"D.S. ...You're drunk."
"Dark Schneider," Kal says, trying to sound stern. He fails. Dark is breathing in his ear and nibbling with the skill of a few centuries, and the wine doesn't impair those skills much, though it seems to impair everything else. He's heavy, too, making the teenager list under his weight. "Please, just... come on. You'll just lay down and sleep it off, how about it?"
He promises himself he will never remind Dark about it. He can already see the disgust of his mentor at the thought that he tried to kiss -- to bed a boy. This is, after all, the man whose self-proclaimed motivation to conquer the world is so he can claim all the women in it for his harem. At this point "heterosexual" seems inadequate.
He'll never tell him. It would hurt too much. It already does.
"Wanna fff... fuuck," Dark whispers in his ear, and stumbles across the threshold. Kal isn't sure how he manages to aim his fall toward the four-poster bed, but the man's superior weight brings him down, and then they're both slumped awkwardly on the edge of the high mattress, legs dangling and slowly sliding back toward the floor. Kal braces himself and tries to shove Dark up.
For a few seconds it's like trying to move a dead horse, but then Dark flips on his side and pushes with his long legs, and --
and. Hell. How did he end up here? This is... Dar Schneider's chiseled chest. And usual lack of actually covering clothes.
He's also groping him.
"D.S!" Kal snaps, pushing himself up on his arms. Or trying to. Dark's arms are around him and they're heavy. "Dark, damn you -- look at me!"
"Mmh." The man gives him a languid, heavy-lidded smile. "Pretty."
"I'm a MAN," Kal retorts, and stops breathing when a strong arm hauls him up and a hand molds itself over his ass.
Dark looks less drunk than he did a second ago, suddenly, and then he's kissing him.
Kal forgets to struggle for a minute or three.
"Pretty enough for me," Dark Schneider whispers in his ear, before flipping them over on the mattress.
Kal would say something about wine goggles, but then Dark's mouth is on his own again and his weight pushes him into the mattress, and there are hands on him until he forgets everything he wanted to say.
The thing about switching sides is that no matter how right she feels it is (how right his body feels how safe she feels under his protection how much she knows that General Nei and Dark Schneider's disagreement (enemity) is wrong wrong wrong and should be, will be fixed) no matter how much she thinks there shouldn't be a rift, shouldn't be a side to choose...
She chose a man (so much more than just a man) over Arshes Nei, the woman who found her on the battlefield and took her in and raised her to be strong and powerful and a warrior, and taught her magic so she might make herself safe. She chose a man (so much larger than life) over her foster sister Kai Harn, who always protected her when other kids threw rocks, and allowed her to experiment on her hair with amused patience, and cared, cared, cared.
There shouldn't be a rift. Sean knows he never meant to betray General Nei, he never meant to die on her and then come back on the other side of this war Nei wages in his name.
She wants them back together. The greatest sorcerer of the world and the Empress of Thunder. Even if she never gets to be anything but the devoted underling for either of them.
Her utter devotion goes to them both, and they're tearing her apart.
And she chose, and she knows it will be alright, it has to be alright, they will all be back on the same side somehow, but she will always remember that she betrayed.
"Hey kiddo. Your brother in?"
Gara watches the scrawny boy jump in surprise and whirl to face him. Rushie is, of course, arms deep in a wooden tub full of clothes to be washed. Gara thinks it must be his secret fetish or something. They could probably afford a washing machine if they tried, but Lushie says he doesn't mind doing it all himself, and his brother isn't going to give a shit as long as he's not the one who has to do it.
"Ah -- Gara-san, hello. Yes, he's in his bedroom." He blushes, flustered. "Um. Alone."
Gara snickers and ruffles the kid's short black locks as he walks past. "That's pretty rare, huh. I'm gonna drag him out for a basketball game, when do you want him back?"
Rushie looks sheepish. "Um. Eight? That would be alright."
"You should make him cook, seriously," Gara throws over his shoulder as he disappears in the corridor. The idea of Dark attempting to cook is completely hilarious, of course. He'd probably explode the kitchen.
"Why, if it isn't the biggest lump of all," Dark drawls from his doorway, arms crossed lazily on his broadening chest, bleached-white hair falling in tangles down to his elbows. He's never going to reach Gara's height -- Gara doesn't think anyone else will at this rate -- but he's shooting up like a weed. Gara slaps his back in a friendly greeting, grinning when Dark stumbles and punches his shoulder hard as a return greeting.
"Basketball?" Gara offers.
"I was gonna call Yoko-san for a date," Dark protests, scowling darkly. Gara laughs in his face.
"Just come and train with me. How do you want her to say yes to you if your arms look like noodles?"
"Your brain looks like noodles," Dark shoots back, but Gara knows he's going to come anyway.
They shove each other around for a little bit, drifting back toward the front door without Dark having said "okay, I'm coming" even once.
"Have fun, Darsh!" Lushie calls happily with his soft, high-pitched voice.
Dark rolls his eyes good-naturedly and waves back over his shoulder as he strolls out. "Yeah, yeah. Seeya, big bro."
Well. If there's somewhere Kai didn't expect to be today, it's in the bedchamber of Her Highness Sheila of Metalikana and her brand-new husband, High King Kal Su of the Four Emperors of Havoc.
Political marriage, she knows that much -- the two of them never so much as looked at each other before their marriage two weeks ago. Sheila is the heiress of a kingdom centuries old -- and all-human from the start. Kal Su owes his title to nothing but his status as the third -- second if you believe his Generals, but Kai is faithful to Arshes Nei and says third -- most powerful sorcerer of the world. Their marriage is supposed to bring peace between the factions and end the war of conquest by what is really a softer, mutual conquest. But oh, Kai heard the complaints about Kal Su's bastard status and alleged inhuman blood polluting the Metalikana bloodline. Everyone did.
Frankly, she doesn't give a shit either way. She's Arshes Nei's first, and the samurais' second, but only because of their friendship.
She's not too sure how she ended up here, save that Sean asked her to be. She's not sure either how Sean and princess Sheila know each other or why Sean would call on old favors on the princess's behalf. (Probably that perverted bastard Dark Schneider introduced them to each other in his emperor-sized bed. Kai really ought to kill him for that, one of these days.)
"So," she says, crossing her arms lazily over her chest as she straightens up from her perfunctory bow.
She watches them. Sheila sits in a sinfully comfortable armchair like it's a throne of steel, posture perfectly straight, hands demure on her lap. Kal Su is perched on the windowsill behind her, all the way across the bed and at the end of the room, and doesn't look at either of them. They're... not exactly in a state of undress, but Sheila's soft robe is a night garment, and Kal Su is in silk pajamas and a thin, billowing shirt.
It's laced closed all the way up to his throat.
"What am I doing here?" Kai asks, blunt, because they should expect this of her and she doesn't even know how to soften the question -- besides she wants an answer now and not in three years from now.
Sheila's cheeks color, though the elegant tilt of her chin doesn't change a iota. "I was under the impression Sean Ari would have explained this to you..."
"She hinted," Kai admits. "I just want to be sure."
Sheila's cheeks darken some more. "... You -- you are right. I shouldn't... it isn't right to ask this of you without telling you clearly..."
"I need to be taught how to handle a woman," Kal Su says from the windowsill. He's still watching the castle grounds through the window, voice remote and as frozen as his power.
Sheila's head dips in what is probably sympathetic shame. "It isn't..."
She falls silent. Kai prods, curious. "Isn't what, princess?"
Sheila hesitates again, and then, closing her eyes, still facing forward where her husband isn't, she says, "You make it sound as if this -- problem -- is all on you."
Kai's eyes go from the princess to the sorcerer-king. This is so much deeper than a simple sexual dysfunction.
But then she heard about Kal Su's little problem with women, namely the fact he tends to freeze them out on principle. Socially speaking, at least. She's heard of him actually freezing people into statues, but hopefully they'd done more than simply being born with breasts for it... She reminds herself he has changed since that time, in either case. Yeah.
She's not sure what the issue is on Sheila's side, but anyway she knows the woman isn't a virgin. It was the talk of the whole castle when Dark Schneider seduced her --
Oh, hell, she probably hasn't known anyone since then, and a night with Dark tends to mark people. Kai should know, damn the bastard, but the difference is she has slept with other people since then. Also, she's not a sheltered romantic. One of her earliest memories is the rape of her mother, and she saw a lot more of them afterward. The battlefields are fertile grounds for all kinds of horrors.
Alright, so she has to get a little princess who's in love with someone else and a gynophobic half-ice dragon comfortable enough with each other to eventually produce a heir.
Easy as pie.
Sean is going to owe her for the next century.
They both outrank her so badly. Kai isn't very hierarchically-minded, but when it's the High King it's a bit hard to be irreverend. She breathes in, squares her shoulders, and claps her hands hard, startling them both. "Alright. Your highnesses. I am your official coach for tonight. I would not be here if you didn't accept this already. Therefore, from now on until tomorrow morning, I am in charge."
Kal Su looks away from the window for the first time to stare at her. His eyes are such a pale blue the irises almost disappear.
A challenge. She stands her ground. "First things first, if you would close the blinds." It'll be easier for them in the dark.
For Kai herself... Eh.
At least they're both pretty.
"They killed him," she whispers eventually.
It has been days since she last spoke. Since she ordered her sorcerers to retreat, to break the trail, to carry the injured and keep the retreat from turning into a panic. To settle down. To make camp.
Since she methodically took down her armor, and let it fall, and sat right there in the middle of a hastily erected command tent.
High Priest Abigail nods slowly from the entrance, the cloth falling closed behind him.
"He's... not coming back this time."
He doesn't answer, but his expression is answer enough.
She lifts her head fast, like a feral beast, black hair everywhere. Lightning crackles around her.
"You lie. You haven't looked hard enough, you--"
"Arshes," Abigail answers, slow and stern. "He might come back. He might not. But his usual spells have failed. He isn't coming back this week. Or this month." A pause. "Perhaps ever."
She shakes her head no, mechanically. But she can't deny it forever.
It's like a chasm in her soul. Her father. Her savior. Her teacher. Her lover. Her everything.
He's gone. Gone. Gone.
It rises inside her like a thunderstorm and she knows there are allies all around, her own students and her own men and women and she is responsible for them and she doesn't care, they can all burn, her Darsh is gone. Her Darsh is gone.
Abigail stands there, and doesn't even bother to erect a shield to protect himself from the lightning dancing on his skin, burning pinpoint holes through his robes. He watches her. Cold. Remote.
"But you can continue the war in his name."
"Revenge, Arshes. A fitting memorial."
She looks up at him slowly. There's a little smirk on his face she doesn't remember ever seeing before.
"Come. Let us discuss how to accomplish that."
"It's alright, I'm an angel!" he told her, before jumping out of the window.
Yoko spent the next month glaring at him and practicing her healing spells.
she's alone because they left her because she's a bastard halfbreed spawn who's a drain on their resources (she doesn't even get what that means apart from that she's bad) and she's eating their food and useless. they tell her to wait here and they leave. she waits even though she knows they won't come back, because she's always tried to be a nice girl so they might love her anyway despite her wrongness and her dark bastard skin.
there's red water and people bits everywhere and she's cold.
a man walks by and he's beautiful like a legend and she toddles to him to grab his cape. her legs are short and she hurts her foot on a rock and trips and when she gets up again he's gone.
she cries a tiny bit, just a little, because no one likes to hear a useless bastard halfbreed spawn make noise.
when she looks up there's a green man with a huge belly and a wart-covered hog's face, and he grins at her with his tusks bared and lifts his loincloth to show her what's underneath.
Abigail sighs in weary acceptance and takes the baby from Kai Harn's arms, turning it on his lap to settle it comfortably.
"I am a priest of the dark arcanes, not the healing arts, I hope you realize."
"Still a priest," Kai counters. And to use corrupted white magic, you had to know the normal kind first. "I'd ask Yoko or her father if they were here, but they're not."
They both look down at the child. It's a boy. His newborn dark hair is already falling, leaving fine, silvery strands behind.
It's funny how Princess Sheila's surprise bastard daughter has the exact same hair color. She's two months old and it shows no sign of darkening into even the palest gold.
When Yoko and her dad finish introducing Yoko's infant twins to their grandmother from the countryside and come back, someone is going to die. Likely someone silver-haired and male and very, very horny.
Hopefully for him, Yoko will come back before Arshes and Sean arrive at term as well.
The baby kicks on Abigail's lap and the old man sighs again and after a little prayer of apology to his dark god of carnage, starts the routine diagnosis spells and blessings. Kai sits close by and watches, an amused smile on her lips.
At some point the little brat pees on his embroidered robes. That's about par for the course, really.
"Scared, girlie?" the big man says from his perch on the edge of the pit, with a smile full of straight white teeth.
Yoko rattles her chains and glares up at him. "No," she says, and tells herself it's not really a lie. So far he's done nothing but let that slime at her clothes, and she's going to kill him for ogling her naked body. But nothing else. Nothing worse. He's all talk, really.
"You'll be," he promises, and blows out the torch.
Something skitters out into the pit.
"I'm not getting off on this," he says, and he really sounds regretful. Mildly. "I just want him to come for you, you know?"
Yoko closes her night-blind eyes and breathes and pretends she's alone in the pit. She wants Lushie to come for her, too.
But she's not going to scream.
She loves him. She knows he doesn't love her. She didn't always know that -- consciously at least -- but she thinks even as she fell to his seduction a part of her was always aware. You cannot cage a man like that, force him to belong to one person only -- force him to belong to anyone at all. Sean, at least, cannot. She's too ordinary.
But sometimes before she falls asleep she feels his hand in her hair, and his touch is so tender she's happy anyway, despite knowing she's only one of many.
He isn't hers. He will never be hers.
But she is his, and that might be enough.
The hard stone dug into Yoko's knees. But she couldn't dislodge princess Sheila from her lap.
What had she been doing in the last years? Learning a stupid sealing spell and a handful of cantrips -- too busy babysitting and bossing people around and washing socks.
Her father could have fixed this. Her father could have, could have --
She could have. She should have.
"The seal," Sheila mouthed, pupils blown so wide Yoko thought she must be blind. "The seal."
"The seal resisted," Yoko lied, head bowed until her red hair fell all around the princess's face. "They caught it as it left you and fixed it in something else. It's still steady. My father will fix this."
"Oh," Sheila said, and smiled.
"I know it hurts, but if you'll just wait a moment longer, just a moment longer. My father will heal you, I promise."
Sheila was still smiling.
Yoko combed long black locks away from the princess's face, and watched the
demon goddess turn their capital into ruins as Sheila's body cooled on her lap.