It is done, all pieces are in place - everything they did, was solely to reach this point. They won't fail now.
Sugawara watches the hand of the clock silently ticking away on the wall of his dim-light bedroom as Asahi dresses him. Only the best for this occasion - most expensive jewels, clothes made of the finest fabrics, dyed the blackest hue that consumes even the last bits of light that remain in the room. He glances at Asahi, and sees the quiver of his mouth. He's so nervous he can't even tie his jacket properly. Sugawara looks at himself in the mirror, and can't help but to smile as Asahi starts fastening the chains around his neck.
"It's okay," Sugawara says, voice firm but gentle. The slave ducks his head, but when he looks up again, his eyes are clear, overflowing of determination. His hands stop shaking
Sugawara picks up the charcoal, draws a black line under each of his eyes. He doesn't use his family markings - instead, he chooses Daichi's - a short mark splitting his bottom lip.
He puts down the charcoal, straightening his back. He swallows, and reaches for the veil Asahi is holding up for him. The person looking back at him from the mirror is not smiling anymore.
"You look frightening," Asahi says quietly, eyes staring at him through the reflection. Sugawara raises his chin - just like his mother taught him - and exhales, his eyes slipping to the black collar around the slave's neck.
"That is what we are going for tonight," he replies, voice deadly even. He stands up and marches out of the room.
There is a pitter-patter of small feet, and a tug on his sleeve. Asahi walks past him, shoulders tense. Hinata is there, looking at him with his bright eyes, a confused look on his face. Sugawara bends down and messes up his hair affectionately, his hand lingering. He can hear the engines of the car growling outside.
"You look weird, Suga!" Hinata quips, bouncing on the spot. "When are you coming back?"
Sugawara's smile softens as he glances around, meeting the unsure eyes of the other two children peeking at him from around the corner. "Today is a very important day. Don't stay up long." He says, and with a last small wave at the three children, he walks out.
He is a little surprised to see two cars waiting for him - one is white, and carries the crest of Shiratorizawa, the other one black and simple, and Sugawara knows it all too well. His step falters when the door opens and Daichi climbs out from the passenger's seat, a frown marring his handsome face.
Sugawara swallows a hard lump, quickening his pace. He meets Daichi in the middle of the sidewalk, and melts into his arms, hugging him as if his life depends on it. They weren't supposed to meet today - they have already said their goodbyes.
"I love you," Daichi says, and Suga strangles a sound, fingers gripping the short hair on the back of the man's head.
'Don't do this to me. Not today!' Sugawara thinks bitterly.
Letting go of him feels like trying to fight gravity.
Sugawara climbs into Ushijima's car, sinking into the soft leather seat. He watches Daichi though the dim windows as the car drives off, unable to tear his eyes off him until they take a turn, and his view gets blocked by a wall.
"Do you think something's going on?" Hinata asks, head whipping around to look at the other two boys. "Suga didn't say when he's coming back."
Yamaguchi squirms behind Tsukishima, rubbing the black collar around his neck. "Asahi was weird, too. I saw him crying this morning." He says quietly, tugging at Tsukishima's shirt in a silent urge to say something, but the boy remains stubbornly silent.
"Aren't they talking on the TV tonight?" Hinata asks. They all know where he's going with that question. "Maybe they are passing a new law!"
"Their debates go on forever!" Tsukishima finally joins the conversation with a click of his tongue.
"We shouldn't stay up long-" Yamaguchi pouts nervously.
"Nobody's here except for us! Come on! We're going to watch."
Ushijima offers him a glass of champagne and a small nod. They clink their glasses, and down their drinks in one go. The wine burns in Sugawara's throat, just as the doubts that crept into his heart the moment he spotted Daichi in the driveway. He looks at Ushijima, searching for doubts, but the man's eyes are hard and resolute. No backing down now.
He is wearing his best, too - he's in pure white today, a complete opposite of what Sugawara chose, and he couldn't look more regal. Sugawara notices his hand and smiles - his family ring is missing.
Their eyes meet in a silent conversation. Sugawara blinks away the moisture of his eyes, voids his heart of all emotions, and holds out his glass, asking for another drink. Ushijima reaches for the bottle, and indulges him.
When they toast for the second time, Sugawara sees the resignation in the tension of his jaw.
"Freedom to us all." Ushijima says.
The palace is full - just as expected, and Sugawara basks in the silent whispers that flood over him when he enters the room at Ushijima's side. He sees the Lords and Ladies from the corner of his eye - leading hushed conversations behind hands, judging their every step. The Members of the Parliament nod their head in satisfaction.
He smirks internally, takes a deep breath, and holds his head even higher. They are all beneath him today. Ushijima squeezes his fingers as he leads him down the aisle to the podium.
Ushijima sits in the front row, Rheon waiting on his left, a new bottle of champagne ready in his hand.
Sugawara waits for the lights to dim before he climbs the stairs, and takes his place behind the podium.
Oikawa stretches his limbs like a cat, rolling on the velvety sheets that cover his bed. He grins at the screen and lies on his belly, swaying his legs like a child.
"All white today," he says merrily, making Yahaba pause by the closet. "And a veil - no, not a veil, I need to be original. Flowers! Get the roses Hajime brought me!"
He thinks out loud when the camera zooms on Sugawara's face. "Look at him - so beautiful, so deadly. I hate him." Oikawa laughs, rolling onto his back. "And Ushiwaka looks so kingly tonight! What a heartthrob!"
Yahaba refuses to look at him.
"You are so awfully gloomy tonight, darling! Cheer up!" Oikawa twitters happily, wrestling to open a bottle of red wine.
Yahaba wants to cry. The collar burns around his neck.
"Ah! Finally!" Oikawa cries, when the cork of the wine bottle finally gives out. "Freedom to us all!" He cheers as he pours himself a glass.
Daichi sits in his armchair, feet stretched towards the fireplace. He swirls the whiskey in his glass, watching the amber liquid dance in circles.
Sugawara looks ethereal.
"Everything is ready, Daichi." He hears Tanaka say somewhere behind him. His voice is oddly quiet -but that is to be expected. Daichi hears the slave walk across the room, stopping to stand at his left side. He raises his glass, and looks at the TV through it.
"Ennoshita will arrive in two hours." Tanaka adds, voice catching in his throat.
"Good." Daichi nods, seeing Tanaka's hands clench into fists at his sides. He downs the glass, and grimaces at the taste. Tanaka pours him another one. "Doesn't he look wonderful?"
He hears a shaky sigh.
Daichi presses the rim of the glass against his lips and smiles against it. "Look at you, my love. Freedom to us all."
The house is unsettlingly silent without all the children in it. Semi stands in the huge dining room, looking around with hands on his hips.
"It's starting! It's starting!" Goshiki throws the door open, yelling at him. So much for silence - Semi sighs and rolls his eyes, struggling to keep himself from smiling.
"Yes, yes, I'm coming!" He saunters to the living room, fondly shaking his head at Goshiki's excited whoops. Why be at the palace when he can enjoy the comforts of his home?
"Lord Ushijima is there, too! Look! He looks so great!"
"He does, doesn't he?" Semi agrees quietly, taking a seat on the couch. He doesn't acknowledge Kawanishi when the slave enter the room, mutely waiting for orders. Semi crosses his legs and relaxes, tilting his head from side to side, willing the muscles on his neck to ease.
"Lord Sugawara looks so scary! He looks like a king!" Goshiki gushes, eyes glued to the screen.
Semi hums in agreement. "He does look scary." And today, he is the most frightening person in that room. He scrutinizes Suga's face when the camera makes a close up. He scoffs - only Suga could pull off veils like that. Semi glances from the TV to the black collar around Goshiki's neck.
He returns to watching the broadcast, and flicks his wrist nonchalantly - a signal for Kawanishi. The slave bows, and offers his hand to Goshiki, who looks at him in confusion.
"You're going on a trip." Semi says, without looking at them.
When they are gone, Semi goes to the cellar, searching for the best vintage of white wine. He returns to the couch, takes off all his jewels and bracelets, carelessly throwing them on the ground, puts his feet on the table and cracks the bottle open.
"Freedom to us all!" he bellows, the echo of his voice cheering back at him. He doesn't bother to drink from a glass.
When Shirabu enters Ushijima's mansion he finds it already empty. His mouth twists in disgust. Of course, he already left. An image of Sugawara walking at Ushijima's side, arm slung around his, pops in his head, taunting him. He clicks his tongue, and walks into the bedroom, heels clicking on the marble floor.
He takes a deep breath - feels comfortable, like home - and lets himself fall onto Ushijima's bed, limbs spread out. Shirabu stares at the ceiling, listening to the lack of sounds. The mansion feels a little haunted.
He sits up and looks around. What can he do? Ushijima isn't going to come back anytime soon, so if he explored his wardrobe and jewellery, nothing would happen, right?
Shirabu hops off the bed, and skips to the huge wardrobe where Ushijima keeps all his jewels. He throws the door open, eyes twinkling with wonder as he looks at all the shining beauty that glitters inside. He takes one of Ushijima's bracelets and puts it on, posing in the full body mirror.
He keeps adding stuff on him - earrings, head-pieces, chains, bracelets, everything, posing every time to see how the gold glistens against his skin. He reaches for the drawer where Ushijima keeps his rings and freezes.
The smile disappears from his mouth.
Ushijima's family ring is there. Along with an envelope.
Shirabu's eyebrows knit in confusion. He reaches for the envelope first.
Iwaizumi can't bring himself to look at the screen. He listens to the speech, his head bowed between his knees, face hidden in his palms.
Kyoutani is awkwardly shuffling at his side, his agitation almost palpable.
"This is a load of bullshit." He says through gritted teeth.
"It is," Iwaizumi agrees calmly.
"There should be another way!"
"Nothing good will come of this! Only chaos."
"Chaos is what we need - for now. It will get better." Iwaizumi argues patiently.
"When? In ten years? Fuck that!"
"Ten? Fifteen? Who knows." Iwaizumi straightens up, and breathes harshly through his nose. "Freedom to us all."
Kyoutani curses again.
"Shh, shh! It's starting! Look! It's Lord Suga!"
"Yes, I know! Stop pushing me!"
"Hey, let Yamaguchi see, too!"
"Just sit here and watch."
Sugawara sweeps the crowd with his eyes, and adjusts the microphone. He shoots a final look at Ushijima - the man faintly raises his glass.
'Freedom to us all.' Suga mouths, and gives him a nod.
It is time to touch the sun, and burn with grace.
Sugawara closes his eyes, and when he opens them, he sees clearly.
"Lords and Ladies," he begins, his voice ringing clearly from the speakers. "I am honoured to welcome you all here on this day - a day that will surely go down in history.
These past few years, we've been dealing with revolts and opposition from slaves, who grow bolder, and more defiant with every day! But we won't tolerate that any longer. Today we're here to put an end to their blatant ungratefulness to remind them of their place!"
Hinata stares at the screen with opened mouth. Yamaguchi is stifling his sobs.
"What the hell is this?" Tsukishima asks, angrily pointing at the screen.
"What is happening?" Hinata whispers, his vision getting blurred. "What is Lord Suga doing?"
Every word burns in his mouth and makes the lump in his throat bigger. Sugawara grips the edge of the lectern so hard he can't feel his hands anymore. He skims over the faces of the Slavers, and feels disgusted when he sees their satisfied nods.
He keeps talking, feeling the fire spread all over his insides, slowly tearing him apart.
He can see all the slaves in the room. He can feel their rage, their fright.
"You have all been notified to change the old, faulty collars for the newer versions provided by Shiratorizawa Corporation, and I am here, speaking on behalf of Lord Ushijima to talk about the changes these collars offer. As you all know, they have all been equipped with the special feature that inflicts harsher punishments in case of disobedience, or if needed, an instant death.
I appealed to the parliament before, with a request of hearing me out, and a proposal of an adjustment to the law.
We called you here today, to present you a new formed law, that allows the penalty of death to slaves who disobey or disrespect their masters, without any following prosecution. I hereby put this law to the vote: Those who are for, please, raise your hands!"
Sugawara watches every single slaver in the room raise their arm, he sweeps his eyes over their faces, and stops at Ushijima's, who's resolutely looking back at him. He sees his hand quiver.
"I think we don't need to make another vote." Sugawara jokes, barely controlling his voice not to sound bitter. That gets him a couple of laughs.
He looks down on his paper, pretending to search for the part where he left off. He sees Asahi from the corner of his eye.
Then it comes - the signal.
The sound of shattering glass echoes across the room, quieting the satisfied murmur of the crowd. There are a few outraged cries as Rheon throws the bottle of champagne against the wall, stepping on the shattered glass he knocked out of Ushijima's hand.
Sugawara looks up, holding his breath.
"The law is bullshit!" Rheon yells on top of his lungs, voice strong enough to carry throughout the hall. The outraged murmurs become louder. "The collars are not working!" He demonstrates it by tearing his off, throwing it at Ushijima's feet.
"WE ARE NOT THEIR SLAVES ANYMORE!" Asahi yells from the side of the podium and Sugawara closes his eyes. "DEATH TO THE SLAVERS! FREEDOM TO US ALL!"
The chaos breaks out faster than a crack of thunder. Sugawara cannot see it, but he doesn't have to. The screams of Slavers wash over Sugawara's body and suddenly he feels too hot. He opens his eyes to watch Rheon put a knife through Ushijima´s neck, face twisted in a pained grimace.
He knows the camera's are still broadcasting. He keeps his eyes forward, refusing to look at Asahi who approaches him a dagger that glistens in his hand.
The white pain from his ribs blinds him for a moment, and Sugawara doubles over with a scream, almost hitting his head on the lectern. He is about to fall, but Asahi is faster, wraps his free arm around him, and holds him up as he twists the dagger between his ribs.
"I'm sorry!" Asahi cries quietly, slowly lowering Sugawara to the ground. "I'm so sorry! Forgive me!"
Sugawara feels the blade slip from his side, and struggles to turn over. Asahi throws the dagger away, and holds his head in his lap, caressing his cheeks.
"You did well," Sugawara croaks, removing the veil from his face with a shaky, bloodied hand. He gathers his remaining strength and life he has in him, and puts it into his last, brightest smile.
"Freedom to us all!" He whispers before the last breath slips out of his mouth.
Hinata watches the screen with wide eyes, tears burning their way down his cheeks.
What is happening, what is happening, what is happening?
Tskukishima's holding Yamaguchi against his chest, his face buried in the boy's dark hair to hide his own tears.
Yahaba cries against the crook of Kyoutani's neck as the man holds him, rocking back and forth to calm him down.
"Don't cry, doll-face." Kyoutani whispers gruffly, petting his hair. What a hassle, Kyoutani thinks, ignoring the pain in his legs from kneeling on the cold ground. The damn red wine is going to ruin his pants. He looks at white roses scattered across the room, and helps Yahaba to stand. He leads him outside, shooting one last, bitter look at the scene.
Oikawa's lifeless form lies curled amongst the roses on the top of the sheets, the wine seeping into the covers, slowly colouring them in crimson.
If Kyoutani didn't know better, he'd think the man was sleeping. He shuts the door with his foot, the soft smile on Oikawa's lips burned into his mind.
Tanaka walks out of the room, no longer able to keep his tears at bay. He closes the door, and picks up his pace to meet Ennoshita, who is already waiting for him by his car.
The handle of the sword sticks out of the back of the armchair, blood slowly dripping down on the carpet. Daichi tries to keep his eyes on the screen as long as he can, watching Sugawara's body bleeding out on the podium.
The glass slips form his hand, and shatters on the floor.
Tendou kicks down the door of Semi's mansion with a force that is more than unnecessary.
Have they gone mad?
He runs thought the maze of rooms and hallways until he reaches the living room. Two steps is all he manages to take, and then he slumps against the wall, strength leaving him all at once. He stares at the broadcast that nobody bothered to turn off, eyes unseeing.
He crawls to where Semi's body is lying without an ounce of care for the blood he's getting all over himself. He wrestles the gun from Semi's cold hand, and cradles him in his arms.
"What have you done?" Tendou asks quietly, tracing the arch of the man's lips. "Red never suited you." He smiles, and carefully kisses his blood-covered forehead.
Shirabu screams on top of his lungs as he stumbles out of the bedroom, tripping over the doorstep. He throws himself against the wall as if he was drunk - no longer in control of his trembling body. He screams and screams, and tears the letter apart, throwing Ushijima's family ring across the hall, not bothering to watch where it lands.
"WHY!" He yells, his voice mockingly echoing throughout the empty mansion. "I FUCKING HATE YOU! WHY?! Why... Why didn't you tell me!" Shirabu hits the wall with his fist, kicking and throwing the torn pieces of paper, scattering them all around. Sobs wrack his body as he sits on the marble floor, feeling scared, helpless, and more alone than ever before.
He doesn't know how long he's there, sitting on the floor, and waiting for the tears to stop flowing, but he knows it's way too late when the hallway falls into darkness. He tries to stand up, and stumbles again, a curse rolling off his tongue. He shambles through the eerily quiet mansion, looking for Ushijima's ring - he finds it in the living room, lying under the family portrait. Shirabu turns the golden brand in his fingers, carefully tracing the carved-in patterns.
When he steps out, he takes a deep, shuddering breath, and listens to the distant screams that wash over the city.
The headline shines bright on every corner: The Icons of Slavery Are Dead. Freedom To Us All!
He bows to the applauding audience, and takes his place at the microphone.
He has a speech ready, but his heavy heart won't let him make a sound just yet. After two years of chaos, maybe he'll finally be able to make things right. He thinks of his mother when he sees the cheering crowd - he can finally make her dream come true.
He feels a hand on his shoulder - he's been quiet for too long.
An awkward laugh bubbles in his throat, hand shooting to the back of his neck. "I'm sorry, everyone, I'm a little bit overwhelmed!" A few chuckles. He clears his throat, and continues with much serious voice.
"I am incredibly honoured you have chosen me as your leader. You all know who I am, and where I come from. What I mean to say is-" he hesitates, "You know my name, you know who I was in the past - but today, I don't want to talk about the past that still haunts us. Today, I want to introduce myself anew, and start with a clean slate, and a heart filled with hope that, together, we can achieve the future we all yearned for!
My name is Iwaizumi Hajime, and I'm proud to be chosen to be the leader of this new, free country."