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Kingdom of Snakes

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When I was but sixteen years of age I was trekking through the snow after an incredibly long day in the village. Every last cake had been sold and my pocket was bursting with coins - the same way my heart was bursting with happiness. Grandmother and I would have more than enough to last us all winter - coal, soap, thread, maybe even new warm coats.

I saw him by stumbling across him. Even encased in ice he was a creature of majesty - a shade of unapologetic red that could only be produced by nature working her miracle. My heart clenched - such an innocent creature should not die by winter's cruel hands, especially one with so much pride. But it was not a matter of pride but rather a value of life in that I decided to take him home with me.

I was breathless with exhaustion by the time I was wiping snow from my shoes, but I had kept him underneath my coat, near the heat of my breast.

I was terrified at first glance as he slithered out of my coat. He truly was an awe-inspiring creature with endless coils of crimson. Two scarlet eyes gleaning like the most precious of garnets, forked tongue darted out to soak in the warmth created by the fireplace.

"You saved my life," he spoke in the most velvety, soothing voice I had ever heard, "How could I ever thank you?"

I was struck speechless by the way his jaws moved up and down, hinting a peek at his deadly fangs.

"You don't have to thank me," I finally mustered. To say I was taken aback was to say the least.

"You are not afraid of me? Perhaps you have no idea what my venom can do to a human."

"Just because I am not running away does not mean I am not afraid," I told him, "But I feel as if I have a natural right to be afraid of nature's finest works. Grandmother says her greatness is unbound. Even so, I must still ask you not to bite me. I like living."

He laughed, a twinkle unfolding in time. "Even in a cottage such as this one?"

I frowned. "I help Grandmother keep it clean. In my mind, we manage well together."

"My apologies. I did not mean to sound insolent. I was merely inquiring what you like about living."

"Everything, really," I said after a moment of thought, "I know that Grandmother and I may not have the nicest house, but we take care of each other. I like everything about home, especially in the spring and summer. I like helping Grandmother bake cakes - even the birds come by to taste golden crumbs. I like - "

"I was merely teasing you, child," he said, "I know you must place a heavy value on life considering you have saved a stranger's, a viper's nonetheless. And for that I am extremely grateful. I would never hurt my benefactor."

My frown grew. "I hardly think life and death is a matter of teasing - I'm sorry, what is your name?"

"I am known as Akashi Seijuro. What is yours?"

"Kuroko Tetsuya," I said.

"Kuroko Tetsuya," he repeated, my name lingering on his forked tongue.


 

The first time he made me the offer was seven years ago.

The fateful day when I saved him from the cold, he claimed he'd taken an interest in me and said he would like it if I were to come live with him in his kingdom. The kingdom, he'd said, was called the Kingdom of Snakes and is inhabited by the shapeshifting people. Many humans have been searching the world for its treasures and resources, but no one has ever been able to locate it.

Once you enter the kingdom, there will be no return - its location must be kept secret at all costs.

At the time, I thought I could never. The thought of leaving home was plain terrifying, and Grandmother and I needed each other.

Very well, he'd said. But one day I will come back for you. I see that you will accept my offer someday. And so away he went, and I didn't think much more of it until Grandmother's death.

I buried her in the meadows that flower early in the spring next to Mother and Father. I went back to the cottage and did the best I could by myself. I collected eggs and baked golden cakes, which I would travel down the mountains every week to sell. It was a simple life and I thought I remember myself being content that way.

Then one day, just as destiny foretold, I would meet with a red viper in my own garden. A lush summer was leaving for a more brittle fall, and I found him napping beneath the shade among some tender green things poking out of the earth.

"Hello, Kuroko Tetsuya," he greeted me with a pleased hiss, uncoiling himself to his full glory.

After I returned his greeting, he inquired how I was faring. Something told me to never lie or omit any particular detail to him, so I told him what happened to Grandmother.

He offered his condolences. He didn't attempt to try and cheer me up or to speak to me about moving on. He didn't try and ease me out of my grief.

I liked that.

One can imagine my surprise when he changed from snake to man - a man similar to myself in height with a tuft of red hair and a thin-lipped smile. But I knew it was him because he had the same, piercing eyes as the red viper moments ago.

One red, one golden. But was that right...?

It had to be, didn't it? I have very little inclination in my mind to believe that there was another vibrant crimson snake with a silver tongue out there in the world.

A kingdom of shapeshifters - and he was their emperor.

Once more he made me the offer of whisking me away to the Kingdom of Snakes. Forget about your earthly troubles, he told me, taking my hands in his, I will find you a place beside me in my kingdom. You will be happy there.

How disgracefully I blushed, for even my hands were stained rose in his porcelain ones.

To ask such a thing of a virtual stranger is unheard of, so I gave him an unheard-of answer: I agreed.

There wasn't much to leave behind in the human world.

Nobody would touch the cottage, Akashi-san told me. It would be preserved in my family's honor throughout the ages.

At that time I just wanted to forget.


 

Present ~ 7 years later

A breeze comes along and lightly caresses the opening of my kimono so that it deliciously tickles my legs. Shaven, for I know he will feast like the emperor he is when he returns home. There is always a celebration in his honor because victory never ceases to be his.

When there is no breeze the thin, delicate fabric of my kimono clings to my skin in the summer heat. I am never allowed to accompany the hunting parties. Though I have asked many times, Akashi-kun strictly forbids it. He does not want to ruin me, he says. He does not want me to see that side of him.

But I wonder if there are truly any sides I have never seen. After all it has been quite a number of years since we have first slept in the same bed. By now I have come far from being a virgin.

He tells me that I belong with him - not to him but with him, as if it was destiny for me to end up here all along. I don't know if I believe in destiny but I am happy to be here. I have told him many times and I will tell him many more, as much as he needs to hear.

I lull my head back and close my eyes, losing myself in a calm state of mind. I am more than comforted by the thought that he is returning today. Soon enough I will be in his arms and he in mine.

I do not call him my husband - that strikes me on a level of intimacy I cannot quite comprehend and it turns him quite flushed as well. But he will not stand the term lover for me. I am no consort either. Any other term is out of the question - he wants me to know I am much more to him. By day I am known as Kuroko Tetsuya to the kingdom and by night I am Tetsuya in his arms. In his free time he cradles me more than he holds a book.

He always calls me his darling, his precious and sometimes his hand would snake up to fondle my thigh. I tend to wear loose yukata then so it is easier for his hand to slip between the opening to make the removal of them easier.

We never did have the money to wear such soft cloths back in the human world, so I adore the way I can simply shimmy out of the silks and brocades. He likes to slip it off my shoulders or see it gently fall in the most delicate of manners - he never rips them off me like some animal. Admittedly, he harbors more manner and class than any human I have ever met.

In the early summer mornings he likes to meditate among the sweet grasses in the palace gardens. The winds would tickle my bare legs as I wade into the streams and let the sun wash over my face while I leave him be for a little while.

More than once I have stumbled upon wild snakes frolicking in the grass. They flee at the sight of me, perhaps a distinct scent of somebody they fear lingering on my body nowadays. They know that if they were to bite me they would face a wrath worse than death.

The Kingdom of Snakes is inhabited by plenty of wildlife. There are also many hunters. Everyone in the kingdom is a shape shifter.

Akashi-kun says that contrary to what others may tell me, not every shape shifter has a venomous bite. Each blood type produces a different kind of venom, but there also exists variations within the genes. Even a shape shifter can be affected by a highly toxic venom stranger to them.

I have no doubt in my mind that Akashi-kun's venom is the strongest - after all, he sits on the throne to this powerful and mystifying kingdom. (Numerous times he has offered for me to grace his lap. Although these requests are sometimes tempting, it is ones such as these that make me blush profusely and contemplate how kinky one must be as to suggest something so degenerating that speaking it aloud would taint all values of a kingdom's culture, tradition, and legacy.)

In a kingdom so dangerous one has little choice but to rule with an iron fist, but from what I have seen there is no trace of tyranny in Akashi-kun's blood. He renews the strict laws hunters must abide by, instills systems that protect the innocent, and punish the corrupt as they deserve so. He thrives upon power, but is a power given to him by his people.

His palace compasses one of the most endearing treasures I've ever stumbled upon. It is called a library, he has told me, And if you like it, it belongs just as much to you as it does me. Pick anything you like at any time of your leisure.

For a moment my heart had soared before plummeting back down to earth. I thank you for your generosity, Akashi-kun, I said while inclining my head in a bow of respect, But I am sorry to say I cannot accept your generous offer. I have never learnt to read.

(The fall after Grandmother's passing, a school had come to the village. I never had an opportunity to go before, but if there was one thing I wanted more than anything in the world it was to learn how to read. Grandmother had told me that being literate will enable me to go further into the world. I wanted to learn for her. At the same time I also to satisfy the burning desire for knowledge deep within me. But I had cakes to bake. A cottage wasn't going to keep itself.)

A trace of shock had graced his usual stoic composure. Then I will teach you to read. He said as-matter-of-factly.

Akashi-kun, sometimes you are too good to me, I remember saying to him. I'd looked away to hide the looks of gratitude and longing on my face. It looks as if I would fall further into his debt, for I will never be able to repay all that he has done for me.

His eyes were the summer rain and autumn storm, the emblem of light and the seal of power. And these things could never be taken from him because they make up the best part of him, the worst of him, the raw and absolute parts of him.

Tetsuya. His fingers had cupped my chin, making me to look up at him. Consider it a token of my gratitude, he'd put his lips to my ear, For you must not forget what you have done for me as well. Would you not say we were destined to meet again?

Oh but I would absolutely say that.

Many times over.


 

By this time I have read many, many books and still have not gotten to the lower levels of bookshelves in Akashi-kun's library. The balcony outside of my chambers hosts a generous amount of sunlight and a perfect quiet spot. It would be just like Akashi-kun to be this thoughtful.

I am amidst devouring a heavyset volume of mythology when I hear a knock upon the door.

"Yes?"

"Kuroko-San? It's Nagisa Shiota. May I come in?"

"Of course, Nagisa-kun."

Nagisa is a young snake shifter and both my attendant and friend. He walks in with a full tray of fresh fruit and various pastries, my evening snack platter for the day as always provided by the great Akashi Seijuro.

"Thank you very much, Nagisa-kun," I say without much tone. The usual is that he and I end up sharing since I can never seem to finish Akashi-kun's extravagant gifts and indulgences by myself.

"You're very welcome, Kuroko-San," he says, setting the tray down in front of me. "You'll be happy to hear that Akashi-Sama has returned. He's waiting in his chambers."

I set down my book. "Then I shall go at once."

"Excuse me, Kuroko-san, but before you leave, can you tell me the name of your book?" Nagisa is blushing to the tips of his pigtails at such a simple request. "Karma-kun is going to teach me how to read soon."

"Of course," I say, showing him the rather ordinary front cover, "It is called Generations of Immortality. While it adapts traditional mythology into something else, it is a rather interesting read. I am at the part where the main character has just been turned to stone. Everyone is wondering what will happen next."

"Fascinating," Nagisa says, his eyes glazed with awe, "Maybe one day after I learn to read, I will be able to talk about books with you..."

"I look forward to that day then," I say, giving him the most minuscule of smiles, "I should get going soon."

"Of course, Kuroko-San." We both know it was best to not keep Akashi-kun waiting for too long.

Before I leave for Akashi-kun's chambers, I tell Nagisa that he and Karma can help themselves to my snack platter.

(I was sure my hunger would be quelled in other places.)


 

Akashi-kun is resting on a velvet lounge with a book in his hands, a rather typical sight I have grown accustomed to. The room is dark and wonderfully drowsy with a lazy fire smoldering in the fireplace.

His head snaps up the moment I enter his chambers. In a flash he is beside me, his book forgotten on the floor and his arms are entwining themselves around me as he has done many, many times before. "Tetsuya."

I greet his sigh by running my fingers through his tuft of crimson hair. In front of his kingdom he maintains a regal composure but when we are in private, he can express his inner musings as passionately as he desires.

"Welcome back, Akashi-kun. I hope you had a nice trip."

His hands creep to my waist and lock themselves in an inescapable embrace. "It was quite like any other trip, but the thoughts of returning to my Tetsuya kept my spirits entertained."

I blush. After seven years, I still unused to him saying such things out of the blue.

He presses a light kiss to my temple, his breath already freshened after he made his kills.

"How many today?" I notice he has changed into a simple black yukata as well, the complete opposite of the gear he wore for hunting.

He leads me to the family of velvet sofas. When I pick one to sink down into, he swirls around the wine in his glass before taking a sip and sitting across from me.

"Eleven." The look on his face says it's nothing, says he's done better before.

But I know that eleven is not a small number in this kingdom. Combined with the number of kills the others would have made...

"Tetsuya, are you not feeling well?" His question snaps me out of my thoughts.

"Sumimasen, Akashi-kun. My mind was merely in a different place."

"Ah." His tone of voice indicates that this may not be the last time we speak of this subject. "Then I must ask how you fare. I trust that the evening platters have been able to provide a wholesome nourishment for you?"

"Yes, thank you very much, Akashi-kun," I say with another slight inclination of respect, "The food is delicious and plentiful. I am grateful for Akashi-kun's abundant generosity, as always."

He rarely dines with me in his palace, for the hunters usually have their meals fresh and raw after their kills.

"Tetsuya, Tetsuya, what kind of a man would I be if I were to neglect the most basic of responsibility for my most precious one?"

"Akashi-kun, your endearments will one day be my undoing." I tell him with a flat face.

He chuckles are laced with a trace of sinister delight. "On the contrary, Tetsuya, I believe it is you alone who will be my undoing."

His breath is soft, lips devoid of colour as he moves in for a kiss. While his lips are on the thin side, they remain nonetheless supple and more intoxicating than any fine wine I've ever had the privilege of trying (and disliking).

At this time it is okay for his saliva to make contact with mine. Years of injecting little amounts of venom into my blood each day has rendered me immune to much venom, including Akashi-kun's.

Alas, he suggests I continue with my injections to eventually become immune to all snake venom. He monitors my every intake of venom with his piercing eyes, and he keeps a cupboard full of antidotes in both of our chambers. Sometimes he can be overbearing, but I mostly find his gesture endearing, especially on busy days when he still takes the time to come check my venom intakes.

Our kisses sink like the evening sun, the union of our tongues battle for dominance just like light and shadow. And if this night is to end up like any other night, well, I have made preparations already. I make sure my muscles are relaxed as much as they can so they do not strain afterwards.

My body tingles with warmth, my clothing soft and loose with many a place for a snake to slither into.

Akashi-kun sometimes say I am a man abandoned, that I am hardly more than a boy with pale moonbeam shoulders and splotches of faint pink blush. I look fragile, as if I could disappear into thin air any given moment...

I would never let you disappear, never let you be taken from me. He would wrap me in the most exhilarating of embraces. How I love you, Tetsuya.

Akashi-kun, I'd whisper back, I would never let anybody take me from you.

His kisses grow to be more fervent after that. The taste of his kisses bear a different aroma each time. I could never find myself growing enough of them.

In the dark he is nothing more than a figure of shadow making love to me, encompassed of the face, body, and heart of a man I have grown to love. And how frenzied my heartbeats become when I once again confess to myself that this man is my lover, my only familial connection in this world.

I imagine the red of blood stained on his hands, fresh after his kills. Him touching me with them, loving me with them.

I have confidence that the blood on his hands will never be my own, and frankly I am quite content.

Just the same, he has access to my chambers any hour of the day or night. I just happened to be in the bath that one evening when I sensed his presence behind me.

"Good evening, Tetsuya," his pure-velvet voice had confirmed his presence behind me.

I remember opening my eyes to see his smile. "Good evening, Akashi-kun." At the time I was unsuspecting of his intentions. Perhaps I was in a relaxed mood from the bath alone, or I had simply been extremely naive during that time.

His expression had been coy, unwavering as he plucked my razor from my hand. My breath hitches as he hitches one of my soapy legs over his shoulder and takes over the remaining of my body hair.

"Akashi-kun, sumimasen, please don't try to make romance out of something so personal..."

"Ah, but what could have given you the idea that this is extremely personal, Tetsuya?" He tried to prove a point by kissing the ankle of my leg that of which was hitched over his shoulder.

I turned away to hide the growing redness of my face. "For one thing, this position has me splayed open. I'm not sure how comfortable I am with it..."

"Then perhaps we should head for the bedroom." His voice was huskier than it'd ever been, and I could feel the water between my legs being too warm at the time.

"But I'm not finished shaving my legs yet." My body hair tends to grow rather quickly if left unshaven, and it was simply a preference of mine to be clean-shaven now that I have such the luxury of doing so.

He had wrapped both my legs around him - soap and water getting all over his yukata - and finished the job much quicker than I would have in a series of flawless, efficient strokes. Then he carried me to the bed as if I was the one of noble blood.

Wholesome is his passion during the night. Sometimes rough and ardent, impaling with impassioned fervor; other times slow and sensual with enticing touch.

Setting a rhythm arouses perhaps the most tantalizing sensations within us. Watching his cock piston in and out of my body does things to me that must never be spoken aloud.

I especially like it when he takes a hold of my wrists and pins me down to writhe beneath him. Never once have I felt dirty as I lose myself to his heated thrusts. In fact I am at my most when I feel liquid fire seep through my veins and know I am doing the same for him.

Tonight he makes love to me like life never has before. There's something wild, something carnal, something poisonous within the both of us.

And how thoroughly it devours me.

In the dark his hand searches for mine to grab onto.

We hold hands every night, even when we don't touch each other's bodies.


 

The yellow snake doesn't dare to appear unless I am walking alone in the gardens. This path is less taken which is why I often enjoy making my way down to the creek hidden in the small forest of trees.

Today the yellow snake decides to follow me, his forked tongue flicking excitedly.

"Good morning, Kurokocchi! How wonderful it is to see you!"

"Thank you, Kise-kun. It is a nice morning to take a walk."

"I missed you, Kurokocchi! Can I curl up in your lap?"

I keep my eyes and voice as toneless as possible in my answer. "No, Kise-kun. My robes were freshly cleaned."

I am prepared for his wail of protest. "Sooo mean, Kurokocchi! I'm very clean! Don't you see how shiny my scales are?"

As if to prove his point, he flashes me the sight of his underbelly.

I continue making my way ahead. "Kise-kun, please put that away. You're too vulnerable."

"Kurokocchi, don't you thin thatk I'm pretty?!"

"Maybe a little bit. I fail to see the significance of such a simple question."

"So mean, Kurokocchi! I swear you're becoming more and more like Akashicchi each day..."

I blink one, two, three times. "Is that a bad thing, Kise-kun?"

"That's not what I meant, Kurokocchi," he sighs dramatically, "It's just that Akashicchi has such an influence on you..."

"He saved me," I say in reply, "Influence or no influence, I'm grateful for everything he has given me. I'm happy with him, Kise-kun."

Surprisingly he'd grown quiet. "Is that so...?" And he didn't say anything else as we crunch through the fallen forest debris and wade into the creek.

He tries to convince me that I needed to take a swim without the weight of my robes. I make the mistake of telling him to swallow poison and end up having to listen to his wails the entire way home.


 

The dark blue snake provides company much simpler than Kise-kun's. He is often in human form when he sees me.

"Hey Tetsu!" he would call. "Are you up for a game of ball?"

And I would look up from my book and tell him, "Thank you for your offer, Aomine-kun. I decline; I tend to get very sweaty during the summer."

He usually just goes on playing, but one day he doesn't take his stare off me. "Is this because of Akashi?"

I glance up from my book. "What about Akashi-kun?"

He twirls the ball on his fingers. "Well, nothing really. I just thought maybe it had something to do with Akashi hating you being too smelly or something since you reject my offers for a game every time."

"Aomine-kun, it's not like that," I say, "Aomine-kun is a very skilled player while I do not know much about ball myself. If I am to get sweaty my bath times will inevitably take longer, cutting into my time spent with Akashi-kun."

"So this does have something to do with Akashi," he mutters.

"I apologize sincerely, Aomine-kun." Maybe I was beginning to feel bad, but I was at a very crucial moment in the book.

"T's fine. What's that?" He points at my lap.

"That is a book, Aomine-kun."

"Well damn Tetsu I know what it is, I meant what book is that!" His face turns a slight shade of maroon when he flushes.

"It is about a long-lost prince who is trapped in a painting," I answer with a smile, "And his lover, the current prince, is trying to save him. Right now he has to decide if he is wiling to risk piercing the heart of the painting. Neither of them knows if that will free the prince, but there are no other solutions if they want to be together."

"Do you always read gay erotica?"

It is my turn to blush. "Aomine-kun," I say rather slowly, "I would like to watch you shoot some threes. I find your technique admirable and I would like to learn it someday."

His face breaks out into a massive grin. "You got it, Tetsu!" He launches into his formless routine, never missing a single basket.

"Hey Tetsu!" he calls after his skin is covered with a thin sheen of sweat. "Are you watching?"

"Yes, yes, Aomine-kun, what a beast you are," I mutter, my eyes glued to the page, "I cannot keep my attention on anything other than you."

Kise-kun says that Nagisa and I share many similarities between us.

I don't see it.

Nagisa is a nice blue snake, very polite, kindhearted and mild-mannered, which is why I am mildly surprised (and rather amused) that he would choose to ask such a question.

In the grand scheme of things, I am honored that I can be someone he can entrust his questions to. In a strange sense he is almost the younger sibling I have never had and it is a role I am no less than proud to take.

So I tell him that when I am with Akashi-kun, it doesn't hurt. With Karma-kun it shouldn't hurt either, I tell him. It's very nice and liberating as long as it is someone who you care about. In a sense, it is actually taking care of someone else.

I didn't say much further because the poor thing looked as if steam would bellow out of his red ears at any moment. He ties the vibrant red sash of my kimonos before bidding me a hasty thanks and farewell.

The atmosphere in my room quickly changes from amusement to thoughts of my own night.

I catch sight of myself in the mirror - the vibrant striking of red rather compliments the tufts of my hair. Before I leave for his chambers, I rake a hand through my locks even though I know Akashi-kun will end up tousling it later.


 

The evening sun streaks colors across the sky, warming the waters of the creek that lap at my skin. I decide perhaps it is time to return to the castle before I become too flushed, but a rustling nearby stops me.

A cluster of voices then begin talking, and I sink back down into the water as I recognize each one of those voices.

"I don't know how he manages to get shit done with his dick up in Tetsu's ass all the time." This is none other than the voice of Aomine Daiki, the perverse blue snake who likes basketball and works with the guards.

"Aominecchi, it sounds even more grueling when you say it!" Kise-kun again. I'm not actually too sure what he does besides occupy a large amount of space (and my patience).

"Tch. Well it's true Kise. You think you're ever going to get a chance to see him naked?"

"Aominecchi, that's not the point! We're here to discuss top secret matters today!"

"They're no longer top-secret since the entire kingdom has heard the two of you, nanodayo." That is the voice of Midorima Shintarou, the royal advisor. "Can't you keep your voices down for once?!"

"Mido-chin is right," comes the sleepy voice of Murasakibara, the keeper of the kitchen, "Mine-chin and Ki-chin are too loud. Luckily there isn't anybody here."

I don't remember any moments where I have ever been this grateful for my lack of presence. There is a cluster of reeds that would conceal me further within its long swishing grasses so that is where I swim to. My clothes are left on a rock by the bank, but there is a chance I will be spotted if I risk to grab hold of them.

Aomine-kun is right on one thing: No one besides Akashi-kun will see me naked.

By the time I am behind the cluster, the water has turned much colder. The bottom half of me aches and screams at me for last night and all the angles I'd let Akashi-kun penetrate me from.

The voices are talking much more quietly now. I make out a fifth voice among them - one that sounds very familiar, but it is muffled by the flow of the creek.

I decide to risk it after all. If I am lucky and careful, I will be able to leave with my clothes on as quickly as possible without being seen naked. Upon reaching my robes I quietly pull them on, until the horrifying conversation trickle into my ear.

"-venom. He's immune to all."

"Damn it! This is the most difficult kill that we've ever had!"

"We could poison his tea or something."

"Poison would be weak against his immune system, nanodayo. Our best chance is to perhaps to stab him when his attention is diverted."

"So when he's having sex with Tetsu - "

My blood runs cold, and my fingers fumble as I try to tie my sash.

"Stop talking about that, Aominecchi! He'll come at you with those scary eyes and you'll die!"

"I don't think you can stab him. He'll chomp you to pieces before you can do that, Mido-chin."

"Well, then may I kindly ask what proposition is it that you bring to the table?"

"My friends, do not fret." That is the fifth voice. "There is one type of venom he has never encountered before, and that is mine. It is inevitable that we will do battle in the near future, but despite the circumstances, I ask that no harm is done to Kuroko."

Had I been more aware I would have disclosed its identity straight away, but at the moment my mind is too scattered to do little else besides covering the rest of my body in my robes. Then I would head to the castle and warn Akashi-kun of the plot straight away.

I had been so focused on finding Akashi-kun before it was too late that I'd forsaken my attention to the sash. The moment I tried to break out into a silent run my foot gets caught its train, and I face-plant onto the ground with an inevitable groan.

Five heads snap my way including the stranger's, and the silence that follows is undeniably terrifying. The hopeful parts of me chide at myself to flee, but the rational part stays still for it knows I have no chance of outrunning the snakes.

A pair of boots stop their steps in front of me, and I know it is the stranger's. The other four, including Midorima-kun, do not own such extravagant pairs.

Even so, I do not look up. I fear that looking at the traitors of Akashi-kun will make me sicker to my stomach than I already am.

"Kuroko," the stranger speaks, "Are you hurt?"

And only then did I have to glance up, for that voice only belonged to one person that I knew of. "Akashi-kun... ?"

The crimson hair, the eyes - both scarlet. "Indeed, it is I, Akashi Seijuro. Long time no see, Kuroko Tetsuya."

A million questions ransack through my brain, but Kise pipes up before I am able to ask any aloud.

"This, Kurokocchi, is Akashicchi. The real Akashicchi, the real emperor and the real Akashi Seijuro, not the impostor that has keeping you hostage."

His eyes were the summer rain and autumn storm, the emblem of light and the seal of power. And these things could never be taken from him because they make up the best part of him, the worst of him, the raw and absolute parts of him.

 

Chapter Text

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I speak loudly and clearly to the group of snakes. “Akashi-kun has not been keeping me hostage, and he is no impostor. You cannot mean to tell me that you are Akashi Seijuro as well.”

    I hate to admit it but even as I said those words, a moment of hesitation strikes me. The scarlet eyes seem a bit too familiar for comfort. The Akashi-kun I’ve come to know has one golden eye... Whoever he was, he looked exactly like the Akashi-kun I’ve come to known.

    “But I am, Kuroko,” he says, taking my hands into his, of which I quickly pull away and then ignore the look of hurt that crosses over his face. “You may not remember me since it was seven years ago, but I remember you well. I could never forget you.”

    “That’s impossible,” I say, bringing my robes closer around myself, “I am sure this is the first time we have met.”

    “Don’t you remember rescuing a red snake when you were itty-bitty, Tetsu?”

    “I do remember a red snake,” I snap, “Thank you very much, Aomine-kun, for reminding me that the person I’ve spent the past seven years of my life with can shapeshift into a red snake.”

    “But he wasn’t the one you rescued, Tetsu! It was this Akashi that you rescued, this Akashi that first invited you to the kingdom!”

    I frown, the drumming my of heart more erratic than usual. “ Sumimasen but you must understand why I’m having a difficult time believing all of you, Aomine-kun.”

    I am afraid that is when Aomine-kun loses his patience, for he then throws his fists into the air as he shouts, “Are you really standing up for the demon who fucks you every night?!”

    I purse my lips, feeling my face taint with anger. “Well, Aomine-kun,” I seethe as calmly as possible, “Since I have been in more positions than just stand for him, I would definitely say this is either the first nor the last time I’d stand up for him.”

It gets quiet before his dark blue eyes widen with rage. “ Tetsu …fuck, he’s so whipped.”

    I can’t help but feel another pair of eyes on me. It’s the red-eyed Akashi, and I look away because I dislike the distant sadness held in his gaze.

    “He was going to come for you, Kurokocchi!” Kise chimes in,the first time I’ve seen his eyes watery with genuine tears. “The real Akashicchi here was going to come rescue you, but then that impostor beat him to it…”

    My stomach is tightening with every word. “Preposterous, Kise-kun…”

    Midorima-kun ignores Kise-kun’s loud wail to direct his stern gaze at me. “Kuroko, do you remember the eyes of the red viper you rescued?”

    I struggle for a bit but then whisper, “Yes, I do.”

    “And can you tell us what his eye color was?”

    “He was the reddest viper I’ve ever seen...he even had red eyes.” I didn’t like where there was going.

    “And what color of eyes does your Akashi have?”

    “Such minor details hardly harbor enough evidence, Midorima-kun.”

    He lets out a frustrated breath. “Kuroko, think about it. A snake shapeshifter’s eye color does not change throughout its lifespan. Its eyesight maintains incredible strength and stability that most things fail to disturb its vision or the appearance of the eye itself. You would know this if you’ve read the shapeshifter books you borrowed from me.”

    My stomach shifts. “Then...then if you’re the real Akashi Seijuro, who is this so-called Akashi-kun ruling the kingdom?”

    Red-eyed Akashi’s eyes narrow, but his voice comes out soft and uneasy on my ears. “He is my twin brother, born of the same red dawn.”

    “Akashi-sama, you let your friends speak of your brother as if he is without heart, yet here you stand with them plotting to overthrow him,” I say.

    “Kuroko, don’t interrupt with opinions when you have half the information and little understanding,” Midorima-kun snaps.

    I open my mouth to retort, but Kise-kun beats me to it. “Kurokocchi, please listen to what Akashicchi has to say. Akashicchi was going to come for you again, but his brother wanted the throne. And so he overthrew Akashicchi…”

    “He banished him,” snarls Aomine-kun, “That bastard! His own brother!” His fist pummels into a tree. He pulls it away, unscathed.

    “Rivalry for the throne is very common in this kingdom,” Murasakibara-kun adds, “But you’d think even Boku-chin wouldn’t have crossed the lines he’s crossed.”

    “Boku-chin?” I repeat, amazed.

    “Between us, we call him Bokushi,” Kise-kun explains, “He talks about himself a lot, so that’s how we differentiate him from Akashicchi.”

    “No one knows his real name,” adds Midorima-kun, “For Akashi Shiori passed away mere seconds after the second twin’s birth.”

    “This must all be very bizarre for you, Kuroko.”  says the red-eyed Akashi. I could tell there was an edge of sadness to his voice. “Please feel no shame in your disbelief. I understand this must be incredibly bizarre to take in. You needn’t accept it right away. However...my brother must be stopped.”

    “He has done none of you wrong.”  I force my voice to be steadfast and steady, and it appears to be so. “He never told me that he had a brother. He would not banish his own brother from their own kingdom. Your appearance cannot be anything other than a coincidence…”

    “The fuck! Tetsu, can you really call this a convenience?!”

    “I hate to say this, but I agree with Aomine. Are you in your right mind, Kuroko?”

    Midorima-kun’s voice is sharp and everyone turns their attention onto me, every blink staring and assessing and judging. And yet I see none of them except for his.

    They strike where I am most vulnerable. “Where did he banish you to?”

Those ruby eyes falter, then flicker away for a second. So he does not hold his gaze. “A place far beyond this kingdom.” His voice is hushed, a whisper. “A place where no one deserves to go. I remained there until my friends freed me. They are the real heroes of this kingdom.”

Something in his voice tells me he has told me no lie, yet I did not want to believe it. So I incline my head in a bow of respect. “I appreciate having this discussion,” I say, “Thank you for having me. Now I bid you goodbye, but do not worry, Stranger-San, I will relay your message to the emperor.”

“You do not believe us.” It is not an accusation. “Would you be open to further discussion? I will explain everything to you in a more elusive location.”

This is where I admit the offer is tempting, for there is no thirst as alluring as curiosity. But I politely refuse them. “I will go back to the castle, even if you try to stop me.”

Five snakes shift at once. Their skin seemingly melts into their bodies, their flesh hardening and grueling into scales on long, thin bodies. Tongues fork out, and Aomine-kun growls, slithering toward me.

“Tetsu…”

I get a peek at his fangs when he growled. One bite and I’d be a goner.

Something keeps me staying still.

Aomine-kun is effectively stopped by the red-eyed Akashi, hissing at him to stop in his tracks.

The circle of snake eyes stare at me, never faltering once.

“Kuroko,” begins the red-eyed Akashi, “If you want to return to the castle, we will not stop you. The only one we intent on stopping is my brother. We will do battle inevitably. The outcome of this kingdom will rely on the outcome of this battle.” And he gives me the most mysterious smile that I have ever seen, and the others stare at him agap.

I do not.

I return back to the castle as fast as I can, once I make sure they are not waiting to tear into my bare ankles.


 

 

Akashi-kun’s reaction is something like I was expecting: his expression did not change much as he sipped away at his tea.

“Would you like something to eat, Tetsuya?” he asks as he places his teacup back with a nonchalant ‘clink’.

“No,” I answer, unappreciative that he was trying to sedate my emotions with appetite at times like this.

We usually fall into silences that are none other than comfortable, but this time I am extremely on edge. He knows, I know he always knows but he has yet to do otherwise besides sip away at his tea.

“Akashi-kun.” I couldn’t take the silence anymore, but words dissolve on my tongue as his eyes come to pierce into mine.

“Tetsuya, I am listening.”

“Then please properly listen to me.” I take ahold of the shogi piece he was holding in his hands and set it down besides the pile of others. “Aren’t you going to do something about those who plan to betray you?”

    “Tetsuya, you alone are the most considerate human I have had the pleasure of encountering, so I am certain you know that the inevitable stands against all odds. It is time for he and I to do battle.” He returns his attention back to shogi.

“He said the same thing,” I reply, sitting close enough so that our arms barely brush against one another. “Akashi-kun, I would like to ask you something. Is it true… all that they have told me?”

He glances up from the shogi board, a smile twinkling in his eyes. “What do you think, Tetsuya?”

“I do not believe it. I still don’t.” Innocent until proven guilty.

“It is.” His fingers tap the shogi piece once, twice, for he is buried in a sea of deep thoughts. At times like these I have to be the anchor, although this time around his words do make me pause in my tracks.

“Akashi-kun.”

He looks me in the eyes again, searching for something I would give to him without question. “Do you see me in a different light, Tetsuya?”

I shake my head almost immediately. “No. Throughout the years I have witnessed several of your actions, but my opinion of you has never changed because I believe you had a reason for each one. I don’t always understand the reason, but I trust you.” The words almost pain me to say, for it is both saddening and relieving to know that I am the only one who has probably ever said these words to him.

But that makes it all the more worthwhile to see his lips curve into the smile that I have come to known so well.

“Tetsuya, you are a blessing like no other,” he murmurs, hand stroking my thigh in a most loving gesture.

The candles lighting up the room create a thick air of musk and enigma. I have fallen deep under its spell long, long ago. My robes become heavy and warm enough that I discard them at the floor of my feet, my skin golden and sheen with its thin layer of sweat.

A light of amusement beckons in Akashi-kun’s eyes as he continues with his shogi game.

“My, my. It appears to be clear that Tetsuya has abandoned his walls of defense as well as his reserves. You realize that you stand in a danger zone?”

“I have realized that seven years ago, Akashi-kun. And I don’t regret it one bit.” I rest my head on his shoulders at the crook of his neck, a place where I can always belong. “I never once have.”

He takes my hand in his and makes love to it with his own, a purity that reflects nothing but the promises in its gestures.

Shadows roar to life on the soft candlelit walls of his chamber, cascading with sin and temptatious  fruits of the forbidden.

It is usually at this hour of night that the blossoms of the sinful nature begin to unfurl. But no shadow is able to wash over the force that is Akashi-kun, the physical and spiritual being taking form in front of me.

“How did you come find to me?” I whisper.

“My brother often spoke of you,” he says, focusing his attention on the board. “It was when I came to rest among the grasses of the human world that I spotted you. You matched everything he said exactly. I made up my mind right then and there.”

“You...you already were emperor by the time you took me to your kingdom?”

“Yes. Tetsuya, do you entertain the idea that I seized the throne for the sole purpose of having you?”

“Akashi-kun-”

He clicks his tongue, voice laced with amusement. “A rather naive thought. But I understand. You cannot let go of all your human trivialities. One can never be completely free of the origin he hails from. But that is where I come in, Tetsuya. I have done all I could to protect you from the human world. Are you afraid?”

“Of you?” I say. “Never.”

His chuckle, low, rumbling sends a tremor through my body. “Always so defiant, so austere, so full of spirit. Tetsuya, you never fail to exceed my expectations.” He pulls me into his lap, the silk of his yukata brushing against my legs.

Out of habit I keep them parted in case he wants to dip his hand in between them. To be honest I was rather looking forward to it, as it had been an entire day since he’s touched me.

Perhaps I am tainted, but I can’t bring myself to imagine still living in that dismal and lonely human world. To me, it is the world of sin Akashi-kun rescued me from.

“I am grateful to you for saving my brother. He is of my own flesh and blood, but we who live close with our animalistic instincts know that survival of the fittest is law in a kingdom such as this. It is in our ways, especially in a battle for the crown.” He shifts his leg so that I bounce once, twice on his lap, but just this once I ignore his teasing.

“In a way I must thank him, for our paths would not have crossed without him.”

“Why did you exile him?” The reasons are set in front of me, but I wanted him to tell me himself. Not many get a voice in this world, and too often problems are created rather than solved by the poor efforts of communication. (At least that is what I have deduced from reading many of Akashi-kun’s books.)

“Because, Tetsuya, because,” he sighs, pulling me closer to him, “How would I otherwise have had a chance with you?”

“But I thought you said I wasn’t the sole reason for you to-”

“You are not, my dear.” His chuckles are none too kind, but the warmth is shone in his smile. When he smiles at me, his eyes smile as well.

“You were the most i mportant reason,” he murmurs. His long and graceful fingers stroke mine, and I fade into his whisper altogether.

“Promise me, Akashi-kun” I say, “That you will not get yourself killed. That at the same time, you will not do something you come to regret later.”

“And what if I were to refuse you?” His eyes are the fires of infernos and the smoldering embers all at once.

Our mouths collide and tangle before I come up gasping my answer. “I would not think badly of you. Serpent blood may course through your veins, but I know your heart is made of violence and devotion.” My emperor . “Thank you for taking care of me all these years.”

Tetsuya .” The last piece of shogi clicks into place.

Victuri is his.

Tetsuya .”

He moves to embrace me, pressing me against the gentle descent of his shoulders. He plants a kiss to my forehead - it’s sweet as it is enticing, serendipitous as it is seducing.

Seijuro-kun .”

His voice grows raspy with desire as he murmurs my name one last time before delving into me.

I bet he can shapeshift into more than a serpent, but no matter what form he takes, he will always be Akashi-kun underneath.

I have come to know well the width and feel of his girth over the years. He has a proud, protruding length that knows even the deepest parts of me- parts that I myself didn’t know existed. He can make love the way blossoms unfurl, like the soft, tender heaviness of round ripe fruit soaking in its own juice.

Just the same, his internality harbors a sleeping beast that awakens like the world at sunrise. He is wild and ferid. Under his hands I writhe. Under my body he is tamed a bit.

I climb on top of him tonight. My skin bears the fragrance of his scent, my thighs rub against his to share our friction, my legs spread as obscenely as possible to accommodate the girth that will curl inside of them.

It is like me to milk him dry until thick gobs of it begin to pool out of my opening and trickle down my thighs and when I enter a finger to insert deeper inside myself it makes an obscene squelch that sends a shudder down my spine. I hear his breath hitch and he yanks my hand away to replace it with his own, well-slicked with lubricant.

I mount him like a saddle. His body is muscular but agile so I easily sink down on him. This is one of the positions where I can fit every inch. In most other instance we can only fit a part of him. We rock our hips, his thrusts coming up to meet my rhythm as I bounce on him until world’s end.

He has prepared me well. The slick inside usually minimizes the pain of the friction, but it usually starts to leak out sooner or later since I have become less tight over the years of sensation.  For us there exists no shame, nothing but lovers and everything beautiful between them. It is the eternity that we ravish, the intimacy that we cherish.

He loses himself in the opening between my legs. In return I find myself not on the sticky dances connecting our tongues but each breath we take between, each caress that we share. Our bodies become shadows of the night, dancing on the walls of flickering silhouette and candlelight, our ruts staining the silk brocades and thick cotton blankets on his lofty mattress.

His chambers echo with the salacious sound of skin slapping skin, his balls smacking my creamy thighs every so often. Pools of liquid seep down my legs during the entire lengths of his thrusts.

I don’t remember much after that - it’s a tangle of limbs and passion. He pulsates as he reaches his zenith and I feel every vibration, none of which is lost inside of me. I only clench him tighter, milking every last drop as his hand comes up to wank my own weeping dick. My own finish, his desire, his zenith. I want to be the center of it all.

I lose track of time after our numerous rounds, but I suspect night has been well underway and dawn may soon approach. With the candle wicks long gone out from the night’s whispered promises and rhapsodic moans, we lie in the still of darkness with our last kisses linger on the tips of our fleshy,  swollen tongues.

Some nights he transforms into his snake form and wraps himself around me, but tonight he stays human. We are emotionally naked as we are in flesh, tender bodies still pressed as closely as possible.

He runs a porcelain hand through my hair, which must have long fallen to the most vindictive of bedheads. “Something on your mind, Tetsuya?”

I let out a sigh as he shifts his body so that his legs are entangled with mine. “Akashi-kun…”

“I thought we’d moved on to Seijuro-kun? Have we a setback? Did I come inside one too many times?”

“Promise me that you will not abandon me to this world.”

His tease is silenced by the seriousness of my tone. Piercing gold and crimson eyes find mine in the darkness, aglow with boundless desire and everlasting longing.

“I have not, nor will I ever lose a battle. I dedicate my victory to you, Tetsuya.” He seals our promise with an open mouthed kiss.

 


 

The battle is most deadly. Akashi-kun forbade me from watching, yet I understand there is plenty of bloodshed. The both of them emerge with injuries of the severe kind. While his crimson-eyed brother is tended to by all of the hands of the Miracles, it is up to me alone to treat Akashi-kun.

“I am alright, Tetsuya. Really.”

“Hush,” I tell him with a frown, “You are lucky you survived.” I have never seen such a ferocious, deadly battle, and I tell him so.

“I suppose it remains a reminiscent of the old days where suitors would gladiate for the hand of their desired one,” he laughs with a feral grin, “And for you, my dear, there is no shortage of desire.”

I press the cloth to soak his shoulder. “But hardly anyone in this kingdom knows of my existence.”

“Yes, and let us keep it that way. You are still forbidden to step foot outside of the castle grounds.”

“I wouldn’t want to in the first place,” I mutter as I dab bits of his brother’s antivenom onto the soaked cloth I will press on his wounds.

It is not an altogether closed castle; anyone with the skillset to survive in this kingdom could make it their home, not to mention someone who once ruled it. His brother and friends has thus far been quiet since their first reunion, but who knows how much longer it will stay this way.

The tension hangs heavy within the air, and I am hardly let out of his chambers. I have not seen Nagisa for weeks; instead I’ve been cooped up inside his chambers and his chambers alone.

He comes and goes at strange hours of night and day, as if he hasn’t sense of them. It has been awhile since we have been intimate, and although that is not the most important part, it leaves me with an aching, unwanted feeling inside.

“Have you been resting well?” he would ask me, and I am certain he is looking to make some form of conversation.

“I think you are sharp enough to be able to answer that for yourself, Akashi-kun.” I would retort, just for the sake of it.

He would sighs, running a hand through his rather disheveled crimson locks and avoid the question or his chambers for a couple of days.

One dreary morning I ask him if I disgust him.

“Tetsuya,” he replies, his eyes riddled with dark bags, “What preposterous assumptions you have swallowed.”

“You haven’t touched me in ages,” I bemoan, the aura darkening around me. He lets out a sigh and runs a hand through his hair.

Before I know it I am on my back, him on top of me tearing the robes he bought for me to pieces.

“Is this what you wanted?” he growls, his hands rough as he manhandles me.

My legs flail. I want to lash out, but I know there are punishments for me in store should I disobey. “No,” I say looking him in the eye, “I want you to touch me.” He stops his rough, dry humps and lets me take one of his hands to place over my slowing chest. “You’ve been touching me everywhere but here.”

His stare is intense, and it gets even more so as he bites his lip. “Tetsuya,” he says apologetically as he gets off of me and helps me up. He takes off his own cloak and wraps it around me, his hands lingering insecurely at my shoulders.

I place my own over them. “Akashi-kun.” I say in reassurance, because in my eyes he deserves all my best. In my life, it is better to have him like this, dark and cold like the distant purple hills than to not have him at all.

Tetsuya …” his lips are cold as he presses a solitary kiss against my shoulder. “Never, for a moment have I ceased to regard you as anything less than my precious, my one and only Tetsuya.”

“Akashi-kun…” The apples of my cheeks burst into pink blossoms.

“Come here, Tetsuya.” He opens his arms to me, and I do not think twice before delving into his possession, the ripest and most deadly of all poisons.

“Will you let me visit the creek?” I whisper moments after. “I desire a cleansing…”

“You can bath in my tub anytime you desire,” he murmurs back, his hold tightening. “For now, I must protect you from the outside world. Believe me Tetsuya, there is nothing clean about it.”

I believe him. However there may be nothing clean within, either.

All the same, I have become tainted to remain by his side.

He soaps my body as if I was a god and he the temple keeper. He is not once rough with me, and it is refreshing to see his gentle side remain unchanged. More than anything, I am glad he still harbors the same affections for me after all this time.

“Tetsuya, would you like to come on a hunt with me?” he asks as he attempts to comb the tangles out of my difficult hair.

I open my eyes, a startle of adrenaline courses through me. “I thought that you said-”

“You want to see the outdoors again, do you not?”

He will always be Akashi-kun to me. “More than anything.”


 

 

The wind on my face is absolutely exhilarating. Few sensations aside from being underneath Akashi-kun can compare. The gallop of a well-trained horse correlates into a dutiful and respectful synchronization with its rider. It is a rather different experience than riding a man, but still enjoyable in different terms.

Akashi-kun rides his snow-white mare next to me, a smile plastered onto his face. He keeps checking on me every now and then. The bags underneath his eyes are ever prominent, but his face seems to soften whenever I would glance at him.

“You seem to possess an extraordinary talent for riding horses as well,” he says with a soft chuckle.

“Akashi-kun, please do not make such lewd jokes out in the open.” I say, giving him a nudge. His dirty underlying joke does not surpass me.

“Why, would you rather be making something else then, Tetsuya?” he continues to tease.

“Akashi-kun, I shall ride my horse ahead of yours if you continue  to make lecherous suggestions out in the open.” As if to prove my point, I urge on my horse. He gives a whinny and speeds into a trot across the creek, dashing further into the trees.

“Then I suppose a chase shall be in order.” I can all but hear the smirk in his voice as his horse gallops right behind mine.

We fool around for awhile, the sunshine being more lovely than anything I remember. The forest is so much bigger than I remember. Everything is better than I remember.

We continue deep into the heart of the forest, and soon enough we come upon the elk. It was a creature of a magnificent graced, its elongated horns making it stand out like a sore thumb.

I snap my reins, and my horse thunders after it, Akashi-kun close behind me. His arrow darts through the air and hits its center dead on target. The elk collapses to the ground, and Akashi-kun promptly rears off his horse. He gazes over the elk twice, once with pity, twice with hunger.

He sinks in his fangs as a snake, giving his meal a large dosage of venom. I look away during these moments. There wells no shame within me to watch him feast, but surely his pride prefers if I turn a blind eye to the beast within him, the wild, wild one of which destinies revolve around.

I know that his hunger for greater things will never be satisfied.


 

 

Our ride home is swift and silent. He does a good job of cleaning the blood from himself.

When we kiss, I still taste a bit of metal on his tongue. But I drink it in, him and all.

“Thank you,” I say.

“Why?” he asks.

“For letting me see the world again.” I couldn’t describe how his face looked then, for his eyes held this sad expression within them that will forever mark a place in my heart.

    “Your veins,” he whispers, forehead pressing against mine.

    “What about my veins?” I ask.

    “They are purple.”

    Years of venoms and anti-venoms. He trails his kisses down their stream. “I have done this to you.”

    “It does not hurt,” I assure him truthfully. “I think having Akashi-kun’s mark on me… is fulfilling.”

I press my forehead close to his, my arms holding him for once. We are entwined by firelight, our shadows becoming one.

I am started to feel the first wave of wetness on my cheek; he tries to hide them, but I pull his hand away. Our eyes lock for a second, before I lean forward to drink his tears.

“You are beautiful,” he says in but a whisper. “What are you doing in a place like this?”

My explanation is simple. “Because I like it here. I’ve come to call this place home.”

He scoffs. “You can never go back, you know?”

“I know. I am living.”

He looks at me with peculiar fondness. His hair is crimson and soft, like a meadow bathing in autumn sunshine. His eyes are wide and his breaths short, the beating of his heart erratic.

I card a hand through his hair and his eyelashes flutter for me. “I used to be afraid of you.”

His snap to attention is immediate. “Explain.”

“I didn’t know you then. I couldn’t understand you.”

“And now?”

“If you want the heads of kings, you would have them at your feet. The world is at your feet.”

“And you?”

I do not understand. “And me?”

“This world is unforgiving, Tetsuya. You make one little slip up, and it may just be the very thing that leads to your downfall, the one action that will haunt you for eternity.”

   Akashi's voice tries to but does not succeed in stopping itself from trembling.

   "Akashi-kun," I say, resting my hand atop his breast. He turns to look at me with tired eyes, exhausted eyes. I sweep his bangs past his forehead and press my lips softly against his cold, cold skin.

"Even if the world hypothetically renounces you, I will not." Taking his hand now I guide it to my own breast, where my heart beats steadily in my chest. His hand is warm against the coldness of my nipple.

"This heart beats for you and you alone."

    He takes my hand in his own and holds it tight. "You will never escape me, Tetsuya. I    would never let you leave."

   "You don't need to," I tell him. "I would choose to stay either way."

      He looks at me with such longing, such conviction in his eyes that I am no longer able to hold his gaze. Our lips meet somewhere in the middle and it's the most raw form of affection that I have ever experienced. Behind the carnality lies something that lies within the night, something bigger than the both of us.

    The drops of sweat glistening down his back, the way his chest heaves as he catches his breath, the scent of his musk that lingers in the aftermath. Seeing them makes me certain. I will never belong anywhere else.

 

His eyes are sprinkled wide with something akin to that of desire, but something much stronger now. “Tetsuya.” His hands, slim and slightly larger than my own, with feminine, delicate fingers, slide warmly into mine.

Seijuro .” I whisper with panting breath.

Later that night I scream myself hoarse with his name.


 

 

“You have one too many scars,” he kisses my temple after we are both beyond spent.

“I bet we can both name who gave most of them to me,” I say.

He chuckles and kisses me again. “I would give you anything, you know that, Tetsuya.”

He leans for another kiss, this time with a bit of tongue. I taste him for a few seconds before pulling away. “Akashi-kun, your brother still poses a danger. Please remember that they and your advisors still reside in the other end of this castle.”

“And an ancient and powerful castle it remains,” he responds, “Tetsuya, have you forgotten what I have told you about my castle? It is very vast and labyrinth-like to most outsiders.  Though he has resided in it for a good part of his life, he will not be able to penetrate through the barriers I have put up already.”

“This blockade cannot last forever.”

“No, I suppose it cannot. It will end when one of us destroys the other.”

“Akashi-kun.”

“My love, you know that I am always listening.”

“If you die, then I don’t want to live anymore either.”

“Tetsuya,” his voice comes out unsteady, if a bit amused, “I will not die, and I will not let you die. It is simply in our fate to stay together.”

“Stay together.” I mumble, eyelids heavy.

It is something my heart was set on, sinking deeply into the depths as the last glow of the embers fades away.


 

 

“He was to be my sacrifice to the gods of Oha Asa,” the green snake says in his human form as he passes me by. He pushes his spectacles up with a bemused frown.

What a coincidence for us to have run into each other in this forlorn castle, but I suppose the impostor had instructed the Generation of Miracles not to lay a finger on me. How softened his heart was-did he perhaps believe himself to be telling the truth?

I shrug in response. An elk was an elk just as a leaf is a leaf. There is more than one and there will be many more, but they all ultimately live in Seijuro’s kingdom.

A war could not last forever. When it will end, victory will be Seijuro’s and the kingdom shall gracefully fall back into his reign once more. The traitors will be given the ultimate form of punishment, and I, Kuroko Tetsuya, can once again become Seijuro’s unconditional beloved.

It may take a long while to nurse Seijuro’s mental exhaustion back to health, but at this point nothing was going to stop me from fulfilling the duties for the man I have fallen hopelessly for.


 

 

It is as I foretold, and better. After one silent, swift night of courage the impostor is forced to surrender every part of himself to my king.

“I will do anything if you can spare my friends,” he tells his brother, looking them in the eye. My king Seijuro is most generous, for he acquiesces. One quick nod from him was I needed to go around and undo the deadly poison I very purposefully slipped into the Generation of Miracles’ water supply a few nights ago. One of the upsides to the power of Misdirection.

I cure the yellow snake first because he looks he is right among Death’s door. Taking out my poinsettia leaf, I stick them carefully but harshly onto the enormous, bulbous glands on the yellow snake’s otherwise attractive human face. It is marred by tears and stained a harsh shade of purple from the poison sizzling his blood into acid.

One by one I cure them, and one by one the three unaffected ones of us watch as the other snakes slump to exhaustion in their human form. Their bodies will take about a week to heal, and that is with the utmost nursing (although Seijuro is sure that tiny black-maned snake with the sharp grey eyes will care for the green snake Midorima).

Then Seijuro takes ahold of my waist and grins ferally down at his worn, bloody brother, forced into taking a kneeling position.

“Welcome back, my brother.”

The other Akashi-kun does not raise his head or meet either of us in the eyes.

“Please take good care of them,” he all but whispers.

Seijuro sends them to the infirmary right away. Although this doesn’t ease the hatred from his brother’s eyes, it does seem to mollify him for now.

    After everybody but me has left, the heterochromatic Seijuro strides up to his brother-and before he can react-seizes him by the throat.

“Thanks to Tetsuya,” he hisses to him, “You’re finally mine.”