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Alice Curse

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Slender hands reached out to light another candle, Tsukishima’s face solemn in the flickering amber lights. The burning scent of incense plagued his nostrils but he continued to pray fervently, not only for the sake of his kingdom but so that his whispers would be enough to drown out the soft crying in the background. 

He had no idea how to comfort the silver haired man who was kneeling behind him. Suga rocked back and forth while holding a religious artifact in his hands, his pretty face stained with tears. Normally the noble was graceful, elegant, and had a cheery disposition but this was the complete opposite of what Tsukishima was used to. 

He supposed he couldn’t blame the latter for his despair. 

While he and Suga wasted their time praying, a war was plaguing the lands. King Daichi, Suga’s husband and Head of House Karasuno was out risking his life for a pointless war. Of course the Council would disagree, urging on the centuries old conflict between the two biggest kingdoms of Wonderland. Tsukishima’s father and brother had gone as well, leaving behind Tsukishima and his mother. 

“We’ll win, Kei. Don’t even doubt it for a second.” His brother smiled proudly, looking every bit a gallant and noble knight as he looked down from their family’s prized horse. 

Tsukishima heard his mother sobbing in the background as his father attempted to comfort her. Their faces were contorted in pain and agony at their separation. His brother however continued on smiling as if they were not about to die in another pointless war. 

They called it the End. This war was to be the last. The very last. King Daichi promised. The Council promised. His brother promised.

But he was always good at lying.

Tsukishima supposed both Suga and he would lose someone important when the war was finally over though there was no telling when that would be. It had been several months since the war had broke out and updates from the king were rare. It was no wonder Suga had been reduced to a nervous mess. 

The door creaked open allowing a stream of light from the torch lit hallway. Akaashi entered the room, wearing a woolen bag and a heavy dark cloak around his shoulders. He put a gentle hand on Suga who was finally reduced to choking sobs. Suga’s body shuddered and he looked as if he was about to wretch. 

Tsukishima turned back around, his hands clasped in prayer and unable to watch the sorry sight that was the Royal Consort. 

“Kei.” Akaashi murmured in his ever calm voice but Tsukishima could still pick up the traces of worry in it. 

“Akaashi, come join us.” Tsukishima gestured to the cushion beside him. 

“We have to go. Now. You need to be covered.” Akaashi answered as he got out a mottled brown cloak for Suga and wrapped it gently around his shoulders. Suga didn’t even seem to register the words that their friend said. 

“Go where?” Tsukishima asked, dumbfounded. Where would they even go at this time? There were other palaces and estates belonging to the Crown but nowhere was safer than the Royal Palace. As pretty as the Palace of Diamonds was, it also worked as a fortress. The Kingdoms of Hearts and Diamonds had been feuding for as long as Wonderland existed so it was no surprise that the former rulers made sure that their home was indestructible. 

“High General Tanaka sent word that they’re losing. The Crimson Army is coming to the palace right now.” Akaashi said flatly, handing out a final cloak to Tsukishima. “We will try and cross the border to the Spades Kingdom.”

Tsukishima’s mind immediately went to the thought of Tanaka’s wife. Serious, intelligent, and beautiful Kiyoko. She was currently brought to bed with their first child as it was her eighth month. The couple had been hoping that the war would end by the time Kiyoko went into labour but that could be any minute now. And they hoped the war would end with their win and not their loss. 

Tsukishima heard of the infamous Kingdom of Hearts. They were known for their cruelty and sinful court. He had heard what they did to women and children. He heard what the King of Hearts did to his own family to get the throne. 

They would not survive if they lost.

“Kiyoko-” Tsukishima started. She was in one of the guest rooms surrounded by several ladies and nursemaids awaiting the first signs of her labor. Daichi had appointed several guards to look over Kiyoko but there was no point if she went into labour now. 

“She’s already being moved to a safer location. The Queen Mother is with her right now and has ordered us to be moved next. Several nobles have already made their escape as well. We have to go soon or else we may be captured by the troops.” 

Captured. 

No, they would be killed. 

They turned to Suga who was a heap of brown wool on the marble floor. Akaashi and Tsukishima carefully brought him up as the latter leaned on Akaashi. 

“Your Grace, we have to go. Can you run?” Akaashi asked gently. 

Suga coughed out a sob. “P-please...is the King okay?”

The look on Akaashi’s face nearly made Suga stumble. 

“He-” Suga lapsed into sobs again and fell onto the floor.

Tsukishima was never so patient as Akaashi or compassionate as Hinata or good at lying like his brother. He was blunt and sharp and mean

“Suga, get up.” Tsukishima snapped. He had never spoken to the elder like this. He didn’t have to in the past. Suga was always capable and independent, ruling the Kingdom so efficiently with Daichi it began a spark of admiration in young Tsukishima. It had almost made him desire the throne. 

Suga looked up blankly. 

“We don’t have time for your tears. We have to go, now or else we'll either be captured and raped and killed or tortured and killed. If they ever catch us I hope for our sakes that they’ll just gut us through with a sword.” Tsukishima did not want to think of the possibility of being captured. 

“No, we won’t die. We can’t. I have to...Daichi promised…” Suga whispered hoarsely. 

“Then get up and start moving or we’ll leave you here.” Tsukishima said coldly as Akaashi gave a quiet gasp. Nobody talked to the Royal Consort with such disrespect but desperate times called for desperate measures. 

Tsukishima boldly looked Suga in the eye. He knew his calculating and intelligent friend was still in there somewhere. Suga knew best what their next steps would be. If it were any other situation Suga would’ve already had them out of the palace by now. 

Suga nodded and slowly stood up. The trio started to run just as they heard windows crashing along with violent shouts and screams of terror. They all looked at each other, the reality of their situation truly dawning on them. 

“Suga, lead us to the closest escape. Now.” Tsukishima commanded. 

The silver haired man seemed to regain his edge as he ran through the hallways, Tsukishima and Akaashi in toe. 

Had the palace ever been this disorienting? All the white color blinded Tsukishima. Who had decided that white was a good interior color? 

Suga abruptly stopped at a corner. As the tallest, Tsukishima peered over ever so slightly to see a maid thrown violently onto the ground with a sickening crunch. Several guards crowded around her, ignoring her pleas for help as they ripped apart her flimsy clothing. 

Tsukishima wanted to hurl. 

Akaashi made an attempt to get to her, throwing knife already in hand but Suga stopped him, his soft hands strong and firm. He shook his head and whispered no. 

“But-“

Suga gave a sad smile. “We can’t save them all.” 

Akaashi knew Suga was right but that didn’t mean he liked it. At all. It went against his very moral code but in this world nobles meant everything. A mere servant girl was not enough to risk their lives. 

Tsukishima sent out a silent prayer to his God that the servant girl would be killed as soon as possible to spare her the most pain. 

The trio turned around and looked for another way out, blocking out the agonized screams of the girl. As they rushed into a spare guest room their faces were illuminated violet in the windows by a fire that started to roar outside. Soldiers in black and crimson armor spilled out onto the courtyard, the palace’s powerful drawbridge reduced to cinders from the result of the violet fire. 

“Wyldfire.” Akaashi whispered in shock as more and more soldiers breached their home, their own knights in silver and cream struggling against the Crimson Army. Their enemies archers shot fire arrows at the windows, the flames blazing an infernal violet. 

The Crimson Army appeared to be using a poisonous and deadly fire that raged across the courtyards and burned everything in their path. Tsukishima had learned about the infamous wyldfire. Ancient witches had held the power before they were banished to the Cross Lands. Nobody alive had seen anyone use the fire before and was often dismissed as an old wives tale but Tsukishima knew better. He knew that the treacherous Red Kingdom would do anything to win the war. They had no morals or honor and would do anything to conquer Wonderland for their own gain. 

Suga suddenly gasped. “The gardens! They can’t reach the gardens.” 

The Kingdom of Diamonds housed the Eternal Tree in their beautiful and lush gardens, hidden in a private greenhouse. The Eternal Tree bore the purest white roses in the lands which still held the last remnants of powerful healing magic given by the White Rabbit, the Royal Family’s ancient protector. It was so powerful that unless you had royal blood or you were a skilled enough witch, it would burn and wilt at one’s touch. It was the Royal Family’s biggest guarded secret and was one of the reasons the kingdom had the least amount of plague and famine casualties during the time of the Curse.

If the Kingdom of Hearts ever found out what the tree’s purpose was, they would no doubt burn it to the ground. Even though it might benefit their own people, the Red King would never let something so powerful and precious be in the hands of his enemies. 

“I’m going to the gardens.” Tsukishima said, an idea striking his mind. He would go and pluck the roses before the Crimson Army had a chance to blaze the tree to the ground. 

“No.” Suga and Akaashi both said firmly. They knew what the blonde was thinking. 

“Even if the Kingdom of Hearts razes our lands to the ground as long as we have one rose from the tree we can start anew. Besides, I am the only one at the moment who can touch the roses without burning myself and I can heal myself should something happen to me.” 

“Don’t.” Akaashi snapped. “Your abilities are weak at best and you have no way of defending yourself against an entire army. You may have some defense training by the Royal Guard but you are no means a soldier.”

“But the tree-” Tsukishima argued.

“No.” Akaashi firmly reiterated. “You are not risking your life for this.” 

Tsukishima scoffed derisively. “I am part of the Royal Family, am I not Lord Akaashi? How could I not protect my kingdom in any way I can when I am the last Royal here? The blood of the White Rabbit runs strong in my veins, even more so than the King himself.”

Suga flinched. They all knew Tsukishima and his family had a better chance at the throne than Daichi. Daichi’s great grandfather had been a bastard of the then ruling White King. The man had a feeble chance at ruling but during a bloody civil war he had conquered the throne for himself from Tsukishima’s own great grandfather. It didn’t help that Daichi resembled none of the old royal family with his dark hair and eyes and broad build. Tsukishima’s pureblood blonde hair, gold brown eyes, and tall elegant frame looked more akin to the old family. Daichi’s rule was only tolerated because his mother was of the old bloodline and he was a fair and just king. 

However, as soon as he died the Kingdom would be in shambles. There would be a power play between the numerous cousins of the original royal family. Tsukishima wanted no part of that. His desire to save the roses was not only for the sake of the people but also for Daichi if he was severely injured or even dead. The roses still held power so immense that they could possibly bring someone back to life. Tsukishima would use that on Daichi if need be. 

Akaashi sighed. “You are not Hinata. You can’t possibly save the tree with your abilities and besides your life is more important right now. There still needs to be a ruler for the Kingdom if the king ever loses his life. You said it yourself, the blood of the White Rabbit runs in your veins. There’s no guarantee your father or brother will survive as well and the Queen Mother has no blood right to the throne. Prince Tsukishima, you must come with us. Your life is in our hands.” He finished boldly. 

Tsukishima glanced at Suga who was dead silent. He wasn’t meeting any of their eyes. If Daichi did die in this war Suga would have no more right to the throne or council. Most of the nobility already disapproved of their marriage. Suga would be thrown to the wolves. 

“Because Hinata isn’t here I am the one most available to save the roses. Please, let me try and save the kingdom. At least if I die I was doing it for something worthwhile instead of wasting my abilities and time praying away.” 

Akaashi looked away, unable to meet Tsukishima’s serious gaze. Suga sighed heavily and started to rummage the closet. The raven haired and blonde looked at each other in confusion. Finally emerging from the darkness, Suga gave Tsukishima a bag and handed him a vial of pale green liquid. 

“What is this?” 

“You will need the bag to carry as many roses as you can and for the vial I had some brewed in case…” Suga’s smile turned sad. “In case it had to come to this. Akaashi, you take one too.” He handed another vial to the raven haired whose face turned sour. 

“In this room there is a small door that leads to the side of the palace and from there you can reach the gardens.” Suga walked over and moved the bookshelf to the side and revealed a faint outline of a door. “Here it is. Akaashi and I will have to cut through another room so we can leave through the kitchens and reach the back of the palace.” Suga said. 

Akaashi whipped his head back to look at Suga incredulously. “Your Grace, we can’t leave-” 

Suga grabbed Akaashi’s hand and held it tightly. “Tsukishima is right. He is our only hope right now. The Kingdom of Hearts cannot have our most prized possession. We could not even hope to dream of an uprising without the power of the roses. Besides, it’s what Daichi would’ve wanted.” 

“Go, Akaashi. I will meet you and Suga soon.” Tsukishima tried his best to sound firm but fear started to creep into his bones. All throughout the war he had been safe in the palace surrounded by numerous guards and comforted by his closest friends. Had he not been given updates of the battlefield his day to day life would be ordinary. He would not even know a war raged outside the palace walls. 

Akaashi closed his mouth and nodded. “Fine. Meet us in Tulgey Wood at the safe house. We will wait for you there.” 

The safe house was merely a dilapidated cottage overrun with weeds that Akaashi and Tsukishima had found as children. As they grew older they put in time and effort to rebuild the cottage into a quaint little thing that served as a secret getaway for them and their closest friends; a haven away from the uptight court. At one point, they had chosen the cottage as their safe house should anything happen to them. Even as children they knew about the perilous state their kingdom was in, getting weaker and weaker by the years and only somewhat being held up by the Eternal Tree and Daichi’s good rulership. 

Tsukishima would get the roses for the kingdom and Daichi’s life. He was a far better king than Tsukishima ever could be, alive or dead. 

He nodded. “Of course. I will see you all there.” 

Suga gave Tsukishima a tight embrace. “Please stay safe and...thank you. I’ve not known a braver soul than you and Daichi.” 

Tsukishima was never one for a hug but just this once he let the shorter man hug him. He hugged him back, wishing he could apologize for his harsh words earlier but nothing came. 

He tried not to sound too choked up. “Thank you, Your Grace.” 

As they let go, Tsukishima’s golden eyes met Akaashi’s own sea blue. “I’ll see you soon, Keiji.” 

“Likewise, Kei.” Akaashi handed him a spare knife and gave him a sad smile as he and Suga turned to leave. Soon, it was just Tsukishima alone in the dark room. 

He turned and opened the small door that Suga showed him. He was spindly but tall so it was an uncomfortable fit for him. Steep stairs curved downwards, only darkness looming beyond him. Cursing and wishing for a candle, he curled his hands instead and called for the faint power he had. He concentrated heavily and soon felt a tug in his stomach. His hands suddenly lit with faint white light and he began his descent while using his hands as his light source. 

Tsukishima was playing a perilous game. Despite being one of the few people in Wonderland to still contain magic, he had a very few amount of it and it tired him if he used it too much. He had to make his way down quickly or else he would lose energy by the time he reached the gardens and had to actually use it should a soldier catch him. 

Using one hand for light and the other to hold the wall for balance, Tsukishima tried his best to speed walk down the stairs. It felt endless and he was extremely cold. He pulled his cloak around him for warmth and nearly lost his balance. He held the wall tightly, breathing heavily in fear. The last thing he wanted to do was fall to his death alone because he accidentally slipped. He had to be careful. 

At some point he finally reached a rusty door. Tsukishima doused the light, feeling worn out already. He leaned against the door, trying to catch his breath and regain some energy before he had to face potential threats. 

Tsukishima did his best to ignore his rising fear as he shoved opened the door several times before bursting outside. It was a whole different world. The staircase had been dark, damp and silent with only himself and dust for company but now he was surrounded by a cacophony of noises and smells. He expected a breath of air but was only met with smoke. He coughed and immediately covered his nose and mouth with his cloak. He tried to get a sense of his bearings but was starting to feel disoriented from using his power and the thickening smoke. 

The gardens...where were the gardens? Tsukishima couldn’t tell. He had grown up in the palace but right now his mind felt muddled and couldn’t think of the palace layout. He swayed and fell to the ground, the world spinning around him. He lowered his head and continued to cover his mouth while counting silently in his head, willing himself to calm down. 

He suddenly heard footsteps as his mind started to clear. At first he thought he was hallucinating when a tall figure loomed before him. Tsukishima raised his head to be met with sharp green eyes the color of precious emeralds. Unlike Suga’s, this man’s silver hair was lighter and straighter. He didn’t seem to be much older than him judging by his youthful face but his height intimidated Tsukishima, especially when he was sprawled on the ground. He thought he was tall but this man was freakishly huge. 

“Sir, are you okay?” He heard the faint accent of the Red Kingdom. The man extended a gloved hand. 

Tsukishima’s eyes widened as he finally took notice of the green eyed man’s attire. Crimson red and midnight black armor. A large sword at his side. The emblem of the Cheshire Cat carved onto his breastplate. 

He stumbled as he got up and grabbed Akaashi’s knife from his bag. He waved it wildly at the green eyed soldier who put his hands up in surrender. The blonde did not trust him. As Tsukishima continued to back up and the soldier darted forward, he slashed the knife at the soldier. Blood started to form on the latter’s chin. 

The soldier was taken aback and touched his wound gingerly. Using that moment, Tsukishima ran. A moment later the soldier ran after him, shouting at him to come back. As if. Was that soldier stupid? That man may have been a soldier of the Crimson Army but Tsukishima was fast and knew the palace better than him. His mind started to clear more and more as he left the area filled with smoke and he realized he had to escape for his life. The smoke started to dissipate as well as he seemed to finally lose track of the soldier and escape into the large gardens. 

He scrambled up a tree to hide, knimble as a squirrel and feeling as foolish as the court jester. How could he have been so stupid to be that vulnerable? Had the soldier been more aggressive he would’ve been raped, killed, or dragged away to the Red King. He didn’t know which of those options haunted him more. 

Tsukishima shoved a hand over his mouth to labour his heavy breathing and not catch the attention of any soldiers. He soon heard heavy metallic footsteps and the green eyed soldier’s voice mixed with others as they entered the gardens looking for him. 

Tsukishima silently cursed himself for leading them to the gardens but he found comfort reminding himself that the common soldier would have no idea about where the tree was housed, much less what it even was. As long as the Red King or his high ranking generals stayed away, Tsukishima still had a chance at saving his kingdom. 

After staying up in the tree for longer than he would’ve liked, he slowly made his way down. He looked around tentatively praying to his god that the soldiers had left the gardens or at least weren’t in the same area as him. He slowly made his way to the greenhouse, taking out the knife again and holding it tightly in his shaking hand. He stopped at every corner, looking around furtively for any sign of a Crimson Soldier. 

To his immense luck, there was none. 

Tsukishima started to jog lightly, trying his best to preserve his remaining strength while also making haste for the greenhouse. He saw it in the distance, a big looming thing made out of the finest crystals the land could offer. It turned violet from the fire, the opposite of its normally bright kaleidoscope in the sunlight. 

A shiver went down his back. He had to hurry before the soldiers could find the greenhouse and burn it down. 

As he reached the greenhouse he saw the bright white glow of the tree inside it. Tsukishima rushed into the building and was met with only the trickle of water from the fountain nearby. The greenhouse suffocated all sound and smell from the outside and Tsukishima hungrily took a gulp of the fresh flowery air. It was always cool, crisp and clean in here. It was Tsukishima’s favorite place in the entire Kingdom. He had never known such a feeling of serenity until he first entered the greenhouse as a child. 

Tsukishima walked up to the tree planted right in the center of the greenhouse. Several other plants and flowers curled around the tree protectively. They whispered furiously as he approached. One of them snapped a leaf and hissed at Tsukishima. He had the huge urge to crush it beneath his boot. 

The tree’s white roses seemed to beckon him, their snowy petals unfurling and releasing an intoxicatingly sweet scent. The first time he had ever seen the tree, he had been a gangly 10 year old, limbs too long and awkward and glasses constantly sliding off his nose. He had gawked at the beautiful sight 8 years ago and still gawked at it now. He considered Suga and Akaashi beautiful, and Kiyoko captivating but nothing was as ethereal as the Eternal Tree. 

He ignored the flowers’ complaints and squeaks of pain as he gingerly tried his best to step around them and reach the lower branches holding the roses. He reached out to pluck one from the leaves, ignoring the pain of sharp thorns that dug into his palms. Touching the flower itself warmed his hands. It was as if putting your hand next to the flame of a candle. Anyone else’s hands would’ve burned to a crisp before the rose would wilter away into ashes. 

Except Hinata. Hinata would have no trouble touching them. He would’ve glowed like the sun. 

Tsukishima shook his thoughts away of the orange haired youth. Hinata was long gone and he had no time to think about anything other than saving his kingdom. He was running out of time as he noticed the sky outside deepening with smoke and ash. 

One by one he gently plucked and placed the flowers in his bag, hoping that they wouldn’t get crushed and wiping away the blood seeping from his palms from the thorns. He told himself that he would heal them later though he worried they would leave scars. The white glow of the roses offset the plain brown bag, looking as out of place as Tsukishima felt in the greenhouse with every passing minute. He had to leave soon and quickly before he could be captured or else this would’ve been all for naught. 

The blonde saw the prettiest one, blooming fatly and glowing the brightest out of all its brethren. He reached for it, slender hands outstretched as he plucked it from the branch. The glow seemed to die down as it detached from the tree but Tsukishima didn’t care. He placed the last one in his shirt’s breast pocket just as the greenhouse door swung open. 

Because the tree was right in the center of the greenhouse, he was directly in line of sight with the shadowy figure at the doorway. With shaking hands he quickly got out Suga’s vial and unscrewed the cork, ready to drink the poison when the figure flung off his hood. 

Relief instantly flooded his body as he saw a familiar figure enter the greenhouse. 

“Akiteru.” Tsukishima whispered as he sagged against the tree. He dropped the vial onto the ground and the pale green liquid leaked out, sizzling the grass and flowers. The flowers shrieked as it burned to death. 

His brother rushed to his side, the white light from the tree illuminating his dark blonde hair to a burnt gold. His light brown eyes widened in worry at the sight of Tsukishima. 

“Are you alright?” Akiteru asked, frantically looking over Tsukishima’s body for any signs of injuries. Tsukishima felt more worried for his brother. The man was drenched in blood. 

“I-I’m alright.” Tsukishima said, suddenly overwhelmed with emotions and exhaustion. It had been a long and endless night and he was ready to pass out in his brother’s arms. 

Tsukishima noticed the lack of bandages on his brother’s fingers. Slender, pale, and long like his own. A symbol of the old royal family. Akiteru had the habit of covering them in strips of cloth when going out to battle, claiming it was some sort of good luck that warded off evil spirits from harming his beautiful hands because they would see that they were already “injured” from the bandages. 

“Come on, we should find you a medic.” Akiteru offered a hand to Tsukishima. He hesitated before attempting to stand up on his own. His legs nearly gave out and he had to be caught by his brother, now being in some weird embrace. 

“What happened?” Tsukishima asked as he slumped against his brother, face burrowed in his shoulder.

Tsukishima couldn’t see Akiteru but he heard the smile in his voice. “We won. We gut them all down. It was quite easy. They might’ve had the better numbers but they could not defeat us.” 

Tsukishima should’ve relaxed but something about his brother’s voice unnerved him. Why did he sound so smug? So confident? Akiteru hated war. Yes he was a good soldier as was expected of him, being the eldest son and heir to an ancient and noble house but he never enjoyed it like some of his peers. Every time he had come home his eyes were blank and cold. Nothing Tsukishima or his mother ever said woke him out of that stupor. He always had to come back on his own. In fact, it was strange how his brother didn’t seem unnerved by all the blood on his clothing and face. Akiteru hated bloodshed and violence. 

Tsukishima removed himself from his brother’s grasp and slowly stood up, smiling at Akiteru. “I’m glad to hear that. I suppose it’s safe enough for us to leave the greenhouse? Or should we wait for reinforcements?” Akaashi and Suga would’ve probably reached the safe house by now and Tsukishima itched to go after them so the trio could escape for the border but he withheld that information from Akiteru. His brother was acting strange. 

“We should go.” Akiteru turned to leave. As he did, Tsukishima quickly grabbed Akaashi’s knife from his pockets and hid his hands within his cloak. 

“I’m glad to have found you safe and well though I’m surprised the Crimson Army hasn’t razed this beautiful greenhouse to the ground. Thank the gods for its protection wards.” Akiteru hadn’t seemed to notice Tsukishima slipped out the knife, much to his relief. 

“What wards?” Tsukishima asked in confusion. 

Akiteru looked back in surprise. “The greenhouse is protected by strong and ancient wards. The Crimson Army could not even come near it without burning. I did not think the Kingdom of Diamonds would still contain this much magic.” 

His brother was never the one to study, preferring to spend his time outside roughhousing with the other noble boys while Tsukishima and Akaashi read contently in the royal libraries. But even though he wasn’t as studious as Tsukishima, his brother paid attention to their tutor’s lessons. He did not miss any of the history lessons regarding the Age of Light, a period when magic had been the strongest in Wonderland. Tsukishima even distinctly remembered his brother getting a better grade than himself on that portion, much to his eternal annoyance. 

So there was no way his brother would ever question something like that. And his brother was barren of any magical abilities. If Tsukishima couldn’t sense wards in his 18 years of living, his brother certainly wouldn’t have. 

Tsukishima’s eyes narrowed but kept his voice calm and neutral. “What happened to the Crimson Army?” He couldn’t hear any noises of fighting outside, as if everything had stopped. “Did the remaining Royal Army come with you? What happened to the King? Suga is worried sick for him.” 

Akiteru chuckled lowly. “The army did come alright. We killed everyone on sight and well the King...has met his unfortunate demise. I am sorry to be the one to inform His Grace.”

Tsukishima’s whole entire body was yelling at him to run now. His brother hated it when he called Suga casually, scolding him to call the Royal Consort by his official title. Akiteru’s manners were impeccable. 

They reached the door, Akiteru’s back facing Tsukishima. A moment of silence passed but that was all he needed. He swung the knife at his brother’s back but Akiteru ducked back in time and grabbed his arm. He started squeezing tightly to the point where Tsukishima screamed and tears escaped his eyes. He let go of the knife and it ended up on the floor with a clatter. Akiteru quickly kicked it away, his grip never loosening. 

“A-Akiteru! Let-let go!” Had his brother ever been this strong?

“Now, now, don’t be naughty my dear.” Akiteru’s voice faded into a deeper, silkier voice. His brother’s dirty blonde hair turned black as a crow’s wing and eyes lightened to a bright gold. His features and entire body changed and shifted into a handsome man that stood before him. There was something strangely cat-like about him.

Tsukishima stared in horror, pain momentarily forgotten. 

“Who-”

“Nevermind that.” The man grinned giddily, as if he had shared the most hilarious joke between himself and Tsukishima. He finally let go of Tsukishima’s arm and pinned him to the ground so harshly his head struck the ground with a thud and his glasses flew off. 

Pain erupted in his head and all the air seemed to be knocked out of him but he flailed and kicked as best as he could. The man was too strong for him however, as nothing he did deterred him. 

Tsukishima knew nobody would hear him but he screamed anyway. 

“HELP! SOMEBODY, PLEASE HELP!” He screamed as the man poured something down his throat. Tsukishima immediately tried to spit it out but a large hand covered his mouth until he inevitably swallowed the liquid. Tears ran down his face as he realized what was about to happen to him. 

He cursed himself. If only he had been faster. If only he had been more powerful and smarter. If only he had recognized that this man wasn’t his brother earlier. 

Tsukishima started to feel stiff and numb. His kicks ceased and the man seemed satisfied that whatever he put in Tsukishima’s body worked. The man let go of his arms. 

“Please.” Tsukishima whispered. Everything was a blur from his tears and lack of vision. “Please spare me.” Tsukishima never begged, not once in his life. He was a royal and the blood of the White Rabbit ran in his veins. “Please don’t ruin me.” 

The man’s golden eyes widened. “What?” 

“Your Highness!” A stern voice called out. “What’s taking you so long?!” A short haired man with close cropped brown hair stomped into the greenhouse. He stopped as soon as he saw Tsukishima. 

“Is that-” 

Your Highness? Tsukishima stared at the raven haired man in shock. “Are you the King of Hearts?” 

He chuckled. “You’re coming with me, princeling.” The King of Hearts scooped Tsukishima into his arms easily, as if he weighed nothing and walked past the brunette and out into the burning world. Tsukishima gasped at the sight of the gardens. 

Nothing stood in his path. Everything had been burnt to a black crisp. The only thing that remained was the greenhouse. When had they done this? How had he not noticed the destruction blazing outside?

Before him stood numerous soldiers in crimson red and midnight black. Their weapons glinted coldly in the darkness. At the front of the soldiers were three men, two of whom he recognized as Akaashi and Suga who were bound and tied on the ground. The other one in armor was smiling maniacally, his black and white hair a bizarre sight. He had a gloved hand on Akaashi’s trembling shoulder. 

“Your Grace! Akaashi!” Tsukishima yelled out.

The two looked up, both fear and relief in their eyes. 

“Ah, you know these two?” The King of Hearts asked.  

“Don’t hurt them!” Tsukishima snarled as the latter laughed. 

“My dear Knave of Hearts, you’ve captured the Royal Consort and the Heir to the Akaashi Dukedom. I will have to have you generously rewarded.” 

The black and white haired man threw his head back and laughed wildly. “I am forever in your service, Your Highness.” 

“Let them go you piece of shit!” Tsukishima screamed. 

The king frowned. “You know, your incessant yelling is giving me a headache. I’m pretty sure you should be knocked out by now.” 

Tsukishima did indeed feel drowsy but he would never admit that to the King of Hearts. “Fuck off.” 

The king sighed and turned to the short brunette. “Lord Yaku, please prepare my horse. We have a long journey back home.” 

Tsukishima blanched as he tried to blink the oncoming drowsiness furiously away. Home? Were they planning to take them to the Kingdom of Hearts? Tsukishima’s eyes met his friends own. They both shook their heads, eyes pleading for Tsukishima to be pliant. 

Tsukishima hung his head, defeat creeping into his bones as well as sleep. 

The king looked down at him, still holding him tightly. Their faces were so close to each other that Tsukishima could see that his eyes were pure gold, no other flecks of color in them. They were the eyes of a royal. A royal of House Karasuno. 

“Who are you, truly?” Tsukishima whispered as his eyes fluttered. 

The last thing he saw before he slipped away into the darkness were the glint of molten gold eyes and a wicked smile.