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Chromophobia

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A brick wall explodes mere feet away from him, and Iwaizumi seriously considers, for the first time since this mess started, whether they have made a mistake. His senses are hyperaware and nearly out of control—simultaneously casting protection and defensive charms all around him while desperately searching for Oikawa. He can hear him—heard him—a few minutes ago as he casted a wall of fire that hopefully gave him time to get away from the Aurors. 

He needs to reach Oikawa without giving anything away, they’ll only have minutes—no, seconds—to apparate. Iwaizumi is rushing through mental images, thinking up their next destination. Anywhere near their neighborhoods is out of the question, they had promised not to bring this battle to their families. Mahoukotoro is of course off-limits, and he deeply regrets not having taken Sugawara’s advice and packing more maps depicting the magical villages—

Protego! SNAP OUT OF IT IWA-CHAN!” He doesn’t know if he goes partially deaf because of the explosion that gets diverted from nearly happening in front of him or because of Oikawa’s shriek as he hauls him away from the debris.

Oikawa. Oikawa is here. He found Oikawa. Or rather, Oikawa found him. Iwaizumi has no time to retort with a clever comment, and he knows Oikawa notices this by the way he swallows deeply, his teeth probably crunching against one another. Iwaizumi observes the specks of dirt coloring Oikawa’s fair skin, the blotches of red across his cheeks both from the battle and his preference for fire spells. If they were not in the middle of fighting for their freedom, Iwaizumi might even find the image endearing. Right now, amidst the yells and the adrenaline, Oikawa looks very much like the whiny boy who would chase after Iwaizumi on those summer nights, deep up the hill of their joint family’s summer home, where only the cicadas could hear them. Every time he tripped or snagged himself against a branch, he would pout and stomp, threatening Iwaizumi with leaving him and returning to the magically-cooled home (“And you’ll stay here all ALONE, Iwa-chan! Without me to protect you!”) It’d only take a few seconds of Iwaizumi shrugging and continuing his walk for Oikawa to let out a deflated whine and carry on (following him, always following him despite the threats).

In that so-called solitude surrounded by nothing but trees and ethereal nature, Iwaizumi learned to appreciate Oikawa’s loud company. If only—

Iwaizumi grips Oikawa’s white robes. Oikawa stops running, stops tugging at his hand, and only stares.

“I know where to. Trust me.”

Oikawa’s grip hardens in reassurance.

Iwaizumi’s eyes close.

When the smoke clears, when the Aurors successfully extinguish the fire wall blocking their path, they find no trace of the two wanted wizards: Oikawa Tooru and Iwaizumi Hajime.

 

_______________________

 

“I don’t think we need to feed the Devil Snare today, Suga, pretty sure Asahi said he took care of it last week.”

“You mean he nearly got choked by the Devil Snare—that doesn’t count as feeding, Daichi. I swear, whoever thought of putting Asahi in charge of a plant that requires you not to be anxious around it—oh, hello.”

Seventh years Sawamura Daichi and Sugawara Koichi are staring right at him, and Iwaizumi gives another step forward, attempting to become the center of attention, diverting all focus from Makki and Mattsun behind him, and particularly away from Oikawa.

He knew assuming the school would be totally empty was a mistake. They should’ve stuck to his original plan and gotten the hell out of there the moment they left the dueling club room. However, Makki had suggested taking advantage of the school grounds and gathering some supplies before their departure (“We don’t know how long you’ll be gone or where—won’t you need basic potions, heck, spell books?”)

Iwaizumi’s face had resounded a clear “no”. But Oikawa, of course, thought differently. Oikawa, who had asked for a pensive on his fifteenth birthday so he could keep record of the many duels he had participated in, revisiting these moments to study his opponents, chastising his mistakes regardless of whether the outcome had been victory or defeat, staying up till dawn taking notes, remembering, vowing that next time he would be better.

“You’re right. We need to be as prepared as we can. To the library!”

They wasted two hours gathering books, from charms to magical creatures. In that time, no one brought up Oikawa’s white robes, still concealed underneath Iwaizumi’s borrowed green ones.

In that time, no one brought up the kiss, either. Iwaizumi wasn’t sure if he was grateful for that or not. His first kiss, his first kiss with the only person he had ever considered wanting to kiss, and they get to completely set it aside in favor of thinking of a solution to this mess. When have serenity and Oikawa Tooru ever gone hand in hand?

Oikawa. Iwaizumi seeks him out from the corner of his eyes. Oikawa in his white robes. Expulsion. Ministry trial. The possibility of separation.

With a newfound energy, Iwaizumi continues skimming through the potions section, picking from basic tomes to ones he knows they wouldn’t have studied until next year.

He misses Oikawa’s careful stare in his direction, misses Oikawa’s low sigh as he watches Iwaizumi strain his muscles to reach the books located on the higher shelves.

Behind them, Mattsun and Makki are charming two rucksacks, magically expanding their interior in order for them to carry as much as possible without being burdened by the weight.

The library is vast, calming yet eerie. It is filled with golden lanterns enchanted to glow only when someone walks near them—on a regular school day the library is shrouded in light, students rushing by to find a spot to study or a book for class. Today, a quiet weekend like today, it is almost foreboding in its darkness except for the faint glow where the four of them are standing.

One might even call the glow hopeful, but Iwaizumi will give himself the luxury of thinking about hope once they get out of the school.

“Look, I’m pretty sure we have what we need. Anyway, it’s not like we’re going to whip out a book in the middle of an Auror encounter.”

Makki tosses the rucksack in his direction, with Iwaizumi catching it effortlessly, stuffing the rest of the books.

“Thanks. Now, let’s go. Oikawa…”

Oikawa has his back turned to them, his eyes fixated on a window so wide and so clear it gives the impression of being a glass-less hole on the wall, giving way to a majestic view of Mahoutokoro’s mountainous landscape.

“Do you think I’ll get to see this view again?”

Iwaizumi does not spare a single second, “Yes.”

 

_______________________

 

Coming face to face with golden boys Sawamura and Sugawara is making him think they’ll have to backtrack and see Oikawa’s forlorn view sooner than anticipated.

“Dueling practice, we’re just leaving,” Iwaizumi has always been a man of few words, he’s grateful for this particular trait, knowing no one expects him to give an elaborate response.

Sawamura nods, a faint smile on his face, he has accepted Iwaizumi’s explanation.

Sugawara shows no response.

There’s an ugly snort behind him, and he feels Oikawa coming to stand next to him.

“Too observant for your own damn good. Always hated that about you, Mr. Refreshing.”

Iwaizumi wants to facepalm while simultaneously apparate them away. Sawamura opens his mouth, immediately shutting it, unsure of how to read the situation.

Sugawara stares at Oikawa, his entire posture meaning business. Iwaizumi begins to reach for his wand as subtly as possible—dueling his way out of the school had never been part of his plans, but they’re wasting precious time. He can sense Mattsun and Makki doing the same thing behind them.

“Suga—” Sawamura begins, seeking some clarification.

“Professors are around on the weekends. You’ll never make it to the front gates.”

Iwaizumi’s wand flourishes out, he glares, “And you’ll be one more obstacle, I imagine?”

Sawamura looks incredibly lost, “Wha—”

Sugawara smiles, dimples and all, “I know an easier way out. Follow me.”

Oikawa smirks. Sawamura blinks. Iwaizumi snarls, “We can’t trust you!”

Sugawara moves so effortlessly, and so dangerously fast, that he’s already gripping Iwaizumi’s shoulder before Iwaizumi can lift his wand, “Sadly, you can’t. You’ll still come with me, either way.”

“Do as he says, Iwa-chan,” Another hand at his shoulder, but this one warm and reassuring. Oikawa’s entire attention is devoted to the silver haired boy before them.

 

 _______________________

 

The surrounding area is quiet, eerily quiet, when they appear with a pop. Oikawa stumbles slightly, and Iwaizumi is immediately fussing over him, checking for wounds.

“I told you to just stick to basic protection charms.”

“Well, that’s kind of dumb, considering the Aurors are not using basic offensive spells, Iwa-chan. I’m fine, I promise, just bruised.”

Iwaizumi sighs, gripping Oikawa’s neck as he evens out his breathing.

Oikawa is preoccupied with examining their surroundings, his eyes going from inquisitive to excited.

“Is this Miyagi?! Our summer hangout! Aww, Iwa-chan, so sentimental.”

“Shut up. It’s the only place I could think of where they wouldn’t search for us right away.”

Oikawa’s carefree grin is front and center for a total of five seconds, quickly replaced by a grim smile.

“True. But not forever, let’s get going.”

The hike is quiet, disturbed by the occasional crunch against branches or pebbles, or the squawk of birds and other forest creatures. The foliage creates shadows along their path, and Iwaizumi is grateful that it’s fall and not winter, although they’ll definitely need heating charms to sleep comfortably—as comfortably as sleeping on the run can get. He is already creating a mental map of the area, knowing that staying anywhere within the village’s perimeter is a bad idea. It’s a magical village, it’s only natural the Aurors get to it eventually.

“I remember there’s a stream somewhere around, right? Close by?” Oikawa is wiping sweat from his forehead. Iwaizumi knows he’s exhausted but refusing to admit it out loud.

“No. That’s several kilometers south, closer to the hill where you got attacked by pixies once.”

Oikawa flares, “I was not attacked! Just taken by surprise!” He pouts in Iwaizumi’s direction, “And that’s a shame. Would’ve been nice to cool off a bit before continuing.”

“You always had a shitty sense of direction. Besides, we don’t have time. This is not a vacation.” He knows it’s the wrong thing to say, Oikawa’s shoulders go rigid, his stare distant.

“Oikawa—”

“Come on. We need to put as much distance between ourselves and the village as possible.”

What once would’ve led to playful banter between them is now replaced by heavy bricks settling deep in Iwaizumi’s stomach. He wants, oh, how he wants, to pause and talk this out before Oikawa’s stubbornness simmers and brews to an ugly sulk.

But times have changed. Not a vacation indeed—they have to reach Nekoma before the Aurors start piecing things together.

 

_______________________

 

It’s an awkward group, to say the least. Sugawara and Sawamura are leading, with the latter throwing confusing looks in the former’s direction, but whatever he finds in Sugawara’s eyes must be enough, for Sawamura ceases his questioning.

Oikawa and Iwaizumi are right behind them. Despite Oikawa’s willingness to tag along, Iwaizumi refuses to put his wand away, no matter how many times Oikawa’s fingers brush along his arm in useless appeasement. Mattsun and Makki bring up the rear in anxious silence.

It’s Sugawara who breaks the silence, “When did it happen?”

“Honestly, wouldn’t be able to tell you, Mr. Refreshing,” Oikawa’s voice is back to its saccharine level, his right hand mussing up his hair to create an image of confidence, “it’s just an annoying little hiccup that’ll get sorted out soon—”

“Six hours.” Sugawara’s steeled tone does not match his careful stride.

Iwaizumi frowns just as Oikawa glares at the silver-haired wizard, “I really hate cryptic sentences.”

Sawamura looks like he’s about to interfere, but Sugawara beats him to it, not breaking the pace of his walk.

“Last time…last time this happened… that’s how long it took for the Ministry of Magic to find out.”

Oikawa immediately stops his walk, Mattsun and Makki crashing into him inelegantly. He’s staring at Sugawara with widened eyes, his pretense of calmness completely gone.

Iwaizumi hates it. Hates seeing Oikawa letting down his arrogant guard as much as he hates seeing him put it up. He chooses to speak first,

“Last time. This has happened before? No way, we would’ve heard about it.”

Sugawara scoffs.

“Have you been sleeping in History of Magic? What’s the Ministry’s motto?”

Taken aback, Iwaizumi tries not to fidget as he very openly ponders the answer to this question.

“Order in silence; Swift diligence.” Oikawa’s response is laced with distaste, clearly having read more into Sugawara’s statement and question. Iwaizumi feels a tinge of alarm as he watches Oikawa look down at his shaking hands, “Of course. Of course, what’s the best way to highlight a government’s effectiveness?”

Although it’s voiced as a rhetorical question, it is Sawamura who provides an answer, “Deal with all anomalies as discretely as possible.”

Sugawara nods, pausing for the first time in his purposeful walk and turning to face Oikawa and Iwaizumi, “If you’re expecting blaring alarms and flying spells, you won’t get them. They’ll come, they’ll take you, end of story.”

“Like hell they will!” Iwaizumi does not realize when his body moved on its own, but he’s now face to face with Sugawara, his wand dangerously poised against the other’s neck. He knows Sawamura’s wand is out now, and he can feel rather than see Mattsun’s and Makki’s tensed bodies.

Oikawa is surprisingly calm, “Hajime, wait.”

The personal name throws him off at once, his wand arm immediately lowered just as Sugawara sighs.

“Look, I admire your bravery, Iwaizumi, but a hot-headed attitude will not do Oikawa any help.” He puts up his hands in mock surrender, a cheerful smile suddenly gracing his features, “However, I know of something that will.”

Throughout their chatter, Iwaizumi had completely lost attention to the path they were walking, but a gentle breeze makes him realize they are close to the school’s gardens, leading to the massive waterfall shielding the school from the rest of the non-magical world.

Oikawa sniffs, peering down at Sugawara with an upturned nose and narrowed eyes, “Tell me.”

Sugawara speaks only one, completely meaningless, word,

“Nekoma.”

Chapter Text

The moon is round and full by the time they reach the top of the hill, Miyagi shrouded in tiny fairy lights, far away from them, separating them from warmth, food, and comfort.

Iwaizumi’s limbs are burning in exhaustion, he knows it’s ridiculous to keep going, extinguishing their energy now will do them no good.

“This is far enough for tonight, we need to sleep.”

Oikawa’s only response is to keep walking, dead leaves and branches crunching beneath his feet, but Iwaizumi does not miss the slight stumble. He can feel the vein in his temple twitching in slight annoyance.

“Oikawa. There’s no point to us using up all of our energy.”

Silence. Iwaizumi is tired. His eyes are trying to close against his will, his back aches, and he is pretty sure his feet are blistered. He is hungry, he is worried, he is scared. In three exhausting, but determined, strides, he reaches Oikawa and roughly spins him around by the shoulder.

Oikawa is crying.

Iwaizumi reels back as if slapped, “What? Are you hurt? What—”

Oikawa is silently crying, which is truly what makes this entire situation all the more alarming. His face is devoid of all emotion except for the steady stream of tears making their way down his smooth skin.

Oikawa does not push him away, only glances down at a nearby rock and slowly makes his way towards it, gingerly sitting down, the tears never stopping.

Iwaizumi knows that everyone believes Oikawa to be the weaker of the two. Whiny, a sore loser, and with enough narcissism to make it obvious he is hiding some serious insecurities about himself, Oikawa does not try to convince anyone of his bravery, and yet he will never drop his calm persona in the face of uncertainty.

But here, in this open clearing, away from the life they are familiar with, barreling into a dangerous future that so far promises nothing but pain, Iwaizumi feels his bravery crumbling alongside Oikawa’s.

He does not have a speech prepared, he has no energy left to deliver punches of reassurance and hope, he has nothing but himself at his rawest.

“I wish…” Oikawa’s voice is soft, too soft, Iwaizumi tentatively moves towards him to hear him better.

“I wish we could’ve come here again… under better circumstances.”

The clouds shift, and they are both shrouded in moonlight. Iwaizumi refuses to acknowledge the sting in his eyes.

“Me too.”

Oikawa’s back shudders. Iwaizumi takes a deep breath.

“But we’ve come back together, so nothing else really matters.”

Oikawa chuckles bitterly, “It’s okay to admit I’ve fucked up, you know.”

Iwaizumi is now kneeling next to Oikawa, his limbs protesting hours of nonstop walking.

“Oh, you fucked up all right, I won’t deny that. But until we’ve exhausted all of our options, I will not let you be a crybaby about it.”

Oikawa looks down at him, the start of a frown on his worn features.

“And that option right now is Nekoma. You heard Sugawara.”

Oikawa’s hand finds his shoulder—

“But what if Nekoma does not wor—”

“Until all of our options are exhausted,” Iwaizumi lifts his own hand to cover Oikawa’s, “we are not giving up.”

The moon alone is witness to their fears.

 

____________________

 

The word 'Nekoma' provokes nothing but vacant expressions, and Sugawara’s grin only widens. Only Sawamura seems to have understood him, and his reaction quickly switches from calmed demeanor to alarmed hesitation.

“Suga, what are you saying? No one has set foot on Nekoma, you know this.”

Iwaizumi is reaching the end of his patience, “What the hell is Nekoma?”

He’s surprised to hear Makki speak up from the back of group.

“I thought it was just a legend. But you’re saying that the exiled village hosting the only dark wizard the Ministry of Magic pardoned is real?”

“Pardoned?” Iwaizumi finds himself gaping despite his best intentions to remain composed, “Impossible.”

“Who?” Oikawa has skipped incredulity for the sake of hard-core facts; Iwaizumi can’t help but to admire his determination.

“You probably heard of him, despite his intentions to pass through this school as conspicuously as possible…Kozume Kenma,” offers Sugawara.

The name does not bring a face to Iwaizumi’s mind, but it does bring a different name,

“Kuroo Tetsurou. This Kozume was friends with Kuroo, he would never shut up about him—but, Kuroo left the country, that’s why he gave up his captain position at the dueling club and gave it to—”

“Me.” Finishes Oikawa thoughtfully, “I always thought his departure was rather sudden, and he was a terrible liar, kept mixing up the names of the cities his family was supposedly moving to…but he never said anything about Kenma moving with him.”

It’s Sawamura who interjects now, a crestfallen look on his face. “They never left, the country that is. Kenma…well, I honestly don’t know what happened, Kuroo never said…but rumor is that Kenma’s robes turned white, the Ministry took him away for interrogation, and Kuroo…well, Kuroo decided he was going to get Kenma back.” He glances sadly at Sugawara, who sighs and swipes his silver hair away from his eyes.

“Whatever happened at the Ministry…whatever Kuroo did...granted Kenma’s freedom. Freedom by exile—permitted to carry on a magic-less life in a remote village made specifically to contain him.”

For some reason, Iwaizumi does not believe this to be a success story, “And Kuroo?”

He spots Oikawa gnawing his bottom lip, a sign that his mind has already formulated an answer in his head, an answer he doesn’t like.

“Kuroo,” Sugawara begins, “was never seen again. Last time we spoke to his family, when they showed up to the school to formally announce Kuroo’s ‘departure’, they—they were distraught, barely gave us details, only told us that not them, or any of us, would see their son again.”

The silence surrounding them is morbid.

“You think Kuroo died?” Oikawa asks, his voice fragile but steady.

“I think Kuroo sacrificed something…what, I don’t know. Maybe his life. Maybe his freedom. Who knows. We’ve heard rumors of a lonely wizard living on the outskirts of a magical village called Nekoma—characterized by his partially blonde hair. But…there’s no one else with him.”

“So, what does this got to do with us? I thought you had a plan, not a cautionary tale.” Iwaizumi wants to move away from this story. He knows Oikawa. He knows how his mind spirals into worst-case scenarios. He does not want to think what the words ‘sacrifice’ and ‘exile’ are doing to his already troubled mind.

“I, actually, have the same question.” Sawamura is now facing Sugawara, his gentle, calm demeanor turned serious and almost accusatory. Sugawara flinches slightly, but the smile does not leave his face.

“Sanctuary!” Sugawara’s grin is blinding, Iwaizumi hates it, and that’s saying something considering he is exposed to Oikawa’s shitty grin on a daily basis. “Don’t you see? Nekoma’s legendary backstory speaks of the Ministry as a forgiving, merciful entity. Reach Nekoma before the Aurors reach you, and you will buy yourselves time!”

“And then?” Iwaizumi spats out.

Sugawara shrugs, “I’m but a mere wizard, not a seer. The rest is up to you.”

“Deal.” Says Oikawa, Iwaizumi whips his head to stare at him.

“Sounds good.” Voice Mattsun and Makki behind him. Has everyone lost their damn minds?

“Unless you have a better plan, Iwaizumi?” Sugawara inquires in dulcet tones; however, unlike Oikawa’s sickening sweetness, Sugawara seems to actually mean it.

He suddenly feels Sawamura’s heavy hand on his shoulder, “I know it does not promise you anything. And quite honestly it’s probably best if only Oikawa goes—”

“I always thought you were a sensible guy, Sawamura,” Iwaizumi sneers, watching Sawamura’s taken aback expression, “but you are truly spewing nonsense by implying that I’m staying behind.”

He hears Oikawa’s intake of breath, part of him pleased that he can still surprise him.

Sawamura’s gaze turns gentle, despite the grip on his shoulder turning stronger, “Then, what are you waiting for?”

What, exactly? Iwaizumi immediately thinks of his family, of the dread he is about to bestow on them. He thinks of Oikawa’s loving mom reduced to tears, he imagines the two families gathered in the Hajime living room, trying to make sense of what happened to their sons…but he also imagines facing whatever is about to come next for the sake of the idiot he loves, and that is enough. He gives his answer in a single nod.

Sugawara claps, making everyone except Oikawa jump.

“Excellent! Now, I hope you’re good swimmers.”

Sugawara does not give them even a second to respond, does not even allow them to say goodbye to Makki and Mattsun, before an elegant flick of his wrist lifts them up in the air, hovers them over Mahoutokoro’s majestic but deadly waterfalls, and drops them.

 

____________________

 

Iwaizumi is falling. There is a scream stuck in his throat and a black void below. He is falling, the sound of rushing waters deafening, the darkness overpowering.

He is falling at a terribly rapid speed, but above him, far away yet still discernible, is Oikawa. Oikawa hurtful to the sight, long, billowing white robes taking a life of their own as he stands, tall and proud, sneering down at him, all the while surrounded by blinding light.

He looks powerful. He looks unstoppable. He looks every inch a dark wizard.

“OIKAWA!”

 

 

 

Iwaizumi awakens to dirt sticking to his face and bugs crawling all over his leg. He must’ve dozed off as Oikawa (and him, he admits regrettably) had a good cry. His body is still feeling the aftershocks of the nightmare—he’ll never forgive Sugawara for wordlessly tossing them down a deadly waterfall, despite the fact that he did use a protective spell on them to cushion the fall. Huh, that must’ve taken quite some amount of power…Iwaizumi makes a mental note to never cross the sweet looking silver haired wizard.

There was something else…something to do with Oikawa…he can feel goose bumps just trying to reclaim the exact details.

Oikawa.

Iwaizumi sits up in panic. He is alone.

Panic engulfs him, his mind easily reeling into the most catastrophic scenario possible; Oikawa has deserted him—Oikawa, the self-sacrificing fool, probably thought he’d spare Iwaizumi the burden, and has ventured on his own; Oikawa, who has left behind his bag—

His bag.

Iwaizumi scrambles to pick up the rucksack, finding Oikawa’s jacket lying underneath it.

Oikawa might be a fool, but not that much of a fool that he’d leave without all the essentials to survive. The jacket is warm to the touch; meaning Oikawa must’ve been lying on it not too long ago.

“Oi! Oikawa!”

The leaves rustle, Iwaizumi feels almost guilty disturbing the quiet peace of the forest.

“Oikawa! Are you taking a piss somewhere?”

He wants—he wishes—to hear Oikawa’s indignant response about being a vulgar brute, but nothing comes.

Standing up, Iwaizumi begins scouting the surrounding area, his sense of foreboding rising. The hairs on the back of his neck are on edge, and he can’t shake away the sensation that he is being watched.

Paranoid, Iwaizumi chastises himself, but reaches for his wand nonetheless.

He sees it then, something flickering out of the corner of his eye. Immediately alert, Iwaizumi points his wand in the direction of a malnourished looking tree, the few leaves hanging onto its branches brown and brittle.

“Lumos.”

Approaching the tree, his wand illuminates a lonesome snake coiled around the branches. Iwaizumi is not a fan of reptiles, preferring bugs to the cold-blooded beings, but he’s not about to disturb an animal who has more right being in this forest than he does.

He turns away from the tree to continue his search, wand casually resting against his side.

By the time the foreboding sensation reaches its climax, it is far too late.

A low hiss is the last thing registered in his mind before everything goes black.

 

____________________

 

“Iwa-chan. Iwa-chan!”

Dizziness. Immobility. Pain bursting behind his eyelids.

“Hajime!”

Groggily, Iwaizumi opens his eyes, immediately overcome with nausea and dancing lights. He’s barely able to contain the bile that rises to his mouth.

There’s a relieved sigh somewhere next to him, “Thank Merlin. It’s useless to move, you’re chained up.”

His vision finally settling, Iwaizumi registers two things:

One, Oikawa is pressed against him, but judging from the lack of movement, as trapped as he is.

Two, they are no longer in the forest, the ground and air around him much cooler, much harder.

“What—” unable to complete his sentence, Iwaizumi begins to cough, the pain to the back of his head intensifying.

“We’re not alone,” Oikawa’s voice is tensed. “Also, you owe me a year worth of milk bread.”

Iwaizumi slowly turns to face Oikawa, relief blooming within him as he can tell he’s not injured, at least not in pain like he is.

“What?”

“Remember how you always said Daishou the White Robed Menace was just fictional?”

Blinking, Iwaizumi does not understand how now is the right time to bring this up.

“And I bet a year-long supply of milk bread that he was real?”

“Dammit, Oikawa, did you hit your head?”

Somewhere in front of them, the hissing sound has returned, Oikawa seems unperturbed.

“Well, he is real,” Iwaizumi swears he can hear Oikawa preening. “Also, he’s an animagus.”

The hissing has stopped. Iwaizumi’s brain is finally catching up with the situation, dreadfully piecing Oikawa’s words together.

A pool of light appears before them, and standing front and center, is a man no older looking than them (which is impossible), a man completely dressed in pristine, white robes, a man Iwaizumi has only seen in children’s books.

Daishou the White Robed Menace. Daishou, Japan’s most terrifying dark wizard, leers down at them.

Chapter Text

Rows of stern looking wizards peer down at a vacant chair. Rigid as the chairs they are sitting on, one would think them mannequins or statues if not for the occasional blink, the rise and fall of breathing chests.

One of these wizards, a gray bearded man donning silk black robes that flow like water whenever he moves, rises from his seat in silent elegance, those surrounding him immediately turning their gaze and attention to his words and actions.

“Ushijima Wakatoshi, you have been summoned by the Japanese Wizengamot.”

From a darkened corner steps a young man of indiscernible expression. Unlike the wizard before him, his robes are gloden—he is, after all, a mere student.

Ushijima approaches the empty chair and takes a seat, rigid and expressionless as everyone else in this room.

“Do you know why you have been summoned?”

“Yes.” There is no arrogance in his voice, simply obvious understanding.

“Are you aware that this is not only an honor— one so young chosen to reestablish the purity of our magical society— but also a responsibility that leaves no room for failure?”

Ushijima’s entire posture is as unwavering as his stare, “Of course.”

“And are you willing to take on this task, alongside its consequences if you fail?”

“Yes.”

“Will you raise any objections?”

“One.”

The usually quiet room erupts in sounds of discomfort, shock, and repulsiveness. Clearly the last question was asked only out of formalities, with only one expected answer, and that answer was not the one spoken by the young man.

Unlike the flustered room, the gray bearded wizard simply stares down at Ushijima.

“Speak it.”

Ushijima stands, “I will choose my own team.”

His answer has redeemed him before his audience, the turbulent atmosphere ceases as the gray-bearded wizard smiles a smile that does not quite reach his black eyes.

“Granted.”

Ushijima bows, a bow so practiced and perfected it has lost all sincerity of reverence. He silently leaves the room.

  

 

Tendou moves away from the wall he’s been resting on at the sound of soft steps.

“Well? Are they all gray haired and sour looking?”

Ushijima walks past him, “You will be working with me.”

Tendou sticks a finger inside his ear, his abnormally large eyes widening, “Is that so? I’m so flattered, I might actually need a moment to compose myself, I mean, how could I ever express my gratitude, Wakatoshi? You are too much, really.” He finishes his monologue with a loud sniff.

Ushijima pays him no attention, heading towards the exit.

Catching up with him, Tendou wraps a lanky arm around the stoic boy.

“Now, tell me how we’re capturing the mighty Tooru~chan.”

 

__________________

 

“SUGA— ”

“NO!”

“WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING! IWAIZUMI! OIKAWA!”

The scene is utter and undisturbed chaos. Suga can feel a hand shaking him—Matsukawa or Hanamaki, he can’t really tell them apart right now—and another hand trying to pull the first hand away—Daichi. He’d recognize that surge of magic anywhere. He ignores the pulls and tugs, and even does his best to ignore the screaming and shouting. He can feel his fingers give in to small tremors, the first sign that he is magically strained, but he cannot give up, not now—You’ve handled worse, come on golden student—he feels the magic flowing like a silk thread, traveling from his fingers to his wand, down the torrential waterfall, wrapping itself tightly around Oikawa’s head, around Iwaizumi’s spine. Gently, gently, one false move and they will both immediately—

There.

He feels the ripples of the soft splash their bodies make, and finally lets go.

“They’re fine. Please stop shouting.” His voice comes out in controlled huffs, as if he has just finished a short marathon.

Matsukawa and Hanamaki look unconvinced. Even Daichi, who seems to tolerate the majority of Suga’s crypticness, does not appear less tense at his words. Suga sighs softly, feeling his shoulders slumping due to the strenuous effort he just made. But clearly, letting his guard down in front of Oikawa’s and Iwaizumi’s friends has been a mistake— a hand is at his neck the moment he feels himself relaxing, and he can hear Daichi’s alarmed shout.

“You killed them! Was this your plan all along?” Matsukawa is the curly haired one, right? Funny, Suga labeled him as the calmer of the group. It is always the calm ones that hide terrifying potential and loyalty within. He knows from experience.

“Please, let go of me and let me explain.”

“You work for the Ministry, that’s it, right?” The grip around his neck tightens, and Suga’s vision sways a bit— he is in no state to fight back, currently. He can feel perspiration forming on his upper lip. He attempts to make eye contact with Hanamaki, but can see the other one has remained quiet throughout this ordeal not out of calmness, but because he is experiencing shell shock.

And Daichi— brave, reliable Daichi— seems to be waiting for Suga’s answer as well. Suga closes his eyes in mild hurt— he is used to the rest of the world doubting him, but not Daichi.

“He doesn’t.” Daichi has finally spoken, but his voice lacks the usual determination and confidence he uses whenever he steps in to protect Suga from taunts and whispers that his magic is just too good and who knows how much longer until his golden robes turn white? His eyes widen in slight alarm as he watches Daichi take a deep, hesitant breath before continuing speaking, “But his family does, so--”

That seems to seal the deal for Matsukawa. He hears the swish of the wand, hears Daichi’s “WAIT!”, and feels the stunning spell hitting him square on the chest.

Before his vision goes black, he sees and feels Daichi lounging at him, panic in his usually warm, calm eyes.

 

__________________

 

Daishou is incredibly close to Iwaizumi’s face. As if he hasn’t encountered another human being for...what? Weeks? Months? Decades? Oikawa is still carrying on with his diatribe about how it makes sense that Daishou is real, as if the dark wizard is not standing right there with them, but Iwaizumi has tuned him out for the sake of trying to figure out how they can get away, and why is Daishou so damn close to his face.

The white robed wizard has yet to utter a single world. He examines him with bored concentration, his eyes— almost resembling slits with a tinge of green— lazily blinking as they take Iwaizumi in. Iwaizumi’s mind is going a mile per second— Daishou definitely looks young, but this must be the work of a powerful anti-aging spell or an illusion spell or...something much more sinister, because everything Iwaizumi has ever read about Daishou indicates the wizard lived years and years ago.

An unnaturally cold hand grips his chin, and Iwaizumi grits his teeth so strongly, controlling the urge to bite Daishou, that he hears a slight crunch coming from his tensed jaw.

“What are you doing to him? He’s nothing exceptional—Iwa-chan—- he’s just a regular, average wizard, you know. Incredibly average— like, you’ll die of boredom average. You shouldn’t bother with him at all. I, on the other hand—mmff!”

Daishou lazily lifts his hand and makes a quick gesture with his fingers, and Iwaizumi hears Oikawa struggle as if he has been...muffled, or rendered unable of speech.

“Your friend is annoying.”

Daishou’s voice is the sound of dead leaves carried by the wind against sidewalks on a chilly fall night. The words seem to scrape against his tongue, as if struggling to come out. As if he hasn’t really spoken for a long time. And yet, his voice isn’t meek— despite the softness to it, there is a warning, a threat in the way he hisses his ‘s’, in the way he takes his time, as if he already knows they will never leave this cave.

Iwaizumi swallows. Daishou prods his cheek.

“You are supposed to speak back. Is that not how conversations work? Or am I behind with the times?” There is taunting behind those slitted eyes, a smirk that is equally playful and dangerous.

Iwaizumi considers their situation, considers the very real possibility that if he humors Daishou long enough, Oikawa might find an opportunity to magic their chains away (he can still feel his wand in his cloak pocket— but he’s not sure if they still have their wands because Daishou is being careless, or if even armed he doesn’t consider them a threat).

He’s suddenly startled by Daishou’s low, teeth clattering laugh.

“Please, humor me indeed.”

With another barely-there gesture (does he even have a wand on him?) Iwaizumi hears their chains hitting the ground. He hears Oikawa’s surprised gasp, and immediately the brunette is standing shoulder to shoulder with Iwaizumi. A quick glance allows Iwaizumi to note that Oikawa looks collected, almost bored, and yet there’s a strain to his neck that betrays his poise, a strain that lets Iwaizumi know he is also desperately thinking through an escape.

Iwaizumi, confused by this turn of events, suddenly remembers an important fact.

“You’re a legilimens. It’s in the books.” Iwaizumi massages his wrists as he speaks, not keeping his eyes away from the watchful wizard.

“Hmm, is that so?” Iwaizumi can’t quite read Daishou— and Iwaizumi prides himself in always being able to read his opponents, it’s what makes him such a formidabble duelist— there is a sense of childish boredom to him, as if he is demanding to be entertained, and yet, hidden underneath that boredom, a dangerous predator crouching, waiting to strike.

“What else do these books say about me, hmm? That I can revert this white-robed curse?” Iwaizumi stiffens as he observes Daishou reach out for Oikawa’s robes, delicately lifting the fabric up as if examining them for the first time, as if he himself is not wearing the same white robes. Oikawa, the prideful fool, doesn’t even recoil from Daishou’s proximity.

“That’s not why we’re here. We didn’t— we didn’t even know you were real.” It’s somehow the wrong thing to say. Daishou digs his fist into Oikawa’s robes, while his stare has turned malicious and completely zeroed in on Iwaizumi’s words.

“Just a children’s cautionary tale, right. To keep mediocre wizards as yourself amused and well-behaved, I imagine.” He doesn’t miss the way Daishou glances at his olive robes with disdain.

Iwaizumi doesn’t consider himself a hot headed person (unless it involves Oikawa) but Daishou’s words somehow prick at him in an unexpected way— he has never been top of his class, sure, but he was chosen from millions of young witches and wizards to attend Japan’s prestigious—and highly selective— wizard school. That alone means something, right? He might not be an all-star student like Ushijima, an ace at divination like Sugawara, or a prodigious duelist like Oikawa, but he considers himself a well-rounded wizard with developing potential. Just because he doesn’t excel at one particular area doesn’t mean he is mediocre.

“My robes don’t define me. Unlike other wizards.” He pointedly locks eyes with Daishou.

Oikawa, still muted by Daishou’s silencing spell, groans at Iwaizumi, and the way his hand wraps around one of his biceps feels as if he is telling him to stay quiet.

Daishou smiles. Not a grin, not a smirk, but an actual smile from ear to ear. It is probably the most sincere expression he has had so far, and it chills Iwaizumi’s blood.

“Really? Is that what they’ve taught you in school?”

 

__________________

 

Mahoutokoro’s entrance ceremony is really nothing special, just visually breathtaking. There is no fanfare, no great meal to celebrate their acceptance—students are expected to see their entrance as the ultimate reward, after all. Not every young witch and wizard is chosen. In fact, home schooling for young witches and wizards in Japan is still very common. Some, those who can afford it, go abroad, to more lenient magical schools. But everyone knows that being selected to attend Mahoutokoro is the mark of great magical potential, it sets you apart, it tells the rest of the magical community you are above the standard.

It is a lot for an eleven year old to take in.

Oikawa had, obviously, done obsessive research on Mahoutokoro’s entrance ceremony, and had been highly disappointed when he discovered that there was nothing to be uncovered—former students did not guard this information like some treasured secret that you must experience on your own, they calmly told you there was a brief speech by the headmistress, a quick breakdown of school rules and subjects, and the cherry blossoms (everyone always brought up the cherry blossoms).

What no one ever talks about, is the selection process. Little is known about it—the Ministry of Magic says it looks for excellence, for unusual display of magical potential and ability, and yet, there really isn’t a test.

Just a visit.

Iwaizumi’s happens at nine, same as Oikawa’s. Regardless of whether the parents want their child to attend Mahoutokoro, the visit always happens. Two official looking wizards sat with him for what felt like hours (hours he could’ve been using playing outside, throwing dung bettles at Oikawa’s hair). Most of the questions are for his parents (when did he first display magic, is he able to do basic things like levitation and summoning charms, does he seem to be aware of his magic or how to control it, did his parents attend Mahoutokoro, if so, what were their graduating robe colors, etc.) Then they ask Iwaizumi to stand up—they measure him, weight him, ask him to perform some really basic spells (“Can you make that cup of tea move?”), ask him if he ever does magic when he feels angry, or happy, or sad.

Then comes the pricking of the finger.

For a child, it is absolutely terrifying. His mother looks absolutely apprehensive, despite the comforting hand she places on Iwaizumi’s shoulder as one of the wizards takes his right hand, monotonously informing him that this is a standard procedure, a way for the Ministry of Magic to complete their selection process, while at the same time reassuring his parents that blood status has absolutely nothing to do with whether children get chosen or not—just for record keeping, they state.

The tip of the wizard’s wand shines as it appears to transform into a thin, metallic needle. Iwaizumi begins to squirm, and like any regular child at the sight of needle-like objects, tears form on the corner of his eyes.

A quick pinch, Iwaizumi bites his lip despite it not really hurting, and soon the threat of the needle is all but forgotten as he is transfixed by the sight of his own blood (crimson droplets suspended in air) travel from the tip of his finger to a glass vial in the wizard’s hand.

The visitors say their goodbyes, let them know that if Iwaizumi is selected they will receive a letter on his tenth birthday (“To prepare, you see, no child should show up to Mahoutokoro a blank slate. Coddling is not part of Mahoutokoro’s pedagogy.”).

That afternoon, Oikawa proudly lets Iwaizumi know that he didn’t cry when they took his blood. Iwaizumi, utterly embarrassed, quickly says he didn’t cry either.

 

It’s funny how Iwaizumi never gave the sampling of the blood much thought. Unlike some other wizarding communities, Iwaizumi knows Japan is less concerned with the pureblood dilemma. Although pureblood families definitely exist, and are definitely held in high esteem, Mahoutokoro gladly welcomes all blood backgrounds—a wizard’s power does not lie in his blood, the headmistress said in their entrance speech, but in the diligence and obedience he has towards serving his society.

A handsome witch with a long raven braid, Headmistress Haruna peers down at the crowd of anxious first years through her spectacles. She doesn’t smile, but there is a warmth radiating from her that makes Iwaizumi feel safe. Nonetheless, he continues to grip Oikawa’s sweaty hand as she gives her speech.

“Here at Mahoutokoro, we wish to aid you in your journey to diligence and obedience. Each one of you is here because you deserve to be here. Most importantly, the Ministry believes that you possess skills and traits distinctive to great witches and wizards. Mahoutokoro is the place for you to safely hone these.” She walks elegantly, her words clear and pleasant, the speed of her speech matching the gentle fall of the pink petals. The rest of the teaching staff stands behind her.

“Take a look at your robes, what do you see?” Both Iwaizumi and Oikawa glance at each other. Like everyone else, their robes are a soft pink—they were delivered alongside their acceptance letter a year ago, and despite Oikawa growing some noticeable inches taller (Iwaizumi still pouts at the thought) the robes fit their bodies perfectly.

“All of you deserve to be here. All of you, today, start on the same ground, with the same opportunities before you. But not all of you will leave these school grounds with the same abilities and proficiencies.”

Taking out her wand, Headmistress Haruna conjures up a soft pink robe out of thin air. The robe sways with an unfelt breeze, seemingly placed on top of an invisible mannequin.

“Your robes will remain with you for the remaining school years. Perhaps some of you have already noticed that these robes will grow with you—they have been charmed to mold to your body, meaning you will never have need to change them.”

Iwaizumi worries at that—just one set of robes? That’s going to be a lot of washing.

“With time, your academic performance and successes will be projected by the robes,” the crowd, including Oikawa, gasp as they watch the soft pink robe change to aquamarine, then to deep blue, olive, and finally purple. “These colors indicate your rank amongst your classmates. But do not be alarmed if your robes do not change right away—most first years’ robes do not change until the end of their first school year.”

Some of the students are murmuring now, for it is common knowledge that top students have golden robes, a color not yet shown.

Headmistress Haruna smiles, aware of their curiosity.

“These colors are meant to serve as encouragement, a reminder that you can do better, that you should do better. However, they will also serve as a reminder of your blunders and failures,” The currently purple robe turns olive, back to deep blue, then aquamarine, and finally back to pink. “It is up to you to ensure your color rank remains—low academic performance and disciplinary sanctions will result in color reversal. Success is not eternal, it is the result of constant hard work.”

Iwaizumi can feel a rock settling in on his stomach. Who gets to choose when the robes change color? Do you get a warning before colors are reversed? What if he makes it to his seventh year in pink robes? He can feel his mouth drying up in anxious worry, and a quick glance at Oikawa confirms that his friend is equally panicking.

The murmur seems to increase in noise level, but immediately comes to apprehensive silence as, with a wave of her wand, Headmistress Haruna turns the robes gold.

It’s not just…gold. There is a shimmer, a glow, to this particular robe that the other ones lacked. Even in this room filled with magical cherry blossoms, koi fish swimming in the sky, and floating candles, the golden robes steal the spotlight—a sign of respect, of power, of excellence.

“Only exceptionally bright students will attain the gold robes. A student must have a clean disciplinary record, and top marks in all of their classes, for the staff to nominate them for this triumph.” Headmistress Haruna barely has to elevate her voice now, everyone is holding on to her every word, “It is not easy to attain gold robes, but it is not impossible. Due to high expectations that must be fulfilled, students can start earning these robes until their fifth year—and, just like with every other color rank—this accomplishment can be reversed.”

Iwaizumi swallows, a true fall from glory, that.

“We’ll do it, Iwa-chan.” He turns at Oikawa’s whisper, who has manic determination in his brown eyes, “We’ll get those golden robes, I know it.”

 

 __________________

 

“If the robe doesn’t define you, why don’t you prove it?”

Daishou’s wand is out, and without really being aware of it, so is Iwaizumi’s. Oikawa—apparently no longer controlled by Daishou’s silencing—is shouting at him, calling him an idiot, trying to dissuade him.

“You know the robes don’t mean anything, Iwa-chan, you told me yourself, hell, multiple times!” Iwaizumi wants to tell Oikawa to stop being a liar, Iwaizumi’s words never had any effect on him. Oikawa, who—until recent developments—had come so close to earning the coveted gold. Oikawa, who would wake up at the crack of dawn to see if his purple robes had finally changed (and would loudly complain about it to Iwaizumi on their way to school). Oikawa, the hypocrite, because if he ever would’ve believed Iwaizumi’s words, wouldn’t be wearing white robes at the moment.

Something flares up inside Iwaizumi. A decision is made as he raises his wand.

“Tooru, shut up.”

Shut up and use this moment to run away, is what he doesn’t say.

Daishou’s smile only widens.

 

__________________

 

“How many times do I have to tell you I’m fine? Because I am fine. Now leave before I hex you away.”

Suga is reclining against the soft infirmary bed. His pathetic fainting spell (Seriously? He needs to get better at this nonverbal magic thing) had thrown Matsukawa, Hanamaki, and Daichi (especially Daichi) into panic, leading them to make the very wrong decision of bringing him to the hospital wing.

The last thing they should do right now is draw attention upon themselves.

Matsukawa actually looks guilty, which is reasurring to Suga. They won’t be of any help if they can’t trust each other.

“I’m so sorry. It’s just…I thought—Seeing Oikawa and Iwaizumi falling—”

Suga raises his hand to gently silence him, “You did what any true friend should have done. I’m to blame, I should have explained sooner.”

Daichi sighs from the other end of the bed, “Next time, please let us finish speaking before stunning anyone, okay?”

Both Hanamaki and Matsukawa can only bow their heads in embarrassment. Daichi had quickly brought Suga up to date—while they were attempting to bring him back to consciousness, Daichi had frantically explained that while Suga’s entire family had been working at the Ministry for ages, Suga himself had renounced the bureaucratic life, something that had led to his family cutting ties with him. The only reason he still got to share their name and attend family gatherings (much to Suga’s displeasure) was because the family absolutely refused the possibility of a public scandal. Suga, after all, was a promising student, it would bring disgrace to the family name if people knew the relationship was strained.

However, this also meant that Suga had direct intel to the happenings within the Ministry. Though not one to gossip—or one to care what the Ministry was up to, really—Suga had oftentimes confided in Daichi that he believed the Mahoutokoro robe system to be oppressive and, frankly, discriminating—the Ministry was far too involved in the magical development of young witches and wizards, and while the robe system was portrayed as a public display of encouragement and reward, Suga suspected it served as a surveillance system of sorts.

“I’ve never thought about it, really, what the robes mean.” Hanamaki speaks first, wringing his hands in nervous apprehension as he stares at Suga, “I mean, we take them off every day after school, and put them back on every morning. I’ve always assumed they change color based on your marks alone…most people’s robes change colors after exams, after all.”

Suga sighs, “Have you ever forgotten your robes at home, or at school?”

Hanamaki frowns at the odd question, “No? I don’t think so…they’re always—”

“There.” Daichi nods, “Always in your school bag, or your closet. You don’t really have to think about them too much because they’re always there.”

They all immediately grow quiet as the nurse—a middle aged witch with a strong jaw and a tight bun—approaches their bed.

“You’re looking lively, Mr. Sugawara, that’s a sign for you to clear my bed and my hospital wing. This is not a hotel, you know.”

Grinning, Sugawara hops off the bed, claps his hands together in gratitude to the nurse, and hurries out of the hospital wing, his companions quickly following him.

“Told you! I’m fine.”

“I know, but maybe slow done, Suga, you used a lot of magic back there—”

“Is that Ushijima Wakatoshi? What is he doing here on a weekend?”

They all turn to look at where Hanamaki is staring. Up ahead, near the Transfiguration classroom, Ushijima is standing rigidly before a group of black robed wizards, all wearing a gold “M” on their chests. They’re speaking in soft murmurs, and when one of the wizards becomes aware of the four students down the hallway, he seems to inform the others, who start walking away, towards the school’s grounds and entrance. Ushijima spares them a single, calculating stare, before following the rest of the group.

“Aurors.” Daichi sounds worried.

Suga sighs.

“I think Oikawa’s and Iwaizumi’s head start is up.”

 

__________________

 

Dueling is all about spontaenous strategy. It is a wizarding sport that requires equal amounts of stubborness and humility. Dueling is not for the over-thinkers, not for those who hold back or hesitate at the rush of adrenaline. Iwaizumi once heard a student refer to dueling as chess—strategy and cunning calculation. That student never made it pass the tryouts—dueling is nothing like chess. Dueling is lightning wrapped up in heart pounding decisions that are 90% instinct, 5% spell workmanship, and 5% sheer dumb luck. Dueling is an art, a masterpiece he will not hesitate to complete.

Dueling, however, is also entirely dependent on the circumstances. Like the majority of wizarding subjects, the classroom-version is always more tame, more docile, safer than whatever real life event that might force a witch or wizard to utilize spells for protection, specially when that spell is used for defense, specially when that spell will make all the difference between life and death.

Iwaizumi has lots of dueling experience, but the majority of this experience is contained to dueling practices and tournaments, where rules abound, where opponents know which spells are permitted and which are absolutely forbidden. Iwaizumi’s dueling experience is meaningful, without a doubt, but it is not real. It is not volatile, and it certainly does not involve the type of spells Daishou is most likely prepared to use.

Oikawa’s words are hysterical.

“Stop! Iwa-chan, are you stupid? Challenging him to a duel? I’m supposed to be the stubborn one here!” Oikawa’s wand is out, too, but even he knows better than to stand in the middle of two wizards about to duel. Oikawa reveres the rituals and rules of dueling (“Without them we’d just be barbarians shooting spells at one another, Iwa-chan!”), and even the presence of Japan’s most dreaded dark wizard will not make him tarnish them.

Daishou rolls his eyes, “You’re the one that ended up with the white robes? How? Found a spell to annoy people to death?”

“Hey! I’m your opponent, not him.”

Iwaizumi sees Oikawa seething with anger—both at Daishou’s taunt, and at Iwaizumi’s determination to carry out with this duel.

“Fine. Let’s see if you can make Mahoutokoro proud, boy.”

Daishou’s stand changes then, from lazy, almost slumping position to one of attack and readiness. His wand is raised slightly above his temple, with his forearm coiled back like a snake ready to strike at its prey.

Iwaizumi knows the only way he’ll ever win this duel is by being spontaneous—his opponent can read minds, after all, meaning that well thought-out strategies will be useless now—

Black smoke shoots out of Iwaizumi’s wand—literally a smokescreen to create distance and confusion between him and Daishou—quickly moving away from the nearest wall (“Never walk yourselves into a corner!” he always tells his dueling team) he raises his wand once more to fire two consecutive stunning spells.

He hears a thud, and nearly shouts out in triumph at the thought of actually hitting Daishou, when he suddenly sees the same red lights flying back at him. A quick crouch helps him deflect the first one, but the second one hits his left arm, and he winces at the effects of the stunning spell.

Daishou glides through the smokescreen, his white robes a harsh contrast to the dark smoke, and instead of his wand he is holding a silver shield with a translucent surface—a deflecting spell, impressive, but not impossible to overcome.

Bombarda!” Aiming at the ceiling, Iwaizumi feels the cave’s foundations shaking as pieces begin to collapse. Daishou actually looks surprised, and his shield—which is clearly meant to protect him from magic, not actual physical objects—doesn’t transform fast enough back into a wand, several pieces of jagged stone falling onto him and making him shout out in pain.

Iwaizumi has to dodge some of the falling stones himself, and he sees Oikawa putting up a protective barrier to keep out of harm’s way.

The stones around Daishou are now evaporating, and with a harsh flick of his wrist a long rope of fire lashes out towards Iwaizumi, who is not quick enough to avoid it. He screams as the fire rope wraps itself around his wand arm, the smell of scorching flesh making him nauseous.

Daishou smirks, slowly closing the distance between them, “Bet school doesn’t teach you spells like this one.”

Iwaizumi knows that the reasonable wizard would make his next spell get rid of the fire rope burning up his skin. Iwaizumi knows Daishou expects him to be a predictable, sensible wizard.

Perspiration covering his entire face, Iwaizumi grips his wand harder, feeling the transfiguration spell he has just uttered under his breath taking effect, he lounges before the spell is fully completed, but feels the blade impaling Daishou’s side.

It is the dark wizard’s turn to scream now (So much yelling, Oikawa is yelling too, somewhere behind him), and as the fire rope vanishes (He avoids glancing at his pulsing, scorched wrist) Iwaizumi pushes forward, feeling the blade cutting through flesh and sinking in deeper.

Daishou, in spite of the attack, is still standing, but his features are marred with a grimace, and the pain is audible in his quick breaths.

Iwaizumi allows himself a small smile, “They didn’t teach me that one at school.”

“NO!”

Before he has the time to understand what is happening, Iwaizumi feels Oikawa grabbing him by the back of his robe and pushing him backwards, his wand pointed at Daishou who—despite wincing at the feel of Iwaizumi’s magicked sword leaving his side—grins and throws dark red daggers at them. Daggers that seem to be appearing from Daishou’s own body.

Oikawa quickly deflects the first round, “He’s cheating, Iwa-chan! He’s using blood magic!”

Daishou is standing upright once more, and Iwaizumi is horrified to see he is not making any attempts of healing the sword wound. With widened eyes, he watches as Daishou actually sticks his fingers into his own gaping cut, producing more daggers without uttering any spells outloud.

“Cheating?” Daishou laughs loudly, but it is no longer a playful laugh, “We’re not in the classroom, boys, everything counts when you want to win. So give it your all or prepare to lose it all!”

A new set of daggers fly at them, and Iwaizumi is now at Oikawa’s side to help him deflect them. Unlike man-made daggers, these ones burst whenever they fail to make contact with skin, splattering both Oikawa and Iwaizumi with blood. It is absolutely disgusting, and Iwaizumi doesn’t really see the point of even using blood magic to do something like this, until he feels his skin burning.

“The blood! Iwa-chan, the blood has been hexed, you have to—” Oikawa screams as some of the daggers stab his collarbone, and Iwaizumi doesn’t want to know what happens if any of that blood gets in Oikawa’s system.

“No, Tooru! I’M YOUR OPPONENT, FIGHT ME!” Swaying as he rushes towards Daishou, Iwaizumi shouts out a bone breaking hex—the sickening crunch lets him know he has succeeded.

Daishou, now on the ground yet behaving as if his leg has just not been broken, actually cheers. “YES! GOOD! Show me what you really can do!”

Iwaizumi towers over him, his wand directly pointed at Daishou’s face.

The wizard stares right back at him, expression serious, “Do you want to kill me? Go ahead. You’ll be celebrated. You might even be pardoned for aiding another dark wizard. They’ll give you redemption…they might even grant you the honor of killing your best friend..or is it more than friends?”

Iwaizumi snarls, “Oikawa is nothing like you!”

“Stop, Hajime, he’s egging you on—it’s what he wants.” Oikawa is on his knees, his white robes stained with blood, some of it his own, and his breath is coming out in strained wheezes.

Oh?” Daishou snorts, “He’s different, isn’t he? You’ll just tell the Ministry not all white-robed wizards are bad and they’ll believe you, is that it? That’s your grand scheme?”

Iwaizumi is breathing hard now—he’s hyperaware of his injuries, the way his wrist is still sizzling, the way his vision is getting blurry.

“Tell me, Oikawa, how do you know so much about blood magic?” Daishou addresses the other wizard conversationally, as if Iwaizumi doesn’t have a wand pointed at him.

“Shut…up..”

“You were so quick to know exactly what I was doing.” There’s a malicious timbre to Daishou’s words, “Wasn’t he, Iwa-chan?”

“Don’t call him th—”

“How, Oikawa?” Iwaizumi feels his wand arm shaking now.

Oikawa looks taken aback, and his words come out pained, but not necessarily from physical pain alone, “Iwa…not now…please. This is what he wants.”

“How do you know so much about blood magic?” His words are steady, despite his shaking arm betraying his collected demeanor.

Blood magic is forbidden. The only books available at school are heavily guarded, and require special permission not only from the headmistress, but from the Ministry of Magic itself.

Oikawa stares sadly at Iwaizumi, his face pale with pain, “I..I told you. I wanted to be…to be the best.”

“Hmm, funny, we have so much in common.” Daishou quips. “Unfortunately, as interesting as this conversation is, I’m afraid you’ve lost, Iwa-chan.”

By the time Iwaizumi sees Oikawa’s eyes widen in fear, it is too late, a spell—a dark flash of red that feels like a million acidic thorns melting through his skin—hits him on the side of his head, and the world goes black.

 

 __________________

The world grows quiet. That is how it always starts. An unnatural stillness that is different from regular silence—a stillness that appears to push against the very fabrics of reality (one of the many realities, anyway), a stillness that swallows both noise and silence at once, leaving a blinding white space of…everything contained within nothing.

It is both a familiar yet totally unexpected feeling. Every time it occurs, it catches him unprepared, despite the number of times it has occurred in the past. He never knows how long these trances (Episodes? Flashes?) last—and there is a part of him, the part of him buried underneath his aloofness and seemingly unperturbed nature, that worries he will one day remain trapped here.

What is it? What am I meant to know?

The whiteness is overcome with flashes of sound, of blurs, of lives that are not his own but will soon be connected to him. He attempts to grasp at the symphony happening in front of him, above him, around him, inside of him. The world shifts and he feels bile rising up his throat.

Enough. Enough. I don’t want to know. I don’t need to know. Take me back. Ground me.

 

A faint pulsation of peace amidst the chaos. He closes his eyes (Does he even have eyes? Does he still have a body? Is he just energy at this point?) and tries to focus on that single pulsation of…light. Peace. Reality. His reality.

The pulsing light grows, the disorganized reality around him grows dim, a voice rises.

“-ma?”

He feels air rushing into his lungs. He can begin to feel his limbs. His body is returning.

“-nma!”

Engulfed by the voice, by the warmth, by the pulse, he is returning—coming down from an involuntary high.

“Kenma!”

Golden eyes focus slowly, taking in the surroundings. A dimly lit basement, the scent of fumes and herbs, the warmth and concern emanating from the dark haired man in front of him.

His feet move, and he hears crunching.

“I broke the vials.” Kozume Kenma looks down at the shattered pieces of glass on the floor, voice soft yet tinged with annoyance.

“You broke the via—Kenma, forget about the vials—there, all clean!” Without the usage of a wand, without even voicing a spell, Kuroo Tetsurou cleans the mess—it’d be impossible to tell he has even used magic, except perhaps for the faint beads of sweat that have formed on his forehead, revealing he has just used a great deal of energy—too much energy, for such a basic spell.

His sharp eyes, however, never leave Kenma’s face, “What happened? Did you…see?”

Kenma scrunches up his face, disliking that Kuroo calls it seeing, when in fact Kenma cannot really see anything during these episodes. More like, feel his entire plane of existence ripped apart and reconstructed against his will. And yet seeing is probably the best explanation for what this is.

A warm, calloused hand rests against his forehead as Kuroo checks his temperature.

“We need to prepare.”

Kuroo, seemingly pleased with Kenma’s temperature, raises a brow at him, “Preparations for what? What did you see?”

Kenma turns away from the man in the crimson robes—his best friend, his only companion, the one sacrifice he never asked for—focusing his attention on gathering new potion vials.

“A storm is coming.”

Kuroo looks out the window, taking in the bright blue, cloudless sky. He concentrates on the breeze, how it makes a pleasant swish as it passes by the apple tree planted next to the house. He can pick up the sound of birds, the soft padding of the cats walking on the roof, the murmur of the nearby stream.

He also knows to always believe Kenma. Turning to face the young man with the partially blonde hair, Kuroo quietly picks up a box of dried horned beetles and passes it to his shorter companion.

“Alright. I’ll make sure it doesn’t catch us off guard.”

Kenma does not say anything, silently smashing one horned beetle after another, willing his mind to ignore the foreboding feeling thumping rapidly inside his heart.

Chapter Text

Oikawa is selfish. This has never been a shocking realization for him. He knows he is selfish and he accepts it. However, he believes his selfishness is well justified and balanced out with…whatever the opposite of selfishness is (sacrificial?).

For example, every Christmas day he would run up to Iwaizumi’s house, make his way in with a “sorry for barging in!” while avoiding to bring in snow to the carpeted entrance, and hurried over to find Iwaizumi in order to brag about all the toys he got.

Iwaizumi would sort of listen, part of him too preoccupied with eating his mother’s freshly baked cookies, and also concentrated in enjoying his own toys. Rarely did the two boys ever get the same presents—Oikawa always asked for robots and spaceships and enchanted star charts, whereas Iwaizumi enjoyed monsters, insectariums, and lego cities that he could build and destroy with his latest Godzilla figurine. On one particular Christmas, however, during their third year, both of them had their eyes set on a Dueling for Beginners book. Although they wouldn’t be able to join the dueling club until their fourth year, they wanted to be well prepared for the tryouts.

That was also the Christmas Iwaizumi’s father lost his job, and Iwaizumi confided that he didn’t end up asking for any presents in order to help his family save money.

That Christmas morning, as Oikawa rushed in, he also rushed in with a still-wrapped present (Iwaizumi raised an eyebrow at this, because Oikawa lacked the patience to not open all of his presents).

“Look! We have a joint present this year.”

Iwaizumi slowly finished munching on a cookie, eyes on the present, “What?”

Oikawa huffed, because it’s not like it was hard to understand, “Santa sent a present for the both of us, but left it at my place, obviously.”

Iwaizumi swallowed, “Santa’s not—”

“Open the present, Iwa-chan!” Glaring, Oikawa forced the gift onto Iwaizumi’s hands.

Mumbling something that sounded like “You’re so bossy, Crappykawa”, Iwaizumi took three painstaking minutes to unwrap the square-shaped gift. It took all of Oikawa’s self control to not tear the paper himself.

Dueling for Beginners fell onto Iwaizumi’s lap. The hard cover edition, with a handsome young looking wizard smiling as he fired red streams of light at a dummy, who would fall backwards whenever one of the spells reached it.

Iwaizumi remained quiet, which worried Oikawa, because whenever he got any presents he was very, very vocal.

“We don’t have to read it together, obviously,” Oikawa began with a slight nervous fidget in his legs, “We can take turns. I know you’re a slow reader so I can read the first chapter first, and then lend it to you, and then we can discuss what we’ve learned, even practice togeth—”

Iwaizumi finally moved his stare away from the gift, and looked at Oikawa, who was momentarily stunned by the soft smile on his best friend’s face.

“Whatever you want, Nerdkawa. Guess I should write Santa a thank you note.”

 

Oikawa is selfish. He enjoys being the first at everything because he believes he is capable of being the best. But he’s always known when to balance this selfishness, when to keep it in check, specially when it comes to Iwaizumi.

Which is why right now, as he watches his best friend duel Daishou the White Robed Menace, he hates himself. Hates himself because his selfishness is getting the best of him—because even though he enjoys being first, part of him is relieved that he has been demoted to be Iwaizumi’s second (Is he? His second? Will Daishou even play by the rules?).

Oikawa is selfish, and right now his fear is getting the best of him, his fear is putting Iwaizumi in danger.

By the time he gets involved, by the time he sickeningly realizes that Daishou’s blood magic is far more powerful than what he could’ve imagined (Poisoning his own blood? Why didn’t Oikawa consider that possibility? Idiot) Oikawa knows this battle has been lost. He is not dueling to win, but to ensure Iwaizumi does not face further harm.

But Oikawa is selfish.

And Daishou…Daishou has read them like an old, familiar book. Legimency or not.

He has done his best to ignore Daishou’s taunts, and tells himself he really needs to pay more attention to Iwaizumi’s self esteem, who was far too affronted by the poke to his robe rank. He has done his best to silence out Daishou’s jabs about his white robes, regretting the fact that he and Iwaizumi hadn’t had a proper conversation about this, not since they left Mahoutokoro.

He knows now is not the time. And his expertise as a duelist, and as captain of the dueling club, is screaming at him that listening to Daishou’s taunts is exactly what the dark wizard wants.

He knows. But Oikawa is selfish. And he’s not prepared for Iwaizumi pausing in the middle of a duel with Japan’s legendary dark wizard to turn to him and imply that Oikawa is also familiar with blood magic.

He is. But Oikawa is selfish. He understands blood magic, he has…experimented with blood magic. But Oikawa is not prepared to tell Iwaizumi the truth. Oikawa is not prepared for the disappointment, the accusation that will blemish Iwaizumi’s face.

Because Oikawa is selfish.

And it’s this selfishness, this hesitation, what allows Daishou to strike.

 

Oikawa watches everything in slow motion, he’s not sure if this is due to the poisoned daggers affecting his system, or if he’s experiencing such shock that his entire nervous system is beginning to shut down.

Iwaizumi falls without a sound, there are no yells, no screams of pain, simply a shocked-ridden expression on his face that lasts a grand second before his limbs seem to turn into dead weight, dragging him all the way to the ground with a painful smack.

Oikawa watches it all without making a sound, too. Which is impressive, really, because in his head there is only panic so shrilling and loud it could almost be confused with a white noise torture machine.

Still on the ground, Oikawa swears this is what people mean when they say their blood has run cold. It’s as if his body has decided to transport all blood and warmth to his face, leaving the rest of his body clammy and shivering, only to have all of that blood perform a sudden death drop, falling all the way to his toes in such a sudden rush that leaves him feeling dizzy and nauseous.

And here, too, Oikawa is selfish. Selfish because as he watches Iwaizumi’s unmoving form, as he watches Daishou pocket his wand away and start walking towards his fallen friend (friend—is that all Iwaizumi will remain to him? Because they never talked about it? Because Oikawa’s obsession with beating Ushijima got them in this mess and robbed them of the time their relationship deserved?), he can only think of himself, of how all of this is his fault, how he should’ve left Iwaizumi behind at Mahoutokoro, how he never should’ve been involved in any of this.

Oikawa is stupid, and selfish, and now he’s also alone.

 

Daishou laughs. Not the malicious laughter he’d been using on them before, but a down to earth I am laughing my ass off guffaw of a laugh. It snaps Oikawa out of his self-deprecating state, and even though he can feel his lip quivering in defeat, his eyes stinging in indignation, he still manages to conjure up his best glare.

Oikawa Tooru will not end like this, with his best friend sacrificing himself for him, only to have Japan’s deadliest dark wizard finish him off while he’s whimpering on the floor. He reaches for his wand…and Daishou simply continues to laugh, trying to catch his breath while holding his sides, tears streaming down his face.

“Oh, your face, this is too—” he nurses another laughing fit that nearly brings him down to his knees and at the same eye level as Oikawa, “Wow, I need to pay whoever writes these books about me because you—” a long, drawn out wheeze, “you look terrified. And you’re looking at your Iwa-chan—haaah—as if, as if he’s dead, calm down, geesh.”

Daishou smacks his knee as he finally straightens back up, reaching out a hand towards Oikawa as if…as if he wants to help him get back on his feet.

Oikawa is frozen, albeit still glaring. He does not accept Daishou’s hand.

“What do you mean, as if?” He does not allow himself to hope. He wouldn’t put it past Daishou to toy with him now.

Daishou rolls his eyes, and before Oikawa can fully protest, puts both his hands on each of his shoulders and lifts him up back to a standing position.

Poisoned blood, really? You give me too much credit, kid, it’s only a sedative. Your Iwa-chan was getting out of hand. Here.” He seems to produce a vial filled with some kind of translucent liquid and tosses it at Oikawa, who barely catches it with shaking hands.

“Wha...”

“Drink it. It’ll erase the effects of the sedative. Won’t clean the wounds, though, but I’m sure you know basic healing spells.”

It’s Oikawa’s turn to laugh—a bitter, hateful laugh.

“You think I’m an idiot? You hand me a potion and expect me to believe you’re doing this out of the kindness of your heart?”

“Eh, not kindness. I just imagine it must suck feeling all woozy, and I was hoping we could talk before your knight in shining armor wakes up.” Daishou looks entirely unperturbed by Oikawa’s distrust, going as far as turning his back on him and going back to Iwaizumi.

“Don’t!” The rest of Oikawa’s protest falls on his lips as he watches Daishou gently lift Iwaizumi up (also, exactly how strong is he? He knows Iwaizumi is nearly 90% glorious muscle, but Daishou easily picks him up bridal style, as if he were a mere raggedy doll) and starts walking with him deeper into the cave.

Fearing that he’ll never catch up to them, Oikawa immediately swallows the potion. And instantly feels his head and limbs clearing up, as if waking up from a forced, deep slumber.

Daishou wasn’t lying.

He hears Daishou’s snort reverberating against the cave’s wall.

“Follow me, oh terrifying, fellow dark wizard. We have much to discuss.”

 

______________

 

Suga gives a long, suffering internal groan as he catches Matsukawa and Hanamaki hurrying towards his table.

Subtlety is not their strength.

Mondays are quiet days for Suga, and he’s thankful for that. His first period is study hall, and he and Daichi normally choose the farthest table in the room—the one next to the bay-styled windows—to work at, away from the sixth and fifth years also in study hall. Daichi normally admits he likes this table because of the soft, natural sunlight it allows into the room; Suga unabashedly acknowledges he likes this table because he has a direct view to the gardens, where he can normally spot Nishinoya tutoring Asahi on his weakest subject: Herbology.

Only Asahi would have issues with magical plants, seriously.

A poorly subdued cough makes him sigh again. He moves his gaze from the window towards Matsukawa and Hanamaki, clad in their olive and purple robes, respectively. It’s Matsukawa who speaks first, in a terrifyingly made up tone that hasn’t quite decided if to settle for nonchalant or demanding.

“Hello, good morning, we were wondering if we could sit here…and, you know, study.”

Daichi blinks. Suga uses all of his willpower not to roll his eyes because if people were not looking at them before, they were certainly staring now.

Gold robed students are either revered like some sort of magical relic, or disliked with judicious jealousy. Even fellow golden students will continue to view it as a competition, trying to figure out what will make other students lose their ranks—it is tiring, and quite frankly, lonely at times. Suga is eternally grateful for Daichi—despite being the first one to have acquired gold robes from the two, his attitude towards Suga never changed, going as far as to helping Suga ace all of his classes in order to gain gold robes as well.

As far as the rest of the students in the classroom are concerned, two lower rank students have randomly decided to approach them—their curiosity is peaked as to how this interaction will play out. It’s not unusual for dueling declarations to occur, even accusations of cheating—golden robes oftentimes feel more like a target than a prize.

Suga gives his widest, friendliest smile.

“Of course! Sit, please.”

Hanamaki hasn’t even finished setting his bag down before he starts speaking in a fast whisper.

“Ushijima was definitely summoned to the Ministry. Everyone in his section is talking about it—apparently he went with that creepy red haired guy that always hangs around him. Some people are saying he was in a meeting with the Minister himself. But they’ve both been in classes today, as if nothing happened. What do you think this means? Have they found—”

Daichi takes a deep breath, and it’s only because Suga excels at deciphering Daichisms so well that he knows Daichi’s patience is being put to a test. He quickly intervenes in a real whisper-leveled response.

“Hanamaki, this is not the place to be having this conversation. I know as much as you do.”

Matsukawa cuts in, looking agitated, “But you said you could find out what’s been going on at the Ministry—“”

“I can, but it’s more complicated than that, I can’t just ask—”

Hanamaki makes a silent motion with his hand as if he wants to hit the table, “Tooru and Hajime are our friends! They might mean nothing to you but it’s not the case for us!”

Enough.” Daichi’s voice is soft, but the harshness to his stare speaks volumes. Both Hanamaki and Matsukawa stop speaking, but there’s twin, challenging glares directed at Daichi.

“Suga will find out what he can from his family, he can’t walk into the Ministry himself. What do you think this is? Some fantasy novel? In the meantime, you need to stop drawing attention to yourselves—teachers and students will grow suspicious. People know you two are friends with Oikawa and Iwaizumi, doesn’t it seem strange that the moment they stop coming to school you two start hanging out with higher ranked students? One that so happens to have ties to the Ministry through his family?”

Matsukawa seems to bristle, “Oh, sorry, golden one, I didn’t know our robes offended you.”

Suga does roll his eyes this time, “That’s not what Daichi means at all.”

“Oh, really?” Hanamaki’s voice is one decibel away from not being considered a whisper any more, “Let me tell you what we think. Sounds to us like you two are too afraid of getting in trouble—of losing your stupid gold robes—to help us. But guess what? Too late. The moment you threw our friends down a waterfall sending them off to find stupid Nekoma or whatever, you signed up for everything and anything that happens—good or bad.”

The study hall has gone suspiciously quiet—not the ‘we’re all studying’ quiet, but the ‘we’re hanging on to your every word’ quiet because Hanamaki is definitely not whispering any more.

“It seems we have misunderstood the purpose of study hall. Perhaps you’d like to reflect on what study hall means during detention?”

All four students turn to look at a tall, sickly thin wizard with a long gray beard peering down at them. Most students call him the Kindly Wizard because he usually keeps a jar of toffees next to his desk, and is known for being particularly lenient with late Astronomy submissions. However, he currently looks anything but kind—his beady eyes x-raying all four students with rigid disappointment.

Daichi stands up and bows, “We’re so sorry, sir. These two students needed assistance with one of their assignments, we felt it was our duty to help.”

The hall erupts in whispers and snickers—Suga winces at the offended looks on Matsukawa’s and Hanamaki’s faces—but he knows Daichi has given the most believable excuse. Lower ranked students are always desperately seeking advice from golden students, but such students are often deemed ridiculous and weak for humiliating themselves by asking for help.

Suga stands too, deciding to back him up, “We’ll have our group meeting somewhere else, as to not disrupt anyone.”

The Kindly Wizard stares at them for one more drawn out minute before nodding and walking back to his desk. Suga lets out a breath he hadn’t even realized he was holding, and pointedly signals at Hanamaki and Matsukawa to gather their things and follow them.

Mondays are quiet days for Suga, but today (and, Suga fears, the following days) will be an exception.

 

 ______________

Kenma does not enjoy visiting Nekoma’s village. He is perfectly content in the seemingly small (but magically enlarged) cabin he shares with Kuroo. Kenma is awkward at making small talk, even though the village has grown accustomed to him now, accepting him to be a soft-spoken hermit who’s particularly excellent at brewing up healing potions and remedies—in a way, Kenma has earned his place in this village, and the people are fond of him. Still, going into town, though a necessity for supplies and sustenance, is a task he wishes he could avoid. Not just due to the exhausting social interactions, but because he feels this is a small respite, a small gift to temporarily forget his exile that he doesn’t deserve.

It should be Kuroo, coming to town, it should be Kuroo chatting up the vendors and winking at the old ladies as he attempts to bargain prices. It should be Kuroo.

In a way, this small respite, this gift, feels a lot like a punishment.

“Kenma! The usual?” Alisa, the young woman managing the potion’s shop smiles at him and begins sorting out ingredients into a box. She and her brother, Lev, an incredibly loud and gangly boy with silver hair, had moved to Nekoma with their parents several years ago.

Kenma had never asked, but Lev would enthusiastically narrate his life history whenever Kenma came in to restock his potion’s cabinet. Mrs. Haiba was apparently a famous potions mistress in Russia, and the family had moved to Japan in order for her to study the properties of locally-grown magical ingredients.

“Yes. I’m in a hurry.” He burrows himself deeper into his plain black robes as he speaks, hoping Lev’s sister can pack everything up before Lev shows up. She seems to read his mind, and giggles good-naturedly.

“Lev is not around today. Went to Tokyo with mother to show the Ministry her latest advances.”

Kenma wrinkles his nose and doesn’t comment. Part of him is glad that Lev will not suck the energy out of him, but another part disapproves of the way the Ministry demands for Lev’s family to give them detailed notes on their potions’ progress in exchange for working as foreign wizards.

At least Lev’s family is busy enough that neither Lev nor Alisa are interested in attending Mahoutokoro. Good.

Kenma’s brought out of his thoughts by Alisa’s gentle voice.

“I know my brother is a handful, but he means well. And you’re always welcome at our home, Kenma. If you ever want to have dinner or—”

“Thank you, but not today.” Kenma doesn’t mean to be rude, but he doesn’t know how to politely reject Alisa’s continuous offers. Kuroo would. Kuroo’s always better at these things.

Her smooth forehead creases slightly, “But, isn’t it lonely, Kenma? You all alone in that cabin?”

I’m not alone, he wants to assure, I have the one person I need, the one person I don’t deserve because I took everything from him.

“How much do I owe you?” Is what he says instead.

 

______________

Tendou gives a long, obnoxiously loud yawn, his spine stretching as far backwards as it can go without him falling on his ass. Ushijima is, surprising no one, quietly ignoring his antics, too busy going over his notes for Charms class—pointless, really, in Tendou’s opinion, because no one has ever surpassed Ushijima in Charms, so why even bother? He is a natural.

Their journey to the Ministry had been incredibly disappointing in the end. Tendou had gotten his hopes up, imagining they would no longer have to attend classes because the Ministry had asked them to capture the big bad wizard, after all! Well, the Ministry had asked Ushijima, Tendou just happened to be a pleasant bonus.

But they had simply dismissed Ushijima with instructions to remain put, to report any suspicious activities inside the school, and to wait for his next task. Which, as far as Tendou knew, meant the Ministry had not been able to locate Tooru-chan, pfft, amateurs.

A white-robed wizard, huh. He—like all of his classmates—has heard rumors of this happening in the past. It’s a scary bedtime story to ensure young witches and wizards don’t go sticking their wand in places they shouldn’t, but he never imagined he’d get to witness someone going rogue in his school life. How exciting.

Tooru-chan, though. Proud, obnoxious Oikawa. He wonders if Ushijima is pleased with being tasked as the one to bring Oikawa down. School rivals is one thing, but this—this could make Ushijima’s career.

Or end it. Huh.

“Stop thinking about that. We don’t have new instructions, so concentrate on your studies.”

Tendou blinks rapidly, “Why, Wakatoshi, are you suddenly a legimens? How did you know I was thinking about that?” He draws out the ‘that’, his tongue pushing against his front teeth.

Ushijima does not look away from his notes, “I have not mastered legimency. You’re just suspiciously quiet. Also, it is a big request they have asked of us, with our reputation at stake. It’s natural for it to be on your mind.”

Tendou grins, practical as always.

“Ushijima-san!”

Both Tendou and Ushijima turn to the voice, staring at a boy in purple robes and a ridiculous—Tendou holds back a snort—bowl cut.

“Yes?”

The boy seems to be vibrating with poorly contained enthusiasm, his hands are balled up into fists, and his cheeks are flushed.

“I am Goshiki Tsutomu, year six. I’m your rival.”

Ushijima has no reaction to that, waiting for the kid to continue. Tendou bursts out laughing, clapping his hands together.

“Your rival, Wakatoshi, would you look at that!”

The Goshiki kid reddens even more at Tendou’s reaction, but does not waver his gaze on Ushijima.

“I have information useful to you. About Oikawa Tooru and, I believe the person assisting him, Iwaizumi Hajime.”

Tendou stops snickering at this. No one is supposed to know about any of this—he turns to Ushijima and notices the very slight crease on his forehead. However, the stoic seventh year does not say a word.

Goshiki smiles triumphantly for a quick second; apparently their reaction is what he was hoping for.

“However, I won’t give it to you unless I get something in return.”

Tendou tilts his head to the side—this kid has some nerve. He can’t deny he’s fascinated to see how Ushijima will handle this.

“I do not understand.” Anyone unfamiliar with Ushijima would be currently impressed with his poker face, but Tendou knows it’s just his regular face.

Goshiki lifts his nose up, as if trying to make himself look taller, which is hilarious because he really seems incredibly tiny next to Tendou and Ushijima.

“I heard some students talking about Oikawa and Iwaizumi. I believe these students assisted with Oikawa’s…situation.” The kid clearly does not know what Oikawa’s situation is, judging by the way he falters at the end, but he confidently trudges on nonetheless, “I also heard them mention a place, I think. Apparently Oikawa is heading there at one of this student’s suggestion.”

Tendou keeps himself from glancing at Ushijima, unsure of how much they should let this kid know. If he’s telling the truth, though (and why would he approach them with such a lie, anyway?), this is information they certainly need.

“What do you want?” It could mean anything, Tendou thinks; it’s not a statement that is acknowledging Goshiki’s intel, or their involvement with the Ministry.

“Everyone says the Ministry has asked for your help. I want to be part of this, too.”

Tendou bites his lip; this kid is really something else.

Ushijima stares him down for a five, torturously long seconds before nodding, “Fine.”

Tendou gapes. Goshiki too—clearly the kid didn’t think it was going to be that easy.

“But your mistakes are on you. So make sure you can keep up.” Ushijima starts putting his notes away, “Now, tell me what you know.”

Goshiki’s grin is positively dazzling, “I will not disappoint you!”

 

 ______________

“You…live here?”

Oikawa marvels at how deep this cave goes. He must’ve followed Daishou for twenty minutes or so before reaching a wide opening with high ceilings, and even a small pond. Still, Oikawa is positive that the only way he has found this particular spot is because Daishou guided him; they took so many turns Oikawa felt he was being taken in circles. He also imagines that magical barriers were taken down as they went—Daishou has consistently proven he is no unprepared fool.

Daishou snorts, “If you want to call this living, sure.”

Oikawa’s not sure what to say to that, because the place looks…comfortable. Stylish, even, albeit a little minimalistic. Everything is made out of the same pewter-colored rock as the rest of the cave, and he means everything—the space has a table, chairs, bed, a fireplace, even a comfortable looking rocking chair with cushions and all.

Daishou catches him examining the place, carefully setting the unconscious Iwaizumi on the bed, and actually looks a little excited, almost proud.

“No matter what everyone says, never skip Transfiguration. Literally will save your life.”

Oikawa gapes, “All of this has been transfigured? But…isn’t that exhausting?”

Daishou shrugs, “Not when you’ve got the time.”

Right. Daishou lives in exile—but it makes no sense. Everything Oikawa has ever read about him (and he’s read more than children’s books) makes it sound as if Daishou was exiled to death. Some accounts even elaborate on how he was left on some magically untraceable island—

Daishou laughs, “Please, as if those lazy Ministry officials would want to go through all that trouble.”

Oikawa frowns, “Do you mind not reading my mind?”

“Sorry, kid, but your thoughts are literally bouncing off the walls. Tea?”

Oikawa blinks, for Daishou has just retrieved a porcelain cup from a small cabinet next to the fireplace.

“A little too soon to be offering me something to drink, don’t you think? After thinking you were poisoning us.”

Daishou doesn’t even look ashamed, “Suit yourself. Now!” He turns to Iwaizumi, and before Oikawa can voice any objections, opens his mouth and pours the same transparent liquid Oikawa took minutes ago. “He took a heavier blow than you, so it might actually be awhile before he wakes up. But he’ll be fine, cross my heart.”

“Sure, because I trust you wholeheartedly.”

Daishou actually looks offended at this, “Hey! You come into my house— ”

“Because you kidnapped us!”

You were basically trespassing.”

Oikawa throws his hands up in the air, “Oh, sorry, next time you should put up a sign saying “Entering Dark Wizard’s Territory” or something!”

Daishou taps his wand against his chin, making a soft humming noise, as if he’s actually considering Oikawa’s suggestion.

Huh. His wand.

“Wait…” Oikawa walks closer to him, giving a quick glance in Iwaizumi’s direction to ensure his ragged breathing has turned normal, “How could they exile you and still let you have your wand?”

Daishou doesn’t answer right away, twirling the rosewood wand in his fingers, as if he’s examining it for the first time.

“It’s not mine.”

Oikawa lets out a soft ‘oh’, because it makes sense, Daishou has probably gone around stealing wands in order—

There’s a hand at his throat, long nails painfully digging into his skin.

“I didn’t steal it!” Those slit-like eyes are almost wide open at this point, and the playful Daishou has been replaced by something almost inhuman, something unhinged. “The person it belonged to…won’t need it ever again.”

Oikawa lets out a choking sound, and Daishou immediately lets go of him, though the frenzy in his eyes is still there. Not about to show any weakness, though, Oikawa casually massages his neck.

“And Iwa-chan says I’m dramatic…would you STOP reading my mind? And in case you don’t, my next thought is questioning whether you killed this person.”

“I might as well have.” Daishou’s words are soft, and standing here in front of the fireplace’s glow, he looks like a confused young man, and not the ancient dark wizard he is supposed to be.

“Let me ask you something. Do you feel evil?”

Oikawa slowly moves his head side to side, trying to process the question, “What?”

“When your robes changed,” here Daishou points a long, spidery finger at Oikawa’s white robes, “did you feel like a dark wizard? Did you feel you had changed?”

Looking down at his hands, then glancing at the sleeping Iwaizumi, he firmly gives his answer.

“Of course not.”

“Exactly.” Daishou turns his back to him, and Oikawa is able to catch a quick glimpse of the look in his eyes—Daishou looks as if he’s faraway, miles away from this cold cave. “Who decides what the robes mean?”

Oikawa’s not sure if this is a rhetorical question, but the student in him speaks before he can contain himself, “Well, the Ministry does. The school…it’s a way for them to determine…”

Their academic success. Their magical abilities. Their morality…?

Daishou doesn’t seem to acknowledge his answer, “One mistake and your entire life is decided for. Yet the triumphs are never permanent—students can always lose their rank, right?”

Oikawa swallows, unsure of whether he’s about to cross a line.

“What…what did you do?”

“I tried bringing the woman I loved back from death.”

And Oikawa is left speechless, because he was not expecting Daishou to give him an answer so quickly and so…honestly. He’s only met Daishou for a couple of hours, but he knows the Daishou that is speaking right now is telling the truth. Oikawa also knows that now is the time to be quiet and wait for Daishou to continue.

There’s a small smile grazing Daishou’s lips now—that stupid legimency—who slowly walks over to one of the chairs and takes a seat. He presses his wand against his temple, a small wince visible.

“I’ve never been a good storyteller. So, why don’t I show you instead?” And Oikawa’s mouth is hanging wide open now, because he knows what that silver thread is, and he knows what Daishou intends to do. But him. A total stranger. Something so intimate…why?

Standing up once more, Daishou brings his liquefied memories inside a wide bowl up to Oikawa, “Because I need to know how far you’re willing to go to challenge your fate.”

“Wha--?” The bowl is forced into his hands; Daishou is getting that impatient look on his face again.

“Do as I say. Why does everyone think I have some ulterior motive? Honesty is a lost art, I see.”

Everyone.

“What do you mean everyone? Who else has been here? Who else knows?”

Daishou arches one thin eyebrow, the wouldn’t you like to know unspoken, as he swiftly presses the bowl against Oikawa’s face.

 

 

 

The memories are cold and slimy, how fitting, Oikawa shudders, just like their owner. But he does not have much time to dwell on the sensation of Daishou’s memories—he feels his entire body being vacuumed through a wormhole. He’s worried he’s going to throw up—although he’s read up extensively on the power of memory transfers, pensives, and viewing other people’s thoughts, he has never experienced it first hand.

His feet touch soft grass, and he brings a translucent hand to shield his eyes from the bright sun hitting his face. The sound of torrential water behind him.

He knows this sound.

In fact, he experienced it up close and personal recently.

Slowly turning, Oikawa stares at the terrifyingly majestic Mahoutokoro waterfalls.

“Wait, Mika! What are you doing?” A playful voice has Oikawa turning again, and he quickly sidesteps before a pretty young girl with shoulder-length, light brown hair nearly crashes against him.

“Hurry! You’ll see!” Is this Mika’s melodious response.

Daishou quickly follows behind her. Physically, this looks like the same Daishou back at the cave, but his demeanor is completely different. Though that same mischievous smile is there, there is carelessness and liberty to his movements.

This is a Daishou from many years ago.

This is a Daishou wearing purple robes.

Time seems to jolt, and Oikawa is still standing before the waterfalls, but Mika and Daishou have moved closer to the edge, and Daishou seems to be arguing with her.

“Are you out of your mind? My levitation spells aren’t that good.”

Mika silences him by placing a finger against his lips, her gold robes sparkling with the waterfall’s mist, “Why do you always doubt yourself? Everyone knows your magic is amazing. I know your magic is amazing.”

“This is madness, Mika—I’m not going to levitate you over these waterfalls just to prove I’m good at something!”

Mika frowns, “You’re so close to earning gold robes, I know it. You’re letting your insecurities hold you back. Master this spell and be top of the class, it’s your last year to do it!”

Daishou shakes his head, ruffling his hair with a frustrated hand, “No. What if I fail? What if I drop you?”

Mika flicks a finger against his forehead, “Now you’re just insulting my spellwork. I’ll just float myself back to safety.”

Oikawa watches, with a terrifying pound against his ribcage, as Daishou appears to be considering this.

“We’ll start on the ground, okay?”

Mika claps her hands together, “Yes!”

Oikawa moves closer to Daishou, watching him reach for his wand, and yelling out a shocked, “No!”

Daishou doesn’t hear him, of course, quietly staring at his wand, and Oikawa prays he’s about to put it back in his pocket and tell Mika he’s not doing this.

“Don’t you trust me, Suguru?” Mika doesn’t even look upset, gently holding both of Daishou’s hands and smiling at him, “You are destined to be great. All those idiots making fun of you are just afraid you’ll surpass them the moment you find your confidence.”

Daishou only has eyes for Mika, and Oikawa closes his own eyes because he knows the look on Daishou’s face. He’s seen it looking back at him in the mornings while he stands in front of his mirror—determination to succeed at all costs.

“Okay…okay, we’ll do this slowly, okay?”

Oikawa does not want to open his eyes, does not want to imagine Mika nodding in excitement and encouragement.

Oikawa does not want to open his eyes, even as he hears Daishou casting the levitation charm, even as he hears Mika’s delight.

“A little higher…a little steadier…yes!” Mika sounds ecstatic, “You’re really doing it, Suguru!”

Daishou’s thrilled puff of a laugh is what finally makes Oikawa look—the young wizard is grinning, a purely jovial grin Oikawa is sure he’s witnessing for the first time, despite Daishou’s many smiles throughout their encounter.

“Now make it a real challenge…hover me closer to the edge…You can do this, Suguru.” And Mika sounds like she really trusts Daishou, like she really believes in him and his ability to keep her airborne, to keep her safe.

He has heard this tone of voice before…in Iwaizumi, when they’re about to face a particularly challenging opponent in dueling tournaments.

We can do this, Tooru.

 

It happens tragically quickly, like most accidents do.

He’s not sure if it’s exhaustion, or a miscalculation, but Daishou’s hold on his wand wavers, and Mika starts falling back down, although she smoothly manages to shout a quick cushioning spell to lessen the impact.

Holding his breath, Oikawa watches as she catches her balance, her feet right on the edge. She’s waving her wand to signal she’s okay, her smiling lips forming inaudible words, whatever reassurance she sends in Daishou’s direction swallowed by the rush of water, by the sudden gust of wind that pushes her backwards while simultaneously knocking her wand out of her hand.

 

Oikawa does not hear Daishou’s scream, too deafened by his own.

Chapter Text

Oikawa’s scream bounces off empty space as his vision jolts once more, time shifting gears as he is abruptly placed in a room he is very much familiar with—

Mahoutokoro’s great hall. The mood, however, is not one he has ever experienced in said hall. There are soft-glowing lanterns floating close to the students’ heads, giving an eerie glow to the generally bright room. The smell of chrysanthemums permeates the air, even though Oikawa cannot see a single flower in sight. Daishou stands next to him, no trace of the panicked man he left shrouded in despair back at the waterfalls. His robes are pure black—as are the rest of the students’—and there is something like contained rage in his eyes.

It seems that several of the students are lining up to pay their respects. Slightly supporting himself on his tiptoes, Oikawa can see what he presumes is Mika’s family at the front, standing next to a picture of Mika wearing her gold robes, her hair held together by a bright yellow ribbon, a soft smile warming her lips. Oikawa has never heard of the school hosting a student’s funeral—perhaps it is the fact that Mika died on school grounds, the school must have felt some burden of responsibility.

But Daishou is here, although making no effort to join the lined up students. Which means Mika’s death has not been blamed on him. Although judging by the darkened bruises underneath Daishou’s eyes, by the gaunt pull to his face, he is not proud to have gotten away blame-free.

The mournful silence is broken by a group of girls crying as they make it to the front of the line—Mika was well-loved, no doubt about that. The grief permeating the air is not fake but tangible—overwhelming loss for a precious student, classmate, friend. Part of him wonders why Daishou would want to show him this particular memory, when he senses movement next to him and turns to spot Daishou quietly backing out of the hall, towards the darkened school hallways.

Oikawa is not sure if he can be left behind in a memory, but he is not about to find out. Running through the bodies, shiverings at the thought that he feels very much like a spirit in a funeral, he catches up with the rushing young man. Has the grief finally gotten the best of him?

They must have gone at least up three flights of stairs, a stitch throbbing at his side, when Daishou finally decides to stop in front of closed door. Oikawa watches him look up and down the hall—checking to make sure he is alone—before taking out a book from the fold of his robes.

Getting closer to peek at the content, Oikawa immediately recoils. The pictures are gruesome—hyper-realistic images of body parts, organs, fluids, you name it. It does not help that the images twist and contort as if they are under a great amount of aberrant pain. Daishou is quickly flipping through the pages, apparently pleased with what he finds as he immediately takes out his wand and begins a complicated incantation Oikawa has never heard of before.

The door groans, as if being pushed open, yet remains completely shut. As Daishou’s incantation escalates, so does the groaning, as if the door were suffering under some sort of invisible strain. It’s only until a soft yellow glow appears that Oikawa understands what is happening—this door has been magically protected, powerfully, too. While the incantation is making Daishou break out in perspiration, Daishou is breaking down the barriers with the help of that book.

When he is done speaking, Daishou carefully approaches the door, placing a tentative finger against the wood. As if made from fabric instead of heavy wood, the door opens wide.

Oikawa gasps.

If the great hall was eerie, this is downright catacomb-esque. The few lanterns are spread out far apart from each other, so instead of illuminating the entire room, only a few pockets of light are seen amidst the darkness. It’s not the lack of light that triggers his reaction, but the sleeping body at the end of the room.

Sleeping. That’s how peaceful Mika’s corpse looks—Oikawa recognizes her soft hair, a flash of yellow underneath the white cloth that covers her face. Although Mika’s body has been dressed in white robes, her gold robes have been arranged on top of her, the greatest triumph accompanying her in her passing.

Daishou walks with determined, seemingly unperturbed purpose. But there is a quivering to his jaw, a twitch to his brow, a manic clenching and unclenching of his fists, a shallow intake to his breaths, that lets Oikawa know this is the first time Daishou is seeing the body after the incident.

Oikawa is not sure how many minutes it takes for Daishou to reach Mika, but he knows that he is afraid. Afraid that Daishou will get caught, afraid that Daishou will invoke some sort of supernatural judgment for disturbing a sleeping soul that has not quite finished her journey, afraid of what Daishou is planning to do with that disturbing book.

It happens quickly, far too quickly, as if Daishou had memorized each step of this grotesque plan.

First, he removes the gold robes from Mika’s body—and it feels wrong, somehow. She suddenly seems smaller, fragile, less important—just a little, dead girl.

Second, he touches her arm, making Oikawa flinch, because it is not a gentle touch, but a brute sudden grip that would probably leave a blooming bruise if blood were still flowing through Mika’s veins.

Third, he withdraws his wand, and transfigures the end into something Oikawa has seen before—a long, silver needle, used by Ministry officials to record the blood of potential Mahoutokoro students. He watches the needle prick flesh, watches the blood drops float in mid air before Daishou stores them in a vial he produces with his free hand.

Oikawa is holding his breath through the entire process, afraid that his breathing will be so loud, so panicked, that it will transcend time and space and alert Daishou of his intrusion.

His mind cannot help but conjure images of the body parts in Daishou’s book, and his active imagination wonders if Daishou is about to take something other than Mika’s blood for…whatever this is.

Daishou has moved closer to Mika’s face now, and time seems to reduce its ticking as he reaches for the white cloth covering her face with shaking fingers. Fingertips graze fabric, and Oikawa prepares himself to close his eyes, when Daishou withdraws.

By the time Oikawa snaps back to his senses, Daishou has already left the room.

He does not need to catch up with him this time, for the memory shifts once more, and deposits him into utter chaos.

 

 

There is shouting coming from behind him, and flashes of spells being fired—Oikawa immediately crouches to the ground and gets ready to withdraw his wand before a body literally running through him reminds him that this is but a mere memory.

Looking up, Oikawa watches as Daishou rushes past him, clutching a bundle of white robes. The young man himself is wearing regular clothes, but unless Oikawa is mistaken—judging by the spells and shouts, he isn’t—those white robes belong to Daishou himself.

His heart pounding, Oikawa follows.

He’s not sure where they are, but it’s clearly not Mahoutokoro anymore—Daishou is attempting to evade his foes by making his way through narrow alleys and rooftops, occasionally shouting back spells that seem to hit a couple of his desired targets.

It’s pure luck, really, the way Oikawa sees it. Luck that Daishou is clearly on unfamiliar territory, luck that he clearly did not plan this far ahead, luck that his robes have turned at possibly the worst moment, luck that he ends up in a dead end.

Something clatters, and Oikawa watches as Daishou’s robes fall to the ground, alongside a plain wooden box—the moment the box hits the ground, the lid bursts open, and what are unmistakably human bones roll out.

Oikawa does not need to be top of the class to piece everything together. Daishou, after taking Mika’s blood, must have been working on bringing her back—but clearly he was too late and the body had been cremated before he put his plan into action. Clearly, that was not about to stop him.

“I’m sorry.” Daishou’s voice is defeated, panicked, caged. “I’m sorry, I was too late.”

Oikawa notes the bags underneath Daishou’s eyes, the sickly hue to his skin, the skittish, mad look that does not seem to stay put, the way he lovingly gets on his knees and begins collecting each of the bones.

It makes Oikawa sick to his stomach.

“But you always told me to try harder. You believed in me, did you not?” He strokes a vertebrae with reverend touch, ignoring the voices getting closer, “What would you say now, Mika?”

Daishou’s eyes are closed by the time the Aurors have caught up with him, unwavering wands ready to strike.

Daishou chuckles, bones still in his hands.

“That’s right. You would tell me to keep trying, to prove them all wrong.”

As if he does not have a dozen or so trained wizards surrounding him, Daishou stands up, one more item falling from underneath his robes—the book Oikawa had spotted earlier. It seems to be coverless, and nothing to indicate what its title might be, but compared to the first time Oikawa saw it, it is cleared the book has been poorly taken care of—its pages frayed, burned on the edges, stained with things Oikawa does not want to dwell on for too long.

“Suguru Daishou, you are accused of practicing highly illegal dark magic. You will receive fair trial and judgment for your disgraceful actions.” 

Daishou begins to laugh. It is shrilled, unhinged, and desperate. It is dangerous.

This time, he is similar to the Daishou he has read about in books. Similar to that dreadful wizard that would sometimes appear in his childhood nightmares. This time, as a quick, wandless gesture unleashes an invisible force that seems to simultaneously strike all Aurors at once, Oikawa knows he is witnessing Daishou the White Robed Menace.

 

Oikawa shouts as Daishou’s face is inappropriately close to his.

“What…what? That’s it?”

Breathing heavily, Oikawa finds himself once more in the cave, with the real Daishou gazing at him with an unreadable expression, with Iwaizumi peacefully sleeping in the background.

Daishou remains silent, and Oikawa does not need to be a genius to know that his next words—his reaction to Daishou’s memories—will determine just how much help Daishou is willing to provide.

“Those Aurors…what happened to them?”

Daishou does not even consider sounding remorseful, “Dead. All of them.”

Oikawa swallows, “But you were captured, eventually?”

Daishou nods, “Quickly after that incident, actually. I must admit it was my fault…I had not anticipated Mika’s cremation to happen so soon after…the blood work I had studied was meant to revive a body, not turn bones into a living body. I was…at wit’s end.”

“Do you think it would have worked? All this dark magic?”

Daishou locks eyes with him, “Yes.”

Oikawa feels both awe and pity for this broken, exiled wizard, because he does not doubt that Daishou believes his plan would have worked.

“I did not factor in the robes, either. See, that was my downfall. I assumed that no longer partaking in school activities, being away from Mahoutokoro…the stupid color rank system would stop working. It didn’t, clearly, and that gave me away. That alerted the Ministry. Everything would have worked if it had not been for the stupid robes.”

Oikawa sighs at this, “That was going to be my next question…when the robes had turned. It would have made sense if it had happened while you were still in school…but you had clearly deserted after, um, the blood taking.”

Daishou gets uncomfortably close once more, “You still don’t get it, do you, kid? The blood is key. That’s why the robes will always remain with you.”

“The blood?”

“The robes are charmed—hexed, I would say—with blood magic. This is how the Ministry tracks you down! This is how the Ministry ensures robe and user are morally and magically connected!”

Oikawa huffs, because it is absolutely absurd, “But that would mean the Ministry is doing the very thing you—we—are being punished for!”

Daishou claps, laughing loudly and pretending to do fanfare noises with his mouth, “Top Mahoutokoro student right here!”

Oikawa shakes his head, refusing to accept such a ridiculous explanation, “No. That makes no sense.”

“No. What you should be saying is that it makes perfect sense! Don’t you get it? The Ministry operates the greatest base for blood magic, right in the public’s eyes, but ensures no one suspects them by punishing those who do.” Daishou’s movements are erratic, he paces back and forth as he gesticulates wildly, his voice increasing with every word.

Oikawa frowns, “But wouldn’t they want to, I don’t know, welcome those who have excelled at this? To help them?”

Daishou sneers, “And explain to an entire magical population that their children, that everyone, has been tracked and monitored via the dark arts for ages? Hah, we’d have Ministries from other parts of the world waving pitchforks at our shores.”

Oikawa worries his bottom lip, because Daishou does have a point, “Did they offer you anything? Strike some sort of deal other than…exile or prison?”

“Yes, enslavement.”

“What?”

“A sacrifice…not mine, in exchange for my enslavement, ensuring I would think twice before using magic again.”

“That’s…that’s absurd.”

“Yeah, thought so too. In fact, I made sure to let them know just how absurd I thought it was by killing the Aurors that came to offer me said deal.”

Oikawa winces, not wanting to encourage Daishou to go into details about any more of these murders, “So, you were sent to prison?”

Daishou nods, suddenly subdued, and Oikawa worries he is taking a walk down memory lane, “Fumeiyo, the underwater magical prison. There is a special floor for deserters and traitors.”

“But you escaped?”

“Yes and no.” Daishou snorts, “They let me go.”

What?

Daishou throws himself on the nearest couch, speaking slowly, as if he is explaining something very complicated to a toddler, “The Ministry tosses out whatever might disrupt the way they run wizarding society, but they do not believe in wasting resources on a loss cause. They grew bored with me—they had taken everything, my wand, my life—my family had been fed a lie, that I had committed suicide, unable to accept Mika’s death—eventually they thought I had turned into a carcass, a waste of space.”

Oikawa remains silent, not wanting to interrupt Daishou’s very informative monologue.

“They would come in once a month and test me, basic spells and charms, and eventually I stopped trying, I stopped responding. Eventually they thought I had given up in attempting wandless magic. This carried on for five more years. They had even started removing my chains when I was in my cell.”

“Idiots…” Oikawa unconsciously massages his collarbone, where the wounds inflicted by Daishou’s duel still sting and throb.

Daishou smiles, “Yeah, thought so too. One day I saw my chance—only one guard instead of the usual two. I bonded his blood with mine, a more secure form of Imperio, one that does not require wand work, and walked out wearing his uniform.”

Oikawa winces, thinking of the poor fool that had to pay the price, “They never noticed?”

“The blood exchange was poisoned. I felt him die shortly after—I imagine his body was tossed out without being given much thought, probably glad to finally be rid of me.”

Still, as Oikawa observes Daishou, who doesn’t even seem proud of his grand escape, something does not quite add up, “But, your robes?”

“Still trackable, yes.” Daishou looks down at his white hems, pensive, “They grew bored of me, but they’re not idiots, if I were to ever…reappear…they would know how to find me. But using Mika’s wand helps, I suppose. Channeling my own magic through another wizard’s wand throws off my scent, so to speak. I’m not an idiot, I know all hell would break lose if the Ministry decides to look into my blood records and discover traces of my magic after my supposed demise.”

Oikawa runs a hand down his tired face, not sure he wants to hear the answer to his next question, “How did you get her wand?”

Daishou’s stare is chilling, “Months after my escape. I broke into her shrine in her family’s home, replaced it with a transfigured log. Pretty clever, don’t you think?”

“Clever…” Oikawa is not sure how much more he should push. Is Daishou an ally? A foe just waiting to make his move? “Daishou, tell me everything you know about the Department of Blood Magic.”

 __________________

 

“…ooru?” Iwaizumi’s head is surprisingly not pounding, just heavy and foggy, as if it has been stuffed with wet cottonballs. As if he has taken a far too long nap, where the only solution is to continue sleeping.

But there is no time for sleep. Though his limbs are still waking up, his mind is beginning to pick up the pieces.

The duel. Daishou’s taunts. Oikawa’s injuries. His own distraction.

“Tooru!” He hopes his voice is louder this time, despite his mouth stuck dry to his rooftop.

Movement far away, two separate voices whispering to one another, he believes he catches one saying “Your knight awaits” and it’s the way that ‘s’ is drawn out and hissed out low that has him sitting up in a panic.

A hand is at his chest.

“Iwa-chan! It’s okay, it’s okay, Iwa-chan, it’s me!”

Vision clearing, he makes out Oikawa’s hair, a little more ruffled than usual but still parading as effortlessly styled even in these circumstances. His brown eyes are slightly widened but showing more relief than concern. How long has he been sleeping?

“Why…why is he just sitting there?” There is a dangerous growl to his words as he spots Daishou some feet away, lounging in a puffy couch.

The hand on his chest is smoothing out his robes’ wrinkles, he watches Oikawa swallow nervously.

“This is going to be hard to believe, Iwa-chan, but you have to trust me.”

Iwaizumi locks eyes with his best friend, and where normally he would nod in assent, where normally Oikawa’s sincere face would calm the beating of his adrenaline-pumped heart, this time it does not seem enough.

So Iwaizumi does not nod. He simply stares and waits for Oikawa to continue.

Oikawa remains silent for a few seconds, his eyes roaming Iwaizumi’s face for signs—for an explanation—trying to find what has shattered between them. He finds it, apparently, because he carries on with a grimace and a beaten tone.

“Daishou healed you…well, he never really hurt you, it was a sedative. He gave me the antidote, too. We’ve been…talking. And, Iwa-chan, you have to believe me when I say Daishou is not…entirely guilty.”

Daishou whistles good-naturedly, placing his hands behind his head and sending a cheeky grin in their direction.

Oikawa scowls, “However, that does not mean he is entirely harmless, or that he hasn’t done things that are certainly questionable.”

Iwaizumi ignores Daishou’s gloating, attention fixated on Oikawa, “So, he’s convinced you?”

Oikawa sighs, “He’s shown me a different side to this white-robed business, Iwa-chan. And, honestly, isn’t that why I fled Mahoutokoro? Isn’t that why you came with me?”

He hears more than sees Daishou getting to his feet, approaching them with both hands raised in a peaceful gesture and no wand in sight. Although Iwaizumi already knows that a wandless Daishou is still a threat.

“You’re not the first ones to stumble into my domain with this predicament, Iwa-chan.”

Iwaizumi glares at the nickname, surprised that Oikawa has not chastised Daishou for using it, too.

“What do you mean? You hinted at this before.”

Iwaizumi watches Oikawa stare at Daishou with open curiosity. So Daishou has not fully explained this to him either.

“Let’s just say a fellow classmate of yours confused me for a fairy godmother or some sort of genie that could grant wishes—he was pretty annoying, too, and had the most awful laugh.”

“Kuroo?!” Both Iwaizumi and Oikawa yell out at once.

“Yeah, yeah, gangly and with that ridiculous rooster hair.” Daishou remises Kuroo as if he were remembering a particularly aggravating fly.

“But then…Tetsun came to you for help! With Kenma! You helped them!” And Oikawa looks so relieved, so triumphant, that something eases in Iwaizumi’s chest as well.

Daishou makes an annoyed ‘tch’, “I did not help that dumb hyena—sneaking into my cave, thinking he could force me into reverting his precious Kenma’s white robes, thinking he could kidnap me, hah.”

Iwaizumi frowns, “Kidnap you? Why?”

“The fool came alone. I never had the pleasure of meeting this Kenma you speak of. Honestly, all of you are under the mistaken impression that I am simply dying to meet fellow white robed wizards.”

Iwaizumi and Oikawa share a look, and there is a silent understanding passing between them. Iwaizumi focuses back on Daishou.

“Did he tell you where Kenma was?”

Daishou rolls his eyes, “Oh, of course, he wouldn’t shut up about it—the grieving idiot, going on and on about how Aurors had taken Kenma and I had to help him save him.”

He laughs, clearly mocking the absurdity of Kuroo’s plan, “You can imagine that I was not particularly on board with this idea. Not a fan of the Ministry, myself.”

“So the rumors…what Sugawara hinted at, are true. You refused to help Kuroo, dooming him and Kenma to whatever the Ministry did to them. They must be dead.” Iwaizumi was not particularly close with either Kuroo or Kenma, but his fists clench in indignation at the thought of how their last glimmer of hope was crushed by this deceiving snake.

“No, Iwa-chan, let him finish.” Oikawa’s hand is still lying on Iwaizumi’s chest, “You let me inside your memories, Daishou, your heartless wizard smokescreen does not quite work with me anymore.” Oikawa actually has the audacity to stick his tongue out at Daishou.

Iwaizumi finds himself slapping Oikawa’s hand away without really thinking about it, “Inside his memories? You two sure have had time to get acquainted—more than enough time for this snake to brainwash you.”

Oikawa looks too shocked to retaliate. Daishou simply chuckles.

“Calm down, Iwa-chan, I haven’t done anything to Tooru’s pretty little brain.”

Tooru, Iwaizumi grits his teeth—Oikawa looks as if he is about to reach out for him once more but stops himself, sighing and turning to Daishou instead.

“Just tell us before Iwa-chan here starts another duel.”

“They’re not dead. They were both taken by the Ministry, yes, but I told Kuroo there was only one way he and Kenma would escape.” He pauses dramatically, here, knowing very well Iwaizumi and Oikawa are holding on to his every word—Iwaizumi is two seconds away from hexing him. Sensing the irritation, Daishou continues, a complacent grin plastered to his face.

“I told that idiot he had to turn himself in in exchange for Kenma, and accept the exile.”

Iwaizumi raises an eyebrow at this, “Why would they want him? He’s not the one whose robes turned white.”

“His magic.” Daishou’s voice adds on the unspoken ‘duh’, but Iwaizumi is too shocked to be offended.

“What?”

Oikawa is looking down at his hands, opening them and clenching them sporadically, “A sacrifice. Something deadlier than a prick of the finger, I imagine?”

“Mm, more malevolent than deadly. Kuroo is alive, so is Kenma.”

“But?” Oikawa’s voice is soft, as if he is afraid of the answer. Iwaizumi watches him doing his best to keep an expressionless face, even though he can pin point the strain to his voice.

“But I imagine he can’t do magic anymore, or can only use limited amounts of it—if blood magic was involved, and this is the Ministry so of course blood magic was involved—the Ministry bonded Kuroo to Kenma, insurance that if Kenma were to delve into forbidden magic once more, it’d be Kuroo’s magical life energy he’d be taking.”

Iwaizumi swallows, “That’s…awful, if it’s true. But how would you know?”

“I told him to accept the deal, didn’t I? Because they offered me the same option.”

Iwaizumi shakes his head, clearly confused, “You? But you use magic.”

“I didn’t take it. I escaped. I killed my way out.”

Iwaizumi feels his neck hairs standing on edge, disturbed by the calmness with which Daishou makes this statement. This is information they need, though, and fear should not deter them from inquiring further, specially now that Daishou is so talkative.

“Why not? No one was willing to make that sort of sacrifice for you?”

“Iwa-chan…” And Iwaizumi hates the fact that Oikawa is actually scolding him right now, in this godforsaken cave, because he’s being rude to Japan’s legendary dark wizard.

Daishou seems unperturbed, “It would have been a blessed curse. To offer me the one thing that caused my robes to turn white, only to punish her for my actions.”

Oikawa’s gasp is loud and affronted, “No! They were going to bring Mika back?!”

Iwaizumi is clearly lost at this point, but remains quiet, as it is clear that Oikawa and Daishou are on the same page.

Daishou is sneering, his stare fixated on the dripping stalactites on the cave’s ceiling, “Death would be too easy, too much of a respite, for the Ministry. They wanted to ensure I would suffer forever, to make an example of me. Guess that didn’t quite work out, though.” Here he stares pointedly at Oikawa’s white robes.

Oikawa is gnawing his bottom lip, “So, that’s it? This was great your aid?”

“Hey,” Daishou is pointing a finger at them, “I gave him an alternative, that hyena of a fool chose to do it, and it worked! I kept my ears open for news, and last I heard they were exiled to Nekoma. They’re forbidden from ever contacting anyone from their past, of course, but they’re alive and they’re together. If that’s not the best happily ever after under these circumstances, I don’t know what to tell you.”

Iwaizumi shuts his eyes, hoping he can tune out Daishou’s voice, because it is adding more dissonance to his already jarring thoughts. If what Daishou is saying is true—and he feels he is still missing key pieces that Oikawa needs to fill him in on—then it all comes down to running and hiding for the rest of their lives, or being willing to give up the one thing that makes them—him—a wizard.

“Stop, Iwa-chan!” Before opening his eyes, Iwaizumi already knows that Oikawa is closed to tears. It’s the ragged breathing, always such a telling sign—Iwaizumi has perfected the art of reading Oikawa, after all.

“Why are you crying, you idiot?”

“I’m not—because you!” Oikawa punches Iwaizumi’s shoulder. Iwaizumi does not even pretend to flinch, eyes not leaving Oikawa’s watery browns. “Because you’re already considering this stupid…ridiculous…cruel option! You! Who’s currently mad at me and doubting me and still, still you’re willing to give yourself up?!”

Iwaizumi sighs, reclining against the pillows (the soft kind, too! Daishou has far too much time on his hands). He can’t deny Oikawa’s accusations, because yes, part of him is mad at Oikawa, part of him is scared to acknowledge that maybe he does not quite know who his best friend has become.

“Before we make a decision...before we…do anything. You need to tell me everything, Tooru.”

“Everything? My big bad tale of converting to the dark side?” And Oikawa’s sadness is quickly being replaced by rage, “Well, newsflash, Iwa-chan, life is not a fucking chessboard, and I’m not a black piece or a white piece.”

Iwaizumi’s fists ball up in irritation, “Dammit, Tooru, that’s not what I’m saying! I’m saying that I need to understand why you would feel it was any form of okay to meddle with dark magic.”

“Because I can, okay! Because I am that good, and I knew I would excel at it.”

“And then what?! Kill Ushijima in a duel to proclaim yourself king?!”

“Don’t you dare, Hajime!”

“I don’t feel I know you anymore, Tooru! When we fled the school I did it for the Tooru I thought I knew!”

Oikawa recoils as if slapped, “So you’re saying you wouldn’t have come with me if you had known everything?”

“No, just…” Iwaizumi furiously rubs his hand against his face, wanting to make sense of this entire situation.

“Do you regret this, Hajime?” And Oikawa is angrily gripping Iwaizumi’s hand out of his face, forcing him to lock eyes with him, “Do you regret your chivalrous speech? When you told me it was going to be okay? Do you regret leaving Mahoutokoro? Do you regret our kiss?”

They both pointedly ignore Daishou’s loud, “Oh, boy.”

Iwaizumi avoids Oikawa’s stare, focused instead on their still joint hands. He’s always been Oikawa’s second, always watching his back, letting him know that even if he were to fail, even if his opponent were too strong, he would be there to ensure victory no matter what. And somewhere along this watching, this analyzing, somewhere along walking next to this shining, victorious boy, Iwaizumi too had been dazzled and captivated by his smile, his love for stars and aliens, his whining personality, his soft spot for romantic comedies, his laugh when he felt relaxed and unjudged, when he wasn’t pretending to be the best, but was only existing in peaceful relaxation. Next to him.

Somewhere along the way, Iwaizumi had been satisfied with having Oikawa’s back—and that kiss, that desperate, sad kiss, had given him hope, that maybe he now could protect and love Oikawa standing side by side to him, not behind him.

“I regret…not realizing that you have changed.”

Oikawa sucks in his breath, and Iwaizumi looks away to hopefully conceal the sting in his eyes.

“But I’m ready to stand next to you, an equal team, not just your back up when shit explodes.”

“Maaaybe I’ll give you two some privacy.” And with a flash of light, a long green snake slithers back into the cave’s dark tunnels.

Oikawa pays no attention to Daishou’s transformation, sneering at Iwaizumi instead, “You’ve never been just my back up, you know that.”

“Do I? Let me tell you I definitely feel like an afterthought after discovering that you’ve been brushing up on your dark magic behind my back.”

“You’re such a narrow minded caveman, Hajime—you think I woke up one day saying hmmm, you know what I really want to try today, being an evil wizard!”

Iwaizumi’s feet are now on the cold stone floor, “You don’t get to insult me, you asshole, not after the mess you’ve caused. Not when your only chance of getting out of this mess might be my magic!”

Oikawa stands up so quickly the bed shakes, “Is that a threat? You think I can’t make it without your help?”

“No! See that right there, this senseless inferiority complex of yours, that’s what pisses me off! Even now, now, I am willing to give everything up for you, Tooru, and you’d still rather burn at the hands of your own reckless pride!”

“Have you perhaps considered, in that hard head of yours, that it might not be pride what’s making me conceal things from you? But the dread of getting you involved? The absolute fear of knowing you might play the fucking hero and give yourself up for me? I’d rather die, Hajime!”

Iwaizumi stands on unstable limbs, and is grateful that Oikawa does not step away, because he’s not sure he has the energy to move more.

“You’ve always been so dramatic, Tooru. Maybe, if you’re honest with me, if you’re transparent with me from here on, no one has to die. Maybe Daishou’s plan is not the only way out for us. But if it comes down to that, I’d happily live out the rest of my magicless life knowing I saved you.”

Oikawa’s entire body is shaking, “You don’t get to accuse me of being dramatic while you’re dramatic, you brave jerk!”

Whatever Iwaizumi is about to say is interrupted by Daishou’s return, the snake frantically makes it close enough for them to realize that—for a snake—Daishou seems shaken. A flash of light leaves Iwaizumi blinking rapidly.

“Lover’s spat over. You need to leave now.”

“What’s wrong?” Oikawa immediately puts his arm around Iwaizumi, and Iwaizumi hates admitting that he probably would not be able to carry on standing upright without his support.

“My cave seems to be the hottest tourist destination for Mahoutokoro students. Three of them, it seems.”

“But the protection wards—"

“Will not keep them out forever. Those wards are meant to protect me from people that don’t even know I’m here. These three seem to know more than I’m comfortable with, they’re working on bringing them down.”

Iwaizumi sighs, not believing what he’s about to say, “Then we’ll help you.”

Daishou actually snorts, the ungrateful fool, “My heart bursts with gratitude, kid, but I’m telling you to leave because I’m sure they’re looking for you.”

Oikawa looks down at his robes, as if he’s forgotten he’s wearing them. “Daishou, if what you’ve told me is true…”

Daishou nods, “Not fully tested but yes, you can take them off, as long as you keep them close to you it shouldn’t be a problem, but as long as your blood ties you to them you won’t get rid of them.”

“Get rid of them?” Iwaizumi is quickly shushed by Oikawa, who is massaging his forehead and has that look of extreme concentration he normally wears when watching duels.

“All blood records are back in the Ministry…”

Daishou shakes his head, “That’d be suicide. Even if you allow yourself to be captured, you wouldn’t be able to easily access your blood record.”

“Not just mine…expose them for what they really are.” There is a manic gaze to Oikawa’s look now, making Iwaizumi worry. Even Daishou looks aghast.

Expose the Ministry? You’ve gone mad. As mad as that idiot, Kuroo.” But Daishou’s voice is not entirely mocking, “It would take…”

“The right people.” Iwaizumi concludes thoughfully.

Daishou is staring at them both as if he is acknowledging them for the first time. “You’re mad, absolutely mad.”

“We’re not asking for your assistance, we’ve complicated things enough for you as it is, I know.” Oikawa speaks quickly, but there’s a charming half smile to his face, a soothing timbre to his words. Iwaizumi knows this is Oikawa the charmer at his best, knowing he will not be refused what he wants.

“We need you to get us to Nekoma.”

Both Iwaizumi and Daishou frown in confusion, “Nekoma?” Iwaizumi asks first, “But you said the Ministry…”

“And you said the right people, Hajime.” Oikawa actually has the audacity to elegantly run his fingers through his hair, “It’s time to recruit a team.”

Daishou looks conflicted for a total of ten seconds before sighing in frustration, “I know how to get you close enough that you’ll be undetected, but you’ll have to draw Kuroo out, the village is probably heavily watched.”

“That’s not for your cunning little head to worry about. Now, show us—”

The cave groans, as if it is folding in on itself, and Iwaizumi swears he feels the entire structure shifting, as if whatever magical force has been keeping this cave standing is weakening. Then, from the darkness, comes an amplified booming voice.

“We know you’re here, Oikawa. Surrender now and punishment might be less severe.”

Iwaizumi groans as Oikawa seethes.

“Ushijima.”

  __________________

 

“How do we know you’re not making all of this up?”

“I’m not! That would be dishonorable. Not only in proving myself to you, but as a student of Mahoutokoro, as a member of this prestigious wizarding society!”

“Riight, but. What if?”

“I’m no—“

“Tendou, stop riling him up. We will believe you for now, Goshiki.”

“I’ll make you believe me always!”

Tendou sighs, unsure of whether accepting to go on a journey with these two is a blessing in disguise or a poorly concealed curse—Goshiki is incredibly naïve and easy to rile up, but Ushijima is as equally naïve in humoring Goshiki’s whims, probably oblivious to how the boy eats up his every word.

And now they’re in a forest, in the middle of the night, and Tendou is bored.

“Are you sure about this?” he conspiratorially whispers to Ushijima’s ear, positively aware of how Goshiki is doing his very best to eavesdrop on their conversation.

“Yes.” Blunt as always. Tendou opens his mouth once more to press, when Ushijima surprises him by speaking up first.

“It is logical. Oikawa, fearing exposure, must have looked into possible loops that could ensure his freedom. Nekoma sounds farfetched, but in desperate times, not impossible. The Aurors ran into them two villages down from here. A quick search of the Oikawa family record pin points this area as a frequent vacation spot.”

“But if he was really aided by those other students—”

“They are not the priority. We will deal with them later.”

“So vocal tonight, Wakatoshi. You must really believe we have a chance.”

“I know we do.”

“Look!” Goshiki excitedly points a finger at a formation of rocks up ahead, but a quick, careful examination of the area lets Tendou know it’s not the rocks that have caught Goshiki’s attention.

The breeze sways the majority of the leaves and branches around them, but air seems nonexistent for the trees surrounding the rocks.

Magic.

Cracking his knuckles and neck, Tendou flips out his wand.

“Finally. Some fun.”

  __________________

 

The cave groans, small pebbles falling on Iwaizumi’s head as the magical defenses are slowly but surely taken down.

Daishou looks annoyed.

“This complicates things. I was going to take you there myself—I really wanted to see that dumb hyena’s face.”

Iwaizumi turns to face him, confusion written all over his features, “You’re not saying you’re staying behind and fighting them?”

Daishou scoffs, “And risk exposure? I am not a noble fool like you, Iwa-chan. But I can create enough distractions to ensure your escape.”

Oikawa’s grip on his wand is turning his knuckles white, “But not Nekoma.”

Daishou nods morosely, “No portkey can get you inside the village without triggering all of its magical sensors. The portkey will leave you at the top of the valley, you’ll have to walk to the village’s entrance as undetected as possible.”

“And Kuroo and Kenma?”

“Do I look like their keeper?” Daishou’s tone is growing more and more exacerbated as the cave continues to shake under the magical pressure.

Suddenly, the booming, familiar voice.

“Tooru, turn yourself in and save your dignity. It does not have to end like this.”

Ushijima sounds as demanding and frustratingly logical as always—but thankfully, still unseen.

Iwaizumi notices the way Oikawa turns to the voice, the way his posture hardens, the way his nose scrunches up as he clearly considers facing Ushijima and whoever else is with him.

Iwaizumi will not risk him, not now, not ever.

“Tooru.”

Then, from the darkness, “Tooru.”

Iwaizumi clenches his jaw as he steps in front of Oikawa, “Tooru.”

And his voice breaks through whatever trance, whatever illogical plan, is currently enrapturing Oikawa’s attention. Brown eyes blink up at him.

“This isn’t over. Not tonight. But it will, and I’ll be there with you to see it through.”

And briefly, somewhere between the cave falling apart and Daishou’s flashing spells as he sets up the portkey, whatever tension—whatever doubt—existed between them seems to evaporate alongside the fear and anger in Oikawa’s face. For now, there is trust.

For now, Iwaizumi will accept it, no questions asked.

“Lead the way, Iwa-chan.”

Daishou turns to them, holding a yellow ribbon in his hands. Iwaizumi sees a dark shadow of recognition settle in Oikawa’s eyes.

That’s the portkey? No, you can’t part with that—”

“A reminder.” Daishou looks grim, as if this display of sentimentality is physically hurting him. “If you succeed, you might be helping more than just yourself.”

Iwaizumi observes the peaceful resignation that befalls Oikawa’s entire body—he is suddenly reminded of the coolly collected Oikawa that stands in front of his dueling opponents with coiled elegance, the same Oikawa that gives a charming grin and wink to the crowd just as he raises his wand, saluting his opponent with frigid civility that clearly says I will not lose.

Footsteps grow closer.

Iwaizumi extends out his hand towards Daishou.

With a snap of his wrist, Daishou tosses the yellow ribbon in their direction, its riveting form creating the illusion of a dancing snake slithering in midair towards them.

Iwaizumi feels the warm press of Oikawa’s body against his side, just as he too reaches out with his hand to catch the portkey.

A bang, a flash, and the last thing Iwaizumi sees is a vibrant green snake heading towards three robed figures.

It might be his imagination, adrenaline-driven hallucinations, but he swears he locks eyes with a shocked Ushijima. Shocked because they have outsmarted him, shocked because this escape was not factored into his carefully devised plan.

We will not lose, is what he wants to shout. He hopes his eyes can communicate the sentiment.

A tug. A blur. But the sensation of Oikawa next to him does not disappear.

 

For now, there is still hope.