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The Alien Prince

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The Alien Prince

 

In the prestigious Teiko Middle School, there lies a handsome alien boy. He wasn’t a real alien per se, but he is different from everyone else.

 

While people his age talks about favourite band, beautiful girls, boobs and the latest game, the alien boy has absolutely no interest in such things. The only thing he like is basketball. He is knowledgeable about the sport. He can recite every rules in the game, list the names of all the teams and its members, their signature moves, and the scores of every basketball match that you could think of.

 

The moment you touch on the topic of sports, you will see the alien boy perking up and listing all his knowledge about it. When that happens, it is extremely difficult for anyone else is get a word out.

 

The alien boy is very naive. He can’t read people’s emotions accurately, can’t sense people’s intentions. He doesn’t know about sarcasm or jokes. He takes things so literally that the other students sometimes do it on purpose just to make fun of him.

 

He rocks his body back and forth in class, shut his eyes when the lights are too bright, and cover his ears when his surroundings got too loud. He sometimes express his desire of removing his clothes, because they were itching him.

 

He is an alien; he is born into the wrong world. He is, however, very talented in basketball and was granted the starting position in the sport. He was also blessed with exceptional good looks, making the boys jealous and the girls sighing in shame.

 

Though he lives under the same roof as his father, he is technically disowned. He started exhibiting noticeable strange behaviours at age six, where his teacher had mentioned about his lack of eye contact. Upon a visit to a doctor revealed that he has Asperger. That knowledge caused his father to disown him, and he was instead, raised by the butler of the family.

 

He is Akashi Seijuurou.

 

__________

 

Akashi Seijuurou sat on his chair, shoes off and legs pulled to his chest as he rocked back and forth, listening to the class lessons. The class was unusually restless today, and it was due to a new student that transferred in.

 

“I am Kuroko Tetsuya. I transferred here from Meiko Middle School due to my parents assignment to the hospital in this area. I hope we can get along well.” The boy gave a deep bow.

 

At some point during the introduction, Akashi had unknowingly started biting his nails and sucking on his thumb.

 

“Well then Kuroko-kun, please take a seat at the empty space beside the window over there.” The teacher instructed.

 

Kuroko looked at the direction mentioned, and was a little alarmed to find that the area was nearly empty except for the redhead that was behaving strangely. Had the teacher assigned the redhead there, far and away from all of his classmates on purpose?

 

“Hello, I am Kuroko Tetsuya.” Kuroko leaned to his right to talk to his new redheaded neighbour. “What is your name?”

 

The redhead jerked a little, seemingly shocked to have someone talk to him. He pulled out his thumb from his mouth with a soft pop. He opened his mouth, but no words come out. He frowned, stress apparent when he couldn’t get a sound out. Kuroko, however, is understanding, and patiently waited for him to find his voice.

 

“A-Akashi Seijuurou...” He finally mumbled after a long while.

 

“Akashi Seijuurou...” Kuroko repeated, testing the intonation in his tongue. “That’s a beautiful name, Akashi-kun. Nice to meet you. I hope we can get along well.”

 

Akashi lifted his head, his eyes falling somewhere around Kuroko’s chest. He nodded, his chest feeling strangely jumpy at a newfound friend.

 

“Alright class,” The teacher clapped to gain the class’ attention. “Listen up! For this project, I will need everyone to form groups of twos or threes. Form your groups now and I will give you the details of the project later.”

 

The class started buzzing as soon as the teacher finished her sentence. Students turned to their friends and smiled, communicating in their own private language, an index finger pointing from themselves to their friends. They then stood up to gather together.

 

“Kuroko-kun!”

 

Kuroko turned around to see a group of two girls beckoning him. “Would you like to join our group?”

 

“Sure,” He stood up from his chair to head towards the group, but stopped when he noticed that Akashi was still seated in his, sucking his thumb and with no one approaching him to form a group with.

 

“What about Akashi-kun?” Kuroko asked when he approached the girls.

 

“Akashi-kun usually does his projects alone. Besides, no one wants to be in the same group as him anyways. He is just too weird, you know.”

 

“Come, come, Kuroko-kun. Enough about him. You will be our group leader, okay?” The other girl pulled at his arm.

 

Kuroko allowed himself to be pulled, but hesitated when he saw Akashi all alone. He saw some of himself in the redhead. He usually has low presence, and people tend to forget about him. He often have to do his projects alone because he was forgotten. The only reason why he got called in a group today was due to the fact that it was his first day in school, and hence a lot of attention was on him.

 

“I think… I think I will form agroup with Akashi-kun.” Kuroko said, detaching himself from the girl that was pulling his arm. “I don’t think I like the idea of Akashi-kun being all alone...”

 

“Come on! Akashi-kun will be fine. He has been doing all his projects all alone after all.”

 

“...I am sorry. Thank you for inviting me to join your group,” Kuroko gave them a polite bow. “But being alone is a very painful thing and I do not wish for anyone to have to experience that.”

 

“You will regret this, Kuroko-kun!” One of the girls called after him, but Kuroko ignored them.

 

“Hello Akashi-kun.” Kuroko called up softly when he neared the boy.

 

Akashi stopped in his rocking, turning to face the teal-head but still avoiding eye contact.

 

“Would you like a form a group with me? Just the two of us.”

 

Akashi’s eyes widened before nodding vigorously.

 

Kuroko chuckled at the other’s eagerness. “Look forward to working with you, Akashi-kun!” Kuroko lifted a hand for a handshake. Akashi removed the thumb from his mouth, bringing it to Kuroko for the handshake.

 

Akashi’s wet thumb touches his hands, but Kuroko ignored it. He simply rubbed his hand against his own trousers while smiling at Akashi. He is sure that he had made Akashi’s day just by forming a group with him.

 

__________

 

Working with Akashi was incredibly fun. He was knowledgeable about a lot of stuff and would not hesitate to share about them. Kuroko found that he enjoyed Akashi’s presence, and vice versa. While doing their projects, Kuroko learned that Akashi had not exactly grow up in a supportive environment. He never really have a parental figure in his life. His mother had passed away very early in his life and his father instantly disowned him when he started showing such strange behaviours. Feeling bad for the child he had served, the Akashi family butler took the boy under his wing. However, afraid of agitating the elder Akashi upon seeing him in the house, Akashi’s world is mostly confined to the butler’s room. Every morning before he start his work, the butler would send Akashi to his school, and very late after he finished all his duties, he would bring the heir back from school.

 

When he learned that Akashi don’t go home until very late, Kuroko made an effort to wait with Akashi after school for as long as he could. Seeing how Kuroko and Akashi were so close together, Kuroko was often known as Akashi’s caretaker in school.

 

__________

 

Kuroko clutched onto his stomach, trying his very best not to puke. Basketball training in Teiko is way more vigorous than Meiko, and Kuroko felt like his limbs were melting and evaporating into nothingness. It really made him wonder how Akashi can endure the tough training and still look pretty normal.

 

Speaking of Akashi, Kuroko was concern about how Akashi was fairing. The volleyball girls were sharing their gym as the lights in their gym were being replaced. As a result, instead of having a match like they always do after their warm up, they were going with stamina training for the entire day. And Kuroko knew better than anyone how much Akashi dislike changes in routines.

 

Turning his head to look at Akashi, he sees that the redhead was doing well, if a slightly bit more restless. He was walking back and forth, twisting his fingers and occasionally rocking his body.

 

No one knew what the volleyball girls were up to, but they suddenly started screaming and the noise was so piercing even Kuroko flinched in pain.

 

That seemed to tip him off and Akashi started having a meltdown. He started screaming and crying, covering his ears and stomping his leg against the gym floor. He paced back and forth, alternating between jump-stomping and pacing. His hands were either in his mouth, biting hard against his flesh or slamming against the wall.

 

Alarmed at the behaviour, Kuroko forgot about all about his discomfort as he rushed towards the distressed boy.

 

“Akashi-kun,” Kuroko called urgently, trying to call for his attention. He was, however, ignored as the redhead continued screaming and crying. Knowing that he had to bring Akashi to somewhere safe, he grabbed onto Akashi’s arm and led him to the garden outside the gym.

 

The change in environment seemed to calm Akashi a little, as he stopped his screaming but still continues to cry.

 

“Akashi-kun, shh...” Kuroko cooed as he tugged Akashi to sit on the grass. Akashi obeyed, but he started to bite his hand again.

 

“Don’t worry, Akashi-kun. You are fine, you are fine.” He whispered gently into the other’s ears. He cradled the redhead against his chest and pat the head in a soothing manner. “I am here for you; I will protect you, so don’t be scared, don’t panic.”

 

It took quite a while before Akashi truly settles down, but when he did, he laid limp against Kuroko, sitting between Kuroko’s legs. Kuroko rocks the both of them back and forth, remembering his parents words about how rocking releases endorphins.

 

Akashi sniffled and hiccupped against Kuroko’s chest, the rocking motion calming him even more. He turned around to hold on to Kuroko’s basketball jersey tightly, burying his face into the shirt for more comfort until he eventually fell asleep.

 

__________

 

Akashi whined when Kuroko gently shook him awake. “Mhmm...” He complained, his brows furrowed as he tried to bury even deeper into Kuroko’s chest.

 

The teal chuckled at the adorable behaviour. “Akashi-kun, your butler is here.”

 

Akashi scrunched his nose, refusing to wake and tightening his hold onto the other.

 

“My apologies,” The Butler exclaimed, running towards the duo. “I hope our young master hadn't cost you much trouble!”

 

“Don't worry about it,” Kuroko smiled. “He did great. Though he had a meltdown in school today, so I think it would be better if he gets some proper rest.”

 

“Of course,” The Butler replied, picking up Akashi’s gym bag. Some time after their training was supposed to end, a basketball senior had helped them pack their stuff and brought it to them.

 

“Let's go, Young Master,” The Butler said, pulling at Akashi's arm.

 

The stubborn redhead, however, refused to be led away. “Nooooooooooo… Kuroko…” He whined.

 

“Oh dear,” Kuroko laughed at Akashi’s clinginess.

 

The Butler apologised profusely, offering to give Kuroko a ride home.

 

Manners had initially caused Kuroko to reject, but he eventually relented after seeing how Akashi refused to let him go.

 

And so, the two teens sat in the Butler’s car, the red one happily hugging against the blue.

 

When they reached their first destination, Kuroko detached himself from the redhead.

 

“Kuroko…?” The redhead called out a little panicky.

 

“Don't worry, Akashi-kun.” Kuroko smiled, stroking Akashi by the cheeks. “I will see you in school tomorrow.”

 

With that, Tetsuya opened the door to his home and disappeared into it, leaving a miserable Akashi behind.

 

__________

 

“I’m home,” Kuroko called out as he stepped onto the threshold.

 

“Tetsuya!” Mrs Kuroko came running from a room. “Where were you? I was worried sick!” She fumed.

 

Kuroko looked at the clock on the wall, only to realise that the time was 9.30pm. “I am sorry for worrying you, mother.” He bowed. “I was with a friend.”

 

“Until 9.30pm?” She rose a brow.

 

“Yeah. You see...my friend had a meltdown during practice today, so I stayed with him until his guardian come to fetch him.”

 

“And his guardian took so long to arrive?”

 

Kuroko sighed. It would be a long explanation.

 

 

“I see.” Mrs Kuroko sighed when her son explained everything. “Based on your description, my guess is that he has Asperger’s. But to think Akashi Masaomi would disown a ‘faulty’ child…”

 

“No matter the case, his way of living won't be good for him.” Mr Kuroko added.

 

Kuroko had to agree with his father.

 

__________

 

Akashi has a sensitive sense of touch which can sometimes irritate his skin. There are occasions where he would try to remove his shirt because it is itching him.

 

Kuroko was called into his classroom after school due to one such incident. The teachers were all away on a staff meeting, so there weren’t any teachers around. Their class were trying out their new festival t-shirt after their clean up when it happened.

 

Entering the classroom, Kuroko saw Akashi crying as he pulled at his shirt, their classmates surrounding him and trying to stop him from stripping.

 

“We couldn’t get him to calm down,” One of the classmates told Kuroko, her face distressed. “With the teacher not around, you are our only hope left.”

 

Kuroko calmly walked towards Akashi, knowing that rushing and panicking would only stress the redhead even more.

 

“Akashi-kun,” Kuroko called softly as he patted Akashi on his shoulder.

 

Whatever that was bothering Akashi seemed to press into him harder with every pat from Kuroko, causing the crying boy to scream in pain.

 

Being around so many people will only cause more harm to both Akashi and the people around him, so Kuroko grabbed Akashi’s hand and dragged him into an empty classroom.

 

“Off… off!” Akashi pulled his shirt when they were away from prying eyes. “Off!”

 

“Shh… Akashi-kun.” Kuroko tried to sooth. “You shouldn’t strip in public.”

 

“No, no! Off!” He insisted, trying to tug the shirt over his head. “No Kuroko! No shirt!”

 

“Akashi-kun...” The teal mumbled. He could tell just how much discomfort Akashi was having. “Okay, tell you what, I will wear your shirt, and then you will wear my blouse,” He said, silently thanking that he was on rubbish bin duty, hence he was the last to finish his cleaning duty, so he had yet to try out his festival t-shirt.

 

Akashi appeared to have not hear Kuroko’s words, for he was still trying to pull off his shirt. Regardless, Kuroko helped Akashi’s clumsy fingers in removing his shirt. The moment the shirt was off, Akashi quieted down immediately.

 

“Feeling better?” Kuroko smiled at the other boy.

 

Akashi nodded at the question. His hair was a mess, eyes puffy and his lips were pouty and it made him look so adorable. Wordlessly, he leaned over to Kuroko for a hug, which Kuroko happily obliged.

 

“Let’s get dressed, Akashi-kun.” Kuroko said after a while, pushing Akashi away. Akashi looked a little unhappy, but he kept quiet and merely sniffled. The smaller boy quickly unbutton his shirt and draped it over the redhead before picking up the other’s shirt and wore it.

 

After he was done, he reached over to help Akashi button up his uniform. Kuroko immediately noticed what was the matter with the shirt the moment he wore it. The shirt was rather tight fit, and the hem were not properly sewed, causing some itch. Meanwhile, Akashi looked uncomfortable in Kuroko’s too small blouse, but the redhead didn’t complain about it.

 

“Akashi-kun, let’s get you something more comfortable to wear.” Kuroko smiled, pulling Akashi after him.

 

__________

 

Akashi laid soundly asleep on Kuroko’s sofa, wearing Kuroko’s soft comfy sleeping clothes. Kuroko brought Akashi home so that both of them could change into more comfortable clothes. His meltdown had tired him tremendously and Akashi was drowsy by the time they arrived at his house.

 

He dragged Akashi up to his room to look for some comfortable clothes that would fit Akashi. Meanwhile, Akashi spotted Kuroko’s plush bunny and latched onto it instantly. The redhead then fell asleep on the sofa while Kuroko scroll through Akashi’s phone to inform his butler of his whereabouts.

 

When Mr Kuroko returned home in the evening, he blinked at the scene of the two boys, thinking when his son had doubled. A longer observation revealed a redhead lying on the sofa sound asleep, hugging onto his son’s plush toy and sucking at his thumb, while his son was sitting beside the redhead, reading a book.

 

“Oh, dad. Welcome back.” Kuroko said as a matter of factly, as if having another boy in the house isn’t anything unusual.

 

“Mhmm...” Mr Kuroko hummed in a non-committal fashion, staring at the other sleeping boy. “Is he the one you mention…? That… Akashi…?”

 

“Yes… he is the one.” Kuroko replied softly, looking at Akashi and stroking his hair with a sad look on his face. Akashi unconsciously pressed against the hand threading his hair.

 

__________

 

“Kuroko!” Akashi trotted towards Kuroko when he spotted him at the classroom door. He followed Kuroko back to their seats, happy and excited like a little kid before heading to his seat to retrieve the shirt Kuroko had lent him. Kuroko couldn't help but the feel sad for the other. No one had tried to befriend Akashi before. The stigma of autism is huge.

 

“Hello, Akashi-kun,” Kuroko smiled. “Would you like to come to my house after school today?”

 

Akashi tilted his head. “Would I like to come to your house after school today?” He echoed. “Why?”

 

“My parents thought that it would be better for the both of us to wait there for your Butler.” The teal explained.

 

“Really? I can?” Akashi asked, unsure.

 

Kuroko nodded.

 

Akashi must have sensed Kuroko’s nod, as he was staring at the floor throughout the whole exchange.

 

“Thank you!” Akashi cried, pouncing onto Kuroko.

 

The sound of laughter by Kuroko was melodious.

 

__________

 

“Welcome home. You must be Seijuurou-kun.” Mr Kuroko greeted.

 

Akashi immediately hid behind Kuroko.

 

“He won't bite you,” Kuroko assured the redhead. “Dad, how come you are home so early today? What about work?”

 

“I left that to my vice-president,” Mr Kuroko waved it off. “It's mine and your mother's marriage anniversary today. Can't miss that due to work.”

 

Kuroko sighed. “I pity your company and the its vice-head.”

 

Akashi was very shy in Kuroko’s house. He seemed to want to occupy as little space as possible. Kuroko reckoned he must have acquired that behaviour after living with his Butler for so long. Kuroko’s father appeared to have noticed it too, for he told his son to bring the other boy around the house to explore, in hope that he would feel more comfortable.

 

Though this was the second time Akashi came to Kuroko’s house, Akashi gaped at everything. He stared, amazed at the living room, the television, the toilets, the master bedroom, Kuroko’s room, the yard and the attic. “Kuroko’s house is nice!” He exclaimed in amazement.

 

Kuroko looked at Akashi sadly. Perhaps, in an alternate universe, all these wouldn't be as impressive to Akashi as it would to this Akashi. After all, he would the son of Akashi Masaomi, and more importantly, a member of the Akashi family.

 

“Come on, Akashi-kun,” He tugged at the other’s arm. “It's almost time for dinner.”

 

Akashi’s reaction to seeing the Kuroko mistress was the same as when he met her husband. He hid behind Kuroko in fear and wariness.

 

Kuroko wondered if Akashi developed a fear for adults after having been disowned by his own father.

 

However, unlike with her husband, years as an experienced nurse taught her how to calm a skittish child, and hence helping Akashi to feel more at ease with her faster.

 

“Hello Seijuurou-kun,” Mrs Kuroko greeted. “I hope you had fun.” She smiled, patting Seijuurou gently on the head.

 

Akashi blushed, turning shy, upturned eyes at Kuroko.

 

The teal laughed, dragging the redhead after him into the dining room.

 

Seijuurou sat at the dining table between Kuroko and his mother, marvelling at the amount of food on the table. All he had ever gotten were leftovers from his father’s meal, so this looked like a full course meal to him. Akashi grunted happily. He had never sat with so many people before.

 

“How is the food, Seijuurou-kun? Is it up to your tastes?” Mr Kuroko asked.

 

Akashi frowned hard, wondering what would be the best word to describe it. “Salty...” He finally said after a long while.

 

When the Kuroko family remained silent after his comment, Akashi realised that what he had said was rude.

 

“That’s right, dad.” Kuroko interjected the awkward silence when he noticed that Akashi was about to panic. “You always put too much salt when you cook. You are going to cause us to get high blood pressure, and to think that you are a medical scientist.”

 

Mr Kuroko made some throaty noise. “Well, it is not my fault that when your Mum taught me how to cook, she merely said to add a pinch of salt. How was I to know how much a pinch is?”

 

“Cooking comes from deep inside,” Mrs Kuroko said, placing her hand over her chest. “Close your eyes and feel from the heart. Listen to what they tell you. That is how much salt you are supposed to put.”

 

“Oh, you are so right. I hear them telling me that I should put only three crystals of salt into the water. NOT! Give me a proper measurement next time!”

 

Before Mrs Kuroko could say anything in return, the room was filled with sounds of laughter. The Kurokos looked at the redhead, who was laughing and smiling without a care in the world. It wasn’t long before their son joined in, and then eventually, the entire dining room was filled with laughter.

 

The Kurokos knew how much Akashi had been through, and they hoped to give him every drop of happiness that they could provide. Seeing just how happy Seijuurou is was a testament to their accomplishment.

 

__________

 

“Kuroko…” Akashi shyly approached the other.

 

“Yes, Akashi-kun?” Kuroko responded gently, noticing the little tremble that racked the redhead’s body.

 

“Can you hang out with me after your duties at the school festival?”

 

Kuroko beamed. This was the first time Akashi had taken the first step. He felt like he had made progress with Akashi. “Sure!”

 

As per almost every school festival, there seemed to always be a class that does a haunted house. The same applies to Teiko and Kuroko’s class is working on it.

 

In order not to trigger Akashi hypersensitive hearing, the teacher had given him the role of backstage helper, where screams made by the visitors were more muffled.

 

Akashi did his job dutifully, applying makeup to ‘ghosts’ and fixing their costumes. Ten minutes before the end of his shift, Akashi left his workplace to head to the toilet. As his hand touched the handle...

 

“Kuroko seemed to be close to Akashi, don't you think?”

 

“Yeah. I heard Akashi is from a rich family, you know. He must be after the money. Akashi is nothing if not for his wealth anyways.”

 

Akashi felt his heart twist painfully.

 

“Maybe I should start being close to Akashi too. There's a new console that I am eyeing.”

 

“Heh, you are so evil, making use of him like that.”

 

“Says you, you are the one who said that he is nothing if not for his wealth.”

 

“But his behaviour is really strange, huh. If he is really from a prestigious family, don't you think he brings shame to the family?”

 

Akashi grasped onto his heart. It hurts.

 

“You think he is acting strangely on purpose? I mean he is childish and all.”

 

Seijuurou, I will give you one week to clear yourself of your childish behaviour. You are bringing shame to the Akashi family.’

 

It hurts.

 

“The principal is pretty patient with him too, huh. If I were him, I would kick him out and say ‘Bye-bye sucker!”

 

‘Your one week deadline is over and your behaviour has yet to change. You are no longer welcome here. Get out of my sight.’

 

It hurts.

 

“Akashi is so naive, you know. I wonder how it is that he can still ace his tests?”

 

‘I have no use for you, you stupid child.’

 

It's so hard to breathe.

 

“He probably uses some cheat code, you know. One that no one noticed.”

 

‘Young Master, come into my room. I will raise you here. Just don't let anyone notice.’

 

It's so painful.

 

“Damn, wouldn't it be bad if he get caught? Well, no matter. I’d bet he can't get far in society.”

 

‘Don't get caught by Master Masaomi. Stay in my room, don't travel far.’

 

Help...

 

“Regardless,” The sound got closer and closer. “my bet is that Kuroko got close to him for his money.”

 

“Yeah. He is really useless otherwi— Oh!”

 

“Uh...hello, Akashi. Here to use the toilet?”

 

“Idiot! Why else would he be here?!” The boy hissed and nudged his friend.

 

“Oh uh...well, enjoy your day, Akashi—”

 

Before he could finish his sentence, Akashi ran away.

 

He didn't know where he was heading to. He didn't see where he was going. His vision was just a blur. All he could think of was to run away. But to where? He had no idea. He just kept running, his heart and mind screaming it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts ithurtsithurtsithurts—

 

He couldn't take it anymore. He collapsed and screamed and clawed at his face.

 

Why is he such an alien?

Why is he so weird?

Why is he so different?

Why is he so hated?

Why why why why why whywhywhywhywhy

He hates himself.

He hates that he is different.

He hates being an alien.

He hates being alive.

He hates being born.

He wants to die.

He wants to disappear.

He wants to be gone.

He wants to be loved.

 

Akashi laid on his side, body curled up tight as he pulled at his hair.

 

He shook his head; he covered his ears. He can still hear those voices.

 

He bit his hand and the taste of blood calmed him somewhat. But it's not enough. It's never enough.

 

He stood up and went to the wall closest to him. He kicked at the walls. Hard. He felt the intense pain, even with his shoes on.

 

It is still not enough.

 

He hates himself.

 

He lays his forehead against the wall, the cool temperature created a contrast with his warm head. He hit his head against the wall.

 

__________

 

Kuroko sighed as he removed his ghost costume. Despite being autumn, the costume was rather stuffy and hot. Ever since the festival commenced, Kuroko only looked forward to exploring the school with Akashi.

 

He took some tissues to wipe his sweat away and went into the preparation room to look for Akashi. However, when he entered the room, there were no signs of the redhead.

 

“Where is Akashi-kun?” Kuroko asked the room.

 

Everyone in the room said they hadn't seen him, but Kuroko noticed two boy avoiding eye contact. Something is going on.

 

“Where is he? I know you had seen him.” Kuroko approached the two boys, his voice an octave lower.

 

Everyone looked at the teal in shock. No one had seen that quiet boy so threatening before.

 

“He… he ran towards the direction of class D…” One of the boys said.

 

“What. Did. You. Do. To. Him.” The teal hissed.

 

“We… we uh… we kinda said that he is useless if not for his wealth…? I mean, that's kinda true and—”

 

“If anything happens to Akashi-kun, I will hold you two responsible.” With those words out loud, Kuroko ran out of the class to look for the redhead.

 

“You know...I know how much you guys dislike Akashi-kun…” One of the girls said after Kuroko left. “But that is just going too overboard. You guys better apologise to Akashi-kun later.”

 

The two boys looked at each other with reluctance.

 

__________

 

Kuroko ran through the crowds, ignoring the students that he had bumped by accident. The only time he stopped was to ask if they had seen a certain redhead around. Kuroko had a bad feeling about this situation, and he hoped to find Akashi as fast as possible.

 

Clues from random schoolmates brought Kuroko to the ground floor, but thereafter, he couldn’t locate Akashi’s whereabouts anymore. Kuroko went to the more secluded part of the school. He leaned against the wall and closed his eyes, forcing his breathing to slow down.

 

He needs to be calm, not matter how dire the situation. Panicking would only cause him to have tunnel vision.

 

Akashi Seijuurou has Asperger's, it is very likely that he would have a meltdown at this moment. If he had a meltdown in a crowded place, no doubt people would surround him. The fact that Kuroko have yet to see such crowds meant that Akashi is in some secluded spot.

 

Next, it is very likely that Akashi has social anxiety too. In that case, Akashi would not go to a place with so many people around. That aligns with his initial theory of Akashi being in a secluded spot.

 

Everywhere except for the ground floor is filled with booths, so the upper floors are definitely out. If he recalled the booth layouts around the school, the school garden has no activities at all, so Akashi would most likely be in the gardens.

 

Immediately dashing to the gardens, Kuroko scanned the area frantically for a redhead. His vision was a blur, it focused on nothing except for hints of red. Kuroko walked through the gardens, following the footpath to an empty field which contains only small gardening plants and a garden shed.

 

Kuroko sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, thinking hard. Where else could Akashi-kun be? He closed his eye and calmed his breathing once more. That’s when he heard it. It was faint, but he heard it. The sound of soft sniffling.

 

Straining his ears to locate the source of the sound, Kuroko walked around the to the back of the garden shed and finally heaved a sigh of relief. There’s Akashi. His relief, however, was short-lived as he realised the redhead was heading towards the garden shed to hit his head against its wall.

 

“Akashi-kun!” Kuroko yelled, sprinting towards the boy to place his palm in the area where he believed the autistic boy would hit.

 

Akashi opened his eyes when his head did not connect to the hard wall he had expected. Seeing a palm in his way, he traced the hand to its owner and choked when he saw Kuroko standing there.

 

“Akashi-kun… what’s the matter?” He gave the other weak smile. Kuroko didn’t understand why Akashi would try to self-harm.

 

Akashi looked at the teal with a daze, seeing Kuroko without really seeing him.

 

Regardless, my bet is that Kuroko got close to him for his money.

 

Akashi violently pushed his only friend away, squatting on the grass and hugging his knees, crying loudly.

 

Kuroko was alarmed at the sudden violence, but recovered quickly and approached the redhead again. He placed a hand on the other’s nape, immediately feeling him tensing up.

 

“Akashi-kun… what happened?”

 

Akashi choked out Kuroko’s name. “Don’t leave me...” He sobbed.

 

Kuroko cradled the sobbing head against his chest, softly patting and hoping it could calm him down.

 

“Don’t leave me, Kurokoooooo...” Akashi whined, twisting around to grab Kuroko by his shirt. “I am not an Akashi. I have been disowned long ago. I have no money to give you. I have nothing… but please… don’t leave me...”

 

Kuroko tried to push Akashi away to make eye-contact, but the redhead mistook that as a rejection and clung onto the teal, panicking even more.

 

“Please-please-please don’t leave me! You are my only friend, I beg you!”

 

The smaller boy’s eyes softened at the other’s confessions. He hugged the head against his body tightly, letting his friend know that he isn’t going anywhere, and that he did not find him repulsive. “I am not going anywhere, Akashi-kun.” Kuroko smiled. “Don’t listen to what they say. I am your friend. That doesn’t change whether you are an Akashi or not. Besides, I suspected right from the beginning that you were disowned.”

 

Kuroko cradled the head against his chest, adjusting it such that the ear is against his heart. “Here, listen to my heartbeat. When one lie, there is always a fear of being caught. That will trigger a fight-or-flight response, causing the heartbeat to go faster. Listen carefully, is my heartbeat getting faster?”

 

The other boy shook his head.

 

“So that means that I am not lying to you, Akashi-kun.” The kind smile in the voice was obvious.

 

When Kuroko felt Akashi’s arm around him tightened and the head rubbing against him, he knew that he had gotten through the other.

 

__________

 

Even though this was Akashi’s third Teiko festival, this was actually the first time he ever checked the festival out. He had never really walked around due to his shyness and inability to communicate effectively. However, with Kuroko beside him, Akashi felt more comfortable in his own skin and is more willing to take part in the festival.

 

Akashi trotted slightly behind Kuroko, letting the teal take the lead as he do not know much about what the festival has to offer. With a hand holding on to Kuroko’s shirt so that they won’t be separated, the boy looked at the decorations and booths with interest. Though bright colours and loud noises would often trigger Akashi’s discomfort, Kuroko was extremely observant on the redhead’s reaction and would bring him to a darker or quieter place until he calms down.

 

The boys were walking along the games section of the booths when Kuroko felt a tug on his shirt. Turning around, he saw Akashi looking longingly at the shogi booth which was empty of students and visitors.

 

“Want to try the game out?” Kuroko asked.

 

Akashi gave a very small nod, biting his lips and looking down, fearful of rejection.

 

“Let’s go then!” Kuroko smiled and led the boy into the classroom, missing the look of shock and happiness on Akashi’s voice.

 

“Hello, welcome! Would you like to play a game of shogi? There are attractive prizes available to be won! Which level would you be playing? We have beginner, intermediate and expert levels. If you win the expert levels, you can choose to play against our club president and win additional prizes!” A student asked, looking at Kuroko.

 

Kuroko felt irked that the student ignored Akashi. “No, Akashi-kun is the one who would be playing.”

 

“Huh?!” The student responded.

 

He was, however, ignored as Akashi simply sat down in front of the board.

 

“Uh, okay then, so it’s the beginner’s level right? That will be 200 ye—”

 

“Expert,” Akashi suddenly cut in. “expert level.”

 

The student gave Akashi a long look. “I hope you are not underestimating us. Our team are in the Nationals, and our president is especially strong. She was the national runner-up last year, you know.”

 

Akashi nodded, his eyes staring intensely at board.

 

“Well, that would be 400 yen then.” He huffed.

 

Akashi moved to take his wallet out, but Kuroko stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.

 

“I will pay for this, Akashi-kun. You show them who is better, I believe in you.” Kuroko whispered with confidence.

 

Akashi’s eyes widened a little before a small smile broke through his face. He nodded and leapt onto the chair, hugging his knees to his chest as he rocked his body, eyes still fixed on the shogi board.

 

“Hey Prez, you have a challenger!” The shogi club member called to the back of the classroom.

 

“Oh? Finally, someone good enough to face me?” The club president walked forward, flipping her long, slicked black hair. “And who might they be— Oh.” The girl turned her head to look at her club member. “Really now, he defeated one of ours?”

 

The student huffed. “Well, he seemed confident, so I thought maybe he should face our best.”

 

“Hm. Well, I am Kamaka Ueko[i], Teiko third year, Shogi club president and finalist of the National Shogi Competition last year. Try not to bore me too much, Akashi Seijuurou.” She said with condescending tone, looking down at the redhead from her nose.

 

Akashi gave a nod.

 

Kamaka huffed before pulling the chair opposite Akashi and sat down. The redhead grimaced, his nose twitching  At such distance, even Kuroko could smell the overpowering perfume that was diffused from the girl.

 

The silence in the classroom was tensed as the only sound present was the shogi pieces clicking against the shogi board. Everyone gathered around the table and watched as the two players moved their pieces across the board.

 

“Heh, such amateurish move,” Ueko said as she took one of Akashi’s knight.

 

Akashi, however, did not bat an eyelid but instead, moved his pieces with confidence and stride. His concentration was so intense it was impossible to get his attention.

 

Annoyed with his lack of response, Ueko took the knight she captured from Akashi and dropped it onto the board. “One of your knights has betrayed you, Akashi-kun~[ii]” She cooed sarcastically, as if Akashi was a toddler. “Now then, what would you do~”

 

The shogi club members murmured to each other as they shared their strategies, all of them seeing the light at the end of their tunnel. The club president leaned back against her chair and smirked with her eyes closed. She can see it: her path to victory. She would win the game in four moves’ time. What a simply victory; she did not even break into a single sweat.

 

“A wise king is one that knows the limit of his strength.”

 

“Hah?”

 

Akashi raised an index and gently touched at Ueko’s King piece. “Conceding is a graceful and admirable way of accepting loss[iii].”

 

The black haired girl stood up abruptly, her stool scraping against concrete floor as she slammed her palm against the table. “Don't be ridiculous! I have already seen the board four steps in advance. I will win in just four moves, and you have less than 96% chance of winning. Why should I be the one who concede.”

 

Akashi, however, appeared to be unaware of her speech as his mind was solely focused on the board in front of him. Wordlessly, Akashi took one of his piece and snapped it onto the board. “Checkmate,” he said.

 

“Im-impossible…” Ueko mumbled as she looked at the board with disbelief. She had been so focused on the main line up that she failed to notice the Gold general that was slowly creeping towards her. Every move, from his first movement to letting his knight get eaten, was all meant for this very moment. What intricate strategy!

 

“Akashi-kun… you are amazing!” Kuroko breathed, gently touching Akashi by the shoulders.

 

Akashi grinned and preened at the attention he received from Kuroko.

 

The room erupted into murmurs as the club members discussed about the unexpected. Akashi, the boy who was seen as dumb and an alien, actually defeated their best player.

 

“F-for winning against our strongest player… your prize is four tickets to a five star sushi restaurant…” The student who collected the money said as he handed the prize to Akashi.

 

Taking his prize, Akashi stood up and was about to leave with Kuroko when the club president grabbed the redhead by his shoulder to stop him from leaving.

 

Feeling over-sensitised by that touch, Akashi let out a loud cry of discomfort and slapped the hand away.

 

“Hold up, I demand a rematch!” Ueko said, rubbing the spot where she was slapped. “It must have been a fluke.”

 

Akashi turned to look at Kuroko for permission.

 

“Why not?” Kuroko smiled. “As long as Akashi-kun is happy.”

 

Smiling with happiness, Akashi sat back at the chair and began another round with the club president.

 

__________

 

“This… can’t be real...” The club members looked with wide eyes at their president’s yet another loss. Akashi has won so many prizes that they are left with nothing to give him. Kuroko almost wanted to laugh at the amount of stuff Akashi earned just by paying 400 yen. All of those prizes are well above 1000 yen and some, even 10,000 yen.

 

“One more round, the last one,” Ueno insisted for what seemed like the hundredth time.

 

Akashi frowned and rubbed his eyes. “... No more...” It was fun at first, but the match quickly got boring when Akashi kept easily and effortlessly destroy Ueno’s army again and again. The redhead is starting to feel sorry for Ueno’s pieces.

 

Standing up from the chair, Akashi placed his prize into a huge canvas bag before leaving with Kuroko[iv].

 

“That’s an awesome game, Akashi. You have taught them not to underestimate you!” Kuroko commented.

 

Akashi returned with a bright smile.

 

Akashi and Kuroko then explored the rest of the school festival, checking out various food stalls such as the chocolate-dipped banana and udon and ramen stalls.

 

Out of curiosity, the boys went to check out the Fortune teller stall and had a laugh over the ‘Good chemistry’ speech they received from the fortune teller.

 

They also checked out drama plays from some classes and game stalls held by some of their junior classes, as well as small rides that can be found in festivals. Akashi was great at game that requires precision, such as shooting games, ball and ring toss related games and had won many prizes which he split with Kuroko.

 

They even went to the dunking area and Akashi had somehow managed to convince their homeroom teacher to get on the dunking machine dunked their teacher into the cold water with a basketball multiple times.

 

Their teacher’s reaction when dunked was so hilarious it had Akashi and Kuroko laughing out loud, warming the heart of the teacher who was about to regret his decision. After all, he had never seen the two boys, especially Akashi, having so much fun before.

 

When the festival ended, Kuroko brought Akashi back up to their classroom to watch the campfire from up far, since it was the only familiar place that was devoid of students and noises.

 

Akashi and Kuroko looked down from the window as they watched the students and teachers preparing the campfire and fireworks. Behind them was a huge bag of prizes that Akashi had won from the festival games.

 

Akashi was strangely fidgety, rocking on his feet and twisting his fingers. Kuroko decided to give him all the time he needs to prepare himself.

 

“Kuroko...” Akashi finally started after a long while.

 

The teal returned with a non-committed hum, his eyes never leaving the campfire preparation.

 

“Thank you for hanging out with me today, I had a—”

 

Kuroko turned to look at Akashi upon hearing his sentence ending halfway. He was about to ask what the matter was when the campfire was lit and the ember colours was reflected on Akashi’s face and eyes.

 

The redhead looked at the campfire with curiosity and amazement, his eyes shining bright and innocent, and it had Kuroko’s breath caught in his throat.

 

Like this, Akashi Seijuurou is akin to a work of art, and Kuroko felt his heart twisting in a painful way.

 

__________

 

“Kuroko! Go with me!” Akashi happily exclaimed, giving the teal two of the four sushi tickets he received from his match with Ueko.

 

Kuroko took the tickets with hesitance. “Are you sure you are giving it to me?”

 

“Mhm!” Akashi smiled and jumped about in circles. “Kazu[v] said to bring your parent along too! They will arrange a time for us to eat.”

 

Kuroko gently touched Akashi’s shoulders. “And is Akashi-kun excited?”

 

“Yep!” Came the innocent reply. “Never ate at a sushi restaurant before. And-and, and I like spending time with Kuroko!”

 

Kuroko blushed slightly at the comment. Akashi really had no idea what effect his words have on him.

 

The sushi date took place on a weekday night, when the Akashi Master was out of town. The restaurant operates till twelve at night, which was considered a blessing for Akashi and his butler, seeing as they do not have the freedom of movement until the early morning or late night. Meanwhile, when Kuroko told his parents about the sushi date, his father immediately suggested for the Kuroko mistress to go, hoping that she would be able to share some insights and suggestions with regards to Akashi’s autistic condition.

 

And that was what they did, the Akashi butler and Kuroko mistress sitting on one side, while Akashi and Kuroko sitting on the other. The two adults spent their time discussing about the best way to provide for the young Akashi, while the two kids eat their sushi in bliss. Akashi appeared to have a hard time picking up the sushi with chopsticks, so Kuroko alternate between eating and feeding the redhead.

 

“How do you find the sushi?” Kuroko asked the redhead.

 

“Yum!” Akashi replied, opening his mouth and urging for more.

 

The teal smiled and obliged.

 

__________

 

Akashi wandered around the mansion aimlessly. The Akashi master was out of town for the weekday so he was able to walk around freely. Before he know it, his feet brought him to the shrine of his late mother. The redhead looked at the image of his mother with sadness. He remembered the times when she was still alive. During days like those, there was no need for him to hide in his butler’s room. He was free to run about, and his mother treated him with kindness like how Kuroko would. He sighed. He really missed the teal. It was winter break, so he hadn’t seen him in weeks.

 

Akashi brought a hand forward and gently touched his mother’s photo, when a stern and cold voice boomed behind him. “What are you doing here, you useless thing.”

 

The younger Akashi froze before turning his head stiffly to face his father. The look of utter hatred and disgust were directed at him, and the redhead felt his body turned cold with terror.

 

“I am pretty sure I had made it clear that you are to be out of my sight at all times. I have no need for a faulty heir. The sight of you sickens me. I had only bear with you for so long curtesy of Shiori, but now that she is gone, there is no longer a need for me to pretend any longer.”

 

“Ah— but, I suppose you have no idea what I had just said, huh.” The stern man continue, a hand reaching out to his smaller copy. “You never had any idea what was happening around you.”

 

Before it contacted, the child flinched away from the arm and retreated back several steps before dashing away.

 

__________

 

The terrified boy ran and ran. His feet brought him out of the mansion into the cold, winter air. His bare feet came into contact with the snow on the ground, and his skin, only protected by the thin T-shirt and shorts that he wore.

 

But he felt no pain, no sting. He simply doesn't feel anything. Pumped with adrenaline that gushed through his bloodstream, the autistic boy ran and ran as though it was the last day on Earth. His only thought was to get to safety, because that man was danger, danger and danger. Everything about him screamed danger and he had to get away quick; get to a safe place quick, and he knew that one place where he would be safe, and so he ran and ran into the winter night.

 

__________

 

“That should do it.” Mr Kuroko placed a table top over the comforter and smiled at his handy work. “One nice and toasty kotatsu completed!”

 

Ms Kuroko smiled at her husband and shook her head. “Being all so proud just by completing such an easy task. What are you, a kid?” She joked.

 

“Hey, a task achieved is a task accomplished, no matter its simplicity. Now, I want my reward.” Mr Kuroko said, tilting his head and closing his eyes, his lips puckering.

 

“Yes yes, Mr Kuroko, you did a good job. Well done, I am proud of you.” The Kuroko mistress replied, kissing her husband on the cheeks. Her husband face immediately changed from that of a childish anticipation to one of deep disappointment and Mrs Kuroko couldn't help but laugh at her husband's obvious disappointment.

 

Their conversation was interrupted by the ringing of their telephone, so Mrs Kuroko went to fetch it while instructing her husband to lay the hot pot dishes out on the kotatsu.

 

“Hello? You have reached the Kuroko family.” Mrs Kuroko said after bringing the receiver to her ear.

 

Mr Kuroko brought the dishes as instructed, a small smile on his face. The silence indicating that the person on the other line was speaking.

 

“What?”

 

The Kuroko Master immediately looked up at the sound of alarm in his wife's voice, any signs of playfulness on his face were gone in that instant.

 

“I understand. I will let you know immediately if I found him.” The wife said before placing the receiver back.

 

“What's the matter?” Mr Kuroko said, facing his wife.

 

“It's Seijuurou-kun.” She replied, her face pale. “He has gone missing.”

 

__________

 

The head butler Kazu was debriefing the maids for the day when the house master walked in. Everyone immediately stood at attention and bowed respectfully, feeling fearful and wary since the Akashi Master hardly ever entered the maid quarters.

 

The master eyed all of them before calling out to the butler.

 

“Sir!” Kazu stood at attention.

 

“I am pretty sure I told you before to keep the stupid thing out of my sight. He was in my way just now.” He scolded.

 

“My sincere apologies, sir. I would be sure to punish him later. May I know where he is now?” the butler bowed to nearly ninety degrees. He hadn’t expected the man to be back so soon.

 

“Who knows,” Akashi Masaomi said as he turned his back and walked out of the room. “He ran out of the mansion, that’s all that I know.”

 

The maid quarters immediately started buzzing about when the house master was out of sight. Kazu felt himself panic. “You are dismissed, we will continue our briefing tomorrow.” He said before attempting to run out.

 

“Hold on, Kazu-san,” One of the maids stopped him. “Let us help look for the Young Master too!”

 

Kazu agreed and split their searching spots: some of the maids looking around the mansion, some look outside, while Kazu and the rest search at the areas where the young Akashi could be. Everyone was to report to him via text whether or not Akashi was at the spot they were assigned. As Kazu received more and more negative responses, he got more and more worried. The places that Akashi had been to were limited. If he wasn’t in the mansion, and nowhere to be seen in town, the remaining places in Tokyo where he could be would be Teiko or the Kuroko’s hous—

 

Kazu immediately fished out his phone from his pockets and dialled the Kuroko’s. The young Akashi needed to be found immediately or he would freeze in the snow, knowing that he wouldn’t know better to change into warmer clothes.

 

__________

 

The Kurokos were having hot pot for the day. However, Mrs Kuroko deemed that the soup doesn’t have enough flavour, so she tasked her son to buy some shiitake mushrooms while Mr Kuroko dug the kotatsu parts out from the attic.

 

Kuroko was on his way back from his errand when he received a call from his mother about Akashi’s disappearance. She told him to search for Akashi with his father, while she wait at home in case Akashi managed to find his way to their house.

 

Kuroko closed his phone and immediately started running. The houses in his area all looked the same, so to those unfamiliar with the area, it might seem like a maze. Kuroko hoped that Akashi is around the area, as the temperature is getting lower at the sky gets darker.

 

After close to 45 minutes of searching, Kuroko stopped at a lamp post, a hand resting against it, huffing and gasping and trying to catch his breath. His face were cold and stiff, and his fingertips were numb thanks to the freezing temperature. He couldn’t imagine how Akashi must have felt, wearing light clothing in a place like this.

 

As he was about to continue his search for the redhead, he suddenly heard a faint whimpering. Following the noise, Kuroko was brought ‘round a house to a dark alley. He slowly head into the alley, his chest was tight from the run.

 

He saw a figure sitting beside a trash bin, covered in the shadows. The only part that was revealed in light was the foot that was reddened with cold.

 

“Akashi-kun…?” Kuroko called out softly, careful not to startle the other in case it really was the redhead.

 

Upon hearing his name, the figure in the alley stopped his whimpering. “Kuroko?”

 

Hearing his name being called, the teal immediately rushed to the boy. “Oh gosh, I was so worried, Akashi-kun.” He cupped Akashi’s frozen cheeks before holding him tight against his chest.

 

“Kuroko…” The redhead cried as he reciprocated the hug. “Kuroko, Kuroko, Kuroko...”

 

Kuroko immediately removed one of his two layered jacket and covered Akashi to keep him warm. He lifted Akashi off the ground and have him rest against his body, ceasing all contact from the snow.

 

“Dad?” Kuroko said when his father picked up the phone. “I found Akashi. He is in the alley near house number 401.”

 

When he turned his attention back to the redhead, he noticed that the boy had his eyes closed. “Akashi-kun!” Kuroko yelled, panicked. “Talk to me, don’t close your eyes!”

 

“Kuroko... ” The redhead mumbled. “Kuroko… I… scared...”

 

“You did great,” Kuroko praised, tucking the redhead under his chin. “You did really great, Akashi-kun. I am very proud of you. So stay awake for me, okay?”

 

Akashi’s reply was a tiny nod.

 

It didn’t take long for Mr Kuroko to arrive, and when he did, he covered Akashi in a thick layer of blanket which he had brought along and lifted him from his son, causing the redheaded boy to start thrashing and screaming about.

 

“Kuroko! Kuroko!” Akashi screamed and cried, trying to fight against Mr Kuroko’s firm grip.

 

“Shh, Akashi-kun, I am right here!” Kuroko tried to sooth to no avail.

 

__________

 

Immediately after the Kuroko males were home, Akashi was placed gently on the sofa with all of his wet clothes removed, only to be replaced with Kuroko’s warmer shirts. Akashi had quietened down immediately upon entering the house, the familiar smell seemed to calm him a little.

 

Mr Kuroko turned the room heater up, bringing it closer to Akashi to keep him warm. Meanwhile, Mrs Kuroko carefully observed all of his extremities, cupping his cheeks and fingers and taking his blood pressure.

 

Kuroko sat on the floor beside the sofa, holding Akashi’s trembling hands and stroking his hair. Finally, Mrs Kuroko sat on her heels with a huge sigh.

 

“What’s the matter, Mum?”

 

“From what I can see, it seemed like Seijuurou-kun did not get any frostbites, only frost nips. His feet are blistered because he ran on the road. But it is also because of that that he did not get frostbites, He is suffering from mild hypothermia, so we need to raise his core temperature. He is not free from any danger yet so we still need to keep an eye on him for the time being.

 

“Dear, I have prepared a warm bath for Seijuurou-kun. Please help me carry him there.” She continued, looking at her husband.

 

Mr Kuroko nodded and lifted the teary-eyed boy from the sofa.

 

“Mum, um...” Kuroko mumbled.

 

Mrs Kuroko looked at her son and smiled with understanding. “Go with Seijuurou-kun, sweetie.”

 

__________

 

Akashi was sitting on the sofa with Kuroko feeding him hot chocolate when his butler knocked on the door. Mrs Kuroko was covering Akashi’s blistered legs in bandages so Mr Kuroko let him in.

 

“I apologise for all the trouble that our Young Master had caused,” he apologised profusely.

 

“Don’t worry about it,” Mrs Kuroko replied. “I am just glad that he is safe.”

 

When Kazu noticed Kuroko feeding Akashi hot chocolate and tilted his head.

 

“He wouldn’t drink from any cup, and we desperately need to bring his body temperature up, so...” Kuroko tried to explain.

 

“Ah yes,” Kazu started. “Our Young Master refused to drink from anything except his straw bottle.”

 

Once his feet had been bandaged, his blood pressure taken and Mrs Kuroko had deemed him out of danger, his butler bowed politely and proceed to scope Akashi up from the sofa.

 

Akashi, however, started to cry and thrashed about, pushing his butler away and clinging onto Kuroko for dear life.

 

“No no no! Kuroko! Kuroko!” He screamed and pulled onto Kuroko’s sleeves.

 

The redhead managed to dislodge himself out of his butler’s hold, causing him to plummet straight to the ground, the pain of the fall making him cry even louder. However, despite it all, his hold on Kuroko had never released.

 

“Young Master,” Kazu squatted behind his charge gently holding on to his shoulders. “We have troubled the Kurokos enough. We should not be so selfish.”

 

However, Akashi refused to listen. “Not going home!” He insisted.

 

Mr Kuroko lifted Akashi back up onto the sofa, instructing his son to accompany the redhead while he pulled his wife and the butler to one side.

 

“Kazu-san, you said that Seijuurou-kun ran away from home because he met his father, is that correct?” He asked.

 

Kazu nodded.

 

“Seeing how things went today, as a medical scientist, I strongly feel that Akashi should be removed from the Akashi household. That place is toxic to him, and it would not aid him in his development.

 

“We were fortunate this time, but things could have gotten a lot worse should Akashi run away the next time. From what I have observed, Akashi has fallen behind in his development, and I believe his living conditions had to do with it. This is something we can no longer close an eye on.”

 

Mrs Kuroko looked at her husband with amazement. Mr Kuroko is generally a cheeky and playful person, so it is rare even for her to see his serious side.

 

“That’s what I thought so too, but… We do not know of any other place where our Young Master can grow up healthily in.”

 

“There are institutions that exists for cases such as this. I can write a special recommendation to them, but it will require his father’s consent. Besides, if you keep this up, I believe your job would be at risk too.” Mr Kuroko responded. “We can ask Seijuurou-kun which place he would prefer, if it could give you a piece of mind.”

 

The butler looked resigned. “I understand.”

 

__________

 

“Young master,” Kazu said, approaching his charge.

 

“Not going anywhere!” Akashi snapped back.

 

The butler sighed and patted the red head. “We were thinking of sending you to a better place to stay in, so that you would be away from Master Akashi. What do you think?”

 

Akashi leaned into Kuroko. “Want to stay with Kuroko.”

 

Kazu appeared stressed.

 

“Kazu-san,” Mrs Kuroko said, touching his shoulder to get his attention. “We don’t mind taking Seijuurou-kun in, but again, we will need to go through all the legal papers with his father’s consent. I know this may be difficult since you were the one that raised him, but—”

 

“No, I understand, really.” Kazu smiled sadly. “I admit that I would miss him quite a bit, but I want what’s best for our Young master. I will get the legal papers ready. Thank you for being willing to take our Young Master in.”

 

__________

 

“Any more papers that I am required to sign?” The stern voice boomed in the room.

 

“No Sir, none that are work-related.” Kazu replied.

 

Akashi Masaomi looked up at that. “What do you mean?”

 

The butler gulped. Here goes. “There is a legal paper regarding the Young Master.”

 

“What about it?” The Akashi master said impatiently. “I did say it years before that I want him out of my sight and I don’t care how you do it.”

 

The butler placed the papers in front of him. “There is a family that is keen in adopting him. Here are the legal papers that will put the Young Master under the care of that family. He will stop carrying the Akashi name, and will instead, take the name of that family. These are the terms, conditions, and legal notes.”

 

The man huffed and skipped the notes, signing the papers without a second thought before pushing it away from him, barely giving it a look. “Now leave. I have a meeting coming up.”

 

__________

 

“Here is our Young Master’s favourite blanket: He can’t sleep without it. And his plush bunny too. I was surprised that Young Kuroko had the same one. This is his straw bottle, he wouldn’t drink from anything else. Here are his clothes. He likes his vegetables wet, and his favourite food is tofu. And and, he usually sleeps at 12 am. He absolutely hate wearing skin tight attire, dislike having his hair styled, and, and um—”

 

“Kazu-san, please calm down. It is not as though you would never see Seijuurou-kun ever again.” Mrs Kuroko said.

 

Kazu smile at the Kurokos gratefully and squat down to look up at his Young Master, holding his hands in his. “Young Master, please listen to the Kurokos. Be respectful to them, and don’t cause them too much trouble. Remember to eat well and keep warm, and don’t run away from home without telling anyone. Don’t be picky with your food. Attend all your therapies sessions, and pay attention in class. It doesn’t matter if you do not have a lot of friends. Just one or two important ones is good enough.”

 

Kazu started to tear up. “I am so sorry for causing your development stunt, I knew next to nothing about autism, so when Master Masaomi ordered for you to get out of his sight for the rest of his life, I didn’t know what to do other than to raise you in my room. This cause your world to be limited to only the walls of my room.

 

“I am sorry I couldn’t provide any better. I am a horrible person; I can’t stand to lose my job, but at the same time, I can’t stand to abandon you. I am sorry about all those times when you were bullied in school. I am sorry that you had to wake up earlier than anyone else to go to school, and wait longer than anyone to go home. I am sorry that you couldn’t lead a normal life, that you had to live under the constant fear of your father.”

 

He choked as he held onto Seijuurou’s shoulder and hugged him. “I am sorry I am such a trash. I love you, Seijuurou, and I will definitely miss you.”

 

Mrs Kuroko wiped her tears away. “You are welcome to visit anytime, Kazu-san. We know that it is not easy to suddenly be apart from someone you had spent all your life with. And, you are beating yourself too much.” She looked down at the redhead who was sobbing loudly. “If you were really as bad as you had made yourself to be, Seijuurou-kun couldn’t cry like he is now. This shows that he too, miss you, you know.”

 

Kazu smile through his tears and cupped the redhead’s face. “Is that true, Seijuurou?”

 

Seijuurou hiccupped and nodded, rushing to hug Kazu.

 

“Then I am glad, thank you.” Kazu said, kissing his former charge on the cheeks before wiping the tears away from the boy.

 

When Kazu returned to his car and drove off, Akashi—Seijuurou cried and tried to run after the car, only to give up halfway. “Kazu! Kazu!” He sobbed.

 

Slowly approaching the boy from behind, Kuroko hugged the boy tightly.

 

__________

 

Seijuurou was moody for the next few days. He only started to cheer up after his former butler visited him a few days later to see how he had adjusted to his new life. Soon after that, he had become more receptive to the changes. He responded positively to his therapy sessions, and slowly, he learned what he had lacked compared to others.

 

On one occasion when Kazu came to see him, Seijuurou had served him tea, and seeing Seijuurou drinking from the tea cup and using chopsticks had him spilling tears of pride.

 

Seijuurou had learnt to communicate more efficiently and handle his meltdowns. While he is still easily triggered by loud noises, flashy lights and sensitive touch, he know how to avoid such places or control his meltdown by excusing himself so that he could calm down. He is unable to completely remove some of his autistic habits, but Seijuurou had learned to bring down its occurrence rate.

 

From time to time, his former butler and maids would come to visit him, and they would always be surprised at how much their former Young Master had progressed. Seijuurou was also keen to spend time with them, sitting with them, talking to them and showing them how much he had improved, and preened under their praise and attention.

 

Time passed quickly, and both Kuroko and Seijuurou became inseparable. Before they knew it, they had graduated from University with top scores; Seijuurou, top in business and economy, and Kuroko, top in psychiatric studies.

 

Currently, Seijuurou is the head of a medical conglomerate known as the Kurosei Conglomerate. He is best known for his company which produces top quality medical equipment and the latest medical technologies. His company also provides quality medical training which produces only the best doctors. The Kurosei company also own side projects such as branded running shoes and clothes, and several non-profit health organisations. He is also deeply involved with the Ministry of Health. However, despite all his achievement, he is also known to be very kind hearted, hiring people with autism or other conditions where normal company wouldn’t have.

 

“Next, we will have the head of Kurosei Conglomerate to tell us about his success story. Even before graduating from University, he had already started earning millions from his start-up, and now he is one of the top in the world of Business. This will be his first ever public appearance.”

 

Seijuurou, with his red hair combed back and styled smartly, walked up to the stage with confidence and gusto. He scanned the crowd and when he saw a familiar redhead looking at him with shock, he couldn’t help the smirk that crossed his face.

 

Serve you right.

 

 Beside him sat another familiar face, and he gave that man a soft smile.

 

“Wow! You are a lot younger than we expected! How old are you, Seijuurou-sama, if you don’t mind me asking.”

 

“24.” Seijuurou replied coolly with a smile.

 

“Well then, please tell us your success story, Seijuurou-sama” The emcee said, giving the spotlight to him.

 

“My success story huh...” He hummed. “This is probably very commonly heard, but I would say that I am who I am today thanks to people who had believed in me whereas others had not.

 

“I was born into a stern household that does not tolerate any form of failure. I would not be revealing the name of the household due to personal reason, and also to protect the privacy of said household. However, when it was discovered that I had moderate autism, my father deemed me as a failure and order for me to be out of his sight. He had given up on me, never giving me a chance to redeem myself.

 

“Thereafter, I was raised by my butler, despite the high possibility of him losing his job. He worked tirelessly between taking care of me and doing his job, and I wasn’t the easiest kid to care for. But not matter what happens, he had never once lost his patience and faith in me.

 

“I was naturally bullied in school, but it was in middle school where I met my significant other; that transfer student had changed my life forever. He appeared to understand what was going through my mind, and spoke to me as my equal. He and his family eventually took me in and gave me access to therapy to help with my autism.

 

“I would say, had my former butler not raised me when my father had given up on me, I wouldn’t have been here. He believed in me, and raised me like his own to the best of his abilities, despite his limitations, and despite the fact that I am not of his blood.

 

“Likewise, had the transfer student not approached me, I wouldn’t have access to a better life, a better growing environment, and to better manage my autism. Their kindness to a stranger like me is something I can never fathom, but is something that I am eternally grateful for.

 

“I guess, what everyone can take from this is that, just because you are different, and just because you have psychiatric conditions or other conditions that are look down on by the public, doesn’t mean that you will never be able to succeed. Always think of the people who believe in you, and always strive to make them proud of the you today.”

 

He raised his arms to his side, showing his full self.

 

“I am Seijuurou, and this is my success story. Thank you.”

 

He bowed.

 

__________

 

“That was an awesome speech, Sei.” Tetsuya leaned up to give a chaste kiss on the redhead’s lips.

 

“I know right?” Seijuurou smirked teasingly as they walked to the backstage.

 

“The look on Masaomi-san’s face was priceless.” The teal laughed.

 

“What can I say? Serve him right. I had been wanting to prove to him for a long while. That I am not as useless as he thinks I was” He smiled to himself.

 

“I am sure you did, my prince.” Tetsuya replied.

 

“Prince? I am more like an alien than a prince, thanks to my behaviours, you know.”

 

“Mm… Doesn’t matter,” The shorter of the two said, leaning up for a longer kiss, no longer a chaste one like before. “Even with all your quirks, you are still my prince; my alien prince.”

 


 

 

[i] Ueko means above/top and child, signifying that she is a child of high status

[ii] In shogi, you can use your opponent’s piece against them after you captured it

[iii] This quote was an inspiration from Persona 5

[iv] Imagine Akashi dragging a huge canvas bag behind him, filled with snacks and other items won from the shogi stand.

[v] In my other fic ‘You are free now’, the butler was named Kazue. I have taken a real liking to the name and couldn’t think of anything else for this one so I used the similar name