Work Header

To Make An Empire Fall

Chapter Text

"Heads up cousin, you look so bleak on this wonderful evening."

Daichi scoffs into his drink. "Hello to you, too, Ennoshita. You were invited?" He jabs good-heartedly, staring at his drink with a frown. He swirls the amber liquid in the glass, grimacing when he kicks it in - too warm, too tasteless without the ice.

"Oddly enough, yes. You know, friends in high places." Ennoshita replies, smiling when Daichi quirks an eyebrow at him. Ennoshita tilts his head to the right with amusement. Daichi follows the direction with his eyes, searching for the hinted person. He doesn't need to look too long.

"Him? You're kidding." Daichi squints in disbelief, unable to tear his eyes from the slaver lord with a black veil draped over his face. Their eyes meet and Daichi feels chills run down his spine.

Ennoshita hums in disagreement, taking a sip from his glass. "I told him about your pact and he seemed rather interested." He elaborates with a small nod.

Daichi tears his eyes away from the veiled man in black to look at his cousin. "You go around, telling Slavers about my intentions?" He barely keeps his voice even. Does Ennoshita not realize that both their lives are at stake? "And how did you meet, pray tell? He is not exactly--" he trails off, making a vague hand gesture. While Daichi's family is rich and influential enough amongst the slaver nobility, Ennoshita's branch is not that fortunate - and he doesn't mean to rub that in his face.

Ennoshita shrugs, brushing off the implication. "Lord Sugawara - he's not what he seems. Try talking to him - you'll be surprised."

Daichi looks at the Slaver again, this time with a more judging eye. He's laughing behind his hand, surrounded by men whose faces Daichi recognizes from the many auctions he's attended. Even from afar, he can tell that they are desperately fighting for Sugawara's attention - which he's already given to the rather ugly looking Slaver Lord whose fat arm rests around his slim waist. The corner of Daichi's mouth quirks in disgust.

Sugawara shuffles - a movement that tickles Daichi's curiosity - and then steps closer to his very disturbing interest. He leans his head against the man's thick arm, secretly taking a peek at Daichi, covering the movement with an affectionate nuzzle. When their eyes meet again, his smile falters, and even though it was only for a heartbeat, Daichi feels like the time stopped. The moment's gone and Sugawara is back at humouring his needy company, leaving Daichi to stare at his bare, toned back adorned by glistening chains.

The evening drags on forever, and the warm, poorly made drinks don't make it  any better, but when a tall man with long hair tied back in a small bun approaches him, mutely offering him a piece of paper with a curt bow, Daichi suspects that the evening might just get a little more interesting. He nods at the slave in dismissal, taking a peek at the note.

'At midnight in the western wing' is all it says.

Tanaka shuffles at his right, adjusting his collar - a sign of 'I don't like this.' Daichi doesn't acknowledge his worries.

"Keep an eye out on him," Daichi murmurs, crumpling the note and sipping from the glass at the same time. Tanaka gives him a curt nod and disappears into the crowd.

He knows immediately that something's not going according to plan when Ennoshita bumps into him when they roll in the buffet.

"A problem," the man murmurs urgently, trying to look nonchalant. Daichi's hand pauses over the bowl with olives. "I've lost sight of him."

Daichi glances at the clock - shortly after eleven - and sighs. "How do you lose sight over the most wanted and flattered person on this party? "

Ennoshita purses his lips,wordlessly accepting the half-filled plate Daichi thrusts into his hands. Maybe the evening is going to be a little too interesting. He marches towards the door, looking out for Tanaka. He spots the slave by the northern door, and when he meets his nervous stare, Tanaka immediately points at the gate that leads into the maze of hallways of the western wing.

Daichi picks up his pace, throwing tight apologetic smiles and murmurs at the lords and ladies he passes, maintaining a moderately relaxed face.

The curses keep rolling off his tongue with every wrong turn he makes, but he knows he's close by the very unsettling grunts and gasps that bounce off the bare walls. The next turn he makes leads him to the long, brightly lit hallway lined with kitschy antique vases that poorly imitate their original Roman  counterparts.

He stops and takes an immediate step back to hide behind the corner, closing his eyes in attempt to unsee the scene he just witnessed. He takes a breath and peeks around the corner.

The ugly Slaver Lord has Sugawara pressed against the wall, shamelessly grinding against him, trying to hold him in place as the man makes half-assed protests, fighting the slaver off with forced politeness.

"Come on, I know you want it, you've been so nice to me all evening!" Daichi hears the slaver grunt, his words muffled as he's trying to kiss every inch of the skin of Sugawara's neck that's exposed every time he tries to keep his mouth away from the ugly mug.

"I don't think this is a good idea - anyone can walk in on us. What would your wife say?" Sugawara argues airliy, trying to get the slaver's hands off his ass. "What would people say?" His tone is getting more clipped.

Daichi quietly steps from behind the corner, glad that the floors are covered in carpet. He creeps closer, gradually picking up his pace. Sugawara spots him just as he reaches into the folds of his sleeves, taking out a dagger. His eyes widen, and he shakes his head, his voice catching in a little stutter.

"O-or maybe, we could." Sugawara moans breathily, hands shooting up to the Slaver's hair, pressing his face against his neck to keep his attention away from the approaching Daichi. He makes a very indecent sound as his body arches into the man's touch, and then Daichi swings his arm and hits the slaver's head with the pommel, making him stumble away from Sugawara, who doesn't let the man recover. He pushes himself from the wall, kicks the slaver's stomach, and backhands him so hard, it actually makes him trip and fall on the ground.

Daichi expects a comeback, readjusting the hold on the dagger, but the man doesn't get up again.

"Woah," he breathes out, eyebrows arching, "he's actually out."

"Of course," Sugawara answers evenly, rubbing his hand before putting it on his hip. "Did you think I was a damsel in distress?" He asks, readjusting his veil.

Daichi's smiles. "It very much looked like it from where I was standing. Are you alright?"

Sugawara's face lights up with a grin. He makes a mocking lady-like bow, using the long, wavy sleeves of his jacket as a substitute for skirt. "Oh, my knight in shining armor," he laughs merrily, and Daichi feels his face heat up. He knows Sugawara is known for flirty behaviour but he never got to witness it firsthand. "However will I repay you for saving my fragile life?"

Daichi makes an unimpressed face. "How about telling me what you had in plan at midnight?"

Sugawara's face straightens up, the coy facade falling off, revealing a man with purpose. "Not here," he says, voice void of any teasing inflections. He leads the way to a smaller, simple door at the end of the hallway. Daichi follows him inside, and before he closes the door, he catches a glimpse of that long haired slave entering the corridor.

Sugawara waits for him in the middle of the room, not bothering to turn on the lights. Daichi notices the difference of his pose - there is nothing submissive about it, no sway in his hips, or downcast eyes. He stands firmly on the ground, shoulders wide, and head held high. A complete opposite of the persona he's seen in the ballroom.

"It came to my attention that your interests lie in favour of... providing better conditions for slaves."

That is one way to put it, Daichi thinks, inclining his head. "That may be right."

Sugawara raises his head higher, standing a bit straighter. "I might have a way to help with that. I want to join your pact." He means it as a request, but it comes out as demand.

Daichi takes a second to think about that - Sugawara is known as one of the biggest and richest Slave Lords in the country, and his popularity amongst the highest rings is as great as his hate for him amongst the slaves. "How do I know this is not a trick to expose me." - after all, he's trying to undermine the slave-trading without any of the Slavers knowing. Ennoshita really took a leap of faith with this one.

"Isn't it a little bit late for that?" Sugawara smiles, shoulders relaxing. He takes off the veil, stepping closer, actually hesitating. Daichi swallows, eyes darting from his saddened eyes, to the soft, bitter smile that plays on his lips.

"If I wanted to expose you, I would have done that in front of everyone, not here."

He has a point.

Daichi clears his throat, willing himself to look away from the beauty mark under Sugawara's eye. "So, what do you have to offer?"

Sugawara's smile disappears, and Daichi swallows for a completely different reason. He feels something tug in his chest.

"A plan to solve everything."


Chapter Text

Iwaizumi is gripping the stem of his glass, foot tapping the ground in agitation. He stubbornly stares ahead, attempting to ignore Oikawa kicking back his nth drink.

"Should have ordered stronger spirits for this." Oikawa clicks his tongue, mouth forming a forced smile as his eyes watch the carnage happening on the stage.

Iwaizumi's nostrils flare. "You shouldn't have invited him in the first place - what have you been thinking?!" He hisses through clenched teeth, eyes glued to the side where Sugawara is humouring the presence of the Slaver Lord who brought them this present.

Iwaizumi is seriously worried - Sugawara is a good actor, the best of them all, that's why the plan wouldn't work without him - but this, this kind of acting eats away at people's sanity. Iwaizumi can barely hold himself back from shanking the Slaver who so casually touches Sugawara, smiling into his hair as he waits for the perverse show to end. He glances at Daichi who's standing not too far away, face hidden in the shadows. Iwaizumi sees the clench of his jaw, and the slight tremor of his hand that is itching to grab the dagger concealed in his sleeve. He is managing to keep up a neutral face, but his eyes burn with the desire to cut up the Slaver at Sugawara's side.

On the stage, another body hits the floor. The slavers 'aww' in unison and celebrate the death of another child that was clearly not equipped to walk a rope suspended five meters up in the air. Oikawa downs another drink, and claps with them. Iwaizumi looks away, and then forces himself to watch Sugawara instead.

It's as if he's frozen in time, watching the reaper dance with the children on stage while the Slaver whispers in his ear. Iwaizumi can't see his face, and to be honest, he's a little afraid to see it. The show ends and Oikawa snaps his fingers, signalling to his slaves to turn on the lights. The gathered lords and ladies clap and cheer as Iwaizumi bites his lip, keeping the bloodied pile of bodies in the corner of his vision.

He doesn't clap - they all know he's against everything that involves wronging and mistreating slaves, and they look at him with disdain for that. The only thing that's keeping their tongues from lashing out at him, or poisoning his drink, is the begrudging respect they hold for his family name. His position in the Aoba Johsai pact may also have something to do with it - after all, nobody dares to badmouth the decisions of person who knows the dirty secrets of everyone who attended his parties at least once. Oikawa would have them humiliated on the spot, and then killed in their sleep.

Iwaizumi holds his breath, waiting for Sugawara's reaction - just like the Slaver who's responsible for the act. When Sugawara's bubbly laugh rings across the room, Iwaizumi feels like crying. Sugawara claps and giggles, pressing a kiss against the Slaver's bearded jaw with a wide grin.

"Marvellous! What a great performance!" He exclaims, joining his hands in front of his lips. He takes a few steps towards the stage, and turns around to look at the Slaver Lord who watches him like an eagle, visibly satisfied with the reaction. Iwaizumi sees Sugawara's eyes for the first time since the act started, and even though the veil is draped over his face, he can see his expression clearly.

Even Oikawa has to look away.

Iwaizumi downs his drink, hand trembling. Sugawara's smile is blinding, his eyes wide open in excitement, and the light that made them shine bright, dead like the seven children on the floor.

Sugawara skips towards the pile, nudging a hand with his boot, bending over as if looking for something.

"Ah!" He gasps, hand flying to cover his mouth. "Look! This one's still alive! Can I keep him? Please, please!" He begs, running back to the Lord, throwing himself into his waiting arms. He draws circles on the man's chest with his finger, a begging pout set on his lips.

The Slaver laughs boisterously. "Of course, my dear! Anything for you!"

Iwaizumi goes to pour himself another glass.

He's marching towards the bathrooms, throwing the door open in haste. The ginger child startles and almost trips over his feet to scramble away from him. Sugawara is bent over the middle sink, gagging and spitting into it as tears roll down his face.

Iwaizumi jumps to his side, gently grabbing his jaw, turning him to look at him. He clicks his tongue when he sees the blood. "What did you do? Bring some towels!" He barks at the child, the harsh tone bitter in his mouth.

"I bit off a piece of my tongue." Sugawara answers wobbly, trying to pry off Iwaizumi's fingers from his mouth.

"Dear God," Iwaizumi mutters under his breath, grabbing the wet, pristine towel the child offers to him. He cleans Sugawara's cheek, and forces his head above the sink again. "Whose fucking idea was this?!"

"Mine," Sugawara answers with a sob, spitting out another mouthful of blood. "He knew something was going on and wanted to confirm his suspicions by offering us this wonderful form of entertainment."

"Shut up!" Iwaizumi growls, dodging the bloody droplets that jump out of the sink. Sugawara doesn't need to be careful when he's dressed in black, but Iwaizumi's white apparel doesn't take kindly to red. "I'm going to smack Oikawa for allowing this."

"He didn't have a choice. We can't afford to blow our cover - unlike you." Sugawara comments bitterly, his body heaving. Iwaizumi rubs his back, shaking his head.

"I regret taking a part in this."

"No backing down now, friend."

Iwaizumi scoffs. "Take the child and leave. I'll make up some excuse for you-"

"Tell him that I couldn't wait to play with my new toy." Sugawara interrupts him harshly, glaring at himself in the mirror.

Iwaizumi nods, throwing a last glance at the ginger-haired child that trembles in the corner.

Yahaba examines the pile of bodies with a blank face. He feels Kyoutani shuffle behind him, his warm hand offering comfort on the small of his back. He takes a shuddering breath, and gestures to the other slaves to carry the bodies out.

He is just about to turn away when a movement caches his eye. He freezes, scanning the pile with a frown. There, the movement again. He steps over a hand, and kneels down, careful to avoid the blood.

There, a child quietly wheezing, blue eyes glaring at him with scalding hatred.

Yahaba swallows. "Keep low," he whispers, "and try to stay alive until we carry you out."

Oikawa entertains the man in Sugawara's stead, making up pointless small talk to keep his attention away from wondering where his black-clad interest wandered off. He barely keeps himself from making a disgusted face when the man's eyes meaningfully slide down his chest, and to his bare, gold covered belly. Oikawa takes a breath and bites his tongue.

Yahaba appears at his side, waiting for his attention. Oikawa couldn't be more relieved to see him. He leans towards him, offering an ear to listen.

"One more survived." Yahaba whispers behind his hand, ignoring the other Slaver's lewd glances.

Oikawa straightens up and jerks his head to dismiss the slave. Yahaba bows, striding away. "Looks like obligations call, please, excuse me - have a drink on me!" Oikawa chirps, snapping his fingers. A slave with a tray filled with full glasses appears out of nowhere, offering them to the Lord.

"Wonderful! How about you throw that pretty thing in as well? I'd love to get acquainted!"

Oikawa gives him a radiant smile, "I'll think about it." He turns on his heel, throws a wink over his shoulder and walks away, face twisting in disgust as soon as he's out of the Slaver's sight.

Forget the poison - he is going to strangle that pig with his own hands. 

Oikawa enters Yahaba's room, ignoring Kyoutani's startled grunt. He makes a bee-line towards the bed.

"This is him?" He asks, sitting on the bed without grace, tugging the covers down from the child's chest. He hisses at the sight of the ugly wound on his abdomen.  

"Stop glaring at me, would you, brat?" Oikawa says distractedly, ignoring the boy's piercing blue eyes. "Your life is in my hands now - show some respect."

He takes the rag off the child's forehead, pressing the back of his hand against his cheeks. He notices the infrequent spasms.

"He's feverish," Oikawa comments under his breath, wiping the sweat away from the child's flushed face. "Get him a tetanus shot, and feed him some painkillers. Call Ennoshita to take care of him. Let's hope he can make it through the night. 

"Are you going to keep him?" Yahaba inquires quietly, wrangling the sleeves of his shirt.

Oikawa gives him a look, pausing. He feels the corner of his mouth quirk in a smile. "Me? God no!" He shakes his head, scoffing. "I can't take care of children!" Yahaba looks like he wants to protest, but keeps quiet.

"Iwa on the other hand..." He hears Kyoutani choke by the door. Oikawa throws him a wide smile, and gently puts the wet rag back on the child's forehead. "Hajime is so good with children. He'll surely be happy to take care of him!" He exclaims, clapping his hands in joy. "What's your name, boy?"

The child grinds his teeth in defiance, but hisses his name. "To-Tobio."

"Perfect! Mad Dog, go tell your master he's acquired a new pet," he flicks his wrist at Kyoutani, shooing him out of the room, "off you go, honey, shoo, shoo!"

"I fucking hate you."

"Aw, Iwa, you know you love me!"

"What makes you think I want to take care of him?" Iwaizumi grinds out, hands crossed on his chest. Oikawa stretches himself on the bed, nuzzling against his pillow.

"Would you let me put him in an auction then?" Oikawa asks with a pout, flipping onto his back. "There! You see?" Oikawa chirps with laughter when Iwaizumi curses under his breath. "You know I can't take in another slave!"

Iwaizumi curses again, frown deepening. His mouth twists in bitterness. "I know," he admits unwillingly, guilt ticking his insides.   

Oikawa hums, squirming on the bed. "Still thinking of the horrible party? I can take your mind off it!" He purrs, dragging his palms down his body, smudging the golden leaves painted on his skin.

Iwaizumi shoots him a warning look, but unwraps the scarves from around his neck. He steps towards the bed, unzipping his pants. Oikawa's grin widens.

"Come on, don't think about it anymore! Don't think about anything but me!" Oikawa whispers, squealing in delight when Iwaizumi lets himself fall on top of him. He welcomes the man with open arms and spread legs. 

Daichi marches into Sugawara's house without waiting for Asahi to open the door for him.

He finds Sugawara sitting on his bed, head in his hands.

"Suga," he says softly, joining him. Sugawara startles and rubs his eyes, swallowing loudly. "It's alright. It's fine. The other boy survived, too." He hears Sugawara's shaky, relieved sigh. "How are you feeling?" Daichi asks, immediately regretting the question.

"Like shit," Sugawara answers, giving a desperate smile. "I can't sleep - but don't worry. I'll be fine."

Daichi wraps his arms around him, pressing his mouth against Sugawara's temple. "I'm sorry." I'm sorry you have to carry this burden.

"No, don't be. I knew what I was getting into. I'll be fine, I just... need some time."

Daichi nods, leaning back to take a look at Sugawara's face. He hesitates, but throws the caution out of the window, and presses a kiss against the man's lips. Sugawara startles, tensing in his arms, but a second later, he gives in to the kiss, returning it with hungry vigour, sneaking arms around Daichi's neck. Daichi cradles Sugawara's face, guiding him to lie down, careful not to interrupt the kiss. Sugawara sighs against his mouth, eyes closed. Daichi drags his hand down his side to his thigh, squeezing the supple flesh.

He feels Sugawara's body melt beneath him as he climbs on top of him, and unties his clothes.

Hinata startles awake. A noise - a strange noise is what woke him up. He recognizes it from somewhere. He sits up and listen - he hears it again.

He carefully climbs off the bed, and creeps out of his room. The noise is bouncing off the walls, haunting his every step. He follows it, body trembling, but mind resolute. He knows the sound, he's heard it so many times. He swallows, eyes darting around the dark hallway. He's in the main wing, and Asahi is nowhere to be seen - did the noise not rouse him? Hinata creeps towards the door of Sugawara's bedroom, taking a peek in. The noise is coming from in there, confirming the dreadful suspicion.

He slaps a hand over his mouth to keep himself silent. There is a man on the bed, his naked, broad back hunched over, hands gripping a pale thigh that definitely belongs to his master. Hinata recognizes him - it's the Slaver that Sugawara came with to the party. The man grunts, adjusting the hold on the thigh. Sugawara's breathy keen startles Hinata once more - that's what woke him up!  

Hinata's eyes grow wider as panic tingles his spine. His master needs help - the Slaver is hurting him! But what can he do? - Hinata glances at each end of the hallway, mentally begging for Asahi to come. Can't he hear that his master is in trouble?! How can he sleep through it?

Hinata bites his lip, looking into the bedroom again. He stares at the Slaver's muscular back, holding back sobs.

He wishes he had a blade.

Chapter Text

He scrambles backwards, the knife falling from his hands, clattering on the floor. He flattens his back against the wall, hungrily gulping down the suffocating, metallic air as he stares at the body on the ground. The world's spinning, black dots dance across his vision, and his lungs feel like they're on fire. He raises his violently trembling hands in front of his eyes. The thick red slowly spreads down his forearms.

The body on the floor spasms, startling a strangled whimper out of him. He waits, expecting the man to stand up and beat him to death, but it doesn't happen. The body remains motionless, the last ounces of blood lazily pouring out of his gaping neck.

He keeps staring, afraid to blink - what if it's a dream, and he wakes up? - but the reality doesn't change, not even after the body grows rigid and cold. He crawls towards it, slipping on the slimy blood that covers the floor. He sits down, insides tickling until he finally lets his laugh bubble in his throat. He laughs and laughs, thinking maybe he's finally lost his mind, but if insanity tastes like this, he'll gladly take it. He grasps the man's cold arms, and wraps them around his neck , pressing the rigid fingers against the collar on his neck. He hears a click, and then the collar is falling into the puddle of blood he's kneeling in.

He stands up, retrieves the knife, and pads into the pristine white bathroom, leaving bloody prints on the floor in his wake. He fills the bath, throws in every kind of salt he can find, adds the sweetest smelling bath foam, and climbs in with a satisfied sigh.

The water turns black, but when he comes out, his body feels white like fresh snow.

He stares at himself in the mirror, raking his fingers through his hair. He takes a strand of his sandy hair,  eyes it with disgust and cuts it off with the knife. Then takes another, and another, and keeps repeating the action until he's satisfied with what he sees.

No longer a bitch, yelled through angry beating. No longer a little whore, whispered into his ear late at night. No longer a pet, said in amused laughter.

He covers the scar on his neck, and smiles at his reflection.

No longer a slave.

He's the last, grieving relative of the poor, late Lord Slaver, who left us so, so unfortunately, and his name is Shirabu Kenjirou.

A slave comes up to him, offering him a fancy, colourful drink with a curt bow. "From the Lord," he says, jerking his head towards the man that winks at him from the other side of the room. Shirabu returns it with a blank face, takes the glass, sipping form it without breaking eye contact. The Slaver moves towards him, but Shirabu walks away without looking back. He's not here for original ordinary pawns.

The beds he slept in, the touches he endured, the blood that flowed through his hands... It was not for some common pretentious Lord. 

He's there for the king.

The crowd parts in front of him as Shirabu strides towards the man, heels clicking on the golden, marble floor. They give him looks - questioning, flirty, disdainful - and he ignores them all, eyes set on the President of Shiratorizawa Corporation, the monopoly that holds control over the distribution of slave collars.

Ushijima Wakatoshi is an epitome of power and authority, and a beacon that attracts the many insignificant flies who are in the wrong impression that they are worthy of his company - the members of this party being no exception. He is surrounded by Slaver Lords  and Ladies who twitter around him, hoping to gain at least a second of his attention by showering him in compliments, hoping he'd at least acknowledge their existence. Ushijima pays them only limited amount of attention, preferring the company of his two escorts.

No matter where he is, Ushijima always takes the first place, Shirabu thinks, eyes lingering on the two men who are very commonly confused for brothers, even though they look and behave nothing alike. He eyes the MP, his cocky stance and bored frown, and compares him with the Slaver Lord draped around Ushijima's arm, low-key coquetting with the people Ushijima cannot even bother to look at.

White and black.

When Shirabu gets close enough to hear the murmur of the company, the MP's notices him, and immediately leans towards Ushjima, whispering into his ear. The man gives a short nod in understanding , and then whispers something into his other escort's ear. With a teasing squeeze to Ushijima's bicep, the veiled man gracefully untangles himself from the pushy company, and heads straight towards Shirabu, hugging him as if they were life-long friends.

"Oh my! And here I was thinking you wouldn't make it to the big party! I'm so glad to see you! Come, come, we need to catch up in private!" The Slaver greets him, winds an arm around his shoulders, leading him away as dozens of eyes watch their every step."Play along, darling, we don't need to cause a scene." He adds behind his hand, pretending to laugh.

The touch burns Shirabu like fire, but he does as he's told, unable to make a sound from putting so much effort into acting natural. As if reading his mind, the man lets go of him and steps away the moment they leave the crowded room. His flirty facade morphs into a much natural, serious look, and the air around him becomes more regal, and less timid. Shirabu is quietly impressed.

"Sugawara Koushi, pleasure to make your acquaintance!" The man introduces himself, checking behind them. Shirabu does the same on reflex, frowning.

"I know who you are," he answers courtly, without much heat. Everyone knows who Lord Slaver Sugawara Koushi is. 

"Good, I was hoping to get your name in return. This way," Sugawara says, coming to a sudden halt by an ornate, double-winged door. He looks at Shirabu, ushering him inside with a graceful gesture of his hand.

It happens in a split of a second - Shirabu catches the glint of the blade just in time to brandish his own hidden dagger, parrying the attack aimed Sugawara, who remains momentarily stunned. Shirabu steadies the Lord with a hand on his back, stopping another attack that brings them to an impasse. He looks for an opening, but then the attacker chokes, and Shirabu feels something wet on his face. His eyes slide from the man's confused face to the slice on his neck that steadily spews rivulets of blood.

Did he cut him on accident?

"Oh my God!" Sugawara murmurs under his breath, his own dagger glinting in his hand. "I didn't mean to!" He gasps, reaching out towards the assassin who topples over, falling onto the carpeted floor with a dull thud.

Sugawara stares at the body with mouth agape, while Shirabu tries to remember what really happened - the man was practically dead by the time he took the second swing. He looks at Sugawara, his resolve wavering - if this is his knee-jerk reaction, he doesn't want to see what the man can do if he puts his mind into it.

He suddenly feels stupid.

Shirabu clears his throat, and steps over the body. "Well now," he grabs the dead man's arm, and drags him further in to make space. At least the carpets are red.

Sugawara sighs unhappily, and wipes his razor-thin blade into his sleeve.

Semi stands by the window, slowly clapping. "Marvellous. And the dinner wasn't even served yet." He says, looking at his watch. He nudges the dead man with his foot in distaste. Ushijima doesn't even acknowledge the dead body - as if it was just another, quite common part of his daily life. And perhaps it is.

"Are you alright?" Ushijima asks, and Shirabu feels the baritone resonate in his bones. His throat gets dry. Ushijima has so far treated him like the dead body - as if he's air.

Sugawara rubs his forehead, dismissing the concern despite looking very obviously troubled. 

Shirabu shuffles on his feet, yearning for attention. "I want to join your pact!" He blurts out without thinking, biting his tongue when the three set of eyes focus on him. Ushijima's gaze makes a shiver run down his spine. "I heard about your intentions and I --"

"You don't say," the MP interrupts him, "and what, pray tell, have you heard about our... intentions."

Shirabu pauses, "a rumour," is all he says, because that's the best he has. It can't even be called that - a speculation, more likely. A whiff of suspicion. It is all what he staked his life on. A mere suspicion. He feels like an idiot - clawing his way up to the golden gates of the highest circles from the dirty rock bottom, only to be shut out. He expected this to go so much different.

He expected to be like a wolf amongst sheep, but he's a lamb in the lion's den instead.

"You come here, a nobody, demanding to join a pact that is obviously out of your league - and expect me to accept you?" Ushijima speaks, interrupting whatever Semi had on the tip of the tongue. "What even do you have to offer to me?"

All three men stare at Shirabu, eyes expectant. Shirabu squares his shoulders, and points at the dead man. "This. I will kill for you." He says without hesitation, noticing Sugawara duck his head to hide his smile.

"You didn't kill that man."

"Wakatoshi," Sugawara butts in gently, "if he wasn't there, things could have been much different." They all look at him, knowing that it might not be completely true, but nobody calls him out.

"You seem awfully protective of him already," Semi jabs, hands on his hips.

Sugawara smiles teasingly, "I'm a good judge of character." Semi stares at him for a second, and finally shrugs, admitting that it is, indeed, true. Ushiijma, on the other hand, doesn't seem convinced.

"I've got people to kill for me," he says, staring Shirabu dead in the eyes. "You are offering me nothing I don't already have."

"You said I am nobody - and you're right." Shirabu says, holding his head high, and back straight. "That is something you, or any other man in your company, cannot say. Everywhere you go, eyes and ears follow. They do not look at me. Let me become your nobody, and let me kill for you."

Ushijima remains silent, and Shirabu is almost certain it is over - he's going to be mocked and sent away. He is nothing compared to them. Ushijima drags his sharp eyes down the entire length of his body, and finally nods.

"I accept." He says, offering his hand. Shirabu takes it - it's big, warm, and what surprises him most, calloused - and they seal the deal with a formal shake.

"Welcome to the Shiratorizawa Pact." Semi quips behind them with a wide, sharp smile, toasting them with a raised glass Shirabu has no idea where he got from.

Sugawara doesn't give him a warm welcome - he smiles at him, nods, and his head remains bowed. He doesn't have the time to wonder about that.

He has a dead body to take care of.

And so Shirabu becomes the blade that follows Ushijima in his shadow wherever the man goes. When Ushijima tells him to kill, he kills. When he tells him to listen, he listens, and when he tells him to interrogate, he interrogates for him. Shirabu does as he's told, overlooked by the other Lord Slavers thanks to the company that overshines his presence in the public. Sugawara and Semi are like Ushijima's left and right hands, and he's rarely seen without them.

Shirabu wonders if maybe Ushijima and Sugawara are something more, since he regularly sees the man in Ushijima's mansion late at night, but whenever Shirabu takes a peek into Ushijima's study room, expecting to find them some compromising position, he is always disappointed, and maybe even relieved - even though he won't admit that to himself.

One day, Shirabu decides to ask Ushijima himself about that.

"We are not together. Our relationship is purely professional." Ushijima answers without any signs of discomfort. Shirabu always liked that about him - straightforward, serious, calm.

What he doesn't like about him, is how dense he can be.

The man falls to the ground with a last disgusting gurgle, and Shirabu wills his beating hart to calm down. Rheon gives him an appraising look, but shakes his head at the amount of blood he spilled on the once pristine marble floor.

"So much mess," the slave says, amused, and bends down to drag another body away.

"I'm sorry," Shirabu says, striding forward in hurry to get to Ushijima's office. One of the assassins is still moving, crawling silently away from the hallway in the blind hope he can get out before they notice him.

What a fool, Shirabu thinks, steps on the man's back, digging the sharp heel of his boot between his ribs with a sickening crack. Shirabu keeps walking without batting an eye, leaving the man feebly wheezing on the floor.

He pauses in front of Ushijima's office, turns off the lights in the hallway, and carefully opens the door, slipping inside.

The Slaver Lord whose ridiculous idea this laughable assassination plot was, is standing in the middle of the room, throwing his arms up in a heated monologue of how Ushijima's empire has fallen, and how he's no longer in charge and so on, and so on...

Shirabu approaches the man just as he reaches into his jacket and brandishes a gun, pointing it at Ushijima, who's sitting in his chair, his face a perfect picture of boredom. Shirabu drags his blade over the man's triceps and under his armpit, ruining his ability to wield a gun. A kick to the head, and the man is lying on the floor, wondering what just happened. Ushijima stands up, walks around his desk and stops in front of the Slaver who tries to scramble away from him.

"Now is my time to make demands." Ushijima says in that lovely, commanding baritone that makes shivers run down Shirabu's  spine.

Poor fool, Shirabu thinks, looking at the bloodied excuse of a human being on the floor. I've ruined Ushijima's books. He grabs the Slaver by his hair, and tugs him away from the bookcase, pouting at the irreversible damage the blood has caused.

"Leave it, I can get new ones." Ushijima says behind him. Shirabu stands up, taking a deep breath. He turns around, finding himself standing almost chest to chest with Ushijima. He stares at the man, not daring to blink.

Ushijima tilts his head, eyes wandering over his body, taking in all the blood that's already starting to flake off. He reaches for Shirabu's face, thumb rubbing at his cheek. His hand lingers. Shirabu feels like his heart is trying to beat its way out of his chest, but he manages to keep a straight face. He turns his head, pressing his mouth against the Ushijima's thumb, and gently bites down.

"You should get cleaned." Ushijima says, slower, quieter, and leaves the room.  

Shirabu stares at the door with wide eyes, feeling like screaming his lungs out. He mutely throws his arms in the air - how fucking dense can one man be?! - and kicks the body slumped on the floor.

Rheon finds him like that - taking his frustration out on the poor, dead sod on the floor, murmuring insults under his breath.

"Really?" The slave asks, unimpressed. "You're ruining the carpet."

Shirabu has never, never, wanted a man more in his life. He's been dropping hints, walked around in his mansion in the most ridiculous outfits he could find, and Ushijima has never given him any side glance, lewd or insinuating look, or inappropriate comment.

At first, Shirabu wanted to seduce him to prove to himself that he's just like the others - uncaring and pompous, drunk with power. Like the other Slavers he broke that way. Lured them in bed, and make them dance to his tune - that way he felt superior, felt like he was more than them. But Ushijima is different. Always proper, always courteous, always dense.

And it drives Shirabu crazy. He wants him - and not just to prove something to himself.

Then one day, something in Shirabu just breaks. Probably the patience. They are on their way to Ushijima's mansion, tired and tipsy from the party thrown by the second richest Slaver Lord in the whole country - Oikawa Tooru, the man who dropped lead into Shirabu's metaphorical cup of self-restraint, causing it to overflow.

That evening Shirabu watched the slaver covered in gold leaves whisper into Ushijima's ear, a smirk playing on his lips. That is the first time Shirabu saw Ushijima turn his head after someone, touch his skin in a different, more intimate kind of way, and watch the man with desire in his eyes.

He knows there was something between them, something that's long since over, but still leaves their hearts fluttering. Shirabu is envious. And furious when the Slaver catches his eye, and has the nerve to wink, and stick out his tongue. Shirabu glares at him as he gracefully walks across the room, and stops by his companion - a shorter man with an impressive frown, who smacks Oikawa on the head the second he opens his mouth.

That evening, Shirabu follows Ushijima home, and into his bedroom. When Ushijima asks him what's wrong, throwing a questioning glance at the door he slammed close with his foot, Shirabu puts his hands on Ushijima's chest, pushes him backwards until he hits the bed, and falls down on it.

"Fuck me," Shirabu says breathlessly, climbing on top of him. He straddles his lap, and grinds against him with a loud moan. Ushijima doesn't protest. "I want you to fuck me," Shirabu repeats, enjoying the hands that grip his waist.

I want you to look at me like the way you looked at him.

Ushijima indulges him, again, and again, and again...

Shirabu wakes up, but refuses to open his eyes. He's comfortable in the satin sheets, his back is pleasantly tingling, and his body comfortably refreshed. He hums contently, and stretches his muscles, rubbing his face against the soft pillow. His foot catches on something - oh yeah, he didn't take his boots off. He clicks his tongue, trying to untangle the heavy heels from the sheets without ripping them.

"Good morning," he hears a deep voice say next to him. He is ready to greet Ushijima in return, but the moment he feels a hand on the back of his neck, the words die on his tongue.

All grogginess and sleep is gone in an instance, and Shirabu's eyes fly open, his body growing rigid. He stares at Ushijima's naked chest, cold fear clawing at his insides.

He forgot about the scar. He forgot to cover it up. Ushijima can see - the proof of what Shirabu really was, what he really still is.

A fraud.

A slave.

The hand moves, tracing the poorly-healed wound that circles his neck. Shirabu is ready to bolt, ready to kill - he still has the heels, it's enough to fight his way out.

Ushijima moves closer to him, and he feels his breath ghost against his ear. "Do you think I didn't know?" The hand moves lower, settling in the middle of his back. Shirabu dares to look up, meeting Ushijima's eyes. He looks calm as usual. Their noses are almost touching.

"Your secret is safe."

This time, it is Ushijima who takes the lead.

Chapter Text

Semi scrapes the nonexistent dirt from under his nails, mentally rolling his eyes to the moon and back. The parliament meeting has escalated an hour ago, and Semi had lost interest in participating long before that. He rubs his forehead, fingering the rim of his empty coffee cup - he should have brought more. The Chancellor slams his fist against the table, demanding order. Somebody shouts objection, and somebody objects that objection. And the chaos starts anew.

When some youngster - elected for the first time, going by how cocky and ideological his speech is at the beginning - starts picking at the lack of financing in multiple factors, Semi raises his eyebrows, leaning back in his seat. The MP continues with his speech, and Semi watches him grow steadily  nervous as the crowd loses interest in whatever he is saying.

The debate turns again, and then it's just money here, and money there, and all Semi does is compare the balding head of the senior members, trying to guess which one reflects more light. He doesn't  bother to cover his yawn when everyone shoots glances his way.

"My hands are tied," is Semi's dismissal to every proposal brought forward. Which in translation means 'I'm not going to release any money from the treasury until you come begging to my carpet personally.' The MP on his left hides an amused smile behind his hand, and Semi goes back to staring at his cup.

Kawanishi nudges his shoulder a while later, waking him up from a nap. Semi nods at the slave, and focuses at Lord Chancellor who took the place behind the lectern again. He is ready to stand up and leave, thinking, the Chancellor is finally dismissing the meeting, but Kawanishi's hand on his shoulder stops him. Semi gives him a questioning look, as he settles down with a sigh.

"Lords and Ladies, there is one more issue to be discussed," The man swipes the crowd with his sunken eyes, and continues, "And that is the matter of the countless revolts of slaves, which has been pushed away for far too long."

Semi feels his body grow rigid.

"But today, I am here to propose a simple solution, which has been offered to me by Lord Holder of the Treasury some time ago," The Chancellor nods at Semi, who almost forgets to react. "I have received a fair number of letters from President of Shiratorizawa Corporation, who offers his speaker as a handler of this situation, and proposes his acceptance into the Parliament."

And suddenly, the languid tempo of Parliament's way of dealing with things feels incredibly fast.

Semi leaves the palace as fast as he can without running, Kawanishi hot on his heels. He digs his phone out of his pocket, and punches in Sugawara's number, his thumb freezing over the call button. He stares at the screen, hesitating.

'Give him all the time he can get,' A voice in the back of his Semi's head whispers, 'Give him every last hour.' He deletes the number, and puts the phone in his pocket. The tires of his car screech on the road as the vehicle comes to a stop right in front of him.

He climbs in, slams the door closed, and sags in the seat.

Semi sits on the front porch, staring at the bottle of wine Kawanishi so gracefully offered him. He counts the young slave children who play tag on his lawn, their laughter being carried away by the warm wind.

"Lord Semi! How did the meeting go?" Goshiki asks, rocking on his heels in impatience. Semi forces a smile, tussling his already messy hair.

"Boring as ever!" He exclaims, waving his hand in exaggerated drama. Kawanishi flinches next to him. "So boring, I even fell asleep!" The children giggle, and whisper amongst themselves - Semi raises a questioning eyebrow. "What is it?"

"The weird guy was here, looking for you!" Goshiki says, and more giggles fill the air. "He said he'll come back later, when you're here."

Semi scratches the back of his head, and waves them off. Suddenly he feels like drinking - he dawns the glass, and Kawanishi immediately refills it.

"Lock the doors tonight." Semi says in even voice.

It is not enough to keep the man out.

Semi unties his bathrobe, letting it carelessly fall onto the floor. He frowns at the pile of papers that mock him from his nightstand, waiting to be revised. He climbs in his bed, throws a sheet over his hips, and turns on the lamp. He grabs the pile with an annoyed sigh, sliding on his reading glasses - only a few pages tonight, ten at most. He can't remember the last time he hasn't read reports and bills as his bedtime stories.

He is in the middle of the fourth page when he hears the faint noise of window sliding open. He raises his eyes to stare at the wall across which the shadows dance, showing him everything that's going on behind his back. He resists the urge to roll his eyes as he watches the silhouette of the intruder climb in.

The bed dips under familiar weight, and soon enough, he feels cold fingers tracing patterns on the skin of his shoulder.

"Good evening, Lord Holder of the Treasury!" A voice drawls quietly, tickling his ear.

"Tendou," Semi acknowledges the man, returning to his papers.

"I saw the meeting," Tendou says, making himself comfortable behind him, resting his chin on his shoulder to peek at the papers. "What was the deal with Lord Refreshing? That seemed awfully ominous - especially with your speedy leave."

Semi doesn't indulge him with an answer, and Tendou accepts that by clicking his tongue. He slides his hand down Semi's side, dragging away the sheet from his hip. "I love when you sleep naked - casual clothes look weird on you - but what would the children say if they saw you?"

"What would the children say if they saw a dead body under my window?" Semi shoots back, officially giving up on reading anything else when Tendou bounces behind him. Semi turns to lie on his back, a glare stilling on his face.

Tendou bounces some more, but stops suddenly, and sits straighter with his legs crossed. "You're quiet." He comments, tilting his head like a curious dog. "Something's happening. Something... not good."

Semi looks away, the weird feeling clawing at his lungs. Guilt? No, regret. Doubts.

Tendou interrupts his thoughts by sticking his face into his field of view.

"Shall I take your mind off it? I feel kinky today."

Semi thinks about the proposal, but finds out he is absolutely not in the mood. The grin falls off Tendou's face in an instance, his brows creasing in a worried frown.

"Dear God," The man whispers, sitting back up to give Semi some space. "What is going on?"

Daichi stands in the dark room, and suddenly feels much colder. Sugawara resolutely stares at him, breathing through his nose.

"This is the plan?" He asks, dragging a hand down his face. Sugawara nods, twisting his fingers in front of him. "This - is there..." Daichi searches for the right words. He expected something - something grand, cunning, yes - but this. "And they all know - they all agree?"

Sugawara nods again. Daichi thinks about it. The plan is... good. Perfect, perhaps. But the cost...

There's a knock on the door. Daichi startles, and spins around to see the long haired slave slip into the room.

"The body is taken care of." The slave announces with a short bow. Sugawara murmurs a thanks.

Daichi jerks a thumb at the slave, "He agrees with it, too?"

Sugawara gives him a smile, one a parent would give their child just before explaining something obvious. "He does not, but he doesn't have a choice. Right, Asahi?"

The slave bows his head lower.

Daichi sighs, and slowly starts nodding his head. "Alright. Alright, I'm in. I agree."

Sugawara dips his head in thanks, but doesn't reach out to shake Daichi's hand just yet. "I was hoping-" He hesitates, "You'd invite me to your pact." He says, making Daichi blink in surprise.

"You are not-- I thought you were with Shiratorizawa."

"I am disaffiliated. Wakatoshi's pact was never one for me."

"In that case, would you like to join me?" Daichi asks, and this time, Sugawara does shake his hand.

"I'd be honoured, my Lord."

They all sit around the table, cigarettes in one hand, cards in the other. Iwaizumi is fuming by the door, refusing to join this charade.

"I am not going to allow this!"

"Oh, Iwa!" Oikawa laughs, his voice ringing like chimes in the wind. "You can't do anything, but say yes." He takes a drag, circling his finger on the rim of his glass. He's tipsy, and going by the stink the room, pretty high, too. All of them are.

Barely clad, drunk, high, and absolutely out of their minds.

"Make me!" Iwaizumi growls, barely keeping himself from shouting. Daichi flings back his head, shooting him a drunk, unfocussed look. Iwaizumi looks away as Sugawara shifts in the man's lap, dragging his hands down his bare torso. "Even you? Since when?!"

Daichi huffs out a laugh, and Iwaizumi can't say if it's amused or desperate. He squeezes Sugawara's thigh, as if he's afraid that if he lets go, the man would disappear. "Since the beginning!" Daichi says, downing his shot of whatever alcohol Ushijima's been pouring.

Iwaizumi feels like breaking something. Or crying. Or breaking something and crying.

"Have a seat," Ushijima says, surprising him with a slurred voice. Oikawa laughs, nudging the man's leg with his foot.

"Even Ushiwaka is drunk!" He laughs, Sugawara and Semi joining him.

Iwaizumi reluctantly approaches the table, gripping the chair that Ushijima has so graciously dragged over for him. His heart hurts when he looks at Oikawa.

"I hate this fucking plan. I hate you all."

They raise their glasses, and toast to him.

Ushijima wakes up exceptionally early. He glances at the clock, then at the ceiling, and remains lying there waiting for his alarm to ring.

Shirabu stirs next to him, turning on his other side - he had a restless night. Ushijima traces the scar on his neck with his fingers to calm him down. It's been two years since they met, and two years since Ushijima started debating how to tell him about the plan.

Daichi drags his hand down Sugawara's leg, tugging at the light hair to distract the man from his paperwork.

"Ouch!" Sugawara yelps, smacking him with the papers.

"You don't shave your legs?" Daichi asks in amusement, going back to the petting in offering of peace.

"What am I? A woman?" 

Daichi grins, and tugs again. "Sometimes, you act like one."

Sugawara glares at him over the papers, "You insult me."

"I'm sorry, love. How would you like me to undo this horrible grievance?" Daichi asks, throwing Sugawara's legs over his shoulders, and dragging the man off the pillow. Sugawara screams, and tries to smack him again, but Daichi tears the papers out of his hands, scattering them across the room. "Enough of paperwork. Ushijima can do it by himself."

A knock on the door interrupts them.

"A letter for you, and... a phone call." Asahi's muffled voice announces. "It's important." He adds when Sugawara dismisses him.

"Hold on, I have to take this, apparently," Sugawara says, and untangles his legs from around Daichi's neck. He throws a bathrobe on, and walks out of the bedroom.

So Daichi waits - he rolls over the bed, collects the scattered pages, puts them on the table, and fluffs up the pillows. Ten minutes pass, fifteen, twenty. Daichi sighs, and throws on his pants before he walks out.

He finds him in the kitchen, standing by the counter like a marble statue, back turned on him. He's staring at the letter in his hands, eyes unseeing. Daichi leans against the doorframe, crossing his arms on his chest.

"They accepted me." Sugawara says, the tone of his voice wiping every possible light-headed comment off Daichi's tongue.

"Okay? Accepted where?"

"To the parliament."

Daichi feels his heart stop. He stares at Sugawara, and thinks about the first time they talked, the first time he told him of the plan. Five years were a long time to lull them into false comfort, and at the same time, too short. They've grown to believe that things were not that bad, not that urgent, even despite the reminders that stabbed them in the eye on every step. 

Lazy - that's what they all have become.

Nothing has changed since then - the plan is the same. And the unpleasant reminder that they are suddenly within an arm's reach to finish what they started is an unwelcome wakeup call from their domestic dream.

"Suga," Daichi tries, voice cracking. Sugwara is calm, face blank, hands firm.

"I have to go - tell Ushijima."

Daichi lets him leave, gets dressed, and leaves the mansion before he can come back. He steels himself for what's to come, and dials Iwaizumi's number.

The man picks up after the third ring.


Daichi swallows. "I'm sorry, Hajime."

Chapter Text

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.

A tribute.

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!"

"There isn't."

"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!"

"Sorry, Tsukki!"

"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."