “Oh!” he exclaimed, as if remembering she just came in. “You can put those...” he looked around himself, searching for free space. “Uhm... I’ll just take them,” he took the papers out of her hands and set it on his lap. “Thank you!”

Shimizu blinked, watching the bubbly teacher surrounded by papers smile up at her. From the looks of it, Takeda will be sleeping at school tonight. She would help if she could, yet these papers were confidential, and she had no right working on them. They would be signed under his name, and if she made a mistake, it would be on his head.

She bowed, saying, “You’re welcome,” and left.

When she was walking through the last hallway to the exit with her bag dangling under her crook, her phone rang. Fishing it out, her eyes widened when she read the name of the caller. She picked up.

“Yachi?” she answered, curiosity and worry doubting her brow.

“Shimizu-san!” the high tone was unmistakable. Shimizu’s heart felt as if it had been lifted a high burden. It had been so long since she had heard from Yachi. Hinata had said that she has been quite busy as of recently – never elaborating further than ‘I need to prove myself’. It made Shimizu wonder on why Yachi wished so. It was admirable to work one’s best, but, the way Hinata worded it, there was an underlying cause. Her fist clenched in wanting to  understand their small manager’s determination. “I wanted to ask you a question.”

“Mm,” Shimizu looked out the window. The sky was slightly darkening, but the sun still gave plenty of light. She wondered if Yachi had the same view.

“You know how to arrange a match against another team?”

The question put Shimizu off. “You want to have a match agains another team?”

“Y-yes...”

“Who?”

“I... I wanted to ask whether you knew any schools willing for a match.”

Shimizu looked away from the window. She could hear the nervousness in Yachi’s voice. It was wobbly and unexperienced. Shimizu could even imagine Yachi tugging at her strands the way she does whenever she could not strongly voice her opinion. “Hmm, I don’t know if anyone is free, but I can give you contacts to ask yourself,” she tilted her head closer to the phone, already taking out a notebook, colourful post-its sticking out. It’s better to let someone learn themselves than tell and expect them to understand. She can give pointers, but Yachi has to walk with her own two feet.

“Really? Thank you Shimizu-san!” her happy chirp made Shimizu smile.

“Do you have a pen and paper on hand?”

“Always!”

The smile reached Shimizu’s eyes.

 

 

From all the numbers Shimizu had given, up until now, not a single one had agreed on Yachi’s request.

Aobajohsai had a previously scheduled one. When Yachi was about to call Fukurodai, Kuroo said that they are out of the country. Date Tech was unreachable. Looking at Johzenji number, Yachi heard the captain lowly growl and mumble about ‘having to clean up after them’; she decided to let that one slide. Shinzen, Ubugawa, Ohgiminami, and Kakugawa already had planned their matches between themselves. She hung her head in low spirits.

“What’s wrong, Yacchan?” Kuroo cocked his head. They were both sitting on the hallway floor, a notebook full of scribbles and numbers in Yachi’s lap.

“It’s harder than I thought,” she said, sadly looking at the striped out contacts. The glaring red over blue was taunting her confidence.

Kuroo looked at her notebook, then back at her frowning face. He gently bumped his elbow against her shoulder. She wasn’t prepared for it; fumbling and nearly losing her balance, squeaking out in surprise. Confused, she looked up at him. He smiled at her.

“Stop worrying,” he said. “Nobody’s gonna be mad at you for not finding us people to play against.”

“I... I still feel like I failed you,” she shamefully flipped the paper with her findger. Both of their eyes followed as it turned on it’s other side. On it was scribbled only one contact number. Under the number – “Shiratorizawa”.

A shiver went through Kuroo, but it wasn’t him that shook. Beside him, he saw Yachi trembling like a flag post in a windy day. “You okay?” he asked.

Like a bobblehead, she nodded dazedly. Tugging at her hair, she said: “I don’t really want to call them...”

“You think we can’t take them on?”

Yachi whirled her head so fast that she groaned in pain from straining a muscle. “N-no,” she rubbed at her neck, “I don’t think you’re weak. I just...” She couldn’t finish, not really sure on what she wanted to say.

Shiratorizawa – simply thinking about the name made her want to hide away like a hedgehog. They, from the TV shows and newspapers she has seen, made themselves look so unreachable. A giant mountain, if she had to compare. She didn’t know much about them, couldn’t even remember who their captain was because the mere mention of their school gave a nervous jolt through her body. And Hinata wanted to fight them! Kageyama didn’t help in that matter much eather. Now even Kuroo was willing to go up against them.

Volleyball players were truly strange.

“It’s just a practise match, Yacchan,” Kuroo said, grinning his most reassuring smile. “Besides, you haven’t even tried calling them. Maybe they won’t even accept.”

Yachi looked at him, swallowing hard, and steeling her resolve. “You’re right!” she tightly took hold of her phone before her brain catches up to her motivation and decides to abandon ship. The number was typed and she held the phone to her ear, waiting to be connected.

Beep, beep, beep, beep-

Five beeps later and she was sure it was acceptable to drop the call by now. Her finger glided atop the big, red “end call” button, but a cracking broke through the phone’s output.

“Hello?” came a low voice.

Kuroo had to nudge Yachi for her to start doing something other than owlishly blinking at her phone.

“A-ah, this is... this is Yachi Hitoka from Kara-” she froze.

Panicking, she looked at Kuroo for words. He glanced around, a small bit of Yachi’s panic seeping even into his usualy indifferent posture, before quickly mouthing “Nekoma High”.

“Nekoma High...” she repeated, following his lips. It sounded alien, but she couldn’t say ‘Karasuno’ since that isn’t where she is at right now. “I’m the manager of Nekoma Volleyball Club and I was... I was wondering if we could arrange a match? Between our teams?” she grimaced at her own fumbling. She was silently hoping that they would decline so they could never meet face to face after this shamble of a conversation.

“Yes, we accept.”

Yachi’s eyes widened. Huh?

“When?”

Yachi’s eyes blow out of her scull. Huh???

“Is tomorrow fine?”

Her phone almost fell out of her stunned grasp, but Kuroo reflexively caught it and took over. “Yep! Around 14:00?”

The sudden change in voice must have taken the other speaker aback, but they recovered quickly. “Yes, it works well with us. Good day.” Kuroo was left in silence. Giving a scrutinizing look at the unnamed number, he placed the phone on Yachi’s still frozen hand.

“Did they... really accept?” she bewilderly asked, flexing her hand to grip her phone better.

Kuroo confirmed, and that made Yachi even more bewildered.

 

 

When Shiratorizawa members arrived, Yachi had never thought that Karasuno’s, hopefully but also concerningly, future adversaries could put her off by... wearing casual clothes.

When she had returned back at Nekomata’s house, Yachi began her research. Rumaging through online sports articles and teen magazines, she found scarce information on the team as a whole. The articles were mostly about their imposing captain – Wakatoshi Ushijima. She could not find a single picture of him alone, so she couldn’t identify which of the many, intimidating players was their captain. Her only clues were ‘determined and an example for many teens’ or however magazines romanticized their interviewee’s appearance.

Now, with them all in their individual outfits that screamed their personality but also didn’t give Yachi a single hint on who their leader was, the blonde found herself shaking to her knees.

“Welcome to Nekoma,” Kuroo opened his arms in a seemingly warm greeting, but, from the stoic gazes from others, it felt more akin to a band of gladiators sizing each other up.

Nekoma’s captain, much to Yachi’s dismay, did not clasp his hands with Shiratorizawa’s captain. He only instructed them on where they could change and showed everyone to the gym.

“We’re really going up against Shiratorizawa!” Lev whooped in glee, earning a supporting exitement from Inuoka. Shibayama only pumped his fist half-way, a little intimidated by their today’s opponents.

“Right, it’s your first time against them,” Kai observed, unlocking the door to their changing room. “It’s okay, even we-“

“You’ve been up against them?!” Lev interrupted him, struggling under his t-shirt. Yaku grumpily came over to yank it off, already in his gym wear.

“Haha, nope!” Yamamoto proudly puffed out his chest. “But I’m ready to kick their asses anyway!”

They all jumped in optimism, while Yaku couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

 

 

While the guests were setting their bags and water bottles aside, Kuroo stalked over to the imposing captain himself – Ushijima.

“We’ve never played against each other,” Kuroo started, making Ushijima turn his attention to him. “What made you accept Yacchan’s offer?”

Ushijima gave a stone gaze. “We know that you have played against Karasuno, so we wanted to know more about them by practising againts you,” he said in an uninterested tone, as if the thought of going up against something that came from backalleys was the most disgusting thing he would be supposed to do.

Kuroo’s grin twitched and he silently hoped that Karasuno, if their freak combo will get them so far, will pummeled this guy in the ground. It felt patronizing when Ushijima only saw Nekoma as a stepping stone. They might have been only noticed because they are the hosting city this year, but his team rightfully fought to the end to earn their place in Fukurodani Academy Group.

A skittish ball of blonde trutted past them.

Kuroo’s attention was set on Yachi nervously walking up to a boy with a bowlcut. He had black hair and seemed tall with the tiny Yachi standing before him. When she started to speak, his posture became panicky, unsure on what to do with the small blonde stuttering in front of him. Even Ushijima was watching their awkward interaction.

“Your... manager,” Ushijima questioningly glanced back at Kuroo. The Nekoma captain nodded, and Ushijima continued, going back to watching her star tail bouncing, “is she new?”

“Actually, she’s borrowed from Karasuno,” Kuroo replies. Something in Ushijima’s face wasn’t as stoick anymore, but neither his eyebrows nor lips twitched in any reaction. Kuroo grimaced and guessed that he had to elaborate. Damn did the provocative captain hate someone so dead of emotion – it made harder to read them. “She has some kind of manager internship here for a month. After that, she goes back home.”

After saying those words, Kuroo realized that they left an emptyness of sorts. Their whole team had already accepted her in as a member and family. He did not know that having her around, her small yet kind nature, would impact their team, and him, this much – always finding bottles full of refreshing water, the net neatly rolled up, gym floor close to becoming a mirror. Everyting went faster with her around. A little too fast. He was aware that she would leave, but he didn’t want to think about it just yet.

“So,” Kuroo said, trying to distract his confused mind, “why did you really accept?”

Ushijima paused before answering. “We can’t challange anymore schools from our prefecture,” he said.

“Really,” Kuroo mused to himself, brows rising. “Sendai has a lot of universities in its prefecture.”

Looking back and watching Yachi flailing and confusing the bowlcut boy, it made Kuroo himself get confused. “Yacchan!” he called out, and Yachi turned towards his voice, her cheeks red. “What are you doing?”

“I need to ask the captain of Shiratorizawa to sign some papers,” Yachi called back, waving a piece of paper that seemed important enough at a distance. The bowlcut boy jolted beside her. Kuroo grinned in amusement.

“He isn’t the captain, Yacchan,” Kuroo pointed at Ushijima. “He is.”

She stood there in silence, squinting her eyes to give a good look at the man Kuroo was pointing at. When the slow realization hit, it hit hard. Yachi’s eyes expanded and her lip wobbled shut. She swiveled around, apologizing to the bowlcut boy, and ran up to Ushijima, apologizing to him too. Ushijima blinked twice, his face unchanging.

While Yachi was pointing at lines Ushijima needed to sign, Goshiki trembly walked up to Shirabu. When the small setter finally gave the bowlcut boy attention, Goshiki exploded with a smile.

“Did you hear, Shirabu?! She thought I was the captain!” he exidedly bounced up and down.

“She mistook you for a captain, Future Ace,” Shirabu regarded him with an uninterested face.

Yamagata joined their small conversation. “But that girl,” they all glance at Yachi talking with the two captains, “I don’t remember her from last time.”

Shirabu shrugged, going back to shuffling through his bag. “Must be new.”

“But we only inspected Nekoma a month or so back,” Yamagata regarded, eyeing the small blonde getting whisked away by a sluggish pudding-head boy. Golden slits caught his eyes in a stare, challenging, and Yamagata unthinkingly averted his gaze.

Shirabu stopped and looked up. “Now that you mention it, I recall a friend telling me about this small blonde with a star ponytail that was at their joint volleyball training camp. He told me she was anxious and mostly sticked with... with the... ugh, what were they called? The, the ones with black and orange...”

“Karasuno?” Goshiki offered.

“Yeah, them,” Shirabu lifted out a pair of sneakers, inspecting them. “Although I guess he was wrong, since she’s here with Nekomata.”

“Maybe she changed schools?”

Shirabu gave Goshiki a side-eye and then hummed. “Maybe. I wouldn’t want to be in a school with such a loser volleyball club.”

 

 

“Come on Lev, go lower,” Yaku commanded with his cheek squished to the floor. “You have to be more flexible.”

“I caa-ha-aaan’t,” Lev wailed, straining to reach his toes.

Yachi watched from the bench, not sure what to do while all the boys warmed up. She admired the way Nekomata and Shiratorizawa had different warm-up techniques. While Nekoma had flexible spines – Kenma easily laid on the floor like a carpet –, Shiratorizawa gave more attention to their upper body strenght. Each had a ball to do push-ups with or simple rotations. It was like a peaceful breeze before a thundering storm.

“Yacchan!” Lev waved his hand over to her pleadingly. “Can you help me out?” She set aside her notebook and pen and strolled over to him curiouly like a small sparrow. Some Shiratorizawa heads turned in wonder. “Can you push down on my back while I stretch?” Lev instructed, spreading his legs wide so he could push for a split.

Yachi nodded. Having done this with Karasuno members, it did not bother her at all. She did it the way Shimizu had taught her, careful to not push too hard or strain Lev’s muscle. However, it was clear that she had to lean in more to help him out. She had never worked with someone as tall as Lev, and, since she wasn’t that heavy, she had to reach on her tiptoes. They made pauses between lowering themselves and lifting back up. Every time Lev rose himself, he gave a smile over his shoulder to Yachi. She returned it with support.

For a while, they were like this. They didn’t even notice stray glances from their teammates – and the other team. Suddenly, Lev’s head perked up in a gasp.

“Yacchan!” Yachi leaned enough for him to not strain looking over his shoulder. “Can you help me study on Monday?”

She looks up in thought. She had nothing particular planned, and Nekomata told her that he would be late that day. “We could study between breaks, but, if you have time, we could after school,” she looked down at Lev’s shining emerald slits.

“Thanks, Yacchan! I’m having trouble with english,” he sulkily pushes down again.

Either after his comment or the unexpected movement, Yachi was too engrossed in her thoughts that, while she was slowly leaned down, her toes slipped and her body clumped on Lev’s back. She still had a clutch on his shoulders, but the rest of her body uncomfortably slid off like a slug, her face between Lev’s shoulder blades. Luckily, the middle-blocker was balancing on his wrists, wobbling only slightly from the sudden weight.

He craned his neck to see Yachi, careful to not make anymore movement. “Are you okay, Yacchan?”

“Mm fm,” she muffles in his back, grasping around the lean shoulders to slide off.

“I think that’s enough. We’re moving onto serves,” Kuroo instructed as he rose from his backpose bend. He lifted a sleepy Kenma by his shirt, balancing him on his feet. The rest rose as well, and Yachi glanced at Shiratorizawa, who were already taking position on one of the courts.

She took a seat at the bench to write down notes on them.

 

 

A volleyball went flying off-course. There was a ‘look out!’ shouted, and Yachi lifted her head from her writing. Her eyes widened as the ball was heading straight to her, too close for her to get away. She tightly closed her eyes and curled her hands in front of her face.

Yet nothing came.

She cracked open an eye to see a tall, intimidating figure with red, spiky hair standing before her, the ball in his hand. The ruby yet sleepy irises gave her a shiver. “Th- thank you,” was the only thing she managed to whisper out.

He scarily leaned down closer to her, keeping the ball to his hip. His smile, unlike Kuroo’s provocative grin, was like a monster scheming and dissecting their pray. Yachi’s every hair was on edge, and, when his free hand came closer to her face, she instinctively jumped under her skin. His hand came to gently rest atop her head, and she stiffened. In the tumult of multiple balls being slammed and the sound rebounding against the gym’s walls, she could hear her heart ram against her chest.

“Woo, you don’t pay much attention to things happening around you, do yah?” the edge of his lips quirked up, ridiculingly. “Your welcome, although I was only guessing that the ball would land on you.”

Yachi eased her heart, thinking that that was the end of their interaction, but he surprised her further when he heavily sat down next to her, eerily close. He set the ball on the bench between them and leaned on his knees, observing Nekoma members with a sleepy grin. Yachi’s breathing was shaky, arms too weak to continue writing her notes. There was cold sweat gathering on her temples.

“Captain told us that you are from Karasuno,” he turned to look at her, but his eyes widened from the shivering breath she took. “Hey, hey, I’m not trying to be scary,” he put his arms up with peace signs, showing he meant no harm. “Is it my faaace?” he cocked, brows furrowing but his lips staying in his upturned smile, “people do get annoyed by my faaace.” Yachi tried not to flinch away from him when he started to ramble and move around like a jovilant child. Somehow he was like Lev, but more unpredictable. She wondered on how that was possible.

After his continued one-sided conversation, she could feel a little less on standing at a mountain’s edge, and more near a river’s current. She would not go in it due to the unknown, yet it was mesmerizing to watch its flow.

“Oy, Ushijima,” Kuroo called, stopping in his serve to glare at the spiky haired leerer, “control your Guess Monster.”

Ushijima gave one look at the Nekoma captain before turning to the Guess Monster. “Tendo,” was all he said, giving his member a stern eye. Tendo amuzingly stared back at his captain before calling back a drawn out ‘Yes’ and lifting himself off his seat, taking the ball in a single, calloused hand.

“Bye-byeee, Yacchan,” he saluted her and spun back to his team.

Yachi stared at his retreating back, mouth slack open.

Inouka ran up to her side soon after. She shook her head when he set a giant hand on her shoulder, leaning down towards her. “We want you to do our chant with us!” he lightly swayed on his feet, ushering Yachi to get up and come with him. When they were all together, huddled in an intertwined circle, Yachi was unsure if she was allowed to put her hand with the rest in the center.

“Put your hand on, manager,” Kuroo said. The title took her breath away, all of the member’s smiled took her heart away, and, when she set her hand atop everyone else’s, she felt her whole body link with everyone in this secluded, singular ring.

“We are the body’s blood – flow smoothly and circulate oxygen so the brain functions normally.”

The chant was said, and the match could begin.

 

 

The sun was setting a romantic atmosphere that could only appear when clouds hugged close to the horizon, near the seeting red and yellow. Yachi was out near the water basins, slowly cleaning out the water bottles.

They lost.

Yachi let the water trickle in the bottle, letting her fingers sit in the gathering liquid. They lost every match – five in total. Both of the teams were exhausted, her heart was exhausted. The little blossom of hope and belief that Nekoma could beat Shiratorizawa was crushed the moment Ushijima jumped. In the blink of an eye, the ball appeared at Nekoma’s feet, Ushijima landing with a commanding stare. An overwhelming weight was pushed on Nekoma’s shoulders; every player in a tense stance of readyness and uncertainty. It was heartaching for Yachi to watch even Lev lose his childish glint.

They gave everything they got – all their joints and muscles straining to at least get one win in, to have something to walk out with...

The cold water had numbed her hands. She flipped the bottle over, slushing out the content, and closeing tightly the rusty basin’s knob. Pressing her wrinkly hand against the basin’s wall, she leaned her forehead against it. Small, warm tears slid down her cheeks full of pent up broken expectations. She didn’t wipe them away, letting herself sniffle, but not cry out any sobs. When her eyes were dry of anything else, she was left with tiredness.

Why did Hinata and Kageyama and the rest of Karasuno want to battle Shiratorizawa? After seeing today’s matches, it felt like a pipedream to even getting a set against them. And even if they won, what then? Nationals? And after that? Yachi doubted that everyone was going to stay like a big, happy volleyball family, that they all will go see big things, do big things, be the big thing.

She sighed – she wanted to know: what’s after volleyball?

Pushing away from the cold wall, she shuffled back to the gym. She had to walk across the sandy football fields to get back with hands full of wet water bottles. The boys had decided to clean up the gym collectively. While they were arguing on who gets to mop the floor, she  kindly asked if she could wash everyone’s bottles and had slipped out without a sound.

Now she walked back with a slow pace, hoping that they had finished already and were nearing to depart. She shook out each bottle thoroughly, but stopped in her tracks when she saw a figure sitting on the school’s outside bench that oversaw the track field.

“Ushijima-san?” she called out.

He straightened his back and curiously looked over his shoulder. When his eyes found her, he twitsed back to watch the trees and the distant buildings. “Did you need something?”

No, no she did not. She felt strange to be conversing with the one that defeated her teammates – friends –  and would just as easily walk away. Competitions were harsh. How could someone tame their heart when they met their victor again? How could they watch their rival stand on a higher podium than theirs? How could anyone stand back up again and push themselve to become better, to have a slightly better chance at winning the next time.

Ah, wait, there was something she wanted to know.

“Can I... ask you a question?” she shyly poked the grass with her toe.

“Mhm.”

“Are you... are you going to become a professional volleyball player?”

He glances at her, but doesn’t oversee her wholly. He stares in her eyes. She’s scared, but not from his intense gaze. It’s the way his eyes pierce in her, the sharpness that easily cuts through her like butter in a hot summer. It stays like this for a few, unnerving seconds before his eyes blink back to the open field.

“I do not know,” he said. “It’s my last year at Shiratorizawa, but I am still unsure of my future.” He pauses in his speech again. “I want someone else to decide for me – where I go next, what I’m supposed to achieve, when I can say to myself: ‘Yes, I am happy with my life now’. But, in the back of my mind, I know that I don’t want that.” They stay in silence after that.

Somehow, Ushijima had answered a question Yachi had initially thought that could be answered with a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. She did not think that a ‘No’ could be more than a rejecting response.

Ushijima spoke up again, but his tone gave the impression of... shyness? “I do have a passion outside of volleyball.”

Yachi cocked her head, even though he did not look up at her. “What is it?”

“From a small age, I really liked the idea of becoming a farmer.”

“A... farmer?” Yachi perked in surprise. Imagining Ushijima as a farmer was... there were no words that could describe that thought.

“Yes. I had these books about cultivating land and caring about livestock that really interested me. I even managed to take care of small plants that could be used in cooking.” Yachi thought she could see the corners of his lips twitching up, but it was hard to tell from this angle. “If I decide that volleyball isn’t for me, I can go to a farming school.”

Yachi tentatively came closer to him, swaying in place before deeming Ushijima’s single nod at her as an invitation to sit beside him. The stone bench was hard and cold, but a warmth radiated from the setting sun and the person by.

Person. Is Ushijima just another person or, after their match, a rival? Or did he turn into a companion in sharing thoughts with? Yachi, when joining and being with Karasuno, has opened up a lot more that she has started to accept and trust people more easily. The way Nekoma had given her support strenghtened this new development. But does that mean she can lightly take anyone’s good gestures as their persona? No, of course she knows not to. However, calling Ushijima a ‘rival’ or ‘companion’ didn’t sit well with Yachi.

“Ushijima-san?”

“Hmm?”

“Will I be able to call you if we decide to arrange a match again?” her doe eyes hopefully looked up at him.

He turned to her with his stone gaze, somehow softer-looking in this fading lighting. “Of course, we are acquaintances now.”

Acquaintances. Yes... yes, that was the word for their peculiar yet not uninviting relationship.

Yachi’s heart swelled. Leave it to a captain to answer an unworded question. He rose up as the sun completely disappeared, standing tall as a tree. Yachi leaned to stand up as well, and Ushijima gave her a hand. She blinked at it before taking the offer. His hand flinched when they touched.

“Your hands are cold,” he commented.

“Ah,” she took it away the second she was up on her feet. “I was cleaning bottles in the-“

A warmth encompassed her shoulders. It was like the gentle kindling you could shuffle closer to, stare as it popped and sizzled in a mesmerizing dance. It even smelled close to it. Yachi tucked at the soft fabric that was warming her and realized that it was Ushijima’s volleyball jacket. Due to their comical size difference, it reached down to her knees more akin a dress.

“The reason I accepted,” Ushijima’s words made Yachi look up to him, a sombre expression in his eyes, “was because we’ve also lost contact with other schools.” There was no alteration in his tone, nor his face, but Yachi still had a rush of electricity run through her fingertips. “Thank you,” he only nodded his head, yet Yachi felt like it was more than that. Her cheeks dusted pink.

She returned the nod with a small bow.

 

 

Yachi and the rest of Nekoma said farewell to their departing guests, seeing them out of the school gates. When all of Shiratorizawa members were out of sight, they all collectively released a sigh.

“We got absolutely destroyed,” Yamamoto groaned, stomping his foot on the concrete. Inouka and Shibayama sulked like scolded puppies while Kai patted them on their back; Fukunaga silently watched his feet; Yaku stood with his hands on his hips, seeming unpertrubet, but his eye twitched in annoyance; Kenma tiredly turned on his PSP and aimlessly buttoned at it. Kuroo emotionlessly watched the darkening sky.

Yachi, turning her head up at Lev beside her, was startled to see him frown in exhaustion and sadness. She realized that she might never truly feel the way they do when she is the one sitting on the side-lines, behind the white stripe dividing their worlds. None of them were capable of crying due to the energy spent in the match and cleaning the gym afterwards, but Yachi could feel her eyes prickle.

Confused – she was so confused. Ushijima had accepted her offer, shared his thoughts with her, and even allowed her to call them over again, yet they left her team in shambled. Could she feel proud of angry? Was it possible for her to ever truly share the pain the all felt when the ball landed under their trembling legs?

She could feel her eyes itching again with the start of tearing up, but Yamamoto spoke up again.

“Whatever!” he said, fists puping up with renewed adrenaline. They all turned to him in alarm. “We’ll beat them next time,” he said it to his wide-eyed teammates before turning to the way Shiratorizawa had left and shouted. “You hear me?! Next game is ours!”

With Yamamoto’s cries of a fiery promise, the glum weight of defeat was lifted off of everyone’s soul. It didn’t feel so painfully hard anymore, as if all the world’s sadness were on their shoulders, and it was easier to breathe in the nightly air, to remember that there is a tomorrow waiting.

“Now,” he turned back to his team with an energetic grin, hands on his hips, “let’s go for ramen. I’m starving!”

Chapter Text

Yachi fluffed her and Nekomata’s futons out on the terrace. As she smoother the fabric, she pondered on what to do on this windy yet sunny day.

It was the first day she didn’t have anything planned with the boys. She was kind of lost. Messages in the Nekoma chat told her that most of them had planned to stay in. She didn’t blame them; she wasn’t the one that had to excessively keep her grades up and practise to get in the spring tournament.

Still – it felt lonely.

A clutter from inside jolted her. She turned to peek in. Coach Nekomata was grumbling in the kitchen, rummaging in the cupboards. “I know I left it somewhere,” Yachi could hear him mumble as he closed the wooden cabinet.

“What are you looking for, Nekomata-san?” she walked inside the living room, locking the sliding glass so the wind wouldn’t follow. Nekomata scratched his stubbly cheek, inspecting the kitchen counter. It had a microwave, rice maker, and a ready coffee cup, but she guessed that he wasn’t looking for any of these.

“My lighter,” he said.

Thinking, Yachi turned towards the appartment entrance. She walked past the small shrine that peacufully lay in a corner and checked Nekomata’s jacket pockets. She only found a set of keys for his bike. “Did you check your pockets, Nekomata-san?” she asked as she stared at the keys, an idea of what to do today forming.

“Ye-...” he started but then paused. There was a quiet moment before he replied again, more softly. “Thank you.” Yachi smiled as she entered the living room again. Coach Ukai was the same – he had a tendency to forget where he puts his lighters, yet they are always in the same place.

She hesitated in her step when she saw Nekomata softly tuck his legs under him and sit in front of the small shrine. He sparked the lighter and ignited the incense. His back straightened in satisfactory and a smile graced his lips as he fondly gazed at a monochromatic photo of a woman beaming.

Yachi gulped. She felt a creeping coldness the longer she stayed in the room. There was no other sideroom besides the exit she could slide into without silently passing Nekomata. Yet, she felt that she was intruding on something sacred with her presence here.

“Nekomata-san?” she peeped.

“Hmm?” he didn’t break his eyes away from the photo.

“Can I...” she looked around for an excuse to leave for a short while. Her phone was back in the bedroom, along with everything else she had with her. One of her fisted hands (when did that happen?) was pricked by a sharpness. She unclutched her hand to show the keys. Oh...

“Can I take your bike to the park?” she asked.

Nekomata turned to look at her. “You won’t get lost?” he asked in a grandfatherly voice. A tinge in Yachi’s heart.

Yachi shook her head, hair fluffing up. She put on a smile as she replied: “No, Kenma-san and Lev-san went there with me the other day.”

Nekomata’s eyes softened and he nodded, turning back to the shrine without saying anything else. Yachi slipped on her shoes and grabbed a jacket with a cartoon crow on the back. On her way out, she gave a last glance at the serene room – soft light through a clear window, the smell of crisp coffee, a silent conversation between two – before shutting herself out.

 

 

She thought herself lucky for not needing to adjust Nekomata’s bicycle. Her strenght had always been her frail point, and, seeing how rusted the coach’s bike was, she knew that there was no way she would be able to tinker on it in any way. Lifting her head and beginning to pedal in an even rhythm, Yachi breather in deeply.

The air wasn’t as fresh as back home – a lot more pavements, a lot more houses, a lot more towers –, but, she thought, it gave her a lot more to explore. It felt smooth to drive along the road, to be able to see everything so tiny from up above a mountain, to watch a busy place be quiet on a lazy morning. It felt... exhilarating.

Yachi stood up on the grating pedals in exitement and awed at her surroundings, allowing the bike’s tires freely whirl her forward.

Something new! Something she can see for herself! Like the time Hinata pulled her to a world beyond a repeating cycle of study, cook food for mother, plan the future. There is still that grain of doubt that can grow and eat her whole, but not now. Not when the wind is whipping her hair, and her hands starting to numb from gripping the handle too tightly.

She rolls in the park, driving through cherry tree lanes to stop at a familiar table. She fondly touched it before leaning the bike againt a wooden stool, sitting down. Taking a deep breath of air, she sighed, allowing silence to set in.

...What now?

It wasn’t cold – only when the wind blew harder. If she continued to sit in the sun’s rays, she will do fine with the jacket she brought. Looking around, there are children on the playground with their parents not far off, sitting on benches. Further away is a field where a couple of boys gleefully compete on who can pedal the fastest. Yachi can see that not all of them are used on a bike. However, even when one falls, the rest wait up and cheerily encourage to not feel dull from a scrapped knee.

Leaning her head in her palms, she sighs and closes her eyes.

Maybe she should have mustered up some courage and went to the bedroom to take her phone with her. Then she wouldn’t have to feel like time stops when you’re thinking about it.

When she opens her eyes again, a boy is standing in front of her, watching her. This boy isn’t from the bicycle group – she would have easily spotted him with his red t-shirt with a cute black cat on it. Goose skin covered his thin, scuffed arms. Yachi frowned in concern.

“Aren’t you cold?” she asked.

Instead of replying her question, he lifted his arm and pointed at her, announcing: “You’re Yacchan!”

Yachi’s eyes widen, leaning back in surprise. She blinks a few times, lost on words. “How does he know my name?” she frowned. “Wait,” she turned her head, sceptically watching him and his pointing finger, “is it me he is reffering to?” As if to verify, she pointed at herself questioningly. The boy’s pointing finger didn’t leave her; even when she swirled around in her seat, his finger followed her every move. Yachi’s skin jumps in panic. “It is me! But how does he know me? Did I meet him somewhere? Agh, I had such an eventful week that I can’t remember!” Yachi rubs and tugs at her hair in frustration, spinning her head this way and that, as if an answer was flying just around her.

“Wait-“ she paused, turning to him in horror, “ -is this her child?!”

The boy’s slanted eyes boredly blink at her.

She quickly shook her head, failing to comprehend the situation.

“I told you not to wander off, Kou-chan!”

Yachi turns to the new – familiar – voice. With the face of a maneki-neko, Fukunaga jogs up to the small boy. Yachi is too surprised to say anything.

“I thought you wanted to learn how to ride a bike. You can’t just walk up to people and bother them, Kouichi,” the boy – Kouichi – spitefully turns his head away, glaring at the ground. His little cheeks puff out in a pout and he stays silent. Fukunaga exhales through his nose. “I am very sorry-“ when he turns to apologize to Yachi, he stops once he sees her.

Yachi awkwardly lifts her hand in a shaky wave.

 

 

Watching the small pinholes of light passing through the treebranches above her, Yachi squishes her hands under her thighs, hiding them from drifting winds. A cough alerts her and a iced-tea can and a pack of pocky enters her field of vision. She turns and sees Kai offering it.

“Oh, you don’t have to,” she tries to refuse, but Kai softly shakes his head.

“Fukunaga messaged me that he met you. Told me you looked hungry,” he answers.

“...Ah,” Yachi dazedly takes the drink and pack, a coolness and crunchyness in each palm. She turns back to watching Fukunaga instruct Kouichi the basics of balance on a bike.

After unexpectedly meeting Nekoma’s second-year wing spiker and his little brother, both Yachi and Fukunaga didn’t know how to interact. Yachi had half the mind to excuse herself so she could escape from the awkward situation, but the small cat t-shirt boy had a want for her to join them. He insistently tugged for her to come with them – Fukunaga didn’t know how to refuse. With little persuasion, Yachi slinked out of her seat, took the creaky bike, and followed them.

While walking, they exchanged stray words – mostly on what they were doing here (Yachi vaguely answered that) or if they were doing well (she also answered that vaguely). Much like her, Fukunaga simply nodded or answered with one sentence replies. Still, she found out that Kai was with him as well, although he went to buy drinks. At the mention of food, Yachi’s stomach embarrassingly growled, reminding her that she never ate breakfast. Fukunaga only glanced at her but didn’t comment.

Now, she and Kai sat under a shaded bench, sipping on the iced-tea cans that Kai had bought. He and Fukunaga had come out to help teach Fukunaga’s little brother how to ride a bike. However, it turned out to be more difficult than initially thought.

Every time Kouichi failed to hold balance, he stubbornly refusing to try, fearful of falling and failing. Yet, whenever he looked up at the other boys cheerily competing between themselves, Yachi could see a pang of want to join in.

“So that’s Nekomata’s bicycle?” Kai asks while releasing a series of coughs.

“Yes,” she replies simply and worriedly cocks her head in his direction. “Kai-san, are you sick?”

He replies with another quick cough before saying: “Just a little.”

Yachi’s lips thin in a disagreeable line as she watches Kai take another swig of iced tea. “Shouldn’t you be drinking something warmer?”

“There were no warm drinks in the vending machine,” he points out, then turns to her while holding his can. “Besides, it’s tea.”

Iced tea,” she corrects.

“Helps the same, right?” he lifts the can to his forehead, and Yachi leaves it at that.

“Fine!” a shout came from Fukunaga, and Yachi and Kai lifted their heads at the scene unfolding.

Fukunaga had thrown his hands up in frustration, the usual emotionless expressions Yachi had been used to seeing now were scrunched up. He was walking towards them, leaving Kouichi crankily pout, stand with his bike between his legs, arms crossed.

“If you’re going to be so stubborn,” Yachi and Kai watch as Fukunaga heavily sits down on the bench they were occupying, “then you can use that stubbornness to learn how to pedal all by yourself!” His glare sat on the child before turning away to his friends. “What?”

Kai replies that it’s nothing and caughs again, sipping on his iced tea.

There is a small presence near Yachi, and she turns towards it. Kouichi has pulled up his bike agains her side of the bench and immediately twists to jump in her lap. It takes away Yachi’s breath at the sudden heft, but she doesn’t pull him away when his fingers weakly clutch in her jacket. Fukunaga turns his eyes back to his little brother with a scolding look. “Don’t even try to use her, Kou.”

“You’re bad at teaching,” he mumbles in Yachi’s side.

Fukunaga exasperatedly flings his head over the bench. Yachi’s hand comes to rest atop Kouichi’s head, gently soothing him to ease out the frustration. There’s nothing she or Kai could say that would lessen the brotherly bitterness. Since being an only child, she didn’t have experience in these types of fields, yet an urge to remedy was still there.

“Kai-san, how about you tell him how you learnt to ride a bike?” she offers while patting the child’s head. His hair was really soft!

Kai thoughtfully touches his lips. “The time I learnt how to ride a bike...” Yachi could feel Kouichi turn his head against her arm to look at Kai, interested in hearing him reminiscence.

“I lived with my grandparents for a while,” he started, furrowing his brows to remember more clearly. “Our house was being renovated, and rooms to sleep in were limited, so my parents sent me to the countryside. We didn’t have any paved roads. Our streets were full of dips and holes, later even rocks, but I really wanted to ride a bike. There wasn’t anyone around to teach me – grandma and grandpa were too old to help  – and no other kid my age. Although I felt as if I was the loneliest kid on the whole planet, I still pushed myself to learn how to ride,” he then turnst to them. “The best memory about it all was when my grandparents hollered in joy around the whole area when I finally rode by myself.”

Yachi’s grin bursts on her lips and a cheery giggle couldn’t be contained. Imagining the moment brought a sudden, gleeful warmth in her chest.

“What about you?” Yachi stopped at Kai’s question. She squinted her eyes at no-one in particular and tried to recall the faintest memory of arms pushing her, guiding and releasing. Her brow saddened.

“It was... hard. Mother couldn’t help me all the time, and we lived in the city centre – so there wasn’t a lot of free space to practice. I was too young to go to the park alone, but, the few times my mother could accompany me, I tried my best to learn as fast as possible.” She sheelpishly smiles, but the corners slightly want to twitch downwards. “I kind of can’t remember that well because I rushed through it. I just know that at some point I stopped falling off and became faster than my mother could run!”

“It really comes down to not giving up,” Kai comments, and Yachi nods enthusiastically.

Kouichi pushed himself off of Yachi’s side, showing her a spark in his eyes. “I wanna try again!” his little fists tug on her jacket, full on brimming energy.

Fukunaga lifts his head to his little brother, surprised. “Really?” the scrunched brow the little child gives is enough of an answer for him, and he huffs out of his seat, a slight lift on the corners of his lips. “Alright, let’s give it another shot!”

Yachi and Kai stand, watching Fukunaga balance Kouichi on the bike. When Kouichi nods that he’s ready, Fukunaga starts to push. Passing pedestrians move aside for them while the group of biker boys piqued drive beside them in the grass. Kai claps his hands and shouts for Kouichi to pedal further, to not give up.

A sudden rush of memories flowed in Yachi.

 

 

“You can do it, Yachi,” her mother warmly whispered in her ear as they rushed like wind together, Yachi firmly sitting atop her small bike while her mother pushed behind. Then, like a faraway echo: “You can do it!”

 

 

Yachi cupped her hands around her mouth and screamed.

“You can do it, Kou-chan!”

She saw Fukunaga release Kouichi’s bike and oversaw how the small child pedaled further. Further, further, further. The steering wheel was wobbly, yet Kouichi didn’t fall, only kept his head high and rolled further. Other kids drove up to wheel with him, even convincing him to turn towards the low grass. Fukunaga jumped up in joy, cheering his little brother on.

The whole lot of them must look like a trio of overenthusiastic idiots, but they never wavered. Even when their voices were losing their pitch, they waved, jumped, clapped. They shook hands and patted each other on the back as if adjourned after a succesful board meeting or a winning business campaign. It really might as well be that.

And then – Kouichi fell.

All the boys surrounding Kouichi stopped. Kai, Fukunaga and Yachi froze in their animatic states. Everyone watched as Kouichi slowly rose up. His chubby, little child cheeks were speckled with grass blades and a few dirt smudges. His fingers were chewing in the grass, messily lifting himself. He was scrunching up his nose – a child ready to bawl his eyes out –, and Fukunaga with Kai and Yachi started to run towards him.

Upon arriving at his side, however, Kouichi surprised them again – with a one-less-tooth smile. Yachi paled from seeing the blood dripping from his lip.

“I’m gonna be visited by the toothfairy,” he cheekily showed everyone the missing tooth in his palm. Fukunaga awkwardly congratulated him as Yachi weakly coiled back. Kai produced a napkin for Kouichi to put his tooth in.

“Whoa! No way!” the other boys frolicked around the dirty boy, inspecting the missing tooth and telling Kouichi to smile wider so they could see his bloody choppers. It was quickly stuffed up by Kai, saving other pedestrians from witnessing such a sight.

“I think that’s enough for today,” he said and then sneezed. Yachi and Fukunaga pointedly glared at him like disappointed parents. He frowned while trying to hide his red, runny nose. “Wha- ACHOO!”

Fukunaga leaned to whisper in Yachi’s ear while watching the poor way Kai groaned from another sneeze. “I’ll make sure he gets home.”

Yachi nodded, not in the least pitying the vice-captain struggling to take out a napkin.

 

 

Yachi exhaustedly puts away the borrowed bike in Nekomata’s storage cabin, locking it closed. Her legs felt heavy, her body going numb. It was torture to lift her legs up to the second floor.

The sun was setting, giving an amber hue to the clouding skies. She had not meant to be outside for this long of a time, but she couldn’t deny herself that it was fun. In more than one way, the day had turned out the same as the past evenful days. She was sure that the whole month will end up like this.

She didn’t mind that at all.

While taking out the keys from her jacket’s pocket, she noticed an aroma. A fresh, delicious aroma. Sniffing the air and following the smell’s strenght, she concluded that it came from Nekomata’s flat. As she unlocked and opened the door, the smell blew in her nostrils and tingled her whole body.

It smelled like... home.

Nekomata leaned out behind the hall’s wall, a towel tied around his head and an apron with a cat silhouette on him. He greeted her with bright eyes. “Welcome back, Yachi-san!”

Yachi smiled back.

“I’m back.”

Chapter Text

Nekoma High had much bigger cooking classes than Karasuno. Not just the sheer size of them, but also the scale and variety of their tools.

Yachi had no time to gush about them and their sleek designs! There was a gnawing overthinking going on in her head that just so made her face scrunch up in a shadowy gloom, setting everyone at a distance from her. Lev was the only one by her, obliviously kneading at the dough.

Tomorrow, the school will hold a festival. It was the normal, run of the mill gathering that students built themselves and enjoyed. If parents could take an early leave, they could come and experience it too. It was also a great opportunity to show off each classes strengths, but Yachi's class didn't do that. Not because they had nothing special about them - for example, Lev! -, but more along the lines that they were all so different that they could not mold into one thing.

And being first years. That also had a communications drawback.

So, to keep it simple, they were going for a regular coffee cafe. To Yachi's surprise, the boys had passionately rioted for a maid theme - they really could unify under the same interest. Yet, when they got informed that five other classes were going for the same thing, the fell silently in their seats. But, to stoke back their fiery spirits, the girls had fluffy bunny tails for their costumes. And, to stoke the girls fiery spirits (and make it more tolerable for everyone), the boys had bunny ears to their uniforms. In other words - they only differed from the maid cafes by being PG-13 and naming their establishment 'Bunny coffee cafe'. The latte art also had bunnies in it, to sell the theme.

Right now, everyone was divided into groups and were learning on how to make their chosen dish to serve. Notes on what they needed to stock up and how best to prepare it were written down, prompting a conversational atmosphere where every word rebound the room like an oprah hall. And Yachi, with all her overbearing mind, was absentmindedly molding dumplings.

She had a tendency of taking it personal with cooking. Her mother, being the only breadwinner in her family, was a hard worker, and, every time she returned from work - heels sore and hair frizzy -, Yachi had a hard time feeling useful with only proving herself in school and doing chores around home. That's why, when long nights truly became lonely, she drifted towards the kitcher, cooking up whatever was left over or experimenting.

At first, it was only to fill an emptiness that had nothing to do with her physical hunger. Sometimes she ate it, sometimes she didn't. But one morning, when she was half-way out the door, her mother sleepily, with a smudged make-up smile, leaned out of the bedroom and said: "I really loved that yaki udon. Did you make it? It was delicious."

That was when Yachi started to make food that wasn't only happy for her to eat, but others, too.

"Umm, Yacchan," Lev confusedly smiled at her daydreaming face, "how many gyoza were you planning to make? We have PE next."

"Okay! I think we are prepared enough for tomorrow's festival," their class representative's kind voice informed everyone. "Yachi, you can set some of your dumplings for the next class."

"Wha-" Yachi dazedly blinked and then critically looked down at her work. "I don't think they are ready…" a hand like whiplash whizzed past her sight, and she noticed  one less dumpling in her enormous pile. She swished her head to Lev - puffed, happy cheeks, a half-eaten gyoza in hand.

"Mmf! These are amazing !" he glanced at the clock above the chalkboard and almost choked. Hastily gobbling down the rest and shoveling the leftovers in a plastic bag, and throwing that inside his own bag, he vigorously cleaned the table while Yachi stood with flour on her hands.



“Yachiiii!”

Yachi’s small frame was suddenly engulfed by a solid yet, in certain parts, soft form. The sisterly embrace woke her up from her daze, bringing her back to the gym's many shoe screeches and barking whistles.

“Aneko-nee-san!” Yachi muffled against Aneko's laughing chest.

“Hee hee, been a long time Yachi,” she releases the small blonde and affectionately petted her soft head. "You know, while I was changing, the whole room smelled of gyoza. Delicious gyoza, mind you," she dramatically swooned while Yachi embarrassingly tugged at her shirt. The aroma could have come from her whole class, but if Aneko was capable of specifying a pastry dish, then by the time the lesson will end, the entire hall will smell of her delectable dumplings.

"Uhh, yeah, I got carried away…"

"Really? Hard to air out those places, and the school likes to have things in order…" she gave a glance over Yachi's sweating figure. It was only a ruse, in part, but a sister could always have ulterior motives. "But! I'll take the blame if you share some." Yes, that ulterior motive was to sample the little bird's bread.

Yachi bewilderly blinked, but was glad on hefting off some weight.

“Yacchan, your turn will be next!” Lev calls, and the small girl ushers after him.

Aneko's eyes horrified followed. “Yacchan?!” she stalked over as well, overseeing the small bird jog away and then darkly standing next to the middle-blocker. The silver-haired boy started to confusedly sweat.

Yachi takes her place in the line and inspects the given task.

There were stacked boxes with a small trampoline not a far distance in front. From her classmate's action sequence, it was the regular jump over a vault. Which was terrible, because she sucked at them!

In general, she was average at sports. She could manage to run an endurance run (barely), but she wasn't like Shimizu, who could airily jump over a barrier like the angel she was. Yachi even saw her powerfully vault over a fence to catch the person that stole Hinata's sports bag.

"Yachi! You're up next," her teacher - Naoi-san!? - calls to her, and she hurriedly, without thought, starts to run.

Her body moves robotically, only mirroring what the previous runners had done. A jump, open legs, swish of the arms and, in a glimmer of hope, it actually feels like she can make it!

From her point of view. From a side view…

She had a decent (un-whistled) start, yet her arms had grabbed out too quickly. This lead to her almost getting over the platform, but her bottom ungracefully bumps against the end, and she - amazingly, if it had been planned - lands on her face. Luckily, the floor had been matted beforehand, only leaving a red bruise on her forehead and the tip of her nose. In the room's silence, she calls that she's fine and lifts herself up. Coach Naoi concernedly tells her that she can try again after she feels ready, and she only nods in response, gingerly touching her red reindeer nose.

Hurtfully slumping down on the bench with Lev, who was trying to lean away from Aneko, and Aneko, who was icily leaning closer to Lev, she sadly sighs, gaining both of their attentions. “I don’t understand on how to do it...”

Lev instantly perks up and starts swishing his arms around like an infant girl. “It's simple! You do it like, uhm,” he briefly looked up in thought before coming back with a Shakespearean gasp, “like ‘tak-tak-vam!’

Aneko's confused brow starts to get concerned for Lev’s intellect, but Yachi, noticing the familiar way of explanation, jumped in awe.

“Ah! So like,” she swished her arms in a wheel and jumps, “ ’pun-pun-gah!’

Lev pumped his fists in getting the point across. “Yes, like so!”

Aneko blinks.

“Okay, I’ll try again!” Yachi waved them as she ran up to the white line again. They watched her small yet determined body stand tall, perfectly ready to conquer her rival. Naoi asks if she is truly feeling better, and she reassures him with eagerness. He only nods with a smile and blows the whistle.

She ran, jumped, swished her arms like a penguin, and somehow managed to land over the box - a young bird soaring through the sky.

When she wobbly yet steadily lands on her feet, she, after a stunned moment, twists with a giddy smile on her face, beaming like a twinkling star.

 

 

Yachi eagerly pulls out her red notebook and pencil case while Lev takes a seat next to her. She side-eyes him, a jolt of nervousness passing though as she takes note of how looming his figure was. It quickly fades, however, when, after sending a message and setting aside his phone, he takes out fine, thin glasses and adjusts them on his sleek nose. She can't help but stare in surprise.

"You have glasses, Lev-san?"

It's the first time she sees him blush pink. "They're for reading."

"No, no, they suit you! But I've never seen you wear them during lessons."

He tightly smiles, and Yachi doesn't need to guess. Looks like she will need to tutor him on more than english.

Opening her notebook, colourful text and highlight greeting her with a pristine welcome, her eyes scan over the pages before setting back to her friend. "You want to start with english or is there something else you want us to cover?"

"English is fine-" his growling stomach interrupts him. His blush grows to his ears while he grumbles.

Swishing her head from side to side, inconspicuously at all, and deeming the area safe enough, she leaned closer to Lev, eyes playfully serious as she whispers: "Do you still have some gyoza left?"

Lev scandalously whisper-gasps from the suggestion. "Such boldness!" and unashamedly lifts his bag up, the whole world able to see the pile of dumplings in it. Yachi giggles before they quietly munch on their snacks and revize together.

When most of the pastries are gone, and the setting sun lazily slides the shadows of bookshelves, Lev, head dreamily in hand, tiredly asks a question.

"In how many ways can 'like' be said?"

It takes a quiet moment for Yachi to respond, her mind as slow as a napping cat. "' Like'…" she starts, gazing at the way her pencil bobs up and down in her hand, "could be said as… for example, ' I like you' - which means that you like it in the most basic sense. ' I adore you' is when you are… enthralled by it?"

Wow, even when you know what the word means, it's hard to translate it that the meaning stays, and by the slow, sluggish look Lev had on him told that she had to simplify it

"It just means you really, really like it," she humors herself of having high chances of becoming a teacher in the future. "And the most strongest on is ' I love you' - it means you like it so much that your heart beats faster every time you think about it," after saying that, she feels rather silly. It just might be from her girlish nature leering out the corner of her mind, but it did feel like something when she said those words to Lev.

The lean middle-blocker nods in understanding. His usually childish grin morphed in a more unseen smile - one that Yachi had not watched him make. It wasn't unkind, nor leering; it felt genuine, yet, by rarely seeing it and maybe the glasses setting things off, Yachi could not fully place it on a scale.

His back curled, and his face came to rest on his folded arms on the table. Soft, emerald eyes closing, he, with a tired yawn, said: " I love your cooking, Yacchan."

She sat there, lost of anything - words, thoughts, logic. Her heart flipped like an ice-skater, watching him doze off after his, a little bit clumsy, english comment. Even if she has heard it many times from her mother and Hinata, the way he said it and right away slobbered on his wrist made it sound so different. Comically sweet.

And, of course, her mind started to drive like it was Need for Speed to question every possible underlying message. Was this a sign of some desperate need of attention, or was she the one getting distracted by everyone and not the other way around? Maybe she had given some kind of signs that lead them to believe she was interested - which wasn't completely off, yet she had mostly been clutching on them for safety reasons. Truly, right now she simply saw everyone as big, supportive brothers (albeit more like cousins, since she's going back to her family eventually) that looked out for her well-being and inclusion.

They were too kind to a nervous bird like her; and she thinks that that makes them even more charming.

With an accepting smile, she pats his sleepy, silky hair, deciding that, for once in her life, she needs to welcome things as what they are and not what they could be. Someone else can do that for her.

"I think that's enough for today."



Exhaustedly dragging her feet, Yachi finds a hunched over Kenma by the lockers. When she taps on his shoulder, he jumps with the reflex of a startled cat.

“Ah, Hitoka,” he gives her a glance before suspiciously leaning to peek behind a locker. He lets out a breath when he doesn’t find anyone he was looking for. “Why aren’t you at home yet?”

“I was helping Lev-san with studies...” she worriedly watches him sweat giant beads and look sickly pale. It really gnaws at her fingers. “Are you okay, Ken-“

He jumps up to shush her and, like a fearful animal, glances between them in the silent pause.

“Kenma?!” a voice, unknown for Yachi, calls out. The pudding-head in question jolts again and tugs at her hand to rush around the locker. They squish in the narrow shade of the locker’s side and stand still as statues – Kenma obviously hiding from the voice, and Yachi obviously frozen by the close contact. Oddly, he had a smell similar to Kuroo's.

A tapping of sandals against wood come and drop silent for a nervous, heart-clenching moment. Her little heart was thrashing around from her friend's unorthodox closeness and the chance of whoever was just a few paces away of finding them in this position. She was glad when the unknown sounds started to shuffle away, searching further down the hallway, far from the stunned couple.

“Sorry,” Kenma finally gives Yachi back the space she badly needed. She calms her heart palpitations while glancing around the corner to grab a peek of whom they had been hiding from. She only saw the disappearing figures of two of Kenma's classmates.

“Why are you hiding from them, Kenma-san?” her eyes turned back to him.

“I... was supposed to do a thing for my class... but I didn’t do it,” he shamefully bowed his head.

From the numerous talks with Nekoma's captain, Yachi could clearly guess what Kenma had been doing – video games. With a contained sigh, she drowsily asks something else. “What did you need to do?”

While he explained, she kindly nodded like an old, tired lady, taking out her notepad. Combining all that had happened today, she wonders how she hasn't collapsed from the work and stress. Had it been the new environment that had pushed her to further? She is sure that past Yachi had always hugged for Karasuno for support when things got wacky.

“I can help you with that,” her mouth was running faster than her thought process. All that her overworked brain caught in their conversation was that he needed help to choose… something. "When do you need it?"

He didn't answer right away, which prompted her to look up from her scribbled list of homeworks. His eyes silently, understandingly, allowed her inner body to take a breather. Like a shaman clairvoyantly knowing when she was ready to hear his answer, he said: "Tomorrow."

She chirped back much slower this time. "I'm sure we can do that! Uhm, what did you need again...?"

No pause this time. "To choose a theme for my class for tomorrows festival."

Yachi’s bag slides off her shoulder and drops to the floor. Her smile is still present, but shock had set in her eyes. “Eh?”

 

 

 

 

Yoko's stomach growled. Sunako confusedly eyed her friend. "Didn't you eat three melon breads during lunch?"

"I diiid, but the PE dressing rooms smelled of gyoza. Aneko said that you were the one that change the re-freshening system there."

"I… what?"

Chapter Text

Woozily stepping outside her room, Yachi, with tired eyes and a red forehead, gingerly rubs her temple. It's morning, and she notices that she's the lone living being in the flat. The only thing out of place were the two full bags of vegetables and ground meat. A pink sticky note with a barely legible ‘Bring back leftovers :)’ was left on them. Squinting her eyes, memories flood her.

She had agreed with Lev to split the costs, yet, when Nekomata heard word of their delicious plans, he had said he will cover the food costs. Well, by the load of the two plastic bags, he had bought way more than she bargained for.  From what Yachi remembered, he had plans with Naoi early in the morning, but would come visit the school in late evening.

Flipping the pink note over to check, she found a P.S. It read: ‘Use my bike to ride to school.’

Yachi tiredly sighs. “Not like that’ll be any easier to do,” she says while frowning at the enormous bags.

Folding up her sleeves, the tiny manager accepted that she’ll just be extra early today.



On the way, while struggling not to topple on the ground with the weight grinding the poor bike’s wheels down, she passes stray students that had the Nekoma High uniform - some had bags of paper and cloth, others had crafting supplies. They all made Yachi even more curious on what other classes had planned.

From what she had heard over the Nekoma team chat, Inouka's and Shibayama's classes had merged to make a haunted house. Although he didn't mention it, Yachi found out Fukunaga's class had created intricate paper sea creatures as an exhibit; Yamamoto was helping four classes at the same time; Kai had an outdoor event; Yaku's class was put to decorate the hallways, but, after that, he'll be monitoring around and participating other class events.

Yachi tried not to spit out her udon when Kuroo said he will be "Clairvoyantly swirling his magic 8-ball and telling people's fortunes" . Lev was excited for that while Yaku straightly threw their captain out of the group chat. He was let back in my Kai.

There was a steep curve that made her jump off the bike and walk on legs if she didn't want the heavy food with her hurl over. Passing a corner game store, she noticed a familiar, shy yet keen eyes through the window. Her stride slowed down to a stop, watching the pudding-head person walk out with a small casket in hand, intently scanning it. it.

Their eyes met when he sensed a gaze on him and looked up at her.

"Ah, Hitoka-san," he started, taking a glance at the rusted basket and its contents daring to spill out. How was she even driving with that monstrosity? "About yesterday."

Yachi jolted from the mention. She remembers! The thing he is about to discuss is of the conversation they had at the lockers. Or, lack of one.

When she had impulsively thrust herself to give a helping hand, he had plainly told her of an information to leave her wordless on the spot. It was not like him to not have a plan, but, by his words, he was not good with these kind of decisions.

He had explained the situation: in his classmates' want to include him more, much to his lonesome dismay, they had tasked him to decide the theme of their whole class. He had refused at first, yet they pressured; and it wasn't like he didn't try at all - suggestions of creating similar to last year themes were shyly offered, yet they were flung out the window. They wanted something simple but original - that everyone could try out.

The overworking of his defeated brain had made Kenma postpone any further idea creations, saying that he'll come up with that something . Although, he may have gone speechless for a far longer time than he had initially thought.

Yachi finding him behind the lockers had somehow been a blessing and a curse. A blessing because she so selflessly - unthinkingly - offered her help, and a curse due to them both now being stuck with the same pain.

At the time, she had been assaulted by such a shock that her brain poofed out of existence. Her only words to him had been: "Can we think about this tomorrow?" . He, the quiet observer that he was, complied, and they parted ways.

She had stressed over it all night, running feverish in the late hours of mind working overdrive. None of her tried and proven methods of stress relief helped her either. When she had finally fallen flat on her heated head to sleep, she had woken the next day with almost no recollection of whatever happened the day prior.

"Uhm, I tried to think of some themes, but…" her hands nervously clench the bike's handlebars.

"Oh, it's fine," he replies, and his eyes tell her that he means it. "I didn't expect an answer right away, Hitoka-san. We'll think of one together. There is enough time."

Yachi mutely nods, but there is nothing bubbling in her brain pot. There were things she vaguely remembers about yesterday, and things that don't even try to explain themselves right now. It's blank, and she can only stare at the item in Kenma's hand.

Stray cats started to wander around their legs. “Did you buy a new game?” she unintentionally asks.

He lifted the case, placidly showing it. “Yeah, I was bored, and this one has interesting game mechanics. Even has character photos in its manual.”

Yachi interestedly leans in while fighting the urge to not pry to have a look inside. That would be too straightforward and rude - but she wants to know! She hasn't seen many, since she's not that interested in video games, yet the game sheets were like a reference book to her. Her fingers flex on the handles, itching to see what's inside. 

He takes a step closer, mindful to not offend any felines between them. Cracking the case open, Yachi jolts in excitement. She's not great at video games, from the times that she had visited Yamaguchi, where Tsukishima had beaten her numerous times (although he really tried to lose), but she loved a good level or costume design. As a coming graphics designer, she finds small bits of clever ways to convey something without a need for detailed explanation to be the most important part in her field of work.

"Here," he hands her the game booklet, and she flips to the character page with a practised eye, to which Kenma blinks. "You've seen these kinds of things?"

"Yes- whoa! It’s so readable! Easy to use and understand!” her eyes sparkle in a designer like manner. Kenma doesn’t really get it like she does, but nods anyway. "I'm not great at the games themselves, but I love the simple yet telling design of the outfits…" she trails off, stilling in thought. Kenma tilts his head closer, inspecting her faraway eyes. “Outfit…” she mutters, then, with a realizing gasp, jittery leans so close to him that he almost falls on his knees from how near her sparkly eyes were.

“We can make costumes for your class!” her fingers slip through pages and run through options. “These look easy enough to make, and we can get the materials in the same place where Lev-kun's class got theirs.”

Kenma frowns at the latter part. “It's your class too, Hitoka-san.”

She confusedly, if not a little bitterly, smiles. “I'm only here for a month, Kenma-san. I doubt anyone will remember me after this.”

He glances away, emotionlessly chewing on her words, before looking back up. “I think we can also ask the photography club to help us take photos. Kai will probably allow us.”

“Wha-! Kai-san is in the photography club?” Yachi hand him back the case and takes hold of the bike's handle with Kenma falling in step with her, leaving the cats with small treats he stashes away in his pockets. A force of habit.

They had plenty of time to get to school, but the swimming breeze hastened their walk. During it, they spoke of their plan's details, circling the costumes they deemed as simplest to make and wrote down the materials they needed. Entering the school building, a wild Lev appeared.

“Yacchan! Kenma-kun!” he happily jumped over, making Kenma shy behind their blonde manager with a scowl at how loud the first year can be. “I thought you would get here faster, so I came early too!” he leans so close that Yachi needs to bend backwards, but the quiet setter supports her to not fall over completely.

“That's great, Lev-san. Did you bring the clothes?” He proudly nods and shows her the bag with their costumes inside. “Nekomata-san bought a bit too many ingredients,” she lifts her bag while Kenma shows the other one, which he gave to Lev, “but, maybe, we can have dinner afterwards with whatever is leftover.” Of course, she will save some for Nekomata.

Lev giddily shivers and takes her bag as well, proclaiming: “I can't wait!”

As he walks away, Yachi turns to Kenma. “Can I come to you later? I need to do some work before the event starts.”

He nods. “Okay, I'll hide behind the building in the meantime. Meet you at nine o'clock.”

Yachi confusedly blinks at his words, but, before she can ask on why, he whips out his PSP and slinks behind a locker, instantly disappearing.



She had prepared several batches before the whole event started, now slipping out of the apron and into her uniform - which was a simple blouse and skirt that they got for a song from a downtown store. The 'bunny tail' her classmate hooked for her was made from bundled up and combed yarn.

Setting aside her plate of pastries, she turned to see Lev - uniform with the whole floppy, cute bunny ears (courtesy of a fellow talented classmate) - hungrily drooping at the prepared foods. "Help me bring these on the main table?" she smiles when he whips his head eagerly to her with a nod. While she can only muster up the strength to pick up one full plate, he breezily takes two and follows with a pep in his step.

The 'cafe room' consisted of single tables pushed together and borrowed higher stands that were boxed around to make a bar. It divided the room in two with a cast over curtain to give a sorts of 'back room' for cooking and dressing. They threw over table cloth to make it look authentic. Some cute drawings were scribblet in colourful chalk over the classroom board with a menu of dishes and their prices in swirly curves.

Setting the meals down, they both inhale the heavenly smell of freshly baked goods and sigh in satisfaction.

"Hitoka-san," Yachi and Lev turned their heads to see Kenma peeking inside the doorway, golden ambers hiding under bangs yet firmly locked on her. She softly oh! 's and trots to him.

"Where are you going, Yacchan?" Lev curiously followed.

"I'm going to help Kenma-san prepare his class," she said, Kenma already shying away from the gathering people in the hallway. "We're going to propose a costume making theme. I'll be back when I finish!" she waves at the blinking Lev.

Almost out of the class, Yachi's hand tugs backwards, and she turns to see green slits stare back at her. “L-Lev-kun?”

“I wanna help too!” he grins. Out of their eyes, Kenma scrunches his face like an old mad.

"Oh, are you sure? Will the cafe-"

"Lev!" they both flinch. The silver haired boy turned to their english teacher menacingly glaring in the doorway. "You're coming with me to make up your last english test," his authoritarian voice urges the middle bocker to make a run for it, but the teacher grabs him like he's used to it. "You'll make it back - if you finish in time."

"Sorry, Yacchan!" Yachi watched Lev get dragged away to land she could no longer help him in. "I'll ace it and rush over to help!" and they disappeared behind a corner. She's jolted out of it when Kenma's voice beckons her to come.

When out, she was immediately forced to squeeze into the reserved boy to let a line of students with school equipment pass through. They move at a medium pace, some carrying quite a hefty amount of supplies of all kinds. When they pass, everyone resumes their jobs, engulfing the hall like a current. Kenma unfazedly starts to move while Yachi tries to not step on any posters on the floor or spill any bucket.

“Hitoka-san,” Yachi meekly shuffled closer to the wall, but a surprise touch to her hand made her look at Kenma. His hand held hers assuringly, his eyes only dancing with hers for a mere moment before blinking and twisting away, tugging for her to follow. She wordlessly followed, awed at the way she was reacting - easy breathing, light step, pleasant warmth.

While he leads her, her mind slowly blurred out the people, the background, the noise. There was only Kenma’s dual-toned locks slightly swishing, his white shirt that almost hid his physique, and the dry yet solid grip on her hand. She thinks she is imagining him walking a little bit straighter.

Like the time Hinata or Inouka, or even Lev whirled her off her unsure heels to find it more steadying when someone else was at your side. But, unlike the three forces of nature that they were, Kenma had a more grounding, sober air. She would feel ashamed if she said lazy and laid back, but sometimes he emitted those that she could not stop to wonder if he ever truly was passionate about the games he plays and the people he meets.

Focus comes back when they stop to open his class’ door and all the people that are in there turn their heads.

"Kenma," one of the boys greets, walking closer, surely a representative of the class. He folds his arms and arcs a brow.  "So, what's the theme for our class."

The setter answers straight: "Cosplay."

His classmate sputters in shock. Even Yachi almost spits, because cosplay ?! They agreed to make a few DIY outfits, not represent characters.

When she glances his way, she sees his face cringe in embarrassment. Nope, he just made a mistake.

Well , she sweatily thinks, it's not that far away from the truth either .

"We already have a list of what we need and designs, thanks to Hitoka-san," Kenma nods towards her and she blushes pink from his praise. "We're planning to do a photoshoot."

"I know a friend that is part of photography club," one of the students chirps, "I could ask him if he can lend us their photography printer."

Kenma nods again in approval. "Yeah, I asked one of the members, and they said we can use a camera and a tripod. I think we can also ask for the printer."

The boy that had started the conversation huffs from his nose. "Looks like we're doing it," the class representative looks at everyones' determined faces before giving an acknowledging nod at Yachi and Kenma. "What do you need us to do?"

Yachi's hand flexes from the feel of being accepted… and of something more. Looking down with another test flex, her heart flips when her eyes land on her and the setter's connected hands.

How could she forgeeet!! She speedily releases their connected hold and draws out the game booklet. Kenma doesn't even react.

"W-we chose designs from this gh-ame!" people gather around as she shows marked places, notes littered on corners, and listed papers between pages. They nod as she explains. With every word said, it becomes easier to talk; to the point she freely answers question.

Kenma only joined in when everyone was satisfied with the answers and starts instructing. Errand people are sent, tables are getting prepared, offers are being made - they are moving like a team under his command.

No, there's no need to worry , she thinks while watching them all work from the side-line. From the hidden certainty that peeks between his bangs and gold, Yachi is sure that Nekoma has a setter that just suits them.



She discreetly ran through the hallways, dodging students, props and teachers, rushing back to her designated class, hoping that Lev will be there and managing on his own.

Through the whole hallway where Lev’s class was, she could smell gyoza, and see an enthusiastic line of pupils and guests by the class' entrance. One of the classmates was politely instructing the row of people when she caught sight of the running blonde.

"Yachi-san!" she waved her over to the side, "your dumplings are really bringing in this whole crowd! Of course, our other dishes are selling as well, but yours is like shaved ice in summer!"

"Ah, I'm glad Lev-san was able to manage on his own," Yachi huffed out anxiety ridden air, feeling relieved.

The peppy girl gives a confused brow. "Oh, he isn't with you?" the blonde's star tail ruffles, her heart doing a punch in her chest. "We wondered where you both went, but were forced to use your previously made gyoza because the customers wanted to know where the smell came from. Sorry!"

"It- it's fine," Yachi was mostly grateful she was able to contribute on people enjoying their cafe, "but has no one seen Lev-san?"

"No, and we're running out of your pastries! You need to come in and make more," and with that, she hastily grasped Yachi's arm.

She tugged her through the busy doorway, swirled past the full tables and main self-made bar, and through another door that separated classes. From the apparent looks of things, her class had started to inhabit the neighboring, since they had an open cooking classroom that worked well with their event. To clarify herself, the girl said that they were willing to split the costs at the end of the day.

When they reached the busy kitchen, Yachi’s hands were put to work right away. Chop, mix, knead, fill, fold, repeat. She worked like a well-oiled machine, to which surrounding students worded their amazement. To her surprise, they asked her to teach them. Soon enough, everyone was exchanging different recommendations - not only on what to fill the gyoza with, but also other dishes.

An amazing feeling heats up in Yachi’s heart. “It’s fun,” she murmurs aloud with a shy smile to the dumpling in hand.

“Isn’t it?” comes the voice of the same lively girl that had dragged Yachi in. “Are you having lots of fun, Yachhan? Oop!” she quickly folds her hands over her mouth in shock. “Didn’t mean to call you that, Yachi-san! It slipped out…”

Yachi gives a warm smile with a shake of her head. “I don’t mind at all. Uhm, can I leave now, though? I promised Kenma that I will return.”

"Oh, for sure!” the girls emotions change like a whirlwind. “With the smell of delectable gyoza on you, you're practically a walking advertisement!" her smile turned scheming, mumbling a little too loudly, "we'll get the most visited shop in the whole school award, and I'm going to win that bet like a dry race." Yachi wasn't even going to question that. "You've helped plenty. Have fun now!" she waves with a wonderful smile before a loud crash makes her spin her head. “Tama! What did I tell you about throwing the dough that high?! I swear, you could become a pinch server of bakery...”



Lev leaves the teacher’s office utterly exhausted. It felt like his spirit was about to leave his body with a ‘sayonara’ .

“N-no!!” he shakes his head and slaps his cheeks. Passing students confusedly stuttered in their walks from the strange display before continuing. Squinting his green eyes open, a slow, self-satisfied smile drew on his lips. “Ī have to tell Yachhan,” he giddily murmurs, a shine in his eyes, “that I passed the test with flying colours!” Saying that made him feel like he could do a hundred blocks without pause.

A battle roar hollers through the hallway, shouting out all the other sounds, and Lev turns to the fastly approaching source.

Yamamoto looks like a wild, crazed animal, trampling everyone out of his way, manic eyes trained on the middle blocker. "Lev!" the way he roars makes the boy in question freeze in surprise, "I need your help!"

Lev can't even reply as he was yanked by a high-speed bullet Ace and whipped away.



Flash, flash, flash.

Yachi happily hands over photographs to a bubbly girl group. Kenma's class had managed to sow some flimsy yet wearable outfits, which were designed with just enough clips and clasps to be close to putting armor on. Although the wearers were limited on how much they could move, everyone participating were enjoying it. A group of girls had even created their small little make-up studio to give some a glow up - the rest either were continuing making and improving the clothes, or helping with the photo shoot. Even Kenma himself was wearing a curtain made cloak.

"Hitoka-san," Yachi turns her attention to Kenma and is met with a phone mirroring herself in the camera and Kenma in the corner. "Say cheese ," a ‘trch’ sounds from his phone, and an indicator that a photo has been taken pops up in the screen’s corner. "And send to Shouyo," he mutters loud enough for her to hear, but before she could respond to the sudden realization, he casually changes the topic. "How was your after-school tutoring with Lev?"

Yachi blinks at him dumbfoundly.

Tutoring, tutoring, tutori-

Her whole face bursts tomato red, steam whistling out of her ears like a locomotive. "Wha- wh-, it went gh- great!!" her stuttering and arm flailing made Kenma pause in his typing and look up.

His eyes dubiously sharpen and takes a step to her. “What happened.”

She instantly takes a step back, holding her hands up for distance between them. “Nuh-nothing!”

He takes another step, more steeledly, asking again. In turn, she takes another step back and repeats herself with more strain in her throat. This continues till they are walking full fast-paced distances through the door and into the hallway. Students jump out of their way because Kenma is sprouting a shadowy glare that could rival Kageyama’s, and Yachi thinks she knows why Hinata fears their setter more than anything.

Their road ends at an empty, unused side-hall corner that ends with a single dusty window at the end, to which she bumps her head. Her body tried to swivel out the sides, but Kenma calculatingly threw his arms on either side of her, trapping her like a caged, shivering crow.

His costume's long, gloomy sleeves encased her in his shadow, and the only light came from whatever passed through the dusted panes of the window behind. In it, she had to guess what his expression showed under the hood.

"Did something happen?"

In all honesty, she really can't remember a lot from her time spent with Lev yesterday. There was gyoza, PE with a stray encounter with Aneko, and a somewhat eventful study evening. She can't remember all the details of each happening, but some bits and pieces buzzes in her mind. Main reason why she burst out in flushed heat was the memory of Lev looking good in glasses.

"He has glasses…" she murmurs, reminiscing. "I didn't know Lev-san has glasses."

"...he has bad eyesight?" he leans away from her, awe peeking under the shadows.

"Reading glasses," she comments, repeating whatever she can remember. Kenma blinks to the side, never having seen the middle blocker wearing any spectacles. Then again, he never saw Lev read anything .

"We only studied and secretly ate gyoza leftovers," he watches her poke her fingers with a slight blush, "but I can't recall anything else. Yesterday is like a blur to me." Her big, brown doe eyes looked up at him, and he saw no hidden lies under them.

"Mm," he hums, not fully assured, yet not wanting in questioning for something that might even not be there. And Lev couldn't have done anything to her - the man once found five socks in his gym bag, and none of them matched. Although, as childish as he was, thanks to Yachi's presence, he has started to become more manageable - willing to consider others feelings and words.

Kenma was grateful for that, since he suspected Nekomata to suddenly drop the responsibility of the middle blocker on him. Not that the thought of knowing that would happen eases him.

He softly sighs and pushes off the wall, watching Yachi: "If anything bothers you, you know we are here." It felt cold when she drew herself as someone not exactly part of their team, a simple bystander in a match. He understands how hard it could be for her - whisked away to a strange place for an entire month, no familiar contact in sight. But they're here. He's here.

She nods knowingly, but her inner thoughts still linger on why she had been adamant in telling Kenma about the event. It felt… personal.

Is it good that she doesn't remember it?



"Yamamoto-san. Since you dragged me here against my will," Yamamoto adjusted the stage ropes and turned his head to Lev, who boredly sweeped the main stage. "I wanna make it more fun."

He purses his lips. They shouldn’t and just finish the job before the play starts. But it was… idle work. He guiltily lowers his head, "What do you have in mind?"

As he watches Lev happily twist with a childish smile on his face, Yamamoto’s lips thin. "A challenge!" maybe this is a bad idea - it is Lev after all. "You, me. Whoever does the most chores fastest - wins the title of team Ace!"

The current ace stares at their centre-of-the-world middle blocker.

When there are doubts about topics he can talk with girls or concerns of Nekoma’s volleyball future, one thing always brings his boisterous, wild fun back - the spunk of a volleyball player.

He gives Lev a rivaling grin. "You're on!"



Yaku's skin prickles and he shivers.

"Huh? What's wrong, Yaku-san?" Inouka asks, noticing his teammate's cold sweat.

"I'm not sure…" he mumbles, "but I'm certain it has something to do with Lev." Somehow, he has an inkling feeling that the concern came from the gym.

"Uhuh, you're just afraid that I'll beat you with my superior drawing skills," Kuroo eggs over the table, and Yaku almost breaks his pencil.

"If you think your ink splatter Yoda can somehow win the competition, then I believe you're sitting at the wrong table. The kiddy section is behind the wall."

Inouka ooo' s in his hand.



Yamamoto scratches his head as he and Lev stare at the stage.

The crooked stage lights and curtains - that's fixable. The tattered costumes on the other hand…

“Uh-oh,” Lev echos. Uh-oh indeed , Yamamoto thinks.

Okay, not everything is lost. In the dishevel lump of a clutter, there are still maybe… three? less damaged clothes that the theatre kids could still use. That’s better than nothing at all. They only need to carefully untange all the knots and steel from each other, and not like Lev is doing right now!!!

"W-wait, Lev! Don't pull so hard-!"

Riiiiip

Well, one less dress for the performance. They can still manage to clean up before the theatre club arrives. Then they can tell it was an accident - which it so was - and probably not get scolded-

"WHAT HAPPENED HERE??"

Yamamoto and Lev both cringe at the high shrill.



"You need our costumes?" Yachi incredulously asks Lev, a suspicious Kenma at her side.

"Yeah, yeah!" he bounces with a smile, but the setter sharpens his eyes. "They-" the green slits briefly make contact with the golden ones and instantly zips his mouth. He leans from foot to foot, coughing before speaking again. "Me and Yamamoto-san were… having a contest on who would help the fastest for the theatre club, but… we made a mess?"

Kenma glares while Yachi cocks her head worrysomely. "Uhm, how big of a mess are we talking about?"

He bows his head. "We destroyed half of their costume area…"

And Yachi though her spilling the paint bucket when she was in the theatre club was bad. “W-well, that doesn’t sound so bad. We can give the costumes to you, if it helps.” Lev looks up in relief.

Kenma’s hand rises, stepping in the conversation. “Hold right there, Lev,” he scrutinizes the middle blocker with his sharp, golden judgement till the taller boy’s grin wobbly caves in sweat. The calculating setter scowls. “You’re not telling everything. Spit it.”

Lev rubs his arm until he spills everything. “We... still need to pay the theatre club back…”

An electricity passes through Yachi’s heart, and Kenma disappointedly looks to the side, continuing: “How much?”

Lev starts to guiltily crawl on the floor from the pressure. “More than I can pay back in time. Yamamoto-san doesn’t have the money either.”

Kenma leans his head back, silently groaning to whomever might have brought this upon them. Oh, wait, one of them was right underneath him. Too bad he can’t do much about this, because any further displeasing shows will ruin Yachi’s promise to not cause trouble to the club. It kind of feels far fetched to think this was in some way her fault, but more boisterous incidents have happened in the boys volleyball with her arriving. And their student body president just doesn’t care for details.

“What about…” Yachi’s meek peep draws the air away from possible murder, “...the money we got from our pastry cafe?”

They both widen their eyes at her.

Word had spread about their cafe, and the “golden goose eggs” that were bringing in the customers. Everyone was trying to get at least one, so the income was skyrocketing through the roof by now. Most of it coming due to Yachi's dumplings, she held the highest paycheck - after everyone else's reward for helping to manage. Nonetheless, from Kenma’s speculations and calculations, they would have just enough to not get into debt.

Lev slams his head against the floor, proclaiming: “I’LL PAY YOU BACK!!”

Yachi’s hands shoot up like missiles, worry all over her face. “There’s no need, Lev-san!! Honestly, it’s better for the money to flow and economy to prosper and, uhm, aaaah!” she trails off in her nervous ramble.

While the blonde is still fumbling and mumbling, Kenma leans down to Lev’s eye level, a dangerous shadow swirling in his pupils. “Don’t do this again,” is his only warning, and Lev thinks Kenma could have killed him if he had not stopped glaring down at the sweating crab of a volleyball player.



"Heyyy, guess who won the drawing competition," Kuroo calls as he walks to them, a piece of paper that has something of a gremlin cat drawn on it. Kenma rolls his eyes while Yachi incredulously looks up at Kuroo. "Not me, but this guy over here," he points at a glaring Yaku following behind, who turns to them with a smug smirk, showing a very good drawing of Sakura Kinomoto, a bag of presents and ' 1st place ' attached to it. Inouke was with them too, a smaller bag of presents and ' 3rd place ' dangling on his arm. His drawing was of a cute puppy.

Their little volleyball circle grew when Kai joined in a full wedding dress with a fake bouquet, to which Kuroo guffaked and asked whom the lucky guy was. The vice-captain took it in kind and said he was in a race - people had to draw numbers to wear an outfit and run in it. He didn't win, but, just to show off, was allowed to walk around in the gown for a while longer.

Fukunaga came with a handful of paper crafted squids and simply said: "I got carried away." Shibayama had face paint messily scrubbed off his face. Coach Nekomata and Naoi spectacularly made in time to watch the last event for the day.

"It looks rather strange with our terribly made wardrobe," Yachi muses to Kenma, who grimaces when the main lead flings up the hat he had painstakingly created and it descends into broken ribbons. Made a showy spectacle for the audience though.

Even if their class had ran through all the trouble to get the materials, contact outside people, prick their fingers and groan at the frustration - in the end, it was fun. Not so different from what everyday demands, yet, from his inner belief that fun is hard to come by, Kenma thinks that Yachi expanded his spectre of what fun can be.

Oddly, he reflects, it’s always the bubbly, sunny ones that change his thinking. 

When the play ends, their handmade clothes are no less suited to wear than the tatters before. Fukunaga says that the doll club will gladly accept any leftover fabric. Lev sulkingly hands over the larger portion of what they had made off at the cafe, and promises to never be so reckless again. Yachi is the only one that wholeheartedly believes him.



“Vefovefs!!” Inouka and Shibayama guzzle down whatever they can get their hands on while Yaku tries to control them. Even Nekomata isn’t discreet in his approach to praise all the food. While everyone is enjoying themselves and more, Lev quietly sits with a hunched back between Yachi and Kenma, nothing on his plate and chopsticks untouched.

The blonde manager notices this and leans in. “What’s wrong, Lev-san?” she curiously palms her hand on his forehead, her voice as private as possible, “are you feeling unwell?”

For a fraction of a moment, he leans into her touch, but quickly shakes his head. “No, I just think I can’t eat due to the things I did today.”

Yachi sympathetically smiles. “Lev-san, one bad deed can’t define all the good you did today,” she puts some snacks on his plate she had seen him eye hungrily, “besides, you redeemed yourself by paying back and saying your sorry.” She puts up a satisfied smile. “You did everything right and don’t need to worry anymore. Now eat.”

At first, his smile comes a little unwillingly, but then, as if her words finally bumped around in his head to assure his heart, he smiles more broadly - the grin she was most used on him - and grabs for his full plate.

In that moment, there was only one person that saw it. The sorrowful look of eyes full of accepted longing, of words never daring to escape and say ‘stay’ . Those are the scenes not many people notice, yet always wistfully seek.

But Kuroo has always been sharp. However, this time, he had wished to had never caught the way Kenma watched Yachi, a lonely blink in his golden, shimmerless eyes. Somehow, he knows all of his teammates shared this; even he.

Pitilessly, a month will pass, and a tiny star will disappear from their world.