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One Gift To Change Everything

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      This was the year. 


      Tsurugi was determined. 


      This would be the Christmas that he finally got his Kuni-chan to admit that they still had something, could still be something- if only the proud Alicein would stop being so stubborn. 


      More than any time of year, except for maybe his birthday, Christmas was when Tsurugi felt the blond’s absence, like a hole in his already overly-battered heart. Mikuni Alicein- the one a very stupid, very scared nineteen year-old Tsurugi had let walk away. In reality, they had both been too young and too damaged at the time, but Tsurugi blamed himself all the same- it was his nature.


      None of that mattered now- or at least, that’s what Tsurugi hoped. This was the year everything would change; because this year, he had chanced upon the perfect present. The golden-eyed mage muttered under his breath as he took yet another look at the photograph he intended to give to his former combat partner. “If this doesn’t win him over, nothing will.”  An unframed photograph might’ve seemed quite the pitiful present to anyone else, but Tsurugi knew deep down in his bones that the meaning would not be lost, not on Mikuni. 


      A fond, silly smile tugged at the corners of Tsurugi’s mouth as he recalled all the times Mikuni had shown off his ‘Misono Photo Collection’. “Kuni-chan really does love his brother.” The brunet sighed. “Cute cute.” His smile, however, faltered as he also recalled how the elder Alicein’s snapshot collection had only photos of a very young Misono. Not only did Tsurugi understand the powerful bond between two brothers, he also understood the pain of being misjudged. After all, it seemed to him that he was the only one in the world who appreciated his own surrogate brother. Everyone else seemed all too eager to paint his precious Tai-chan as a villain. Tsurugi could only imagine how it must’ve been eating Mikuni up inside all these years, to have his own brother harbour that same kind of uninformed animosity towards him. 


      “Yes.” C3’s infamous Ace slipped the photograph back into his nightstand drawer and stretched out across his bed. “This will make Kuni-chan happy. He’ll see that Misono still loves him. And then, maybe he’ll understand that I do too. Maybe if I tell him that I actually paid to have a servant sneak the picture, it will impress him even more.” Tsurugi chuckled as he snuggled into his pillow. He tried to quiet his racing thoughts, so he could maybe catch a nap before he went to meet up with Mikuni and Jeje. 


      In his nightstand sat all of his hopes, contained in one simple candid snapshot. A photograph of a proud, grape-haired teen boy cuddling a teddy bear as he slept with a peaceful smile on his face. 


      An old, well-loved teddy bear that had once been a gift from that proud, grape-haired teen’s older brother.