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It really was a rather dismal day for summer. Rather unfortunate, really, seeing how the kingdom of Touou was renowned for being almost overwhelmingly pleasant this time of year. More so unfortunate because the greying skies visible through the wide windows of the castle's throne room were having a wearying effect on its King.

The world looked like Imayoshi Shouichi currently felt. Tired, and quite frankly, rather bored. Holding court in times of peace was never a stimulating experience; it was all land, money, marriage and overly polite greetings from neighbouring kingdoms. Once upon a war, there might have been talk of traitors and executions and dark deeds in the corners of the kingdom; but those days were long gone, and all those exciting possibilities with them.

They never did tell you how bloody dull being a king could be.

These days, instead of dealing out punishments and hearing out crimes, he was handing out gold and listening to rich nobles bitch about how much land they thought they needed, and admittedly spending too much time musing over how he could best redecorate the throne room. Today was no exception, and he was finding himself most preoccupied with trying to figure out what exactly he disliked about the room's current colour scheme.

It was proving rather difficult, due to the fact that there was a distracting, extravagantly dressed man prancing about below the dais –most probably bleating about what Imayoshi considered his least favourite topic.

His only daughter's hand in marriage.

This man wasn't the first of the day, though he was admittedly the most pompous, and by far the least likely to convince the Crown Princess, Momoi Satsuki, that his son was a suitable match for her. Knowing that his daughter more than likely already had her rejection prepared for when the poor man drew breath, Imayoshi pushed away the urge to yawn and straightened his shoulders; he was at least well-bred enough to look like a king even when he didn't really feel like being one.

It took only a glance to confirm that his daughter was doing much better than himself at feigning interest in whatever the flashy nobleman had to say. She was the picture of elegance; a true beauty to behold, if Imayoshi did say so himself –though really, he felt he could take no credit seeing as she was the spitting image of her mother. Hands folded, bright pink eyes wide in apparent attentiveness –it was no wonder that the man wasn't shutting up; he seemed convinced that she was going to accept the match to his son.

But this man –or rather, the son he was so vibrantly describing –was no different from the rest of the dozens of suitors chasing after his daughter's hand. And so, Imayoshi knew with certainty that once again, his daughter's heart was going to be left unclaimed.

It was exhausting.

And as much as Imayoshi enjoyed seeing the looks of disappointment and frustration on their faces when Satsuki crushed their hopes for a queen as a daughter-in-law…there was only so much embellished flattery he could stomach.

The crowd though; they seemed to be lapping it up, though it was difficult to tell who was in support of this particular match, and who frankly didn't care as long as there was some kind of spectacle. It was quite a gathering today; it always was when Satsuki took audiences –Imayoshi could never quite fathom why she seemed more popular, though she seemed to have an idea or two why, that he didn't care to hear.

More interesting than the fellow below the dais, however, was that horrendous green monstrosity of a tapestry hanging from one of the back pillars. And ever more interesting than the thing itself was why on earth he'd allowed it to continue hanging there for so long.

But, distracted by the sudden urge to redecorate, or not, Imayoshi was still an ever-perceptive king; one didn't get to marry into the royal family without some wile, at least –and he was sharp enough to notice a familiar blond-haired officer lingering around one of the nearby side entrances to the throne room. Upon catching his king's gaze, he bowed his head slightly and fidgeted rather expectantly, as though waiting to be summoned over. Lightly rolling his eyes, Imayoshi beckoned gently with one thin finger, and the grave-faced soldier approached his throne –looking undeniably wearied himself…and a little irritated.

As soon as he was within earshot, Imayoshi let out as dramatic a sigh as he could get away with in front of such an audience.

"Oh, please tell me we're being attacked," he remarked in a low tone; doing nothing to disguise the boredom in his voice. And of course, as Wakamatsu stiffened, he belated remembered, once again, that when you are a king, your subordinates seem to take everything you say so seriously.

"Why would we be being attacked, your majesty?" Wakamatsu immediately growled, and Imayoshi had the overwhelming urge to flinch at how just slightly above whisper his voice always seemed to rise unnecessasily, "Should we be expecting an attack?" His right hand slowly drifted to his hip; gripping the hilt of his sword warily as though there was potential for a fight right upon the dais. "….Has someone made a threat?" Imayoshi was fast regretting ever trying to make the most of what had likely been about to be a very boring conversation.

"Lower your voice, Wakamatsu…"

" –It was that bastard Hanamiya, wasn't it?"

"King Hanamiya, to you, Wakamatsu," Imayoshi sighed wearily, rubbing his forehead and pointedly ignoring what was likely a muffled snicker from the shadows behind his throne. He held out a hand to calm the guard, "…I was merely being melodramatic. Stand down; you'll cause a scene." He shook his head helplessly as Wakamatsu slowly relaxed once more, nodding shortly in acknowledgement that he understood that there was no immediate threat.

"…And besides…" Imayoshi snickered with a small, sly smile, "Hanamiya would never openly declare war –though he does send the most amusing letters." He chuckled to himself almost fondly, and rather enjoyed the look of bafflement that crossed Wakamatsu's face at the mere notion of the fabled King Hanamiya being amusing.

Glancing over his shoulder just slightly, he added, quite innocently, "In fact, have we heard from him recently, Midorima?"

There was definitely an element of tension to the silence that followed his question, highlighted by the resigned, mildly irritated way that his attendant replied from the shadows, "…Not since you last asked this morning, your majesty." If he had've been younger, and any less of a royal, Imayoshi might have snickered.

"Such a pity," he sighed instead; genuinely disappointed. He was about to return to his critique of the room when he realized that the blond guard must have been loitering in the hallway for some reason.

"Ah; now for business. How are we today, Wakamatsu?" he began; a second attempt at catching his attention. Wakamatsu too, seemed to have forgotten that he had come to the throne room with purpose, and appeared startled by the sudden resuming of conversation.

"It looks like a storm's coming, Your Majesty," he replied gruffly, with a quick glance towards the nearest window as if to provide evidence for his claim.

"…How perceptive of you," Imayoshi sighed dryly, "And I asked how you were, my good sir, not for a report on the weather." He glanced reproachfully up at his officer over his glasses, but didn't allow the man to stumble an apology before adding, "But a storm could do us some good. We could use a little excitement…" Almost as if it to prove his point, he found his attention abruptly drawn back to that particularly ugly piece of décor.

"…That really is the ugliest tapestry…Again, Wakamatsu; did you have some news?" He was fast growing tired of this, and he prayed that Satsuki would hurry up and send her newest suitor scurrying. "…Something exciting? Movement on the border perhaps? A royal escort? Anything?"

"…Nothing like that, your majesty," Wakamatsu assured him flatly, obviously wondering if he was being mocked for his earlier misinterpretation. Imayoshi simply cocked an eyebrow expectantly. "Oh. We've just received word from the western kingdoms…."

" –Was it a letter, or our dear Second Captain's head in a sack?" Imayoshi inquired, his interest in the matter extinguished as soon as the soldier solemnly replied that it was the former. Good news was good news, he supposed, but rarely of note, these days. "Was that really all?"

"Oh, no, your majesty…" Wakamatsu muttered, irritation leaking into his voice and across his face –a sure giveaway as to what he was about to say.

"…You lost him again, didn't you?" Imayoshi spared him the indignity of having to admit to yet another humiliating defeat. He was vaguely aware of Satsuki speaking, and couldn't resist turning his attention to the somewhat deflating nobleman –there was something most satisfying about watching the way their faces always fought to remain respectful when they were obviously slighted.

"I don't understand how he keeps slipping away from us!" Wakamatsu growled through gritted teeth, and this time the king actually did flinch at the slight rise in volume. Brilliant swordsman his guard might be, but he really did lack a sense of delicacy.

"Did you check all his favourite spots?"

"Of course, your majesty," the soldier snorted flatly, with less-than-concealed irritation. "We can't find him." Imayoshi had the feeling that Wakamatsu definitely had a lot more to say on the matter but nothing of which was appropriate for present company. He sighed in resignation, eyeing the way that flashy nobleman was backing away from the dais with such disappointed bows –it seemed confirmed that his daughter's latest suitor was as an unsuccessful as the rest.

"It can't be helped," he shrugged dismissively, waving the guard away, "He'll come out when he's hungry or something, I'm sure." He was sure that he heard Wakamatsu's teeth grating together in frustration as he took his leave to join the ranks of the guards positioned around the throne room –ready to begin ushering out the crowd at the princess's word.

Finally, it seemed that the failed suitor had departed the throne room to nurse his ego, and of course, the murmurs started up on cue, rippling through the crowd and up into the balconies that overlooked the entire hall. Imayoshi took the time to roll his shoulders and let out a sigh of relief that attracted a most scathing look from his royal daughter.

"I take it you're not engaged yet?" Imayoshi inquired flatly, a single eyebrow raised in disapproval as he noted the way the nobles all began whispering amongst themselves upon the balconies. Somehow, (and he highly suspected the servant's grapevine), the nobles all seemed to know when a proposition to the princess was scheduled to occur, and liked to dress up in all their finery and observe, and frankly, judge. No doubt those whispers now were equal parts annoyed that once again they were being denied a royal wedding, and relieved that the princess was still available for courting.

Satsuki gave him a look; raised eyebrows and all, to remind him that they were still holding court, but took the time to quietly retort, "We've been through this, father." Yes, he was very much aware of that. She lifted her chin almost defiantly, smoothing out the creases of her gown before delicately folding her hands in her lap. "I will marry who I wish to marry."

"And who is that, might I ask?" Imayoshi inquired wearily; already knowing the answer. For a second, she gazed out towards the shifting crowd with that queenly smile of hers, and Imayoshi was almost convinced that she might not reply.

He was not so lucky.

"…The man I'm in love with," Satsuki finally answered, sticking her nose in the air and waiting patiently to see if any others stepped up to seek an audience with her. Imayoshi sighed and rubbed at a crease in his forehead as he heard the crowd fidgeting –it seemed as though the ever-darkening sky outside was causing them some concern.

"Well, would you kindly ask him to hurry along and seek your hand in marriage?" Imayoshi quietly grumbled as sarcastically as he dared, knowing full well that there was not currently –nor had there ever been –such a man.

He was beginning to wonder if she was refusing to marry just to spite him.

"Can't you just pick one?" he muttered, feeling an unpleasant sense of déjà vu, and knowing exactly how this would end. It was perhaps, unroyal of the pair of them to bicker in public, but the buzzing of the crowd easily drowned them out, and the audience at least forced them both to maintain a certain level of decorum. "How was your trip to Rakuzan? I hear Prince Akashi is….well-bred…?"

"Just because someone is well-bred doesn't mean I'll love them!" Satsuki huffed, allowing the smallest of pouts to reach her lips. "You were well-bred, after all, father. And mother only settled for you."

"You're so unkind, sweet daughter," Imayoshi sighed mockingly; most unphased by her tone and playful insult, and once again reminded of why he found this ever-repetitive argument most grating. From somewhere behind him, he could practically hear his attendant –Midorima –rolling his eyes; the ever-present man had borne witness to as many of these arguments as the king himself, and enjoyed them about as much.

"I want to marry for love," the princess sighed wistfully, her eyes softening as she gazed out into some whimsical dream that Imayoshi could only shudder to imagine. All those childhood stories of fantastical romances had put all these silly ideals into her head, and were now proving most troublesome.

"Yes, yes, so you've said; many, many times…" he muttered with an eye roll of his own. "But could you perhaps hurry up about it? Frankly, you should already have been married by now–" Most princesses were at least betrothed by sixteen, and here she was; twenty-three and still refusing matches. " –And the noble houses are pushing for a royal wedding..."

"…Why does that have to be me?" she mumbled, sounding just a little forlorn, and then looking across the dais to the third throne that so oft sat embarrassingly empty. "I do have a cousin."

"Oh, do you?" Imayoshi remarked in his lightest tone; sarcasm only thinly veiled, "I'd completely forgotten, seeing as I haven't seen him in weeks." He huffed, looking over his shoulder innocently to see that his attendant was hovering in the shadows as faithfully and poised as ever. "What about you, Midorima? When was the last time you saw that useless nephew of mine?"

" –Don't call him that," Satsuki pouted, before the king's attendant could give an answer. Imayoshi couldn't resist the urge to roll his eyes.

"…It's a pet name," he assured her, though he doubted she believed him for a second. There was a low rumble of thunder in the distance and it seemed to make the crowd more restless. It appeared as though all those who had come to the castle on business had spoken already, so the princess elegantly rose to her feet to announce that that would be all for the day –and thus free her obviously bored father from his obligation to act interested.

Almost as if the thunder had heralded the clouds bursting, rain began to fall.

Imayoshi gazed lazily out the window, eyeing the way the sky had darkened over considerably. He was already looking forward to a hot bath, and removing the crown from his head –the ugly thing was making his neck ache. That was something they never told you about either –every man and his ancestors could tell you about the weight of responsibility that a crown brought, but no one ever thought to mention how damn heavy the thing was.

He was about to ask Midorima to fetch a servant to start filling a bath for him, but his attendant was first to speak, emerging from the shadows of the throne to bend so that his lips rested next to his king's ear.

"Your majesty," he murmured, a touch of ice gone from his low voice, but replaced with something else that made Imayoshi tense, without knowing why. He paused, listening intently for whatever news that the young man had received while he'd been distracted. How any of the servants were brave enough to come scuttling up to whisper Midorima's ear, he'd never know; even to a king he was an intimidating presence. But Midorima obviously knew how to use the servant grapevine to his advantage, and obviously this was important enough for them to overcome their wariness of the stony-faced attendant.

Thunder growled out through the blackening sky; rain pattering against the thick stone walls of the castle and when Midorima continued, it was in a low, distasteful tone.

"There are Kirisaki men outside."

"Kirisaki…" Imayoshi mused quietly, his brow creasing in polite surprise, "How many?"

"Fo –five, I believe, your majesty." Midorima straightened, adjusting his glasses and nodding towards the huge oak door of the throne room. "…They claim to be here by order of their King." The young man might as well have spat the final word; his disdain was clear enough.

"Father?" Satsuki inquired warily, obviously concerned by the way Imayoshi straightened in his throne a little, allowing a small, sly smile to cross his face.

"Well, we can't have Hanamiya hearing we didn't make his men most welcome, can we?" he tittered playfully, "I doubt I'd hear the end of it."

"I was under the impression they weren't welcome here," Midorima sniffed flatly.

"Oh, they're not, but we best keep up appearances," Imayoshi replied –too lightly. But then his voice changed, to something that both his daughter and his attendant knew was a bad sign –a sign of trouble in the making.

"Send them in."




A hush descended upon the throne room.

It was the banner, perhaps, that washed the room in silence. It was strangely torn and muddied and obviously damp from the rain, but there was no mistaking the markings it bore –eight red eyes upon a dirty grey field –the standard of Kirisaki Daiichi; the banner of the cruel King Hanamiya Makoto.

Or perhaps it was the men that caused the breath to catch in the throats of those looking on. Four were soldiers –the foremost bearing the banner. They were in grey armour –or parts of it, at least; and what they still had was scuffed and bloodied and coated in fresh mud. As they shambled across the floor, water dripped from their clothes and mud fell in their wake, and the townsfolk shrank back from them –for the men of Kirisaki Daiichi were feared as much as their King.

They were an interesting four, Imayoshi had to admit. So few, to be so far from their kingdom, and so injured, too?

And then there was the fifth man. If the crowd was shrinking away from the Kirisaki soldiers, then their eyes were drawn to him.

The muddiest and bloodiest of all five, he stumbled along in their centre –a prisoner, if the makeshift collar of rope tight about his throat was any indicator. It was that that the banner-man was yanking on to draw on him onwards, and though he was hunched over almost double, with every step Imayoshi spied a jaw clenching in pain. It was no wonder, really; the man's feet were bare and scraped and leaving prints of blood upon the stone.

"More light…" Satsuki murmured quietly, directed at Midorima; forgetting herself momentarily and letting a trace of unease slip into her voice. At a word, servants went scurrying along the walls, lighting torches and banging shutters closed to keep out the rain.

It was eerie, the unrest Kirisaki could bring to a room.

The soldiers drew to a halt when they reached the foot of the stairs leading up to the dais upon which Imayoshi and his daughter resided. Imayoshi recognised the banner-man now; Furuhashi, if he recalled correctly. He would know those dead eyes by any kind of firelight. Their prisoner stopped too; face hung low and concealed by shaggy, muddy hair. He lacked armour; lacked weaponry –looked as ragged as street rat, really, though there was a thickness to his shoulders and strength in his stance that seemed at odds with his appearance.

For what purpose would four military men drag him before a king?

"…You're a long way from home," Imayoshi cordially mused aloud, evenly meeting the flat-eyed gaze of the banner-man. All eyes turned to face the King of Touou, sitting now with such ease upon the throne and gazing down at the newcomers with practiced superiority.

"…Your Majesty, King Imayoshi. Princess Momoi," Furuhashi greeted stiffly, dipping his head with difficulty, as though the act of bowing physically pained him. "We bring greetings from King Hanamiya."

"So few of you," Imayoshi stated lightly –a tone easily read as mocking. His comment had a soft whisper of agreement rise up from the nobles watching from the balconies. "Should I be insulted that your King thinks so little of our friendship?"

"Begging your….pardon, your majesty," Furuhashi interjected flatly, "We were a large company, but we ran into trouble upon the river to the south. Many of our men may have been swept downstream."

"That river is prone to flash floods …" Imayoshi admitted with a small shrug, getting to his feet as his curiosity began to get the better of him. "And though I am sorry for the loss of your comrades, I must ask; greetings aside…For what, do my daughter and I owe the pleasure of your company?" He held out a hand to Satsuki, and felt her tentatively take it; rising from the throne and following him towards the stone steps.

Was it his imagination, or did those Kirisaki men just snicker?

Furuhashi simply bowed stiffly once more, and gestured with one hand towards the prisoner, as if this was all the explanation necessary. He stepped aside as Imayoshi descended the steps, growing more suspicious and ever more intrigued. These men had hastened to the castle without a care for their company; what was so important about their task? If this was some kind of trap –and it would not be unlike Hanamiya to be laying traps –it seemed inelegant.

"Hmm…" he hummed, wondering if he should be insulted. He glanced down towards the prisoner; still hanging his head and either unable or refusing to meet his gaze. "…And who might this delightful creature be?"

There was silence in the throne room, broken only by an ominous toll of thunder. Imayoshi raised an eyebrow expectantly at the banner-man, as though waiting for at least someone to answer him. Instead of doing so, however, Furuhashi simply gave a violent yank on the rope he was holding, sending the man toppling face-first to the stone ground with a deep, choking cry. A gasp of shock ran through the frozen crowd, and the prisoner twitched on the stones, struggling to draw in breath. Even Satsuki, standing a pace behind him, flinched at the cruel display.

"And how is he supposed to answer me now?" Imayoshi remarked lightly, his eyes narrowing. "Cut him free."

"Your majesty; he's dangerous…"

" –Begging the question why you've brought him to me," he interrupted, his voice laced with ice that allowed for no argument. He was a king, and he didn't trust anything that had root in Kirisaki. "Cut him free."

There was a brief pause in which the four soldiers exchanged eye contact as though considering refusing a direct order. But then one of them stepped forwards, dirty knife in hand, and severed the ropes binding the prisoner's throat and wrists. For a moment, he just lay there on the stone, shoulders heaving as he drank in deep gulps of air and wrestled his arms to his sides.

With sudden, astonishing speed, the prisoner lashed out; lunging on injured limbs for the knife that had been used to free him. The crowd recoiled, and it's princess with it, but Imayoshi watched; transfixed, at the powerful arm that reached out with purpose. He stared at the way that hand twisted the Kirisaki soldier's wrist until the blade clattered to the floor –watched as the prisoner desperately scrambled to his feet, only to stumble with a cry of pain as his own bleeding soles finally betrayed him.

And even as one of the Kirisaki men kicked him to his knees; even as one of them brought the heavy hilt of a blade down on his hand and forced him to yield the stolen weapon, Imayoshi caught a flash of brilliant red eyes peering out from under that matted hair. Red eyes that glimmered in the torchlight; red eyes burning with a kind of life that had never been birthed by Kirisaki Daiichi.

The boots that the soldiers were must have been heavy, and the kicks none too kind, but the prisoner didn't cry out. He'd managed only a moment on his feet and now he was back on his knees; head bowed and hands planted into the ground; shaking but refusing to give out.

"Speak," Imayoshi commanded casually, sounding much as though it were a suggestion, "Or have they cut your tongue out?" The whispers were starting again now, and he could hazard some of what they might say. More cruel things about Kirisaki, most likely –not that King Hanamiya needed any more of those to make foreigners wary of his kingdom. But it seemed that the crowd too, commonfolk and noble alike, were just as eager as Imayoshi to know who this man was.

The man's chest heaved, and his fists clenched against the stone. Slowly –making no further move to attack, he levered himself up until he was resting on his knees; head cast to the floor. And Imayoshi knew that those eyes were glaring holes through even the solid rock.

It was a hoarse whisper –a thick, raspy growl, but Imayoshi heard it, just as his daughter had heard it. And Imayoshi couldn't help but feel an impressed smirk spread across his face as he understood.

"Kagami...Taiga," the man wheezed, and then let out one shuddering breath to steady his voice to repeat –much stronger, this time, "…My name is Kagami Taiga."

It was Satsuki who broke the silence that followed.

"Kagami Taiga?" she whispered, almost in disbelief, slowly moving down the stairs to stand beside her father. Even then, she had to look up at him in confirmation, "…The prince?"

"He's no prince, your majesty," one of Furuhashi's men snickered, a snide smirk plastered across his face, apparently unable to resist delivering a kick in the ribs to his motionless charge.

"He is," Imayoshi corrected softly, rubbing his chin mostly to conceal his smile from his daughter. Oh, Hanamiya played a very good game, didn't he? It really was so inappropriate to laugh now but really, he had to give the man some credit… He truly never could have imagined this. "...And I must ask; is he the sole reason that your King sent you here?"

"Making sure he was delivered to you was his only order, your majesty," Furuhashi answered, giving Imayoshi all the confirmation he required. Putting on his most polite smile, he beckoned for Wakamatsu to come forwards, whilst tutting most condescendingly to the Kirisaki men.

" –And this is your king's idea of a formal escort?" he remarked mockingly; gesturing at the ropes, "Although I suppose King Hanamiya didn't see any need in asking that the young prince be delivered unharmed?"

"He tried to escape," Furuhashi answered flatly.

" –And I can't think why," Imayoshi replied just as flatly.

"He tried to kill us."

"And again, I can't for the life of me think why he would want to do such a thing," he tittered; his voice light but his eyes sharp –he'd noticed the bruises and the cuts and way the skin on this Kagami's wrists was rubbed raw. "…He did put up quite the fight though, it would seem –did he bite your finger off?" he added, addressing the snide-smirked man with grey hair –the one nursing a bandaged hand that appeared to be missing a finger. The smirk faded.

"No, your majesty. That was…something else."

"Hmm," Imayoshi rumbled as Wakamatsu fidgeted at his side –warily eyeing the man still panting on his knees, "It's strange, but you really do hear a lot about Kirisaki men missing fingers. One day I'm really going to have to puzzle that out, you know." He could tell that Satsuki was curious and full of questions, but restricting herself to simply staring down at the prince who had been dragged to her castle like some kind of condemned wretch.

"Wakamatsu," Imayoshi remarked, almost cheerfully –something that had his officer looking almost insultingly concerned, "Would you please find my lovely nephew?" He was greeted with a raised eyebrow in response.

"…Are you actually talking about the prince?" Wakamatsu deadpanned, "…Or do you have another nephew I should be searching for?"

"Find Aomine," Imayoshi ordered once more –embellishments pushed aside. He ignored the aggrieved, 'not again' look the soldier gave him.

"Even if I find him, he won't come," the blond warned him, and then seemed to think of something else he could add, and thought better of it.

"Tell him I have a surprise for him," the king tittered condescendingly, his brow hardening when he heard a soft, shocked intake of breath from his daughter and a quiet murmur rise from the balconies, "That usually gets his attention." Wakamatsu nodded disgruntledly and abruptly turned, signalling to some of his men to join in the hunt. Imayoshi was about to readdress the Kirisaki men, when he felt Satsuki's hand upon his arm; gripping far tighter than was polite.

"You're not…seriously going to do what I think you are?" she whispered, and Imayoshi was forced to look down into those bright pink eyes suddenly laced with a spark of fear. The hand on him tightened, and her brow creased; pleading against it. "You can't do that, father…look at him!" Her voice was but a soft whisper, and she turned to look at the man on the floor.

"Look at him. He's…" Even she, with all the intelligence of a noble schooling, didn't have the words to describe how this prince looked. And it was true; he was unkempt and dressed like a street rat; covered in blood and bruises and was kneeling in a most hangdog expression…but Satsuki hadn't seen those eyes.

"…I don't want…your pity…" he suddenly growled; drawing all eyes back to him. "If you've brought me here to kill me, then just do it." Imayoshi sort of wished he was still sitting so that he could have the joy of resting chin in a hand as he surveyed this young man. There was something almost admirable about stupidly defiant he seemed to think he was being.

"Kill you?" Imayoshi scoffed, allowing himself a small laugh as though the notion were absurd, "What use is there in killing you, hmm?

"I have something much worse in mind."


"Satsuki, please," Imayoshi tutted, adjusting his glasses and beckoning over several of the closest guards as Kagami's hands clenched into fists at his sides. But there was a room of guards, and he had just shown that in the state he was in, he was in no state to be fighting his way free of anyone. "You're causing a scene –ahh, Susa, excellent –" He was glad to see his faithful Third Captain among those that had approached to offer their assistance. " –These men are our guests, and we must repay King Hanamiya's...generosity. Ensure they are made welcome and treated accordingly. They must be tired." 

"We thank you, for your hospitality, your majesty," Furuhashi rumbled, sounding somewhat like clockwork.

"Of course," Imayoshi replied, though his tone wasn't entirely pleasant, "Shall I send out a search party to retrieve any survivors of your company?"

"No need," Furuhashi assured him blandly, "If they survived the flooding river, then they will regroup and make camp to await news of our mission's success."

"Out in this weather?" Imayoshi raised an eyebrow. What luck, to survive a near-drowning, only to linger out in the wind and rain.

"Trust me, your majesty, when I say that my men have dealt with far worse."

Imayoshi was glad to see the backs of the Kirisaki men –especially under guard. He hadn't exactly given the order to keep a sharp eye on them while they were in the castle, but it seemed that sort of thing went unsaid when it came to men serving Hanamiya Makoto. It was rude for them to not offer their names, or a message from their king, but the man –Kagami –he had served as message enough.

Hearing sighs of relief and hushed whispers strike up as the ominous aura of the Kirisaki men began to depart from the throne room, Imayoshi caught Susa's attention once more, ordering him to take Kagami far from the Kirisaki men. The ragged man was in desperate need of a bath and medical treatment, and he too, was technically a guest.

"What if he tries to run?" Susa inquired of him, eyeing Kagami's back as he was escorted from the room. There was still undeniable tenseness in his shoulders, and a tentativeness in the way he limped after the men warily leading him. Obviously Susa didn't put it past him to try and make a break for it, despite the air of bitter resignation hanging about him.

"...Then catch him, obviously," Imayoshi sighed, as though that were completely obvious, "Though I'd be questioning how he managed to escape you in the first place; did you see the state he was in?"

Normality was slowly resuming; the guards that remained returning to ushering the townsfolk from the throne room. The nobles were at their infernal whispering again; questioning what their king was thinking in having dealings with King Hanamiya; wondering if they'd heard correctly –if that dirty man was indeed a prince, and if so; what was he doing here? But they too were finally dispersing –the excitement done for, for the meantime.

"Well this has been most riveting, I must say," Imayoshi tittered, mostly to Midorima as he too, began slowly making his way towards one of the exits –that bath was just calling to him, and he had some definite plans to lay and a response to prepare for Hanamiya.

Now, out in the corridors, he was catching sight of shadows shifting through the hallways –servants all scurrying about doing their duties and trying to avoid getting underfoot. His attendant had easily dropped in behind him, but it seemed as though there was someone else still intent on pursuing him.

"Father!" Satsuki's voice called out crossly from somewhere behind him and he drew to a halt with a sigh –ignoring the snicker that Midorima provided from a few steps behind him.

"What is it, sweet daughter?" he inquired innocently, turning to see her striding down the corridor with a firm frown to her brow. Servants ducked aside, shyly dropping their gazes as she swept past.

" –Do not 'sweet daughter' me," she sniffed, "A surprise for my cousin? Father, the whole castle knows what that means!"

"Your point being?

"Did you see that man? He's not like the others you've gifted to Aomine-kun," she murmured softly, shaking her head and clutching her hands together tightly, "…To make him do such things would seem…degrading."

"Did you see that man?" Imayoshi retorted flatly; obviously startling her with his tone, "You know his story. He has been held by Kirisaki Daiichi for years –I'm sure he's already well acquainted with all that is degrading and humiliating. Hanamiya would have made sure of it –he hated his uncle, and his family, after all…" Though he hated to admit it, he found his own voice softening –but Satsuki obviously didn't hear it, as her lower lip trembled in a disappointed, most un-queenly fashion. It was the kind of rare expression she wore when she looked to him not as her king but as her father.

"I can't believe you'd be so cruel."

A swish of her long, pink hair, and she was sweeping off down the hallway –storming off with such dignity, too; her dress trailing after, and young maids scuttling to pick up the train to keep it off the stone floor. Imayoshi watched her leave with a most wearied sigh.

"It seems that Princess Momoi does not approve," Midorima remarked coolly from a few paces behind him.

"Oh, whatever gave you that impression?" Imayoshi remarked sarcastically, gazing around the hallway at the servants who were steadily darting about. No doubt that they all had their ears wide open –the servants always did but liked to pretend they didn't. If one believed the whispers, it was said that the servants of Touou knew all that went on within its walls. There was always someone listening. "...In any case," he added, almost innocently, as he began to continue off towards his chambers. "Satsuki shouldn't just go leaping to conclusions like that."

For a heavy moment there, Imayoshi failed to hear Midorima's familiar footsteps trailing after him, and when he looked back, he saw it was because his attendant was rooted to the spot; eyes narrowing suspiciously behind his glasses. He was an imposing figure; tall, stern-faced and proud, much like his father, and still so young to be wearing such a disdainful expression. Sometimes it was hard to remember that this man was the same age as his sweet daughter.

"Your majesty…" Midorima suddenly remarked, his suspicion evident in his voice, as though he was trying to piece together exactly what his king was implying. He'd been in the king's service for long enough to be most wary when Imayoshi acted his most innocent; especially when it came to his daughter and nephew. It would never get back to the king, of course, but sometimes the servants whispered that he, and Hanamiya were of the same cut and mould. "If I might ask…Aomine…isn't going to like this surprise, is he?" Imayoshi couldn't help but chuckle to himself –likely doing nothing but making his attendant ever more concerned.

"Oh," he snickered slyly, his lips curling up into a small, quiet grin, "…A lot of people are not going to like this." He could feel disapproval radiating from the young man behind him, and took the time to give him what he felt was a most reassuring smile. From the way Midorima adjusted his glasses and deepened his reproachful scowl, it had not had the desired effect.

"Well, if you must know," he continued with a small shrug, deliberately letting his voice lighten and carry slightly. There was no point in keeping secrets, in any case. What fun was there to be found in that?"Satsuki has made incorrect assumptions about my plans for Prince Kagami." He heard Midorima's footsteps slow; intrigued. Imayoshi's smirk widened –was that the quiet gasp of gossiping servant he could hear?

"It's not my intention to have him service our dear Aomine."

Somewhere outside, thunder rumbled ominously. Imayoshi chuckled to himself as he glanced over his shoulder and caught Midorima staring at him with an expression that seemed most quizzical. The king couldn't help it; he really couldn't –not when this turn of events promised to make things ever so interesting. Let the servants talk; let them whisper.

All the better.

"He's here to marry him."