Chapter 8:

Chapter 8 - Nightmare

Blondie (On Hiatus)

Ayame hurried home as quickly as she could on foot- a mistake she knew she would later regret. Her mother was horrible, and only worse when in a foul mood. But she knew she would have to return home sooner or later. It would be better to get it over with.Bookmark here

Or at least, that's what she tried to convince herself of.Bookmark here

By the time she reached the apartment complex, the girl's heart was pounding out of pure fear and adrenaline. Her mother was waiting outside for her, looking impatient.Bookmark here

Nadia was surprisingly sober this time, and wore casual clothes, her blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail. The woman may have looked like any other foreigner, but Ayame couldn't unsee the monster that lurked beneath the glamorous makeup.Bookmark here

She stalked up to the girl, snatching a fistful of her hair and dragging her towards the drab apartment, careless towards the idea of any witnesses.Bookmark here

"O-Ow!" Ayame resisted and struggled to escape her grasp, yanking on her wrist and trying to dig her heels into the ground. "Let go!"Bookmark here

However, Nadia was stronger than she looked, and Ayame was exhausted from her hour-long journey walking home.Bookmark here

Once behind closed doors, Nadia shoved the girl to the ground, pointing a manicured finger at her with furrowed brows. Bookmark here

"Where were you?! Do you know how embarrassing it was to bring a client home to a mess everywhere?! You didn't even do the bare minimum, like picking these up!" The woman glared, hurling an empty beer can at her. It struck Ayame in the face, and a sharp edge on the pull-tab scratched her cheek.Bookmark here

"I'm sorry..." Ayame muttered, her hand coming up to cover the small mark, her eyes beginning to tear up. Nadia noticed quickly.Bookmark here

"Why are you crying like a child?" She scoffed. "Stop being so dramatic. It barely even hit you. Back in my country, if we misbehaved, we would've been left outside in the cold- naked. You're lucky to have a mother who loves you."Bookmark here

Nadia stood above her daughter, glowering down at her. Ayame's caramel eyes bleakly stared back, dripping with tears that rolled down her cheeks.Bookmark here

The woman huffed, turning away.Bookmark here

"I'm getting ready to go to work. Clean up before I get back." Bookmark here

"Yes mother..." Ayame bowed her head meekly, watching her mother walk away, footsteps disappearing into her bedroom.Bookmark here

Sniffling, the blonde girl wiped away her tears, getting up to start cleaning. Her cheek stung as she picked up the beer can that lay next to her, surveying the apartment.Bookmark here

Empty alcohol containers and food wrappers littered the coffee table, a thin layer of dust beginning to settle on the furniture. Both the couch and rug looked filthy. In the kitchen, the counters were covered with papers and there was a mountain of dirty dishes in the sink, the trash beginning to overflow. The bathroom was in a similar state, the counters cluttered and the hamper full of clothes that needed to be washed. The mirror was dirty with fingerprints, and the tile above the bathtub looked like it was starting to grow mold again.Bookmark here

The task at hand filled Ayame with dread. The amount of cleaning she'd have to do would take hours of hard work.Bookmark here

Could she get everything done in time?Bookmark here

Glancing towards Nadia's bedroom, she winced. There was no time to waste.Bookmark here

She quickly gathered the necessary cleaning supplies, getting to work. Bookmark here

"I expect this place to be spotless when I come back." Nadia had said on her way out, her tone sharp and authoritative. "So don't even think about cutting corners, or else."Bookmark here

"...Yes, mother."Bookmark here

By the time Ayame finally finished, it was nearly 8 PM. She was exhausted, and all she wanted to do was sleep her problems away. After eating a cup of instant noodles, the girl fell into bed, letting sleep overtake her mind.Bookmark here

Ayame didn't leave her bedroom for much of the next day, wanting to avoid Nadia's vicious, hungover self at all costs.Bookmark here

Was the apartment clean enough? Had she forgotten about anything she was meant to do?Bookmark here

The girl didn't relax until her mother left that evening for work, the apartment empty and quiet. Her remaining homework kept her busy into the night, until she finally allowed herself to rest once again.Bookmark here

~•~Bookmark here

Ayame wandered aimlessly through the streets, the area around her shrouded in a dense fog, with the faint scent of alcohol lingering in the air. Bookmark here

She could see nothing, until neon lights slowly flickered on in the distance- the only thing that existed for miles. Bookmark here

As she walked further, a cold wind rushed through her. Ayame shivered, hugging herself to keep warm. She pressed on.Bookmark here

The ground quietly rumbled.Bookmark here

When she looked down, she noticed a small crack in the sidewalk. Staring at it curiously, she watched as it grew larger, splintering into more of them, widening until the web of cracks split open into a void.Bookmark here

The girl nervously peered inside, unaware that the ground below her was still crumbling. Bookmark here

It broke apart completely, swallowing her whole.Bookmark here

She couldn't find her voice, unable to even scream as she went plunging down the void, blonde hair blowing around her head. The area surrounding her now glowed with bright red and orange fire.Bookmark here

Was this what Hell looked like? Bookmark here

Her question was interrupted as she suddenly landed on a strange cloud.Bookmark here

Disoriented, Ayame tried to catch her breath, the red hellscape seeming to change before her very eyes, clouds shifting and coming together to form a tatami room. Her eyes darted around for anything that would help her make sense of what was going on.Bookmark here

What was this place? Why was she there?Bookmark here

The shoji door slid open.Bookmark here

Kenma and Kuroo stood in the doorway, watching her. They looked how the always did- except for their eyes. They were completely blacked out, with no semblance of life. It was like they were demons or monsters, but perfect replicas otherwise.Bookmark here

It wasn't them, yet it was- and that terrified her. Bookmark here

The two stood there, blankly staring as the tatami mats below ripped open. Large, gnarled hands reached out, their arms thin, long, and boney.Bookmark here

"Ah!" She screamed, running from them and fearfully backing up against the wall. Kenma and Kuroo stepped into the room, guarding the entrance.Bookmark here

"Help me!" Bookmark here

They ignored her pleas as the demonic hands grabbed her legs, pulling her towards them as they fully emerged, their heads and bodies tearing through the thick mats. Bookmark here

She recognized them. She had been haunted by them her whole life. Bookmark here

They laughed, and she screamed as they stripped away her clothes.Bookmark here

"Little Miss Ayame-chan~"Bookmark here

"You're so beautiful~"Bookmark here

"We'll love you forever~"Bookmark here

"Stop it! Let me go! Kenma, help me!" The blonde girl cried out to him. Bookmark here

He only stood and watched. Bookmark here

"Why would I do that?" His question was careless, indifferent.Bookmark here

Ayame sobbed as they violated her body, the hands staining her with black handprints. Bookmark here

Kuroo approached her, his black eyes boring into hers,Bookmark here

"K-Kuroo, please! H-Help me!" The girl let out strained sobs as the demons clung to her naked body, her cries echoing throughout the tatami room.Bookmark here

His hand reached up to caress her cheek, and she leaned in, hoping he would get rid of them.Bookmark here

But then he seized her by the hair, yanking her nude body away from the demons. He dangled her above the hole they crawled out of, where they still reached for her, still whispering praises.Bookmark here

"Do what you want with her." He instructed as he dropped the girl, allowing the demons to take her, crawling back through their hole. Bookmark here

"No! Wait!" She pleaded, thrashing about.Bookmark here

But one more demon emerged. Bookmark here

It was her mother. Bookmark here

Nadia pressed her lips to Kuroo's, smirking as she pulled away to stroke Kenma's cheek.Bookmark here

"You boys did well. Now- you," Her black eyes bore into Ayame. "It's time to go where you belong~" Bookmark here

"No!" Ayame cried out, before the demons finally yanked her down into the fiery depths below.Bookmark here

~•~Bookmark here

Ayame awoke with a gasp, heart pounding as she bolted upright. For a moment, she was stunned, before feeling for her phone to check the time. She turned it on, lighting up the room.Bookmark here

4:48 AM Bookmark here

Falling back against the bed, she finally became aware of the noises coming from her mother's bedroom. Through the thin walls, she could make out a man's low groaning, combined with Nadia's seductive purr and the squeaking of a mattress.Bookmark here

Ayame was quick to get up and look for her headphones, covering her head with a pillow and blasting music to block out the lewd sounds. She stayed like that until the sun rose.Bookmark here

The girl had been awake for over an hour when she finally dragged herself out of bed, getting dressed and tiptoeing to the bathroom to freshen up. It didn't take long for her to finish, locking the front door and pulling her shoes on outside.Bookmark here

As she walked, her legs seemed to take her straight to the train station, as if on auto-pilot. For once, she completely ignored anyone who looked her direction, swiping her IC card as she walked through the gates.Bookmark here

Ayame put her headphones back in as she waited for the next train to arrive, leaning against a column and closing her eyes, tuning out the world.Bookmark here

She wasn't sure how much time had passed when she felt a hand on her shoulder, one of her earbuds falling out. She glared up at the offender, annoyed by the disruption.Bookmark here

Kuroo recoiled, taken off guard by the intensity of her expression. Even though she suddenly ran off the other day, hadn't things improved between them? Bookmark here

Maybe it had just been wishful thinking.Bookmark here

As he studied her appearance, concern seemed to cross his features. Her eyes were dull, dark bags apparent under them, and he noticed a small mark on her cheek. Although faded, it was still red.Bookmark here

"You okay, Aya-chan?" Kuroo asked.Bookmark here

She stayed silent, not wanting to engage with him, the nightmare itching up her back cruelly. Bookmark here

As their train pulled up, Kenma approached the pair.Bookmark here

"Don't." He softly warned Kuroo, offering a can of coffee to the girl. Without looking up, Ayame wordlessly accepted it, drinking it like a lifeline.Bookmark here

As the automatic doors slid open, she discarded the empty can, boarding the train without even bothering to thank him.Bookmark here

"What's going on?" Kuroo mumbled to Kenma as the followed her inside, unable to grab nearby seats. Bookmark here

"I don't know. She didn't talk to me much this weekend."Bookmark here

"Something must've happened- what should we do?"Bookmark here

"There's not much we can do." The shorter boy stared out the window.Bookmark here

"There has to be something!" Kuroo insisted. "Anything at all?"Bookmark here

Kenma shook his head.Bookmark here

"...It's not as easy as you think it is."Bookmark here

Kuroo bit his lip.Bookmark here

"What if she gets worse? She looks ready to drop dead."Bookmark here

Kenma sighed.Bookmark here

"I won't let that happen..."Bookmark here

For Ayame, both the train ride and school day seemed to be over sooner than she expected. Maybe it was because she was barely conscious through any of it. Maybe it was because she listened to music until her phone died.Bookmark here

The final bell rang, and the girl slowly got up from her seat. She knew that'd she have to face the boys again- the two that she had been so distant to that morning. Guilt pooled in her stomach.Bookmark here

Would they be upset with her?Bookmark here

Taking a deep breath, Ayame mustered up the courage to walk downstairs, heading towards the gymnasium, her blonde hair standing out amongst the dark-haired students. Feeling like all eyes were on her, she picked up the pace, hurrying outside and towards the gym.Bookmark here

Once inside the building, she let out a sigh of relief, thankful that no one was there yet. Bookmark here

"Probably still changing..." She muttered to herself, dropping her bag onto the bench.Bookmark here

Not wanting to waste time, she quickly got to work preparing towels, filling up water bottles, and even pulling out the volleyball cart. Yawning, she pushed it to where it where the nets would be, tiredly returning to the bench.Bookmark here

A quick nap wouldn't hurt, right? She'd be sure to get up once practice finally started.Bookmark here

Ayame lay down, letting her eyes flutter shut, and drifted off to sleep.Bookmark here

~•~Bookmark here

"Should we wake her up?"Bookmark here

"You can't just bother a sleeping angel! She looks peaceful!" Bookmark here

"Shut it, Yamamoto." There was a smacking sound, followed by a grunt. Bookmark here

"What was that for?!"Bookmark here

Ayame groaned, her light brown eyes slowly opening. There stood a crowd of boys.Bookmark here

That instantly woke her up.Bookmark here

Gasping, she jumped, but the sudden movement caused her to fall off the bench, landing on the ground and smacking the back of her head.Bookmark here

"Oh my god!"Bookmark here

"Great going, Yamamoto!" Someone said sarcastically.Bookmark here

"What did I do?!"Bookmark here

"Is she okay?"Bookmark here

"...What the hell is wrong with you? I was asleep..." She groaned, rubbing her head as she began to get up.Bookmark here

"Sorry about that. How'd you sleep?" Yaku asked, offering a hand and helping her stand upright. Bookmark here

"Like shit. Is practice over? Did I sleep through the whole thing?"Bookmark here

"Yeah, we couldn't just wake you up. We'd feel bad about it."Bookmark here

The others nodded in agreement.Bookmark here

"Anything important that I need to know about?" She mumbled, glancing around. The gym was clean, as if they had just put their equipment away.Bookmark here

It was then that Coach Naoi busted through the door, panting.Bookmark here

"Alright everyone, gather around- I have some news!"Bookmark here

Yaku gently placed the girl back on the bench as he made his way into the circle. Kuroo and Kenma both glanced at her in worry before the male in front of them began his announcement. Bookmark here

"Okay, so as all of you already know, our training camp is next week."Bookmark here

The team nodded, murmuring things she couldn't make out. Ayame was surprised by this, seemingly out of the loop. Bookmark here

"Well, I got in touch with a pretty adamant teacher, and we agreed to do a practice game with his team after our match with Tsukinokizawa High."Bookmark here

"What's the name of this other school?" Kuroo inquired.Bookmark here

"Karasuno High School."Bookmark here

The gymnasium erupted into chaos, causing Ayame's head to pound.Bookmark here

"Would you all shut up?!" She shouted, causing the team to quiet down. Coach Naoi coughed, giving her a thankful smile. Bookmark here

"Aren't they our old rivals or somethin'?" Yamamoto asked.Bookmark here

"Yeah, they have been for a long time." Yaku replied.Bookmark here

"I heard that both teams were so good that people from all over came to watch!" Inuoka beamed at this. "What was it they called it?"Bookmark here

"The Dumpster Showdown." Shibayama quickly answered.Bookmark here

"Oh, that's right!"Bookmark here

Ayame was definitely out of the loop now. She rubbed her head, sighing.Bookmark here

"Dumpster Showdown? A training camp? Since when?" Bookmark here

"Ah, that's right- Takahashi-san, you joined the team a bit too late to have heard about that." Coach Naoi mused. "Don't worry, I'll fill you in next time."Bookmark here

"Thanks."Bookmark here

With that, practice soon came to an end.Bookmark here

The rest of the week was a blur as Ayame slowly assimilated into the team. She became more familiar with the members and their various personalities, offering them water and complimenting their improving performance. Her sketchbook became filled with the different positions of volleyball players- spiking, blocking, setting, and receiving, with notes on their muscles. The mood was brighter, more lively. Laughter and friendly banter increased.Bookmark here

It was as if the team dynamic had changed. Even the coaches seemed different somehow.Bookmark here

During Friday's afternoon practice, Ayame was seated on a bench, her blonde hair pulled up into a high ponytail, and her brown eyes narrowed in focus as she drew Kenma setting a spike for a shouting Yamamoto, jotting a note down next to the sketch.Bookmark here

He's cocky prideful about being the ace. Kenma is still neutral.Bookmark here

Coach Nekomata blew his whistle, signaling that it was time to clean up. Ayame closed her sketchbook, vowing to fill in the details at a later time as she went to go help out at the drink cooler.Bookmark here

Coach Naoi got up from the bench, going into the storage room and returning with a large box in his arms.Bookmark here

"Alright, gather around! Come get your uniforms!" He called, setting it down and cutting the tape.Bookmark here

Ayame curiously watched as the boys dropped what they were doing, running over and excitedly receiving their jerseys, although Kenma was as indifferent as ever.Bookmark here

Coach Nekomata brought out a separate, smaller box, holding it out to the blonde.Bookmark here

"It was a last-minute order, but this one is yours. Welcome to the team, Takahashi-san." The old man smiled kindly at her. Surprised by the gift, she hesitated, before accepting it.Bookmark here

"Thank you, Coach." Ayame set the box on the bench, opening it finding a red track suit inside. Across the jacket's shoulder blades, NEKOMA was written in a bold white font. Eyes widening, she was quick to put it on, zipping it shut.Bookmark here

A perfect fit.Bookmark here

"Not bad." Kenma remarked, coming up next to her, his red jersey tucked under his arms. Bookmark here

"Thanks." She flashed him a grin. "I'll wear it to the camp."Bookmark here

"You'd better, Manager Takahashi." Kenma offered her a soft smile, sitting down next to her.Bookmark here

As Ayame watched the team happily dig into the box of uniforms, something suddenly dawned on her.Bookmark here

The training camp would begin in just a few days, and she would be gone for an entire week.Bookmark here

Could she get away with that?Bookmark here

Blondie (On Hiatus)

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