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Despairing

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        All the pieces fell back into place, before locking themselves into position.

        Suddenly Gundham's hands could only tremble, his words spilling from his mouth in hoarse fumbles. Blood, blood, blood, blood oh Gods magenta all over the walls.

        Breath suddenly hitching, Gundham tensed. What could he do? Where was he? How could he have - no, no, no...

        He had to suppress that memory, somehow. How could he forget something like that?

        Clutching his temples, Gundham muttered a stifled, pained sound. He - he couldn't stop shaking. Oh Gods, he was shaking and he couldn't stop.

        If only he hadn't remembered - this was the breaking point, wasn't it? I will not become despairing again! Upon my Empire! The Breeder clenched his teeth, holding back sudden tears.

        It was all happening again. He couldn't stop, oh Gods-

        And there was a hand on his shoulder. He jumped, but he was displaced momentarily from his despairful trance. "--Nidai?" 

        It was, indeed, Nidai, a concerned look upon his face. "Hey, what's wrong?"

        "N-None of your concern - nothing of interest to the likes of you! Nothing at all!" Gundham's voice shook despite powerful delivery. His hands were still shaking. This was shameful. Displaying such weakness was so damn shameful. He could almost see it again - he could almost see...

        "Gundham, you're gonna have to snap out of it! Do you understand me? Whatever you're seeing - that's in the past! That's not you anymore! It never was."

        How did he-? Gundham finally met Nekomaru's steady gaze with his frantic one. "Y-You're unknowing! Blas-Blasphemy! Silence! You - You know nothing! I don't suffer! I don't suffer at all!" Gundham felt tears begin to spill from his eyes. How? He hadn't even noticed, until they began running slowly into his gaped mouth. That just made him appear even more pathetic-! He had to catch his lost breath somehow.

        "C'mere," stated Nekomaru, drawing Gundham closer to him, before pulling him against his chest in a hug.

        "Hh!" Gundham exhaled rigidly, eyes widening at the contact. He was trapped! He had to free himself, somehow. If he fought back-

        "Gundham, come on. Meditate or something - that helps calm you, right? Everything's alright. Despair is over now."

        Gundham exhaled a weak sob, cursing his own pathetic vulnerabilities. He felt a strange flutter of joy in his heart, which he was quick to ignore. ...Meditate? He - that... that was a good idea. He could try, couldn't he? It would be hard to try clearing his mind in a state such as this, but he could begin by balancing his breaths.

        So the Breeder quickly closed his eyes, inhaling and exhaling at a slower pace than before. He had to focus upon that - not her. She was already dead. He had already known, hadn't he? He just had to find serenity again.                                                                              

        He could not develop a cycle, for his heart was hammering too fervently against his ribs. Perhaps - he could mimic Nidai's breaths? His were slow enough.

        Gundham closed his eyes. Listening to Nekomaru's, Gundham quietly balanced his breaths. That was already aiding him to find calm. Sniffling, he wiped briefly at his eyes with the back of his hand, only serving to further smear his eyeliner.

        "Sorry if I made you remember something," Nekomaru mustered, seemingly able to lower the volume of his voice for once. "But listen - whatever it is... you don't have to be that any more! You're not that any more! Even if you think it's coming back, we can focus, and train! And we can prevent it from ever happening again!"

        "I've... done something terrible..." Gundham murmured, eyes fluttering closed. He gave up any attempts to fight the hug.

        "Hey... haven't we all at this point?" Nekomaru attempted to rationalize, voice growing wistful for a moment. "Besides! This is your chance! Don't be defeated already! Together, we can make sure despair stops spreading! You're strong, Gundham. I know you don't remember killing me, but you were a really strong opponent. Strong enough to beat me! Gahaha... if anyone can overcome sickness like that, it's someone powerful, like you!"

        Gundham paused, glancing up, using a hand to shelter his face from view. He did not want to display his tears.

        "...You speak from experience..." Gundham observed, voice reaching a hush, "I can feel it within your soul."

        "..." Nekomaru's smile shifted into something more withdrawn. "Well, that's another story. One for later, probably. You need rest before anything! And starting tomorrow, we can make sure you're feeling better, and then work to fix this!" The Team Manager took a moment to observe. "-And hey. There's no shame in crying. Even the most powerful athletes cry sometimes."

        Gundham, although no longer shaking, still couldn't detach the memory from his mind. It was still... there. Ghostly, haunting him, mocking his stupidity and selfish greed. Mocking his past self's inability to stop his bloodlust.

        "...I shan't sleep. For surely, night terrors shall consume me. I do not wish to be further turned." Gundham admitted. "...Meditation shall suffice. I shall pray for atonement, and then I shall pray for forgiveness."

        "Well, hey. If you don't want to sleep, there's always something to do," Nekomaru brought up. "It's dark - and everyone else is already asleep. You need to get your head out of the past. Come on! Let's go for a walk."

        "A... walk?" Gundham said the word almost angrily. How was he to walk, he'd already exhausted all his strength performing exercises. However... Gundham was not a defeatist. Not even now, running from the bleakest memory he'd ever known.

        Was this a symbolic offer? Sit and suffer at your own insolence, or stand and face the present?

        "..." Gundham nodded gravely. "I accept."

        His limbs still felt out of control.

        His breath was calmer now, but still felt on the bridge of collapsing again.

        Despairing urges still wracked his mind, his nerves, his impulses. He still fought the urge to inflict harm upon someone, or to delve into the memory he'd unearthed.

        But he would not be bested, not if he could help it.

        I, Gundham Tanaka... am becoming a Despair.

        That was a truth.

        ...However. I shan't succumb. A familiar promise, but he had more leverage this time around.

        Another promise occurred to him, and he made it without thinking.

        I'll die before I turn to despair again.

        Nekomaru was right. He was powerful, and he would fight until his very last to atone for his ills. It was his duty now to save this pitiful world from its despair.

        And now, he promised, he would devote his very last breath to preserving that outcome. In her name, I shall rise above!

        He had to aid this world, before he was eaten alive by his own, self-destructive need.

        It was drawing closer.