Nighthunters

Lilium

"Justice in this world is just a bunch of principles made by those with power to suit themselves. No one really thinks of others. You will lose everything if you can't keep it up." - Kuroko Tamaki


Kise Ryota entered the audience chamber, his boots making light tapping sounds on the ground, even with the heavy red carpet covering the ground. The King of Teiko sat on his throne, looking down at Kise even as he approached, with the king's ever silent bodyguard standing by his side.

"My Lord…" Kise spoke up, and the King raised an eyebrow before Kise took that as his cue to speak. "One of my men found this when he was patrolling." The blonde held up a piece of paper on which was scribbled something that looked remarkably like a drawing of some sort. Mayuzumi Chihiro approached Kise to take the piece of paper before handing it to the king. "He didn't think too much of it at first—thinking of it as some child's scribbles. But he got suspicious when he saw the same picture in several villages and towns." Kise bit on his lower lip. "We think that it's her."

Or more like Aomine got suspicious when Kise's man had entered the Commanders' Room to give his report earlier, and the blue haired man had then told Kise to report it to the king himself. Even from their time in the Academy, Kuroko Tamaki had ranked top in Strategy Planning and Academics. Several of the code languages that the Royal Guard and the Royal Army uses today have been developed by the former head of Intelligence.

"…I see." The king had a slight smirk tugging at the end of his lips. "She's summoning them." He said without a care in the world, much to Kise's surprise.

"Do you think that this is about Nijimura-san, My Lord?" Kise questioned. "Should we step up security around the Royal City?"

"It won't be needed, Ryota." The king said, his sole visible eye glinting with anticipation. "She's not attempting a breakout. She's gearing up for a fight."


Hanamiya Makoto sneezed even as he shivered, wrapping his coat tightly around his body to prevent the cold winds from reaching him even as he followed his former comrades around.

It is currently late at night, and not a single soul was around, thus creating an almost creepy atmosphere. Honestly, if Hanamiya hadn't been more worried about soldiers stumbling upon them, he would be bothered by it.

"It's cold…" Hayama Kotaro breathed onto his hands to warm himself up.

"Damn that Tamaki…!" Nebuya growled to himself. "Couldn't she have made it easier to find her or their freaking base after leaving us that message all over Teiko? We'll get ourselves found by the Royal Army or heaven forbid, the Royal Guard sooner or later if—"

"I see that you're as loud as ever."

As one, the four young men got into battle ready stances, with one hand on their individual weapons as their eyes flickered around in suspicion for any sign of an enemy. Mibuchi Reo was the first to notice the teal haired young woman stepping out from within the dark shadows of the nearby alley—almost melting from the shadows itself. Her dark clothing didn't help any matters in helping to camouflage her. In fact, her teal hair is the only thing that stood out in the darkness—once they actually see her, that is.

"Tamaki…!" Mibuchi sighed in relief, relaxing his stance. "You're as difficult to see as always." He joked.

It is a running joke amongst the Royal Guard before everything had happened that the head of Intelligence is almost like a phantom in itself.

"Long time no see." Kuroko Tamaki nodded to the four of them, a small smile tugging at the end of her lips. "About time though. I was wondering how long it would take you to see the message that I've left you, and if you will even remember what it meant."

"We've been in hiding too, you know?" Hanamiya grumbled. "More importantly, what is it?"

Tamaki sighed. "It isn't something that should be talked about out here," she said at last. "Come with me. Kiyoshi's here too. There's a lot to talk about."

"Teppei's here too?" Hayama asked even as they followed Tamaki into the dark alley.

"Yeah." Tamaki nodded even as she knelt down by the manhole cover, rapping onto it four times. "I'm calling in one of those favours." She told them even as the manhole cover moved and opened, with a dark head popping out of it, much to their surprise. "I need your help."


"Are they fucking insane?!" Hanamiya roared an hour and a half later, with spittle almost flying from his mouth, slamming his hands so hard onto the table that it almost cracked. Shigehiro who is also sitting at the same table winced and hastily straightened the water jug before it falls over. "Why are they executing Nijimura-san? What did he do?"

"Since when does the Royal Guard or the Red King need a reason to kill someone?" Hyuuga grunted, an angry scowl on his face. "Surely the few hundred deaths happening left, right and center for the past four years must tell you something about them by now?"

The four remaining members of the Crownless Generals—the few soldiers out there that are quite possibly the only ones almost equal in power and strength to the Generation of Miracles were pretty amazed and surprised when Tamaki had brought them down to their base. Honestly, who would build a headquarters in the sewers of all places? To their credit however, the headquarters is kept clean and smell-free, and even had lanterns hung everywhere—powered by fuel or candles so that they could see where they're going.

Kiyoshi had greeted his old friends with his usual smile, though that smile is a little strained, especially with everything that they've been going through. Honestly, everyone has been looking a little haggard these days, with dark bags visible beneath their eyes.

Tamaki had been the one to fill the remaining four members of the Crownless Generals in on everything that had been happening lately—as much like themselves, the four of them have also been in hiding from the Royal Guard and the Royal Army. Unlike them however, they've been living pretty isolated lives—living far away from people so as to prevent the chances of some soldier accidentally stumbling across them. Hence why it had taken them so long to even catch sight of Tamaki's 'message'.

"The execution is in two days." Haizaki told them wearily, rubbing his temples to ease his headache. "We were despairing of ever finding the four of you. Tamaki has a plan to break Nijimura-san out. But we need your help."

Hanamiya scowled before being tugged back down onto his seat by Mibuchi. The raven-haired young man looked at Tamaki in the eye before speaking. "What do you need from us, Tamaki?" Mibuchi asked seriously. He has faith in Tamaki's strategies and plans, since he has no memory of any of them ever failing before—ever since his time served in the Royal Guard.

"What the four of you do best." Tamaki said at once. "Deceit and Deception." Mibuchi's lips curled slightly as he thinks that he might have an idea what Tamaki's plan to get Nijimura out is. "I have an insider within the Royal City who can get those of us whose faces are too well-known straight into the execution site."

"We're going to be up against the Royal Guard, aren't we?" Mibuchi sighed. "Even as much as I don't want to die, even I know that we can't just leave things in the kingdom the way they are now. Besides…"

"We owe Nijimura-san lots too." Nebuya growled. "We might be lots of things, but we aren't ingrates." He exchanged looks with his friends who nodded, and he turned towards Tamaki. "We're in."


"It's tomorrow." Midorima told Nijimura as he stood in front of him in his cell. The green haired commander had sent off the two guards guarding Nijimura's cell, stating that he wants a few words with the 'criminal'.

Nijimura coughed, spitting out some crimson liquid that looked even more ominous on the cold stone floor of his cell, the iron shackles binding his wrists to the wall behind him. "I know," he croaked, feeling almost like every single bone in his body is broken several times over—with just how often that the other commanders of the Royal Guard save for Midorima have been using him as some human piñata. "It might sound strange to you, Midorima, but I…do not fear death."

Midorima's lips twitched. Where had he heard that same thing before?

"Anger. Deceit. Vengeance. Hatred." Nijimura lifted his head weakly to face Midorima, and it took every ounce of self-composure on Midorima's part to refrain from cringing at the multiple bruises that he could see on the usually handsome face of the former Commander of the Royal Guard. "In a world such as ours, sometimes, anger is the only way to survive. I've taught you that before, Midorima." He coughed harshly, cringing as he pulled on some of his broken ribs. "From time to time, a life in darkness can bring you courage."

Midorima said nothing for several moments. "…If you see her, tell her that I'm sorry," he said at last.

Nijimura stared at him. "Midorima, what—"

"Shintaro, what are you doing in here?" A cool voice spoke just then, and Midorima stiffened in fear before he turned around. There, standing at the entrance of the opened cell door was the Red King himself. Only without the usual presence of his bodyguard.

"My Lord." Midorima fought to keep the distaste and venom from showing on his face or even in his voice. And with just how long that he had been keeping this façade up, it is even easy for him to lie to himself. "I just thought that I should make sure that the criminal is still alive, especially after what Aomine had done earlier."

"I see." The Red King had a devious smirk on his face. "Leave us." He ordered. "I would like a word with the criminal alone. You should go and make sure that the patrols are doing their duty."

Midorima hesitated for a moment, glancing over his shoulder at Nijimura before he nodded and saluted the Red King before leaving the cell. The Red King entered the cell, waiting for the low tapping sounds of Midorima's boots echoing in the distance to fade before he spoke, a cruel smirk on his face. "It's been a long time, Shuzo."

Nijimura snarled at the Red King, a look of venom and hatred visible in his eyes. "What did you do to the real prince?" he demanded. "Where is he?"

The smirk on the Red King's face spread even further. "Why am I not surprised that you know that I'm not the prince that Teiko had idolised for over a decade?" he drawled. "You. And Tamaki. You both are merely one of the few who could actually tell us apart." He smirked at Nijimura's enraged expression. "My brother… All I can say is that he's still alive, don't worry." A dark smirk curled at the end of his lips. "And having a taste of what I had to live with for nearly all my life!"

"You'll be sorry for this, Seiki!" Nijimura snarled. "You won't get away with it!"

"For someone who's about to die tomorrow, you're pretty lively." The Red King drawled, not feeling concerned in the least.

Nijimura glared at the Red King. "…I understand now that there are people who didn't fear death, but instead falter at the thought of living," he said at last. "Back then… I didn't understand how people would want to die so badly. I just…don't get it. But now… I understand now that there are some things that are worse than death." He admitted, before he glared at the Red King. "They will stop you. I don't care whether I survive or not. I couldn't care less—not when it is the fate of the kingdom on the line here! Mark my words, they will stop you. You'll pay for your sins against the kingdom in blood!"


The plaza of the Royal City were packed with spectators by the time that it had reached ten in the morning—with both nobles and commoners crowding the square. There, in the center of the square was a raised platform where a tall wooden beam was situated. When the Red King had came into power, this platform had served as the public execution site for some of the more serious 'offenders', with execution notices being sent out at least a month prior before the actual execution date.

Mothers covered their children's eyes, and averted their faces with slight guilt as the one to be executed that day was led—or rather, dragged to the platform, and forced to stand at the wooden beam with his back to it, even as a soldier tied his hands and legs tightly with rope to prevent escape.

Nijimura Shuzo glared at the soldiers, still with the same bright fire burning in his eyes, despite the multiple bruises and abrasions all over his body. The once pristine white shirt that he had been wearing is now caked with dried blood and dirt, and is even opened at the neck, exposing his chest slightly that were littered all over with purple bruises. Dried blood was also caking the side of his face.

The Head of the Covert Ops of the Royal Guard, Aomine Daiki stepped onto the platform with an arrogant smirk, decked out in the black and white uniform of the Royal Guard, his sword by his hip. The whispers of the crowd died down.

"Citizens of Teiko!" He announced over the crowd in a loud and clear voice. "We are gathered here today to witness the execution of one who dared to defile the name of our beloved king, and who dared to go against the laws of Teiko. Let this be a reminder to all of you," Aomine's eyes bored unforgivingly down onto the crowd who averted their gazes, "We will tolerate no one breaking the laws of Teiko or even defying the will of the king!" He then stepped off the raised platform and nodded to a nearby masked soldier who is currently armed with a sword.

Mothers quickly covered the eyes of their children even as the soldier stepped onto the platform, his boots making light tapping sounds on the wood before he stood in front of Nijimura. The former Commander glared up at the soldier even as he raised his sword high above his head, and then, the sword came swinging down…onto the iron shackles binding his ankles, thus shattering it.

Nijimura's eyes widened in shock, and then, he can only stare as his supposed-to-be executioner turned and threw his sword—blade first, straight towards Aomine Daiki who isn't standing too far away. The dark skinned man deflected the blade easily with the back of his hand.

It was then when all Hell broke loose.

From within the spectators, and even from the shattering wood of the coffins, several people—ranging from teenagers to young adults, sprang out, armed with weapons, and a steel glint in their eyes as they started exchanging blows with the soldiers that have tried to stop them.

The executioner tore off his mask and the uniform that he is wearing, revealing a black tee and cargo pants beneath, and he drew out a sword hidden at the back of his waist. Ogiwara Shigehiro placed two fingers into his mouth and whistled shrilly even as he cut down two soldiers from the Royal Army approaching him.

"Ogiwara?" Nijimura muttered in disbelief. He felt his bonds loosening just then, and turned his head slightly over his shoulder only to see a petite teal haired girl standing behind him, cutting through the ropes with a survival knife. "Tamaki?"

"Long time no see, Shu-nii." Tamaki smiled a small smile at Nijimura even as her knife sliced through the ropes binding Nijimura's wrists before she then got to work on the ropes around his ankles. "We're getting you out of here!"

"Kuroko Tamaki…!" Kise growled before he leapt onto the platform to intercept his former instructor, but he was blocked by a tall gray haired young man, also armed with a sword.

"I don't think so." Haizaki Shogo had a sneer on his face even as he blocked Kise's sword seemingly effortlessly. "Your fight is with me."

"Shogo-kun?" Kise had an ugly scowl on his face as he faced his once rival. "Do you think that you can beat me, a member of the Generation of Miracles, and one of the Royal Guard's commanders?" He declared arrogantly.

"I know who and what you are. You don't have to announce it every five minutes." Haizaki was annoyed. "As for your last sentence…" Haizaki's eyes narrowed even as he slashed down at Kise with tremendous speed that most could only see as a blur. Kise barely managed to dodge it just in time, with the tip of Haizaki's blade just ripping through his uniform. "Do you care to try me?" Haizaki challenged dangerously.

"So the traitors returned." Aomine had an ugly scowl on his face as he faced Hanamiya Makoto and Kiyoshi Teppei.

"I don't want to hear that from you." Kiyoshi had a frown on his face. "Besides, I got a few debts that I want you to pay in full—especially for what you've done to us!"

"Hold up, Goody Two Shoes." Hanamiya scowled. "He's mine!"

The end of a whip wrapped around the blade that Aomine had in his hands just then, also giving him a good sting at his hands, causing him to curse and nurse his injuries. Aida Riko caught the sword even as it flew towards her.

"What are you doing?" Riko demanded even as she threw the sword towards a nearby soldier, with the blade sinking deep into his throat like a knife through butter. "We're leaving! We've achieved our objective!"

Within the screaming crowd, Kiyoshi and Hanamiya spied the forms of Ogiwara and Tamaki supporting Nijimura as they blended together with the crowd, heading towards the nearest entrance of their hideout.

"We don't have a choice." Kiyoshi frowned, removing two smoke bombs from within his pocket. "Let's go!"

"Don't order me around." Hanamiya scowled before Kiyoshi threw down the smoke bombs that enveloped the entire execution site. When the dark smoke dispersed, all the rebels were gone.


It was nearly nightfall when Haizaki had walked into the Phantom base, covered in cuts and blood. Nearly everyone was gathered in the eating area, nursing some sort of injury that they've gotten during the rescue operation earlier, though it doesn't seem to be anything too serious. The only ones missing have been Sakurai and Nijimura—and Haizaki could only assume that Sakurai is currently tending to Nijimura's injuries, as who knows what the guy had been through at the hands of their enemies?

"Did you kill him?" was the first thing that Shigehiro asked the moment that he'd laid eyes on Haizaki.

"No. I wasn't about to hang around there and wait for Kise's backup to arrive." Haizaki scowled. "Besides, the only way that I'll get to kill him is on an one-on-one battle." He admitted. "He's one of the Generation of Miracles for a reason, despite being the weakest. Furthermore, he's grown stronger from the last time when we'd faced them."

"We need to train more." Nebuya grunted from next to Shigehiro, pressing a bloodstained cloth against the gash by his side. "We need to get stronger."

"Amen to that." Riko sighed, currently bandaging the deep gash on Hyuuga's arm.

"Well, the Royal Guard will be hunting us down more than before with the latest stunt that we've pulled." Tamaki sighed. "But we're one step closer to our goal." She exchanged looks with Shigehiro and Haizaki.

"By the way, where's Takao?" Miyaji asked from where he is nursing a cut on his arm. "I hadn't seen him since earlier."

Tamaki, Haizaki and Shigehiro exchanged startled looks between themselves. "He's—"

Sakurai chose that moment to step out from the infirmary just then, and all of them got up from their seats, worried looks on their faces. The brunette held up his hands. "He's all right now," he reassured, and there were sighs of relief. "He's just severely dehydrated and malnourished. I've put him on a drip, and he'll be fine once he gets some food and drinks in his system."

Kagami got up just then, taking that as his cue to do his part. "I'll prepare some food for him then," he said briskly, excited to have a chance to use the kitchen. "Maybe something filling and nutritious?" He suggested, glancing at Sakurai only to be given an approving nod.

Mitobe got up as well, and next to him, Koganei grinned at Kagami. "Mitobe says that he'll help you." Koganei chirped, and Kagami sweat dropped. Since when did Mitobe said that? "It'll be faster, right?"

Kagami sighed and started to walk towards the kitchen area with Mitobe following him.

"What else, Sakurai?" Shigehiro asked their doctor, and everyone's attention turned back to the brunette who looked extremely self-conscious. "What did they do to him?"

Sakurai looked concerned at this point in time, and glanced at Tamaki who had a grim expression on her face. Apparently, the teal haired girl had a few good guesses as to what the Royal Guard—or more specifically, the commanders and the Red King have done to her paternal cousin.

"He had shown some signs of severe torture." Sakurai admitted at last reluctantly.

Angry scowls adorned the faces of everyone at this point.

"I should have done more to them." Nebuya growled, scowling in anger.

Tamaki rubbed her temples tiredly. "…Is there no end to the crimes that they've capable of?" she asked at last.

"I think the question here, Kuroko, is what aren't they capable of doing." Hyuuga said wearily.

Imayoshi frowned. "Sakurai, what kind of torture?" he asked carefully.

"The physical type." Sakurai looked concerned. "There are some cracks in his arms and ribs. Five of his ribs are also broken. He's lucky that none of them pierced his lungs. There are also hairline cracks all down his legs, and he's also dislocated his left shoulder." Sakurai ticked off the number of injuries on his fingers, ignoring the winces that the others around him were giving with each injury that he'd listed. "It is almost like they'd used Nijimura-san as some kind of human piñata." Sakurai frowned at that. "There are internal bleeding throughout his body, but I can fix that easily. Also, some of his bones need to be re-broken and set properly once he had his strength up to a minimum—particularly the ones in his fingers. With proper treatment, he should be fine in a month or two."

Wakamatsu winced. "Ouch," he muttered, having to imagine having at least half of the bones in his body broken all at once.

Haizaki rubbed his temples tiredly. "Although I'll prefer it that Nijimura-san isn't touched at all, I'll rather that he go through physical torture than psychological torture," he said at last. Psychological torture is often worse than physical torture, as it can haunt the victim for years. Their former captain is even luckier than he hasn't been raped.

"I guess so." Tamaki muttered absently, and Haizaki knew at this point that Tamaki is of the same mindset that he is.

"But he'll recover, right?" Izuki asked with concern.

"Well, he's alive at least." Sakurai said uncomfortably. "I've put him on anaesthetic and some medicine to help him to sleep. It's the best thing for him right now—sleep can help him to recover faster. So I'm sorry, but I can't allow any visitors until tomorrow." He added sternly.

"Well, he's alive at least." Riko said at last after a long uneasy silence. "We should be happy about that." She tried to cheer them up. "But…" She bit on her lip. "I guess we really should be prepared for a full-out war from here." She admitted.

"But I still don't understand." Mibuchi admitted. "What's gotten into the prince? Whoever the person sitting on the throne is, I don't know who he is, but he's not the prince." He declared. "He's not acting like the man we used to know, and I want to know why."

Tamaki, Shigehiro and Haizaki exchanged glances.

"When you choose to live, you also choose to die." Imayoshi muttered. "So would you call what you're doing right now 'living'? The only way to be alive is to not be dead—or in other terms—to deny death. But that's impossible, isn't it?" He looked from face to face. "You have to one day accept the fact that you are but mortal, and that you will, someday in the future, die. That is the way of all things living."

"Besides, they—all of us—we've all been planning this war for a long time." Tamaki sighed, curling her fingers together before her mouth. "We are just people living in the same kingdom that had been continuously ravaged by battles and more bloodshed. All of us just fighting to see another day. So why does it always comes down to war?" She sighed. No one knew what to say to that. "Anyway, after death, we are neither soldier, rebel or even criminal. We are just corpses. It is that simple."


Midorima whistled lightly before a pure white pigeon hopped onto his windowsill, cooing lightly at the green head. Midorima tied a small tube to the pigeon's leg that held out his leg in response. But before the bird could fly off, a dagger flew from out of nowhere, striking the pigeon in the heart.

Startled, Midorima turned around, one hand on his sword, only for his face to pale when he saw the Red King entering his chambers with Mayuzumi close behind him as usual. "I knew it. So you're the traitor, Shintaro." The Red King sneered.

Midorima showed nothing on his face even as he let his right hand fall from the hilt of his sword, and his left slip the message from the bloodied mess that is once the pigeon on his windowsill.

So this day has come at last…

"You took a vow to protect the royal family and to serve the king from the day when you've joined the Royal Guard." The Red King sneered. "You dare to break your vow, and betray the king?"

Midorima met the eyes of the Red King fearlessly. "I don't know who you are, but you're not the real prince," he said, and the sole visible eye of the Red King narrowed dangerously. "If you had been the real prince, you wouldn't have devastated this kingdom to the point that hundreds if not thousands of people are starving to death every day! That is not something that the prince I knew would do!"

"Fool!" The Red King thundered. "What I did made the kingdom more powerful and prosperous—"

"At the price of us losing our souls and pride as the Royal Guard!" Midorima snapped. "You've dragged the once proud name and honour of the Royal Guard through the mud!" He thundered. "We've once been the pride of the kingdom. Everyone wishes to be like us. But now, you've turned the Royal Guard into nothing more than tyrants and monsters!" He thundered. "Tamaki is right. She always had been. I only wish that I had the courage to follow her back then."

The Red King sneered. "Chihiro." He motioned for his bodyguard who moved towards Midorima without a single hint of emotion visible in those blank gray eyes, drawing his sword.

"I'm not going to resist or fight back." Midorima met the eyes of the Red King fearlessly before his eyes flickered towards Mayuzumi. "I know that I will die one day the day when I decided to help Tamaki and her group—whether at the hands of the common people or at your hands. It is nothing less than what I deserved after having done as much as I'd done for the past four years. But know this, Red King." Midorima narrowed his eyes at the Red King that bear such a strong resemblance to the prince that he'd vowed to protect and follow. "I know Kuroko Tamaki. She's strong. Once she wants something, nothing will stop her. She will find the real prince. She will be the one to save us all!"

Then, the blade came swinging down.


Midorima lay on the floor of his room half-an-hour later, choking on his own blood and struggling to breathe even with the deep gash on his throat. Truly, the Red King had his own wicked sense of humour. He doesn't just want Midorima to die—he wants him to die a painful death.

The door of his room creaked opened just then, and there was a horrified gasp—a voice that Midorima is familiar with.

Cool hands were turning him over the next moment, and Midorima was soon staring up at the worried face of Takao Kazunari who is currently dressed in the uniform of one of the palace's servants, along with a peaked cap to hide his face. The raven-haired teen removed his cap as he hesitated, his hands hovering over Midorima's body, unsure of what to do.

"Ta…ka…o…" Midorima breathed, holding out his right hand that is slick red with his blood, and Takao grasped hold of Midorima's bloody hand with both of his.

"I'm getting you out of here!" Takao said desperately. "We'll get you help! Just…hang on…!" Tears were almost spilling from his eyes.

Midorima shook his head, with this small action actually causing him to cough out more blood, with the crimson liquid spilling from his lips, much to Takao's horror. "Leave…me…!" he rasped. "Get out of here…yourself. You can't do…anything more…for me…"

"Shin-chan…"

"If this is my…punishment…so be it…" Midorima rasped. "Takao… Help Tamaki to the best of…your ability… You…and Otsubo…and Kimura and…Miyaji… The four of you…must live on…! Save this kingdom… Save the prince…!"

Takao shook his head frantically, tears almost spilling from his eyes. "No…! Shin-chan, you saved our lives! Kimura, Otsubo and Miyaji would have died in that village fire if you hadn't saved them! I would have gotten sold off as a slave if you and Tamaki hadn't saved me! You saved all our lives as well when you'd asked Tamaki to save us and to get us out of the Royal Guard and the Royal City two and a half years ago!" Takao gritted his teeth. "I don't care what people said about you! Midorima Shintaro isn't an unfeeling man! Not the Shin-chan that I knew! Not the Shin-chan that I've vowed to follow to my death! You wouldn't have risked your life to save us if you are! Don't die, Shin-chan! I hadn't repaid my debt to you yet!"

"…Your debt…had already been repaid…a long time ago…"

"Shin-chan…" Takao looked desperate. "Please… Don't die…" He pleaded. "What am I going to tell Tamaki? You can't die…! Please…!"

Midorima smiled a small smile at the mere mention of the teal haired girl. In several ways, he had still loved her. She had never changed ever since their time in the Academy. She had never become a monster like the rest of them, despite her skill. But he isn't the man whom he had been when he was still in the Academy.

Not any longer.

"…Tell her…that I'm sorry…for everything…" Midorima rasped. "Protect her… Takao… Watch…over her…for me…"

His words were almost slurring, as his eyes fluttered, almost closing.

Takao shook his head desperately. "Tell her that yourself," he said with sheer desperation in his voice. "You're the one that she wants, not me! Please… For her sake at least… Don't leave us behind…! Don't die…!"

His tears fell onto his hand just then, surprising Takao himself.

Why is this happening?

He tried to stop a straggled sob from escaping, but failed.

He didn't know what to do to save Midorima.

He couldn't save him.

Takao looked at Midorima in desperation, his vision almost blurring because of his tears, looking at the blood pooling around Midorima's body, the blood seeping from the deep gash in his throat like a fountain even as Midorima coughed, his life slowly seeping away from him.

No.

Takao gave out a straggled sob, laying one hand on a cool forehead that would soon have no warmth left, and his voice almost cracked as he spoke.

"Shin-chan… Wake up…" Tears fell onto Midorima's face as Takao bent over his body, trying his hardest to stop his tears from flowing, but failed. A sob tore from his throat. "Please… Don't sleep… Stay awake… Please…"

It isn't fair.

This can't be happening.

Midorima rasped for breath even as his eyes fluttered opened weakly, revealing slightly glazed over and unfocused pupils, seemingly seeing nothing for several moments.

"Shin-chan… Please…" Takao sobbed. "Don't leave us behind…! Tamaki… She's still waiting for you…!"

"…It is…too late…" Midorima rasped weakly, crimson blood spilling over his lips with each spoken word. "I…broke her trust when I…betrayed the people of the kingdom and my honour…and broke the vow that I swore…to the prince when we were…assigned to be his guards…" He coughed. "I…can't be the man that she wants any longer… I'm sorry…"

"Shin-chan…" Takao tried to keep his voice from shaking. He squeezed Midorima's right hand that was slowly growing colder by the minute. "I…"

"…Protect her… Takao… Watch over…her…" Midorima wheezed even as he turned unseeing orbs towards the raven head. "Tell the…others…that I'm proud to be able…to call myself…their commander… I'm proud…to be able…to serve with valiant men like them…"

Tears were spilling freely from Takao's eyes now.

"No. Oh God…" Takao had never felt so helpless before in his life. He couldn't do anything but to hold Midorima's hand as he slipped from one world to the next. Takao tried to comfort his dying friend, to give him some peace of mind. "Please…" Takao's vision was blurring because of the onslaught of tears. "Please, Shin-chan… Don't die…!"

"The rest…is up to you…" Midorima wheezed. "Tell Tamaki…that I'm sorry… Save the kingdom… Save the prince… I'm leaving…the future…in her hands…" He wheezed even as he lifted his left hand with much effort, holding the bloodstained paper that he'd tried to send out earlier, but failed. Takao took it from his fingers with tears in his eyes. "…Make sure…only Tamaki sees this… The prince…is there… Save him… Get to him before the Red King does… Before everything is…too late… Protect…the Prince…"

"I'm Kuroko Tamaki. I'll see you in class later, Midorima-kun."

"…Why me, Midorima-kun?"

"What's there not to like?"

Midorima's eyes were alternating between open and close by now. Tamaki… I really want to see you one last time…

"Is…this Death?" Midorima slurred, his words slurred by the crimson blood leaking from the sides of his lips. "If Death…is this peaceful…then I'm no longer afraid…" He coughed. "I wonder…what Hell is like? Bet…it's fun…" He smiled a small smile at Takao. "Up until now, I hadn't…realised that disappearing from this world…would be so…lonely." He whispered. "I'm…tired…" He slurred. "I'm so sleepy… I'd like to sleep now…"

No…

Takao bit on his lower lip, choking back the sob in his throat.

"Go to sleep," he said, forcing the words out, feeling like something had just stabbed his heart with every word. "Go to sleep then, Shin-chan. I… I'll see you once you wake up."

Midorima smiled a small smile at Takao. "I'll…see you on the…other side…" he whispered.

Midorima then stared up at Takao for several moments, taking in several rasping breaths as he did so. Takao didn't look away; he couldn't afford to. He stared into those eyes filled with pain and understanding.

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

Takao choked back a strangled sob as he stared at Midorima's face, willing him to open his eyes and to tell him that he is all right.

But this is all just a dream, isn't it?

Tamaki… I'm sorry…

You are not wrong. You fought to protect your world. Isn't that good enough? After all, justice in this world is just a bunch of principles made by those with power to suit themselves. No one really thinks of others. You will lose everything if you can't keep it up.

Takao stared, but nothing happened.

Midorima did not open his eyes again.

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