Disclaimer: I do not own Prince of Tennis

Beta: CrystalKitteN-MeW

A/N: I felt like writing my take on what Atobe was thinking during the Rikkai vs. Seigaku game at the Nationals, and me being a fan of Royal, it took a certain turn. I know I'm not the first to do this, but I hope my take on it is at least slightly original.

All comments/criticism is much appreciated.

He is unreachable, unattainable, too far from his reach. His power shines brighter every moment, even when he is losing. He is the pure image of the power that makes them all, makes Atobe strive so hard.

At one time he had wanted nothing more than to beat Tezuka, and when he finally achieved that goal, it felt empty. It was not a victory that satisfied him as he had thought it would be. Destroying Tezuka's arm had not been enough to satisfy him.

So Tezuka still remained as an unreachable goal to him.

Other opponents that rivalled with Tezuka appeared in his path. Sanada, Echizen - both worthy of his respect and attention, but still he refused to let go of Tezuka's image as the one that was truly his rival. And he knew those two felt the same.

When hearing Echizen wasn't there to play his match against Yukimura, without thinking Atobe offered his help. He needed to see the boy play, for reasons that were not clear even to him self. It didn't matter, anyway. He just needed to see the boy play, then it would be clear, that he knew, knew.

Listening to the broadcast of the game between Tezuka and Sanada only increased his respect and desire to surpass Tezuka. But when he realized what Tezuka was doing, stretching the match for Echizen, Atobe grew furious. That Tezuka would do so much for the boy… How dared he go so far for Echizen?

When finally seeing the boy before him, Atobe was rendered speechless. Without his memories, without his arrogance, his talents… Was it truly Echizen standing before him, the timid boy that gave him a nervous smile and a polite bow? No, it was an alien, a stranger whose presence in Echizen's body shook Atobe.

He would have given anything for the boy to return to normal. Anything.

When he finally saw that smirk, Atobe smiled. He could not help but laugh, knowing that even if the opponent would be Yukimura, it wasn't an obstacle that would stop Echizen.

That knowledge brought with it another one. Tezuka was no longer the person that occupied Atobe's thoughts. Echizen had taken that role from his captain.