Ayame was pissed. Royally pissed.
The blonde did not like feeling responsible for injuring Kuroo. She'd have to face Coach Nekomata after the others had told him about their incident. Fortunately though, he seemed to like her, so hopefully he wouldn’t be angry that she harmed his team's captain.
“What’s with that face, Aya-chan?” Kuroo inquired as they headed back to practice. She simply ignored him, opening the gymnasium door to reveal absolute chaos. The boys were loud, disorderly, and unfocused. Even the coaches didn't seem to be getting through to them
“Shut up and pull yourselves together, you idiots!” Ayame's authoritative voice boomed throughout the gym. The building fell silent as the boys stared at her, wide-eyed and slack-jawed. Even Coach Nekomata was surprised by her outburst. The girl was usually quiet during practice, so witnessing this brought an amused smile to his round, wrinkled face.
Kuroo nonchalantly approached Coach Nekomata and Coach Naoi to assure them that he was fine, but also mentioned the idea of Ayame potentially becoming their manager. Meanwhile, the girl scolded the team, telling to be more careful with their stray volleyballs.
“We’re sorry, Takahashi-san!” They apologized in unison, bowing in a straight line.
"It's okay." Ayame sighed, before heading back to the bench. She sat next to Coach Nekomata, nervous about what he might say. Kuroo had left to join the others.
“So, I heard you were interested in becoming our manager.” The old man remarked.
“Yeah, I’m not in a club, and since I’m here all the time, I thought I might as well...” She felt awkward, squirming slightly. “And I...uh, like volleyball anyway, so...“
“I think that’s a great idea." Coach Naoi mused.
"Yes, yes. We need someone like you to keep these hooligans in line, and it seems everyone is quite fond of you. The captain personally recommended you for the position.”
“Well, I don’t know about that...but maybe I’ll try it.” The girl felt the tips of her ears heat up.
”You’ll mostly have to prepare water bottles and sweat towels for them, encourage them when they feel down, and scold them when they get off-task.” The old man listed the job's responsibilities as Ayame grabbed her sketchbook, jotting down notes.
“If they decide to act like children, then incentivize them with punishment laps and exercises, especially with the rambunctious ones.” Coach Naoi added.
“Takahashi-san, it seems you’re acting like a manager already. Look at them- they seemed rather encouraged.” Coach Nekomata pointed out.
Confused, Ayame looked over at the team. They did seem to be putting more effort into their ball control. The old man felt refreshed by her influence, looking down at her sketchbook and taking notice of a page with one of his players on it. Recalling earlier events, he smiled at her.
“Those drawings are rather impressive. Maybe joining our team will teach you how to create movement, so take this as a learning experience as well.” He gently places his hand on her shoulder. “I'm certain that you will do an amazing job.”
"Thank you, sir."
After her discussion with the coaches, Ayame had decided to apply as a manager after all. After being accepted, she got started on her new manager duties, handing out water bottles at the end of practice. Yaku and Kai were both drinking theirs as she passed one to Kuroo, her mind wandering.
“Thanks Aya-chan. So it looks like you’re our manager now~” The captain mused.
“What?" She snapped out of it. "Oh yeah, I guess so." Ayame gave water bottles to Kenma and Fukunaga as the team cleaned up the gym.
The next to approach the girl was Yamamoto, one of the more wild members. His dyed hair was styled into a mohawk, and he towered over her. Despite his intimidating appearance, he felt rather shy and nervous, his face flushing red as she handed him water.
"Oh my god, she's so pretty! I can't believe we finally have such a perfect female manager!"
"Yamamoto, right? Are you okay?" Ayame looked up at him.
"Y-Yes!" He could practically see shoujo anime sparkles around her, but in reality, the girl looked rather uncomfortable. Backing away from him, she moved towards the first-years, Yamamoto almost crying out as she left.
Kenma and Fukunaga approached Yamamoto from behind, giving him a kick to the back of his knees, the delinquent falling forward.
"Ow! Hey, what the hell?!" Anger was evident on his face, though the second-years only shrugged before jogging off. Ayame glanced over, and Yamamoto saw a holy aura around her, his eyes seeming to tear up. His infatuation was instantaneous.
Ayame turned back to Inouka, the hyperactive first-year who was telling her about his day. She handed him a bottle and listened with a smile on her face, but from across the court, Kuroo noticed how surface-level it seemed.
Shibayama finally put an end to the boy's blabbering, slightly stammering as he pointed out how many large water bottles she was holding- she somehow held four. He kindly takes two from her arms, passing one to Teshiro and keeping one for himself.
"Thank you, Takahashi-senpai!" The first-years said in unison.
"No, thank you for taking them, they were getting pretty heavy." She smiled, the boys blushing. With that, Ayame returned to the bench to collect her belongings, seeing as practice was over, and walked out of the gymnasium. The coaches locked the building up as the team went to go change out of their sweaty clothes.
Kenma was the first to leave the clubroom, back in his school uniform and with his PSP in hand.
"You need to watch where you're going, Kenma! You're going to crash into something one of these days!" Ayame chided as he walked towards her without looking up.
"I know exactly where I'm going." He nonchalantly replied, as Kuroo stepped outside.
"Now now, children, we should get going~" The captain teased, leading the way. Kenma ignored him and Ayame rolled her eyes, but they followed him off campus, making it to the train station in record time. Ayame was the first to board their train, followed by the boys, crammed next to a variety of people- businessmen, students of all ages, and even a few foreigners. Intrigued, she begun to study them, until her eyes landed on a certain woman.
She was blonde too.
Ayame begun to quiver, heart racing. Kenma was the first to sense her anxiety, putting a reassuring hand on her shoulder, squeezing softly.
"She's just a tourist, not her..." He whispered, trying to not draw unwanted attention to her unstable state, though the girl was not so easily pacified. Kuroo overheard this, glancing around and wondering what was going on.
‘Another blonde woman...this always happens when there's one nearby. What's bothering her..?’
When their stop came up, Kenma was quick to act, getting Ayame out of there, Kuroo trailing behind them. It was then that the girl seemed to calm down, her heartbeat slowing and her jumbled mind becoming more composed.
"Are you alright..?"
"Yeah...thank you..." Ayame murmured.
"Good...If you need to, you can stay over tonight." Kenma offered, having long since put his console away, focused on her. Kuroo watched their interaction, realizing just how serious the situation must be.
”I can't keep imposing on you and your family." She shook her head, quickly denying the request. "I’ll be okay.”
"It's no trouble, you know."
"I'll be fine, I promise." Ayame insisted.
"Alright then..." Kenma pulled her into an uncharacteristic hug, their bags bumping as she hugged back.
Kuroo's chest seemed to tighten, though he reminded himself that Ayame had been pretty shaken up. Besides, the pair were only friends.
Ayame pulled away from the hug, ruffling Kenma's dyed hair and smiling gently. Kuroo blushed at the sight.
Her smile felt real this time.
The blonde silently glanced at Kuroo, that smile now gone. Not having anything to say to him, she began to walk away, the boys watching her retreating form.
“Kenma, can I sleep over tonight?” The captain asked.
”You live next door. Why do you want to?”
"Why not?" He shrugged, turning and walking towards their neighborhood.
"Fine, I guess." Kenma watched as Ayame stopped to wave, and since Kuroo was no longer looking, changed direction. Her path led her to Kabukicho, Shinjuku.
Japan’s red light-district.