The Tyrant King
"There is only one Hell. And it is the one that we live in now." - Kuroko Tamaki
Kuroko Tamaki looked at her hands like she could still see the blood on it.
Honestly, she has no idea what to think of their latest orders. It is getting more ridiculous by the day, and more nerve wrecking. And the more that she thinks about it, the more that she doesn't understand just what the prince—no, the king now, is even thinking.
The deaths of the former king and queen of the Teiko Kingdom had been less than two years ago. Cause of death: assassination. Everyone in the kingdom had grieved, for they are loved by everyone. And there have been several demands to find their assassins and bring them to justice.
Hence, Tamaki who had been the head of the Intelligence Unit of the Royal Guard—the private and best soldiers of the king's army, have all been run ragged that week, but to no avail. Without so much as a lead, there isn't much that they could go on. It is probably the first assignment that the Intelligence Unit had received ever since Tamaki had become their commander that they have failed.
After the mourning period for the late king and queen was over, their only son, the Crown Prince, had then ascended to the throne as the king. And it is then when the changes to the kingdom started making itself felt and known.
The prince who is now the king had stopped his interactions with the commanders of the Royal Guard who were also known as the 'Generation of Miracles', as each of them is good enough to deal with an entire army all by themselves. No one is allowed to see the king who now had his own personal bodyguard that no one had met before—not even the commanders of the Royal Guard. In the past, the bodyguards of the royal family had always been someone from the Royal Guard. It is to decrease the chances of assassins.
And that's not even all.
Taxes and costs of products and goods in the kingdom have risen drastically, and the king had also blocked all trades and alliances from other kingdoms. All routes in and out of the Royal City were blocked and monitored, with only the wealthiest that have the power being granted passports to allow them access. Giant walls and iron gates were built to barricade the entire Royal City, with each gate and checkpoint being heavily guarded.
No one will be able to get in or out of the Royal City without the guards knowing.
For the peasants and the common citizens of the various small towns and villages scattered all over the kingdom, they were forced to fend for themselves by scraping for food, and being barely able to even keep themselves alive. Like with the wealthy, the only place where you can find doctors are in the Royal City. All pleas to the king have fallen on deaf ears, and the peasants were turned away at the gates harshly, not even granted an audience with the king.
And that is not even the worst of it.
It had only started barely eight months after the prince had ascended to the throne and had become the king. Anyone who questioned the king's decrees or decisions; whether they be peasant, noble or even a soldier was sentenced to execution with no chance of parole.
The once beautiful and powerful Teiko Kingdom had now become a nightmarish place where anyone with power and money could get away with anything. And if you happen to be born poor, then you're destined to die of starvation or illness.
"I don't feel good about this."
A voice broke through Tamaki's thoughts as she stood on the deck of the airship, heading back towards the Royal City after a 'mission' sanctioned by the king had sent her and her unit to eliminate an entire civilian village just because they refuse to give the standard one thousand ryou monthly to the king because they could no longer afford it.
Honestly, Tamaki's heart almost broke when she and her unit have arrived at the village, and the terrified villagers have begun acting like they've just seen a demon on their doorsteps.
Is that how the rest of the kingdom sees the Royal Guard now? The Royal Guard had been a branch of the Royal Army whose sole purpose is to safeguard the royal family and this kingdom. Does the common citizens now see them as the enemy, where the first thing that comes to mind the moment that they see the black and silver flag of the Royal Guard being to run and hide?
Ogiwara Shigehiro, Tamaki's childhood friend and also her deputy in the Intelligence Unit approached her with a frown on his face. Next to him, his co-deputy, Haizaki Shogo followed. Like Tamaki and the rest of the Royal Guard, they were both dressed in the black and silver uniforms of the Royal Guard.
"I don't feel good doing this." Shigehiro told Tamaki, a darkened look on his face. "It doesn't feel right, Tamaki."
Hell, Tamaki doesn't like it either when they have received their orders from the king to eliminate that particular village just because they 'are disobeying orders' when all that the village did is to send a missive to the palace, telling the king that they won't be paying the standard one thousand ryou monthly that month because the village could no longer afford it.
"I know." Tamaki sighed, turning around to face her two childhood friends and deputies. "But it isn't our place to question orders. You know that."
"Even still…" Shigehiro had a dark frown on his face that spoke wonders of just how he'd felt about their orders. "Are we, the Royal Guard, the Intelligence Unit, reduced to a bunch of bandits destroying towns and villages, and killing citizens of our kingdom just because they could no longer afford to accede to the king's demands? Are we to continue killing our citizens just because they're questioning the king and his decrees or even his motives?"
"Shige-kun! Quiet down!" Tamaki hissed at him, looking around cautiously to make sure that no one had overheard him. She knew better than anyone the fate of one who had questioned the king. She is the head of Intelligence after all. It is her jurisdiction. "Watch your words." She told Shigehiro and Haizaki in a hushed voice. "You know what had happened to Tsugawa just because he had questioned the king on his decision to have forty percent of the stores' profits going to the palace."
The two boys fell silent.
Tsugawa Tomoki had been one of the merchants in the Royal City. And when a recent decree by the king had all shops in the kingdom surrendering forty percent of their profits to the king, he had protested. And that is the last that anyone had heard from him.
Tamaki should know. She is the one who had gone to arrest him, before having Aomine Daiki, the head of the Covert Unit of the Royal Guard executing him in some dungeon.
"Even still, he had a point." Haizaki pointed out. "It hasn't even been two years since the prince had ascended to the throne, and there have already been various changes to the kingdom—not all of them good. Even the Generation of Miracles—the commanders of the Royal Guard hadn't been allowed to see the king. The only one whom His Highness allows to be near him in close proximity is that creepy Mayuzumi. Where is he from anyway? I've never seen him in my life before he had became the king's bodyguard."
"He's from Spec Ops – from the regular militia." Tamaki sighed. "Hayama told me. And in the first place, our positions are as the commanders of the Royal Guard, not as the king's bodyguards. It is of no concern of ours if he wishes to appoint someone to be his personal bodyguard now that he'd become the king."
Privately however, Tamaki knew that both Shigehiro and Haizaki's concerns are valid. The prince never had a personal bodyguard before. Hell, when he was first assigned his own guard detail when he'd begun travelling incognito around the kingdom to see with his own eyes the kingdom that he will be ruling once he becomes king, he had kicked up a fuss. Prince Akashi Seijuro had never liked having a chaperone or even a guard as it makes him feel weak.
Shigehiro rolled his eyes, almost as if Tamaki's words are almost ludicrous. "Tamaki, you grew up with him." He pointed out. It is common knowledge amongst the Royal Guard that the current commanders of the Royal Guard were the prince's guards and childhood friends ever since they were children, and when the commanders were undergoing their apprenticeship. "If there is anyone who should be standing next to him, it is you! You had been his guard since you were both twelve, and you had begun your apprenticeship, and when the prince had first begun his trips around the kingdom! Being his guard since you were twelve set aside, more importantly, you more than anyone had the right to see him! You are his cousin!"
Only a handful knew about the relationship that Tamaki had shared with the royal family, as the late queen had been her father's younger sister.
"Shige-kun." Tamaki sighed. "Please."
Shigehiro grumbled, but said nothing.
Haizaki sighed. "Seriously though," he rubbed his temples even as the first sights of the Royal City came into view. "What the hell is the king thinking anyway?"
The throne room suddenly seemed extremely large and cold, especially after the screams and cries of that Sakurai guy faded away to almost nothing as the palace guards dragged him away—probably to the dungeons to be executed.
Tamaki exchanged glances with one of her soldiers who had been hiding within the shadows—Imayoshi Shoichi, who nodded and faded away within the shadows. It had been going on a little over six months now ever since Tamaki could take it no more, and had helped Momoi Satsuki, Ogiwara Shigehiro and a few others to 'defect' from the Royal Guard when they could no longer take it.
Some of those that were sentenced to be 'executed' were sometimes lucky enough for Tamaki and her Intelligence Unit to be able to do something to fake their deaths. Then when it is late at night when no one but just soldiers from the Intelligence Unit were awake, they would be able to smuggle them through one of the side gates that the Intelligence Unit uses, telling them to run as far away as possible, and to never come back to the Royal City.
Most of them couldn't be any happier to obey that order. Several of them have even repeatedly told Tamaki that if she ever needs their help, they'll be there in a flash. She is probably the only commander of the Royal Guard that the common citizens still love and respected. The other commanders—her old friends who have gone through the military academy together with her have now became nothing more than monsters who thrived in people's suffering and pain.
"He doesn't deserve the death penalty." Tamaki said, glad that her voice came out steady, even as she looked straight into the redhead's eyes.
This…king in front of her… He is her cousin no more. He isn't the same boy that had grown up with her, and whom had played with her using wooden swords when they were small kids, pretending to be knights, whenever the king and queen brought their son over to visit their only relatives in the small village where Tamaki and her parents lived whenever her parents aren't away on some Royal Guard business.
Tamaki kept her usual poker face on when the king glared at her, his bangs concealing his left eye from view. As usual, that creepy Mayuzumi is next to him, staring at her emotionlessly. Tamaki has no idea whether it is due to him formerly from Spec Ops of the regular militia or something, but she never saw Mayuzumi show much emotion. True, Tamaki doesn't either. But at the very least, her friends and comrades could still tell that she's human by the flicker of emotions in her eyes. With Mayuzumi, it is almost like he isn't even human.
"He was just hungry." Tamaki said, remembering the protests and wails of that Sakurai kid when the palace guards have dragged him before the king after he was caught for stealing in the marketplace. The kid was dressed in rags and looked as if he hadn't eaten for days. Heaven only knows how he even managed to get into the Royal City without any of the guards noticing. "That's why he stole a piece of bread to eat. Something like that doesn't deserve the capital punishment. He doesn't deserve the death penalty for just stealing something to eat! What's gotten into you?"
"Are you questioning me?" The king almost growled.
Tamaki's ears pricked up a little. This had been the first time in two years when she had actually seen the king ever since he had ascended to the throne. Was his voice always this low? It seemed a little different.
"No. Just questioning your judgment." Tamaki said simply. "The king that I knew, and had vowed to serve and protect until my death when I was twelve isn't like this. You never used to be like this." She met his eyes without fear, and saw a flicker of something passing through that single red eye that she could see that she doesn't like. "If someone had been stealing food just because he is hungry, you would have offered him a job to help him and his family." Her voice grew stronger. "You've changed."
"I am absolute, Tamaki." The king almost growled, and with those words, Tamaki's head snapped up, and she studied the king carefully. "I will not be questioned. I am never wrong."
There was silence between the two for a long time as Tamaki studied every inch of the teenage king's face. The now sixteen-year-old king had lost much of his baby fat, slowly blossoming into a handsome young man. Tamaki's eyes narrowed slightly as she soon found what she's looking for as she eyed the single eye that couldn't really be seen clearly beneath the red bangs.
The teal haired girl moved her left hand slowly to the blade at her back, shifting one booted foot back carefully, keeping an eye on Mayuzumi out of the corner of her eye as well. "…Who are you?" she questioned, keeping her eyes on the only other two people in the throne room with her.
Out of the corner of her eye, Tamaki could see Mayuzumi reaching for his sword by his hip. "…You're not the prince," she said slowly. "At least, you're not the prince whom I knew since early childhood."
"What are you talking—"
"If you had been the real prince, you wouldn't address me the way you did." Tamaki said, and at the slight flicker of surprise that appeared in the king's eyes, she knew that her suspicions were right. "If you had been the real prince, you wouldn't call me 'Tamaki'. At least not when we're alone."
"Tamaki, this is your cousin. You would know him as the Crown Prince of our kingdom. Be nice to him, okay?"
"…Can I call you 'Tsuyu'? 'Tamaki' is too long."
Tamaki leapt backwards as the king roared, "Guards!"
She drew out her blade.
It was raining.
Even as Kuroko Tamaki leaned her face towards the night skies, allowing the rain to pelt down on her face, she mused to herself that it seemed to have been raining almost daily ever since she'd left the Royal City that night.
'It's been two years since then.' Tamaki mused to herself even as she almost blended in together with the darkness of the night, with her back against the wall of some abandoned house half hidden within the shadows.
It also didn't help that she had been wearing a black hooded weather resistant coat over a white tee and black cargo pants with boots, black fingerless gloves on her hands. A variety of blades and a handgun were vaguely visible around her waist.
"There is only one Hell. And it is the one that we live in now." Tamaki muttered to herself as she caught sight of an old man across her, looking as if he's nothing but skin and bones. He is just so thin that his ribs could almost be seen. He looks as if he's a skeleton masquerading as a human being.
She then stiffened as she caught the sounds of faint running and shouting, with shoes sloshing in the rainwater. There was also the sound of a whistle that had been carried through the wind.
"A hunt, huh?" Tamaki sighed. "So they got their sights set on this town too. How many? How many more must they kill before they're satisfied?"
Hyuuga huffed and panted as he lugged his bigger and heavier friend with him, turning his head every now and then to check on their pursuers. In front of him were the rest of his friends—the rebel group Seirin who have all swore to topple the Red King off his throne, and to bring peace back to the Teiko Kingdom.
"Come on, Kiyoshi. Don't die on me here." Hyuuga said almost angrily, adjusting his grip on his almost unconscious friend.
"No good." Kagami Taiga approached the rest of the group with a harried Aida Riko, their leader. "Up front's a dead end. They have checkpoints everywhere!" He sounded furious.
"There's nowhere to run!"
"Damn it!" Izuki cursed, seeing the faint outlines of the soldiers closing in on them. "As expected of the Covert Unit of the Royal Guard!"
"Are we going to die here?" Furihata Kouki asked, terrified, pressing his left hand against a serious gash on his right arm.
"In here!" A voice called out to them from the darkness of an alley not far from them, startling all of Seirin.
"What?" Koganei was surprised. "Huh?"
Hearing the sounds of approaching footsteps, Seirin decided to take a chance and entered the dark alley where a tarp was suddenly thrown over them. As one, they somehow made the decision silently to squat down and keep silent, and hopefully, the soldiers will think that they're a crate or something.
Izuki who was near the edge of the tarp saw the outlines of someone's feet, with black boots sloshing in the rainwater as whoever it is arranged the tarp around them before the feet disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared. There was silence for several moments before the loud shouts from the soldiers reaches their ears.
Riko covered a petrified Furihata's mouth as Hyuuga covered Kiyoshi's mouth should he let out a pained moan or something. With how seriously injured that he is, and with how much blood that he had lost, Hyuuga wouldn't put it past him.
"They're not here!"
"Damn, where could they be? They couldn't have gotten far!"
"Check the north! Close off all routes!"
The footsteps then faded away to almost nothing. Silence fell for several moments. And just when Izuki was wondering if it is safe enough to get out, the tarp covering them was dragged off. As one, all of Seirin stared up at their saviour only to realise that it seemed to be a teenage girl around their age. It is almost impossible to tell what she looks like because of the darkness and the black coat that she is wearing.
"They're gone." She told them, even as Seirin got to their feet shakily, relieved that they've just narrowly escaped execution via the Royal Guard.
"Who are you?" Hyuuga asked almost suspiciously.
"I'll explain later." The girl told them, with her eyes falling onto Kiyoshi, and she narrowed her eyes. "Follow me." She told them, much to their surprise. "Your friend needs medical attention now, or he'll die."
"Do you know a doctor?" Riko asked quickly. She couldn't care less if this girl is ally or enemy now. Kiyoshi's survival is more important, especially after having fought with the Panther, the commander of the Covert Unit of the Royal Guard, Aomine Daiki.
"Yes. I'm taking you someplace safe." The girl sounded a tad bit irritated, constantly looking over her shoulder. "Follow me. There is no way that you lot are getting out of this town tonight. They've barricaded the entire town."
"We don't have a choice, I guess." Kagami admitted.
"Follow me." The girl said again before she walked deeper into the alley, almost melting together into the darkness. It wasn't long before she stopped and squatted down to the ground, removing something from her pocket that Seirin later realises is a flashlight when a beam of bright light shone onto the ground where a manhole cover is visible.
Kagami was wondering what is so interesting about a manhole cover when the girl rapped twice on it. There were a few moments of silence before the manhole cover was moved, and a dark head popped out of it, revealing a grim face with silvery-blue eyes.
"They're with me." The girl told the head curtly as he glanced suspiciously at Seirin. "I'm taking them down into base. Their friend needs immediate medical attention." Both pairs of eyes glanced at Kiyoshi. "Tell Sakurai-kun to prep for surgery just in case. Also, spread the word; tell the others to retreat. The Panther's on the move. The unit here is his." There was a frown on the girl's face as the guy cursed to himself. "They're performing a Hunt. It's Hunting Night today."