The Red King

"Everyone has two faces to themselves—two different sides of the same coin." - Kuroko Tamaki

Takao Kazunari was unusually silent as he listened to what Tamaki had to tell him that night as the two were on the graveyard shift for guard duty that night. Not many wanted to take the graveyard shift for guard duty, as it is really creepy to just sit in the silence and listen to the droplets of water dripping from the ceiling to the water puddles. However, taking the graveyard shift also allows them to talk without any fear of anyone from overhearing.

"I see…" Takao murmured, wrapping his arms around his legs. "So Shin-chan…"

Tamaki eyed him from where she is sitting on the crate with her back against the wall, saying nothing for several moments. "You're not wrong about him," she said at last. "The Shin that I knew is a good man, if a little eccentric." She smiled to herself, remembering their Academy days and the weird looks that fellow students often gave them, with the weird things that Midorima often carries around with him. Ever since the Red King had came into power, Tamaki hadn't seen Midorima listening to that horoscope as avidly as before. "He used to have this weird hobby of collecting the weirdest things, and even follows the daily horoscope reading like it's the Holy Bible." She smiled sadly. "That's…the Shin that I knew."

Takao sighed. "I don't know what he's thinking anymore," he admitted. "Is he good? Or bad? I don't know."

Tamaki shrugged slightly with one shoulder, not really looking all that bothered. "I don't know. But I think that everyone has two sides to them—good and evil. I won't call ourselves righteous and stuff—heavens know that we've done some pretty bad stuff ourselves throughout the past four years. Everyone has two faces to themselves—two different sides of the same coin. I think that people are like that." She looked at Takao who looked really upset. "But at the very least, I think you and the others can rest assured that Shin isn't like them. If he is as heartless as what the entire kingdom assume, he wouldn't have begged me to save you and the rest of his squad. Besides, I think I kind of understand what he's thinking." Tamaki admitted. "It's just like when the Red King had first came into power. We can't leave. I don't think you have any idea how cruel and merciless that the Red King could be."

"I think I got an idea of just how cruel he can be." Takao murmured, recalling faintly his time spent in captivity before Tamaki had broken him out. "Why did things turn out this way? Teiko used to be so peaceful. We never had to fear for our lives to this extend before. Even if we win, can we really return the kingdom to what it had once been? The damage is too great."

Tamaki said nothing for several moments. "There isn't some definite right or wrong that everyone lives by," she said at last. "You gotta make your own 'right' in this world, and live by your own rules." She tightened her arms around her knees. "I think that people's lives are like this." She admitted.

There were the sounds of soft footsteps approaching them just then, and both Tamaki and Takao turned only to see Shigehiro and Haizaki walking towards them. Tamaki and Takao nodded to them in acknowledgement.

It had been this way ever since Tamaki and Haizaki have successfully managed to escape from the Royal City and the Royal Guard with the help of Tamaki's division. Whenever either one of them had something to tell the other three without letting the entire base knows, they would usually use the graveyard shift for it, since they are usually the ones taking the shift.

"…I've been asking around." Haizaki was the first one to break the silence. "No sign yet."

Shigehiro frowned, looking concerned and worried. What with one thing and the next… "It's been four years, Tamaki," he said, turning towards the teal haired girl. "Do you think he's still alive?"

Tamaki nodded. "Yes, I definitely think he's still alive," she responded. "You wouldn't want to kill your best asset." She pointed out. Out of everyone in the Royal Guard, she knew best how criminals and civilians think. It is her job as the head of Intelligence after all when she was still with the Royal Guard. "And I know Seiki. He wouldn't want to just kill his brother like that. He will want to torment him."

At this point, Tamaki looked worried. It is what the Crown Prince is currently going through that had her worried. With how twisted that the Red King is, she wouldn't put it past him to torture his own twin, just to get back at him for having what he should have but couldn't, due to reasons.

"He will want Sei to see just how his beloved kingdom go downhill, and his former loyal subjects become as twisted and corrupted as Seiki himself. And yet, Sei can do nothing at all. He's that twisted." Tamaki admitted. "And that is what worries me."

No one knew what to say for several moments.

"Wow." Shigehiro said at last. "But it still amazes me how you can tell the difference between the two princes. I mean, not even I know that there are actually two princes—twins, until you told me."

Tamaki shrugged. "It isn't something that is widely known. You can say that it is the royal family's dark secret," she admitted. "I don't agree with how the late king and queen have decided to 'deal' with…the problem, but whatever the case, what's done is done. And honestly, if I hadn't known Sei as well as I did, not even I would have realised that the one on the throne isn't him." She admitted. "And besides, I knew Seiki when we were children. Back then, he was confined in the unused wing of the palace. The only ones who had visited at that time have been just myself and Sei."

Takao was confused. He had been the only one apart from Shigehiro and Haizaki who knew that there have been royal twins, and that the Red King isn't the prince that they knew. Tamaki didn't want to let anyone else know, as it only puts the life and the safety of the real prince at risk if it ever got out. And even so, Tamaki rarely talks about the Red King that she'd known as a child.

"The king and queen never visited him?" Takao asked, confused. "I mean… They're his parents, aren't they?"

Tamaki didn't know what to say to that. "…Yes. Which is precisely the fact why they would rather treat him like he don't exist, and confined him as a prisoner, rather than admit to the kingdom that their first born—the legal Crown Prince is insane and a born psycho, even as a child," she said bitterly, some of the bitterness and contempt for the late king and queen with how they have treated this matter coming out. "And honestly, the fact that they didn't drown him as a child when they have realised that Seiki isn't fit to be the Crown Prince is already a miracle in itself. Though I think that maybe my father had something to do with it."

"The queen wouldn't do something like that!" Haizaki said immediately, jumping to the defence of the late royal couple. "Nor would the king!"

"Are you sure?" Shigehiro asked his best friend shrewdly. "We've been in the Royal Guard as long as Tamaki. We know what goes on behind the scenes better than anyone else, as part of the Intelligence Division. The citizens and the common soldiers see the faces that the king and queen use. But behind the scenes, we know that they're as human as the rest of us. Imagine the humiliation and the dishonour that it would bring Teiko should neighbouring nations and the lords learn that the true Crown Prince—the first born to the throne is unfit to rule. First borns get everything, Shogo. It had been an ancient law since the inception of Teiko."

None of them know what to say to that. It had been a law that lay unchanged throughout the years ever since Teiko's inception during the Dark Ages. It is true that it had always been the first borns of the family that get everything—no matter the gender. It is why Tamaki had been the heiress of her family, and later the head when her parents have passed away, and why she could control her life the way she did even as a child.

If neighbouring nations ever learnt the truth about the first-born Prince, especially the Kamata West Kingdom, Teiko's reputation will be torn to shreds.

"Even the king and queen are human too, Shogo-kun." Tamaki reminded the silver haired teen. "They can make mistakes. I often visited the palace as a child. My parents worked there during their time as part of the Royal Guard before the war. Sei was lonely. So the king and queen often invited me to the palace to play with him, seeing as how the queen had been my aunt. I met Seiki at that time too." Tamaki admitted. "That was a few months before the king and queen ordered him to be confined in the unused wing of the palace—just before they made a public announcement to the public about the Crown Prince."

In Teiko, the royal family only made an official announcement about the heir to the throne when the prince reaches the age of five. This is to prevent assassination attempts, as even within Teiko, not everyone wishes for the royal family to live a long life.

"What was he like?" Takao asked at last. "The Red King, I mean."

Tamaki said nothing for several moments. "…Terrifying, even at the mere age of five," she admitted. "Even as a child, Seiki is twisted by nature—he enjoys hurting small animals and terrorising everyone around him. Even I was scared of him. So were his parents. I think even Sei is too. But it is the fact that Seiki is his twin that made him keep going back. He even dragged me with him. Then when Sei and Seiki approaches their fifth birthday, and thus, with the date of the public announcement fast approaching, the king and queen have him confined in the unused wing of the palace. About a year later, they have him moved to the Forbidden Forest under the watch of a guard, and I hadn't seen him since then."

Tamaki looked up at the faces of her friends. "By birthright, Seiki is the Crown Prince. But due to his twisted mind and dark nature, the king and queen have him locked away. If I look at it from their point of view, if Seiki ever becomes the king, he will only lead Teiko to ruin—like what is happening now. You can say that they did the right thing. As far as anyone in the nation is aware, there is only one prince. About two years ago, when I left the Royal City and the Royal Guard, it was around that time when I realised that Seiki had escaped captivity, and had taken the place of the real prince. I've been trying to find him since then. But when even my friends started acting not like how they've been when we were first assigned to bodyguard detail for the Crown Prince, I don't even know who I can trust anymore."

Tamaki met Haizaki's eyes at that point in time. He looked particularly solemn, and Tamaki knew that he is recalling the time when they have both made their escape from the Royal City and the palace.

Haizaki had been hiding outside the audience chamber when the Red King had screamed for the guards, and he had assisted Tamaki long enough in holding off the regular soldiers of the Royal Army before the rest of the Intelligence Unit had came to their commander's rescue. They have managed to make their way out of the palace—no one knew the secret passageways of the castle better than Tamaki herself.

But they have run into Kise and Aomine on the way. Haizaki had shot at Kise with his emergency handgun, and it is only due to the blonde being taken by surprise that had allowed Haizaki to take him down that easily. Aomine is another matter. They have barely escaped with their lives intact, and after escaping the Royal City, they have then headed to where Tamaki knew where Shigehiro had been hiding with the rest of the rebel forces.

"…Will Nijimura-san know where the real prince is being held?" Shigehiro asked at last. "I mean, he is the only one apart from ourselves who knew that there are two princes, right?"

Tamaki nodded her head. "You can say that he is our babysitter when Sei and I were small," she admitted. "He knew about Seiki. Hence, when the Red King first came into power, chances are that Shu-nii suspected that the one on the throne isn't Sei at all. Probably, it is why the Red King gave the order to hunt him down."

"If we can save Nijimura-san, he can not only help us with our forces, but if he also knew where the real prince is being held…" Takao trailed off, and Tamaki nodded. "This war will be over."

"Yes, but to rescue him successfully, we need their help." Shigehiro admitted. He then turned towards Tamaki. "Any word from them yet? We only got three weeks left to prepare." He said in concern.

The rescue plan that Tamaki had drafted out and had gone through with the entire base nearly three times is flawless, and Shigehiro honestly couldn't see it failing. But the success of it really depends on those four, and if they can find them.

"It should be soon." Tamaki mused. "They should be seeing it soon."

Hayama Kotaro was keeping his head down, careful to not let the passing soldiers take notice of him, a full bag of groceries in his arms. Next to him, Nebuya was in as much the same state, only carrying many more things than Hayama does. The two males barely noticed the fact that Mibuchi had stopped walking, and was looking at something on the wall that leads to the alley.

"Mibuchi, what's wrong?" Nebuya asked in a low voice, approaching the dark haired young man who was staring at something on the wall. Kotaro and Nebuya saw the same thing that Mibuchi did at the same time.

A curious symbol was drawn on the wall that looked rather like squiggles done by a child—hence, no one was paying much attention to it. But the three males knew better than that. They've seen this symbol before. And they know what it means.

"Reo-nee…" Hayama murmured, glancing at Mibuchi who nodded grimly. If Kuroko Tamaki is calling for them for help, it probably means trouble.

"Let's get Hanamiya." Mibuchi said at last. "Tamaki needs us."

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