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Croatian Rhapsody

Chapter Text

A stream gushed through the mountain, part of it winding through woodland area. Nestled amongst trees, in a small clearing, was a wooden cabin. Its dark exterior was sleek and modern, from its wall panels to its gently sloping tiled roof that two solar panels sat upon. The inside of the house was rustic with earthy hues, plain and compact in design, containing a blend of Japanese and Northwestern European furnishing.

In the main area that was part-living room, part-kitchen, a man slouched on a weary sofa, punching a radio that kept losing signal.

“... Provisions were intercepted today by...”

“... It has been twenty days since Towa City was captured by the...”

“... Fifty people died today when the Remnant of Despair known as the Porcelain Widow went on a...”

The man fiddled with the dial but unable to get a decent signal, he gave up and tossed the radio onto the seat beside him. He heaved out a sigh and leaned back, staring up at the wooden beams overhead. In the ‘before times’, he would have lit a cigar or thrown himself into some work. Only, he didn’t have any more cigars, and as for work, the only work he had to do were things like gathering firewood, popping to the stream to retrieve more water or pottering about trying to find furniture to rearrange.

That sort of work should have been done by maids, people whose purpose in life was to carry out menial tasks for people with more important things to do and better things to contribute to society, but he didn’t have any servants anymore.

With a quiet grunt, he stood up and lumbered over to the kitchen area. The solar panels generated enough electricity for a small refrigerator, lighting and a stove. He poured water into a pot and placed it on the stove to heat. Because he had nothing better to do, he stood nearby, watching as it came to boil. Perhaps, later, he would write in his journal. Though a solitary man, in a situation like this, even he needed to pretend that he had someone to talk to.

When the first few bubbles emerged at the surface of the water, the front door yawned open. Two sets of footsteps sounded, thudding against the wooden flooring. They came from somewhere behind him, and if he turned, he would have seen them, but he didn’t turn yet.

Something hard and solid struck the floor.

“Is that how you greet your king?” someone drawled.

He recognised it. A chill shot through him, but when he faced the intruders, he forced himself to mask his emotions, keeping his features smooth and blank.

The one who spoke, the self-proclaimed king, grinned toothily. His blond hair met his shoulders and curved against them but weren’t much longer than that. Over a black business suit, he wore a cloak like a king, its colour a range of skin tones, and on his head sat a thorn crown. He trained his cold, blue eyes on the dark pair of the owner of the cabin.

“It’s you,” said the owner of the cabin curtly.

“You don’t sound too surprised, Daddy,” said the intruder. The owner of the cabin winced, and the intruder broadened his grin. He inclined his head slightly, maintaining eye contact, and gripped harder onto the orbed head of his cane, which he had hit against the floor earlier. “Or would you rather I call you by your name? Kijou.”

Standing opposite the intruder, the owner of the cabin, Kijou, squared his shoulders.

“That would be Togami-sama to you, though you don’t have a respectful bone in your body. I knew you would find me eventually,” said Kijou in a low voice. His knuckles turned white as his hands balled into fists. “It was only a matter of time. I can’t say that I’m happy to meet you.”

This brought out a pout on the other man.

“Not even your own son?” he asked, and Kijou didn’t answer.

“You should be honoured,” someone said from behind the self-proclaimed king. A young woman stepped aside, revealing herself. Though she had a buzzcut now, Kijou recalled from photographs and video footage that she once had long hair, styled into two braids. The circular glasses that she had worn were still there, and no doubt there was a mole below the left corner of her lips under the dust mask over the mouth.

Drawn on the dust mask was a curved pink line, a symbol of a smile. She reminded Kijou of a sukeban with her dark sailor uniform, the skirt reaching past her knees. It was torn, especially at the bottom, with a long slit down her left leg. In the past, she had scars on her thigh, a tally for every victim of Genocider Syo, but now those scars covered her entire body.

Her appearance had changed a lot since Kijou last saw an image of her, but he knew it was her. Only someone like this would be associated with someone like the traitor standing before him.

This woman went by two names. One was Touko Fukawa, and the other was Genocider Syo. She was Byakuya’s right hand woman and she killed whoever he asked her to kill as well as wrote propaganda for the Remnants of Despair. Rumour had it that she had written a book so depressing that anyone who read it would soon kill themselves.

“You have been blessed by a visit from the great Byakuya-sama,” crowed Touko or Syo, raising her arms. Honestly, Kijou didn’t care to differentiate between the two.

Kijou stared at Byakuya, and only Byakuya, gritting his teeth. Byakuya approached Kijou, who breathed in deeply but didn’t move. Despite Kijou’s calm exterior, his heart beated furiously in his chest, though Byakuya wouldn’t have known that. A strong person didn’t succumb to emotions. Weak people did, and Kijou wasn’t weak. He stood perfectly still, but when Byakuya positioned himself in front of him and lifted a hand, admittedly, Kijou flinched, prompting Byakuya’s eyes to widen momentarily.

Byakuya licked his lips, slowly in a full circle, inducing a crawling sensation in Kijou’s skin.

“What do you want?” asked Kijou, but he had an inkling. This was why he trembled slightly. He knew, and he wished Byakuya would hurry up and do it.

“Bow down to me,” said Byakuya.

That hadn’t been what Kijou anticipated.

Without so much as blinking, Kijou replied, “Never.”

Byakuya grabbed Kijou by the hair and tugged him down. A pained wheeze hissed out from Kijou, and when Byakuya slammed his head against the wall behind him, his vision flashed white and he choked out a pathetic noise.

His head pounded as he gazed up, and he saw the ice in Byakuya’s eyes start to crack. Behind the layer of coldness were murky pools that seemed to go on forever. He didn’t get chance to stare into them long before Byakuya shoved his head to the ground, forcing Kijou onto his knees. With Byakuya’s hand applying firm pressure against his head, Kijou couldn’t look up.

The force on his head lessened rapidly, but Kijou didn’t lift his head. Moments later, something else pressed against him. Kijou deduced that it was the cane that Byakuya wielded.

“You foolish boy,” murmured Byakuya.

There was a high-pitched rasp.

“You idiot,” said Byakuya.

It had been the sound of Byakuya unsheathing a sword.

“You disgrace,” said Byakuya.

The sword had been contained in the cane, and the case slid off Kijou’s head. His body shook. Wouldn’t stop shaking.

“You’re no Togami,” said Byakuya. “You’re dirt.”

Nothing was pinning Kijou down. Only pure terror bound him, shackled him to the ground. Seized him in an inescapable chokehold.

“Dust,” breathed Byakuya.

Though Kijou had resigned himself to this fate, when Byakuya raised his sword, Kijou let out a sob.

“P-Please,” said Kijou, clutching his hands together. “Don’t kill me. God, please don’t kill me.”

“God...” Byakuya wet his lips and smiled. “That’s right, I am your God.”

He swung the sword forward. Before it even penetrated, Kijou began screaming, and as Byakuya hacked away at him, the raw, animalistic wailing that wracked through Kijou came and went. Blood splattered everywhere, and long after Kijou had become not much more than a pile of pulp, Byakuya was still slashing him. Even that wasn’t enough, and he threw in stomps too.

Eventually, Byakuya slowed to a stop, panting loudly. Touko sidled up to him. The sight of blood didn’t disturb her anymore. Hard to believe, but there had been a time when even a papercut would make her feel woozy. Now, though, she grinned as she wrapped her hands around Byakuya’s arm.

“I’m a god,” said Byakuya, unclear who he was telling, if anyone.

“You are,” she purred, snuggling into him.

Byakuya planted his sword blade first into what had been his father. It shifted a bit, but stayed upright. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a cigarette. Touko fished around in his other trouser pocket and got out a lighter, which she flicked beneath the cigarette that he cradled in his mouth.

They stood still as he took a drag and breathed out a tendril of smoke. She basked in his body’s warmth. The window gaped a starry night, and Touko remembered something from long ago. One time, she and Byakuya took a coach out of the city, and they had lain on a hill, side-by-side, and pointed out different constellations. In the city, they couldn’t see many stars, but there, they could. He knew all their names and so did she, and he had listened to her tell him every story behind them.

That had been before all this.

Touko squeezed his arm.

“Um, Byakuya-sama?” she said.

Byakuya gave a hum.

“Why don’t we stay here for the night?” she suggested. “We can leave in the morning, when it’s light out.”

He puffed out smoke and bent down to snuff out his cigarette on one of Kijou’s bones. While he was squatted down, he dipped his finger into the mess of flesh, and he smudged blood onto himself.

His eyes narrowed as he brought his finger to his mouth and tasted it. The blood had a metallic tang and was warm in his mouth.

“We may as well,” said Byakuya. He stood up.

In the small cabin were two bedrooms, each with one bed. More than one person likely lived here before Kijou took up residence. One room was dustier than the other, and they chose the cleaner room to sleep in. It only had one bed with a tatty duvet. Byakuya removed his crown and cloak and sat down on it.

She approached, stopping a few paces away, and held her breath as she waited, fidgeting her hands.

“Come here,” he instructed.

Touko’s face lit up and she closed the gap between them. He pulled her toward himself as she clamoured onto his lap. His hand cupped the back of her head, pushing as he guided her into a kiss. Electricity coursed through her body as their warmth melded together. Her eyes fluttered shut.

Byakuya prodded his tongue against her lips and she opened up. He hugged her closer, and she shuddered as he drove his tongue into her mouth. All of her body tingled, all over. Touko groaned, grinding against him, and he filled her with a noise of arousal. She felt his hands paw at her clothes and let him shed them off her, until she was only clad in her panties.

The sex they had on Byakuya’s dead father’s bed was incredible.

Afterwards, they lay together and Touko breathed loudly, gazing upward. They would have to make a small trek to their helicopter in the morning. Byakuya would want them to leave as early as possible, so she ought to have tried to get some sleep, but she couldn’t. Her head buzzed, and her eyelids wouldn’t stay down. She listened to the whisper of a stream, the hustle of a breeze and the occasional chirps of insects. An image of a stink bug came to her mind, and her heart clenched as she remembered how it had crumbled in her fist as she crushed it.

Judging by the lack of snoring, Byakuya hadn’t fallen asleep yet.

“Byakuya-sama,” she murmured, and if he didn’t acknowledge her, she would have left it at that. That would be what destiny decided for them.

“What is it?” he asked with his back to her, barely any louder.

She swallowed.

“What if we didn’t go back, and we just stayed here?” she said.

There was a pause.

“Why would we do that?” he asked slowly in a flat voice, like a calm sea before a storm was due to hit.

Touko cringed.

“I don’t know,” she said. Her stomach quivered, and she quickly added, “Good night.”

“No.” He sat up and turned to her. “Not good night. Why would you suggest that?”

Destiny must have had it out for her. His eyes bore into her.

“You would have us abandon our comrades? Our leader? And for what, a tiny cabin in the woods on a mountain?” he asked, gesturing around the room.

“We don’t have to stay here,” she said, her heart hammering away. God, with the moonlight framing him like that, he was irresistible. Her fingers curled into her hand. “As long as I’m with you... then I will go anywhere. Even a tiny cabin in the woods on a mountain.”

Nothing. He said nothing. Just glared.

“I’m sorry,” she said, feeling her throat tighten. “I’ll shut up.”

His face was cold.

“You can sleep on the floor,” he sneered.

Touko got off the bed and sat down where he indicated. He lay down again, and the bed creaked as he put more weight on it.

In the end, she got an hour sleep at most. The sky lightened outside, and he nudged her with his foot until she raised her head. Byakuya put his cloak and crown on while she dressed too, and she followed him down the stairs. He walked in front of her and opened the front door.

Almost instantly, he slammed it shut without leaving. A second later, the door let off three sharp thunks.

“We have company,” said Byakuya calmly, and he backed away from the door, drawing his sword from his cane. She stayed close to him.

Moments later, the door shuddered and after a few more thumps, it fell down. Standing in the doorway was a human with a large frame. Their business suit strained slightly over their muscles, and their facial features could not be determined due to the fact they wore a wrestling mask that resembled a cow’s head.

Byakuya held his weapon out in front of him.

An elderly man slipped past the wrestler, with upswept silver hair and amber eyes. His skin resembled a prune in texture and he walked with a marked hunch. The man was Kazuo Tengan, former headmaster of Hope’s Peak Academy, former advisor of Hope’s Peak Academy and current leader of Future Foundation.

He stopped just in front of the wrestler and smiled pleasantly at the other two.

“I thought we might find you here, Togami-kun. Fukawa-san,” he said. “This is quite the cosy little cottage, isn’t it?”

Neither Touko nor Byakuya replied. They leered at him. He tilted his head.

“Where is your father, Togami-kun?” he asked.

Byakuya eyed him.

“I don’t have a father,” Byakuya replied bluntly.

Kazuo quirked his brow, holding his hands behind his back. “Do you mean that because he disowned you, or because you killed him?”

The lack of response gave Kazuo a suspicion on what the answer was. He sniffed the air and strayed from the doorway, feeling Byakuya and Touko monitor his every movement. Because the kitchen area was in the same room, he soon wandered over to the mutilated corpse on the ground.

“Oh dear, the answer is ‘both’,” said Kazuo, peering down at it, then he lifted his head. Noting Byakuya’s expression, he adjusted his glasses. “Shall we get down to business? You have probably worked out why we’re here.”

“Yes,” said Byakuya. He raised his sword. “You came here to die.”

Byakuya propelled himself toward Kazuo, preparing to swing his sword at him, but before he could reach him, the wrestler shoved into him and Byakuya stumbled.

“I, Great Gozu, will not allow you to kill anyone anymore,” roared the wrestler.

Regaining his footing quickly, Byakuya aimed his next attack toward Great Gozu.

Small knives splattered against his blade, and Byakuya pulled back.

Now that Great Gozu no longer occupied the doorway, more people could come in. One was a lean man in a red trench coat, and the other was a woman with a grey complexion, who wore a purple respirator mask and a short dark jacket.

The knives had come from the man in the red trench coat. Byakuya remembered him vaguely from Hope’s Peak, a blacksmith by the name of Sonosuke, and the noise just after Byakuya had closed the door earlier had been from Sonosuke’s knives hitting against it, as they did against his sword just now.

Sonosuke stayed back and reached into his sleeve, presumably to whisk out more knives to throw.

Touko yanked up her skirt and grabbed a pair of scissors from the leather pouch on her right thigh. With a screech, she charged at Sonosuke, and she cut his cheek with her blades.

He let out a yell and lurched backward into the wall. She readied another attack.

Nearby, the woman with the respirator mask ingested some green pills, who Byakuya now remembered to be called Seiko Kimura, a pharmacist. The effect from the pills was immediate. Seiko bulked up, and her purple gloves tore as her hands enlarged. Her nails became claws, and her silver hair lengthed, thrashing like snakes. On her legs, her tights ripped. Veins popped out on her face and with fangs bared, she hurtled toward Touko on all fours.

Byakuya intercepted Seiko, and she only barely dodged his sword’s path. She twisted around and leaped toward him. He kicked out his leg, landing a blow on her face, but she didn’t rebound much, as if he just swatted lightly at her.

Seiko lunged at him again, but Byakuya fended her off with his sword. Blood sprayed and she staggered back with a howl.

Gozu appeared behind Byakuya and grappled him, wrapping his arms around his middle. Byakuya struggled but couldn’t break free. He gasped in pain.

Touko’s eyes widened. She jumped onto Gozu’s back and stabbed his shoulder with some scissors. The scissors belonged to her alter and were her trademark when it came to murders, and for a long time, Touko couldn’t stand them, only keeping them so Syo wouldn’t have to make more, as every time she did that, she risked being caught.

Now, though, Touko had come to appreciate them.

He shouted and his hold loosened enough for Byakuya to squirm free. When Byakuya got out of the way, Touko whipped out another set of scissors, as her other set were still embedded in Gozu, and she ran at him.

Before she got there, Kazuo aimed a stun gun at her and pressed the trigger. Kazuo hit her on the base of her neck. A rattling sound burst out, lasting for five seconds, which was how long he squeezed the trigger for. Touko’s muscles locked up and she fell down into a heap.

Byakuya’s eyes strained wider and he ran over, stopping near her unconscious form.

Sonosuke threw knives at him. They skimmed past Byakuya, grazing skin. Non-lethal. Intentional.

Kazuo raised a hand, showing his palm to Byakuya.

“Togami-kun, you’re a smart lad,” he said. “You know that you’re outnumbered. It’s impossible for you to take all of us down.”

“If you think you can kill me, you’re welcome to try,” said Byakuya, jutting out his chin. He held his sword in front of him. “I’m unkillable, however.”

“That guy’s really trying to test my patience,” said Sonosuke gruffly. Byakuya glanced at him.

“So you can speak,” said Byakuya dryly. Sonosuke flourished a knife.

Kazuo kept his hand up, speaking slowly.

“We don’t plan to kill you. I’d much prefer we be as less violent as possible.” He sighed. “If it was my way, we’d have a cup of tea and leave together without any more fighting.”

Byakuya watched him closely, gripping his sword firmly.

“If you don’t plan on killing us, what are you going to do?” asked Byakuya, and he jerked his head. “Take us to court? Put us on trial? Lock us away in your basement?”

“That’s to be decided,” said Kazuo. His brow furrowed. “This is a losing battle, Togami-kun. Your leader, Enoshima, died during her broadcast of a mutual killing scenario, as you are aware. And a few hours ago, we captured her right-hand man, Clover... or as he was once known as, Makoto Naegi.”

The name made Byakuya’s heart jolt.

“What?” said Byakuya sharply. His stomach rolled. “Makoto... Naegi?”

Their former classmate, who the prep course slaughtered. Who burned before their very eyes.

“What are you talking about?” snarled Byakuya. “Naegi’s dead. Clover is...”

“I believe you’ve been tricked by your deceased leader, Togami-kun,” said Kazuo evenly. “Although Naegi-kun does not remember his past life, tests have confirmed that he is, biologically, Makoto Naegi. According to him, Enoshima faked Naegi-kun’s death and using Matsuda-kun’s notes, changed him into a heartless monster.”

Byakuya stared. “You’re lying.”

“I’m not, but perhaps Naegi-kun isn’t telling the truth. We shall see.” Kazuo extended a hand unsmilingly. “But for now, Togami-kun, we’d like you both to come with us.”

To no one’s surprise, Byakuya didn’t take Kazuo’s hand. Instead, he flexed his grip on his sword and said, “The only thing that can kill God... is God.”

The next scene happened in slow motion. Byakuya lifted his sword, and he turned it over in his hands so the blade pointed toward him. He dropped to one knee. Sonosuke and Seiko stiffened, while Gozu moved toward him. Kazuo’s eyebrows rocketed up.

Then, Touko swept her leg under Byakuya, and time sped up to normal. Byakuya fell, dropping his sword, and banged his head against the floor. Only, when she ripped off her mouth mask and her long, pink tongue hung out of her mouth, it turned out it wasn’t actually Touko.

Her foot pressed down on Byakuya’s back.

Gozu froze.

Genocider Syo regarded them with tired, weary eyes.

“If you can save them,” she said, “then we’ll go with you.”