With a deep sigh, Kyungsoo let the book in his lap fall shut. He had been stuck on the page he was reading for the past few minutes, staring blindly at the characters without taking any of them in. It was one of his favourite books, retelling the tale of the first ascending of the moon Gods during Alpha King Li Jie’s reign and the funding of the Sokhan kingdom with the Hoo Birds’ blessing. Yet, he couldn’t concentrate on a single word.
He pressed a hand over the cover of the book, closing his eyes and letting the fall sun warm his cheeks. It brought him some comfort, grounding him in the fact that he had the blessings of gods flowing within him, their strength at his back and their wisdom in his heart. They would not lead him astray. He needed to trust in their divine knowledge.
His thoughts stayed on the Gods for only a moment, before they began straying once more. His mind was, as is seemed to always be these days, occupied with worries over what he was going to do about the Sokhan court order and the situation it had put them all in. It was constantly on the back of his mind, a nagging thorn digging deeper and deeper into him with each passing day.
Every moment that passed without him talking to Seungsoo was another moment where the pregnancy could be discovered, and the plans set in motion. It was getting harder and harder to hide it. Lately, he had started to experience all sorts of ailments related to pregnancy. Nausea from certain foods, especially in the morning, aching feet, and a general inability to sleep at night. There was only so many herbal teas he could send for before people started to get suspicious. He feared his omega mother was already aware that he was hiding something. She was always watching him like a hawk, always had been. She made sure he behaved as an omega ought to, and that he didn’t do anything unbecoming of an omega Prince.
He shook his head, forcing the thoughts of his omega mother’s watching eyes out of his mind. No, he just needed to talk to Seungsoo, and then it would be solved. He just had to make sure it was sooner rather than later. It could not wait any longer. A whole week had already passed since he had returned to Sokha, and Seungsoo had not given him a single opportunity to speak with him alone. He knew his brother was busy, he had always been far more busy than kyungsoo, having to deal with things Kyungsoo did not understand. But, the situation had grown dire. He had to talk to Seungsoo. It simply couldn’t wait any longer.
He turned his head back to the book in his lap, flipping through the pages to try and find where he left off. He couldn’t even remember the last part he read. He had been far too distracted to take any of the words in. Was there even any use in trying again?
At the sound of his name, Kyungsoo looked up, meeting his brother’s eyes. Seungsoo was barely out of his chambers, one hand still on the sliding door leading into the room behind him. His eyes were wide, surprise at seeing his brother here colouring his expression.
“Brother.” Kyungsoo spoke, closing the book and standing up. “I need to speak with you.” He stated, fingers tight where they curled around the spine of the book.
Seungsoo’s eyes widened once more, before he quickly shook his head and closed the door.
“Not now, little brother. Alpha mother and omega mother are holding court and we are both expected to be present.” He dismissed, walking past Kyungsoo and out into the little courtyard outside his chambers with long strides. Kyungsoo felt his shoulders drop, disappointment filling him for a brief moment before it gave way to anger. He would not be brushed aside again. Seungsoo had promised him that he would help, so now he needed to make good of that promise. Alpha mother and omega mother did not need Seungsoo present to hold court. Seungsoo wasn’t even the heir anymore!
Reaching out, Kyungsoo took hold of Seungsoo’s arm, stopping him dead in his tracks.
“I need to speak with you, now.” He said, looking deep into his brother’s eyes, pleading with him to listen. He could barely focus on anything but the court order these days, and more than once it had almost driven him into despair. He could not allow another war to break out, no matter what. He could not allow more of his people to die a pointless death for the greed of the nobles. He could not allow Sokha to conquer Hido and slaughter and imprison the royal family. He could not allow his unborn child to be born into a world created by such cruelty.
Seungsoo sighed deeply, looking down at the ground for a long moment, before finally looking back up into his brother’s eyes.
“Alright, but we have to make it quick. It would not reflect well on the future ruler of Sokha to not attend their own court!” He sent Kyungsoo a pointed look, pulling his arm out of his brother’s grip and returning back to his chambers. With a rough movement he pulled the sliding door open before inviting Kyungsoo inside, gesturing toward the small sitting area.
“Speak.” He said as he sat down.
Kyungsoo hesitated for a moment, not wanting to voice his worries. It was almost as if as long as he kept the court order a secret, it would never be carried out. But he knew that was childish wishmaking. He could not afford such thinking.
“The court order, Brother.” He said, releasing the white knuckle grip he had had on his book and setting it down on Seungsoo’s writing desk. “What is to be done about it?”
Seungsoo sighed again, his expression softening as he looked up at his brother. He reached out, taking hold of Kyungsoo’s and giving it a reassuring squeeze.
“Everything will be fine, brother dearest. I will make sure of it. There is no need for you to worry.” Seungsoo’s voice was soft, his thumb rubbing small circles on the back of Kyungsoo’s hand. Kyungsoo sighed, feeling some of the tension leave him. If Seungsoo was calm, so could he be.
“How did you come to know of the order? Isn’t it odd such a thing would be kept hidden from you, Brother?” Kyungsoo asked, feeling himself frown. His brother had always been such a large part of the court. From the moment of coming of age, he had spent almost as much time with it as their mothers. He had been helping them rule for years. It would not be like their mothers to hide such a thing from him.
Seungsoo seemed to notice his worry, and gave his hand another reassuring squeeze. There was a gentle but sad smile on his face as Kyungsoo looked up, one that Kyungsoo felt himself mirror.
“It is. I was surprised myself when I found out about it.” Seungsoo shook his head, sighing and breaking eye contact. Kyungsoo nodded, waiting for his brother to continue.
“How?” He asked after another moment of silence passed without Seungsoo elaborating. “How did you find out, Brother?” He needed to know. If Seungsoo had been able to uncover the court order, who’s to say that no one else had. And if the information had been actively kept from Seungsoo, then that must mean the rest of the court knew of it. The mere thought made his heart ache and his insides knot. He had to know who knew.
His free hand shifted to press on his abdomen, resting just above the little bump hidden by his corset, wanting to protect it. He forced the hand away a second later. He couldn’t be giving anything away.
It was better if Seungsoo didn’t know about the babe until a proper plan was set in motion. He could not risk anyone knowing. He could not risk it.
“Alpha Mother told me.” Seungsoo said with a sigh, looking down in his lap. The hand holding Kyungsoo’s tightened to almost painful. “She told me expecting me to agree, expecting me to betray my own little brother in such a way!” He growled, anger flaring up inside of him.
Kyungsoo reached out with his free hand, placing it above Seungsoo’s. His brother let out a deep breath, the anger disappearing as quickly as it had come. When he looked up a moment later, his eyes were full of gratitude. Kyungsoo gave the hand in his a small squeeze, offering up a small smile.
“Does omega mother know?” He asked.
Seungsoo nodded, thumb caressing the back of his hand again. Kyungsoo nodded in return, his jaw clenched tight in an effort to hold back the betrayal swirling inside of him. He had hoped that it had purely been the court’s idea, and that his mothers were not in on it. But, if both of them knew, and neither of them had told him, that must mean the approve of the plan.
“What do we do?” He asked, seeking his brother’s eyes. “We must stop the plan! Our kingdom cannot afford another war.”
“I will handle it.” Seungsoo promised with another squeeze of his hand.
“How?” Kyungsoo asked. Was there a way he could help? Maybe Jongin could help?
“I will handle it. I will make sure nothing bad befalls you.” Seungsoo reassured, giving Kyungsoo’s hand another squeeze and offering up a smile, before letting go and sitting back. Perturbed, Kyungsoo pulled his hands back, fingers once again finding the spine of the book he had been reading.
Seungsoo would handle it. He always did. As the Alpha Prince he had connections and knowledge Kyungsoo couldn’t even image. That was the way it had always been. Seungsoo had handled it, had talked to the court, had made sure nothing bad happened. Seungsoo had always protected him, and Kyungsoo hadn’t needed to know the detail of how. He hadn’t needed to know the inner workings of the court.
But. But, now he knew. He had been taught. Jongin had shown him how the court worked, he had been given lessons in Hido. he had an official court position, one he had needed to fight for all on his own. He had stood against the court, and he had successfully argued his point. He knew how it worked now. Maybe not as well as Seungsoo. But he knew, and he wanted to know how Seungsoo was going to solve this. Not just that it was going to get solved.
“How will you handle it, Brother?” Kyungsoo asked, looking back up at his brother. Seungsoo’s jaw clenched for the briefest of moments, before he grabbed the book in Kyungsoo’s hands pulled it out of his grasp.
“You’ll bend the pages if you keep that up.” He said with a laugh, standing up and walking over to the bookshelf by his desk. Kyungsoo stood up, feeling a spark of irritation ignite in his chest.
“How will you handle it, Brother?” He repeated, folding his hands over his belt and squaring his shoulders.
“I said I would handle it, Kyungsoo.” Seungsoo replied, back still against his brother.
“In your letter, you made it seem as though you had known about the court order for some time. Surely, you must have worked out some sort of plan by now, have you not?” Kyungsoo asked, chest clenching once more. Surely, Seungsoo hadn’t just waited for his reply. He must have thought of something. He said he would. He said he would always protect Kyungsoo. He had promised that. He must have thought of something!
“I have, and I will handle it.” Seungsoo said, still not having turned to look at Kyungsoo.
“Then tell me about it. I will be able to help you-”
“I said I would handle it!” Seungsoo growled, head snapping around and sharp eyes drilling into Kyungsoo. Kyungsoo flinched, hands subconsciously coming up to cover his abdomen. His closed his mouth, wearily watching his brother.
Seungsoo was breathing heavily, anger written on every line of his face, before it softened again and he smoothed a hand down his robes. He shook his head, a deep sigh escaping him.
“I am sorry, little brother. It is merely that...this is simply a stressful situation.” He sighed again, rubbing his hands down his face. Kyungsoo took a step forward, reaching out and allowing his brother to take his hand.
“I’m sorry, Brother. I did not mean to add to your stress.” He said, squeezing the hand in his. Seungsoo smiled, looking up at his younger brother.
“I am still not used to seeing you in a veil.” He said, reaching out and gently touching the delicate fabric. “The red collar suits you so well, little diamond.” He smiled, eyes becoming shiny. “Never has there been an omega more beautiful than you.” He closed his eyes, breath laboured for a moment before a small tear escaped his eyes. It followed the curve of his nose, rounding his cheek, before Kyungsoo’s finger caught it and brushed it away.
“Don’t cry, Brother.” Kyungsoo said, smiling. “I’m still your little brother.”
“I have missed you so. We all have. Our diamond, the pride of Sokha.” Seungsoo said, eyes still closed. “Never has there been an omega like you. The dedication you have to your kingdom and your omega duties is unparalleled. You truly are an omega worthy of the Moon Gods’ blessing.
Kyungsoo felt his chest swell at the praise, cheeks growing warm at Seungsoo’s kind words. He looked down, bashful. Seungsoo was right, it was a stressful situation for him too, and he shouldn’t pressure his brother so much for the plan. He should trust in Seungsoo. He had never failed in his Alpha duties after all. Seungsoo was an exemplary Alpha, and he needed Kyungsoo to do his omega duties, not to try and impinge on Seungsoo’s duties.
“You know our mothers think the same.” Seungsoo said. Kyungsoo shook his head with a laugh. “They do! You know they adore you, and they would never do anything to hurt you. You are their little diamond after all. The most precious little diamond.” Seungsoo reached up and cupped Kyungsoo’s cheek. Kyungsoo sighed, leaning into the touch.
“They only want what’s best for you. We all want that.” Seungsoo continued. “They had what is best for you in mind when they designed this plan. They know how much you’ve always dreamt of fulfilling your omega duties. Ruling was never a part of that dream.”
Kyungsoo looked back up, a small frown growing on his brow. Seungsoo sighed, eyes not meeting Kyungsoo’s.
“We all know how stressful it must have been for you these past few months. Being sent off to a different kingdom, one as barbaric as Hido. I have read the distress in your letters. You’re fragile by nature. As an omega, it is not healthy for you to be put under such stress. We could not stand for such a thing. We had to get you back to us, to your rightful place in Sokha, where you’re happy. We only want you to be happy.” Seungsoo explained.
“Seungsoo.” Kyungsoo tried to interrupt, stomach slowly twisting.
“You are only an omega, Kyungsoo. You are not fit to rule. You are not fit for that sort of life. To rule a kingdom, much less two, you need someone strong. You need an Alpha, like me, who has spent their entire life preparing for a seat on the throne.” Seungsoo’s eyes drilled into his, determination shining strong in them.
Kyungsoo shook his head, trying to pull his hands free from Seungsoo’s grasp, but the other’s grip was too strong.
“Don’t you see?” Seungsoo asked. “Don’t you see? This is much better for you, for both of us! I am the one who is supposed to rule. Not you. You were never meant to rule. But I, I was born for it, I was raised for it. I have been taught it all. I know how to keep a kingdom under control! Under me, Sokha will thrive, and Hido will finally be put into place! Don’t you see, Kyungsoo?”
“NO!” Kyungsoo cried, tearing his hands free from Seungsoo and stumbling back and away from his brother. “No!” He shook his head, disbelief filling every fibre of his body, betrail burning hot a second later. “No!” The air felt thin around him, like when he had fled from Jongin, like when he had been so so scared.
“Kyungsoo please! This court order is for the best! It has been willed by the Hoo Birds!” Seungsoo exclaimed, walking up to Kyungsoo, cornering him.
“You were in on this all along?” He asked, struggling to pull in enough air. His mind was racing, desperately trying to make sense of what Seungsoo was telling him, of everything he had been told.
“Yes. We all think this is for the best.” Seungsoo said, voice turning gentle again as he reached out toward his brother. Kyungsoo slapped his hands away.
“Don’t touch me!” He spat, hand resting protectively over his small bump. He turned his eyes to his brother, making him take a step back.
“Stop it, Kyungsoo!” Seungsoo growled. “Don’t tell me you’ve grown soft on those filthy Hido. You even act like their omegas. Emotional. Irrational.” He spat the words as though they were poison. “You’ve lost yourself. You’ve lost Sokha. It’s clear you would never be able to rule a kingdom.”
“You cannot believe such a thing!” Kyungsoo cried, taking another step away from Seungsoo. Every word spat at him ached, cutting into his skin. He gasped, fighting for purchase as the world spun around him.
“You are just an omega.” Seungsoo sneered, the word an ugly sound on his lips. “You could never rule!”
“But omega mother rules!” Kyungsoo argued desperately.
“She can only rule because she has Alpha mother!” Seungsoo growled. “You don’t even have that. It’s an insult to all Alphas that you mate calls himself an Alpha. It is easy for anyone to see that he is too weak to ever lead! The people of Hido will welcome my rule with open arms!”
“Stop it!” Kyungsoo screamed, struggling to make sense of everything that was happening. His heartbeat was pounding in his ears, deafening. His vision was blurry with tears he was too proud to let fall. His chest ached from lack of air. He felt weak, alone, abandoned.
“Don’t you dare scream at me!” Seungsoo growled.
“You’re lying!” Kyungsoo gasped, a desperate attempt to explain it all, because anything else was simply too painful. Anything else could simply not be true. It could not be true. Seungsoo could not have been part of the plan. He would not betray Kyungsoo like this. He could not believe such things about omegas, such things of old. It had to be a cruel joke. “You’re lying! Alpha mother would never agree to this!”
Seungsoo laughed, a hollow laugh.
“Of course not! She does not know!” He shook his head. “She has always had too soft of a spot for you, have always allowed you to delude yourself! Had omega mother not stopped her you would never have become the omega you are today.”
Kyungsoo shook his head, grasping for air. No. No it could not be true. It could not! He refused to let it be true.
“You’re lying!” He repeated, voice shaking.
“No, Kyungsoo.” Seungsoo sighed.
“You’re lying.” Kyungsoo whimpered, covering his ears. He didn’t want to hear. He didn’t want to be a part of this. He wouldn’t be a part of this. It couldn’t be true. He wanted Jongin to be here, to stop it all, to pull him away and hide him behind his robes, to make it all better again.
“No. You are just too weak to see what has always been in front of you. You are simply an omega. You could never do something as great as bringing together two kingdoms That is something only a true Alpha could do.” Seungsoo explained, voice steady.
“You will bring war!” Kyungsoo gasped. Seungsoo had to see reason. This couldn’t happen. Their kingdoms couldn’t afford another war. Neither of them would survive. All his hard work would be for naught. All of it for naught. All of him for naught.
“Then so be it! I will-”
“NO!” Kyungsoo screamed, finally shutting Seungsoo up. “I will not have my child grow up with war!”
A moment of silence stretched between them, tortuous, aching, cataclysmic. The air grow thinner with each breath he took, the corset feeling more like a cage than it ever had before. It was crushing him, crushing his chest, his heart, his babe.
“You-” Seungsoo spoke. His voice was like a whisper, so frighteningly unlike him. Kyungsoo met his eyes, saw the storm brewing behind him, a hurricane ready for destruction. He took a step back, still gasping for breath.
The world was crumbling under his feet. It was all falling apart. Everything. The relation he had managed to build with Hido, the efforts he had put into his omega training, the life he and Jongin had been trying to build for themselves, a life of peace and prosperity. It was slipping through his fingers like water. Drop by drop escaping him to never return.
Seungsoo knew about the child. He knew he could set his plan in motion. He already had a court order. Surely he also had enough heads to set it all into motion within a moment’s notice. He would betray them all, his kingdom, Hido, Jongin, Alpha mother, his little brother.
Kyungsoo wheezed, grasping his skirts as he tried to pull in enough air, tried to swallow down the tears lodged in the back of his throat. No. No, no, no it couldn’t end like this. It wasn’t fair. It was not fair! He was the one who had stepped up to ensure peace. He was the one who had faced rumours and disgrace for abstaining from bonding during the war in support of his people’s suffering. He was the one who had been sent to a different kingdom, alone and afraid, with the expectation of his people on his shoulders. HE!
He had proven himself worthy of his place on the throne! He had thought himself the ways of Hido on his own. He had earned the goodwill of the people, both in Sokha and Hido. Him! No one else! No one else could claim his effort, his dedication to his people, his sacrifice.
He would not have it be for naught! He was the omega Prince! The jewel in the Sokhan crown, the highest standing omega in Hido. He wore his belt tied in five loops as proudly as the red collar of his inner robe. He wore the insignia of the Wind Gods on his corset and the insignia of the Dragon God in his hair.
He was of Hido as he was of Sokha. One, completely.
He was their omega Prince, trusted to lead and rule. The blessing of the Hoo Birds flowed in his veins. The Moon Gods had willed his child, had willed the unification of him and Jongin, of Sokha and Hido. He had the Gods on his side. He had the rank, higher than Seungsoo, and he had the fire burning within him. He could stop this.
He looked up, meeting Seungsoo’s eyes once more. The Alpha’s smile slowly fell. Kyungsoo drew a deep breath, his first full one since he had entered Sokha, and the fire within him roared to life.
He turned, skirts bellowing at his feet, and stepped out of the room. Behind him, Seungsoo called his name, ordered him to return. He did not listen. His feet steered him toward the throne room, his hands protectively placed over the life within him. He would stop this.
He was an unstoppable blaze, and he was not afraid to burn whoever came in his path.