under the demure light of stagnancy

As Friedrich Nietzsche once told, "he who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you."

"I chose to be the antagonist." Akashi disclosed firmly a week after the Winter Cup. Across from him were the rest of the Generation of Miracles, each suffering from their own defeat and redefined in their wins. Oddly content as he stood there, hands delved into his pockets to protect them from the bitter cold he smiled at them. A smile full of bittersweet guilt and regret, eyes laced with unpalatable longing.

"I chose to be the antagonist." He repeated before his old team; his only team that he could ever ask for forgiveness, for judgment, the team that he lead, and developed, and had longed for while transitioning to Kyoto. A team wherein his view was stagnant and faltering but he proved to be blind, his world colored by naivety and arrogance.

By the time he had realized his errors it was too late to do anything, he had lost his team to the hardships of youthful pride and obstruct domination. Daiki had fallen into the haze of disinterest at the risk of his own body; skipping practice, and pushing his tense body through matches, not one to look after himself to make sure he didn't injure his still-developing body.

Shintarou, having care too much in his own indirect way, grew cold to distance himself from teammates that were less like a team and more self-reliant and independent working under the faux notion of being a cohesive unit. As the matches flashed by, he noticed that the offerings of lucky items grew less and staggered before tapering off quietly and without notice. He closed up to hide himself from the hurt that gathered in Teikou, to save himself from lingering disinterest.

Already bored with basketball, it was up to him to guide Atsushi into a life that lead not into a steady waste of snacking, sleeping, and muttered complaints. It was important to as a friend and as a captain to help give Atsushi something to look forward to, to live and not just exist. To find with new eyes the joys that could be had beyond convenience stores and the bore of dull repetition.

And Ryouta, who first started off with the excited curiosity of almost childish delight at having finally finding a challenge and being able to test the limits of his potential, grew more and more despondent without even realizing it. He never figured out that his idolization of both Daiki and Tetsuya saved him from recognizing it himself, ignorant of the arrogance that filtered in through his plays.

He failed Tetsuya, who he had helped with the basis of a style but never pushing the other to scope out the possibilities, to learn the basics, to develop, and bridge into something further. He was lost in a never-shifting basketball routine, never receiving the care to go beyond what he knew, and it hurt but he still took pride that Tetsuya was given the encouragement to progress further and further from the lamented fragments of stagnancy.

And he, who denied Tetsuya the hand to bring forward, and instead allowed the other to wither and fray in discontent, insecurity, and increasing sense of worthlessness. And he, who ignored the increasing worries of Satsuki as she was forced to watch as her friends were thrust down into a damning path unable to help them herself, not being able to get through to them.

He failed himself, for not realizing what path he was leading them down, filled with gaping holes as the thought of change escaped him, placing his trust in complacency and routine. He overlooked the decreasing experience of the other club members and failed the Teikou Basketball Club as a whole but even more so with his regulars. He grew arrogant and left so many people behind because he grew too confident that he never looked back deeming his mistakes inconsequential when they weren't, and it shattered the team from within.

"Bear whatever ill-will you have towards me…" Akashi breathed under the silent but judgmental eyes before him; at least they have given him the civility of hearing him out. "I chose so I could give you the obscurity of being blameless. I chose to become the person I was during the tournament to give you amenity from the bystanders."

Pausing to look across the emotions displayed on his friends', former friends', (were they strangers now?), faces, he resisted the urge to look away as the feelings of regret and guilt rose through him. He owed them that much to not look away from the depths of their feelings after breaking the rusted and fragile trust that they still had with each other.

"I took the reputation of the Generation of Miracles, and delivered it upon myself. I took the fear, and the taint, so you all can live without it." Thoughts raced through as he spoke; dumping all the truths and giving up the façade he developed to help the others, never thinking of himself, but only to repent for allowing them to go so far unchecked.

"The memories are still there, but I do not regret the actions I took in the last year." I have seen what we all become, so in order to delay our inevitable descent into an abyss we cannot escape out of, I took the role of keeper. And I coveted that secret and went my way to place a sword at my own neck, hoping for someone to help me the way I helped them without their knowing.

Akashi smiled as the soft echoes of a single word drifted through the fingers of the winter breeze. Why, indeed.

"Because I have failed you so much."

Notes: Unbeta'd and I don't know what came over me, I don't usually write fanfics but I hope you like it despite my less then awesome writing skills.