Light and Shadow
"Before the Generation of Miracles—the commanders of the Royal Guard became the tyrants they are now, they are people once upon a time." - Otsubo Taisuke
A month after Seirin had met Kuroko Tamaki and the rest of the rebels have seen several changes.
True to their word, Riko and Hyuuga did make the decision to ally themselves with the remainder of the rebel forces. It is a unanimous decision by the rest of Seirin, as even they knew that they couldn't continue doing what they've been doing for the past two years. And if truth be told, it is already considered a miracle in itself that they have never gotten themselves caught or killed by the Royal Army or even the Royal Guard yet. The time when they have gotten a run-in with Aomine Daiki of the Royal Guard and his Covert Ops was the closest when they have ever came face to face with Death.
If Tamaki and several of the rebels haven't been spread throughout the town that Seirin had seek refuge in at that time, acting on information that the Royal Guard is marching on that town, then Seirin might already be drinking tea with the Shinigami in the Great Beyond.
Currently, the rebel forces have been focusing their energies on getting stronger, and also getting more ammunition and weapons from the black market weapon dealers. They were also focusing on getting food and medical supplies to the poorer villages and towns that couldn't gain any access to it.
The members of Seirin like Riko, Izuki, Koganei, Tsuchida, Furihata, Fukuda and Kawahara were mainly the ones going with several of the others to the remote villages and towns by using the underground sewer passageways to 'deliver' those supplies after some of the other rebels have stolen food and medical supplies from the nobles in the larger cities, thus delivering those same supplies to the poorer people aka Robin Hood style.
With each time that they went on a 'stealing excursion', the rebel forces usually kept a few of the things that they've stolen for themselves. Like what Hyuuga had later told Seirin; since they are also citizens of the Teiko Kingdom, they are entirely entitled to the things that the selfish nobles have been getting, thanks to the heavy levies and taxes that the king have imposed on the rest of the kingdom.
The silent Mitobe, while no good at combat and neither is he much good at spying, had ended up being a great help in the kitchen, much to Sakurai, Tamaki and Shigehiro's relief.
Because the lot of them are always running around, and there is always bound to be someone injured every single day, Sakurai is always needed at the infirmary, and thus, he couldn't really take on the kitchen duties atop his own duties as the combat base's doctor which had been affectionately nicknamed the 'Phantom base' as nearly all of the main rebel group members were stationed there along with several others.
Like what Takao had told Seirin on their first day, there were several other bases littered all throughout the sewers, with each of them having their own respective duties. It is just that the Phantom base is the more combat orientated base. There are bases that focus more on intelligence gathering, even the purchasing of weapons and such. Those several different bases communicate with each other by mainly using the large communication devices that could be found at each base, though sometimes, one of the members from the different bases would make the long trip through the sewers to their base.
Like what Takao had told them before; you have to know the underground passageways of the sewers well, or you'll get hopelessly lost. Tamaki had taken Hyuuga and Riko with her to some of the other bases with her the third week after they've allied with them officially. The three of them were gone the entire day, only returning late at night.
And when the rest of Seirin had bombarded their two leaders on what the other bases are like and all that, Riko had told them that appearance-wise, the other bases isn't very different from the one that they are staying in. They are still wondering how the hell they managed to build bases like this beneath everyone's noses in just a mere year or so. The other members of the rebel forces that Riko and Hyuuga were introduced to were wary of them in the beginning, but they soon warmed up to the two.
One of the rebels that goes by the name of Iwamura or something who had been the one liaising with several of the black market weapon vendors had told them curtly that Tamaki, Shigehiro and Haizaki are all excellent judges of character. As former Royal Guard members, they were specially trained to detect lies and all that, even being able to tell if someone means them harm or not. That is why before the rebel forces accept any new members into their forces, they have to first go through Tamaki, Shigehiro and Haizaki.
Shigehiro had also offered to teach Seirin how to handle guns, since the only weapons that Seirin knew how to handle at present are swords and daggers, and in Riko's case, whips. Izuki and Koganei seemed to have a knack for them for some reason.
Thus, by the time a month had flown by, Seirin had quickly settled in together with the rest of the other rebels at the Phantom base. Takao is usually the one running things there if Tamaki, Shigehiro and Haizaki aren't around. And during their first week, he had been quick to fill Seirin in on the fact that all of them take turns at doing guard duty, as someone needs to be awake at all times to make sure that the enemy hadn't found them.
Not that they think anyone would betray them or even stumble across their location by 'accident'. Even still, Tamaki didn't get to be a member of the Generation of Miracles by being careless, and she was particularly insistent on this rule. As none of the others want to meet an early death, they were quick to agree to it.
Something that Seirin found out rather quickly is that not everyone actually goes to the surface. The only ones that does are those that specialises in intel gathering—those are mainly the Touou group, which Seirin later found consists of Imayoshi Shoichi, Wakamatsu Kousuke and Susa Yoshinari. All three of them used to serve under Tamaki in the Intelligence Unit when they were still in the Royal Guard, and they have followed her when she'd defected. Even the ones that usually go about stealing Robin Hood style don't always go to the surface. They usually go once or twice each month. Anymore than that, and they will get themselves caught easily.
Hence why Kagami Taiga who is usually extremely active can't seem to sit still that day, thus annoying the hell out of everyone.
Shigehiro who finally had his patience reaching his limit, looked at Kagami with exasperation over the map that he is currently leaning over with Haizaki. Said map easily covered at least one-third of one of the eating tables in their base.
"Kagami, if you really want something to do, go and help Tamaki with guard duty." Shigehiro said, annoyed, resisting the urge to stab Kagami with the pen that he is holding.
The base is unusually quiet that day, as the Touou group had been sent out to the surface to collect intel, as the Royal Guard have been really quiet recently. Too quiet until even Tamaki is uneasy.
Whenever those guys are quiet, it never bodes good news.
"G-Guard duty?" Kagami spluttered. The redhead dislikes guard duty out of almost everything else, as it is damn boring just sitting there for hours doing nothing. Usually, there are two people stationed for guard duty in case one of them dozed off by mistake.
"Someone must always be awake at all times down here; we're in more danger than you think." Haizaki said, annoyed. How many times must they repeat it? "And well…" He glanced over at the entrance to the manhole cover where Tamaki is currently sitting on one of the crates by the ladder that leads to the surface. "Tamaki has been taking the guard duty for four nights in a row now. We're all getting worried. She might talk to you about what's going on."
"I barely know her!" Kagami protested. "What makes you think—"
"Precisely the reason why she might talk to you." Takao Kazunari interrupted just then, approaching the lot of them with several notebooks in his arms, with Miyaji Kiyoshi and Otsubo Taisuke close behind him, also with notebooks in their arms. "The transcripts from the various communications." He added to Shigehiro and Haizaki who both nodded, as the Shutoku group settled down in the seats and started going through the notebooks.
"What do you mean?" Izuki frowned.
Shigehiro, Haizaki, Takao, Otsubo and Miyaji exchanged looks between themselves for several moments before Miyaji broke the silence, glancing at Kagami. "…You remind me of them a little," he said at last. "The commanders, I mean. The Generation of Miracles." He added. "Before they went corrupt. Especially Aomine."
Seirin have learned from Takao that the sniper himself, Otsubo, Miyaji and even Kimura used to serve in the Royal Guard too; similar to Imayoshi and his group. But unlike the Touou guys, they don't serve under Tamaki. They served under a different commander, formerly being in the Protection Unit until they'd defected a few months before Tamaki did. All four of them were especially skilled with guns and rifles, and they were the ones grilling Seirin on the ABCD of sniping and shooting whenever Shigehiro and Haizaki aren't available.
"The Panther?" Hyuuga frowned, exchanging looks with Kiyoshi who looked rather solemn. His injuries have been mostly healed by now, but Sakurai had still stuck him to light duty like guard duty and such.
"Yeah." Shigehiro nodded. "I've thought of that the first time when I met you." He told Kagami. "You remind me of him when we were still in the military academy." Shigehiro told Kagami, much to the redhead's annoyance, as he didn't like the idea of being compared with one of the most corrupted commanders in Teiko's history. "He's this idiot who went about fighting everyone he meets, and doesn't even care how hurt he gets. I've lost count of the number of times when Tamaki had to literally drag him to the infirmary before he dies of blood loss." Shigehiro rolled his eyes in annoyance. "I really can't stand him." He admitted, twirling his pen in between his fingers. "Back then and now."
"I never knew the Panther was like that." Furihata was surprised.
He still remembered how terrifying Aomine Daiki had been that night when they have the misfortune to run into the dark blue haired man and his unit. Even before that, there have been rumours about that particular commander, and that he is probably one of the most terrifying and ruthless commanders amongst the remaining four. People everywhere fear to even meet him on the streets. Even the corrupt nobles who basically bought their way into the Red King's pockets are scared of him.
Aomine Daiki had been the head of the Covert Ops of the Royal Guard. The unit who is usually the one responsible for executing the lawbreakers, and the one to carry out the king's will. Before Teiko had became the nightmare that it now is, the Covert Ops had been a unit who protected Teiko and the royal family from the shadows, usually working hand-in-hand together with the Intelligence Unit and the Protection Unit. Thus, needless to say, the commanders of these three units must have been good friends in a way. At least, until everything had gone spiralling down to Hell.
"It might sound surprising to you." The usually silent Otsubo spoke up, glancing at Seirin over the notebook that he is currently poring over. "But before the Generation of Miracles—the commanders of the Royal Guard became the tyrants they are now, they are people once upon a time. They are kind. Honourable. With a strong sense of justice. The kingdom loved them. And the soldiers idolised them."
"They were also Tamaki's close friends." Takao added. "She loved them like brothers. If they haven't been good people, she would never have given them a moment of her time. Once upon a time, she would have willingly gave her life for them, as they would her."
"And now?" Tsuchida asked curiously. On the bench, Kiyoshi's expression darkened.
"I don't know anymore." Shigehiro sighed, exchanging looks with Haizaki even as he made a mark on the map that the six of them were currently poring over. "Like what Tamaki had said, I don't know who they are anymore. They aren't the people whom they used to be when we were in the military academy. Frankly, what they're capable of doing now, and will do…" He trailed off slowly. "They scare me." He admitted. "Tamaki is probably as guilty as them when we were still in the Royal Guard—just like the rest of us. She had never tried to deny any wrongdoing on her part, and neither did we. But the sole difference between Tamaki and the other four is that she had never once liked what she was ordered to do. She never enjoyed hurting people, unlike the other four." Shigehiro said sternly, making sure that Seirin understands this. If there is anyone who dared to badmouth Tamaki, the rest of them would not simply sit still and listen. "There was a time when she was just this close to ending her own life because she simply couldn't take it anymore. It is probably then when she started helping out those whom she could help secretly. Many of us here owe our lives to Tamaki. It is probably a miracle in itself that she never got caught even once when she was still with the Royal Guard." Shigehiro sighed.
Tamaki wasn't surprised when Kagami Taiga planted his butt down onto the crate beside her without saying anything.
She knew that it is only a matter of time before one of the others come and join her for guard duty. Usually, there are always two people who do guard duty, especially at night, and during the graveyard shift. But as she needed to clear her mind lately, the others have allowed her to do guard duty alone.
Tamaki glanced at the side profile of Kagami who seemed rather nervous. He reminds her a lot of her old friend when they were still in the academy, and during their early days of being a soldier. At least until the kingdom had changed, and her friends with it.
"…I wonder… Are we doing the right thing here?" Tamaki muttered suddenly, almost as if she's speaking to herself.
"What?" Kagami stared at her, confused.
Before either one of them could say anything, Takao approached the two just then, a serious look on his face. "Susa just sent word," he told Tamaki who frowned. "We have a serious problem."
"He had been collecting intel in one of the trade towns not too far from the Royal City." Takao repeated what he'd heard from Susa via one of their communication devices just half-an-hour earlier. "Apparently, a unit from the Royal Guard had been dispatched. They are marching onto a village to the south." He paused, taking in the looks on the faces surrounding him. He is fairly sure that no one is going to like hearing what he had to say next. "They're going to subjugate a village."
Seirin paled, but the former Royal Guard members present seemed to have anticipated something like this happening. And Riko had a feeling that this probably isn't the first time that they have heard something like this happening.
"Which village?" Haizaki asked at last, rubbing his temples, looking extremely tired.
Shigehiro dropped the pen in his hand as he stared at Takao in horror, and Tamaki narrowed her eyes dangerously. Haizaki on the other hand looked ready to blow.
"Meiko…?" Kiyoshi repeated that word slowly. If memory serves him right, that is a small village located in the southern region of Teiko. "Isn't that your home village?" He asked, looking from Tamaki to Shigehiro to Haizaki.
"Why would they—" Kagami spluttered.
"It's not as uncommon as you think, unfortunately." Otsubo sighed. "The Red King sometimes send troops to villages in order to spread his influence and his beliefs—particularly those in remote villages. We've managed to stop a few in the past, and they haven't tried to subjugate another village for nearly six months now. We thought that it is going to be just a matter of time before they try again." He had a strained smile on his face. "After all, the Red King doesn't like anyone going against him and his authority."
No one said anything for a long time, merely looking at each other, as Tamaki, Shigehiro and Haizaki looked ready to explode. And considering that this is their hometown that they're talking about, none of them are surprised. Finally, after what seemed like a long while, the three childhood friends exchanged looks with each other before nodding as one.
Together, they got up from their seats.
"I won't ask any of you to come with us if you don't want to." Tamaki told them seriously. "We've been to stop the Royal Guard from subjugating villages and towns in the past before. It is never a pretty business. Make no mistake, this is war. And people die during war. It isn't going to be pretty. You guys have never killed before." Tamaki looked at Seirin as she said so, save for Kiyoshi whom she knew had killed before. You don't get to be in the Royal Guard unless you're one of the kingdom's best, and being one of their best means that your hands were already stained with blood. "The moment that your sword tastes their first blood; the moment that you take a life with your own hands, it can never be washed clean again. You have to take on that burden; the knowledge that you've committed the evil act of murder all in the name of justice. If you aren't ready for it, don't come. Hesitance can mean your life."
"We're heading there." Haizaki announced. "None of us had been back to Meiko since we have left for the military academy, but we're going back there."
"We're not going to let anything happen to the village." Shigehiro added grimly.
"What makes you think that we'll let you go alone?" Takao asked with a smirk, getting to his feet as well, and the others followed suit. "We owe you our lives, Tamaki. When we joined the rebel forces, we all knew what we're getting ourselves into. We were all prepared to lay down our lives if necessary."
"What he said." Riko nodded. "It is true that we've never killed before, but all of us knew that someday, we might have to." She glanced at Seirin. "We swore to restore peace to the kingdom. And the fastest way seems to be helping you. You helped us. So now, we'll help you. We Seirin believed in repaying your debts." She grinned.
Tamaki sighed, exchanging looks with Shigehiro and Haizaki who both grinned at her. "Very well," she said at last. "Get geared up. We're leaving in ten minutes."
They managed to find the unit that the Red King had sent out a few miles before they reached the Meiko Village.
"…They're from Security Unit." Takao frowned, lowering his sniper lenses, having recognised the purple and white colours of the armband around their uniforms.
"At least they aren't from Covert Ops." Riko sighed in relief, having been dreading that the entire route here. "Kagami? Kagami?" She called out to the tall redhead who didn't seem to have heard her, and was staring at the soldier leading the unit, his face as black as thunder. "Hey, Kagami?"
And then, much to everyone's surprise, Kagami leapt off the large oak tree that they're currently perched on, rushing straight towards the unit.
"Hey! Come back, Kagami!" Hyuuga hollered, but to no avail.
"Damn it!" Shigehiro palmed his face. "Gun them down!" He shouted to Takao, Miyaji, Kimura and Otsubo before leaping off the tree as well, and running after Kagami before he got himself killed. Tamaki and Seirin followed a split second later.
The sounds of gunfire rang through the air barely a second after that, as soldier after soldier fell even as they ran towards the soldiers if only to save Kagami from losing his head.
"Shogo-kun, clear a path for me." Tamaki told Haizaki even as she drew out two identical looking silver blades from the pouches by her sides. "I'm going to go all out."
"Roger." Haizaki grinned even as he drew out his handgun and started firing. With every bullet that was released, one soldier went down. Not for nothing are the soldiers in the Intelligence Unit and the Covert Ops said to be the best in the kingdom. Each and every one of them are pros at combat, and in weaponry usage.
"You're about to learn why she's called the Ghost." Shigehiro told Seirin over his shoulder as he withdrew his own gun as well, gunning down the soldiers that are heading towards Tamaki's direction as she weaved in and out of them. "Kuroko Tamaki is said to be one of the strongest commanders in the Royal Guard for a reason, and you're about to learn why."
It only happened in a split second.
One moment, Tamaki was there, weaving in and out of the soldiers. The next moment, she had vanished, and the ten soldiers that were standing near her went down in an instant, deep gashes visible across their throats.
Kiyoshi smiled to himself. "She's as strong as ever," he commented.
Kagami glared at the soldier across from him who looked at the redhead with guilt in his eyes. "Answer me, Tatsuya!" he demanded, ignoring the carnage happening around him. "You know what this kingdom has become! You know how the people have been suffering because of the king! Why are you still helping him to torture and kill people?" He thundered.
"I owe Atsushi a great debt, Taiga." Tatsuya said stubbornly.
Kagami only scowled. "Then does Alex deserve to die?" he thundered at Tatsuya who looked guilty and ashamed. "You were there that day! Why didn't you save her?" He roared, drawing out his blade and bringing it down on his surrogate brother who barely blocked it in time with his own blade. "Why did you let her die?"
Both teens leapt away from each other, not taking their eyes off of the other. "I don't know what you owe this 'Atsushi', Tatsuya. But I do know that what the king and the Generation of Miracles are doing is wrong!" Kagami roared.
Before either one could land another blow, there was a glint of silver before both their swords were knocked out from their hands. Kuroko Tamaki stood in between the two, a steely glint in her eyes.
When did she get here?
Kagami wondered to himself even as he cradled his hand. "Tamaki!"
"It's been awhile, Himuro Tatsuya." Tamaki said coolly, looking at the teen across from her.
"…Kuroko Tamaki." Tatsuya murmured, a look of recognition visible in his eyes, much to Kagami's surprise. "I didn't know that you knew Taiga. So you're still alive."
"Let me tell you how this is going to work." Tamaki said, pointing the end of her blade at Tatsuya. "You are going to return to the Royal City with whatever remained of your forces—" She glanced at the numerous bodies lying dead on the ground. "Or you can stay here and die like the rest of them. The choice is yours."
"You're Royal Guard too." Tatsuya hissed.
"In case it'd slipped your notice, I left two years ago when this kingdom started going downhill, and the Royal Guard started betraying the people, their souls and their own pride and honour as a soldier." Tamaki hissed. "What is it going to be, Himuro-kun?"
Tatsuya frowned before whistling shrilly. "I'm sure that the king is going to be very interested to learn that you're alive all this while," he said, even as the remaining soldiers surrounded Tatsuya, raising their swords threateningly at Phantom. More than one of them looked uneasy when they realised just who they're facing. "I can't beat you. I have no delusions in thinking that I could beat one of the famed Generation of Miracles in battle. But know this, Kuroko Tamaki. There is nothing that you can do but bend to the will of the king. He will bring this kingdom to greatness."
"The only thing that he'll bring is destruction!" Kagami roared, about to leap at Tatsuya, but Tamaki stopped him.
"I will let you leave alive for two reasons," she said coolly, cold blue eyes moving from face to face. Behind her, the rest of the rebels shivered and exchanged wary looks with each other, save for Shigehiro and Haizaki. If this is Kuroko Tamaki when she is starting to get angry, then they have no desire to see her when she gets truly pissed. "The first reason is that I want the Red King, the Royal Guard and the entire kingdom to know that there are still people who won't stand for what Teiko had become." She narrowed her eyes. "And the second reason is that I want you to deliver a message to the Red King, and to the Generation of Miracles. You can tell them in person that I am still alive. That there will be people who will fight against them. And that no matter how hard they look, they will never find us. And I want them all to know that I'll go after them. One by one. Until they are all as dead as the people whom they'd sentenced to death for no reason at all."
"This is our kingdom, Tatsuya." Kagami scowled. "The Teiko Kingdom isn't the king's kingdom. It belongs to the people! This is where we grew up! This is the kingdom that our parents gave their lives for! And I refuse to let the people suffer anymore!"
Kagami winced as he allowed Tamaki to tend to the injuries visible on his arm.
Takao and the others are currently cleaning up the blood and the dead bodies visible on the road to the Meiko Village whilst Shigehiro, Haizaki and the rest of Seirin are checking on the villagers of Meiko with Sakurai tending to the injured, or even the sick. Surprisingly, Tamaki, Shigehiro and Haizaki seemed extremely popular amongst the villagers, and as this is their hometown, Kagami isn't too surprised.
The two are now currently in the village elder's house, where Takeda Kenji had allowed them to use his house for Tamaki to tend to Kagami's wounds as he checked on his villagers.
"I have no idea what you're thinking; barging in there. Do you really want to die that much?" Tamaki asked harshly as she cleaned the gashes on Kagami's arm with some antiseptic, and the redhead winced at the stinging pain that shot through his arm. "We have plans for a reason, Kagami-kun. If you don't follow them, you'll get us all killed."
Kagami winced. He knew that he had been very stupid, and it is already a miracle in itself that Tamaki isn't throwing him out of Phantom. "I'm sorry," he said meekly.
Silence fell between the two for several moments.
"I didn't know that you knew Himuro-kun." Tamaki said at last. "Are you friends?"
"Not exactly." Kagami said awkwardly, not feeling very comfortable at telling his history to Tamaki when even Seirin hadn't heard this part. But for some reason, Kagami feels as if he can trust Tamaki. "He's…my older brother. Kind of." He shrugged. "We aren't related by blood, but we see each other as brothers. Our parents were killed in the last war when we were really small. They have been soldiers, you see? A close friend of theirs named Alex took us in after that. She raised us." Kagami gave a small sentimental smile at the thought of the blonde woman. "I left my village when I was about thirteen for the big city to learn the cooking trade under a notable chef. Tatsuya left a few years before I did to join the military academy to become a soldier. I had just saved enough to open my own food stand when well…" Kagami shrugged uncomfortably. "How did you know Tatsuya anyway?" He asked Tamaki curiously. "He seemed to know you personally."
Tamaki said nothing for several moments, bandaging Kagami's arm carefully before she looked at him. "He worked for the Royal Guard too, as you saw earlier," she told him, closing the lid of the first aid box that she had loaned from the village elder. "I knew him via work connections. He served as the deputy to Murasakibara Atsushi, one of the commanders—and a member of the Generation of Miracles. Murasakibara-kun was the Head of Security." She added. "Our units worked together from time to time, and I met Himuro-kun then."
Kagami was silent. "…I think I understand what the others meant now when they said that I could understand you," he said at last. "The Tatsuya that I knew is a man full of justice and honour. That is why he wanted to be a soldier. He wanted to protect the kingdom like his parents did. He wanted to protect Alex. And me." He admitted. "Who is the man standing before me now? I don't know him." He said miserably.
The elder to the Meiko Village walked in just then—a frail looking old man who looked about to fall over at any moment now if it hadn't been for the support of his walking stick.
"Elder!" Tamaki stood up immediately, bowing politely to him, a look of genuine respect in her eyes. Probably, at some time during her childhood, this man must have helped her out. "It's been a long time."
"Indeed it has." Takeda Kenji smiled at Tamaki. "You've grown up to be so beautiful and capable and strong. Your parents would have been very proud of you." He told her.
"What is the situation outside?" Kagami asked Takeda.
"We only have minimal injuries because you intercepted the soldiers before they could arrive at our village." Takeda told Kagami with a smile. "You saved Meiko. On behalf of our village, I thank you." He bowed to the two.
"What are you going to do now?" Tamaki asked Takeda worriedly. "I'm worried that troops will come again, now that we've shown ourselves after two years."
"We'll be fine." Takeda reassured Tamaki. "We aren't that weak. We have defense troops here. Probably nothing compared to the king's forces, but it is better than nothing."
"Defense troops?" Kagami enquired.
"There isn't a guard outpost or even a town for miles around this area." Tamaki told Kagami. "Sometimes, the villages here face problems from bandits and outlaws. Meiko is the only village for miles that had a defense force. My father trained them in combat." She told Kagami, much to his surprise. "The Kuroko family have always resided in this village, instead of the big city or even a town like so many of the noble clans. That's why we aren't too popular with the noble clans."
"Then some noble clans need to learn what it is like to put your lives on the line." Takeda said firmly. "The Count is a great man, My Lady. He is brave and wise and noble. I don't care what others say. In Meiko's opinion, there is no finer clan than the Kuroko family. Bloodlines and lineage doesn't matter to us. Your father had always tried to protect us. The Kuroko clan have always been our guardians. The kingdom's guardians. That is enough for us to know. The same way that we don't care in the least even if you're branded as a traitor. You tried to protect us. You tried to protect the kingdom. You are your father's child, My Lady."
Tamaki said nothing for several moments before she finally looked at Takeda. "By the way, is my old house still standing?" she asked.
"I need to retrieve something."
"So what do you think?" Kise Ryota asked after Himuro Tatsuya had given his report, and had left to get his injuries seen to. "About what he'd said."
"What do I think?" Aomine Daiki drawled. "What do I care even if she's alive or not? She is the enemy now." He polished his sword lovingly, and with an almost maniacal gleam in his eyes. "I'm almost eager to cross my blade with her." An almost bloodthirsty smirk spread across his lips.
"I wonder what the king will order?" Murasakibara Atsushi drawled, munching on a bag of potato chips as usual. It is almost a wonder how he never gets fat, no matter how much he eats.
"It doesn't matter what the king orders." Kise said seriously. "What he order, we do. That is our role as his shields and his swords."
Midorima Shintaro scoffed before he got up, and begun heading for the door. "It doesn't matter what we think now, huh?" he said almost scornfully. "But if you ask me, in my opinion, Tamaki deserves her revenge." He said. "And as far as I'm concerned, all of us deserve to die at her hands."
Without even waiting for an answer, he walked out of the meeting room, slamming the door shut behind him. The green head stalked down the hallways of the palace, ignoring the polite bows that passing soldiers gave him, even as he walked towards his unit's headquarters.
He finally stopped in the middle of the hallway, remembering what Himuro Tatsuya had told them. Midorima closed his eyes briefly, remembering something from his past.
"And pray tell, why should I help you?" Tamaki looked at him with something akin to disgust visible in her eyes.
Midorima stared at his feet for several moments, remembering what Tamaki had said to him a few days before she had disappeared.
"You can't keep ignoring everything around you as no business of your own, Midorima-kun. By the time that you realised it, and wanted to do something to stop it, it might already be too late. And maybe someday…"
Midorima sighed, slumping against the wall, looking up towards the tall ceiling. "I thank you, Tamaki," he whispered. "For giving me a reason to live to see another day. If so that I can soon find solace in death."
A lone tear trickled down his face.
Kuroko Tamaki took the familiar trek to her childhood home at the top of the hill.
Unlike most noble families, her family prefers to live as simple as possible, living in a simple house instead of a mansion. To anyone who isn't aware that her family are nobles, they would think that they're simple village folk.
Tamaki pushed the door opened slowly which swung opened with a creak. Due to the long number of years that had passed since anyone had last been in here, there is now a thick layer of dust covering the floors, the walls, and even the furniture left behind.
For several moments, Tamaki merely stood at the entrance, drinking in the sight of the sitting room with the simple furniture decorating it. For a moment, she could have sworn that she had just been transported back into time. She could almost see her mother sewing whilst sitting on the rocking chair, with her father watering the plants sitting on the windowsills.
But when Tamaki blinked, those images disappeared.
The teal haired girl entered the house with a heavy heart, walking towards the large painting of her family that her father had commissioned to be painted when she was just born. The painting was hanging just above the fireplace. Both her parents looked so happy in that painting, with her as a tiny baby being cradled in her mother's arms.
Wordlessly, Tamaki took hold of the painting, and tugged on it gently, removing the heavy painting frame from the wall, setting it down on the ground. A lock was visible in the safe-like object on the wall behind the painting—being the only part of the house that isn't covered in thick dust.
Tamaki then reached for the black choker around her neck, removing it and staring at the crescent moon pendant hanging from it, with it being made from pure silver. It is probably several hundred years old at this point of time, but it still looks as though it had just been forged yesterday. That pendant had been passed down through her family for generations, and just before her parents have gone to war, her father had given it to her.
The teal haired girl then inserted the pendant into the strange keyhole visible in the safe-like object on the wall. Something opened with a click just then, and Tamaki opened the safe door. An old looking brown envelope was lying on the bottom of the safe, with a pure white daito sword with the engravings of red phoenixes visible on it lying atop the envelope.
"Listen to me, Tamaki." Her father knelt down to her eye level. "Someday, when the kingdom is in danger, come here once more. And this…" He removed the choker that he always wore around his neck, placing it around his daughter's neck. "This will show you the way." He looked into his daughter's eyes seriously. "You are to be Guardian and Protector, like how members of our family had always been for the Teiko Kingdom."
Tamaki picked up the white daito sword lying in the safe, picking it up with her right hand. With her left hand, she removed the pure black sword hanging horizontally behind her waist, looking between the two swords. Both so identical, and yet different at the same time.
"The Kuroko family's 'Shadow' and the royal family's 'Light' come in a pair. They've always been kept apart unless the kingdom is in danger. Someday, when Teiko is in danger, give that sword to the one whom you feel worthy to be the king—the one to bring Teiko back to the light."
Tamaki could still remember her father's words from so long ago like it was yesterday resounding in her head. Wordlessly, she placed her black blade back into its sheathe at her waist, whilst fastening the white blade onto her back.
Finally, Tamaki picked up the envelope lying at the bottom of the safe, opening it carefully, and withdrawing the contents within. She stared at it for several moments, feeling tears pricking at her eyes before she blinked it away quickly. She remembered what the late king and queen have told her once when she had first started her apprenticeship after finishing at the military academy.
"I can't be his protector anymore, Heika." Tamaki whispered to herself, closing her eyes briefly. "…Sei, where are you? The kingdom needs you now. More than ever."
Tamaki looked down at the contents of the envelope within her hands once more. There is only one object within the envelope – a photograph that seemed to be nearly two decades old, with the edges already turning slightly yellow with age.
A photograph of that of two identical looking red haired babies lying on a bed. The one on the right had brilliant red eyes, and was smiling shyly at the camera. The baby on the left on the other hand had different coloured eyes of red and gold, and he had an almost malicious smirk on his face – creepy to be seen on a baby's face.
Evil should not be a word used to describe a child after all, much less a baby. Truly, there is nothing more fearsome than evil in the heart of a child.
Tamaki stared at the picture of the baby with different coloured eyes for several moments without saying anything, a steely glint visible in her eyes.
"…I will never accept you as the king," she said at last, nearly glaring holes at the picture of the red haired baby with different coloured eyes. "You aren't the king. You are not worthy. You aren't worthy to fill his shoes. You aren't worthy to be the king of Teiko. I will never accept you."
The smirk on the baby's face seemed to be almost mocking her.