Meeting the Panther

"I don't like the term 'good person' or 'bad person' because it's impossible to be entirely good to everyone or entirely bad to everyone. To some, you are a good person, while to others, you are a bad person." - Kuroko Tamaki

Kagami Taiga was awakened by the hustle and bustle occurring around the base at 8AM that morning.

The moment that he'd stepped out of his sleeping quarters, he was momentarily bewildered to see everyone hurrying around—with some of them heading in and out of the infirmary carrying tubs of water, and even sheets. Even the usual mild mannered and soft-spoken Sakurai was screaming orders from within the infirmary.

"What happened?" Kagami asked a stressed Miyaji who was disposing of several blood stained cloths in a corner, looking rather harried.

"One of the scouts stepped onto a landmine by mistake." Miyaji told him grimly. "He got his limbs blown off. He isn't anyone whom we knew, but is from one of the other bases. The leader from that base sent him to ours for treatment, as their medic over there isn't equipped to handle injuries of this calibre. Their medic even told us that he's black level, and to prep for euthanasia if necessary."

Kagami winced. Having been this long with Seirin and then with Phantom, he knew the various terminologies that they use by now. Black level. It meant that the patient is too far gone to be saved, and that the least that they could do is to help ease his pain as he went from one world to the next.

"Kagami!" Hyuuga popped his head out of the infirmary, and Kagami almost flinched as he saw that Hyuuga's hands are slick red with blood, with several blood splotches on his clothes and even on his glasses. "Get in here now! We need your help!"

Kagami blanched. He is no doctor; he doesn't even know the basics of emergency first aid even though Sakurai is trying to teach him. So what do they need his help for?

Despite the hundred and one questions currently running through his head however, he is quick to follow Hyuuga into the infirmary. Whenever Hyuuga uses that tone of voice, it is never a good idea to disobey him.

Sakurai, Tamaki, Shigehiro and even Riko were surrounded around the bed where a bloodied body is lying on. Shigehiro was holding the body down by his shoulders with some extreme difficulty due to all the thrashing around that he was doing. Kagami took a closer look at the body as the head tilted back, and he nearly flinched at the sight of the body, resisting the urge to throw up everything that he had consumed last night.

The right leg was totally gone, and blood covered every inch of the body. There wasn't a single inch of the body that wasn't drenched by blood, and Kagami can't even tell if the person is a male or a female, or even how old that they are, as the face is also extremely disfigured; almost like someone had just tried to feed him or her grenades. There was also a stump where the left arm used to be, with blood flowing like a steady river from it. A pool of blood is already starting to pool around the edges of the bed, with the once pristine and white sheets slowly turning crimson red.

"Dear Lord…!" Kagami nearly whispered, feeling his dinner from last night bubbling up to his throat. He wondered just how the other four in the infirmary were able to keep their wits and cool about them.

"Kagami, get over here!" Shigehiro shouted to the redhead. "Hold him down and stop him moving!"

Unsure of where to place his hands at first, Kagami then placed his hands onto whatever is left of the bottom half, trying hard not to feel squeamish even as the blood seeped through his fingers. Oh God… He is going to need a long bath after this.

"What happened to him?" Kagami asked as he watched Riko and Tamaki trying to stop the worst of the bleeding by tying spare bed sheets around the worst of the injuries, with Hyuuga trying to keep the head still. Sakurai meanwhile was rummaging through his medical cabinets for some medication and spare bandages as well as his surgical tools.

"He's with the Scouting Base!" Riko said grimly. "The report that got to us stated that the squad that he's with walked straight into a mine field! The others that he is with weren't so lucky! They were literally blown to pieces when they stepped onto the landmines! There were nothing but just pieces of them lying all over the place!"

Kagami turned vaguely green at the mental image that Riko had conjured up with her words alone, trying to resist the urge to puke at the coppery smell of the blood. He had never seen so much blood coming from one person before.

"Hyuuga-kun, hold this!" Sakurai returned just then from his medical cabinets, an unnaturally grim expression on his face, even as he dumped a silver surgical tray containing several surgical tools and even medication into Hyuuga's hands. "Hold him still, and don't let him move!" He told the others, even as the patient started screaming, with a growl almost like an animal tearing from his throat.

The brunette then took a pair of silver surgical scissors from the tray that he had just handed Hyuuga and started cutting the patient's shirt open. More blood flowed from the chest area, thus staining their hands even redder with blood. And it was then that Kagami realised to his horror that the chest was opened. He could even see the rib bones of the guy, also red with blood.

"Oh God…" Riko whimpered, staring at the opened chest cavity with horrified eyes.

Tamaki meanwhile was still trying to stop the bleeding by holding a cloth that seemed suspiciously like one of the bed sheets to the guy's abdomen, but to no avail. Quite a number of blood soaked sheets were already gathered in a pile next to Shigehiro on the ground, and the ground was getting slicked with wet coppery blood.

"Damn it! We're losing him!" Riko screamed, as the harsh and ragged breathing of the guy on the bed is getting fainter. It is already a miracle in itself that the guy is still alive as it is, especially after having stepped onto a landmine that had basically blown off his limbs.

"God…damn it!" Sakurai cursed for the first time in his life, banging the surgical tools that he had been using onto the tray that Hyuuga is holding with more force than necessary, with the blood still pouring out like a fountain from the chest cavity. And then, all of them stared in shock as Sakurai dug his hand into the guy's body, and Kagami resisted the urge to puke at the sight.

"His stomach is bleeding." Sakurai said, feeling around with his hand, his head turned away so that he did not have to watch. "One kidney gone; they must have lost it when they were transporting him here, and when we had stuffed his other organs back inside earlier…" Kagami turned a little green at that; he wasn't a fan at seeing someone stick his hand into a dying man's chest to check if he had lost any organs. "His heart…" Sakurai grimaced, still with his head turned away. "…It's still pumping, but it's getting weaker… His lungs… Oh my god…!" He bit on his lower lip. "We're losing him!"

"Damn it!" Tears were nearly spilling from Riko's eyes. It was then when Kagami was solely reminded that no matter how tough an outlook that Riko and Hyuuga portrayed, they are still relatively new to this whole war business—just like the rest of Seirin. And this is still the first time that they have seen someone barely hanging onto the threads of life, and slowly slipping to the afterlife in such a state.

"Can't you do anything?" Hyuuga barked at Phantom's resident doctor.

"We have to at least stop the bleeding before I can actually do anything!" The normally meek young man shouted back. Apparently, his personality took on quite a different side when he is in 'doctor mode'. "This isn't a proper hospital facility! I don't have all the required tools for something of this magnitude!"

"Well then, you're going to have to do something!" Tamaki said grimly, holding the cloth to the abdomen. The floor beneath the bed was already long covered with blood. "We're losing him!"

Sakurai's eyes then widened, with his arm still in the guy's chest. "Heart rate is slowing!" he shouted, much to their horror.

The guy on the bed then convulsed for one last time, and before the horrified eyes of all those present, there was one last shuddering breath…then it was quiet.

The base was unusually silent.

And after seeing something like that, Kagami will honestly be surprised if any of them could still act like their usual selves. No one had any appetite either, and Mitobe had taken a day off from cooking, instead helping the others to scrub the floor and walls of the infirmary clean, trying to get the coppery smell of blood out too.

Sakurai is probably still washing his hands—any more than that, and the brunette is probably going to scrub the skin off of his hands. Wakamatsu and Miyaji are probably still trying to scrub the blood out of the sheets that they have used to stop the blood flow. Otsubo had been spraying air fresheners together with Imayoshi earlier in every part of the base.

Haizaki, Shigehiro and Tamaki have taken the body to some unknown part of the sewers, and then together with the leader of the base where the deceased had come from…had then burned the body.

"We hadn't experienced such a loss for a long time now." Kimura was the first one to break the silence. "And I'm almost afraid to say this, but I think that Tamaki is right. I think that the tip-off that those guys have gotten is a trap laid by the Royal Army. Maybe even the Royal Guard."

"I really don't want to believe that they've fallen this far." Susa admitted. "But…"

"If it is, we can't leave it alone." Imayoshi said solemnly. "But…" He glanced at the others. "What do you think that they will find? Tamaki and the others."

"I don't know." Hyuuga admitted. "But something tells me that I don't want to know."

"Tamaki, be careful." Takao warned as he watched Tamaki take a stick and poke at the ground gingerly, trying to ignore the sight of the blood all over this place. "We don't even know if there are still any mines left."

Wakamatsu frowned, surveying the abandoned grounds of the once village that they are now standing in. This village had been one of the first villages that had spoken out against the Red King when he had first came to power, and was then destroyed with his orders. At that point in time, it had been the Covert Ops led by Aomine who had destroyed it. And from what Tamaki knew, he had never even let a single civilian escape—be it be woman or child.

According to the information that they've gotten from the leader of the base that had sent the scouts, there is supposed to be a meeting of some high ranked soldiers. That is why he had even sent a group of five scouts.

"If this is indeed a trap set by the Royal Guard, then they've fallen lower than I even thought possible." Wakamatsu growled, sounding like an angry beast. "True, we're soldiers. We are all prepared to die. But dying via explosives is no way for a soldier to go!"

Tamaki then stiffened before she got to her feet. Tsuchida, Takao, Wakamatsu and Izuki who have came along stared at her curiously. "What's wrong?" Izuki asked.

The teal haired girl said nothing even as she placed her left hand over the hilt of her blade resting horizontally against the back of her waist. "You can't date me if you continue hiding," she said in a clear voice, much to the confusion of Tsuchida and Izuki, but the remaining two seemed to have some inkling as to what is going on, as they have one hand resting on their weapons. "Why don't you show yourself already, Kise-kun?"

The others with her stiffened. Takao and Wakamatsu specially have their muscles tensed, ready to spring at a moment's notice even as Tamaki turned around, eyes fixated on one of the abandoned houses that is still somewhat standing. Several moments passed before a tall blonde young man around the age of nineteen or so stepped out from around the corner, dressed in the familiar black and white uniform of the Royal Guard. The lining around his collar is in dark blue—signifying his status as one of the five commanders of the Royal Guard. A dark blue and black armband was also visible around his left arm, and there were two long swords visible on either side of him.

Wakamatsu narrowed his eyes. "Head of Self Defense Forces, Kise Ryota," he stated.

"Long time no see, Tamacchi." Kise greeted even as he approached them, acting for all in the world like he's simply greeting an old friend. "I see that you have brought some friends with you." His brown eyes glanced over the four with her. "And I'm sorry to say this, but…" The look in his eyes changed even as he drew out one of his swords. "I will have to ask you to die here."

Tamaki sighed even as she drew out her own black blade, stepping in front of Takao, Wakamatsu, Tsuchida and Izuki.

"Tamaki?" Izuki questioned.

"I'll handle him. Stay back." Tamaki spoke without taking her eyes off of Kise. "I see that Himuro-kun sent my message after all," she said, and Kise smiled coldly, the smile not quite reaching his eyes. "And what makes you think that you can beat me? From one Royal Guard to another, or former in my case, have you ever beaten me throughout the years when we were in the Royal Guard together?"

"I'll never know until I try, won't I?" Kise smirked before he made the first move and flew at Tamaki, with the latter blocking his sword easily with her own, before parrying Kise's other sword with a silver blade that she kept by her hip.

"Fast… They're both fast!" Tsuchida almost whispered in awe, watching the battle going on in front of them—if he could even call it that. It is almost akin to a deadly dance of some sort. Both fighters in front of them are agile, flexible, and fast on their feet. That much is clear to him at least.

"Shouldn't we try to help—" Izuki started, but Takao shook his head.

"We'll only be a hindrance to Tamaki." Takao told them, and Wakamatsu nodded his head. "Tamaki isn't known as the Ghost for nothing. Trust in her abilities. Besides, Kise won't be able to beat Tamaki, no matter how hard he tries." He added, turning his attention back to the battle in front of them even as Tamaki slashed Kise across his chest. The blonde managed to dodge it enough that it only tore through his uniform, leaving behind a long and deep gash.


"Kise had been mentored by Tamaki before he had entered the Royal Guard." Wakamatsu told Izuki and Tsuchida, much to their shock. "She taught him how to fight. And even after he'd entered the Royal Guard and became known as one of the Generation of Miracles, Kise had never been able to beat Tamaki in battle. Not even once. We've seen them spar countless times before. Tamaki had never gone all out on Kise. And yet, he has never been able to beat her. But this time, she has a reason to want him dead." He added. "And trust me when I say this that if Tamaki wants someone dead, she will succeed."

Kise swiped at where Tamaki's head would have been with one of his swords if she hadn't leant out of the way, thus only resulting in a few strands of hair getting cut. The teal haired girl then took the chance to stamp down hard on Kise's foot, causing him to cry out, and before he could even do anything, Tamaki swung one booted foot at his face, thus knocking him off balance. The teal haired girl then followed up by swinging the hilt of one of her swords against his throat. Hard.

Wakamatsu and Takao winced at that. They have seen Tamaki use this move before during one of the few occasions when she had been training her squad back during their days in the Royal Guard. Due to the commanders' overwhelming power, they often have to hold back, and thus, have to train their squad members with training swords instead of real blades. With a real sword, that move can easily break the neck of their opponent, or even cause them to not be able to talk for days.

Even still, as far as they knew, Tamaki is the only one who can use this move successfully, as it requires extensive knowledge of the human body and extreme precision—something that only Kuroko Tamaki possesses, as far as they knew.

Kise flew to the ground before lying motionless. Clearly, Tamaki had put enough power behind that attack to knock him out.

Takao whistled. "Remind me never to go against you in a battle, Tamaki," he grinned. "Is he dead?"

"Nope. I didn't deal any killing moves." Tamaki said even as she stood above Kise's motionless body, the blade of her sword pointing downwards, a hard look in her eyes even as she stared down at her former student.

Before she can move however, there was a black and blue blur that flew by, and before anyone even knew what is going on, there was a loud cry, with the sickening sound of the splatter of blood.

"TSUCHIDA!" Izuki cried out in horror, managing to catch his friend in his arms before he fell to the ground. The dark haired teen was horrified at seeing the amount of blood already pooling around his friend's body, and at the long and deep gash visible on his throat. Tsuchida struggled to speak, but only coughed out blood, clutching at his throat, clearly unable to breathe.

Tamaki parried the blade that could have taken off her head before she back flipped to where her friends were standing, standing in a combat stance, not taking her eyes off of the tanned man in front of her—also dressed in the same black and white uniform of the Royal Guard.

"The Panther, Aomine Daiki." Takao whispered, feeling a cold feeling pool around in his abdomen. Oh God. This isn't good. This isn't good at all…

"It's been awhile, Tamaki." Aomine Daiki smirked at his old friend, a semi-crazed and blood lust look visible in his eyes. Tamaki restrained a cringe at seeing the crazed look in her old friend's eyes. Clearly, either the Red King had done a number on him, or he had always been this crazy. "I see that you're still alive."

Tamaki's eyes flittered from her friends standing behind her to Aomine who is currently standing in front of her, several different plans and scenarios running furiously through her head. Amongst the five members of the Generation of Miracles, without a doubt, it is Aomine Daiki who is the most dangerous of them all. Tamaki is confident in her own skills and abilities. She is confident that she is able to beat her old comrades in a one-on-one battle. But Aomine had always been a wild card.

Unlike the rest of the Generation of Miracles who always had this elegant fighting style—even Murasakibara, Aomine's fighting style is comparable to that of how a wild animal fights. Even back during their days in the Royal Guard, it had always been difficult for Tamaki to beat Aomine.

His movements are simply too difficult to read and predict.

Furthermore, Tamaki still had her friends to protect, and none of them are Aomine's match. The tanned young man is named the best amongst the Royal Guard for a reason.

If that is so…

Tamaki closed her eyes briefly, making her mind up.

"Wakamatsu, get them out of here." Tamaki ordered, shifting her left foot backwards slightly.

Wakamatsu recognised that tone of voice immediately. It had been the voice that Tamaki always used when disobeying her can bring about extremely dire results. "Got it." Wakamatsu said, grabbing Izuki by the arm and dragging him forcibly away from the already motionless Tsuchida. Having killed as many people as he had by now, Wakamatsu can already tell that Tsuchida is already dead. Truly, the Panther is to be feared. "Takao!"

Takao closed his eyes briefly. "…Roger."


"Leave him!" Wakamatsu snarled, dragging Izuki away. Due to the danger that their lives have been in, there had been times when they have to abandon the bodies of their dead allies.

"But Tsuchida—"

"You can't face the Panther! You'll die if you do so!" Takao added, grabbing Izuki's other arm, and dragging him away together with Wakamatsu. "Only another member of the Generation of Miracles can hope to face him and possibly come out alive!"

"But Tamaki—"

"Don't worry about her." Wakamatsu said, glancing over his shoulder even as he dragged Izuki away. "She'll be fine. She always is."

Tamaki and Aomine both waited for the three to leave the scene before turning their attention back towards each other, weapons visible in their hands. It is almost like déjà vu. How many times have they sparred against each other ever since their days in the Academy? But this time, this is not for training or for fun. This is for real—a battle to the death.

"So these are the guys that you're hanging out with now?" Aomine smirked. "You sure had some poor taste in friends, Tamaki."

"Yeah. I had some poor taste all right. Too blind to see just what you people really are!" Tamaki hissed.

"You and Midorima both…" Aomine seemed almost bored. "I don't know what you both are so upset about."

"I don't want to hear that from you." Tamaki said nonchalantly. "We were classmates since we were in the military Academy, so you of all people know just what I can do, and what I'm capable of, Aomine-kun." Tamaki shifted the black blade in her left hand, and Aomine's muscles tensed. "My speciality is cutting through flesh. If you need a reminder as to how fast I can kill a man, then by all means, I invite you to step forward—to try out just what I can do."

A cruel smirk crept on Aomine's face.

"I get what you mean." Kagami said with a frown. "But I don't like it. And I don't understand why someone would do this."

Shigehiro exchanged looks with the others. "Well, I don't blame you, seeing as how you weren't a soldier," he said. "We were former soldiers, so we understand this better than anyone else. Every soldier is guaranteed to die, just like how all of here are prepared to die. But remember this; our enemies are the same as us. They are human too. They aren't just pawns on a chessboard. They all have names, families and feelings in their hearts too. They are all humans who live and bleed."

"You probably can't comprehend it, Kagami." Susa said, cracking an eye opened. "But as former soldiers, we've seen it all. This is reality. We can't save everyone. Back then; Tamaki tried the best she could. But even there is a limit to how much she could do. She couldn't save all those that were sentenced to death by the Red King. Sakurai is just one of those that were lucky enough to be saved."

"How do you guys do it?" Riko muttered, staring at her hands like she could still see the blood there. "Not care?"

"We do care." Haizaki sighed. "We just don't show it, that's all. When you've figured it out, tell me." He glanced at them. "Because I'm still trying to figure it out myself."

Before anyone could say another word, Kimura came rushing in. "They're back!" he told them.

"All of them?" Shigehiro asked immediately.

"No." Kimura shook his head, looking worried. "Tsuchida and Tamaki aren't with them."


"No…" Koganei paled after everyone heard what Takao and Wakamatsu have to tell them. "This can't be…!" He swallowed nervously. "Tsuchi is…"

Riko closed her eyes briefly. They will have time to grieve for their lost friend later. More importantly… "…Tamaki is facing Aomine," she said, relieved that her voice came out steady. "That man is insane. We should send backup."

Shigehiro and Haizaki exchanged looks with each other. More than anyone, they knew how dangerous Aomine could be. Back when Tamaki was making her escape from the Royal City, it had been Aomine who had been sent after her. She had barely escaped with her life intact.

"Imayoshi, you used to work directly under Tamaki." Shigehiro turned towards the silent Imayoshi who seemed to be in deep thought. "What do you think?"

As one, everyone turned their eyes towards the dark haired young man. He said nothing for several moments, merely staring at the surface of the table that he is sitting at before looking up and meeting their eyes. "…If she doesn't get back within the next two hours, we have to assume the worst case scenario," he said. Seeing Seirin about to protest, he raised his voice. "We won't be able to help her in a battle against Aomine Daiki! He is the best of the Royal Guard for a reason! Tamaki is probably the only person in the world who might be able to defeat him. And there is a big 'if' here!"

"That man almost killed Kiyoshi!" Hyuuga barked. "And you're letting her face that mad man alone? If she dies or something—"

"You guys sure love to think that I'm dead," said a weak sounding voice, and everyone jumped, turning around to see a pale looking Kuroko Tamaki stumbling into the base, holding onto her left arm that has blood flowing like rivets down it. There was even blood visible on her temple, and there are various tears and cuts on her clothes. "I'm still alive as you can see." She leaned against the wall tiredly. "Don't kill me off that easily."


"Are you okay?" Shigehiro asked, walking forward to support her so that she can walk to the table.

"Did you kill him?" Haizaki asked.

"No. Not even I'm able to take on the Royal Guard's strongest soldier one on one and hope to win." Tamaki shook her head, wincing even as Sakurai took hold of her left arm gently, and started to tend to her injuries. Knowing Tamaki like how he does, he knows that he'll never get Tamaki to spend even one night in the infirmary if she is still able to walk on her own power. "I managed to distract him long enough to throw a smoke bomb before making my escape."

"He let you?" Hyuuga spluttered. "He almost killed us that night if it hadn't been for Kiyoshi."

"His first priority there is to retrieve Kise-kun, not kill enemy troops." Tamaki sighed. "Besides, even if he had made it his priority to chase after me, he won't catch me. I'm not called the Ghost for nothing. And ever since our days at the Academy, he has never once beaten me at a game of tag."

"And Tsuchida?" Riko asked, and Tamaki shook her head. "I see."

"I'm sorry." Tamaki said sincerely. "But at that point in time, it is more important to get them out of there." She glanced at Takao, Wakamatsu and Izuki. "But regardless, I think we can all agree that the Royal Guard is going to take on a more aggressive stance against us from now on."

Furihata chuckled nervously. "Just how much worse is it going to be?"

No one answered him.

Tamaki stared up at the treetops whilst leaning against the bark of the tree, watching the few fireflies flying around. A sound of a tree branch breaking caught her attention just then, and Tamaki placed her left hand over the hilt of her blade, ignoring the bandages around her arm.

Midorima Shintaro stepped up next to her, eyes on the fireflies almost as if finding them fascinating, hands stuffed in his pockets. Usually so neat and tidy, he looks almost untidy now, with his hair dishevelled.

"I heard about it from Aomine when he dragged Kise back this afternoon." Midorima was the first one to break the silence. "I know that no matter what I said, it can't erase the sins of what we did." He sighed. "I'm really a sinful person, aren't I?" He almost whispered.

"I don't like the term 'good person' or 'bad person' because it's impossible to be entirely good to everyone or entirely bad to everyone." Tamaki said bluntly. "To some, you are a good person, while to others, you are a bad person."

Midorima managed a small smile. "What do you think I am?"

"I don't know." Tamaki answered. "We've all been through this, haven't we? When you are in danger of becoming nothing, you fight for everything." She sighed. "The light can easily turn people into cowards. From time to time, a life in darkness can give you courage. It's just too bad that we learned that lesson a little too late." Midorima said nothing. "What have you got for me?"

"The Royal Guard is on the move." Midorima said, looking at Tamaki. "The Red King had us searching for someone. It is mainly Aomine and Kise who are the ones sent out. I don't know who he's looking for—but whatever the case, I don't envy that person should he get himself caught." He sighed. "I'm tired." He admitted. "There's a stench of death everywhere now. All of us… All of us carry it in our pack like the plague. It's always just one thing or the other: we either destroy the enemy or we destroy ourselves. This is just a game to them. And for what purpose? How to die like a soldier, how to die by the rules – when the only important thing here is how to live like a human being."

Tamaki was silent for a long time. "There's a difference between losing something you knew you had and losing something you discovered you had," she said at last. "One is a disappointment. The other is truly a loss." She turned to look at Midorima properly for the first time in two years. "Midorima-kun, isn't it enough? You've done enough. Leave the Royal Guard before it's too late. Join us."

Midorima shook his head. "No. I can't," he said, turning to look at Tamaki in the eye. "I'm not like you or Takao. I'm not brave enough to go against…him. Besides, unlike you, I did commit all those sins against our people. I have too much to atone for. And furthermore, you will need information on the inside."


"I'm sorry, Tamaki." Midorima murmured, looking and sounding older than he really is. "I can't be the man that you hope for. I can't be the person that I'd once been when we were in the Academy." He looked at Tamaki with a pained look in his green eyes. "Forgive me."

Pink petals from the tree overhead rained down on their heads as the wind blew through the tree, with the pink petals from the cherry blossoms acting like pink snow. And beneath that large tree stood two figures.

The green head smiled a small smile at the teal haired girl who is at least two heads shorter than he is, both of them still dressed in their graduation cadet uniforms—marking their new statuses as apprentices.

"Be my girlfriend."

"Shin…" Tamaki murmured.

"I'm sorry." Midorima said again. "I don't care even if I die. I've told you that before when I've asked you to protect my men, and to take them away from the Royal City. All I ask is that you keep Takao and yourself safe. Protect my squad. Save our kingdom. That is all that I ask for. Can you promise me that?" He searched Tamaki's eyes for an answer.

Tamaki sighed. "…I'll swear it on my blade," she said at last.

Midorima managed a small smile. "Thank you," he said. Tamaki was then taken aback the next moment when the green head enveloped her in a tight hug, burying his face into her hair, his hold around her body tight, and almost painful—almost as if he didn't want to let her go. "I'm sorry, Tamaki." His voice sounded muffled, and he sounded as if he is about to cry. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry… If only I'd made a different decision back then…" He trailed off slowly. "But it's too late now." He released his hold on her, smiling a small sad smile at her. Midorima then turned to walk back the way that he had come. "Goodbye."

Tamaki feel like reaching out to Midorima once more to stop him. But for some reason, she feels as if she couldn't reach him. And now, even as she watched Midorima walk away, a sinking feeling appeared in her stomach.

Why does his 'goodbye' sound so much like a farewell?

She had a really ominous feeling that this might just be the last time that she'll see him alive.

Tamaki sighed, her right hand covering the bandages around her left arm that reaches from her wrist all the way to her arm. "Dad… Mom… Is this the kind of world that you've died for?" she whispered, staring up into the night sky. "We… Just why do we even live?" She asked the night sky.

There is no answer.

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