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Locked for Love

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The concrete scrapes against her palms and knees as she’s roughly thrown into containment, and a cacophony of pain splinters up her limbs. Ochako moans, grunting under her breath she struggles to push herself up.

The guard at the gate watches her, expression as hard as stone. She tilts her head up, and their eyes connect. For a brief moment, she’s able to read him; his eyes flash resignation at his actions—it’s evident that he’s used to throwing actual villains of society into prison, not manhandle an innocent young woman.

Then, he steels himself and pulls out a ring of keys. With years of practice, he slides them one by one until he finds the one to her cell. To her, they all look the same, and any thoughts of trying to flee exit her mind. The guard doesn’t even bother keeping her cell door shut.

They both know that if she tries to run, she’ll risk more injury. Her chances of escape are naught without a miracle. He gives her another hard look, then locks her cell. Without a word, he moves away.

Ochako weakly pushes herself up, wincing at the dots of blood that start to ooze from her wounds. Gently, she pokes at one of them, hissing as a flash of pain shoots down her knee. Her fingertips leave a trail of dark red.

Her injuries aren’t terrible, but the risk of gaining an infection in prison worries her. Dying for her beliefs, though honorable and somewhat foolish, is something she’d prefer to avoid. She’d rather pass in old age with her loved ones around her.

“Hey, are you all right?” The question, though welcome, accompanies a raspy voice. She turns to her right. The cell next to hers contains another woman. Matted with dirt, the young woman doesn’t bother moving from her spot, comfortably situated on the cement.

The candles outside of their cell provide poor lighting; Ochako can barely make out her neighbor. In the bright flashes, she can gain that this prisoner is around her age. Through the dirt and rags, Ochako can see glimpses of dirty pink hair, short and unkempt.

“I’m fine.” She hates how small her voice sounds, wavering and obviously distressed. Pressing her dress into her wounds, she attempts to stall their bleeding, hoping they’ll scab over soon.

The young woman scoffs and shifts in her cell. “No, you’re not,” she says. “What are you in here for anyway?”

“Nothing. I’m innocent,” Ochako sniffs.

“We all are.” Another voice echoes from her other neighbor. This time, it’s deep and gruff, and she feels her heart skip a beat. A face flashes in her mind, and if she weren’t in shock, she’d jump right up and shake at the bars.

The candles outside flicker, and she catches a shock of red hair. The hope in her chest dies immediately, and she curls in on herself, shaming the small, resilient voice in her heart.

“What’s your name?” he asks. When she doesn’t answer, he sighs in resignation. “I can start. I’m Kirishima. The one on your other end is Mina. We’re in for speaking out against her majesty.” The title ends with venom and sarcasm.

“Treason, Kirishima. That’s what they called it,” Mina snorts. “We’re ‘traitors’ for speaking our mind against the warden, not the actual queen.”

“Whatever.” Faintly, she can see Kirishima flap his wrist in dismissal. He nods at her, “And you? What are you in prison for?”

She sniffs, rubbing the back of her hands against her eyes. In shame, she notes that the action leaves pale streaks on her skin, wiped clean from her tears. “I’m Ochako,” she starts. “And I guess my crime would be falling in love.”

 

--

 

“Who are you?!” Ochako barrels down the hills, uncaring that the hem of her skirt drags through mud. A figure, stooped in her field, barely acknowledges her as he continues to pick strawberries from her bushes.

She brandishes her basket, lifting it up to throw it at him, when he stands upright and catches it in his hands. The stranger is a good head taller than her, yet that doesn’t deter her. She pushes forward, but he holds her and the basket in place. A strawberry sticks out from his lips, in the process of being bitten.

With boredom, he flicks his wrist and she and her basket tumble back. Red, plump strawberries roll from their place in her basket, and without thinking, she begins to pelt them at him, uncaring that he’s dressed in official ranks.

“You—god, stop!” he shouts, shielding his face with his arms as she continues to barrage him with strawberries. When she runs out, she frantically searches around her for something else to throw, and her eyes land on her discarded basket.

“Get out of my—” She hefts the basket with a grunt. “—fields!” At the last word, she heaves it at him, and he shouts as it collides with his shoulder. With nothing else around her, she throws herself at him, pummeling him with her fists.

He growls in frustration, and in a moment of hesitation on her part, he grabs her wrists, firmly gripping it in his hands. She glares up at him, and his silhouette blocks out the cloudy sky.

“Calm down,” he orders. “I’m just hungry.” With that, he releases her with a slight push, and she stumbles back.

When she rights herself, she places her fists on her hips, cocking them. “That doesn’t justify thievery!”

He swoops down and plucks another strawberry off its stem, popping it into his mouth. She gapes at his audacity. “It does when you’ve been lost for three days,” he says quietly.

At that, her arms drop. “Lost?”

He mutters under his breath, crouching down to pop a few more strawberries in his mouth. With a loud sigh, she throws her hands up. Then, she points into the woods.

“Follow that trail for a day, and you’ll reach the main road,” she advises. The stranger nods, blond tufts bobbing with the movement. With his mouth full, and his hands occupied from stuffing fruit into his pockets, he nods at her and turns.

“Wait.” She lunges forward, grabbing onto his arm. “If you can’t pay for the strawberries, you can pay with labor.”

Up ahead, the sky rumbles, and it begins to rain.

 

--

 

“What’s your name?” she asks, throwing him a rag. She uses her own to dry off her hair, damp from running in the rain. He doesn’t answer, rubbing furiously at his face.

Then, he sneezes. Rubbing the back of his reddening nose, he scowls at the rag and bunches it in his fist. Without a word, his eyes roam her small cottage, eyeing the modest living space. Ochako feels her face heat up in self-consciousness.

It’s no mansion, nor is it a castle. But it’s her home, and she likes it the way it is.

The stranger shrugs off his uniform and drops his sword and scabbard to the ground. Left in his shirt and pants, she can see that he’s soaked to the bone.

“Katsuki. You can just call me Katsuki.”

The name rings a familiar bell, but she doesn’t dawdle on it, stepping into her room to fetch some of her father’s old clothes. Without a warning, she tosses it at him, smirking when he fumbles to catch them.

“You’ll catch a cold,” she warns, then moves to strike a fire in the fireplace. “And you can rest here for the night. We have work to do tomorrow.”

“Work?”

She pulls back, amusement sparkling in her eyes. “What. You thought you’d get to eat those strawberries for free? No, you need to work for a day to pay that off.”

 

--

 

Katsuki ends up staying for a week, claiming sickness. It’s true that he may have a cold, small enough not to hinder his travels, but she agrees to let him stay until he feels strong enough to go where he needs to be.

In all honesty, Ochako’s relieved to have him around. His presence is comforting in lieu of loneliness. With her parents on constant business, traveling around the country, she’s almost always left to run the small strawberry farm.

He kicks off his boots, sighing from a day’s worth of work, and lifts the hem of his shirt to wipe at his sweat. The display incites a small squeak of embarrassment, and she turns away.

He chuckles, “Something bothering you, Cheeks?”

She huffs indignantly, and any embarrassment she feels evaporates at his teasing. Whirling on the spot, she throws a strawberry at him. There’s a small spark of satisfaction when it collides with his forehead, and he swears loudly.

“Go get some firewood,” she commands. He shoots her a glare, which she throws right back at him. Their small exchange breaks when he pivots on his feet and exits her cottage.

 

--

 

They stand at the foot of the hill, the forest to his back and the strawberry fields to hers. She holds out small bag, and he takes it, peering into it.

Grinning, she jokes, “Yes, of course I poisoned all of your food. Dipped all the strawberries in the strongest toxins known to mankind.”

A crooked grin crosses his face, and he tucks it into his side. An awkward moment stands between them, and he palms the back of his neck.

“Thank you, I guess,” he says. There’s something else on his mind—she can tell. As angry as he seems, underneath, Katsuki is an open book of emotion.

“It’s no problem.” She smiles at him, albeit ruefully. It’s only been a week, and they barely know each other. But deep down, she knows she’ll miss him.”Take care on your journey.”

He nods, turning away, and walks a few paces into the woods. Then, he sighs, turning back and making his way back to her.

“Would you mind if I visited again?” he asks, then quickly adds, “For the strawberries.”

A small wave of fondness washes over her, and giggling, she can’t help herself when she uses the lapels of his uniform to pull herself up and peck him on the cheek.

“For the strawberries,” she repeats.

 

--

 

“Drink some water at least,” Mina urges. Her words are muffled with the bread she’s shoved into her mouth. Kirishima hums in agreement, also occupied with scarfing down his small meal.

Ochako’s tray remains untouched, and she stares at the small lump of cold bread and the cup of water. Its murky depths swirl like that of her stomach, and she feels revulsion crawl through her spine.

“It’s disgusting for the first few days,” Mina offers, “But the taste eventually goes away. You need to eat to keep up your strength.”

Ochako shakes her head, tilting it back to stare out of her window, where a tiny moon hangs midair, its bright, iridescent surface interrupted by the bars that line the opening. A small sigh escapes her lips, and she bites her bottom lip, thinking about what her prince would do once he found her missing.

Her chest tightens at the idea that he could possibly be led astray—be led to think that she’d left him. It’d been one of his main concerns in their secret relationship.

She knows he fears that he’ll scare her off with his temper, his brash attitude, and harsh words. That, in the end, she’ll realize he isn’t good enough—worthy enough, to be loved.

But here she is. Heart just as full, just as broken from being separated from him. She’d fallen in love with a prince, not for his status, but for his loyalty, respect, trust, and at odd times, kindness.

The entire situation sits heavily on her shoulders, dragging down the weight of reality to shatter her fairytale dream.

“If you’re not going to eat it, can I?” Kirishima motions vaguely at her food. Miserable, she nods, crawling over to slide her bread and water to him. Her stomach gurgles, and he pauses in his reach for them, gazing at her in concern. “Are you sure—?”

“I’m not hungry,” she says, firm. Ending it there, she crawls back to her small space and lies down, arm pillowing her head. The moonlight shines down in her cell, leaving slivers of silver to streak across the cement.

Faintly, she hears the slight clatter as Kirishima pulls her cup through the bars. Mina shuffles in her cell, and Ochako closes her eyes, letting the night consume her dreams.

 

--

 

“There’s something I have to tell you,” Katsuki says. He wrings his handkerchief in his hands, a nervous habit she’s learned to love. They’ve been seeing each other for a few months now, Katsuki coming to visit her farm.

Each time he arrives, he brings her something fascinating from town. Each time he leaves, she packs him a pouch of strawberries.

He’s become a familiar presence—a safe haven, yet she still knows nothing about him. Every time she asks him a question about his family, he brushes her off, distracting her with banter, teasing, and the occasional kiss.

“You’re not going to tell me you have a wife, right?” she jokes. When he doesn’t say anything, dread begins to curdle in her stomach. “Right? Katsuki?”

“I don’t,” he answers, affirmative. At that, her shoulders release their tension, and she sits back in her seat, the relief palpable on her expression.

“I haven’t been fully honest with you,” he starts. Curiosity pushes her forward, and she grasps the basket in her lap, fingers overlapping the woven straw. “But first, do you know who I am?”

Slowly, she shakes her head. “You’re Katsuki. You love strawberries. You love a good fight. You’re from a higher class.”

“That’s all?”

“There’s more, but that’s the gist of what I know,” she says. “What am I missing?”

He takes a deep breath, “I’m the crown prince.” She blinks at him, unsure of how to respond. Is—is he playing a prank on her? “My full name is Bakugou Katsuki, and I’m next in line for the throne.”

Understanding dawns on her, and she shoots up from her seat. “You,” she splutters. “You don’t have a wife, but you’re betrothed, aren’t you?”

The betrayal stings, and a rush of heat makes its way up to her eyes. She stands, abrupt, and the motion upends the basket in her lap, sending strawberries soaring into the air. “Have you been playing me?” she asks, using the back of her hand to swipe at her welling tears.

“No! It’s a complicated situation—”

“—I don’t want to hear it!” Ochako brushes past him, but he catches her arm, holding her close.

“Please listen,” he murmurs into her hair. “Please.” When she doesn’t move, he continues, “My mother noticed that I wasn’t willing to marry, and so she made the arrangement. I don’t want to marry whoever she’s picked out. I plan on talking to her, which is why I’m telling you now.”

He pulls away and brushes the hair away from her face. “I want to be with you.”

 

--

 

The sunlight proves to be a welcome sight in this harsh setting. It reveals the cement walls and rusted bars. For the first time, she’s able to see Mina and Kirishima clearly, along with the other prisoners that sit in their cells.

Her hunch had been right: both Mina and Kirishima look to be around her age. Kirishima’s hair reveals itself to be an even bolder red than it’d seemed in the candlelight. He’s strong—she can see that through the rags that make up his clothes. Mina, much smaller than him, proves herself to be a fiery presence. Underneath, Ochako can see remnants of what used to be a bubbly, perky young woman.

“The queen’s son?” Mina’s expression borders on aghast. “You fell in love with the queen’s son?” She pushes herself onto all fours and crawls to the bars, holding them while gazing at Ochako, wide-eyed with incredulity.

“Isn’t he promised to the warden?” Kirishima’s eyes are just as wide, stunned. He sits cross-legged at the bars that separate them.

“That’s beside the point!” Mina waves away Kirishima’s question, gripping the bars in excitement. “Did he love you back? Is he as handsome as everyone says? How long have you been seeing each other?”

“Ugh.” Kirishima rolls his eyes and falls back, resting his weight on his palms. He throws a pointed look at her. “She has his ear, and all you can think about is romance?” Then he turns to Ochako, noting, “No offense, of course.”  

“None taken,” she replies, offering him a small smile. She turns back to Mina, tasting her answers on the tip of his tongue. “And yes, he’s just as handsome as everyone says. We’ve been seeing each other for a year.” The thoughts of him bring a slight blush to the apples of her cheeks, and she can feel them burn. A shy smile crosses her face when she thinks of their time together.

His uncharacteristically gentle caresses.

Loving embraces.

Tender, fond gazes reserved for her, and her only.

But love? She hopes Mina doesn’t notice the lack of answer to her first question.

Mina grins widely, and she nearly rattles the bars from excitement. “Oh! You really are in love!”

“And that’s why they put you here?” Kirishima asked. In all seriousness, he continues, “You fell in love with the prince, and the queen had you locked up?”

Before he’s even finished his question, Ochako shakes her head. “No, she didn’t. I think she’s far too busy to know everything that’s happening in her kingdom. It was the warden.”

Kirishima’s eye twitches, and he sneers at the title. “Of course it was the warden. That bitch has had it out for anyone who so much as criticizes her.”

“She has too much power.” Mina shakes her head sadly. “She can’t keep doing this.”

“At this rate, everyone in the kingdom will be arrested,” Kirishima spits, bitterness lining his tone.

 

--

 

“Be weary of the warden,” Katsuki warns, saddling his horse. She stands off to the side, his uniform coat slung over her arm. She cocks her head in question, and he moves to her taking the coat off of her arms.

Per usual, he presses a chaste kiss against her lips and pulls back to give her a crooked grin. “She’s the one I’m engaged to, and she’s vile—the most corrupt human I know. Abuses power, steals from citizens, plagued with greed. She ticks off all the boxes.”

Ochako makes a face, scrunching her nose unattractively. “She sounds terrible. I can’t imagine someone like her ruling the kingdom.”

Katsuki shrugs on the coat. “There’s another woman I know who may make a good queen.”

“Oh?” Ochako raises a brow. Katsuki grins mischievously at her and pulls himself onto his horse, swinging a leg over the saddle.

“Yeah, she’s got a fiery temper, round cheeks, and owns a strawberry farm,” he laughs. “Ticks off all the boxes for the perfect queen.”

She blushes, shaking her head in amusement. “She sounds like the queen of strawberries, not the queen of an actual kingdom.”

“Still,” Katsuki says, motioning her over. He reaches down and grabs her hand, leaning down to kiss the back of it. “I’ll see you next week?”

She smiles. “See you then.”

 

--

 

Five days later, she finds herself bound, arms tied behind her back, carted off to prison under the charges of seducing the crown prince, thus committing treason.

 

--

 

There’s a slight scuffle from Kirishima’s cell, and she cracks her eyes open. Sunrays are only just beginning to flood her cell, and she rubs at her eyes, pinching her face at the crust that falls off her eyelids.

Still sleep-addled, she groans softly at the crick in her neck and the stiffness in her back. Cement grounds are a far cry from her soft bed at home, and she squeezes her eyes against the pain. Barely moving, she glances out the window, and the sunlight obscures her vision.

She blinks rapidly, adjusting to the light, only to catch the tail end of someone running from the window. Catching a flash of blond, she shoots up, scrambling up to see whom it could possibly be.

“Katsuki—”

“Sh! Don’t say a word,” Kirishima hisses. She whips her head toward his cell to find him stuffing a slip of paper into his pants. “And that’s not your prince. That’s my friend, Kaminari, the man who runs the watermill across town.”

“Oh.” She sinks down again, wrapping her arms around her knees. Kirishima, noticing her crestfallen expression, sighs and scoots close to the bars.

He wraps a hand around one and leans his forehead against it, glancing up at her from his lashes. “I’m sorry,” he says, quiet.

She nods.

By now, the sun has begun to cascade into their cells, flooding them with a wide array of golds and yellows.

 

--

 

“Mina!” Kirishima hisses. The woman in question barely stirs, remaining curled in her small ball. He sighs in frustration and cards a hand through his hair. “Mina!”

When she doesn’t respond, he huffs and sits back. A guard on his standard rotation passes by them, barely giving them a glance. It’s the same one from before, the one who’d tossed Ochako in like a rag doll. Kirishima goes quiet, and the guard pauses, watching him for a long second, before deciding that the inmate is of no concern.

As soon as he rounds the corner, Kirishima fishes out the slip of paper.

“What is that?” Ochako whispers. There’s a gleam in his eye, and he curls his hand, gesturing her to move closer. She does, and he unfolds it, letting the letter sit in sunlight.

The handwriting is barely legible, made up of symbols unfamiliar to her.

“What is this?” she breathes. He chuckles, folding it closed.

“We’re all sick of the warden and her abuse of power. So—” He holds his words in suspense. “We’re staging a revolt.”

Ochako’s eyes go wide, and she gapes at him. “Are you sure it’s going to work?”

“Relax—we have upwards to two hundred people who are willing to protest. They’re going to break us out, and—”

“Two hundred people?!” Ochako interrupts. “That’s a minority! Kirishima, please.”

“A minority, but enough.” This comes from Mina, who’s finally woken up. She rubs her face, and a sleepy determination crosses her face. “The warden doesn’t have a right to dictate anyone else’s beliefs, and neither should she dictate you or the prince’s love.”

She reaches through the bars, and Ochako takes her hand. Mina rubs a thumb over her skin in soothing circles. “We’re here for you just as much as we are for the people.”

 

--

 

“What exactly has she done? The warden, I mean? To you?” Ochako asks, leaning back. The concrete wall feel cool and damp behind her back. Overhead, the skies fill with grey, and she internally prays that it won’t rain.

At night, the cells are cold enough. Adding rain to the mix could leave them with potential illnesses.

Kirishima hums, and he rolls his head around his neck, sighing in satisfaction when it makes a soft pop. “She’s done a lot. For one, she’s arresting people who get on her bad side. Mainly, people are sick of her parading around like she’s the queen—just because she’s promised to the crown prince. She’s raising taxes, demanding more money from the villagers that are too far from the castle to know she’s lying. She’s essentially—”

“She robbed my family blind,” Mina sighs. Her gaze is faraway, thoughts off in a distance. “Because of her, my father is sick because he’s unable to afford a doctor. Our other friend, Jirou—she’s helping me take care of him while I’m stuck here.”

“I’m sorry,” Ochako whispers. “When will you be released?”

At that, Mina turns her head, and she glances at Kirishima before moving her gaze to Ochako. “Hopefully in two days.”

“Two days?”

“The revolt is happening then.” Kirishima lowers his voice. “It has to happen by then.”

“Why two days?” Ochako watches him, tilting her head.

A sardonic smile crosses his face, and he answers, “That’s when I’m set to hang.”

 

--

 

Ochako can’t sleep that night, tossing and turning against the chill of night time. On one end, Kirishima sleeps fitfully, arm pillowing his head. On the other end, Mina groans, shifting lightly in her sleep.

The fear grips her tightly, and she turns to watch the moonlight splay out across Kirishima’s slumbering face. His expression is slack, no signs of stress. Of anger. Of trouble.

Of impending death.

 

--

 

Two days pass by too quickly, at the same time, too slowly.

On the day of, Kirishima peers out his window, gripping the bars for dear life. Mina, for once, doesn’t slouch in her spot. She sits attentive, listening for sounds of rebellion.

“Kirishima, I don’t hear anything yet,” Mina whispers. Her eyes are glassy with worry, and Ochako feels her heart beat hasten in desperation.

“They’ll get us out,” he breathes. The morning remains quiet, and Mina begin to panic. Kirishima’s grip begins to loosen, and his body begins to sag from defeat.

“They’ll come,” he repeats. This time, it sounds less convincing.

By the time the sun is overhead, they hear the telltale sound of horses neighing and clopping hooves outside of the window.

“Is that them?” Ochako asks, hope rising in her chest. Kirishima, wide eyed, shakes his head.

“I don’t think so—”

His words are interrupted by a loud commotion from the gates. There’s clanging and cursing, and through it all, Ochako can hear the signature, gravelly voice shouting orders.

“—let me through, you fucking imbecile! I order you to stand aside!”

Ochako gasps, pushing herself off the ground to stumble at the bars. “Katsuki?” she whispers.

From the hall, she can hear the chaos and storm that is the crown prince, Bakugou Katsuki.

“Sir! I’m ordered not to let you—”

The door to the prison bursts open, and Katsuki sweeps into the room, followed by a protesting guard. It’s a different one from the night before, and she can tell from his youthful face that he’s new the post. But that’s not where all her attention lies.  

All she can see is the regality of her prince, her savior. Everything about him exudes command and power. His ruby red eyes scan the cages until they fall on her. At the sight of her condition, his nose flares, and he grips the hilt of his sword, turning to glare at the guard.

“Open her cell,” he snarls. Quivering, the guard nods, hands beginning to shake. Katsuki grabs the scruff of his neck and drags him over to the door. He fumbles with the keys, their ringing echoing in the depressing chamber.

“You came,” she whispers, gripping the bars. His expression softens, and he reaches over to grab her hand. At the sight of her scabbed wounds, he scowls again, rubbing them gently.

“I’m here. I’m going to get you out, I swear,” he promises. The guard sweats profusely, struggling to find the right key.

“How did you—how did you find me?” Ochako breathes. She can’t take her eyes off of him, can’t tear her gaze from his strong jaw and fond eyes. “I couldn’t—I didn’t know what would happen.”

He reaches up and brushes the hair from her face, uncaring of her dirty appearance, then reaches down to wrap his hands around hers. “Your parents and I arrived at the cottage at the same time to find it ransacked with a warrant for your arrest stuck to the door.”

The guard finally finds the right key, and with shaking hands, unlocks her cell. The moment their barrier lifts, Ochako surges forward, wrapping her arms around Katsuki’s waist and breathing in the familiar scent of wood and sweat.

Digging her nose into his chest, she allows herself a moment to bask in his warmth. The softness of his cloak. The tenderness to his touch, as if he’s been tasked to hold the most precious of porcelain. Allows herself the moment to bask in Katsuki.

“Oh my god, she wasn’t lying,” Mina whispers. Remembering her small audience, she lifts her chin, looking up at him.

“Katsuki, these people—they can’t be hanged. They’ve been unfairly locked up, just like me. Them for speaking out against the warden, and me for…” she trails off.

“For?” he repeats, his tone rising in hope.

The words are right there, at the tip of her tongue, and she desperately wants to tell him. But she doesn’t, swallowing them down. “I’ll tell you later—”

Suddenly, there’s shouting outside, the beginnings of a riot, and Kirishima perks up. “It’s starting,” he breathes. He swivels around to stare at Mina, then to Ochako. Remembering the crown prince’s presence, his glee falters, and he utters, “Oh shit, it’s starting.”

“They’re revolting against the warden,” Ochako explains, just as another guard, dressed more regally than the ones she’s seen in her prison, appears at the doorway.

His expression remains impassive, even in the midst of the increasing chaos outside. Ochako is taken aback by the two colors that split his hair. “Your highness.” He nods at Katsuki, then at Ochako. “M’lady.” Turning back to Katsuki, he says, “The citizens have begun a rebellion. You have the girl—would you like to return to the castle?”

“And leave them?” Ochako exclaims, turning to watch Mina and Kirishima, who are both watching the exchange.

“My priority is the crown prince,” he answers coolly.

Katsuki scowls, releasing his grip on her. Pointing out of the door, he orders, “And the citizens are my priority. Quell the revolt to prevent any further injuries. Have the warden locked up per orders from the queen. Everyone in this prison will gain a fair re-trial under objective law. Any prisoner that is found to be innocent but unfairly detained due to the warden’s corruption will be set free with compensation.”

The guard nods, understanding immediately and disappearing outside. Mina lets out a cry and she lowers her head into her hands. Through small sobs and quaking shoulders, she attempts at a wobbly curtsey. “Thank you, your highness.”

Kirishima bows, and Ochako can see a relieved tear fall from his cheek, disappearing into the cement in a dark blot. “Thank you, your highness.”

Katsuki nods in response, and he turns to the young guard standing behind them. “Get them blankets and something nourishing. I’m willing to bet that half of these people are innocent.” The young man nods and scampers off.

Ochako releases her hold on Katsuki and moves to Mina’s cell. Grabbing the bars, she watches Mina cry, and with some difficulty, pulls her into a hug. “You’ll get out soon, and then you can take care of your father.” Mina cries harder but nods.

“Thank you,” she whispers. “Please come to our shop some time. I like you, and I’m going to miss you.”

“Of course.” Ochako smiles, then moves to Kirishima’s cell. The young man stands at his door, watching her with crescent eyes and a wide grin.

“So will you be our next queen?” he teases. She swats at him, and he laughs. His expression sobers into something more serious, and he gazes down at her. “In all honesty, I wouldn’t mind if you were our new queen.”  He tilts his head up, and directs his next comment at Katsuki, “You better make her your wife. I know a good soul when I see one.”

Ochako gapes at him, mortified at his casual attitude toward the crown prince. She turns to Katsuki, only to find him grinning at the prisoner.

“That’s exactly what I plan to do.”