a time for new beginnings
THE FIRST TIME HE CAUGHT SIGHT OF HER, he decided that he wanted nothing to do with her because for once, the rumors seemed to be right. She was like a beast; rabid, wild, and out of control.
The girl was someone who would have unreasonably bashed heads with anyone in her way, the type of person to pick fights for sheer amusement. She was infamous for the rebellious air that surrounded her and that in itself was already off-putting.
Mashiro Yuki was brazen, violent, and insufferable— was what he thought, and yet he eventually found himself taking an interest in the fire that flared in her eyes whenever she was fighting for something or someone she cared about.
It was during their first year in Teikou Junior High when Akashi Seijuro just so happened to witness the juvenile girl go on a rampage.
The infamous delinquent was screaming furiously as she grabbed the collar of a fellow female student, "Take it back!"
The other girl pulls on the maiden's silver-white locks persistently in an attempt to break free from her, "Let me go, you freak!"
"Take it back, you insipid bitch!" Mashiro screams at the top of her lungs. Her clenched fist inches dangerously closer to the other student’s face, yet not a single person attempts to stop her, worried they’d be caught in the crossfire.
Instead, the bystanders merely form a crowd within the hallway, whispering and murmuring despite not intervening.
“Mashiro Yuki. Disciplinary office. Now.”
Upon the voice of a passing teacher, the fight is finally interrupted and the chaos eventually simmers down.
Mashiro glares at her victim one last time, shoving her as she lets go. The girl trails behind the teacher obediently despite the unsettled rage that coursed through her veins.
THE FIRST TIME THEY SPOKE TO EACH OTHER, she had just come back after a week of suspension. The crimson-haired boy was playing shogi by himself like he usually had. Though, as soon as she realizes that he was the only person present in the classroom, she becomes anything but pleased.
This was the emperor she was facing after all.
He was perfect— her antithesis. The type of person whose reputation precedes him. Someone who has never known defeat —never known failure— because all his life he was trained to be the golden child.
While she, on the other hand, only manages to stir trouble.
They were two distinct sides of a coin, and she was aware of the fact that they’d never see eye to eye. And like Akashi, she just wanted to steer clear away from him because there was a distinct line that separated their two worlds.
Though, it doesn’t stop him from asking.
"Why do you do it?" Akashi Seijuro spoke out of the blue, curious about the reason for her juvenile behavior. In his opinion, there were better things she could’ve done.
Mashiro only furrows her eyebrows, confused yet surprised that someone like him had even bothered to talk to her. “What?”
"You mean, why I picked a fight with that bitch?" she clarifies a second later, mentally cursing the girl she was recently reprimanded for. She wishes that karma would eat that wench alive.
"Exactly," Akashi nods, oblivious to whatever went inside her head. "In my opinion, it seems like you were raised with a tad too much freedom."
He stated his point so calmly that it stirs something inside her. She feels a chill run down her spine, the hair on her skin even stand up, and right at that moment, she finds the sudden urge to step away from his presence.
Anyone— Scratch that. Everyone would have seen things the same way he did.
The girl seemed like the epitome of ‘disappointment.’ She was a problem child, but somehow she never seemed to have any difficulty for being known for such.
She was fine acting like how the rumors made her out to be. Even if it was only one side of the picture. Even if it was nowhere near the truth.
What she wasn't pleased with though, was the way that people were so pathetic that they'd even bring ones she cared about into the picture.
"It has nothing to do with how I was raised. That girl was badmouthing my brother. You don't expect me to just step back and shut my mouth, do you?" Mashiro answers calmly, causing him to eye her with interest as if he were observing a subject he yearned to understand.
"That would be the refined way of handling things,” he muses. “After all, why would anyone choose a suspension for such a menial matter?"
"Refined my ass. No one talks shit about my big brother and gets away with it" she hisses, eyeing the emperor carefully. She scoffs, rolling her eyes at his response, "You never had it, have you? Something— Someone worth fighting for?"
"Perhaps," he responds rather easily, unable to grasp the concept.
All his life, he did things because he had to; because he was the heir of such a dignified family; because he was supposed to be perfect.
And it was exactly because of that, that he confidently manages to add, "However, I know not the feeling of defeat."
"Are you mocking me?" Mashiro narrows her eyes, yet there’s more confusion present in them rather than malice.
Akashi Seijuro was nothing in comparison to everyone else she’s ever met.
He only proves that notion when he responds without any hesitation, “I’m not. I’m merely stating a fact.”
And right then, Mashiro Yuki knew: he was the last person she’ll ever get along with.
THE FIRST TIME SHE SAID SOMETHING THAT STRUCK HIS INTEREST, they were alone in the classroom like they were a few days ago. The two happened to be left alone together more often than they wished.
The more he seemed to observe her, the deeper he fell into those sapphire blue orbs. She's been haunting his thoughts, word after word, from the first moment she looked back into his piercing maroon eyes to the aftermath of their second encounter.
"You,” the girl spoke out of the blue. “You're in the basketball club, aren't you?"
"Yes. Why do you ask?" he returns the question.
"Nothing. You just act like someone who could make it to the first string, that's all" she tells him bluntly, yawning as she says it.
"I am in the first string, but what of it?"
Regardless of the fact that she never saw him play except for the one class they had in physical education, by growing up with an athletic older brother, she knew that Akashi’s skill wasn't mediocre. The way he carried himself even manages to prove it.
Mashiro Yuki believes that Akashi Seijuro had the mentality of an athlete; being able to utilize his teammates and doing everything he can to make sure they could win.
Considering what he said about having not encountered defeat, her intuition tells her that his cool-headedness seemed to have stemmed from his confidence in his abilities.
"Like I said, you act like it," she mutters the gist of her observation, deciding to keep it short and simple rather than explaining further.
To her surprise, after hearing her words he states rather bluntly, "You're definitely a strange one."
The boy earns a dumbfounded expression from the maiden as she wonders what he possibly knew for him to think that way.
"I should be telling you that," she replies defensively, crossing her arms as she looks back at him. “It's unusual for someone to even get into the first string.”
Similar to Akashi Seijuro, Mashiro Yuki had an eye for people. If he had the talent to discern people’s actions and potential, then she had the ability to hypothesize their way of thought.
From watching how people reacted to her actions, she developed the habit of analyzing others’ behaviors rather than analyzing their physical aspects.
She saw through whatever facade they put. She noticed the tiniest details. She paid attention to what could possibly be the truth.
Just by watching, she could tell their psychological strengths and weaknesses in a heartbeat. And as soon as he realizes this talent of hers, he couldn't help but admit that she was going to be a useful pawn.
THE FIRST TIME HE SAW HER CRY, he followed her on the way to the school’s rooftop. They were already in their second year of middle school, and despite refraining from approaching the other when they were around the rest, the pair had found some sort of solace in each other’s company.
That said, despite all that, the girl was quiet for a change.
While Mashiro Yuki had never been obnoxiously noisy, she often took the role of being the first to speak when they were together. Seeing her vulnerable state, he thinks that it was the perfect opportunity to make use of her, only to find himself in the wrong a moment later.
Her cheeks are streaked with tears, and it was days like this that Akashi thinks to himself, 'She's tough, or rather she only acts tough.'
No one else ever saw her in this state except for the redheaded boy.
No one had cared enough to know what was behind the brute personality of the maiden.
"It's forbidden to go to the rooftop, Yuki" he calls her by her first name, for the first time, but she was too busy trying to stop herself from crying to think much less muster a response to him.
It was the most painful sensation, the feeling of trying to suppress the overflowing emotions she felt when all she yearned to do was to finally let it all out.
After a passing moment of silent sobs, the next thing he knows, she had eventually dried her eyes out, having attempted to hold back her tears and ultimately failing.
She was practically fragile at that point and as soon as he realizes this, he only sits beside her as if to comfort her with his presence.
Akashi Seijuro didn't mind keeping the girl company.
He thinks about who the girl truly is because despite being everything they thought of her as, this side of her depicted a girl nobody else knew of.
He doesn't speak, because he's never seen her so fragile.
Neither of them does, but the atmosphere had been all the more comforting that way.
Perhaps, all she needed was the presence of another human being because for once Mashiro Yuki thought that maybe everything would be alright.
THE FIRST TIME HE WAS REMINDED OF HOW DIFFERENT THEIR WORLDS WERE had been the moment he sat with his teammates the following day.
Unlike the juvenile maiden, people always held expectations of him. Everyone else always had something to say.
"Akachin," Murasakibara greets him that afternoon during lunch.
"Akashi, I hear you almost got in trouble for being at the rooftop," Midorima states pointedly. The expression on his face tells him that there was more that his friend yearned to say.
"Eh? Akashi did?" Aomine looks at him, with slight surprise, knowing that he could never possibly be the type to mess around.
In truth, even if the boy himself doesn’t admit it, it was a first for the Akashi as well.
Akashi Seijuro had never been reprimanded.
His punishment was not as grave but it was only because Mashiro Yuki covered for him, admitting that she was the one who intended to go to the rooftop and lying by saying something along the lines of how he was only there to tell her off.
As a result, the girl had to stay after class to write apology letters, while the crimson-haired male was let off the hook with a simple warning.
"I was accompanying Mashiro-san" Akashi explains and almost immediately the rest of his friends seemed to understand what —or rather, who— got him into trouble in the first place.
The girl was the infamous juvenile delinquent of Teiko Junior High.
She had terrible grades due to her truancy, but her violent tendencies were what made others wary of her the most.
After earning countless warnings and a couple of offenses, they couldn't possibly understand why she has yet to receive an expulsion.
He’s perfectly aware that she wasn't as horrid as the public made her seem.
Midorima pushes the frame of his glasses ever so slightly. He’s aware that the person he was talking to knew better than that, but it doesn’t prevent him from giving a warning, "She's a bad company, Akashi. You know that, right?"
Despite not expressing the displeasure he felt for having his judgment questioned, Akashi Seijuro seems to be offended by how everyone else saw Mashiro Yuki.
He had evidence that the maiden was not exactly like the rumors said she was.
She was a girl who always watched out for others, even if it meant that they'd assume she was a bad guy. She was overwhelmingly righteous that she'd willingly use any means she can in order to support her morals, even if it resulted in violence as a form of self-defense. Perhaps her terrible school attendance was one thing, but everyone had their vices and little quirks.
She wasn't always in the right, but he knew that she wasn't as bad as they thought she was either.
"I am aware of that" Akashi assures Midorima, before defending the Mashiro, "But she never does things without a reason. That I can assure you."
THE FIRST TIME SHE OPENLY SPOKE UP ABOUT HERSELF was during another one of the times when he headed towards the rooftop in search of the maiden with silver-white locks.
The moment he figures out the reason for the girl's tear-stained eyes, he remains silent.
They were together more often than they realized and because of this, Mashiro has found comfort in him ever since then. Nothing more assured her than being able to talk to the red-haired boy himself. He was the only person who was willing enough to keep her company.
"My brother's death anniversary was yesterday" the girl mutters quietly, "I'm sorry I got you into trouble."
"My condolences," he spoke softly as he sat beside her.
"Mhm," she mumbles, shaking her head as she assures him. "It was a year ago. From an illness".
It was an agonizing scene to remember, bringing her nothing but sorrow and pain, yet the male manages to snap her out of it easily, with just a couple of words.
"Being gloomy isn't like you, Yuki" he smiles, surprising the maiden, who was left wondering whether or not this was the same princely smile that other girls her age swooned over.
"Even so, your brother will most likely be displeased about your inexcusable behavior" Akashi doesn't fail to reprimand her in an attempt to avert the topic away from her sorrowful memory.
"I know, but it's not like I can help it. I have a way of fucking things up" she admits and right then the boy almost believes that he was beginning to tame the beast.
"I have decided," Akashi Seijuro tells her right then, crimson eyes gazing sharply into those azure orbs. "I am going to make you fix your ways."
"Nice try," Mashiro scoffs, almost as if she belittled whatever the boy can do.
But it only takes another beat, before she catches sight of the other side of him. He becomes an entirely different person compared to the kind and gentle boy she witnessed a while ago.
"I am not kidding, Yuki. I am absolute, no one can defy me," he tells her, and she becomes a little bit wary of him.
This side of him was new to her, but She doesn't flinch, nor does she feel threatened to witness this other him—
'Perhaps…' she thinks, 'Perhaps it was part of the real him.'
"What's in it for you?" the girl asks in return, stuffing her hands into her pockets as she ponders on why he's going this far for someone like her.
"Perhaps you can do me a favor."
THE FIRST TIME HE INTRODUCES HER TO HIS SO-CALLED ‘FRIENDS’, she just so happened to surprise him. It was club time that afternoon, Murasakibara, Midorima, Kise, Aomine, and Momoi HAD all introduced themselves before a particular male had the opportunity to do so.
"What about you?" Mashiro faces Kuroko as soon as everyone else was done with their introductions. All of them then think that it was a first, finding someone who could detect the boy who lacked so much presence.
And right then Akashi realizes, perhaps there's so much more to her than just an eye for people.
"They all seem strong. Except for Kuroko" she admits later that day, once she was left alone with Akashi after school.
"Kuroko is different. He's a specialist" the redhead informs her to which the girl nods understandingly.
"I know that Kuroko is a different kind of strong. It's just when your talents start blooming, there’s no point in keeping him around. Strong people like you tend to depend less on others, but that's exactly their weakness."
It was the first time she made perfect sense, in his opinion.
"Especially since most of you are bound to think you're all high and mighty," she doesn’t fail to add the snarky comment as if she intentionally trying to get under his skin.
"I see," Akashi looks back at her, ignoring the latter comment, "You might be right on that one.”
"So will you wait for the day to make that happen or will you actually do something to change that, in the future?" She asks, wondering if he could possibly make such an obvious mistake.
THE FIRST TIME HE RELIES ON HER, she is more than confused. Momoi Satsuki's skill was a lot more useful than hers. They both knew that and yet, he still requested for her presence.
Akashi couldn't have possibly been in the wrong. He was the type to hide something up his sleeves, and Mashiro can’t help but wonder if her intuition was right to warn her about that.
"Akashi…" the girl turns to the male beside her, while he had been rather preoccupied with the data Momoi had prepared.
"What is it?" he asks her, eyes never leaving the sheet of paper he was skimming through.
"What exactly did you call me here for?" Mashiro returns the question, knowing full well, that unlike the two of them she was incapable of understanding such detailed numerical data. "Momoi-san is a lot more capable than I am. I'm pretty sure you can let me leave—"
"I need an outsider's perspective," he cuts her off, finally tearing his eyes away from the paper to look into her blue orbs.
Momoi gave a brief explanation of the situation beforehand, simple enough for Mashiro to understand. And, with that, he asks her for her suggestions.
"So, what do you think?"
Momoi Satsuki had the ability to determine how the players could play, she knew how their physique changed and she sensed what Mashiro had just predicted. But Mashiro could understand how they were feeling despite never having the chance to go through the experience herself.
"Well, considering that no one can do anything about it. Isn't the situation getting worse?" she speaks up after some time, reluctant about spilling all of her thoughts.
"I'm worried about that too. After reaching the Nationals, everyone's been growing at a rate a lot more than we expected," Momoi agrees. "If it's not too troublesome, can we ask a bit of your insight, Mashiro-san?"
"You don't have to hold back," Akashi assures her.
Mashiro sighs, elaborating on her observations, "Winning will always make a person feel confident about their abilities. People may not show it, but there's always going to be a tad bit of pride swelling in you when you do.”
“If you keep winning this much, you’re bound to turn conceited,” she points out. “I mean, imagine having all those wins fueling their arrogance. Not to mention the people who treat you like your all special— Since all of you are ironically similar, it's only about time your talents will clash against one another."
"So what do you suggest we do?" the male looks at her, waiting for her to cut to the chase.
"It's impossible. There's absolutely nothing you can do," she waves him off flatly, "You'll definitely be against it."
"Yuki," he says her name clear enough, prompting her to answer.
She turns away from him as she asks, "What if the only solution to this problem is for you to lose a match?"
"H-Huh?!" Even Momoi looks at her in surprise.
It was a bad move to say such to the emperor, the boy who never faced defeat, the boy who always thought that winning was essential.
But somehow, she found it herself telling him the blatant truth anyway.
"Losing isn't an option" he emphasizes and right then, Mashiro can’t do anything else but look him in the eye.
It takes a beat before she eventually stands up, grabbing her school bag as she tells him, "That's exactly why I said it wasn't possible in the first place."
His eyes watch her. Piercing maroon orbs staring back at those blue eyes.
And for the first time, she didn't want to get lost in them, because more than anyone else she knows—
"You'll be like the next, Sei" she mutters inaudibly as she walks towards the exit of the classroom. Soft enough that they couldn’t have possibly heard her.
It was on that day that Mashiro Yuki realized her greatest fear: losing the one person she could be herself with.
THE FIRST TIME SHE REALIZED SHE LOST HIM was the second she witnessed his switch. The Akashi she knew might as well have been erased from existence.
The moment he changed was also the moment they switched places. It was now her turn to want nothing more to do with him.
This was a different Akashi she was facing, after all.
This was everything she wished he wouldn't be, it was the other side of him she yearned not to face, and at the same time, it was the person who she dreaded he'd become.
"What do you mean Akashi allows them not to practice?" Mashiro looks at Momoi in surprise, wary by the news.
The manager of the Generation of Miracles ran to her in hopes that the closeness she caught a glimpse of in the classroom wasn't just a lie.
Mashiro Yuki was the only person who could talk to the emperor as honestly as that, and the pink-haired maiden had clung unto that hope.
The blue-eyed girl has yet to meet the current Akashi Seijuro, but from their manager's reaction, she believes it was going exactly as she predicted.
"Strong people, like you, tend to depend less on others"
"It's terrible. He says it's fine as long as we remain victorious," she cried out. "But Mukkun and Aomine-kun wouldn't go to practice. The team's falling apart!"
"But that's exactly their weakness"
"I warned him it could happen. But since Akashi himself decided not to do anything, isn’t it safe to say that he intentionally let this happen?" Mashiro avoids her eyes as she puts the cold truth out there.
Regardless, Momoi Satsuki refuses to believe what she just heard, attempting to get through the other girl, "But, that's—"
"Look, even if you want me to do something. I can't," Mashiro cuts her off, clenching her fist in frustration.
She always found herself helpless in regards to him.
"What do you mean, Mashiro-san? You're the closest person to Akashi-kun," the other girl begs her with the slightest bit of hope.
"Even if you say that. I'm just the king's pawn."