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Beautiful Creatures

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Beautiful Creatures

✧ ◍。 ☽ 。◍ ✧

The Kingdom of Shadows and the Empire of the Sun finally knew peace following a year-long feud that was concluded with a fragile alliance forged by the new monarchs of the warring empires. After having established the time of peace, it became customary for the two kingdoms to conduct peace talks and trades between each other, one to play host for the other's arrival as a way to foster friendship and solidarity between them. 

The Shadow King Tobio never considered anyone his equal until he crossed paths and blades with the Sun Emperor Shouyou. Their elder brothers, the last Shadow King Tooru and the last Sun Emperor Koushi, fought the same war for the same reason and it cost them their own leadership over their empires. They were stripped of their crowns and were forced to watch their younger brothers commit the same mistakes they did. 

At least that's what the elders and princes thought.

Tobio acknowledged Shouyou as his equal following a duel that lasted a day and a night, the image of the bright-haired emperor and his glorious blade burned in his mind as they both conceded victory. Their armour was in shambles but their spirits remained unbroken. The two kings agreed that they were on equal footing and came to understand each other afterwards. Neither of them wanted to lay waste on the other's land. New kings fighting an old war made no sense to anyone anymore and they couldn't help but think that the battle was all a grand orchestration of forces they have yet to determine. 

"People shouldn't suffer because of their leaders' pettiness," Tobio told his older brother as he personally dismantled his dark armour. "If there's anything Shouyou and I agreed on, it's that all this fighting would stop."

✧ ◍。 ☽ 。◍ ✧

The first trade of the season was met with much fanfare considering how the two kingdoms were enemies just months ago. Many of the Shadow Kingdom's villages sat on the bottom of the mountain in which the dark castle was mounted on. Pale white horses towing caravans and wagons full of various goods and treasures from the northern Sun Empire made its way through the southern Shadow Kingdom's villages and cobblestone streets. Their empire's coat of arms flew over the retinue's head, and in the middle of the trail was the Sun Emperor atop a caramel-coloured steed, his two closest attendants riding on each of his sides.

"I was expecting more shadows, to be honest," the one in an army general's regalia stated. His armour was lightweight but his laughter was heavy, his hair the colour of a bountiful wheat field in the morning sun. The cloak around his shoulders was a deep shade of red. "Are ya sure we're in the right place, Shouyou?"

"Pretty sure we're heading towards the right direction, Tsumu," the monarch replied with a big grin. "Big brother mapped this route with the White Wizards, so there's no way we could go wrong." 

"Now that ya mentioned them, I haven't seen yer prickly White Wizard, my emperor," the general replied. "Haven't heard a peep from him at all."

"I'm pretty sure he's asleep in one of the caravans," stated the other general, a smile on his star-dotted face. His dark green cloak concealed much of his light armour, the standard one for generals like him. 

"Yamaguchi, you have to make sure he's okay," Shouyou turned to his green-haired confidant. "Normally, Tsukishima would react if something's wrong, so I guess we really had a smooth trip down south seeing as we haven't heard a thing from him since we left... How long has it been since we left home?"

"It's been half a day now," Atsumu replied, pulling out a small locket-like mechanism from underneath his cloak. "We'll most likely arrive at the Shadow Castle in just a few moments seeing as we're already in the village proper."

"Come now, Atsumu! Yamaguchi!" The young emperor's horse whinnied as he gave it a gentle kick. "Best we head there ahead of the caravan and meet Kageyama before everyone else."

The trio ran ahead, the kingdom gates opened in time for their arrival. The basalt castle looked even more intimidating up close, the structure so dark that it felt like it would swallow them up whole. They were greeted by a familiar figure caped in a cloak the colour of seawater near the seashore, a shade of blue they can't quite put a finger on. 

"Grand Shadow King!" 

"Hush now, little emperor. That's no longer who I am," the former Shadow King raised a hand as their esteemed guests mounted off their horses. "I am merely a prince of this house."

"You'll always be the Grand Shadow King to me," Shouyou met his handshake with a smile. The young emperor was swiftly surrounded by his loyal Kingsguard, a select group of the Sun Empire's most trusted soldiers led by the young generals Atsumu and Yamaguchi. The soldiers wore distinct copper chainmail underneath their light golden armour, swords attached to their sides as their primary weapons of protecting their monarch. 

"I've asked the servants to assist with the transferring of the goods. Tobio insists on meeting at the throne room seeing as we haven't had a Sun Emperor come visit us in many years," Prince Tooru spoke as he walked alongside their esteemed guest, the young Sun Emperor who proved to be of equal strength with his younger brother. 

"Still so eager to show off," Shouyou chuckled. "I brought a sun spear, something that may be of interest to him. He left quite an impression on me during our last duel and I thought he would appreciate training with it."

"Tobio prefers fighting with twin axes, so I'm not sure what he'll say to that, little emperor," the older prince remarked with a smile. "However, if he does finds it interesting, I'd expect him to lug it around the place all day until he learns to wield it properly." 

The Shadow Castle lived up to its reputation with its pitch-black exterior, the basalt darker than any other kind of matter people have ever seen, and the thought of being sucked into the building was enough to scare people away from it. The interior was rather extravagant, on the other hand, with glossy obsidian pillars carefully holding up the structure. Little blue flames dotted the opulent ceiling chandeliers made of black diamonds and smooth obsidian. The throne room had no red carpet, only a single trail of dark blue over the mosaic-like tiling. 

Shouyou noted that the Grand Shadow King, or Prince Tooru, dressed in a much flashier manner than his younger brother Tobio, with the current king more in favour of dark apparel, most notably his leather gloves and long cloak the colour of the night sky, with fine dark feathers around his neck affixed with a single bright sapphire brooch the size of a child's fist. Tooru was often seen in shades of pale blue and white. 

When asked, the young emperor would say his rival fit the image of the Shadow King more, but he wouldn't say so in front of the older Prince especially since he quite liked him. Prince Tooru was more amicable than King Tobio and many of their ministers thought the was would end at the elder prince's hand. Yes, neither of the kingdoms thought the war would end at the hands of their petulant little boy-kings. 

"How is Prince Refreshing doing now?" 

The Sun Emperor turned to his host, a twinkle of curiosity in his eyes as he heard the foreign prince call his brother a nickname he hasn't heard before, part of him wondering if the older princes truly hated each other's guts and pride like what people often told him. 

"H-He's doing well!" Shouyou replied. "Big brother Kou, he... He spends most of his time educating the children at the empire-established orphanage."

A low hum left the brunet prince's lips as it curled to a tiny smile. "Figures. I suppose he has General Sawamura and that big White Wizard of his by his side at all times." 

Their chatter was cut short upon their arrival at the Shadow Castle's throne room, slivers of red and blue light playing on the floor as the dimming afternoon light cast over the stained glass windows.  

"The Sun Emperor and his entourage, your highness," Tooru gave a bow and a flourish with his cape as he presented their guests to the figure in black seated on the elevated obsidian throne. Three other figures in lightweight silver armour stood at the foot of the throne, eyeing their sovereign's descent. 

"Kageyama!" Came the thrilled exclamation from the Sun Emperor, his white clothing and light armour a stark contrast to the darkness of the throne room. 

"Still quite the noisemaker as always," the raven-haired king remarked as he met the Sun Emperor's handshake. "Have you brought me anything worthwhile, Hinata?"

"Here's something I personally picked out for you," Shouyou gestured to one of his generals, who brought forth a sun spear, one of the Sun Empire's primary weapons of war. The rod was lightweight and had a distinct maroon colour, a blade sharp enough to cut through medium-weight armour. 

"You know I'd still prefer that sword you had during our last duel," the king said as he was handed the spear, a bit surprised at how lightweight it felt in his gloved hand. 

"I'm not giving you that sword!" the smaller monarch exclaimed. "It's too important!" 

"All right, all right," the Shadow King glared at his fellow monarch. "What do you have for my kingdom today?" 

One of the Sun Empire's attendants stepped up and read the scroll in his hands, voicing out every item that was being carried into the place. 

The Shadow King Tobio remained unmoving as numerous wooden chests and baskets of oranges were meticulously brought into the throne room by his servants in dark cloaks. He did, however, raise his head in piqued curiosity as a tall figure cloaked in white slowly tried to enter the court unnoticed. The golden trimmings on his cloak gave away his status. 

He was a White Wizard. 

The wizard took his place beside the two Sun Empire's generals, long and slender fingers slipping out of the lengthy white sleeves as he drew his hood back, revealing a head of curly golden threads and bespectacled eyes of the same colour. 

Ah, he barely smiled but he looks so dignified, Tobio couldn't help but think to himself. How glorious. 

"Hold it," he raised a gloved hand, prompting the attendant to pause from his reading. "Who is he?" 

The courtroom fell deathly quiet, the chatter hushed to whispers as the people made way for their king, who approached the foreign emperor's White Wizard, much to the generals' surprise. The figure in white was a bit taller than the Shadow King was, an apprehensive look in his golden eyes as a gloved hand gently gripped his chin. 

Pools of gold, Tobio told himself. He hasn't met anyone with eyes like these. It makes me want to swim in the cold sea.  

"K-Kageyama!" The leader in red and white was fast on his feet as he squeezed himself between the two taller men. "He's my most trusted White Wizard. I don't think—"

I want him, whispered the voice in the Shadow King's head. He only needed to speak those words into existence, but at what cost? 

"Hinata," he lowered his head to meet his fellow monarch's bright wide eyes. "I want him." 

The words Shouyou feared most just escaped his rival's lips and he knew his fellow royal wasn't fooling around when a sharp scowl graced his face. "We brought a treasure trove for this trade and you're saying you want... There... There must be something else I can offer!" 

"No. There is nothing else I want," Tobio turned away as he saw tears spring forth from the emperor's eyes. "You're free to take everything I offer and everything you brought here so as long as I keep this one."

Gasps were thrown in the air as the dark-haired sovereign made his point clear, his knights unsure how to react following such a bold declaration. 

"Wait a moment, Tobio," Tooru held his younger brother's shoulder. "We aren't conducting a slave trade here. Remember the Sun Emperor came here to conduct this trade in an orderly manner to build friendship between our countries. Consider your words carefully—"

"Who says I'll make him a slave? He won't be such a thing here," Tobio shot his older brother a look before turning to the Sun Emperor, who gently clasped the wizard's hands in his own and started a rather nervous chatter. "As far as I know, White Wizards are a dime a dozen in the Sun Empire. Why is it that you're so unwilling to part from this one?" 

"It's because he's—!" His words were held back when he felt the taller figure squeeze his hands to calm him down. "Tsukishima?..."

"Listen, I think I've been far too lenient with this deal of ours, Hinata. We're trying to work things out now, but it really seems like you're unwilling to make any compromises here," the king in black rubbed the back of his head with a grim expression on his face. "You've denied my request once and you're doing it again, so I'm not really sure what to make out of this."

Tooru could feel the escalating tension even more so when he saw Kindaichi and Kunimi, Tobio's most trusted knights, make their approach with dark phantasm in their hands. His steps toward his younger brother were quickly blocked by his own protector, who had a protective arm around him. "Iwaizumi! I command you to let go of me this instant! I—!"

"You know well enough how unwise it is to approach his highness when he's irritated at something, Prince." 

Atsumu and Yamaguchi, who had light in their hands, were just about ready to grab Shouyou when a sharp voice cut through the silence and the tension. 

"There's no need to threaten any violence, your highness," came the calm response from the figure in white. The White Wizard lifted his eyes and turned his sight to the Shadow King, the knights beside him gone as he now held twin axes crossed over his chest defensively. "I promised our order that our emperor would return unharmed and I intend to honour that promise." 

Tobio lowered his weapons. "Go on." 

"Please allow my emperor to part ways with me in a manner where he won't get hurt."

"Ts-Tsukishima, what are you—?!" 

"My emperor," the wizard started, his golden eyes flickering from his liege lord's teary-eyed face to the pair of hands clasping his own. "If it's his wish for me to remain here in order to keep the peace between our countries, then please consider myself an offering symbol of that peace." 

"No! I-I'll think of something, Tsukishima! You don't—"

"My emperor," Kei raised Shouyou's smaller hands to his lips. "The Shadow King is right, you know. Surely there are young wizards eager to take my place once you return home." 

"W-Wait a moment, Tsukishima," the Sun Emperor refused to let go of his hands. "You—"

The chaste kiss the White Wizard placed on his emperor's forehead rendered him motionless, the red and green generals quick to catch their liege lord who fell unconscious after a soothing dream spell was cast over him. 

"You must care a great deal for your emperor if you refuse to part with him with tears in his eyes," the Shadow King stated as he eyed the foreign generals carry their emperor out of the throne room, quickly followed by his older brother and Iwaizumi. 

"I'm but a servant, your highness," Kei closed his eyes and lowered his head in reverence to his new liege lord. "Regardless, I pray you treat me well."

"There's no need to ask for my kindness, White Wizard," a gloved hand gently gripped the pale wizard's chin once again, eyes like wildfire glaring into his cold ocean orbs. "I intend on treating you well."  

✧ ◍。 ☽ 。◍ ✧

The Shadow King Tobio proved to be a generous king when he presented the foreign wizard with a spacious bed chamber with a high window that overlooked most of the village at the foot of the mountain. The old wooden doors made noise whenever they were opened and closed, but it had locks and proved to be secure enough. 

"You'll be staying here," the king pushed the door open, the creaking bouncing off the walls of the quarters and the dark hallways. "I hope you find it to your liking."

The figure in white remained unmoving as he stood before the raven-haired king, who looked rather pleased with himself. 

"If you wanted a piece of the Sun Empire, you could have asked for an emblem or a token," the wizard's sharp golden eyes bore holes through the cloaked figure's face, the tone of his voice enough to incite movement from his new liege lord's attendants. "Your highness."

Tobio raised a gloved hand, stopping Kindaichi and Kunimi on their tracks. "Come now. If you seek to punish him for every transgression he commits against me, there will be nothing left of him. I don't wish for him to be harmed, so leave him be."

The look on the wizard's face didn't soften even for a moment. He met the knights' apprehensive stares with indifference and ambivalence and he clearly wasn't backing down on this staring contest. 
 
"What is your name?"

Tobio waited for his reply, his expression unchanged as he held the wizard's gaze. Kei knew he would be at a losing end no matter which way he went, so he relented and gave him an answer. 

"It's Kei, your highness. My name is Tsukishima Kei."

"Kei..." The name rolled out of the king's lips so smoothly. He gestured to the two figures closely standing behind him. "I'm sure you know who I am." These are Kindaichi and Kunimi, they're my—"

"Twin axes," Kei cut him off. "Yes, I know who they are as well. My apologies if I wish to cut this conversation short, but I must start my evening orison. With this, I beg my leave, your highness and his esteemed knights." 

The figure in white gave the three other men a quick bow before disappearing into what would be his birdcage for the gods know how long, the rattling of the door locks a clear sign that he didn't wish to be disturbed by anyone. 

Not even his new liege lord. 

"Kageyama," the taller one of the king's knights started. "Glasses can't go on treating you like this."

The young king sighed as he made his way to his own bed chambers across the other side of the castle. "Tell me, Kindaichi. Would you willingly go with the Sun Emperor if he had asked you to? If he had threatened war against you?" 

"Wh-What kind of question is that?!"

"A hypothetical one. And believe me, I'd be rattled as hell if Hinata pulled the same stunt on either of you," Tobio paused and turned to the two dark-haired figures walking behind him. "However, I don't think either of you will be able to pull off that same kind of dignified grace that Kei exhibited earlier. It must be a magician thing."

"We don't have magicians in the south," the shorter knight retorted. "Only warriors with phantasm."

"We have one now," the king replied as he started his walk. "His bed chambers are too far from mine, though."

Kindaichi and Kunimi exchanged looks following that remark. "Shall we tell the servants to move his quarters closer?" 

"No, I—" Tobio was hesitant and doubtful and he knew that using force would only drive the wizard away from him even more. "I don't want him to hate me more than he does now. So I guess I'll be patient."

"If you say so, Kageyama."

Kunimi couldn't help but stifle a laugh as they continued their evening walk through the chilly castle hallways. He and Kindaichi knew that patience wasn't one of their liege lord's greatest strengths, and— by the gods— he will have his patience severely tested without him even preparing for it. 

✧ ◍。 ☽ 。◍ ✧

The White Wizard Kei has never uttered more sincere prayers. He asked it from every god this land knew, be it the sun, the shadow, the dragons and the tigers. His superior, the Sun Oracle Asahi, had warned him of the tenacity of the Shadow Kings, particularly the one their current emperor had befriended. 

How was the emperor now? Could Shouyou be wondering where his favoured White Wizard was? 

Kei was supposed to be the next Sun Oracle, but the Shadow King was right about one thing and it's that he wasn't special at all. White Wizards are a dime a dozen in the Sun Empire. He just so happened to be the next oracle. 

Such thoughts are useless now, for his status as a White Wizard means nothing in the Kingdom of Shadows. 

He was up all night in orison, thinking the gods would have pity on his plight and take him away to the afterworld if he prayed hard enough. It only left him even more tired, the orange sunlight breaking through his tall windows only reminding him of the home he never even got to say goodbye to. He didn't sleep a wink at all but his senses were still far too sharp for someone extremely exhausted and the jingling of the keys against the rather rusty doorknob did nothing but heighten his receptors even more. 

"Good morning, my lord wizard," It was a woman's voice. "His highness wishes to have breakfast with you."

Kei climbed off the plush bed and got on his feet, his garments and wizard's cloak keeping him grounded. The woman who entered his quarters was absolutely beautiful, her grey eyes were bespectacled and her dark hair was pulled up in a half ponytail. She was dressed in a dark blue gown that hugged her figure very flatteringly, and from her manner of speech, she was definitely one of the king's trusted attendants. The woman was closely followed by two more girls in teal dresses with a number of fine fabrics in their arms. 

"There's no need to be alarmed," she said in a way which she thought would soothe the young man. "I'm Kiyoko, the main steward of his kingdom. His highness specifically asked me to attend to you. We've brought you a change of clothes."

"I see," came Kei's response. He really had no idea what to say. 

"We'll run a bath for you if you'd like. Shall we help you out of—"

"There's no need to," he gave them a bow. "Thank you, my lady. I'm capable of changing out of my clothes by myself. I would, however, appreciate you drawing a bath for me." 

One of the young girls disappeared to the bathroom in the corner of his quarters, which he didn't even know was there, to begin with. 

"I understand you must be rather confused," Kiyoko started. "His highness has made it clear to us that you're his favoured guest here, so there's no need for you to be afraid."

Afraid wasn't really the right word to describe how he felt. More than anything, Kei felt helpless and disillusioned especially considering how he wasn't really anyone special. White Wizards are a dime a dozen in the Sun Empire, the Shadow King's words ring through his head. The only thing that made him so special now was how he was the only White Wizard in the Shadow Kingdom. 

And that he was now a possession of the Shadow King. 

Whatever it was that spurned the monarch's actions sent chills down the wizard's spine. There was no way he could recognise him. Not after—

"The bath is ready, my lord wizard," the younger servant called for him. Kiyoko gestured to the bathroom and gathered the girls to her side. 

"We will leave you to prepare. We will be outside if you're in need of any assistance." 

Kei didn't expect the bathroom to be any less opulent, with the obsidian bathtub taking up almost half of the entire space. The water drawn was lukewarm, just enough for him to sink in without feeling overwhelmed by either the heat or the cold. Blue petals of an unknown flower were thrown into the bath as well, something he caught between his fingers as he drew his knees to his chest under the water. 

Blue, like his new liege lord's eyes. He saw so much fire in the king's eyes when he first looked into his own, even though they were the colour of the coldest part of the sea. 

What on earth does this callous but beautiful creature want from me? 

The wizard let himself sink deeper into his bath, knowing well enough that he won't drown from any of the water, but only in his own thoughts. 

✧ ◍。 ☽ 。◍ ✧

The clothes fit him so well that he couldn't help but think that he was unknowingly measured during his short period of sleep. 

Kei didn't like the navy blue coat and ascot tie he was presented with, but he surely wasn't in the right place to complain about it. All his life, he wore the standard white cassock for White Wizards, the fine gold trimmings on their cloak the most lavish part of their outfit. He didn't take the deep blue velveteen cape, opting to wear his own wizarding cloak instead. Regardless of what he was to the king, he was still a White Wizard. 

They brought him a change of glasses, thinking he wore his spectacles for show. "Guess I'll have to tell them that I wear glasses because of my poor vision." 

He was met by Prince Tooru and his guard Iwaizumi, who were waiting for him outside his quarters. The pair greeted the wizard warmly, only to be met by a curt bow that they clearly expected. 

"He clearly isn't amused by this," the prince whispered to his knight as they walked ahead of Kei. "I can't understand a thing that goes on in Tobio's head." 

"Kageyama's always had an eye for beauty," Iwaizumi replied, earning another nudge from the prince as he continued his chatter.  

The wizard noticed how close the two figures stood by each other as they made their way to the castle gardens. He could tell that they were talking about him from the hushed way they exchanged words, but his eyes were drawn to the colour of the prince's cape. It was the colour of the sea when it's closest to the shore, a pale aqua blue with white trimmings and floral details. The knight Iwaizumi had the standard royal blue cape and light armour on his lean form.  

He recalled reading about how Shadow Knights can only pledge themselves to a single Shadow King for all their life, a bond that only death can break. He could tell that the pair before him had bonded since there were traces of it all over each other.  

Kei found himself wondering about the bonds made between kings and their knights, thoughts flitting back home to Atsumu and Yamaguchi, Shouyou's generals. He knew the bond required phantasm from both parties, but there was something else he couldn't place a finger on. His thoughts were cut short when they arrived at the gardens, his surprise clearly caught by Prince Tooru and Iwaizumi as his eyes took in the sight of the blue roses growing in every corner of the place. 

"Did you expect more shadows?" The prince jokingly remarked as he took a step off the dark hallway and into the garden path made of basalt bricks. The wizard soundlessly followed the pair as they walked through the walls of high rose shrubs, the intensity of their colour enough to make him dizzy even on his feet. 

"We're here, Tobio!" Prince Tooru happily declared. The image he projected was far from what people expected the Shadow King to be and he was quite aware of it. Iwaizumi gave the young king a short bow before trailing the prince's steps. 

"Oh, were you playing toss?" said the older prince as he lifted a rubber ball from the grassy ground. "Play with me for a bit, Iwa!" 

Kei swallowed hard as the prince ran across the spacious garden field with his knight in tow. He lowered his eyes as the Shadow King approached him, still in his usual dark ensemble, and the wizard recognised how the royal's night-black cloak was replaced with a similar deep blue velveteen cape presented to him earlier this morning.

"Good morning, Kei."

"Your highness," the blond gave another short bow.  

"You do know that you're here neither to serve me nor to tell me any secrets about your beloved Sun Empire," Tobio stated as he beckoned the wizard with a gloved hand to sit with him at the breakfast table. His knights weren't around and he could tell that Kei was looking for them. "Kindaichi and Kunimi are off-duty today, and so am I. So sit." 

Kei obliged, taking a seat that was two more seats away from the king, who was clearly surprised by his move but nevertheless let it go. 

"Yes, your highness," the wizard started. "If you had wanted secrets, you would have had it choked out of me as soon as I was left behind by my emperor."

A servant in teal poured some hot water into a teacup for Kei, a crimson flower unfurling its petals as it became completely submerged in liquid. He remained unmoving, though, even after breakfast was laid out before him— a pair of sunny-side-up eggs, crispy bacon, grilled sausages and slightly toasted buttered milk bread slathered with fruit preserves. A bowl of fresh fruit with slices of apples, pears, peaches and strawberries was set apart for him as well, but he remained still in his spot. 

"Do you really dislike being here?"

The Shadow King had an upset expression on his face that elicited an odd smile from the wizard.  

"Would it hurt to answer you truthfully, your highness?"

"No, Kei. You have every right to be upset, but please eat something," Tobio replied as he dismissed the servant waiting on them. "So that you'll have the energy to be even more annoyed at me. Or whatever."

Kei hooked his fingers into the teacup's handle, gently lifting it off the table. The steam quickly fogged his spectacles, prompting him to remove it. The tea was warm and sweet but it didn't really do much to quench the thirst his parched throat felt. Even without his glasses, he could tell that the king had his eyes on him quite intently. He was thinking of whatever he did that may have warranted punishments by the gods, but all he has ever been was a good wizard with the occasional sharp tongue. 

Tobio felt his breath hitch for a moment as the blond took a sip from his tea. While he thought the wizard would look good in dark blue, it actually made him paler than he already was. Tobio would have to ask the tailors to sew more white clothes for Kei instead. 

"Are you interested in magic, your highness?" 

The question came from out of nowhere that it took Tobio a while to respond to it. 

"I... I'm afraid not."

"I see," Kei looked resigned as he stared into his half-empty teacup, his fingers dancing over the edges. 

"If you're wondering why I asked you to stay here, you might not find my answers convincing enough," said the young king.

"I don't recall you asking me anything, your highness," Kei quipped, gently sliding his arms inside his cloak. "Regardless, whatever you say won't really change anything. I remain here your possession." 

"Kei, you are not an object. I—"

"Even though I was traded off as such?" 

The Shadow King felt something bubbling at the pit of his stomach and he knew it bade no good. Now isn't the time to get mad, he told himself. I don't want to drive him away any further. "If you want an answer, let me give it to you."

"Have you had your breakfast, Tobio?!" Prince Tooru called out as he approached the breakfast table. 

"It's because I've never seen anything like you," the raven-haired youth held the wizard's gaze with so much intensity that it felt like he would burn holes on him. "You're absolutely beautiful."

The prince, who had just arrived to pop a strawberry in his mouth, dropped the ball in his hands in surprise at his younger brother's declaration. It wasn't long enough before Tooru was ushered away by the knight Iwaizumi, who had heard the statement as well, seeing as he was only a few steps away from the table. 

"Whatever it is you feel for me, I'll take it," Tobio said. "You can hate me or dislike me now, but I do hope those feelings change as you remain by my side."

Beautiful. 

Kei only sat still on his seat. The Shadow King thought he was beautiful. Ah, he's heard it a lot of times from Yamaguchi and Atsumu, even from the Sun Emperor himself— Tsukishima, you're beautiful!— With that wide and warm smile on the redhead's face— But why is it that it felt so strange coming from Tobio? It felt so foreign. 

Beautiful was something the northerners would use to describe the Sun Emperor Koushi. Shouyou. But him? Ah, whatever, the wizard thought to himself. This isn't the first time the Shadow King called him beautiful. He wasn't sure if he'd even remember. 

"I won't ask for anything you can't give," Tobio stated. "I guess my only wish now is for you to give me the same kind of devotion you would give your Sun Emperor." 

In the back of their minds, they both knew it was a rather impossible feat, and even though Tobio said he wouldn't ask for anything the wizard can't give, he knew well enough that he will receive no such devotion. Kei will not give him that kind of satisfaction. 

Regardless, they would still give it a try.