For a New Beginning
"I've fulfilled my promise." - Kuroko Tamaki
The celebrations marking the end of the civil war seemed to be never ending—nearly every tavern and inn and every single household had their own celebrations that night. And considering the fact that the Teiko Kingdom didn't have much cause to celebrate for the past four years, the celebrations have carried on throughout the night, and had only ended a little before dawn.
The Crown Prince himself had called for an assembly the afternoon a day after the war had ended—giving a speech in the plaza. Citizens from all over have travelled to the Royal City to attend this assembly, with the hope that life for them would improve for the better from now on.
Needless to say, rumours about the war, the Red King and even the former commanders of the Royal Guard have spread, and suffice to say, people have rejoiced at the deaths of those that have made their lives a living hell for four years. For those who have known the truth about the Red King, which by all rights should be the true Crown Prince, it had been very difficult for them to listen to the citizens and the soldiers talk, but they have remained quiet, as they knew the outrage and outcry that would break out should the truth ever be revealed.
For the rebels, Phantom, who have once been the most wanted people in all the land, they have quickly become heroes overnight, and during the few hours before the assembly held by the Crown Prince, they have helped with the clean up around the Royal City, with the funerals for the ones who have died during the war to be held in a few days.
The murmurings of the citizens quietened down as the figure of the Crown Prince stepped out onto the podium, looking at his citizens with those gentle and wise eyes that the kingdom recognised, his red hair almost glistening in the sun.
Akashi Seijuro had a small smile tugging at the ends of his lips even as he looked down upon his subjects. Even the soldiers of the kingdom were present, and all were watching the prince with adoration in their eyes.
Seijuro almost felt a twinge in his heart at that as he fought hard not to let his emotions be shown on his face. It should be Seiki who is up here standing on the podium and addressing the people of Teiko Kingdom as the Crown Prince. None of this would ever have happened if only his parents hadn't ignored Seiki, and pretended that he had never existed just because he had a higher intellectual than normal, and is a true genius—a genius child that they didn't know how to handle.
His uncle—the late master of the Kuroko Clan raised his cousin just fine, despite the fact that his cousin had shown true genius skill in strategy, tactics and swordsmanship from a young age. His maternal uncle raised Tsuyu just fine, so why couldn't his parents raise his brother? He knew that he had an older twin brother. He just never got the chance to know him or even grow up with him. The last time that he had seen Seiki had been when he is five—a few months after the official announcement of the Crown Prince and after Seiki had been shoved off to live in Rakuzan Villa.
And as far as Seijuro knew, Tsuyu had sometimes followed her father when he had gone to Rakuzan Villa to deliver food and necessities to Seiki. Lord Kuroko had also been the one to teach Seiki how to read and write, and when he had passed, Shirogane had then taken over that duty, and had even taught his twin how to fight. In certain ways, Tsuyu had grown up with Seiki too. That might be why he had been so fond of her—willing to even sacrifice the relationship with the one person who had never treated him as a monster for the sake of the kingdom.
Seijuro wished that his parents had never done what they had.
Anything would have been better than just pretending that Seiki had never existed. Hell, sending him to the Kuroko Clan to grow up with Tsuyu as siblings or even cousins would have been better. Sending him to a foreign country with Shirogane as a guard would have been better than anything else!
Seijuro then swore to himself that if he ever had twin children, he would never make the same mistakes that his parents did. He would never favour one over the other. He would never ignore them, or even treat them like they don't exist.
Seijuro cleared his throat, forcing a small smile on his face as he looked down at the crowd—his people—the ones whom Seiki had given his life and his honour for. All so that the future generations could grow up without having to suffer through the corruption that had taken root in the Teiko Kingdom.
"I've once stood up here when I've first turned twelve," Seijuro begun, his voice carrying loud and clear over the microphone on the podium so that everyone could hear him, "when I've first came up with the medical system in this country, and ensured that there is at least a clinic or even a hospital in every town and city in the kingdom—where the people don't have to worry about medical bills. At that time, I'd thought that the royal family's duty to the kingdom is to protect the citizens. That is our duty, and no one else's. But now, I realise that I'm wrong. It is the duty of everyone in the kingdom. The Teiko Kingdom doesn't belong to just one person—it belongs to everyone! I wouldn't be standing here today if it hadn't been for the group of individuals who have once been labelled as traitors, and have gone beyond their duty to this kingdom and the royal family."
There were cheers and claps at that, as necks craned to look for the members of the rebel group. The few that could be sighted only gave grim smiles, as they were all well aware of the number of sacrifices amongst their group in order to attain the peace that they've sought after for so long.
"This war has finally come to an end, and we of Teiko are going to pick up the pieces from here and move on, having learned a valuable lesson—that this kingdom doesn't belong to any one individual. It belongs to all of us—and all of us have a duty to protect it. This will be my new insight and path for the kingdom of Teiko!"
The loud claps and cheers that could be heard after the speech by the Crown Prince are almost deafening—along with the loud cries of "Long live the Prince!" by several of the citizens.
Akashi Seijuro stepped down from the podium, turning around to face his cousin who had a small smile on her face, with Shigehiro and Haizaki flanking her on either side. "How is it?" Seijuro asked them nervously.
"I think you nailed it." Shigehiro commented, and his two childhood friends nodded in agreement. "Just listen to them."
The cheers don't seem to be dying down anytime soon.
"Yes, but it is going to be tough for us for the next few years." Seijuro sighed. Honestly, the clean up is going to be a nightmare. Though without the corrupted politicians and nobles, it is going to be much easier to do things.
"We'll manage." Tamaki sighed, rubbing at the back of her neck. "We always do. And this time, you won't be alone."
Seijuro nodded silently. "The funerals?" he asked his cousin.
"In two days." Tamaki answered, looking tired. "All the names of those who have died in the war will be going on the memorial stone. It's the least that we could do to honour them."
Tamaki met no one even as she walked down the hallways of the palace that she knew so well. She found it a welcome change—when she could walk down the hallways of the palace with her head held high once more, and not have to escape with her life, like the time two years ago.
Finally, she came to a stop outside the office that she knew so well—having been here so many times ever since she and her friends have gotten promoted as the commanders of the Royal Guard.
It had been nearly a week since Seijuro had made his speech in the plaza, and he had sat down with Tamaki, Shigehiro, Haizaki, Nijimura, Satsuki, Imayoshi, Takao and even Otsubo to discuss about the several new changes that he had wanted implanted. Several of those changes are good ones, and they were all for it, but some of those needed some changes, especially with how the last war had turned out.
In the end however, they could come to a conclusion that they were all happy with. Tamaki estimated at least six months before everything would be settled down, and they could at least have some breathing room.
Tamaki opened the door of the office that had once been Midorima Shintaro's. She stood at the entrance for several moments without saying anything, just looking at the interior of the office.
It still looked as she had last seen it before she had left the Royal Guard. Tamaki knew for one that the offices of the others—namely Aomine, Kise and Murasakibara have been cleared out three days ago by Satsuki, Shigehiro, Haizaki and even Takao. Their things have probably been long burned by now. It is only Midorima's office that had remained untouched till now.
Tamaki walked over to the desk in the room, running her hand over the smooth oak surface, noting the thin layer of dust that had already gathered. Everything still looked the same as it had been the last time when she'd been here—almost as if it is waiting for their owner to come back.
There was a knock on the slightly ajar door of the office just then, and Tamaki turned only to see Takao standing there with an empty carton box under one arm. He looked solemn, and the moment that Tamaki saw the empty carton box, she knew immediately that Takao must be here to pack up Midorima's things.
"Are you here to pack up his stuff?" Tamaki asked softly even as Takao entered the room.
Takao nodded hesitantly. "Momoi-san told me to," he said. "And Imayoshi-san and Otsubo-san said the same thing. They said that the Prince gave the order too." He looked at Tamaki. "He won't be coming back."
"I know." Tamaki sighed, rubbing her hand against the surface of the desk. "Is it selfish of me? To want to keep his office the way that it is? To pretend that he will still come back?"
"No." Takao sighed, setting the empty carton box on the ground. "Because I want the same thing too." He then looked at Tamaki solemnly. "If it makes you feel better, I'll bring his stuff to your room later—so that you can sort them out, and keep some of them if you wish to."
Tamaki sighed and nodded. Her eyes then fell onto the silver photo frame on the desk, and she picked it up, her fingertips tracing the face of a slightly smiling Midorima Shintaro in the photo, with the green head standing next to Tamaki, both of them dressed in their Royal Guard uniforms. It seems to have been taken just after their promotions into the Royal Guard.
"Can I keep this?" Tamaki asked Takao even as she showed him the silver photo frame.
Takao looked startled, but nodded. "I'll bring it to your room later," he promised. "You need to see Mayuzumi, right? I heard about it from Shige."
"Yeah." Tamaki sighed before she walked past Takao and out of the office. Before she left however, she turned to look over her shoulder to see Takao standing at the desk with his back facing her.
The dungeons of the palace were dark, with it only lit up by the flame torches on the wall. Tamaki walked down the dark dungeons, with the sounds of her boots echoing even as she walked. She then stopped as she came to the end of the dungeons where two soldiers were guarding the last cell.
They both saluted as Tamaki approached.
"Commander, good to see you." The soldier on the right greeted, with his right arm in the customary salute—with his right hand curled into a fist and held against his heart—with the gesture that offers up his heart and soul to the King.
"How is he?" Tamaki questioned, peering past the bars of the cell within it to where a dark figure was seated on the single bed, his wrists and ankles shackled to the stone wall behind him.
"He's been quiet. Haven't heard a single word out of him since he had been brought in." The soldier on the left answered this time.
"Leave us for a few moments. I would like a word with him." Tamaki told the two soldiers who nodded and saluted once more before leaving. The teal haired young woman then pulled out the ring of keys that she had hanging from her belt—something that every commander of the Royal Guard had, and unlocked the gates of the cell.
Mayuzumi Chihiro stared at Tamaki blankly through his curtain of silver hair—his hair longer than Tamaki had last remembered, with it reaching past his ears. He was dressed in a long sleeved white shirt with black pants, and his feet were bare. Iron shackles were shackled around his wrists and ankles, with the chains being attached to the cold stone wall behind him. The chains were long enough to at least allow him to lie down on the bed, but not more than that.
"You look well." Tamaki commented, and Mayuzumi shrugged his shoulders.
"He's dead, isn't he?" Mayuzumi asked in a hoarse voice, sounding like he hadn't spoken a word since that day. He glanced at Tamaki, and had his answer immediately. The silver haired man then closed his eyes briefly. "…I see."
"What happened to you after you left the clan?" Tamaki asked, leaning against the wall opposite Mayuzumi. "How did you meet Seiki?"
"It's not that complicated really." Mayuzumi murmured, closing his eyes briefly before opening them again. "I met him about a year before the civil war had begun. Before that, I had been a mercenary of sorts. Until I betrayed my last 'boss' due to the nature of jobs that he wanted me to undertake. I'm an assassin, not a killer." He scowled. "I don't hurt children. Thus, I fled for my life, but not before the boss had managed to injure me enough that I actually collapsed from blood loss at the front door of Rakuzan Villa. At that time, it had been Seiki who had saved me." He looked at Tamaki. "He's not a bad person. All he wanted to do is to save Teiko. I didn't agree with his thinking and his methods. But at that time, it's the only way to cleanse Teiko of the corruption that had already taken root for generations."
"If only he'd just talked to me about it, I would have helped him." Tamaki murmured. "What's done is done." She shook her head. She then looked at Mayuzumi. "What about you? What do you want to do now?"
Mayuzumi glanced at Tamaki before shrugging. "I don't know," he admitted. The iron shackles around his limbs than rattled slightly as he moved, making himself more comfortable. "I won't be too surprised to hear about my execution any day now. By all rights, the Prince had every right to do so since I did serve Seiki as his bodyguard for four years. I might not have hurt the citizens, but I did serve the one man whom they hated."
Tamaki looked at Mayuzumi. He is really ready to die for the man whom he'd pledged his life to, and he wouldn't regret it either. If things have been different, and if Seiki hadn't been forgotten, would Mayuzumi have served him as his bodyguard? Like how Tamaki had been for Seijuro?
"Sei didn't want you to die." Tamaki told Mayuzumi, and only the slight widening of his eyes gave away his surprise. "Seiki's last words were for us to watch over you, and that you shouldn't shoulder his sins. He wants you to live your life. So I'm going to ask you now, what do you want to do?"
Mayuzumi was silent for a long time. "…I want to carry on for him," he said at last. "The kingdom that he'd sacrificed so much for, I want to protect it for him."
Tamaki studied Mayuzumi without saying anything for several moments. "…Then I have a proposal for you," she said at last, and Mayuzumi lifted his head to look into Tamaki's eyes. "I can't be the personal bodyguard of the Prince any longer—not with so much to do, and with the rebuilding to oversee. I want you to be his bodyguard—to guard him with your life if necessary. Like how you'd once been for Seiki. Can you do that?"
Mayuzumi was surprised, and only the slight widening of his eyes gave away his surprise. "You'll trust me to do that? Even though I had once followed the Red King?" he asked, surprised. "What if I attacked him when his back is turned?"
"You wouldn't do that." Tamaki said with confidence. "Red King or not, I know my cousin. He wouldn't have trusted you to this degree if you had been that kind of man. Well? Do you accept this, Mayuzumi Chihiro?"
Mayuzumi was silent for a long time before he chuckled and looked at Tamaki. "Very well," he said. "I want to see just what kind of kingdom that he'll build too."
"Well then, Mayuzumi Chihiro." Tamaki approached him before unlocking the shackles around his limbs. "Welcome to the Royal Guard."
The streets of the Royal City, and nearly every other city, town and village in the kingdom were bustling and full with laughter once more. Children were once more playing about without a care in the world in the streets, with vendors peddling their wares once more.
Rebuilding is still in process however, and most of the able bodied men have volunteered to help rebuild the buildings and houses that have been destroyed during the war. Some of them have even been volunteer soldiers until the Prince and the current only surviving commander of the Royal Guard could rebuild their militia and sort out all the mess that the war had left behind.
It is a teahouse in the Royal City where Kuroko Tamaki is entering now, being dressed in civilian clothes, though still armed with her sword, grateful to take a break from the endless work that she had been doing nonstop for nearly two weeks ever since the end of the war.
"Tamaki! Over here!"
A loud and cheerful voice greeted Tamaki the instant that she'd entered, and she looked up only to see Aida Riko waving to her from where she is seated at a table. The brunette woman had been helping the merchants in the kingdom ever since the end of the war to rebuild. Even Iwamura and his group have been helping too by importing several items that they needed for rebuilding, hence why they've been travelling to and fro from the various neighbouring nations for weeks now.
As for the rest of Phantom, last that Tamaki had heard from Haizaki and Shigehiro who have been helping with the clean up, they've been helping to rebuild the buildings and houses in the kingdom. Some like Mitobe had helped with the food stations instead—by giving out the food rations to the ones who still couldn't afford food.
"It's been a long while since I've last seen you!" Riko beamed as Tamaki took a seat across her, and the waitress set down two cups of green tea in front of the two women. "Shige-kun told us that you've been busy at the palace though. You've been rebuilding the militia?"
"That and helping the prince with the political issues that had been cropping up." Tamaki sighed.
She left out the fact that there isn't much when it comes to the politicians that they have to really worry about, since Seiki had already killed off those that would give them problems. In fact, the remaining politicians have whole heatedly supported Seijuro when he wanted to build a new Parliament—consisting of the village heads of every single village and town in the kingdom, along with the head merchant of the Royal City. This is so that everyone—even right down to the most insignificant civilian had a voice to be heard.
Riko smiled before looking out of the window where a group of three children ran past, laughing happily. "Things are really different now, aren't they?" she sighed, smiling. "A month ago, I would never even have imagined that the kingdom would change so much ever since we've won the war." Tamaki said nothing before Riko turned towards the teal haired girl. "So what are you going to do now?" She asked curiously.
"I'm going back to the Royal Guard." Tamaki answered, and Riko nodded.
All of them have suspected that the former soldiers might return to the militia, if so that they could help the Prince to rebuild. Tamaki especially who had given more than any of them had even more incentive to return to the Royal Guard. The people have loved her, and would accept her as the head of the Royal Guard rather than some stranger who they have never met before.
"The others too." Tamaki nodded. "Shuu-nii, Shige-kun, Shogo-kun, the Uncrowned Kings and Satsuki too. Takao-kun and the others would be coming back as well." She informed Riko. "We're going to help the Prince to rebuild. There is a lot to do, especially with the mess that this kingdom had been in after the end of the war. The Prince had been drafting lots of letters to the nations that had once been our allies before the civil war, asking for their help. So far, they've been pretty helpful in sending us food rations and even building supplies. The Kamata West Kingdom had been kept at bay so far with the support and help from one of our long time allies. But in the end, there is still a ton to do, and a lot to clean up."
"Yeah. I don't envy you in the least." Riko smiled wryly at Tamaki.
"What about you guys?" Tamaki asked curiously, taking a sip from her cup, honestly curious to know what her friends and comrades in Phantom are going to do now that the war is over.
"Well, Hyuuga-kun is going to reopen his dojo here in the Royal City." Riko told Tamaki. "I'm going to help him." She had a light blush on her face, and Tamaki is certain that there is more to it than meets the eye. In fact, she wouldn't be surprised to be receiving a wedding invitation from those two a few years from now. "The Prince even asked Hyuuga-kun if he would mind taking the position as the head of the Defense Force that he will be building. It will mainly be run by civilians to better protect the kingdom. Hyuuga-kun nearly jumped at that offer. The Prince had no complaints to the suggestions of having Hyuuga-kun's dojo as a kind of training school for the members of the Defense Force either. Who knows, it might even bring him more students." Riko smiled. "The Prince approached me a few days ago as well, offering me the position of his financial advisor which I'd accepted. Kagami-kun is reopening his restaurant, though the Prince had offered him funding to open one in the Royal City instead of that small stand that he used to have before the war."
Tamaki nodded her head. "Yeah, I heard about it from him when he came to the palace a few days ago to request for more building supplies," she answered. "He's still trying to persuade Himuro-kun to accept the promotion that he was offered."
Himuro Tatsuya had managed to survive, despite the critical injuries that he had suffered during the fight against Murasakibara Atsushi. Nijimura, Takao and even Sakurai definitely didn't keep it a secret that Himuro Tatsuya had been on their side all this time, and had been a spy for them. It didn't take long for the people to accept him as well, though there had been some that still resented Himuro for his role during the war, and refused to trust him. Kagami had been the first to visit Himuro the instant that Sakurai had cleared him for visitors, and the two brothers have spent a long time with each other talking.
As there are several leadership vacancies within the militia with so many deaths, the Prince and Tamaki wanted Tatsuya to take on Murasakibara's old position as the head of the Security Unit. For obvious reasons however, he wouldn't be a commander. His new title would be more of a Squad Leader or even a Lieutenant.
Last that Tamaki had heard however, Kagami is still trying to persuade Tatsuya to accept the promotion, even adding in that if he really wants to make amends to the people, he can do it better by being a soldier than helping Kagami in his restaurant. Tamaki is certain that Tatsuya would accept the promotion in the end however.
Riko nodded, obviously having heard of it from Kagami. "Furihata-kun, Fukuda-kun and Kawahara-kun are going to help Kagami-kun in his restaurant," she said. "The others intend to join the Royal Army, I think, or even the Defense Forces. I think Izuki-kun in particular hope to join the Royal Guard one day."
"Yeah, I heard about it from him when I was in town the other day and met him." Tamaki nodded her head. As they're still rebuilding the militia, and Tamaki had actually been put in charge of recruiting new soldiers and such, if Izuki kept up his training and actually took the entrance test for the Royal Guard in a few years, he might just gain his wish.
"I caught Iwamura-kun and his friends before they have to go on another of their trips to gather more supplies a few days ago." Riko told Tamaki. "They're going to reopen their shops once everything has been settled. Iwamura-kun even told me that he had been offered the position of the head merchant due to how much help he had been giving all the other merchants in the marketplace. Everyone has been singing his praises. And the fact that he had also been in Phantom had helped his reputation too. All the others are going back to their hometowns. I actually heard from Sakurai-kun that the Prince invited him to the palace, offering him the position of the Royal Healer."
"That's right." Tamaki nodded. "The Prince is going to need a lot of people whom he could trust, and I agreed with his hiring decisions too. Militia business falls under my jurisdiction though, including the recruitment of soldiers and the Defense Forces. But the Prince generally trusts my judgment." She explained, much to Riko's amusement. "Imayoshi and the others are returning to the Royal Guard too. They were actually offered their own squads, as there are several leadership positions opened with so many deaths. It took some persuading from me to make them accept it, but they did in the end. They'll be pretty much in the same position as Himuro-kun is—holding the position of Squad Leader or even Lieutenant in the case of Imayoshi."
"What's the military hierarchy going to be like now?" Riko asked curiously. "Still five commanders?" She hid a look of distaste on her face—it is mainly because they have five commanders in the Royal Guard the last time that the people have been so terrified, and so many people have died in the first place.
"Not anymore." Tamaki shook her head. "We actually had quite a few discussions about the military hierarchy before we could settle on the new system. Shuu-nii is going to be the head instructor of the military Academy. He knows how it works after all, and he is going to add quite a few new lessons to the curriculum. I've retained my old rank before I've left—as Commander of the Royal Guard, and I'm basically going to be the head of both the Royal Guard and the Royal Army with Shige-kun and Shogo-kun as my deputies. Satsuki is still in my unit—still retaining her role as a spy. A new law had also been added—that whenever a successor succeeds the Crown, the Royal Guard will have the right to screen them in case of imposters."
Riko laughed, finding it really amusing. "I guess that the Prince is paranoid now," she smiled, and Tamaki nodded. "When is the official coronation?"
"In about six months." Tamaki replied. "By then, we should have cleaned up most of the mess." She nursed the cup of tea in her hand. "The Red King's men have been executed or exiled with the end of the war, and those nobles who have committed atrocious deeds against Teiko have been exiled from Teiko Kingdom as a whole. The walls around the Royal City should also be coming down by the end of the month."
Riko nodded slowly. There have been several changes, apparently. But those are all good ones, and she has no complaints about it. "And the others? Takao-kun and others, I mean."
"Much like with Himuro-kun, Takao-kun had been offered the position as head of the Protection Unit. He would be awarded with the title of Lieutenant. It took me some time to actually convince him to take it actually." Tamaki muttered, rolling her eyes in exasperation, recalling the fight that Takao had put up when he is awarded with the letter of promotion, knowing perfectly well why Takao is so hesitant. "Otsubo-san and the others are also coming back. As are all the soldiers that have once served in the Royal Guard. Of course, Mibuchi and the others would be coming back as well. Kiyoshi will be heading the Covert Ops in the Royal Guard." She looked at Riko who looked pleased. "Messages and envoys have also been sent out to all the neighbouring nations. We're reopening our trade routes. It is going to take a long time for Teiko to recover, but we'll do it slowly. Step by step."
"Yeah." Riko nodded slowly. "It is finally over."
It is a peaceful place—a place that not many knew of.
Sweet smelling grass with beautiful flowers in several colours and species decorated the meadow, with birds chirping to each other happily, and the occasional fawn could be seen frisking about in this vast meadow.
It had been a place where the Crown Prince used to come with his guards—the former commanders of the Royal Guard during a time when they were still loyal to the Prince and the kingdom, and hadn't lost their way or their minds.
Tamaki and Seijuro made their way across the meadow quietly and slowly, taking in the beautiful sight—a sight that they hadn't seen for a long time now. Finally, they stopped before a giant oak tree with the branches out spread, with the leaves almost acting as protection against the weather. A memorial stone was erected at the base of the tree, with names freshly carved into it.
Tamaki was the first to move, kneeling before the stone, placing both hands together and muttering a short prayer before placing a bouquet of white lilies before the memorial stone. She then removed a photo from her pocket, looking at the photo taken of the Generation of Miracles the year when Kise had joined them as a fellow commander. All of them had smiles on their faces, even Midorima. Tamaki finally placed the photo by the bouquet of flowers.
"Shin… I've fulfilled my promise." Tamaki murmured, getting to her feet.
"This place hasn't changed." Seijuro murmured, glancing around at his surroundings. "It's still as beautiful as before. We used to spend time here together as children. I was worried for a moment that they might destroy it during the war."
Tamaki said nothing to that. "Why did they turn out this way, I wonder?" she mused, looking at her cousin. "We swore to protect this kingdom with our last breath. We promised to stop you if you ever exerted tyranny, and if you ever betrayed your heart and this kingdom. Why couldn't they fulfil their promise? I did." Tamaki said sadly.
Seijuro didn't know what to say. "…I have no idea," he admitted at last. "But I am glad…" He looked at his cousin, a gentle look in his eyes. "I am glad…that you survived at least."
"We won't repeat our past mistakes. Never again." Tamaki stated with determination.
"That's right." Seijuro nodded his head. "We swore so to Seiki. I promised him. The least that I could do in order to honour his sacrifice is to fulfil my promise to him. And to also make true on my promise to you that I'd made when we were children." He looked at Tamaki with a gentle expression. "I will be a good King." He swore. "That's why I want you by my side to help me to do it. I want you to watch me to be a king that Seiki and my parents would be proud of. The mistakes of the past… I won't repeat it. I won't let anyone suffer what my brother had to go through."
Tamaki smiled slightly before she recalled what she'd said to her cousin once as an apprentice soldier.
Tamaki closed the fingers of her left hand around the hilt of her sword. "With this sword, I hereby swear to you. On my blood, my soul, my life and my blade. This life will be yours from this day forth until the day that I draw my last breath. I pledge my allegiance and loyalty to you…" Tamaki looked up, meeting Seijuro's eyes. "…My Prince."
Tamaki closed her eyes briefly before looking at Seijuro. "This is a good time, I think," she said, much to his surprise. "I can state this before them as well." Her eyes flickered towards the memorial stone on which the names of the former commanders of the Royal Guard are carved. As the people of Teiko wouldn't allow them to be honoured as soldiers the normal way, this is the only way for them to be 'honoured'. "Can I make my vow once more, Sei? Now that I'm a fully fledged soldier, and a member of the Royal Guard."
Seijuro smiled and nodded. "Yeah."
The red haired prince then watched as Tamaki slid her short blade Shadow out of the sheathe at the back of her waist and struck the tip of the blade into the ground in between them both. Then without a word, she got onto one knee, her head bowed as the fingers of her left hand closed around the hilt of her sword.
"With this sword and the skies as my witness, I swear to you once more; on my blood, my soul, my life, my blade, and on my honour as a soldier. This life will be yours from this day forth until the day I draw my last breath. This sword will be yours to wield. This, I hereby do swear. I pledge my allegiance and loyalty to you…" Tamaki raised her head to meet Seijuro's eyes. "…My King."
Seijuro then closed the fingers of his right hand over Tamaki's left hand on the hilt of her blade. "And I swear to you, I will live up to the title and responsibilities as a King of Teiko. Should the day come when I exert tyranny, strike me down, as I will have betrayed my heart and my kingdom. Should the day come when a pretender stands over my body, victorious, lay him to rest and take my mantle. This, above all else, is your most sacred and solemn duty."
"…Yes, My King."
For the first time ever, the Academy is awfully silent.
Even as she stood at the base of the weeping sakura tree in the Academy grounds, Kuroko Tamaki found that she couldn't get use to the silence at all. And then again, probably the entire kingdom's population is currently gathered at the plaza of the Royal City for the Crown Prince's coronation.
It had been nearly six months since the end of the civil war, and also six months of non-stop work for them, but it had all been worth it in the end. Teiko Kingdom had regained the power that they once had, and is now stable enough for them to stop requesting aid from their allies. The militia had also been stabilised, and Hyuuga who is now the head of the Defense Forces consisting only of civilians had also been kept busy safeguarding the streets of Teiko.
Now dressed in the Royal Guard militia uniform of black and silver, along with her short blade, and Midorima's long blade strapped on her back, Tamaki pressed her right hand against the trunk of the large sakura tree, remembering the times when she'd spent with Midorima beneath this tree as students.
"I wonder how you can even stand those idiots." Midorima commented off-handedly to Tamaki as he watch Aomine behave like a fool not too far away from them, and Haizaki was rolling his eyes as Shigehiro joined him. Murasakibara meanwhile was munching nonstop on a pack of chips whilst Satsuki was giggling.
"They aren't so bad." Tamaki laughed. "They're my friends."
Midorima rolled his eyes in exasperation. "You need better ones."
Tamaki smiled to herself.
The light crunch of grass beneath boots reaches her ears just then, and she turned only to see Ogiwara Shigehiro and Haizaki Shogo approaching her—both also dressed in their Royal Guard uniforms of black and silver.
"The Prince's coronation is starting." Shigehiro told Tamaki solemnly. "We should be going."
"All right. I'll be there in awhile. You both should go ahead." Tamaki told the two boys who nodded and turned to leave the Academy grounds. She then turned to face the tree once more, looking up at the leaves and the beautiful pink flowers above her. Tamaki then felt a presence appear behind her, and she smiled. A remarkably familiar presence. "This feels weird. So the presence that I'd felt back then… I wasn't imagining it." Tamaki commented as she turned around. "You've always been with me."
The slightly transparent form of Midorima Shintaro smiled back at her, dressed in the black and silver uniform of the Royal Guard that he had been wearing when he had died. "It's weird for me too," he commented. "But… I think I can leave the rest to you now. My sword… You still have it?"
Tamaki nodded. "Right here," she said, touching the hilt of the long sword over her shoulder.
Midorima smiled at Tamaki, a soft expression on his face. "My reasons for being a soldier, and my promise to myself to live my life with no regrets… I'll leave those hopes and aspirations to you," he whispered. "I…want to have more time with everyone… It's just…too bad…"
He then vanished in a burst of lights. Then, Tamaki felt a familiar hand caress her face, and a pair of familiar lips pressed against hers.
"I'll see you on the other side, Tamaki. I love you."
Tamaki smiled to herself—a warm bittersweet smile even as she shielded her eyes with her hand as she looked up into the blue skies. "I won't forget you," she whispered, as a pair of birds flew across the sky, notes of a song dropping from both their throats. "I'll carry on…for you and me both… I'll carry on for both of us… Thank you, Shin. For everything."
"I…want to…have more time with…everyone… Protect…the future, Tamaki. And thank you…"
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