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They had the Empress backed into a corner, and the whole empire knew it, especially now that  the Mirthful Church was a part of the rebellion. All the Condesce had was the few fleets that hadn't rebelled, and her own ship. Granted, her fleets could take down over ⅔ of the rebels with the sheer amount of firepower, but they would go down with them. Karkat, however, wasn't about to do that, much to Gamzee’s chagrin, and so they were at an impasse. That is, they had been, until Feferi challenged her, and invoked the right of The Inheritance Trial. As did Karkat. Many considered him the link between rusts and tyrians, some even seeing him as above them, after seeing him and Feferi sparring to prepare each other. It was agreed between both sides that Karkat would go first, Her Imperious Condescension claiming that she “wanted to get rid of the mutie before going on to the actual heiress”. Gamzee did not approve. They had argued it into the ground, and brought shovels, and although Gamzee was no longer actively trying to prevent it, he still despised the idea. The rest of the twelve refused to take sides, knowing how ferociously each would react. As the day of the Inheritance Trial approached tensions rose between the two, culminating in a screaming match in the main hangar of the flag ship.

“Gog, Gamzee, you know I can handle myself, I'm not a wriggler! I'm not a six sweep old cowering in my hive for fear of being found out anymore! Stop treating me like one!” Karkat was tense, teeth bared, shoulders back as he clenched his fists.

“She's the motherfucking Empress , she didn't get to be millennia old by not culling everyone who fought her! I know you're motherfucking strong, but you can't handle-”

“What do you know about what I can't handle?! As I recall, I'm not the one who got their ass captured , am I? Fuck no! You were fucking gone , you Gog-damned chucklefuck, and I had to do everything! You were Gog-damn gone-”

What, you think I wanted to be on that fucking ship?! I was motherfucking trapped, motherfucker, I had no where to fucking go, and you want to act like I wanted to be there?! Do you trust me so fucking little?! I've been on your side since this started, pale for you since we Messiahs-damned met, and you want to act like I would betray you like that?! Is that what this is about?!” His face twisted into a snarl. “Fuck that, brother. Do as you Messiahs-damned like, I'll have no part in it.” He stalked off, eyes blazing with fury, and Karkat grit his teeth, looking around at the crowd that had gathered.

“Get the fuck back to your stations,” he spat, and headed towards the sparring room, intending to relieve tension. Kanaya touched his shoulder, face full of worry, but he merely had to look at her to get her to back off.

 

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Karkat tugged on his armor, face set in a scowl, and checked the straps, trying to look at them in the mirror futilely. The door slid open with a small hissing, and as he turned in surprise, the sight of his moirail caused him to turn away bitterly.

“What is it, Gamzee,” he said, exhausted.

Gamzee grimaced sadly, and walked over to stand behind him, meeting his eyes in the mirror. “Let me,” he said, and began doing the straps, making sure they were properly tightened to allow for movement. He undid a few, loosening them, and when he was finished, he met eyes with Karkat, before putting his arms around him loosely, burying his face in his moirail’s hair.

“I know you have to do this, brother,” he said sadly. “I know. And I won't stop you, won't try to tell you otherwise. I just wish you didn't.”

Tears trickled through Karkat's hair, and he turned, holding Gamzee gently. “I know,” he whispered. “I know.” He pulled Gamzee down, kissing him softly, feather-light, and looked in indigo eyes. “I pity you, so much, you hopeless wreck,” he said, tears beginning to pool in the corners of his eyes. “You know that, don't you?”

Gamzee smiled wanly at him. “I've never doubted it, invertebro.”

Karkat sniffled. “If I-” he stopped, wincing. “If I don't come back-” Gamzee’s breath hitched “- I want you to go on, ok? None of that, that stupid shit, where you pine, or whatever. Keep going, ok?”

Gamzee nodded, tears blurring his vision. “I will, pabe. I will.”

Karkat took a deep breath. “I have to go, Gamzee. I-”

Gamzee shushed him softly, putting a hand on his chest. “Together,” he said.

Karkat nodded. “Together.”

They walked to the shuttle hand in hand.

 

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The first thing Karkat thought when he saw the Empress was huge. Logically, he knew her official height of 34’7, but he'd always assumed that it was propaganda. Apparently not. She stared down at him for incredulously, him looking up determinedly, sickles in hand.

“Wait a glubbin minute,” she said, giggling. “Is this the mutie? He's tiny, he's not even a fifth of my height!”

Karkat glared. “Oh fuck you! We can't all be millennia old assholes in elevation foot-wear!”

She snorted. “You're funny, guppy. You would have made a good pet.” She sighed. “But then you had to go and challenge me. So,” her face adopted a wry smirk. “Ya ready, wriggler?”

He hissed at her, fins flaring. “Never been more,” and with that, he leapt for her throat.

She swatted him out of the air with her trident, but he had anticipated that, and hooked his sickles around it, using the momentum to swing into her stomach, kicking off before he landed on the floor gracefully, running back towards her. She jabbed at him, like one might poke a particularly vile creature on the ground, and he ducked out of the tines, barely avoiding the blast of psionics that followed him.

He snagged a tine of her trident, and jumped off it, sickles dragging against the body of it before he sliced open a fin, ducking into a youth roll as he jumped off her shoulder.

She didn't even flinch as she tried to seize hold of his mind, finding it too slippery to grasp as he made a shallow cut on her trident arm.

Karkat spun around and weaved through her ankles, leaving small lines of tyrian in his wake, and used his sickles to catapult himself up to shoulder height as he hooked them over the trident for leverage. He went for the gills, aiming to slice through vertically, but missed, managing to nick her shoulder before she swatted him away. Recovering quickly, he rushed her, planning to swing himself up on her trident to kick her in the sniff-node, but she had caught on, and swung it to the side, trying to shake him off, only for him to collide against the tines and drop off, rushing back to slice at her ankles again.

She swept her trident at him, as if clearing debris from the floor, but he rolled just in time, and came up running, slicing at her hands where they were gripping the trident, right missing and hitting the trident, left coming down on her knuckles. She backhanded him, blow connecting harshly, and he flew back, twisting mid-air to land on his hands and knees. He looked up at her, hissing, and ran back towards her, weaving through her trident strikes, and tore two jagged lines through her abdomen, friction slowing his descent before he flipped off, flipping her off as he went.

She snarled, the most emotion she had shown as of yet, and went on the offense, blasting him with psionics, them scorching the ground just behind him.

Karkat grinned madly, adrenaline coursing through him, and ran, suddenly changing course and flying towards the psionic barrier, leaping up to more than twice his height, and crossed his sickles in front of him, using them to absorb the electric part of the shock wave that threw him backwards, straight at the Empress. He twisted in mid air to face her, and seemed almost to fly towards her, managing to get within range of her trident, and hooked it in the middle, seemingly random strikes being revealed as a pre-mediated strategy as the trident was sliced cleanly through, middle having been whittled away by premeditated strikes.

The Empress screamed in rage, and dropped the broken weapon, psionics blasting out of control in her fury as she threw her head back to shriek her fury to the world, psionic barrier absorbing her blast.

Karkat grinned. He knew that it would be over soon.

She swept at him with long claws, needle teeth bared and fins flashing her Royal hue loudly as they splayed in anger, cutting three deep lines across his chest.

Karkat latched onto her hand, before he locked his ankles around her elbow, and quickly swung towards her chest, and, kicking up off her abs, dug one sickle just behind her collarbone, and hooked the other around her neck, and swung around over her shoulder, letting his first sickle join the second, and pulled hard, boots braced against her neck as he slid on her mass of hair; she tried to grab at him as she choked, before his sickles finally, finally ripped through armor and chitin. He kicked off the swaying mass, managing to get out of its path as the already warming body fell to the ground.

The psionic barrier burst soundlessly, and sound rushed in from all sides as every troll present knelt hurriedly, some dropping to their knees, the lower blooded putting their faces on the ground as if in worship.

Karkat looked around, disconcerted, before looking down at himself, blood-rage disappearing as quickly as the barrier as he saw the sheer amount of tyrian he was covered in, mixing with his mutant hue.

He vomited.

Again.

Again.

Straightening back up, he dimly noted the clear red running down his face as he wiped his mouth. Neat. He was crying, wasn't he. Why? He'd won, the Empress was dead, so shouldn't he be happy?

Shouldn't he?

Gamzee walked towards him, the only figure not kneeling, and stopped in front of his still form, looking at his moirail worriedly.

“Pabe,” he said softly, meeting his moirail's eyes.

Karkat looked up at him, face tormented and unsure.

Gamzee opened his arms. “C’mere.”

Karkat fell into them, sobbing openly now, uncaring of the crowd around them or the cameras broadcasting the challenge to the entirety of the Empire.

Fuck it, it was his Empire now, anyway.

He shook in Gamzee's arms, breath hiccuping, coming in short gasps as the weight of the last sweep came crashing down on him, the bloody battles and gritty fights and trying desperately to stay out of sight, hiding near black holes and fighting off Imperial ships, losing his gogdamn moirail and just barely getting him back before watching him enter a fight few thought he would leave, all the tears and bloodshed and death crashing down on him like a thousand Invasion Class battlecruisers.

They stood there, arms wound tight around each other, Gamzee mumbling sweet words into Karkat’s hair, too soft under the jagged sounds of Karkat's sobs, while the Empire knelt in silence.

Slowly, the tears trickled to a stop, and they broke apart, tears and phlegm wiped hurriedly onto the nondescript combat uniform’s sleeve. Karkat looked sharply to the right as clear steps rang out through the silent challenge site. Terezi was there, holding the late Empress’ crown, and met his eyes evenly. Cocking her head in a silent question, she waited for his unsteady nod, before closing the gap between them, gently placing the circlet over his horns, before taking three swift steps back, kneeling at his feet.

“Hail, Your Imperial Peacemaker,” she said, causing a small glare to creep onto Karkat's face at the title she had given him.

Hail,” echoed the Empire.

Karkat squared his shoulders, face set determinedly, and looked around, circlet doing it's best impression of a hula hoop on his far too-small head, and held his moirail's hand tightly.

“You can get up, you know,” he said, as his first words as Emperor.

Terezi gave him a shark-toothed grin.