Nighthunters

The Final Battle

"When was it, Tamaki? When was it when you actually started looking at me with those eyes?" - The Red King


It has been nearly two years—probably more ever since Tamaki had last set foot in the throne room. And now, as she stepped foot into the throne room once more, it feels almost strange to her—giving her an almost alien feeling.

It still looks as it still did once upon a time—with paintings of all the past rulers of the kingdom hanging on the walls; the long red carpet stretching from the doors to the throne atop the marble steps; the coat of arms on the right side of the Teiko Kingdom's emblem and a symbol of the scales of justice on the left side.

It serves as a constant reminder to the current ruler to rule the kingdom and to serve their people with justice and fairness, and that the soldiers aren't their tools; but are comrades there to support and assist the king in whatever decisions that he make.

And there, seated atop the throne with his right leg thrown over the left, supporting his chin with his right hand was the Red King. Seiki. He is dressed in a rich looking tunic of black and white, with a black belt belted around his waist, his red hair falling into his right eye—almost hiding it from view.

And next to him, dressed in the black and white military uniform of the Royal Guard is his ever eternal silent bodyguard.

Mayuzumi Chihiro.

For several long moments, no one spoke, even though Tamaki could sense Shigehiro and Haizaki stiffening on either side of her, ready to act within a moment's notice, hands falling to the hilts of their swords.

Seijuro was the first to break the silence by taking one step forwards fearlessly, meeting the eyes of his identical twin brother. "It's been a long time, Seiki," he said coolly.

"Hey Seijuro." Seiki greeted carelessly as if having his twin brother whom he had imprisoned, and the leaders of the rebel group that he had been after for the past few years entering his chambers is a common occurrence. "It's been a long time. My apologies for not inviting you to my coronation ceremony. But as I'm sure that you understand, there are circumstances beyond my control." A devious smirk spread across his face as he saw the enraged expressions on Shigehiro and Haizaki's faces, and only Tamaki stopping them by placing her hand on their arms stopped them from drawing their swords.

"Just answer me one thing, Seiki." Seijuro ignored his brother's taunts, staring at his brother straight in the eye. His own twin brother. The brother whom he could never acknowledge, and have to just stand and watch as his own parents locked him away in an isolated area due to situations beyond his control. "Do you hate me? For being unable to help you. And standing in a position that should have been yours to begin with? Do you hate me?"

"You're a fool if you think that I nurse a grudge for something like that." Seiki sneered. "I thought that it might be the four of you who would end up facing me in the end. Even when no one had suspected, it had been the three of you," he looked at Tamaki, Shigehiro and Haizaki with a calculating gaze, "who have suspected my legitimacy, and that I'm not Seijuro." He sighed, brushing the lock of red hair out of his right eye, revealing the sole golden eye beneath those crimson red locks.

"You know, it's a funny thing if you just stop and think about it. Everyone has been trying to change Teiko for their own selfish reasons. First had been the late king and queen. But they failed, and then the war with Kamata West broke out. Later, it had been Lord Kuroko." Seiki's eyes shifted towards Tamaki's face. "He tried to change their way of thinking in regards to my treatment, but failed to do so, and even died in the war against Kamata West—all in the name of victory. Then it became my turn." His eyes shifted towards Seijuro this time. "I admit that I was bitter and angry in the beginning—I was the older twin. I should be the Crown Prince—the one to inherit the throne. But when I had actually gotten it, I then realised the weight of the crown, the burdens of the king—and even how heavy those burdens have been. Needless to say, I failed to attain the people's support and the loyalty of the soldiers when one after the other, they betrayed me." Seiki sighed. "But I think that in the end, the path that this kingdom will follow…will be your path, Seijuro."

"If you'd just ruled with fairness and kindness, the people wouldn't have turned against you so." Shigehiro said grimly. "Even if you were never the real Crown Prince, if you had just acted like a king should, the people wouldn't have hated you so much. Everything that has happened… It is all the making of your decisions and mistakes. Nothing else."

"It might be true." Seiki shrugged carelessly, not caring about Shigehiro's harsh words in the least. "But I wonder…" His eyes shifted towards Tamaki. "Hey. When is it, Tamaki?" He asked, and Shigehiro and Haizaki stiffened on Tamaki's either side. "When was it when you actually started looking at me with those eyes?"

Everyone in the throne room—Mayuzumi included, turned to look at the teal haired young woman who hasn't spoken a single word ever since stepping foot into the throne room, and whose eyes were almost like cold pieces of ice as she looked straight at Seiki without taking her eyes off of him.

"Tell me just one thing." Tamaki said at last, and her voice almost sounded like Arctic snow to all those watching and listening. "Why did you do this? Why did you do this to Teiko?"

"I wonder…" Seiki closed his eyes briefly. "It just…happened, I guess." He answered, and Shigehiro and Haizaki looked furious.

Tamaki narrowed her eyes at Seiki at this answer. "Then why did you kill Shin? And Aomine and the others… Why did you turn them against us—against the kingdom?" Her voice was getting louder and louder with each spoken word.

"Who knows…?" Seiki murmured, closing his eyes briefly before opening them again. "But if you had thought about that before, why didn't you act earlier? You knew right from the very beginning, don't you? Even back when you had still been in the Royal Guard. You knew that I'm not Seijuro. Why didn't you act earlier then?"

"I wonder…?" Tamaki echoed Seiki's answer back to him. "Maybe because I wanted to believe—despite everything—that you're still a good person beneath it all. We couldn't do anything to overturn the king and queen's decision fourteen years ago. My father couldn't do anything but just convince them not to kill you. In a way, they are right. You are dangerous—even from a young age. But now that I think about it, I think that you had just developed faster than most kids our age did."

"Basically, an adult in a kid's body." Shigehiro realised, understanding now why despite everything, Tamaki had never once slandered the Red King's name. She is probably just as confused as everyone with his decisions—even though she knew that he isn't the real Crown Prince.

"You're right. I should have acted earlier." Tamaki closed her eyes briefly before opening them again. "Then none of this would have happened. Shin wouldn't have died!" Only Seijuro, Shigehiro and Haizaki could detect the faint hints of anguish in her voice, along with anger and slight hatred.

Seiki looked away for a few moments before turning back towards Tamaki. "Yeah. I thought so too," he said at last. "I just never expected you to push me this far."

Seijuro looked between Tamaki and Seiki. He had known even from the time when they were small children; that probably, the one whose mind could be matched wit for wit with Tamaki is Seiki. If things have been different; if only his parents haven't let their fear for the unknown for having a genius child who seems more like an adult in a child's body overtake them, would the war have happened? Would it have been Seiki instead of him who Tamaki had sworn fealty to? Would it have been Seiki that Tamaki would be willing to die for?

He had asked himself that countless times ever since he was imprisoned by his brother, and then later when Tamaki had rescued him. She didn't really answer all his 'what if's', but had only stated that it is a little too late to think about that now. Their enemy is now the Red King. That's all there is to it.

"Surrender, Seiki." Seijuro stepped forward. "Please. It didn't have to be this way!" He pleaded, not wanting to kill his own brother—his own blood with his own hands. "There has already been enough blood shed. The soldiers have turned against you. So have the people. Even the Royal Guard have split, and are fighting amongst themselves. Don't you see? You've lost. Surrender, Seiki."

"I refuse." Seiki murmured. "It's pointless, isn't it? I won't lose the one thing that I still had intact even when my title as 'Prince' and my freedom was stripped away from me." He looked at Seijuro unflinchingly. "My pride."

"If the Prince wishes this, I won't let any harm come to you." Shigehiro stated, despite knowing that the people would demand for the head of the Red King, with what he had put the kingdom through for four years. "Surrender. If you can still claim yourself as part of the royal family of the Teiko Kingdom, surrender. There has already been enough blood shed. It's enough, isn't it?"

"Surrender—"

"That's enough." Tamaki interrupted as she stepped forward, stripping off the dark cloak that she had been wearing, tossing it to one side, and drawing out her sword at the back of her waist with one clean movement. She narrowed her eyes as she glanced between Seiki and Mayuzumi. "I can't listen to any more of this. I can't watch this any further." Tamaki shifted her right foot backwards as she dropped into a battle ready stance. "It's pointless." She echoed Seiki's words. "I'll tear you apart—I'll send you running once more, Red King!"

There was a tense silence for several moments before Seiki started chuckling before it broke out into full-blown laughter. He then looked straight at Tamaki who looked extremely frightening and scary at this moment, with that dark expression on her face, and the sword in her left hand—Shadow.

"Tamaki. Seijuro. I'm glad that I could see you both for the last time—in the capacity as your cousin and brother." Seiki smiled, eyes flickering from Tamaki to Seijuro before a dark smirk spread across his face. "I'm glad that I could be a good person once in your eyes. You've won this war. But…" Seiki smirked before Mayuzumi Chihiro appeared in between Seiki and Tamaki, hand falling to the hilt of the sword by his side, an emotionless look on his face. "This is where our battle begins!"

Tamaki narrowed her eyes at Mayuzumi—with just the difference of a few meters between them both. "It's been awhile, Mayuzumi," she said at last. "How long has it been since? Twelve years?"

"Around there." Mayuzumi replied emotionlessly before drawing out his sword slowly. "It's been a long time, Tamaki-sama."

Neither Seijuro nor Seiki seemed surprised at the honourable suffix that Mayuzumi had attached to Tamaki's name, but Haizaki and Shigehiro are. The two males turned towards their childhood friend, a bewildered expression on their faces. The only people whom they have ever seen and heard address Tamaki with a '-sama' suffix are members of her clan before they have all died on the frontlines during the war against Kamata West. Nijimura doesn't really count as he's like an older brother to Tamaki, and she absolutely hates it whenever he addresses her with anything other than her name.

"Tamaki, he's…" Shigehiro trailed off, looking at Tamaki with a shocked expression.

Tamaki didn't take her eyes off of Mayuzumi even as she nodded. "A former member from a branch family of my clan," she answered, much to Shigehiro and Haizaki's surprise and shock. "He was exiled from the clan twelve years ago by my father—just before the war against Kamata West had broken out. Because he broke the one golden rule that we had in the Kuroko Clan—the one rule to never break as the guardian and assassin clan—to never kill for petty gains or for pure vengeance, or even to use your assassination skills as a hired mercenary."

"I've never regretted it." Mayuzumi answered. "Even if I have to make the same choice all over again, I will still kill that man for murdering my sister in cold blood!"

"Your sister knew what she's getting herself into when she became a soldier." Tamaki said firmly. "The same way that all of us did. We were all prepared to die right from the very beginning. It doesn't give you the right to perform revenge killing in the streets of Teiko when ritual duels and revenge killing have been outlawed by Teiko law for five generations. You know that that is forbidden—even for our clan who is a renowned assassin clan."

Haizaki and Shigehiro exchanged nervous looks. It is not good. Even Nijimura who is a branch member of Tamaki's clan had been extremely skilled with a blade. The Kuroko Clan have been assassins—the best there is. One wouldn't know that they're dead until they see half of their body fall to the ground. There is a reason after all why that clan had been one of the top clans amongst the Ten Master Clans.

If so, just how skilled is Mayuzumi?

There was silence for several moments before Mayuzumi moved forwards with alarming speed, his sword raised in an unfamiliar stance. Tamaki's eyes widened a slight fraction upon seeing this alarming speed before she dodged as Mayuzumi took a swipe at Tamaki that only managed to cut off several strands of her hair.

Shigehiro and Haizaki were quick to fall into battle ready stances just in case, staying out of the fight. They knew by now that they have no place in a fight when Tamaki is fighting—they'd be more of a hindrance than anything.

Clearly, Seijuro is of the same opinion as well when he grasped both of their arms, not taking his eyes off of the fast moving battle happening in front of him. Honestly, if he hadn't been the Crown Prince, and had trained religiously with the Royal Guard ever since Tamaki and her friends have been apprentices, he would never have been able to follow their movements with his eyes either.

"Stay out of it." Seijuro said solemnly, even as sparks flew, and the sounds of metal against metal resounded again and again throughout the throne room—with the figures of Mayuzumi and Tamaki being nothing more than black blurs as the two matched their sword for move for move. "We can't interfere. This is something only Tsuyu can handle. This is Kuroko Clan business."

Shigehiro frowned, but he said nothing, and he didn't move either. The prince after all is right. He knew this better than anyone else. Like how it had been for Haizaki earlier with Kise, this is a matter of clan prestige and honour for Tamaki—an honour duel that no one can interfere.

The two sprang apart once more, leaving several meters of distance in between them both, their clothing ruffled, and sweat adorning their brows. Mayuzumi panted heavily, a bead of sweat rolling down his face even as he pressed the fingertips of his left hand against a deep cut against his cheek, and pulled it away only to see crimson blood.

"As expected from you, Tamaki-sama." Mayuzumi stated. "Your skills haven't dulled in the least. You didn't walk away as top graduate of your batch for nothing."

"He's good." Haizaki admitted, despite himself. Despite everything however, he knows true skill and talent when he sees it, and this Mayuzumi has it in spades. If the guy had been an official soldier in the military as well before the entire fiasco, he would have been a member of the Royal Guard too.

Shigehiro nodded in stunned agreement. "I hadn't seen anyone match Tamaki's skill with the blade before save for perhaps Nijimura-san and Aomine," he admitted. Despite everything however, Tamaki's skill with a blade is matched by no one save for perhaps Nijimura and Aomine.

"You did pretty well yourself for a self-learner." Tamaki said, narrowing her eyes at Mayuzumi. "Madara's Gambit. And Flowery Descent. Two of the main swordsmanship techniques to our clan. Techniques that can only be learned if someone from the main family teaches you. You did pretty well by figuring out how to utilise those techniques by yourself as a self-learner."

"I am honoured with those words." Mayuzumi said solemnly. "I have nothing against you, Tamaki-sama, or even Takeru-sama. I broke the clan law, thus he has every right to strip me of my clan name and clan prestige. I hold nothing against him. But I have sworn fealty to Seiki-sama—the same way that you did to Seijuro-sama, and I will wield my blade in his name, even if I have to die doing so. This is the way of our clan, is it not? We are guardians and protectors."

Tamaki clenched her teeth in frustration. Is there a way to take him out without killing him? If possible, she really didn't want to kill Mayuzumi. If that is so, there is only one way…

Tamaki closed her eyes briefly before snapping them open once more, determination visible in those blue orbs.

"Sei." Seijuro was taken aback when his cousin addressed him suddenly in the middle of a battle. "I'm re-enacting Clan Law. Is that okay?"

Clan Law. An ancient law in Teiko that allows the members of one of the Ten Master Clans to settle their clan internal affairs with no interference from anyone—not the military and not the royal family. Basically, if the member of one of the Ten Master Clans seeks the death or even the redemption of a certain party, there isn't anything that anyone could do to stop them.

"…It's fine."

"If you can beat Chihiro in a straight on battle, Tamaki," Seiki spoke from his throne, an amused smirk on his face, "then his fate is yours to decide."

"That bastard…!" Shigehiro was grinding his teeth so hard that Haizaki almost winced at the sound of it. "Who does he think he is—playing at God or something—"

"Calm the fuck down!" Haizaki snapped at Shigehiro.

Tamaki's eyes flickered towards Seiki for just a moment before turning her attention back towards Mayuzumi. She isn't fooled by Seiki's cruel words even if Shigehiro and Haizaki are. In a way, he is freeing Mayuzumi from the invisible chains that bound him to Seiki.

"Two years ago, I've given up my title as the head of Intelligence, and one of the Royal Guard's five commanders—the Generation of Miracles." Tamaki stated. "But there is one title that I don't remember discarding."

Mayuzumi narrowed his eyes at Tamaki before his eyes widened once more when the teal haired girl just simply vanished before his eyes. Then before he could even react, a solid punch met his gut, and he coughed harshly, feeling all the wind go out of him. The last thing that he remembers before everything faded to black is seeing a pair of blue eyes looking at him with acceptance before he allows the darkness to consume him.

Tamaki placed Mayuzumi's unconscious body gently on the ground before turning around to face Seiki, with Seijuro, Shigehiro and Haizaki stepping on either side of her. "You're up now," said Tamaki.

Seiki didn't move for several moments. When he finally did, it is to pull off the dark cloak that he is wearing and drawing out a beautiful gleaming silver sword with the hilt decorated with rubies, emeralds and sapphires.

"You two stay out of this." Seijuro ordered Haizaki and Shigehiro who seemed rather eager to pummel the shit out of Seiki. The two looked bewildered and shocked. "Seiki is mine and Tsuyu's to handle. Royal family business. Stay out of this." Shigehiro looked ready to argue, but Seijuro shot him a look. "Please. No matter what happens, don't interfere."

Haizaki placed a hand on Shigehiro's arm. "Understood," he said. "But if things go south, I'm stepping in."

"You won't have to." Tamaki said over her shoulder even as Seijuro stood by her side, drawing out Light slowly. "We can handle it just fine."

"Light and Shadow, huh?" Seiki smirked before he flew at Seijuro with his sword raised, and the latter barely managed to block his strike in time. "It's a marvel to see the Guardian Swords of Teiko at its finest!"

"Must it really come to this, Seiki?" Seijuro gritted his teeth as he pushed the sword off him and parried Seiki's strike once more before the Red King dodged one of Tamaki's attacks. "I don't want to kill you!"

"Too bad." Seiki sneered, parrying one of Tamaki's strikes with his blade and stopping Seijuro's with his bare hand alone. "If you want me to hand Teiko and the throne over, prove it to me—show me your resolve!"

"Your Highness!"

Shigehiro and Haizaki's shouts almost went unheard as the tip of the sword went dangerously close to Seijuro's jugular vein, and was only thwarted by Tamaki getting in front of Seijuro, and getting a deep slash on her left arm for her troubles.

"Tsuyu!"

"Focus, Sei!" Tamaki snapped at her cousin. "We don't have a choice now, and you know it! You made your decision! Stick to it! Your brother or the kingdom! It's one of the two!"

Behind them, Haizaki almost winced at the harsh tone that Tamaki uses. If it is any other occasion, Tamaki wouldn't even talk to Seijuro or anyone this way. She had always been nothing but polite and kind to people, unless they're her enemies. But like all of them, the civil war had changed Tamaki drastically. They have seen human nature at its ugliest and cruellest, and had seen war for the truth that it really is.

"I…know…!" Seijuro gritted his teeth, parrying Seiki's blade once more. It definitely seems like Seiki is coming after him more than Tamaki. Most probably because he knew that he can never beat Tamaki in a straight on fight. 'Don't make me hate myself more than I already did!' Seijuro thought to himself as he slashed at Seiki who managed to dodge it enough that it just cut him on the cheek. 'I've already made my decision! Four years and countless deaths… I have to end this! Teiko is my responsibility! It's my duty to protect them!'

"Your Highness!"

Seijuro's eyes widened at Shigehiro's warning shout, as almost in slow motion, he saw the blade of Seiki's sword coming fast towards him, and he didn't have enough time to get out of the way.

Bracing himself for his death, Seijuro was prepared to face searing pain, but to his surprise, he didn't feel anything. Opening his eyes once more, he then saw Tamaki standing in between himself and Seiki, a strangely familiar sword clasped in her right hand parrying Seiki's blade, with Shadow in her left hand pointing at Seiki's throat.

A long sword?

For as long as he'd known Tamaki, Seijuro had never known her to use a long sword. It restricts her movements and her speed, and Tamaki's swordsmanship style actually requires her to use a short blade, or even twin blades. The Kuroko Clan have been assassins after all—using a long blade restricts them in their movements. It is only a few clan members like Nijimura who uses a long blade from time to time, as they values power over speed due to their size.

Across Tamaki, Seiki's eyes narrowed when Tamaki raised her sword and dropped herself into a strangely familiar stance—one that he had often seen a certain green haired someone utilise.

"Reverse sword technique…!" Seiki hissed in unbridled fury, almost seeing an image of Midorima Shintaro overlapping Tamaki's petite frame. "His special technique! So until now, you still stand in my way, Shintaro?"

Tamaki said nothing for several moments before she almost felt a familiar hand caress her face, and an invisible force lifted her right hand grasping onto her dead lover's sword, adjusting her grip and form.

"Tamaki…"

Tamaki closed her eyes briefly for several moments, hearing the voice that she'd longed to hear for so long ever since Takao had given her his sword.

You've always been with me, aren't you? Tamaki mused to herself even as she opened her eyes once more, facing Seiki. Thank you, Shin.

"The way that we the Royal Guard of the Teiko Kingdom do things, let's show him how it's done."

The warm feeling of the grip around her wrist then disappeared.

"Am I seeing things?" Shigehiro mumbled dazedly next to Haizaki. "I could have sworn that I saw Midorima for a split second."

"You're not the only one." Haizaki murmured from next to him.

"If you think it's natural for people to sacrifice their own lives to save others, then surely you understand that sometimes, a single death can save many." Tamaki stated. Seiki narrowed his eyes before those eyes widened in horror when Tamaki vanished from his sight, and Seijuro appeared the next instant when she'd vanished, pinning his sword to the ground with his own before a blade then appeared in his chest from behind. "Forgive me, Seiki. But if we have to make a choice between you and the kingdom, the kingdom wins out every single time."

Seiki heard Tamaki's murmurs in his ear from behind before the blade in his chest was tugged out, and he then collapsed to the ground, his blood soaking through his tunic and the carpet beneath him.

For several long moments, no one said anything, with only the heavy breathing of Tamaki and Seijuro the only sounds in the throne room. Finally, Seiki coughed harshly, hacking out crimson blood as it trailed from the sides of his lips.

"So in the end… The victors are you both…" Seiki rasped before coughing harshly. Slowly, Haizaki and Shigehiro made their way towards where Tamaki and Seijuro were kneeling by Seiki's sides. The dying prince coughed harshly, his eyes seemingly seeing nothing at all. "Tamaki?"

"I'm here." Tamaki murmured.

Seiki smiled a small smile. "If I have to die…I'll rather die at your hands," he rasped. "You alone…are the only one…who could understand me. You've…never feared me…or hated me. Even from the time…when we're children… Not like how…my parents did…or even how…Seijuro did."

Seijuro flinched at that reminder. He hated how stupid and naïve that he had been as a small child.

"Can you answer me now, Seiki?" Tamaki asked. "Why did you do this to begin with? If you'd just asked, I would have gotten you out of the kingdom, allowing you to begin a new life elsewhere. And if you'd just asked Sei, he would have helped too without allowing the king and queen to know. Why? The murder of your own parents, I can understand. But up until now… Why did you do this?"

Seiki coughed harshly. "I don't know," he admitted. "Probably… I just…wanted back what was mine to begin with." He rasped. "They took away everything from me. My title as prince. My brother. My family. My pride. Freedom. My life." He rasped, and Seijuro flinched. "I just wanted payback—that's all. I want the kingdom to feel my pain. Is…that wrong?"

Shigehiro and Haizaki exchanged pained looks. They wanted so much to hate this man—this man that had pulled Teiko straight into Hell for four years. But after knowing what he'd gone through nearly all his life—being ignored and imprisoned through no fault of his own, they can't help but feel bad and pity for the Red King. If it had been them in his shoes, they would have probably done the same thing too.

"You never did anything wrong." Seijuro admitted, trying to prevent the tears from falling. "If there is anyone to blame, the fault lies with the previous generation. I'm sorry, Seiki. If things have been different, then I think…that maybe…you would have made a great king. With Tsuyu at your side."

Seiki smiled a small pained smile. "Too bad," he rasped. "It is you that she choose to follow and serve. Even if they have never denied me my heritage or my name… It would have still been you that…Tamaki would choose to serve." He coughed harshly. "Hey Tamaki…" He turned unseeing eyes towards the teal haired girl. "Do…you think that…my weak little brother could save Teiko? I didn't think so." He rasped weakly.

"I know." Tamaki had a small smile on her lips. "I know what you're trying to do. In the end, you're still a prince of this kingdom, no matter your feelings towards Teiko or your parents."

"Someone…had to…play the villain…to cleanse…Teiko Kingdom…of the…corruption…and the corrupted nobles…" Seiki rasped, his voice growing weaker. "My role…is done… I've taken my revenge on the kingdom. I've…paved the path for you. Now it's up to you to handle the rest." He looked towards Seijuro who looked both horrified and saddened at what his brother had done. "Do…what I couldn't, Seijuro. Be a great king. Greater than all our predecessors. Greater than me even." He coughed. "And I think that the path that this kingdom would take in the end…will be your path." He rasped. "Do…one last thing for me."

"Name it." Seijuro nodded his head, feeling his heart about to break, having to see his twin—his other half die in front of him.

"My…intentions and my motives…for turning Teiko upside down… Never let it be known. Let the world think of me…as an evil man. This…will be the only thing that I'll ask of you." Seiki smiled up at Seijuro, grasping his hand. "Let…me do this for Teiko at least. If things have been different, I wonder how it would have been like growing up with you…and Tamaki." He coughed. "It's all over now." He looked towards Tamaki. "Tamaki… Take care of Chihiro…and guide Seijuro. The rest…is up to you…"

"You're an idiot of the highest order, you know that?" Tamaki said harshly, trying to hold back tears. "You said once that you're different from Sei. You couldn't be any more similar to him if you tried. You're both idiots. Self serving martyrs. I wanted to hate you. Despite everything, I wanted to hate you. But I couldn't. The only thing I can hate you for is killing Shin. For despite everything, you did pave the path for Sei—for building a better Teiko. The kingdom had been infested with corruption for a long time. The late king and queen knew that, but couldn't do anything. But you… You managed to do something that none of us had been able to accomplish. You rid Teiko of corruption and the disease that had been infesting the kingdom for generations."

Seiki smiled. "Was…I wrong?"

Seijuro shook his head. "I don't know," he admitted. "But Father once told me something—that the road to good intentions is often paved with bloodshed. You merely followed the path that you believed in."

"You are not wrong. You fought the only way you know how." Tamaki admitted. "Isn't that good enough? Justice in this world is just a bunch of principles made by those with power to suit themselves. I told Shin that once." She wiped away the tears pooling around her eyes. "Leave the rest to us. We'll handle it from here."

Seiki smiled weakly. "I guess…I should go and face my punishment…from those in the other world," he rasped. "I… I'll see you on the other side." He whispered. "Do…you have a message that you want me to take?"

"If you see Shin and all our comrades who have gone before us, tell them that 'our war finally ended'." Tamaki choked. "And that I'll see them someday."

Seiki nodded. "…Yeah. I'll tell them," he rasped. "I… I'm so sleepy…"

Then slowly, Seiki's eyelids shut, the up-and-down breathing motions of his chest stilled completely as he stopped breathing.

There was silence for several moments as no one said anything.

"It's over." Tamaki was the first one to break the silence. "It's over, isn't it?"

She turned to face Haizaki and Shigehiro who nodded solemnly, not knowing what to say or react to what they'd just witnessed.

It's over.

The war is finally over.

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